The Microneighborhood: The Latest Creation From Hyper-Local Hipster Artisans
In San Francisco, it's not just Realtors who make up neighborhood names. Block-proud residents are the makers of monikers, too.
The first thing you learn when you move to the Land of Cute Sweaters is that a glance out the window is never enough getting-dressed information for a Bay Area resident. It might be sunny and bright on your block, but 30 feet later you could be shivering, and if you get in your car, you might find yourself driving into a solid wall of fog before you hit second gear. They're called "microclimates," and they're the inevitable result of a city built on quirky topography with the additional excitement of unusual wind conditions blowing in from the bay.
Maybe this is what leads to the incredible neighborhood pride typical of this burg. Old-timey standup comics remembers a long-ago backstage bit from Dana Carvey, funny only if you know how devoted residents can be to their chosen real estate: a torch-wielding mob assembled outside a Victorian building in the Mission neighborhood, shouting "It's not you we want! It's the Sunset men that you harbor!" (Like I said, probably only funny if... )
Because humans love to be as exclusive as possible, those very neighborhoods get sliced and diced into smaller and smaller pieces by residents making fine distinctions between the areas where you live and where I live. To whit: Bernal Heights, a cute hill south of The Mission, is divided by residents into "North Slope" and "South Slope," with the area "below Cortland" being decidedly less ritzy (until recently, when the neighborhood became so popular, other neighborhoods start calling themselves "Bernal-adjacent," but that's another story and also the reason we got priced out of our sad little rental).
A small but passionate group decided this was not enough. A small spit of land between Bernal Heights and Noe Valley (which is neither a "height" nor a "valley," as pointed out by one of several local blogs obsessed with this idea), has been dubbed "La Lengua," spanish for "the tongue," so named because of the shape of the bit of land sandwiched between two avenues that merge in a mysterious terminus. La Lengua has declared itself independent of nearby nabes, even demanding its own air space.
My own husband used to refer to our block, when we lived at the top of the hill, as "Peralta Bluff," but no matter how many block parties he mentioned this at, it never caught on. Perhaps he needs a blog.
All of this was just so much cute local lore, until Yahoo! got wind of it. Now everybody knows that the marginally-safer-than-the-Tenderloin area closest to Nob Hill is reliably referred to as "The Tendernob" and that the area north of the Panhandle, known as NoPa, is only two streets wide.
But who am I to complain? In my own house hunt, as I realized I was being priced out of towns further and further east of the city, I benefited from a real estate agent pointing out that "Richmond Heights" was close enough to El Cerrito to be included in the more expensive school district. And thus we found our (relatively, slightly more) affordable new home.
So yeah, the secret's out: This is a silly place, full of silly people. But when you're paying as much as we do per square foot, you earn the right to some well-earned snickers.