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The New San Francisco: Daly City and the Suburban American Dream 

Wednesday, Feb 4 2015
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San Francisco's next hottest neighborhood is not even in San Francisco. In a 2015 survey of the nation's most-desired neighborhoods, Redfin's chief economist Nela Richardson predicted that San Francisco homebuyers will be veering away from pricey urban homes this year in search of a more affordable semi-suburban future.

But not that far away.

In San Francisco, this means heading a few miles south, just across the Daly City border to the middle-class neighborhood of Crocker — not to be confused with Crocker-Amazon, which is a part of San Francisco proper, not to mention more conveniently located near a BART station.

Redfin accurately predicted a wild year for home sales on the north slope of Bernal Hill in 2014, so it's fair to say the company knows what it is talking about when it comes to delclaring the next hip hood (yes, even though the site's annual blog post feels more like a ploy to move some of its less glamorous inventory). While new developments are finally popping up in San Francisco, they're also getting more expensive; folks who would like a place to call their own or who are just tired of shacking up with mulitple roommates, are looking to other up-and-coming areas to live — and we're not talking about Oakland for a change.

We're talking about San Francisco's overlooked sibling, Daly City.

With homes having a median sale price of $590,000, the middle-class neighborhood of Crocker hits the right price point for people who need a little space and a place to park their car. A quick scan through available listings shows that kind of cash can net you three bedrooms, a couple of bathrooms, and a garage, plus some outdoor space to call your own.

But what it doesn't come with is that San Francisco flair. Crocker sits at the crook of Mission Street, where San Francisco's lively thoroughfare sputters out and turns a corner to merge with state Route 82. The low density and abundance of driveways makes you feel like you're in the Outer Sunset, but residents here fall asleep to the sounds of Interstate 280, not the cool tides at Ocean Beach or Mission District protests.

Curious to see what this lesser-known hamlet had to offer a San Franciscan, I popped into The Hideout, a 3-month-old speakeasy-themed bar and music venue on Mission Street that feels like Boardwalk Empire decorated by Cost Plus World Market. Although the place was empty at noon on a Wednesday, the bartender, dressed in black pants and suspenders as part of his 1920s-era getup, explained the place is generally busy on the weekends, when the club offers bottle service and DJ-provided entertainment. "I feel sorry for the girls," he noted, describing his co-workers. "They have to wear flapper dresses."

From Mission Street, the cute, blocky homes creep up the north side of San Bruno Mountain, sitting on tiny, manicured yards. One house was painted Niners red, with gold trim, all the way down to where the driveway meets the sidewalk. A repairman was at work on the steeple on the corner, and the community center had a full house for the afternoon bingo game.

Move higher up the hill, however, and the neighborhood starts to fade along with the views of the city in the distance. Crocker Avenue runs the length of the ridge line, but the sidewalk ends at Pointe Pacific Drive, where a gated community begins. My tour of the neighborhood ended where a resident pulled up to the gated community, enjoying the January sun and loudly talking on the speakerphone of his BMW convertible. Shut out, I'd had my fill of Crocker's suburban charm, so I walked the 20 minutes back down the hill and hopped the 14-Mission back to life in San Francisco, crammed studio and all.

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Andrew M. Dalton

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