San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood is a special place, to say the least. Built on a grid but oriented at a diagonal to the rest of the city, the 100 Vara neighborhood - or SoMa, as it is more commonly known - has always been a wild mixture of culture and industry, wealth and poverty, history and innovation.
From the industrial character of the warehouses (and workers) that dominated the neighborhood in the first half of the twentieth century to the rebellious vibe of the punk and gay leather scenes that flourished here from the 1960s onward, the neighborhood still bears traces of every part of its history. The 1980s and '90s saw the construction of major projects like the Moscone Conference Center and the opening of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the lure of central location and easy access to transit have made it a congregational point for techies since the first dot-com bubble.
Today, glossy new condos stand next to railroad-style Victorians along tiny alley-streets like Natoma and Langton, and billboards advertising developer tools compete for attention with commissioned murals on building exteriors. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants owned and operated by immigrants sit next to micro-brew-pubs tended by bearded men in plaid shirts who have moved to the city much more recently than their neighbors, and waiting at a crosswalk you're as likely to overhear a discussion of a possible tech startup acquisition as a semi-coherent rant directed at thin air.
It's a beautiful, terrible place, full of hope and desperation, opportunity and misfortune. And it's where we work.
We asked our members - many of whom are new to San Francisco - what the most distinctive thing about their SoMa-filtered San Francisco experience has been. Here's what some of them said:
"The people - they're chill and casual and really smart."
- Biz, Summit, NJ
"Everyone's baby/dog has their own Instagram account."
- Kevin, Minneapolis
"A guy in a tutu running down Market St on a weekday afternoon."
- James, Oxford
"Bitter waiters at farm-to-table restaurants who aren't earning Twitter salaries."
- Jeff, Las Vegas
"This is a city where you can't get depressed. No matter what's going on, you walk down the street and see things that will make you smile."
- Danielle, Atlanta
"Shit on the sidewalk."
- James, San Francisco