Haight District

Haight District

Haight Ashbury is more than just an intersection of two streets. The Haight is part 1960’s cultural/historical curiosity, part upscale boutique, café, vintage clothing/record store shopping scene and part genteel, gentrified Victorian neighborhood. Everything seems to work together here. Unlike forty years ago, there is something for everyone in the Haight. Lower Haight, near the Western Addition, is a funky but up-and-coming art enclave. The area between Stanyan and Masonic, west of Divisadero is considered the Upper Haight, the birthplace of hippie counterculture.

In 1967 the area swelled from 7500 to over 100,000 in six months. The Summer of Love began on June 1, 1967 with the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and was fueled by a song, sung by Scott McKenzie and written by John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas. The song, written to promote the Monterey Pop Festival, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)” hit the U.S. charts at #4 and spurred the influx of discontented, idealistic youth to the Haight. Within a year the movement was already slipping into history as violence and drug abuse soured the innocence of the original movement.

Today, the Haight is certainly more commercial and trading on its reputation as a symbol of tie-dyed, peace and love, nostalgic, youthful rebellion. But the original spirit is still there under the current, polished veneer. Once dirty streets are clean, restaurants are flourishing and stores sell vintage and new souvenirs of the by-gone hippie culture.

The neighborhood was once abandoned by the middle class but the shopping, restaurants, refurbished Victorians, and parks are making the Haight more attractive. Renters are leaving and homeowners are moving into the neighborhood as it becomes more genteel.

A few streets up from Haight Street are stone steps leading up to Buena Vista Park, the city’s oldest park, with expansive views as far as Mt. Tampalais in Marin County, the city of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Be advised that, although the area has become safer, it is still not advisable to be in the park after dark.