SF Bay Area

What It’s Like To Be From The Western Addition

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Written By: Reese Wong

I was born and raised here in the Western Addition, right around Fillmore and Geary St. I even went to high school nearby and used to skateboard around the neighborhood in my free time with a couple of friends that I grew up with here.  After spending 21 years living in the WA, I can say that I am familiar with about 99 percent of the neighborhood.  I know all the shortcuts.  I know where to go and where not to go.  I probably even know some of the best skate spots within this area (and I don’t even skate anymore).  Why do I think the WA is the most underrated neighborhood in the city? Well first of all, it is probably one of the least popular districts posted on the list of “best places to visit in San Francisco.”

 Why do I think the WA is the most underrated neighborhood in the city? Well first of all, it is probably one of the least popular districts posted on the list of “best places to visit in San Francisco.”

Tourist don’t visit the Western Addition, with the exception of Japantown and the Painted Ladies.  Japantown is probable the one and only spot that carries the attraction to my neighborhood.  The Western Addition is not even a place that is really acknowledged by the natives.  Everyone that I knew who grew up in the city (besides my immediate neighbors), is either from the Sunset or Richmond district, and there may be a few from the Tenderloin or SOMA.

I believe that the Western Addition has such a rich, culturally-intersecting past that deserves to be known by more people.

They say that the Bay Area is such a diverse place because you can travel 10 miles in any direction from SF and end up in a totally new environment, with lots of different things to see.  Being that the Western Addition is located almost at the dead center of San Francisco (I’ve always called it the heart of the city), the effect is very similar.  You can walk 10 minutes in any direction from the WA and either end up in the Tenderloin, Hayes Valley, the Panhandle, or Pacific Heights.  Believe me when I say that all of these surrounding neighborhoods have very different vibes.  You probably don’t even have to be an SF resident to know what I am talking about.  Seriously, if you were to spend half a day driving around the perimeter of the WA, it would feel like you are interacting with someone who has split personalities.  And I do not mean that in a negative way.  Every neighborhood has something different to offer, which in turn makes the city the unique, diverse place that we know and love.

Here is the point that I wanted to get to.  I believe that the Western Addition has such a rich, culturally-intersecting past that deserves to be known by more people.  It was not until my late teenage years that I learned about and understood the history of my neighborhood.  I was not aware that the Japanese community in this area used to be much larger, up until Internment during the 1940’s.  Japan town pretty much represents the small remains of the dwindling community.  I was also not aware that the Fillmore had such a thriving jazz/musical scene at one point in time.  During this era, the Fillmore was even known as “Harlem of the West.”  It even surprised me to find out that my childhood home and community was originally section 8 residency, which was meant to house the mostly Asian and black minorities of the area.

This actually makes a lot of sense in retrospect, considering the demographics of those that I grew up with here.  Through learning all of these facts about my neighborhood, I have come to really appreciate the place where I was born and raised.  And I am not saying, by any means, that the Western Addition is the only district in SF with an interesting history.  San Francisco is filled with plenty of various landmarks and locations that tell a story.  I would just like others to learn to appreciate the WA, the same way I did.

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