A welcome sign on Ninth Street near Harrison reflects the recent influence of large corporate interests on the South of Market neighborhood.

"SoMa" redirects here. For the SoMa in Vancouver, see South Main.

SoMa (South of Market) is a neighborhood in San Francisco, California. Its borders are Market Street to the north-northwest, the San Francisco Bay to the east, Townsend Street to the south-southeast, and U.S. Route 101 (Central Freeway) to the west-southwest. It is the part of the city in which the street grid runs parallel and perpendicular to Market Street. The eastern edge along the Embarcadero and southeastern corner of this area (where Mission Creek meets the bay) is known as South Beach, a separate neighborhood, and the border below Townsend Street begins Mission Bay. The northeastern corner (where Market Street meets the bay) is often considered part of the Financial District. While the upper western corner of SOMA between Van Ness Avenue and 5th Street, and between Market and Howard Street is considered part of the "skid row" Tenderloin District.


While most in San Francisco prefer to refer to the neighborhood by its full name, South of Market, there is a trend to shorten the name to SOMA or SoMa, probably in reference to SoHo (South of Houston) in New York City, and, in turn, Soho in London.

Before being called South of Market this area was called "South of the Slot", a reference to the cable cars that ran up and down Market along a slot through which they attached to the cables. While the cable cars have long since disappeared from Market Street, some "old timers" still refer to this area as "South of the Slot".


Looking northwest toward the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The waterfall drains into the pool on the right.

The neighborhood is a diverse stretch of warehouses, auto repair shops, nightclubs, residential hotels, art spaces, loft apartments, furniture showrooms, condominiums, and many media, software, and dot com & Web 2.0 companies. Many major software and technology companies have headquarters here such as Wired Magazine, SEGA of America, Advent Software,, BitTorrent Inc., among others.


During the mid 19th Century, SOMA was a largely low density residential enclave for the rich that centered around the Rincon Hill area. By the early 20th century, heavy industrial development due to its proximity to the docks and the San Francisco Bay, with the advent of cable cars, had driven the wealthy over to Nob Hill, and all points west, as the neighborhood became a largely middle and lower class slum of recent European immigrants, sweatshops, power stations, flophouses, and factories.

The 1906 Earthquake completely destroyed the area as many of the quakes fatalities occurred there. Following the quake, the area was rebuilt with the wider than usual in San Francisco streets that are common in the area, as the focus was towards the development of light to heavy industry. The construction of the Bay Bridge and the U.S. Route 101 during the 1930s saw large swaths of the area demolished including most of the original Rincon Hill.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, South of Market was home not only to warehousing and light industry, but also to a sizable population of transients, seamen, other working men living in hotels, and a working-class residential population in old Victorian buildings in smaller side streets and alleyways giving it a "skid row" reputation.[1]

The waterfront redevelopment of the Embarcadero in the 1950s pushed a new population into this area in the 1960s, the incipient gay community, and the leather community in particular. From 1962 until 1982, the gay community grew and thrived throughout South of Market, most visibly along Folsom Street. This community had been active in resisting the City's ambitious redevelopment program for the South of Market area throughout the 1970s. But as the AIDS epidemic unfolded in the 1980s, the ability of this community to stand up to downtown and City Hall was dramatically weakened. The crisis became an opportunity for the City (in the name of public health) to close bathhouses and regulate bars---businesses that had been the cornerstone of the community's efforts to maintain a gay space in the South of Market neighborhood.[1]

In 1984, as these spaces for gay community were rapidly closing, a coalition of housing activists and community organizers started the Folsom Street Fair, in order to enhance the visibility of the community at a time when people in City Hall and elsewhere were apt to think it had gone away. The fair also provided a means for much-needed fundraising, and create opportunities for members of the leather community to connect to services and vital information (e.g., regarding safer sex) which bathhouses and bars might otherwise have been ideally situated to distribute.[1]

Recent Development

Redevelopment plans were first planned in 1953. These plans began to be realized in the late 1970s and in the early 1980s with the construction of the conference center, Moscone Center, which occupies three blocks and hosts many major trade shows. Moscone South opened its doors in December 1981. Moscone North opened in May 1992, and most recently Moscone West in June 2003.

With the opening of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1995, the Mission and Howard Street area of the South of Market has become a hub for museums and performances spaces. These facilities include the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Museum of the African Diaspora, the Cartoon Art Museum, the children's Zeum, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum are also in the Yerba Buena area. The Center for the Arts, along with Yerba Buena Gardens and the Metreon, is built on top of Moscone North. Across Howard Street, built on top of Moscone South, is a children's park featuring a large play area, an ice skating rink, a bowling alley, a restaurant, the Zeum, and the restored merry-go-round from Playland-At-the-Beach. The children's park and Zeum are joined to Yerba Buena Gardens by a footbridge over Howard Street.

Development has also encroached upon South of Market from the Southwest, where large retail spaces especially the rare few "big box" stores in San Francisco have gained a foothold such as Costco, REI, Nordstrom Rack, and Best Buy.

The area has long been home to bars and nightclubs. During the 1980s and 1990s some of the warehouses there served as the home to the city's budding underground rave, punk, and independent music scene. However, in recent decades, and mostly due to gentrification and rising rents, these establishments have begun to cater to an upscale and mainstream clientèle that subsequently pushed out the underground musicians and its scene. Beginning in the 1990s, older housing stock has been joined by loft-style condominiums, many of which were built under the cover of "live-work" development ostensibly meant to maintain a studio arts community in San Francisco. During the late-1990s, the occupant of the "live-work" loft was more likely to be a "dot-commie", as South of Market became a local center of the dot-com boom, due to its central location, space for infill housing development, and spaces readily converted into offices.


Because of its historic blue-collar nature, South of Market is also an area of settlement for new immigrants. Entire communities made their homes in the district—from Irish Americans and Italian Americans to Greek Americans. Presently the largest immigrant group living in South of Market are Filipino Americans. In fact, St. Patrick's Church, located across from Yerba Buena Gardens, celebrates masses in Tagalog. Also present are a Filipino boarding house, called the "Bayanihan House" and located on 6th and Mission Streets, and a new park next to Bessie Carmichael Elementary School and named after Victoria Manalo Draves. The Westbay Community Outreach Center at 7th St. and Natoma and the SOMA Recreation Center at 6th St. and Folsom St. also caters to the services of Filipino children in the neighborhood.

Since the 1950s, South of Market has been a center for the leather subculture of the gay community. At the end of each September the Folsom Street Fair is held on Folsom Street between 7th and 12th Streets. The smaller and less-commercialized but also leather subculture-oriented Up Your Alley Fair (commonly referred to as the Dore Alley Fair) is also held in the neighborhood, in late July on Folsom between 9th and 10th Streets and in Dore Alley between Folsom and Howard.

Vertical growth of South of Market

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File:Waterfront, San Francisco, USA, including One Rincon Hill and Bay Bridge.JPG

The Rincon Hill skyline at night

A major transformation of the neighborhood is planned with the Transbay Terminal Replacement Project, which if funded, is planned to be open by 2013. In addition, new highrise residential projects like One Rincon Hill, 300 Spear Street, and Millennium Tower are transforming the San Francisco skyline. In 2005, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority proposed to raise height limits around the new Transbay Terminal.[2] This has led to proposals for supertall buildings, such as Renzo Piano's proposal for a group of towers that includes two 1,200 foot. (366 m) towers, two 900 foot (274 m) towers, and a 600 foot (183 m) tower. The 1,200 foot (366 m) towers would become the tallest buildings in the United States outside of New York City and Chicago.[3][4] In addition, there Cesar Pelli and Hines Group have also proposed another 1,200 foot (366 m), 80 story office tower.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Rubin, Gayle. "The Miracle Mile: South of Market and Gay Male Leather, 1962-1997" in Reclaiming San Francisco: History, Politics, Culture (City Light Books, 1998).
  2. Fancher, Emily (2006-05-26). Transbay proposal includes possible tallest building on West Coast. San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved on 2007-12-19.
  3. Proposal to build two massive towers in SF. San Francisco Chronicle (2006-12-21). Retrieved on 2007-09-23.
  4. Sky's the limit South of Market 4 of developers' proposed high-rises would be taller than anything else in S.F.. San Francisco Chronicle (2006-12-22). Retrieved on 2007-09-23.
  5. 'Aggressive schedule' for proposed Transbay transit center, tower. San Francisco Chronicle (2007-09-21). Retrieved on 2007-09-21.

See also

  • Moscone Center
  • San Francisco
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Transbay Terminal
  • Union Square
  • List of tallest buildings in San Francisco
  • San Francisco Transbay development

External links

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Template:Neighborhoods of San Francisco

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