Mission District

From Academic Kids

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Mission Theatre on Mission Street

The Mission or the Mission District is the name of a neighborhood in San Francisco, California. It is built near the sixth Alta California mission, Mission San Francisco de Asis. The neighborhood is both ethnically and economically diverse, with significant contingents of Latinos, African Americans, and Cantonese-speaking Chinese. Especially around 16th, 18th, and Mission Streets, the Mission is one of San Francisco's rougher areas. Gang activity — with drive-by shootings occasionally occurring even in broad daylight — and severe graffiti tagging are ongoing problems in the Mission District.



As its name inevitably suggests, the principal thoroughfare of the Mission district is Mission Street, roughly from U.S. Highway 101 on the north to Cesar Chavez Street (formerly Army Street) on the South. Highway 101 also forms the boundary between the Mission District and its eastern neighbor, Potrero Hill, while Dolores Street separates the district from Noe Valley and The Castro to the west. To the south lies Bernal Heights.

Dolores Park is technically not classified within the Mission because it is on the west side of Dolores Street; its name has resulted in the Mission San Francisco de Asis, situated therein, acquiring the alternate, colloquial name of "Mission Dolores," and it is here from which the city's official climate records are compiled.

Sometimes the Excelsior and Crocker-Amazon districts in far south-central San Francisco are referred to as the "Outer Mission" because they share Mission Street as their main thoroughfare; by way of distinction the Mission proper is sometimes also called the "Inner Mission," "Inner" meaning closer to downtown and "Outer" signifying further away from downtown (some other San Francisco communities being correspondingly subdivided). However, most Excelsior and Crocker-Amazon residents prefer to call their neighborhoods by their respective names, and fight the label of "Outer Mission".


The microclimates of San Francisco create a system by which each neighborhood has radically different weather at any given time. The Mission's geographical location insulates it from the fog and wind from the west. As a result, the Mission has a tendency to be warmer and sunnier than the rest of the city. This climatic phenomenon becomes apparent to visitors who walk down 24th Street from Noe Valley towards Mission Street.


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The large Latino population in the Mission District can be seen highlighted in this thematic map of San Francisco

The Ohlone Indians inhabited the region of what is now the Mission District for over 2,000 years. Spanish missionaries arrived in the area during the late 18th century. They found the Ohlone living peacefully in a village at the edge of a lagoon, hunting and gathering. In this location, the Spanish founded a Mission in June, 1776. This period marked the beginning of the end of the Ohlone culture. Archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians observe that the Franciscan friars used Ohlone slave labor to complete the Mission building in 1790. During European settlement of the City in the 19th and 20th century, large numbers of Irish and German immigrant workers moved into the area. Development and settlement intensifed after the 1906 Earthquake as many of city's displaced businesses and residents moved into the area making Mission Street a major commerical throughfare. During the 1940-1960s, large amounts of Mexicans moved into the area as whites moved out giving it the Latin character it is known for today. During the 1980s to 1990s, the Mexican population was joined by large amounts of refugees from Central and South America fleeing civil war in their home countries.

Despite rising rents and housing prices, gentrification, a stubbornly high crime rate, and gang wafare, many Mexican and Central American immigrants continue to move into the Mission district.


The Mission district was for many years, the central nexus of the Latino community of San Francisco Bay Area. Today it faces stiff competition from the Fruitvale community across the bay in Oakland as well as down south in San Jose. Musician Carlos Santana grew up here as much of his music was inspired by his experience. The Mission was also a pioneer in Low-rider culture, as well as a hot bed of violent gang warfare, primarily between the Norteņos and the Sureņos gangs that still continues off and on today.

Every late May, the city's annual Carnival festival and parade is held here. Meant to mimic the festival in Rio de Janeiro, it is held in late May instead of the traditional late February to correspond with San Francisco's summertime.

Many Central American banks and companies have set up branches, offices, and even their regional headquarters on Mission Street.

Due to the relatively less expensive housing and commercial space, and the high density of drinking establishments, the Mission has become a magnet for young people, including a clearly identifiable hipster crowd on Valencia Street and a lively independent arts community with many studios, galleries and open spaces inclusing organisations such as Cellspace, ArtsExplosion and Independent Arts and Media.

The headquarters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is in the Mission District.


The neighborhood is serviced by the BART rail system to the 16th Street or the 24th Street stations, and by Muni bus numbers 26, 12, 14, 49, 48, 33, 22 and 27. To the west, the J Church Muni Metro line runs down Church Street, and is a popular way of getting to the Mission (16th Street) from the western districts.

Highlights of The Mission

  • Murals inspired by the traditional Mexican paintings made famous by Diego Rivera at 24th Street and Balmy Avenue; 18th Street and Lapidge
  • Dolores Park, around the north-west corner
  • Nightlife centers around the 16th and Valencia Ave intersection
  • The Roxie (on 16th) is the only remaining neighborhood movie theatre
  • Excellent Mexican food, especially burritos

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