The Best Neighborhoods in America: West
Posted By MJ On May 27, 2009 @ 7:16 pm In Travel
DOGPATCH / SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Hemmed in by water on three sides, San Francisco has nowhere to sprawl. Sometimes it manages to expand from within, but with only seven-by-seven miles of real estate to work with, great new neighborhoods only really happen about once a decade. So when locals rediscovered historic Dogpatch, an area characterized by a polished grit left over from its former life as a haven for Hells Angels and shipyard workers, they found a striking aesthetic like nowhere else in this city known for its colorful Victorians. The dozen or so square blocks surrounding the intersection of 3rd and 22nd streets, reputedly named for the pack of strays that used to case the neighborhood’s meatpacking plants, have quite a hard-knock past. The aforementioned motorcycle gang still has its original city clubhouse at 23rd and Tennessee, dockhands still drink in the 80-year-old Dogpatch Saloon, and the most popular place to work out in the neighborhood is the famous 3rd Street Boxing Gym. But these days, Golden Gloves train right alongside the cubicle crowd; the grand old brick industrial buildings that survived the 1906 earthquake have been converted into live-work lofts and studios for local designers; and UCSF’s new uber-gym, with indoor b-ball courts, a rooftop pool, and a climbing wall, offers an alternative workout. Dogpatch owes much of its rebirth to AT&T Park just up the road. The slick new home of the San Francisco Giants was a formidable enough development to actually shift the center of the city slightly southeast, and the formerly neglected bay-front warehouse district is becoming as sought after as high-end artsy tech-gulch South Park just north of the stadium. It may also be the city’s best-connected neighborhood, surrounded by freeways that deliver you to jobs in the South Bay (30 minutes), the surf at Ocean Beach (15 minutes), and downtown (five minutes). And San Francisco’s waterfront, which is being revamped right up to Dogpatch’s doorstep, is one of the best after-work runs—or kayak launches—anywhere.
Median Home Price: $747,210
Cost of Living: 83% higher
Sunny Days: 260
LEUCADIA / ENCINITAS, CA
Owning a home in a Southern California beach town had always been a dream of mine. The reality? Nearly everything south of Point Conception has been subdivided and converted to accommodate the superwealthy, the ocean reduced to a backdrop for their evening chardonnay. Ironically, most of us who actually spend time in the ocean have always settled for the life of a renter, willing to forgo a real estate portfolio for before- and after-work surf sessions. So when my wife and I moved from San Diego 25 miles up the coast to Encinitas six years ago, we figured we’d have to rent and assumed we’d always be renters in a town known for its over-the-top multimillion-dollar beachfront property. Then we found Leucadia on the north end of town. It just may be the last bastion of houses deemed by rich folk almost too funky to be worth fixing up. There are few, if any, sidewalks in town, and I have a septic tank out back. Dogs run free, people keep chickens as pets, and there’s a local flock of wild parrots. We feel a thousand miles away from the Botoxed folks up the hill in Encinitas Ranch. The surfers here don’t just drive around with boards strapped to the roofs of their cars; they surf. In fact, this is a blue-collar surf town: My neighbors shape boards for a living, and it’s mostly firemen and carpenters bobbing around in the lineup at Swami’s, a right-hand point break, beneath the golden dome of local icon Swami Yogananda‘s self-realization fellowship. But our favorite discovery so far has been the chicken soup at La Especial Norte right on the Coast Highway. It really can, as it says on the menu, bring you back to life when you feel dead. During a particularly nasty flu bout, the matronly owner told us to come down with our biggest pot so that she could fill it up for us. Sure, the houses in Leucadia might be a little pricey, but the surf will always be free.
Median Home Price: $646,840
Cost of Living: 106% higher
Sunny Days: 263
NORTH END / BOISE, ID
Boise may sprawl a bit, but the Boise you want has a pretty small footprint, full of bungalow charm, desert canyon ruggedness, renovated warehouses, quirky misfits, and exiled liberals from the countryside. 8 am: Wake up with a run on the Ridge to Rivers Trail System, and get lost on the 130 miles of paths that connect to the North End street grid in half a dozen places. The neighborhood is sandwiched right between trail-packed foothills and the Boise River. 11 am: Rent a cruiser and hit Goldy’s for a huge breakfast before joining the locals at the Capital City Public Market on N. 8th Street. 3 pm: For lunch hit Bar Gernika, where you might find yourself sitting next to the mayor—Boise’s still a town where it’s not uncommon to wait for the light next to the governor. 7 pm: Return to North End for dinner at Bungalow and then a walk in Hyde Park.
Median Home Price: $237,950
Cost of Living: 2% higher
Sunny Days: 210
Despite a decade of buzz, Ballard still feels unspoiled. The same dive bars host the same music; the tasty ex-brothel pizza joint still has tables open. And it¹s still got plenty of adventure: 16,000 square feet of climbing at Stone Gardens, and Olympic or Mount Baker national forest, each less than 70 miles away.
Two hundred and fifty days of sunshine per year, skiing up the road, runnable whitewater in town, and an influx of creative types make Reno the new Boulder. One of its oldest neighborhoods, the Old Southwest, is its best, with quiet, leafy sidewalks near an up-and-coming part of downtown (at California and Sierra).
Mount Tabor is a low-key neighborhood with acres of trails at the foot of a 600-foot volcanic peak. Right next door is Hawthorne, a funky district with trendy shops, good eats, and lively nightlife. Our advice: Call Mount Tabor home and consider Hawthorne the fun uncle.
Locals know they’ve got a good thing with a strong economy, a vibrant downtown, and wilderness so close they can literally catch a salmon dinner after work. Just west, historic Bootleggers Cove is a walk away from the action but has the 11-mile Coastal Trail in its backyard.
Once abandoned for gated communities on the city’s fringes, downtown ogden is in the midst of a comeback. Buy a bargain Victorian near galleries and restaurants, and still take advantage of nearby bouldering and whitewater. A commuter rail whisks you to Salt Lake City (for your day job) in an hour; Snowbasin is half that by car.
*All statistics according to Bestplaces.net
This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Men’s Journal.
Article printed from Men's Journal: http://archive.mensjournal.com
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