Map for the Mission Wakes Up

Let me narrow that question. Most on my mind these days is the Mission’s eastern boundary. The question arose as I looked at the map for our Mission Wakes Up Series – a collection of essays created by readers and residents who agree to go out, photograph a block and then send in the photos, captions and sometimes a small story for us to post the same day.

Slowly, but surely, more than four dozen residents have offered to do this, and they’re filling in the map day-by-day. At present, we’ve marked the 101 Bayshore Freeway as the eastern border, mostly because it feels like a sharper dividing line than Potrero Avenue. Also, we cross Potrero to cover news, but generally that news happens between Potrero and the freeway. When news happens east of the freeway, we tend to, well, draw the line.

Bulldozers moved in to build the 101 Bayshore in the 1950s, but instead of being at the forefront of a whole new set of freeways, it seemed to lower the curtain on more extensions. Chris Carlsson writes on FoundSF that in 1953, the city opened 101 Bayshore Freeway or “what became known as ‘hospital curve’ both for its location behind General Hospital and its high rate of accidents.”

Plans were afoot for more freeways and the San Francisco Chronicle published a map in 1955 of the city’s various plans, encouraging officials to go forward. Public opposition, Carlsson writes, kicked in. It’s thanks to public outcry that we don’t have, for example, the Mission Freeway, which would have run alongside Mission Street to connect at Duboce.

The 101 Bayshore altered Potrero’s landscape, isolating residents wedged into the two to three blocks between Potrero Avenue and the new freeway. Even today, residents have mixed views on where they fit. At the southern end of the Potrero/101 wedge, there is a stronger identity with the Mission; at the northern end, a distinctly Potrero allegiance runs deep.

Richard Fong, who has lived on San Bruno off 24th Street since 1962, said they’ve always been more Mission, as 24th Street and its restaurants are easier to get to than the commercial district in Potrero.

Patrice Catania on Utah agreed. She rarely goes to Potrero Hill’s commercial strip. Philz Coffee on 24th Street is her go-to place.

San Francisco General Hospital and an undeveloped strip of land just north of it separate Fong and Catania from their neighbors north of 18th Street on Utah and San Bruno.

We’re right on the fence, said Scott Minneman, who has lived on Utah with the artist JD Beltran for 14 years.

Near 16th Street on San Bruno, which abuts the freeway, Jonathan Hernandez, a five-year resident of the neighborhood, said he considers it the Mission “or the border of Potrero… The zip code is the same 94110, so…”

But longer-term residents are were adamant.

“This is Potrero Hill, I was born and raised here and I know the difference between Potrero and the Mission,” said Anthony Blea, who has lived on San Bruno for 53 years.

Leo Costello, who has resided at Utah and 17th for his entire 86 years and accordingly takes a long view, agreed. “This is Potrero Hill, I was born and raised here. I’ve always considered the avenue is the marker, not the freeway because the freeway wasn’t here when I was born.”

On Mariposa and Utah, Michael Jones, who has been here for 14 years, pointed out another indicator: The street names. “Utah, Florida, Mariposa, those are associated with Potrero. The Mission is known by other names, like Valencia.”

Andrea Valencia contributed to the reporting of this story.

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Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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  1. Neat topic! Historically, the Mission ended at Mission Creek, which basically followed today’s Division Street to Treat Avenue. The Potrero was the land on the other side of Mission Creek all the way to the Bay. Folsom Street was traditionally the last street before Mission Creek. And in the days of the Mission, there was a brick wall running southeasterly between Mission Creek and Precita Creek that completed the boundary between the grazing grounds of the Mission and the horse pastures of the Potrero. That brick wall ran, more or less, between the corner of today’s 20th/Harrison streets, southeasterly to old Precita Creek (Cesar Chavez St).

  2. Someone once told me the area East of Potrero Ave. and west of the 101 was called, “POTRERO FLATS.” Anyone know anything about that?

  3. As long as The Mission is considered “hip” the boundaries will expand just because some people will want to say they live in “The Mission”. I was looking for an apartment on Craiglist and people continually advertise properties in The Excelsior as “The Mission”… yeah that’s the kind of landlord I want, one that misrepresents the property location!

  4. Just as “The Mission” has to be in the Mission otherwise what is the point, Potrero and everything East has to be in Potrero otherwise the name is meaningless. It would be like San Francisco being in San Mateo County or visa versa.

  5. I lived on Potrero Ave for a year in 1986 and then moved up around the corner to Utah & Mariposa for another year before moving to the Mission. I always considered that time as living on the edge of Potrero Hill.

  6. Resident of Utah/18th here. Although we love living so close to the Mission, our part of town is more part of Potrero Hill for these reasons: (1) We are on a big hill – you notice a huge grade difference coming up 18th or Mariposa streets; the Mission is flat. (2) The architecture on our side of Potrero Ave is much more in line with Potrero Hill vs the Mission. We have single-family Victorians vs mostly loft/industrial buildings in the part of the Mission closest to us . (3) Our neighborhood block association works closely with San Bruno/Vermont on the other side of the 101 – we feel much more connected to those folks vs those down the hill past Potrero Ave. I can see how it might be different for those living south of SF General, though…

  7. The borders are of the Mission are 101 freeway, Cesar Chavez(Army St.), Dubose/13/Division, Guerrero St…..and also the small strip between Mission St. to Guerrero/San Jose Ave up to 30th St.

        1. Look at a map and think about it for a couple of minutes; I’m sure you’ll figure it out eventually.

          1. Yes, Loco’s definition of the Mission excludes the Mission itself. Which seems odd at first sight.

            But isn’t the real problem that the Mission is too big? It seems much bigger than any other SF neighborhood, some of which are just a few blocks. The Mission is something like two square miles.

            And the Mission really does have parts that have nothing in common with each other. There is baja Potrero Hill as noted. There’s the lovely leafy areas to the west, often called Mission Dolores or Dolores Heights, to differentiate it from the flatlands. Does Zuckerberg live in the Mission? Barely.

            Then there is the industrial north-east (NEMIZ), the hip central areas along Bryant and Harrison (Mission Creek), the heavily Hispanic area to the south (el barrio?) and the central commercial heart along Mission and Valencia, which is perhaps the only part of the Mission that doesn’t have another name,

            Time for different parts of the Mission to secede, perhaps?

  8. Depends on what map you’re using, and who’s getting paid.

    From a land surveyor’s perspective, Harrison is the eastern limit of the Mission blocks and Potrero Nuevo proceeds easterly from there (although Potrero Avenue & the Bayshore Freeway seem to be more “natural” boundaries, given the way they split the hill from the flats).

    To the west, the real estate vultures would like to run the line down the side streets behind Mission (Bartlett / San Carlos / Hoff), but anyone who’s had to buy car insurance in the last 30 years will confirm that a Dolores Street address—in other words, the edge of 94110—means you pay the (50% higher) Mission District rates.

    (“Baja Noe Valley,” my tochis.)

  9. If you really want to create controversy (or debate) ask where the Mission ends on the West side. Traditionally, I think it extended to Dolores Street, but real estate maps over the years have pushed the boundaries of tonier neighborhoods all the way to Valencia Street. Now that the Mission is hot, will those boundaries recede?

  10. That strip of the city always does seem a little lost – thanks for sharing the residents’ perspectives. (Except for the last one who proclaimed Florida St. to be in Potrero Hill. Not so! I’ve lived on Florida St for many years and as far as I know, it is still in the Mission.)