The neighborhood is named after José de Jesús Noé, the last Mexican alcalde (mayor) of Yerba Buena (present day San Francisco), who owned what is now Noe Valley as part of his Rancho San Miguel. Noé sold the land, later to be known as Noe Valley, to John Meirs Horner, a Mormon immigrant, in 1854. At this time the land was called Horner's Addition. The original Noé adobe house was located in the vicinity of the present day intersection of 23rd Street and Douglass Street. Along with nearby neighborhood Corona Heights, Noe Valley was the site of two quarries until 1914.
Noe Valley was primarily developed at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, especially in the years just after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. As a result, the neighborhood contains many examples of the "classic" Victorian and Edwardian residential architecture for which San Francisco is famous. As a working-class neighborhood, Noe Valley houses were built in rows, with some of the efficient, low-cost homes being more ornate than others, depending on the owner's taste and finances. Today, Noe Valley has one of the highest concentration of row houses in San Francisco, with streets having three to four and sometimes as many as a dozen on the same side.However, few facades in such rows of houses remain unchanged since their creation in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Many Noe Valley streets were laid out and named by John Meirs Horner, who named Elizabeth Street after his wife and Jersey Street after the state where he was born. Most of Noe Valley is still called Horner's Addition for tax purposes by the city assessor's office. Present day 24th Street was named "Park Street," and 25th Street was named "Temple Street" to commemorate John Meirs Horner's Mormon faith.
Like many other San Francisco neighborhoods, Noe Valley started out as a working-class neighborhood for employees and their families in the area's once-thriving blue-collar economy. Since 1980 it has undergone successive waves of gentrification and is now considered an upper-middle class/wealthy neighborhood. It is home to many urban professionals, particularly young couples with children. It is colloquially known as Stroller Valley, for the many strollers in the neighborhood. The median sale price for homes in Noe Valley as of December 2019 was $1.83 million.One of the attractions of Noe Valley is that the adjacent Twin Peaks partly blocks the coastal fog and cool winds from the Pacific, making the microclimate usually sunnier and warmer than surrounding neighborhoods.
Traffic flow is limited – one main north access through Castro Street to Eureka Valley, one main west access up Clipper Street toward the former Twin Peaks toll plaza and west of the city, several east accesses to the Mission District through 24th Street, Cesar Chavez, and other numbered streets, and the main north–south Church Street access used by the J Church Muni Light Rail.
Public transit includes the J Church, which runs down Church Street until 30th Street. The 24 Muni Bus also runs through Noe Valley. Its route comes from the north on Castro Street and switches to Noe Street at 26th Street. It then exits the neighborhood via 30th Street. Additionally, the 48 Muni Bus runs down 24th street, connecting the neighborhood to the nearby Mission District.The neighborhood is primarily residential, although there are two bustling commercial strips, the first along 24th Street, between Church Street and Diamond Street, and the second, less dense corridor along Church Street, between 24th Street and 30th Street.
Ruth Asawa was a resident of Noe Valley from 1962 until her death in August 2013. Carlos Santana graduated from James Lick Middle School on Noe Street in the early 1960s, as did Benjamin Bratt in the following decade. Famous residents include Scott Hutchins, Evan Williams, Mark Zuckerberg, and Terry Karl.
Noe Valley is a neighborhood of contradictions. It's home to both liberals and conservatives, it has attracted the working class, dot.com millionaires, Hollywood film crews ("Sister Act," "Nash Bridges"), and, in the 1970s, followers of controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Recent problems with storefront vandalism stand in sharp contrast to Noe's clean-cut image and the fact that it's chock full of upscale restaurants, home-decor boutiques, and chic clothing shops. Since the dot.com boom began waning, housing prices have dipped slightly and there has been some turnover on the main shopping drag, but it remains a prosperous, shopper-friendly neighborhood whose bistros, coffee shops, and bookstores are always lively, and where parking is always at a premium.
The hills that surround Noe Valley give it an air of remoteness and removal from the city which, along with the plethora of pretty, long-standing Victorians, is what attracts families with kids, dogs and strollers to the neighborhood. This, in turn, has attracted merchants who cater to those looking for handmade Guatemalan textile products, upscale beauty products, or Eileen Fisher ensembles.
Some residents have grumbled that Noe Valley has become a great place to have coffee and a bagel but a terrible place to buy what you actually need if you're lucky enough to live there. Others joke about Noe Valley's mammoth stroller population and bourgeois sensibilities; columnist Debby Morse once quipped in the Examiner, "Many Noe Valley walkers push babies in strollers, often using them as battering rams in crowded situations."
One thing's for sure -- Noe Valleyans enjoy their neighborhood -- especially on weekends, if the dense foot traffic on 24th Street is any indication.
Although Noe Valley boasts a plethora of delectable eateries, the best way to absorb the neighborhood is to grab a cuppa joe at Martha and Brothers, a coconut/dried-cherry scone from Noe Valley Baking Company and a piece of sunny sidewalk. If you're visiting during a workday, you may wonder whether anyone in this area has a day job -- the sidewalks bustle from dawn to dusk. Watch out for double-wide strollers and packs of golden retrievers!
Alice's: Tasty, cheap, high-quality Chinese food. 1599 Sanchez Street, (415) 282-8999.
Barney's: Few in San Francisco will admit to craving hamburgers, but those who do will want to seek out Barney's for fat burgers with more toppings than you can shake a french fry at. You can take your beef to go or use the spacious dining room or the outdoor patio. 4138 24th St., (415) 282-7770.
Eric's: A long-time neighborhood favorite, Eric's serves up dependable, Americanized versions of classic Hunan and Mandarin dishes in a lovely Victorian storefront. Popular house specials include the savory-sweet mango prawns served on a bed of crunchy red cabbage and General Tso's chicken. Good vegetarian options include the spicy smoked bean curd and eggplant with spicy garlic sauce. (-SF Chronicle) 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street), (415) 282-0919. (Chronicle reviewBargain Bites 2004)
Firefly: If only we could all have such a fine eatery in our neighborhood. Foodies come from miles around to sample Firefly's menus, which feature Asian, Polynesian, Mediterranean, and California cuisine-inspired takes on Sonoma lamb, Niman Ranch beef, sea bass or mahi mahi--but check in often, as the menu varies constantly--you may even find they're serving up some good old fashioned homestyle cooking like scalloped potatoes or beef brisket. Even the vegetarian fare is fit for a king. 4288 24th St. (at Douglass Street), (415) 821-7652. (Chronicle Review, website)
Fresca: This third, family-owned, San Francisco branch of Peruvian restaurant Fresca has a raw bar and a greater focus on ceviche and oysters. The menu includes classics like adobo de chancho (braised pork) as well as updated dishes such as soy-marinated grouper tacu-tacu (beans and rice) with drizzles of ponzu and strawberry sauces. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 3945 24th St. (between Noe and Sanchez), (415) 695-0549. (Chronicle Review)
Hamano Sushi: Really fresh nigiri with Toro (succulent tuna), Hamachi (yellowtail), Anago (sea eel), and filling sushi rolls, including the "Dynamite Roll," which is packed with spicy squid, avocado, burdock root and shiso leaf and topped with Albacore tuna. There are also non-sushi entrees including grilled unagi and salmon teriyaki. 1332 Castro St. (at 24th Street), (415) 826-0825. (Chronicle Review)
Incanto: One of the best, most charming neighborhood Italian restaurants in the city, with a decor and interior that befit a destination restaurant. The daily changing menu includes light and lively starters. Main courses, such as slow cooked pork, are deep in flavor. Diners are offered sparkling or still water at no charge. The restaurant's herbs are from its 1,000-square-foot rooftop herb garden. (--SF Chronicle) 1550 Church (at Duncan Street), (415) 641-4500. (Chronicle Review)
Le Zinc: Voila! Here it is, Noe Valley's own French bistro, complete with prix-fixe menu, zinc-topped bar, menus written on chalkboards, escargot, moules (mussels), pruneaux et bacon (prunes wrapped in bacon), crepes (with a North African twist) and other classic French bistro fare. Tapas, served from 2:30-6:30, include salad with warm camembert, Rillettes de porc, and a nice cheese plate. On weekends, try the prix fixe breakfast, and in the fall, get a glass of the Beaujolais Nouveau and pretend you're at Polidor in the Latin Quarter. 4063 24th St. (at Castro Street), (415) 647-9400. (Chronicle Review)