Blog Series: My San Francisco | Hayes Valley




Fifteen months ago, I arrived in San Francisco for a frantic forty-eight hours to find an apartment.  After hiking up steep streets and viewing every studio on craigslist, I resigned myself to viewing the studio with orange shag carpet.  Much to my surprise, there was a beautiful studio apartment…with hardwood floors and no shag carpet.  It was located smack dab in the middle of the city…in a neighborhood called Hayes Valley.  And I knew that I was home.

I first fell in love with San Francisco when I was in high school on a family vacation.  During a foggy cold lovely June day, while hanging out of a cable car, I vowed that one day I would move here.  Twelve years later, I was offered my dream job, in my dream city…San Francisco.


San Francisco is a lonely city.  Most people, especially in my neighborhood, live alone in studio apartments.  The majority of people living in San Francisco moved from other states or countries.  Most of them moved here to escape something.  Escape being judged.

Escape their family.  Escape being hurt.  People move here to be free to be themselves…but they bring their baggage along.  Many San Franciscans have been hurt by the church, by Christians.  They have not been shown the love or grace of God and they have little interest in going to church.  Atheism is worn as a badge with pride.  The city is full of beautiful empty dusty churches.


Hayes Valley is the center of the world. Wait! Let me explain… It has been said that all change, all culture, comes from the cities of the world.  There are just a few cities that are the most progressive and modern where culture and change begins.  It then spreads to other major cities.  From there it moves to the suburbs and at last reaching to rural remote corners of the world.  These cities include Amsterdam, New York, Paris, Seattle, and San Francisco.  San Francisco has been and continues to be the forefront of American change.  Whether it be flower power, bra burning, and protests in the 60’s…to the recent Prop 8, DOMA, and technology companies (Google, Facebook, Apple), San Francisco defines culture for the United States and the world.  At the heart of the city sits Hayes Valley, which is around the corner from City Hall where many of the important decisions and protests of San Francisco occur.

Hayes Valley is a neighborhood best defined by earthquakes.  The great earthquake of 1906 destroyed most of the city.  Out of the rubble as a symbol to the city, the current City Hall was erected.  The neighborhood when Hayes Valley now sits became a haven to crack addicts, prostitutes, and gangs until 1989 when the next great earthquake hit.  Highway 101 collapsed and the decision was made not to rebuild the highway, but instead to create a new neighborhood.  And Hayes Valley was born.

Now Hayes Valley is a unique community.  Public housing sits next to multi-million dollar homes.  The executive sits next to the homeless.  All shops, bars, stores, restaurants are local companies…no chains allowed. People here value justice and equality…many dedicating their lives to this.  It’s a neighborhood of passion and rebirth.


My prayer is that disciples would be made in San Francisco.  I pray that one by one relationships would be formed in coffee shops, wine bars, parks, museums, and yes churches. My hope is that we would become friends with our neighbors, walk beside them during the good and the bad times, not shy away from the messy details, and through our relationships they would see their identity in Christ.  I pray that God’s love would cut through the baggage and old hurt, and eyes would be opened.  My vision is that the work God does in Hayes Valley, in San Francisco, would create change that would trickle to other cities, the suburbs, and the corners of the world.