The Haight (pronounced like “hate”) is a district of San Francisco, running along Haight Street. The district is bounded roughly by the Panhandle and Fell/Oak Streets on the north, Market Street on the east, Duboce Avenue and Buena Vista Park on the south, and Stanyan Street (and Golden Gate Park) on the west, with a small extension west to include the University of California, San Francisco Parnassus campus just to the west.

The Haight is made up of two neighborhoods: Haight-Fillmore, usually called the Lower Haight, and Haight-Ashbury, also known as the Upper Haight. The two neighborhoods are separated by a large hill and are bisected by Divisadero Street. The neighborhoods have two separate histories whose cultures and identities merged in the 1960’s as poor, young white hippies moved into the Upper Haight and began to make contact with the poor, young black residents of the Lower Haight. Together, these outcasts forged the counter-culture movement the Haight is most well known for. Today, the two neighborhoods remain similar, yet distinct. The Upper Haight is more of a tourist destination, more identified with its hippy roots, and is safer, especially since the 1990’s. The Lower Haight retains more of its black roots, has a more active nightlife scene, but is unfortunately poorer and therefore dirtier and less safe at night.

In the 1960’s large portions of the predominantly African American Fillmore District were involuntarily relocated to Haight-Ashbury due to the disruptive urban renewal movements of the time. At the same time, middle class whites began moving to the growing suburbs of the Bay Area, causing home values in the area to plunge. The neighborhood, with its then-surplus of affordable Victorian homes, was ripe for housing an influx of African American families as well as Beats attracted by the growing intellectual, anti-establishment community surrounding the local universities, as well as an emerging (pre-Castro District) gay and lesbian community.

With the onset of the Vietnam War, many white middle class college kids derailed by the draft now began to move into the Haight, identifying with the counterculture trends already taking place in the neighborhood and adopting Hippie ideologies and alternative lifestyles. Many thrived while other lives were ruined by destructive drugs such as speed, heroin and cocaine, and some remain committed to the Hippie dream to this day. While gentrification has turned the Upper Haight into something of a counterculture theme park (although it is also home to many young, homeless drug addicts, though no longer of the peaceful, hippie variety), there are still plenty of eclectic finds to uncover here and one can still can get a sense of the once-bohemian nature of this area.

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