Esplanade, South of Market
While many San Franciscans refer to the neighborhood by its full name, South of Market, there is a trend to shorten the name to SOMA or SoMa, probably in reference to SoHo (South of Houston) in New York City, and, in turn, Soho in London. Before being called South of Market this area was called "South of the Slot", a reference to the cable cars that ran up and down Market along a slot through which they attached to the cables. While the cable cars have long since disappeared from Market Street, some "old timers" still refer to this area as "South of the Slot".
Formerly a doggedly industrial area full of warehouses and factories, this flat stretch attracted few residents. For nearly 100 years, it was considered unattractive, if not downright dangerous. All that began to change in the 1970s, when slums were cleared away and the Moscone Center was built. Nowadays, the neighborhood is seen as a vast and diverse stretch of warehouses, auto repair shops, nightclubs, residential hotels, art spaces, loft apartments, furniture showrooms, condominiums, and technology companies.
Its borders are Market Street to the north-northwest, the San Francisco Bay to the east, Townsend Street to the south-southeast, and U.S. Route 101 (Central Freeway) to the west-southwest. It is the part of the city in which the street grid runs parallel and perpendicular to Market Street. The eastern edge along the Embarcadero and southeastern corner of this area (where Mission Creek meets the bay) is known as South Beach, a separate neighborhood, and below the Townsend Street border begins Mission Bay. The northeastern corner (where Market Street meets the bay) is often considered part of the Financial District, while the upper western corner of SOMA between Van Ness Avenue and 5th Street, and between Market and Howard Street is considered part of the "skid row" Tenderloin District. The neighborhood contains many smaller parks and sub-neighborhoods such as South Park.
Despite the Dot-Com crash of the early 2000s, major software and technology companies have headquarters here, including Wired, Sega of America Inc., CNET Networks, Twitter, Justin.tv, BitTorrent Inc., Yelp, and Advent Software among others. SOMA is home to many of San Francisco's museums including the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Museum of the African Diaspora, the Cartoon Art Museum, the children's Zeum, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum are also in the Yerba Buena area.
Due to its aforementioned Gay Rights history, the Folsom Street Fair is held on Folsom Street between 7th and 12th Streets. The smaller and less-commercialized but also leather subculture-oriented Up Your Alley Fair (commonly referred to as the Dore Alley Fair) is also held in the neighborhood, in late July on Folsom between 9th and 10th Streets and in Dore Alley between Folsom and Howard. Also home to the annual How Weird Street Faire featuring dancing and costumes, held in early May along seven city blocks including Howard and Second Streets.
Many small theatre companies and venues thrive and add to the vibrant life in the SOMA such as The Garage, Theatre Rhinoceros, Boxcar Theatre, Crowded Fire Theater, Off-Market Theaters, FoolsFURY Theater, and Climate Theater.