Daly City

Known as the “Gateway to the Peninsula,” Daly City shares a border with San Francisco, making it San Mateo County’s northernmost city. With a population of 103,000, it’s also the largest. First settled in the 1850s, it’s also one of the oldest.

That’s when Daly City’s namesake pioneer, John Daly, came to the area, eventually establishing a 250-acre dairy farm along what is now Mission Street. By the 1870s, streetcars on their way from San Francisco to points south all made sure to include on their journey a stop at “Daly’s Hill.” This gave Daly an idea: to sell off portions of his land for future development. By 1911, “Daly’s Hill” was incorporated as Daly City.

Today’s Daly City is one of the Bay Area’s most diverse places, a fact reflected by the dizzying array of ethnic restaurants in the city’s Top of the Hill, or “Original” Daly City district. Here, on what was once John Daly’s dairy farm, are delicious options from all over the world, including the most extensive inventory of Filipino restaurants in the region, a necessity in a city where almost a third of all residents can trace their ancestry to the Philippines.

Top of the Hill is an evolving community. Always the heart of Daly City, the area around Mission Street has recently seen an uptick in new shops, restaurants and residential development as it takes advantage of its proximity to transportation options. Buses, freeways and Daly City’s BART station – all are within walking distance of Daly City’s “downtown.”

This reverses a trend that began shortly after World War II, when San Francisco developer Henry Doelger brought his dream of a “city within a city” to a Daly City potato field located west of downtown. In 1946, Doelger began construction on his Westlake project, employing a team of architects to design what is considered by many to be the quintessential Mid-Century suburb. Award winning and the subject of books and a documentary film, Westlake has recently begun gaining popularity with young homebuyers attracted by its retro chic vibe; homes that sold for as little as $350,000 just a few years ago are now fetching $700,000 and up – an impressive sum in an affordable city.

Because even after several years of steep property value appreciation, Daly City’s median home price for July, 2014, was $675,500, making it one of San Mateo County’s most affordable cities. For that total, buyers have a wide variety of housing to choose from. The west side of Daly City boasts several post-war neighborhoods similar to Westlake, filled with spacious homes built in the 1950s and 60s, laid out on neatly maintained streets. Closer to Mission Street, neighborhoods like Crocker and Bayshore closely resemble neighboring San Francisco neighborhoods like Crocker-Amazon and the Visitacion Valley. Meanwhile, Daly City’s eastern hills are where you’ll find newer, larger single-family homes, many of which command prices north of $1 million.

Daly City has one golf course, two shopping centers and miles of unspoiled coastline. Thornton State Beach and Mussel Rock Park are both in Daly City, offering dramatic ocean views that are shared by some nearby homes. There are several parks in Daly City, including Broderick-Terry Duel Landmark Park, the site of an 1859 duel between anti-slavery Senator David Broderick of California and pro-slavery ex-Chief Justice David Terry, a confrontation considered by some to be the “true” beginning of the U.S. Civil War.

Broderick-Terry Park is located next to the Daly City-San Francisco border, in a neighborhood of sleek Mid-Century homes. It’s an emblem of Daly City but it is not emblematic of this place. Despite the notoriety of the duel, of Henry Doelger’s ground-breaking Westlake, of the fog-shrouded coastline and the iconic bay views of the eastern hills, there is no one symbol of Daly City. It’s a place where diversity -- of architecture, land and people -- rules.

Photo by Tim Adams (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons