Following the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and fire, the streets south of Market Street became an industrial wasteland of warehouses and sweatshops, and stayed that way for much of the 20th century. With the dotcom boom of the 1990s came rapid regeneration: Warehouses were converted into high-end loft apartments, swanky bars and restaurants opened to serve the new locals, and SoMa, the acronym, took off. Today, a new generation of techies work in SoMa alongside a growing residential class, occupying scores of high-rise apartments and condos in the China Basin and South Beach areas, near the new campus of the University of California San Francisco and AT&T Park.
In the 1980s and ’90s, a city-funded project converted a dilapidated square block bounded by Mission, 3rd, Folsom and 4th streets into the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Gardens. Attractions and businesses are housed in a series of structures that are half above and half below ground. Within the gardens is an urban park with sculpture walks, shady trees and the Revelations waterfall, constructed in 1993 in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. The view from the top of the waterfall offers a comprehensive survey of SoMa’s dramatically changing architecture, with old St. Patrick’s Church juxtaposed against modern offices and Daniel Libeskind’s striking Contemporary Jewish Museum. A skywalk over Howard Street at the south end connects Yerba Buena to the Moscone Convention Center and the Children’s Creativity Museum, ice rink and playground. Flanking either side are other prominent museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (currently closed while undergoing expansion), the Cartoon Art Museum, and the California Historical Society.