The creation of the Marina District is shrouded in myth and folklore. Many people claim that the area was created out of the rubble dumped into the Bay in the period after the great quake of 1906. Photographs of the Marina District as recently as 1912 show most of the area still as being in the bay, posing the question of why it would take six years for the rubble to be dumped to form the Marina. In 1885, Filbert Street was still the old Presidio Road. North onto Buchanan Street toward the bay, two blocks away, Lombard Street was sand dunes, about higher than present. The shoreline was already being pushed northward by industrial power companies. The area now covered by Moscone Recreation Center and Marina Middle School was Lobos Square, a flat spot where the dunes had been leveled out to reach a hodgepodge of wharves and industrial plants extending from Laguna Street to Steiner Street.
Most of it came down in 1906, including the Gas Light Company generating house. But the brick meter house stood its sand, and the date of completion is still visible: “1893,” in the archway at Buchanan and North Point streets, behind the Marina Safeway (aka "Single's Safeway").
West from there on North Point is a slope in the sidewalk where shore met sea. It was here on North Point, west of Webster Street, that speculator James Fair built a seawall in the 1890s, in a grand plan to create 70 acres (283,000 m²) of shallow waters and build an industrial park. The walls were completed at the moment they ran out of sand to fill it with, so there it sat, like a full bathtub.
Until 1912, standing at the intersection North Point and Fillmore Streets, in the heart of today’s Marina, would mean standing in the bay. The creators of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition leased James Fair’s pond and finished the project. Two dredges and 146 days later, the bathtub was filled with 1.3 million cubic yards (100,000 m³) of sand and mud.
After the exposition closed in 1915, the Fair heirs got the land back and sold it to the Marina Development Corporation. City Engineer M. M. O'Shaughnessy created a hodgepodge of streets that connected to the original city grid. The layout is out of character with the older portions of the city, creating the maze-like feel of much of the Marina District. The Marina Development Corporation carved this area into 634 residential lots, plus the Marina Green. When it was built out in the 1920s, the area previously known as Harbor View or North End became known as The Marina.
U.S. Route 101/Lombard Street is a boulevard that bisects the southern edge of the Marina District. The street is dotted with motels built in celebration of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge and a collection of retail, fast food, and residential units. On a typical afternoon the street is a mix of tourists searching for Ghirardelli Square and the Golden Gate Bridge, residents of the Marina/Cow Hollow area, and children walking towards Marina Middle School. Lombard Street runs between Cow Hollow to the south and the Marina, sometimes referred to as NoLo [North of Lombard], to the north. One block north of Lombard is Chestnut Street, another important street lined with retail establishments for most of its length within the Marina District.
Moscone Recreation Center sports the largest children's park in the city and also has tennis courts, basketball courts, and a volleyball area. It has served as a meeting location for generations of San Francisco natives, and can be seen in several historic films. The slice of land that was the site of the Tower of Jewels during the 1915 World's Fair was initially named Funston Park. The park was renamed after the assassination of mayor George Moscone as a political payback to the conservative neighborhood activists in the Marina District who opposed Moscone's progressive policies.
The Marina Green is a picturesque park adjacent to the boat marina itself, and the San Francisco bay. The wind at the Marina Green frequently exceeds , which lends itself to windsurfing at the nearby East Beach.
Schools in the Marina include the Tule Elk Child Development Center and Marina Middle School (the student body of which is primarily bussed in from other less affluent parts of San Francisco. The few children and teenagers living in the area tend to go to expensive private schools, as with the culturally similar "Lake" district).
Housing units: 14,851
Land area: 1.0 mile² (2.6 km²)
Water area: zero
Hispanic (of any race): 3.87%
American Indian: 0.15%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.09%
Some other race population: 1.05%
Two or more races population: 2.13%
Family and Income statistics:
Average household size: 1.61
Average family size: 2.46
Per capita income (1999): $81,044
Median household income (1999): $84,710
Median family income (1999): $133,235
Individuals below poverty line: 3.64%
Families below poverty line: 1.10%
There are areas in The Marina which are not on landfill. This area is referred to as The Gold Box, bordered by Fort Mason, Octavia St, Lombard St, and Van Ness Avenue. The area is called The Gold Box because of its prime location on sandstone/bedrock geology. Those who live in this area are equidistant from the shops and restaurants of Chestnut St. (Marina), Union St. (Cow Hollow), and Polk St. (Russian Hill). Furthermore, this location is close to Fort Mason, Moscone Recreation Center, and The Marina Safeway.
The Exploratorium, a science museum, is a popular tourist destination in the Marina District. Many couples take their wedding photos at this site. The Exploratorium is located at the Palace of Fine Arts and provides an opportunity for patrons to explore the physical sciences in a hands-on fashion. Schools throughout Northern California routinely bring young students on field trips to this museum, as it is well known for its exhibits and creative learning environment.