Like many cities in the US, San Francisco is experiencing a wave of gentrification that some residents welcome and others deride. Often central to the debate is the Mission District, an eclectic enclave whose formerly large working- and middle-class Latino population moves further south as the gentrifiers roll in by the dozens: well-paid, largely young, white, male, and employed by tech companies. Their presence brings with it priced-out renters, long waits and lines at a growing number of trendy restaurants and cafes, and a fear of cultural and historical erasure.

The Mission’s Latino and Chicano influence is visible in the bright and elaborate murals that decorate the alleys for several blocks, tucked between the streets in a less polished section of the neighborhood. Inspired by the work of Mexican artist Diego Rivera and the Chicano Mural Movement of the ’60s and 70s, some of the artwork reflects reactions to social and political changes. Other pieces illustrate life in the Mission in the midst of the City’s growing pains.

A few weeks ago, I toured the murals with my younger sister, who was visiting from Texas. We picked up a map at Precita Eyes, a community mural center and headed for Balmy Alley, which boasts one of the largest collection of murals among the alleys.

A classic

Michael Jackson Mural in Mission, San Francisco from The Girl Next Door is Black



We lingered in front of this mural. Almost every inch of paint seems to hold meaning.

We spent a bit more time with this one, as well.

Robots / Tech In the Mission Gentrification Mural, San Francisco, CA


A few more murals that stood out to me.


This is by no means all there is to see of San Francisco street art. You could easily spend 3-4 hours touring the alleys across the city, absorbing the messages in the work. If you ever get the chance, I recommend checking them out! Keeping it real though: it’s probably better to plan your visit for the daylight hours.

Sisters-at-Mission-Murals, San Francisco, CA - The Girl Next Door is Black
Me (R) and the sis

What symbolism / meaning do you see in the murals?

What Do You Think?

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  • Richard Hicks
    April 8, 2015

    SOme really great artwork for the murals. WOnderful way to brighten up a dull wall

  • Sandra Watts
    April 8, 2015

    Truly amazing works of art just in the photos. I can’t imagine how amazing they would have been to be standing right beside one.

  • I’ve never been to San Francisco as an adult, but I imagine I would love it. I do love looking at murals. It always amazes me how the artist puts the different pieces of their artwork together.

  • Mai Tran
    April 5, 2015

    Awesome artworks! I wish to see these in real life some day.

  • Pierced Wonderings
    April 5, 2015

    These are amazing! In a past life, I visited SF & the Bay Area quite a bit, but I don’t remember ever seeing these…or looking for them…or knowing that they were there. As someone who has difficulty using paint without getting it all over me and all over everything else, it really does strike me as fantastic talent to be able to create such intricately detailed art.

    Thanks for sharing with us and joining my Photo Friday link-up!

    • I honestly had no idea these art alleys existed until I’d lived here for about 6 months.

      I watched a street artist touch up his work not too long ago. I think I annoyed him by asking so many questions. Haha. I was just so fascinated.

  • trininista
    April 4, 2015

    We don’t have much street art here, not like that though. We have commissioned artists and even used kids’ art to adorn some of our public spaces, which I do indeed love. I envy creatives like that. I hated art in school. Can’t paint a jar much less create great pieces like these. They are really beautiful.

    Cute pic of you and the sis.

    • I loved art in school. I used to want to be an artist, but I kept getting pushed into non-creative endeavors. Thankfully the writing thing stuck! I still wish I could draw better though.

      And thank you. 🙂

  • workingonworkingmom
    April 4, 2015

    I love these, I can’t believe they are street art. They look like they could be in galleries and published in books! I love this type of art, much like a street music, people sharing their art for no money or praise in return; just sharing it to share it and spread their message and their passion.

  • K. Renae P.
    April 4, 2015

    I looooove street art. I may be going to San Francisco soon, and I’ll be putting together a street art tour for sure. Awesome pics!

    • Oh cool! Yeah, there is so much street art to see and you’re unlikely to run into a hoard of tourists as it’s an off-the-beaten path activity. 🙂

  • Christy@SweetandSavoring
    April 2, 2015

    Two of my favorite topics: SF and street art! I’ve been there several times and still haven’t devoted as much time as I’d like to the street art and wonderful murals. The one with the giant apartment-building-robot is great- what a loud and clear message! The same kind of gentrification is happening here in my Hudson Valley town, only it’s the wealthy NYC folks moving up here and pricing out the working-class people that were here first. It kind of sucks, most of the restaurants are out of my price range.

    • There’s a lot to see! I’m glad I finally took the time to explore.

      Hudson Valley is beautiful, so I can imagine people with money wanting to live there. I hear that NYers with money are taking over more of the suburbs since the usual areas seem to be maxed out population-wise and too pricey.

  • Ally
    April 1, 2015

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I’m always awe-inspired by people who can do that! Art isn’t my “thing,” but I love the art of other people!

    • I so admire the talent these artists have and the creativity to come up with these concepts! It IS awe-inspiring.

  • Adelynn Lovellette
    March 31, 2015

    I remember seeing some murals from the highways when I was in San Fran last spring. There were some really good ones!

  • susielindau
    March 31, 2015

    I love the M J mural. I just drove by one in Denver and nearly had an accident!

  • Shahidah
    March 31, 2015

    Never been to San Francisco but its on my to do:) visiting Los Angeles next week wish it were closer