Polk Street is a street in San Francisco, California, that travels northward from Market Street to Beach Street and is one of the main thoroughfares of the Polk Gulch neighborhood traversing through the Tenderloin, Nob Hill, and Russian Hill neighborhoods. The street takes its name from former U.S. President James K. Polk. The street remains a busy business district with many restaurants, cafes, home decorating and hardware stores.
The street also has bike lanes, which were approved in 2002. San Francisco bike route 25 runs along Polk Street, and is the only North-South route suitable for casual bicycle travel within at least a mile in either direction. There is an ongoing debate on whether to increase the level of these improvements.
Polk Street is named for James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795 – June 15, 1849) the 11th President of the United States (1845–1849). During the Mexican-American War, and after the Texas annexation, Polk turned his attention to California, hoping to acquire the territory from Mexico before any European nation. The main interest was San Francisco Bay as an access point for trade with Asia.
Polk Gulch is the neighborhood around a section of Polk Street, and its immediate vicinity, that runs through the Nob Hill and Russian Hill neighborhoods from approximately Geary Street to Union Street. The name, somewhat humorous, arises because the street runs over an old stream at the bottom of a gently-sloped valley. The neighborhood is sometimes referred to as Lower Nob Hill or the Tendernob.
Polk Gulch was San Francisco's main gay neighborhood before 1970, when many gays began to move to The Castro (formerly Eureka Valley) and SOMA because many large Victorian houses were available for low rent or could be purchased with low down payments. Several gay, lesbian, and transgender bars and clubs remain in the area.
As the original center of the city's LGBT community, it has remained one of the core centers along with The Castro and the South of Market (SOMA); Polk Street was the location of the first official San Francisco Gay Pride Parade in 1972. In the 1950s through the 1970s Halloween on Polk Street became a major attraction for tourists and locals. In the 1990s and 2000s the neighborhood started to gentrify. It remains prominent for its nightlife although prostitutes and their pimps are still a common sight on the street. Male prostitutes were once common on Polk Street, but now ply their trade mostly over the Internet. 
Government and infrastructure
- "Polk Street - San Francisco Shopping". PolkStreet.com. 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- "Polk Street". San Francisco City Guide. SF Merchants. 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- Rachel Gordon (May 18, 1999). "Supes approve bicycle lanes on Polk Street". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- "San Francisco Bike Map" (PDF). 2013.
- Leslie Fulbright (October 12, 2005). "Polk Gulch cleanup angers some: Gentrification pushing out 'hookers, hustlers'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
- Lesli Neilson (August 2, 2010). "Strolling on Polk Street Offers a Big Slice of Life". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- "Northern Station." (Archive) San Francisco Police Department. Retrieved on September 1, 2013.