San Francisco calls to people for many reasons: unmatched tech work opportunities, awesome regional recreation and nature, and of course just the lure of living in one of the most celebrated cities in the nation. Whatever brings you to San Francisco, once you put down roots in the city, it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else. Celebrated for its amazing food scene, liberal politics, and vast cultural diversity, San Francisco is a city like none other. With more restaurants per capita than any city in America – over 4,000 – you could eat every meal at a different restaurant every day, and it would take more than twelve years to try them all.
The cool, often foggy Bay Area environment offers lush landscapes with towering elegant redwoods and amazing year-round gardens that never see freezing temps. Summers are cool and lend themselves to hiking, jogging, biking, and enjoying nature in state and city parks while the rest of the country is sweating out triple digits.
The cost of living is high compared to most American cities, but the quality of life is rated the highest in the US. When you’re ready to start planning your move, click the “Get Quote” button to receive up to four quotes from our highly experienced, licensed, and insured San Francisco movers.
Living in San Francisco, CA: What to Know Before Moving to San Francisco
From the gold rush to the present day, San Francisco has been the financial and cultural focal point of Northern California. Covering only 47 hilly square miles of the San Francisco Peninsula, this bustling city is the fifth most densely populated city in the nation. The San Francisco metropolitan area population is around nine and a half million, but the city itself is home to only 883,305 residents, making it the 13th most populous city in the country. With abundant natural beauty, rich cultural offerings, and big-city amenities, it’s no wonder people love living here.
Pros and Cons of Living in San Francisco
- Mild but changeable weather: cool summers and mild winters
- A multitude of museums, galleries, and cultural institutions
- Foodie heaven: slow food, plus every type of ethnic cuisine available
- Proximity to skiing, hiking, boating, surfing, and camping
- Excellent public transportation plus high walk and bike scores
- Outstanding urban parks throughout the city
- Cost of living significantly higher than most cities
- Occasional earthquakes
- Heavy traffic congestion
- You have to wear layers/carry a jacket (weather changes throughout the day)
- Lots of homeless people in some areas
- Finding parking is a daily struggle
- Property Tax: Good news! The .68% property tax in San Francisco is lower than the rest of the state and is lower still than the national average. Of course, this is mostly offset by some of the most expensive real estate in the country, so it all balances out.
- Sales Tax: Residents of the Golden State pay a premium when it comes to sales tax with a combined sales tax rate of 8.7%.
- Income Tax: In California, income tax depends on your income bracket, and rates range from 1% to 13.3%, so be prepared to shell out a little bigger slice of your paycheck depending on your annual income.
Slightly more than one-third (37%) of San Francisco residents own their homes. That’s unsurprising considering that median home values are currently reported at $927,400 and are only rising. Homes on the San Francisco market are rarely described as affordable. The median rent is steadily climbing, but is currently at $2,470 per month for a one bedroom, making it more than twice the national average. Despite high prices, there are a few neighborhoods that are a bit more affordable, such as Haight-Ashbury, Outer Sunset, Inner Richmond, Glen Park, and Outer Mission.
Cost of Living
Californians live with many lifestyle perks, and in San Francisco, they can expect to pay a premium for them. Fortunately, most incomes in San Francisco are proportionate to the cost of living. Overall, the median income in San Francisco, $96,265, is quite a bit higher than the median state income at $71,805, and almost $35,000 more than the national average. Based on Economic Policy Institute calculations, a couple with no children can expect to get by on an income of $7,407 a month, but a couple with a child will need closer to $10,839 monthly income to live reasonably well.
Weather & Natural Disasters
San Francisco is known for its foggy mornings, mild winters, and sometimes unusually cold summers. The first rule of San Francisco is: always carry a jacket, and you better wear layers. Cold winds blow in from the Pacific and can make the temperatures seem colder than they are. The average year-round high temperatures waver between the high 50s and 70 degrees, so you won’t run much risk of overheating. Despite the high humidity the fogs brings, you can expect about 24 inches of annual rainfall with only 68 wet days, which means you can enjoy outdoor recreation most of the time.
There are a few natural disaster threats to be wary of in this city. San Francisco is at risk of earthquakes, fire, tsunamis, severe storms, and flooding. All new buildings are earthquake-safe, and fires and tsunamis are rare, but there are precautions all San Franciscans can take to be safe in the event of a disaster. Just before you move, check the city’s natural disaster emergency plans to make sure you and your family will know what to do if a disaster threatens.
Economy & Job Market
The economy in San Francisco largely centers around tech. The city’s economy is growing, and the job growth rate is 1.3%. The largest employers in the city are the Salesforce, Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente, Safeway Inc., Sutter Health, and Uber Technologies Inc. Job seekers can look for work in higher education, healthcare, tech, tourism, and finance. While there are jobs to be found in other areas, this is a veritable mecca for job seekers in tech.
Traffic and Transportation
Unlike typical cities in California, it isn’t necessary to own a car in San Francisco. The public transportation system is excellent. Muni is a network of buses, light rail trains, classic streetcars, and historic cable cars that covers every corner of the city. Muni Metro runs from 5 am to 1 am each weekday, gets going at 7 am on Saturday and doesn’t start until 8 am on Sunday. Some Muni lines run 24 hours, which is rare in the US.
For those who do commute by personal vehicle, traffic is a major complaint in San Francisco. The City by the Bay has been ranked as the fifth-worst city in the world for traffic congestion, so this complaining is not in vain. Rush hour runs from around 7 am to 9:30 am and 3:30 to 6:00 pm throughout the city. If you’re driving, stay up to date on San Franciso’s bridges with information on tolls, traffic flow, accidents, and lane closures to smooth out your commute.
San Francisco has an excellent walk score of 86, with some neighborhoods hitting a record 100! Chinatown tops the list with a walk score and a transit score of 100. Close contenders are Downtown-Union Square, Lower Knob Hill, North Beach, and the Tenderloin all with walk scores of 99. San Francisco has almost 50 neighborhoods with walk scores over 90. The overall bike score in San Francisco is 71, with many neighborhoods in the 80s and 90s. Of course, the hills mean that you’ll be getting a serious workout. The transit score in town is a whopping 80, with many neighborhoods hitting 100. Basically, this city is a dream come true for people who want to live a vehicle-free life.
What to Do in San Francisco
When it comes to activities, the only complaint San Francisco residents may have is that there’s just too much to choose from. The adventures in gastronomy are endless, the opportunities for shopping are unparalleled, there’s art and culture to dig into around every corner, and green space is abundant. It’s difficult to narrow it down, but here are a few of the highlights you can look forward to living in the city:
Foodies will not want to miss the Ferry Building, an architectural marvel filled with local food, from oysters to artisanal chocolate and everything in between. In Chinatown, you can enjoy some of the most authentic Chinese food in the country and even watch fortune cookies being made. The Mission can wrap up the best burrito experience of your life, or you can enjoy a slice of the high life with high tea at the Palace Hotel. If you want to pack a year’s worth of eating and drinking into three delicious days, you won’t want to miss Eat Drink SF, a food event that will expose you to tastes from 30 different restaurants and 70 beverage makers.
For arts and culture, San Francisco has something for everyone. The Museum of Modern Art is a top museum in the city, just across the street from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The world-class De Young Museum gives visitors free access to its observation tower and gardens, and the Museum of Craft and Design is not to be missed by lovers of modern crafts. Children can have a blast visiting the Academy of Sciences or the Exploratorium, and adults can enjoy “After Dark” at the Exploratorium, complete with cocktails. Both the San Francisco Opera and Ballet are renowned; the American Conservatory Theater features both traditional and experimental theater.
There are several parks to explore, with Golden Gate topping the list. Hiking Lands End will give you a stunning view of the Bay, and a visit to the Sutro Baths offers a glimpse of the city’s long history. Walking to Fort Point will reveal a Civil War era structure with a great view of Golden Gate Bridge and the surfers skirting the shore.
If you live for pro sporting events, then San Francisco is your Shangri-La. In Major League Baseball, the Giants will put on a show at Oracle Park, their beautiful home base. NBA champions the Golden State Warriors play out of the Oracle Arena in Oakland. Football fans can enjoy the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara and can see them play the rival Oakland Raiders every four years. Beyond that, the San Jose Sharks are part of the National Hockey League, and the San Jose Earthquakes are the Bay Area’s only Major League Soccer team.
Schools and Universities
Comprising more than 160 institutions, San Francisco Unified School District serves more than 55,500 students as the only public school district in the city. Students and parents must submit a selection application to their schools of choice, and each fall the SFUSC hosts an enrollment fair to give families access to information about all the schools in the district. Several high schools are nationally recognized in the top five percent of public schools in the country, and all children in San Francisco have access to preschool as part of a citywide program.
The San Francisco area is home to a large number of higher education institutions, but the finest are Stanford University; the University of California, Berkley; and the University of California, San Francisco. Within the city limits are a surprising number of excellent post-secondary institutions such as the public San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco, one of the largest community colleges in the country. Private institutions include the prestigious California College of Arts, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Law School, Presidio Graduate School, and Golden Gate University, to list only a few.
San Francisco’s crime rates are considerably higher than the rest of the country’s, at about 151% higher. Generally speaking, the lion’s share of crimes in San Francisco are property crimes and theft, but violent crimes are still almost 80% higher than the national average. Most people agree that while the city is overall fairly safe, there are areas that are more dangerous and should be avoided at night or when one is alone.
San Francisco residents rely on several utility providers.
- Gas and Electricity: PG&E is the gas and electricity provider for the area. To start an account or transfer service, visit the website to create a My Energy account. Contact PG&E within a week of your move-in date to make sure you are up and running upon entry.
- Water: The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission takes care of water services in the city of San Francisco. To open an account, call their service line at 415-351-3000, or go online to register.
- Waste and Recycling: Recology Sunset Scavenger provides waste management for San Francisco. To begin service, you must call them at 415-330-1300.
South San Francisco relies on South San Francisco Scavenger Company which can be reached at 650-589-4020 to start a new account.
- Internet and cable: Residents can choose between Webpass, Sonic, Monkey Brains, DirecTV, Comcast, and AT&T. To begin service with Webpass, check eligibility on their site. Sonic also requires an eligibility check. Monkeybrains is a locally-based, affordable ISP that you can start an account with by submitting your information online. For DirecTV cable service, visit the website to choose between a wide range of bundles and options. For service with Comcast, visit the website to see which packages they offer in your area. Visit the AT&T site to check out the many options available in San Francisco.
Best Neighborhoods in San Francisco, CA
This Western Addition neighborhood centers around Alamo Park, a four-block area that overlooks downtown San Francisco. The boundaries are generally considered to be Webster Street to the east, Golden Gate Avenue to the north, Divisadero Street to the west, and Fell Street the south. In 1856, Mayor James Van Ness designated Alamo Square as a park around a watering hole. Today, it is possible to see the Golden Gate Bridge from the park on a clear day, but you’re more likely to see the Painted Ladies, a famous row of Victorian Mansions facing the park off Steiner Street.
Alamo Park has become a hip neighborhood with its many bars and restaurants that cater to the many tech professionals who have moved into the area over the past decade. Somewhere around 83% of residents here are renters, and there are still reasonable housing prices in the area.
Access to amenities is good; most services are within walking distance. There are ample drinking and dining options right in the ‘hood. Public transportation makes getting to Alamo Square easy. Muni lines run on Filmore, Divisadero, Hayes, and MacAllister.
- Population – Under 7,637
- Home Price – Median home value $1,024,371
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,523
- Employers – Uber Industries Inc, Salesforce, AirBnB, Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente
- Schools – California Crosspoint Academy, Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, La Scuola International School, Gateway Middle School, and Ida B Wells Continuation High School
Something to try: Check out a movie in the park during summer months, put on by the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association.
Balboa Terrace is a quaint residential neighborhood in the southwest part of San Francisco. This community was one of the first subdivisions on Mount Davidson, established in 1912, but with most of the homes built in the 1920s. Bordered by Junipero Serra Boulevard, Monterey Avenue, Aptos Avenue, and Ocean Avenue, it runs against the southern edge of the exclusive St. Francis Wood development. Balboa is a beautiful and affluent neighborhood featuring manicured green lawns and Mediterranean-style homes set back from the street; electrical lines are buried, creating a clean street view. It’s a homeowner’s neighborhood where 93% of residents own, but if you’re fortunate, you may find affordable housing toward the edges of the community.
Despite feeling highly suburban, the City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State University are close by. Ocean Avenue offers shopping and dining within walking distance. Proximity to I-280 allows easy access to the south, and 19th Avenue will take you straight north to the Golden Gate Bridge towards Napa and beyond.
- Population – Just over 2,000
- Home Price – Median home value $1,328,765
- Rent Prices – Median rent $4,000
- Employers – Uber Industries Inc, Salesforce, AirBnB, Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente
- Schools – Commodore Sloat Elementary, Claire Lilienthal Elementary, Chinese Immersion School at Deavila, Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, Aptos Middle School, Lowell High School, Abraham Lincoln High
Something to try: Check out Paradise Pizza on West Portal Ave for the best pizza in this area.
This northeastern San Francisco neighborhood is uncharacteristically sunny and flat compared to other areas of the city and is approximately half residential and half industrial, with many docks abutting the bay. It’s bounded to the north by Mariposa Street, Cesar Chavez Street to the south, the waterfront is to the east, and Indiana Street on the west. The origin of the name is not fully known, but the area features some of the oldest houses in San Francisco, some dating back to the 1860s. Once a gritty, working-class industrial neighborhood, in the 1990s the neighborhood began to revitalize and is now home to many trendy condos, lofts, and live-work spaces.
Dogpatch is conveniently situated on the T-Line Muni Metro light rail system running down Third Street and is served as well by the 22nd Street Caltrain commuter rail station. The area is bustling with restaurants, bars, and galleries and has a lively feel thanks to the many creatives who have made the area home. Just over half the residents here are renters, so if you can’t afford to buy, you’ll be in good company.
- Population – 2,361
- Home Price – Median home value $998,637
- Rent Prices – Median rent $3,131
- Employers – Pinterest, American Industrial Center, UCSF Medical Center
- Schools – Claire Lilienthal Elementary, La Scuola Daniel Webster Elementary School, Starr King Elementary School, Live Oak School
Something to try: Pay a visit to Dogpatch Barber and Fade for some outstanding shaved-designs on your head.
This quiet neighborhood lies just north of the Castro, in the center of San Francisco, bordered by Market St, Castro, and Duboce Avenue. The neighborhood surrounds a small pocket park named, naturally, Duboce Park, that is a haven for dogs and dog owners alike. The area is known for its lushly landscaped streets and well-maintained Victorian homes. Roughly 71% of residents of this community are renters, and although rentals are in high demand, there may be a slim chance for a bargain rental deal.
Duboce Triangle is an eclectic area flush with dive bars, coffee houses, and sandwich shops; a thriving nightlife scene is within a short walking distance. The area has great access to amenities including several grocers and a community center. Several train lines converge in this neighborhood, which makes it easy to get anywhere on the Muni K, L, M, and J lines.
- Population – Just under 5000
- Home Price – Median home value $1,040,944
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,765
- Employers – California Pacific Medical Center, KPMG LLP, Cisco, Deloitte, Accenture
- Schools – California Crosspoint Academy, Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, La Scuola International School, Gateway Middle School, Ida B Wells Continuation High School Oro Valley
Something to try: Check out Ceasar’s Cafe on Valencia for live music every Saturday night.
This neighborhood on the east side of San Francisco was originally an industrial district but has recently undergone a tremendous revitalization that has transformed it into a convenient home base for students, and young single tech workers. Townsend Street bounds the neighborhood to the north, Third Street and the Bay to the east, and Mariposa to the south. Two-thirds of the residents here rent, and there are still affordable options around, even though it has become a bit of a tech hub.
Family friendly and brand-spanking new, this is an area for the set of folks who don’t love living in homes over a century old. The neighborhood hosts community events such as movie nights in the park, Halloween costume parties, and Easter egg hunts for kids. Enjoying an unusually sunny environment, you’ll get a natural dose of vitamin D in Mission Bay.
There are plenty of amenities – grocery stores and loads of shopping opportunities fill the area. The proximity to public transport is slightly limited at the moment, but it is slated to change radically this year.
- Population – 10,264
- Home Price – Median home value $799,400
- Rent Prices – Median rent $2,822
- Employers – UC San Francisco, Uber Technologies Inc, Dropbox, Lyft Inc, Gap Inc
- Schools – Mission Bay Montessori, Bessie Carmichael Elementary School, Daniel Webster Elementary School, Live Oak School, Five Keys Charter School
Situated within sight of the iconic Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill is a wonderfully scenic neighborhood named for the semaphore (a code-dispatching device) at its peak that signaled to ships in the Bay until the 1860s. Bounded on the south by Vallejo Street, to the east by Sansome, Columbus Avenue to the west, the northwestern corner is overlapped with North Beach. The neighborhood boasts the greatest concentration of pre-Great Quake buildings in the city, in a surprisingly claustrophobic configuration.
Two-thirds of the residents here are renters, and while rent is expensive, it’s probably buffered by the fact that the area is always heavily trafficked by tourists. Nevertheless, the neighborhood has a reputation for its exceptional schools and proximity to a dramatic number of restaurants, bars, and vibrant nightlife.
- Population – Under 4,483
- Home Price – Median home value $1,226,719
- Rent Prices – Median rent $2,011
- Employers – the University of California, Diamond Children’s Medical Center
- Schools – Garfield Elementary School, Gateway High School, Saint Hillary School, La Scuola International School, Crowden Music Center
No matter what brings you to San Francisco, your neighborhood will have a profound effect on the quality of your day-to-day life. Take your time to find the place that feels most like home.
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