Getting around Los Angeles on gridlocked freeways can be wearing and stressful – and let’s face it – not particularly good for your health. Do you like the idea of living in a vibrant coastal California city where you won’t sit on jammed freeways – and don’t even need a vehicle? Although commute times are about the same in both cities, the San Francisco experience is totally different from LA. Rather than languishing in your car while stalled on clogged roadways, BART or the Muni can whisk you to work while you work, read, rest, or regroup. But before you sell your car, learn more about the idiosyncrasies of San Francisco and LA to see if the move is right for you.
What to Know About Moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco
Here are some things to consider before leaving sunny LA and moving to San Francisco:
Housing and Cost of Living
San Francisco is far more expensive than LA. Even though LA housing is notoriously pricey, housing in San Francisco is 50% higher. The median home cost in LA is $689,500. In San Francisco it’s $1,378,300. Food and groceries cost 12% more in San Francisco, and health costs, while at the US average, are 11% more than LA. Utility costs are about the same, and the only expense lower in San Francisco is transportation at 4% lower than in LA.
Even though the San Francisco cost of living is much higher than in Los Angeles, the family median income, at $114,049, is higher too. In LA, it’s $61,092. In San Francisco, you definitely have the opportunity to earn more.
If moving to San Francisco from LA becomes your reality, you’ll save on city sales tax and property tax rates. Your state income tax rate will remain the same.
Sales tax will be 1% lower in San Francisco. LA sales tax is 9.5%, while in San Francisco, it’s 8.5%. The average San Francisco property tax rate is 0.649%. On a home valued at $800,000, your annual taxes would be $5,192. The average property tax rate in Los Angeles is 0.755%.
Economy and Job Growth
Tech is a significant driver of the San Francisco economy, but healthcare and finance are also major contributors. In San Francisco, about 10% more residents work in management, business, and finance, and 8% more work in engineering, computers, and science than in LA.
San Francisco’s job growth is about twice as strong as LA’s. In 2019, the job growth rate in San Francisco was 1.3%, while it was 0.7% in LA. In the next ten years, models anticipate job growth to reach 39.1% in San Francisco, but LA will lag at 34.6%.
Transportation and Traffic
When it comes to the daily commute, San Franciscans walk more, bike more, and use public transit far more than Angelinos. Most residents need a car to get around in sprawling LA, but San Francisco is a compact city that allows for 11% of the population to walk to work compared to 3.5% in LA. With convenient BART and the SF Muni, 34% take public transit compared to 10% in LA. Only 34% of San Franciscans drive their car to work compared to LA’s 69%.
If you choose your San Francisco neighborhood carefully, you can likely live there car-free. Parking is minimal and very expensive in San Francisco, another reason why a car can become a hindrance rather than a convenience. About 31% of residents don’t own a car, but they don’t let that stop them when they want to adventure north to Napa or east to Lake Tahoe. They simply rent a vehicle.
Weather and Climate
If LA’s climate is too hot and sunny for your taste, you’ll probably enjoy San Francisco’s cooler and foggier weather. Average July highs in San Francisco are 67 °F while in Los Angeles, July temps are 22 degrees warmer at 84 °F.
San Francisco winters may seem a bit cooler because of moisture that comes off the ocean and the Bay, but both cities’ average January lows are almost the same – 45.9 °F in LA and 45.5 °F in San Francisco. LA gets 16 inches of annual rainfall while San Francisco gets 25 inches, making for a greener natural landscape. And of course, neither city receives snow.
The sun shines more frequently and more intensely in Los Angeles. LA’s sunshine adds up to about 284 days annually, while San Francisco has about 259. If the UV index interests you, in LA, it’s 6.2, and in San Francisco, it’s lower at 5.4.
When considering moving to a new city, safety is always something to keep in mind. Understanding the crime rates of any town makes more sense when compared to the US average. The US violent crime rate averages 23 out of 100. Property crime averages 35 of 100.
In Los Angeles, violent crime is 29, and property crime is 35. San Francisco’s violent and property crime rates are higher, with a violent crime rate of 40 and a property crime rate of 79.
These stats don’t mean the entire city is crime-ridden – many neighborhoods are very safe. A variety of online crime maps define the pockets of crime so you can make an informed decision about safety in communities you’re considering. Start with SFGOV’s map.
Culture, Diversity, and Demographics
LA has about 4,000,000 people compared to about 864,300 in San Francisco. Since the last census, San Francisco’s population grew by 11% compared to 7% growth in LA. But because San Francisco is so compact, the density is more than double LA’s. There are 18,442 people living per square mile in San Francisco’s 47 square miles of land and 8,428 per square mile across Los Angeles’ 469 square miles.
Ethnic diversity takes on a very different pattern in San Francisco than in LA. Approximately 41% of San Francisco’s population is White, compared to 28% in LA. San Francisco is 34% Asian compared to LA’s 12% and 5% African American compared to LA’s 9%. San Francisco also has a much lower percentage of Hispanic residents at 15% compared to LA’s 49%.
Both cities spend an equivalent amount per student; however, the student-teacher ratio is 14% lower in San Francisco’s Unified School District, the sole district in the city. Learn about the school assignment process here. San Francisco has a 13% higher high school graduation rate than LA and 56% more four-year college graduates than Los Angeles.
Both cities offer outstanding post-secondary education opportunities with numerous state colleges and universities, plus elite private universities like Stanford in the Bay Area and USC in Los Angeles.
Just five hours north of Los Angeles, San Francisco is like a different world from sprawling LA. The San Francisco peninsula sits between the Pacific Ocean on the west and San Francisco Bay on the north and east.
The strong marine influence around the peninsula, along with the city’s 40 hills, creates unique microclimates throughout the city. The Sunset and Richmond districts get more fog and wind, while the neighborhoods in east San Francisco tend to get more sun and warmth.
Things to Do
San Francisco puts you’re closer to wilderness recreation than LA does. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and within 45 minutes, you can be hiking out to wild beaches or exploring the majesty of the Redwoods. Napa Valley is just an hour and 20 minutes northeast of San Francisco, offering almost endless wine tasting adventures in gorgeous countryside. Lake Tahoe is only three hours and 20 minutes east, for outstanding skiing, hiking, and camping.
In-town adventures are amazing too. From the events, entertainment, and lush green nature in Golden Gate Park to enjoying San Francisco’s impressive gastronomy, or rooting on the Giants at Oracle Park, there’s always something fun and exciting to do.
Best Neighborhoods in San Francisco
Moving from LA to San Francisco allows you to choose from a range of walkable neighborhoods, most with convenient access to excellent public transit.
Happening and hip, Alamo Square is a small four-block neighborhood near Downtown. Residents and tourists love the array of restaurants and bars. Easily walkable, Alamo Square is also served by several Muni lines, so commuting becomes convenient too. About 83% of the 7,600 residents rent. Home prices average over $1,000,000. Ready to learn more?
About nine miles southwest of Downtown and a 20-minute drive, Balboa Terrace is mostly residential with a dense suburban vibe. Most homes were built in the 1920s in the classic San Francisco Mediterranean style. Today the median home value is $1,328,800. You can run your shopping errands and go out for a meal along Ocean Avenue. Balboa Terrace has convenient access to both 19th Avenue (Hwy 1) and I-280 for north-south travels. Learn more about Balboa Terrace here.
Dogpatch, located on the Bay in one of San Franciso’s renowned microclimates, has much more sun than western neighborhoods closer to the Pacific Ocean. A CalTrain rail station and the Muni light rail are within Dogpatch for easy commuting. There’s no shortage of innovative cafes, bistros, bars, and restaurants in this previously industrial neighborhood. Find out more here.
One of San Francisco’s most classic neighborhoods, Duboce Triangle, is populated with charming, well-maintained, pricey Victorian homes, lovely landscaping, and several parks. In and around Duboce Triangle, you’ll find some of San Francisco’s most eclectic and enticing cafes, dive bars, bistros, and shops. Several Muni lines run through the neighborhood, so your Duboce Triangle lifestyle can be car-free. Here’s more info about Duboce Triangle.
Like Dogpatch, Mission Bay is also located on the Bay in east San Francisco and went through a transformation from an industrial district into a contemporary mixed-use urban area. This community is one area of the city where you may need a car until predicted public transit is installed and functioning. The UCSF Medical Center campus fills much of Mission Bay. Discover more about Mission Bay here.
Under 4,500 people live up on Telegraph Hill, San Francisco’s iconic historical neighborhood that overlooks the Bay. Telegraph Hill puts you right next to North Beach and the Embarcadero, and within walking distance of the financial district. Vintage homes, condos, and apartments mix with cafes, pubs, and shopping in this densely urban neighborhood. Read more about Telegraph Hill here.
Cost of Moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco
On average, it costs about $1800-$2200 to move from L.A. to the San Francisco Bay Area. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 382 miles up the coast. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination zip codes, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best Los Angeles to San Francisco movers now!