San Francisco, California

(12 reviews)


“San Francisco - One of the best places to live in the world”

Pros:

San Francisco is the greatest city on earth, if you ask me. What's not to like about it? San Francisco has that certain romantic quality that you see in the movies, but it's true. You really feel like you've been whisked away to a movie set as you wander the streets with its colorful Victorian houses, old-time cable cars, hilly streets, greenery everywhere, and the smell of ocean breezes throughout the city.
It's a big city that feels like a small town. It's not surprising to run into old and new friends wherever you go in the city. The weather is some of the best in the world. Sure it can get a little foggy near the coast, but with overall cool, windswept sunny days, it's always comfortable in the city by the bay.
If you're a lover of the arts, San Francisco is the place to be. Fabulous theater performances and art installations, both professional and amateur, are scattered throughout the city. You have to see Beach Blanket Babylon if you want to experience a true San Francisco staple.
As for food and drink,well what can I say. San Francisco is renowned for some of the best restaurants in the world. But don't restrict yourselves to the obvious. Seek out the little neighborhood eateries for some hidden gems. You can probably go to a different restaurant every night of the year and still have a few left to discover.
Mostly, San Francisco is a great place to live because of the diversity and the acceptance. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come. It's not uncommon to walk down the street and hear a variety of languages, see people clothed in all sorts of strange costumes (some not clothed at all), and pass by a peaceful protest or two (usually about the environment). Once you come to San Francisco, you'll never want to leave.

Cons:

San Francisco, as with all big cities, has quite a homeless people problem. You can hardly walk down the street of any neighborhood any longer and not be approached for spare change. The homeless also urinate and defecate wherever convenient, which sometimes is your doorstep.
San Francisco is also quite expensive. The rents are some of the highest in the country, and you won't always find the perfect home with that exhorbitant rent you are paying. There's also quite a rat problem in the city, so you have to make sure you find a building that does regular pest inspections.
In some of the more questionable areas, such as the Tenderloin, crime is quite high. You should never be caught in one of these neighborhoods after dark. I don't visit them even during the daytime.

Best Neighborhoods

Families have actually flourished in some of the unexpected neighborhoods, like the Castro and Mission; however, the best neighborhood for families is probably Noe Valley. With a cute little downtown area and parks and schools nearby, it is considered a mecca for the family oriented.
Professionals are also scattered throughout the city, but many occupy the trendy new lofts in the Mission or the hot properties on Nob Hill with sweeping views of the city. But really, professionals often live a more bohemian life outside of work. That's the nature of San Francisco.
Singles tend to lean toward the Haight, the Castro, Duboce Triangle, and the Mission. Many can also be found in the highrise condos scattered throughout the Western Addition.
One thing is for sure, every neighborhood is diverse. You might have a family on one side, a single professional on the other, and a transgendered single parent living above you. Wherever you go, the flavor of San Francisco abounds.

Popular Activities

My favorite thing to do in San Francisco is visit Golden Gate Park, especially on Sunday when they close down the streets to traffic, allowing only for foot and bike traffic. It's a beautiful area with any number of plants and trees for your (and your dog's) enjoyment. Golden Gate Park also houses some wonderful museums and exhibits for your exploration.
I also love the local theater companies that are scattered throughout the city. On any given night, you can see a good (and sometimes not so good) amateur performance for under $10.
Check out San Francisco Centre for shopping galore. If movies are your thing, the Metreon is the place to go with comfortable leather seats positioned just perfectly (no heads blocking your view).
The Castro is a great neighborhood to visit. Known as the gay mecca to many, it really hosts a variety of people with great little shops and fantastic eateries. The Mission is also well known for its up and coming restaurants and cool new shops, although on the outside it looks a little rough around the edges. Of course, the Haight is one of the best neighborhoods to explore. On any given day you will be whisked away back to the 60s with hippies and flower children playing music or weaving baskets on the street. And if you're a pot smoker, you're sure to find it in the Haight.

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“Laidback, diverse and hip”

Pros:

San Francisco offers a diversity that many other cities lack. Culturally, demographically, by climate and landscape, San Francisco is a melting pot in the truest sense. Many different ethnic groups have flocked to the city, bringing with them a plethora of great restaurants. For those who can't stand monotony, San Francisco is one of the best places to call home. It is a very open and accepting city; if you live an alternative lifestyle you are welcome here. This carries over into San Franciscan's attitudes towards people, at least most of the time.

There is also a unique sense of community that can be felt in San Francisco. Residents all deal with the positive and negative aspects of the city and are often willing to commiserate with you. When the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010, the whole city felt the victory collectively. For weeks afterwards, a huge sense of collective happiness could be felt all over the city.

San Francisco is also decidedly laidback, especially in contrast to places like Los Angeles and New York City. There is a less competitive nature and creatively feels highly valued.

While many outsiders can't speak positively about San Francisco's weather, it is one of the things I love. Sure, it's foggy and overcast about 70-80% of the year, sure it's colder in July than October, but it can change on an hourly basis and give us some variety from time to time. Also, watching the fog roll in from the ocean after a sunny day can be fascinating to see; it will sometimes completely engulf the hills of the city and look like nothing you've ever seen before.

Cons:

All of the downsides of a city apply to San Francisco; excessive noise, sketchy neighborhoods, dirty streets, homeless people, and endless construction. Driving in San Francisco can be a nightmare; congestion clogs streets during rush hour and the many steep hills can send fear through driver's hearts.

Our public transportation system, MUNI, has major flaws. Many commuters (including myself) rely on it daily and it often lets us down. The city agency that oversees it is irresponsible and inefficient and system breakdowns can happen on a daily basis.



Best Neighborhoods

Families find the Sunset neighborhood, which occupies the far western section of the city, the best place to live. There are several schools in this large neighborhood, which is often called the "suburbs of San Francisco" The Sunset also closely borders San Francisco State University; so many students call it home too.

Some hipper, younger families live in Hayes Valley, Lower Haight, and near Alamo Square, which offer plenty of parks for kids to play in, as well as nice restaurants and shops to enjoy.

Young, single professionals flock to NoPa, Hayes Valley, Cole Valley, Pacific Heights, SoMa, Russian Hill and the Marina to live. Rent is high but, restaurants, shops, and bars fill these areas offering tons of entertainment.

Not to stereotype, but if you are gay and living in San Francisco, the place you want to be is the Castro. Long associated with gay rights movements, the Castro is a gay mecca and a welcoming spot for anyone seeking the gay lifestyle.

Popular Activities

A lot of the popular tourist attractions are also favorites of residents as well. Golden Gate Park is a favorite of many San Franciscans; there are endless activities within the park and many events that take place all year long. On the rare occasions when the sun peaks out from behind the fog (and even when it doesn't), going to the beaches can be fun. Ocean Beach borders the city to the west and Baker Beach lies at the north, close to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Chrissy Field which sits at bay level, right at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge is a favorite outdoor spot for locals. On any given day you can see people bike riding, running, and just enjoying the outdoors. It is also a really beautiful spot when the sun is out; views of the bay and the bridge are spectacular.

Mobile food carts have been a local favorite in SF over the last two years. These sophisticated carts, which range from small cooking apparatuses on wheels to full on trucks with complete kitchens, have become their own restaurant genre in San Francisco. Starting a few years back with a handful carts staked out around the city, the mobile food scene has grown into large weekly "Off The Grid" events, which host a large variety of food carts at specific locations for dinner or lunch. My particular favorite food cart is The Creme Brulee Cart, which offers several different gourmet varieties of creme brulee.

For things to do in San Francisco, nothing beats going to a San Francisco Giants game. Coming off their victory in 2010, fans consistently sell out AT&T Park in SoMa where they play. San Francisco really loves their team, which can be seen every time they play a home game. For those who can't afford a ticket, there is a free viewing area at the park. If I happen to be downtown when a game is playing and don't have a ticket, I am always sure to catch a few innings for free.

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“So beautiful they write songs about San Francisco”

Pros:

San Francisco is an eminently livable city. To start with, the city is situated along one of the most picturesque estuaries in the world. Songs have been written about it. To look out across the fog-shrouded bay toward the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Marin County beyond is to be reminded that this is a jewel of a city. Can anybody really say that about Los Angeles? I think not. (and thus, the rivalry continues..)

It's hard to imagine that back in the early 60's there were plans to all but fill in the bay to make way for "development". Fortunately, saner heads prevailed and San Francisco Bay, while not without significant environmental challenges, remains a thriving, productive ecosystem sporting some of the best urban scenery you'll find anywhere. For photographers it's pretty much a "point-and-shoot" city.

Not only is the City green, as in recycling, composting, and landfill diversion, it's also green, as in grass, trees, and open space. From the majestic Golden Gate Park and Presidio to the numerous smaller neighborhood parks, San Francisco is full of green space, as well as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country.

The densely packed city makes living without a car feasible, at least for the fortunate ones lucky enough to both live and work in the City or along a mass transit route to outlying areas. Most neighborhoods have everything you need right outside your front door - grocery stores, restaurants, hardware stores, coffee shops, etc. - all within walking distance. No need to climb in your car and drive several miles just to pick up a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, unless you're into that sort of thing.

San Francisco neighborhoods are "real", each with its own feel and character. My favorites are Russian Hill and Nob Hill, with the sunny (sunnier) weather than the western side of the City. I love the iconic "Victorian Ladies" of San Francisco. The City is an architectural delight.

I love the sound of the foghorns; I love watching the fog move in from the west in late afternoon.

San Francisco has a thriving arts community with a world-class symphony and opera. There are countless little theater companies experimenting with new works as well as reviving classics. Up-and-coming bands gig in clubs, and world famous rock stars play at the Civic Center or Cow Palace. Whatever your taste in music, art, or theater, there's enough going on here to keep you fully occupied.

Part of the character of the city comes also from its diversity. San Francisco is a cosmopolitan melting pot of cultures and ethnicities informing a colorful past that make the City what it is today. Every corner of the world seems to meet in San Francisco.

Speaking of diversity, you'll be hard pressed to find a city with wider variety of world-class restaurants: Italian, Mexican, Thai, Sushi, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mediterranean... well, I'm sure I can't name all the various cuisines available in San Francisco.

Really, what isn't there to love about San Francisco? Well, since you asked..

Cons:

Living in San Francisco doesn't come cheap. The cost of living is high. San Francisco is definitely a "two-income" city. Even with the trashed real estate market, rent and property prices are well above the national average. And if you do have a car, it can be a battle finding a place to park it (or enormously expensive, or both).

The hills of San Francisco are renowned and key to the City's charm, but sometimes you just don't feel like huffing up a hill. That's why there are cable cars, I suppose, but most times it's best to let the tourists cling off the sides of them and, well, huff up the hill (or wait for a bus which on some routes and times of the day can be so crowded that oh, heck, just huff up the hill already).

If you like summers where the weather is actually summer-like you're best reminded of the famous quote attributed to Mark Twain: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Whether Twain actually said that is open to debate, but not the essence of the comment. If you aren't prepared for San Francisco's summer weather, you just might freeze your arse. It's sometimes a little pathetic seeing the summer tourists shivering in their shorts and tee shirts. Residents are used to it, of course, but sometimes the summer chill can get a bit weary, even for us veterans.

Since San Francisco is such a livable city, it attracts all sorts of people, as I mentioned, even some without a place to live. At the risk of not being "PC," navigating the entreaties from the homeless can be unnerving at times. I might take pity on their plight, but when I say I don't have a dollar to spare, I really mean it - did I mention this is an expensive city in which to live? It is by the slenderest of threads that it is not I asking complete strangers for a dollar, and by the wisdom to hold on to the few that I do have.

And of course, there's a lot of shaking going on. Every region has its natural hazards, and here in San Francisco it's earthquakes. Actually, the Bay Area experiences earthquakes on a daily basis, but most of them are too small to feel. Every now and then, perhaps a few times a year, one reaches up out of the ground and shakes the building and your senses, reminding you that the "Big One" is only a matter of time. When I hear the rumble and feel the building shake I freeze, waiting to see if that time has come. In 1989 Loma Preita hit. It was big, but even that wasn't the Big One we know is coming someday. Life will change for all of us living in the City when it does.

Best Neighborhoods

There are tons of great places to live in San Francisco. The Marina is great for singles and young families. Out west in the Richmond and Western Addition families settle into single-family houses, sometimes with small yards.

Pacific Heights is home to the well healed (rich) that can afford to essentially "pay for the view" of the Golden Gate and Bay from their huge picture windows.

The Mission is a bit grittier, appealing to young artists seeking a diverse urban experience.

Of course there's the infamous Haight-Ashbury district, where tour buses come to view the home of the "hippie" and the "flower-power" generation.

But Russian Hill and Nob Hill are my favorites neighborhoods in the City - perfect for families, young singles, professionals, or anyone wanting to live in an quintessential San Francisco neighborhood.

Popular Activities

Walk. San Francisco is a city where you can just step outside your front door and walk for hours (unless, of course, you don't feel like huffing up a hill). I love to just take a break from my daily routine and walk around my neighborhood.
On a nice, sunny, (relatively) warm afternoon I love to walk down to the water, a straight line of about 10 or 15 blocks from my flat, and just sit by the water's edge at Aquatic Park and watch people, the waves, the fog hugging the mouth of the Golden Gate.

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“Why San Francisco? Because it's San Francisco.”

Pros:

The biggest one is there's always something to do. For the most part, we are included with LA and New York for distribution of arts - live music, film, theater, dance.
You can reinvent yourself constantly. Beyond the arts, it's just a place of boundless resources. If you want to try something or like something, you can always find other people who want to too. And people who will teach you how to do it (skill set may vary, though).
An unexpected benefit of being from San Francisco I recently discovered is that it gives you a lot of cachet when traveling. EVERYONE loves San Francisco. I will say I'm from San Francisco before I say I'm from the US.
It's a picturesque town. The climate is amazing, making it much easier to stay active all year round. Getting around is very easy, although public transportation is not world class, the city is only 7 miles by 7 miles, so it's not a hardship to get around.
While it is expensive, there are also jobs. Rent control in San Francisco is awesome.
And the food, my God, the food!

Cons:

It's expensive, particularly housing. You basically have to choose between owning a home and living in San Francisco if you are middle-class. As a single renter, you either have to spend more money on housing than is fiscally wise, or you have to have roommates probably longer than is psychologically healthy.
It's easy to make excitement a higher value than maybe it should be. Because you can reinvent yourself constantly, it can be tempting to quit rather than sticking with something to get really good at it. It's easy to find support to never grow up, and harder to find mentors who have worked through the debate of stability versus excitement.
That extends to relationships. It can be hard, because there's a sense that there's something better around the corner and/or because people are so transient. Not just romantic relationships, but all relationships. It can be tempting to just blow off friendships at the slightest annoyance, thinking you can always just find new ones.
It's hard to be a middle-class family in San Francisco. Most of my friends from my twenties left to raise families elsewhere.
This is a BIG drinking town. It's easy to get into a lifestyle that revolves around alcohol, easy to spend more of your discretionary income on food and drink than is wise, without realizing it.
The state of public education in California is horrendous. You can find private instruction for almost anything in this town, but it's expensive. It's a hard to be young in San Francisco if you are totally self-supporting. I think young people end up feeling left out and cheated out of a lot of what makes, or made, San Francisco great. So they move to Oakland, which is now what San Francisco was like in the '90s.
A friend of mine once said, "San Francisco is a great town if you don't need a future."

Best Neighborhoods

Professionals: Noe Valley
Also, new communities popping up South of Market - South Park and Mission Bay are both charming as well as very convenient to the financial district and Cal Train.
I haven't spent much time there but there are whole new communities popping up on the Presidio and on Treasure Island, both repurposed military bases. The time I've spent in both areas I really enjoyed the people there. Probably a great place to meet other transplants who moved to the Bay Area for work, most likely.
Other places that would be good for the less "artsy" include: Marina, Cow Hollow and North Beach.
Singles: The above for more professional types. Mission and Alamo Square/NOPA/Western Addition seem to be the most "hopping" places for more "arty" singles.
Families: Noe Valley. Also there are very quiet areas of San Francisco Forest Hill, Sunset, Richmond, West Portal, Twin Peaks but they are overcast virtually year round.
For Families who like the Sun: The Bernal Heights and Glen Park neighborhoods are fantastic.

Popular Activities

We spend a lot of time in restaurants and bars. A lot of time is spent around art - established museums as well as supporting the alternative arts community. I run with a dog crowd, so lots of dog-friendly activities - beaches, dog parks. Seeing live music. Hosting and attending dinner parties. I also DJ at Berkeley's radio station, which along with being personally enriching, provides me with an excellent arts-oriented social life. A lot of my focus is on film - arty, of course.

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“Everyone who leaves tries to return”

Pros:

1. Temperate climate year round. It does get chilly but other than that it's moderate.
2. Progressive and open-minded. Be as weird as you wanna be.
3. Close-knit urban community.
4. Fantastic food.
5. The best Japantown in the country.
6. Top notch startup environment and resources

Cons:

1. Cost of living is high but less than other world class cities such as New York or London.
2. There is a serious homeless and panhandler problem.
3. SF is open-minded unless its a conservative viewpoint.

Best Neighborhoods

You really have to move around and try to find the neighborhood in SF that's feel right for you since there are so many great ones. Sunset, Richmond, and Forest Hill offer affordabel rent. SOMA is the best if you're young. The not very safe areas are parts of the mission, bayview/hunter's point, Western additona and the Tenderloin.

Popular Activities

1. Great eateries to try out
2. Cool events such as bay to breakers, how weird street faire, and LoveEvolution.
3. Strong arts scene
4. Best nightlife on west coast outside of LA
5. From SF you're within driving distance of the beach, mountains, woodlands, and the desert. So much geographic diversity close by.

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by Taylor:

LoveEvolution didn't happen this year

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“The good and bad about the Sunset District”

Pros:

I attend SFU part time and my son goes to Lowell HS; we live in the Sunset District and it works for us. There are a lot of parks and when my son was younger we went to them all the time.

Cons:

We rent a large apt and could never afford a home here; it's beyond belief what they charge for a two bedroom plus taxes-yikes! Parking and traffic are the two very worst parts of living here after housing prices; both are a supreme challenge.

Best Neighborhoods

The cool thing about the Sunset District is that we have a great hospital right here and the Ocean Beach. My son works at the Galleria which is convenient.

Popular Activities

There are events associated with SFU that I attend and the University of Cal/SF has programs too; my son does his own thing with friends.

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“Our connection with the Richmond District”

Pros:

We live in the Richmond District on the NW side; we like it here because there's a strong Russian influence which complements our own family backgrounds.

Cons:

My wife has to travel a considerable distance to work and I hear it every night about the traffic congestion and parking hassles.

Best Neighborhoods

San Francisco offers great weather year round and the Richmond District has all kinds of shops and pubs to check out.

Popular Activities

We both love Mountain Lake Park which is unique and the community there's always a lot of activism here to protect it which is great for us.

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“Being single in SoMa”

Pros:

If you're single its great. If you're single and gay..its fabulous.

Cons:

The worst thing about SF are the pan handlers, I lived in many cities before that had a homeless population but they seem much more aggressive here for some reason. And lots of animals leave a lot of odors which linger-if you get my drift.

Best Neighborhoods

My neighborhood is perfect for work but also lots of clubs, eateries, and even theater here.

Popular Activities

I have never been bored a single day since I moved here; besides what I mentioned there are some great Asian restaurants to take a date.

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“The actual park is incredable”

Pros:

It's a beautiful with lots to do, great eating, shopping, culture and people.

Cons:

The housing cost here is what's going to cause me to move plus taxes-I had no idea; I have a fantastic job and it all goes to my house payment.

Best Neighborhoods

The park is like over 60 acres and just unbelievably nice to walk/jog in. I am close to interstate 280 plus lots of buses so I end up using the car very little

Popular Activities

There's lots of neat little restaurants and family-owned stores here; a friend drives me to the beach once a month which is cool.

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“Living for your house payment?”

Pros:

One of the few cities in America where having a car is a hindrance.

Cons:

The housing costs were unbelievable and we will have to move once our terms are finished-way, way too expensive-we're not sure how anyone survives here unless you just live for your house payment.

Best Neighborhoods

We do love the area and all there is to do- the arts and events; we are constantly entertaining friends.

Popular Activities

Mountain Lake Park is incredible to walkin and the shopping is great

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“We love the weather here”

Pros:

The biggest plus for us believe it or not is the SF weather; we love the year round coolness- it sounds weird but true.

Cons:

Our work is only 6 miles away from the house but driving there can be one giant grid lock and once we get near our offices, finding parking is almost impossible; we both have understanding employers and can flex our hours but not everyone is so lucky?

Best Neighborhoods

We did lots of research on the SF neighborhoods and Noe Valley was right up there for professional s with kids and we are trying to start a family soon.

Popular Activities

We love to drive to the beach on the weekends or just hit the clubs; we are never bored living here and the city an energy about it that is hard to describe .

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“We love it but how to afford it?”

Pros:

We live in Bernal Heights with our 6 year old and we love it here, very family friendly, just a beautiful neighborhood with Victorian houses; we live near two parks. The other thing we like about it is we're close to the 280 freeway which we both need to get to work.

Cons:

The biggest negative has to be the housing costs, really in every part of the city, just amazingly expensive; luckily, we both have super jobs, but our friends who live in Oregon could never afford to live here and we so much wanted them to move close to us. Add taxes to the equation and we may need to figure in another p/t job somehow-for both of us.

Best Neighborhoods

Because we go to the parks as a family, it is great and we can even take our dog. The other parents we have met are very friendly and very involved with their kids and school which is nice to see.

Popular Activities

We live to take our daughter to the museums, we visit Chinatown a lot, and definitely eat out-lots of ethnic places in SF which we love to visit.

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