A young woman in a sun hat is standing on a cliff above San Francisco Bay, looking out over the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Living in San Francisco?

San Francisco California

by Matt Lyons Posted on May 20, 2024

What’s it like living in San Francisco? Well, for starters, San Fran isn’t lacking when it comes to job opportunities. And there’s so much to experience — from its stunning outdoor beauty and strong cultural diversity to its incredible food scene. Moving to the City by the Bay may seem like a no-brainer. However, just like every city, it’s crucial to consider both the pros and cons of living in San Francisco before you plan your big move. Here are 16 things we think you should know.

Planning a move to San Francisco? Start by getting a quote from PODS.

But first…

Fun Facts About San Francisco

  • In 1927, San Francisco became the birthplace of the electric television.
  • Lombard Street in San Francisco is considered to be the world’s most crooked street.
  • Golden Gate Park is larger than Central Park.
  • San Francisco is home to the largest Japantown in the U.S.
  • The entire western half of San Francisco used to be made up of sand dunes.

Q: Why would anyone want to live in San Francisco?
Where do we begin? With perks like excellent weather, plenty of job opportunities, a diverse culture, and enough dining options to make any foodie feel like they’re in heaven, there are plenty of reasons to want to live in San Fran!

Pros and Cons of Living in San Francisco 

Is San Francisco a good place to live? Absolutely! But while San Francisco is a beautiful and unique city full of opportunity and things to do, it’s important to consider both the upsides and downsides when moving somewhere new. Check out some of the top pros and cons of living in San Francisco. 

 A street in San Francisco’s Chinatown has red paper lanterns strung across buildings above the roadway.

San Francisco’s Chinatown is regarded as one of the oldest in North America.
(Source: San Francisco | The Official Guide via Facebook)

Pro: Diverse Culture

San Francisco certainly has a unique culture. Many Hispanic groups reside in the Mission District, and Chinese-Americans have a long history in the area. In fact, San Francisco’s Chinatown is regarded as one of the oldest in North America.

The area is also home to a large LGBTQ+ community. If you’re a member of this group, you will certainly feel at home while living here. The Castro, which is one of the most prominent gay areas in the world, is a part of the city. And every June, more than a million people attend the city's Pride Parade.

Con: Very High Cost of Living in San Francisco

The cost of living in San Francisco is extremely high, compared to the national average — more than 145 percent higher, in fact. This is largely attributed to the high demand for housing, caused by the region's growing population and the tech industry's success. Due to the lack of supply, the prices of housing have naturally increased to the point that the average home value in San Francisco is nearly $1.3 million, while the average monthly rent is around $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. 

With this high cost of living, it’s much more expensive to live in San Francisco than many other cities within the U.S., including other cities in California. For example, San Diego and Malibu have cost of living indices of 154.9 and 161.7, respectively, compared to San Francisco’s 245.5. And some of the most popular cities in the nation, such as Washington, D.C., and Chicago, have average home values of only around $622,000 and $296,900, respectively.
Q: What is a good salary for San Francisco? Is $100,000 enough to live in San Francisco?
That depends on your lifestyle preferences, of course. However, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, a single adult living in San Francisco only needs to make a little more than $62,000 per year before taxes to live comfortably. A family of four with two working adults, on the other hand, needs to make around $165,000 before taxes to keep up with the high cost of living.

 A cable car in San Francisco climbs a steep road past historic residential buildings, with a view of the Bay in the distance.

There are several ways to travel around the Bay Area and San Francisco that don’t involve owning your own car.
(Source: San Francisco | The Official Guide via Facebook)

Pro: Easily Accessible Public Transportation 

There are several ways to travel around the Bay Area and San Francisco that don’t involve owning your own car. Public transportation such as the BART and Muni, as well as ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft, are plentiful.

In San Francisco, the bike lanes are also among the most-used in the world. Don’t have your own? No problem! You can rent a Ford Gobike or a JUMP electric bike or scooter from the likes of Bird and Spin.

Con: Challenging Terrain

The San Francisco topography (hello steep hills!) is both unique and exciting, but it can also make for challenging terrain for both visitors and residents. People walking or driving up and down the hills may encounter various obstacles, and this can be especially frustrating for those struggling with any physical conditions.

Pro: Beautiful Outdoor Experiences

Bay Area residents enjoy the region's natural beauty, which supports a wide range of activities such as hiking and biking. Golden Gate Park is one of the most popular spots in the city, as it has all kinds of activities that allow residents to connect with nature. The park's various gardens and trees, for example, offer a tranquil environment to escape the bustle of the city.

Want to explore all four corners of the city? Then the Crosstown Trail, which runs right through the metropolitan region, is a can’t miss. And you can always catch waves at Ocean Beach in San Francisco's Outer Sunset District or take in the exquisite views of the Golden Gate Bridge at Marina Bay. 

Con: Potential for Wildfires

In California, residents are especially at risk of experiencing wildfires, due to the state's dry climate. And unfortunately, wildfires have become more severe and frequent in recent years. They’re harmful to both animals and humans. And they can spread unpredictably and quickly, which makes it difficult for people to get out of the way or protect their homes. Even if the houses are not directly affected by the fire, ash and smoke can still cause health issues.

Three bottles of Napa Valley wine are displayed on a table beside decorative glass jars in a restaurant. A couple is dining out of focus in the background.

The Napa Valley region features some of the best wine and food in the world.
(Source: Visit Napa Valley via Facebook)

Pro: Proximity to Napa Valley

If you're a wine lover or food enthusiast who enjoys outdoor recreation and natural beauty, then you'll love San Francisco’s proximity to the Napa Valley region — with some of the best wine and food in the world. There are over 400 wineries in the area, and it only takes about an hour to drive there! 

Con: Inevitable Traffic Congestion

In San Francisco, limited parking and traffic are some of the most common issues that residents encounter when running errands and commuting. The city's narrow streets and lack of available spaces can make it hard to find a parking space, and the heavy traffic can result in significant delays and long commutes.

Pro: Wealth of Job Opportunities — Especially in Tech 

The Bay Area has a wide range of job opportunities in various fields, but the region is especially known for its tech labor market — that's estimated to have around 380,000 workers. Needless to say, it’s one of the main reasons people move to the area.

The famed Silicon Valley is located in the San Francisco Bay Area's southern section, and it’s made up of tech giants like Google, Apple, Tesla, and Facebook.

Con: Homelessness in Certain Areas

Because of the extremely high cost of living and lack of available housing in San Francisco — not to mention the year-round mild weather — it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that there’s also a large homeless population. The unhoused individuals are more prominent in certain areas, though, such as around the high-rise buildings and luxury condos in the South of Market (SoMa) area, since the Tenderloin — the city’s poorest area — is nearby.

Three happy dogs run along a beach in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge visible in the distance.

San Francisco's year-round temperate climate is ideal for outdoor activities, even during the winter season.
(Source: San Francisco | The Official Guide via Facebook)

Pro: Year-Round Mild Weather

San Francisco's year-round temperate climate is ideal for outdoor activities, even during the winter season when low temperatures are in the 40s. The best part, though? In the summer, high temperatures will typically remain in the 70s and only occasionally reach into the low 80s. It doesn’t get much more pleasant than that, huh?  

Con: Karl Fog 

The mild weather is fantastic. But you want to know what’s not? The thick fog that blankets San Francisco during the summer season. In fact, it’s so prevalent that it has a name: Karl the Fog. Although it's fun to watch the weather phenomenon and experience the cooler temperatures at first, it can quickly become a nuisance and, frankly, a safety hazard.

The thick fog can reduce visibility in the city and make it hard for people to navigate around. This can be especially problematic for tourists, who may not have the necessary knowledge about the area's landmarks and streets. In addition, it can make it hard for people to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and picnicking.

Pro: Emphasis on Education 

If you're planning on relocating to the Bay Area for educational purposes, then you'll be in good hands. The region is home to some of the most prominent universities in the nation, such as UC Berkeley and Stanford. Fun fact: According to an economic report, 49 percent of the residents of the region are over 25 years old and have a bachelor's degree. This makes the area one of the top places in the nation with a high number of people with this type of education. 

Con: Competitive Job Markets 

The Bay Area is home to plenty of talented individuals looking for a job, which means you'll likely be facing stiff competition when it comes to your line of work — whether it’s in the tech industry or not. The region's workforce is regarded as the best in the nation when it comes to certain skills and education, so it's not uncommon for young professionals to be let down at the beginning of a job hunt. 

 Expertly plated soup and salad from a San Francisco restaurant feature ingredients in vibrant hues. Off to the side sits a fancy cocktail with a dried lime slice floating on the top.

The Bay Area is regarded as one of the country's top dining regions.
(Source: San Francisco | The Official Guide via Facebook)

Pro: Fabulous Dining Scene

One of San Francisco's major appeals is its diverse food scene. In fact, the Bay Area is regarded as one of the country's top dining regions. Diners can enjoy a wide variety of cuisines and price points at thousands of restaurants. And the city's restaurants cater to different groups, including kids, grandparents, and young adults. This allows families to come together and explore different cuisines.

Some of San Francisco’s must-visit establishments include:

  • Golden Boy Pizza: While there are plenty of great pizza places in San Francisco, Golden Boy remains a local hotspot. It’s a must-visit for anyone who is looking for a slice or a quick meal, especially during the summer season. Their classic options include cheese, sausage, and pepperoni. However, the garlic and clams pie is a unique yet popular choice, as well!
  • Hog Island Oyster Co: In San Francisco, there are plenty of excellent seafood restaurants, but it’s the Hog Island outpost at Ferry Building that’s known for its oysters. Located inside the historic building, this restaurant serves a variety of seafood dishes, and you can get a taste of the region's best oysters right from the water. If you're not in the mood for a full meal, try the oysters served over ice, which are typically pulled from waters all around the West Coast.
  • City View Restaurant: Located in Chinatown's Walter U. Lum Place, City View is a favorite spot for dim sum by local SF residents. This space is dark and elegant, with dramatic spotlighting over every table. Some of the highlights include the pork-and-shrimp shumai, as well as the incredibly thin and crisp pancakes.

Con: High Crime Rate

Unfortunately, the crime rate in San Francisco is among the highest in the country, with a rate of 67 crimes per one thousand residents. It's also one of the highest in the nation among large cities and small towns. One in 15 residents in San Francisco will become a victim of some type of violent or property crime. 

As in every large city, though, the crime is concentrated in certain areas. According to NeighborhoodScout, McLaren Park North, Parkside East, and Forest Hill/Inner Parkside are among the safest neighborhoods you can choose from in the San Francisco area. 

San Francisco may not be the most affordable or safest city, but if you choose wisely on where to settle down, you could have the experience of a lifetime! Especially if you appreciate great cuisine, warm weather, beautiful outdoors, and plenty of opportunities to advance your career. 

Q: Is New York or San Francisco better?
That depends on your individual preferences, of course. San Francisco actually boasts most of the same amenities as New York/New York City. But if you’re wanting to live in a climate with year-round mild weather, San Francisco may be the perfect pick for you!

Make Your Move to San Francisco With PODS

Considered some of the pros and cons of living in San Francisco and decided to plan a move? PODS can help you get there — on your schedule. Simply have a portable moving container delivered right to your driveway, and load all of your belongings at your own pace. Bonus perk?  PODS City Service is also available in San Francisco, so there’s no need to worry about the hassles that come with driving and parking along those narrow city streets!

Editor’s note:
For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.

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