16 Pros and Cons of Living in San Francisco, CA

Updated On October 9, 2023
San Francisco, CA

San Francisco is the city of the Golden Gate Bridge, with a diverse culture, amazing food, and one-of-a-kind architecture.

These days, the city is a hub for millennials, who bring a unique energy and entrepreneurial spirit to the Bay Area.

But there are also plenty of drawbacks to living in San Francisco, and it is important to know what these are before you make your move.

San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA

Pros of Living in San Francisco 

1. The Landscape is Beautiful

San Francisco is known far and wide for its picturesque views.

It has the Golden Gate and countless historic buildings and features stunning overlooks of the Bay, hills, and much more.

The city is widely known for its extreme hills, which might make walking difficult — but also provide incredible views.

In fact, San Francisco was voted not only one of the most beautiful cities in the US but one of the top 10 most beautiful cities in the world. 

2. The Culture is Amazing 

There are countless things to do in San Francisco, with a niche for every interest.

If you love exploring museums and art galleries, the city has them.

History enthusiasts will enjoy the old architecture and fascinating historical sites.

If that wasn’t enough, there are countless shops, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and other unique things to do.

It’s almost impossible to be bored in a city like San Francisco.

3. There’s a Great Blend of Urban Life and Nature 

You might be in one of the biggest cities in the country, but nature is still right at your doorstep.

San Francisco is home to many public parks and green spaces.

Golden Gate Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, and you can even see buffalo there.

If you want to get out of the city, you’ll find a wide variety of options just outside the city lines, from hiking trails to beaches and vineyards. 

4. The Food Scene is Unmatched

San Francisco knows how to do food — in fact, the city was voted one of the best places to eat in the United States.

It is one of just a handful of cities throughout the country that features Michelin star restaurants, and the cuisine includes a diverse menu of cultural options.

While there are plenty of high-class restaurants, you can also find amazing food at hole-in-the-wall eateries or food trucks.

5. There Are Lots of Jobs

The job market in San Francisco is robust, feeding into a steadily-growing economy.

The Bay Area is home to Silicon Valley, and tech jobs make up about 20 percent of the job market in San Francisco.

The Valley is home to the company headquarters of Facebook, Apple, Tesla, Netflix, Yahoo, and Google, among many others.

Official estimates put unemployment rates at 2.9 percent, significantly lower than the national average.

6. The Population is Highly Diverse

San Francisco lands on the list of the top 15 most diverse cities in the US.

With a city population of 875,000 residents, you will find people from every culture here.

This kind of melting pot opens minds up to different values and helps people be more tolerant, so don’t be surprised that San Francisco is home to some pretty progressive attitudes. 

7. The Climate is Fairly Mild

California has a reputation for being a hot climate, but that isn’t true all over the state.

San Francisco actually is fairly mild throughout the year, with low humidity and plenty of cloud cover.

The city is infamous for its fog, which even has a name (Karl, if you were wondering).

Average temperatures range between a low of 45 and a high of 83, with 259 days of sunshine a year. 

8. The City is Young

San Francisco is an extremely young city, with a median age of 38.2!

Millennials make the vast majority of residents here, which means that you can expect to find plenty of modern, interesting things to do.

It also affects other things in the community, including values, jobs, food, art, and public spaces.

You can expect to find a vibrant, energetic atmosphere wherever you go.

Cons of Living in San Francisco 

1. The Cost of Living is Atrocious

Ask anyone for the biggest drawback of living in San Francisco, and the first thing they will mention is the cost of living.

In fact, the city is known as the most expensive place in the country.

Everything from housing to utilities and groceries is pricey, so much so that you won’t find many families living in the city. 

2. Housing is Exorbitant

This goes along with the last point — housing in San Francisco is so expensive that most people live with roommates.

The average rent is $3,700, which is more than three times more expensive than the national average.

The only city where housing is more expensive than San Francisco is Manhattan, where the price for a one-bedroom apartment can be well over $4,000 a month.

3. Wildfires Are a Part of Life

A sad fact of life in a world of climate change is that wildfires happen — a lot.

In fact, much of California, including the San Francisco Bay Area, now experience “wildfire season”.

Every summer, these fires cause untold damage to structures, people, and wildlife.

Meanwhile, smoke causes the air to become dangerous to breathe.

Many people have to evacuate their homes to avoid being caught in bushfires. 

4. Taxes Are The Highest in The Country

Housing and cost of living aren’t the only things that will strain your wallet in San Francisco.

The city leverages some of the highest taxes in the country.

You can expect to shell out for both city and property taxes, which come in at 7.25 percent and 13.3 percent, respectively.

Very few people live in San Francisco permanently, and these extra costs are a leading factor. 

5. You Might Not See The Sun Much

Wait for a second, didn’t we just say that San Francisco has almost 300 sunny days a year?

Well, yes and no. Although the city doesn’t experience much precipitation, it also has extremely thick fog.

This can cause problems for visibility on the road and make you feel like you aren’t seeing the sun all that much.

So while there isn’t a whole lot of rain, there might not be clear skies too often, either.

6. Traffic is a Serious Problem

Traffic is bound to be bad in a city with such a large population, but San Francisco is on another level.

The city is not very commute-friendly, so you can expect severe road congestion at basically any time of the year.

Some estimates say that the average San Francisco resident spends a total of 97 hours a year stuck in traffic.

It’s no wonder that most of the city’s pollution comes from road vehicles. 

7. People Don’t Tend to Stay

If you want to make friends in San Francisco, be prepared to have them move away after a few years.

Blame the high cost of living, but most people don’t tend to stick around.

Raising a child in the city is wildly out of the budget for most people, so residents who want to start a family usually head for the suburbs.

And because San Francisco’s population skews young, many residents haven’t yet put down roots — so they’re soon off on another adventure. 

8. Homelessness And Drug Use Are Common

When people move to San Francisco, one of the first things they often notice is the number of homeless people around the city.

It can be a shocking sight, especially if you’re not used to it. It’s not uncommon to see homeless individuals camped out in front of expensive apartments or hotels.

In some neighborhoods, you are likely to find drug paraphernalia on the street.

Even worse is the city’s abundant anti-homeless architecture, such as partitioned benches. 

San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA

Pros and Cons of Living in San Francisco, CA – Summary Table

Pros of Living in San Francisco Cons of Living in San Francisco 
1. The Landscape is Beautiful1. The Cost of Living is Atrocious
2. The Culture is Amazing 2. Housing is Exorbitant
3. There’s a Great Blend of Urban Life and Nature 3. Wildfires Are a Part of Life
4. The Food Scene is Unmatched4. Taxes Are The Highest in The Country
5. There Are Lots of Jobs5. You Might Not See The Sun Much
6. The Population is Highly Diverse6. Traffic is a Serious Problem
7. The Climate is Fairly Mild7. People Don’t Tend to Stay
8. The City is Young8. Homelessness And Drug Use Are Common

San Francisco Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: San Francisco Safety Review

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Salary do You Need to Live Comfortably in San Francisco? 

The minimum wage in the Bay Area is about $30,000 annually, but this is not enough to live comfortably or buy necessities.

To afford a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco as a single adult with no children, you will need to make just under $94,000 a year.

How Far is San Francisco From Napa Valley?

Wine lovers will enjoy living in San Francisco.

Napa Valley is only 50 miles outside the city, which means you can get there in about an hour by car.

That means that you can easily make a weekend trip up to wine country, where some of the nation’s highest-quality wine is grown and produced.

Is San Francisco a Polluted City? 

In general, San Francisco’s air quality is good.

The city has gained a reputation as a polluted city because of its thick fog, which covers the Bay Area regularly.

Most of the pollution in the city comes from road vehicles, and it is not significantly worse than most other cities in the US.

What is The Best Time of Year in San Francisco? 

Though San Francisco is beautiful throughout the year, the best time to visit is in the autumn.

During this time, you can expect temperatures to be mild but pleasant and sunny.

Even better is the fact that summer tourist crowds have dissipated, so the city is easier to navigate.

What is San Francisco Known For? 

San Francisco is famous for its unique construction, which includes some of the steepest hills in the country.

The city is also home to structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

Architecture and history enthusiasts will also know it for its mix of architectural styles.

3 Comments on 16 Pros and Cons of Living in San Francisco, CA

  1. C
    Catherine Swinson says:

    SF’s commitment to environmental sustainability and public transportation options makes it a relatively eco-friendly place to live.

  2. R
    Robert Grant says:

    The city’s rich culinary scene features a wide range of restaurants, cafes, and food festivals, catering to all tastes and preferences.

  3. G
    Gil Hoffman says:

    San Francisco is a hub of innovation and job opportunities, particularly in the tech industry, making it an attractive destination for professionals seeking career growth.

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