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Move to SF and hate it?
68 points by ancornwell on Sept 13, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 166 comments
Have any of you moved to the Bay Area for tech and hated the atmosphere? How long did you stay and where did you move to after?



Arrived in 1992. Left in 2001. Lived in a Sunnyvale apartment two years and a San Jose house (NW of Campbell) for seven years.

I moved there for my career, which did very well. I largely hated the valley as a place to live, simply because it's too crowded. I have a low tolerance for traffic. I couldn't stand to drive to the supermarket, let alone go to work every day. So I spent all my time either at work or at home, and went out as little as possible. Lived in a tiny house because it was all I could afford. Hated it.

OTOH, I did meet a lot of lifelong friends there, including my wife. It's the only place I've lived where my geekiness wasn't the least bit unusual and where I wasn't usually the smartest person in the room, and that was refreshing.

Now I live in the middle of nowhere in a 4,000 ft2 house on 50 acres of land, which in retrospect was overreaction to the valley's housing and crowding. It still takes 20 minutes to get to the supermarket, but now I travel 15 miles of country roads instead of seven blocks of six-lane parking lot.

When I go back (I telecommute), I'm struck by the wealth, the workaholism, and the aforementioned number of geeks. I also have the energy to deal with the traffic, get out and do fun things for athe week or two that I'm there.

So that's my advice for QoL. Work there, live someplace else, visit occasionally.

(I still can't think of SF as part of silicon valley. The valley, to me, starts in Palo Alto and extends south. That's less true today than when I lived there, of course.)


There is no worse place for a 20-something tech person to live than in one of those South Bay apartment hives. If you're new to the area, please, for god's sake, cross Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, San Jose, and Cupertino off your list. Read Christopher Alexander; those apartment complexes will make you insane and sad. Live in Oakland, in a shared house in San Mateo, or (if you can) the city.


Those apartment complexes are like nicely furnished prisons. Stay away unless celibacy is a priority.


I've lived in one of those "hives" for a around a year.

I've been fighting with clinical depression, but I was already having problems with that before I moved there. I can't tell if it's made things worse, though it certainly hasn't made things any better.


I'm living on the border of Sunnyvale and Mtn. View at 23 years old, and it is depressing as hell. Absolutely nothing within walking distance that's worthwhile, no one remotely my age, nothing going on other than the farmer's market (forgive me for not being excited about it). There are some positives, but I had no clue how BORING this place was before I moved here. I'm moving to San Mateo or farther north ASAP, but then will just have to commute even further...


Do you think downtown MV (Castro St, etc) is any better? I actually just moved to the area myself, but haven't found my own apartment yet, so this is quite pertinent for me.


Santa Cruz is another option, though I'm biased since I live here and like it. ;-) It's actually closer than most of the rest of the livable options if you work in the Cupertino/San Jose/Santa Clara area. You do have to get used to driving Hwy-17, but on a good day it's 35 mins driving, or 60 mins on the Hwy-17 bus (which has free wifi), versus 60-90 min driving to get to San Jose from Oakland or SF. And there's beach.


Also, I take it you feel the same about Mountain View? Anything closer than San Mateo that you feel has character? I'm working in MV, and I'm not a huge fan of long commutes.


Having lived in one for 2.5 years (the Avalon in Sunnyvale), I strongly agree.


I'm interested... what should I read by Christopher Alexander?


I recently visited the college town where I studied with my wife, and I am considering moving there, because the bay area has become practically unaffordable. I know that the weather is really something to die for, but the financial situation of the state is dire -- that makes for a very bad long-term outlook.

Portland appears to be a very nice place, strikes the right balance between sprawl and compactness. If only it had better weather....


What college town is that? I'm considering moving to SF next year and tidbits like that could be quite valuable.


State College, PA.


I've thought about moving to Portland for similar reasons but I just can't deal with that much rain.


- It's the only place I've lived where my geekiness wasn't the least bit unusual and where I wasn't usually the smartest person in the room, and that was refreshing. -

There's something I don't like in this sentence.

This isn't the first time I hear something like this on HN.


It may sound bad, but it's a legitimate feeling to have; there's a horrible feeling of stagnation and boredom when you are the technical escalation point for everyone you know - or at least there was for me.


I've lived all over the spectrum of "Jesus is my Lord and Savior" to "Venison is the best meat to use for chili." (Guam, Alaska, Florida, DC, and Oregon.) I've lived in the Bay Area since February of this year and nothing beats it for me.

My like list:

The weather. I guess this comes from experiencing temperatures as low as -11 and as high as 102, but my fantasy of finding consistent jacket weather has finally been realized. I actually hate it when the temperature (rarely) climbs above 80.

The outdoors. There's such a glut of hiking/camping opportunities even without bringing Yosemite or Sequoia into it. I can be at the beach with a basket of fish and chips in about half an hour. Mountains (or at least hills) are a constant. Flowers seem to be in perpetual bloom.

The food/farmer's markets. Can't say I'm part of the rampant burrito culture, but I do love the variety of food in SF. I only wish that there could be as much art/culture as there are designer cocktails.

The size. For a big city, San Francisco is incredibly small. I like that I can walk from my favorite fried chicken place in SOMA to my favorite ice cream place in the Mission in a matter of about 40 minutes. Luckily, there are plenty of pockets outside of the parking nightmares and pay-by-the-pound rent to seek refuge (in my case, San Mateo).

Sure, the traffic will make you wish you had a rocket launcher on the roof of your car. And parking is at least a two person job - one to circle the block while the other runs in for the donuts/pizza. It is especially dirty in some places and there are lots of homeless folks but compared to other big cities (NYC and LA, chiefly), I can't really have an issue because there's so much more good than bad.


Lived in Fremont. Stayed for about three years. Left for Boston, which is just so much better, unless you've got some kind of snow allergy.

My take on the South Bay: "A bunch of temporary buildings built for temporary employees who think they are living there temporarily." It might be the epitome of bad urban design in America -- and, mind you, it's up against some pretty stiff competition. There's a handful of blocks in Palo Alto which might actually be worth living in, but unfortunately the locals all understand that and prices are through the roof.

SF and Berkeley were like visions of heaven compared to the South Bay, and I tried to visit when I could, but tptacek is right: They are incredibly far away. You spend all your time driving in the Bay Area. One day I realized that just visiting my nearest friends was a thirty-five minute one-way car trip, even at 2am. The good news is that you acclimate to that; you become used to spending a quarter of your waking life in a car. The bad news is that you will never see those hours again.


I am from NYC, born and bred, so I may be a bit biassed. Nevertheless, I have been to SF a number of times over the last few years for various conferences. Each time I go people I meet there ask me why I haven't moved out yet to get into the tech scene in SF. Each time I tell them the same thing. SF is not fun and too involved in your life.

Now, coming from NYC, I understand a thing or two about big city living and big city government. Yet, I have never felt as disturbed by overbearing government as I have in SF. There are a number of examples that I wont go into but the overall feeling is that of an overbearing, authoritarian state that tries to force you into doing things the SF way. Not only does there seem to be more of this in California in general but in SF in particular.

It is not entirely simple to describe but I absolutely feel it every time I'm there. There is no doubt that were I to live there it would be even worse.

Also NYC women > SF women. Period.


>>>Yet, I have never felt as disturbed by overbearing government as I have in SF. There are a number of examples that I wont go into but the overall feeling is that of an overbearing, authoritarian state that tries to force you into doing things the SF way. Not only does there seem to be more of this in California in general but in SF in particular. You won't even provide an example... Come on, this is HN back it up with some evidence.

>>>Also NYC women > SF women. Period. That is entirely debatable. The women in NYC are going to be much higher maintenance. I really like the women in SF, they are much more intelligent and down to earth. Not as much as Portland, but better than So Cal and NYC for sure.


I think SF like any city is what you make of it. It sounds like you never made that many friends who were native/lifers in SF and you missed out on anything deeper than what you could read in a tourist book.

Cities take time to get to know, and the most important thing is to get to know other people who know the city better than you.

If you had tried biking more in SF, you also would have found more things to do and less to complain about.

Almost all your hate points are worse in NYC IMO.

One last thing, San Francisco is NOT the Pennisula (San Mateo, Palo Alto, etc) and both places are extremely different. Most of the pennisula going down to San Jose is pretty much like Atlanta, Most of Texas or San Diego.


I lived there this summer and fell in love with SF, aside from the whole Silicon Valley thing. It's definitely for a certain type of person: you'll find incredible diversity and openness in the people. A couple of small things I noticed that really pleased me: (1) interracial couples are incredibly common, more so than any other city I've visited or lived in anywhere in the world, (2) people are genuinely open and friendly; the GLBT friendliness is just a specific effect of this, (3) you have incredible high-end dining near the Embarcadero, and incredible low-end dining in the Mission, (4) no matter what your "scene" is, it's quite likely that you'll find like-minded people, (5) if you want nature, drive 20 minutes or less; if you want tech, drive an hour; if you want city, drive 5 minutes anywhere; if you don't have a car, use Zipcar, (6) the city is incredibly small, which makes it a lot of fun. And some things I absolutely hate: (1) parking sucks, (2) the cops on the MUNI/BART are a bunch of assholes, (3) cabs are sometimes difficult to get.

People complain about the fog, but there's really never any fog in the south bay area/Silicon Valley.


What's the incredible high-end dining you're referring near the Embarcadero?


http://www.yelp.com/biz/kokkari-estiatorio-san-francisco-2

Fucking delicious, an I am albanian, so I know that kind of food really well. It is not that expensive either.

And there are plenty of similar restaurants around there.

The one thing you just can't complain about in the bay area is food and restaurants.

Perhaps the city has changed alot since you lived here, but since I lived there between 2006-2009 I can tell that the "food is not good enough" complains are just plain ubased whining.

I challenge you find a place in the USA where the produce is better, or fresher than it is here.


I'd say Coi, Quince, and Kokkari. There's also One Market, Boulevard, and Perbacco. Really no shortage of fine dining in the area, many of which could easily be "incredible" according to an individual's taste.


It's no French Laundry, but Slanted Door in the Ferry Building is delicious, if overpriced, and has some of the best cocktails/bartenders in the city.


As far as what you hate, I can only agree with (3). Parking is great in a lot of neighborhoods, and not bad at all in others if you look around a bit. I've never found the cops to be anything other than polite, especially on Muni - how did you come to have so many interactions with them?


Moved here in May of '07. Never leaving. Love the people and the city. I've been to New York (born there, too) and hate it. Too big, noisy, and dirty. And the people are unfriendly as hell.


I've never really talked to anyone not from the east coast whose first impression of NYC wasn't horror. If you haven't been, it really is unlike anything you could imagine; even the nicest parts of the city seriously feel like a neglected warehouse of city parts haphazardly strewn about.

But NYC makes up for that by being the most vibrant city in possibly the world. It can be very hard to take, but you're always aware of why you're putting up with it.


The problem with S.F. is that it's too much of a compromise. It's not big enough compete with New York or small enough to be as livable as Portland.


I've spent semi-serious time in Portland and have to say that it really seems to live up to the hype. I really like Portland.


I've only spent a week or so there but I was similarly impressed. Limiting the sprawl and repurposing their old buildings saved them from turning into another strip mall & freeway American dystopia.

I'm a little concerned about the migration of tech hipsters to Portland though. Californian expats have this nasty habit of turning their refuges into exactly what they fled.


It rains all the time here in Oregon. It's overrated.

This isn't the city you're looking for. Move along ... move along.


How do you rate Seattle and Vancouver?


I think he was being facetious.


Perhaps. <grin>

Actually, the entire NW sucks. Rains all the time. Heck, it's even raining on me right now in the desert of Central Oregon where it's never suppose to rain.

But seriously, after living in the Bay Area for 10+ years -- I ain't movin' back after living in the Pacific NW.


Just have to ask: did you spend it in portland, or in a nearby suburb? I spent a week there just to see if I liked the city, couldn't get over the lack of diversity (felt like a lone brownie in strawberry-shortcake city), high income taxes, and seeming lack of a tech scene (unless you're in the burbs). It's a beautifully laid out area though.


> high income taxes

Must have been an exciting week. (Anyway, you'd need to compare the whole tax burden, since there's no sales tax.)


Portland has most of the benefits of San Francisco with all of the drawbacks of Seattle. As gray as SF is, I don't understand how anybody lives in Seattle or Portland without committing suicide from the lack of sun.


Could you unpack the numerous double negatives in your first sentence? I think you're agreeing with me, but I'm not sure?


My attempt: "Everyone I talked to from the west coast had a horrific first impression of NYC."

Oh, and that goes for the people from the middle, too.


Ah, but I am an "East Coaster". I was born in NY and grew up in NY and the South (Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Florida). I loved the land in upstate NY but can't stand the City. The people in NY generally suck all-over though.


I'm from the west and I liked NYC at first sight, although I think it'd probably be a bit much for me long term. Boston, though, was fantastic. Now I'm in the bay (still in temp housing, deciding where to live), so we'll see how it goes.

On the subject of horrific first impressions, though, Bangkok definitely fit the bill for me. Perhaps not as big as NYC, but dirtier, crazier, far less organized, everything in Thai (a problem for me, not for them), dogs everywhere, not just bums but homeless starving mothers with a little baby kneeling in the gutter, bugs... jesus, that was an experience.


Perhaps I've just been lucky but every time I've been in NYC I've had a great time and the people have been fine. Maybe I don't have high expectations for stranger interaction but I've simply not had trouble and frankly, find the people to be pretty decent most of the time.

*yes I realize that this is a completely personal experience and I'm not trying to extrapolate that into "People in New York are X because this one time this one guy was X to me"... just throwing out a little counter ballast to the "New Yorkers are Rude" chestnut.


Is it bad as it used to be? I visited a couple years ago for a weekend and I only noticed the vibrant part.


I'm from California. My first visit to NYC was three years ago, and I loved it.


Spent several years in San Francisco. Hated it. Moved back to the midwest (Ann Arbor, then back home to Chicago).

What don't I like about SFBay? With the caveat that it's been almost 10 years since I lived there, let me make you a list:

* It's expensive. What that means is, you have fewer options on where to live, and the options aren't as nice.

* Apart from tacos, the casual food options are much worse. Concrete example: where do you go for late dinner after a show, besides a diner in the Castro and Mel's?

* There are very few decent music venues. Among my many complaints about SF, this is one that appears to have gotten much worse since I left; read JWZ's blog on SF's "war on fun".

* It is impossible to catch a cab.

* It is very difficult (and dangerous) to park. My car was towed in San Francisco and lost by the city for over a month.

* San Francisco is deceptively small. Deceptive, because SFBay is a major metro area that happens to sprawl from a small urban core. What this means is that many of your friends who ostensibly live in the same "place" as you are actually an hour's drive each way to get to.

* Similarly, many (technically, most) of the jobs in the "area" are actually a 1+ hour commute each way from your house. At the time, I didn't know anybody who took the train from San Francisco to South Bay; maybe that's changed, but my perception is everyone just drives and puts up with the horrible commute. 280 sure is pretty sometimes, though.

* It's filthy. I've been back recently and know this to still be true: San Francisco has a maintenance problem, and it's different and worse than Manhattan. Manhattan feels like you're always picking your way through someone's gigantic cluttered basement. This alters your expectations of the environment and makes bags of garbage on the street easier to take. San Francisco is flat and open and that makes the piles of human feces somehow harder to take.

* Public transportation in San Francisco, is a joke compared to NYC or Chicago or even Seattle. It achieves Houstonian levels of walkability despite a miniscule footprint.

* The Haight and the stretch of Golden Gate Park right off the Haight is disgusting. I'm in favor of legalization, but if we're going to do it with red light districts, we should at least cordon them off and make that clear.

* Too much of San Francisco is a tourist trap. Every big city has tourist areas, but it's more painful in San Francisco because the city is so small. In NYC and Chicago there are actual Italian restaurant neighborhoods and they aren't full of frat boys.

* San Francisco doesn't have neighborhoods like other cities do. People tend to counter this by saying "but the inner sunset is totally different from the outer sunset". When's the last time they had a block party? How many of their neighbors have they entertained in their houses in the last year?

* There are no seasons (ok, there's "grey" season and "yellow" season). It's about to be Autumn here in Chicago. Autumn in the midwest is amazing and I missed it, a lot.

* Everyone's in tech. This makes the social scene boring and incestuous. Also, unless you build products that serve the echo chamber, it makes it harder to sell to companies, because the industries in San Francisco aren't diverse.

I'm trying hard with this list not to ding San Francisco for things that other cities excel at. It's not reasonable to hate a city for not meeting the highest bars set by other cities. For instance, fine dining in San Francisco is, if you properly exclude Yountville from your definition of "San Francisco", simply not as good as NYC or even Chicago. San Francisco doesn't have world-class museums. It doesn't have a noteworthy theater scene, or (to my knowledge) excellence in any of the performing arts. But then, Chicago doesn't have redwood forests or beaches you can set bonfires on with no notice.


Wow. I guess it's all about what you're used to. I've only ever lived in London (and Trinidad), and my experience was mostly opposite. Remember, this is all relative to London:

* SF is super, super cheap. My apartment was the same size for half the price and in a much better area.

* Food is so plentiful and cheap, it is EVERYWHERE. The portion of my budget devoted to food fell by 75%, even though I eat out all the time. The range of cuisines and the quality compares well, too, even though London is 10x the size.

* I don't go out to gigs much, so no claims here.

* Cabs are about 20% of the price, and you can summon them with an iPhone app. Amazing.

* Parking: I've never driven in either city.

* Size: no question that people who live down-peninsula might as well be in another country. See: public transit.

* Commute: this does indeed suck. My solution was to quit and get a job in the city itself.

* Dirty: no question, it's dirty. And very poorly governed in a number of ways. London has much more adult supervision.

* Public transit: hoo-boy is it terrible. Ameliorated somewhat by cabs being cheap. But if you want to get down-peninsula caltrain is ridiculous for somebody used to London-style commuter rail.

* Haight: ...then don't live in the Haight? Every city has bad areas.

* Tourist traps: similarly, every city has these. In San Francisco they are usefully separate from the areas I actually like to visit, so I can ignore them, while Leicester Square/Oxford Circus are both working districts AND tourist traps.

* Neighbourhoods: London is a dense core with hundreds of miles of pointless, characterless suburbs in zones 3 through 5. San Francisco has distinct, self-sufficient neighbourhoods with totally different characters. This was one of the biggest differences I found when I moved. As for block parties... well, we had one two weeks ago, but I don't really see the point of them anyway. I don't hang out with people primarily based on their geographical proximity to me.

* Seasons: it's always spring! I grew up in the tropics, so I always hated winter, and San Francisco doesn't have one, so that's fine with me.

* Tech: the city is full of nerds. But there's also an incredibly vibrant and mostly unpretentious tech-arts scene, which I love.

Finally, as one of The Gays, there's no city more inclusive and open-minded of everyone -- sometimes hilariously so.


I'm not at all surprised to hear someone point out that London is more expensive than San Francisco. I am shocked to hear someone from London say that San Francisco has better cab service.


I think his version of "better cab service" is different than yours. You think of better cab service as being able to walk outside and immediately catch one. He thinks of better cab service as easily summoning one from his smartphone. (Seems like a very SF-esque solution to the problem, no?)


Well, I also live in the Mission next to Valencia, where it is ludicrously easy to catch a cab, though I appreciate that it's impossible to catch them in, e.g., Sunset, so I didn't mention it as an advantage.

Of course, in London you literally can't catch a black cab outside of the center (they're not even allowed to do so past a certain radius) so you have to call a minicab. So SF still wins.


London is so well integrated that there's little reason to use a taxi. That's why you have to call to book one, because most people use them for unusual trips, such as going to the airport with a lot of luggage, attending an event with formal wear etc. Much cheaper and quicker to use the tube.


A map of where in San Francisco people succeed in catching taxis in practice, if you want it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/4956860071/in/set-721...


"San Francisco is flat and open and that makes the piles of human feces somehow harder to take."

I've heard San Francisco called a lot of things, but "flat" is not one of them. Am I misunderstanding you here?


You're right. Flat was a bad word. I'm referring to the west coast style of architecture, where things are built "out" instead of "up"; the landscape itself though is charmingly bumpy.


The original question was about the bay area and not necessarily SF itself. You have identified several downsides to living in SF, but few of them apply to the bay area as a whole. In fact, one can walk down the list to see that most of them are very specific to living in SF.

* [...] fine dining in San Francisco is, if you properly exclude Yountville from your definition of "San Francisco", simply not as good as NYC or even Chicago.

Let's revisit this one after Michelin hands out stars for Chicago in November. I am betting that just the south bay will have more than the entirety of Chicago. (Seriously, other than Alinea you really don't have fine dining in Chicago :)

* San Francisco doesn't have world-class museums.

The SF bay area has a lot of good museums and several world-class ones for specific niches -- the Monterey Bay aquarium is easily the equal of the Shedd and The Tech in San Jose and Computer History Museum in Mountain View are some of the best technology museums in the world. For art we have fewer impressionists, but much better asian art.

* It doesn't have a noteworthy theater scene, or (to my knowledge) excellence in any of the performing arts.

This is one of those odd things where I would have said the same thing about Chicago in comparison to San Francisco. SF Opera is not the Met, but more than a few people would put it above the Lyric Opera in most rankings. SF tends to fall down a bit when it comes to plays (ACT being the local exception to this general rule) but does better than most places when you add musical theatre into the mix. Comedy is really the only performing art that Chicago seems to do better than the bay area...


Seriously, other than Alinea you really don't have fine dining in Chicago

Moto, Schwa l20 blackbird publican avec

Those are just off the top of my head.


Avenues Topolo Everest Graham Elliot Bonsoiree Trotters Nomades Tru mk Nomi Vie... is this even an argument worth dignifying?


Agreed.

btw, since I know your tastes lie close to mine, are you coming to Lincoln soon or what?


It was a joke :)

OTOH, I could easily put together a similar list of great restaurants in the bay area if you happen to visit. Let's wait until a reputable third party provides a basis for comparison before we continue poking each other with the trolling stick.


I'll admit that I don't pay attention to opera and that you may have me there, but the Chicago Symphony Orchestra trounces SFS in every ranking I can find (CSO tops the Philharmonic in some credible reviews, so this isn't a fair fight).

You also can't say "SF tends to fall down when it comes to plays" and then in the same sentence say "comedy is the only performing art that Chicago does better in"; Chicago has a vibrant theater scene, and while it isn't NYC, nothing is.

So, where does that leave us?

Opera: SF > Chicago

Theater: Chicago > SF

Comedy: Chicago > SF

Symphony: Chicago > SF

Look, I get that we're trolling each other here, though. San Francisco is a bad place to see new comedy, but it clearly has credible opera and symphony. It's not a ding on San Francisco that "you can't hear good classical music".


I think that in the midst of various edits I lost track of the point I was trying to make in that section about performing arts. I was not conceding theatre, just aiming to point out that there are some very good theatrical companies in SF and a batch of mediocrity. In SF the patronage scene seems to go like this: Opera > ACT > Ballet > SFS > other theatrical companies. I am not sure why this is the case, but people with bluer blood than mine have deigned it to be so.

It seems that in most of these performing arts rankings you have NYC at the top, LA a long way down the scale for a lot of things (mostly as remnants and/or supporting players for the movie biz) and below that places like Chicago, SF, and Boston fighting it out for third place in various categories.

Yes, you will see a better comedy show in Chicago, catch a better opera or weird performance art piece in SF, and probably hear a better symphony in Boston. Either way, I would say that SF is far from the performing arts wasteland you originally suggested...


The Haight isn't that bad, I certainly wouldn't call it a red light district. I lived a block from Haight and Ashbury for a year, and while the fauxbos can be annoying they're mostly harmless.

Tenderloin is much scarier. My friend got punched in the face by a random guy walking down the street.


I lived around the corner from the Haight, too and I'm not sure what would make the area a "red light district." The hippie hill drum circle? Guys selling weed? American Apparel? Ben and Jerry's? The Gap?

The worst aspect of the Haight is the gauntlet of gutter punks between Cole and Clayton. It's actually a very nice, dare I say, "gentrified" area, aside from that particular stretch.


I'm referring to the open-air drug market (and, more importantly, the crowd that market attracts). I'm not suggesting that it's a haven for prostitutes.

The drugs don't bother me; it's the people sitting on the curbs, pissing on the sidewalks, accosting strangers for change, offering drugs, asking for drugs, hiding in the bushes, howling at the moon that bother me.

Ironically, I've never had a problem in the Tenderloin. I lived in SOMA for a year and walked from there through the Tenderloin to my office.


I've had bad problems in the Tenderloin but during the daytime I really enjoy upper / lower haight, find it to be very lovely. Beautiful houses and lots of nice shops and restaurants.


As an SF resident I concur w/ most of what you're saying. For me it's not a deal breaker, but I can see how it could be. Almost every one of your bullet points can be explained by the phrase, "Liberalism gone nuclear."

[Expensive] -> Rent control and Private property restrictions. Housing supply is limited w/ endless permits and restrictions on building additions or subdividing space. And rent controls not only create artificial scarcity by not allowing price to rise w/ demand, but they also encourage people to stay in large places long after they need them. Imagine what the web would look like if you had to wait for months for a zoning board to approve your server expansion.

[Casual Food] -> Wait staff must be given minimum wage and health insurance whereas the wait staff in most other cities live off tips. What happens is restaurants become EXTREMELY expensive to run and they usually fire the wait staff at lower end places. You'll notice the order at register and take a number tag game played a lot to get around it. I know a few high end chefs who had to move their restaurants to Oakland b/c their waiters made more than them.

[Music] -> Don't have anything for you on this one.

[Cabs] -> Government set prices are too low. Demand exceeds supply at that price and there is an artificial shortage.

[Parking] -> Tickets are one of the most reliable ways to pay for all the hair-brained social experiments that take place here.

[Small] -> Fixed housing supply. See rent control / private property restrictions.

[Commute] -> I don't have an easy explanation.

[Filthy] -> Amen. We don't have a homeless problem we have a zombie problem. Your run of the mill drug addict is seen as a victim rather than a scourge. He is given food, money and shelter by the government to continue his habit. My friend worked for a non-profit in the Tenderloin that offered shelter, clothes, showers, haircuts and job help to anyone indefinitely as long as they submitted to drug tests. Their beds in 3 buildings were always empty and they shut down.

[Public Transpo] -> Make a bus driver too expensive by catering too much to the unions and busses have to get bigger. It's the opposite effect of the long tail. Instead of many small vans and more custom routes, you have few huge routes that serve nobody very well. Also the homeless ride the bus for free.

[Haight] -> In the late 60's the Grateful Dead and their followers began to get sketched out living there. Heroin and crime have been the norm there for years. It's foul and there is no police presence.

All of these policies had very good intentions. But the intention of a policy does not determine it's outcome. Furthermore, almost none of their side effects are ever measured by the government. It's fine if you want to experiment, but at least measure the result.


Re: cabs, it seems like the price is plenty high from the perspective of a buyer. The real problem I suspect is that the city limits the number of medallions issued to 1,500 per year. There are people who wait years to get a medallion.

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/iteam&id=6... -- "The city of San Francisco limits the number of cabs on the streets by handing out 1,500 permits or 'taxi medallions.' Drivers on the list wait up to 10 years to get one."


Wow, nice find. So they fix the price AND the supply. Our urban overlords have reached a Soviet level of confidence in their ability to manage an economy.


The cabbies are in on it too. The prices are higher than they would probably be in a truly free market for cab fares, and that situation can be maintained more easily when the incumbents can prevent new competitors from entering the market.


Oh for sure:

cartel |kärˈtel| noun an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition : the Colombian drug cartels. • chiefly historical a coalition or cooperative arrangement between political parties intended to promote a mutual interest.


From Adam Smith:

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public." - Adam Smith


>Rent control and Private property restrictions.

San Francisco isn't expensive because of rent control. San Francisco is expensive because the entire SF Bay Area is expensive. Rent control doesn't help, but there are plenty of places in the Bay Area that have never had rent control, and yet are expensive (and indeed were expensive long before San Francisco was).


If rent control went away along with the Ellis act, in 5 years the average rent in San Francisco would be 15% lower than what it is today. Rent control very severely distorts both the rental and the real estate market in many direct and indirect ways.


> * It's about to be Autumn here in Chicago. Autumn in the midwest is amazing and I missed it, a lot.

I live in Chicago and I still miss it, because I keep blinking every year. I feel like I have to go back to Minnesota to see a real autumn.


The biggest problem with SF is that it's in the state of California. A lot of your disappointment resides in that fatal flaw... folks who come from within the state have much lower expectations and higher opinions ;)


SF is the embodiment of what you don't like about CA. In southern CA (read San Diego) politics are a lot more centered.


Tom,

This is golden. Thanks for taking the time!


Thanks. In fairness, I can make a list of things I liked about San Francisco too:

* Beach bonfires on weeknights.

* The drive to Monterey. Also, the drive to Half Moon Bay for Halloween pumpkins in a very nice car. There is no better city in the US to own a nice car in.

* Dim sum.

* Freshwater aquarium supplies.

* I used to really like Zeitgeist, although I hear it's gone downhill. The last time I was in town, SF seemed to have a decent cocktail scene going.

* SFBay in general has unusually good access to produce and local protein, if you go out of your way to get it; no, you can't go to Whole Foods or Berkeley Bowl and get something better than you can in Chicago --- but if you want (say) 20 duck legs for confit, there's no cheaper place to get them than in San Francisco.

* SFBay has two amazing campuses to bum around (Stanford and Berkeley) and Chicago only has one.

Unfortunately, I just spent 4 minutes trying to add something to that list and couldn't. I could go on, and on, and on, and on about Chicago. Or NYC. I think --- I can't promise, but I think --- that I could put Ann Arbor head to head with San Francisco and run it to a draw.


Agreed on aquarium supplies.

Apparently the marine aquarium wholesalers have the whole of the continental U.S. divided into five "zones". The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the zones. :-)


Which campus in Chicago are you referring to? I've enjoyed bumming around NU, UC, and UIC at least as much as I enjoyed bumming around Stanford. I know, NU is not technically in Chicago, but it is as close to the loop as Stanford is to SF.


I lived in Evanston for a couple years and NWU never felt like a "campus" to me; more of a college-y suburb.

I actually went to UIC, and went to St. Ignatius for high school, just blocks away from UIC campus. I can't imagine going there for fun.

The University of Chicago campus is a destination campus. It's actually pretty amazing. It has every bit as much character as Stanford; you could totally go there just to hang out and read a book.


I'm partial to the University of Chicago, so you won't get any disagreement there.

Evanston is new to me, but the campus of NU seems very pleasant -- I really like the piece of lakefront path that seems integrated into campus. Of course, the undergraduates are just starting to return, so it might be very different in a few days.

As for UIC, my friends and I would always bowl there as undergraduates, and some of the restaurants on Taylor street were much better than you could get in Hyde Park for similar prices. In other words, at least one group of undergraduates at UC would go to that area for fun.


Strange, as I seem to find that the UCB and Stanford campuses are about as radically different as NWU and UofC. Stanford and Northwestern both have a similar insulated feel -- they existed before the suburban growth that surrounds them and as a student you can go weeks at a time without leaving the campus. UofC and Berkeley are both in the middle of an urban zone that existed before the school and have had to fight for every square foot of campus space; at both places it is hard to ignore the fact that you are crossing chunks of "city" to get between some university buildings.


It's weird, because I'd say the opposite; UofC feels more like Stanford to me, UCB feels more like NWU.

Hyde Park is part of Chicago, but it's an isolated part; it barely has train connectivity (unlike NWU), and it's walled off from the Loop by housing and light industry that is only now started to be gentrified away.

(I grew up on the south side, lived in Evanston, and had friends in Hyde Park in high school, but I didn't actually go to UofC).


I guess the view from on campus was a bit different from living in Evanston. I spent a lot of summers in Evanston as a kid visiting relatives but when I hit campus as a freshman I was surprised by how few people went more than a half-mile west of Shoreline (which was really a bummer to a freshman dying to show his new friends all of the cool "local" info he had; for most people if it was more than four or five blocks from Shoreline it was too far away...) OTOH, since I was living in a residential college that was east of shoreline it might also just be an anomaly of my own experience on campus.


I haven't had Dim Sum in the bay area that even approaches the best in NYC. Where are you going?


It was all Yank Sing and Ton Kiang when I was there... but I'm Chicago, not NYC. NYC dim sum may very well smite the rest of the country.


You need to come to the LA area for dim sum in Monterey Park or San Gabriel.


I guess Yank Sing is quite good. Just so expensive...


As someone living in nyc for the last four years, some of the things that I noticed when I spent a few days in SF last month :

1. Cabs advertise could computing instead of strip clubs.

2. It was tough to find cabs in the Mission district.

3. The city never seemed like much of a walking city. The neighborhoods are far apart and everyone has cars.

4. There are lots of cafes and on average they serve better coffee than nyc.

5. The food is a little bit cheaper than nyc.

6. The architecture seems much for uniform and nicer than nyc buildings. Sure nyc has its brownstones, but there are not that many of them.

7. Some of the highest yelp rated bars in the Union Square area were closed on Sunday nights. This would never happen in nyc.

8. I couldn't imagine how people go out to bars if they have to drive.

9. The weather gets a little too cold in the evenings/nights.

10. Restaurants serve more generous portions of wine and the average restaurant has a pretty good wine list.

11. I heard the tenderloin area was sketchy, but at least in the area just around Union Square, I never saw anything like that.


What about people who moved from European countries, did you enjoy it? Just something I have considered, but wasn't sure. Like how does the infrastructure compare, such as public transport?


Hi, I'm originally American but have been living in Zurich for the past 2 years (I also previously lived in Denmark for 1 year and Norway for 3 months). I moved to SF just for the summer to launch my startup. SF is great for many reasons, but it nowhere near compares to the infrastructure and quality of life I got in Switzerland, Norway and Denmark. That said, relative to the US SF is one of the few cities where it is even possible to make your way without a car.


Virtually nowhere compares to Zurich in this regard. I have never seen a place that was so efficient and well run in my life. If there wasn't such a nasty anti-foreigner sentiment I would jump to move there.


Anything more you can share about Zurich? I know it ranked in the top three with Geneva in the last Mercer survey . . .


Sure-advantages include a great mixture of being near to much of Europe, a short train ride from the alps (I do lots of hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter), very high salaries, no poverty, great universities, intense work ethic, etc. I don't by any means need a car, and if I did there's Mobility (the Swiss analog to Zipcar).

Disadvantages include having an older population, being small compared to New York, having less of a startup culture than SF, being very expensive, having many hurdles to get a residency permit for an American, and various innocuous cultural differences that simply take getting used to.

That said, I love it there and am heading back.


If anyone else is interested in Zurich startups, Zattoo (a household name in Switzerland) is hiring engineers in Zurich (the rest of the engineering team is in Ann Arbor, MI): http://zattoo.com/en/jobs


Thanks. I plan to visit the country one of these years.

Good luck with your startup!


Aren't swiss people allowed to buy fully automatic rifles?


Public transit in SF is pathetic for how small and dense the city is. Fortunately its fairly bikeable... You pretty much have to own a car in the Valley


When reading about a city on Wikipedia etc, I can never tell how frequent public transport is, and whether it's good outside tourist areas. So thanks whackojacko and _corbett for your views.


511.org will tell you how long it takes to get from place to place in the bay area.

It really depends on the bus line how frequent they come. The 9 and 47 come right by my house and come every 10-15 minutes if not less. They are both heavily travelled lines. The 12 also comes by and it's less travelled and probably averages one bus every 25-30 minutes or so.

There is also a bus schedule that they "try" to adhere too. That's true for almost every city, so you can just look at the lines that run by where you are going to be and see how often they come.

Finally, all of the SF MUNI Buses and trains are gps equipped so you can check a pretty accurate estimate of when they will be at your stop online or through various smartphone apps. Very handy for preventing you from having to wait at a bus stop for more than a few minutes.


Stayed 10 years; moved back home to raise kids. Tired of the crowd, the cement, the monotonous conversations (work/mortgage/traffic).

But nowhere else in the world is better, at least to get started. Worked 3 startups remotely by now, using connections made during those 10 years.


The biggest thing that I've noticed about the city is that I seem to always end up making a lot of "professional" contacts and few friends. I suppose that's how New York must feel to bankers or Washington to politicians though.


I've written up some (brief) thoughts on San Francisco here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aaron-greenspan/why-i-hate-san... and on the rest of the Valley here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aaron-greenspan/all-is-not-wel....

San Francisco parking and traffic and present start-up culture aside, I do think it's a really nice place to live.


Can you easily live in SF without a car, and get around well only walking, cycling, and using public transit?

I did this in Boston for a while and it was quite great. The bike went away for the winter, of course.


Most people I know in the city have abandoned their cars. Zipcar has good penetration there but most people I know stick to public transit. I have friends that regularly do the trek from the Duboce Triangle to SF State without cars.

Public transit isn't as good as NYC or Chicago, but it's decent.


> Public transit isn't as good as NYC or Chicago, but it's decent.

You clearly haven't been to Chicago recently. CTA has cut frequency drastically AND raised fares.


If you stay in the (miniscule) center of the city, yes. As soon as you take a job outside the city (say, in San Mateo), drop "easily" from the description. It's always doable, in any US city, to live without a car. But it's not always comfortable. SFBay is not comfortable without a car.


If you live and work near Caltrain or BART stations it's very easy to live in the city and work in the valley or east bay, or vice versa (though if you live outside the city you'll want a car).

Or if you're fortunate enough to work somewhere that has a shuttle that's another option. Many of the big tech companies do now, thanks to Google's lead. Off the top of my head: Google, Facebook, Apple, Genentech (I actually knew someone who would take the Genentech bus to work even though they didn't work there. Guess they don't check)

Of the people I know who live in SF and work in the valley, I'd say roughly half drive, and half take the train or a shuttle.

I usually take Caltrain but sometimes drive.


San Mateo is not a great example. It's one of the easiest suburbs to get to without a car.


I actually know someone who moved to San Mateo from SF because it was easier to commute to his job in San Francisco from it. Muni sucks compared to BART, so moving Sunset->San Mateo was a commute upgrade (he works in the financial district). Even much of the East Bay is closer to downtown SF in commute-minutes than western SF is.


Yes, assuming you work in SF too. And its never too cold for bikes, which is good because youd be in some trouble otherwise (MUNI is pretty terrible)


My only problem with MUNI is it gets packed during rush hour. I've often had to wait for the 2nd or 3rd train to be able to get on.


Just moved back to SF for the first time since the end of the first Boom. Compared to Boston, Seattle and especially San Diego SF is a crappy place to live. It still beats LA and NYC, though.


This is the first time I've heard anyone favorably compare San Diego to SF. I've always heard that compared to SF, San Diego is dull, boring, and suburban. Care to explain why you like it more?


San Diego is full of tattooed 'bros' and college kids. And has less jobs. It's industry is based on tourism and hospitality, so unless you're already wealthy or own a hotel or restaurant it's not great for many people. It's a better place to visit than live.


i moved here 6 months back. live in south bay (sunnyvale) and commute to the city for work.

For starters, the weather in the city simply sucks. Its cold, windy and foggy most of the times - on the contrary, south bay remains clear, sunny and quite warm.

Even bigger gripe against bay area is the cost of living. Everything from housing to everday stuff to gas is insanely expensive. Paying 1600$ + for a crappy apartment built in the 60's without any washer dryer was a huge shock as compared to raleigh, where i moved from.


Hmm, I pay just under $1500/month for my apartment in San Jose, I have my own washer/dryer, and I can walk to work. As mentioned above, though, the neighborhood is dull and depressing.

Still, you might want to look around for another place to live.


i have a 2 bed/2 bath close to caltrain station. depending on where you live in san jose, the rent could be cheaper than sunnyvale.


Ah, I have a 1 bed/1 bath. That explains things.


What's your commute like, and where (approximately) do you work? Do you take Caltrain or do you switch to BART?


commute takes anywhere between 45-60 minutes - i take caltrain to work. driving stress and parking costs are too significant - hence the train.


I'm in austin, and I'm used to having fairly cheap living and no income taxes. I'm considering SF/bay area for hopefully better opportunities, more outdoors stuff (surf and snowboarding), and less driving.

Here's what I noticed spending the last week working in SF, staying in outer richmond.:

* Transit - Compared to Austin, any transit system that is used by more than just students or poor people is good. My one complaint is that I still can't figure out if the bus system lets you buy a week or month pass (tried going to the "clipper card" website too).

* Outdoors - see comments below, but I'm basically happy with the variety. Austin is great for outdoors, but I feel like I reach a hard wall where I need to own a motorboat or be willing to drive a ways to do things beyond running around townlake/greenbelt. I also like how certain pockets of golden gate park seemed to hide you from the city (used to be the same in Austin, not so much now that we have more of a skyline). I liked walking to land's end in the evening - you can escape in the greenbelt/twin falls in Austin, but only when there's water flowing.

* Cost of living - I'd like to hear from more HNer's about this. I'm still afraid of the cost of living out in SF, along with the economic situation. I did feel like many of the small grocery stores were fairly expensive (I'm assuming safeway is cheaper though).

other notes:

* Everything is beautiful, and everyone else wants to see it too - Crowds can be pretty long during labor day when driving out to the beach. We managed to avoid it, but still realized I'd have to get used to living with lots of people

* Hope you like hoodies - I came to SF after dealing with 100+ degree heat in Austin earlier this month, then was wearing a sweater/hoodie almost every day. I don't think this will bother me much.

* The mexican food sucks - Only tried Gordo's and Baja Fresh (which I used to love), but the food just isn't as greasy, spicy, or cheap as in austin. Maybe there's a gem like torchy's tacos out there?

* possible solution - try to drive less in austin. I'm considering staying in town, but move back to hyde park (north of ut) or barton springs (south of downtown). Downtown Austin is fairly recently built, and thus many of the nearby restaurants and establishments are new, but upper-class (read: expensive)


First off, the Outer Richmond is a pretty boring place to live. There is some stuff to do (it's better than the outer sunset...gah!), but not nearly as nice as living closer in.

As for mexican food...you tried two chain restaurants. People here (generally) don't eat at chains. I don't know where you were when you tried them, but if it's the outer richmond then you aren't likely finding good mexican. The mission is (oddly enough) packed full of very yummy taquerias. It's where the latino population lives and all.

Cost of living. It depends on what you want I guess. I had a place in the inner richmond that was $1675 for a 700ish sq foot place. It was perfect for a single guy. It was cramped for me, my girlfriend, and 3 cats. It was in a great location too. Now I pay $2200 to live in a huge loft in SoMA with a parking spot in the garage. Love the location. Check craigslist to see how housing prices are in the city (and surrounding area actually).

Coming from DC, food is the thing that I notice as being more expensive. Not necessarily at safeway...it's about the same, but restaurants are more expensive. Lunch out for me in the DC burbs was $6.50 or so (Potbelly, Baja Fresh, etc.). Here it's $10, but there aren't any chains around. Similar pricing happens for dinner. In DC (again at chains in the burbs mostly) I'd spend around $20 a meal. Here the average is probably $30. Not huge, but noticeable.

On the plus side, my gas and electric bill is super cheap. We pay $35-$45 a month for electricity and gas. Part of that is having huge west facing windows so we don't ever have to turn on the heat even in the winter. The other part is obviously not having A/C. My condo in virginia averages $161 a month for the year...I save a ton on electricity/gas here.

Cable cost the same. Renter's insurance is about the same. Car insurance is higher, but not unbelievably so (at least for me), gas is in the $3.15ish range right now per gallon.

If you have specific questions let us know and I'm sure someone will chime in.


The pro and related con to the Bay Area for me are that there are a lot of different cultures and lifestyles, and they're spread out over a fairly large geographical area. I live in Santa Cruz, which is way on the southern edge, probably not officially in the Bay Area at all, and I love it. I don't like the Valley or SF much. I don't know much about the East Bay, but I know people who love Berkeley. I think really there isn't all that much in common between San Francisco, Santa Clara, Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont, Santa Cruz, and Palo Alto, so there are relatively few generalizations you can make about the entire Bay Area. And within an hour drive to the north you've also got Marin County. Sure, there is some cultural overlap, but unlike many metropolitan areas, which have a city and suburbs, the Bay Area is pretty multipolar, and so you have to find the part of it that you like (if any).

Perhaps not a very helpful answer, sorry. =] But I think it really is hard to like or dislike the Bay Area as a whole for the same reasons.


Anyone have any input on LA? I see lots of people comparing New York, Chicago, etc.. I visited LA last year and I've been to SF a few times...although I have never lived in LA it certainly seemed like a place I would prefer to live over SF.


LA is just too big. You drive allllll the time, everything takes at least 30 minutes and most likely it'll take an hour. LA is dirty and filled with so many people trying to "make it" in Hollywood. There's a lot to like such as music, museums, beaches, but there's more to dislike.


Interesting, do you live in LA or have you previously?


Lived near enough and have friends there. It's nice for what it is, but I wouldn't live there. It's a better place to visit.


I live in SF because I grew up here and have family around, not because I think it's "better" than other places to live. If I weren't so anchored here, I'd probably look around. That said, I like it a lot more than the OP here...

* I think the food options in SF are actually pretty excellent. I'm going to agree that "late dinner" options are limited - I guess I just see that as a relevant but not defining criteria. Options at the low and medium price range tend to fall at various ethnic eateries or small, neighborhood restaurants, and the remarkable diversity of SF does make for a lot of good options (see below). The 15-20 seat restaurant where dinner for two + wine ranges from $80-120 is probably where SF excels the most.

* Astounding diversity. I read a while back a list of cities with languages spoken by 1000 or more households. SF actually came in first, with 6. This shows in the number of different ways you can eat for under $7.

* It's truly beautiful in many ways. There's no way to list all the views, but here are a few of my favorites: twin peaks, coit tower, the library at UCSF, the legion of honor museum (the golden gate bridge and marin headlands), the tower at the de young (outer sunset, golden gate park to ocean beach)... well, this is where SF gets an A+.

* On a smaller level, SF is both beautiful and horrible. I avoid the really touristy spots (including, sadly, north beach, though I do like it in small doses). I like walking the neighborhoods: cole valley, fillmore, hayes valley, chestnut, cortland, noe... even if some of them are a bit yuppy and others are a little blighted. That said, the OP is absolutely correct that once you move your gaze from the beautiful views and (at times overly quaint) neighborhoods, the city is blighted and filthy in many ways, and the local populace seems far less willing than NY or Chicago to do something about it.

* Local outdoors: crissy fields, golden gate park, land's end, the presidio... and if you want a short drive, you can be in the middle of a quiet redwood forest in about half an hour. The Olympic peninsula is, ultimately, a more impressive sight than Point Reyes, but I do think you can pass through more different ecosystems in Sonoma County (thick forests, sand dune beaches, marshes, etc...) In Golden Gate park, the blight is unfortunately part of the experience as well. Recently, a couple of pit bulls ran wild and bit a few people before the police shot them. Maybe some day, if the city does turn this around, this will be a story we tell about our low points (like the stories you hear about Central Park in the 70s). Maybe dirty harry can come out of retirement, heh.

* Do you surf? (or other ocean sports). It's cold, but the quality to crowd ratio remains pretty good.

* Public transportation - not great, I don't think it's quite as bad as the OP states. If it goes where you're going, it's ok. BART and Muni are reasonably fast and direct provided you are underground. Express buses are also pretty quick and good. But if you aren't on a direct like, yeah, you're hosed. Add in the fact that SF is (I believe) the most densely populated city west of the mississippi, and you have to drive and park... u, talk about the worst of both worlds. If there's one thing that makes me wish I didn't live here, this is it. I set my life up so that I am one one of those direct bart/muni lines.

* Rockin' baseball park. One of the best. I don't miss candlestick at all. Actually, the embarcadero has emerged as a pretty fun stroll from the ferry building to the ballpark (it was just a big freeway when I was a kid).

* Neat other stuff: San Francisco is preservation minded to a fault, and this has at times hurt the city. But still, we do run those cable cars, and while they are overpriced, they're neat. More amusingly, SF has restored it's own old (1930s) trolly cars, and, having run out of old cute stuff to restore, went around the world to find other cities' old trolly cars and got them running too (1890s - 1940s). Want to see what street cars used to look like in London, Tokyo, or Milan? Come on out to SF, we'll restore your old junk for you. And unlike the cable cars, we don't charge tourist prices to ride them, it's just like any other bus or train.

* UCSF's mission bay campus is going to make a serious impact on this world. Any time someone tells you SF is only preservation minded, ask them if innovation comes in the form of skyscrapers or cutting edge biotech research. Ok, the answer is both, but don't mistake SF's hostility (which I admit is excessive) to changing the physical environment with a parochial backwoodsyness. This is probably the most common accusation, and it's at least 60% untrue.

I actually tried to leave SF. I missed my family, but it was more than that. But what can I say, I guess I just have to stay here. As a final note, there isn't much local snobbery in SF, other than a few bozos who like to start sentences with "as a 3rd generation san franciscan" (as if this somehow increases the relevance of their opinion?) San Franciscans like newcomers. However, they will want you to stay, especially if you have kids, and they can get peevish if you plan to leave ;)


Cool, thanks for the detailed post. I live in socal, but my family is up there as well. I've been thinking about moving up there, and you hit a lot of points I've been considering.

(Hey, can you hit me up about the surf on my email? Was gonna contact you, but no email on your profile.)


The surf north of Point Conception doesn't resemble the surf south of there.


My fiancee and I went for a bike ride yesterday that took us by the mission bay campus and we both remarked about how that area should be rockin in 5-10 years.


By diversity, do you mean "lots of people of different races and ethnic heritages live here in harmony" or do you mean "lots of ethnic food to eat"? Because I would call hijinx on the former, this city is pretty white, at least all of SOMA/FiDi, North Beach, NOPA, The Sunset, most of the Mission, most of the excelsior, and at least 70% of every other neighborhood is white. Having been here a decade I feel this city is far more segregated than others I've lived in, and I've lived in 7 different neighborhoods now.


San Francisco proper is one of the most diverse cities in the country. It is only 45% white. Over 30% of the residents are foreign born. These stats are from Wikipedia.


The perception could be because the traditionally poorer American minority groups are not as common in San Francisco: there are not too many Latinos (14%) or especially African-Americans (7%) compared to other major American cities. Not sure if that's for cultural reasons, or just because SF is expensive, so there aren't as many poor people of any color as in many cities (e.g. compare SF's under-$30k-income population to Chicago's). Might be related to the SF versus East-Bay de-facto segregation as well; it seems most of the Bay Area's Latino and Black population lives in the East Bay (e.g. Oakland is 30% Black and 25% Latino; Richmond is 36% Black and 27% Latino).


Most of the Mission is white?!? I think you have been sampling a few of SF's other popular wares if you are this delusional.


I stand by this statement. There is one pocket of the Mission around 16th & Mission that's really diverse, and then say between Potrero and Bryant is mostly hisanic between 14th & Cesar Chavez

The rest of the Mission is pretty freaking white, especially since Bernal tends to be grouped into the same "Mission" umbrella.


I don't want to come off as someone who is obsessed with noting the ethnic background of people in different parts of the city, but what you've said just doesn't square with my observations. I live near the outer mission (near the excelsior), and it is definitely not mainly white (nor is the excelsior). Then you're on mission as you pass the YMCA toward St Mary's park? Nope. Then as you go past Bernal... well, maybe a bit more, but not mainly. Cortland, sure, but not Mission. And then you go from Cesar Chavez through around 16th street, and no way. 16th street maybe a bit, but that's really more from Valencia through Church, not mission and south. And then beyond that, you go past the armory, right? And then becomes south of market...

Well, guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/4981425631/in/set-721...

Red dots are white, green asian, orange hispanic, blue african-american

The data is from 10 years ago, but honestly it's very apparent that the mission is mostly latino.

Sure...the areas around mission, valencia, guerrero and 16th are the trendy white hipster hangouts. Everything else, especially the 24th street corridor, is very latino.


I moved here in 2008 and absolutely love the city.

What I like:

* There is always something going on. As many tech meetups/lectures/etc as you can stomach. Hell, there's an incredible amount of art/history/science/etc things going on every single day. This is probably true in places like NYC, but I didn't have the same experience in DC.

* The weather is awesome. Coming from DC I couldn't stand the hot and humid summers and the winters that were cold but without anything to show for it. Plus every time it was going to snow a 1/4" the entire town freaked out. Sure, it's foggy sometimes...but the eastern half of the city sees sun for long periods on most days. When the sun is out the weather is perfect.

* The topography of the area makes for some absolutely beautiful views. If you don't like the outdoors you probably don't care, but there are so many amazing places to go hiking/biking/camping that are absolutely stunning. It helps coming from the east coast since most of the plant life is totally different than what you find there.

* Traffic in the city proper is pretty damn good. There are a few places that are congested every day, but once you figure those out getting around the city itself in a car is a breeze.

* I love the biking/public transportation culture. I own a car and use it to get around on the weekends mostly, but I prefer the idea of using other forms of transportation. I quite frankly can't figure out why people hate on MUNI so much. Sure, it isn't up to NYC standards, but I've very rarely had any trouble on MUNI in the 2 years I've been here. Back in DC I was lucky to have a bus come by my place once and hour. Here there is a bus coming at least every 10 minutes. I can go from western SOMA to most places in the city in under 45 minutes. Sure...I could drive there in 20, but I'd have to find and pay for parking once I got there and risk parking tickets. 45 minutes on a bus with an iPhone is nothing.

* The tech/startup scene. I'm only an observer, but I've never felt so inspired to do cool things as I am now that I'm here. DC just didn't inspire me to try to use my skills as a developer to make fun things. I was caught in the fed.gov contracting scene (still my day job) and it doesn't really push you to excel...especially outside of work. Here I can't help but want to try my hand at new things.

There's more...but that will do for now.

Things I don't like...

* Parking enforcement. A necessary evil, but seemingly arbitrary in the rules.

* My place is near a bunch of clubs and people have no problem using it as a bathroom. Definitely on the gross side of things.

* Traffic outside of the city. The Bay Bridge always seems to be backed up. Same with 101. I wouldn't want to commute by car in or out of the city proper. Caltrain would have to be available to me if I were to work or live outside the city.

* The lack of green space around my house. We chose to live in this particular location, and generally it's a great place to be, but would it kill the city to toss some planters or something nearby? I haven't asked them too, but man a little green on the streets around here is seriously needed.

There's probably a few more things I don't like, but they aren't coming to mind.

Basically this place is far superior to where I came from and I love it.


I've spent some time in DC, I have friends in DC, I'm pretty familiar with the knocks DC takes... and lack of "art/history/science/etc things" has never been one of them. Isn't DC actually pretty amazing for that stuff? And, can you clue me in on the art/history/science stuff you've found to do in San Francisco?


To be fair, I lived in the burbs of DC and I live in SF proper. So it's not really an apples to apples comparison for me. There is certainly tons of museums and such in dc to see and they all have various programs. I may very well have just not been clued in to what was going on, but it didn't take long for me to find those types of things here in SF. I never really found them living near dc my whole life (and 7 years after college).

For science stuff in the bay area the best resource is probably http://www.bayareascience.org/ Follow the twitter feed and you'll see there are generally 4 or 5 things a day going on just in science related fields.

For art/social things I generally check out squidlist.com, but many other sites like sfist.com have a ton of things to do listings daily.

Plus there's just a ton of orgs in and around the city that have ongoing lecture series type of events. Asian Art Museum, Cal Academy of Science, Grey Area Foundation For the Arts, Friday's at the DeYoung, etc.

Tons of stuff...and a lot of it goes on outside of SF proper too with Berkeley and Stanford being so close.


I'm not the parent, but for starters, there's the Academy of Sciences, the DeYoung Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Legion of Honor, and Fort Point.


Has SFMOMA gotten better? The Cal Academy barely qualifies as a wing of the American Museum of Natural History; the Legion barely a wing of (even) the Art Institute.

I concede that there are museums. I question whether they're in the same league as their DC equivalents.


Went to the Moma a couple of weeks ago and was disappointed to be honest. I don't think their collection is that great, but I also think I'm just not a fan of most modern art. Oh well.

DC's museums are world class. SF can't compare very well in most instances (The asian art museum is really nice...the shanghai exhibit was great...but now gone). Also, DC museums are free which is really nice.

In the OP I wasn't really talking about the museums themselves though. More about lectures, book clubs, science/art/literature cafe's, etc.


There are tons of such activities in the DC area. I have lived in DC for a few years, and I suspect that the OP was not keyed into such activities in the DC area. There is a very large population of highly educated individuals in the DC area across a wide range of professions, industries, etc. There is a thriving private sector in the DC area, and it is not just government-oriented. Hilton and Marriott, for instance, are based in the DC area. The DC area has one of the highest, if not the highest, proportions of knowledge workers in the country, including a very large IT community and a healthy startup community. Also, the OP must have been too far out in the 'burbs. The DC Metro system is one of the best in the country, and it extends out into the suburbs. In many areas of DC and closer-in suburbs, you could easily get by without having a car if you live near a Metro station. Zipcar also has a very large presence in DC. Overall, the DC area offers a very high quality of life professionally, culturally, and educationally and in terms of opportunities for a range of outdoor activities and professional athletics.


Agree on DC's Metro system, it's fantastic. I go to DC regularly and never really have to take a cab, even if I need to get somewhere in one of the suburbs. People in DC tend to rip on the Metro because of occasional outages, but I don't think they've experienced other systems in larger cities. I love living in Chicago, but the "el" could definitely learn from some of Metro's practices.


I don't disagree with any of that. Maybe it's because I was born there. It just felt old and crusty. Moving to SF was a shot in the arm in all kinds of ways for me and it just feels a lot more energetic than the DC scene did.

I grew up in Alexandria and lived in Reston for 6 years. Yes, reston is far out...but that's where work was. 5 minute drive to work in the DC area? Sign me up!


"Isn't DC actually pretty amazing for that stuff?"

Enough to spoil a person. Thank you taxpayers!


I was in SF for 3 months on contract and the city was not a fit for me. I grew up in NJ/NYC area and now live and work outside of DC. Portland is more my feel and where I'll be going next.


I am going to be graduating soon so I know it is best to go where the jobs are. SF probably has the best tech scene in North America. But I know if I move there I will hate it with a passion.

3 hours to Tahoe and no train or any form of public transportation that goes there? That put the nail in the coffin, Vancouver is on the top of my list now sadly tech jobs are harder to come by over there on top of the whole immigrating issue.


I visited in 2006, loved it. Visited again 2009, hated it.

The place is choc full of bums....


Every time I'm in the valley, I don't like that it's a bubble and quite clique-y.

Other than that, it's really a cool place, with a nice climate and history. Not to mention, the Mecca of Tech.


The OP is just completely wrong about performing arts. The SF Opera and Symphony are absolutely two of the best in the country and competitive on a global scale.


Wait a minute... look at his quote: "* There are very few decent music venues. Among my many complaints about SF, this is one that appears to have gotten much worse since I left; read JWZ's blog on SF's "war on fun"."

You mentioned two groups that are fairly specific in genre/taste. The OP says "There are very few decent music venues..." How does what you mention invalidate what he said? "Two" is a "a few" in my book.


Was responding specifically to: " It doesn't have a noteworthy theater scene, or (to my knowledge) excellence in any of the performing arts."

I was assuming by "decent music venues" the OP was more referring to a rock/jazz/alt type scene, because of the "war on fun" reference. I get that they're not mutually exclusive terms, but I would put symphony/opera in different categories than, say, a blues club. Sorry. I'm a conservatory-trained professional classical musician, and I'd say that most of my peers would read this the same way.

I also see that this has been commented about above, and it's true that Chicago's symphony is equally outstanding. My point was that SF _does_ have a "noteworthy" and "excellent" performing arts scene, found, for example, in its excellent opera and symphony seasons. Michael Tilson Thomas, additionally, is a "noteworthy" and "excellent" conductor.


Sounds a little similar to why I am a happy transplant from Boston to PDX.

Cost of living, surroundings, easier/cheaper access to delicious foods. (mmmm salmon)


according to this, NYC is still the most expensive city in US.

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-8-most-expensive-cities-i...

#1 New York #4 Chicago #5 San Francisco


I did, and yes I hate the climate. I've stayed for a decade, and threatened to move back to New York quite consistently. There's nowhere else in the country to live for tech though, everything else really feels like amateur hour.


Yeah, I just came from New York as well. Visiting here was fun, living here is a hassle. I try to get something done and they ask me what the rush is.


I lived in SF for 6 years and started to hate it, so I moved to NYC. I really like SF the city, and am one of the weird people who usually likes the cool weather. However, something about it felt like a retirement village for young people.

NYC is great but has its own set of headaches. I've found the tech scene pretty close to being on-par with SF if you're doing web or mobile, or even "BIG DATA". SV has a strong advantage if you're building things like routers, robots or electric cars. I miss TechShop.


Funny, I lived in SF for 6 years and just moved to NYC as well, for similar reasons... but I haven't felt the same about the tech scene, maybe because I just don't know enough people.

Any decent cafe in SF is full of startup folks, for better or for worse -- I've only overheard similar convo at the Ace Hotel.


I've only overheard similar convo at the Ace Hotel.

That was probably me, if you were there last fall...


+1 on "I miss Techshop".




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