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Why is the quality of life in SF relatively low?
25 points by Nikkki on June 10, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments
I noticed something in SF which has puzzled me for a while. Although SF is relatively rich and expensive compared to Austin, Denver or Paris the quality of life is in general relatively low. Besides the crime rate, especially number of murders and gang crime is really disturbing. Maybe am subjective, but would be interested to hear your feedback on the topic.

I've only visited once, but I was impressed enough to throw myself into the ring and decide to move there in July.

My friends were walking me through the Tenderloin at night and warning me what a bad neighborhood it was . . . it made me laugh. I've spent the last several years in Atlanta and I could not believe how nice San Francisco was in comparison. I saw a lot of people acting tough in and around SF but no one had the hard eyes. I'll take it.

Same story here. From Atlanta, moved at the end of May.

Tenderloin is a joke compared to bankhead, college park, boulevard, MLK... The list goes on.

Check out the Richmond, Sunset, or Glen Park neighbourhoods. There's more to San Francisco than SOMA. Also see Berkeley, or Temescal District in Oakland.

Likewise, check out Mountain View, Cupertino, or Saratoga: suburban and safe, relatively affordable compared to Pacific Heights in SF or Palo Alto/Menlo/Atherton area, yet relatively free of general suburban cliches.

If you pretend that San Jose (with the exception of few parts) and SOMA don't exist, Bay Area becomes a much nicer place.

They can also check out Hayes Valley, Cole Valley, Noe Valley, and even Inner Richmond near Lake. Add to that the Marina district and Pacific Heights and you've got yourself a tour safer than Disneyland.

I moved to SF 4 months ago and absolutely love it. I've lived in major cities in Europe and New York, and SF blows all of these cities out of the water.

SF is a city of micro-cultures, sure there are some areas that are extremely sketchy (e.g. Tenderloin, Western Addition, Hunters Point), but most areas are pretty safe with open green spaces, good restaurants, interesting bars and an incredible tech scene. Whats not to like? How are you defining quality of life?

I would be interested in hearing more as to why you think Austin has a better quality of life than San Francisco. Having moved to SF after three years in Austin, I definitely think my quality of life has improved. Reasons:

1. Austin has one weather throughout most of the year. It is not conducive to urban exploration unless one keeps hydrated often. The great thing about San Francisco is the micro climates and the fog line. It keeps each neighborhood different.

2. Austin like most Texan towns is spread apart. If you are not in downtown or close to UT, get prepared to drive. Of course the flip side is that Austin has great parking and clean streets. On the other hand, people like me who hate driving have an awesome experience in SF.

3. Food wise, I would argue that SF beats Austin handily. There are cultures in SF that have lived here for decades bringing with them their ethnic foods and creating specific hot spots of amazing food. I have not had the same experience in Austin but YMMV of course...

4. Austin is sold as one of the few young, culturally liberal areas in Texas. This is definitely true when you compare it against other places in Texas. However, its liberalism and culture pale when compared to San Francisco.

I moved to Austin about a year ago from Atlanta.

1) Yes, one weather is absolutely true. It's apparently fantastic if you own a convertible or motorcycle. Yes, you have to drink water, but I've never found it that big of a deal. It's possible to bike in Austin, but you have to have some serious nerves to get on some of the highways.

2) Depending on where you live, everything is only a 10-15 minute drive. I can go downtown, to the airport, or up to the university in that amount of time. However, if you live up in Round Rock or something you'll be driving a long way. And Austin traffic sucks.

Plus side though, we're getting an 85 mph freeway. When you drive, you drive fast. Speed limits range from 55-75 around Austin on the highways.

3) I don't know, I've found the trailer food to be unique. I didn't get to spend a lot of time SF though; I was only there for a day or two on business.

4) There's not as much art, but there is a lot of history in Texas. Austin probably isn't that great, but it's only about an hour or so to San Antonio. You could also go to Houston or Dallas with only a ~3 hour drive.

For the non-liberal crowd, there's a lot of red blooded Texans.

You'll really have to qualify "quality of life," besides the crime rate. And as urban crime rate goes.. it's honestly middle of the road as far as major American cities go, comparing favorably to LA, New York, Boston, and Washington in most categories. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_r...)

Anecdotally, I live in Washington but just spent a week out there never leaving SoMa/Market Street/Tenderloin, and felt about as comfortable there as I do in the up-and-coming areas of DC. e.g. just be aware of your general surroundings.

I have got to correct you there. It's way worse than NYC as far as cities go in crime-rate. The crime stigma with NYC is still heading back towards pre-2000.

However, San Francisco is comparable to most cities and much safer than West Philadelphia.

I lived in SF for nearly 2 years immediately after college graduation and just left a few months ago. I think the OP's question, although pretty vague, is interesting and conforms to my experience- life in SF, although good, is not even close to what you're paying for. (in other words, if SF were a stock, I would sell). 3 quick lines of evidence:

1) Weather is a huge influence on quality of life no matter how you cut it, and SF's weather is surprisingly bad. Not in the Nome Alaska objective sense of it (awful climate), but it in the 'oh its 49 degrees and rainy in July' sense of it. Sure there are some beautiful weeks in september and may but on balance its just gray, rainy, and temperamental. Oh and if you liked seasons, too bad.

2) SF is in the midst of a huge financial and commercial real estate bubble that has turned the city into a generally overrated, overpriced, and ultimately overcrowded bedroom community (you would think higher prices would drive down demand but that's not the case because other folks from around the rest of bay and entire nation are still flooding in).

3) Public transportation is just awful for a city of its size and density. Goes along with point 2) about overcrowding but buses are extremely slow and you hardly have room to breath. Muni and Bart are great but only services 1/5 of city or so. Obviously its not car-ridden like LA but we are talking about entirely different scales here. For a better comparison look to NYC or DC, SF is just leagues behind (I realize there are geological constraints here, but that's a whole other can of worms)

I'm not trying to paint SF as a bad place- yes, it has charming victorians, nice little micro climates/neighborhoods (I lived in Hayes Valley, one of the better ones), a lot of cultural diversity, great food, and I enjoyed my time there. That said, I would absolutely not move back-- SF is unprepared for the growth it will continue to get in the next couple years with a huge startup/employment diaspora. In truth, comparisons between SF and the world's great cosmopolitan metros like NYC, London, Paris, are really silly; due to a variety of financial and geological constraints on building future infrastructure, SF will basically remain the bay area's wealthy bedroom community for years if not decades to come.

What is it about Denver or Austin that you find so obviously superior to SF? (I don't much like SF, but I'll bet that my reasons have nothing to do with yours.)

As far as Paris goes, it's in France. That has consequences. If you're trying to start a biz, how do Paris' "better than SF" properties help you? Do they make up for SF's "better than Paris" properties?

I live in Denver right now, and while I've not lived in San Francisco as an adult, one clear area I'd say Denver wins on is cost of living. Six figures in Denver can go pretty far (owning a nice house or downtown apartment, vacations, private schools if you've got kids), whereas six figures in San Francisco almost certainly won't buy you that. I'm intentionally limiting this to San Francisco because, just as you can get more for your dollar by exploring the Bay Area and commuting, you can also get more for your dollar around Denver by living in some of the less affluent areas (e.g. Aurora, Erie) further out. Denver's got enough of a tech scene to support salaries in that range without fuss or lack of interesting work, so you're not harming your career prospects by moving here.

Denver's also got many other qualities worth mentioning. There's great weather and a laid back culture that is surprising given that many in Denver identify as "Midwesterners" - a term I associate with negative qualities that I've not found here. The populace is very educated, there's plenty of good beer to be had, if you're interested in such activity the mountains are a short drive away, and if you want to travel there's a national hub just east of the city. Boulder's close if a college-town atmosphere is more your scene, but Denver is a large enough area that you're not necessarily tied to what that atmosphere brings in the same way you might be in other towns (e.g. Charlottesville, VA). There's a decent public transportation system, relatively light traffic if you must drive somewhere, good food - it's got quite a lot to offer.

Really, there are only two things I dislike about living in Denver in particular: curiously small yards and the lack of easy access to the ocean. That said, the pros vastly outweigh the cons, and until I leave the country, Denver's where I plan to stay.

Quality of life is entirely subjective. My wife's quality of life depends heavily on how close she is to her family. My quality of life depends heavily on how diverse the population is (socioeconomic/racial/cultural).

Cost of buying a house doesn't matter to me because I'm fine renting if we can't afford to buy (we have 2 children and I value other things more than a house). My wife is the opposite.

This is the reason everybody doesn't want to live in the same place...thank goodness.

> Denver's got enough of a tech scene to support salaries in that range without fuss or lack of interesting work, so you're not harming your career prospects by moving here.

Doesn't that depend on what "tech" and "career" we're talking about?

> There's great weather and a laid back culture that is surprising given that many in Denver identify as "Midwesterners" - a term I associate with negative qualities that I've not found here.

"my neighbors aren't the hicks that I expected" is an "interesting" thing to say. (Then again, I don't think that "midwesterners" has negative connotations.)

BTW "six figures" covers 100k to 999k, so it's not all that useful for comparing real estate prices. (While SF is considerably more pricy than Denver, you don't have to spend $1M to get good stuff in SF.)

Note that SF is close to SV. What'd Denver close to that compares? How about the east bay?

I'd argue that SF is the tail, not the dog, albeit a damn fine tail. Even if you think that SF is "it", you can't discount the value of the surrounding areas in any comparisons.

> Besides the crime rate, especially number of murders and gang crime is really disturbing.

Averages are only interesting if you're average, and no one is.

What makes you think that you're at significant murder risk in SF? (There are folks who are likely to be killed - I'm asking why you think that you're one of them.)

You need to be more specific about what you mean by "quality of life", or else there's no way to address your question, which is actually rather mystifying.

You should also specify whether you're talking about SF proper, or the bay area more generally.

Incidentally, most gang crime is confined to other gang members, so that's probably not a real concern. Similar for murders.

(Not a SF resident, formerly lived in Oakland part-time, still visit SF proper frequently, now live in a part of LA which is near the turf of several street gangs.)

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