POPULATION: 852,469 (City & County), 4,594,060 (Metro) | TIME ZONE: Pacific | CLIMATE: Mediterranean (moist, mild winters, dry summers)
Looking at San Francisco today, it’s almost hard to believe it began with just a fort and a Catholic mission. The name San Francisco is Spanish for Saint Francis. In 1776, Spanish colonists built El Presidio Real de San Francisco, or The Royal Fortress of Saint Francis Presidio, and Mission San Francisco de Asís. In 1849 came the California Gold Rush, which turned San Francisco into the West Coast’s largest city virtually overnight. Also virtually overnight, more than 80% of the city was destroyed by what is considered one of the single worst natural disasters in U.S. history: the 1906 earthquake and resulting fires. Nonetheless, the city was quickly rebuilt. During World War II, San Francisco became the port of embarkation for U.S. servicemen shipping out to the Pacific. The 1960’s counterculture movement flourished here, along with the Sexual Revolution. The Peace Movement gained a major foothold in San Francisco as opposition to the Vietnam War grew. 1967 saw The Summer of Love, and 100,000 supporters descended upon Haight-Ashbury. San Francisco also became a center for the gay rights movement and liberal activism.
Despite it all (or perhaps because of it all), San Francisco is a popular destination for tourists. As a center of commerce, San Francisco is home to the headquarters of five major banks, as well as companies ranging from Levi Strauss & Co. and Gap Inc., to Airbnb and Yelp. San Francisco is also a cultural and performing arts center, with the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Symphony. San Francisco rates high on world livability rankings. It’s also the second smartest city in the U.S., with the second-highest percentage of residents with a college degree after Seattle. Bicycles are big here, with 75,000 residents commuting by bicycle daily.
The City by the Bay
The City That Knows How Baghdad by the Bay
The Paris of the West
Oro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra (Gold in Peace, Iron in War)
RANDOM SONG ABOUT THE CITY
I Left My Heart In San Francisco by Tony Bennett
PRO SPORTS TEAMS
San Francisco 49ers (NFL)
San Francisco Giants (MLB)
Golden State Warriors (NBA)
San Jose Sharks (NHL)
San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)
San Rafael Pacifics (PA)
San Jose Barracuda (AHL)
San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby (RSL)
ALSO KNOWN FOR...
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco Bay
The Transamerica Building
The only National Historical Monument that moves (cable cars)
The most crooked street in the world (Lombard)
Invention of the fortune cookie
America’s first ugly law, prohibiting unsightly people from showing their faces in public (repealed)
Maya Angelou, Bruce Lee, Robert Frost, Steve Jobs, Clint Eastwood, Cheech Marin, Danny Glover, Jack London, Jerry Garcia, Mel Blanc, Ansel Adams, Isadora Duncan, Francis Coppola, Johnny Mathis, Tupac Shakur, Carlos Santana, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Tom Brady
Normally, we’d begin such a discussion by looking at the downtown area of the city and working out to the suburbs. But in the case of San Francisco, things are a little different. For one, the San Francisco 49ers are not actually in San Francisco, but Santa Clara. It’s still considered the Bay Area, but is about a 50-minute drive from the city without traffic. Since Santa Clara is our NFL nexus, we’re going to start there. And probably the first thing to say about living in Santa Clara is this: be prepared for the real estate prices. Santa Clara gets incredibly high marks for livability, education and amenities—and all that comes at a Silicon Valley-influenced price tag, with a median home price approaching three-quarters of a million. For the family that can afford Santa Clara living, the town has a lot to recommend it. It is often found on various best places to live lists. And hey—free Wi-Fi throughout the city.
There are other excellent neighborhoods nearby, like Los Gatos, Los Altos, and Palo Alto. Situated along the foothills of the California Coastal range, they offer great housing and amenities—all at a cost similar to Santa Clara. A real estate find under $1 million is unusual. If you find something hovering under a million, chances are it’s a one-bed/one-bath condo. Cupertino is famous for its excellent public schools and community college, as well as for being home to Apple. A highly educated and diverse community, almost half of its population was born outside of the U.S.
San Jose can provide the barest respite from the real estate sticker shock. (It’s still California real estate, but it’s not Palo Alto real estate.) But be prepared: this is a big, sprawling California city. Neighborhoods and schools here are a mixed bag. The Southside (or South San Jose) is attractive for the active outdoor enthusiast. The city has 193 parks, and many are in the south. San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood gets a lot of favorable mention for being walkable, family friendly and feeling like a small town.
The community of Campbell has a historic downtown with gourmet restaurants, cafés, galleries and shops. Single-family homes are the norm, with some condos and rental units. For some folks, Campbell’s small-town feel is a welcome change from the busier, more bustling parts of Silicon Valley. Nearby Saratoga is another lovely place with that small-town vibe. And if the $2,000,000 median home price seems daunting, maybe the $2,000 median rental price will seem more approachable. Of course, you’re not getting a lot of space for that. Renting a house can easily cost double or triple. But with that price tag comes excellent schools, amenities, fine dining and culture—including a vibrant arts scene.
If you’re intent on living closer to San Francisco, there are folks with great enthusiasm for San Mateo. Considered a decent location for commuters, it’s about a half hour to Santa Clara without traffic, and an equal drive to San Francisco without traffic. (Be prepared to easily double that drive time during peak hours.) It’s also on the Caltrain line, with about an hour ride in either direction when taking a limited or a baby bullet. And if this is the place for you, know that it’s actually somewhat more affordable than the Silicon Valley options—meaning it’s merely crazy expensive. Millbrae is somewhat more expensive than San mateo and closer to San Francisco—it’s actually known as the last stop on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) line. It’s also that much farther from Santa Clara.