Moving to San Francisco
Are you moving to San Francisco? The commercial, cultural and financial centre of Northern California, San Francisco is located at the northern end of the San Francisco Peninsula. It is only 48 square miles in area, which makes it the smallest county in the State. Famous for the Golden Gate Bridge – which was funded and built during the Depression, Alcatraz, cable cars and Chinatown, one thing the older generation remember it for is the famous car chase in the 1968 Steve McQueen movie, Bullitt. This is a world-class city with an extremely global population, comprising a confluence of cultures, mainly due to the complex history of immigration and import.
Our free, in-depth Moving to San Francisco report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting San Francisco On The Map
Situated on the west coast of the US, the city lays claim to large stretches of San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, which includes the islands Alcatraz, Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island. With some 50 hills enclosed in the city limits, these have been used in the names of some suburbs, i.e. Nob Hill, Russian Hill and Potrero Hill. Twin Peaks, one of the highest points in the city, is a popular viewing spot. Most expats own cars here, but it is easy to get by without one. Many people choose to walk, although some of the hills are very steep. The public transport system is excellent, mainly due to the compact grid layout, so combining walking with riding is often a choice when faced with the hills. Most commuters use either buses or trains to get around during the week, but at weekends it is often nice to use the cable cars or ferry.Situated on the west coast of the US, the city lays claim to large stretches of San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, which includes the islands Alcatraz, Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island. With some 50 hills enclosed in the city limits, these have been used in the names of some suburbs, i.e. Nob Hill, Russian Hill and Potrero Hill. Twin Peaks, one of the highest points in the city, is a popular viewing spot. Most expats own cars here, but it is easy to get by without one. Many people choose to walk, although some of the hills are very steep. The public transport system is excellent, mainly due to the compact grid layout, so combining walking with riding is often a choice when faced with the hills. Most commuters use either buses or trains to get around during the week, but at weekends it is often nice to use the cable cars or ferry.
- With a fairly regular schedule running at between 6 and 15 minutes intervals, taking one or two buses, interspersed with a short walk, will reach most destinations.
- Tickets are available on the bus or at the vending machines, and the MUNI passes can also be used on the cable cars.
- Owl service buses run throughout the night but the services are limited.
- Be aware that if a bus is full, the driver will not stop to collect you. This can be highly inconvenient.
- Known as BART, the light rail Bay Area Rapid Transit system is an efficient, fast way of getting to and from the Mission neighbourhood and the financial district, as well as to get out to the suburbs and nearby cities.
- BART trains travel at intervals of between two and six minutes, dependent on the time of day and the route.
- The two ferry stops are along the Embarcadero. Quite a pricey way to travel, it is still a fun way to go to the East or North Bays.
- The historic cable cars are expensive, but they are convenient to reach Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. Just wrap up warmly on windy, cooler days.
- Cycling has become hugely popular, with the bicycle counter on Market Street logging one million bike trips, a 25% growth in one year. It is estimated that there are 82,000 cycle trips per day in the city, which makes up 5% of all commutes.
- Bike Share is growing at a rapid rate with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) building more cycle lanes.
San Francisco is a small city but has in excess of 110 neighbourhoods. These vary from gentrified areas to leafy suburbs, each with their own unique characteristics. So, whether it is a good school, being close to nature, or convenience to work, there is an area suited to your needs. There is a lot to be said for cutting costs and living outside the city and commuting daily. The city is very popular with young expats in the fields of technology and finance that are starting out here and want to be close to the city and nightlife.
LOS ALTOS HILLS
Just 35 miles south of the city and five miles from Stanford University, this premier Silicon Valley residential area has some of the most expensive real estate in the world, with an upper-class demographic. The minimum size for a plot is one acre, there are no multi-family dwellings, and the only shop is a book shop. The closest shops and post offices are in nearby Los Altos and Cupertino.
With the best views in San Francisco, this up-market location has a Mediterranean feel and large properties with immaculate gardens and swimming pools. It is close to China Beach and Baker Beach, and Land’s End – part of the Golden Gate National Park – is also nearby. Rentals are hard to come by, especially during the summer. Appealing to expats, there are a number of international schools in the vicinity.
This hilly suburb, with up-market boutiques and bistros, is one of the most sought-after areas in San Francisco. Nestled in a valley, the country feeling takes you miles away from the chaos of the city, with single and double storey Victorian houses adding to the nostalgic charm of the suburb. Hugely prosperous, many dot com millionaires live here.
A great family location in the East Bay area, good schools, green areas and child-oriented facilities make Walnut Creek an in-demand area for both local and expat families. Connected by BART and on a bus route, commuters will need to budget 30 minutes to the city centre, a short journey by San Francisco standards. Its strong sense of community is appealing, with family events ongoing throughout the year.
Another good family area, this time in the North Bay district, with an abundance of green areas with playparks for the kids, great public schools, restaurants and high-end shops. Accommodation is varied, from secured complexes with 2-bed apartments to luxury condos.
This bohemian area, dominated by Victorian houses, is popular with young professionals, artists and growing families. The accommodation varies from four-bedroom houses with gardens to tiny studio apartments. There are lots of markets, restaurants, eccentric cafes and high-fashion boutiques. Situated at the top of a hill, many residents own their own cars.
SOUTH OF MARKET or SOMA
One of the best areas in terms of access to public transport, there is also easy access to the major motorways, making it an ideal area for those who prioritise being close to the office. The urban development seen since 2010, which focussed on developing community values and more sustainable and affordable housing diversity, has resulted in an international mix of cultures. The bars, restaurants, hip nightclubs, and IT company headquarters, and the huge apartment blocks and warehouse conversions, appeal to young professionals and couples.
With easy access to the city, Potrero Hill is elevated enough to offer amazing views of the cityscape. It is also one of the warmest places in the area. There is easy access to the routes to Silicon Valley via road, however, the only public transport available is the bus, which can be unreliable. Street parking is surprisingly easy and there is a strong community feel with trendy restaurants and shops. It is close enough to SOMA and the Mission District to enjoy the nightlife they are famous for.
Who Lives And Works In San Francisco
San Francisco is the most densely settled large city in California, and the second-most in the USA, after New York City. The population is said to be in excess of 805,235, the 4th most populous in California, with a mix of ethnicities, cultures and languages.
The city’s economy is largely driven by financial services, tourism and high-tech. This is the financial hub of the West Coast and a world-wide leader in technology.
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Wells Fargo have their headquarters here, along with many foreign banks. Technology giants include Hewlett-Packard, DreamWorks, Yahoo, Apple, Pixar, YouTube and Google. Internet development is a high priority and many online companies make their home here such as Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox and Craigslist, attracting specialised expats keen to take advantage of the opportunities available. Despite all this, the driving force behind the economy is tourism, not forgetting its very busy international port. Unemployment is low, and the workforce is well educated. The city has higher median salaries than other urban centres in the US, including New York and Los Angeles.
The Best Bits
San Francisco is a child-friendly city, with plenty of activities and destinations for the young, or the young at heart. San Francisco is a child-friendly city, with plenty of activities and destinations for the young, or the young at heart.
- There are countless museums, ranging from serious subjects to Disney. There is even a CultureBus which stops at all the major museums, and then also includes the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden and the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, among others.
- The Mission District. Heavily influenced by Mexican culture, the murals will tell the stories, the taquerias offer traditional Mexican food, and events which honour Mexican holidays are held throughout the year.
- Chinatown. Crowded streets, colourful market stalls, dozens of restaurants, temples and teahouses. The fortune cookie was invented by a local Japanese resident.
- North Beach. The name comes from a beach that was filled in to be the extensive waterfront. Maybe it should be called Little Italy. The streets are lined with world-class ristorantes and trattorias, serving pasta and cappuccinos. Francis Ford Coppola owns Café Zeotrope. He wrote the Godfather screenplay in Caffe Trieste, and he still lives in the area. Joe DiMaggio marred Marilyn Monroe in the cathedral, Saints Peter and Paul Church.
- The Golden Gate Park, with its landscaped gardens, is three miles of escape from the city. On Sundays, the main road through the park is closed to traffic, allowing walkers, runners, cyclist and skaters the chance to enjoy themselves.
- There are almost 400 stairways which connect the city’s 42 hills. Most of them have stunning views. The Filbert Street Steps pass through tropical gardens with flocks of wild parrots. The street is steep though, at 31.5 degrees.
- San Francisco is famous for new theatre productions. There is a wide variety of shows on at any one time, from children’s theatre, musicals, Shakespeare and the most recent plays.
- The famous San Francisco nightlife is spread over a number of areas and streets and is vibrant, crowded and loud.
Bringing The Kids
With great schools and so much to do, San Francisco is the ideal place to bring up children. With great schools and so much to do, San Francisco is the ideal place to bring up children.
- It was the first US city to offer free college education, at City College, to students who have lived in the area for more than a year.
- San Francisco has four public and 21 private universities.
- Residing in the area of the public school of your choice will give you an advantage when it comes to placing your child. There are 114 public schools, of which 75 are elementary schools. These schools do not charge fees.
- There are 100 fee-paying private schools, of which 51% have religious affiliations. There is an entrance exam, and the scholar’s grades, teacher recommendations and extra-curricular activities will all be looked at.
- International schools are very popular amongst the expat community, offering a world class education. They are expensive.
- There are a number of international schools accommodating German, French, Chinese and even a Russian education.
Relocating to San Francisco
This beautiful city, with a thriving economy and low unemployment, has strengths in tourism, finance, education and the high-tech sectors. During the Great Depression, not a single bank in the city failed. The choice of residential areas is vast, with accommodation ranging from studio apartments in the downtown area to mansions in the suburbs. Family oriented areas have a great choice of schools. Public transport is exemplary, and there is just so much to do for activities. Rudyard Kipling said that the only drawback to the city is how hard it is to leave.
This is, of course, a huge step to take, transporting your family into unfamiliar territory. An experienced relocation agent knows the pitfalls, the areas, the schooling system and will help with spousal assistance and negotiating rentals, making life much easier all round.
Average Monthly Rent - San Francisco
|Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre||$3,341|
|Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre||$2,591|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre||$5,614|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre||$4,111|