17 Pros & Cons of Living in San Francisco – A Local’s Guide

Posted On: May 31, 2024
By: Team JacksonFuller

“San Francisco, I am broken, but you are the place I come to heal”

  • From “I Am Harvey Milk” by Andrew Lippa and performed by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

San Francisco conjures up iconic images that ignite the imaginations and wanderlust. Beneath the Photoshop-perfect postcards lies a dense, complicated city with a unique character.   Is San Francisco all sunshine and sourdough, or is there a bit more grit to this place me and my family call home? 

In this guide, I’ll peel back the layers and explore San Francisco through my own eyes. I’ll delve into the vibrant culture, the stunning natural beauty and the local histories and people that make this city so alluring. 

When we moved here at the turn of the millennium, the running joke was my husband and I couldn’t think of a more expensive place to raise a child. Our daughter is now a young adult, and after nearly a quarter century of city living, SF is our family’s home.

Is San Francisco Still A Place To “Leave Your Heart”?

Recent media coverage focusing on rising homelessness, tech oversaturation, and skyrocketing costs have cast a shadow over the city’s charm.  Empty office buildings dot the skyline, whispering tales of a tech exodus, and some wonder if the soul of San Francisco is fading.

Mira at 280 Spear SF condo homes for sale South Beach San Francisco building exterior

Photo by JFRE

But is this an accurate picture?  San Francisco’s story is far more positive than the media lets on.  The city’s essence – its vibrant culture, stunning natural beauty, and innovative spirit –  remains very much alive.  Whether it’s a good place to live depends entirely on your priorities and lifestyle.

While challenges are undeniable, San Francisco is still a hub for creativity and entrepreneurship.  “The fundamentals are strong,” San Francisco Chronicle reporter Tim Plett recently noted.  “The city remains a center for venture capital, with funding on pace for another record year.  Biotech and healthcare are also booming.”  

Ultimately, San Francisco offers a unique urban experience, but it’s not for everyone.  Understanding both the challenges and the charms will help you decide if this iconic city aligns with your dream life. A great place to learn about living in San Francisco at the granular level is the library of podcasts we have created the last several years. They are a great place to start researching San Francisco.

General San Francisco Facts

Teeming with innovation and iconic sights, San Francisco is a city unlike any other in America. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the current population to be around 873,965, making it the fourth most populous city in California.  Despite its compact size of 46.9 square miles, San Francisco boasts a diverse topography –  imagine rolling hills punctuated by the Golden Gate Bridge and a charming waterfront.  This vibrant city is a hub for entrepreneurs and tech talent, reflected in its high average income. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in San Francisco sits at $136,689. So, if you’re seeking a dynamic and exciting place to live, San Francisco’s blend of urban energy and natural beauty might be the perfect fit.

The Pros of Living in San Francisco

  1. Interesting Jobs that Pay Bank

    1. San Francisco is a global center for tech, finance, and innovation, boasting a vibrant economy and a diverse range of high-paying careers.  This constant flow of new ideas and new companies translates to ample opportunities for career advancement and exploration.
  2. Culture, Culture, and More Culture

    1. From world-class museums like the de Young and the SFMOMA to renowned theater productions and a vibrant music scene, San Francisco offers a cultural feast for every interest.  Immerse yourself in the city’s rich history and cutting-edge artistic movements.
      Yerba Buena Gardens and the Museum of Modern Art

      Photo by JFRE

  3. Food, Delicious Food, and even more Delicious Food

    1. San Francisco’s culinary scene is a global sensation.  Michelin-starred restaurants like Californios and Atelier Crenn share the stage with ethnic enclaves serving up authentic flavors from around the world.  There’s a delicious adventure waiting around every corner, from fresh Dungeness crab to steaming bowls of cioppino.
  4. An Outdoor Playground At Your Doorstep

    1. Golden Gate Park, stunning hikes along the Pacific coastline, and easy access to wine country make San Francisco an outdoor enthusiast’s dream.  Enjoy moderate weather year-round that allows you to get outside and explore, whether it’s biking across the Golden Gate Bridge or kayaking in the bay.
  5. Public Transportation That Works For Public Transit

    1. San Francisco’s compact neighborhoods and efficient public transportation system, like the iconic cable cars, make it easy to ditch the car.  Embrace a healthy lifestyle and a slower pace as you walk, bike, or take Muni to navigate the city. Also, embrace complaining about Muni. It’s what we do.
  6. You Do You; Unapologetically

    1. San Francisco is a welcoming and progressive city that celebrates diversity in all its forms.  Feel a sense of belonging in a vibrant community that embraces people from all walks of life, fostering a sense of inclusivity.
  7. Natural Beauty Everywhere For Miles and Miles

    1. From the majestic Golden Gate Bridge to rolling fog cascading over the hills, San Francisco offers stunning natural beauty that will leave you breathless.  Enjoy postcard-worthy views every day, whether you’re strolling along the waterfront or picnicking in Dolores Park.
      South End SF Historic District

      Photo by JFRE

  8. Historical Landmarks

    1. San Francisco offers a unique advantage for residents – a vibrant tapestry woven from its many historical landmarks. Imagine stepping back in time at Ghirardelli Square, a former chocolate factory transformed into a bustling marketplace, or City Hall, a Beaux-Arts masterpiece with its opulent dome.  Across the bay, Alcatraz Island, the notorious former prison, chills visitors with its tales of infamous inmates. I wrote about all of the San Francisco historic landmark districts in this blog.
  9. Hills, Hills and More Hills

    1. Your legs will love you for it, even if they are inexplicably sore the first few weeks you live here. 

The Cons of Living in San Francisco

  1. High Cost of Living

    1. San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.  Housing, food, and entertainment all come with a hefty price tag.  Be prepared for significant expenses when considering a move to San Francisco.
  2. Homelessness

    1. While San Francisco offers a wealth of resources and support services, there’s a visible homeless population in the city. This can be unsettling for some residents, especially those with young children or those unfamiliar with urban environments. The presence of homelessness can also raise concerns about safety and public health, and it’s an ongoing challenge that the city is actively working to address.
  3. Expensive Housing Prices

    1. San Francisco homes are in high demand, with low inventory and high interest rates. Be prepared to move quickly and potentially make compromises on size or location. Working with a local real estate agent can help move this process along.
  4. Traffic and Limited Parking

    1. Cruising down Lombard Street, nicknamed “the crookedest street in the world,” might be a tourist dream, but San Francisco traffic is another story.  Finding parking can be a daily struggle, with limited street spots and expensive garages.  Public transportation is a great alternative, but during rush hour, expect crowded buses and trains.  If you’re looking for a car-dependent lifestyle, San Francisco’s traffic congestion might test your patience.
      Lombard St curves on Russian Hill in San Francisco

      Photo by JFRE

  5. Gentrification

    1. The constant buzz of development in San Francisco has undeniable benefits, but it comes with a shadow side: gentrification. Longtime residents are increasingly priced out of their neighborhoods as housing costs soar. This disrupts the unique character of these communities and can displace those who have called San Francisco home for generations. While the city strives to create more affordable housing options, the challenge of balancing growth with inclusivity remains a complex issue.
  6. Cool Weather and Fog

    1. The fog rolling in over the Golden Gate Bridge is a quintessential San Francisco image, but that cool, misty weather isn’t for everyone.  While some embrace the atmospheric charm, others might crave more sunshine.  Summer highs rarely break out of the low 70s Fahrenheit (around 21 degrees Celsius), and the brisk evenings can leave you reaching for a jacket, even in July and August.  This distinct climate can be a refreshing change, but be prepared for unfamiliar weather patterns and plan on wearing layers for year-round comfort.
  7. Earthquakes and Wildfires

    1. San Francisco sits on the volatile San Andreas Fault, and the ever-present threat of earthquakes and subsequent fires can be a nerve-wracking reality.  This can make obtaining insurance difficult and expensive, adding another layer of financial burden to homeownership. While the city has strict building codes and retrofitting programs, the potential for natural disasters is a consideration for anyone contemplating life in San Francisco.
  8. Hills, Hills and More Hills

    1. San Francisco’s hills can leave you winded after a walk or bike ride, especially if you’re not accustomed to the constant elevation changes.  While cable cars and some buses navigate the steeper areas, navigating the city on foot can require a good level of fitness.  For those with mobility limitations, the hilly terrain can be a significant obstacle.

A Summary of the Pros and Cons of Living in San Francisco

Pros of Living in San Francisco Cons of Living in San Francisco
High Paying Jobs High Cost of Living
Unmatched Culture Homelessness
A Food Lover’s Paradise Expensive Housing Prices
An Outdoor Playground Traffic and Limited Parking
ExtensivePublic Transit Gentrification
Diversity and Acceptance Cool & Foggy Weather
Natural Beauty Everywhere Earthquakes and Wildfires
Historic Landmarks Hills

Looking to Move to San Francisco? Partner with a Local Real Estate Agency

While the city’s beauty and charm are undeniable, navigating the intricacies of the real estate scene requires a local expert.  That’s where Jackson Fuller Real Estate comes in. As a premier boutique San Francisco real estate brokerage, we boast decades of experience and city knowledge. Our team lives and breathes San Francisco real estate. Contact Jackson Fuller Real Estate today for a free consultation and discover how our expertise can turn your buying or selling journey into a success story.



  1. What are the top reasons people choose to live in San Francisco?

San Francisco casts a golden spell on many. It’s a city that ignites ambition with a

booming tech industry and a culture of innovation, all bathed in the glow of near-perfect weather. Foodies flock here for Michelin-starred marvels and the global flavors of vibrant neighborhoods. History buffs wander through Alcatraz and Golden Gate Park, while outdoor enthusiasts hike stunning coastlines or kayak in the bay – all under refreshingly mild temperatures year-round. Beyond the iconic sights, San Francisco offers a unique energy – a progressive spirit that celebrates diversity and welcomes dreamers. Yes, it’s expensive and competitive, but for those seeking a vibrant tapestry of culture, career opportunities, breathtaking beauty, and weather that makes everyday feel like a vacation, San Francisco offers an unforgettable experience.


  1. What are the most notable outdoor activities available to residents of San Francisco?

San Franciscans are outdoor enthusiasts by nature, and their city caters perfectly to that spirit. Golden Gate Park, a sprawling playground, offers endless possibilities – explore botanical gardens, museums, or simply unwind amidst verdant scenery. Weekends might find them scaling Bernal Hill for breathtaking vistas, cycling the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, or kayaking in the crisp San Francisco Bay. Hikers can lose themselves on trails that hug the dramatic coastline, offering a chance to reconnect with nature and spot migrating whales.  Presidio National Park, with its historic grounds and sweeping Crissy Field, is another haven for outdoor lovers. Here, dog walkers revel in the many designated dog parks, while others enjoy frisbee throws or kite flying.  Even daily errands can be an invigorating walk or bike ride thanks to San Francisco’s compact neighborhoods and comfortable year-round climate.

  1. Can you describe the public transportation options in San Francisco?

Ditching the car is a breeze in San Francisco.  Muni, the city’s public transport system, reigns supreme with a network of buses, light rail trains, and the iconic cable cars climbing the steep hills.  Zip around on the Muni Metro for fast connections, or catch a historic streetcar for a scenic journey.  For longer trips, hop on BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, which connects San Francisco to neighboring cities.  Supplementing these options are rentable bikes and e-scooters, perfect for quick errands or exploring hidden corners.  With real-time apps and frequent departures, getting around San Francisco is a breeze, leaving you more time to soak in the city’s vibrant energy.

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