I'd leave my heart in L.A. but flowers in the hair are doable.
August 8, 2009 5:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Los Angeles native in the very early stages of considering a move to San Francisco and would like some guidance on neighborhoods that would match up with my preferences.

If you'd asked me 72 hours ago if I'd ever consider moving out of my hometown, I would have scoffed, but I'm now in the running for a job/career opportunity that's appealing enough to possibly change my mind. One of the things I'm thinking about this weekend is whether I'd even like living in San Francisco. I've visited it some and enjoyed myself, but not with this in mind. So I'd like to survey mefites for ideas on SF neighborhoods--and next I'll work out if I could even happily afford to live in those places.

I am: an early-30s straight single woman with an indoor cat and a $300/mo car payment. I will keep my car in the move, so I'd want a parking space or easy street parking. (I will also keep the cat; don't worry.)

The job: is located in Silicon Valley, and I know I'd be looking at an hourish commute--that's fine. The salary range is 85-95k.

Things I like about where I live in Los Angeles: smallish quiet residential area, very walkable (local pharmacies, coffee, etc) and fairly centrally located. There isn't much in the way of nightlife immediately in my hood, but I'm not on one side of the city or the other, so getting to other places is relatively easy. It's got some crime, but more of the "you left your ipod in the car on the street at night and your window got smashed by a hoodlum" than the "you got shot by a crackhead walking to your apartment at 5 pm" variety. It's got a lot of middle-class families who have been in the area for decades and is racially diverse. There are two Targets, a Trader Joes, a Whole Foods and a Petco located within 15-minute drives.

I've also lived in Chicago--specifically Hyde Park. Things I liked about that were: it was similarly walkable, quiet and residential and yet 15 minutes' driving distance from downtown. Again, I liked the diversity and history of the neighborhood. It was more crimey than where I live now, but not unbearably so. I wouldn't say I miss the sexually aggressive drunks on the CTA, but I did like having the option of public transportation.

Things I did not like about Chicago (aside from the ludicrous weather): the racial (and class, to an extent) segregation, everything shutting down at 6 pm Mon-Sat and not open at all on Sunday, the relative uptightness of the people compared to L.A. and the big focus on dining out as the thing to do (I like food, but not so much to make it my whole evening. And the restaurant wait times, even with reservations, are nuts!). Also disliked the poorer selection of fresh produce and fish and all the Targets being located an hour away. (Hey, I like Target.)

From reading some past questions, I think Glen Park might be a good fit for me--any specific recommendations on that are welcome. Also, I was thinking about the Mission area, but that's starting to sound more crackhead-shootingish than I'd like.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I used to live in SF with a cat and a car and commute to Silicon Valley.

Glen Canyon / Noe Valley give you some walkability, and easy access to the highway so you can pop down to Serramonte for your choice of two Targets. But really, if you're commuting down the peninsula you'll be able to take care of any chain store needs near work or as part of your commute so I wouldn't value those too highly in determining where you live. The stores down south will generally be less shabby and overcrowded, as well.

Areas with better walkability are broadly speaking inconvenient for parking and getting to/from the highways, but there quite a few of them if you'd rather have that. 9th and Irving, the Haight, Fillmore Street, Union Street, the Marina, Nob Hill (and the Tendenernob not too far into the 'Loin)... I'm sure others will have better recommendations for those.

I lived in the Outer Sunset (pretty safe but dead neighborhood, but close to park and beach, on the N Judah which takes you lots of decent places, good for parking and 280 access, not expensive for SF), Nob Hill close to Tenderloin (lucky to have a parking spot, sketchy edge to the area that's amusing in daytime but a little frightening at 3am, good stuff to walk to and can take cable car thorugh Chinatown and so forth), and finally Twin Peaks (real safe, good parking, decent highway access, nothing to walk to except beautiful trees and hillside views...).

My experience was that a cat cuts housing options by a whopping 75%. Add your car requirements on top of that, and you might want to pick a place with the expectation that you'll be moving to a more perfect location after the year lease defaults to month-to-month.
posted by fleacircus at 7:43 PM on August 8, 2009

Look at Glen Park, Potrero Hill (including Dogpatch), and Bernal Heights. Also some of the new buildings in the SOMA/Mission Bay area - they will have parking, if not much charm.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:51 PM on August 8, 2009

Also, I was thinking about the Mission area, but that's starting to sound more crackhead-shootingish than I'd like.

Don't believe it! Especially if you live on the Castro side of the Mission north of 24th or so — let's say anything west of Valencia — which will have all the Mission benefits while being more gentrified (i.e. pricey but adorable). Parking varies a lot from street to street even; the Mission is generally no good, but if you get up on a hill (say, above Dolores Park) you're usually great. But even the "real Mission" is car-might-get-broken-into dangerous, not you-might-get-shot dangerous (I might avoid walking south of 24th on the east side of Mission late at night because of gang activity, but I've never felt personally threatened).

Anyway, Glen Park, etc., also seem like nice places to live but I have less to say about them since I've never lived there. Just wanted to defend/recommend the Mission, which is a fantastic place.

In any case, the only real way to do it is to make another visit (it's not that far of a trip!) and walk around with a map in hand and circle the neighborhoods that appeal to you.

Also, check out the many great responses in these three threads (including some very long comments by me).
posted by rafter at 10:41 PM on August 8, 2009

I think Glen Park sounds like a perfect fit for you. Quiet and residential, walkable, cute little main strip. It's slightly removed from the more happening parts of the city, but it has a BART station which will get you to the Mission in five minutes and downtown in ten, as well as connect you to the East Bay and the peninsula. If your job is accessible from Caltrain, you might not need your car at all.

Bernal Heights is also nice and has great parking, but your public transportation options are more limited and getting downtown is a pain in the ass. It's definitely worth checking out, though.

I also lived in Hyde Park and the racial/class segregation is totally different here. Maybe it's because the city is so small that we're all crammed in here together and there's nowhere to segregate to. It's not some harmonious utopia by any means, and there are certainly pockets where particular races/classes predominate, but it doesn't give me the creepy crawlies the way the racial/class dynamics in Hyde Park did.
posted by granted at 12:10 AM on August 9, 2009

I have to wonder whether you're describing Eagle Rock in LA — that's my home neighborhood. I lived in San Francisco for three summers, and I would recommend either the Inner Sunset (relatively quiet/residential with walking distance to nice neighborhoody things) or west of Valencia like rafter said.

As a young woman, I found the Inner Sunset a little friendlier than the nicer parts of the Mission. When I lived at 18th & Valencia, I could find endless things to see and eat and read, but I didn't like to walk east of Valencia by myself after dark. Mission Street has a lot of sketchy people along with a lot of normal people, and people do get shot there sometimes (but almost never just random pedestrians). Also, Valencia has plenty of guys who like to call out at passing women, which got on my nerves sometimes. The Castro might be an option — it's reasonably safe and walkable and entertaining, and I liked living there too, but it's expensive and not quite Eagle Rock style.

In the Sunset, Irving Street has lots of coffee shops, pharmacies, varied restaurants, and several nice produce markets. The Sunset is also notoriously foggy, but that didn't really bother me. When I lived in the Outer Sunset and wanted some sun, I would just take the N-line into the Castro.

(I commuted to Silicon Valley on my company's shuttle bus, and the commute seemed easier from the Mission than from the Sunset, but that might just be a quirk of our shuttle system. It was a pretty tiring commute though, and I'm not sure I'd choose it if I was going to live there year-round permanently.)
posted by dreamyshade at 12:49 AM on August 9, 2009

I spent a few months in the Mission at 24th & South Van Ness and loved it, but I was car-less at the time so can't testify to the parking situation. I found that public transport was pretty good, and good access to the commuter route but not sure the area fits your criteria on the quiet/family front. There's a good thread about the Mission and Mission Bay here.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:57 AM on August 9, 2009

looks like i'm late to the party.

i've lived in LA for a few years (Santa Monica & Pico/Fairfax) and in 8 different places around San Francisco.

i concur that Glen Park is a good place to look. it's quiet and nice, convenient to the freeway south and yet on good public transit into the city. Noe Valley is a bit more full of restaurants and shops, but i like it less. lots of young families and parking hassles.

we're moving into a place in Cole Valley today, above the Haight. it's also quiet and nice, but an easy walk to the bustle of Haight Ashbury and on the N line into town. i think you'd like it less there because parking is more of a hassle and getting to the freeway would take an extra 20-30 minutes at rush hour.

you could also consider Potrero Hill, specifically the North side, which is a bit more "city" but has a nice neighborhood feel to it and is also convenient to the freeway south. a plus to Potrero is you could get a great city view.

good luck. i recommend having an open mind about what San Francisco will be like. it's all the things you've heard, but also very diverse and easy to live in. i love it here.
posted by xz at 8:23 AM on August 9, 2009

come to my hood, pot hill. easy access to 280/101 & fits your requirements in other respects. you can join the pot hill jr. boosters... just as soon as we get the letterhead printed up :D
posted by jcruelty at 9:03 AM on August 9, 2009

Definitely Potero Hill.
posted by chrisalbon at 9:35 AM on August 9, 2009

Depends what part of Bernal Heights you live in and what part of downtown you want to get to.

The 23-Monterey runs about every 15-20 minutes. It will get you to Third Street in 10 to 15 minutes, and it's another 15 minutes by train to SOMA/Caltrain on the T line (there are also buses on Third Street that go further downtown). The 23 also goes to Glen Park BART (again, 10 to 15 minutes from Bernal).

The 24-Divisadero is woefully infrequent sometimes, but you can get from Bernal to the Castro in 30 minutes.

The 67 is often a scheduling mystery, but you can usually get from Bernal to 24th Street Mission BART in 20 minutes.

If you're driving to work in Silicon Valley, highways 101 and 280 are just at the bottom of Cortland (Bernal's main drag).

It might be harder to find places in Bernal because there are a lot of homeowners here -- I rarely see "For rent" signs. It's very cat-friendly, though, and very walkable. Plus if you want to go to the Mission, it's pretty close by (as are many more transportation options).

Don't overlook the Excelsior District, too. It's cheaper (and less hip) than the Mission, but with just as many restaurants and little markets, and definitely quieter.
posted by vickyverky at 5:05 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

First, an answer to your question. I'd say Noe Valley or the 'nice' side of Potrero Hill.

Now, some (unsolicited) thoughts. Not to be all Negative Nancy, but some of the things you said make me think that you might be somewhat disappointed with SF.

For one, parking is an absolute, unmitigated nightmare in sf. "Easy street parking" doesn't really exist, you'll have to settle for 'easier' than the impossible parts of the city.

You currently live in LA, so I'm guessing sitting in traffic for an hour twice a day isn't such a big deal to you, but that's a monster of a commute you're taking on. One of my close friends did sf to San Jose for almost 10 years and it wore her down. She and husband finally moved out, even though they love the city.

And finally, you mention that you don't like how going out to eat in Chicago was the focal point of the evening. SF is a huge restaurant town. Going out to try a new restaurant, even if it means waiting for hours and spending half your paycheck, is one of the main social activities in SF.

Your current hometown actually sounds like some cities in Silicon Valley. God forbid anyone suggest living in a suburb, but maybe you also wanna look into Mountain View or Los Gatos?
posted by calgirl13 at 9:30 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I also lived in Hyde Park and the racial/class segregation is totally different here. Maybe it's because the city is so small that we're all crammed in here together and there's nowhere to segregate to.

I have ALSO lived in Hyde Park (and am non-white) and to be honest, I found Chicago to be much more racially diverse than San Francisco. San Francisco feels very segregated, and I don't see how people can say it's not.

San Francisco has a white plurality (something like 45% and slowly growing), which is unique for a major international coastal city in the US (and especially for California). There's a significant number of Asians (heavily immigrant), and then the rest of the city is something like 15% Latino and 5% black. The city, to be honest, really isn't that diverse. Oakland, in particular, and some of the other suburbs in the Bay Area really felt more like the major metro areas of the East Coast or Los Angeles. But SF, to me, felt like a white city with a smattering of other races, rather than the more racially mixed cities I've lived in.

To answer the OPs question - I live in Glen Park right now, and I think it'd be a perfect fit for you (quieter, a bit older, etc). Hell, I'm in my late twenties and I find the Mission to really be overrated and overpriced b/c of a plethora of hipster-filled group houses. Glen Park has BART access as well, a great park nearby, wonderful transit access, and the 280 running right by. And a great downtown as well.
posted by waylaid at 11:43 PM on August 12, 2009

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