Where to live in the Bay Area?
January 10, 2005 9:47 AM   Subscribe

BAY AREA FILTER: Hey everyone... one of my best friends and his wife are moving to San Francisco, and I offered to help them figure out where they may want to move. If you live there, or have lived there, where would you recommend? They'd like an active lifestyle, and safe. Aside from that, he's making 50k and needs easy access to Mission Bay for work. They also really want public transit.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by silusGROK to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If they don’t mind the fog, they should look for something along the N-Judah street car line. The N, inbound, goes to Mission Bay without transfer (although it’s a pretty crowded ride during rush hour).

The western side of town (as my friends with the "Are there any connecting flights?" jokes will attest) is less hip than the more central neighborhoods, but it's more affordable in general, and there are some interesting pockets. In the case of the N vicinity, shoot for the Inner Sunset, which is near UCSF and the fun 9th & Irving area. It's also a fast walk up to GG Park.
posted by merlinmann at 9:57 AM on January 10, 2005

dogpatch, man!

best district name ever.

(well, technically you're gonna want to live on potrero hill).

i have a feeling that if they've described the neighborhood they want to live as "safe", then the mission is going to be too gritty for them (it's plenty safe, but it can look a little seedy in parts). I'd still encourage people to check out the mission and environs -- it's an awesome place to live.

the only place they may want to avoid is hunter's point, which has a reputation for being a tough part of town. I can't really give you my opinion on it, because i didn't spend a lot of time there.
posted by fishfucker at 10:09 AM on January 10, 2005

I currently live in SF (Russian Hill). $50k/year income will afford something extremely modest in the city, unless you're willing to live in some sketchy areas (Loin/Western Addition/deep Mission). Rents for 1BRs in my neighborhood are around $1800-2000/month, and landlords don't generally like to lease if your annual income isn't 36x your monthly rent.

Would your friends consider moving out to the East Bay? Rents are lower in places like Albany, El Cerrito, and Walnut Creek, plus they've got a nice "small-town" feel to them while preserving the attractions that an urban setting provides.

Another option is Daly City / South San Francisco. I don't know what rents are like there, though, but I'd imagine they'd be cheaper than SF proper.
posted by aberrant at 10:24 AM on January 10, 2005

Yeah, I’m being a little SF-Centric, and hadn’t thought about the other public transit that goes directly to Mission Bay: Caltrain. It serves many cities down the peninsula and is, in my experience, a very mellow commute.

If you account for BART (which, for this commute, assumes a transfer to MUNI or a brisk walk) you open up the whole East Bay, which is much more diverse and affordable overall.
posted by merlinmann at 10:40 AM on January 10, 2005

Cost is a really big deal here. Were they planning on renting or buying? If renting, they can check out craiglist for an idea of prices. San Francisco is pretty small, and public transit will let you go just about anywhere, so your friends' tradeoff is between sketchyness of neighborhood and cost.

That said, the Glen Park area is very nice, kind of "village-y" and has major access to public transit. Bernal Heights, the Inner Sunset, and Potrero Hill also are all very neat. If they want to be closer to town and don't care about parking, Russian Hill, North Beach, and parts of Nob Hill (above California St.) are great, but pricey. They should watch for the tendency of landlords to stretch the boundaries of desirable neighborhoods - for example, run from places with neighborhoods like "Lower Nob Hill" or "Lower Pacific Heights." The Mission Bay area is teeming with new construction - maybe they should check that area out.
posted by jasper411 at 10:46 AM on January 10, 2005

craigslist.org (cited above) is a great place to start thinking about how much to pay for housing, and what is available.

Almost all public transportation within the city is via the SF Municipal Railway ("Muni"). What isn't city-run is mostly BART, with very limited routes. So a close look at the Muni routes is definitely worthwhile. Ideally your friends want to live somewhere that doesn't require a transfer.

There are very few residential areas of San Francisco that are unsafe. Housing prices tend to reflect safety as well as closeness to downtown (oddly, the Western Addition and South of Mission, both close to downtown, are among the least safe). Avoid Hunter's Point. [There are websites out there that can provide crime and other statisics by zip code; I don't know which are the good ones so I won't suggest any.]

Sunset (particularly Outer) and Richmond are less expensive to live in because (a) they are a lot more foggy; (b) they are a bit of a hike from downtown; and (c) there are large areas of houses, houses, houses, which is fine for living but less interesting when one wants to walk to a store, for example.

I recommend against living in the East Bay. First, without a car, it's much more problematical (except perhaps for downtown Oakland) in terms of interesting places. Being in San Francisco is much better. Second, while Muni is often crowded, BART (the mass transit from the East Bay) is far worse, more expense, and takes longer. And may require a transfer to Muni anyway, to get to Mission Bay, or a long walk. I really think the goal here is to try to find somewhere that is a straight shot to work.
posted by WestCoaster at 11:20 AM on January 10, 2005

Noe Valley is a little pricey, but you won't find anywhere in the city that matches all your criterion and isn't. It is safe, it is very public transit accessible , it is quite a nice neighborhood. Bernal Heights is pretty cool too, a little less pricey, but not quite as linked into public transit.
posted by freebird at 11:33 AM on January 10, 2005

On 50k/year your friend may be able to find something to rent around Cole Valley/Lower Haight/9th & Irving area. I lived in Cole Valley when I first moved to the City and loved it because it was close to the N-Judah line and close to Golden Gate Park.

On a side note, I guess the fact that people are moving back to San Francisco is an indication the economy is turning around.

One more idea: Hayes Valley. I have a friend that make less than 50k/year and is able to rent a big studio. Hayes Valley isn't located next to any parks though, and the neighborhood is economically polarized. Read "sketchy" and "yuppie" element.
posted by quadog at 12:11 PM on January 10, 2005

Do your friends own a car? Do they plan to keep it? Even if they plan to use public transit to get back or forth to work, having/not having a car is a big factor in figuring out where to live. The interesting neighborhoods in San Francisco tend to have major parking issues, in addition to being pricier. If they don't need a car very frequently, they might think about off-loading the car and joining City Car Share for the monthly trips to Costco.

I just moved out of my apartment in Cole Valley, which I loved That neighborhood is great, very close to Golden Gate Park, parking not too terrible by citywide standards, close to 9th & Irving, right on the N-Judah line, which is convenient if horribly unreliable.

Noe Valley and Hayes Valley are also interesting neighborhoods worth checking out. I had to laugh at Jasper411's comment about "lower" neighborhood designations. While I was in school I lived in a neighborhood variously referred to as "Lower Nob Hill", "Tenderloin Heights" or simply "Nob Loin." It didn't have much by way of "neighborhood" feeling, but it was very convenient for me, and reasonably safe.

The other thing they might consider is getting a sublet for a while, so that they can get the feel for a neighborhood and the transit/parking/ etc. issues.
posted by ambrosia at 12:15 PM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: They have a car, and will be keeping it... "safe" is more a term of real threat vs whether or not the streets are swept.

Great ideas, folks... keep 'em coming.

Also, any ideas on places to _avoid_?
posted by silusGROK at 12:47 PM on January 10, 2005

Also, any ideas on places to _avoid_?

Bay View and Hunter’s Point do have a pretty bad rep for gang-related violence, unfortunately. It’s easily the most overlooked and impoverished neighborhood from what I can gather. Sucks. Lots of families still live there.

The Tenderloin has its fans, but it’s a little “Bar Fly” for my liking (in terms of living there vs going there for shows, etc.). It’s kind of like an old Tom Waits song, but with the occasional #2 on the sidewalks.

Every neighborhood has its flavor and I would really advise several visits and contiguous days in town before making a decision. Maps can be deceiving; one of my hardest adjustments was learning that, seriously, every few blocks, the feeling of a neighborhood can change drastically. Lot going on in these 48 square miles, and where possible, you def. get the most seeing it on foot, a few blocks at a time.
posted by merlinmann at 1:16 PM on January 10, 2005

On preview - this is a bit long. Hope it helps.
If they have a car and want to keep it - they are going to want to live in a neighborhood a bit further a field - or spend the money on a garage/parking space. No one is ever prepared for the pain that is coming home at the end of the day and driving around for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour looking for a place to put your car. A garage space seems to be around 150 bucks a month give or take depending on the 'hood.

There is a ton of new corporate housing developments popping up around mission bay. Apartment towers by a company called Avalon as well as a few others. These are likely a safe options to rent sight unseen from somewhere else and would likely have parking available. While lacking in charm, they do allow you to have a sure thing when you get here and often have short term leases so you could spend 6 months or so exploring the city and finding a place you like.

The neighborhoods in San Francisco are almost like entirely different little cities within a city - its really a good idea to come and explore before you decide on one.
I live between the Mission and Noe Valley. I love my neighborhood and if I could afford to buy a place vs. rent I would never ever leave. Other neighborhoods I like are Bernal Heights (no MUNI only buses which will be a pain to get to Mission Bay), Portero Hill (Easier to get to mission bay but still a weird enclave that is hard to get in and out of) Hayes Valley (more of this neighborhood is sketchy than it is nice and would be a total nightmare with a car).

As far as places to avoid (I will guess people will argue with me here)
I would rather move to Oakland or Berkeley (both, actually, great cities in their own rite) before I lived in The Marina (yuppie hell), Nob Hill (older yuppie hell), The Sunset (older/family demographic and crap weather), The Richmond (same as sunset).

Bayview, Hunters Point, The Tenderloin and the back side of Potrero Hill are not safe. Some blocks in the Inner Mission are less safe than others.

Feel free to pass on my info if they have more specific questions - always happy to help. wolfie at gmail
posted by Wolfie at 1:24 PM on January 10, 2005

Purely anecdotal, but quite a number of friends/coworkers have had issues with car break-ins in the Mission district. I'd suspect Potrero Hill, the Lower Haight and Hayes Valley might have similar problems, more than other neighborhoods, but YMMV, of course.

There is so much new construction going up South of Market, I think that area would be worth a look, and much closer to Mission Bay.

The other thing that has been alluded to previously is that certain neighborhoods, like the Mission and South of Market have *much* better weather than others. Really. Cole Valley has fairly decent weather given its location. Newcomers may think living near the ocean would be really cool. Living close to the ocean is a sentence to near-perpetual fog and chill, so if they like that, perfect. It sounds weird, but trust me on this. Strybing Arboretum is able to grow endangered plants from Cloud Forests, for crying out loud. If they want California sunshine, they need to stay away from the ocean.
posted by ambrosia at 4:20 PM on January 10, 2005

Your pals might benefit from this map of the summer fog patterns (yes, believe it or not, Summer’s when it’s foggy and cold as a wiccan areola here).

If warm, clear weather is important to them, the Mission or Noe Valley are good places to look.
posted by merlinmann at 8:46 AM on January 11, 2005

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