The 7 Best Neighborhoods in San Francisco
Locating the city’s best neighborhood all depends on your priorities. We’ve pored over the numbers and done the homework for you, whether you’re a foodie or a family person, looking for a real-estate deal or just a piece of the sun. Now all you’ve got to do is decide which San Francisco you want most.
Best For Families: OUTER SUNSET
The farther south and west you go, the more kids the city has. But when you look at the percentage of homes with kids combined with proximity to good schools, the Outer Sunset wins, hands down. Thirty percent of its households have children, and of 20 schools with a “9” or “10” rating on greatschools.org (which rates both public and private schools), fully half of them are in the Outer Sunset (with two more nearby in the Inner Sunset). The Outer Sunset’s also got its fair share of playgrounds, parks and, of course, the ocean and the zoo.
Runner-Up: OUTER RICHMOND: 24 percent of households have kids; 3 top rated schools.
Best Transit: DOWNTOWN/SOMA
This is a no-brainer. If you’re a commuter, and you don’t want to drive or hop a bus, then live within walking distance of Market Street, where you can catch BART or one of six Muni underground lines from either the Embarcadero, Montgomery Street, Powell Street or Civic Center stations—or Muni from the Van Ness station as well. Let’s say you lived at Fourth and Harrison streets; you could walk four blocks north (to the Powell BART) or south (to the Caltrain station) and be virtually anywhere, except Marin, quicker than you could drive. You’d never need to own a car—or ride a bus—again.
Runner-Up: CASTRO: 2 Muni stations, 5 Muni rail lines, and within walking distance to 16th Street BART stations
Best Restaurant Scene: MISSION (84 Zagat-rated restaurants)
Admittedly, this category demands subjectivity. Yelp lists the number of restaurants and their user ratings, while Zagat shows a more curated sampling of those that get the most buzz. And, of course, we here at 7x7 have been covering this scene for a decade. Turns out the numbers don’t lie: When you take Downtown (which necessarily has a large number of restaurants, not all of which are built to serve locals) out of the equation, the neighborhoods with the most Zagat-rated restaurants are the same three our food editors picked, in the same order. Your takeaway? From top-notch Italian to kill-me-now tortas, Michelin-rated California cuisine to the city’s best ice cream, the Mission is foodie ground zero.
Runners-up: SOMA: 65 zagat-rated restaurants; MARINA/COW HOLLOW: 48 zagat-rated restaurants
Most House for Your Money: NOPA ($243 per square foot, $635,000 median selling price) We all want to know where to buy. And SF’s newest neighborhood, replete with everything an urban dweller needs (Panhandle for grass and trees, Falletti Foods for groceries, Little Star Pizza and Nopa for restaurants, The Independent for music, Flybar and Madrone for drinks) shakes out at only $243 per square foot. Compare that to $712 in Pac Heights and $899 in Noe Valley. It’s not surprising that nearby Western Addition, with its gritty image, closely trails Nopa at $322 per square foot, but it is surprising that chichi Nob Hill comes in at only $346. (That $346 probably won’t get you parking or green space, but hey, you can’t have everything.)
Runner-Up: NOB HILL: $346 per square foot
Safest: PRESIDIO (19 crimes per half-mile radius)
Since the Presidio is, after all, a national park, it makes sense that it’s less crime-ridden than anywhere else in SF, along with its neighbor, tony Presidio Heights (29 crimes, including everything down to noise disruptions). But safety in Presidio Heights costs about $1.65 million, whereas two-bedroom rentals in the Presidio start at less than $2,000 a month. If you want to buy in a neighborhood that’s safe and affordable, look to the Inner Sunset, where houses go for $759,000 and there were only 75 crimes. (Compare that to the Mission, with more than 800 crimes during the same period, or the Marina, with 453.)
Runners-Up: RUSSIAN HILL: 61 crimes; INNER SUNSET: 75 crimes
Most Walkable: LOWER PACIFIC HEIGHTS (Fillmore Street)
Most SF neighborhoods score in the 90s on Walkscore.com, but for our money, the strip of Fillmore from Sacramento to Eddy has everything you could need within a few blocks. Eat at Pizzeria Delfina or SPQR. Buy groceries at the Japantown Safeway or high-end Mollie Stone’s. Hear music at the Fillmore, Yoshi’s or the Boom Boom Room. Shop for everything from midcentury furniture to designer labels to hand-me-downs. There are cinemas, coffee shops, bakeries, salons, bookstores, a drugstore, a gym, two nearby parks (Alta Plaza and Lafayette Square) and even a good hospital (CPMC) should you exhaust yourself, which is very possible.
Runners-Up: RUSSIAN HILL/NOB HILL (Polk Street); MARINA (Chestnut Street)
Most Luxurious: SEA CLIFF (Median Selling Price: $2.4 million)
While Pac Heights may have the widespread reputation of being the city’s most luxurious neighborhood, it’s definitely Sea Cliff, the tiny patch of land tucked between the Presidio, Lincoln Park and the ocean, that ranks as SF’s most exclusive, outlandish real estate. Pac Heights’ list prices average out to around $2.8 million just like Sea Cliff’s, but its actual selling prices can’t touch the astronomical amounts the wealthy plunk down for SC’s sprawling Mediterranean-style villas perched above the Pacific, and the chance to be neighbors with Robin Williams and (it’s rumored) Tom Cruise.
Runner-Up: ST. FRANCIS WOOD: $1.63 million median
More Neighborhoods by the Numbers
Best Rental Deals: Outer Sunset ($1,946 average for a two-bedroom)
Most Access to Nature: Richmond (bounded by two national parks and an ocean)
Priciest per Square Foot: Financial District ($1,018/square foot)
Youngest: Mission (average age 34)
Oldest: Chinatown (average age 48)
Most Singles: Castro (66 percent single), followed by Marina (62 percent single)
Most Diverse: Bernal Heights, Downtown, Richmond, SoMa, Western Addition
Most White Folks: Marina (85 percent white)
Most Foreclosures: Bernal Heights and Mission Bay (at press time, both had 61 foreclosures listed on Trulia)
Biggest Price Dip: Diamond Heights (median down 41 percent from last year)
Biggest Price Spike: Tenderloin (median up 57 percent from last year)
Sunniest Spot: According to meteorologist Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services—who’s been tracking SF weather patterns for decades—the warmest, sunniest patch of SF theoretically lies in the southern Mission, away from water, hills and wind patterns. “Right around Garfield Square,” he says. Debate over.
*NOTE: Information gathered from 511.org, Craigslist, City and County of San Francisco, Crime Mapping, Golden Gate Mothers Group, Great Schools, Trulia, Yelp, the US Census Bureau, Zagat and Zillow.