BY: Cameron Eversole
Thinking about moving to San Francisco? San Francisco covers 47 square miles in the San Francisco Bay Area on the north of the San Francisco Peninsula. This vibrant and bustling metro area boasts world-famous landmarks, beautiful architecture, and an exciting nightlife. What is San Francisco known for? Its high cost of living, amazing food scene, top-notch public transportation (and cable cars!), a thriving tech industry, and its famous Chinatown.
It’s no surprise that this exciting city has earned many nicknames. Some of the many San Francisco nicknames you’ll hear include SF, the Golden City, Fog City, Golden Gate City, the City by the Bay, the Bay City, and simply The City. Frisco and San Fran are usually used only by out-of-towners and unliked by locals.
San Francisco was originally a Spanish mission in the 18th century that became part of Mexico in 1821. It became part of the United States in 1848, the same year the California Gold Rush led to a massive population boom and rapid immigration. During this time, San Francisco was a hotbed of crime including gambling and prostitution but, by the end of the century, it was known as the Paris of the West thanks to the development of its cable cars and magnificent Victorian homes.
While devastated by the 1906 earthquake that destroyed 80% of the city and killed more than 3,000, San Francisco rebuilt bigger and grander than ever. During the 20th century, San Francisco became the epicenter of America’s counterculture and known for its bohemian culture and the 1967 Summer of Live. By the 1970s and 1980s, the Bay City was known as the Gay Mecca. It was also during this time that San Francisco experienced a construction boom called Manhattanization when high-rise condos and skyscrapers were built.
Ready to see what living in San Francisco is like today? This complete guide to relocating to San Francisco covers absolutely everything you want to know before moving to San Francisco and why it’s such an amazing place to live.
San Francisco Demographics & Population
The population of San Francisco is 881,000 which makes it the fourth largest city in California. It’s the second-most densely populated U.S. city after New York with almost 18,791 people per square mile. The San Francisco metro population spreads over 3,500 square miles with a population of 4.73 million. The larger San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland CSA is home to 9.67 million people.
Who is living in San Francisco? The City of San Francisco (and the greater Bay Area) is known for its diversity! The Bay City is a minority-majority city with a racial and ethnic composition that’s:
- 41.9% non-Hispanic White
- 33.3% Asian
- 15.1% Hispanic (7.4% Mexican, 2% Salvadoran, 0.9% Nicaraguan, 08% Guatemalan, 0.5% Puerto Rican)
- 6.1% Black or African American
- 0.5% American Indian
- 6.6% other race
- 4.7% two or more races
People of Chinese ancestry account for the largest minority in San Francisco at over 21% of the population. Other major Asian ancestry groups include Filipino (4.5%), Vietnamese (1.6%), Japanese (1.3%), Indian (1.2%), and Korean (1.2%).
San Francisco’s Hispanic population is mostly in the Excelsior, Tenderloin, and Mission Districts. Most of the city’s Black residents are in Visitacion Valley, Fillmore District, and Bayview-Hunters Point. Crocker-Amazon and Daly City are home to a large Filipino community while the Chinese community is mostly in Chinatown, Sunset District, and Richmond District.
Over one-third of San Francisco residents were born outside the U.S. 43% of residents speak a language other than English at home. There are more than 112 languages spoken in the Bay Area!
There are 104 men for every 100 women in San Francisco with an average age of 38.
The Bay City has been home to many famous residents including photographer Ansel Adams; Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey; PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel; dozens of actors like Tom Hanks, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, and Danny Glover; and filmmaker Francis Coppola. Hundreds of musicians have also called San Francisco home like Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Faith No More, and Metallica.
San Francisco Climate – What Is the San Francisco Weather Like?
San Francisco has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate typical of coastal northern California cities. While living in San Francisco, you’ll experience dry summers and wet, mild winters. The City experiences minimal temperature changes between seasons but the coolest minimum, maximum, and mean daily temperatures between June and August among all major American cities.
Known as the Fog City, San Francisco summers are characterized by rising warm air in the valleys which creates a low pressure area. This draws in winds through the Golden Gate which causes fog and cool wind. The western part of the city is particularly known for fog which is most frequent in the summer.
Thanks to its sharp hills and seaside location, San Francisco has many microclimates. There’s a 20% difference between rainfall in the high hill neighborhoods compared to other parts of the city. These hills protect neighborhoods in the east from the worst of the fog and cold wind.
Temperatures only hit 80°F or higher about 20 days a year. May to October is usually warm with a mean temperature that peaks at 63°F. November to April is rainy with a mean temperature of 51°F. There are 73 rainy days per year on average with annual precipitation of 24 inches. There are an average of 260 clear, sunny days in eastern San Francisco.
The best time to visit San Francisco is September through November when fall brings warm temperatures and fewer crowds. During the spring, you’ll experience mild and dryer San Francisco weather.
How to Get Around San Francisco – Public Transportation & More
Getting around San Francisco is easy by public transportation and foot. San Francisco is one of the most walkable cities in the U.S. so you can take care of most errands and reach restaurants and entertainment on foot. 75,000 residents also commute daily by bicycle, a common mode of transportation in San Francisco. The city has a large bicycle sharing system and it’s considered a very bicycle-friendly city.
San Francisco public transportation is excellent; many residents do not even have a driver’s license. 32% of people living in San Francisco use public transit to get to work, third overall for America.
Ferries are a popular and unique form of public transit in San Francisco. The Ferry Building and Pier 39 are operated by the San Francisco Bay Ferry to destinations like Oakland and Alameda. The Golden Gate Ferry connects The Bay City with Marin County.
San Francisco is connected to the East Bay and San Jose by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. The Caltrain commuter rail system runs from San Francisco to San Jose. There are shuttle buses through Amtrak California Thruway Motorcoach to surrounding areas like Oakland and Emeryville.
The San Francisco Municipal Railway (SFMTA) or Muni has over 560,000 daily users on its buses and 140,000 daily light rail users. It’s the main public transit system in The City and features a combined light rail and subway system called the Muni Metro plus a network of buses and trolley coaches. It also runs the famous San Francisco streetcar line and cable cars.
Only 41% of San Francisco residents commuted by car, a number that is on the decline. I-80 is the only direct link to East Bay via a car. US Route 101 connects I-80 to the south of the city and US 101 is the only highway linking the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County.
San Francisco is served by the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) with North America’s largest international terminal. It’s a hob for Alaska Airlines and United and it’s America’s 8th busiest airport. Oakland International Airport is a low-cost alternative to SFO and it’s just across the bay.