Moving to San Francisco
San Francisco is arguably the liveliest city in the state of California, with a rich culture of art, music, museums, festivals and architecture. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art brings in over 600,000 tourists alone, and other areas of interest including Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, the Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you’re moving to San Francisco, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Keep these tips in mind before you make your way to the bay.
With 7.5 million residents, San Francisco is the fourth most populated city in California and the thirteenth most populated in the country. With a land area of under 50 miles it’s also the second most densely populated next to The Big Apple.
Of course, that’s not to say that moving to San Francisco will require you to bone up on your crowd surfing skills, but you may certainly find yourself with much more to see, do and experience than you’ll even have time for. Not a bad problem to have.
Here are a few things to take into consideration when moving to San Francisco:
- Weather-wise, there really is no “worst” time to move to San Francisco. Winters can be cold, foggy and drizzly—but aside from that, you won’t find conditions any more severe than rain to slow you down. If you want sunny skies all the way, consider moving to San Francisco between June and August for minimum precipitation and maximum dry weather.
- Traffic heading into and out of San Francisco is heavy around the clock, seven days a week, but the most congested times of day to arrive for your move are during the morning and afternoon rush hours. If you’re driving in, try to avoid arriving in San Francisco between the hours of 5AM and 9AM, and again between 3PM and 6PM.
- San Francisco is one of the most heavily touristed cities in the country. Whether you’re moving to San Francisco during the week or on a weekend, arriving by air or by road, expect additional delays caused by tourists and plan accordingly.
- The streets of San Francisco are hilly and narrow, which can present challenges when arriving with a moving van. Because you may have difficulty finding convenient parking for a moving truck or van, consider obtaining a moving permit in advance of your arrival. Moving permits are issued by the San Francisco Police Department. To get a moving permit, find the nearest police station to your destination to make arrangements. Moving permits aren’t required by the city, but where convenience is concerned, they’re in your best interest.
- There are four public colleges and universities in San Francisco, and almost two dozen private colleges. Not only can this present logistical issues if you’re moving to San Francisco by road, but the locations of these universities might also influence where you choose to live since many homes surrounding the colleges are occupied by students. Before making your decision to move, be sure you’ve mapped out your neighborhood’s proximity to any nearby universities if you want to avoid living in a student atmosphere. Some of the neighborhoods most densely populated by students include Lakeside (between 19th Avenue and Junipero Serra Boulevard), Laurel Heights (south of the Presidio and east of the Richmond District) and Merced Manor (between Stern Grove and Lake Merced).
- Whether you’re moving to San Francisco from near or from afar, it’s critical for continuity of mail delivery and for the security of your identity to complete a change of address form with the US Post Office. Since it can take from 7 to 10 days to process your request, fill out the form a week before your move to ensure that your mail won’t be forwarded to your new address too soon, or too late.
Check out our downloadable planners and checklists.
For a city of only 46 square miles, San Francisco has a ton of neighborhoods, each imbued with a unique flavor and colorful points of interest. If you’re considering moving to San Francisco or are already en route, here’s a rundown of some of the city’s most noteworthy neighborhoods. Consider making one your new home, or at least settling down nearby.
- Downtown San Francisco
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- Nob Hill
- Russian Hill
- Pacific Heights
- Richmond District
- West Portal
- Sea Cliff
- Excelsior District
- The Castro District
Although the iconic cable cars that San Francisco is known for the world over remain in operation to shuttle passengers throughout the downtown area, these aren’t the only options open to new residents looking forward to taking advantage of the city’s vast public transportation system.
Refer to the links below for more information on the public transportation systems available in San Francisco.
- Muni Metro light rail and subway (operated by the San Francisco Transportation Agency)
- Traditional diesel and hybrid diesel buses operated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
- Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter rail
- Caltrain railway system
If you’re moving to San Francisco by air, your port of entry will be the San Francisco International Airport, commonly referred to as “SFO.” Second only to Los Angeles International in the entire state of California with respect to traffic, SFO is physically located 13 miles south of San Francisco and offers domestic and international flights to locations throughout the world.
Main routes into San Francisco by road include US Route 101, Interstate 280, Interstate 80 and Highway 1. Those already settling into their new homes in San Francisco will discover that the city, recently named the “most walkable” city in the country because of its culturally rich streets, is also one of the most bike-friendly places in the US, providing numerous bicycle parking racks and off-street bicycle lockers.
The good news about relocating to San Francisco is that there are a huge variety of San Francisco jobs to appeal to newcomers of all educational backgrounds and proclivities.
Whether you’re looking for an entry level job at the next Twitter or want to live out a childhood fantasy as a tour guide for Alcatraz Island, opportunities of all kinds are well within reach.
Jobs in San Francisco run the gamut in a number of industries, and its residents are some of the highest paid in the country.
Moving to San Francisco will expose you to a wonderful mash-up of cultures and art. It’ll also put you within easy distance of some of the biggest and most powerful companies in the world.
Whether you’re in town for work or for entertainment—or both—you can get a crash course in all the city has to offer by picking up some of the following local papers or putting on a local TV station.
San Francisco Chronicle
One of the most iconic newspapers in the U.S., the San Francisco Chronicle has been actively churning out daily editions since 1865. Since then, the paper has racked up numerous awards, including several Pulitzer Prizes and a George Polk Award.
Although it’s the primary news source for the city of San Francisco, the Chronicle is regularly distributed as far south as Santa Barbara. Daily coverage includes local and world news, business, sports, job listings, and arts and entertainment.
The newspaper is published seven days a week, with a daily circulation of close to 225,000 and a Sunday circulation of over 280,000.
The San Francisco Examiner
Once a fierce rival of the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner has a similar circulation of about 200,000 and offers what some say is a slightly more right-leaning journalistic approach than the left-leaning Chronicle. The Examiner is published six days a week and can be found free of charge at newsstands and in bookstores throughout the city. Regular coverage includes local and state news, sports, business and jobs, and arts and entertainment.
With a circulation over 100,000, El Mensajero is one of the most widely distributed publications in San Francisco geared to the Latino community. Published weekly and covering news, sports, business, technology, health and lifestyle, El Mensajero is printed in both Spanish and English.
San Francisco Bay Guardian
Launched in 1966 specifically for the promotion of and reporting on progressive local political issues, the San Francisco Bay Guardian enjoys status as one of the most highly circulated newspapers in the state of California. With an estimated weekly readership of 100,000, the Bay Guardian also reports on local arts and entertainment and is an indispensable city guide for new residents interested in discovering the “cool” side of San Francisco.
An in-print celebration of the cultural diversity that makes San Francisco the city that it is, SF Weekly is a free daily publication that delivers alternative news reporting and places emphasis on covering issues neglected by the mainstream media. In addition to offering a unique take on city life, SF Weekly is also an authentic source for coverage of the city’s music, arts, theater, dining and nightlife scenes. SF Weekly is published every Wednesday and has a circulation between 75,000 and 85,000.
The Bay Area Reporter
Originally launched in 1971, The Bay Area Reporter is San Francisco’s oldest and most widely read LGBT weekly publication. It also ranks as one of the largest LGBT print publications in the country, as well as one of the longest-running. Its weekly circulation is approximately 29,000.
Local TV and News Channels
To get citywide and world news on your TV, tune into local channels:
- KGO TV 7 (ABC affiliate)
- KPIX TV 5 (CBS affiliate)
- KQED TV 9 (PBS affiliate)
- KTVU TV 2 (Fox affiliate)
- KDTV TV 14 (Spanish-language Univision affiliate).
There’s a quote that’s often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain that says “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” While this is something of an exaggeration, it does speak to the frequently fast changing temperatures you’ll be experiencing on a regular basis by moving to San Francisco, a city that’s known for having the coldest national maximum and minimum temperatures during summer. Of course, this is no reason not to live here, but if you’re expecting the kind of bright and sunny weather you’d get living in San Diego or Los Angeles, you might be in for a chilly surprise. Best advice: bring a windbreaker.
If you’re moving to San Francisco and you’ve got kids, finding the right school for them should be at the top of your to-do list. Here is a list of the five highest rated elementary, middle and high schools in San Francisco.
Top 5 San Francisco Elementary Schools
- John Yehall Chin Elementary
- Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary
- Sherman Elementary
- Alice Fong Yu Elementary
- Clarendon Alternative Elementary
Top 5 San Francisco Middle Schools
- A.P. Giannini Middle School
- Presidio Middle School
- Roosevelt Middle School
- Aptos Middle School
- Herbert Hoover Middle School
Top 5 San Francisco High Schools
- Lowell High
- Impact Academy of Arts and Technology
- San Francisco School of the Arts
- Balboa High
- Galileo High
Refer to the government links below for information on important new resident services when moving to San Francisco.
- The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices will help you register your vehicle and obtain your new in-state driver’s license. For the sake of convenience, schedule an appointment ahead of time.
- You can register to vote in San Francisco by completing an online form, printing it out and mailing it in.
- Recycling and garbage collection in San Francisco is handled by Recology, a private company that offers three individual carts for the disposal of recyclables, compost and regular trash.
- California Tax Service Center
- City of San Francisco Treasurer & Tax Collector
- Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services
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