What’s living in San Francisco like? Maybe you think you know, from visiting or movies. But San Francisco is a big, diverse place with a bunch of distinct neighborhoods, and living in one can be very different from life across town.
Whether you’re looking to buy a house or rent an apartment in San Francisco, you’ll want to know all about your potential new neighborhood. Sure, you can find out about businesses and parks with a few keystrokes, but there are some things you just can’t Google. Like if that park gets sketchy after dark, or if the neighbors are likely to throw a block party to welcome you to town.
These are things only locals know. We used Trulia’s new What Locals Say feature to get an insider peek at five San Francisco neighborhoods. Here’s how it works: Millions of locals dish about where they live, and their reviews are included on Trulia listings. Digging through their feedback, we found a San Francisco neighborhood where people actually see wildlife regularly, and (maybe even rarer) another where locals swear parking is a breeze. Now you can say you know what’s like to live here.
If you live in Noe Valley, people imagine your weekends involve catching up on PTA gossip over organic wine. Located east of San Francisco’s Twin Peaks and west of the Mission District, this neighborhood is a magnet for families.
Once you move to Noe Valley, you might not leave. A whopping 89 percent of reviewers plan to stay in the neighborhood for at least five years. Committed neighbors are more likely to put the time and effort into building relationships and contributing to their community—which adds a little small-town charm to this urban enclave. The Saturday morning Noe Valley Farmers Market doesn’t hurt either.
“I lived in this neighborhood for over 10 years,” one local says. “I love being able to walk to all the local stores, great restaurants, and boutiques. Very safe and quiet and wonderful neighbors.”
The everyone-knows-everyone feel makes Noe Valley feel like a cozy little bubble, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon city life. Five Muni routes serve Noe Valley, there’s a BART stop on 24th and Mission, and it’s easy to get to 101 and 280. Downtown date night, here you come.
City living has a bad rap when it comes to safety, but Noe Valley is a pleasant exception. Ninety-eight percent of locals say they can walk alone at night in the neighborhood. And they’re not delusional: crime rates are very low relative to the rest of the city.
Safe streets mean that during daylight hours, it’s a great place to be out and about with kids. Many restaurants here have a casual, child-friendly atmosphere, and there are a few kid-focused shops like the independent bookstore Charlie’s Corner, which hosts story time four times a day. And there’s another reason residents love hitting the streets: Noe Valley happens to be one of the sunniest spots in the city.
If you live in SoMa, a neighborhood located between the Financial District and Mission Bay, people think you’re living in a loft and working for a startup. Oh, and that you’re probably under 30.
They’re probably right about the age thing. SoMa has become a hub for great food and nightlife, which is a big draw for young adults. Described by a local as “exciting,” there’s a hot restaurant or bar minutes away no matter where you are in the neighborhood. Ninety-two percent of locals say you can walk to restaurants like The Perennial (known for its local fare and sustainable ingredients), Zero Zero (the place for punch bowls and pizzas), and Dirty Market (popular with the after-work crowd, especially on the 5th-floor patio). Bonus: Being able to walk to the bar saves you the expense of Uber surge pricing. So go ahead, have that extra craft cocktail.
Whether it’s a happy hour with coworkers or a Friday night Tinder date, this isn’t a neighborhood that shuts down after dinner—or where you’ll have to dodge strollers as you make your way to a table (and then have to watch your language all night). Locals rate SoMa pretty low on the “quiet” scale, and only 3 percent say they’ve seen kids playing in the neighborhood.
Only 7 percent of locals say you need a car in SoMa, something that millennials eager to ditch the driving lifestyle (or just like the extra cash that comes with going car-free) will find appealing. You can pick up a Muni bus from nearly any street or take the F-line Streetcar on Market Street. Or you can just walk to where you need to be, which could include your work, since it’s home to some big employers like Google, LinkedIn, and Gap.
Located between the gorgeous Presidio and Golden Gate parks, Inner Richmond is known for its beautiful views and vibrant culinary scene. If you live here, your friends likely ask you for local food recommendations.
A diverse community has brought a wide variety of cuisines from around the world to Inner Richmond. From authentic Sichuan to formal French fare, 100 percent of locals say they’re within walking distance of restaurants. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be tempted to hang up your apron. At-home chefs will love that 98 percent of locals report being a walk away from a grocery store. Even better, those markets range from mom-and-pop Chinese, Spanish, or Korean shops to the supermarket chain Smart & Fresh. Having these options is a bonus when you forget to buy that exotic spice that’s crucial to the dish in the oven (or the ketchup that isn’t).
If your Facebook feed has more photos of your pup than of yourself, you won’t be alone in Inner Richmond. Residents love their dogs here, and local restaurants have responded accordingly with outdoor seating meant to be shared with your four-legged friend. (Or, in the case of the 540 Club, you can bring your dog right to the bar.) Between pet-friendly patios and dog-focused boutiques, it’s no surprise that 98 percent of respondents described Inner Richmond as dog-friendly.
If you live in Mission Bay, you might be seen as a pioneer, leading the charge in a new area of the city where development is ramping up. And residents who live in this waterfront neighborhood right next to SoMa are known for being happy to stop and give tourists directions.
This constantly-evolving neighborhood may have some fast-paced tech companies—Pinterest, Airbnb, Adobe, Lyft, and Uber are moving in—but the vibe is a little more relaxed than some might assume. It may help that people are less stressed about the perpetual urban aggravation of parking. Incredibly, 78 percent of Mission Bay locals say parking is easy (for now).
The ease of parking is mainly due to one of the most notable buildings in Mission Bay, AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The garages and surface lots that popped up to accommodate baseball fans are open on non-game days, making thousands of spots available. (We’ll see how things change when the new Warriors stadium is completed in 2019.) Go, team.
Neighborhood Holiday Spirit
Even though you’ll see some sleek, ultra-modern buildings in Mission Bay, the neighborhood has a surprisingly homey vibe. This is especially apparent during November and December, the time of year when 64 percent of locals say they decorate for the holidays. So feel free to pack all of your twinkling string lights, holiday kitsch, and ugly seasonal sweaters. And definitely mark your calendar for the annual Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights, where you’ll watch dozens of decked-out boats light up the night.
If you live in Bernal Heights, located south of Mission District and southeast of Noe Valley, people assume your wardrobe is heavy on fleece items featuring Eddie Bauer, REI, or Patagonia logos.
Access to Nature
Bernal Heights is a hillside neighborhood where you’ll find tree-lined streets and charming vintage homes. Perhaps the most unusual thing about living here though is the access to Mother Nature. It’s not just sodded parks and fountains; 82 percent of locals say they’ve seen actual wildlife here.
The neighborhood crown jewel is Bernal Heights Park, one of the few natural refuges in the city and a place where you can take in a 360-degree panorama of San Francisco. As you travel the trails or climb the steep slopes, you’ll see more than 40 species of birds here (including the majestic red-tailed hawk), California alligator lizards, and other exotic creatures.
Older homes tend to have one thing newer urban construction lacks: an actual yard. In Bernal Heights, residents love every green square foot of this fact and spend time keeping theirs looking lovely. Eighty-five percent of locals say yards are well-kept, something that adds to the natural beauty of the neighborhood, as well as underlines how much residents are into communing with nature.
On weekends, your neighbors are more likely tending to their garden than nursing a hangover, which makes Bernal Heights ideally suited for quieter types and families. “My family and I have lived in Bernal Heights for seven years,” one local says. “It’s a great little corner of San Francisco. Very family friendly, several parks, a nice downtown area filled with bakeries, restaurants, a grocery store, bank. We love it here.”
How can you find out what locals love about the neighborhood you have your eye on? What Locals Say is now live on property listings throughout Trulia. More than seven million locals have shared insights into their neighborhoods already, and an average of 100,000 reviews are being added every day. This unique feature helps Trulia users learn so much more than what’s in a home—it explains what it’s like to live there.