Moving to San Francisco when you've never lived here before is confusing. Without a roadmap, things can get strange fast. You basically have a few shitty options:
1. Blindly look on Craigslist for apartments listings in neighborhoods you've never heard of. This is going to end poorly. (Hint: The Sunset is lying. Hunters Point isn't. It's basically what it sounds like.)
2. Ask people you haven't spoken to in years what neighborhoods they could see you living in. Hey, guess what? You haven't spoken to them in years. Probably not a good idea to ask them where to plant your life.
When I moved to the city at the age of 24, I played Pin The Tail on San Francisco and picked the first apartment I saw. And this is how I ended up in an apartment in the worst part of town with five random people and a live-in landlord who was a registered sex offender (yes, I'm serious).
I mean. This town is fucking weird if you don't know what you're doing. So why hasn't ANYONE made a map that explains the city's districts in plain English? A map of San Francisco with gargantuan generalizations that would piss off at LEAST a billion people, yet would still be totally effective in helping you pick where you should live?
On that note. After a decade of living in San Francisco, this is how I would explain “where you should move” to someone who was settling down in the city for the first time.
It may as well have a ferris wheel to lure the early twenty-somethings straight out of college in. It’s probably only best to live here straight out of college or if you're 80 and you’ve lived here your whole life.
Main Attractions: Naked chicks dancing for money. Walking uphill, both ways, all the time, always. Naked chicks dancing for money. Italian food. Just a lot of Italian food. Naked chicks dancing for money. Italian food. Coit Tower. Naked chicks dancing for money.
The hills are too steep here. I mean, they are JUST too steep.
Main Attractions: Cable cars. Shit you’ve seen in movies.
Beautiful, sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Boats 'n shit if you're into that. The apartment buildings may as well have Greek letters on them. If you aren't good looking, weren't in the Greek system in college and/or a billionaire, it's going to be really hard to get laid here, and this is in no way indicative of the author's troubles trying to do so here in his early twenties. In no way.
Main Attractions: Really, really ridiculously good looking people. The Golden Gate Bridge lives next door. Bros! Bros! Bros! Babes! Babes! Babes! Shots! Shots! Shots! A lot of yoga pants and upscale frozen yogurt. Old rich guys wearing velour in a non-ironic manner.
The Mission is San Francisco's Brooklyn: hipsters, incredibly long lines for things like ice cream and/or bread, and unlimited dive bars. The main drag of it has absolutely no hills, which is like finding a snow leopard in the middle of a desert in Egypt. It is home to Dolores Park, which is basically like a never-ending peep show for the city's culture. If you're a hipster, it's here or Oakland. Take your pick.
Main Attractions: You've probably never heard of any of them.
Playing the honesty game. It usually just smells like pee. But they're bringing in some great art galleries. So, if you don't get pissed on, you have a pretty good shot of seeing something nice.
Main Attractions: Crazy homeless people. Art galleries.
Main Attractions: Danielle Steele lives here.
It's really nice now though, or at least that's what people say, and I believe anything that people say. Some people call it the new Mission. If you like the Mission, that's a pretty huge positive. If you don't, I've just given you one less district to look in.
Main Attractions: Alamo Square. Dude, it seriously does have those houses from the Full House credits in it.
It's really beautiful here and looks like you live in a forest. The problem is that your friends think you live in a distant forest and will probably never visit you. If you are looking for a place for you and at least 20 other people to live in the same house, this is the place for you. You also have a bowling alley and a statue of Yoda, which is pretty cool.
Main Attractions: No seriously, there's a bowling alley. Trees. So many trees. Streets that will not register on any GPS ever. Not even in the future. Never. A Lucasfilm campus. Star Wars! I know, right? Houses that have 4 billion rooms, so you at least don't ever need storage. That's sorta a plus, right?
The best part about the sweeping generalization that there are tons of gay dudes in The Castro in San Francisco is that there are tons of gay dudes in The Castro in San Francisco. Guess what? Everyone here is really nice and it's fantastic, just like all the movies told you.
Main Attractions: Tons of awesome gay people. Tons of “not Republicans.”
There are a lot of hippie kids asking for money here that you probably don't want to give money to at all times. There are really great neighborhoods above it (Cole Valley, etc.) that are sorta awesome, so if you found a place there it might be worth chancing it. Once a year, it's free ice cream cone day at Ben and Jerry's, too. Is that worth it to you? IS IT?
Main Attractions: Unlimited cool sneaker stores. Hippies. Poor ones and rich ones. It's pretty easy to find weed here.
The Upper Haight's hot younger sister. This place is deemed “cool to live in” by what seems to be "everyone and their everyone." Do yourself a favor and just rent here on autopilot. Seems to be like buying Apple stock.
Main Attractions: It's not the Upper Haight.
Oh, that is SUCH a fakeout name, man. Foggy, all the time, always. Do you surf? Move here. Otherwise, you will never see anyone, ever. No, seriously: ever.
Main Attractions:Surfers. Probably real native San Franciscans.
Did you already rent an apartment here? Shit.
Main Attractions: There's an In-n-Out?
Do you have tons of money? Did you start an app that's like “blank” but for “blank”? Move here if the company that moved you to San Francisco hasn't moved you here already. SF Giants gamedays are magical.
Main Attractions: The San Francisco Giants. Twitter. But like, the one not on the Internet. The actual Twitter. The Bay Bridge. Or: the pretty one that isn't orange/reddish.
Do you have two kids and a dog? Move in. You don't? Don't.
Main Attractions: Two kids. And a dog.
It's like a Noe Valley that's a bit younger and hasn't gotten knocked up yet. And it's got a Whole Foods. And an incredibly underrated lineup of restaurants. Which is nice.
Main Attractions: Plow! (The best brunch place in all of San Francisco, says the pretentious writer of this article.) Whole Foods! (Also says the pretentious writer of this article.)
Bernal Heights is right next door to The Mission and Noe Valley. It is one of the last possible places you can move to before you don't live in San Francisco anymore. And there are tons of lovely, kind lesbians. If you're just moving here, this is sort of like taking a grad course before you've finished undergrad: not yet, grasshopper.
Main Attractions: Nice lesbians. Tons of free parking.
The Dogpatch has potential (and The Ramp is here), but you're new to the city, so no. It's far away, buddy. I'm just trying to help.
Main Attractions: The views are spectacular in Hunters Point. But it’s called … Hunters Point. Think about that.
The bottom line? San Francisco is a pretty amazing place. It's pretty hard to go wrong, even if I said some places weren't ideal for you. Odds are I'm wrong. And that's what's so great about it: Even after you generalize the fuck out of it, you realize there's really somewhere for everyone. Just don't call it Frisco. That's all we ask.
Editors note: Did we miss your neighborhood? We featured even more SF neighborhoods in Moving to San Francisco, Part 2.
In Our Shop: SF-Landia Neighborhood Stereotypes Postcards
We liked the illustrations for this story so much, we decided to turn them into postcards. Every newcomer to the city should get a welcome package with these cards, along with the obligatory windbreaker.Get 'em in our Shop for $16.
Illustration: Juan Leguizamon