Best Part about Living in San Francisco?

Let's face it: we live in one of the most desirable places in the world (when in doubt of that fact, just consult the price tags around here). But with everything that the SF Bay has to offer, we all have different reasons for being here and different loves within this area of abundance. What are your favorites? Why do you love living here?

Here are a few of mine:

- The Outdoor Activities. This should come as no surprise to anyone who reads my regular forum posts. Today I was out rock climbing at Castle Rock State Park. Last weekend I was enjoying the redwoods and beaches of Sonoma County. Tomorrow I head to Yosemite. Monday I'll probably spend some time relaxing at the beach in Santa Cruz. Let's face it: whether you are a kite boarder or a mountain biker, a lover of the ocean or of giant trees, a day hiker or a marathon runner, this area has it all. And if that's not enough, the Sierras are only four hours away.

- The cutting edge of technology. Northern California is like Hollywood for the computer world. Everything in technology, social media, computer parts, or web 2.0 somehow ties back to this area. The two hottest cell phones on the market were developed in adjacent towns. The only social networking tool that has its own biography AND major motion picture is now headquartered only one town over from there. Design tools, computer chips, semiconductors, design software - ANYTHING tech-related - is home based right in this area, or at least has a major presence. And it SHOWS. It shows in the cars driven, the architecture, and the brand-new iPad being used by the average Joe in your neighborhood coffee shop.

- The palm trees. Yes, artificial or real, I am a sucker for palm trees.

- The progressive cultural feel. It's more than just left-wing politics and wind energy. There is a diverse, hip, up-and-coming cultural feel that seems to define all people of the Bay Area, young and old. There is no aristocratic history or southern gentility, no governing religion or other group that takes over. People here seem to know who they are but are open to new ideas, and diversity is certainly not lacking. This one is a bit tougher to pinpoint, but it's a biggie.

- The Food. Any place that can offer up top-notch Italian Food, vegetarian/vegan food, Mexican food, sushi and Indian food is A-okay in my book.

- Stuff to do. San Francisco is like a college town for grown-ups. From swing dancing to street festivals to big wheel races to movie nights in the park, there is always something going on. The city already has a lot going for it, but SF still manages to always deliver events that are not only fun and have mass appeal, but are also unique.

Those are a few of mine...what are yours?
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22 Comments

Tracypie Oct 09, 2010
I think it depends on where you live as to why you love it here. I didn't love it here when I first moved to the Bay Area. But after 3 years on the peninsula and finally moving into the city, I love it so much. I love the mix of cultures, the abundance of fresh organic, local food at my fingertips (like actually eating real tomatoes in the Winter instead of those one in the green plastic crate with hard plastic over them from the grocery store back East).
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FlowerGirl Oct 09, 2010
@StephSF: That was really well put! It's a little harder for me because I've lived here all my life so I never made the choice to live here so much as the choice not to leave. I wholly agree with most of the ones already mentioned. Here's three that a lot of people don't usually mention as positives:

--The weather: People often get tired of all the fog and all that, but I have always loved the rolling fog and the cool weather. I've never been much of beach sort of gal, but I find the cool weather and fog and rain really southing. It also makes you appreciate the summer a lot more. (Even though this summer was ridiculous in how little good warm weather we got.)

--The laid back attitude you get, especially in the East Bay. You can spend the day reading in a cafe in the middle of the week and just people watching and nobody gets on your case. You will probably not even be the only one. (Of course, things are little more fast paced in Silicon Valley but even there you get corporate campuses with the playgrounds and all that.)

--I loved growing up here. Even though, people often get a little scared about raising kids in cities in general, from what I hear from my friend from So Cal, it is actually much better here. For one thing we have a pretty good transportation system in BART and MUNI, so you can get anywhere you need to go without a driver's licence. Also, things are relatively safe as far as big cities go and the schools are excellent.

Of course, there are a lot of pitfalls in having so much going on (drugs, etc.) but I've not really found that bored kids avoid these problems any better.
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NightOwlnOrinda Oct 09, 2010
Compared to where I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, I generally find people better informed and more cultured here than in the LA Area (at least the areas I came from--I don't know if as an adult I might not have found a more intellectual circle had I stayed.

The air is cleaner than most places.

Transportation is pretty good here--as mentioned. Even if you drive by car you will find that its nowhere near as bad as So Cal.

It is also a really aesthetically beautiful city. All the hills and fog.
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StephSF Oct 13, 2010
I would agree that people here are very well-informed; I've lived in New England and NYC, which both have reputations for breeding the intellectual elite, and I would say that the SF Bay is as up on it, if not more so, than either of those places.

@Flowergirl - I've worked with a lot of East Coast banking-type clients, as well as Silicon Valley clients, and I find people out here far easier to work with in general. I've gotten some serious pushback from bankers in places like New Jersey because of my age - it's tough to get buy-in sometimes when I'm getting up in front of a group of people old enough to be my parents - but that's never a problem here. Silicon Valley clients don't bat an eye, because their CEO is probably 19 anyway. So as a roundabout answer to your question - yes, life is a bit more fast-paced in Silicon Valley, but nothing like the Northeast.
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FlowerGirl Oct 15, 2010
@StephSF: I'm always impressed when someone who is about the same age as I am (I think we're about the same age--late 20's or so) actually has a career going like you do. I can't imagine getting up in front of a group of people and trying to convince them of anything. And the way that you have moved around all over the place (New England, New York, Arizona, Montreal, Sf)--is pretty adventurous.

Have you always had that confidence or did you have to find it? And if so, how did you do it?
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StephSF Oct 23, 2010
Here is one more: the laid-back intelligence. Sure, academia is important, especially with schools like Stanford and Berkeley, but the culture isn't driven by prestige, stature, or "old money." You are just as likely to see creative types shooting films, endurance athletes training for races using the latest forms of exercise philosophy, tech geeks writing code to get the highest search engine rankings around, or environmental fanatics developing a new, more eco-friendly way of composting.

It's a creative, intelligent community, and the vibrance manifests in many ways that I have not seen in other places.
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StephSF Oct 23, 2010
Wow, thanks, @Flowergirl! I guess I really just get bored settling for the ordinary and not moving around all the time. The career is actually a huge amalgamation of freelance work, which has its ups and downs. One thing is for certain: it is never boring!
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NightOwlnOrinda Oct 23, 2010
The other thing about living in San Francisco is that it is a sort of crossroads. You are always meeting people from all over the world who come here, often for a bit adventure before heading back to where they came from or to where they're going next. My acquiantances from the last couple of years seem all t have come from somewhere else--New York, West Virginia, India. I suppose you get the same in any melting pot city (I remember New York was like that too) but often in other places peope have come to set down roots. Here, it seems like a lot of people come to have a little adventure for a year or two and then head somewhere else.

I think it helps keep the area's vitality high--all this infusion of new blood that is.

@StephSF: I agree with your point about the intellectuallity of this place. When I first came here, I fell in love with the beauty of SF and intellectuallity of Berkeley--it impressed me that on any weeknight you could walk into a coffee house and find it packed with caffeine driven studying and conversations. I loved that I could hear a dozen languages just walking up Bancroft to get to class, and that I could say Heidegger without having to explain who he was.

It was a definitely a big change from the San Fernando Valley, which at the time seemed like a cultural Dead Zone (and pretty much still is).

But I always thought that after college life would take me somewhere else. Now, I doubt I will ever leave given how many roots I've set down.
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StephSF Oct 28, 2010
@Nightowl - I think you said it best, and it's almost a chicken-or-egg situation - are places like NYC and SF cultural melting pots because they have some sort of X factor, and if so, what is it? Or is the appeal the cultural diversity? Cause or effect?
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StephSF Oct 28, 2010
On another note, I was in LA yesterday and find it oddly fascinating in a "don't want to live here" way. While the traffic is brutal, something about the city in America that seems to end up in more movies than any other place has always lured me, especially when the weather is perfect. I am amazed at how geographically, and economically, spread out it is. It makes me "appreciate" Silicon Valley traffic, which I never thought I would say.
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NightOwlnOrinda Oct 29, 2010
I don't mean too bash on LA--a Nor Cal pastime it seems--but one thing about the weather in LA is that the smog is really awful. I never realized how bad it was until I moved away. I used to get the worst headaches and watery eyes there and I am convinced now that it was because of the smog.

On the other hand, I lived in the San Fernando Valley which is, without question--LA's armpit--stinky and tucked away so no one has to experience it. Gertrude Stein's famous quote about Oakland--"There's no There there"--would be better applied to the San Fernando Valley these days.
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StephSF Oct 30, 2010
What towns, specifically, are in the San Fernando Valley? I've heard both good and bad things about it. It's pretty rich and suburban, right? I've heard that it's hot - what else is wrong with it? I am genuinely curious about LA geography...
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NightOwlnOrinda Nov 03, 2010
The San Fernando Valley, just north of LA (on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains from West Wood and Beverly Hills and Malibu) stretches from the Calabassas/Woodland Hills (where I went to high school) on the west to Burbank on the east. You have Northridge and Chatsworth on the the north and Tarzana, Van Nuys and North Hollywood on the south. I grew up there, on and off from 3 until college when I moved up here (lived in Northridge, Van Nuys, and Woodland Hills) and although there are variations it is basically lots of bland suburban streets, strip malls, and big malls. There are some more expensive neigbhorhoods against the hills (Woodlad Hills, Calabassas, Tarzana and Sherman Oaks) but it is really pretty empty of any thing distinctive.

I would except Burbank and North Hollywood--Burbank, because it is a city onto itself, has nice restuarants etc. and NoHO which they now annoyingly call it to compare it to SoHo, because there are a lot of young struggling actors and artistic types.

If you have ever seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High--that's the San Fernando Valley. Also, I am given to understand that the porn Industry is both located and does most of its filming there, though I have no idea if this is true. (Oh yeah, Boogie Nights was also filmed there.)
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StephSF Nov 05, 2010
I've heard good things about Burbank, which is what surprised me. Is it considered a part of LA? I heard it gets much hotter there than the rest of the area, which, as we all know, is true of any area in this state.

The porn industry fact is pretty interesting, although not surprising given everything else you have described.
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NightOwlnOrinda Nov 05, 2010
Burbank is way nicer than the rest in most parts. I think it is technically not part of LA--there are a bunch of places down in the LA area that are not "incorporated" which means that they were never fully incorporated into the city of Los Angeles but its hard to keep track of which places have been and which haven't.

Burbank is, however, part of the San Fernando Valley--the mountain range that creeps along the northern edge of the valley comes down right at the eastern end and seperates it off from Glendale which is where the San Gabrial Valley starts, I think. (Glendale then Pasadena)
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StephSF Nov 07, 2010
Thanks for fulfilling my curiosity on LA. I have a sick fascination with the place, good or bad, that dates back to seeing it in every movie I ever watched during my childhood.
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NightOwlnOrinda Nov 12, 2010
One of the things that I really like about the Bay Area is the transportation system--I'm sure others will disagree--but compared to LA's transporttion system, BART is really great (though a bit on the expense side). And MUNI is more than adaquate. I think that you can live in most places in the East Bay without having a car. In that way it is a bit like New York.
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StephSF Nov 12, 2010
YES, I absolutely agree. Having public transportation is huge - even if it isn't as good as some cities, it is light-years ahead of Southern California or the Midwest. I think you can live almost anywhere here with a bike and a rail pass to whichever line is closest to your house...although it is nice to have a car.
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StephSF Nov 19, 2010
I went climbing on the beach today (until I got rained out) and I'm skiing on Sunday, assuming the weather holds up. Yet another great thing about living in or around San Francisco.
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NightOwlnOrinda Nov 19, 2010
The museums up by Golden Gate Park--the DeYoung and Legion of Honor are top notch too. LA has its share of great museums--the Norton Simon, the LA County and the Hearst but it is pretty hard to make it from Pasadena to Downtown LA to Malibu all in one day given the traffic. Here you could practically walk from the DeYoung to the Legion, no problem.

Everything here is actually much more packed together--kind of like Manhattan in that sense.
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StephSF Nov 28, 2010
In response to an earlier post of mine - last Tuesday, I woke up in a snowstorm in Tahoe. We drove through a winter wonderland, down into Sacramento and ended our day at a work party on the beach in Pacifica. I rest my case.

@Nightowl, I actually haven't gotten to the museums yet but I'll have to check them out one of those times I am up there. As a matter of fact, I think that the proximity of things is in San Francisco deserves its own recognition - it is nice to be able to go to the beach, a museum, the climbing gym, a five-star sushi restaurant and an Irish piano bar all in the same day.
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NightOwlnOrinda Nov 29, 2010
@StephSF: Exactly. And you can do all of those things without even getting in the car. I mean you can bike between those places if you can brave the traffic. (Except maybe the beach.)
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