Which city is best to live in: Los Angeles or San Francisco? (Or any other cities in California)

Our family (children of 3) is moving by next Tuesday and the choices were either Los Angeles or San Francisco. I've been doing some research and I am going for San Francisco. We want to live in a place that's affordable, safe, and with good schools. Finding a job is a problem. (It's the main reason why we're moving)
So any specific location our family should move to? If there are any other cities you recommend that are suitable for my situation would be great. A list of pros and cons of LA and San Francisco would be very helpful as well. Thank you in advance!
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redstella19 2yrs+
I lived in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. I only stayed in Los Angeles for six months as opposed to three years in San Francisco if they says anything about the two cities. I find San Francisco to be a great city for it's climate, activities to do throughout the city and it's conveniences to everything. You don't need a car in San Francisco, which eliminates insurance and atrocious parking tickets, but also, you can truly get anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. Also, the city has helped the citizens rely on public transportation by providing apps that will help you gadge when and where the next MUNI is coming. It is a wonderful city and I recommend it to anyone.
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SuzM 2yrs+
Real estate in both cities can be pretty pricey, but of the two I'd choose San Francisco over Los Angeles any day of the week. While I've never lived in either city, I've visited them both extensively, especially the Bay Area, as I have friends and family there (no family, just friends in the LA area.) While there are parts of LA that are more walkable, think Venice Beach and nearby Santa Monica, they are pricier than the outlying areas that are definitely car-based lifestyles. If you don't want to deal with a car, then there are many more places in the Bay Area where you can choose to live as there is a much better public transit system in place. San Francisco is a beautiful city with tons of great restaurants, fabulous parks, and recreational outlets. Of course, all of that comes with a price. It's definitely better to rent than to buy, because you might find someplace more affordable as a rental. San Francisco and the Bay Area still have hefty real estate prices and tiny places can still go for half a million dollars. If you head out towards the Central Valley or down past San Jose, the real estate prices drop, but the commute to the City increases, even if you have a car. If you can't afford San Francisco, then try to find someplace on the Peninsula; rents will be a little less, but still by no means inexpensive. Of course, with all the great amenities living in this part of the state offers, you can't go wrong. I recommend checking out San Carlos, San Mateo, Burlingame, or Redwood City; all of these communities offer a walkable business district and access to public transportation.
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I've lived in both LA and SF and much prefer the Bay Area (obviously sense I choose it).

Here is what I would say: both areas are expensive.

LA is definitely more of a car culture. SF feels more laid back.

For raising kids, however, I would recommend the East Bay. You might consider Lafayette or Pleasant Hill. Both give you access to BART which makes commuting easier and have good schools without being too expensive if you take time to look. You are fairly close to the Berkeley and those locations but not so close that crime is a real concern.

If you like more of a car culture and like going to beach and that sort of thing, you might prefer LA.
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MikeG3 Apr 04, 2016
After 8 years, we moved from LA to SF. After 1.5 years, we're moving back to LA. SF seems like it was a great city, 20 years ago. But costs have taken their toll. Yes, you will pay significantly more for rent - at least another 1K in SF. A house, you're looking at 4.5k or higher. To buy, you better have had stock in that tech start-up, because you're looking at $1.5 million unless you want to live 90 minutes from work. But . . . the effect of housing cost goes much, much further. A half bag of groceries will set you back $50, and not Whole Foods, just the local market. Restaurants - they are going under and staying under. There are empty ex-restaurants all over - people pay rent and just can't afford to eat out as much - places sit empty Sunday thru Wednesday, can't run a business that way. To save costs, quality is down in restaurants, MSG is up to make up for cheaper main ingredients, not just in Chinese restaurants. Can't wait to get back to L.A., but I'm not a Tech Bro. Your mileage may vary. And for some of the other comments - is it really living in SF when all you afford is Pleasanton? As far as Cultural diversity, LA is much, much more diverse - L.A. is the second largest city in the US, SF doesn't even crack the top 10. Want to go to a Giants game - get a second mortgage, same for SF Giants. There is so much to do in LA, everything is much more affordable.
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TiffanyRobinson
TiffanyRobinson Couldn't agree more with you about LA vs. SF! LA wins 3482420402 over, every time.
Apr 04, 2016
BarryKendrick
BarryKendrick I agree, I have been here for 18 months and would prefer to be back in LA. SF people are shocked when I tell them I prefer LA over the Bay Area. I always enjoyed visiting the Bay, but living here is a different story.
Jun 10, 2016
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I've lived in both San Francisco and LA for at least 3 years each, and after doing so, I much prefer LA. San Francisco has become overrun by hipsters and techies, as someone else mentioned, and the rent is OUT. OF. CONTROL - and for what? SF is not THAT great - it really isn't. The weather is pretty dismal - the constant fog and freezing nights really get old very quickly. The beaches/ocean are too cold to swim 90% of the time, and not to mention, Ocean Beach is pretty dirty and depressing. The homeless/crazy people population is another thing that's out of control - I actually went out to my car one night to find a homeless man sitting INSIDE of my car, hanging out, smoking a cigarette. I called the police but they took so long, I gave up - the powers that be don't care to do anything about the homeless problem. A lot of the city is dirty - feces & urine on the sidewalks - including a lovely puddle on my friend's doorstep on Market Street, which I had the horror of stepping in several months ago. Parking is a nightmare. And in terms of fitness-- if you're looking for a nice spin/cycling studio, or a decent 24 Hour Fitness - forget it. The fitness studios/gyms here are insanely overpriced, and EVERY SINGLE 24 Hour Fitness in the city is DISGUSTING - dirty, run down, broken/old equipment, and overpopulated and overcrowded most of the time. There is no nice 24 Hour Super Sport (like the one in Santa Monica that I used to frequent). San Francisco can suck it. I can't wait to get back to Southern CA (or the East coast).
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JoseJaimes
JoseJaimes Hi. I liked your comment. Since you mentioned East Coast, where would you recommend as nice places to live in the East Coast??. I was interested in California b/c of the weather and landscape, and SF specifically b/c it is more walkable. However, the high cost of living seems to be a real bummer. You say you like LA better, but I'm just worried that it is too car-centric. So going back to my question, where would you recommend in the East Coast?? I hope for at least some walkability and more moderate housing and cost of living prices. Thanks.
Mar 28, 2015
VictorPerlain
VictorPerlain I hear you....The only thing is that SF has redwoods.....hmmmm....But you made up my mind for LA...Once I settle down in CA i'll eventually go for SD. :-)
Jul 15, 2015
JudeW
JudeW Pretty much your on spot about SF. I live here and its everything you mentioned. Somehow a lot of people who talk great about SF rarely mention whats wrong with the city. If you weigh the cons of SF and LA well given LA's huge size you notice less of the grime and dirt since you can just drive to another area easily. SF on the other hand, the grime is everywhere and the freezing cold creeps up on you. SF is depressing to live in with high cost of living, horrible weather, and the snottiness some SF people have.
Dec 14, 2015
BarryKendrick
BarryKendrick I am originally from the South, and moved to Cali right after college graduation. I have lived in San Diego, Los Angeles, and now the Bay Area.

San Diego (2.5 years): Best weather but lacks in jobs.
LA (5 years): Weather not as good as SD, but my social life was the best here. Easy to meet people, as everyone is from somewhere else. Didn't like the job market and my rent was affordable.
SF (1.5 years): I do NOT like the weather and it's small. SF is liberal and open but the surrounding cities are conservative (South Bay/San Jose). Best CA city to find a job in but the rent is out of control.
Jun 10, 2016
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jerryk Feb 14, 2017
I'd much prefer to live in LA over SF for the same reasons I'd prefer to live in NYC over Boston. Boston and SF are both kind of small towns and provincial (in a global sense), lots of high paying tech jobs, but they made both cities too expensive for what you get, both are kind of gentrified and "white washed." I mean if walkability is your only "plus" over the other, why not save a few bucks and move somewhere like Portland or New Orleans. NYC and LA are megacities, I prefer megacities where I never get bored. Sure, LA isn't walkable (parts are actually), but there is WAY more to do and way more amenities. LA is also closer to more interesting other cities like San Diego and Las Vegas. SF you can go to... Sacramento? #fail
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JohnD2 Sep 04, 2015
I love both cities. And I love California! Lived in each for roughly 5 years a piece. It's hard to beat the beach communities and recreational lifestyle in Southern California. Beaches, mountains, desert. Malibu on a sunny clear day is paradise. LA has the best weather in the US, but San Diego is slightly superior. In LA it's truly multicultural, in a global, sense. Its massive in economy, culture, offerings, entertainment and media capital. Something for everyone. It's the NYC of the west. Great and "pretty" people, fun and terrific neighborhoods. Home prices in good areas are very pricey, but you generally get a backyard. Mass transit (Pacific Red Car) was removed in the 60's by auto industry and tire/oil company lobbyists, now the city is rebuilding at a cost of $1 billion per underground mile. Traffic congestion is painful.

SF is more dense, cosmopolitan, and much smaller. Great food. Downtown and bay are beautiful. A great city, much like the northeast. Its the Boston of the West. Very provincial. Gritty. Major downside is the places I lived in city got very little sunlight and extremely expensive for no space. Great parks. Schools are same in both ..just meh. Those that can afford private school do so. It comes down to economics. Wealthy areas like Palos Verdes, Pacific Palisades in LA and Marin County and certain Peninsula citiies in SF have far superior public schools. Mass transit is better than LA, but its generally lacking.

I find it funny that many SF people get uppity and look down on LA. And LA people don't really care. I think most of this "rivalry" comes from non CA natives. I mean who really cares?
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StBloomSF 2yrs+
I've lived in San Francisco my whole life, so I only know Los Angeles from visiting and from friend who have moved there--that kind of thing. What I would say is this. On the pros of San Francisco:

1. SF is much more walkable than LA, even with LA's new transportation. SF is just more compact so that even with the hills you can get around without a car--LA is a car culture, noone can live without one there.

2. Silicon Valley has pretty much weathered the economic crisis. If you have experience in high tech you could find a job there.

Cons:

1. San Francisco public schools are not great for the most part. You may have to shell money out for public school or live out the Sunset District, where there are some better schools. (Down on the Peninsula there are some better schools.)

2. Very expensive to live here--I think one of the most expensive places in the country. The Peninsula where the schools are great also, unfortunately is super expensive.

Here's a recommendation for Nor Cal: Live out in Livermore/Pleasanton and commute into work. It is relatively affordable and the schools are really strong. (The commute is a killer however.)
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JaneW1 2yrs+
I live in SF and the city has changed drastically in the past 2 years. Virtually unaffordable unless you were lucky enough to have stock in a company that went public. It's also being over run with 20 something hipsters or techies. If you are right out of college it's great but if you have a family or trying to save for a home I'd try elsewhere. The east bay used to be a good option but with the tech boom that has become unaffordable too. But it is beautiful here and that can't be disputed.
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JasonPfister 2yrs+
I don't get where Livermore/Pleasanton and Lafayette are "inexpensive". I'll provide some Wikipedia stats on all three (They also have citations):

LIVERMORE

Median household income: $96,632 (2005)

PLEASANTON

Median household income: $101,022 (2005)

LAFAYETTE

Median household income: estimated at over $150,000 (2012)

But yes I'd choose SF over LA ;) (As for a cheaper city, try Concord, Pleasant Hill or Martinez)
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NikkiDKatt 2yrs+
SuzM and co. are right on. When it comes to the Peninsula (the area inbetween SF and SJ), you definitely can't beat the schools, they are some of the best in the Bay Area. Prices are really high, though you might be able to find some less expensive rents up by South San Francisco and the Pacifica area--bascially, the farther north on the Peninsula you go, the more "reasonable" the rent prices/home prices.
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BongP May 30, 2016
You can find safe place to live in San Francisco.
http://www.crimeteller.com/crimetel/crime/us-ca-san_francisco-san_francisco.html

This crime map shows burglary rate and other violent crime for your safety.
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PonyguyA Apr 27, 2015
Also, great schools in Walnut Creek...Daly City, SSF, and "most " (not all) of SF Unified are pathetic. I know.. We left SF for better schools in Northern San Mateo County. Big mistake! Ended up at Truckee-Tahoe schools, just to get out of the gang banger mentality.
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PonyguyA Apr 27, 2015
If you can afford it....Walnut Creek. Great weather, thriving downtown, low crime rate and not cookie cutter homes like the peninsula! (Northern San Mateo County is probably the worst!)
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