Looking for the best neighborhoods in San Francisco? Golden Gate City has plenty of beautiful areas to live, but with the median home price around $858,800 and monthly rent around $1,632, finding somewhere to live that’s both safe and affordable can require some searching. Whether you’re a young professional looking for an apartment in one of the best U.S. cities for jobs or a family hoping for a community-oriented neighborhood, here are the five safest, most affordable neighborhoods in San Francisco!
- Bernal Heights
- Financial District
- Outer Sunset
- Home Price: $866,685 median purchase price; $1,787 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 43% of the cities in California
- Perfect For: Families, LGBTQ community
Wondering where to live in San Francisco? If you’re dreaming of a sunny neighborhood with small-town charm, take a stroll through walkable Bernal Heights. While tourists know the area for its panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Downtown San Francisco, and the East Bay, locals have long been drawn in by the tight-knit community and Victorian-style architecture. The cost of living here continues to increase, as more tech and financial businesses move into the Bay Area; however, families can still find more affordable housing in Bernal Heights than in nearby Noe Valley.
This safe area in San Francisco is just a downhill walk away from endless things to do in the Mission District, but it maintains much lower crime rates than the nearby neighborhood. Historically, Bernal Heights has been a hub for the LGBTQ community, artists, and families, and it still holds onto these roots despite the influx of new home buyers. Although it has a relatively sleepy and quiet reputation, lots of local shopping and dining can be found on Cortland Ave.
Things to Do in Bernal Heights
Watch the marching band-led parade, stop by the petting zoo, or go dancing every October at Fiesta on the Hill. Hike up Bernal Hill to have a picnic, get in some cardio, or enjoy the views from the swing at Bernal Heights Park. Spend the day learning about solar energy with the kids at College Hill Learning Garden. Eat avocado and chili toast or grab a bottle of Portuguese wine at Café St. Jorge. Sip a margarita on the patio or catch Dolly Parton-themed drag at LGBTQ-friendly bar El Rio. Stop by Wild Side West, another historic queer bar, for trivia night or a game of pool. Find everything from quail eggs to hairy gourds at the Alemany Farmers Market, the first farmers market in California. Do watercolor paintings with your neighbors, drop your teen off for a movie night, or check out the latest best seller from the Bernal Heights Branch Library.
- Home Price: $646,360 median purchase price; $1,511 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 48% of the cities in California
- Perfect For: Retirees, first-time home buyers
Located on the south side of San Francisco, Excelsior is a quiet area where residents can rent a room in a Victorian-style home or buy a single-family property for below the city’s soaring median prices. As affordable housing becomes increasingly more difficult to find in other neighborhoods (and a new housing complex for seniors is underway), many locals expect more shopping and restaurants will pop up here in the near future.
Excelsior remains one of the most ethically diverse San Francisco neighborhoods. Once a hub for Italian immigrants, the area is home to large Latino, Hispanic, and Asian-American populations today. Even though it’s slightly removed from city life, residents can easily get around without a car via the Glen Park and Balboa Park BART stations or Muni buses. Like many of the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, community is everything. The Excelsior Action Group helps keep crime rates low and fosters a strong community vibe by organizing concerts and bringing neighbors together to volunteer and beautify local hangouts.
Things to Do in Excelsior
Plant seeds at the community garden, explore seven miles of hiking trails, or play a round of golf at John McLaren Park. Attend the annual Jerry Day at the park—a music festival to honor deceased Grateful Dead member and former Excelsior resident Jerry Garcia. Take a drive to San Bruno Mountain State & County Park to observe endangered species of butterflies, go trail walking, or fly a kite in the grassy areas. Eat a carne asada taco or steak burrito at Taqueria Guadalajara. Visit Calabria Bros—an Italian delicatessen with imported meats and cheeses—and order a sandwich with their famous garlic spread! Grab a craft beer on tap or drink a glass of Northern California wine at The Dark Horse Inn.
- Home Price: $654,150 median purchase price; $1,643 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 63% of the cities in California
- Perfect For: Singles, young professionals
Who doesn’t want a short commute to work? If skyscrapers and conveniently-located high rises are more your style, the Financial District is one of the best places to live in the Bay Area. Companies like Wells Fargo (which also houses a free museum about the Gold Rush), Levi Strauss & Co., Charles Schwab, and more are all headquartered here. Not only will you have almost no commute to many high-paying jobs, but rent here is right around the median range for the city as well.
The Financial District’s location near Chinatown and Embarcadero means there’s always something new to eat or drink, which is why so many singles and young professionals call the area home. If you want to be in a comparatively safe, affordable area without having to move to the suburbs, this is one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco.
Things to Do in the Financial District
Start any day with a chocolate and hazelnut-flavored coffee by ordering the Philtered Soul at Philz Coffee. Stop for crab cakes, Chilean sea bass, and bread pudding at one of the oldest restaurants in America, Tadich Grill. Stroll through the Crocker Galleria farmers market every Thursday for a chance to purchase fresh produce from 12 different stands. Get ready for lots of belly laughs with local and touring comedians at the Punch Line. Find a half-acre green oasis within the concrete jungle complete with plenty of benches, lots of shrubs, a fountain, and an outdoor stage at Transamerica Redwood Park. Discover seven floors of photography, sculptures, painting, media displays, and more at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
- Home Price: $678,568 median purchase price; $1,462 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 68% of the cities in California
- Perfect For: Families, first-time home buyers, retirees
If you’re hoping to buy an affordable home in the Bay Area, check out Oceanview! Those looking to move to a diverse area will find a plethora of modernist track housing and panoramic views, thanks to its hilly location. While it had higher crime rates in the past, Oceanview has worked to become a community-oriented area and one of the safest neighborhoods in San Francisco.
Another ideal part of living in Oceanview is quick commute times! Locals are just ten minutes from great jobs in the Financial District via the Balboa Park BART station, have easy access to cities farther south like Daly City or San Jose via I-280, and are also near Ocean Beach. Students hoping to live near San Francisco State University or City College of San Francisco can find affordable rooms for rent here as well!
Things to Do in Oceanview
Play soccer or basketball, host a BBQ, or attend a free fitness class at Minnie & Lovie Ward Recreational Center. Plant some vegetables at the community Sisterhood Gardens or take your pup to play frisbee at the dog park—both located in the tree-lined Brotherhood Way green space. Boating, birdwatching, and bicycling can all be found at Lake Merced Park. Enjoy an old-fashioned drive-in dinner at Beep’s Burgers complete with an Angus burger, garlic fries, and a chocolate milkshake! Try matcha boba mixed in jasmine milk tea or a seaweed salad at Super Cue Cafe. Get a no-frills drink at Randy’s Place, a neighborhood dive bar that has been in the area for over 40 years. Find an outfit for your next job interview, catch a movie, or grab ice cream at Stonestown Galleria shopping center.
- Home Price: $833,912 median purchase price; $1,619 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 73% of the cities in California
- Perfect For: Families, surfers, artists
Bordered on the north by Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Ocean on the west, Outer Sunset is one of the best places to live in San Francisco. While still a hub for surfers trying to catch a wave, artists and families also call this area home. The large Asian-American population in Outer Sunset helps keep the neighborhood flush with a diverse selection of local restaurants and groceries. Because it has a quiet, suburban feel removed from the buzz of the city, rent remains fairly inexpensive here. Another reason prices haven’t surged over the years is due to the proximity to the ocean, which can lead to many gray and foggy days. However, residents claim that the sun comes out more than many expect.
Families will love the brightly-colored stucco duplexes and townhomes for rent or purchase here. They’ll also appreciate being near top-rated schools, such as Lowell High School, Sunset Elementary School, and Ulloa Elementary School. Although it’s off the beaten path, the Muni Metro system can get you into the area. But you’ll likely need a car to get around in your day-to-day errands and activities. Affordable housing, proximity to the ocean, access to great schools, and cozy local restaurants and coffee shops all make one of the safest neighborhoods in San Francisco a top spot to be!
Things to Do in Outer Sunset
Host a bonfire or watch experienced surfers catch a wave on Ocean Beach. Venture to nearby Andytown Coffee Roasters for a fresh-baked pastry or a Snowy Plover—the shop’s signature drink made with espresso, Pellegrino, ice, and sweet cream on top. Head to Devil’s Teeth Baking Company for a Kale Parmesan Scone or a Blood Orange Cornmeal Cake. Ride the steam train to see everything from giraffes to koalas at the San Francisco Zoo. Enjoy free access to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, which is home to almost 9,000 types of plants and hosts community activities like yoga on the lawn. Join a book club or take your toddlers to story time at Ortega Branch Library. Go shopping for surfer-chic clothing and goods made by local artisans or catch a live concert or local art exhibit at Mollusk Surf Shop.
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Neighborhood statistics from AreaVibes