An Unmatched Quality of Life
San Francisco is one of America’s most politically and culturally dynamic cities with a fiscal reach that is global. The cosmopolitan city is home to a diverse group of people, many of whom were attracted to it by its rich history and liberal attitude. Not only is San Francisco appealing for the young and adventurous, it’s also a haven for the seasoned and established because the entrepreneurial spirit here drives the people of San Francisco and the neighboring counties, making it one of the top business regions in the world.
San Francisco itself is one of the most iconic cities in the United States. The Golden Gate Bridge serves as an emblem to distinguish this West Coast metropolis as a province of the great American values of family, community and progressive thinking; the preservation of heritage and culture; and the development of entrepreneurial ambitions. With its diverse neighborhoods, people from every socioeconomic and cultural background feel right at home in this welcoming city. And that’s just San Francisco. Also known as the Bay Area, as a whole it represents an even greater collection of world-class communities. From Oakland to San Jose, living in the Bay Area means ensuring a high quality of life for you and your family.
San Francisco is a city that offers its residents all of the cosmopolitan amenities of the world’s greatest metropolitan areas while paying heed to the importance of maintaining the environment. In short, San Francisco and the Bay Area are rare urban landscapes that also have found a way of preserving the nature around them. In fact, it’s estimated that only 18 percent of the Bay Area is urbanized, meaning that residents are free to enjoy the great outdoors whenever it strikes their fancy. Limitless education opportunities, a fun and exciting nightlife, amazing retail opportunities, gorgeous homes, great parks and recreational areas are all in one location. That’s San Francisco in a nutshell.
After being inhabited by the Ohlone people since before 3000 BCE, the first European occupants of the area were a group of Spanish explorers led by Don Gaspar de Portolà, who claimed the land for Spain in 1769. By 1776, the Spanish had established the Presidio of San Francisco, followed a short time later by the construction of the Mission Dolores (Mission San Francisco de Asìs), which still stands today. This presidio area was an important place of trade and commerce and served as a temporary refuge for travelers from Europe. When San Francisco became independent from Spain in 1821, the area came under the jurisdiction of Mexico and the expanded settlement was named Yerba Buena. It wasn’t until the Mexican-American War in 1846 that all of California was ceded to the United States and this area was again renamed San Francisco. Despite being an attractive port and naval base, the area remained a small settlement for nearly a century.
However, the California Gold Rush saw the dawn of a new age in San Francisco as the population grew exponentially. Due to the massive swell of people in the area as they sought their fortunes, many entrepreneurs flocked to the area, some of whom established brand names that still exist today, including Levi Strauss & Co. and Wells Fargo Bank. Sam Brannan, a Mormon who arrived in San Francisco in 1846, was the first millionaire made from the California Gold Rush.
San Francisco became an important mining town as the quest to strike it rich with gold became the primary motivator of both personal and commercial enterprises in the area. Despite the city’s immense growth, San Francisco did see its share of hardships, notably being hit with a cholera epidemic in 1855 because of poor sanitation systems in place that were unable to handle the population surge. The first county hospitals were established here to take care of that situation.
Meanwhile, another important historical event was beginning to develop in the east and make its way west with the transcontinental railroad, which created an increased need for physical laborers and caused the Chinese migration to San Francisco in the mid-1800s. Chinese men settled in modern-day Chinatown, but many were unable to bring their families due to the immigration laws in place. When the exclusionary laws were repealed, the population surged, which resulted in the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia.
In 1906, San Francisco suffered one of the greatest natural disasters in U.S. history: a massive earthquake caused by movement of the San Andreas Fault. The initial earthquake was incredibly devastating, but that was only where the disaster began. Ruptured gas mains throughout the city and more than 30 large-scale fires ravaged what little the earthquake had left intact. Much of the city’s population became displaced, and the final death toll was 3,000, the largest from a natural disaster on the West Coast.
The 1960s was a time of intense political activism and reform all over the country, and particularly in San Francisco. Jaded by the limitations of the 1960s society, the decade’s youth created a counterculture based on peace, love and a desire to see the end of the world’s problems. Identified as hippies, these people often participated in rallies protesting the Vietnam War and segregation still prevalent in the South. San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district became synonymous with the hippie culture movement; by the mid-1960s, there were an estimated 15,000 hippies concentrated in the area. Many of these young people were former students of San Francisco State University, known as the “public university with a conscience.”
The San Andreas Fault once again caused another major earthquake in 1989 and completely leveled parts of San Francisco. This was the first earthquake ever documented on camera because many cameras were on site to capture Game 3 of the World Series between the Bay Area’s San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics. Since then, the city has taken a wide range of precautions to respond to future earthquakes of this magnitude.
The 1990s saw the birth of the dot-com boom, and San Francisco and the Bay Area were once again in the national spotlight. Silicon Valley, an already established mecca for the electronics industry, saw an astronomical increase in start-up companies flocking to the region in an attempt to make millions by extending the Internet, which was just starting to become a household necessity. The vision of an entire world in cyberspace was an enticing idea, considering the versatility of fully functional websites. Unfortunately, the dot-com era (1995–2000) didn’t last long. Despite the ensuing burst of the dot-com bubble, the Bay Area has remained a strong haven for fledgling as well as established technology companies.
Since the turn of the millennium, San Francisco has become one of the leading centers for the development of green energy and related sciences. The city is a heavy proponent of the green movement, and local energy companies are developing new systems that make use of biofuels, solar energy and wind power. Since 2008, the green energy market has seen dramatic increases, making it a viable industry alongside traditional oil and gas.
When it comes to new technologies and developments, San Francisco continues to be at the forefront. With so many viable industries located in and around the Bay, the economic prosperity of the region is sure to be intact for years to come.
Since the 1960s, San Francisco has had a reputation for being one of the epicenters of liberal social movements in the United States. San Francisco is a decidedly liberal city, and the population of the Bay Area in general tends to mirror the democratic political views of California. Even residents who identify as conservatives tend to be more moderate in the political spectrum.
San Francisco prides itself on being a city with a secular worldview, but its reputation as a progressive community should not eclipse its religious heritage. One only needs to look at the splendor of Grace Cathedral and the city’s other places of worship to see that religion is present throughout the metropolitan area. The large Roman Catholic and Protestant numbers are a testament to Christian prevalence in the Bay Area. In addition, San Francisco is home to a significant Jewish community and an expanding Muslim community. The progressive mindset in San Francisco is open to the possibility of all faiths, and that’s what the city truly is: a haven for all who want to practice their religion freely and without reservations.
THE BAY AREA COUNTIES
The Bay Area refers to the all of the urban expanses located around the perimeter of the San Francisco Bay. To be as concise and comprehensive as possible, Relocating to San Francisco covers the following nine counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma. Read more about each county in the chapter called “San Francisco and Beyond.”
San Francisco is the quintessential family city, and much of that has to do with the high concentration and versatility of resources located in the Bay Area. Many families look for cities with a great public education system; others look for neighborhoods that are community oriented and child friendly. Still others prefer a city that, as a whole, is progressive when it comes to major social issues or prefer having many public areas for outdoor recreation or a strong presence of visual and performing arts. San Francisco is all of these things rolled into one. In San Francisco, parents can take their children to Golden Gate Park on a Saturday afternoon to enjoy its beautiful gardens or spend a Sunday with the family admiring the city’s famous “painted lady” Victorian homes. San Francisco is a city primed for creating lasting memories and childhoods filled with adventure and wonderful outings.
TAXES AND LAWS
When moving to any new city, it’s important to know some of the basic laws so you can maneuver your new surroundings without the worry of making any violations. The following section describes San Francisco’s laws regarding property and sales taxes, seatbelts and child safety laws, pet licensing, cell phone use and liquor. Note anything that applies to you or your family, especially if they differ considerably from your last place of residence.
— Property Taxes
When owning property in San Francisco, it’s important to remember its volume, block and lot numbers. The volume number references the location of the property in one of the city’s 45 sections. The city’s official assessment map has the block and lot numbers of every listed property. Property owners should keep these numbers on file because they are needed to make a property-tax payment. Each property-tax value is configured using the following calculation:
(Assessed Value x Annual Tax Rate) – (Exemptions) + (Special Assessments, Fees and Liens)
In other words, the Office of the Assessor-Recorder assesses the property values, which usually reflect the market value at the time of purchase. The Office of the Controller then applies the correct tax rates and takes that number and subtracts any exemptions and special assessments to arrive at the final property-tax figure.
Property-tax bills are mailed to residents by November 1 of each year. It is important to remember that the bill is for both installments of the payment, and no reminder notices are mailed for the second payment. The first installment is due on December 10, and the second installment is due on April 10 of the following year. Both payments can be made on or before the December 10 due date for the first installment. A 10-percent penalty fee is added to each late payment, plus a $10 administrative fee that gets added if the second payment is also delinquent.
— Sales Tax
As of February 2013, the sales-tax rate in the city of San Francisco was 8.75 percent. This figure is slightly higher than the sales tax rate of the rest of the state of California.
— Seatbelts and Child-Safety Seats
The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) notes that 500 children are killed each year in traffic accidents. In an effort to decrease this number, the SFPD has outlined a series of safety measures that parents should take when transporting their children in their family vehicles. All children under the age of 12 are required to wear seatbelts at all times, preferably in the back seat, which receives the least impact in a head-on collision. Pillows, towels and other materials should never be used as makeshift booster seats. Infants and small children must be placed in safety seats, which should have been tested for an appropriately tight fit beforehand. Parents are encouraged to fill out their booster seat–registration cards in the event of a national recall.
California’s booster-seat law requires that all children under the age of 6, or under 60 pounds, must travel in a child restraint. The law was designed specifically to satisfy the safety needs of children too old for infant car seats but not big enough for adult seatbelts. All booster seats must conform to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. This law brings a $100 fine for first-time violators and a $250 fine each time after the initial offense. Parents are fined for each child in the vehicle that is not in compliance with the booster-seat law. If parents or legal guardians are not present, the driver will be cited and fined.
— Cell Phone Laws
As of July 1, 2008, it became illegal to use a handheld telephone while driving. The current cell phone law allows drivers to use their phones when making emergency calls to a law enforcement agency or medical provider only. Fines for the first offense are $76, and each additional conviction is $190. A conviction will appear on the offender’s driving record, but no violation points will be added. Passengers are not affected by this law.
Drivers under the age of 18 cannot use a wireless telephone, pager, laptop or any other electronic communication device (whether handheld or hands-free) to either speak or text while driving. There are no exceptions for emancipated minors, no exceptions if adults or parents are driving with the youth and no exceptions for devices built into the car.
— Liquor Laws
The legal drinking age in San Francisco is 21. Alcohol can be sold and consumed any day of the week, but according to California’s state laws, it cannot be sold anywhere after 2 a.m., including bars and nightclubs. Restaurants that have patios or outdoor seating usually allow their patrons to indulge in alcoholic beverages as long as they keep the drink on the premises.
CALIFORNIA DRIVER’S LICENSE
If new residents plan on owning their own vehicle and using it as their primary mode of transportation, they will have to apply for a California driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). New residents have 10 days to obtain a California driver’s license after establishing residency. California residency is established once someone has voted in a state or city election, filed for a homeowners tax exemption or paid resident tuition at a local school and have met the DMV’s approved list of criteria.
Applicants must report to a DMV office (find one near you and make an appointment for faster service at www.dmv.ca.gov
) and complete a DL 44 application form. Applicants also need to provide a thumbprint, have their picture taken and provide their Social Security number. Applicants then verify their legal information, pay a fee and pass a vision test and a 36-question test on and traffic laws and signs that can be taken three times, each of which requires an appointment and a $6 fee (for the second or third test).
Incoming residents from foreign countries also are required to take a driving test, which gauges an applicant’s proficiency in basic driving skills. To take the test, make an appointment at any DMV location and provide proof of financial responsibility (insurance) that meets the California requirements.
New residents have 20 days to register their vehicle to avoid any fees and penalties. Newcomers to California that have not properly settled in San Francisco have a bit more leeway when it comes to vehicle registration. They can be considered nonresidents until they accept gainful employment in the city, rent or lease a residence, enroll in a college or university, claim a homeowners tax exemption or acquire a California driver’s license.
To register a nonresident vehicle, an applicant must fill out the Application for Title or Registration (REG 343). The application must be signed by all of the registered owners of the vehicle. Applicants need to provide the out-of-state title issued previously, but this is not required if a California title is not being requested or there will be no change of registered owner. A California title cannot be issued if the out-of-state title is not presented to the DMV. If only registration is needed, the last issued registration certificate will be requested.
The vehicle must undergo inspection at a DMV of the applicant’s choosing by a DMV employee that is certified in the process. A law-enforcement officer or a licensed-vehicle verifier also can perform the inspection. Appointments are strongly recommended for faster service.
If applicable, smog and weight certifications need to be obtained. A Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) Application Certificate is also needed for any trailer vehicles new residents plan on using in California.
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is the largest airport in the Bay Area and the second largest airport in California. SFO ranks among the world’s 30 busiest airway systems, with nearly 50 major airlines departing from the airport every day and more than 43 million passengers logged in 2012. SFO is also noted for its emphasis on passenger comfort and high customer service. Passengers can enjoy the benefits of a consolidated rental-car center, a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station and the AirTrain automated people mover. Automated and integrated baggage screening ensures that passengers have some of the shortest wait times in the country.
In 2011, SFO completed a $383-million renovation project of Terminal 2 (T2) to accommodate the airport’s growth in passenger traffic and an increasing demand for more usable gates. T2 features 14 gates for narrow-body aircraft and 640,000 square feet of interior space filled with comfortable seating, a local-food marketplace with offerings from celebrity chefs, works by local and international artists, a children’s play area and a pedestrian crossing to the AirTrain. T2 is also the first airport terminal to achieve LEED®
Gold certification for sustainability. For more information, visit www.flysfo.com
Mineta San José International Airport
Located 60 miles south of San Francisco and only two miles from downtown San Jose, the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport (SJC) is a self-supporting system that accommodated more than 8.3 million passengers in 2012. As a result of the airport improvement plan, passengers have enjoyed more efficient parking and a more comprehensive rental car system. According to the website, SJC averages 120 commercial and 87 general aviation flights per day, making the airport a viable option for meeting planners who are hosting events throughout the region.
Oakland International Airport
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, the Oakland International Airport (OAK) supported the travel of more than 10 million passengers in 2012. Only 25 minutes from downtown San Francisco, it’s a great option for visitors who will be staying in accommodations on the periphery of the city. The Airport Development Program is an ongoing program to help make OAK a top-tier airport system and one that is the first choice of travelers to the Bay Area. Recent enhancement projects have included improvements to terminal and curbside areas, the construction of additional gates and connections to outlying businesses and residential districts. Visit www.flyoakland.com
for more information.
— GROUND TRANPORTATION
Bay Area Rapid Transit
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is a major component of San Francisco’s public transportation system and is the fifth busiest heavy rail system in the country. BART is a rapid-transit railway with five operational lines across 104 miles of track, including 44 stations in four different counties.
Much of the underground railway system includes the area previously serviced by the city’s electric streetcar network. BART’s five routes are Fremont to Lake Merritt (A line), Pittsburg/Bay Point to Rockridge (C line), Dublin/Pleasanton to Bay Fair (L line), Oakland to Millbrae (M, W and Y line) and Richmond to MacArthur (R line). Passengers have access to Oakland through all routes except for Richmond to MacArthur.
Many residents are heavily dependent on BART, making San Francisco less susceptible than other cities in California to the congestion of daily traffic on freeways. As a result of the popularity of BART, train cars and stations are in a constant state of refurbishment to make daily use more enjoyable. BART consistently has proven to be a user-friendly transportation system, especially when it comes to accommodating the business needs of its riders. The system was the first in the nation to offer cell phone communities to passengers of all carriers and has increased its weekend and nighttime schedules to provide easy and effective use no matter what time of day. For more information or schedules, visit www.bart.gov
San Francisco Cable Cars
Anyone familiar with San Francisco knows that the most famous mode of transportation is the cable car system. Three open-air cable car routes—Powell-Mason, Powell-Hyde and California Street—currently are in operation. The Powell-Mason line begins at the Powell/Market turntable and runs over Nob Hill and down to Bay Street at Fisherman’s Wharf. The Powell-Hyde line also begins at the Powell/Market turntable and runs over Nob and Russian hills before ending at Aquatic Park near Ghiradelli Square. The California Street line runs East-West from the Financial District through Chinatown over Nob Hill and stops at Van Ness Avenue. This classic mode of transportation offers a way to navigate between area hotspots, event venues and hotels in a manner that San Franciscans have preferred for more than a century.
Market Street Railway
The historic streetcars of the Market Street Railway are a charming and memorable way to get around the city. Even better, it’s a great benefit for the city because streetcars are zero-emission vehicles. At one time, the streetcars were utilized so much in San Francisco that they were the only vehicles on the road referred to as “cars.” Today, streetcars are still very much in use, traveling Market Street between The Castro and Fisherman’s Warf (collectively known as the F-Market & Wharves line).
The popularity of the F-Market & Wharves line has led to some overcrowding issues, but the city has proposed a restoration contract that would introduce an additional 16 streetcars to help alleviate the stress on the line. In addition, the proposed changes would allow for the opening of the E-Embarcadero line, which would run from Caltrain to Fisherman’s Warf.
The San Francisco Chronicle
is the Bay Area’s primary newspaper and is distributed throughout Central and Northern California. The publication has a long history of top-tier reporting and has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize several times. Its online component, SFGate.com
frequently includes articles and features not available in its print form. SFGate.com has the distinction of being one of the first major newspaper websites to have been launched when it opened in 1994.
The San Francisco Examiner
was founded in 1863 and now runs as a free daily newspaper. Its daily circulation of up to 190,000 copies (255,500 on Sundays) includes a distribution to households in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. The last decade has seen the San Francisco Examiner
develop into its current incarnation: a tabloid-size publication without story jumps and a focus on local news, business, entertainment and sports. Visit www.sfexaminer.com
for more information.
The San Francisco Bay Guardian
is an alternative newspaper with a left-wing bent. The publication strongly supports progressive social issues through extensive editorial coverage. The San Francisco Bay Guardian
also publishes its annual “Best of the Bay” issue, which celebrates the city’s best restaurants, entertainment venues and businesses selected by readers and staff members. Visit www.sfbg.com
for more information.
The Bay Area is the country’s sixth largest television market. As a result, all major television networks have affiliates in the region, most of which are based in San Francisco. The BBC, CNN and ESPN also each have regional news bureaus based in the city. KPIX is the city’s oldest television station, whose parent company is the CBS Corporation.
The Bay Area is also the nation’s fourth largest radio market. KCBS (AM) was the city’s first radio station and currently operates as a local news outlet with regular segments on traffic, weather, sports and business. Established in 1941, KALW was San Francisco’s first FM radio station and is an independently operated National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate that produces its own music, local news and interview shows.
BAY AREA SPORTS
Sports fans of all varieties find the Bay Area an easy place to get their game on because the region has more than its fair share of professional teams to support. If there’s not a professional team in San Francisco that newcomers fully can get behind, chances are there’s one just across the bay, which creates the best of both worlds: traveling to enjoy a home game is just a boat ride or short commute away.
AT&T Park is the official home of the San Francisco Giants
, the 2011 Professional Sports Team of the Year according to Sports Business Journal. The Giants originally played in New York City before moving across the country in 1958. Part of the National League of Major League Baseball (MLB), the Giants have won the World Series six times, the most recent in 2012, and have produced 66 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame, more than any other team in the history of the sport. Even if you’re not a fan of baseball, AT&T Park is a notable attraction by itself, named the 2008 Sports Facility of the Year by Sports Business Journal for its innovative design and stunning architecture.
Oakland also has an MLB team as well: the Oakland Athletics
of the American League. Originally the Philadelphia As, the team’s history in Oakland includes four World Series wins, including the 1989 series played against San Francisco Giants just a short way across the bay. The Athletics play their home games at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (also known as the O.co Coliseum).
The San Francisco 49ers
are a National Football League (NFL) team in the NFC West that holds the distinction of being the first team to win five Super Bowl Championships (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXIX) and most recently went to the Super Bowl in 2013, losing narrowly to the Baltimore Ravens. The home venue of the 49ers is Candlestick Park, but the team broke ground in April 2012 on the new 49ers stadium in nearby Santa Clara that is set to open for the 2014 NFL season.
The Bay Area’s second NFL team is based in Oakland. The Oakland Raiders
, part of the AFC West, has produced 19 Hall of Famers and has won three Super Bowls (XI, XV and XVIII). The Oakland Raiders are housed at the O.co Coliseum, which they share with MLB’s Oakland Athletics.
The Bay Area’s National Basketball Association (NBA) team is also based out of Oakland. The Golden State Warriors
play their home games at the Oracle Arena, the oldest venue used by the NBA. The Golden State Warriors, one of only three remaining original charter members of the NBA, have won the NBA Championship three times. The Warriors have had 15 Hall of Famers and have the reputation of discovering and cultivating some of the best young basketball talent in the country; no other team has produced more Rookie-of-the-Year winners.
The National Hockey League (NHL) also has a presence in the Bay Area in the form of the San Jose Sharks
. Although never a Stanley Cup winner, the Sharks have won a total of six division championships and are known for their signature home-game antics. Hockey fans can see the Sharks play at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.
Nearby Stockton also has had a minor-league hockey presence since 2005 with the ECHL (originally the East Coast Hockey League) in the Stockton Thunder
. Considered a training ground for the NHL, the ECHL’s Thunder are affiliated with the San Jose Sharks.
The San Jose Earthquakes
are the local Major League Soccer (MLS) team that plays at Santa Clara University’s Buck Shaw Stadium. The Earthquakes recently resumed playing in 2008 after a two-year hiatus in which the team moved to Houston and played as the Houston Dynamo. The return of an MLS team to San Jose has been a notable success.
MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS AND HISTORIC SITES
New residents of San Francisco often are amazed at the rich historic landscape of their new city. There’s always something to see and do, and most importantly, to learn. Unlike in other major cities, one can live a lifetime in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area and never experience everything it has to offer. The following are just a few highlights of San Francisco’s iconic attractions that new residents surely will love.
, also known as “The Rock,” is the site of the infamous federal penitentiary of the same name that housed some of the most high-profile criminals of the 20th century. The penitentiary closed in the early 1960s, and the island was first opened to the public in 1973. Every year, an estimated 1.5 million people visit Alcatraz Island. Tours are available that take visitors around the island by boat and also give them an inside glimpse into the main building. The brilliant flowers on the island are also a significant draw for the area’s gardening aficionados. In 1976, Alcatraz Island was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Golden Gate Bridge
is the single most iconic monument in the Bay Area that has become synonymous with the city of San Francisco. Completed in 1937, the structure spans 4,200 feet and was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time. In addition to the car traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists can cross the bridge during the day using the available sidewalks. A gift shop and café are located on the southeast side of the bridge, perfect for a full day of outdoor activities and leisurely excursions against one of the world’s most beautiful backdrops. If there’s no need to drive across it, the bridge can be enjoyed from the water by using the Larkspur and Sausalito ferries.
Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf
is one of San Francisco’s many family-friendly areas, featuring great food, amazing shopping opportunities and beautiful bayside scenery that are enjoyable entertainment for residents of all ages. Pier 39 features 110 boutique shops and 14 top-tier restaurants that are particularly well known for their seafood fare.
The Musée Mécanique
on Fisherman’s Wharf is devoted to the private collection of Edward Galland Zelinsky, a fifth-generation San Franciscan whose extensive body of mechanically operated arcade machines and musical instruments is easily one of the most interesting destinations on the wharf. Some of the penny arcade machines are more than 100 years old, and many of the exhibitions can be played for 25 or 50 cents.
is also home to hundreds of sea lions that can be observed from the surrounding docks. The year 2010 marked the 20th anniversary of their arrival to Fisherman’s Wharf. Despite a brief disappearance in the winter of 2009, the sea lions are here to stay. On weekends, the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito provides docents for visitors interested in learning more about the sea lions.
San Francisco’s cable car system is the largest in the world. Even so, it comprises only three routes, making it more of a tourist attraction than a regular mode of transportation for locals. The Cable Car Museum
is an extensive historical tribute to the cable car’s presence in San Francisco and features an array of mechanical devices and photograph collections in addition to three authentic cable cars dating back to the 1870s.
is known for its charming and piquant atmosphere. This historic square was once the home of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company headquarters, but now is the site of several fine-dining establishments and retail shops. Still, no visit to the square is complete without the treat of a hot fudge sundae or a piece of gourmet chocolate from the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. The company’s original manufacturing equipment is on display, giving visitors an inside look into how these sweets were created more than 150 years ago.
The Bay Area is a top destination for world-class shopping excursions where residents have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of shopping experiences, including indoor, outdoor and outlet malls. Located in the Financial District, the Crocker Galleria
, modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, houses a breathtaking collection of the best clothing boutiques in the city. Underneath the glass dome of the Crocker Galleria, shoppers can find international names in fashion and everything else one needs to live a first-class cosmopolitan life of style.
is another of San Francisco’s marquee shopping attractions. Department stores that can be found in Union Square include Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s West, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. Restaurants found in its vicinity include Morton’s The Steakhouse, Le Colonial, E&O Trading Company and Mocca.
Located just two blocks from Union Square, Westfield San Francisco Center
is a metropolitan marvel of high-end shopping. The vertically designed shopping center has nine stories of retail options that are connected by a spiral escalator. The mall features the second largest Nordstrom in the United States as well as the West Coast flagship of Bloomingdale’s. Its roster of more than 170 stores includes ALDO, American Eagle Outfitters, Aveda, Bath & Body Works, Calvin Klein, Express, Movado, Nine West, Sanrio and Zara.
The Great Mall of the Bay Area
in Milpitas features 1,357,000 square feet of retail space, including 11 anchors and 200 other stores. Previously a Ford automobile assembly plant, the Great Mall is the largest mall in Northern California. Its status as an outlet mall ensures customers a significant concentration of brand names at low prices. Major names found at the Great Mall include Banana Republic, Burlington Coat Factory, Gap Outlet, Kohl’s, Nike, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, Old Navy and Sports Authority.
Of course, these are just the major malls in the San Francisco area. The shopping options throughout the Bay Area are extensive. From small boutique shopping centers to large-scale outlet malls and grand shopping centers, there’s never a shortage of retail opportunities in the Bay Area.
San Francisco and the Bay Area represent a wealth of richness when it comes to local dining. Thanks to world-class wineries, small local farms and close proximity to the sea, San Franciscans enjoy a variety of high-quality cuisine. Restaurants in the Bay Area are known for their farm-fresh, ingredient-driven menus as well as a particular attention to detail that makes dining in San Francisco not just eating but an experience. The myriad of high-end restaurants allow for maximum culinary variety for eating that never tasted so good.
Located on Fisherman’s Wharf, Alioto’s
is the restaurant of choice for seafood. Established in 1925, Alioto’s has nearly 90 years of excellence under its belt, and the famed quality of its cuisine hasn’t wavered at all. Its world-class entrees are enhanced by the tranquil views of the surrounding wharf. Plus, if you want the best seafood available without the fine-dining price, Alioto’s outside crab shack, Café 8, offers great-tasting food on the cheap and on the go.
The Cliff House
is one of the city’s iconic dining experiences. With stunning views of the California coastline and a history that goes as far back as the 19th century, the Cliff House is a favorite dining destination for both residents and visitors. The Cliff House specializes in seafood and traditional steakhouse favorites, and its Terrace Room is a popular private dining room for hosting social events.
Despite many name changes since its establishment in 1867, Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant
continuously has offered fresh oysters and other delectable seafood delights to local San Franciscans through the years. Continuously voted as one of “The Bay Area’s Top 100 Restaurants” by the San Francisco Chronicle, it has been at its current location since 1946.
is an international metropolitan dining concept unlike any other that’s come before it. With locations all over the world, the San Francisco Supperclub reflects all of the decadence of the international jetsetter traveler. Scintillating music and entertainment and fashion-forward furnishings combine to make this high-end dining establishment something like a nightclub experience where guests are treated to an all-night experience of several courses, not just a single meal.
Opened in 1840, the Tadich Grill
is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in San Francisco. Its current location (since 1967) contains much of the furnishings that have been with them for the long haul. The menu features the freshest seafood, meats, poultry and produce with a focus on quality, consistency and value.
These are just a few of the Bay Area’s top-tier restaurants that are mainstays of the local dining scene. Whether you’re an experienced foodie or you just want to break the monotony of eating in, San Francisco offers a never-ending menu of exciting dining options.
San Francisco is home to a thriving performing arts community that includes resident companies of every major theatrical medium. The San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center (SFWMPAC)
is a landmark cultural institution in San Francisco and home to many of the Bay Area’s best performances. The SFWMPAC comprises the War Memorial Opera House, the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, Herbst Theatre, The Green Room and the Harold L. Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall.
Built in 1932, the War Memorial Opera House is a gem of a building that features the coffered ceilings, lavish balconies and marble foyers of its European ancestors. The 3,146-seat venue is the permanent home of the San Francisco Ballet (SFB)
and San Francisco Opera (SFO)
. The SFB is the nation’s oldest professional ballet company and is considered one of the preeminent dance companies in the world. The SFO is the second largest opera company in North America; its annual Opening Night Gala is considered one of the highlights of the city’s calendar of social events.
Since opening in 1980, the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall has housed the San Francisco Symphony (SFS)
. In contrast to the classical design elements of the War Memorial Opera House, the Davies Symphony Hall is a marvel of modern architecture. Its 2,739 seats allow for the SFS to perform on a full-time basis, bringing more than 220 concerts to nearly 600,000 people every year.
The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.)
is San Francisco’s chief venue for world-class live dramatic theater. Founded in 1965 and stationed in the historic Geary Theater, A.C.T. has built a national reputation for delivering high-quality presentations of some of the stage’s most enduring works. Plus, SHN (Shorenstein Hays Nederlander) is an organization that presents new works, pre-Broadway productions and hits fresh from Broadway stages to San Francisco locals at the Golden Gate Theatre, the Curran Theatre and the Orpheum Theatre.
San Francisco is without doubt a center for culture and learning. The city is home to some of the most renowned museums in the nation, which are a big draw for new residents. These magnificent repositories of culture not only feature stunning permanent collections but also host extensive calendars of touring exhibits. Following are a few of San Francisco’s key museums.
The de Young Museum and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor are part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF)
, the city’s largest public arts institution. FAMSF is the city’s most successful public-private partnership. The de Young’s permanent collection specializes in American art, and its distinctive architecture makes for a stunning contrast in its Golden Gate Park location. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor features an extensive collection of ancient and European art spanning 600 years. The permanent collection includes masterworks from El Greco, Rubens, Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Pissaro and Seurat.
The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)
, an international museum based in San Francisco, is committed to showcasing the best of African diaspora (scattering of the culture). MoAD collaborates with similar institutions from around the world, such as the British Museum and the Museum of African Art in New York.
At the heart of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens
, situated south of Market Street, is a bustling center for arts and culture, including the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
. Founded in 1935, SFMOMA was the first museum on the West Coast devoted to modern and contemporary art. Surrounding the gardens are the Contemporary Jewish Museum, founded in 1984, and The Mexican Museum, which recently constructed a new permanent facility here.
San Francisco isn’t like other major urban areas that are gray and concrete-filled from the inside out. In fact, San Francisco is famous for the abundance of greenery that can be seen throughout the city in a multitude of public and neighborhood parks. Following are just a few of San Francisco’s major parks, but there are many smaller ones for you to explore as well.
Golden Gate Park is the largest park in the city at 1,017 acres, and it has the distinction of being larger in area than New York City’s famed Central Park. The park features an abundance of flowers and ample space for a variety of outdoor recreational activities, including several key areas not to miss: the Conservatory of Flowers, the Koret Children’s Corner, the National AIDS Memorial Grove, the Music Concourse, the Japanese Tea Garden, Stow Lake, the Dutch Windmill and Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden and the Bison Paddock.
The Presidio of San Francisco, also the site of the Palace of Fine Arts, is located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area that features trails along the coastline. Pioneer Park is located at the top of Telegraph Hill and has Coit Tower and a bronze Christopher Columbus sculpture as its most prominent features. Washington Square Park in North Beach is a popular place to lounge and enjoy the sun; it is most frequented by dog walkers and young people eager to play games with friends.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA BEACHES
San Francisco’s bayside location means that the city is home to a plethora of pristine beaches, perfect for family outings and weekend gatherings. The Bay Area is lined with these picturesque environments, making it an ideal place for sun and water lovers. Following are brief descriptions of some of the local beaches you can explore.
Año Nuevo State Reserve
is located 55 miles south of San Francisco and is the site of the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal. People who hope to see the seals during the winter breeding season, as the males battle for mates on the beaches and the females give birth to their pups on the dunes, are urged to get their reservations early. During the breeding season, December through March, daily access to the reserve is available through guided walks only. During the spring and summer months, the elephant seals return to Año Nuevo’s beaches to molt and can be observed through a permit system.
stretches a mile below the rugged cliffs on The Presidio’s western shoreline. From here, you can see spectacular views of the Gold Gate Bridge and the Marin as well as harbor porpoises that like to frolic in the surf.
, named for the Chinese fishermen who once anchored here and camped on the beach, is in a tiny cove tucked between Lands End and Baker Beach in the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco and features picnic areas and spectacular views.
Montara State Beach
, 20 miles south of San Francisco, is a popular location for visitors who can explore the beach’s tide pools or go surf fishing. The beach is bounded by low hills to the north and south, and restaurants and a grocery store are nearby. Point Montara also has a lighthouse that offers overnight accommodations.
runs the entire west side of San Francisco and is the city’s largest beach. It offers a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and approximately 3.5 miles of surf and sand with few tourists and no view-blocking high-rises.
Pacifica State Beach
is a wide crescent-shaped beach that marks the northern gateway to the coastline that stretches south of San Francisco. It’s located off Highway 1 in downtown Pacifica.
Pescadero State Beach
is located 14.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1. The beach has a mile-long shoreline with sandy coves, rocky cliffs, tide pools, fishing spots and picnic facilities. Across the highway is Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, a popular spot for bird watchers and other naturalists as it is a refuge for blue heron, kites, deer, raccoons, foxes and skunks.
Point Reyes National Seashore
offers expansive sand beaches, forests, marshes, open grasslands, brushy hillsides and forested ridges that create a place where visitors can discover more than 1,500 species of plants and animals. Here people enjoy camping, hiking, kayaking and biking.
San Gregorio State Beach
is 10.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1. The area includes a protected, driftwood-strewn estuary at the back of a wide, sandy beach with grassy bluffs along the coast. The estuary is home to many birds and small animals.
, just north of San Francisco, has 3.5 miles of white-sand coastline that provides plenty of access to swimmers, surfers and sunbathers. The 51-acre park adjacent to the beach offers more than 100 picnic tables (some with grills and all available on a first-come basis). A snack bar is open April through September, and the park is open until sunset.
Tomales Bay State Park
is situated on the eastern edge of Point Reyes Peninsula and is a popular destination for a day of picnicking, hiking or water-oriented activities. The beaches and east-facing slopes of this 2,000-acre park are protected from the prevailing winds by the high backbone of the Point Reyes Peninsula. The park is located 40 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, close to Inverness, Point Reyes Station and the Point Reyes National Seashore.
For more information about San Francisco Bay Area beaches, visit www.parks.ca.gov
WELCOME TO YOUR NEW CITY BY THE BAY!
San Francisco is a city like no other on the West Coast with so much to offer new residents in terms of attractions, entertainment and culture. As a sustainable city, San Francisco is perfect for just about every type of newcomer, from entire family units to corporate power couples to young 20-somethings striking out on their own for the first time. The team at Relocating to San Francisco
welcomes you to your new city, wherever you are in life, with the hope that you are able to use this guide to your advantage as you navigate your way through the Bay Area.
If you haven’t already made the decision to move, consider this publication your introduction to what awaits you in the future: an unmatched quality of life and an unforgettable living experience.