Firewood’s San Francisco presence continues to expand, so we’re routinely interviewing candidates, many of whom do not live in the San Francisco Bay Area. That means, in addition to weighing the choice of whether or not to join the Firewood team, they (or perhaps you?) are also wrestling with the decision to move to another metropolitan area, away (potentially) from family and friends. It’s not a decision one should take lightly, so we thought we’d give them some firsthand information about why the Bay Area (mostly) rocks!
Whenever I’m faced with a big decision, I turn to the old reliable pros-and-cons list. It’s a perfect way to crystallize the competing thoughts and emotions that necessarily arise when making a potentially life-changing choice. And, while we obviously can’t help candidates with the more personal elements of the decision to move, we can help clarify why the San Francisco Bay Area is the best place to live IN THE WORLD! (Outside of, arguably, the amazing cities that are home to our other Firewood offices—Dublin, Mexico City, London, NYC, and Sandpoint, Idaho—which will be profiled in upcoming posts.) So first the cons (there are only a few, but they warrant a look), about which we’ll be brief and honest.
1. Income inequality: The thriving tech economy has made income inequality a real issue in the Bay Area. Because of this, there’s a housing shortage, among other inequality issues and problems. This problem extends throughout the counties of the Bay Area and it’s difficult, thorny, and upsetting—but we don’t have space here to unpack it.
2. Housing: Because of the housing shortage, housing is expensive and limited. Between 2010 and 2015, the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward census area created only one new home per 6.8 new jobs. Not ideal.
3. Traffic: There are a lot of people in a small space, so traffic isn’t great. Not the worst, mind you, but it can be bad.
4. Lack of seasons: The weather is mild. Many consider this a plus, but others seem to miss seasonal fluctuations. (Those people are weird.*)
*Editor’s note: The author grew up in San Francisco, takes navy showers in fog drifts, and is uncomfortable in weather hotter than 80° and colder than 55°.
Those are the primary detractions. They’re all real and can affect quality of life.
So now let’s talk about the reasons San Francisco has been called the “Paris of the West” and is considered one of the most beloved cities in North America. The pros list will be a little more in depth because there’s just so much to love.
1. Diversity: Historically, San Francisco has been home to a culturally diverse population. After all, California was once a part of Mexico and Asians have been an integral part of the city’s population since the Gold Rush in 1849. In the 2010 census, 33% of city residents were of Asian descent and over 25% of the Bay Area population was foreign born. That last stat is well represented in our home office, where you’ll find folks from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, France, Guam, Russia, Sweden, and elsewhere—even a few native San Franciscans. All this diversity means the restaurants, museums, nightlife, and street fairs represent the love and pride of all manner of good people.
2. Access to nature: Within an hour’s drive (ish—see #3 above), you’ll find eight national parks and 25 state parks. Go a little farther and you can ski the Sierras. From coastlines to mountains and foothills to deltas, the Bay Area is a wonderland of outdoor exploration. Even inside the city itself, you’ll find the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Golden Gate Park, two swaths of greenery that let you escape the bustle and hum of being within city limits. We only ask that you please not feed the coyotes.
3. California attitude: The people of the Bay Area tend to be open-minded, relaxed, and friendly (broadly speaking, of course). Perhaps it’s the weather or the abundance of guacamole, but people here are chill without being annoyingly checked out. The pace of life is busy without being hectic and, if you want to move at your own pace, that’s cool. You do you, sister.
4. Economic opportunity: The Bay Area is blessed at the moment with a thriving economy. In fact, the economic engine that is Silicon Valley is largely responsible for the housing issues—too many jobs for the current housing stock (as noted above). There’s more opportunity here than almost anywhere else in the world.
5. Unique beauty: From the rugged coastlines to the indelible Victorian architecture, the redwood groves to the houseboats of Sausalito, the blue oak-dotted pastureland to rolling vineyards in wine country, the Bay Area is simply breathtaking. And the weather’s great year-round (especially if you’re not, like, a huge fan of sleet).
So there you go, a quick glimpse of the pros and cons of making the Bay Area your permanent home. But all of that information is pretty easy to come by. So we asked around at the office to get some local takes on the Bay Area and to give you some insider recommendations.
What surprised you about the Bay Area when you moved here?
“I’m extremely into eating new foods, so the amount of different cuisines you can get in such a small area was revelatory.”
“How much color people had in their clothes.”
“I was shocked when I learned about Casual Carpool, a grassroots program that began in the 1970s in which drivers and passengers meet up at designated pick-up points in the East Bay to [commute to the city]. I’m from LA where this kind of thing would never happen.”
What’s something you’ve found here that you haven’t found anywhere else?
“Amazing access to stunning mountains, beaches, redwoods, deserts (if you drive a bit), lost coasts, and gorgeous sunsets over the crashing waves.”
“This inexplicable feeling of happiness when you step outside and can hear the container ships blowing their fog horns while you inhale the slightly salty air.”
“I love that all parts of the Bay Area (North Bay, East Bay, South Bay), while similar, also have their own unique subcultures.”
“The best sourdough bread.”
“I’ve found it [in] other places, but the amount of leather in this city is shocking.”
“The fog, the foghorns, the misty mornings.”
What’s your favorite Bay Area discovery?
“Burmese food was a new one for me, but now I love a good tea leaf salad or Pyay paratha.”
“Fort Funston, aka dog heaven.”
“The Outer Mission. Full of fish markets, fruit stands, small donut shops, and Chinese groceries.”
“That you can walk everywhere. And that I’ve never felt so OK with being myself. Everybody can be themselves.”
“Sorry, not sorry because I’m obsessed: Casual Carpool.”
How are the people of the Bay Area different from the folks you’ve met in other places?
“Bay Area people seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to the newest technology. In Oakland, where I live, I find people to be very laid back. [Particularly] those who have been there most of their lives. I love that vibe.”
“I think Bay Area people are nicer and more authentic than Kansans (where I’m from). And I think that’s because not everyone is from here; it’s really a melting pot of populations—people bringing traditions, cultures, food, experiences from all areas of the world. As a result, people are more progressive thinkers, tolerant, and open to new ideas.”
“Everyone knows what they’re either allergic to or ‘allergic’ to.”
“People here love hiking more than any people I’ve ever met in my life.”
Have you been in an earthquake yet? If so, how was it?
“Of course, too many to count. I don’t freak out anymore unless it’s over 5 [on the Richter scale].”
“Sure, minor ones all the time. One made the kids cry in the middle of the night so that wasn’t cool. Don’t make my kids cry, you bad earthquakes, you!”
“Yes. [They’re] unsettling at first, but quickly over and exciting to experience. They’re a lot less scary than tornados or lightning storms.”
What’s your family-friendly activity in the bay?
“The Great Dickens Christmas Fair down [at the] Cow Palace. They build a replica of Victorian London, with a lot of nods to A Christmas Carol. The lit nerd in me loves it, and—of course—there’s great food to be had there, too.”
“We like going to the beach or hiking.”
“Hiking! Tons of opportunities to be outside with gorgeous scenery and pretty good weather. There are plenty of easy hikes for children.”
“The Bay Area Discovery Museum.”
How long is your commute?
Answers ranged from 20 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes.
“Again, Casual Carpool.”
How hard was it to find a place to live?
Answers ranged from “easy peasy” to “hard,” with some saying it was “not too hard” and others saying it was “somewhat difficult,” as well as one person who said they were forced to couch surf for a year. So it varies.
Belotti: “They hand-make their pasta in-house, and have a very limited menu in order to strictly control quality. The most authentic, delicious food I’ve had outside Italy.”
Original Joe’s: “I had the fettuccine alfredo and the chef came by and gave us free desserts.”
Sidebar: “I’ve not had a better burger anywhere.”
Tia Margarita: “Owned by the same family since I was a kid.”
Zachary’s Chicago Pizza: “It’s employee-owned so everyone who works there is really committed to good service.”
And there you have it, folks, straight from the source. As a San Francisco native, this writer thinks the city is amazing, infuriating, and ever-evolving—and you’ll be welcomed with open arms, so long as you respect those who came before you.
Be kind. Be compassionate. Be yourself. And join us in the City by the Bay. We can even go for a hike!