For people of a certain age San Francisco will always mean “flowers in your hair”, summer of love and electric kool aid. It's fair to say things have changed since the 60s. Back when it was the world's counter-cultural centre it was known as Frisco. Now, The City By The Bay or Fog City are more common nicknames, and while it's still regarded as the most liberal city in the US it's as a tourist destination and banking and new technology centre that it's more commonly associated. Rarely do you find a city that is able to prosper so well economically while also offering a vibrant, diverse and idealistic way of life.
San Francisco's Economy
San Francisco is ranked 18th in the world's top producing cities (by GDP) and 12th in the list of Global Financial Centres (City of London Report). The city has over 30 international financial institutions and a well-established internet, technology and digital media industry. It was one of the centres of both the Dot-com bubble of the 90s and the the boom of the new generation of Web of the 2000s. Local start-up businesses (85% of businesses have fewer than 10 employees) and organisations in nearby Silicon Valley and San Jose provide much employment for white-collar workers, especially those searching for a high standard of living. Prominent internet companies in the city include Craigslist, Twitter, Couchsurfing and Wikimedia Foundation, all of whom have head offices in San Francisco.
Yet it's tourism that forms the economy's backbone. Landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Pier and Alcatraz (the maximum security prison made famous in films like The Rock, Birdman of Alcatraz and Murder In The First) help provide an iconic status that brings the fifth-highest number of foreign tourists of any US city to it's shores. Possibly they also come looking for Tony Bennett's heart (he did leave it here after all).
Increasingly the city is becoming known as a biotechnology and biomedical research centre, offering pioneering stem cell research, and this is something which could help it's economy grow well into the future.
Quality of Life in San Francisco
With it's economic growth the city of San Francisco has changed drastically. South Beach and Mission Bay are just two neighbourhoods which have been transformed as part of the Embarcadero redevelopment. Household income is now among the highest in the USA, with a wide variety of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues catering for their needs. In the 2008 Quality of Life Survey San Francisco scored the second highest quality of living in the USA (Honolulu was one place above).
The improvement of neighbourhoods and subsequent rise in house prices has led many lower and middle class families to move to the outer suburbs or even to other nearby areas of California as they have struggled to come to terms with this new rise in prices.
Part of it's appeal as a place to live is it's structuring of neighbourhoods, the majority of which have been designed so that shops, businesses, cafés and grocery stores are dotted throughout the streets. So, instead of everyone heading to one particular district in the daytime and another at night, the people are distributed throughout the neighbourhoods where they're able to find everything they need without having to go far. It's also one of the reasons it's thought of as such a great city to walk.
Things To Do In San Francisco
San Francisco is but a simple seven-by-seven-mile peninsula with much to keep people happy. As well as Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge that we've previously mentioned, both tourists and residents are enthralled by the cable cars, it's museums (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art being the most prominent), Chinatown and the city's eclectic mix of architecture. Those cable cars provide one of the easiest ways to get perspective while in San Francisco, with incredible views from Coit Tower and atop the Russian and Nob hills.
Interestingly, San Francisco has more restaurants and food markets per person than any other city in North America. Presumably the bankers and internet start-up gurus need a variety of venues in which to woo their clients.
The San Francisco sound of the 60s and 70s developed around the The Fillmore (a prominent music venue) and bands like Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and The Doors. This musical tradition continues to this day with live music a big part of the night-life. Theatre and live comedy also play a big part in the city's cultural calendar.
The city's liberal attitude to life – San Francisco has never voted more than 20% for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988 – extends to it's events. San Francisco Pride is the biggest gay and lesbian event in the USA, and other events like the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and The Dyke March are just two exponents of a thriving LGBT community.
Moving to San Francisco
It is undoubted that San Francisco attracts a liberal brand of people but it also does this while providing great opportunities, especially for those working in information technology or internet-related enterprises, as well as biomedicine, or even people wanting to set-up a local business (as the Government does much to encourage these start-ups to prosper). It's a great place for single people, young couples and families to move to, with great opportunities, quality of life and an open-mindedness that means everyone will feel more than welcome.