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Los Angeles vs. San Francisco: Which One Would you Choose to Live In?

By Amanda Curry · Jun 26, 2016 · Real Estate

Los Angeles vs. San Francisco: Which One Would you Choose to Live In?

Image courtesy of Google, Splitshire

Although San Francisco and Los Angeles share the same state, they are extremely different in terms of weather and nature, and cost of living.

We're sure that you've heard this classic debate many times before. Which one's better: Los Angeles or San Francisco? Both of these west coast cities have their perks and disadvantages, so it can be very difficult to choose a place to settle down. If you are considering moving to either of these major metropolitan areas anytime soon, we've created a resource to help make the decision process a little easier.

Cost of Living

While both areas are pretty pricey, in order to maintain your standard of living, you'll need to earn a whopping 29% more in San Francisco than in Los Angeles. That means if you earn $50,000 in Los Angeles, you'll need to earn $64,598 in San Francisco in order to have the same quality of life. In fact, San Francisco consistently ranks as one of the top 5 most expensive cities in America.

Housing Costs

Housing costs account for the biggest discrepancy between the two major cities. In general, housing in San Francisco will cost 57% more than in Los Angeles. For example, a median home (3 bedroom, 2 bathroom) in Los Angeles will run you around $575,000, however, in San Francisco, the price jumps quickly to $880,000.

Related: How much House Can I Afford?

So why are San Francisco's homes so unaffordable? After the economy recovered from the Great Recession in 2009, San Francisco created 500,000 new jobs, with most involving technology or politics. These new positions commanded big salaries. At the same time, the Great Recession and housing crash produced a plunge in home building activity. Therefore, a half million new jobs and almost no expansion in housing inventory resulted in an imbalance, driving up housing costs and making it difficult to find a place to live.

Food and Entertainment

Other big cost of living factors, such as food and entertainment, are also a bit more expensive in San Francisco. Nerd Wallet estimates that food and entertainment costs are 17% and 14% more respectively in San Francisco than in Los Angeles.

The Winner :

Los Angeles. If you can't stomach a higher percentage of your overall budget going towards housing costs, stick with settling down in Los Angeles.

Climate and Nature

Although San Francisco and Los Angeles share the same state, they are extremely different in terms of weather and nature, which can play a part in the type of activities you can enjoy.

Los Angeles, located in southern California, is known for its sunshine and beaches. In fact, LA has over 300 days of sunshine a year. The sunny coastal city is great for anyone who enjoys the beach and hot weather. Rarely does it tip lower than 50 degrees in the winter and residents in SoCal will enjoy 70 degree days year-round, making it an excellent climate for surfing, sand, and fun. Additionally, there are measurably less rainy days in a year in LA versus San Francisco (35 vs. 73).

On the other hand, residents in San Francisco will enjoy mild temperatures year-round, with dry warm summers and mild winters. San Francisco is also known for its dense fog, although the fog can make for some scenic sights at the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz or Fisherman's Wharf.

Although Los Angeles has wonderful beaches, San Francisco gets points for big nature. The Redwood Forest, beautiful rolling hills, valleys, mountains, and open spaces, makes it an excellent area to go hiking.

The Winner :

If you love the beach and sweltering heat, Los Angeles will be your best bet. However, if you think that you'll miss the seasons or love big nature, San Francisco wins.

Traffic, Public Transportation, and Walkability

The traffic and public transportation availability varies from these two major metropolitans, however, no matter which city you choose, the traffic will be heavy no matter where you go. In fact, a study confirmed that Los Angeles has the worst traffic in the nation, while San Francisco wasn't far behind in the #3 spot.

The two cities vary when it comes to methods of transportation. In fact, a recent article published by the Los Angeles Times notes that LA is widely car dependent, while San Franciscans are choosing other sustainable transportation options such as walking, biking, and taxiing:

''Travel surveys by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency have shown that more than half of all trips - 54% in 2013 and 52% in 2012 - involved public transit, walking, bicycles and various car-share or ride-share operations such as Uber and Lyft.''

Tom Maguire, Director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Sustainable Streets program credits the shift to recent improvements. The program has been trying to make walking, cycling, transit and ride-sharing more attractive so people will choose to get around that way.

Los Angeles may be a more car dependent community because the city is spread out nearly 10 times the area of San Francisco. In fact, ''[Los Angeles'] population density of 8,100 people per square mile is less than half that of the Bay Area city.''

In addition to public transportation being more accessible and widely used across socioeconomic classes in San Francisco, the city is much more walkable than Los Angeles. San Francisco has a dominant commercial and residential core, as well as many walkable neighborhoods. Just remember you'll be hiking up hills for your entire commute.

The Winner :

San Francisco. We give kudos to San Francisco for having a well-established public transportation system. Plus, Los Angeles has some of the worst grid-lock traffic in the United States.

Job Market & Opportunities

If you are looking for a job, which is prompting you to move to a new city, you may want to start your search in San Francisco. San Francisco's economy is in a state of perpetual growth. Most notably, the tech sector and restaurant industry have been booming in recent years and there is a wide range of big time employers who are in search of workers throughout the entire city.

Indeed ranked the 50 most populous metro areas by job postings per capita and found that San Francisco offers 36 openings per thousand people, while Los Angeles has 25 job openings per thousand people. San Francisco also has a lower unemployment rate, indicating better career opportunities and economic growth ( 3.4% vs 6% in LA ).

Interestingly enough, the number one place to find a job in the United States, according to Indeed, is San Jose, CA, located right by San Francisco. San Jose offers 70 job openings per thousand people. So, if you are willing to commute, you may have the best opportunity of finding a job up in Northern California.

The Winner :

San Francisco has more job openings per thousand people, making it a good place to start looking if you are on the prowl for a new opportunity.

The Bottom Line

As with any other major life decision, there are going to be advantages and disadvantages. That's why, it is important to take this information with a grain of salt. Just take into consideration your own likes and dislikes before making a major life decision about your residential status.

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