When it comes to California, two cities always come to mind: Los Angeles and San Francisco. Both of these cities have their unique vibe, culture, and atmosphere. But if you’re planning to move or visit either of these cities, which one should you choose?
In this guide, I’ll compare Los Angeles and San Francisco on various factors, including the cost of living, weather, crime rate, and more, to help you make an informed decision.
LOS ANGELES VS SAN FRANCISCO: AN OVERVIEW
Los Angeles, is the biggest city in Southern California. It’s the second-most populous city in the United States, after New York City at just under 4 million residents.
LA is known for its mild climate, movie industry, and palm-fringed beaches. San Francisco, on the other hand, is a hilly city with a population of under 1 million people in Northern California. It’s known for the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and its thriving tech industry.
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Los Angeles vs San Francisco: Cost of Living
Both Los Angeles and San Francisco are among the most expensive cities to live in the United States. According to Rent Cafe, the cost of living in Los Angeles is around 51% higher than the national average, but only 8% higher than the rest of the state.
While in San Francisco, it’s around 79% higher than the national average and 28% higher than the rest of the state.
The cost of housing in San Francisco is very high, with the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center being around $3,500 per month, according to Numbeo. While in Los Angeles, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is around $2,600 per month.
Los Angeles vs San Francisco: Median Income
The median household income in Los Angeles is around $72,000 per year, while in San Francisco, it’s around $120,000 per year. The top industries in San Francisco include technology, finance, and tourism, while in Los Angeles, the top industries include entertainment, aerospace, and tourism.
Being one of the most expensive cities in the country has its consequences and that looks like a higher number to qualify as having a middle-class income. San Francisco’s middle income range is from approximately $82,000 to $220,000.
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Though the LA Times did map out the median income of neighborhoods across the Los Angeles area and in less affordable areas such as Bel Air and Hidden Hills the median income was a bit closer coming in at just over $200,000.
The up-and-coming area of Elysian Valley, more commonly known as Frogtown, has a median income of just under $50,000.
Los Angeles vs San Francisco: Taxes
In Los Angeles, the sales tax rate is around 9.5%, while in San Francisco, it’s around 8.6%. Other taxes that residents of these cities may have to pay include property tax, income tax, and business tax. Throughout California, gasoline is taxed at a higher rate, which is why California is so expensive.
Los Angeles vs San Francisco: Crime
Both Los Angeles and San Francisco have higher crime rates compared to the national average. USA Today did a report in March of 2023 stating that overall crime in Los Angeles had increased by 11% in 2022.
In San Francisco, property crime and theft are the most common crimes, while in Los Angeles, it’s violent crimes. Homelessness has also become a major issue in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, which may affect safety in some areas.
Los Angeles vs San Francisco: Weather
Los Angeles is known for its warm Mediterranean climate, with average temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. San Francisco has a more temperate climate, with cooler temperatures.
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The average temperature in San Francisco ranges from 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. San Francisco also has more fog, especially in the summer where the dense fog has earned the nickname “June Gloom” and precipitation is more frequent when compared to Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES VS SAN FRANCISCO: THINGS TO DO
Both Los Angeles and San Francisco offer plenty of cultural and entertainment options. In Los Angeles, some popular attractions include the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, and the Getty Center. In San Francisco, popular attractions include Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate Park, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Los Angeles vs San Francisco: Outdoor Opportunities
Los Angeles has many outdoor opportunities, including beaches, hiking trails, and parks. Some popular outdoor attractions include Santa Monica Beach, Griffith Park, and Runyon Canyon. In San Francisco, some of the most popular outdoor attractions are Golden Gate Park, Lands End, and Baker Beach.
Los Angeles vs San Francisco: Population
Los Angeles is a much larger city compared to San Francisco, with a population of around 4 million compared to San Francisco’s population of around 880,000. Los Angeles is also a much more spread-out city compared to San Francisco, which is spread over a much smaller area and has a denser population.
Best Neighborhoods in Los Angeles and San Francisco
Best neighborhoods in Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, some of the best neighborhoods include Pacific Palisades, Beverly Crest, and Bel-Air.
- Pacific Palisades is known for its beautiful coastal location, upscale homes, and natural beauty.
- Beverly Crest, in the hills above Beverly Hills, is known for its expansive views of the Los Angels basin. The area is also a popular spot for shopping and dining.
- The Bel-Air neighborhood is famous for its exclusivity, luxury as well as privacy for the many celebrities who live here and the area offers easy access to the beach.
Best neighborhoods in San Francisco
The best neighborhoods in San Francisco are Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, and the Mission District. Nob Hill is a historic neighborhood famous steep hills.
- Pacific Heights is known for its colorful and lovingly preserved Victorian homes and charming streets. Grand and ornate homes compete with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay.
- Lafayette Park offers residents and visitors a chance to enjoy the outdoors on a mild and sunny day. You can also enjoy shopping along Fillmore Street.
- The Mission District is known for its diverse culture, eclectic art scene, and delicious food. The area is characterized by its colorful murals, street art, and several beautiful parks, including Dolores Park which offers amazing views of the city.
Home to many artists and musicians, it should be no surprise that it is also home to culinary artists. The Mission is known for its thriving food scene, with a variety of restaurants offering all srts of food.
PROS OF LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO
Pros of living in San Francisco include a diverse range of restaurants, plenty of recreational opportunities, a walkable city, and while tech may set the Bay Area apart there is a thriving job market in other industries as well.
- World-renowned beautiful urban green spaces such as Golden Gate Park
- Numerous opportunities to enjoy a wide range of diverse dining options
- A very walkable city with solid public transportation options
- Finance, marketing, transportation, and tourism are all thriving industries in this city
CONS OF LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO
Cons include a high cost of living, rising homelessness, and issues with theft and car break-ins. The weather can also sometimes have a negative impact on people as it can get windy and foggy during summer.
- One of the most expensive cities in the country
- Homelessness is an ongoing concern
- Car damage and break-ins are a concern
- Weather in the summer especially can be a bit colder and foggier than many other cities
PROS OF LIVING IN LOS ANGELES
Pros of living in Los Angeles include a diverse range of cultural attractions, plenty of outdoor opportunities, and a thriving job market in industries beyond entertainment, including aerospace and more.
- The entertainment options in Los Angeles are endless in a city known for making stars shine
- Plenty of outdoor activities
- Wages are very competitive in a wide range of fields
- The employment in the area is excitingly diverse including Biotech, Robotics, and export-oriented industries
CONS OF LIVING IN LOS ANGELES
But anyone who has been surrounded by traffic on the 405 at 2 AM knows, there are a few cons. They include a high cost of living, heavy traffic (yes, even during non-commute times), and air pollution.
- Heavy traffic seems a constant complaint
- Air quality is poor due to smog
- The cost of living is one of the highest in the country
- Homelessness and drug abuse is a growing concern
What’s the Main Difference Between Los Angeles and San Francisco?
The main difference between Los Angeles and San Francisco is their atmosphere and culture. Los Angeles has a more laid-back vibe with a focus on entertainment and recreation, while San Francisco has a more tech-focused and innovative culture.
Los Angeles is also a more sprawling city with a warmer climate, while San Francisco is more densely compact and has a cooler climate and is located near some of the best cities in Central California.
Another key difference is the availability of public transportation. Los Angeles has notoriously struggled with this issue in the past as it seems everyone truly drives themselves here.
But the city is getting better. Los Angeles currently has 200 bus lines but only two subway lines. San Francisco on the other hand has city buses, cable cars, street cars, and BART trains, along with ferries to keep its residents connected to all parts of the Bay Area and beyond.
HOW TO GET FROM LOS ANGELES TO SAN FRANCISCO?
The distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco is around 382 miles. One of the most popular ways to travel between these two cities is by car, which takes around 6 hours without traffic. Another option is to take a flight, which takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes. The train is also an option, with the Amtrak Coast Starlight offering a scenic route combined with a short bus ride between the two cities.
LOS ANEGELS VS SAN FRANCISCO: FAQ’S
What City is Better: Los Angeles or San Francisco?
The answer to this question depends on personal preferences and priorities. Both cities offer plenty of cultural and entertainment options, as well as job opportunities. Los Angeles has a more laid-back vibe and a warmer climate, while San Francisco has a more innovative and tech-focused culture and a cooler climate.
Is Los Angeles More Expensive Than San Francisco?
San Francisco is generally more expensive than Los Angeles due to its high housing costs.
What City is Bigger, Los Angeles or San Francisco?
Los Angeles is a much larger city compared to San Francisco, both in terms of area and population.
LOS ANGELES VS SAN FRANCISCO: FINAL WORD
Los Angeles and San Francisco are amazing cities with their unique charm and atmosphere. Ultimately, the decision of which city to choose comes down to personal preferences and priorities. Whether you prefer a more laid-back lifestyle or a business-focused culture, both cities offer plenty of opportunities for growth and exploration.
This post was contributed by Michelle Muncy-Silva, of Travel with Intention, an intentional travel planning resource that’s all about empowering independent spirits to curate their unique adventures.