San Francisco is one of the most beloved cities in the United States. If you ask people what their favorite city in the country is, there’s a one in three chance they’ll say San Fran, the other two being New York and Chicago. I don’t know if everyone has been brain washed by reruns of Full House or what but not liking San Francisco is more stigmatized than telling people you hate babies. Whenever I work up the courage to admit that in public, I’m always met with aghast faces or outright dismissals. “You don’t know what you’re talking about; San Francisco is amazing.”
Well, I happen to disagree. Sue me. My visit to the city started off on the wrong foot after my plane landed close to midnight. Since their public transportation system has essentially an early curfew, I had to take a $65 cab into the city. To add insult to injury, after specifically asking the cab driver whether he accepted credit cards, when we got to my hotel, he told me to take out cash across the street because he needed the money. That’s definitely not how I want to start any trip, arguing with a stranger at nearly 1 am over cab fare. But I wouldn’t fault an entire city for the actions of one person. The city has plenty of suck to go around. Here are the main reasons why I wasn’t impressed with San Francisco.
It’s not walkable
I blame the geography on this one. I like cities where I can get around by foot and take everything in. We stayed in a fairly central location and as such, when I looked up directions to the pier and saw that it was a mile and a half away, I was excited to take a nice stroll. The problem is that Google directions don’t account for incline. A mile and a half almost anywhere in the world is a pleasant walk. In San Francisco, it’s a death hike uphill, and when you’ve finally gotten up the top of the hill and you think it can only go downhill from there, you somehow end up continuing uphill in another direction. It’s exhausting and it’s not fun, especially after you’ve had a nice meal. You might as well sit down and digest for 3 hours before going anywhere. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were other ways to get around, like a good subway but…
The public transportation is horrible
The BART serves the entire Bay Area, so you can venture into Oakland and surrounding areas. You can also take the BART from the airport to a select few stations in San Francisco. You will likely still have to walk quite a way when you arrive at your destination stop. Unless you’re like me and you arrive after the midnight cut-off; then your only option is an expensive cab ride. To get around within San Francisco your best bet is the Muni. You know when you see stock footage of San Francisco in a movie or TV show, how they always show those cute little cable cars? That’s the Muni. They run the cable cars, buses, and light rails that you see all over the city. It’s a huge network of transportation and somehow it still manages to not get you anywhere you want to go, unless you really wanna get assaulted on 16th and Mission. The rails are slow, always off-schedule, and always packed. It’s an uncomfortable ride that makes you feel like just buying hiking boots and going it on foot.
It’s always foggy and cold
The weather in San Francisco is downright terrible. I love each of the seasons for different reasons. San Francisco doesn’t have any. It has the nastiest day of the year where it’s chilly and damp but not rainy, not snowy, and not clear all 365 days of the year. Everything is just a wet haze. One of the reasons I was really excited to go there was to see the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m a huge fan of bridges and the Golden Gate is the most iconic bridge in the country. In the entire time I was there, I didn’t see it once because it was always covered by a dense fog. To be honest, I can see why this is a popular spot to kill yourself. When you walk around at night, especially if you’re going uphill, you won’t see more than five feet in front of you so sometimes going out in SF is like being in a horror movie. Because of the humidity in the air, your hair and makeup are going to look like shit. This probably accounts for the fact that no one in the city really cares about how they look. Why would they?
It’s full of crazy homeless people
I have nothing against homeless people. But I have everything against a city that is so prohibitively expensive that it creates a very large homeless class. If I lived in San Francisco, I would probably live on the street, too. And I would be smelly and pissed off and crowding the Muni rail, so I sympathize. The problem is so common that San Fran actually has private bathrooms in the middle of the street to prevent the homeless from shitting all over their beautiful city. Though it has nice areas, many parts of the city are run-down and vandalized and more densely populated by the city’s homeless. If you take a Muni bus in the wrong direction, you just might end up there.
There is a line for everything
The one thing I won’t argue is that SF has world-class food and as the birthplace of Yelp, you can find out exactly where the best restaurants in the city are. The problem is so can everyone else. Every single meal we had in SF came with at least a 45 minute wait. And it’s not even the kind of wait where you can put your name down and they’ll call or text you when your food is ready so you can sit comfortably on a bench or go to a shop across the street. No, in San Francisco, you wait in line with 50 other people like you’re at a mess hall waiting for your ladle of slop. It’s super annoying and it happens for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And you know what? I don’t have time to wait in line for every meal of the day. After two or three days of that, I want to go to the first place that will treat me like a human being instead of a number in a line and give me a decent warm meal.
So I’m taking a stand. I don’t like San Francisco and I’m not sorry about it.
5 thoughts on “Why I hate San Francisco”
OMG! I was so happy when I found your story. My husband and I just came back from a four day visit from San Francisco just two days ago. It was months of planning for his birthday and we wanted it to be awesome since he was turning 40. After so much research and word of mouth of how wonderful San Francisco was, we chose to go there. We wish now that we had never gone and wasted all of our hard earned money. I agree with you entirely that San Francisco was horrible. We were shocked at how dirty and overrun with homeless people the city was. On our first day there we saw a man poo himself and shake it all out of his pant leg onto the sidewalk, and this was on Market St. We had to step over lovely pools of fresh urine constantly. And what we initially thought was dog poo an irresponsible dog owner left behind turned out to be human poo. Human poo on the sidewalks!!! We had planned on taking the public transportation, but it was so run down and downright scary looking that we used Uber everywhere despite the costs. The hills were horrible also. I don’t see how older tourists can make it in that city. It was too difficult and we’re both young and in decent shape. What looks to be such a short distance on a map was made impossible to walk because of the hills. And no it is not easy to walk downhill either. Everyday we would go back to our hotel and literally pass out because we were so tired from walking. And yes we were also tired from not only walking, but all the waiting we had to do just to eat. We spent a minimum of $50 each meal and they were in no way worth what we spent. We eventually got tired of walking and waiting for Uber so we rented a car. Then we had to deal with the nightmare of traffic, the crazy driving, and no parking! There weren’t any parking lots, and if there were be prepared to pay an insane amount just to park. All we did was walk, freak out with the filth and homeless crazy people, wait in lines, wait in traffic, and drive around in circles looking for parking. We couldn’t understand how a city with multi-million dollar homes and such a high cost of living could let their city be so dirty and a place where tourists would be afraid to walk around at night. And don’t even get me started on the countless number of needle drop boxes they had for their local drug users. I felt like we were tricked into going here by all the fancy advertisements and YouTube videos we watched. I really wish we could go back in time and pick another place to visit. The only good thing we liked about San Francisco was when we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to leave the city and go to Sausalito and Muir Woods. Other than the day we spent outside of the city, we did not like it at all. And we’re from San Antonio – a very big city – so don’t think we were scared off by being in a city. Nope! San Francisco is not what they claim it to be!
Haha I’m glad I was able to provide you some comfort that you are not the only one! Totally overrated. Even New York is less filthy. I actually didn’t get to go to Muir Woods on my trip so despite my distaste, I’d love to go back just to do that.
Ok, I know this article is a rant for you and that things didn’t work out exactly as planned for your visit, so I’ll try to not nitpick and attack too much here. But a lot of what you’ve stated doesn’t make sense (to me, at least), and instead suggests that you had preconceived notions of San Francisco was supposed to be like as not just a destination, but a “California” destination.
Not walkable? No way! Yeah, there are some big hills in San Francisco, but saying that the city is unworkable just because it has hills indicates that you aren’t in shape (no offense), or that you’re visiting from a automobile-based place that is flat or relatively flatter than San Francisco. I’ll admit, that when I first moved to San Francisco, it took some walking to get used to the hills and to get my legs in shape, but after a short while hills don’t phase you in the least. If the hills were that much of a hinderance for you, that sucks to hear, because that means you likely missed out on a lot. 🙁 Plus, the city is only 7 x 7 miles in area, making it totally conquerable when using even the slowest of natural independent travel methods to get around (on foot). Furthermore, if there is a big hill that you aren’t in the mood for, why not take the buss up that hill? Or hey – why not take a tunnel through that hill? I lived there for nearly 10 years, and in my time there, I very seriously contemplated getting rid of my car because I literally never used it. Ever. Just having the damn car was a pain. In my experience, the only place more walkable than SF is NYC.
Transportation? Well, I left SF a couple of years back, and in that time there has arrived a huge second wave of tech workers that have invaded the city. Since leaving, I have been back to visit, and I can say that everything feels much more crowded now, so maybe Muni under stress and over used. But, in my time in SF, I thought muni was great. Geographic coverage is excellent, and percentage wise the number good rides far outweighed the bad ones, easily. Sure, there were a couple of periods where service was bad (for one or two month stretches for who knows what), but overall, in my experience, Muni was top notch. Maybe you just experienced it during a bad period?
It’s always foggy and cold? Well, two things. 1) fog largely depends on what part of the city you live in. If you live West, in the Sunset or Sea Cliff or whatever, sure, lots of fog, but there are lots of places that comparatively get very little fog at all. Not to put words in your mouth or anything, but I can’t begin to tell you how many times I had friends visit, or came across vacationers who had never been to SF before, and they were taken aback how it wasn’t what the “Sunny California” they had pictured in their mines (“it’s too cold for my shorts! wtf?”, or “But… I didn’t bring a jacket… *sigh* I need to buy a jacket”). Again, I know you’re ranting here, but to also say that it isn’t clear 365 days of the year is silly. SF trumps Seattle, by gross margins in terms of clear days, and even Seattle has tons of clear days throughout the year (and I found my chapter in Seattle to be depressing and miserable, all because of what felt like incessantly grey weather… but hey, to each their own). I will say this: in all my years of living in San Francisco, I owned *1* pair of shorts, and I never wore them, ever. It was always jeans, and always hoodies, and my cap. Always.
It’s full of crazy homeless people? Well… er… yeah, it is. I won’t argue with you there. That mostly depends on where you are in the city though. Downtown and up and down Market? Yeah. Tons. SOMA? Yeah, they’re there. Upper Haight? Yeah. A lot. Other places? Eh, not really. Just to point out too, one of the big reasons that the homeless gravitate to San Francisco (and San Diego and LA too), is because of the weather. It’s forgiving. It does’t run you off. It’s never too hot and it’s never too cold. Plus, SF is an actual city. It’s a faster, bigger, denser, “bigger” crazier city. Denver? Sorry, not a “city”. Atlanta? Sorry, not a “city”. Dallas? not a “city”. I mean, sure, places like those are categorically cities, but they aren’t on tier with NYC, Chicago, or even SF for that matter (and SF is laughably tiny compared to Chicago or NYC). Homeless and big-city craziness come with fast-paced cities. But yeah, some of the homeless people are truly nuts. Like, scary-nuts. I could tell you stories, for days.
There’s a line for everything? Well, yeah. This is pretty true, especially these days with SF getting so damn crowded. But here’s the thing though: for every crowded place that everyone is flocking to see, there’s another place (or two others for that matter) that few know about that thusly isn’t crowded. One of the things that I found was great about SF is that it wasn’t so big that you felt that you felt lost in it, but it was big enough that there was constantly new stuff popping up all the time. It’s laden with neighborhoods, scenes, mini-villages, enclaves, commerce, etc. You just have to know where to go, and steer clear of the trendy, popular, fad-badge wearing “*I* eat brunch at blah blah blah place” masses.
It’s a lot to take in at first glance/visit, and a lot of the stuff that you see when you first go is just the surface. That’s how it was for me. I visited and was baffled / mystified / surprised. Then, when I moved there, I saw just how deep it really went, and how awesome it actually was, and how there was a whole other city underneath that was the real, legendary San Francisco that you’ve always heard about. I strongly recommend going back to give it another try! But go with- or meet up with- somebody who lives there that REALLY knows what’s going on! 🙂
Stop. San Francisco is a shit hole. The weather is bad, the people are rude, the women think they’re hot and they are not. The public transportation is a joke and the amount of homeless is ridiculous. The people obviously don’t care because they are doing nothing about it. And it is certainly the dirtiest American city I’ve been to. It made Paris look like Zurich.
Thanks for shitting on my city, Atlanta. I’ll take it (or even Detroit) for 7 days versus one in ultra-pretentious, expensive, tech-boy filled, hypocritical latte-sipping semi-leftist-but-not-really San Francisco. At least Atlanta has charm and friendlier people and is surrounded by forests, mountains, lakes and streams and has the country’s busiest airport (thus you can go where ever you want whenever you want) and Detroit is across from Canada so you can hop over the border when you’re ready. Atlanta also has more companies, more events and I remember them having the Olympics. When did San Francisco have that? Oh, never. Right.
If San Francisco got nuked, I wouldn’t bat an eye.
Who needs the Olympics when you can pay $400 to live in a wooden box in someone’s living room?
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