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About San Francisco

It's an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world. Oscar Wilde

Is there a more beautiful city than San Francisco? Probably not. We sit, squeezed into a green thumb of hills that roll (sometimes literally) to the Pacific Ocean at the west, the Bay at the east and to the north, the fabled vineyards of Napa and Sonoma. For those of us lucky enough to live here, San Francisco is as beautiful and vital a city as can be found anywhere in the world.

We have the views of Sydney, the hills of Rome, the arts of New York (well, not quite!), the outdoor variety of Denver, and a culinary superiority that makes San Francisco the choice of Bon Appetit readers for best food city year after year. San Francisco lies stunningly arrayed on and between eleven hills: Nob, Russian, Telegraph, Pacific Heights, Ashbury, Diamond, Potrero and Bernal, to name a few, with wonderful views from each. But San Francisco has always been much, much more than beautiful.

From the Gold Rush 150 years ago, its promise drew those willing to foresake the familiar and begin anew. It still does. Here, those from Europe and Asia, as well as from every state in the Union, have blended ethnic and cultural threads into a colorful tapestry. The persistent willingness of its citizens to reinvent themselves has vested the city with incredible energy, diversity, sophistication and intellectual ferment that is part of everyday life in the Bay Area.

A city of neighborhoods, San Francisco proudly displays its distinctly local character in myriad markets and restaurants. Virtually every neighborhood boasts at least one excellent shopping area, each with its own merchants and artisans. Weather, too, can vary from one district to another. The city's microclimates sometimes put cold summer fog in the western neighborhoods and warm sunshine in the east -- both at the same time. Generally moderate, the city's mild temperatures make air conditioners and snow shovels equally unnecessary. Rain, rarely more than 20 inches annually, falls between November and March, leaving the rest of the year nearly perfect.

San Francisco is justifiably celebrated for its residential architecture (see Architecture). No other American city has so many surviving nineteenth-century Victorians, many in distinctly vernacular styles, many lovingly restored and preserved. In the twentieth century, a revival of English and Southern European period styles combined to give local building design an appearance all its own.

Gastronomically, too, San Francisco's mixture is equally exciting. Few cities know and love good food as much as ours. Decades ago, cultural multiplicity, proximity to some of the nation's richest farmland, the bounty of the Pacific, and Ms. Alice Waters, gave rise to a food revolution that changed the way all America eats. Today, with arguably more restaurants per capita than anywhere else, San Franciscans have a staggeringly varied menu to choose from (see Ian's List).

Cultural diversity has also yielded a vibrant stew in the world of the visual and performing arts with first-class dance, music, and cinematic offerings on a daily basis. There also may be more art galleries and studios here per capita than anywhere else. Spectacular parks, beaches, marinas, coastal and inland trails offer enormous variety to outdoor enthusiasts of all sports.

So, while no one place can promise happiness, San Francisco certainly offers up more of its component parts than any other place I know in America.


Neighborhoods, Parks, and Properties: See the city and your house in detail. This map offers demographic details about neighborhoods, such as education, income, and so on.

Crime Map: SF Police Crime map.

Topography: Bay Area relief map.

LandSat 7: The Bay Area from 430 miles up.

Geologic Maps

Seismic Maps: Unstable areas.


Rainfall/Temperature Chart


About Schools: An introduction to schools in San Francisco


About Nannies: Finding a nanny in San Francisco


SF Public Library History Center: An important research library with an enormous collection of vintage photos and documents. Helpful staff and an excellent website. See Sfpl4.sfpl.org/sfhistory

California Historical Society: A state-wide membership supported organization, dating from the 1880's, with a collection of nearly half a million photographs, a substantial art collection, and an important research library. Good lectures, exhibits, and an excellent resource for researching the history of your house. See Californiahistoricalsociety.org

San Francisco Historical Society and Museum: The SF Historical Society recently merged with the Museum of the City of SF, located at Pier 45. Excellent lectures, walks, a fun museum, and a good website. Publishes a beautiful journal, the Argonaut. See SFhistory.org

Also see the organizations listed under Historic Preservation.

Useful Links

Ian's List: The best of the best in San Francisco.

The SF Chronicle: The online version of our major newspaper. Great for retrieving past articles, movie schedules, etc. See SFGate.com

SF Government: An extremely useful site with virtually all of city government accessible. Includes supervisors, departments, commissions, agencies, codes, hearing agendas, and much more. See SFGov.org

Other Links

Visit andreas.com for more about the web, hayesstreetgrill.com for a great restaurant, stephaniecota.com for web development, writeraspublisher.com for self-publishing, and clogwild.com for Swedish clogs.
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