I spent yesterday morning and afternoon running around San Francisco with my friends David and Kim looking at apartments for rent. It was elluminating for me to learn about different neighborhoods, their varying amenities, deficits, and personalities. As a veteran of various hard-fought battles in New York to find the mythical "perfect apartment," I was ready for the worst in SF.
By contrast, it was largely a pleasant experience, strolling through charming neighborhoods and blocks, imagining what life might be like there, and exploring different abodes under the watchful eyes of the owners, brokers and current tenants. Everyone was polite and helpful, often honestly disclosing both he pros and cons of their pads. I guess I'm in California.
The most interesting and beautiful apartment we saw first was in Ashbury Heights, a small neighborhood on a tall hill just south of Haight-Ashbury. Getting there involved a complicated and long climb up a narrow road, until we ended up at a spectacular lookout on the rest of the city, called appropriately "Mount Olympus." Luckily we had a car, or I don't think we would have made it up there.
The apartment for rent we saw there was a $3,000 two-bedroom that offered stunning views of the city from every angle, modern fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom, ample space in every room, in a modern building.
But the prospect of tackling that hill on a daily basis seemed way to daunting to all of us. Can you imagine climbing all the way up with the groceries and realizing that you forgot to get eggs?
We descended back down to the land of mortals and proceeded to visit a dozen other apartments. For now, my top neighborhoods that I'd like to live in are, in no particular order:
All of these nabes seem to offer accessible services, good food, ample public transportation and charm and character. The Mission is a bit grungier than the rest, particularly around Mission Street itself. Noe Valley is a bit further out than the others. Mission Dolores has a beautiful park in the middle of it that looks awesome for chilling with friends on a sunny day. The Castro is completely fabulous with a huge gay population.
I think I'd be happy in all of these hoods, at least as my first experience of living in the city. While there are cheaper rents and bigger apartments further afield in neighborhoods that offer their own attractions, I think as my first foray into SF living, these might do nicely. Now I just need to settle on a place!
Special thanks to David and Kim for being rockstar apartment hunters, sifting through the craigslist listings like pros. They turned me on to this awesome Padmapper iPhone app that combines Craiglist info and Google maps to help your find the right apartments in the right locations that much faster. Plus they have much more knowledge about the different areas that they happily shared with me. I think I would have spent weeks to see all the killer places that we saw together in a few hours.