Are you dreaming of snowless winters, gorgeous weather, and beach adventures? Moving to San Francisco from Chicago offers all that and much more! Maybe you’re tired of shoveling snow, being stuck indoors, or not being able to enjoy a more laidback lifestyle. From unique business opportunities and cultural interests to year-round outdoor fun and diverse social scene, it’s easy to see why so many people are happy to leave the Windy City for the City by the Bay.
Although SF isn’t exactly a cheap place to live, it makes up for the higher cost with a dream list of amenities, features, and distinctive experiences. Here’s your guide to making the long interstate relocation from CHI to SF as smooth as possible.
What to Know About Moving from Chicago to San Francisco
Are you excited about leaving behind the Midwest for sunnier horizons in the Bay Area? Before you start moving from Chicago to San Francisco, take a look at the following guide for a seamless transition.
San Francisco is among the cities with the highest taxes in the United States. Combine state sales tax (7.25%) and local sales tax (1.25%), and you get a total sales tax rate of 8.5%. This is, however, lower than Chicago’s (6.25% state sales tax + 4% local sales tax = 10.25%). Brace yourself for the total top income tax rate – it’s 13.3%. This rate is quite a jump from Chi-Town’s much lower total income tax rate of 4.95%. As for property taxes, San Francisco has an average county tax rate of 0.649%, while Chicago has a much higher average rate of 2.117%.
Economy and Job Growth
Claiming the #1 spot among US cities with booming economies, San Francisco is a powerhouse. The Bay Area city commands a per capita GDP of almost $90,300, along with an average weekly wage of nearly $2,000. The local economy mainly revolves around tech – it’s in super close proximity to Silicon Valley – along with healthcare, tourism, finance, and education.
At the beginning of 2020, SF had one of the lowest unemployment rates at 2.4%. Chicago had an unemployment rate of 4.4% (compared to the US average of 3.9%). When looking at projected job growth, there’s a marked difference. SF is predicted to see a future rate of 39.1%, whereas CHI is expected to see a dismal 25.7% over the next ten years.
If you need a hand with finding work in San Francisco, the Department of Human Resources (SFDHR) provides an excellent resource for SF job seekers looking for city and county work. Searching for tech or startup positions? Built in San Francisco is a great first stop.
Weather and Climate
The weather alone is a significant reason people ditch Illinois for the sunny horizons of this Golden State city. Known for its fog, the City by the Bay offers temperate (but sometimes chilly) year-round weather, along with mild winters. It gets about 25 inches of rain and 259 days of sunshine (as opposed to only 189 days in Chicago). And yes, there’s no snow! Pro tip: try to carry an extra layer of clothing or jacket. The wind can get pretty cold. Average temps hover between the 50s and 70s for most of the year, so if you can’t stand extreme heat or cold, SF is definitely a great choice!
Chicago does sit along the shores of a large body of water (Lake Michigan), but that’s where the geographical similarities pretty much stop. Located along the coast of northern California, San Francisco sits on the tip of a peninsula. The iconic city is surrounded on three sides by the Golden State Strait, San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. Whereas Chicago sits on a relatively flat glacial plain, SF is quite hilly (which has led to the city’s famously steep and twisting streets). Essentially, if you’re a mountain goat, you’d be at home here! Regardless, San Francisco is a stunning city.
Housing and Cost of Living
You might want to brace yourself for this section. It’s no secret that SF is super expensive. But how exactly how costly is it? Currently, the cost of living in San Francisco is 269.3. Yikes! For comparison, the national average is only 100. As for Chicago, the cost of living index is 106.9.
Next, let’s take a look at median housing prices in SF. The median list price is currently… wait for it… $1.31 million! Rent is also way up there, with a median monthly cost of $4,500. Chicago, on the other hand, has a median list price of only $329,000 (with a median rent price of $1,761). Now, if you’ve been contemplating living here for some time, you probably are reasonably prepared for the steep expense of living in one of the greatest cities on the planet. If not, well, now you know.
As the sole public school district in the city, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) serves over 57,000 students as the seventh-largest school district in California. The district is home to several acclaimed high schools – Lowell High School, for instance, is ranked #5 in CA and #68 in the nation – that are among the Top 5% of public schools in America.
As for the best colleges & universities in the SF area, there’s Stanford University (ranked #6 among the top national universities), UC San Francisco, California College of Arts, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Law School, San Francisco State University, and City College of San Francisco (one of the biggest community colleges in the US).
Culture, Diversity, and Demographics
With a population of nearly 3 million, Chicago is the third-largest city in America. By comparison, San Francisco seems tiny, with a population of just under 884,000. But what it lacks in size numbers, it makes up in cultural diversity. According to WalletHub, SF comes in at #15 among the most culturally diverse cities in the US. Chicago sits at the #40 spot.
As for race and ethnic demographics, San Francisco is 41.2% White, 14.7% Hispanic & Latino, 5.4% Black, 33.9% Asian, and 4.9% mixed & other. Chicago is 32.3% White, 30.9% Black, 28.7% Hispanic & Latino, 6.1% Asian, and 1.9% mixed & other.
Transportation and Traffic
If you want to live sans a car, San Francisco is the way to go. The city offers excellent public transit in the form of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (aka BART) and SF Muni (including light rail and the iconic cable cars).
Oh, and the city is super walkable. It receives an 87 walk score, 80 transit score, and 72 bike score. For comparison, Chicago gets a 77 walk score, 65 transit score, and 73 bike score. The City of San Francisco is also home to 50+ neighborhoods with walk scores in the 90s. Alamo Square, for example, scores a 97 walk score. Super impressive!
As for commute times, SF is the eighth slowest in the country with an average time of 33.3 minutes. However, Chicago is even slower with an average commute time of 35 minutes, making the Windy City the fourth slowest region in America.
When it comes to crime rates in San Francisco, the city currently has a violent crime index of 39.6 and a property crime rate of 79.2 (compared to the US average of 22.7 and 35.4, respectively). As for Chicago, it has a violent crime rate of 49.9 and a property crime rate of 46.3.
So, which are the safest neighborhoods in SF? South San Francisco (along with Sunset/Parkside in the west and Presidio in the northern part of SF) has the lowest crime rates in the city. Visit here to learn about the safety of your future SF neighborhood.
Best Neighborhoods in San Francisco
Here are the top areas to call home in the City by the Bay.
Home of the Painted Ladies, a row of famous Victorian homes facing the popular neighborhood park – you’ve most likely seen them in the classic television show, Full House – Alamo Square is a popular choice for tech professionals. Homes are expensive, but rentals are still relatively affordable. There’s also a host of fun bars and hip restaurants within walking distance. Learn more here.
Situated in the southwestern portion of the city, Balboa Terrace offers a quaint suburban experience with Mediterranean style homes. It is close to San Francisco State University and the City College of San Francisco, as well as several shops and restaurants on Ocean Avenue. Balboa Park is home to a skatepark, playground, pool, and soccer stadium. Get more info here.
This neighborhood sits in the northeastern part of SF. Very sunny and flat compared to other areas of the city, Dogpatch is about 50% residential and 50% industrial (with docks along the bay). If you don’t drive, this is a great neighborhood that offers easy access to Caltrain and the Muni T-Line. It also is home to many bars, art galleries, and bistros. Discover more about Dogpatch here.
Ideal for dog owners, you’ll find this quiet & cozy neighborhood north of the Castro District. Duboce Triangle is full of beautiful Victorian homes, as well as charming cafes and shops. If you’re into walking or jogging, Buena Vista Park and Corona Heights Park are super close. If you’d like to learn more, get additional information on Duboce Triangle here.
Formerly an industrial district, Mission Bay has been transformed into a popular hub for college students and single tech professionals. Offering a mix of residential and commercial, the UCSF Medical Center dominates the area and employs many locals. Residents live in an excellent selection of apartments, condos, and lofts. Find out more about this popular neighborhood here.
This amazingly scenic neighborhood offers gorgeous views of the San Francisco Bay. Known for the tourist-favorite Coit Tower (as well as its iconic feral parrots), Telegraph Hill provides access to phenomenal schools as well as a long list of lively bars, restaurants, and nightlife spots. It’s expensive here, but worth the price. Learn more about Telegraph Hill here.
Cost of Moving from Chicago to San Francisco
On average, it costs about $2,500-$3,000 to move from Chicago to San Francisco. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 2,127 miles across the country. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination zip codes, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best Chicago to San Francisco movers now!