Planning to raise a family in SF?

Juan Carlos Sanchez's picture

As a 28 year old, I am curious to hear from others whether they plan to raise a family in the city or not. Or, if you are raising a family in the city, what role did housing play in your decision? Thanks!

Zaquex's picture


Most family find that Richmond or Sunset has the best family oriented districts. Of course, if you are looking for affordability, then you're best bet would be District 10. The houses there are primarily owner-occupied. Just do not even try to look into Bayside, Ingleside, and Hunters Point--far too dangerous.

webdog's picture

Some good data in SF City Survey

Check out Chapter 7: Children, Youth and Families in the 2009 San Francisco City Survey.

Here's the link



In 2009, families with children under 18 years of age show less inclination to leave the City than in years prior and appear to be making use of a variety of support services for their children. Specific findings include the following:

  • • Parents with older children are more likely to remain in the City than others, while parents of younger children are less likely to remain. 
  • • Parents are making use of children’s programs at an increasing rate. While there has been a substantial decline in the use of childcare programs for children under age 6, use of after-school programs, youth employment/career development services and counseling have all increased by a margin of 3 to 5 percent. 
  • • Although the overall number of parents who send their child to a San Francisco school has declined, parents who do send their children to San Francisco schools, public or private, provide positive evaluations of their schools’ performance. 

San Francisco Families Are Now No More Likely To Leave Than Others

In contrast to the 2007 survey results, larger households and families with children no longer stand out as more likely to leave the City. Families with children under 6 years of age are the only exception to this trend and are more likely to report an intention to leave than are those with older children. The percentage of parents with young children considering a move has increased from 36 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in 2009 – though it remains lower than the 45 percent reported in 2005. Notably, parents with older children say they are more likely to remain in the City. 



DonRoss's picture

Excelsior Kids

As a new parent, we chose and plan on staying in SF. We were fortunate to work hard and save our money and buy a home in the Excelsior which is the are of the city with the highest rate of owner-occupied homes, and not surprisingly, the second highest rate of children after the Bayview/Hunter's Point. Being able to own our home played a major factor in wanting to raise our family in SF.

It is sad that our policy planners always talk about creating only market rate or extremely subsidized housing, when many of those folks in the middle need an affordable option as well. I think the need for more workforce housing is becoming more and more necessary every day, otherwise we will truly be a City for only the very wealthy or the very poor.

ConnorO'Gara's picture

I'm hoping to!

I just got married and bought a flat in Russian Hill--My wife and i have discussed to option of raising a family here and really hope to.  I grew up in the sunset & learned just as much from the city streets as I did from the classroom.  Unfortunately, unless we can afford to send our (hypothetical) children to private school, we will likely move out to the burbs. 

I would want my kid to have every advantage I had growing up & I don't think city schools in general can provide an equal opportunity to explore and discover as the privates do.  Of course there are a few very good public schools in SF, but if my kid has my brains, he/she has a long shot chance of getting in :)

goodmaab50's picture

Family Housing - "Parkmerced"

Parkmerced represented the best situation for renter's and affordable housing. It had large areas, shared by tenants, ammenities, adjacency to transit and lots of open-space. This development represented one of the most dense neighborhoods in San Francisco, and provided generations of working class families a place to live in SF. The impacts of SFSU-CSU as an institution have not been accounted for in the MOU's negotiated (Memorandum's of Understanding) between the city and CSU. The institutional growth impacts should be re-assessed per "City of Marina vs. CSU" and proper fees and restrictions on the campus development to include densifying on there prior existing boundaries, along with contributing to the transit and housing mess they have wrought in district 7.

Parkmerced's units are the largest family sized units in the city, and should be retained as family housing stock, along with new infill, and placing a public school back on the former Frederick Burke Elementary site (the SFUSD tried to sell it off as surplus).



JoshuaJames's picture

Education, an interesting point

I think you bring up an interesting and very practical point with education.  Availability and affordability of housing for young families is certainly an issues, but with competitions so tight over the city's top public schools, the cost of private education really has to be taken into account. 

It seems the face-off a lot of parents are facing is living in the city vs. good education for their children.  I wonder how many families would stay in the city if ALL the schools were top schools?

Zaquex's picture

Cost of Raising a Family

The cost of raising a child looks like it is "$369,360 per child." Ouch. I can only imagine what that must cost in San Francisco, where families do not have the benefit of good public school (and look toward privates) or do not have many large warehouse stores to buy in bulk.

I am not advocating for big business, but hoping to find ways to make raising a family cheaper. Any help?

ExcelsiorMom's picture

I've got a kid

As my username indicates, I am a mom and raising my child here in San Francisco.  I was born in the City and hope to raise my child here as well.  The cost of housing of course entered into the equation, but I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.  I'm a city person and just couldn't stomach moving too far into the suburbs -- and the inner ring suburbs around SF (north peninsula) aren't exactly that much more affordable either).  The real factor that may change whether I ultimately stay in SF or not is education, however.  As long as I'm able to put my child in a good, affordable school and that I don't feel I'm sacrificing my child's educational opportunities, we'll stay.

Phil Ting's picture

Housing and Schools

Housing and schools are the two biggest deciding factors for many of my friends as they decide to stay in the city.  Ten years ago, most of my friends were living in the City.  As they got married and had children, almost all of them have left.  While some left for the creature comforts of suburbia, many left because they could not afford a home or at least a home larger than a 500 sf studio apt.  Others left because they did not want to pay for private school and did not want to subject their family to the school lottery.  One family I know left last year after their twins both went 0 for 7, so they relocated to Piedmont during the summer.  SFUSD just changed the enrollment process which I would hope will encourage more families to stay in SF.  Moving back towards geographic boundaries will at least create certainty for all families.  While it doesn't create better schools, it at least takes away the anxiety of the application process.  To learn more go to  In terms of housing, we need to build more family housing.  Almost all the new housing stock is studios, one and two bedroom units.  Most families are unwilling to live in a two bed unit if they can afford it, so we need to create incentives to build three bedroom and possibly four bedroom units.

bobbyh's picture

Middle income/family housing

I think DonRoss's comment about building more family/middle income housing hits the nail on the head.  I posted the following in another thread about housing prices and think it is relevant here as well because families are often the middle income folks trying to find a suitable home in San Francisco.  And I would add that Phil's personal experience watching families leave the City is very real and documented in the demographic data which shows an influx of people in their low 20's moving into the City and a mass exodus of people leaving the City in their low 30's (when they have children):

The problem lies in the City's policy on housing.  There are strict requirements for providing "affordable housing" units that developers must include in their mix when bringing new units to market.  Unfortunately, that housing is not for the middle class and is limited to people earning some % of the median area income (I have seen them mostly at 50% of median income).  As the San Francisco median income is $89,450 for a three-person household, that's less than $45,000 of income for a 3 person household in order to qualify.  Now that's great that we provide housing for those folks who are struggling, but what about the middle class?  Why don't we have middle income housing requirements?  

What we have now is a system where the low income folks have a policy to help them get housing, the rich have a wide array of options to consider, but those of us in the middle are pretty much excluded from the market!  In fact, the low income housing requirements actually make it worse for the middle class because developers just increase the price of the market rate units to make up for the low income units--making affordable middle class housing that much more out of reach. 

We need to have a new City policy on the middle class here in San Francisco and I think it starts with "middle income housing" requirements.  One idea is to split the current affordable housing requirements between low income and middle income criteria.  Whatever it is, we need to make a change soon because middle class households are fleeing the City fast.

DonRoss's picture

Workforce/Middle Income Housing

One of the saddest truths about this City is that it is not creating housing for those working/middle class families in the middle. We are truly becoming a City of two extremes. In the Excelsior and the Sunset, and the Bayview for example, you have some of the highest rates of owner-occupied homes, and many working/middle class families. Many of these families inherited their homes from their parents/families and live in the City at a more affordable rate.

This concentration of working/middle class families would not be able to live in the City otherwise.

San Francisco, needs to state a policy that will build and allow more developers to build more workforce housing. This housing could target teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, cityworkers doing trades etc.

We need these families to remain to keep a healthy balance in our City and the next Mayor and Board should make this one of their top priorities.

bobbyh's picture

Disappearing Middle Class

An interesting article from SFGate discusses how, and why, the middle class is disappearing.  What many on here have said about housing being a major issue is echoed in this piece:

I found this particular paragraph most pertinent to this discussion:

The Middle Class Destroyer
So what is causing the middle class, as measured by lifestyle, to vanish? If you're thinking it has something to do with housing, you'd be right. With so many people seeking to join the middle class, demand for housing increased, causing the price of houses to shoot up in value - especially with the help of banks, subprime lending and government initiatives of housing for all. This, in part, is how the real estate bubble formed. This spike in one of the basic components of middle class lifestyle meant more debt, more home-related spending and less saving than any time before.
Phil Ting's picture

Family Housing

Bungalow homes in the Sunset and Richmond were first built for working and middle class families in San Francisco.  Today, they are worth $600K to $800K, hardly a price middle class families can afford.  We need to building 2 to 3 bedroom homes which can be purchased for $500K - still a steep price for most, in order to stop the slide of families and middle class people leaving San Francisco.  How is this done?

We can create incentives to encourage developers to build these units.  Incentives could be density bonuses or faster permits to name two.  What do you think?  How can we do this?  Or do all middle class families have to live in Contra Costa and Solano Counties?

catherinejanem's picture

I think that the cost of

I think that the cost of housing is a real concern for families here, emphasized by the problems with our public schools.  I hear concerns from some friends who don't want to send their children to public schools in the city, but can't afford private schools with the cost of housing.

catherinejanem's picture

Housing vs Private Schools in SF

Here's  a great article re affording housing and education in SF:

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137