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Views from a 100 Van Ness apartment in San Francisco’s Civic Center neighborhood.

Introduction and neighborhood guides by Katie Morell

San Francisco’s rolling hills, Bay views, beaches and cosmopolitan feel make it an aspirational place to live. Those looking to live in San Francisco — home to more than 700,000 residents — have a wide variety of options, from historic Victorian homes to ultramodern high rises.

The City by the Bay is going through a renaissance of late, with a variety of tech-centric businesses opening up within its borders. These companies are attracting an influx of residents, all looking for the best the city has to offer. As such, construction is underway on housing units in a variety of neighborhoods.

We spent more than 25 hours conducting extensive research on San Francisco’s apartments, neighborhoods and residential options. We looked at more than 75 apartment complexes in the San Francisco area, categorizing them by location and comparing them with a set list of criteria. Besides basic information such as year constructed, number of units and average rent prices, we factored in community amenities such as outdoor spaces and fitness facilities.

We delved into the interior design, looking for features such as hardwood flooring, stainless steel appliances, balconies and other modern features. We also placed strong consideration on Walk Scores and accessibility to their respective neighborhoods, all to make confident decisions to determine the best of the best.

From the hip Mission District to Fisherman’s Wharf with its awe-inspiring views, we explored eight of the most popular San Francisco neighborhoods. Regardless of your reason to move west, we hope this apartment guide helps steer you to your next perfect home.

Neighborhoods Covered in This Guide to San Francisco Apartments:

Mission District

Known simply as “the Mission,” San Francisco’s Mission District is a thriving, multicultural hodgepodge of artists, musicians, fashion designers, tech founders and everyone in between. It is revered as one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and gets its name from Mission San Francisco de Asis (or simply Mission Dolores), one of a string of seven missions built in the 1700s along California’s coast.

Today the area is lively at all hours of the day, buzzing with children playing in Dolores Park and rich venture capitalists wearing hoodies and making million-dollar deals on their smartphones.

It is one of the hottest places to live in San Francisco, and apartments are hard to come by. Rents have increased quite a bit here over the past five years, thanks to the influx of tech money (case in point: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg just built a house here, and already home prices are skyrocketing).

Things To Do

Visitors to the Mission can find things to do at all hours of the day, from singing at a karaoke bar and going to an art class in a gallery to shopping at designer boutiques and relaxing in outdoor cafes. (Note: The area can get a little sketchy in the evenings, so travel with a group.)

A few fun restaurants to try include Foreign CinemaMission Chinese FoodLolinda and La Taqueria (recently named home of the world’s best burrito). Those in need of some retail therapy can’t go wrong wandering down Valencia Street or Mission Street. Make sure to stop into TherapyThrift Town and Dog Eared Books.

Transportation

Getting to the Mission is easy. You can take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (better known as BART) to the 16th Street Mission station or the 24th Street Mission station. Multiple bus lines also serve the area, including routes 14, 22, 33, 49, 53, 48, 49 and 67.

Parking can be a challenge, but there are a few lots (the Mission & Bartlett Garage is a good one, at 90 Bartlett St.). If you do find a street spot, be sure to check the signs as you can easily get nabbed with a ticket for parking during prohibited times.

Mission District Apartments

Average 1-Bedroom Rental Price: $3,500

Vara

  • Year Built: 2013
  • Number of Units: 202
  • Number of Layouts: 41
  • Rent: Starting at $2,764
  • Highlights: Close to the neighborhood’s shops and restaurants, these modern apartments are available in four different designer finishes, all with stainless steel appliances and quartz countertops. Residents also enjoy health-club-style fitness facilities, as well as entertainment spaces that include an expansive courtyard and luxury clubhouse. 

2175 Market

  • Year Built: 2014
  • Number of Units: 88
  • Number of Layouts: 23
  • Rent: $3,826-$4,748
  • Highlights: These LEED-Platinum-certified apartments are bright and spacious. Kitchens include sleek, European-style flat cabinetry and brick backsplashes. In addition to a rooftop garden and lounge space, residents will soon be able to enjoy The Myriad Market, a massive first-floor development that will house local artisans, craftspeople and chefs.

38 Dolores

  • Year Built: 2013
  • Number of Units: 81
  • Number of Layouts: 26
  • Rent: $4,375-$8,675
  • Highlights: Sustainably designed, 38 Dolores combines eco-conscious and high-end living. With in-unit finishes including horizontal-grain cabinetry and oversized double-pane windows, and community features from an on-site Whole Foods Market to a rooftop relaxation space with a one-of-a-kind butterfly garden, this building’s commitment to green living is exceptionally stylish. It has also earned it a LEED Gold rating.

Civic Center

The Civic Center district is a cultural hub of San Francisco. Within just a few blocks, visitors will find attractions including the Asian Art Museum, SHN Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and City Hall.

During the day, you will mostly see professionals buzzing from one building to the next on their way to important meetings. Civic Center borders the Tenderloin, considered the most run-down area of town, so some of that bleeds in. You will find a large population of homeless people in this area, and it is not advisable to walk alone at night.

Things To Do

You can find something to do in Civic Center nearly every day and night. The lawn in front of City Hall is a nice place for a picnic and the frequent home to festivals, public speeches and protests.

Across the street at UN Plaza, Heart of the City Farmers’ Market is a fun place to hang out; it’s open 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and 7 a.m.–5 p.m. Sundays. The Bill Graham Auditorium is always hosting concerts; artists range from little-known bluegrass bands to big names such as The Killers and Janet Jackson.

Popular restaurants in the neighborhood include JardiniereO3 Bistro & Lounge and Mela Tandoori Kitchen. Coffee lovers can’t go wrong with a cup from Philz (the line is always worth the wait).

Transportation

Street parking is available in Civic Center at metered spots and in a few underground lots including Civic Center Garage. Public transportation is the easiest way to get to the district; the Civic Center BART station takes you right into the center of the action. Multiple city bus lines go through the area, including the 47, 49, 38, 19, 7x, 31 and 27.

Civic Center Apartments

Average 1-Bedroom Rental Price: $3,495

Argenta

  • Year Built: 2008
  • Number of Units: 179
  • Number of Layouts: 10
  • Rent: $3,468-$5,434
  • Highlights: The bold European design of Argenta apartment units starts with modern two-tone cabinetry and continues with modern finishes in the bathrooms and bright accent walls throughout. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow for bright light and stunning views, and the garden terrace is the perfect place to get away from the rush of this busy neighborhood.

100 Van Ness

  • Year Built: 1974 (renovated 2015)
  • Number of Units: 418
  • Number of Layouts: 16
  • Rent: $3,030-$5,325
  • Highlights: Converted from office space, this glass tower features some of the most incredible views of San Francisco — from the lavish units, the massive fitness space and especially the rooftop entertaining area, which has a lawn and outdoor kitchen 374 feet above the city streets. Unit interiors feature window walls and 10-foot ceilings, as well as gourmet kitchens and maple flooring.

Fox Plaza

  • Year Built: 1966
  • Number of Units: 443
  • Number of Layouts: 3
  • Rent: $3,065-$4,470
  • Highlights: Offering recently renovated studio, one- and two-bedroom options, these downtown units put city dwellers in the heart of the action with floor-to-ceiling windows, large balconies and open layouts. All apartments feature modern kitchens and high-quality finishes throughout. Residents also enjoy a community clubhouse and fitness center as well as an on-site post office and Starbucks.

South Beach

Nestled in San Francisco’s southeast corner, South Beach is a rapidly changing neighborhood that once housed run-down warehouses and today sports sparkling high-rise residential and office buildings. The district is almost entirely bordered by the San Francisco Bay, and views of the Bay Bridge from this area are unparalleled.

Several restaurants and a few shops line the streets, but AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants, is the most appealing attraction. Especially on game days, South Beach comes alive with families and professionals of all ages headed to watch Major League Baseball’s reigning world champions.

Things To Do

Going to AT&T Park (even if you aren’t a baseball fan, the views of the Bay are worth the ticket price) for a Giants game is the most popular thing to do in South Beach, trailed by renting a kayak from City Kayak and parking yourself behind the stadium wishing for a chance to catch a fly ball (this was especially probable in the Barry Bond years).

As for restaurants, you can’t leave South Beach without having a coffee or beer at Red’s Java House, a dive-looking spot on the water that has been around forever (on warm days, snag a seat outdoors). Excellent dinner options include ChayaParagon and Delancey Street Restaurant.

Transportation

It is pretty easy to find parking in South Beach — just look for open lots with posters advertising daylong parking passes. When you do this, make sure to pay in advance and get a receipt.

As for public transit, Caltrain, a train line that connects San Francisco to several cities south (including the entire Silicon Valley), goes straight into the neighborhood (the 4th and King Street stop will drop you at the center). MUNI’s train lines N and T also go to the area, as do bus routes 30, 45, 47, 8, 27 and 10.

South Beach Apartments

Average 1-Bedroom Rental Price: $3,717

388 Beale

  • Year Built: 1999
  • Number of Units: 227
  • Number of Layouts: 18
  • Rent: $3,752-$5,821
  • Highlights: Remodeled interiors in this South Beach high-rise allow for large contemporary kitchens with espresso-finish cabinetry and eat-in breakfast bars, as well as wood-burning fireplaces and hardwood flooring in select units. Shared community space includes indoor and outdoor lounge areas, a fitness center and a jacuzzi/dry sauna.

Jasper

  • Year Built: 2015
  • Number of Units: 320
  • Number of Layouts: 17
  • Rent: $3,195-$7,484
  • Highlights: Ultramodern units at Jasper are both high-quality and high in the sky. Chef’s kitchens with dual-tone European cabinetry and large islands open up to large living spaces, with window walls featuring water and city views. Luxurious amenities, including a movie theater, state-of-the-art fitness center and indoor/outdoor pool, are not to be missed.

Carmel Rincon

  • Year Built: 1989
  • Number of Units: 320
  • Number of Layouts: 13
  • Rent: $3,030-$5,565
  • Highlights: Situated just a block from the waterfront and the famed Embarcadero, Carmel Rincon wows residents with recently renovated and well-designed contemporary kitchens, private balconies and premium finishes. A part of the Rincon Center, residents also have direct access to its shopping, dining and services.

The Runners Up

SoMa

If you are looking for trendy restaurants, tech startup offices, co-working spaces and boutique retail shops, look no further than SoMa. An acronym for “south of Market Street” (San Francisco’s main thoroughfare), SoMa is a very hip place to be these days.

This is one of the only places in the city where you will find loft-like living, thanks to converted warehouses and shiny high rises. The demographic skews toward tech-focused young professionals wearing designer eyeglasses. Visitors with a sincere appreciation for nightlife and award-winning food and wine will feel at home here.

Things To Do

Eating is the thing to do in SoMa, and you can’t go wrong by visiting one of the following restaurants: RN74MarloweBoulevard or Waterbar. But to just focus on food is to miss half of the allure of the neighborhood.

Stroll the streets and find gallery openings most nights of the week, as well as incredible exhibits in a number of world-class museums such as the Contemporary Jewish MuseumSFMOMA (scheduled to reopen in early 2016 after a two-year renovation project), Museum of the African Diaspora and the Children’s Creativity Museum. Not to be missed: the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at Yerba Buena Gardens, especially beautiful at night.

Transportation

Like South Beach, you can find places to park in SoMa. There are a few garages and several open lots where you can keep your car for a daily fee. MUNI’s above-ground trains N and T go along the Embarcadero and will drop you at the edge of SoMa. Buses are also a simple way to travel; lines that serve this area include the 12, 45, 8, 30, 14x, 27 and 45.

SoMa Apartments

Average 1-Bedroom Rental Price: $3,684

NEMA

  • Year Built: 2014
  • Number of Units: 754
  • Number of Layouts: 47
  • Rent: $3,445-$4,937
  • Highlights: Designed to highlight the natural elegance of the Northern California landscape, the cool hues of the sleek two-toned cabinets flow across the hardwood flooring to the expansive water views. The high life continues with community features such as a resort-style outdoor pool, a skydeck and fitness areas that include a gym and yoga studio.

1188 Mission at Trinity Place

  • Year Built: 2009
  • Number of Units: 440
  • Number of Layouts: 2
  • Rent: $2,779-$3,010
  • Highlights: Centrally located in SoMa (it earns a 95 Walk Score), 1188 Mission is a collection of studio and one-bedroom apartments with smart layouts and modern finishes, including black granite countertops and tall ceilings. Also on site is a fitness center and community entertainment space, all minutes from San Francisco’s finest dining and nightlife.

Soma Residences

  • Year Built: 2001
  • Number of Units: 278
  • Number of Layouts: 6
  • Rent: $2,527-$3,268
  • Highlights: For living space that’s less like an apartment and more like a home, Soma Residences creates a spacious townhome feel in the middle of the city. Featuring lofted units with plenty of light and modern finishes, there’s plenty of space to spread out and relax. Just outside the door, lush landscaping and natural materials allude to this complex’s commitment to green living.

Nob Hill/Lower Nob Hill

Nob Hill is an iconic San Francisco neighborhood with historical roots dating to the Gold Rush days. It was then that wealthy gold barons and celebrities would hop the city’s cable cars to the top of “the hill” and spend their afternoons in bars, cafes and high-end hotels. Very little has changed since then; Nob Hill is still an address for those with means (including some famous people).

The area is perhaps most well known as the home to The Fairmont Hotel, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel and Huntington Square Park (all in the same block). Walking around, you will notice established families strolling with their beautifully groomed dogs, as well as some young professionals.

Lower Nob Hill is a district just south of Nob Hill that offers a variety of shops and fun restaurants. Being closer to the Tenderloin, there is some spillover of crime, so walking alone at night isn’t advisable. But during the day, the cafes are bustling.

Things To Do

Step back in time at the Mark Hopkins by taking the elevator to the top floor and having a drink at Top of the Mark, a bar — usually with grand piano accompaniment — that offers 360-degree views of the city (best in the evening). Finish off your evening with a more casual experience at the Tonga Room, a Polynesian-themed restaurant/bar in The Fairmont; note the band perched on a boat in a pool.

Other Nob Hill attractions include the Cable Car Museum and Grace Cathedral, which welcomes everyone and even offers a donation-only yoga class every Tuesday evening. Down in Lower Nob Hill, make sure to check out delicious food at Sons & Daughters398 Brasserie and BDK Restaurant & Bar.

Transportation

San Francisco’s cable car lines serve Nob Hill, so hop on the Powell/Hyde, Powell/Mason or California lines for an open-air ride through the City by the Bay (a one-day pass costs $13). Several bus lines run through both neighborhoods, including the 10, 12, 1, 19, 38, 2, 3 and 45.

Nob Hill/Lower Nob Hill Apartments

Average 1-Bedroom Rental Price: $3,200

Etta

  • Year Built: 2013
  • Number of Units: 107
  • Number of Layouts: 20
  • Rent: $3,484-$7,274
  • Highlights: Committed to eco-conscious living, these LEED-Gold-certified apartments are tastefully designed with European flair, evident in the sleek horizontal-grain wood cabinets and clean, white countertops and tile backsplash. The rooftop is a garden oasis in the middle of the city, with beautiful landscaping among abundant entertainment and relaxation space for residents.

Tower 737

  • Year Built: 1989
  • Number of Units: 248
  • Number of Layouts: 6
  • Rent: $3,054-$4,116
  • Highlights: This unique building has been renovated to accentuate original details such as classic bay windows, with new features including modern kitchens and large closets. Residents can also enjoy fitness facilities as well as indoor and outdoor lounge space. Boasting a 99 Walk Score, Tower 737 is steps from Post Street’s best retail, dining and entertainment options.

AVA Nob Hill

  • Year Built: 1990
  • Number of Units: 185
  • Number of Layouts: 12
  • Rent: $3,090-$4,615
  • Highlights: These hip apartments have fun accents; from the chalkboard accent walls in units to the “lava heat” on the outdoor deck space, AVA Nob Hill is an exciting place to call home. Other community features here include a fitness center, barbecue space and plenty of social events on the calendar.

The Runners Up

Mission Bay

Mission Bay is a rapidly changing neighborhood just south of AT&T Park, right on the San Francisco Bay. While the area has long been known for its sprawling parking lots and warehouses, today you are likely to see soaring high-rises housing modern lofts and condos. The demographic skews toward young professionals here.

In February, the district welcomed the opening of the $1.5 billion UCSF Medical Center. This state-of-the-art facility is drawing dozens more buildings and spurring the opening of several attractions, shops and swanky restaurants.

Things To Do

Mission Bay is largely residential, although that may change given the new hospital. The area heats up with crowds around baseball game days. On an average evening, though, you can find excellent food at Tsunami SushiStem Kitchen & Garden and Oda.

Transportation

Parking in Mission Bay is simple in garages and on the street (watch for street-cleaning hours). Getting here is also a piece of cake. Try the MUNI T-Third Street line; it stops at the UCSF Medical Center. Several bus lines also go to the area; try the 14x, 8Bx, 55, 22, 48 and 10.

Mission Bay Apartments

Average 1-Bedroom Rental Price: $3,870

Azure

  • Year Built: 2015
  • Number of Units: 273
  • Number of Layouts: 25
  • Rent: $3,650-$6,050
  • Highlights: At Azure, residents enjoy life in the heart of the city with access to expansive green space, including local parks in the ever-active Mission Bay District as well as the property’s two outdoor courtyards. There’s also a dog-washing station and 24-hour fitness available. Units in these brand-new apartments feature all-white gourmet kitchens and oversized windows.  

Channel Mission Bay

  • Year Built: 2013
  • Number of Units: 315
  • Number of Layouts: 14
  • Rent: $3,288-$6,803
  • Highlights: Designed to achieve the ultimate style and aesthetic of downtown luxury, the Channel Mission Bay looks like a five-star hotel with modern gourmet kitchens, hardwood flooring and spa-inspired baths. The amenities don’t disappoint, either, from its three levels of fitness facilities to an outdoor terrace with a large swimming pool.

Strata at Mission Bay

  • Year Built: 2009
  • Number of Units: 192
  • Number of Layouts: 8
  • Rent: $3,449-$5,045
  • Highlights: Just a block from Mission Bay and a few more from AT&T Park, the Strata is a great home base for both work and play. Elegant interior design includes granite countertops, high ceilings and split-level units, while the building features fitness facilities, fire pits, a movie theater and concierge service.  

The Runners Up

Western Addition

The Western Addition is a working-class neighborhood that attracts a multitude of ethnicities and individuals of diverse financial backgrounds. Deemed a slum in the late 1940s, the district has somewhat grown out of that stigma and today has pockets of hip restaurants and nightlife options.

Within the greater Western Addition neighborhood, you can visit Japantown and NoPa (north of the Panhandle), both nice areas to walk around. Families and young adults can be found in this area, thanks to moderate rents and its central location.

Things To Do

Check out live music at places like The Fillmore; a few blocks to the east you can find a plethora of karaoke bars in Japantown (Playground is a local favorite). Alamo Square is a fun place to spend an afternoon, and you might feel nostalgic for Full House reruns upon seeing the line of historic homes with the city in the background (known as the Painted Ladies).

Restaurants of note in the Western Addition include NopaState Bird Provisions (call months in advance for a reservation) and Little Star Pizza.

Transportation

Parking is difficult in this area, so it is best to take a bus or cab. Bus lines that serve the Western Addition include the 22, 24, 31, 5, 2 and 3.

Western Addition Apartments

Average 1-Bedroom Rental Price: $3,392

2000 Post

  • Year Built: 1986
  • Number of Units: 304
  • Number of Layouts: 17
  • Rent: $2,909-$4,500
  • Highlights: Located near the historic Fillmore District, these apartments were undergoing extensive renovation as of September 2015. Apartments are being renovated with modern kitchens and large closets, and the building is getting a new fitness space and pool deck/spa area.

The Fillmore Center

  • Year Built: 1983
  • Number of Units: 1,114
  • Number of Layouts: 6
  • Rent: $3,052-$4,296
  • Highlights: Situated on a vibrant block in the Western Addition area, The Fillmore Center is a neighborhood icon, with a lush landscaped plaza and stately architecture. Units ranging from studios to three bedrooms are both spacious and comfortable; community features include a fitness center, dog park and courtesy shuttle to the Financial District.

Carillon Tower

  • Year Built: 1964
  • Number of Units: 102
  • Number of Layouts: 6
  • Rent: $3,100-$5,500
  • Highlights: Sitting atop Cathedral Hill, Carillon Tower wows with large balconies on every unit, creating bright and view-friendly interiors. Residents also enjoy community features including a large indoor saltwater pool and spa, as well as a fitness center and dog park.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most visited areas of San Francisco, welcoming more than 12 million people per year. Views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands and Alcatraz are incredible here, and there are plenty of opportunities to take boat rides for a closer look.

On the streets you will find a variety of souvenir shops and street performers. Rents aren’t over-the-top expensive in this district (some residents stay away because of the crowds), but you can find apartments in high rises that overlook the Bay.

Things To Do

A visit to Alcatraz is one of the best things to do while visiting San Francisco; make sure to book your ticket at least two weeks in advance. Stroll along Pier 39 and wave at the seals beached on boat buoys, then get some ice cream at Ghirardelli Square and mingle with the artists selling their wares on the street.

While you can take a sunset boat ride aboard an expensive yacht, it is advisable to walk along the water around 5:30 p.m. and snag a ticket for an evening float onboard a retired fishing boat (tickets are usually around $25 per person). Bring your own wine and snuggle under the blankets provided by the crew.

Irish coffee was created in San Francisco; taste the real thing at The Buena Vista. Then get dinner at Gary Danko (advance reservations and required) or Scoma’s (excellent seafood).

Transportation

Parking can be found in this district, but it is best to opt for a garage or paid spot. MUNI’s F line as well as the Powell/Hyde and Powell/Mason cable cars serve Fisherman’s Wharf. Buses that frequent the neighborhood include the 30, 30x, 22, 28, 49, 43, 19 and 47.

Fisherman’s Wharf Apartments

Average 1-Bedroom Rental Price: $2,763

Northpoint Apartments

  • Year Built: 1968
  • Number of Units: 515
  • Number of Layouts: 3
  • Rent: $3,020-$4,600
  • Highlights: Centrally located between Pier 39 and the busy Northpoint Shopping Center, these well-equipped apartments have been renovated to include modern wooden cabinetry with designer finishes. The large pool in the center courtyard is an oasis in the city, with landscaping surrounding the swimming and entertaining areas.

NorthPoint Vistas

  • Year Built: 1968 (renovated 1989)
  • Number of Units: 72
  • Number of Layouts: 4
  • Rent: Call for pricing
  • Highlights: With immediate access to the creature comforts at NorthPoint Shopping Center, the location is just the tip of the iceberg at NorthPoint Vistas. This historic building features 14-foot ceilings, hardwood plank flooring and generous light from the many windows through its units.