Top five reasons NOT to office in San Francisco

After having various offices in San Francisco’s coveted South Park area for over 5 years, I made a tough decision to make the move out of the city in December.  As much as I’ve grown to love San Francisco, there are several things I definitely won’t miss.  If you are bringing your startup to the Bay Area, I hope this helps:

5. Filth/Crime
San Francisco, despite its relatively small population, is a big city.  Big cities tend to have big city problems like: homelessness, busy (and therefore dirty) streets, and higher crime.  The popular South Park area is also the host for Giants baseball games and a number of large scale events throughout the year.  Not only does this bring thousands of “bridge and tunnel” people that couldn’t care less about the neighborhoods but it exacerbates, to the extreme, most of the other pains listed below.

4. Peninsula and South Bay Networking 
San Francisco has a thriving startup and general social scene.  Yet there is a wealth of events and even more startups spread out from South San Francisco to San Jose.  Living and officing in the city puts you within fixie distance to the local events, but snarls you trying to get to evening events that start at, or just after, evening rush hour.

3. Cost/Selection
Real estate brokers have a code: “creative space”.  It should mean an open floor plan with tall ceilings and lots of natural light.  Who wouldn’t want to work in an office like that?  In San Francisco, it often means dungeon conditions in an 80 year-old building grandfathered into out-of-date safety laws.  In the last few years, startups’ preference for a casual environment has even pushed some substandard C/B- class office rents above A class buildings in the financial district.  Mind-boggling, but supply and demand is like gravity.  Some areas of Palo Alto have similar issues.  There is usually little logic behind paying double for bad space, but in San Francisco there is simply not enough supply and founders have to lower their expectations.

2. Traffic
If you are lucky enough to work within walking distance from home, life is ideal.  When it comes time to get to an event or a meeting, things get a bit more complicated.  If you have to commute across the city, you are rarely going to enjoy it.  San Francisco is notorious for its terrible public transportation system.  If you happen to live near BART and your destination is in the Market corridor, it is bearable. Otherwise, if you like living dangerously, on bicycle you can get through a typical 3 mile jaunt in about 15 minutes.  That same ride by bus would typically take 40+ minutes.  And you’ll want to be nice and congested if it’s in the morning.  When Oracle commandeers Howard Street or Giants have a day game, you are better off walking.

1. Parking
Ah San Francisco parking, an olympic sport not for the impatient.  San Francisco is consistently rated as one of the hardest places to park with some of the most expensive parking tickets around.  The city makes no secret of depending on parking enforcement for serious revenue.  Between meters, 2 hour parking and street cleaning, I don’t know a single person that didn’t get at least a couple of tickets their first few months living in San Francisco.  If you have to drive in and park at the office, plan to either spend a whole lot of time driving around the block every two hours or spending $200-300 monthly on parking your car.  For your staff that has to drive-in, this adds up very quick.  And don’t forget about visitors, candidates and office guests – they are all S.O.L.

Despite all these negatives, San Francisco is a very special city.  I attribute it to the brilliant minds and unique cultures that have gravitated there for the last 50+ years.  Once you spend a few years in San Francisco, it is admittedly hard to not notice the difference in the people just south.  These days, I prefer to office on the peninsula but visit San Francisco at every opportunity.