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Retiring in San Francisco Bay Area: Pros and Cons of the Left Coast

The San Francisco Bay Area is rich in culture, history, and natural beauty. Over the decades, it has been a destination for people of all ages, from young prospectors and entrepreneurs to active adults and retirees. Some come seeking solace in the area’s peaceful beaches and temperate coastal weather. Others seek to start anew, to chase a dream, or to find themselves.

Golden Gate Bridge, to illustrate article on retiring in San Francisco Bay Area

Will San Francisco open its Golden Gate for your retirement?

Whatever your reason, if you’re considering retiring in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a few things to consider.

First, realize that the San Francisco Bay Area is much more than the city of San Francisco. The Bay Area has a population of more than 7 million. San Francisco holds about 800,000 of those people. The rest are spread across the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma. You’re more likely to find retirement communities in these counties. Examples include Antioch in Contra Costa County, Pleasanton in Alameda County, and San Jose in Santa Clara County.

To help you decide before you head west, compiled this list of pros and cons of retiring in the Bay Area.

Pros of Retiring in San Francisco Bay Area


San Francisco can be chilly and foggy, but the Bay Area generally has temperate weather. September is the warmest month in San Francisco proper, with an average high of 70. January cools down to an average high of 57. Head just a bit south to San Jose, however, and you can expect highs of 82 in July and August. Go east to Antioch, and you’ll be basking at 92 in July.

As you can see, the weather varies greatly around the San Francisco Bay Area. You might not have quite as many sunny days as Los Angeles, but you’ll certainly get your fair share of vitamin D. Also, winters are mild, which means no more shoveling snow or fear of falling on ice.

redwood forest, to illustrate article on retiring in San Francisco Bay Area

This could be you, hiking among the redwoods.

Beautiful Scenery

Living in the Bay Area, you’re within driving (or walking) distance of numerous beautiful beaches and more than 200 parks. You’re also within range of wine country (Napa and Sonoma counties) and several other famed California destinations. Just imagine spending your retirement touring wineries and hiking redwood forests.

Not to mention, the Bay Area is home to myriad historic urban landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. Retire here and expect lots of out-of-town visitors.

Diverse Culture

The San Francisco Bay Area is also home to a diverse population of people of various ages, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and cultures. People of Hispanic and Asian ethnicities each make up about 24 percent of the Bay Area’s population. This mixture makes for a wonderful array of culinary, cultural, and artistic experiences. There’s something for everyone.

Also, despite the perception that the Bay Area is all young people working at dot-com companies, the region actually skews a little older than the rest of California. About 13 percent of the region’s population is age 65+, compared with about 12 percent for the state.

Independent Living

Though driving may be a challenge in the San Francisco area, the city has an excellent public transit system, BART, which spans to outlying counties. Cities with retirement communities – including Dublin, Pleasanton, and Pittsburg – are at the end of BART lines. In addition, many Bay Area communities are walkable, with short distances between homes and apartments and necessities like corner grocery shops and cafes.

Cons of Retiring in San Francisco Bay Area

San Jose, California

The Silicon Valley craze has driven up housing prices in San Jose, California.

Cost of Living

Though the Bay Area boasts many positives, affordability is not among them. The cost of housing in San Francisco is one of the highest in the nation, rivaled only by Manhattan. The median home price in the San Francisco Bay Area was $784,500 in early 2017. A one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco itself averages $3,500. Neighboring cities, especially San Jose, are becoming increasingly pricey as well.

That being said, cities in the East Bay are notably less expensive. You’ll find 55+ apartments in Antioch with rents around $1,500, for instance. Senior apartments in Pleasanton can be rented for less than $1,000.

Crime Rate

Some parts of the Bay Area have had a dismal crime rate for decades. San Francisco ranks as the 10th worst city for burglary and property crime in the nation, according to the FBI, and Oakland’s murder rate is the third highest in California.

Luckily, some Bay Area communities haven’t been so plagued by violence. Pleasanton, for instance, has a crime rate that is 24 percent lower than the national average. In San Jose, the crime rate is 4 percent lower than the national average. You can check out the FBI’s crime reports for Bay Area communities here.

Ready to Retire in San Francisco Bay Area?

We hope this pro-con list has helped make your decision on retiring in the San Francisco Bay Area a little easier. If so, check out San Francisco Bay retirement communities on If you aren’t catching the San Francisco vibes, try our guide to the pros and cons of retiring in Los Angeles.

Tell us what you think: If you live or have lived in the Bay Area, especially as a retiree, we’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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