Posted Mar 11, 2015

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Lovely Renters

San Francisco is more expansive and diverse than many newcomers might realize. Each San Francisco neighborhood has it’s own unique personality– and it’s difficult to keep them all in order.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters

With that in mind, you can’t select your neighborhood by merely closing your eyes, pointing at the map and living wherever your finger lands. Choosing which SF neighborhood you want to call home takes a little research and some deep consideration (one major consideration: do you want the rent for your tiny apartment to be high or really really high?).

Lovely analyzed user data from the last half of 2014 to determine the 10 most popular San Francisco neighborhoods for renters:

1. SoMa

South of Market, better known as SoMa, spans 2 square miles and is a strange mix of swanky nightlife spots, world-class museums, and warehouses filled with start-ups (Lovely is located in SoMa).

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Soma

SoMa is generally thought of in three separate parts: the South Beach residential area, the cultural oasis of Yerba Buena gardens and the retail section in the neighborhood’s southwest corner.

South Beach has an upscale, ritzy, high-rise feel, but more affordable apartments can be found in the outlying parts of SoMa. No matter where you choose to live, the cultural hot spots are a stroll away. Explore the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by day, head to The Cavalier for fine dining in the evening, and then off to Slim’s for some late night live music.

2. Lower Haight

Spanning from about Webster to Divisadero streets, Lower Haight is a diverse neighborhood with a bohemian feel.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Lower Haight

Young artists, aspiring Jack Kerouacs– fresh out of college, and hip 20 somethings are drawn here thanks to the plethora of night life spots, record shops, art galleries, and rich assortment of trendy cafes to satisfy every type of alternative lifestyle.

3. Pacific Heights

Of all the Bay Area neighborhoods, arguably none are more picturesque than Pacific Heights. The streets are lined with Victorian mansions thanks to rich newcomers from the 19th century trying to one-up their Nob Hill neighbors, and a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge sits in the distance.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Pacific Heights

Some say there’s an elitism to Pacific Heights, but those who score one of these Bay Area rentals and become immersed in the culture know it’s actually a warm, welcoming community.

4. Hayes Valley

Two decades ago, Hayes Valley was known for drug problems and a high homeless population. Now, it’s one of the most popular spots for Bay Area rentals.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Hayes Valley

Haute couture is big here nowadays, with chic fashion boutiques and an abundance of trendy home-decor stores, not to mention the contemporary art galleries, upscale eateries, and classy cocktail bars.

5. Castro

Castro used to be all unpaved roads and dairy farms, but today it’s lined with chip shops, bars, restaurants, and a thriving LGBTQ population.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Castro

But it hasn’t lost the traditional, ethnic character that began drawing renters here in the first place: Many of the classic homes of Irish, German, and Scandinavian immigrants have been faithfully restored and have maintained their Victorian elegance.

6. Western Addition

Western Addition is one of the few San Francisco neighborhoods still in the up-and-coming stage and dealing with all of the related growing pains.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Western Addition

There are some seedier parts of the area, but despite this (and some say because of it), the neighborhood has a unique charm coupled with relatively low rental rates. And there’s easy access to the jazz scene of Fillmore, stunning views of Alamo Square, and tons of fun shopping in Japantown.

7. Mission

With a vibrant arts scene and more taquerias than you can visit in a lifetime, the Mission is known as a hipster haven.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Mission

Colorful murals, hip coffee shops, and unique eateries make the Mission a popular San Francisco destination. Bay Area residents from all over come to peruse the galleries, hang out and play fetch with their pups in Dolores park, and hop from one eclectic dive bar to the next.

8. Downtown San Francisco

Less popular among long-time residents and more popular with tourists and visitors, fast-paced urban living is the name of the game in Downtown San Francisco. It’s the heart of the city, which means it’s brimming with fashionable high end shopping spots, fine dining, museums, lounges, and music venues.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Downtown

It’s not quite a neighborhood for the frugal at heart, as rental rates can be lofty. But there are plenty of free and fun things to do if you seek them out: Catch a free art show at one of the many galleries or just stroll the streets and people watch (trust me, you’ll see a whole cast of characters).

9. Nob Hill

Nob Hill has a reputation for being among the most lavish Bay Area neighborhoods (hence the nickname “Snob Hill”), but that shouldn’t (and doesn’t) scare renters away.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Nob Hill

The expensive hotels are for the tourists, and the residents benefit from the upscale restaurants, well-maintained museums, and bustling nightlife scene. Over on the western edge is where you’ll find the more residential area with charming old stone buildings, lesser-known eateries, and locally owned corner markets.

10. Alamo Square

Last but not least on the top 10 list is Alamo Square, where residents take a more laid-back approach to living. The nightlife isn’t bouncing, and the cafes and restaurants are casual.

Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods for Renters - Alamon Square

This might be because all of the residents are too busy being delighted by the beautiful scenery: Historic Victorian architecture lines the streets (Alamo Square is home to one of the most photographed SF locations, the Painted Ladies) and the view from Alamo Square Park provides a picture perfect view of the city.

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Most Popular San Francisco Neighborhoods

Photo Credit: Sam AgnewShawn CloverPremshree PillaiSkip KuebeltorbakhoppertorbakhoppersamkinsleyAdam FagenChristian Mountain-HawkJoe ParksSven Haiges

Methodology: Neighborhood data based on Lovely alerts. Trends represented in the Lovely Rental Market report reflect Q4 2014 rental market data based on the comprehensive set of aggregated rental inventory posted on Lovely between January 2012 and December 2014, and is no longer active.

Prices reported are as indicated upon posting and do not capture the final pricing terms on closed lease agreements. In addition to Lovely’s posting platform, Lovely Pro, Lovely obtains listings by partnering with over 70 external providers to populate its marketplace with rental listings.


Stacee is the Content Manager at Lovely. She is an ice cream connoisseur who loves traveling, baking, and animals. Her guilty pleasures are karaoke and Flaming Hot Cheetos.

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