Finding the best rental apartments in San Francisco can be a challenge if you are not familiar with the city. You not only have to consider the monthly rental price of the units as well as nearby establishments and amenities, but you also have to know whether a particular neighborhood is safe.
In this context, safety is determined by the crime statistics reported in a neighborhood for both violent crimes (such as robbery and aggravated assault) and property crimes (such as burglary, larceny, and car theft). These statistics are gathered from various sources, including local police reports and FBI crime reports.
How to Determine If a Neighborhood is Safe
Understanding the safety index of a certain neighborhood in San Francisco is important for your peace of mind. You will not be able to enjoy living in this beautiful city unless you know that you will be safe and sound!
Here are four ways to determine if a potential neighborhood in San Francisco is safe:
Search for the Neighborhood on Crime Mapping Services
When you enter the address of a rental property, you will receive a detailed report of all the crimes that have occurred in the area recently including time, date, and a description of the events. These reports make it easier for you to compare different neighborhoods in San Francisco.
Connect with Locals in Person or Online
If possible, talk with people who either live in the area or have lived in the area before. They will be able to give you valuable and first-hand information about a neighborhood that you won’t necessarily find through police reports.
Even if you are unable to talk to locals in person, you can find great resources through Facebook housing groups, such as the Alpaca Facebook group.
Monitor the Police Presence
Check if there are police stations or patrols that are stationed in the area and would regularly do patrols. Multiple calls could be a red flag. If you notice that there is a significantly high amount of police activity in the area, it could point to a high crime rate.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that police presence is automatically a bad sign. It is a part of police officer's duties to patrol areas in their daily routine as both a way to establish their presence and to keep in touch with the community that they serve.
Get a Feel for the Neighborhood
If possible, visit the neighborhood in person and walk around to get to know the area better. Look for signs that the locals are close-knit, friendly, and take care of each other, such as clean public spaces, thriving local businesses, and an overall atmosphere of welcome.
You can also check if there are communal events that bring people together in the community, such as neighborhood watch groups, activities, or even local get-togethers like bake sales.
5 Safest Neighborhoods in San Francisco
In this list, we compiled the five safest neighborhoods in San Francisco based on the overall crime rate, specifically non-violent crimes.
Excelsior is a quiet area that’s located on the south side of the city, and it boasts one of the most ethnically diverse populations in San Francisco. It offers great public transportation that allows residents to easily move around via BART or buses, although it also has a great walkability score. Excelsior is a highly popular location for renters because it has lower prices compared to the rest of the city.
One of the best things about this neighborhood is that it has a local community watch group called the Excelsior Action Group. This organization is dedicated to fostering a strong community spirit through events such as local concerts, public space cleanups, and get-togethers. This is probably why Excelsior is considered safer than 48% of other cities in California, with a 14% crime rate.
If you're a young professional or you have a young family, there is no place better than Excelsior.
If the urban vibe is more your style, then you should consider renting an apartment in the Financial District. This area is hugely popular with millennials and young professionals who are working in the tech and finance industries because their offices are pretty much within walking distance. It’s also near Chinatown and Embarcadero, which means that there is no shortage of restaurants that offer cheap and delicious eats!
The Financial District has an average crime rate of 4.91 crimes per 1000 residents, making it safer than 32% of the cities in California. However, you should consider that since this neighborhood is an employment hub, the median prices of the apartments might be higher than average.
For a suburban feel in the middle of the city, try looking for an apartment in Sunset. It is bordered by Golden Gate Bridge to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west, so you’ll never have to worry about where you’ll get those amazing natural views! Sunset boasts some of the best schools in San Francisco, as well as a great public transport system that makes it easy for residents to move around. However, you can expect a few foggy days now and again because of the proximity to the ocean.
Sunset has a high Asian-American population, giving the neighborhood a great selection of ethnic local businesses and restaurants. The neighborhood has an average crime rate of 1.5 crimes per 1000 residents, making it safer than an amazing 80% of all cities in the state! The crime rates are also 38% lower than the national average, making Outer Sunset a great choice for families with young children and singles.
With high walkability scores, a warm local community, and some of the most beautiful Victorian-style architecture anywhere in the city, Bernal Heights is one of the most colorful and vibrant neighborhoods in San Francisco. It is a hub for the LGBTQ+ community, with many local businesses owned and operated by LGBTQ+ people. If you love discovering indie galleries or hanging out in small coffee shops, Bernal Heights is for you.
Bernal Heights has a 3.2 average crime rate for every 1000 residents, and it is ranked 44% safer than other cities in California. Since the area caters to many young professionals and singles, you can easily find an apartment that’s lower than the median price.
Oceanview is one of the top neighborhoods for those who are looking to settle down in San Francisco and start raising a family. With great schools, affordable housing, and excellent public transportation, living in Oceanview is an amazing experience for young families. Students will also love staying in this neighborhood given its proximity to San Francisco State University and the City College of San Francisco.
According to Area Vibes, Oceanview has an average crime rate of 1.8 crimes per 1000 residents, making it safer than 72% of the cities in the states. With clean and well-lit public areas, the neighborhood also has a crime rate that’s 27% lower than the national average.
Least Safe Neighborhoods in San Francisco
We have also compiled a list of the least safe neighborhoods in San Francisco based on crime statistics and online reviews.
Please note that we are not discouraging renters from finding apartments in these areas, we are simply advising to exercise a little bit of extra caution.
Golden Gate Park
While Golden Gate Park is a popular attraction during the day, it becomes less safe at night because of the lack of tourists and locals. As such, the area has gotten a reputation for being a destination for homeless vagrants to spend the night. Coupled with poor lighting in public areas and many dark places without lighting at all, it’s no wonder that the area has a reported 730 property crimes and a crime rate of 18.4 crimes per 1000 residents.
South of Market (SoMa)
SoMa is a large, sprawling district that spans from 11th Street to Embarcadero. The north and west areas of SoMa have gotten reputations for being seedy and dangerous at night because of the high crime rates. The neighborhood has crime rates that are 161% higher than the national average, and residents have a 1 in 6 chance of becoming a victim of crime.
Choosing Your Neighborhood in San Francisco
Finding the best neighborhood for you in San Francisco might seem like it’s difficult, but if you want to make sure that you are safe and sound, you should take your time to research the safest neighborhoods in the city.
If you are having trouble finding a safe neighborhood, here are some common features that you should look out for: welcoming locals, clean streets and public areas, and a general feeling of security.