San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the world. It’s surrounded on three sides by water, which makes its climate cool throughout the year. Mark Twain used to say that the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco. So, even if you visit in the summer, bring a sweater and don’t expect to swim in the ocean.
San Francisco is an extremely liveable city. It’s relatively densely developed with many different neighbourhoods, each with its own flavour, character (and characters!). The best way to see it is on foot, public transport or by bike.
It’s also easy to escape the urban jungle. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area starts on San Francisco’s north and west coast, then runs north in Marin and Sonoma counties and south into San Mateo County. Great bicycling!
I moved to the city while a UC Berkeley student in 1984 and lived there until moving to Europe. Here are some thoughts on San Francisco transport planning and recommendations (especially developed for city planners).
San Francisco Transport Planning
I worked as a transport planner in the Bay Area for just over 20 years, starting as a consultant and ultimately serving as Executive Director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. I also spent many years as an activist with organisations working to improve San Francisco and the Bay Area. This section presents information on some of my projects and some thoughts about San Francisco transport planning.
- Getting Around in San Francisco
- San Francisco Regional Rail Vision (2005) – A vision for SF Bay Area regional rail service presented as a speech 25-years in the future.
- Freeway Removal in San Francisco – San Francisco demolished the Embarcadero and Central freeways following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. These decisions were controversial but have significantly improved the neighbourhood liveability and economic growth.
- San Francisco Planning Organisations – information and links to planning agencies and NGOs in the San Francisco Bay Area.
San Francisco Recommendations and Walking Tours
San Francisco’s magnificent natural setting and history have combined to create a very special urban place – big enough to be a real city, but surrounded by easily accessible natural areas and parks.
When visiting, don’t drive a car! There’s lots of traffic congestion and not enough places to park. The city’s a great place to walk, bike and ride public transport. Buy one of Muni’s visitor-oriented passes it will save you time and money – especially helpful if you plan to ride the cable cars.
Here are my recommendations and tours (Note, some information is old, so check up-to-date sources!):
- Andy’s San Francisco Recommendations
- Public transport in San Francisco – getting around without a car!
- Downtown San Francisco and the Northern Waterfront
- North Beach – Chinatown – Union Square
- Civic Center to Castro
- Mission – Haight – Golden Gate Park
- Ocean Beach – Presidio – Golden Gate Bridge – Fort Mason
- Day Trips from San Francisco
Several organisations also offer tours:
- San Francisco City Guides offers free walking tours in San Francisco and the website provides many helpful links.
- San Francisco Architectural Heritage provides information on historic architecture in San Francisco including tours of historic buildings.
- San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) also offers tours on a regular basis.
- San Francisco Beautiful is a non profit organisation working on urban planning issues.
- Greenbelt Alliance organises tours of transit-oriented development in the Bay Area.
- The Virtual Museum of San Francisco website has articles on the San Francisco history.