Written by Redfin
Cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and colorful Victorian homes are just a slice of what makes San Francisco, CA a truly unique experience. With roughly 873k residents, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that “the Golden City” has a median home sale price of $1.49 million. Also, the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $4,593. If you’re looking to live in the city by the bay and you’re looking for a more affordable home, don’t worry.
We’ve collected 10 of the best affordable San Francisco suburbs that are within driving distance of the city that’s worth considering buying a home in. That way you can still visit many of San Francisco’s attractions like Coit Tower, picnicking at Golden Gate Park, or exploring The Palace Of Fine Arts without paying the price of a home in the city.
#1: Emeryville, CA
With a population of just about 12,900, Emeryville comes in at number one on our list of most affordable San Francisco suburbs. The median sale price of a home in Emeryville is almost a third of the price of a home in San Francisco and less than 30 minutes away from downtown without traffic. Living in Emeryville, you'll be close to the Emeryville Marina Parkand nearby East Bay cities, Oakland and Berkeley.
"One of my favorite affordable gems in the East Bay is the fabulous selection of art studios and galleries. You can spend an entire day viewing some of the premiere fine arts and crafts at spaces like the Berkeley Potters Guild, SHOH Gallery, and Kala Art Institute," mentions Julie McCray from SHOH Gallery. "Then finish up your excursion with wine tasting at the Berkeley Wine Block or dining at one of the many restaurants nearby."
#2: Richmond, CA
Richmond comes in as the second most affordable suburb in San Francisco. Home to picturesque nature spots like Point Isabel Regional Shoreline and Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park, Richmond has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. When living in this suburb of roughly 116,500 people, you can also spend time exploring the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline and taking in the views of the San Francisco Bay.
#3: Oakland, CA
Driving 25 minutes east from San Francisco will land you in none other than Oakland. With a population of nearly 440,600, you'll be in a smaller city while being able to explore San Francisco in your free time. If you find yourself moving to the third most affordable suburb, make sure to visit Jack London Square, cheer on the Oakland A's, and spend an afternoon observing all the exotic animals at the Oakland Zoo.
Just across the Bay Bridge, "Our favorite affordable things in San Francisco are going to playground parks like Mission Dolores Park, Tunnel Tops, or Presidio. We also love to attend free events at Thrive City. There’s something for everyone, and great scenery to take in at each spot too," recommends San Francisco Bay Area Moms.
#4: San Leandro, CA
San Leandro, another East Bay city, takes the fourth spot on our list of affordable San Francisco suburbs. With a population of just under 100K, you’ll find that there are far fewer residents than both San Francisco and Oakland, but you’ll still have great views of the Bay. San Leandro has plenty of waterfront parks to check out such as Marina Park and Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline or check out Chabot Park for lakefront views. Located near Oakland International Airportyou’re just minutes away from your next adventure or a quick drive into San Francisco.
#5: San Bruno, CA
Only 20 minutes away from the city center, consider moving to San Bruno. About 43,900 people live in this affordable suburban town, but you'll be surrounded by plenty of areas to explore in your free time. Fun activities to do in San Bruno include exploring San Bruno City Park and Sneath Lane Trail. For history-buffs, make a stop at the National Archives at San Francisco, where you can explore federal records dating back to the 1850s and learn about the region’s history.
Just a 15 minute drive from San Bruno you can be at, "The art galleries of the San Francisco Art Dealers Association(SFADA). Make it a point to visit here if you're a lover of contemporary art. The SFADA features a range of works across media, from historic to contemporary, various mediums of art including film, and more," suggests Steve Zavattero, Executive Director of the SFADA. "The galleries include emerging, midcareer, and early modern and contemporary masters. Visitors can see all galleries for free."
#6: El Cerrito, CA
Situated in the East Bay and only minutes away from plenty of natural areas is El Cerrito. With home prices about 300K less than San Francisco, you’ll be saving on the costs associated with living the city life. Make sure to take a hike at Hillside Natural Area for views of the surrounding East Bay cities or head over to Berkeley’s Tilden Nature Area to check out the many farms and picnic areas.
#7: Daly City, CA
Seventh on our list of affordable San Francisco suburbs is Daly City, which is about 15 minutes away from the heart of the city. With a population of close to 104,900, moving to Daly City, aka the “Gateway to the Peninsula,” will give you the feel of a smaller city with a quick drive into downtown San Francisco. If you're going to call this affordable suburb home, plan time to explore Thornton State Beach and the Mussel Rock Park.
"I love visiting Thornton Beach State Park in Daly City. It has stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and great walking trails. It's such a peaceful spot to watch the sunset," recommends Sophie Nolan, The San Francisco Mama.
"I love hiking in San Bruno Mountain State Park next to South San Francisco and Daly City," suggests Art House SF. "You get an excellent workout while hiking on the crest of the mountain with gorgeous views of San Francisco on your left, San Francisco Bay in front of you, and the peninsula on your right. It's one of the best urban hikes in the world."
#8: Pacifica, CA
About $100K less expensive than San Francisco, Pacifica is a great area to consider moving to. With roughly 38,600 residents in this relatively affordable San Francisco suburb, you can enjoy Pacifica State Beach without having to head north into the city. Don't miss out on hiking along Sweeney Ridge Trail and watching the Pacific Ocean’s waves from Mori Point.
“You can’t beat breakfast and a hike just south of the city in coastal Pacifica," suggests Part-Time Traveler, Anne. "I love getting away in the mornings and stop by Rosalind Bakery before hitting a trail by the beach. A few scenic favorites include Mussel Rock, Mori Point, and Gray Whale Cove.”
#9: South San Francisco, CA
Another well-known suburb of San Francisco is South San Francisco, where the home prices are about $175K less than in San Francisco. South San Francisco has about 66,100 residents and is a great suburb to consider moving to if you’re looking to stay close to the city. From Oyster Point Park to Sign Hill Park, there are many activities to do and see in South San Francisco as well as easy access to San Francisco International Airport for all your travels.
“My favorite affordable thing to do in San Francisco is visit fellow art galleries in the Mission District to see exhibitions. I like to walk around there to see what new murals have popped up," suggests Ashley Voss, Owner of VOSS GALLERY.
#10: Alameda, CA
If you've been living in San Francisco for some time, you probably know someone who lives in Alameda. This more affordable suburb is home to nearly 78,300 residents, so you'll have a fraction of San Francisco's population while staying close to the Bay Bridge. Add the USS Hornet - Sea, Air and Space Museum, Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach, and Pacific Pinball Museum to your list of must-sees once you’re living in Alameda.
"My favorite free thing to do in Alameda is visit Crab Cove for a restful day," recommends JoEllen Depakakibo, Founder of Pinhole Coffee. "From canoeing, paddle boarding, looking at crabs, building sand castles, reading a book, or eating a meal on the beach, my family loves visiting Crab Cove."
Other affordable things to do in San Francisco
1. Hike the Pacific Coast
"My favorite free activity in San Francisco is to hike a portion of the Pacific Coast. I hike from Lands End to Fort Miley, through the stone labyrinth, and journey up towards Rodin’s Thinker in the courtyard at the Legion of Honor," says Gregangelo Herrera from Gregangelo Museum. "After, I visit Seacliff neighborhood and end at either Baker or Marshall’s Beach. This rigorous adventure offers ever changing majestic views of the Golden Gate Bridge."
2. Explore Mission District
"There are so many great, free things to do in the Mission District, like climbing Bernal Hill, taking the Esmerelda slideback down, playing with local dogs in Precita Park, and hearing live music at Baby Blues BBQ are some of our favorites," recommends CoffeeShop.
3. Watch a show at a coffee shop
Methodology: Affordability based on whether a suburb is less than the median sale price of San Francisco and under a 30 minute drive from downtown San Francisco. Median home sale price data from the Redfin Data Center during March 2022. Average rental data from Rent.com May 2022. Population data sourced from United States Census Bureau.
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