San Francisco vs. Los Angeles: My Unbiased Comparison (Phil’s WordPress Entry #7)

A disclaimer, I can’t stand this era of sensationalist headlines and listicles. One of our recent videos satired this. What I dislike even more are when these articles are misleading, but the general public is too lazy to dig just one step deeper to find out what is biased, exaggerated, or just plain false.

With that said, there was this article going around comparing San Francisco and Los Angeles last month… “WHICH IS THE BETTER CITY??” For those not from CA, this is a big debate between the two major cities of CA. “NorCal vs SoCal” for eternity. I read this article and found A LOT of problems and misinformation. I understand it was all done in fun, and so is this post. =) So here’s my take. Oh wait… I need a crazy headline.


My arbitrary qualifications to speak on these city’s behalves… I grew up in the East Bay and have experienced a LOT of SF in my recent young adult years. I currently live in LA (the last 7 years) and would consider myself to know it quite well. To be fair, I’ve reached out to my good friend Susan who is the opposite. She grew up on the outskirts of LA and now lives in SF and knows the city very well. (She also LOVES SF) and will balance any areas I’m not particularly knowledgable in.

ALSO, one important RULE  that this comparison must adhere to before we begin… The biggest mistake of the other article was not being consistent with “LA-LA” (downtown LA) and “LA” (SoCal), whereas SF was basically JUST SF. LA is HUGE, and generally ppl group everything in LA county together or single out “downtown LA” when it benefits their point. So to be fair, we are going to compare LA and SF and their 30 MINUTE radii, because that’s generally how the citizens of each city will live.

Herewego! Filled with glorious google image photos!



If you want seasons, SF wins. It gets super cold in the winter (frost, no snow). Leaves change on schedule, Spring is bright, and Summers can be very hot on the East Bay. But that fog tho… it really does suck and it’s unpredictable. Susan would like to point out though that the fog can be very beautiful at times. Sure, well, the smog in LA gives us gorgeous sunsets, but we’d gladly give it up.

LA really does live up to the stereotypes. We have maybe one month of “cold” weather. This year we literally had one weekend of heavy rain (in Feb), and the rest has been high 70s or even 80s (in Jan). Winter literally skipped us, and it’s sunny all the time.
LA WINS by a HAIR because generally ppl want “nice” weather more often than not. Don’t get mad yet…



(it sometimes actually looks like that from the plane)
When LA has a clear day, it can actually be quite beautiful. Vast open city, big mountain ranges as the backdrop. But that’s WHEN LA has a clear day. Which is not THAT much of a rarity, but it’s definitely a treat when it happens. SMOG is very real.
SF WINS easily. The Bay’s air is awesome. Sure LA has better the sun shining all the time, but it shines through smog.



We’re talking about coasts, so we should compare beaches. Yes, even though portions of LA beaches are polluted and crowded, many are still very open, and you get the beach culture and hot enough weather to actually enjoy it. There are definitely more sandy beaches where you can play beach volleyball, tan, rollerblade/bike.. you can’t do that on rocks and cliffs (which don’t get me wrong, are beautiful too)



(even the carpool lanes have traffic!)
LA is a city that was not built w/ any public transit in mind. They’re trying, but the culture is set. People don’t want to take the metro except for the novelty or on very rare occasions to a special event. Buses are a last resort. And there are just too many people. So traffic is terrible. But there are windows and patterns to the traffic, so if you live here and drive enough, you know when to get on the road and when your 2 hr window is. haha.

SF has bad traffic too during the rush hours. The bridge, the 101, the maze.. but LA is definitely worse on a round the clock basis.
SF WINS because BART is cool. And weekends actually mean clearer freeways.

FOOD – Alright, this is where it’s gonna get messy and angry. We’ll need subcategories too…


This is where I feel like the other article gravely lost all its credibility. To say that SF’s Chinese food is “unparalleled to any Chinese food down south” is just plain ignorant. haha. I love the bay, but I have to admit, the Chinese food in the 626 is unrivaled. From countless Hong Kong cafes open to 4a, quirky and hip boba shops, reliable tea chains, mom and pop hole-in-the-walls, to legit famous restaurants from China/Taiwan testing in LA… 626 (and therefore part of the 30 min radius) beats SF’s Chinatown and Sunset by far. Yes the bay has the South Bay w/ Milpitas/Cupertino/etc, but that’s 50 min out at least.
LA WINS don’t fight it. Susan agrees.



Does SF even HAVE korean food? Gotta cross the bridge to Oakland. Nothing compares to LA’s Koreatown. Hell, Korea doesn’t even compare to Koreatown in some ways, lol.
LA WINS no question. Susan (Korean herself) concedes. Even saying Norcal korean food is overpriced and mediocre at best.


I won’t even humor this with any sort of explanation.
easy, no contest. LA WINS

LA has the very legit and quaint Little Tokyo. SF has Japantown.

Vietnamese and Thai
LA has Thaitown, Westminster thirty fiiiive min away and much of the 626 is Vietnamese too. Both go to LA.  (I know the Bay has South Bay with San Jose, but that’s 50 min away from SF.)

Alright, obviously this comparison is skewing Asian. Mediterranean, French, Spanish, Italian, Middle Eastern, etc all don’t have focused areas dedicated to these cuisines. There are definitely famous restaurants and establishments in both cities which can probably go head to head… but I’m going to guess LA WINS.. ONLY because there are more immigrants and immigrant communities in the greater LA area. LA has Little Ethiopia, there, does that tip the scale? I’m open to disagreements here, but I still think LA will win.

American - Coffee, gastropubs, new american, bars, fine dining…


I feel like this might also have to be split. Any restaurant or cafe Susan or someone could namedrop up there, LA has an answer and vice versa. Let’s just be happy that both cities are filled with inspired chefs, creators, and local markets to support delicious dining! TIE


LA takes a lot of these categories, I feel bad.. umm SeafoodSF WINS. Now the food fight card looks a bit more respectable. Ain’t no one wants to eat seafood from LA waters, haha.

DATING and SOCIAL CULTURE (had too hard of a time googling for representative pictures. Just use your imagination, it’s probably accurate)
Okkk, would you rather have everyone be in tech or a non profit bragging about their new startup or incubation… or everyone be in “the industry” (entertainment) and talk about the short film, album, play they’re working on? Yes, not everyone is in these respective industries, but the stereotypes are true.
TIE, both equally annoying and harboring douchery.

BUT… dating, I think I’m going to have to give to LA. A much more equal spread of males to females is why. I’ve had girls say the guys in the bay don’t have enough style and swag. And those that do, know they are a rarity and there are so few girls so they don’t feel inclined to settle down. I’ve had countless guys say there are NO girls in the bay and if there are, they don’t “try”… meaning, girls in LA dress up a bit more. One could say that’s superficial, one could say, that’s life and aren’t we all trying to impress someone? Girls admit it too. I’ve had several girls say they feel judged if they wear heels or false eyelashes out. Hella sad! People travel to LA to party and let loose. SF is known to be more “chill” (read: wear jeans and a northface fleece to go out)
LA WINS~ Depends on what your tastes are. We’re both skewing towards LA on this one.

In terms of general “vibe” though… I definitely believe that people from Norcal are more laid back, and Socal is, yes, a little more superficial. People around the bay seem to be more culturally aware and sensitve, and also worldly. Down in LA, there are more people who are looking for any way to fame and fortune and “fake it til you make it” mentalities, and this is reflected to the general culture. Look, there’s all types of people everywhere in this world. I’m not saying LA doesn’t have cultured and chill people, and that SF doesn’t have narcissism, but when you meet someone in LA who’s originally from SF, you instantly can tell.. “hey, you’re from the bay huh?”

Is that in the 30 min radius? Barely? Ok… can’t compete w/ wine. SB is def further. I’m only putting it on this list because the other article did.



LA is a city built on entertainment, so of course our theme parks are better and more numerous.
LA WINS Not even counting Disneyland which is more than 30 min away.



As much as LA has been racking up points, SF should probably get like 10 extra points for this category. The green, the wilderness, the mountains, valleys, rolling hills, open space, water, did I mention green, makes SF one of the most beautiful places in the country. Ppl in LA want to go hiking, I scoff (yes, very snobby of me). But LA hiking is dusty, dirt paths, and you get 15 min into a wooded area and that’s supposed to be hiking. We can still see the million dollar homes on the neighboring hill!

LA is one big parking lot and strip mall with a few dusty mounds with dry bushes. SF is a gorgeous, lush, and fresh wonderland. LA has billboards EVERYWHERE, even in the “suburbs”.



Time’s have changed. Somehow the Lakers are tanking and the Warriors are the 6th seed. Clippers are awesome, but for some reason LA is still a Lakers city. Warrior fans are not bandwagon, they’ve been there through it all. Probably how Clipper fans would be if the Lakers never existed.

49ers, Giants… SF WINS again. Oh.. but congrats to the Kings and Galaxy for their championships in 2013. A few ppl in your city cared.

This depends what your tastes are so it’s hard to really quantify. What’s your preference of entertainment? Every major awards show, premiere, concert happens in LA. Susan says SF has more unity in certain city-wide events. Debatable. Bay to Breakers is a pretty good argument. Nightlife is bigger in LA I’d say, especially if you’re into clubs; LA is comparable to Las Vegas in many ways. Live music at a dive bar? Artisan cocktails at a hipster speakeasy? Swanky hotel rooftop lounge? Walking around aimlessly at an outdoor shopping center? Afternoons and evenings at a museum or art gallery?
 just cause it’s bigger and has more variety, so you’ll probably find something you like here.

SNOW - breaking from the 30 min radius for a sec


Yes SF has Tahoe 3 hrs away, and Mammouth is an extra hr… but we have Mt High and Big Bear less  than 1 hr and 2 hrs away respectively. Even if the snow isn’t that good, we can still get our fix in in a morning and be back by lunch. (Literally, one morning I woke up at 6a, got to Mt High, boarded for 3 hrs, and was back to LA by noon) Can’t do that in SF. But that’s IF we get snow…

I don’t’ care. I went to UCSD. YEAH SAN DIEGO!



I’d hafta concede that SF is just a pretty city as a “city”. That simple Transamerica Tower is enough to make the skyline unique. Add two beautiful bridges and being surrounded by water, this is no contest. LA doesn’t allow buildings to NOT have helicopter pads on the roofs, meaning all buildings must be flat on the top. That is boring!

The architecture in dtla is very historical and nice, but i’m sure SF has that too. Everything else in LA are townhomes, apartment complexes, and strip malls. The hills and Victorian homes give SF a real LOOK.



As mentioned before, this sorta relates to the Nature category. Golden Gate park alone is like as big as all the “parks” in LA combined. Griffith and the Hollywood hills definitely try and are a fair offerings to LA… for being dry dust mounds. SF has too many parks and open spaces to even start naming.
SF WINS no contest.



This should be a tie. Both cities have plenty of art museums (LACMA vs MOCA, Getty vs. DeYoung) One could argue about the specific collections but hey, let’s not turn this into a debate about art.  They both have great arts districts, a natural history museum, science museums (LA has the shuttlllle), and observatories (Chabot probably gets better images than Griffith).  So, if we gave LA all those food points for the quantity of choices… You know what it comes down to? SF has a zoo.. and another one in Oakland.
SF WINS  by a giraffe’s neck, at the other zoo.

DTLA is about the same as SF proper. Consider the 30 min radius, I’m sure the living prices are comparable. But people seem more reluctant to live “outside” of SF, where as ppl in LA are from neighborhoods all over and there’s no shame in saying one area or another. SF is a little pretentious that way.



LA is definitely trying to catch up. Our plastic bag ban came 1 yr after SFs. Local farmers markets are popping up more and more. Environmental initiatives are peaking out, but I sorta figure all these ideas are coming from people who’ve seen them first executed in other cities, namely SF, and wanting to bring them down to LA.
SF WINS but really everyone wins because who cares where it starts, as long as it’s spreading!

IN CONCLUSION… Which city is the best???
IT DEPENDS! Wow, how anticlimatic. Ok, if you actually tally it up, LA won by a handful (really racked up points in Food). A comparison like this can’t count points for points because depending on your personality, each category and point is weighted differently. Someone who ranks nature lower and is fine with Runyon Canyon will say LA. Someone who wants to be able to get around their city without sitting in a car will say SF. In the end, LA is just bigger and a much more diverse melting pot, so there are more choices of everything. But SF loses these square miles to rolling hills, grand cliffs, and a beautiful bay that cradles and beautiful city. I think I’m a pretty reasonable guy, and Susan is too. Hopefully this article compared fairly, and maybe will help those from outside of CA better understand the cities. CA in general is a freaking AWESOME state, and we’re lucky that we can even have these two metropolises to argue between.

via Phil’s WordPress blog post.



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