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It’s Less Expensive And More Environmentally Friendly To Live In The City, We Have Proof

The data is in and it’s true, the grass is not greener in the ‘burbs, and yet another reason to get thee to the city. “A new report released today by the ULI Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing finds that the average Bay Area household spends more than $41,000 a year – nearly 60 percent of their income – on transportation and housing costs alone.” Are you kidding!?

Our simple math: living in the city = less time and money spent in transit. But if you must get down to details, check out the <a href="Terwilliger Housing & Transportation Costs Calculator, which we used to get some basic data in the image below. It’s pretty slick and definitely good ammunition to put in front of your boss when you ask to “work” out of the house or closer to home.

In regards to housing being “less expensive” outside of San Francisco (or any city):

-“Housing that appears affordable based solely on housing costs may not be truly affordable when it is located far from transit, jobs and services,” said Cisneros. “[The] report underscores the importance of broadening the understanding of housing affordability challenges to also include transportation costs, time and the environmental impacts of commuting.”

-[The report, Bay Area Burden] provides a comprehensive analysis of the “cost of place” in nine counties located throughout the San Francisco region by examining the costs and impacts of housing and transportation on residents, their neighborhoods and the environment. The report demonstrates the severity of the problem in the region and how the combined costs of housing and transportation are leaving San Francisco Bay Area workers with insufficient resources to meet their basic needs. The report finds that three fifths of all Bay Area residents live in communities that are unaffordable to households earning less than $80,000.

In terms of environmental impact (because it’s so hip to be green):

Bay Area Burden also demonstrates the unintended environmental impacts of [living in the ‘burbs]. The successful implementation of greenhouse gas emission reduction plans in the transportation sector is particularly important in the Bay Area, where transportation accounts for 40.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 33 percent nationally. Bay Area Burden illustrates how densely developed urban counties like San Francisco are estimated to have substantially fewer vehicle miles traveled per household (19.4) and thus lower per-household carbon dioxide emissions (20.2) than do more rural and suburban counties such as Solano, where those figures are 50.4 and 49.4 respectively. Considering that less than one in ten (9.5%) Bay Area workers use public transit, compared with 26.5% in the New York Metropolitan area and 11.1% in the Washington DC region, these figures are even more compelling [and SAD!!!].

Obviously, we take this data and use it for supporting a healthy and vibrant life in the city of San Francisco, but it clearly extends waaaay beyond our boundaries to other world class cities (New York, Chicago, Singapore, Tokyo, Paris, London, etc.), so if you happen to live in one of those areas, we’d be happy to hear your thoughts (in the comments below).

We keep trying to tell you, the city is THE place to be, now and in the future, so get in while you still can…

Bay Area Burden Housing/Transportation Report Key Findings
-<a href="Terwilliger Housing & Transportation Costs Calculator
[Props go out to the Center for Neighborhood Technology for providing much of the data, and the Center for Housing Policy who provided much of the analysis of that data for the report.]



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16 thoughts on “It’s Less Expensive And More Environmentally Friendly To Live In The City, We Have Proof”

  • Usually Named

    November 5, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    1. Jobs are fleeing the city. San Francisco’s anti-business attitude has led to an exodus other areas and the general avoidance of setting up shop in a place where progressives look at you as if you’re fresh meat. Live in the city, drive to the peninsula for work. Hardly environmentally friendly.

    2. Any cost savings here are offset by the need to put your kids in private school.

    3. How can it be environmentally friendly when you have to step over people and dog feces and urine everywhere?

  • anna

    November 5, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    this is interesting and bound to spark vitriolic debate. Can I steal some for the Chronicle?

  • Financial Samurai

    November 6, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Great stats!

    I was thinking goodness I live in the city when the Bay Bridge closed.

    $45/month for a bus pass all day long! Yiiihaw.

  • sunset man

    November 6, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Yep, I do that. I live in the city. I work in Santa Clara. Why? Cuz that’s where the jobs are. I send my kids to private school. Please explain how this is supposed to be good for the earth again? Oh yeah, I forgot, SF, you know, is “special”, so ridiculous anti-business laws are fine here.

  • lefty

    November 9, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    agree w/ sunset man. we stayed in the city (sf) and have so far invested roughly $150,000 in our kid’s education. high school comes next.

  • CarolineSF

    November 19, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I have a college freshman and a high school sophomore who have gone all the way through SFUSD schools.

    Only the uninformed (well, and perhaps those who don’t want their kids sitting next to “those” people in class) believe that San Francisco parents “need” to send their kids to private schools.

    Of course we do have many friends who do and have sent their kids private, and there is simply no discernable difference in the quality of their education vs. the quality of my kids’ education. Basically they spent $150,000-$200,000 per kid for the same thing we got for free — a solid K-12 education. They chose to do that for whatever reasons of their own, but they didn’t “need” to do it.

  • SanFranciscan

    November 20, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Caroline, did your kids go to SFUSD when it had neighborhood-schools or when assignment was lottery based? Given your kids ages I am guessing it’s the former not the latter. It would help to disclose that.

    As many know, the current SFUSD assignment system is done via an absurdly stressful lottery which is pushing many families to private or out of SF entirely. Ironically, said lottery is not helping de-segregate schools which is, ostensibly, its purpose.

    • thefrontsteps

      November 20, 2009 at 7:55 am

      To all commenters:

      “The San Francisco Board of Education is changing the way students are assigned to schools for 2011. Learn about the options under consideration and share your questions and ideas.

      Can’t make it to a meeting?
      Complete an Online Survey
      Click Here to go to website for details on redesign and survey

      Come to a Meeting!
      November 18 (Wednesday), 6 pm to 8 pm
      Mission High School, 3750 18th Street (Castro/Mission)

      December 2 (Wednesday), 6 pm to 8 pm
      Washington High School, 600-32nd Avenue (Outer Richmond)

      December 15 (Tuesday), 6 pm to 8 pm
      Dianne Feinstein Elementary School, 2550 25th Avenue (Parkside)

      January 7 (Thursday), 6 pm to 8 pm
      Drew Elementary School, 50 Pomona Avenue (Bayview)

      January 14 (Thursday), 6 pm to 8 pm
      Francisco Middle School, 2190 Powell Street (North Beach)”

  • Sophie

    November 20, 2009 at 10:13 am

    San Franciscan
    I disagree 100%.

    EVERY SINGLE FAMILY we know that dared to play fair got a school they are happy to send their child to. (I’m talking elementary. above, it gets trickier)
    And vice versa, every moron who played the american stupid way lost at the lottery.

    the lottery system is EASY – you have exactly ONE chance, and you NEED to make sure you get #1 or #2 on your list – by finding a school that works for you – and if necessary, listing your assignment school next.

    Families in the gray area are quite rare. There have been some mess up – but you cannot use the 23 flynnarado children to create a rule for the 4713 other children. It’s like taking the 4 Broadway SFH for sale, and creating a rule for the rest of the city’s SFH!
    And no, no kid has EVER been bussed across the city to district 10 – not because the parents wouldn’t let it happen, but because district 10 DOESN’T WANT YOU!

    San Francisco Issues:
    Private investment in public schools, by city:
    – New York City: $350 per student
    – Seattle: $150 per student
    – Portland: $100 per student
    – San Francisco: $43 per student
    Source: SF Schools Alliance, 2007


    we love love love our school. We do have a relative choice to go private to a similar program. But that would be over my dead body. Academics are not as strong, adult per child ration is way below my comfort zone, teachers credentials are not as thoru and strong, building is not as nice, parents are certainly not as friendly and welcoming, parking would be a nightmare. Private just never stop asking for money – you have to pay for EVERYTHING and they keep phoning you for more “generous” donations…..
    Private schools in SF are broken – much more than public. Only parents chanting “I’m happy here” over and over helps convince THEMSELVES that they are indeed happy there. And it’s too easy to just refuse to check the other side of the fence.
    There are a few private schools that are outstanding – and funnily, they are not the most requested ones, some with open spots year round – maybe because the price tag is not high enough to pat the parents’ ego into bragging “I’m spending THAT MUCH for my kid”.

    To some extend, it looks like parents who truly cannot afford private (like not earning enough, but way too “rich” to qualify for full tuition assistance) are the parents who are getting the BEST education for their children…. simply because they are motivated to make it work!
    That’s right folks. NOBODY can “buy” an education to a child. A child will not succeed because the new library bears his parent’s name. A child will not succeed because he has 23 private tutors weekly (in addition to school) to make him slave over books. A child will succeed when he hears his parents talk RESPECTFULLY about his school and his teachers, when his parents REINFORCE teachers tools like discipline, homework, when his parents are PROUD of the community that accepted them and included them from day one – including the janitor of the school.

    SFUSD schools are changing faster than one can imagine, because we are fortunate to have a nice group of adults who are .. true San Franciscans! putting their money and their effort behind their words of equity, equality, diversity, world community.
    I’m grateful for the teachers that supervise my children everyday. I had NEVER seen such a commitment, dedication and quality in education – ever. And some under-privilege children are lucky cookies to have them as teacher, rather than wasting those good teachers on brats.

  • sparky-b

    November 20, 2009 at 10:45 am

    So kids at private schools are “brats” and no parents are actually happy with the private school, huh?
    I am glad to hear you like your school, but really the tone of this is horrible.

  • Sophie

    November 20, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Failure of parents to enforce consistent, age-appropriate limits.
    Parents shielding the child from normal everyday frustrations.
    Provision of excessive material gifts, even when the child has not behaved properly.
    Improper role models provided by parents.

    kids are not born brats. Parents create brats when they impose on their children that it’s not ok to sit at the same table and share a meal with a public housing child, when parents decide that their children should never walk more than 10 yards from the school door to the car (heard of obesity anyone? not mentioning the traffic nightmare and pollution created by schools in PacHts and else), when they don’t EDUCATE their children and gain good conscience by spending $200.000.

    as for being happy in private schools – how come so many children do not finish their education in the SAME school? it’s not unheard of children attending 3 different schools in the same year. What does THAT teach the kids? The most recurrent answer when asking people around us “what do you think of your school?” is “easy option, I don’t have to think about it” and “it’s too complicated to change school so we stay put”.

    SFUSD, as crappy as it is, is one of the few school district where ANYBODY can get ANY SCHOOL they want – they *only need* to want it, not just wish about it.

    Last. private is NOT the alternative to public. If you are not happy about public, the obvious option is home schooling – not buying your ticket out at 20K a head a year. Spending a fortune in education is a CHOSEN LIFESTYLE, thus not entitling you the right to complain (and vice versa, there are many families going private without spending an arm and a leg, and they never complained about “having to leave the city because of the schools”).

  • Crimson Wife

    November 20, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    It’s only cheaper to live in the city if you’re a longtime resident in a way-below-market-price rent-controlled apartment. We moved to the Bay Area in 2006 and it would’ve cost us nearly double to rent a 3BR place in a safe S.F. neighborhood than in the mid-Peninsula.

  • sparky-b

    November 21, 2009 at 9:41 am

    So your going to follow up your high horse with some more condescention.
    Sophie, I know what a brat is, I don’t need wikipedia. Your point is that your grateful for your child’s teacher and are glad they aren’t being wasted on brats. Which boils down to, at a private school they would teach a class full of brats. I.e. they are all brats. No they are not all brats. Some are, so are some public school kids.
    Home schooling is the alternative to private school, c’mon. That is just silly.
    I agree that private school is a choice and does not entitle you to complain. But, your point is that everyone at private school is unhappy and complaining, not true.
    Private school means you don’t talk to people from public housing? Is that mandated.
    Noboday walks to private school, and everybody walks to public? And, private school is the reason for obesity.

  • sparky-b

    November 21, 2009 at 9:43 am

    ^^^”you’re grateful” not “your grateful”; my public school education at work I guess.

  • Melanie Long

    July 25, 2010 at 5:59 am

    K12 education is always the best~;,

  • Paige Price

    September 9, 2010 at 3:51 am

    i was home schooled and it is quite satisfactory when providing basic education,.;


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