San Francisco guide to New York neighborhoods

So you’re moving from San Francisco to New York. You liked your cute neighborhood and tasty burritos and you hope to replicate this existence somewhere in the Big Apple. Well kiddo, that’s impossible. Everyone knows there is no such thing as a good burrito in NYC.

This was the fate of a friend of mine a few weeks back. When she described her desires to a broker, this broker responded with, “you’ll probably like Williamsburg.” So this friend gets in the broker’s car and heads over a bridge to another part of town. Her reaction, later over email: “I expected it to be cute. Williamsburg is not cute.” Yes, Williamsburg is definitely not cute. It’s sort of like the Mission, and I’m sure almost anyone from SF would agree that the Mission is also not cute.

In response to this unfortunate misconception, I have constructed the San Franciscan’s guide to New York neighborhoods1. What follows is a socio-cultural mapping between cities, from my perspective. The fact that Murray Hill and the Marina are connected is entirely related to the number of white, greek-lettered hats you would find there.

San Francisco vs. New York
San Francisco vs. Manhattan

San Francisco New York
Financial District Midtown
North Beach Little Italy
Chinatown Chinatown
Union Square Soho
Soma Tribeca
Potrero Brooklyn Heights
Dogpatch Red Hook
Civic Center Civic Center
Hayes Valley Chelsea
Western Addition Carroll Gardens
Pacific Heights Upper East Side
Noe Valley Upper West Side
Marina Murray Hill
Haight Ashbury East Village
Castro West Village
Mission Williamsburg
Lower Haight Lower East Side
Russian Hill Park Slope
Fisherman’s Wharf South St. Seaport
Treasure Island Roosevelt Island
Sunset Brooklyn
The Richmond Queens
Berkeley Morningside Heights
Golden Gate Park Central Park
Tenderloin Wherever Giuliani put it
Stanford Princeton
Marin Westchester

1.   Of course there’s a lot of need for improvement. I would personally love to see similar guides made for every pair of cities (“I’m an Atlantan in Chicago. Where’s Little Five Points?”), but that’s a big task for one person with limited knowledge.

181 thoughts on “San Francisco guide to New York neighborhoods

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  5. WOW! I don’t even know where to begin. I reckon I should start by saying that this was a very lovely attempt at comparing SF to NY neighborhoods in a general sense, some were close others are pretty off, but hey, that’s the nature of the beast, right?

    Now to all of you folks who chose to denigrate Los Angeles on this comment board… PLEASE STOP.

    Los Angeles and San Francisco cannot be compared because San Francisco, heck, even the entire SF Bay Area can’t hold a candle up to the AMAZINGNESS that is Los Angeles. Los Angeles is not a million suburbs trying to find a city, or one gigantic beast of a suburb, it is a living, breathing, utterly dynamic CITY! San Francisco is quite nice, I have deep affection for it, but the fact of the matter is that it is sooooooo tiny in soooooooo many ways. A conservative definition of Los Angeles (say LA county perhaps) yields a population that is roughly 9 to 11 million people compared to less than 1 million for SF, area-wise it is also WAY HUGER than SF! Way more densely populated, lots more neighborhoods, lots more to do, lots of reasons why SF can’t compete with it…

    Anyhow, before I get way off track, my aim is not to denigrate SF because it does have a lot to offer and is a pretty amazing little town… I just want to point out that Los Angeles is way cooler than people, especially closed – minded Northern Californians think it is…

    —BTW, in full disclosure, I am a Northern Californian who thinks the REAL California starts somewhere south of Santa Cruz on the coast and south of Bakersfield inland—

    Anyhow, I’m too sleepy to finish… will post again.

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  8. where’s bernal heights?! mix the mission, noe, potrero & dogpatch. would love to know where i should airbnb in new york next. 🙂 (i usually end up in park slope, fwiw….that’s where all my people are)

  9. I was in New York for 20 years.
    San Francisco for two.
    Returned to New York for one more… and will be back in SF soon, probably for keeps.

    I really enjoyed this article, and most of the replies. I was a bit embarrassed by my fellow New Yorkers slamming on SF, which is a different kind of jewel altogether.

    There’s a small area under the bridges between Peck Slip and the LES that I’d compare to Tenderloin, but even creepier because it’s so desolate. It might be gentrified by now, but I doubt it… My friend and I used to joke that no one should even fly over it, let alone walk around.

    Thanks for the read! Well done.

  10. i’m an la native and have been living in sf for two that doesn’t make me an expert but it is enough time to get me irritated from all the negative & uninformed comments sf residents make about la…i’m hoping to move to nyc and i am fully prepared to get attacked about my home city there as well….only difference is: sf literally makes you soft and i feel that they’re aware of that so they try to attack la to help with their inferiority complex…whenever people mention the sprawl and the fake materialistic people they’re either an outsider or have only been to west l.a….la residents are hardworking and many of them rely on la’s burgeoning metro system…on the other hand i’ve realized that many of sf’s residents are pretentious and speak with snobby superiority especially to a mexican la native…
    …on the other hand i like oakland…i don’t see why people are so scared of it..not as bad as some of la’s upperlower class neighborhoods

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  12. Ruby said, “The main demographics in w. village are now young single professional, actors & artists, young families, very few older gay couples, lots of restaurants, bars, shopping.”

    The lots of restaurants, bars, etc part makes me think maybe the Mission or the Haight. The young urban professional (yuppie) part makes me think more gentrified. Maybe Cole valley or west of Valencia around Dolores Park. You like intolerable numbers of hipsters? The mission is for you. More into yuppie frat boys, some with young families and their sorority girl counterparts? Try Cow Hollow or the Marina. There is not a big struggling actor contingent anywhere in San Francisco, for that, NY or LA fits better.

    I used to care what New Yorkers thought of San Francisco, but then realized I didn’t care after I had one NY friend who lived here but was never satisfied with anything and talked up everything NY. His former house mate who was a drug dealer was better; the trash on the street was better; NY was the only “authentic” place (reminds me of middle America’s claim about itself). Lots of people everywhere are insecure and need to prove something about the city they live in so they can prove something about themselves.

    NY has a much bigger metro population than the bay area and Manhattan has a much bigger population than the city and county of San Francisco. I agree with the poster who pointed out that Boston is a much closer East Coast equivalent to San Francisco than New York is. I like all three cities for different reasons and they all have their problems, too.

  13. Shaking my head *sigh. okay another san franciscan comparing their city to a bigger, more popular one in hopes of acquiring SF!

    Why do you do this san francisco? I used to have so much respect for you when you were just cute, provincial and homely. When your claim to fame were the hippies and haight street summer of love.

    Now all this smugness and ego over the last 8 to 9 years really makes me wonder if this pretty, quaint little city is actually just as superficial as the the Los Angeles they made up (yes made up) in their minds to hate. Lately you’ve been in desperate need to be recognized. Now you insist on comparing yourself to NY and bash on LA. Maybe you’ve been doing this all along but you never made an effort to do it publicly til recently. It’s really just sad and encouraging my dwindling respect.

    It was better back then when you didn’t care about being noticed, when you criticized behind our backs (us new yorkers and angelenos), when you weren’t recognized for your restaurants. And I think that might be it. Once you were noticed for your food by Michelin you think we SHOULD notice everything else. tell you what! I, and most working people, can’t afford French Laundry at your pseudo-libertarian commerce. For the protesting and anti-commercial propaganda that SF has, it sure madly promotes very expensive food inaccessible to the majority of the middle class.

    So conclusively your people are painting a pretty picture for the world of how wonderful, progressive, and liberal your city is when all the supposedly great things in it are only accessible to those who have a salary of 75k and above.
    Sounds like a walking contradiction to me. And that’s why it only makes sense that there are so man hipsters in the gentrified Mission so they can feel urban validation when they get robbed for their new Leica and Vespa.

    Humble yourselves SF, please! San Jose and Oakland are riding your coattails too, you’re bringing down the entire morale of the bay area with that God forsaken ego – and no you don’t wanna be like us LA and NY folks now do you now?? SMH

  14. [EDIT] Shaking my head *sigh. okay another san franciscan comparing their city to a bigger, more popular one in hopes of validating* SF!

  15. Hello again!

    2.5 yrs later, I am still in NYC. I have a love-hate relationship with this place. More hate than love. Will relocate next year to either DC or Chicago. Will eventually settle back in SF, or the Bay at least.

    My sentiments haven’t exactly changed from two years ago. I rode MUNI when I was home this past Nov., and I will stand by the fact that MTA has more creepy ppl on it that MUNI has had collectively my entire live. Secondly, I also stand by my sentiments that SF is leading in green initiatives. Have you ppl not seen how disgustingly filthy the streets of NYC (all boroughs included) are? I still cringe at ppl throwing plastic bottles in the normal trash. I think Queens (the parts I have been to) is probably the cleanest of the boroughs.

    As for neighborhood comparisons, the majority of the list is pretty spot on. However, there are exceptions. It seems that the list is based off of the gentrified version of SF and not the SF I grew up in. First, the Western Addition used to be referred to as the Fillmore and was a lot more colorful than it is now, or was in ’07 when this list was made. That is accurate NOW, but growing up in the 90s, this was not the case. Hayes Valley/Chelsea?? LOL, more like Castro/Chelsea. I don’t agree with Union Sq/SoHo either. US in SF is more like a combination of NYC’s US and Times Square. US in SF is touristy with tons of shopping. SoHo is shopping and galleries. Despite the many corps in midtown, I’d say FiDi/Wall St. The Mission/Williamsburg? LOL, hardly. I live in Bushwick and between all the spanish discount stores and spanish food spots on Broadway, I think Misson/Bushwick is waaay more accurate. The Mission is also hella hipster and gentrified, just like Bushwick. Maybe Mission/East Williamsburg? The Sunset/ALL of Brooklyn?? That doesn’t even make sense lol. The sunset is 95% residential, quiet and mostly Asian. Brooklyn is the most diverse place on the entire planet. Brooklyn also has a number of neighborhoods with unique vibes and demographics. Lastly, the Richmond to ALL of Queens? Not even comparible. Maybe a few neighborhoods in Queens but definitely not all of the borough.

    Great idea though! 🙂


    Ahahaha seriously this article couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m leaving to New York on the 24th ^_^

  17. Yes, I agree that this list is very flawed. Brooklyn is too large and diverse to be lumped into equalling Sunset. I’ve lived in Williamaburg, Bushwick, and now Fort Greene – as well as visited SF several times. All 3 neighborhoods are very different. Although Williamsburg at first glance may seem sketchy and unrefined, some of the best restaurants, gourmet coffee shops, furniture and clothing stores are there, and are continuing to open there. As well as boutique hotels like the Wythe and chic bars with beer selections to satisfy any connoisseur.

    Yes, perhaps a trip to NYC is in order :). Brooklyn in itself can perhaps be compared to parts of SF…

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