Would You be Raising Kids in SF?

Running near Fort Mason, I took this photo as I was overwhelmed by the number of kids at the playground. An urban playground.

Coming from DC, where the city is mainly empty-nesters, singles, or gays in the neighborhoods I frequent, kids are a rare sight. Not so in San Francisco.

Here, they’re everywhere. I counted four strollers at Sunday brunch alone. And that was a Bloody Mary kinda brunch too.

In DC all the parents live in the suburbs, running from low quality schools in DC. Why might there be a reverse concentration in San Francisco?

Are the schools better in the city? Are all these rich private school kids? Are private schools cheap? Or is the commute so long from the ‘burbs that parents have no choice?

And would you be/are you a parent in SF? I wouldn’t in DC, as I get a full-body rash when I enter suburbia and there seems to be little choice there, but here.. could I be a happy urban parent in SF?

10 Comments so far

  1. cd (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 10:26 am

    I hear some have even raised kids in Manhattan.


  2. TinMan (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 10:27 am

    I’m sorry, but you are mistaken: you just happened to be in the Marina which is heavily gentrified and possibly the straightest neighborhood in San Francisco. There are many other SF neighborhoods with few toddlers and even fewer school-age children.

    Here’s a quote from Wikipedia’s entry on San Francisco: “Following a national trend, an out-migration of middle class families is contributing to widening income disparity and has left the city with a lower proportion of children, 14.5%, than any other large city in the United States.”

    I’m not a parent myself, but generally speaking the city’s public school system (San Francisco Unified School District) does not excel in standardized testing. There are two exceptions, Lowell High School and the School of Arts, both of which are magnet schools. According to Wikipedia (again), Lowell is ranked #26 in the nation. Many SF parents send their kids to private schools, of which a large number are still affiliated with the Catholic Church. Of course, competition to get into some of the private schools can be as fierce as getting into Lowell (e.g., Lick-Wilmerding High School).

    As indicated above, many parents do move to the suburbs once their kids are of school-going age. There’s a strong correlation between real estate prices and good public school systems. If you want your kids to go to top-notch public schools, you may have to pony up $100-$150K extra for a house on the right side of the school district zone.

    You can see this premium real estate effect on the Peninsula and in the South Bay in Palo Alto (Paly and Gunn H.S.), Cupertino (Monta Vista and Lynbrook H.S.), and Saratoga/Los Gatos (SHS and LGHS).

    That said, I’m sure one can be a happy urban parent in San Francisco; I know a few myself. I think kids can have a rich and rewarding childhood in San Francisco, but like anything else in life, you will get a little more out of it if you put in some effort.


  3. cd (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 10:30 am

    I saw a fair amount of kids (esp. school children) in the Sunset.

    I wouldn’t raise my kids in SF – but that’s more because I would want to raise them in an environment similar to the one in which I was raised. Most people probably feel that way.


  4. KWillets (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 10:59 am

    Actually the SFUSD is one of the higher-scoring urban school systems, but it’s mainly due to the high proportion of Asian-American kids.

    Supposedly there’s a baby boom in the city, but some parents move out to the suburbs by school age.

    The school system is good in that it allows school choice, albeit with only a random chance of getting one’s choices. There are also a lot more opportunities for bilingual, arts, etc. education. As with most complex systems, one can get a lot out of it if one does one’s homework.


  5. anna (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

    Oh man, don’t get me started on DC school system. I personally think it’s the most undemocratic thing: you can only afford good high schools if you are wealthy (100K per kid), creating a cycle of undereducated middle and lower classes – by country standards. If DC metro area improved their public education I think they would start to recognize a lower poverty percentage, lower crime, better parks/activism/environment, etc… Favorite quote from a local business owner and father of 3 (on my trip last week): “I’m looking forward (to sending my 3 girls) to college.” Because grammar school-high school was reaming him so hard.


  6. anna (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 12:20 pm

    As usual, no references to earlier sf metblogs articles.

    On this playground specifically: http://sf.metblogs.com/archives/2006/04/the_turtle_was_hot.phtml
    “The Turtle Is Hot”

    On raising kids in the city:
    http://sf.metblogs.com/archives/2006/08/is_sf_kidfriendly.phtml “Is SF Kid-Friendly”

    And anything by Matt Rudoff, who is raising kids in the city:
    http://sf.metblogs.com/profile.phtml?author=1300


  7. gse (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 1:31 pm

    There’s a *ton* of kids in Bernal and Noe too, as well as the Mission. At least toddlers. I don’t know what the people with older kids are doing (my kids are little) but there is this very tough decision of “believe that the schools really are getting better” vs. “spend $15k/kid/year on private school” vs. “move to walnut creek, give up all the neat things about living in the city, and quintuple your commute”.

    Fairfax County VA (where we moved from a couple years ago) was pretty damn dull but the schools are great.


  8. kathryn (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    I’m a parent, and kids are everywhere! There are fabulous parks and playgrounds all over SF. I can’t believe I was lucky enough to lose my job (read: outsourced) and get to go to all of these fabulous places. During my first year off, I made it my goal to visit as many different playgrounds as possible. Aside from the playgrounds, there are museums, play spaces, play groups, gymnastics, acrosports, art classes – I could go on and on. SF is fabulous for having kids and we couldn’t be happier.

    As for schools, there is a big push for public schools (http://www.ppssf.org/) and I know many parents who are quite happy with them. Leaving SF? No way, not any time soon. Suburbia – boring. While it is not always the easiest, I wouldn’t trade SF for anything.


  9. Chester (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

    > “…kids are a rare sight. Not so in San Francisco.”

    Keep the comedy coming.


  10. Bradley Allen (unregistered) on December 1st, 2006 @ 1:42 am

    “Mack daddy hat got me lookin’ like Pops”
    http://sf.metblogs.com/profile.phtml?author=1358

    - Sir Mix-A-Lot



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