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San Francisco is home to one of the most thriving and vibrant LGBTQ communities on the planet. It’s also the center of groundbreaking activism and the history of LGBTQ rights. Nicknamed the “gay capital of the world,” the famous Harvey Milk fought to make it a place of universal acceptance where the LGTBQ community can network, learn, and grow. It’s been called “the original gay-friendly city” and will continue to be that way for years to come.
The city of San Francisco was founded on June 29, 1776, by Spanish colonists who established the Presidio neighborhood at the Golden Gate Bridge and Mission San Francisco de Asís a few miles away (named for St. Francis of Assisi).
San Francisco became a consolidated city in 1856 after the Gold Rush brought in hordes of people. An earthquake and fire nearly destroyed everything in 1906 but the city quickly rebuilt.
In the 1970s, the city began to attract more of the LGBTQ culture and in that decade, the gay male population rose from 30,000 to 100,000. This is in a city that had a little over half a million people. The gay community forever became a critical contributor to the region’s population.
San Francisco is the commercial, cultural, and financial center of Northern California. It encompasses an area of approximately 46.9 square miles with a population density of 18,187 people per square mile. In fact, it is the most densely large city in the state of California.
A recent poll found that 6.2% of San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward inhabitants identified as LGBT. This is the highest of any metropolitan area in the country. In the city itself, 15.4% of residents identify as LGBTQ.
As of 2018, the city of San Francisco was the 7th highest-income county in the United States with a per capita personal income of $130,696. So, the area is particularly affluent for a city.
Here are some more fun facts about San Francisco.
San Francisco has different weather depending on where you live. In fact, the region has sharp topography and maritime influences that lend it a unique number of microclimates. Generally speaking, the area has a warm-summer Mediterranean feel with moist and mild winters.
The climate is temperate year-round with little seasonal variation. It won’t be snowing here but it does have the coolest daily mean among major U.S. cities. Some areas of the city can be foggy half of the year so it’s super important to research the exact neighborhood climate before you move in.
San Francisco is bumpy with more than 50 hills located in city limits. That’s why you get winding roads like Lombard Street. Many neighborhoods are named after these hills like Nob Hill and Potrero Hill.
In the 20s and 30s the most popular gay neighborhood was North Beach, then Polk Gulch from to 50s to the 80s. In the 70s, a large part of the LGBT community was living in the upper Market Street and Haight-Ashbury area.
Today, three neighborhoods stand out as the most prevalent for the LGBTQ transplant looking to vibe with the city:
The Castro is pretty synonymous with San Francisco and LGBTQ. It’s one of the most gay-centric neighborhoods in the world. The lively block features everything from homey restaurants to upscale shopping and historical museums.
Property is selling for about $947/sq. ft. Condos and single-family homes are the most popular with the area having an average of 4 homes for sale.
The median home price in the Mission is $1,749,803.
This is the place where Harvey Milk set up his camera store and organized the community. It’s also home to yearly events, festivals, and activities. There is even a Walk of Fame with the names of notable LGBT people inscribed on the sidewalk.
Schools: Sanchez Elementary School
The property values in the Mission have been increasing over the past few years. This neighborhood has a strong queer Latino presence and was home to the first gay Latino bar in San Francisco called Este Noche (along with other places like a La India Bonita and El Rio).
Property is selling for about $1,171/sq. ft. Condos, single-family, and multi-family homes are the most popular with the area having an average of 23 homes for sale.
The median home price in the Mission is $1,417,043.
The neighborhood has a rich history with the LGBTQ community. It housed Proyecto ContraSIDA por Vida (also known as PCPV and Proyecto) which was a non-profit HIV-prevention agency. The neighborhood has several lesbian bars, a women’s center, coffee houses, bookstores, and a women’s-only bathhouse.
Today, it’s a thriving and diverse community with plenty of resources for LGBTQ individuals.
Schools: There are over ten schools for children of every age in the Mission District.
People may not realize it, but this neighborhood is closely related to the LGBTQ culture. The area has a history of embracing sexuality and is rich in gay nightlife. In 1994, the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance and Asian Pacific Sisters joined the Chinese New Year Parade. It was the first time the city’s Chinese American society accepted the Asian American LGBT organizations publicly.
Property is selling for about $1,049/sq. ft. Single-family homes are the most popular with the area having an average of 2 homes for sale.
The median home price in Chinatown is $1,396,922.
The area has a deep history in Asian culture. It’s safe, close to public transportation, and boasts state-of-the-art schools.
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Golden Gate Park Much like central park, this is the place for recreation for anyone in the city. It’s an urban park that consists of 1,017 acres and attractions like:
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art The SFMOMA is a nonprofit organization and displays an internationally recognized collection of contemporary and modern art. It was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art.
The Castro Theatre A popular SF movie palace, the theater became Historic Landmark #100 in 1976. It’s been heavily shaped over the years by LGBTQ influences.
The San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley A fairly new installation, this feature has four pieces of artwork dedicated to the leather culture in the city. You can’t miss artwork like this.
Dolores Park Considered the “gay urban beach” of the city, Delores Park is on the western edge of the Mission District and is home to tennis courts, fun activities, pets galore, and people just chilling out and enjoying their day.
San Francisco is surrounded by beaches which can be pretty cold depending on the time of year.
Baker Beach A popular LGBTQ-friendly beach with clothing optional. Located on the southwest side of the Presidio, the best part is the north end of the beach.
Land’s End Beach Just off of the Land’s End trail, this is also a clothing-optional beach that’s tucked into the cove of Gary Blvd. The beach can be rocky so bring the right footwear!
GGBA – Golden Gate Business Association The World's First LGBTQ Chamber Of Commerce is sitting in San Francisco. Established in 1974, the community center has offered opportunities, education, and advocacy for business owners in the LGBTQ community for decades.
The GLBT Historical Society Considered the home of Gay History, the museum is located in the Castro. Visitors can tour important archives of movements throughout American history. This group is considered a leader in the field of LGBTQ public history.
SF Gay Pride – June The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Celebration is also known as the San Francisco Pride. Held every June, it’s a massive, multi-day extravaganza of everything on the planet gay.
The National Queer Arts Festival – June Established in 1998, NQAF is an annual queer film festival that coincides with Pride Month. It’s two full days of performances, workshops, exhibitions, film screenings, challenges, dance-offs, you name it!
Folsom Fair – September Folsom Street Fair is not for the faint-hearted. It’s San Francisco’s annual BDSM and leather subculture street fair that caps off San Francisco's Leather Pride Week.
Castro Street Fair – October Held every first Sunday in October, the Castro Street Fair is a good time with DJs, food vendors, live entertainment, shopping, etc. There is also an “Artisan Alley” where dozens of Northern California artists can showcase their work. Many of the proceeds from ticket sales go to charity.
San Francisco Transgender Film Festival – November In 2016, SFTFF celebrated its 15th Anniversary. This festival is the world’s oldest transgender film festival, showcasing dozens of films focused on the LGBTQ community.
There are no questions asked when wondering if San Francisco is gay-friendly. If you are moving to the city, there are some tourist traps to avoid. Check into the BART and Muni schedules (public transportation) because having a car is costly.
Overall, San Francisco is one of the most gorgeous cities you will ever lay eyes on and many would be hard-pressed to leave. It’s a freeing area of acceptance that bodes well for a peaceful lifestyle.
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