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TitleGuide to Living in San Francisco
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Page 1

Guide to Living in San Francisco

A beginner’s guide to navigating San Francisco, the housing market, and everything in between

San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

Housing Office
[email protected]

SFAI assumes no responsibility for accommodations or services listed within this guide.
The information contained within this publication is subject to change.
mailto:[email protected]

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Welcome to San Francisco!

1 Planning Ahead
2 When You Arrive

3 Short-Term Housing Options
4 Before You Start Searching

5 Where to Look
6 When You Find a Place

7 Neighborhoods
8 Apps to Make Life Easier

9 Things to do for Fun in SF

San Francisco Art Institute students have the best of both worlds— independent, real-life experience in the city and SFAI as the hub of their creative and social life.
SFAI is not only where you attend classes–it is where students come to immerse themselves in art. In fact, most students will arrive in the morning and then stay all
day and into the evening. SFAI is open 24 hours a day. At any time of the day or night, students might be involved in discussions, working in the studios,
collaborating on projects or exhibitions, or just hanging out.

Now that you’re planning to move to San Francisco, you are encouraged to consider the realities of the competitive housing market in the San Francisco Bay Area.
It takes time, planning and perseverance to find housing that meets your individual needs.

You should plan ahead to ensure that you have a temporary place to stay when you get here. Once here, it is important to establish a strategy. This housing guide
directs you through the process of finding a suitable place to live. If you do some preliminary research before arriving in San Francisco and follow the steps
suggested, your experience will be a positive one.

Planning Ahead


If you are coming to San Francisco from outside the Bay Area, we recommend that you make a reservation at a hotel, youth hostel, or residence before you arrive.
Hostels are usually the cheapest alternative, averaging $29 to $130 per night. Also parking averages around $25 per night. Space is somewhat limited and tends to fill
up fast with international students and travelers. Linens and towels are not usually provided, so plan accordingly.

Several hotels in the city provide weekly and monthly rates and provide linens, towels, and sometimes maid service. Residences, which are similar to dormitories,
also offer weekly and monthly rates with the added benefit of dining and kitchen facilities. As with hostels, residences tend to fill up quickly so it is advantageous to
book your reservation early. To be on the safe side, reserve your space for 2–3 weeks if possible. This will give you a home base from which to begin your housing
search. See pg. 3 for a list of short-term housing options.


If possible, allow yourself a minimum of one month to locate permanent housing. Of course, you may not need that much time to find something. It could be as
soon as one week or as long as a couple of months. One month should provide you with a reasonable amount of time to locate a permanent place to live.


You will need a credit report if you intend to look for your own place and to sign a lease. However, if you intend to search only for a shared apartment or flat, a
rental résumé should be sufficient. Rental résumés combine your employment history and tenant history, and include your financial information and references.
As with an employment résumé, you should focus on the positive and let the landlord know you will be a conscientious tenant. If two people are looking for a place
together, the résumé should include information about both of them. Also, make sure your phone number is listed in a prominent place. For a free credit report,
visit or For a small fee, you can also contact the credit reporting agencies directly: Experian (888.397.3742),
Equifax Options(800.829.4577), or Trans Union (800.322.8228). Otherwise, you can wait until you arrive in San Francisco and get a credit report through a
roommate- or apartment-listing agency.

Many times the information on a credit report is inaccurate, so review it carefully. If you find an error, contact the credit-reporting agency immediately and have the
issue addressed before you present the report to a prospective landlord.

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• Whether or not pets are allowed
• The number of tenants allowed
• Included utilities
• Whether or not extermination is part of regular maintenance
• Whether or not a security deposit is required
• Security deposit amount
• Persons responsible for maintenance and repairs

Never sign an agreement if you do not understand the terms or conditions or if you think a term or condition is unfair. You may wish to discuss the agreement with
an attorney or legal aid service prior to signing. Always ask for a copy of the completed agreement after you and the landlord have signed, and keep the copy in a
safe place.


If you agree to rent an apartment but are not going to move in immediately, the landlord may ask you for a holding deposit. This is a cash deposit to hold the unit,
usually for a stated amount of time, until you pay the first month's rent and any security deposits. If you change your mind about moving in, the landlord may be
able to keep your deposit. Ask the following questions before paying any deposit:

• If I decide to rent the unit, will the holding deposit be applied to the first month's rent?
• May I have a deposit receipt?
• Is any part of the holding deposit refundable if I change my mind about renting?

As a general rule, if you change your mind (for whatever reason), none of the deposit is refunded. If you and the landlord agree that all or part of the deposit will be
refunded, make sure that these terms are in writing.


Your status as a tenant affords you certain rights. There are certain things that a landlord cannot do:

• Evict you without first going to court
• Turn off your utilities or services
• Lock you out of your apartment or house
• Harass you
• Enter your apartment without your permission

A landlord may ask about information that reflects your ability to pay rent; however, combined federal, state, and local laws prevent landlords from discriminating
against classes of people because of race, gender, etc. Questions or concerns about discrimination should be directed to the State of California’s Fair Employment
and Housing Department at 1.800.223.3212 or

For laws, advice, arbitration, and information in regard to renter’s rights, write or call San Francisco Rent Board, 25 Van Ness Avenue, #320, San Francisco, CA
94102; 415.252.4602 or visit If your unit falls under the protection of rent control, you may call the Rent Board and file a petition. Other helpful
resources in San Francisco include San Francisco Small Claims Court, Building Inspector, San Francisco Housing Inspection Division, and the San Francisco
Health Department.


Before you commit to renting a housing unit, you should clearly
understand the responsibilities involved with each of the following
terms. They should be explicitly identified in your lease. Compare
any lease you are considering signing with applicable tenant-
landlord laws. As you are reading through your lease, make sure
the following items are addressed within the document. If some
things are not addressed, be sure to ask the landlord about his or
her policy regarding these items. You may also request that such
items be added to the lease.

• Rent
• Amount
• Due date
• Penalty for late payment
• Reduction for advance payment

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• Price changes
• Conditions for price changes
• Security/damage deposit
-Conditions for return
-Date for return

• Planned improvements/special work
• Property owner name and address
• Name and address of property manager

• Ability to sublet
• Conditions for sublet
• Conditions for terminating lease
• Parking
• Location
• Limitations
• Additional costs
• Utilities (i.e., gas, electric, phone, water)
• Pet-related charges/deposit
• Overnight or weekend guests
• Furnishings
• Cleaning

• Smoking
• Noise
• Storage
• Pets
• Alterations (e.g., picture hanging, painting)
• Conduct
• Parties
• Waterbeds

Dates (be exact)
• Requirements for moving notification or renewal
• Number of occupants (min. and max.)
• Damages
• Responsibility for damages
• Assessment of damages
• Responsibility for repairs

• Conditions for changes of agreement
• Process for changing agreement

• Provision of facilities
• Ability for tenant to install machines

• When?
• By whom (e.g., landlord, inspectors)?
• Use of rental inventory
• Letter of compliance
• Notification of inspection
• Cleaning

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San Francisco Italian Heritage Parade and Festival- The city celebrates its Italian heritage with a lively parade through North Beach with food, music, entertainment
and celebrities.
Potrero Hill Festival - The Potrero Hill Festival returns with a full day of fun, food, music and community activities. There will be special activities for the kids,
including a puppet show and a petting zoo.
Treasure Island Music Festival- Internationally renowned artists gather for a spectacular two-day, outdoor concert festival featuring electronic music and indie pop,
local designers, artists, food and beverage. The two festival stages are erected on Treasure Island offering amazing views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline.
Nike Women’s Marathon- Nike celebrates the 10th year of the Nike Women's Marathon with 20,000 women racing together through the streets of San Francisco to
raise funds and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Fiesta on the Hill - For more than two decades this neighborhood street fair has drawn more than 15,000 people to this family-friendly event featuring pony rides, a
petting zoo, pumpkin patch, local artists and live music.
San Francisco Fall Antiques Show - The oldest continuously operating international antiques show on the West Coast. The show includes 60 distinguished antiques
dealers from America and Europe selling a broad range of antique merchandise.


American Indian Film Festival- The world’s oldest festival dedicated to films by and about Native Americans showcases new and exciting work.
3RD I Film Festival South Asian Film Festival : Bollywood and Beyond- Committed to promoting diverse images of South Asians through independent film, from
art-house classics to documentary films.
San Francisco Green Festival - This joint project of Green America and Global Exchange brings individuals, businesses and investors together to work cooperatively
on positive social and economic solutions for communities and the environment. This is one of the largest and most authentic sustainability events in the world.
San Francisco World Music Festival - Music festival showcases the musical diversity from the Bay Area and around the globe by presenting high quality world music
performances by master artists both locally and overseas, and from traditional to contemporary explorations.
Embarcadero Center Building Lighting Ceremony - Bring the family to stroll through a holiday fair, enjoy live entertainment and witness the lighting of the
Embarcadero Center’s dramatic office towers which illuminate the San Francisco skyline with 17,000 lights throughout the season.
San Francisco Hip-Hop Dance Festival - Micaya, local teacher, choreographer and producer presents hip hop dance companies from around the world at this
award-winning, multi-cultural dance festival.
Ghirardelli Square Tree Lighting Ceremony - Ghirardelli’s magical square comes alive with colorful performers, music and a 50-foot Christmas tree lighting up the
Tree Lighting Celebration at Pier 39 - Engage in fun for the whole family with interactive exhibits, holiday sing alongs and more. Pier 39's majestic tree, adorned with
glistening ornaments and twinkling lights will be lit at 5:30 p.m. in the Entrance Plaza; festivities begin at noon.
Turkey Trail Trot- This invigorating fun run or walk has become a popular Thanksgiving Day tradition.
San Francisco International Automobile Show - Featuring the world’s major manufacturers displaying their 2015 model cars, SUV’s, trucks and vans...almost 800
vehicles in all.
Union Square Tree Lighting Ceremony - The annual illumination of Macy’s Great Tree includes more than 1,500 ornaments adorning the tree.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair - The Dickens Christmas Fair revives the tradition of an old English Victorian Christmas with theaters, a music hall, dance
parties, taverns, shops, stalls, food, street vendors and period costumes.


San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker - "Nutcracker" performed by America's oldest ballet company presents Tchaikovsky's beloved family classic every year.
Light the Menorah- Ghirardelli Square lights a nine-foot menorah and celebrates with music and good company.
Santacon- San Francisco's annual, citywide pub-craw where participants dress up like Santa Claus.
Levis Stadium Fight Hunger Bowl- Enjoy the color and excitement of high impact college football as two of the country's top teams clash at the Kraft Fight Hunger
Bowl; dates and more details will be announced in April.
Run Wild for a Child 5K and 10K - This 10K run and 5K run/walk, where participants often dress in costumes, benefits San Francisco Firefighters Toy program.
Noe Valley Holiday Wine Walk - Merchants offer wine samples, finger foods and special treats; attendees who wish to sample purchase tasting wristband prior to
event and receive wine glass and map with all tasting locations.
Union Street Fantasy of Lights- Costumed characters, Santa, merchant open houses and activities for children launch the holiday season along this famous street in
San Francisco, 3 to 9 p.m.
Parol Lantern Festival and Parade- Grand pageantry of more than 1,000 glowing lanterns; annual Parol celebration has become a must-see holiday event. Bay Area
Filipino community gathers for the eleventh annual celebration of holiday spirit, hope, unity, and pride. It’s a family fun-filled evening of dancing lights, music,
games, and prizes, 5 to 8 p.m.
The Renegade Craft Fair- The best makers of handmade goods from the Bay Area and beyond assemble for this free-to-attend marketplace for indie-craft culture
featuring interactive workshops.
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy™- Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant, featuring comedians, a dinner show, a Cocktail Show with dim sum, and
Yiddish proverbs in the fortune cookies. Partial proceeds benefit two local organizations each year.

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We hope this guide was able to help in the process of getting started in the search for housing and transitions to the Bay Area. This is a wonderful place to live but
the most important thing to remember in searching is patience. It won’t be an immediate process but once you find the place you can call home you can start

exploring and be well on your way to becoming a local.

San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 94133


Student Affairs Office

415.749.4525 [email protected]
SFAI assumes no responsibility for accommodations or services listed within this guide.

The information contained within this publication is subject to change.

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