San Francisco, one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the USA, is also the financial center and cultural hub of the West Coast. A popular tourist destination for its location, climate, and architecture, it is also known for its openness. Famous for its innovative environment, several technology companies have chosen San Francisco as their base, putting it in close competition with Silicon Valley.
But how is San Francisco performing in terms of reputation and influence, business attractiveness and sustainability?
In this San Francisco guide:
- San Francisco’s reputation and performance as city brand
- The global influence of San Francisco
- San Francisco’s performance in indices of environmental sustainability
- San Francisco as a hub for creativity and innovation
- How attractive for digital nomads?
San Francisco’s reputation and influence
Ranking 17th in the Global Power City Index (2017), San Francisco has improved its performance from last year, being the 3rd best-placed city in North America after New York (2nd) and Los Angeles (11th). The city received a high score on R&D (9th), did well on the Economy (13th) and Environment (17th) indicators. Its weaker points – compared to other cities featured in the ranking – are Livability (25th) and Cultural Interaction (28th). Accessibility (33th) is the factor that pulls SF down most in this study on the global power of cities.
The same index also measures a city’s attractiveness for different audiences, where San Francisco scored 5th for researchers, 15th for residents, 17th for managers, 20th for visitors, but only 34th most attractive city for artists.
Well-known around the world, San Francisco ranked 22nd in the City RepTrak (2017) study, just ahead of New York City and the highest position among US cities. Looking at the specific city functions, San Francisco ranked 6th as a place to visit, 9th as a place to live and work in, and 10th as a place to invest.
Economic performance of San Francisco
Ranked 8th in the Global Financial Centres Index 23 (2018), San Francisco has improved its ranking considerably since the last edition. New York City and Toronto are the only North American cities that perform better than San Francisco.
Within the five broad factors of competitiveness, the city ranks 5th for Financial Sector Development, as well as Reputation. It’s positioned 8th for Business Environment and 9th for Human Capital and Infrastructure performance. SF has also advanced from being considered a Dynamic Centre to becoming a Stable Centre.
Among the Top 15 cities assessed in this study, San Francisco ranked best for Investment Management (5th). It also scored high for Government & Regulatory Industries (7th), as well as Professional Services and Banking (10th).
The city ranks 28th on the 2018 Mercer Cost of Living Ranking. This makes San Francisco the second most expensive city in North America for expats, leaving it 15 places behind New York.
San Francisco’s sustainability performance
Following the global trend of rating higher for the dimension of Profit (12th) and lower for People (54th), San Francisco ranks 39th overall in the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index 2016. This leaves SF at 3rd position among US cities, and 6th in North America.
San Francisco’s low ranking in the People dimension of the index is mostly due to income inequality and affordability ratings. Its high ranking in the Profit dimension is mostly thanks to ease of doing business and the city’s strong economic development.
Just like other US cities, San Francisco’s performance in the Planet dimension (ranking 53rd) is negatively affected by high per capita greenhouse gas emissions, low amount of green spaces and high energy use. The city is also among the “older ones”, ranked 35th out of 100 cities measured on the Median Age Index.
While Arcadis’ global ranking looks at three pillars of sustainability (people, planet, profit), the Green City Index (2012) focuses exclusively on environmental aspects. Here, San Francisco tops the list of U.S. and Canadian cities, thanks to its strong policies on environmental issues. This includes high scores for waste management, energy efficiency awareness programs and regulations, and support for environmentally-friendly commuting.
San Francisco place equity
San Francisco is the US’ second-highest ranking city in the 2018 World’s Best Cities ranking, where it is positioned 9th. Its strongest aspects are its people (3rd ) and prosperity (10th). On the other hand, the product pillar that evaluates a city’s key institutions, attractions and infrastructure, rank San Francisco much lower —45th.
Innovation in San Francisco
Ascending one position comparing to last year, San Francisco ranks 3rd in the Innovation Cities Index (2018), right after Tokyo and London and leaving New York out of the top-3.
Although placed 23rd in the 2017 Global Cities Index that studies the capacity of cities to disrupt through innovation, San Francisco has high potential for attracting and retaining talent, capital and ideas, as illustrated by its leading position in the pillar of “Global Cities Outlook”: a city’s future potential for innovation.
How attractive for digital nomads?
Possibly the most striking feature of San Francisco is its expensiveness. This is stressed by both the Nomad List and the Digital Nomad Index. It is actually the only category in which the city performs badly, according to those studies. This is also stressed extensively by all the available reviews.
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that San Francisco’s Internet speed is ranked 10th, whereas – contradictory to the list – cafés with free Wi-Fi are San Francisco’s worst performing category (56th, which is the last position). Nevertheless, the index overall ranks the city 8th.
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