Although the Financial District, Union Square, and Fisherman's Wharf are well-known around the world, San Francisco is also characterized by its numerous culturally rich streetscapes featuring mixed-use neighborhoods anchored around central commercial corridors to which residents and visitors alike can walk. Because of these characteristics, San Francisco was rated "most walkable" city by the website Walkscore.com. Many neighborhoods feature a mix of businesses, restaurants and venues that cater to both the daily needs of local residents while also serving many visitors and tourists. Some neighborhoods are dotted with boutiques, cafes and nightlife such as Union Street in Cow Hollow, 24th Street in Noe Valley, Valencia Street in the Mission, and Irving Street in the Inner Sunset. This approach especially has influenced the continuing South of Market neighborhood redevelopment with businesses and neighborhood services rising alongside high-rise residences.
Since the 1990s, the demand for skilled information technology workers from local startups and nearby Silicon Valley has attracted white-collar workers from all over the world and created a high standard of living in San Francisco. Many neighborhoods that were once blue-collar, middle, and lower class have been gentrifying, as many of the city's traditional business and industrial districts have experienced a renaissance driven by the redevelopment of the Embarcadero, including the neighborhoods South Beach and Mission Bay. The city's property values and household income have risen to among the highest in the nation, creating a large and upscale restaurant, retail, and entertainment scene. According to a 2008 quality of life survey of global cities, San Francisco has the second highest quality of living of any U.S. city. However, due to the exceptionally high cost of living, many of the city's middle and lower-class families have been leaving the city for the outer suburbs of the Bay Area, or for California's Central Valley.
The international character that San Francisco has enjoyed since its founding is continued today by large numbers of immigrants from Asia and Latin America. With 39% of its residents born overseas, San Francisco has numerous neighborhoods filled with businesses and civic institutions catering to new arrivals. In particular, the arrival of many ethnic Chinese, which accelerated beginning in the 1970s, has complemented the long-established community historically based in Chinatown throughout the city and has transformed the annual Chinese New Year Parade into the largest event of its kind outside China.
With the arrival of the "beat" writers and artists of the 1950s and societal changes culminating in the Summer of Love in the Haight-Ashbury district during the 1960s, San Francisco became a center of liberal activism. The Democrats and to a lesser extent the Green Party have dominated city politics since the late 1970s, after the last serious Republican challenger for city office lost the 1975 mayoral election by a narrow margin. San Francisco has not voted more than 20% for a Republican presidential or senatorial candidate since 1988. In 2007, the city expanded its Medicaid and other indigent medical programs into the "Healthy San Francisco" program, which subsidizes certain medical services for eligible residents.
San Francisco has long had an LGBT-friendly history. It was home to the first lesbian-rights organization in the United States, Daughters of Bilitis; the first openly gay person to run for public office in the U.S., José Sarria; the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the U.S., Harvey Milk; the first openly lesbian judge appointed in the U.S., Mary C. Morgan; and the first transgender police commissioner, Theresa Sparks. The city's large gay population has created and sustained a politically and culturally active community over many decades, developing a powerful presence in San Francisco's civic life. One of the most popular destinations for gay tourists internationally, the city hosts San Francisco Pride, one of the largest and oldest pride parades.
San Francisco also has had a very active environmental community. Starting with the founding of the Sierra Club in 1892 to the establishment of the non-profit Friends of the Urban Forest in 1981, San Francisco has been at the forefront of many globally discussions regarding our natural environment. The 1980 San Francisco Recycling Program was one of the earliest curbside recycling programs. The city's GoSolarSF incentive promotes solar installations and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is rolling out the CleanPowerSF program to sell electricity from local renewable sources. SF Greasecycle is a program to recycle used cooking oil for conversion to biodiesel.
The newly completed Sunset Reservoir Solar Project has installed 25,000 solar panels on the roof of the reservoir. The 5-megawatt plant more than tripled the city's 2-megawatt solar generation capacity when it opened in December 2010.
San Francisco's War Memorial and Performing Arts Center hosts some of the most enduring performing-arts companies in the U.S. The War Memorial Opera House houses the San Francisco Opera, the second-largest opera company in North America as well as the San Francisco Ballet, while the San Francisco Symphony plays in Davies Symphony Hall. The Herbst Theatre stages an eclectic mix of music performances, as well as public radio's City Arts & Lectures.
The Fillmore is a music venue located in the Western Addition. It is the second incarnation of the historic venue that gained fame in the 1960s under concert promoter Bill Graham, housing the stage where now-famous musicians such as the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and Jefferson Airplane first performed, fostering the San Francisco Sound. Beach Blanket Babylon is a zany musical revue and a civic institution that has performed to sold-out crowds in North Beach since 1974.
The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) has been a force in Bay Area performing arts since its arrival in San Francisco in 1967, regularly staging productions. San Francisco frequently hosts national touring productions of Broadway theatre shows in a number of vintage 1920s-era venues in the Theater District including the Curran, Orpheum, and Golden Gate Theatres.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) houses 20th century and contemporary works of art. It moved to its current building in the South of Market neighborhood in 1995 and now attracts more than 600,000 visitors annually. The Palace of the Legion of Honor holds primarily European antiquities and works of art at its Lincoln Park building modeled after its Parisian namesake. It is administered by Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which also operates the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. The de Young's collection features American decorative pieces and anthropological holdings from Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Prior to construction of its current copper-clad structure, completed in 2005, the de Young also housed the Asian Art Museum, which, with artifacts from over 6,000 years of history across Asia, moved into the former public library next to Civic Center in 2003.
Opposite the Music Concourse from the de Young stands the California Academy of Sciences, a natural history museum that also hosts the Morrison Planetarium and Steinhart Aquarium. Its current structure, featuring a living roof, is an example of sustainable architecture and opened in 2008. Located on Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, the Exploratorium is an interactive science museum founded by physicist Frank Oppenheimer in 1969. Two museum ships are moored near Fisherman's Wharf, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien Liberty ship and USS Pampanito submarine. On Nob Hill, the Cable Car Museum is a working museum featuring the cable car power house, which drives the cables, and the car depot.
The major daily newspaper in San Francisco is the San Francisco Chronicle, which is currently Northern California's most widely circulated newspaper. The Chronicle is most famous for a former columnist, the late Herb Caen, whose daily musings attracted critical acclaim and represented the "voice of San Francisco". The San Francisco Examiner, once the cornerstone of William Randolph Hearst's media empire and the home of Ambrose Bierce, declined in circulation over the years and now takes the form of a free daily tabloid, under new ownership. Sing Tao Daily claims to be the largest of several Chinese language dailies that serve the Bay Area. Alternative weekly newspapers include the San Francisco Bay Guardian and SF Weekly. San Francisco Magazine and 7x7 are major glossy magazines about San Francisco. The national newsmagazine Mother Jones is also based in San Francisco.
The San Francisco Bay Area is the sixth-largest TV market and the fourth-largest radio market in the U.S. The city's oldest radio station, KCBS (AM), began as an experimental station in San Jose in 1909, before the beginning of commercial broadcasting. KALW was the city's first FM radio station when it signed on the air in 1941. All major U.S. television networks have affiliates serving the region, with most of them based in the city. There also are several unaffiliated stations. CNN, ESPN, BBC, Al Jazeera America, Russia Today, and CCTV America have regional news bureaus in San Francisco. Bloomberg West was launched in 2011 from a studio on the Embarcadero. The city's first television station was KPIX, which began broadcasting in 1948.
Public broadcasting outlets include both a television station and a radio station, both broadcasting under the call letters KQED from a facility near the Potrero Hill neighborhood. KQED-FM is the most-listened-to National Public Radio affiliate in the country. San Francisco–based CNET and Salon.com pioneered the use of the Internet as a media outlet. Satellite channel non-commercial Link TV was launched in 1999 from San Francisco.
San Francisco inventors have made significant marks on modern media. In 1877 Eadweard Muybridge pioneered work in photographic studies of motion and in motion-picture projection from. These were the first motion pictures. Then in 1927, Philo Farnsworth's image dissector camera tube transmitted its first image. This was the first television.
Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants left New York for California prior to the 1958 season and are currently the only major professional sports franchise in the city. Though boasting such stars as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Barry Bonds, the club went 52 years until its first World Series title in 2010, and won an additional title in 2012. The Giants play at AT&T Park, which opened in 2000, a cornerstone project of the South Beach and Mission Bay redevelopment. In 2012, San Francisco was ranked #1 among America's Best Baseball cities. The study examined which U.S. metro areas have produced the most Major Leaguers since 1920.
The San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL) were the longest-tenured major professional sports franchise in the city. The team began play in 1946 as an All-America Football Conference (AAFC) league charter member, moved to the NFL in 1950 and into Candlestick Park in 1971. The team will play its home games at Levi's Stadium in nearby Santa Clara, California in 2014; the team will still be named the "San Francisco 49ers", even though they will be much closer to the city of San Jose. The 49ers have won five Super Bowl titles in the 1980s and 1990s behind coaches Bill Walsh and George Seifert, and stars such as Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, and Jerry Rice.
At the collegiate level, the Dons of the University of San Francisco compete in NCAA Division I, where Bill Russell guided the program to basketball championships in 1955 and 1956. The San Francisco State Gators and the Academy of Art University Urban Knights compete in Division II. AT&T Park has since 2002 hosted an annual post-season college football bowl game, currently named the Fight Hunger Bowl. In 2011, San Francisco hosted the California Golden Bears football team at Candlestick Park and AT&T Park while their home stadium in Berkeley was being renovated.
San Francisco Pro-Am Basketball League is an important summer league venue for aspiring players to be discovered by talent scouts. Games are held at the 4,000 seat Kezar Pavilion. Players from all levels participate with regular appearances by off season NBA professionals.
The Bay to Breakers footrace, held annually since 1912, is best known for colorful costumes and a celebratory community spirit. The San Francisco Marathon attracts more than 21,000 participants. The Escape from Alcatraz triathlon has, since 1980, attracted 2,000 top professional and amateur triathletes for its annual race. The Olympic Club, founded in 1860, is the oldest athletic club in the United States. Its private golf course, situated on the border with Daly City, has hosted the U.S. Open on five occasions. The public Harding Park Golf Course is an occasional stop on the PGA Tour. San Francisco will host the 2013 America's Cup yacht racing competition.
With an ideal climate for outdoor activities, San Francisco has ample resources and opportunities for amateur and participatory sports and recreation. There are more than of bicycle paths, lanes and bike routes in the city, and the Embarcadero and Marina Green are favored sites for skateboarding. Extensive public tennis facilities are available in Golden Gate Park and Dolores Park, as well as at smaller neighborhood courts throughout the city. San Francisco residents have often ranked among the fittest in the U.S.
Boating, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing are among the popular activities on San Francisco Bay, and the city maintains a yacht harbor in the Marina District. The St. Francis Yacht Club and Golden Gate Yacht Club are located in the Marina Harbor. The South Beach Yacht Club is located next to AT&T Park and Pier 39 has an extensive marina.
Historic Aquatic Park located along the northern San Francisco shore hosts two swimming and rowing clubs. The South End Rowing Club, established in 1873, and the Dolphin Club maintain a friendly rivalry between members. Swimmers can be seen daily braving the typically cold bay waters.
Amateur men's soccer has been played in San Francisco since 1902 through the San Francisco Soccer Football League. Over 40 teams in 4 divisions play throughout the city between the months of March and November. Premier Division games are played at the 3,500 seat Boxer Stadium. Amateur women's soccer is played on over 30 teams in the Golden Gate Women's Soccer League.
Cycling is growing in San Francisco. Annual bicycle counts conducted by the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) in 2010 showed the number of cyclists at 33 locations had increased 58% from the 2006 baseline counts. The MTA estimates that about 128,000 trips are made by bicycle each day in the city, or 6% of total trips. Improvements in cycling infrastructure in recent years, including additional bike lanes and parking racks, has made cycling in San Francisco safer and more convenient. Since 2006, San Francisco has received a Bicycle Friendly Community status of "Gold" from the League of American Bicyclists.
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