When I was a teenager growing up in the Central Valley, pretty much everyone I knew with a desire to escape the creatively stifling confines of our small town fled to San Francisco after graduation. I didn't, which is probably for the best. Were I to have done so, I'd definitely be a member of the city's ever-increasing pool of priced-out residents. Unless you make Zuckerberg money, San Francisco is rapidly becoming uninhabitable. Its median rent is the highest in the country, and increasing on a monthly basis. It seems the city's new money tech elite won't be satisfied until a North Face pullover is on every body, it costs just as much to rent an apartment as it does to buy a used Camry, and, as my friend Anna so eloquently put it, every restaurant "looks like a fucking iPad."
No one knows when the bubble will ultimately burst, but for now, your rental dollar won't get you diddly squat in the Bay compared to Los Angeles. The San Francisco rental market, it appears, has become just as bleak as, or possibly even bleaker than, New York's. Here's what your cash'll get you in California's two largest cities.
The rent: $900
↑ There is, I shit you not, only one $900 room currently for rent on San Francisco's Craigslist. The fact that this Ingleside dungeon is a mere 15 minute walk from the Balboa BART station appears to be its only selling point; after all, one would imagine you'd spend more time out of the apartment than in it. Actually, scratch that—it has one other selling point. The room comes with its own overstuffed teddy bear, ready to be matted with your tears.
↑ I mean, "beautiful" may be stretching it a bit, but compared to a shambolic room filled with empty bowls and IKEA furniture, this Koreatown single may as well be Charles Foster Kane's Xanadu. Hell, at least you get your own toilet. And hardwood floors? Be still, my beating heart! Even though it appears to have no fridge (what is with landlords in LA thinking it's acceptable to rent apartments without a fridge?), the Wilshire/Western Denny's is close by, and open 24/7.
The rent: $1,250
↑ While the listing describes it as a one-bedroom, don't get too excited. This Inner Richmond apartment is, rather, a kitchenless studio with a hot plate and a mini-fridge. I suppose you could turn it into a one-bedroom if you wedged your twin bed into the "kitchen" area, but the idea of waking up to the sight of one's own hot plate and mini-fridge is too harrowing for this writer. At least you'd be within walking distance of Golden Gate Park, where you could wander alone with your thoughts, solemnly asking yourself, "Is that all there is?"
↑ If you're gonna live in a room, why not do it with grace and elegance? This Encino guesthouse boasts a "park like setting," complimentary gardener, utilities, air conditioning, and WiFi, not to mention a damn fireplace. Now—granted—it never really gets cold enough in the Valley to necessitate a fireplace, but it's nice to know it's there, right? And, more to the point, it really ties the room together.
The rent: $2,000
↑ Ah, the Mission District. While it's still (as of press time, anyhow) possible to get a $4 burrito there, it's just as easy now to procure a $6 cup of coffee. If you've got $2,000 burning a hole in your pocket and don't mind walking up a charmless flight of soiled stairs to your equally charmless studio apartment, why not call this place home? At least you won't be living with black mold and six other roommates!
↑ Originally opened in 1924, Koreatown's Talmadge Apartments was called the "the finest apartment building west of New York" upon its debut. The namesake of silent film star Norma Talmadge, whose husband built it for her, it's been restored to Deco-era glory. This one-bedroom apartment has glistening hardwood floors, a couple of chandeliers, and includes utilities—in short, it's a far cry from the Berber carpeted hellscape two grand'll get you in San Francisco.
↑ HONORABLE MENTION: This sunshine-infused one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica is steps from the beach and includes parking, which is the Westside equivalent of including a monthly handjob.
The rent: $3,000
↑ Sure, you're paying $3,000 for a studio apartment in a not particularly interesting San Francisco neighborhood, but it includes "all privacy"! And features "very easy curbside parking"! (Which I'll believe when I see.) Perish the thought of what the previous tenants were paying before this landlord no-doubt surreptitiously kicked 'em out and "newly remodeled" the joint.
↑ For the same price as a studio in San Francisco, you can rent a fucking four-bedroom house in Atwater Village. Four bedrooms. FOUR. Encased in a two-story house. With three bathrooms. THREE. And two parking spaces. TWO. And a damn dishwasher. Nuke San Francisco. —Megan Koester
· Rent Battle: What You Can Get in Los Angeles vs. New York City [Curbed LA]
· Renters Week 2015 [Curbed LA]