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65% of San Franciscans say life in the city is worse now than when they moved here

San Francisco Chronicle 9/13/2022 Noah Arroyo
© Chronicle Photo Illustration

Nearly two-thirds of San Franciscans say life in the city is worse today than when they moved here, according to a comprehensive local survey conducted by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Of the 65% of respondents who said the city had gone downhill, the group reporting greatest dissatisfaction was people aged 50-65, with 78% saying things had worsened. Older people were not far behind, at 71%. Long-time residents were also particularly disaffected — of those who moved to San Francisco before 2009, 69% said city life had deteriorated. Otherwise, the disappointment was consistent across racial groups and income brackets.

“The city’s gone downhill since I was a kid,” said Robert Zwissig, adding that he grew up near Lake Merced and longed for the way things were in 1959.

For poll respondents, the greatest unhappiness stems from frustration with the city's biggest, seemingly intractable problems — particularly homelessness, public safety and housing affordability — as well as with the politicians who haven't solved them yet.

“I’d prefer to stay here,” said survey respondent Saadullah Saeed. “But if we start a family, then I don’t see myself being able to afford a large enough space to raise a family.”

Tens of thousands moved out of San Francisco during the year ending in July 2021, reducing the city’s population by 6.3%, the greatest drop in any major U.S. city. Many in the poll said they are considering it. Among the social and economic changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increasing shift to remote work, another driver of people thinking about leaving.

The Chronicle conducted the survey from late June to mid-July to gauge public opinion on the state of the city, local politicians and other important civic topics. It was administered to a random sample of 1,653 San Francisco adults who reflected the demographics of the city. More details on how the survey was conducted are here. 

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