In February 2020, San Francisco had the highest rents in the nation, over $3,500 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, according to Zumper data. Fast-forward through the pandemic-related fallout and over three years later the city is struggling to stay above the $3,000-a-month benchmark.
But that broad picture doesn’t tell the full story. Looking neighborhood by neighborhood, there are areas with declining rents, but others on the upswing with some averaging rents that are higher than they were before the pandemic, according to Zumper.
Rents in the Bayview have gone up the most since the pandemic, jumping from $2,410 in February 2020 to $2,840 in July 2023 — a nearly 20 percent increase. Lone Mountain rents also shot up about $400, as did Cole Valley, which is now over the citywide average at nearly $3,200 a month. The Outer Sunset is now at a $350 post-pandemic premium at almost $2,600 per month.
“For Cole Valley, Lone Mountain and Outer Sunset the trend of renters desiring more residential neighborhoods, since daily commuting isn’t a top priority anymore, speaks to the price jumps in these areas,” Zumper’s Crystal Chen said via email. “Bayview, meanwhile, has had a good amount of new buildings being developed and some of that new supply is hitting the market, which is likely what’s raising prices there. When we look at our inventory, we see that Bayview is up 30 percent since last year.”
Neighborhoods as varied as the Outer Richmond, Pacific Heights, Lakeshore and Laurel Heights are also above their pre-pandemic prices, although to a lesser degree. Dogpatch is just $10 more per month on average than it was before the pandemic, but that in and of itself is impressive given that it had one of the highest rents in the city at close to $3,800 per month for a one-bedroom unit.
That neighborhood’s proximity to largely in-person and well-paying life science jobs is one reason it’s on the rise, while other high-priced areas closer to downtown like SoMa continue to fall. Newly built rentals with top amenities in SoMa pushed that neighborhood to top $4,000 per month on average in February 2020. It has seen the biggest drop in the city, to just over $3,000 in July 2023. That’s a 25 percent decline, according to Zumper data, with a nearly 14 percent drop in the last year alone.
“I think, to start, there would need to be more people returning to office spaces in downtown/SoMa to help revitalize the neighborhood so there’s just overall more foot traffic and customers frequenting restaurants/shops there,” Chen said.
Lower Haight, Lower Pacific Heights and Noe Valley were among the other neighborhoods that are still at least $500 off their pre-pandemic rents. They, like SoMa, were also among the most expensive.
In the Mission and the Marina, both below their pre-pandemic rents of about $3,500 per month, “that rent threshold couldn’t be justified anymore,” Chen said.
She pointed out that the Marina is now within $300 of its pre-pandemic rents, while the Mission is nearly $800 away, which she attributed to certain parts of the latter neighborhood that “have a grittier side,” which may have impacted its overall desirability.
Out of the 45 neighborhoods for which Zumper has data, 36 are lower than they were before the pandemic. But Chen said it’s possible some will be above their pre-pandemic averages before the year is out.
“Fall is still a relatively popular time to move so some neighborhoods will likely continue to climb until the winter months,” she said. “Castro, Bernal Heights and Inner Richmond are close to returning to their pre-pandemic rents.”