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San Jose dubbed third best city in America—San Francisco ranks 16th

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Crime rate, schools, commutes prove SF’s Achilles heel compared to southern neighbor

Flowers blooming in a planter on a San Jose street. Photo by mTaira

Washington D.C.-based news magazine U.S. News & World Report ranked 100 American cities this week to determine the best place to live in the United States, judging metros on the local economy, quality of life, desirability, and population growth.

The results: San Jose staged something of a coup by rising all the way to third place, behind only Austin, Texas and Denver, Colorado.

Meanwhile, San Francisco came in a mere 16th place—which is pretty good out of a pack of 100. But coming in behind San Jose does sting a bit.

As always, even data-based analysis is a little subjective, as the rankings gave particular weight to the Qualify Of Life figures: crime rates, quality of schools, general happiness, and average commute times.

And as it turns out, that’s where San Jose beat out San Francisco in dramatic fashion. So do US News’ figures check out?

San Jose recorded a little over 15,000 reported crimes for the last six months of 2016. On the other hand, SFPD recorded more crime than that just between July and September the same year, despite having a smaller population.

Photo by Ikluft

When U.S. News previously ranked California high schools on graduation rate and college prep it scored Lowell the third best school in the state, but only one other SF school—Ruth Asawa School of the Arts—cracked the top 100.

San Jose, on the other hand, had five schools in the top 100, including number four ranked UPAC.

Gallup’s 2015 Well-Being Index, which surveys residents for overall life satisfaction, put the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area in 30th place for the state. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara was 15th.

Also in 2015, NerdWallet found that while neither city had the worst commutes in the Bay Area, San Francisco was the region’s 16th most trying commute in terms of gas prices, commute time, and lack of carpooling.

San Jose was 60th in the same rankings.

On the other hand, San Francisco excelled in desirability—how many survey respondents expressed a wish to live here—the strength of the job market, and net migration—i.e., the number of people who actually come to live here.

Although SF ranked below the South Bay city in terms of affordability, the comparative scores based on household income and cost of living were pretty competitive with each other.

The only other California city to crack the top 100 in the rankings was San Diego at number 22.

Photo by stellamc