San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. The sunsets. The bay.
Columbus has the Scioto River, the Rich Street Bridge and sculptures of deer posing like humans.
OK, San Fran might be cooler, but CBus now has the bragging rights that it has more people. And the numbers also suggest Columbus has become much younger and more affordable for those that want the big city feel on a budget.
At just shy of 900,000 people, according to 2018 estimates released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau, Columbus now has more residents. San Francisco still has twice the number of people living in its metropolitan area than Columbus does in its.
One huge factor is that San Francisco is 47 square miles hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay and suburbs. Columbus is about 223 square miles and has room to expand.
Other, harder to quantify contrasts include San Francisco’s picturesque landscape — Columbus is doing its best with the Scioto River — and the weather. (The real San Francisco treat might be summer temperatures in the high 60s and less humidity.)
“San Francisco is just an iconic city,” said Laurie Armstrong Gossy, a spokeswoman for San Francisco’s tourism agency. “It sits on a hilly environment with beautiful views of the bay, and we have cable cars and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.”
For its part, Columbus appears to be younger and becoming trendier. The median age of a Columbus resident is 32 years, old compared with 38 in San Francisco, according to data from the American Community Survey.
“San Francisco is less and less a place for experimentation, and art and art culture,” said Melanie Corn, who moved from San Francisco in 2016 and became president of the Columbus College of Art and Design. “A number of art galleries have had to leave San Francisco because (of) the cost of living.”San Francisco Columbus Median Income 96265 49478 Average apartment rent 3700 1,000 Median Monthly mortgage 3332 1293 Poverty (%) 11.7 20.8 Median home value 927400 136500 Median age 38.3 32.2
** Source: American community survey
Officials with Experience Columbus, the city’s tourism agency, said they routinely host visitors from the West Coast who remark about the Wexner Center for the Arts and the Columbus Museum of Art.
“People come here and they feel the energy,” said Megumi Robinson, a spokeswoman for Experience Columbus. “And, of course, the affordability of it is why you see people moving here.”
Rents have soared to an average of $3,700 a month in San Francisco, compared with about $1,000 in Columbus, according to apartment websites that track the data nationwide.
The median home value has increased in the Bay Area to nearly $930,000, compared with Columbus’ median value of just under $140,000, according to the American Community Survey.
Nearly everything is cheaper in Columbus:
• Uber or Lyft rides are about half the cost from Downtown to the airport.
• Movie tickets range from $23 to $25 in San Francisco, compared with $12 to $16 in Columbus.
• Tacos are almost $1 cheaper here. Gas is $2 cheaper per gallon.
• Even the Columbus get-in price to a Khalid concert this July — $50 — is $15 cheaper.
Local economist Bill LaFayette said cost of living in Columbus is not likely to ever rival cities such as San Francisco and New York because there isn’t enough big business to increase wages.
“Columbus doesn’t have a lot of highly valued output,” LaFayette said. “What I mean is, you look at Manhattan and there are major-scale economic activities and much more corporate administration than what you have here in Columbus, which has more back-office jobs.”
LaFayette said Columbus is such an attractive city to live in because of its culture, acceptance and opportunity.
“And it’s always better to have low costs than high costs,” he said.
Joanna Arenstein, 37, agrees. The Bexley native moved to San Francisco after college and often posts pictures of the city’s beautiful sunsets on Instagram.
“I want to gloat about the 60-degree weather we’re having in California,” she posted on Facebook in January. “But I have to remind myself that while those in the Midwest have sub-zero temperatures, they also have money in their 401k and a mortgage on a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house that costs less than a monthly parking space out here.”
Arenstein said she returns to Columbus twice a year, at least, and makes sure she hits Skyline Chili with high school friends and the Short North Tavern.
“I say I am from Columbus with pride,” she said last week. “What I love about Columbus is it is a progressive city with a large gay population and is so accepting of people of all backgrounds.”
All this said, there are areas in which San Francisco surges ahead, beyond even the views and weather.
American Community Survey data shows the city has a poverty rate of about 12 percent, compared with Columbus’ 21 percent. San Francisco also was ranked 10th this year by WalletHub.com as having the happiest people in the country, while Columbus ranked 133rd.
CCAD’s Corn, who lived in San Francisco and the Bay Area for 13 years, said Columbus likely will rise up that list while San Francisco might fall.
“The Bay area is a wonderful, multicultural city with an incredible history and food culture,” she said. “But that being said, the Bay Area has become a more difficult place to live right now in terms of everyday logistics that can overwhelm you. The cost of living has become astronomical.
“Unfortunately, what that has meant is the city itself is becoming less diverse. The tech boom and social media boom haven’t been managed that well and (has) created a widened gap between the haves and have-nots.”
Corn said that in Columbus there is collaboration among business leaders, politicians, educators and nonprofits to not let that happen.
“We can be more attentive to cost of living, making sure we maintain low-income housing and access to services,” she said. “And, this is important: maintain space for artists.”