How to make it in the bay area?


I'm in the early stages of a potential move to our San Francisco office. I'm currently based out of one of our offices in the Southeast US and after reviewing a few cost of living calculators I would need to nearly double my salary to maintain the same "standard of living" but that's not going to happen. 

Has anyone transferred to the area and what did your firm offer in the way of a cost of living adjustment? I've reviewed the always handy archinect salary poll and the pay for similar positions/level of experience is about 40-45% higher. 

Aug 9, 17 12:49 pm

Don't. The Bay area is full. Thank you.

Aug 9, 17 1:13 pm

I think it's a requirement to post an Instagram selfie with the caption 'Yay Area" once a week if you move there.

You'll also probably need a sugar mama/daddy

Aug 9, 17 1:24 pm

Practice for 29 years. Build a client base for 6 years.

Aug 9, 17 1:41 pm

Skip "the firm" part.

Aug 9, 17 1:43 pm

Yes to sugar mama/daddy.

Aug 9, 17 1:43 pm

But let me rephrase the question: What magic exists to replace 29 years of effort and intentional actions?

Aug 9, 17 2:01 pm

I changed firms.

Aug 9, 17 3:59 pm
Like pants
Aug 10, 17 2:08 pm
Long pants
Aug 10, 17 2:08 pm

I moved to SF from San Diego, no relocation paid 

its very tech oriented here - you will need to learn programming if you don't already - many firms expect you to know grasshopper and dynamo, python, C# - 

Aug 10, 17 4:33 pm

Fuck, if you knew all of those languages you might as well get out of archi and make real money.



Xenakis - it sounds like you could just work at the tech companies nearby at that point. Cost of living adjusted.

I'm surprised David didn't recommend the lawyer trick, it must be awfully full over there.
Aug 10, 17 11:25 pm

apply lawyers liberally

Aug 10, 17 11:56 pm

sf was cool 20 years ago.

Aug 10, 17 11:58 pm

there are literally 2 good buildings in SF


I rather like the Sentinel Building. And One Jackson Place. And 680 Folsom (not that garishly lit garbage in front, though).And the PG&E Building.

will check them out, I was spawned during de-con so...

wear layers, because the weather is Schitzo

Aug 11, 17 12:21 am
Lots of yoga
Aug 11, 17 12:57 am

David, seriously, how do young people who move out there without a wad of money survive?  Fifteen room mates in a one bedroom unit?  My impression is that the salary bump doesn't cover the hideous cost of living.  Beautiful city, but what good does that do you when you are working in your cubicle 80 hours a week just to survive.  I've never understood it.

Aug 11, 17 8:18 am

I have no idea. It is so expensive at this point. There was an article about one guy who was living in a closet space above a commercial (something). I think he was paying close to a grand for literally some poche space, I doubt it was 70sf.

2011 was my 3rd or 4th attempt at "affording" California. I make decent money and still can barely afford it.


Live outside the 7x7.

what is a 7 x 7?


7 miles by 7 miles

I think all the shopping malls are going to be converted to residential. One way or another...

Aug 11, 17 9:43 am

Probably squatters breaking in.

they should


I know a friend who moved to SF from Seattle after he got a raise from 150k to 250k   Even he complains that his $3000/month, one bedroom apartment is ridiculously expensive.

Aug 11, 17 7:45 pm

yes, we noticed.


Thank you for the feedback. It seems that $3000/month is the minimum cost if you want your own place without 5 roommates and you need make 3x that gross to even qualify for housing. I can't imagine how new grads could start out there. It has to make sense economically or at least be close to comparable, even with the crazy expensive housing.

Aug 12, 17 12:34 pm

One can still get a studio for around $1500 at times


The commute from East Bay isn't bad. And rents get you better accommodations .

I was commuting to East Bay in uh 2012-2014 but from Marin. Then I was doing Marin to Napa. But sorry to say even that sucks. I stay home now. You people have to come to me.


Marin made the commutes suck on purpose. God forbid people who use MASS TRANSIT infect Marin.

FormZ is there a reason you want to go to SF? Other than it's cool or whatever (it's not they roll up the sidewalks at like 9pm). Just curious, understandable if it's private.

According to salary, payscale, Glassdoor and other income surveys, architecture actually tends to pay barely or slightly less than the national average in NYC, SF, and LA - though it's easier to find an opening it's rare to see a sizable cost of living adjustment.

I understand there are scenarios where being down south doesn't line up with other personal values, goals, sometimes even safety to an extent. Just know that you'll be giving up a lot of comforts in addition to any kind of financial security in order to live in any of those three cities. You really need to want to be there otherwise you'll be utterly miserable due to the bleak financial situation - and of course crappy roommates, there's always at least one. It isn't just housing either, expect to deal with poor transit options, long/delayed commutes, non stop tourists, overpriced food and other expensive necessities.
Aug 12, 17 6:31 pm

Number one reason is for my spouse's career. We're very fortunate that she has interest from companies on both coasts when she finishes her masters next year. Either way our current location is going to change again. 

We moved back from Singapore last year(a place actually more expensive than SF) so the cost of living for every day items isn't a huge shock. I do rather enjoy being back in the south because it's like everything is on sale again. The difference is that salaries were pretty well in line with the cost of living there, not seeing that as much in the SF area. 

Our SF office is a regional office and relatively small. They currently have no design professionals on the building side. They have construction and project managers trying to communicate and solve issues with our offices on the east coast. The office is in need of help so I have a bit of leverage there. I'm tied up for a few months on my current project so there's time to work it out. 

Aug 12, 17 7:45 pm

If the SF office is small and in disarray, is the company committed to it?  You don't want to get there only to have them close it down on you.  I've heard horror stories of that happening to people (variety of industries).

Aug 12, 17 9:30 pm
Hopefully your wife is a lawyer or some other high paid professional. The big 3 are much easier to live in with two middle/upper middle income earners. I just wouldn't count on architecture paying much better than any other place in the country. Unless you're a high ranking PM you'll likely see very little difference in salary the way you would with most professions. Even with two earners, the rent alone makes saving for a first time home purchase practically impossible, so the decision really depends a lot on your (both you and your wife) respective financial goals as well as professional.

The young grads you find in these cities typically don't last long or have a LOT of parental financial support. It compounds the issue of low pay and oversupply of cheap work. This can carry on for decades on the individual level, deflating wages in the field on a macro level.
Aug 13, 17 11:06 am

if one can work as a super-model, that helps.

Aug 13, 17 2:13 pm

How to make it in SF? You can't. Statistically if you threw 100,000 people out of airplanes without a parachute one might land in a recently plowed field just right, get up and walk off uninjured (it has happened). The rest of the 99,999? Not so much. A lot of people confuse existing there, drawing down savings, and going into debt as 'making it'. It isn't.

Aug 14, 17 10:47 am

Yes, the question should be: How to exist in the Bay area at the moment.

"sleep in van" for example


why do people torture themselves to live in sf?  I don't get it. Nice city, but will you be able to even enjoy it if your whole life is about paying stupid high living expenses?  

Aug 14, 17 11:25 am

This lady married me

the architecture sucks so bad


Quit looking at Salesforce, it's bad for your mental state.

resists urge to Google Salesforce

I want to move to NYC, I hear it is really affordable now

Aug 14, 17 11:27 am
don't come NYC is full. Live in nj or staten island I hear they need architects.
Aug 14, 17 11:34 am

too late, I got a place in Lower East

well, the model did

it only costs $500 per day

No too late because LES is no longer cool. All condos. Only small pockets of Brooklyn remain hip enough to propel one to move cross country. But those parts are full too. And the trains don't work anyway. It's all full. And uncool.
Aug 14, 17 1:06 pm

I'm only there less than 1/3 time so

LES is cool on the inside (see also supermodels)

My recent boycott of commercial air travel seems the main obstacle at the moment. Anyone want to be my rep in NYC?

My son and I slept in a van last night. It was too windy to set up a tent. (It was girls night out at Lady Gaga)

Aug 14, 17 6:24 pm
I will be the Rep if I can use the apartment. But I will remain anonymous. I accept bitcoins. Your clients may refer to be as nine. Or 007. That is also ok.
Aug 14, 17 7:46 pm

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