Beautiful, witty and influential, San Francisco just keeps getting more sublime. It’s why “Everybody’s Favorite City” finished fourth-best among large cities in Resonance Consultancy’s ranking of America’s Best Cities in 2017.

By Chris Fair

In California’s dense urban heart, history repeats. The young, untethered and ambitious have always coveted the enlightenment that the city’s fog- and mist-diffused light seems to bestow. They came here for gold, and then they came to change the world (2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love). Most recently, they came to reinvent it.

It’s because San Francisco has always written down its dreams, penned an action plan, and gotten to work. The Golden Gate Bridge, glowing against the shifting Pacific fog, is a reminder that engineering makes even the formidable possible. Here, even the geography seems to have an algorithm, with 49 hills distilled in the city’s seven-by-seven mile grid.

Here are three reasons for the city’s impressive #4 finish…

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1) REVOLUTIONARY THINKING DEFINES THE MAINSTREAM

Long a vanguard of global counterculture, San Francisco is now defining the mainstream—often with the innovation dreamt up in Silicon Valley, 45 minutes south, first tested on its streets. Dreamers have long sought their fortunes here, and the city ranks #3 in the country in our Prosperity category with the second-highest Median Household Income in the country and the seventh-most Fortune 500 companies headquartered here.

2) WEALTH OF A CITY—FOR SOME

Of course, cities with such mercurial growth are hobbled quickly after taking flight. It’s why traffic has never been worse, with locals scheming ways to outfox the nation’s highest rent (at an average of $3,700 per household according to local numbers), to say nothing of the million-dollar row houses in “up-and- coming” neighborhoods cut off from any form of transit. Sure, San Francisco could have bigger problems than the average local tech worker earning close to $200,000 and competing for a piece of urban California perfection with a teacher making a third of that. But it’s a displacement story unrivalled in America.

3) WHERE URBAN MEETS MOTHER NATURE’S PLAYGROUND

Happily, nature is still mostly free and resonates more than ever, with the city ranking #5 nationally in our Place category, led by the fifth-best ranking for Parks & Outdoor Activities. This perfectly balanced natural urbanism is not lost on curious visitors, who continue to stream into this urban bucket-list destination in record numbers with every passing year, eager to catch some of that old magic while being the first to sample new cultural beacons like the newly reopened (and partially free) SF Museum of Modern Art. The city’s cultural curators have a lot to live up to, after all, given San Francisco’s long legacy of inspiring creativity and self-expression—from music to movements.

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