California Cities Rank Low in New Study on the Best U.S. Towns

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: May 22, 2024

A new study has ranked the best places to live in the United States. California, long considered an oasis by many, has had its cities rank incredibly low.

Only four California cities were ranked in the top 100 places in this study after researchers took into consideration housing costs, high costs of living, and crime.

A New Study Ranks American Towns

The U.S. News and World Report’s acclaimed study of the best places to live in the United States has come out — and its results have already shocked many.

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A man riding a bike with an American flag around his shoulders and a woman running behind him holding a flag, all in front of the San Diego beach and ocean

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Researchers who conducted this study ranked American cities based on value, crime rates, air quality, quality of education, and other factors that many Americans look at when considering where they want to live.

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California Towns Compared To Other U.S. Cities

California has long been known as a favorite destination for many, thanks to its temperate climate in the south of the state, as well as the fact that one can find mountains, forests, and beaches all throughout the vast region.

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View of downtown Los Angeles and cars on streets at night.

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However, even though many California cities may be picturesque, this report has revealed that the Golden State’s towns don’t necessarily match up to other places in America.

What Ranked Number One?

The number one spot on this list went to Naples, Florida. According to the report, this Florida town ranked so high because of its “pristine beaches, sprawling golf courses, and fine dining and shopping.”

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A silhouette of a dock on the ocean during a sunset seen in Naples, Florida.

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Last year, Green Bay, Wisconsin claimed the top spot. This year, Green Bay fell quite a way to 12th place.

The Highest Ranked California City

The highest-ranked California city on this list is San Francisco, which is the only city from the Golden State to get in the top 25.

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A San Franciso street with homes seen on top of a hill in the daytime.

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San Francisco was ranked the 22nd best U.S. city to live in — possibly a surprising feat to those who have pointed to the city’s frequent problems.

Why San Francisco Ranked So High

Researchers who put together this report have cheered the beautiful region the city finds itself in, as well as the fact that San Francisco has always gone its own way. The city has never been anything other than itself, which is why it’s so unique.

A view of old historic homes in San Francisco, with tall buildings seen behind them.

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The report explains, “Today, San Francisco is a complete universe in and of itself: Each neighborhood exudes its own personality, from the historic streets of the Mission District to the grassy hills of the Presidio to the bustling piers along the Embarcadero.”

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An Imperfect City

However, this study has also recognized the problems that San Francisco has, most notably its housing shortage and “sky-high” housing prices.

The San Francisco skyline seen in the distance behind water and palm trees during sunset.

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Despite these issues — and others — San Francisco remains one of the top U.S. cities to live in, even if it hasn’t cracked the top 10 list.

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Only Four California Cities Ranked in the Top 100

Unfortunately, other California cities didn’t do incredibly well in this study. Only four California cities in total were ranked in the top 100 places in the United States to live.

An aerial view of downtown San Jose, California at night.

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After San Francisco, San Diego claimed the 46th place. Meanwhile, San Jose earned the 70th spot, while Santa Barbara ended up right behind it at 71st.

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San Diego’s Beauty

Even those who don’t live in San Diego understand that it’s a beautiful place to live. However, that fact has also led to home prices skyrocketing in the city — something that this study explained.

An aerial view of San Diego bay, with many tall buildings seen, in the daytime.

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“Living in San Diego is not particularly affordable. Home prices are more than double the national median sale price,” the report said. “San Diegans are willing to pay these elevated prices, though, often referring to the cost-of-living differences as the ‘sunshine tax,’ or the price of enjoying a year-round temperate climate.”

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Where’s Los Angeles?

The entire report ranked 150 cities in the U.S. While only four California towns ended up in the top 100, Los Angeles did make the list — at the 130th spot.

The Hollywood sign on a hill seen in the distance behind palm trees and parked cars on a street in Los Angeles.

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There were many reasons why Los Angeles ranked so low. According to the report, its traffic jams have made the city incredibly annoying to those who live in the city.

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Other Lowly Ranked California Cities

Los Angeles wasn’t alone in California cities ranked outside of the top 100 U.S. places to live. Visalia ranked 110th, while Bakersfield earned the 121st spot.

A look up at palm trees seen underneath a clear blue sky.

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Meanwhile, Santa Rosa found itself at 127th, and Fresno at 131st. Salinas got the 133rd spot, Modesto the 139th, Vallejo the 143rd, and Stockton the 144th.

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Ongoing California Problems

This list of lowly ranked California cities comes during an interesting time in the state. The state has only recently gotten out of what was called a California exodus, which saw many people flee the state to start a new life elsewhere, thanks to high prices.

The skyline of Los Angeles, California seen during sunset.

Source: Josh Miller/Unsplash

While some analysts have stated that the exodus is over, lingering issues in California still remain. If these problems, such as the state’s extremely high cost of living, aren’t fixed, cities may continue to rank lowly in future studies.

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