Two Bay Area cities ranked poorly in a recent study by WalletHub that examined the operating efficiency of 150 U.S. cities and identified which are run well and which are not. The personal finance website looked at metrics related to a city’s operating budget and the quality of the services it provides — everything from public school to transit — to quantify who’s at the top of the list and who’s at the bottom.

San Francisco came in at No. 149, making it the second-worst-run city in the country, according to WalletHub’s metrics. Only our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., was worse.

“San Francisco ranked particularly poorly when it comes to long-term debt outstanding per capita, where it was second to last,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez wrote in an email to SFGATE. “It also has the lowest quality of roads in the country — 18 times worse than No. 1 Jacksonville. The city did, however, rank better when it comes to its health and education numbers.”

The study scored each city by measuring the per-capita operating budget against the quality of 38 services spread across six categories: financial stability, education, health, safety, economy and infrastructure and pollution. The city’s credit rating by Moody’s and the outstanding long-term debt per capita were considered under financial stability. Public school ratings and the high school graduation rate fell under education, and infant mortality rate, average life expectancy and quality of the public hospital system were among several factors weighed in the health category.

The violent and property crime rates, as well as motor vehicle fatalities per capita, were among those factors considered in safety, and under the economy category there was a long list of metrics including unemployment rate, median household income and share of population living in poverty. Finally, quality of roads, bike and transit score and air pollution were among more than a dozen metrics included in the infrastructure and pollution category. 


San Francisco scored well in many of the metrics, including its credit rating, walk and bike score, school-system quality, infant mortality rate, public hospital system, unemployment rate, job growth, transit access, water quality and parkland. 

“The city is able to offer its residents high quality services, but its budget is the second largest, which is what dragged it down,” WalletHub spokesperson Diana Polk said. “SF is spending more money than other cities to offer its services.”

San Francisco’s operating budget per capita is $17,829. By comparison Washington, D.C.’s is  $21,252, Oakland’s $11,567, and Nampa, Idaho’s $2,414. WalletHub pulled its operating budget data from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Oakland was No. 143 on the WalletHub list, the eighth worst. Eight other California cities ranked in the bottom 100: No. 129, Los Angeles; Long Beach, No. 126; Riverside, No. 121; Fresno, No. 116; Sacramento, No. 115; Modesto, No. 111; Anaheim, No. 105; and Stockton, No. 102.

Huntington Beach in Southern California was the best-run city in the Golden State, ranking 21st with high scores in education, health and safety. Fremont was the best-performing city in the Bay Area at No. 76.

A general trend in the findings was that the country’s largest cities, such as New York and Chicago, ranked poorly while smaller cities like Nampa, Idaho, came out on top. 

Of the 150 cities WalletHub analyzed, these 10 ranked as the worst-run:

1) Washington, D.C.
2) San Francisco
3) New York
4) Chattanooga, Tenn.
5) Cleveland
6) Detroit
7) Flint, Mich.
8) Oakland, Calif.
9) Hartford, Conn.
10) Gulfport, Miss.

Of the 150 cities WalletHub analyzed, these 10 ranked as the best-run:

1) Nampa, Idaho
2) Boise, Idaho
3) Fort Wayne, Ind.
4) Nashua, N.H.  
5) Lexington-Fayette, Ky.
6) Lincoln, Neb.
7) Las Cruces, N.M. 
8) Oklahoma City, Okla.
9) Missoula, Mont.
10) Durham, N.C.



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