I do equate it with LA because both of them are potential living areas for me in the relatively near future (as well as Seattle and NYC), but I really have been to pretty much every major metropolitan city in the US, and I am still quite enamored with SF. There are several things that I think San Fransisco is missing that LA, New York and San Diego have, but in every considered aspect (music, art, design firms, weather, people, architecture, activities, culture), SF is at least an 8/10 for me (except maybe architecture).
Brian, I wonder what you think SF is missing that can be found in LA or San Diego? I can come up with a few for NYC, but having lived 30 of my 40 years in San Diego - other than the beach, I can't think of anything that would ever get me to move back there, and come to think of it, the beach wouldn't get me back for more than a visit. LA is a cultural wasteland populated by the impossibly ugly results of the high numbers of cosmetic surgeons in residence. Certainly the most vapid major city in the world. Just my $0.02 btw - my least favorite cities in the US are Denver (went to school there and they haven't fixed the traffic problems of 20 years ago - public transportation is basically non-existent, freeways are narrow and in disrepair and there is so little culture you get excited about the same basic symphony performances every year), and Houston (slimy, moldy, stinky and rude). Internationally, Londonderry certainly gets a nod, as does Athens - dirty, dirty, dirty.