I live in the San Francisco Bay area and my landlord asked us to take care of the overgrown yard in exchange for reduced rent. I cleared a lot of the dead weeds and piles of leaves out and it looks like the soil is mostly sand (we live near a beach, so that makes sense). Any plants I can put in that patch that will keep the wind from kicking up dirt/sand?
I suppose I could cover it with topsoil, but maybe keeping the soil the way it is and using plants that are conducive to that environment would be lower maintenance.
Sandy soil drains more quickly than silt or clay, so choose plants that require little watering.
A layer of mulch can help retain moisture.
Rosemary is a fragrant herb suited to the San Francisco Bay area as it requires very little watering. Its Latin name (Rosmarinus officinalis) literally translates to 'dew of the sea' as it can live off of the humidity of the sea breeze.
Look to nature. Have a look at uncultivated areas with similar soil types. The plants that are growing naturally will certainly grow when cultivated.
Eg. If you live in a desert, cactus will grow well.
There are several other options available depending on how much effort/money you want to invest:
Water more often. Like Ambo100 said, sandy soil will drain faster. Watering will keep it moist and allow a greater number of plants to grow and flourish.
Mulch the area. This site has a huge number of questions on mulch like here, here and here. This will help the soil retain water. Mulching or composting is great for the environment too.
Use a sand converter. I live in a sandy area of Australia, similar to California. My local garden supplier stocks a product called "Sand to Soil" (Bentonite Clay). I didn't believe my retailer when they said "It changes the chemical composition of sand, making soil". But it does actually work. I would use the word "miracle"...
I highly recommend option 3. I did it a few weeks ago and the results are amazing.