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San Francisco Bay Area - Relocation Scouting Trip


San Francisco Bay Area - Relocation Scouting Trip

Old Oct 31st, 2011, 07:06 AM
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I concur with all the comments about your jobs.

I would not waste time visiting suburban SF areas if you have no reasonable expectation to work there.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 07:35 AM
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Lots of people live outside of San Francisco, but work in The City - (perhaps 200,000 or so daily?). My wife did, and many of our neighbors do also.

We live on the San Mateo/Burlingame border.

- 20 mins from Union Square in SF by car (with no traffic)
- 30 mins from Half Moon Bay and the beautiful San Mateo Coast
- 2 hrs from Carmel & Monterey and the Big Sur Coast
- 1 - 1 1/2 hrs from the wine country (Napa/Sonoma)
- 10 mins from SFO
- Very nice shopping/dining area on Burlingame Ave
- Very nice shopping/dining area on 3rd & 4th streets in San Mateo
- 2 hospitals within 10 mins
- 2 good high schools within 15-20 mins by foot.
- Not as much fog as in San francisco and not as hot as Palo Alto
- Train into San Francisco for work (that's how my wife got to work), or a BART station 10 mins away by car.

Most "standard" houses (whatever that means) run between 3/4 & 2 million - but condos are, of course, less expensive. Lots of rentals here also.

Also look into Foster City if you want a less expensive but nice condo, and want to live on the canals by the bay.

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 09:13 AM
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There are many MANY towns in the general 'Bay Area'. It is next to impossible to give you any advice re where to look or any sort of itinerary w/o knowing what sort of place/vibe appeals to you. Berkeley is 10000% different than Marin County which is 10000000% different than most anywhere else. That and approx budget -- w/o these bits of info two it is nearly impossible to give useful advice.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 10:56 AM
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Katherine, where are you relocating from? Maybe if we could compare the "Bay Area" to where you live it would give you a better idea of what everyone is talking about.

For starters, there are three "big cities" in the Bay Area - San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, each of which has a major airport. There are seven counties that are generally considered to constitute the Bay Area - San Francisco (City and County of San Francisco), San Mateo and Santa Clara (San Jose) to the south, Marin and Napa to the north, and Alameda (Oakland) and Contra Costa to the east. Each of those counties has innumerable small, medium and large towns, poor, middle class and well-to-do towns, towns with vibrant downtowns, and towns that are nothing more than a few strip centers, good schools and bad, etc. Some of the larger towns (I'm thinking of Redwood City in San Mateo County and Concord in Contra Costa County) are business centers in their own right.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 11:08 AM
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Ok here is some real advice about the actual question you asked

A good way to get a feel for the bay is to drive secondary roads. The freeways all look the same so you will want to drive down the highways and byways and here is just one possible route....

From SF take HWY 1 South. Check out Pacifica, Half Moon Bay. In Half Moon Bay take HWY 92 East. At the top of the mountain turn right onto Skyline BLVD and drive south to Page Mill Road. Take Page Mill East into Palo Alto.
In Palo Alto take El Camino Real south for as long as you can stand it. (If you get sick of it make your way either east of west to one of the big HWYs, 101 or 280. Eventually you end up in San Jose. Find Santa Clara Street and take it up to Alum Rock Park. Go back down the hill and make your way to HWY 880 and take this to Alameda. Then head east and check out Oakland, Piedmont, the Oakland hills, and Berkley. Get on HWY 24 and take that east and check out Orinda, Lafayette and maybe Moraga. To HWY 680 take a look at the towns of Danville, Alamo, Walnut Creek and Concord. You might as well check out Blackhawk too. Head north on 680- and cross the bridge. Check out Benicia, Vallejo. Head up to Napa. Check out Sonoma, Turn south and drive by Peteluma, Novato, San Rafeal. Then get over to take a look at Tiburon, Sausalito. Over the Golden Gate and you are back to SF.

That should take a couple-three-four days or more.

Also, we have such a varied weather here in the BA. If you like your summers hot, try the towns near MT Diablo. If you like cool, or even COLD summers, try towns near the coast.

There are a million different ways to do this drive. Best to use this as a template and take the less beaten path when it suits you.
That should give you an idea of what type of people live in the different areas. After you complete this make a short list of the places you really liked and the places you really didn’t like. Than I can suggest other places a little more off the beaten path for you to check out.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 12:25 PM
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DON'T Live in Foster City..or the SF Marina...or parts of the East Bay...first to go in an earthquake.

I'm not really kidding.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 12:47 PM
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IMHO - the job comes first and then the location of where to live comes after that event.

While Chris's route will have you see some lovely areas, the likelihood that you would end up in 95% of them is slim. A nice way to see Bay area, but not going to accomplish "where to live aspect".
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 12:56 PM
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The poster above (Chris_Brown) gave some good advice for exploring. There are many many towns in the Bay Area and some wonderful neighborhoods, so without a specific focus, it is hard to advise you.

I'll just throw out a couple of examples of areas to explore also. My daughter and her husband as well as my son and his wife (all early to mid thirties) chose to settle in Oakland. They loved the Rockridge area for its walkability and accessibility to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and lived there for awhile. There is an abundance of shops, cafes, restaurants, and access to the arts and educational opportunities at UC Berkeley. There are other theater venues, too, such as Berkeley Rep. And infrequent need for the use of a car. They all now live in the Dimond District of Oakland, an up-and coming area with good carpool oppportunities, shops and a great local market, Farmer Joe's, at the bottom of the hill. Other nice areas of Oakland are in Piedmont and Montclair, although Montclair would be on the pricier side. The Piedmont Avenue area (not really in Piedmont) is also a good area with good walkability. Grand and Lakeshore Avenues on the Crocker Highlands side (not the lake side) are also good areas.

Alameda is another area to explore. It's a nice community, and I think there is a ferry for commutes to SF.

Marin County towns are nice, too. No BART there, but there are three ferry locations (Larkspur, Tiburon, and Sausalito). I don't have specific knowlege of South Bay towns, except Pacifica which is on the coast.

Really critical will be where you are going to work. Everyone in the Bay Area has to deal with commute issues, and that will be a huge factor in your decision about where to live.
Have an enjoyable trip!
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Old Nov 2nd, 2011, 05:39 AM
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Thank you SF7307, Chris Brown and elnap29 for the very useful tips. Chris, I love your suggestion and this is exactly what we want to do - spend every other day or so exploring a different direction. One day the loop down to San Jose, another out to the East and the North, etc. We spent 7 years in Portland, Oregon and enjoyed the beauty of the areas surrounding the city. We currently live in the DC area - not much natural beauty here, so we really miss that and it is something we are looking for when we move. We want to live somewhere with good schools, and a good culture - for our kids.

Of course where we find jobs will completely determine where we move - he's a psychologist and I'm a writer/lawyer... The purpose of this trip is to get a feel for the whole area so that when we see jobs and start interviewing we have an idea of what it might look like. We have a better feel for central and Southern Cal since we have some family down there, but really do not know northern Cal very well.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2011, 08:04 AM
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Here's an intro to my part of the Bay Area, Silicon Valley. San Jose likes to think of itself as the "center" of Silicon Valley, but the heart is really in the surrounding towns like Cupertino, Santa Clara and Saratoga.

This is tech land. Everyone goes to bed at 9pm. There is almost no night life, except for the malls or in humongous private homes. Howsomeever, there are people who stay up all night - these are the design engineers who wander around in jeans with designer holes, sandals, and uncut hair. They tend to eat and sleep in their cubicles.

The other group that tends to burn the midnight oil are the students. We have excellent universities (Stanford, Santa Clara U), junior colleges (DeAnza JC has a huge 23,000 student body), private elementary and high schools and some excellent public schools. We have a lot of math and computer whiz kids starting in junior high or earlier. If you haven't made your first million by the age of 15 - fergeddaboutit.

In other words, this is Steve Jobs territory. Netflix HQ is just a few miles down the street from me. We have more tech companies, more start ups, and more venture capitalists than you can shake a stick at. If you are a lawyer, you're going to get involved in the sticky-wicked land of IP sooner or later.

We are inland, so our weather is warmer than along the coast. Our employment figures must be getting better because the freeways are getting crowded again. Our housing ranges from the affordable (but poorer parts of town) to multi-million-dollar homes tucked away in the surrounding hills. One house crowning a hill we saw last week on our hike had one of my hiking companions comment that it looked more like a mall than a house. We wondered how many people lived there - probably two. We have vineyards too, although all the orchards are gone, covered over with concrete and tech buildings. We have excellent restaurants, but they are seldom mentioned on Fodors...there is no need for publicity, lots of tech money around to prop up the expensive restaurants. Our malls? - they're wonderful, so the kids say. We have almost perpetual sunshine, hardly any bugs (not like the East Coast), dry almost desert climate. Our population is mixed: Caucasian, Hispanic and Asian (mostly Filippino and Vietnamese).

What else would you like to know?
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Old Nov 2nd, 2011, 08:49 AM
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Since the South Bay is my area of "expertise" too, I will chime in and add to what easy has said. I am an engineer and my husband designs and manages physical security systems for large tech companies. We are sort of in the thick of it, so to speak. We moved to SJ in 1995 for school and stayed for the jobs.

The whole of Silicon Valley is basically made of of neighborhoods - there were lots of small towns that have all merged together, so the boundaries between San Jose, Santa Clara, Campbell, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, etc. are hard to define. None of the areas are really densly developed - there are small pockets of highrises and we are getting more densly-built housing, but most of the area is covered in low-density development.

I grew up on the coast, and when I first moved to SJ, it took awhile to get used to the sprawl - you can drive for a long time without leaving "town".

Speaking of the coast, while SV itself isn't beautiful, we are within an hour of some really great places. Big Basin state park has gorgeous redwood groves and that is just the most well-known park in the area - there are plenty of others. The whole coast from Point Reyes to Big Sur is close enough for day trips and easy weekend getaways.

The culture of SV is definitely family-oriented. Engineers are everywhere and we are honestly not the most exciting people, so big parties and lavish stuff are not the norm. People work, hang out with their families, etc.

There is some decent nightlife, although it is fairly lowkey. Tomorrow my husband and I are going to a restaurant downtown that has live jazz on Thursday nights from 7-10. We also like to go to a place called Poor House Bistro, which has bands playing on Friday and Saturday nights - rock, blues, jazz, cajun, zydeco. The Improv is in downtown SJ, which brings in some big name comics. These are just a couple of examples, but there is stuff going on. There are also some dance clubs and lounges, but that isn't really our scene.

For live music, we have a summer program of Music In the Park downtown - Thursday evenings for most of the summer - free, totally fun, definitely family-friendly. There are other festivals through-out the year as well. Fun, family stuff to do.

This area is definitely diverse - in the last census we were second in diversity (behind NYC) and first in integration - there are some areas that are predominantly one ethnicity or another, but for the most part, the areas in SV are very mixed. We have festivals for all sorts of different cultural holidays and you find just about any type of food you want - in groceries and restaurants in the area. This is one of the things I love about living in SV.

Crime here is relatively low compared to most urban areas - crime is actually up the last couple of years. The increases are related to the recession and fewer police - gang activity is up. The gang activity doesn't affect most people though. It is pretty well concentrated to a few areas.

Cost of housing: As an example, we live in a townhouse in south SJ that was built in the 1970s, 1300 sq ft, 3 br, 2 car garage, decent neighborhood with decent schools. Places like ours are selling for around $275K right now. Pre-real estate meltdown, they were selling for as high as $535K. Some areas of SV haven't seen as big of a decrease in home values - mostly the really high end areas - but I think most areas where regular folks live have seen comparable decreases in value.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2011, 08:59 AM
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In the late 80's we lived in Fremont. I really enjoyed it there. There was a BART station just blocks from our condo, a nice selection of shopping close by, nice city park and library, and I LOVED the climate. We could get to San Franciso quickly and easily on BART, Carmel was maybe 90 minutes away, same with Napa and Sonoma. We took regular weekend trips to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Mendocino, Moneterey, the Gold Country. Housing costs are volatile, but right now I think they are quite a bit lower than 5 years ago, like many locales, as some others have mentioned.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2011, 09:21 AM
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Note that many parts of the Bay Area are quite hilly. When you are doing your scouting, make note of whether you like the flat part of a town or the hilly part. We live in the flat part of a town south of San Francisco, walking distance to the very vibrant main street. When we were house-hunting, we loved a house in the next town up in the hills (it's about a 2 mile drive from our house to the top of the hill), but we decided we'd rather live close to town, where our kids could ride their bikes, and it wasn't an ordeal to run out for a quart of milk, etc. As beautiful as the hills are, we've never regretted that decision (26 years).
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Old Nov 2nd, 2011, 10:24 AM
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>>As beautiful as the hills are, we've never regretted that decision (26 years).
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Old Nov 2nd, 2011, 10:35 AM
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Stu, we're going to have to meet one of these days
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Old Nov 2nd, 2011, 11:14 AM
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You have a whole week to explore - plan for potentially showery weather - you should take notice of commute times, traffic patterns etc., so I would ask a lot of questions while you're driving around - too many people spend too much time in their cars on crowded highways in the greater Bay Area - in other words, I'd try to live near where you both find jobs - don't forget the south bay area including Los Gatos, Cupertino, and also Santa Cruz (where we live) - again, you'll want to avoid long,bumper to bumper commutes...safe travels, Tom
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Old Nov 2nd, 2011, 11:24 AM
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>>Stu, we're going to have to meet one of these days
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Old Nov 4th, 2011, 11:34 AM
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>. We want to live somewhere with good schools

Sorry Katherine. Our public school system sucks! There are good private schools in every town but good public schools are hard to find. I am only familiar with public school systems in the Santa Cruz/San Jose area and can recommend Los Gatos and Saratoga as two towns to look at.
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Old Nov 4th, 2011, 01:45 PM
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Unfortunately, the Bay Area towns with the best school districts are pretty much the ones with the highest-priced housing, so if you have no concept of the cost of home ownership out here, you're in for complete sticker shock.
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Old Nov 4th, 2011, 02:21 PM
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Hi Katherine

In the past I used www.realtor.com - in addition to perusing houses in prospective neighborhoods, they have a tool, link, whereby you can plug in your current zip code (or even just a zip code you'd like to live in near you)to find similar neighborhoods elsewhere in the country. we did this years ago when we made a long distance move. Helps to narrow down your focus.

Good luck!
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