Husband wants "City Life" with Kids

Hi there - my husband and I moved from DC a year ago with our 2 kids (ages 4 and 2) to the Bay Area (where I am from), and although I am really happy to be living in Berkeley, my husband is hating "suburban" life and desperately wants to move to SF (though he potentially wants our kids to continue to go to school in the East Bay).  His job is in downtown SF (he prefers to work from the office), and he can easily BART into the city.  My job is also in downtown SF, but I can work remotely on most days.  My husband misses the "good ol' days" in DC, where he walked to work.  My husband is unfamiliar with the area, so I keep trying to tell him that living in SF isn't kid-friendly really (or at least, not as much as Berkeley).  He really likes Mission Bay.  He thinks it's possible for us to commute out of SF to drop off our kids and then commute back into the city (I told him that this would almost double our commuting time).  I told him if he genuinely needs to live the "city life" to be happy, then he needs to look for really good schools within SF - but again, I don't think he realizes the difficulty of commuting WITHIN SF.  My husband is of the mind that we shouldn't change our lives because of our kids; I on the other hand thoroughly enjoy having kids and being a "mom" and I love living here and doing activities that are centered around the kids.  

In DC, city life is super easy because the city is very small - but I didn't know a single person with two kids (that were over 5) living in DC.  Most people moved to Virginia and Maryland.  In fact, in all my years in DC, I don't think I ever saw an middle-schooler or high schooler.  I have repeatedly tried to tell my husband that this is simply another stage in life he should try to accept.

My questions are -- (1) does anyone else have a husband that just doesn't want suburban life, and if so, what happened, did it get better?, and (2) is it practical to live in the city with two kids?  (3) And is it practical if you want your kids to go to school in the East Bay?

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

This is a very interesting post… parts of SF that are family friendly feel no more urban than Oakland/Berkeley and some parts of SF have much less amenities. I have friends who live in the sunset, Richmond, Bernal heights, lower pac heights, twin peaks, etc. and I (living near lake Merritt) have easier access to amenities and equal or shorter commute to SF. I drive to SF and most days my commute is 35 minute door to door.  I have some friends who live in north beach who really do have an urban life — apartment living but a stone’s throw from parks, restaurants and walk to their work in downtown. Their apartment is not tiny (3 bed/2bath — 1600 sq ft or 2 bed/2bath —1300+ square ft.). They don’t have a yard but they live literally across the street from a gorgeous park. Almost all of my friends in SF send their kids to a private school except for 3 families whose children are enrolled in the highly coveted language immersion public school and Lowell high school. 

We are the opposite and feel that Oakland /Berkeley is too urban… (I have lived in NYC, Boston, SF, so I know what ultra urban looks like.)
 

As we know many happy families with 1, 2 or even 3 kids in SF, I don’t agree with this notion that SF isn’t for families. There are a lot of family friendly things to do, cool camps, etc. But, mission bay attracts singles and young techies, although I do know one family with two kids who live in mission bay. 

If you both work in SF, it would be crazy to send kids to school in east bay unless your child has unique needs and the only school that addresses those needs happen to be in east bay. SF has numerous language immersion and progressive private schools if that’s what you are looking for. 

Would your husband be happier in a more urban neighborhood of Oakland/Berkeley? Living off of College Ave. or Piedmont Ave.is so much cooler than many parts of SF.  I wonder if you are in Berkeley Hills?

My husband and I lived in SF for 12 years before moving to Berkeley 3 years ago. Our daughters are 4 and 6, and we find Berkeley to be the 'just right' in between the city and the burbs. We can walk/bike everywhere, it's flat and accessible with everything we need! There are definitely pros to SF and there are a lot of people who make it work...but the idea of living in SF to drive your kids out to the east bay for school would be a complete deal breaker for me. Plenty of kid-friendly communities in SF but most of the folks i know with more than one live in the west side or south/west. There are babies and even preschoolers all over the city but that narrows once the kids go to school - people leave, manage through the public school system or end up in private schools.

Where in Berkeley do you live? Is it possible to move to a more "urban" part of town, where you could walk to restaurants and stuff? There are plenty of families with kids in SF (and in DC too, I know several). After all there are middle schools and high schools, public and private, full of kids who live in SF. I think it's gotten more family friendly than it used to be. But commuting to school drop off in the east bay - and school pickup? No way I would do that. Absolute deal breaker, it would make our lives so miserable. 

There are plenty of people with kids in SF. They are changing the way people are assigned to public school, but the current system is wild. However, living in SF with kids seems doable but of course more difficult than living in a non-city. Especially if you have the income to buy/live in a decent sized home/apt/condo with parking and some outdoor space then living with kids in SF seems even more reasonable. 

I cannot imagine a situation where you would want to commute to East Bay to send your kids to school. That seems completely unreasonable. The only reason I could see doing this is if you had absolutely no choice (e.g. you had a deaf child and wanted them to go to the CA School for the Deaf in Fremont because there is no school for the deaf in SF). 

I don't think taking your kids to the East Bay for school makes much sense at all. And if you're talking about Berkeley public schools, you would most likely not get an inter-district transfer. Our schools are pretty full. If you'd be doing private schools, just do private in SF. There's more to choose from. I think your husband is falling into the trap of new transplants who think SF is just amazing. I'm an East Bay native and have lived in SF. I would stay in Berkeley, mainly for the good public schools, but also for the culture. SF has lost its way, IMO. 

Hi-just wanted to send a note to say, I feel this struggle! My husband and I moved from DC to Oakland several years ago, and the transition was very difficult for me. I was new to the Bay Area and Oakland felt so different from DC-and this was all before COVID, before full time telecommuting and more at-home life.

Agree with the other posters-I can't imagine living in SF and commuting to the East Bay for schools and back to SF for work. 

Not sure where you live in Berkeley-we currently live in Rockridge, and I wonder if somewhere like this, close to BART and walkable, might provide your husband with the city feel he is missing?

As far as the suburban-urban conundrum, I think this is something a lot of people struggle with. The practicality of needing more space with children, with the desire to be somewhere more vibrant and lively. Something ends up giving, but I've struggled with accepting it! Good luck with your decision.

Well, I can tell you we used to live in SF, where our son was born. I wanted to move to the East Bay but my husband was worried about losing the city feeling. We moved to where Rockridge meets Elmwood and our life feels more citified than it did when we were living in Bernal Heights! I think that commuting both ways to take your kids to school in the East Bay is a pipe dream. That would suck. Mission Bay doesn't seem super family friendly and not sure you'll find it all that walkable. 

Could he be convinced to look at a more "urban" area of the East Bay? Rockridge/Elmwood/Lakeshore are all great areas to live and have that urban energy.

You don't say where you live, but if I lived in the hills, I'd probably be missing that urban energy, too!

Also, more pluses for the East Bay: trees. SF is so lacking in trees. It's a huge reason I wanted to leave. Also, if your husband misses the diversity of people in an urban setting, you probably won't find that in Mission Bay. 

Perhaps a trial run of one week in an AirBnB in the neighborhood he's interested in living in? Not cheap, but certainly less expensive than a move! I'd have him do the kid drop-off in East Bay at least three of those five weekdays to see how it is.

1. Commuting from SF to East Bay back to SF for school drop-off is insane. If your husband hates commuting and values having leisure time to walk, this makes no sense. 

2. Yes there are families that leave SF, but there are also plenty of happy families with two kids in SF! Most I know are on the western or southern side of the city. SF has amazing public parks, museums and beaches that are great for kids. In comparing schools in SF to the East Bay, there are many more public language immersion schools offered there than what we could find in Oakland. 

Lastly, I'd recommend if possible "trying out" life in SF... enroll your 4yo in some summer or holiday camps there, rent an AirBnb in some of the more residential neighborhoods for a week or so for a "staycation" and just see what it's like. We did this when moving up from LA (though I am a Bay Area native) to test out commutes, neighborhood vibe etc. and it helped immensely. We had some pre-conceived notions of certain areas that were put to the test, and it definitely helped rule out some areas.

Oh boy.

Just to answer your direct questions:

2) I do know a few families with older kids in SF that are making it work. In almost all cases, just to be frank, the families are fairly well off (although it’s not like living in Berkeley is cheap either, so maybe that’s not such a differentiator anymore). In almost all cases they also go to expensive private schools starting in K that can be competitive to get in to (there are plenty of people in Berkeley that do that too, but arguably it can feel more necessary in SF given the wider lottery school system you should make sure you brush up on if you seriously consider this). BUT, to your husband’s point, they do have much easier commutes to their SF offices, and I do think there is something to city life and all that comes with it and exposing your kids to it (although as I’m sure you know, that can be good and bad). 
 

3) IMHO to live in SF and send your kids to school in the East Bay would be bonkers, unless there was some crazy historical reason like you moved when they were in 10th grade and wanted to not disrupt them or something. I won’t get into the logistic issues as I’m sure you will get that from others, but I think you would be severely handicapping your kid’s social development and sense of community. As a mom of East Bay elementary school kids, I don’t mean to be rude, but there is zero chance I’m shuttling them back and forth for play dates with a kid that lives in SF. Life is too much already. And while your kids might meet other SF kids outside of school, those SF kids will also likely be concentrating on their own nearby school friends.

Good luck.

I live in Berkeley and LOVE IT because it's not suburban. Sure, there's issues about too many single-family housing and low-rise construction in this part of the East Bay, but Berkeley is very walkable/bike-able.

In case he's never visited other parts of the Bay, go for a day drive down to San Leandro and further south, down in San Jose, and up the Peninsula, and even over the hill to the Tri-Valley and Walnut Creek-Concord areas. He'll find places that are MUCH more suburban, areas my wife and have no desire to live because of how suburban and car-necessary they are. 

I don't know him, but your husband sounds a bit narrow-minded and selfish in this situation. He's crazy thinking you can commute across the Bay twice/day and not drive yourselves crazy. I hope you two can work this out and he can learn to drop is SF dream. It's a great city, but better to visit than live if you're already over in the Easy Bay,

My thought is would he be happy with living in a walkable part of Berkeley near a BART station so he would have an easier commute? There are people living in SF with children, but they send their children to school there. We have a relative in SF whose daughter is in pre-K in Glen Park. She had planned to move to the East Bay but it is helpful to live near her mother. 

I'd get more curious about what he is really missing from "city life". Does he want more date nights out in the City for a bit more of that city vibrancy nightlight? Would spending more time there with the kids on the weekends help scratch that itch? (visit the various kid-friendly museums, hang out on Crissy Field, ride bikes across the bridge, etc etc). He's essentially asking for less space for more money and a slightly less kid-friendly vibe ... and Mission Bay, while continuing to get built up, is so...industrial, and far from a lot of the great things SF has to offer. I bet there are easier ways to replicate that parts of city life he is missing, but he needs to better define what that is. Replicating the "good ole days" isn't really possible, no matter what one's goal! 

You asked this question: does anyone else have a husband that just doesn't want suburban life, and if so, what happened, did it get better? My husband was similar. It got better when I told him I wasn't moving and it was no longer up for discussion. 

His idea is that he wants to walk to work while kids spend lots of time in the car commuting back and forth? Really? How does that make sense? What is the next crazy idea he is going to come up with? You may want to try family meetings.  I have found that family meetings where you sit down (with or without kids) to discuss things  can be very helpful is that when this type of disagreement arises. You have a time, place and rules for discussion. I learned about them here on Berkeley Parents Network, and I am forever grateful. 

The city can be great for kids!  Lots of families raise their kids there.  If you prefer the city for your own life and can afford private school, then there's really no reason not to live there with kids. Mission Bay is a bit of an odd choice but maybe there are more families there now? 

But it would be insane to bring your kids to the East Bay for school.  If you move, move schools. There are lots of good ones...in fact, more independent schools to choose from than in the East Bay.

I lived in SF a long time but I much prefer the East Bay for the extra space, better weather, and all the hiking and easy biking and general vibes. Just so happens that my kids are getting raised here for that reason.  It sounds like maybe you just don't want to move to SF for similar reasons?  In which case, the conversation really isn't about whether SF is for families (which it can be), but about whether it's for your family.  

Just wanted to chime in as a couple who lived in DC too and loved (REALLY loved) the DC city life. We moved to Berkeley for grad school years ago and actually loved it so much we haven't felt the need to move to SF. We are now in Oakland and now have a baby, and we miss Berkeley so much, that we are hoping to be able to buy there at some point down the road.

I have friends in SF with kids who make it work, that said they are in the "burby" parts of SF, like Inner Richmond or West Portal, and my understanding is those actually also have a commute to get to downtown SF. Don't underestimate the challenge of getting around SF!

I would also NOT under any circumstances live in SF and have kids go to school in the East Bay. The Bay Bridge traffic / BART commute is no joke.

Can you explore more of Berkeley that is closer to the more happening parts? We love the area around College, Rockridge, North Berkeley, etc. There is so much to love about Berkeley! Culture, access to nature, little shops. And everything is so bikeable and truly family friendly.

My family with 9 and 4 years old has lived in SF, North Bernal and is moving to East Bay. We wanted to move a couple of years ago but couldn't. I too agree that parts of SF can be kids or family friendly. There are so many awesome playgrounds new and old and also events for kids every weekend before pandemic. We chose East Bay to move to mainly for space, safer/quieter neighborhoods, and schools. While raising kids in the city, we were hit by the reality that our desire to go out for bar hopping or dining at restaurants has drastically gone down, not because of the pandemic but just the lifestyle we got ourselves into with kids. If we no longer value these amenities city offers as much as before, what's the point of sticking around in the city, we started wondering. I was hit by this realization earlier than my husband, and there was a time period my husband went out to watch movies and hang out with his buddies after kids were asleep while I stayed home, which was totally fine as I got to get out to have my me time elsewhere. 

Also, if your kids continue to go to school in East Bay and you live and work in SF, you will have to cross the bay bridge FOUR TIMES a day, 5 days a week! That's a lot of time in a car most often stuck in traffic and toll fees, let alone traffic WITHIN the city, like you said. I'd have to say not practical at all. There can be school related gatherings after school or birthday parties on weekends in East Bay. Communities of school friends will be all in East Bay when your house is in SF. 

It sounds like your husband wishes to recreate a lifestyle he had in DC and misses it dearly. It may be helpful to rationally prioritize his wants and needs and figure out what can work and what not. Do this on a happy day that he spends with you and the kids in East Bay! ; )

Yes, we were in the same boat. My husband does not drive and does not want to learn, so did not want to live in the suburbs. We stayed in SF through middle school with our kids, living in a two-bedroom rental all that time. There are plenty of people who raise kids in SF, but many are wealthy and pay for private school. We paid for private school K-8 in SF and now sort of regret it...it was hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can play the school lottery in SF, and the elementary schools are OK, but things fall down in middle and high school. SFUSD is pretty disfunctional. Anyway, we moved to Marin when my oldest hit high school. Compared to our private school, public school here is just OK, they teach to the lowest common denominator and there is no special attention. However, we are so happy to not have had to compete to get into, and then pay $50K per year for high school in SF! My husband insisted on a walkable neighborhood and being "super close to SF" so we landed in Mill Valley, but we had to bid on 7 properties to find a walkable house we could afford (a fixer that has been both blessing/curse). He still complains about "how boring it is in Mill Valley" but I just laugh. It's a privilege to live in such a nice town and it's no more boring than SF was to be honest. SF is not that exciting; it's a suburban-feeling city and most parents drive everywhere. (My son's best friend has never taken MUNI and he was born in SF and is 17!) When the kids are little, Golden Gate Park is nice, but you get sick of it like anything else. Mostly, I did tons of driving (much more than I do in Marin). I was either driving to Trader Joes, driving  carpool, or driving the kids all over place for activities (one to soccer out at 44th and Wawona, and then the other to chorus at Civic Center, birthday parties in Noe, then a soccer game at the Marina, etc.) The traffic is horrendous and it takes so long to cross the city, and then there is the circling, circling to look for parking and the $120 parking tickets. Even in Mission Bay, I think you'll still need a car with kids, since there are no schools around there (SFUSD says they will open a Mission Bay elementary but it's still in the early stages and the district is pretty broke) and you will likely want them to participate in activities and attend playdates/parties. I wish we had just done the burbs sooner, it seems much easier with stuff close by and kids walking everywhere on their own. Good luck!

The practical questions you've posed could certainly be addressed by the BPN community, but it sounds like there are questions under your questions that a couple's therapist could help answer. If you are also wondering how to problem solve this mismatched perspective and find a compromise both of you could live with then a neutral third party that both of you trust with qualified experience in these situations might really help.

I lived in SF for 10 years and loved city life, but moved to the east bay a couple days years ago for a more family friendly lifestyle. While I miss living in SF, overall I’m much happier here. It’s less stressful with kids, easier to get around, and there are so many family friendly activities. We have more space and a backyard, and can walk to schools. Plus, it’s still easy to drive into SF and visit our favorite spots. 
 

Living in SF and commuting to the East Bay for schools would be very difficult. Even living in SF and battling traffic to get to school or work within SF can be hard. 

I agree with your husband! I, too, found the East Bay too suburban and didn't like the everyday reliance on cars. I have found SF to be very family friendly. Schools in the avenues (the Sunset and the Richmond) are excellent; it is safe and we are within easy walking distance to the park, the ocean, libraries, stores and restaurants. The downside: summers are gloomy, so plan a vacation around August and remember that it's at least 10 degrees warmer when you cross the Golden Gate Bridge. 

I think a lot of this comes down to money—living in SF with kids can be great if you can afford to live where and how you want and send your kids to a school you and they are happy with. It’s only 7x7 after all and the public transit is mostly good. There are neighborhoods that are quiet and have a lot of families. I fall into this exceedingly lucky category—and I have to assume you do too if you’re even considering this? I only have one kid, but nearly all her peers have siblings…so we’re in a big community of families with more than one child, and—it’s great. Many neighborhoods have lots of things within walking distance and there are a TON of family friendly communities and activities. It’s one of the things I love about SF in fact—gg park, ocean beach, botanical gardens, science museum, art museums, a thousand great playgrounds, many small neighborhood art and music studios, camps/programs etc.—there is no shortage of cool activities and places to visit and some of them are even free. 

I agree however with prior responders that commuting out of SF to east bay for school is absolute madness. Choosing to cross the bridge and back every single day—omg, no no no. 
 

maybe find some parent meetups in sf and also explore neighborhoods/playgrounds and see what you find? You might discover an area over here that appeals to both you and your husband. 

It's funny because my husband is definitely a city person, but he was the one who instigated our move from SF to Berkeley 4 years ago. We felt Berkeley was a nice compromise between city and suburban, plus the schools and weather are better. At the time, our kids were 8 and 6, and frankly, I wish we moved sooner because you make a lot of connections with other parents when the kids are young and it's been hard for us to make the same friendships we have with folks who are still in SF.

As for #2, it is definitely possible to live in SF with two kids and I know many, many families who do. Most of them live in the suburbs of SF -- outer Sunset, Noe Valley, Glen Park, Excelsior, Ingleside, etc. When we decided it was time to get a bigger house (we were on Glen Park/Noe Valley border at the time), what we could afford was in the out areas which felt a lot more suburban than Berkeley does. So we moved. Yes, at times I miss having easier access to the museums, cultural offerings, restaurants, and cool things to do and definitely envisioned raising our kids in that kind of environment... but SF is really not far, so all those things are within reach. 

Also, I know it sounds frivolous, but to us, the weather really does make a difference. If you are in SF, expect your summer to be non-existent -- fog and frigid wind every single afternoon. There is no wearing cute sandals out to dinner in the summer. Whenever we go there, the temp is at least 5-10 degrees cooler (all year), and that wind! Don't miss it. There are beautiful parts of SF, but lots of it is dirty and lacking greenery. When we moved to Berkeley, I felt so much more relaxed because I look out on living green things, not buildings, roads, and wires.

#3 I think is a total deal breaker. Getting to the East Bay in the morning will be a breeze, but getting back in SF will be a nightmare. And then to have to do it in reverse in the afternoon? You will be spending so much of your time commuting it will drag you down. Plus, what would happen if your child gets sick and there is an accident on the bridge? Or there is some other emergency. If you do decide to move, definitely enroll them in schools in SF. There are a lot of wonderful (public) options. 

Best of luck to you!

Here's a story that might help. We know two families who moved to the East Bay from New York.

Couple 1: Husband loves Berkeley, wife worried about missing New York. They moved to husband's dream location high in the Berkeley Hills. Wife was miserable. Six months later they were back in New York.

Couple 2: Husband loves Berkeley, wife worried about missing New York. They moved to Rockridge, right off College. Both happy and still in the East Bay. 

So try moving to the least suburban area out here and see how that feels. 

Oh, I thought of two more points in favor of the east bay:

1. Your kids are young now, but in a few years when they are elementary and middle school-aged, you aren't going to want them to walk around by themselves in Mission Bay. Berkeley is very walkable and safe -- even as young as 6, we let our son walk to neighborhood friends' houses and a couple of years later, roam the neighborhood on epic nerf battles. Our middle schooler regularly walks to boba with friends.

2. Oakland is a rich and diverse urban experience. Whenever we have a date night, we hop in a Lyft and 10 minutes later, we're eating at a cool restaurant, or meeting friends at a hip bar. If you are in Mission Bay, you'd have to take a Lyft to get to most places like that anyway. Plus, Oakland is kid-friendly -- OMCA is a great family destination, as is Lake Merritt and Fairyland.

When we moved to the Bay Area from Manhattan my husband chose San Mateo for us. I hated it as it was way too suburban for me and I wasn’t happy until we moved to the city. Part of it was that I felt like I didn’t get to choose where we landed. I wonder if that is part of it for your husband? Does he need more agency in this decision? 
 

We moved to South Beach in SF in 2005 and just loved it. This is very close to Mission Bay. We had a child in 2011 and stayed in the area. It has been great. The part I didn’t expect was the real sense of community we have in our building with other kids and families. Play dates by the pool, Halloween parties in the building, everyone got a dog around the same time etc and the kids have grown up really knowing their neighborhood friends. 
 

The thing I love about SF is that we walk or muni everywhere. My husband and I both walk to work.  I rarely drive. 
 

the downside as others have pointed out is that you will probably want to choose private schools for your kids and that can be very expensive. Driving to Berkeley for school wouldn’t work. 
 

having been on the side of “not wanting the suburbs” I would put it back to your husband to explore and come up with something that could work for your family and see what he comes up with but let him drive it. 

I lived in DC for 10 years and find it strange that you never encountered children…this tells me you likely never lived near any of the minority majority communities in that city, which heavily populate the public school system. The wealthy Virginia and Maryland suburbs are generally populated by many who choose to remove their children from a majority minority “urban” or “city life” environment.

I find it fascinating that many in answering this post cite the most gentrified areas of Berkeley as “urban” areas your husband should try.

It might also help to define what “urban” or “city life”means to him versus “suburban” and what it means to you. 

Does “urban” mean raising children in racially and economically diverse areas where they are exposed to different cultures and cultural events? If that’s his definition he won’t find that in Mission Bay and it may be easier to find in the East Bay. 

Or….Does “urban” mean access to high-end venues and exciting entertainment for him to more easily enjoy as an adult without kids along?

On a related note- maybe your husband is just tired of Covid-19 life and the strict world it’s created with less to do when your kids are still unvaccinated. Moving to SF won’t change that. 

This is an interesting post because you have some specific questions but I don't think those answers are necessarily what will help! I think a lot of couples have probably been in the position where you start to want different things for your lifestyle, especially when kids come into the picture. I'll just share briefly what our experience was like and what did and did not help us come to a compromise. Before my son was born, I think my husband and I were both pretty happy with our low maintenance condo near Piedmont Avenue in walking distance to bars/restaurants/stores/libraries/transit etc. After he was born, my husband started growing frustrated with being in a multi-family building and talked about wanting to move. I knew we would probably want to do so eventually, but I still enjoyed being in such a walkable area and was noticing how many playground and preschools we were close to, things I hadn't noticed before. My husband started applying the "stage of life" argument you're alluding to argue for moving to true suburbs on the other side of the tunnel and I'll let you know that did NOT work for me. Lots of people decide that a larger home in a more suburban environment is where they want to live but I'm a unique individual, as are you and your husband, and that wasn't what I wanted. Honestly, it made me want to stay put even more. Once he stopped trying to convince me that what I wanted was wrong (and I stopped feeling pressured) we both were able to discuss more honestly what was most important to us. When we were finally both ready to move, we looked at small houses right off Piedmont and College Ave, we looked at giant houses a 15 minute drive from anything, and that prepared us to find the Venn Diagram houses in Oakland neighborhoods where we could afford slightly larger homes that are "walkable" to coffee and a bagel if I'm willing to walk a mile. It probably took us a good 6 months to come a compromise and we each considered sacrificing our preference for the other just to get it over with. I'm really glad we didn't do that because someone would be living with resentment. 

Especially since you're husband is new here and you haven't lived here in a while, I would investigate a lot of different neighborhoods in both SF and the East Bay and try to identify what you like and where your preferences intersect. Of course, this is the Bay Area, so unless your funds are unlimited, budget will probably play into this as well. My husband and I would both be happy to live in Noe Valley, but our bank account disagrees ;-)

I missed my more walkable life when we moved to our current house, but now I use my in-office SF days to enjoy a more urban experience (just take a walk, meet an SF friend for a drink, stop by the Ferry building etc). Maybe you could encourage your husband to do the same. I find that the more urban time I get, the more I appreciate the space, views, and quiet waiting for me on the other side of the bridge.

You've gotten a lot of responses but I'll add mine anyway.  I was the one who didn't want to live in the suburb - born and raised in San Francisco,  I was completely closed minded about living anywhere else and predicted doom and gloom about living a dynamic city etc. Then reality hit: couldn't afford to live where I wanted in San Francisco, my husband was depressed with the fog, wanted a yard - and the mounting financial cost of private school tuition was too much.  It really hit home when my husband remarked "it isn't just about you anymore".  We moved to the suburbs when my son was a baby and guess what? I survived.  In fact, I ended up liking our town much more than my husband did. So I definitely get that living in the suburbs can seem boring and stale but it's just not true.  Also, it's pretty unfair to stereotype a whole community. There are good and bad people everywhere.

If you do decide to move to San Francisco, do realize that it is impractical to commute over the bridge or even the Peninsula to send your children to school.  Whoever is in charge of pick up/drop off is going to become mighty resentful. And as you pointed out,  getting across San Francisco with any mode of transportation can be a challenge.  Sometimes, driving is the only practical option for taking young kids to school.  Once they're older, taking MUNI will be an option but sounds like you're a ways from that.  Berkeley and Oakland both have plenty of walkable neighborhoods. He should explore those before he declares the East Bay as too suburban.

Good luck!

You're obviously right, but your husband is obviously unhappy.

You're right: First, it would be ridiculous to live in SF and bring kids to school in Berkeley, unless it were for a short period of time (less than a year) and for a specific reason (like a special program, or only 4 months until kindergarten). Second, most people I know who had kids in SF tried to move out of SF. I do know two people who've had school-aged kids in SF so it is doable, but neither of them live near downtown or "hip" neighborhoods. 

Your husband is unhappy: From your post, your husband's wants sound muddled (e.g., he misses walking to work but he wants to spend hours schlepping kids back and forth?). What is clear is that he's not happy. And while you're right on the practicalities, it's probably more important to address what's making your husband so unhappy. Is it postpartum depression, homesickness, the disparity of feeling like a fish out of water while you are thriving in the new location? Maybe you could do some active listening, like where you listen and can only ask clarifying questions (super hard) to truly understand where he is coming from. Or you could try each making lists of everything you like about your current situation, and everything you don't like about your current situation, and then really talk about the list results and what to do about them as a couple. 

Additional thought: If he's having trouble with parent-lifestyle, maybe a frequent babysitter and he gets to plan the date to be what he likes (or you do separate activities sometimes).

Best of luck to you. 

Former New Yorker here, husband from DC. I totally get it. But your husband's plan is ridiculous. Live in SF, or live in the East Bay. SF is plenty kid friendly, not AS much but sure, it is. Not in Mission Bay though - if you want kid friendly SF life, look at Bernal, the Richmond, the Sunset, Glen Park, Balboa...clearly for your needs you want the BART or easy Muni access so I'd look more at Glen Park or Balboa than the others although parts of Bernal are walkable to 24th Street Bart.

There are 5 kids from SF who have a shared vanpool to our Oakland school but it's only because there is nothing comparable for them in the city (it's a modern orthodox Jewish day school.) If you're not looking for something very specific like that, I don't know why you couldn't find a great school in SF. I miss SF ALL THE TIME but suck it up and deal with Berkeley because I like the weather and the relative amount of space I have.

1. My husband abhors suburban life. We lived in London for years, minor Midwestern cities for a couple and now Oakland. I question your husband gravitating to mission bay and calling it city living. It is an antiseptic developer dreamland. 
 

2. what makes our existence feel “city” is a non reliance on cars and ease of participating in civic life. Oh, and we’ve seen a few rats in the neighborhood. 

I currently have the opposite problem - I live in SF (Bernal Heights) but husband wants to move out to somewhere a lot more sleepy/suburban! Which is ultimately ok with me, but I'm holding the line at "can walk to a store" and "at least SOME diversity please." 

I work in civic tech (read: doesn't pay as much as a FAANG) and have colleagues who live in SF and have multiple kids. Some go to SFUSD schools, others go to private schools. I have one coworker who's homeschooling his kids. It runs the gamut. It's certainly possible. There are kid-friendly neighborhoods in SF, and Bernal Heights is one of them. I see babies and kids EVERYWHERE here. Mission Bay is pretty close (I go to the Kaiser there) but I wouldn't consider it a kid-friendly neighborhood.

Commuting out of SF just to drop your kids off at school in the East Bay is impossible. Forget it. Post-pandemic it might be better, but it would be at least half an hour one-way. Pre-COVID we used to commute from Oakland to downtown SF every morning...it would take us an average of AN HOUR. ONE WAY. It was awful. There were two epic days in a row where it took us TWO AND A HALF HOURS. ONE WAY. We seriously showed up to our respective offices at 11am.

The only reason why we haven't moved out of SF and down the peninsula or to the East Bay ASAP is because of my job downtown. I'm mostly working from home, but may need to go to the office once or twice a week. The commute isn't worth moving for, even if my husband doesn't like living in SF.