Where can we safely and affordably live as an LGBTQ family?

My wife and I recently relocated to the SF Bay Area from Alexandria, Virginia for my job in Mountain View. We'll both still be remote employees and I'll only need to travel into the office as needed for meetings and major work events. We've been exploring several neighborhoods that feel safe and inclusive for us to raise our daughter (and hopefully, a second child soon). We've been drawn to the Kensington neighborhood (near Tilden park), but are realizing that list prices are far lower than what sellers actually want for their homes so we're quickly becoming priced out, which is so tough. We've been exploring some properties on the outskirts of Kensington in El Cerrito (mostly in the hills), but those are competitive as well. People must just have gobs of money here as high-interest rates just aren't deterring people from escalating.

We're ideally seeking a 3-4 bedroom / 2 bathroom (1750-2500 sqft), private yard with trees (we have two dogs), mid-century modern or simply modern and updated, open floor plan, lots of natural light, maybe some unique architecture, at least 3 bedrooms all on the same floor, space for us both to work from home, parking for one car, and walkable to cafes/restaurants/markets/parks and situated among a really liberal, educated, inclusive, kid-friendly community with good schools (we're open to private, but want to be in a good school district for potential resale value). 

Where else should we consider? We're curious about some neighborhoods in the North Bay, as they seem more affordable ($1-1.4M) - Fairfax, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, and Sebastapol. The South Bay just seems way beyond our means, and the East Bay is a mix of safe and unsafe for our comfort. Where is a lesbian couple with kids to go these days to safely and comfortably raise their children among a like-minded community situated near nature?

If California fails us, we're open to looking elsewhere along the west coast - for instance, Southern California, Portland, or maybe somewhere in Washington State. Or... we give up and go back East. 

We'd love to hear any suggestions and perspectives from this community. Thank you!

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I think the good news is that many neighborhoods in the greater Bay Area have plenty of same-sex couples, so you don't really need to filter for that on your first cut. As you have found out, houses here are expensive. Especially given your worksite, even if you don't have to be there every day, you could look at Oakland Hills, San Leandro, or Castro Valley.

Point Richmond — a cute little hidden gem, family friendly, friendly neighbors and walkable with shops and cafes and the beach. There is a wonderful and affordable private school nearby called Crestmont — very progressive and inclusive.

San Leandro — nice sized houses and a lot of Oakland / Berkeley folks moving there for more space 

El Sobrante is also worth checking out.

Pleasant Hill — we have 4 friends who moved to PH from Oakland/Berkeley. All are very happy with their larger homes, yard, and school. Hey report that the community is diverse and inclusive.

You may have written Oakland out but Oakland Hills are more affordable and beautiful. Not quite walkable though.

Alameda — I wish I had bought in Alameda instead of Oakland. The entire island is walkable and has good schools. 

 

We recently moved to Redwood Heights/Laurel and are loving it so far! The neighborhood fits a lot of your criteria and is very diverse, liberal, friendly, etc. with a great community feel. 

I think for your price range in the near east bay, you'd be looking at a smaller home with some fixer upper elements to it. Anything recently updated at that size will be higher than your stated range, especially in desirable school districts. Alameda is a great option - it is safe, walkable and has a desirable school district. Commuting to the south bay might be tricky though. Overall though I would recommend a re-set in your expectations of what you want vs need in a home. It is hard coming from the east coast and seeing how much less far your money goes here.  

I will be honest. You're asking for a lot.  3-4 bedrooms for $1mil in the Bay Area with good schools in a good neighborhood will not happen. Unfortunately in California, you can't have it all - size, location, look of the house, and price. So you'll have to choose. We chose to give up size for a walkable neighborhood with good schools. If you remain fully remote, you might consider a different state altogether. Many people have left the Bay Area in search of more reasonable cost of living. I have friends who went to Colorado and have remote jobs in SF. 

If I could do it all over again, I would have set up my family life outside of the Bay Area, but I had no remote options when I first started working at Google (I assume this is where you are working; apologies if that's not the case). I love it here, and now we have a lot of community and family so we're stuck, but it's a hard, expensive place to live. I love your Sebastopol and Fairfax ideas, and of course everyone from here goes to Portland for similar lifestyle and lower costs. Also check out Santa Cruz. Some of the areas in and around Seattle could work for you too if you can stand the grey skies. Or even look down south at San Diego and its suburbs. If you're committed to the Bay Area, Alameda is wonderful but the lots are tiny, maybe check out Walnut Creek as well; you might find what you want but be careful which school district your house is in. If you only have to go into Mountain View on occasion, I would probably just look elsewhere to get all the things on your list, and pay for flights a few times a year to go back to the office (and push your manager to let you go full remote eventually or be based out of another office like Seattle or San Diego, if you're working for Google). You can probably get a much nicer house, have a better quality of life, have great public schools, less traffic, and pay a lot less overall if you broaden your search to more places on the West Coast. Or even Boulder!  Good luck. 

Davis! It’s not in the Bay Area, but if you only need to go to Mountain View occasionally, the extra distance won’t matter. It’s a college town, with a lot of amenities, one of the best farmers markets in the country, good schools, affordable childcare (compared to the Bay), lots of nature within easy access, and steadfastly liberal. Come on a Saturday morning to check out downtown!

Try Alameda! We have relatively safe neighborhoods, good schools, and a diverse, welcoming population. My teen kids have had LGBTQ families in their classes since preschool. You might need to compromise a bit on some of your home requirements, but you might not. We have plenty of housing in your price range, and most houses are within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and parks. We have lots of parks and miles of beaches, and although it feels more urban than Kensington or the El Cerrito Hills, it's also much more walkable because it's flat. It's very common to see kids roaming around neighborhoods on bikes or on foot, and my impression is that most kids walk or bike to school. Good luck with your search!

I live in East Richmond Heights and love it. It's more affordable than other East Bay locations, has sidewalks, is pretty quiet and near Alvarado Park. Houses and lots vary in size, but there are occasionally ones that fit your requirements. No walking to cafes, though! And I've heard mixed things about the local elementary school. The neighborhood feeds into the El Cerrito middle and high schools. 

With some exceptions, the further you get from the Bay Area the trickier things are likely to get  - I think you would have an easier time in the East Bay than you would in Petaluma/Sebastopol/Santa Rosa, for example. The Hayward Hills, unincorporated Fairview, and Castro Valley are both worth considering. You'll still find the occasional conservative/right wing household, but they're fairly rare in my experience. We have LGBT+ friends in San Leandro, Alameda, Hayward, and all over Oakland. The outskirts of San Jose might also be worth considering, though I feel like you'll run into more conservative folks in that direction. You're 100% right that school districts matter for resale value, but they'll also drive the prices up. Several of my recommendations aren't in the best school districts, but I figured if you were going to flex on something, it would probably be school district rather than LGBT+ friendliness. Good luck!

My wife and I moved here from Del Ray and live in El Cerrito (in the flats). I think it checks a lot of your boxes.  But it is pricey for houses, you’re right, and you don’t really get what you pay for in terms of city services (parks are mediocre, restaurants are uninspired, etc) but you can head over to Albany and Berkeley for all of this. Happy to chat if helpful!

I'm from Mtn View and lived as an adult in Kensington. The drive between the two cities can be horrific. There's no way I'd choose to be that far away even if I didn't have to regularly drive in. Maybe look at the Willow Glen neighborhood in SanJose. It's cute and you won't want to stab your eye with your pencil when you have to drive in. I might also look at Redwood City. Pick a place without a bridge between you and the office. The LGBT thing is fine anywhere in the bay area.

Not sure why you’ve written Oakland off when it’s the most LGBTQ+ friendly city in the Bay Area

We had been looking for a house for over two years and had almost all the same questions/wants as you. We absolutely loved Fairfax and found the culture to be super outdoorsy and very progressive. The houses closer to SFD are walkable to town and the schools are amazing. The issue was that a lot of the houses are super old and funky. There was almost always a concession we were having to make or the house needed lots of hidden work. That being said, the prices are the most reasonable outside of Novato (for Marin). Novato was cute, has tons of open space, and is walkable as well in certain neighborhoods. Plus and the houses are newer. It's much more conservative though. The schools are also pretty conservative from what I've heard from a few co workers who live there. 

Ultimately, we ended up finding a great house in West Berkeley that we just recently moved into. The vibe here seems to be progressive with lots of young families. There are tons of kids around all the time. The houses seemed to range in work needed, but there were definitly lots with upgrades, nice finishes, and all that we looked at had yards and garages. 

Before moving out of state, we lived in the Montclair neighborhood of the Oakland hills. We loved it. Our neighbors were the type you describe, our views were amazing, and we could walk to the shops of Montclair village on the stairs near the back of our home. (We lived at Colton Blvd and Snake Rd.)

So many dreamy memories from our days there.