Where to Live for a Job in San Francisco

Parent Q&A

Help! Relocating from London to Bay Area Nov 29, 2019 (21 responses below)
Moving to Bay Area with two small children - clueless! May 31, 2019 (11 responses below)
Where to live (with good schools) for a commute to Dogpatch? Mar 8, 2018 (5 responses below)
Relocating to SF from New York - worried about school assignment Feb 16, 2018 (14 responses below)
Affordable towns for commuting to San Francisco *and* Napa? Oct 5, 2016 (6 responses below)
  • Help! Relocating from London to Bay Area

    (21 replies)

    Hello!  Advice much appreciated!  Currently in SF visiting areas as will be moving here from London UK in Feb next year.  Have 6 year old and 18 month old.  Rather overwhelmed & confused with school lottery system/areas/transport etc!! As I understand Oakland is now also lottery selection system? Have been looking north of rockridge BART/Elmwood.  Are we missing a gem of a nice neighbourhood area (in Oakland or Berkeley) with amenities/cafes, good schools and transport close by?  We liked the vibe of temescal (currently live in East London).  I will be commuting to Mission Bay.  Does nobody risk the lottery system? Thanks in advance!

    We live in Grand Lake/Lakeshore neighborhood in Oakland and commute to SF everyday.  First, I'd like to give a shout out to our neighborhood which has a landmark historic theater, little cafes, restaurants, shops, parks for kids, library, the oldest bookstore in Oakland, and one of the most vibrant farmers' markets around and of course, Lake Merritt. It's also quite a bit more affordable than Rockridge and I feel a bit safer than Temescal. 

    Oakland does have an options process for schools but you get preference for your catchment (the neighborhood zone for your area school). Rockridge area has some of the more popular schools (Chabot/Peralta/Hilcrest) and the area middle school and high school are also well regarded. The neighborhood school for Temescal is Emerson which is not ranked high but is well regarded and beloved by families who attend the school. Chabot is a larger school and out of catchment kids do get into Chabot. We like our neighborhood school (Cleveland), which is a hidden gem. In addition to BART, there are transbay buses that get you to downtown SF as well as casual carpool. I have lived in different neighborhoods in Oakland and have commuted to different parts of SF. You don't have to limit yourself to being able to walk to BART to have a pretty easy commute. If being able to walk to BART is really important and you want to stay on the west side of the Caldecott Tunnel, the "safetest" family friendly neighborhoods with BART within walking distance and commercial amenities would be Rockridge BART, North Berkeley BART, El Cerrito BART areas (El Cerrito BART area feels more suburban than hip urban neighborhood). Parts of residential areas near downtown Berkeley BART can also be nice. Piedmont Ave. neighorhood is also very nice and it's one of my favorite places we have lived. Commute to SF is quite easy from Piedmont Ave. area. The neighborhood school is not highly ranked and many famlies in that area send their kids to Chabot or Cleveland which are close or private schools. Berkeley and SF both have blind lottery system, so you could end up in a school that is not close to your house. Oakland gives preference to neighbhood kids and siblings of current students and if there is any room left, they run a lottery for the rest. 

    You generally get assigned to your neighborhood school in Oakland, so the lottery is more for people who don't want to go to their neighborhood school and thus are in a lottery for their out-of-neighborhood desired school. We live in Rockridge and love it because it has BART, easy access to the freeway (and no need to battle Hwy. 80 to Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, etc), and is just a lovely walkable neighborhood with shopping, restaurants etc nearby. It's true that housing is more expensive than some areas. Temescal is a bit cheaper and is also awesome. Lake Merritt has a slightly more urban feel because there are more apartment buildings; it also has the lake and great shopping districts, and in some ways feels like the "heart" of Oakland because it's so diverse and draws people from all over town, so it's a great choice too. Our neighborhood elementary school is Peralta, which is much sought after and beloved; Chabot is the other elementary school in Rockridge and is bigger but much the same. Good luck!

    If you are still around, Berkeley USD schools are offering free school tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays mornings. It would help you to make your own mind. Contact individual schools to sign up for the tours. On Saturday, December 7th 10-1, there is Berkeley USD school fair in Sylvia Mendez school. Each school will have a table and you can talk to people

  • We just found out my husband will doing his fellowship in San Francisco. His hospital will be in downtown San Francisco. I'm looking for advice on where would be best for a family of four. Kids will be 2 and 4. We would either need to live close enough to downtown (but I envision this isn't family friendly) or we would need a fairly easy commute for him. I just want to make sure we have some great options for pre-schools and a safe neighborhood. Looking for any advice or guidance! Thanks in advance!

    [Moderator note] See also past advice "Where to Live for a Job in San Francisco"

    Perhaps you could let us know which hospital, or generally what you mean by "downtown SF"? "Downtown" isn't a common SF designation. Several hospitals could be described as central, but they're in different districts with different kinds of transport access, so recommendations could be different. The UCSF system, for instance, offers shuttles between its locations, and that could make a big difference to what's realistic for you.

    Albany or El Cerrito would be good, family friendly and close to BART.

    What is your budget? SF is insanely expensive and you don't want to live downtown with kids. By downtown, I assume you mean the financial district or somewhere on Market Street. I would suggest that he plan to take BART or an express bus to work and that you live outside the city. But then the tricky part is figuring out which direction and how far you should be from the city. A huge percentage of people on this forum are in the Berkeley/Oakland area, so you will probably get a lot of votes for that area. The commute from there, assuming you live close to a BART line, is quite reasonable, but if your budget can't handle that area, you'll need to look further and further away from the city (we refer to SF as the city). Prices drop in places like Pleasant Hill and Hercules, and drop more if you go out to Antioch and Brentwood, but then the commute goes way up.

  • I'd love some opinions/advice, since we're moving to the Bay Area with two grade school-age kids and I've never been there before. We are relocating from overseas in June/July, for a job that's in Dogpatch. We missed the San Francisco school lottery, and since we don't know anything about the area it looks like the simplest thing would be to try to rent somewhere on the Caltrain with good public schools, like maybe San Mateo/Burlingame/Belmont. Does that sound right? And should we be looking at Lamorinda/Oakland/Albany too, or would commutes to Dogpatch be terrible? Should we write off the North Bay? Many thanks for any advice you might have on what areas we should check out, especially since we'd be moving at the end of the school year and trying to get school slots last-minute. Obviously, we're clueless, and I'm finding this forum so helpful...

    I think your first instinct is a good one since the 22nd Street Caltrain station is located in Dogpatch.  It would minimize the amount of time you spend getting from the station to your work.

    If you took BART in from the East Bay, you'd then have to get to Dogpatch, probably from the Embarcadero BART station, either on a Muni train (about 25 min), biking (15-20 min) or walking (hourish).  One thought is to drive and pick up people with Casual Carpool (google if you don't know what it is) to use the carpool lane.  After dropping your passengers off, drive to Dogpatch.  I don't know the parking situation and the drive home could be tough.

    Similarly if you took the bus or ferry from Marin, you'd see similar times getting to Dogpatch from the Transbay and Ferry terminal.  I'm not sure I'd consider driving in from Marin unless you can avoid commute times.

    If you have the money, definety try to find a place in the city to rent.  Commuting really eats up so much time and is pretty awful.  We moved from SF to El Cerrito and are really regretting it.  Avoid all contra costa schools and Oakland is very bad too.  Berkeley is supposed to be better, but SF schools are great.  Even if you missed the lottery your kids still can go to the nearest public school with an opening.  We once moved into the city mid year and were given several good choices for school placement.  Good luck, be careful as east bay schools are really frustrating!  South Bay might be better and north bay schools tend to be very good.

    You may still want to consider Albany and Berkeley. Both Albany and Berkeley publics schools  are very good, and there is AC Transbay bus that takes you directly to San Francisco Transbay terminal. 

  • I am relocating from NY to SF for work. I have 3 children going to 2nd, 6th and 8th grade for next school year 18/19. I want to move to a neighborhood that is 30 mins from work by public transport (Bart, bus or ferry) because I don't drive. And a public or charter school that will preferably offer K-8 grade so all three can be dropped off  and picked up at the same location or walking distance.  Does such a school exist or am I asking for the impossible?

    I spoke with SFUSD counselor and was told that we will be assigned leftover schools when the kids move to SF and it's almost impossible to have all three of them in the same school or even in the same district. So, I decided to look at East Bay which seems like there's a higher chance of getting into a school in the area you live in.

    I am open to any neighborhood that meets these criteria; however, I was told that the enrollment process can only start if I am already living in the area, not the other way round.  I am moving to SF in May and my children in July after they finish school in NY, but, by then we would have passed all enrollment deadline and my children may or may not get into a school of choice depending if the school has any spots left.

    How do I ensure they get into the school then find housing in the area so that the home will be walking distance to the school? I plan to rent so I am flexible in terms of location.

    Any advice?

    Move to Albany, where there are only five schools (three elementary, one middle, one high) and all are strong, so you will wind up at one not too far away. Your commute will be farther than 30 minutes, but not by much. Look for housing close to El Cerrito Plaza BART station (but on the Albany side). This also assumes you have a relatively large budget for rent, but hopefully you are already aware of and prepared for the high housing cost here. Good luck and welcome!

    I live in Albany (East Bay, between Berkeley and El Cerrito) and the town is small enough that all the schools are walking distance from wherever you live. There's 3 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 1 high school. It's an easy commute to downtown SF via the AC transit transbay bus (coach buses that only run during commute hours) or BART. It's truly a great place to live because it's a great mix of urban/suburban with great walkability. The only catch, is that it's really expensive and the homes are small. Good luck!

    Similar to what the previous poster said about Albany - also applies to Piedmont. Piedmont has only 3 elementary schools, one middle, and one high, and they are all excellent. So even if you  move in the summer, there is zero stress about your kids getting into school. The largest elementary school is also the one that is closest to the middle school (there is no K-8). From Piedmont you can either do the Trans-Bay bus straight to SF or the casual carpool in the mornings. Housing costs will be high but you get great K-12 walkable schools.

  • Greetings!  I'm new here and looking for advice as we plan to purchase a house (find schools) in the bay area.  We are relocating from overseas after over 10 years.  I have been doing a lot of research into schools in the cities were we think we can afford a home.  We will have two high school aged children (would enter Freshmen and Junior years, respectively).  We continue to work through our understanding of the cities/neighborhoods.  As of now, based on schools and home prices, we are looking at Hercules, Martinez, Concord, Pleasant Hill, and Benicia.  The rising HS Junior is more a math/science kind of kid and the school system we will be coming from abroad is very strong.

    Our deciding factors include:  Strong/decent school (I've been looking a lot at greatschools.org as well as school websites and other measures I come across); possible community college nearby as the HS Junior might be taking college courses while finishing HS courses; in a neighborhood where my husband can get to public transport/drive or bus to BART or the ferry in Vallejo in order to reach city center as that's the most likely place he'll find a job in his field.  Yes, we know the commutes may be brutal.  

    So, can people help me by commenting on these combos and the pros/cons:

    Hercules in the neighborhood west of the 80 where husband can walk to a bus stop to transfer south to the BART then change BART in Walnut Creek to get into the city.  It's Hercules High School which as pretty strong test scores and AP offerings, a far more diverse student population (Asian/Pacific Islanders and Blacks more represented than at the other schools...).  My Concord realtor isn't big on Hercules.  To me, it looks like it's up and coming and has further plans to increase public transportation (even possibly a ferry in the future?).  But is the school growing stronger or wavering?  Know anything about the leadership?  We once bought in a place we thought was "up and coming" and it never arrived.  Not too interested in repeating that poor housing investment.

    College Park HS (Martinez/Pleasant Hill) is a very strong school, but it looks as though the commute from that school district area might be longer since we'd have to drive to the BART.  The realtor claims Hercules traffic is so terrible along the 80 that Concord/Martinez, even with a car commute to BART will be quicker overall.  Realtor thinks Concord/Benicia are much better areas and better investments.

    Almador HS and Alcanes HS do not have housing we can afford in their district (budget under 650K for at least a 3bed 2 bath house).

    Finally, Benicia HS looks good too.  Husband likes the idea of the ferry better than BART.  But, realistically, couldn't it be a 30 minute commute to the ferry?

    Very appreciative of any light/insight/input families can offer to help us understand how to hedge our bets toward a livable place.  Also, would love to hear actual commute times to city center for anyone living in these areas.

    Commute from Benicia to SF is a two-bridge commute. Long days, regardless of mode of travel. When I worked there, the people I knew who commuted to SF typically drove to Pleasant Hill BART, parked there, and took BART from there. I think Hercules High is pretty strong (that is my school district). People there either take the 80 express bus to SF, or drive to Del Norte BART, park there, and BART into SF from there. Not as familiar with the central county high schools. I would suggest one of you nail down your job first and pick the area to buy in second, because if you end up working in Oakland, that's a more reasonable commute from all those communities. Otherwise I personally would prefer not to be commuting to SF from Benicia or Martinez because of lack of transit options.

    Hi, there. I don't have any useful information to share on those particular schools, neighborhoods, or commutes. However, there is a very useful tool which you can check out on your own from where you are now: http://511.org/.  You can use it to map out actual commutes using public transportation from each of the places, and see what the estimates are on how long it would take. Be sure to try it out on several days at rush-hour to compare. Given that you can't be sure whether or not to take your realtor's word, this should help! Best of luck to you.

  • Hi - firstly thank you for this forum.  Secondly - apologies for the long post but it's a bit of a brain dump after googling and website stalking for about a month.

    I am a full time working mom to a 9 and a 6 year old and most likely going to accept a new position in SF.  I'm originally from the Midwest and spent quite a bit of time on the East Coast but moved to London in 2001 and to the Middle East (where I am now) in 2008 - so it's been almost 17 years since I lived in the US and never on the West Coast.

    My husband is British and a stay at home dad and our daughters are in a private British curriculum school with about 30 different nationalities - the 6 year old is a complete ham but the 9 year old is excruciatingly shy.  My current commute is about a 15 minute drive and our school run is less than 5 minutes.  Spoiled I know.  

    I'm really struggling to figure how about to go about deciding where to live.  I've only been to SF a handful of times and only to the City itself so have no direct knowledge of the surrounding areas  

    The most important factors are school, commute time and comfort for my husband. If I accept the job the office will be in the Financial District.  I will be working a lot. I'd like the girls to go to public school if possible.  I'd also like the option of driving as well as public transport for my commute to work.  I'd like my husband to not stick out like a sore thumb, as both a Brit and as a non-working dad (something very very uncommon in our current home).

    i don't think I want to live in SF proper.  I think I want to live in the East Bay - somewhere between Alameda and Walnut Creek?  But should I also look at the Peninsula?  If I want the commute to be 45 mins or less door to door how far out in the East Bay should I be looking - is Walnut Creek too far?  Are there places like San Carlos or Hillingdon that I should also look at?  Is public school realistic?  Is public school starting in January possible?  We are thinking we will initially rent given we know so little about anything - our budget is around $6500/7000 a month and we'd like at least 4 bedrooms. And I have a dog and 2 cats. 

    Any and all thoughts on any of the above would be greatly appreciated - but particularly ideas about how to narrow down our options of where to look for houses.  Thank you in advance. 

    Definitely Orinda! It has the best school system in the state, is an easy bart ride to down town and also a fairly easy commute. There are old, beautiful houses and neighborhoods, weather is perfect - check it out :)

    I would recommend the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland.  It's got some diversity (not as much as other parts of Oakland, unfortunately), it has a semi-urban feel due to its lively retail corridor of College Avenue, and it's relatively cosmopolitan for a bedroom community.  The commute is probably the best from the east bay - it has BART, casual carpool, and easy freeway access to SF.  You're looking at about 25 minutes from the BART station to the financial district, maybe a tad more for casual carpool, not sure about driving alone during commute hours as I never do that (but I'd guess it's around 45 minutes).  No driving commute from the east bay is fun, but it's better from Rockridge than Berkeley or most anywhere else since you don't have to deal with Hwy. 80.  I don't think your husband would feel at all out of place - we live across from a park and there are as many dads there during the day as moms or nannies.  Our kids have gone to all the Rockridge neighborhood public schools and we've been very happy with all 3 (elementary, middle & high school).  Finally, the houses in this neighborhood are generally really nice, and your budget sounds realistic for Rockridge.  Check it out, and good luck!

    If you like the suburbs try Walnut Creek.

    I would go with Rockridge or Montclair in Oakland. Great communities,good schools, lots of fun activities, close to BART or carpool or busses to SF downtown

    Sounds like you have a good budget for the area. Enjoy coming to the West Coast!

  • Hi! We are planning to move in the Bay Area next year (late Spring). We are looking for an LGBT family-friendly area with good schools. My wife will be working in SF Financial District. We want to stay in the city but our finances might not be able to afford it. We have two kids (11,8) ... so we are looking for a community with good schools, easy/fast/close commute to San Francisco and LGBT family-friendly. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    We moved to Albany, 8 years ago, from out of state, because, at the time, California was one of the few states with legal same sex marriage, and our son was about to start kindergarten. We wanted to live in a place where we would be accepted as a family. We chose Albany mostly for the schools and community. We are very close to a BART station, walking distance. Depending on where you're going in SF, it can take as little as 30 minutes to get there by public trans.  I believe Albany has about a 94 walkability score, which means you can pretty much walk to everything, which we love. It's only 1 square mile, and butts up against North Berkeley. We were looking at Berkeley originally, but had concerns about middle school, as we have a child of color, and I think Berkeley has a lottery system. We also didn't know how our son would do in Berkeley High School, which has over 5000 students, as opposed to Albany which has about 1500. [Editor note: Berkeley High has about 3,000 students]

    20-25% of my son's classmates in Albany come from 2-mom families. We've never had any issues regarding our acceptance as a family in our community. The schools score very high on the Great Schools site (all 9's I believe). That's the skinny on paper.

    The things we don't care for is that our Albany community is not as diverse as we thought it would be. It's predominantly white and Asian population, not many children of brown or black skin here. Not diverse socially either. And because of it's quaint small town appeal, it can many times, be too small-town for us (we moved here from a large city).

    Last warning, depending on where you're moving from, the cost of living is 30% higher than the city we moved from. And we bought a house in Albany, half the size. But we've adjusted just fine, and continue to maintain our Midwestern roots.

    I hear Alameda has good schools, Oakland, depending on the area, Berkeley does have great elementary schools. Hope that helps. Good luck!

    Alameda. Hands down. 

    San Leandro is a very LGBT family-friendly place. Quite a few LGBT families live in the neighborhood and attend the Roosevelt Elementary school for one. In fact, for many years the principal  there was openly gay with a family and a wife, but she has since moved on to another job in the school district.  SL is also very affordable and many of us are transplants from San Francisco who couldn't afford to live there. The commute is a breeze too...there is a San Leandro BART Station and also an AC Transit bus (that many commuters like better.) Its a great community for all families (the 580 side for sure.) One caveat is if you are looking for top notch schools, San Leandro schools are good, but not "top notch" like you would have out in more affluent suburbs. Not sure if they would be as LGBT friendly though, so its a trade off. Berkeley is another friendly place and easy access to SF,  but almost as expensive as SF.  No sure if you are looking to rent or buy, but an example of the difference in price is a couple thousands of dollars comparing Berkeley and SL. For a family of 4 in Berkeley in a decent neighborhood, except to spend $4,000-$5,000. In SL, about $2,500-$3,500.  (And $3,500 would be a pretty nice, big house.) Buying about the same difference in prices.

  • Hi BPN! My kids are 8 and 4, and we are moving from Seattle to the bay area in the next couple of months. We are going to rent somewhere in the East Bay and are looking in Oakland, which seems ethnically and culturally diverse, relatively affordable, and well located for a commute to downtown SF. Can anyone recommend a family friendly neighborhood with a good elementary school?

    A school review website ranks Oakland elementary schools as either very bad or very good, with little in between. I'm wondering if it's missing something. Can a district with a school lottery have such wide educational disparity? If you live in a neighborhood with black & brown faces, a school you like/love, and that's kid friendly, please let me know. We will definitely visit first, but a few pointers would really help narrow down the field. Thanks in advance for your input.

    Welcome to the Bay Area! I know you asked about Oakland, but wanted to offer up north San Leandro (just off of I-580) as another option. There's a BART station downtown and express buses to SF. Two neighborhoods in particular -- Estudillo Estates and Broadmoor -- have charming houses that are more affordable than Oakland, nice community, and tremendous ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity (more so, in my opinion, than many parts of Oakland with the "good" schools). There are a couple of neighborhood schools that serve those neighborhoods: Roosevelt and Washington. Roosevelt is the better performing school (in terms of test scores, which of course aren't the whole story) and is very culturally and ethnically diverse, with fantastic parent involvement (PTA, Dad's Club, LGBTQ association, etc). I've also heard good things about Washington Elementary, though historically their test scores have been low, but this is due to the linguistic/ethnic diversity of the school (which is also one of its best assets, IMO). In terms of community, the neighborhood is generally walkable, with some restaurants nearby (though you'd definitely have to drive 10 mins to Oakland for more exciting fare) and a fantastic coffeehouse/neighborhood meeting spot, Zocalo. The SL library is awesome, and there are a lot of new/young families moving in who were priced out of SF/Berkeley. Alameda is also a nice option with good schools, but much pricier. Good luck on your move!

    Oakland is based on a neighborhood school model, meaning neighborhood children get priority for the local school, before the Options process kicks in. That's how you get the educational, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities present in Oakland schools. Everyone is competing for a limited number of available spots at the best performing schools.

    Since you are looking for a housing, you should definitely look at the boundary map for the school neighborhoods (http://mapstacker.ousd.k12.ca.us/). The schools in the Oakland hills have the best test scores, but also the highest housing cost and, I suspect, the fewest available rentals. Also the whitest of Oakland's neighborhoods, although even the whitest of Oakland's elementary schools is 34% other races (the least diversified schools in Oakland are either predominantly Hispanic or predominantly Asian, with north of 90% of one ethnicity). Some of Oakland's most diverse schools are located between Interstate 580 and Hwy 13, with Glenview and Sequoia elementaries having a particulary balanced mix of black, white, Asian, and Hispanic students. Crocker Highlands is also in that area--it's whiter and a bit more affluent, but a gorgeous neighborhood. My daughter went to Cleveland, which is on the other side of 580 (the "flatlands"). Great school, majority Asian but a healthy dose of every other ethnic group, and a less expensive neighborhood.

    You can get the school report cards for all the Oakland schools from the OUSD website (http://www.ousd.org/domain/56). They have test scores, ethnic breakdowns. class size, teacher credential info, suspensions, expulsions, etc., etc.

    Good luck!

    I loved loved loved!! Sequoia Elementary. We actually live in the Crocker Highlands district, which ostensibly is a "better" school--but it is more white, and more competitive in my humble opinion. So our son went to Sequoia. He has some learning challenges and was then just a couple of years out of cancer treatment--so he looked different, sounded different, etc. etc. but the kids were super nice to him. My son is now in 8th grade, Sequoia goes through fifth, so it is possible things have changed.. but please check out Sequoia if you are looking at OUSD. The neighborhood around it is full of families and they had a bunch of "walking buses" for kids to pick each other up on set walking routes to school. And there is a garden!

    Welcome!

  • My husband and I are considering moving to the Bay Area and my biggest concern is cost.  I would be working in SF and he would be working in Napa.  Anyone have any thoughts on best towns to buy a house that has good schools, is somewhere commutable for both of us, and is on affordable side?  We love nature - somewhere like Oakland Montclair or Lake Berryessa in Napa would be our dream but is way expensive.  Don't even want to know about cost of childcare there too!

    Wow, i don't even know where to begin with your post. First off, before you commit to the huge cost of moving and uprooting a family, spend the time to actually come here, stay in a place like Petaluma (which is still sort of affordable) or Vallejo (which is affordable but will be a God awful commute for both) and then try to either drive (a must to work in Napa) or drive or take the bus/ferry combo into SF a few days during the morning and evening commutes. As a Mom who until recently worked, I can honestly say that having both parents doing those two crazy opposite drives is completely unsustainable. What happens when a child is sick at school & a parent has to pick them up? When you have to work late? When a car breaks down? At the very least you both would have to stagger your schedules so that 1 parent left the house at 4 or 5 am, and drove back in time to get home by 3 or 4 pm. The other parent would have to start late and work late. At best, you are looking at least at 2 hours commuting to/from SF daily- if there are accidents, mass transit problems, etc. it could be closer to 4 hours per day. Also, your combined transit costs are going to be high- either transit or driving/parking daily. On top of all of this, you have the high cost of housing- plan on spending around $3,000 per month on a 2 bd apt. in the boonies. And, for instance, the public schools are often terrible in the boonies (ahem, Vallejo.) If you both still really want to move to the Bay area, honestly, you need a more well thought out plan. The stress and high cost of living here is very real as the population grows and resources become more scarce and all forms of transportation become more difficult. I wish you luck in your journey, but you need to be realistic, if only for your kids' sake.

    I would say your biggest concern should be your commutes. If I were in your position, one or both spouses should definitely try to get some flex arrangement so you don't have to be on site 5 days/week. The towns I would look at are Vallejo (the SF commuter takes the ferry, Napa drives), Benicia (driving to Napa, not so hot two-bridge commute to SF unless you drive to BART in Walnut Creek and take the train from there, or drive to ferry in Vallejo), or El Cerrito within walking distance of BART for the convenience of the SF commuter, 40ish minute drive for the Napa worker. Schools are hit and miss in Vallejo and Benicia (you can always go private) but you're okay in El Cerrito. Vallejo is the most affordable but does have its issues in parts. I would definitely rent for a while until you try out these commutes. Childcare is way cheaper in Vjo/Benicia than El Cerrito.

    Lake Berryessa would be too far for you to commute to San Francisco. Benicia has good schools and is commutable easily to both San Francisco and Napa. There is a ferry in Vallejo that goes to San Francisco. Homes are relatively affordable for the bay area. If you are interested I can recommend a realtor for you to work with. I have been living in Benicia since 2001 and would be happy to answer any more questions you might have.