Living in Santa Rosa

Parent Q&A

Moving to Santa Rosa from Oakland Jun 26, 2017 (3 responses below)
Living in Sebastapol/Santa Rosa Aug 15, 2016 (2 responses below)
Tell me about Santa Rosa Jul 26, 2016 (2 responses below)
  • Moving to Santa Rosa from Oakland

    (3 replies)

    We are thinking of moving to the Santa Rosa area from Oakland. Any suggestions for preschools and child friendly neighborhoods? Any other thoughts and opinions are appreciated. 

    TIA, C

    We did the move from Piedmont Ave, Oakland to Santa Rosa about ten years ago.  I can recommend Brush Creek Montessori for pre-school.  We moved when our son was four years  old. Feel free to email me regarding neighborhoods, other questions. You will get more house for your dollar, but it depends on the neighborhood (very high rents here). Overall, Santa Rosa is great for families and family-friendly activities. You can reach me:   gudenzim at aol dot com

    Have you considered Petaluma? Both the East and West side have tons of family-friendly neighborhoods. Nearly all of the schools and preschools are really good - you really can't go wrong (and you can apply to schools in any part of the city). There's a great local mothers' group if you have kids under 5. Message me directly if you want more info! We used to live in Oakland too.

    We just moved from Santa Rosa to El Cerrito after living in Santa Rosa for 15 years. Our daughter is 8. It's a wonderful place. 

    Agree with Brush Creek Montessori. Also like Brush Creek Nursery, and Hidden Valley Nursery School (they have a few sites - Mark West, another too). Sonoma Country Day School has a TK program. 

    Lots of family friendly areas. You'll love it there.

  • Living in Sebastapol/Santa Rosa

    (2 replies)

    We are planning to relocate from Menlo Park to Sonoma County (job will be in Rohnert Park).  We have narrowed it down to Sebastapol and Santa Rosa, based on commute distance and talking with friends.  Can anyone comment on desirable communities in this area?  By this, I mean areas with nice homes, low crime, good schools, access to open spaces/parks/sports teams, diverse residents, and good grocery stores.  We have 3 kids ages 6 months to 4 years.  We are interested in the public Waldorf Charter schools they have in Sebastapol, as well as the private Summerfield Waldorf school.  We are also interested in the arts enrichment program in the Gravenstein elementary school district.  If anyone has made this move from the Bay Area to this part of the North Bay, I'd love to hear about your experience.  Any recommendations for neighborhoods, schools, realtors, etc are greatly appreciated.  

    Thank you so much!  

    I grew up in SR and even went to kindergarten at Summerfield Waldorf. The Rincon Valley area of SR is generally considered to be the "nice" part of town with bigger newer homes, near parks like Annadel State Park and Spring Lake and near Oliver's Market, my favorite grocery store hands down. Rincon Valley is somewhat suburban but near open space and parks. It feeds into the "nice" (read: wealthier) public schools. Don't know about the elementary schools other than a fairly new French/American bilingual charter school that's really popular. 3 of the high schools in town tends to draw transfer kids from all over the city depending on interest. Santa Rosa High has the ArtQuest program and draws all the artsy kids. Montgomery (where I went) has an International Baccalaureate program. Maria Carrillo is the Rincon Valley HS and has a reputation these days of being a stressful academic pressure cooker. Don't know how it compares to Silicon Valley public schools in that regard.

    West Santa Rosa, closer to Sebastopol and Summerfield Waldorf, around Guerneville Rd, Hall Road, Willowside Road area, is beautiful and much more rural/agricultural. (A friend who grew up off Guerneville Rd around there raised chickens and a llama in her backyard.) I don't know much about the public schools in west Santa Rosa. If your kids will be at one of the Waldorf schools, though, that may not matter as much. 

    Good luck! It's a wonderful area to grow up. 

    Have you considered Petaluma? We moved from the East Bay up here and love it. The schools are great, and Live Oak Charter school ( is Waldorf. It has everything on your wish list.

    In Sebastapol, I've heard the Twin Hills School District is good. The whole town seems like a "good neighborhood" to me – it's small and community-oriented, not much crime. You could probably just visit for a weekend, check out the farmers' market or The Barlow, and just strike up a conversation with some families. 

    We don't know Santa Rosa as well, but we have friends who live in Bennett Valley and love it. 

  • Tell me about Santa Rosa

    (2 replies)

    Contemplating life beyond Oakland/East Bay. We just returned from a lovely visit in Santa Rosa and other areas in Sonoma. The housing market is not as low as we would like, but it is *far* more affordable than the East Bay has become. We liked Santa Rosa (as opposed to Sebastopol or Petaluma) because it feels like a city in the same way that Oakland (our current home) does, at least for the time being: diverse, still sort of gritty, and just not overwhelmingly hip, shee shee, or pretentious. We visited the local co-op, the library, the farmers market, the downtown area, a few thrift stores, and some of the playgrounds and state parks/swimming areas. It was all really great, and the area seems walkable/bikeable, and close enough to get to SF or meet up with people in the East Bay every once in awhile  ~ but, yet, I am not sure we will be happy there. I know it will take some time to settle into whatever new place we end up in, but I'm just not sure whether that place is Santa Rosa or not. Have others moved there from the East Bay and found happiness? Or moved to the East Bay from there for particular reasons? Pleae share any insights you might have. Thank you!

    RE: Tell me about Santa Rosa ()

    I lived in Santa Rosa for 15 years in the late 80's, early 90's. That is obviously some time ago but I still visit often and so feel like I still know the area pretty well.  If you're looking for a non-hipster locale then definitely Santa Rosa is the better choice than the smaller parts of Sonoma. Many of the outlying areas  (like Sebastopol and Petaluma) that used to be dairy farms have become vineyards and, sadly, have lost their character in their rush to become hip. Santa Rosa, on the other hand, is still a working-class cow-town at heart, even though it has grown up and become a city with all the useful amenities one might require. Whether or not you will be happy there depends upon what it is you like/dislike about the East Bay. It's a little slower up there, reasonably diverse (Latino mostly), lots of outdoor activities. But, lacking the influence of a major university, it is not as culturally or intellectually sophisticated and it is not as politically engaged. If that all sounds fine to you than you might love it there.

    RE: Tell me about Santa Rosa ()

    We lived in Sebastopol for a while and ended up moving back to the east bay for various reasons. Based on your post, you might like Santa Rosa.

    We didn't find commuting to SF occasionally for work and East Bay for friends very easy, especially with a baby. Traffic is bad in the North Bay too. But people have different takes on how much they hate to commute and you might not plan to.

    When we rented our house in Sebastopol, we got * a lot* of applicants from Santa Rosa. All of them mentioned crime as a reason about why they wanted to move.

    We had some neighbors using roundup on our property line and who had outdoor cats that killed a lot of songbirds. (Hot button issues for me.) So I ended up feeling like the area was more anti-environmental/anti bird than it probably was.

    I'd recommend considering the possible commute for jobs/friends and spending some time in neighborhood parks in the areas you're considering renting/buying. Bike around to confirm it feels safe. Check the job market in case you decide to get a job in the area.

    Santa Rosa might be more walkable than Sebastopol. We actually ended up feeling like we had to drive everywhere because there were so many busy roads.

    But! We liked driving to the beach so easily, the regional parks were pretty good, Santa Rosa has some nice tree-lined streets, parking was so much easier than in the Bay Area, and there were really great people there. If we had had more time, I'm sure we would have settled in. We were stressed and tired during our time there, which also might bias my take on Santa Rosa.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions about Living in Santa Rosa Related Pages

2008 - 2012 Reviews

April 2012

Re: Moving from NYC with 13yo - need affordable and safe
Have you considered Santa Rosa? Lots of food and beverage jobs around here since it's the Sonoma wine country and you can find decent housing in your price range especially in one of the historic neighborhoods near downtown. School quality varies so you should definitely examine that closely but there are some excellent public charter schools in addition to neighborhood schools. Santa Rosa's population is greater than 160K so while it's certainly much smaller than many cities, it's not a teeny tiny town either. Santa Rosan

Unplugging from the Bay Area - to Santa Rosa?

Has anyone moved to Santa Rosa - from the Bay Area - and really enjoying it? Certainly, there are trade-offs. Thanks. unplugging

Moved from Berkeley to Santa Rosa in about 1987 because I wanted to get out, too. I also have an uncle who moved from Stockton to Santa Rosa in about 1980 because they also wanted to get out. For me, Santa Rosa was a spectacular change--I always remember feeling the pressure lift every time I crossed the Richmond Bridge heading north. Santa Rosa Junior College was a big pull for me as well. Great school and then went on to Sonoma State U. I stayed in Sonoma County until about 1997 when job pulled me back into the Bay Area. At that time, Santa Rosa was great--not too sure about now, though. I think it's changed a lot, but it's far enough removed from the Bay Area that some of the nuances of rural must exist. Take a drive up there and get a room for the weekend and drive around. Go to the colleges, talk to locals, hang out at either of the malls, eat at some restaurants . . . Been There, Done That

I can't answer all of your question, but may be able to give you some perspective. I grew up in Santa Rosa, moved to Berkeley for college and then have moved to four very different places. In my final two moves we considered moving back to the East Bay, but opted for other places. The East Bay has a great view of San Francisco, but beyond that, there was so much else that we were looking for and the East Bay just couldn't provide it. So, I guess to answer the second part of your question - yes, it is possible to live outside the East Bay and like it.

Whether you will like it or not is a different story. There are trade-offs. But, from my point of view now (married with two kids), we have gained far more than we have lost.

If I were heading to Sonoma County now, I would head to West Sonoma County. If you have kids, the Oak Grove Elementary School/Willowside Charter Schools are unique, thoughtful learning environments (safe, clean and free, too which is always a bonus). Your 'city' would be Sebastopol. You'd be living on the edge of the Russian River Valley filled with creative types who dropped out of the Bay Area in the 60s and haven't really left. West Sonoma County is filled with 'hippy red-necks' (yes, it is possible to be the same thing in the same person...very crunchy left wingers who voted for Obama but drive pick-ups and shoot rabbits for dinner). Hm, maybe a better way to describe it would be 'broad minded with feet firmly placed on the ground.' West County is also filled with great food and wine. -anon

2004 - 2007 Reviews

Job offer in Santa Rosa

Feb 2004

My husband has been offered a job in Santa Rosa and we are seriously considering moving up there. I have done some internet research on home prices/schools and it does seem that there are some good public schools available (particularly in the Rincon Valley school district), but I would love to hear from anyone on this network that has personal experience living in this area. We are generally interested in knowing about quality of life and community issues. I am hoping that by moving to an area where more people send their children to the local public school we would have more of a sense of community than we currently have living in Richmond (and going to private school out of our immediate area). If anyone is either from Santa Rosa or has lived there, I would love to hear from you. Susan

I grew up in Santa Rosa and my mother, sister and nephew still live there. I would move back to SR in a second, but becuase of work, we live here. I consider SR to be an ideal community: great schools, great neighborhoods, progressively liberal people, great restaurants, fantastic weather, nice, walkable downtown, etc., etc. Most people send their kids to public schools. Housing prices are high but you get more for your money than in Oakland/Berkeley. Most public schools are very good. A few are not so good. I attended rincon valley schools and Santa Rosa high and my nephew attends elementary school in rincon valley. My mom has been teaching in the Santa Rosa public schools forever. If you would like to talk more about life in SR, feel free to email me. I love to talk about my favorite place to live and (fingers crossed), hopefully my family will live there again someday soon. SR native

Santa Rosa is a great place to grow up and a great place to go to public school (though, I am a bit biased as my Father was superintendent of schools in Santa Rosa while I was at Berkeley and before that Superintendent of the West County Schools). I graduated from the West County Schools (Oak Grove, Willowside and El Molino) and managed to get into Berekely. Depending on where your husband will be working, you may wish to consider one of the surrounding communities -- Sebastopol (which will put you into the West County Schools) or Healdsburg or Glen Ellen. All have 'small town appeal,' but thanks to the wine industry, you will find that all are reasonably sophisticated. All are easy commutes to Santa Rosa.

The down side of Santa Rosa is all of the suburban sprawl. I am not a big fan of track homes, which sadly cover much of the valley floor. The upside is that you are living in the middle of/short drive to everything (wineries, great food, redwoods, the ocean, the Russian River, etc) Enjoy!