Living in San Francisco

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  • Husband wants "City Life" with Kids

    (33 replies)

    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?

    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 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 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 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 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.

  • I lived in San Francisco for almost two decades before marrying and having kids. I loved living in the city. I was was living the dream. Then we moved to the east bay to be closer to family and to let the kids walk to neighborhood schools with friends who live around them. In about 10 years or so the last kid should graduate from high school and the plan is to move back to San Francisco. But I’ll be old, and roots are being put down, friends are being made and this is home for our kids. My question is to anyone who did move back to SF after living elsewhere for a long time, can you go home again and what do you think you should have done to make the move back easier if it was harder than expected?

    My parents lived in SF in the 60s and 70s. Then they moved to LA and had me. They moved back to SF in the early 00s about the time I graduated from college (I had no idea that my mom had been pining to return throughout my childhood). They worked in SF for a decade and then retired--they love being in SF as retirees. I live in the East Bay and also love that my kids can have sleep-overs at their house and benefit from all the city has to offer. The one thing I'm worried about is when they can no longer live safely in their house (SF = steep stairs), and that's a conversation that I'm trying to begin now instead of being forced to have it down the road.

    My parents certainly make the later-in-life move look easy--they had to time the market a bit with real estate but really benefited from 10 years of SF executive salaries (significantly more than they were making in LA). If you want it, you can do it.

    Hi. I could have written your post. I lived in San Francisco for 17 years and moved to the East Bay when my oldest was 11 and my youngest 6. I left SF begrudgingly; I loved it there, loved my community, etc. Now, after 12 years here I am happy to be living here. You say you're thinking 10 years down the line. That's a long time. Things change. And to be honest, the city has also changed in the last 12 years. Why not see where you are when that last chick has fled the nest? The East Bay, it turns out, is a great place to live, with and without kids! Good luck to you.

    Are you truly missing San Francisco or are you missing being single or being childless? I would really evaluate what exactly you are missing. Would that really require relocating to the city? Or can't you do all the things you would like to do in the East Bay or by traveling into the city on occasion?

  • 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'd beg to differ with the previous poster's opinion that El Cerrito schools are bad. El Cerrito schools are totally fine, elementary, middle and high school.

    Anyway, Dogpatch is easiest to get to by Caltrain, so looking along the Caltrain route as you mentioned would be a good idea. Finding housing might be your biggest issue, so I would focus on that first, and have trust and confidence in your kids that they will be able to succeed at any school.

Parent Reviews

In San Francisco, the Glen Park neighborhood has that close knit and progressive vibe especially the closer you are to Chenery. Walkable. Mission Terrace nbrhd too. (Of the two nbrhds, Glen Park is less diverse but probably still more diverse than the areas you mentioned.) SF has public schools that are racially and socioeconomically diverse, you can rank those schools at the top of your list. (Not all schools are equally diverse but it’s easy to check.) 

If you are working in Mission Bay, you may seriously want to consider living in the city, particularly in neighborhoods like Dog Patch, Potrero Hill or the Mission. The issue with commuting to Mission Bay from Berkeley or Oakland is that BART or Transbay Bus will drop you off either at Market Street or the bus terminal, both of which are some distance from Mission Bay. You'd have to then get on a Muni bus or train or scooter or have a longish walk. Your door to door commute will probably be about an hour and a half. Those neighborhoods are also similarly gritty like Temescal if that's your cup of tea. If the East Bay is where you have to live, another option is to buy or lease an electric vehicle which will allow you use of the carpool lane on the Bay Bridge and will be the fastest way to work. Yet another option is Casual Carpool, which you'll be dropped off just off the highway exit in SOMA. This would slice a third to half the distance to get to Mission Bay compared to Market Street. Plus it's free. You'd have to return to Market Street or the bus terminal to return to the East Bay. If you happen to live near Jack London or Alameda, you could also take a ferry to The Ferry Building in the city, then take a Muni train to Mission Bay. Depending on how close you are to the ferry terminal it might be the "best" way to commute.

Bernal heights, Glen Park, Daly City areas are very family friendly. There is a sweet preschool, Room to Grow, in Bernal Heights. UCSF area is also very family friendly. Note that Daly City and Richmond/Sunset neighborhoods are colder and foggier than bernal heights, which has a nice sunnier weather. 

Re the downtown hospital, which as others reported is confusing as there isn't one, at least that I know, maybe you mean St Francis in Nob Hill - regardless - the thing I wanted to caution you on is that although it may appear only a short walk from "downtown" (ie the bart stops at Union Square or the Financial district) it is up a very big hill so unless your husband likes to walk that, he'll need to transfer from bart to a bus. Which is fine, just keep it in mind that when looking at SF maps, the distances are misleading due to the hills. 

Here are a few SF neighborhoods to consider -

1. Potrero Hill - easy access to downtown areas and you see lots of kids and families walking around- which is unusual in many neighborhoods in SF

2. South Beach - I love this neighbor and it would work great if you have toddlers but not sure once kids become school age.

3. The Marina is also family friendly.

I am sure there are other areas out in the avenues that are more family (the sunset or richmond). As everyone says, these are very expensive.  You could consider Alameda and have him commute by ferry. Alameda is definitely kid friendly and somewhat more affordable than some other places.

Wish you the best of luck!


Since most (all) of the responses you have gotten recommend living outside SF, I thought I would put in a vote for living in the city. (Disclosure: We live in Berkeley, within walking distance of a BART station, which is great, but I grew up in SF, in the outer Richmond.) I think you can find something affordable (in Bay Area-adjusted terms) in the western part of the city: Sunset, Richmond, etc. It will ease your husband's commute to not have to cross the Bay to get to work (I think that is also a psychological advantage). There are simply more things to do in SF for families from museums to beaches; the great outdoors (Marin, San Mateo coast, East Bay hills) are just a short drive away. Many of the playgrounds in SF are new and fantastic, while in Berkeley we have hardly any. If you are only planning on living in the Bay Area temporarily, I think you will get more out of your time to live in SF rather than a suburb, which might not be too different from where you are coming from. My two cents.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Sept 2014

RE: Leave Silicon Valley for San Francisco or Portland?

I can't speak to living in Portland, but we are family who 'stuck it out' in San Francisco. Our oldest is in 7th and the younger in 4th now. We nearly moved to Portland when they were little. I mean, very nearly! Got into school up there, got a job offer, looked at (cheap! and huge!) houses etc. I got cold feet due to the weather and being away from family, but honestly, it would have been a really smart financial decision.

Living in SF with a family is hard unless you have TONS of money. It's not just the housing costs, but the cost of everything else. Preschool, camps, private school (if you don't want large classes of 35 in middle school, for example), aftercare, babysitters etc.

And then there is this air of super competitiveness about everything. Getting up at 5am to wait in line for camp signups, getting on preschool waitlists when you're pregnant, touring highschools when your kids are in 7th grade and hiring special tutors to ace the highschool entrance tests etc. I'm not naturally a super competitive person, so that has been hard for me. (I think this a probably true throughout the Bay Area, but especially in moneyed SF.)

We are city people, too, and had only lived in much larger cities than SF before moving here, so the slow pace of SF felt suburban to us. We liked SF when they were little due to all the parks, museums, and restaurants in walking distance, but as they grow up, they aren't really interested in those things and I instead spend hours shuttling them around in the car to school, friends across the city, chorus, soccer etc. Muni is pretty unreliable and doesn't work to get them to afterschool activities. I may drive more than people in the burbs.

SF is a great place for toddlers, and if you can afford private high school, a great place for teens. I think the school years are a bit tough, however, as kids scatter to schools across the city and/or move out of the city frequently, so it's sometimes hard to make lasting friendships. That is not everyone's experience, to be sure, some people do get a neighborhood school and end up loving it, we didn't however. We're still here, but are moving to Marin for high school! In a city with the lowest population of kids in the nation, there are very few kids in our immediate neighborhood.

SF mom

March 2014

Re: Neighborhoods suitable for Chinese grandparents?

Have you considered the Sunset or the Richmond in San Francisco? These are the two neighborhoods lining Golden Gate Park and sloping down all the way to the ocean. These neighborhoods get a bad rap, especially from East Bay dwellers, because they are foggy. However, if I were in your situation, I would definitely consider those neighborhoods; there are many Chinese families in these neighborhoods (you hear both Cantonese and Mandarin). We lived in the Sunset for 5 years, including the time when my son was 0-3 and my daughter was an infant; I loved the neighborhood, despite the fog. I know less about the Richmond because we never lived there, but it has a similar feel -- lots of Chinese families, though maybe a bit more diverse. We lived in the Outer Sunset (on 25th, very near the park) -- great walkable neighborhood, for in-laws who don't drive. Right on the corner of 25th and Irving is an amazing Chinese supermarket. I loved shopping there...Great Chinese restaurants (and other Asian restaurants as well) -- I miss the Chinese bakery and take-out dim sum! The inner Sunset (away from the ocean) is somewhat dominated by UCSF and also is more expensive. The middle and outer Sunset is more 'Chinese/Asian' (for lack of a better description), more affordable (bigger houses, lots of single-family homes), and quieter. Golden Gate Park is an amazing resource to have with young children -- great playgrounds, great walking paths, a beautiful lake, the Academy of Sciences, etc. We moved to the East Bay (my husband wanted to get out of the fog) before our kids started school, although I did spend a lot of time learning about the schools while we lived there and have friends in the schools now. The SF public schools are a mixed bag. But the Sunset and the Richmond have some of the better neighborhood schools in the city. Our local school would have been Jefferson, and I have friends who are very happy with the school. There are also several Mandarin immersion schools in the city; if your children are bilingual (Mandarin/English), I believe this would increase their chances of getting into one of the Mandarin immersion programs. That said, the Mandarin immersion schools are highly ranked and highly sought after, so there's no guarantee you'd get in. And there's no guarantee on your neighborhood school, either. SF has a complicated algorithm that determines school assignment. I'd read up on it, certainly, before I bought a house there. There is also the Chinese American International School, if money is no object -- that school is supposed to be amazing. All in all, I have lovely memories of living 'in the Avenues' (as we call the two neighborhoods) and probably would have stayed if it had been up to me. I don't mean to downplay the fog, however; it can really drive some people crazy during a bad summer. And the uncertainty re: school assignments would be anxiety provoking. But I have to say, every single one of my friends in the City has landed at a school they are happy with. Some of them had to white-knuckle it through a couple of rounds of wait-listing, but those who stuck it out have been very happy so far (these are all elementary school aged families). Sunset Booster

Sept 2011

Re: Relocating to the Bay Area, looking for a walkable neighborhood
Hi- You didn't say where your husband will be working but you did express some interest in the Sunset or Richmond area of SF. If you are looking for a family friendly and walkable area in SF I highly recommend the Laurel Heights nieghborhood. It is flat and very walkable to everything you'll need and I do mean everything! The only issue is the public school situation. If you're kids are going to be in elementary school soon that is something to consider. Definitely research the SFUSD process to see if you can stomach dealing with the lottery. We just moved to the East Bay from Laurel Heights in SF because we didn't want to deal with the public school situation there. Other than that, it is heaven! Good luck with your move. Former city girl

Feb 2010

Re: Job in SF but I must have sun
have you looked at Noe Valley. It's a fabulous family friendly neighborhood. We used to live on 22nd st at Church. It was sunny most of the year. We watched the fog roll in to the right and left eventually meeting in Potrero and never quite make it to us. Ah, I miss those days. miss those sunny days

Noe Valley is relatively sunny for the city (as is the Mission, but you said you were concerned about safety - probably not the best area for you). Potrero Hill would be another option. Anything south of the city, too. (Just don't go west!)

Sept 2009

Re: Moving to SF - Gay-friendly family neighborhood with easy commute?
Check out the Bernal Heights neighborhood in San Francisco. Cheaper than Noe and lots of Lesbian families/couples. Very family oriented too -- lots of kids activities, beautiful playground/park, story and music time at local cafes, lovely library, etc. Love our gay-friendly city

Well your partner could easily commute on BART to downtown SF from Berkeley under 45 minutes, but that Palo Alto day would be 'trying'. Yes, Noe Valley is fantastic, I rented there for several years, but the prices have gone crazy. Probably the same is true for the Castro and Eureka Valley (which are right next door), but then it depends on your money. You might try Bernal Heights. It's gay friendly, about 8 minutes from Noe Valley (if that) and its main drag, Cortland Ave, has turned into quite the place for food and hanging out. Also VERY dog friendly. There is also Potreto Hill at the other end of the Mission....and then there is the Mission. The Mission connects with Noe Valley and has some wonderful homes, as does most of the city. It does have its areas that 'might not be so safe', but again, it depends where you are at. The outer communities like the Sunset and Richmond are alright. Inner Sunset, which is next to Golden Gate Park is friendly, the outer Sunset a tad more conservative, as is the Richmond, of course they are close to the ocean, but also get that fog. Lastly, there is the Haight, a very mix and match area, some areas delightful, others 'less' delightful. San Franciscos a great town, but you might want to vist and take the BART ride and see if its doable. Ex-SF, now East Bay

Commuting to the financial district from Berkeley is actually quite easy, and depending on where your start from takes about 35 min on BART, a bit longer on a commuter bus. Palo Alto is another matter -- it takes 45 min if there's no traffic, but can take up to 1-1/2 hours. In SF, you might want to look at Glen Park -- more friendly than Noe Valley. San Francisco has a very complex school assignment policy, so you should research that before choosing where to look. There are many lesbian families with children in Berkeley and Oakland, and a few gay male families with children. anon

Bernal Heights is a great neighborhood. There are LOTS of moms, gay and straight. Look at the website for Bernal Hill Realty. It tells a lot about the neighborhood. I live in the East Bay now. There are a lot of lesbians in Oakland and Berkeley. It would take about an hr. to get to Palo Alto, but if you hop on the BART it would take only about 15 minutes to get to the Financial District. Good luck.

Where to live with kids without a car

January 2007

Re: Neighborhoods for car-free life with a toddler?
You didn't mention whether you were renting or owning. For safety though, if you wish to stay in the city there's some good places to be found in the Russian Hill/Pacific Heights/Marina neighborhoods. The child density depends on the neighborhood/building. We're few blocks west of Van Ness, which is safe but not outrageously priced and importantly, we never use our car. We bus/BART to work in the East Bay, walk to get groceries, there's tons of parks around, libraries, Post Offices, anything you need. The East Bay is great too. Regardless of your choice, I would walk around the neighborhood of the place you're considering at various times of day, afternoon, and night before deciding, to see how it feels for you. Different streets can feel different, depending on high school traffic, proximity to shelters etc., as you know, moreover different people have a differing sense of what's safe. Good luck! anon

Well, this isn't Berkeley but I would like to make a plug for the Richmond District in San Francisco. We're car free with a toddler and we love it here. There are tons of toddlers and it is very safe. The 38 Geary Limited can get you to a BART station in 20 minutes. This neighborhood has everything you are looking for except for being in Berkeley. bikermom

Moving to San Francisco with a 2-year old?

May 2006

Hi. Any suggestions out there for family-friendly neighorhoods (ones that have parks as well as rental apartments or houses with easy parking) and daycare/pre-school/nanny arrangments for a family with a two-year old? Any suggestons for reliable and affordable realtors who deal with rentals? We are considering moving from Rockridge to San Francisco for a couple of years to experience more of an urban life before our child begins kindergarten (at which point we'll probably move back to the Bay Area). One of us will be commuting to UC-Berkeley, and the other to SFSU. Has anyone out there done this type of move with a young child? Any regrets or success stories? Any advice would be very welcome! Thank you! Anon

We live in Noe Valley. We don't have kids (one on the way). It is a bit on the expensive side, but a very kid friendly neighborhood. The restaurants are always full of kids of all ages, there are some nice parks with playgrounds and 24th Street (the main drag) is stroller central! It also really feels like a neighborhood, not like you are living right in the middle of the city.

We have three kids (9,6, and 2) - with the older two being born in Berkeley. We've lived in SF for 6 years, and are moving out this summer. I love SF as a city, but to live with kids? NO WAY. The littlest things are completely what kill you - and start adding up. Like not being able to find a parking place at Safeway when all you need is a carton of milk for the baby; having a homeless guy pee on your car, and having to explain that to your kids; not allowing your kids to even go out on the front porch to play; public school lottery; private school tuition? Again, SF is a city that's amazing, but I think it's much better to try to find a home with a view of the city, and take a long weekend if you wish. There is a reason SF has the highest rate of families fleeing it each year, and lowest ratio of children in a urban population.
Been there, done that, GONE!

We live in the Richmond district with our 2 year old. There are lots of kids and good parks and it looks like a lot of childcare places though our son stays at home so we don't have any specific recommendations. SFSU is an easy busride down 19th ave. and the 38 geary limited will get you to a bart station in 20 minutes. sfmom

SF with one kid and two incomes or one pretty large income? Doable. More than one kid? Would not recommend it unless money is no object. If you can afford private school (I think about $20K a year to start at most, if you can get into one) it's less of a worry. If you can afford someone to watch your kids while you sit in your car in line for 20 minutes waiting for a parking spot at Trader Joe's, life will be less stressful. If you have a parking spot and don't have to worry about moving your car at 7:55 AM for street cleaning and driving around the block for 20 minutes while your 2-year-old is in the middle of breakfast, well you have achieved rock-star status! I guess what I am saying is, if you have plenty of money to get the kind of home and help you need and pay for a decent school if you lose out on the lottery, you are fine. That was not our situation, so we relocated to a fixer in Montclair and are hanging in there on one income. We are surrounded by young families over here and don't miss most of the places we could never manage anyhow with two kids under age 4 in tow (parking, waiting for a table, not stroller accessible, no bathrooms, etc). However, if you can pay for all the childcare you need, you can live it up in a world class city. That's how I see it!
Much Happier in Montclair

Moving to SF with two preschoolers - where to live?

Nov 2005

We live in the East Bay and are considering moving to San Francisco next summer. I am not very familiar with the city in terms of what neighborhoods to live in, and especially in terms of preschools for our two children, who will be 3 and nearly 2. We will most likely start off renting in hopes of buying soon (someday?!) if we can afford it.

There is little advice about this in the archives. Any advice on where to live? We would hope to have some sort of parking (at least off street), and not pay an arm and a leg for rent. We would love to be near some shops/restaurants or park (and who wouldn't).

Regarding schools, does anyone know of a resource in SF similar to Berkeley Parents Network? Is there any source which would help us choose a quality preschool? Our son is currently attending a Reggio Emilia based school and we would hope to find a similar program in SF.

Thanks for any advice - it is greatly needed and appreciated! hoping to make it in SF

Try West Portal or Cole Valley both are nice places with walkable shopping districts. Noe Valley is also nice. JM

Why on earth would you want to move to the city with a 3 year old and a 1 year old?! Do you or your partner work in the city and don't want to commute? Do you not like where you are living now? I have to know why someone who can't afford to pay high rent or buy a house would choose to move there with two small children.

We lived in the city for ten years and loved the first eight. Then we started planning for a family and realized how hard it was just to be physically comfortable in a densely populated city with lots of stairs and hills, limited parking, traffic,etc. So we gave up our rent controlled flat and moved to the east bay. Here we have a yard, on and off street parking at all times, polite neighbors that don't urinate on our sidewalk, and very little crime. And we pay less rent for a lot more space.

Ok, with that said I will share with you my opinions on some of the neighborhoods I am familiar with. If I were going to move back I would probably look at the following neighborhoods: Inner Sunset, Inner and Outer Richmond, Cole Valley, Noe Valley, and northslope Potrero Hill. I would also consider parts of the Mission and parts of the Excelsior. Keep in mind that some of the neighborhoods in the city can have several very nice blocks that are right next to some not so nice blocks. Speaking as a parent I would probably not choose to live in the Haight-Ashbury, Hayes Valley, Bernal Heights, or Bay View neighborhoods.

You definitely want parking because you do not want to be circling the block searching for a spot with kids crying and groceries melting. A detached single family home is probably best with kids but might be more expensive and harder to find. There are some wonderful big flats in two and three unit buildings. Check out the neighbors before renting as you may be sharing yard and garage. There are pros and cons to renting on the first floor. You have fewer stairs to contend with but you may have more street noise and neighbors walking above you.

I would go to various playgrounds and socialize with other parents to get advice on preschools and elementary schools. Check out Jackson playground on Potrero Hill and Julius Kahn playground near the presidio. There is an organization called the Childrens Council of San Francisco that does child care referral. They may have information on schools or can tell you where to look. Happy East Bay Mom

I'd suggest checking the outer sunset or the outer richmond. Both have reasonably good access to public transit, are affordable because of the fog, and are very safe and have lots of playgrounds and other kids. Our son isn't in preschool yet so we haven't had to look for preschools, though I do see a lot of them around. I do know that there is a big shortage of childcare in the city for kids under 2 (which is why our son stays at home now) but I've heard it gets much easier after they turn 2. I think parking is easier to find in the sunset and richmond than other parts of the city (though we don't own a car). We rent in the richmond now, and we love it. There are tons of cool restaurants and things to do. We always figured that if we stayed here and tried to buy a house we'd try the sunset/parkside close to the zoo and the beach. Citymom

I recommend you check out the Outer Richmond, a little known treasure in the city. We lived there for several years and it had a lot of what the rest of SF don't offer - parking, Golden Gate Park a block away, the ocean/beach a few blocks away, quiet from street noise (as long as you don't live on Fulton St. or Balboa St. or Geary Blvd.), easy bus access on Fulton and Balboa and Geary, incredible clear weather in the winter/fall/spring. The downside: it's foggy and gray and cold in the summer months - June-August. That was the hardest part. But you get more for your money out there, including gardens and more space. Parking is rarely an issue, whereas it is a huge issue everywhere else in SF. There are families out there, it's diverse (Asian, Russian families). Lots of schools, too, including some good ones like Washington High. I used to call it the suburbs of the city. We LOVED our walks in the park or along the beach on a Saturday morning. Lots of great Asian and Indian take- out food in the area, a great cafe on Balboa called Simple Pleasures (there are others, but this is a neighborhood classic), even the little Balboa movie theater with uncomfortable seats and good movies. Good luck.

San Francisco parents group

July 2004

We're wondering if anybody could help us find an informal parent's group in San Francisco. We're not looking for workshops or classes or child development seminars. My husband would just like to try hanging out with some other dads during the day. Craigs list didn't really seem to have anything, and I couldn't find anything on the Parents Place website that seemed appropriate (there was something about father's support, but the description seemed to be aimed more at fathers who are financially supporting their new families, which is not our situation).

Check out the Golden Gate Mothers Group at When I lived in the city I joined a GGMG playgroup, and I suspect they will be helpful on the daddy front for you. Best of luck! Sooz

Moving to Noe Valley/South SF

May 2004

My husband just got a job in South SF and we're looking to move closer. Right now we live in N. Berkeley and love walking to lots of shops, restaurants, etc. Our ideal place would be Noe Valley for the obvious reasons (shops, restaurants, families, safe neighborhood, etc.). We've seen lots of 2 bedroom apts. in Noe but just haven't found the right one yet and I'm wondering if we should consider other neighborhoods near South SF or on the Peninsula? We've also looked some in Glen Park but does anyone have any other suggestions? We have a 4 mo and we want somewhere safe, kid-friendly but walking distance to lots of stuff. We're struggling with wanting to live in the city but also wanting suburban comforts like washer/dryer in the apartment, lots of space, storage, dishwaser, etc. The apartments we've been looking at are around 1700-1800. Thanks for any help.

Bernal Heights is also a nice neighborhood and close to 280 and 101, which makes commuting easy. Cortland Ave. is the main street there with shops, cafes, etc. It is a very family oriented neighborhood. dianne

We are a family with 3yr old and infant and love Glen Park. It has a great park, decent library and some friendly village shops. BART is easily accesible. The village doesn't have everything you need and driving to close by Noe Valley or West Portal is easy. It will likely be an easier commute to South South SF than Noe. Good Luck. margaret

We live in Bernal Heights, which is right next to Glen Park & Noe Valley and is very kid-friendly. If you've never been it's got a great little commercial strip with restaurants, shops, a bookstore, a library and a natural food supermarket. It's also got an excellent and popular playground, a hilltop for views and walking/running dogs, and a big farmers' market on Saturdays, plus sunny weather. There are also bus lines that run to BART. The only drawback for renters is that it's mostly small single- family homes, but there are some apts., duplexes and in-law units, as well as houses for rent. Stop by to check it out & be sure to hit the playground behind the library to check out the kiddie activity. valerie

I grew up in SSF, and I'd say if you're looking for and enjoy an urban environment, it's not for you. It's MUCH different than, say, Noe Valley. It's very suburban, even though it's grown quite a bit in the last 20 yrs. You'll probably be driving anywhere you go, unless you live in a couple of areas. And almost everywhere it's extremely cold, windy, foggy all summer. You'll have only a couple of days of warm weather per year. The good sides are that it's really never too hot, it's pretty safe, you probably can get to know your neighbors, it's close to most everything (really not hard to get to SF, for example, especially if you live near transit), you can drive to warmer weather, it's easy to get to the beach (20 min, over the hill), and all the shopping you could ever want is basically at your fingertips, unless you're looking for lots of cute, yuppie, unique shops. Oh, and you can probably find a place with a yard. janet

New mom's groups in San Francisco

May 2003

Does anyone know of new mom's groups - either structured or informal - in San Francisco?

I had a baby in January in SF and went to 2 mothers' groups. Day One on California offers multiple groups throughout the week which are specific for age ranges of your child/ren (e.g. 0-2 months). As Day One is a for-profit business, there was a charge...I think it was $10 per meeting but you could get them cheaper in a package or if you became a Day One ''member'' (which I should have done from the start because you get a discount on purchases in their store and I ALWAYS found something to buy when I was there). Even just hanging out in the ''store'' is a great place to talk to other mothers and get support, advice, and recommendations. I was referred to Day One initially by my pediatrician because they have lactation consultants on staff. The other group I attended was at Newborn Connections at CPMC, also on California. It's Monday afternoons, free, and while technically a ''breastfeeding support group'', they take a different topic weekly (e.g. pediatricians, returning to work). I had a serious milk supply problem and only felt mildly uncomfortable pulling out a bottle to feed my daughter. I hadn't really thought of myself as a ''mothers' group kind of person'' but attending these really helped my mood in the first few months. The Day One group was probably more helpful because it was more free form, i.e. when we went around the group and introduced ourselves, we could bring up any area of concern for us, and since we were grouped according to baby's age, everyone was having similar experiences. The CPMC group was good as well and again, a place to hang out and talk to other moms before and after the group. I have recently moved to Oakland and wish I knew of mothers' groups in the East Bay?! Another New Mom

I had my baby in SF and went to a new moms' group in the winter of 2002 at Natural Resources on Castro St at 24th (Noe Valley). I believe they meet every Wednesday morning at 10 and I think it costs $10 each time. The meetings are facilitated, but you can talk about whatever issues you may be having at the time. I really enjoyed these meetings, but one drawback is that they are ''drop-in'' so you never get the same group twice. I would have liked the continuity of the same group of women each week (which I subsequently found when we moved to Berkeley). Anyway, I would definitely look into Natural Resources (415-550-2611; they also have a website). I also found the staff there to be very supportive of new motherhood, and I would frequently just come to the store to browse. Good luck! Allyson

The two mom's groups I know of in SF are Golden Gate Mother's Group ( and Mom's Club SF (

There's also a great, free exercise group at Stonestown Mall every Monday and Wednesday morning at 8:45. (

Finally, has a listing of all sorts of groups and activities all around SF. It's worth checking out. - Kat

Try Natural Resources on Castro and 24th streets in Noe Valley or Day One in the Richmond District. I joined a facilitated new mothers' group at Natural Resources after the birth of my first child eight years ago, and it absolutely saved my life. In fact, a few of the women in that original group are still among my closest friends, and their kids still play with my kids! Back then, the Natural Resources groups were slightly ''crunchy'' (absolutely everyone breastfed, a few didn't vaccinate, there was lots of interest in and discussion of yoga and alternative remedies), but that may have changed with the neighborhood demographic getting so yuppiefied in the last several years. I understand from friends that Day One is equally great, but slightly less groovy. Good luck! Leah

I found a great new mom's group through Parents Place in SF. I don't have the website handy, but you could find it with a quick Google search. They start new groups about every 6 weeks. The facilitator is good and everyone I know has enjoyed the process. My group is still meeting and our kids are 2 1/2 now. Good luck! Whitney

I can not recommend DayOne strongly enough. DayOne is a center for new and expectant parents. They offer scales for weighing your baby, really nice changing stations, gliders for breastfeeding and a comfortable room where they offer moderated meetings with other mothers. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and caring.I was there three or four times a week during the first nine moonths of my son's life and I met some great moms. We formed our own ''mommy group'' after we weaned ourselves from the incredibly nurturing environment of DayOne. They are located just across from Laurel Village. Call for directions, it can be a little difficult to find. Connellan