Living in San Francisco

Parent Q&A

I left my heart in San Francisco Oct 14, 2019 (3 responses below)
Where to live (with good schools) for a commute to Dogpatch? Mar 8, 2018 (5 responses below)
  • I left my heart in San Francisco

    (3 replies)

    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. 

Parent Reviews

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.

2004 - 2007 Reviews

Living in Rockridge vs. San Francisco

Dec 2007

Of COURSE your situation is different than mine. BUT - your opinions: raising a family in the East Bay vs. San Francisco. Other things to consider: husband works in Cupertino, wife works in San Francisco, goes to school in Berkeley. Baby goes to day care in Berkeley. Surprisingly, the baby LOVES the commute. Time on the train and two twenty minute stroller rides a day - does it get any better? We don't own, are a one car family and would like to stay that way. We LOVE SF, have been there for 12+years. Probably wouldn't be able to afford private school, unless it's Catholic... (not sure how I feel about that, but that's another post). We're planning on having number two in about a year... What's your story? janine

We made the move from SF to Rockridge 2 years ago. We LOVE the neighborhood but miss the city. It is so much easier getting around out in Rockridge and is more kid friendly than the city. It's also a lot more fun and lively than through the tunnel. That being said, the jr. high and highschools need a lot of work (there are some great elementary schools). Hopefully by the time your kids are in jr high, the schools will be as good as the elementaries but, in case they are not, you may still have to pay for private schools out here. Hope that helps -- Anonymous

That was a very confusing question. When do you work in the city and when do you go to school in Berkeley? Do you take your child to Berkeley when you are working in the city? Are you going to be done with school? Where do you live in the city? You don't even mention where you live in the city or how much you are paying in rent. If you can pay the rent in Rockridge I guess it would be good to rent so close to Chabot School or whatever other good school there is that you would be virtually sure of getting in. Or even rent just over the line in Berkeley (Elmwood) for Berkeley schools. Do you have a yard in the city? I think that is nice to have (or be near a nice park) when the babies aren't so babyish anymore. anon

Moving from Berkeley to SF?

Nov 2007

Hi, I was hoping to get some perspective on this. My husband and I are seriously considering moving back to San Francisco from Berkeley. We have 2 children - 3 and 1. We currently own a 3 bedroom in N. Berkeley, and we could probably afford to buy a smaller 3 bedroom in an area in S.F. like Sunnyside (definitely can't afford more expensive areas like Noe Valley or Bernal Heights).

My question is: Is this idea feasible? I know very few people move from the 'burbs back to the city, and I believe I understand the reasons why (better schools in the suburbs, safer, more parking, just 'easier', etc).

However, my husband and I are city people. We lived in San Francisco for years before we had kids and loved pretty much every minute of it. When I got pregnant, though, we thought it made sense for us to move out to the East Bay.

And we do like it here. We like how walkable our neighborhood is. We like the beauty of the area. And we like that we're close to so many great parks for the kids.

However, we don't love it. We both miss SF, and while we make an effort to get out there every couple of weeks for date night, traffic is almost always a nightmare. And, of course, it's not the same as actually living there.

Also, my husband works in S.F., and by the time he walks to BART, takes BART, and walks home, at least an hour's gone by (sometimes 1-1/2 hrs). It's a longish commute for him.

So. I'm specifically hoping to hear from people like us, people who really love city life in general and S.F. in particular. Are you living in the City with kids and making it work? Or did you try it for awhile but felt you needed to move out to the East Bay, and are really glad you did? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance. Anon

I thought I'd offer some advice on your decision to move back to SF. We live in SF with two kids and are also city people (after over 10 years in Paris and London, we find SF to be small and not very urban!). It IS totally doable, but there are caveats.

First, the schools are misunderstood. The good SF schools actually score better than their Berkeley counterparts and are excellent. The problem is getting in, as the lottery is tough to crack. That said, we got our first choice K-5 school, and if you educate yourself about the process, it is surmountable. Many people are very happy with their K-5 elementary school assignments and those very lucky ones that get a K-8 school like Lilienthal, Rooftop or Lawton are ecstatic. If you don't get a K-8, you're back to the lottery for middle school and it's tougher. There are a couple of high-scoring middle schools, but they are very large (1400 kids). And if your kids are more than two years apart in school, you'll have to play the lottery separately for each one in middle school with no sibling priority. And then high school things really go down hill, with only Lowell and SOTA (both of which accept kids based on academic achievement) being very good, and the others are not great and huge.

The housing situation is tougher. Living somewhere like Sunnyside is a bit like living in the suburbs anyway, so you'd have to decide whether the negotiating/strategizing the school situation would be worth it. Many people do private school all along thinking they are going to have to do it anyway in middle school, and it is tough to get into a K-8 private school in 6th grade. Private high school is the norm, and you're looking at $20K a year right now for St. Ignatius, Urban or Drew, so likely $30K per kid a year in 12 years. That's the math and that's why we're thinking of leaving for Albany! We just don't want to live in Sunnyside or the Outer Sunset and have to plan on $30K a year for each kid in high school, as financially it would be tough for us. The last thing to consider is the sense of community and having your kids have school friends who live nearby. We've never had that small-town community feel, so I don't know if it exists in Berkeley, but here in SF it's not really like that. Most parents work full time and you have to plan play dates on the weekends. And many kids do not go to their neighborhood schools, due to the lottery system. (Though you will probably get Sunnyside school, which isn't bad, if you want it!) Anyway, I probably know way too much about the lottery and schools after going through it last year (and we ended up at private school despite ''winning the lottery''), so feel free to email me if you want more info. Good luck! SF Mom

When we moved to a nice neighborhood in Oakland with a new baby after living in S.F. for several years, we would go back to the city and I would feel like I was running into an ex-boyfriend I was still in love with. I, too, am a city person and I pined for S.F. I'm sure you will get responses reminding you of the finer points of Berkeley but I am sorry, moving back to S.F. was the best thing for us. I love the bustle and vitality of S.F. Yes, you do get less house for your money but utility bills are lower and you have an excuse not to accummulate quite so much clutter.

East Bay people can be very snotty and misinformed about S.F.'s public schools. I'd say the good schools far outnumber the bad schools. Try the Sunset and the Richmond districts for good API scores, dedicated and kind teachers, busy PTAs AND -- contrary to popular belief -- kids that virtually all live within two miles from the school. Good luck! Anon

We've been city people all our lives, born and raised, and we fully intended to raise Totally Urban Children -- but here we are in Berkeley! This was mostly my husband's idea, so I try not to go all ''Green Acres'' on him about it when I'm pining for the city. (''Darling I love you but give me Valencia Street!'')

What we miss: the ease of doing things in the city (we felt like it was okay to leave because we were going out less anyway post-parenthood, but now we REALLY go out less!); the vibrancy of the city itself (I miss street/youth culture -- it's very different in Berkeley); and stupid as it sounds, I think we both miss thinking of ourselves as city people, as hip urbanites, as San Franciscans. We've never entirely felt like we fit in out here, and there's always that sigh of relief when we're in the city, the ''Aaah'' that washes over us when we go back across the bridge.

That said, none of those things really exist in the areas we could have afforded in the city anyway. We have friends who live way out in the Sunset and they complain about all the same things we do and more! It actually takes them *longer* sometimes to get to the same SF destination as for us coming across the bridge. Parts of SF are more isolating, less vibrant and just generally more snooze-worthy than anything we're dealing with over here.

And then there's the pluses -- our kid loves it here; we walk to school; all his friends are walking distance (our friends in the city have a devil of a time scheduling playdates 'cause the lottery system scatters children all over the city without regard to community/neighbor building); we have waaaay more space than we ever could in the city, including a glorious deck and garden that is the envy of all our city friends. Do we miss the city? Absolutely. Are we moving back? Not yet. Maybe when we have an empty nest, but for now this seems to be working. We're happiest when we remember how easy it can be to get into the city, take advantage of that, and also appreciate what we've got out here. Ultimately we're glad we moved.

That said, most of our friends who stayed are equally happy -- everyone is making it work, even some of the folks who didn't get the school they thought they wanted in the lottery (turns out the schools they got weren't so bad after all). The few who really got pissed about their school assignments and failed at appeals left -- and they seemed to get so mad they left the Bay Area entirely!

Thoughts: What if you made date night *not* a high traffic night? Could you go out on a weeknight? We've gone to art openings in SF on a Thursday night and it's taken us 23 minutes to zoom into town, door to door, to the Mission! Trying to get in when everyone else is doing the same thing is a recipe for disaster until they figure out how to ease congestion at the toll plaza. Not much to suggest re: the commute time. Basically commuting sucks -- but at least with BART you can do other things, like read, write, snooze, listen to podcasts.

Good luck with whatever you choose, we sympathize! Displaced Urbanites

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

2003 & Earlier

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

Thinking of moving back to SF with 2 small children

Nov 1999

It may seem counter-intuitive, but my husband & I are thinking of moving back to SF with our two small children (2+ years, & 4 months). I realize it's more expensive, but presuming we can jump that hurdle does anybody have advice on the benefits? We both love urban living and lived in SF before the babies, but aren't current on family-specific issues such as schools, neighborhoods, and other conveniences/inconveniences we may encounter. Any city dwellers out there?

We have raised our two children, now 12 and 8, in SF. I find it to be an invigorating environment in which to raise a family. The range of urban activities and diversity of people and lifestyles has been a positive experience for our family. The schools are a challenge to navigate and research, but there are many good alternatives both public and private. I found the need to re-frame how I think about community. Regardless of the neighborhood in which you live, the children living near you will likely be attending several different schools across the city - and that goes for public or private. So they will have friends near and far. At the same time, you will connect with other families with children on your block or at a local playground recreation center, or church. Strong connections with other parents will make a big difference. There is so much negative press about SF. Yes it has problems, but the city, because it is SF, is living under constant scrutiny from within and without with the media continually focusing on what's wrong. It offers much, presents unique challenges and contains many hidden treasures.

I live in SF and commute to UC Berkeley. You don't say whether or not you're commuting- that has its own hassles, and you can write me to hear more on that subject if it applies.

I haven't raised kids in the east bay so can't directly compare but I can tell you a little about raising kids in SF. The neighborhoods vary, of course, in terms of access to parks, library branches, and schools - i imagine you already know to check this out before you move. There are very neighborhood-y neighborhoods that aren't so extremely urban (you don't say where in the east bay you live--urban or suburban. There aren't a lot of suburban open-space type neighborhoods in SF)

You want to think about schools - SF Unified is changing how it assigns students to schools, but you don't have to go to your neighborhood school. You can request schools, but of course everyone is trying to get into the same 6 top alternative schools so you can't count on getting in. There are OVER 70 elementary schools in SF, which is both good and bad--an overwhelming choice, a complicated and changing lottery system, and of course not all the schools are equal. On the other hand, there's a tremendous variety--immersion programs in spanish, chinese, japanese, korean; schools that focus on arts, sciences, community service, etc. (I think it may help to live in the neighborhood of the school you want--check to see if they say--but at any rate you certainly want to consider transportation. some parents I know drive their kids a half hour one way to school)

There are lots of places for kids - the Academy of Sciences, zoo, golden gate park, libraries, Randall Museum, etc. etc. There's lots of public transit, though MUNI has many well-publicized problems.

As I write this it seems rather general and unsatisfactory, so perhaps I should just say that you should feel free to e-mail me if you have specific questions.