Living in The Peninsula

Parent Q&A

Any insight to living in Burlingame? Mar 23, 2017 (4 responses below)
What can you tell me about living in San Mateo? Oct 12, 2016 (4 responses below)
Household Salary of $140k a year, new house in The Peninsula? Oct 7, 2016 (13 responses below)
  • Any insight to living in Burlingame?

    (4 replies)

    What can you tell me about living in Burlingame? I know that housing is crazy expensive, but I also know it's a short commute to SF (where both my husband and I work) with top schools. And great weather! I was thinking we could rent an apartment or buy a condo to get access to the schools, but then I worry that we might not fit in if everyone else is living in a $2M+ home. We are solidly middle class and would love to find a great community on the Peninsula where we can raise our son, but I feel like we're being priced out of the Bay Area. Any tips or opinions welcome!

    I grew up in Burlingame but haven't lived there in 15 years so take my impression with a grain of salt. I still have many old friends from childhood that still live there and raise a family there so I am pretty familiar. Even when I was young it was a pretty desirable/expensive place to live but with the tech industry it has become insane. I don't (didn't growing up either) many families there that rent. There is a small area with condos/apartments that families could rent but in my experience it was where most divorced dads went to live after the divorce. My good friend lives in San Mateo and has found families to be much more diverse economically. Maybe take a look there. There are some great areas in San Mateo (Hayward Park, Beresford) that are more open. Also a word on the commute-my friend drives from San Mateo to SF daily and she says it takes an hour+ most days.  Good luck in your search!

    Got a co-worker who was in Castro Valley, commuting to San Francisco and moved to Burlingame about a year ago.  She said it's great..  And yes she said the weather is good as were the rents.  Can't comment on the schools.

    Hi Katiemalia,

    Here are a couple thoughts:  You might find this article in today's New York Times interesting.  There is an interactive graph that plots towns near some major metropolitan areas (incl. San Francisco) as a function of housing (price per sq. foot) and quality of schools, with color-coding by commute time.  It gives a big-picture view of where you might find more value-for-money school-wise.  The article is here:

    That being said, the devil (as always) is in the details.  For example, I live in Redwood City whose schools overall aren't great.  However, the neighborhood elementary schools span a range (in terms of the various performance metrics), and there are some well-regarded specialized programs (e.g., Spanish immersion) and a magnet elementary school (for which there is an entrance exam).  The high school offers an International Baccalaureate program.  The real estate prices here are still lower than most of our neighboring towns, and (for better or worse, depending on whom you ask) there is currently a lot of growth (new companies moving in and new housing being built).  

    All that is to say that if you drill down a bit you may find good options in a number of towns that you might not expect.

    Good luck with your search!

  • My husband and I live in San Francisco and have a 4-year-old. We are done with the urban grittiness of this town (we live in the Mission) and want to move where it's clean and safe, with good public schools through HS (but don't want to live anywhere too bland and suburban). He works downtown, so commute options will be abundant for him, wherever we end up. However, I work at San Francisco General Hospital in the Mission, and it's a 20 minute walk from the nearest BART station. Driving from the East Bay would be too painful for me, and I really need the easier commute since my schedule is more flexible and I will probably do all the school drop-offs/pick-up. So, we're looking at the Peninsula: Millbrae, Burlingame, San Bruno, San Mateo. San Mateo seems more affordable than many other nearby towns, and has good shopping and restaurants. Can anyone tell me what it's like to live there? How are the schools? How is the commute from there to SF? Is it family-friendly with kids riding bikes down the streets? Will two parents who aren't wealthy fit in there? Are there other places we should be considering? Any insight would be a huge help, thanks!

    Sorry I can't help in a positive way, but I do know from the experience of others' with "lived experience" that Boringgame's nickname is pretty well-deserved. Good luck. 

    I have heard very good things about Burlingame,  Can't imagine living in San Mateo and having to commute to SF. 

    Commuting from San Mateo to SF is easy. The Millbrae BART station is right there. But, the affordable areas in San Mateo are far more like Redwood City than Burlingame. You get what you pay for unfortunately. If one area is less expensive than another, there's a reason. Having said that, San Mateo is a cute town and has a nice downtown area with restaurants and shopping. It's easy to get up to the city to go out also. In general, you want to be on the 280 side of San Mateo, not the 101 side.

  • Hello, Husband got a job offer of $140k before taxes in San Francisco (and I don't plan to work until after 5 years), but we are reluctant to accept and move because of the cost of living. My husband likes this company very much and we believe this will open many doors for him in the future. Here are our plans and wishes and what we have: We own a car. We have no debts. We want to send our 19 months child to a particular private school in the Peninsula in about 4 years from now (tuition is almost 40k for upper schol). We eat mostly paleo and organic. We want to save from zero for a newly made house. We want a community full of families for the sake of our child's social skills. And we are Christians (if it means anything ). So, where should we live? (I was thinking Fremont ). Where should we buy our groceries? What are the pros and cons of whatever you may think? Is 140k before taxes enough?

    Congratulations on your husband's job offer. Our family (I am also a stay at home mom) makes about $140k before taxes, too, and we bought a 1920s house in San Leandro because we were priced out of the more "desirable" parts of the East Bay. I have friends on the Peninsula who have much, much higher incomes (both spouses working) and they are comfortable (homeowners, no consumer debt, do most of their shopping at Whole Foods/farmers markets, etc), but they send their kids to public school and it would be a stretch for them to do private school. So first, I suggest thinking very carefully about how wedded you are to each of your "wants" (Paleo, saving for a new-construction house, 40k/year private school). I'm sorry to say that I think trying to do all of those things on a $140k salary would be stressful. Second, I suggest looking at schools wherever you end up; it's easiest to become part of your neighborhood community when your kid goes to school in that community. And commuting to the peninsula in time for school every morning (even if it's just from Fremont) would, to me, really negatively impact my family's quality of life. These decisions are always challenging. Good luck to you!

    If I were in your shoes, I would be very hesitant to make a move to the Bay Area if you want to check all of the boxes you list.  It will be impossible to buy a house on the Peninsula on a salary of $140K.  Even if you end up in the East Bay, you still need to consider the commuting times, both for your husband and for your child's school.  You mention Fremont, but that is a 50 minute commute on Bart for your husband just to get to downtown SF, not even factoring in the walk or drive on the front or back end.  Moreover, the drive to and from the Peninsula to school with your child would pretty awful, in my view. You should check out the Waze app every morning to see how long it would take to drive from Fremont to the school during rush hour.  If you are willing to do without the private school on the Peninsula, I would check out Alameda or Albany.  Those town are full of families and have good public schools (especially in Albany).  You would not find new home construction, and you may need to settle for a condo or small older house, but your husband's commute would be a lot more sane.  If you are deadset buying a newly-constructed house and sending your child to any private school, especially on the Peninsula, I would advise against moving here as you will be facing lots of commuting and financial stress.

    All in all, you should evaluate the 

    We are also a one-income household in the same income ballpark, and I agree with the previous poster that private school + a brand new house might be a challenge. My husband works for a tech company in Berkeley, and we opted to take our house search north (West Contra Costa County/Pinole) rather than south or east because it seemed most likely to give us something affordable -- we are in a 40-year-old house that we're slowly upgrading, have a new baby, and are very happy with our neighborhood. We also have friends and neighbors who commute from our area to the city (there's casual carpool and an express bus as well as public transit to BART). There are churches of every stripe in this area, more so I believe than in many other parts of the East Bay. We can walk to the library, the grocery store and a coffeeshop; in the other direction, there are neighbors with horses. The area is definitely changing (gentrifying) as more families are priced out of Berkeley and Oakland -- there is a brand new plaza w/a Trader Joe's and Peet's Coffee, and a Sprouts organic grocery store is being built downtown right now. Elementary schools are pretty good and I suspect the middle and high school will look very different by the time our kids are ready to go there as well. I know it's some distance from the area you originally had your eye on, but I'd encourage you to think about broadening your scope a little if you can. ~loving life in WCC

Parent Reviews

We recently moved from Millbrae over to Albany.  If you end up in the San Bruno area, I *highly* recommend looking into San Bruno Parents Club - they are an amazing group of families and helped us through the first year of parenting, especially having been new to the state as well.

Hi- I have a toddler and we moved over the summer from Berkeley to Millbrae (near SFO) because I work in SF and my husband got a job in San Jose. We wanted to stay in Berkeley but commutes would have just been too crazy. We surprisingly really like Millbrae- very family friendly, clean, safe, enough fun stuff going on, etc. We've also had a good experience visiting San Mateo and San Bruno which would also be possible with your commute. I think anywhere in the East Bay (including San Leandro) would definitely make your commute more than 40 mins realistically. Anyway, we did a lot of weighing of pros and cons and I'd be happy to share with you what we learned and our current experience if helpful. Send me a message!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Move to the Peninsula from Berkeley?

Jan 2014

After 20+ years in Berkeley, are we crazy to consider a (career) move to the Peninsula? My partner and I are in our mid-fifites, with 2 high school aged kids. We would move after our eldest son graduates. He is probably headed to a two-year college anyway, and we have heard good things about Foothill, so that could work out well for him. Our younger son is a strong student and makes friends easily, so he would probably do fine in a new high school and might even benefit from the competitive academic atmosphere we expect to find there. We are concerned in general about the culture shock of moving from Berkeley to Palo Alto area (we are interested in Mountain View, perhaps?), not sure we will be comfortable with the level of wealth and striving and ... ? Is there life after Berkeley? The cost of housing is of course daunting, but we think we may be ready for a condo anyway -- tired of taking care of a house and yard, and we will be empty nesters before long. Any suggestions or words of wisdom? Can't Quite Picture It, but ....

I grew up in Redwood City, moved around a lot, have been a homeowner in Richmond CA for 30 years. I work in Oakland. I love my house/community in Richmond, but I love the Peninsula. I go down there frequently to see friends. I don't know statistics, but it seems to be WAY more diverse than when I grew up. The communities appear lovely to me. Palo Alto was always cool & nice & pricey, years ago. But Redwood City & Menlo Park are also nice; so is San Carlos & San Mateo too. Cultural activities abound. Weather there is SO much better than the east bay! warmer, but not super hot like Concord & Walnut Creek. I think the culture is just way more interesting now than years ago. I don't know statistics on crime, but it sure feels safer than the east bay. Former Sequoia High grad

I think you'll like the peninsula a lot. It is hard to think of a move and Berkeley has a lot to offer but so does the peninsula. I grew up in Palo Alto and lived for 4 years in Oakland and 10 years in Mountain View and there are differences as you are well aware of.

I loooooved Mountain View. I moved there after Oakland which I also loved and to be honest I saw moving to Mountain View as moving into a bland boring suburban sprawl with nothing much to offer after the Oakland area but I was wrong. Or maybe somewhat right but there are just so many benefits too. It is safer - I hadn't even realized how much on-guard I constantly was in Oakland and how wonderful it was to lower the guard a few levels, you know it weighs on you in a way that you maybe aren't aware of. And downtown MV is cute and still feels real.

Palo Alto is as you say, there IS a striving feeling there, when one shops in the grocery store there IS a feeling like everyone pushing the cart is a big shot used to others getting out of their way and somewhat a feeling of over-education and wealth and if not wealthy yet, just on the verge. And a little entitlement. It can get a little annoying. But I too found the Oakland-Berkeley area had a vibe of self-conscious cool-alternative and judgment if one wasn't 'cool' enough so I suppose it is a little of leaving one attitude for another. Mountain View seems to me less of that.

You could look into Sunnyvale which is a little blander than MV but has a cute bungalow area near the old downtown (very small - Murphy Street, Macy's, Target and a never finished redevelopment project) or the area near the main library. But I suppose you'd like a place closer to the high schools. There used to be some not too expensive condos in downtown Los Altos (but with somewhat high HO fees) that is close bike ride away from the High School.

Anyway I think you'll love it - the weather is even more perfect than Berkeley, it feels a lot less 'tight', you won't feel like you are battling for a parking spot, people feel more relaxed, it's cleaner, it's culturally diverse (less diverse economically tho), safer, life just feels less stressful. anon

Moving from Berkeley to Peninsula

May 2013

After almost a year of living in Berkeley, we are considering biting the bullet and moving closer to where my husband works (close to the Dumbarton Bridge). The commute is brutal for him, and it is looking like it will probably only get worse, as any future job opportunities are likely to be closer to San Jose and Santa Clara than San Francisco.

My question is this: where should we be looking? We like the diversity and cultural opportunities found in the East Bay, and I'm concerned about moving into a community where we people are consumed by the rat race of making (and spending) money. Maybe this is just a stereotype and I don't need to worry about it. But I would like to move somewhere reasonably 'down to earth' where the neighbors are friendly, our kids can play with other kids on our street, safety isn't a constant concern, and the weather isn't brutally hot. Obviously, it would also be nice if the real estate market wasn't totally ridiculous.

We have a good friend who is convinced Belmont fulfills these requirements. Is this true? Any other suggestions? Love the East Bay, hate the commute

I would move to Redwood City. Belmont is not only expensive but snooty. Hardly diverse. San Carlos more like Belmont but not as many hilly areas. Redwood City has more diversity - much more diversity. I don't think there really is a bad neighborhood there. The downtown is thriving. I grew up there in the 50's and it's just better than ever. There are hills, there are flats, there are distinct neighborhoods from which to decide. I'm not looking at statistics, but I think in general their schools are excellent. former Peninsula dweller

I'm a Stanford affiliate who lived in Palo Alto for two years before moving back to the East Bay, which I love. Here are my impressions, which are limited. The peninsula seems in some ways homogeneous: there are areas with very very rich people, areas with slightly less rich people, and what I would describe as tons of diversity but not in any locally, culturally integrated way -- there is little of the same downtowny, urban culture you find in the East Bay or SF. There are many less affluent areas as well, of course. As far as I can tell, this is true from one end of El Camino Real to the other, and so there's nothing you need to avoid per se. Belmont does seem nice; I've also heard good things about Redwood Shores. Palo Alto is a hyperglossy Voltron of startups and San Francisco-level rent inflation these days, so probably not worth the trouble. If it's still possible to find an affordable part of Menlo Park, though, that might be a tiny bit more East Bay-like than the rest of the peninsula, or so it has seemd to me.

You can always go neighborhood-shopping on the weekends for a while: take a few day trips and see how particular places strike you. San Mateo has a particularly nice Japanese garden downtown, and a good used bookstore as of last year; we drove up there once from PA and had fun. Good luck! ex-peninsular

We lived on the Peninsula and in San Jose for 8 years before we moved to Berkeley two years ago. Stay away from Palo Alto. However, we lived in Mountain View and really loved it. There are many diverse neighborhoods; some are less expensive than others. We lived at The Crossings; we liked that it was near the train and the freeways and we could walk to all the shopping across the street (although that was before they built The Villages at San Antonio). We also really loved San Jose itself, although the public schools leave something to be desired. But again, we loved the diversity, being close to downtown and the cultural offerings, and the real estate was definitely much more affordable. The funny thing is, after moving to Berkeley so my husband could be closer to his SF job, a year later he returned to his former employer in San Jose! So we are back to the crazy commute (but only 3 days a week). Maureen

For more than twenty years, now, we've followed ever-more-interesting jobs from Silicon Valley (Mountain View, Cupertino, PaloAlto, etc.) to Berkeley to Seattle WA to Redmond WA to Berkeley and back to Silicon Valley (SanJose).

In general, real estate anywhere on the Peninsula is more expensive and less interesting than the EastBay: most houses are smaller, single-story, on small lots, and built between 1945 and 1970. There are several new developments (both condominiums and rentals) popping up everywhere on the Peninsula that are beautiful and stylish, but seem to be alarmingly expensive.

Weather is just plain dull anywhere on the Peninsula.

But diversity?

Throughout Silicon Valley, there are nerds (like us) from all over the world. In the 2010 census, more than seventy-five percent of the residents of census tract where we live were not born in the US. Local coffee shops are a chatter of languages, varied clothing, and delightful faces. Because Silicon Valley nerds come from all over the world, services have followed: restaurants, groceries, shops, services, doctors, dentists, anything-and-everything can easily be found in just about any language and style.

So, although real property and weather are bland and uninspiring, the people living on the Peninsula come from more different histories and cultures than you can find anywhere in the EastBay.

It is a joy to live in a 'Little United Nations'

South San Francisco - San Bruno - Millbrae

Feb 2010

I am seeking advice and information about either commutting between Oakland and San Bruno OR a possible household move from Oakland (Fruitvale) to South San Francisco, San Bruno or Millbrae.

I am a top candidate for a job in San Bruno, and may be offered a position. Currently both my husband and I work FT in San Francisco, and our 4 yo daughter goes to preschool near my husband's work. We are trying to get her into a public kindergarten in SF, because of our work sites and also b/c our options for schools in Oakland are very limited after Kindergarten. We own our home in Oakland, but are deep underwater. I don't think that we can afford to continue paying a mortgage and rent in SF or the South Bay, but would consider walking away from our Oakland house if it made sense to move to SF or the South Bay b/c of commuting and school. Questions: Is it tenable to work FT and commute on public transportation from Oakland/Fruitvale to San Bruno (BART and bike; driving is NOT an option)? Would I ever see my family or my home during daylight hours

Also, about shifting our living situation... we are lefty/granola dark-green type people with a skeptical and scientific sensibility - pretty stereotypically Oaklandish and proud of it, thanks you very much. Would we be totally unmoored by moving to the upper South Bay? What is it like to live in San Bruno, Millbrae, South San Francisco? Are there neighborhoods that people would recommend or avoid (and why)? We are committed to public education because, well, it's free..... and also committed to finding the best school possible for our bright, sensitive, and funny girl. What are the public schools like in SSF, SB and MilB? Any standouts or cautions?

Try Brisbane! The schools are good, the community is great, and it's between SF and San Bruno. I have several friends there, and they love it. Jennifer

I can't remember exactly what the question was now, but having lived in SSF much of my life, and being familiar w/ San Bruno & Millbrae, I can tell you this: the better the weather and community life, the more expensive the homes. Of the 3, Millbrae is best, San Bruno next, SSF next after that. All of them are much safer than Oakland or Berkeley. Commutes to SF are easy. All the shopping you could want to do, particularly at chains (especially in SF) but also some independents (particularly in SB/MIllbrae). You'll be very close to the airport and might want to make sure that he house is noise-insulated--I think that was done for everybody in the noise zone of the airport about 10 yrs ago, and it works pretty well (plus you save on heating). SSF can have decent weather in the flats, closer to the bay, but it can be downright awful in the summer with wind and fog near the crest (eg Skyline Blvd and parts of Junipero Serra). San Bruno is sunnier, but has some of hte same wind/fog issues in the hillier parts. All have relatively easy access to freeways. Millbrae/SB might be more enjoyable if you're planning to spend more time on the peninsula.

Husband working in San Mateo...where to live?

Jan 2010

My friend is moving to the Bay Area soon from Park City, UT (and before that Chicago & Iowa) for her husband's new job. They have never lived in the Bay Area and are trying to figure out where to live. The husband will be starting a job in San Mateo. Their preference is: short commute, live in a place where there is a place and not some endless suburb and good schools. Can anyone give me any suggestions for neighborhoods or towns near San Mateo for them to look at? helping a friend

Since the husband is working in San Mateo, there are a lot of the Peninsula cities that can be great choices. San Mateo, Millbrae, Burlingame, Redwood City, Belmont, San Carlos. These are all cities that will provide a good commute, good location, good schools, and access to other things in the Peninsula. I am a Realtor and will be happy to share more thoughts with them. Peninsula knowledge

What's wrong w/ San MAteo? Actually most of the cities right around there are probably fine, depending on the price of housing v. your budget. But SM has a pretty good downtown PLUS all the mall-type shops you could possibly need, plus good access to SF or SJ or the east bay, plus decent whether and decent community. Burlingame has a great downtown but is a little pricier. San Bruno, a little cheaper, also has a nice downtown. Farther south, RW city may be a little more mixed but has some good areas too. THen you're looking at Menlo Park, Palo Alto-- fabulous but pricey cities.

Half Moon Bay vs. San Mateo

Oct 2008

We will soon be moving from the east bay to the peninsula for work. My husband and I lived in a small coastal town when we were first married and loved the lifestyle. We are entertaining the possibility of living in Half Moon Bay and having one of us commute over 92. Before we had kids, this would have been an easy decision, but now we are wondering if living by the ocean would be worth it. Does any one have experience living in HMB and working in Redwood City? Is the commute terrible, or is it really the 20 mins google maps claim it is? When we have gone to HMB on weekends, it really was only 20 mins from the bridge. Also, I'm wondering if the schools are better in HMB or in San Mateo/Burlingame/RC/San Carlos, etc. and if there are important things like emergency medical care available in HMB or would I have to fear holding my bleeding child for 30 mins waiting for an ambulance to make it over the hill? Is it inconvenient that any shopping other than groceries has to be done over the hill? Any feedback is welcome. Thanks.
missing the sea

While I enjoyed HMB for the short 18 month duration we were there, we ultimately had to move due to the school situation. I have three boys within close age range and as I started to research out the schools, I found quickly that my choices were very limited. Private school in HMB and pay a very steep price, average-at-best public schools, or trekking over the hill to SM for more affordable private school options. Neither of these choices seemed like a reasonable solution. So we moved.

Yes, the small town bucolic beauty of HMB coupled with the ocean, is quite serene. I grew up and lived in Pacifica for the first 18 years of my life so I DO appreciate the coastside. But if you have to spend a lot of time in your car driving to/from school, sports, etc., then you must ask yourself-is it worth it? That is a choice only you can make. Perhaps you might want to try the commute a few times before making a final decision (be sure to include a Wednesday). Tired of driving

Moving across the Bay, closer to Mountain View

June 2008

We're looking to move to the other side of the bay to shorten my husband's commute from North Oakland to Mt. View. We have lived in SF and Oakland only and know little about that side of the bay. We'd like good public schools, somewhat walkable town center ( like you find in Oakland/Berekely neighborhood) and under 40 min drive to SF. Any recommendations of cities to look at?

Try Burlingame. I'm not sure about the schools, but it has a cute walkable town center. Some of my best friends live in Burlingame. Well, ok, one of them.

Well, I grew up on the Peninsula (Belmont to be exact) and although I really don't like it, it isn't all bad. It isn't the progressive minded, funky, open to diversity,place that the East Bay is and definitely not like SF, but it definitely doesn't have the crime and bad school districts that are akin to much of the East Bay. As for communities that are about a 40 min. drive to SF, the further south you go, the hotter it gets in the summer. Some nice mid-way points would be San Mateo(near downtown), Belmont, San Carlos, & parts of Redwood City(both SC & RWC have up and coming downtowns), but it also depends on your price range and whether you're renting or buying. It might be hard to find a house in these areas for under $700 or $800K, but w/the current market, things might be changing. Whatever you choose, good luck in your journey.... anon

Neighborhoods towns in the peninsula

April 2007

Hello: My husband works in Palo Alto, and his commute is seeming way too long, so we are considering a move to the peninsula. We live in the East Bay and really appreciate its alternative/progressive feel. I know the peninsula is not the East Bay, but would be interested in hearing feedback (esp. positive feedback :))about the area in general as well as specific towns or neighborhoods that might be more alternative or progressive or feel more like ''home.'' We also need to consider price and the quality of the schools. Thanks!

i grew up in palo alto--graduating from high school 25 (gulp) years ago. at the time i felt that PA was probably the most progressive/boho/intellectual of the towns in the area. i still hang out there a bit and feel the same way. you might also check out mountain view, san mateo and redwood city.

We were in the exact same situation about ten years ago and thought we would never find any other town we'd like as much as Berkeley, but we did. Husband did try to commute and after two years, it got old and it became exhausting. We moved to Mountain View as we finally found a house we could afford. We checked out nearly every city in Silicon Valley and looked at over 100 homes over the course of a year. Went through three agents, but we are pickier than most.

Towns to that I would consider: Mountain View (our 1st choice), Palo Alto (fairly progressive, good schools), Sunnyvale (more bang for your buck), Santa Clara (up and coming), Los Altos (great schools, big lots),

There's pros/cons to every town and they are so close in proximity that you may not see the differences at first. Also depends on the location of your husband's job.

Good luck in your search.