Where to Live for a Job in the Peninsula/Silicon Valley

Parent Q&A

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  • Which neighborhood for a job at Stanford

    (2 replies)

    Hello parents,

    I lived in Cambridge, MA the past 14 years since my first child was borned, we are moving this summer to anywhere 15 miles radius from Standford, CA, all depends if we can find a house within our budget. The place we lived for 14 years is very culturally diverse, it's not the tier 1 type school that is super academically strong and I am happy with our decision because raising kids are more than just knowing ABC and 123, you get my point. I would like recommendation of which neighborhood within 15 miles from Stanford is a diverse community but decent/ average school, doesn't have to be tier 1. Welcome any recommendations. Thanks in advance for taking time to read and write back. 

    You can find many communities within 15 miles of Stanford that are culturally diverse, one suggestion is Redwood City. Housing prices are quite high however and you may want to rent for a while to be sure you find the right fit. The schools are good but are not known as the super highly ranked schools seen in Palo Alto and some of the communities to the South of Stanford. Another option, with more reasonable housing is East Palo Alto. Many people affiliated with Stanford and Facebook now live there and Facebook has contributed to the schools. Best of luck with your relocation.

    The answer to your question is not as straightforward as it might seem. I’m a native East Coaster and lived in the Boston area for many years, and (one) major issue is that the built environments in New England and the Peninsula evolved very differently. Stanford/Palo Alto has a cute downtown area, but most of the peninsula is suburban sprawl of a type that doesn’t really exist in New England. The peninsula evolved from fruit orchards, which were replaced by bedroom communities, as opposed to The Boston area’s growth based on 400 year old towns with small farms surrounding them. This is all relevant because, whereas Cambridge is 15 minutes from Somerville, Watertown, Belmont, Arlington, etc., towns are geographically much bigger in the Bay Area. For example, Cambridge is about 7 sq. miles; Palo Alto is 26. The “town” of Stanford is little more than the campus; it isn’t really a town.

    Because of this, the rudimentary nature of public transit on the peninsula, being the tech center of the US (of not the world), and the horrific traffic, 15 minutes away holds little meaning. East Palo Alto is about five miles from Stanford, but it is unlikely you could travel between them in less than 20 minutes except in the middle of the night. Menlo Park (3-1/2 miles) is doable in about 15 minutes. Maybe Atherton (4-1/2 miles), perhaps Woodside (7 miles). 
    Many of these communities have large non-white populations, but this doesn’t always translate to diversity. There are large numbers of people from abroad who immigrated or are here on H-1 (work) visas; many came from India and China. There is a significant Latinx population as well. However, class divisions are striking. In general, Latinx populations are lower income and work in the service economy, while Asians are highly educated, skilled tech workers. The Black population in Northern California is tiny compared to that of Northeastern cities. East Palo Alto was a majority-Black city, but it has been a gentrification target and much of the Black population has been displaced. In sum, you will find people from a diversity of places, but the multicultural environment of a place like Cambridge is elusive. Obviously none of this is absolute, but I’m looking at census data, not relying on personal impressions.

    Even less common is economic diversity. For example, median household income is $107k in Cambridge, and 12% of Cambridge residents live in poverty. In contrast, Menlo Park’s median household income is $168k, with under 6% in poverty. And Menlo Park isn’t an outlier. Woodside and Atherton’s medians are over $250k; less than 5% and 3% of their respective  populations live in poverty.

    There are places more like Cambridge with regard to social and economic diversity, but I doubt you’ll find that within 15 minutes of Stanford. East Palo Alto is probably closest geographically. San Jose might be most “like” what you seek, but it is a huge, sprawling city spread over 181 sq miles. Oakland and Berkeley, both northeast of Stanford, are really the best matches for your criteria, and great places to live, but they are an hour or more drive from Stanford, depending on traffic, and at least 90 minutes by transit.

    Best of luck!

  • Hi. We lived in Oakland (temescal/emeryville)for 8 years then moved to the South Bay for work. Now that WFH will continue to be more flexible we’d like to settle permanently in Berkeley or Oakland. We now have kids 2 and 4 so we’re looking for a good elementary school district. Also, my husband can’t drive due to disability so we need something BART/ bus accessible. What neighborhoods would you recommend?

    If your budget allows, I'd try Rockridge. It's very easy to be car-free and if you stay in the Peralta or Chabot school zones, you can walk to both elementary and middle schools fairly easily (assuming your husband may sometimes need to do dropoff or pickup). Berkeley uses a weighted lottery to assign schools, so there's no guarantee that you'll be assigned to a school walkable from home. You may also want to explore North Oakland, which is zoned to the new Sankofa United for elementary. Friends at the new school have been really happy with how things are going there so far and housing is (slightly!) more affordable in that area while still being close to BART and bus lines.

    Hi there. Family with two kids, and a disabled (non-driving) parent here. We love living in the lower Rockridge neighborhood and utilize Ashby BART, the Telegraph and College Ave bus lines for everything - including taking our kids all around the area for parks and play dates. Peralta Elementary is fantastic, but over-enrolled (because of many socioeconomic and school/neighborhood/society injustice issues - for more information research "A Tale of Two Schools"), so if you end up at Sankofa it is also a great school. I would say that if cost isn't an issue for you, and you can live comfortably in this neighborhood, definitely donate to the OUSD Equity fund. College Ave shops within walking distance, and friendly neighbors all huge plusses. Bushrod community center has amazing kids programming and affordable day camp. The downsides were the starkly widening inequality - gentrification in visible action, housing insecurity of our neighbors, watching Peralta whiten while less affluent neighbors are forced out of the community. There is also a sort of constant criminal activity - burglaries, package theft, etc. Our motto is: if someone is robbing you, give them whatever they want so you can walk away. Like anywhere, there's wonderful things and not-so-wonderful things. It's a beautiful neighborhood, and we love being part of the community. 

    We have similarly aged children and love where we are in North Berkeley. We are near the bart station and bus stops and love the flatlands for riding and walking around. 

    Hi. Really depends on your budget. Obviously in the most "desirable" BART locations (Rockridge, North Berkeley, Berkeley), prices and rents are sky-high (and really don't seem to have been affected by the pandemic). One interesting area to consider that's still a little more affordable (relatively speaking!)  is Bushrod: It's sort of between Rockridge and the Berkeley border. Depending on where in Bushrod, it's walkable to either Ashby or Rockridge BART. Part of it is in the Peralta Elementary zone (universally raved about by parents like few other schools I've seen) or Sankofa United. I just moved to an area where Peralta is the neighborhood school (and that was a big reason for choosing that location). I don't know too much about Sankofa except that it recently merged with Kaiser Elementary, so it will be interesting to see what the combined school experience will turn out to be. You probably already know this, but in Oakland, while there is a lottery system for school assignments, your location is one of the top criteria, so you are highly likely to get your "neighborhood school" if that's what you want. That's why I refer to school zones above, but it's not guaranteed.

  • We live in the peninsula and hoping to upgrade to a larger home.  Both of our jobs moved to remote work-from-home with only the expectation of occasional office visit for meetings (not to exceed once a week) after the pandemic is over, so we are seriously considering moving to the east bay to be able to upgrade and purchase a much larger home than our current one for a lower purchase price.  Even though commuting to the peninsula will be painful, a once a week at most commute seems doable and worth it to get more space.  But picking a city has been overwhelming.  We have elementary aged kids and so a high rated public school that is strongly focused on academics is a top priority for us (since that's what we have now).  We would love if the schools have after care centers in them or walking distance from them, but can work around it since we will be working from home most days.  We are hoping for a place that is close to walking trails and/or state parks so there is place to take a walk and get exercise, a place where the kids can play and ride bikes in the community, a place with low crime rate that feels safe, and one that would be good to raise kids in.  Something that feels like San Carlos but with a lower price range.  Reasonable commute to peninsula or SF will be nice, but we already know the commute will be hard and are willing to put up with it once a week to get our kids a larger backyard and more comfortable home.  So far we have considered Walnut Creek and Danville areas, but not sure if there are other good places to raise kids in the East Bay that we should be looking at. 

    Berkeley has every element you're looking for! Good schools with high educated and motivated teachers, a real feeling of community, high on the enrichment, diversity, and walk scale, too!

    Every Ivy League school sends its recruiters to Berkeley High.

    Most neighborhoods are very safe.

    Don't know if it's cheaper than San Carlos, though.

    Walnut Creek and Danville are good choices and you are close to hiking trails.  But if your top priority is schools in order you will want Orinda followed by Moraga and Lafayette.  All three have low crime rates and are considered they best most desirable neighborhoods in the Easy Bay,  Orinda is surrounded by parks with hiking trails as is Moraga.  Downtown Lafayette and Walnut Creek have many nice restaurants and shops.  Not sure if you are going to like the commute.  Pre-covid you are looking at a travel time of 2 hrs each way.  You might want to take a look at Alamo and Diablo.  Much more desirable than Walnut Creek or Danville.  And you might want to take a look at Pleasanton.

    Alameda! Super walkable community with great schools and easy commute to SF via the ferry. Much more like San Carlos than further out in the East Bay, but not sure Alameda is really all that much cheaper than San Carlos.

  • Commuting to hillsborough - where to live?

    (3 replies)

    hi bpn

    I haven't been living full time in the bay for over 10 years so i am out of the loop with how it has changed. how is san leandro? san bruno? sunset district in sf also an option, potentially. 



    (north berkeley born & raised, living in NYC for the past 10 years) 

    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!

    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.

    If your desire is to live within a 40 min commute of Hillsborough it's going to be a question of affordability and commute hours.  Getting across the SM Bridge during commute hours, (6am-10, 2:30-7) is typically going to be an hour or more from SL.  An additional 30 or 45 for Berkeley and more for El Cerrito.   Sunset down 280 IDK, but I would think wouldn't be that bad. 
    I would suggest looking at Google Maps or Waze to see what traffic is like. Since you haven't been here for 10 years are have you looked into house costs?

    I have a co-worker (no kids) who lives in Millbrae and really likes it.  And others who live in Montera (with kids) who really like it.  You might look in Half Moon Bay as well.

    Best of luck.  And prepare yourself for Bay Area traffic.

  • We are relocating to the Bay area this coming Fall for job opportunities in Silicon Valley. We don't know the area at all and need to find a rental that would be suitable for a family of five plus a dog. We also want to keep the kids involved in competitive hockey. AND we need to find a home big enough to host out-of-town guests.

    We are looking for recommendations on family-friendly, diverse neighborhoods with good public schools (K-5, 6-8, 9-12) and a good hockey club nearby.

    We are used to commuting to work via public transit as long as the trip doesn't exceed half an hour to 45 minutes.

    It would also be helpful if someone can give us a sense of the cost of renting versus the cost of buying a home.

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

    I would HIGHLY recommend you look into San Ramon/Danville/Pleasanton since your kids are into competitive hockey. I have a friend who coaches there, they have a great rink. Housing is less than the Silicon Valley, and the schools are excellent. 

    If you are intent on staying in the San Jose area I have a friend who is a hockey player/referee in that area. He plays at Sharks Stadium. Let me know if you would like an introduction.  

    We're in 95119 zip code in San Jose.  Library in walking distance, cabana pool, sushi&Thai, pizza&fastfood, RiteAId.  3 grocery stores within 2 miles.  My neighbor has all three kids in competitive hockey.  They do both ice and roller and have some travel, to the midwest, Socal, and Southwest.  Eldest is now senior in HS, been playing since he was itty.  Youngest is 2nd grade, also playing since she was itty.

    So that you can do some extrapolation, the median sale price in San Jose is $589/sq ft, in Danville is $478/sq ft, San Ramon is $472/sq ft, and Pleasanton is $498/sq ft. 

    For what you're looking for, I'd guess you'd be at minimum $4000/month rent.

  • Hi Everyone - 

    My family is considering a move to the area and need advice.  Some background on me:  I grew up in Santa Cruz and so I'm familiar with CA, but my knowledge of the area is quite dated (and limited in scope, given that I was teenager/young adult when I moved to DC).  Growing up, I always felt I belonged on the East Coast (I love the seasons, the architecture, the history and, at the time, envisioned a career in international affairs).  Well, my career has taken a new direction and it's now my husband's turn to follow the job of his dreams - at Stanford.  We've talked about moving before, but dreamed of a location that would be lower stress, require less time in the car, and give us more value for our money.  I don't think the Bay Area really fits the bill very well in terms of these factors (I would love dissenting views on this!), so I'm feeling apprehensive about the move and need your advice/perspective.

    Schools:  My kids just changed schools this fall and I worry about adding more transitions to their lives.  They are in private school right now.  In DC, most private schools run from PK-12.  Based on some preliminary internet searching, it looks like there aren't any co-ed private schools in the Bay Area that cover this grade range.  Is that true?  I would love to hear if there are K-12 private schools you could recommend.  In DC (as in the Bay Area, I expect) getting admitted to a private school, even in the early grades, is kind of a big ordeal (testing, interviews, etc.) and I would rather not have to do this again multiple times for elementary, junior high and then high school.  We've been very fortunate here in DC to find a progressive school that develops the whole person and places as much emphasis on art, music, drama, etc. as it does on traditional subjects (with almost no emphasis on testing).  There are a number of different reasons for preferring the private school route, but small class sizes and an emphasis on letting kids try new things without fear of failure are key to us.  Our kids are highly motivated, but we are not interested in pressure-cooker schools.  

    Housing:  I looked at Zillow and my jaw dropped at the price of housing (I thought DC was expensive!)....We are looking for a safe, walkable area with a community feel and prefer 3-4 bedrooms plus some yard space (I love to garden).  My husband plans to bike to work (he currently does that here in DC), so we would need to place ourselves where he could safely bike to Stanford (assuming that exists).  We will have a car, but strongly prefer to avoid long commutes in the car.  Based on what I see online, this is a pipe dream for under $2M, but I would love to hear otherwise!  

    Stress:  How intense of an environment should we expect?  One thing I've noticed is that while DC parents are intense about their own jobs, they are comparatively mellow about their kids.  No one has tutors in elementary school, for instance, and kids can play on a soccer team even if they aren't particularly good.  By contrast, my friends in SoCal say their kids are under intense pressure to succeed at very early ages, academically and otherwise.  Where does the Bay Area sit on the spectrum?

    The communities within a short biking distance to Stanford are very expensive. I don't think you'd find much in terms of housing under $2M that didn't need a lot of work. However, there are some more "affordable" pockets within Redwood City which wouldn't be too far from Stanford. What I'd recommend is looking further south in San Jose. Not an ideal biking commute, but your husband could bike to/from the train station which is close to Stanford. Stanford also has a Commute Club where he could carpool with others in his neighborhood. As far as progressive K-12 private schools, I don't have a lot of information there except that I'd highly recommend the Discovery Charter Schools (both in San Jose -- one in the Moreland SD, the other in SJ Unified). They are K-8 schools with small classroom size, progressive, enrichment courses, and highly encourage kids to take risks and approach problems in different ways. Kids learn at their own pace, and is homework is minimal and doesn't start until the upper grades. One caveat though is it's a parent participation school so can be challenging if both parents work full time. Here's the link for more info: http://www.discoveryk8.org. Also, I'd encourage you to look at other public schools. While many on the Peninsula are hyper-focused on grades and have intense pressure, several school districts are starting to adopt no homework policies and some have smaller class sizes. Most of the K-12 private schools I'm familiar with are academically intense and a bit homogenizing as far as ways to approach learning, so I'd love to hear what others say about options there.

    I'm sorry, but this is not going to provide any happy answers. Unless you have a very huge pile of cash somewhere, you won't be able to buy a place within biking distance of Stanford. Traffic is horrible everywhere. Rents are incredibly expensive. Your only option that would allow biking to work might be housing through the university assuming your husband is eligible for that benefit. It is hard to convey to people just how expensive it has gotten to live here and how terrible the traffic can be. And there is a lot of stress here, especially the microclimate around Stanford and Palo Alto, reflected tragically by a number of teen suicides on the train tracks over the past decade in Palo Alto. But hey, the weather is great and there are good restaurants (although they sometimes close because they can't find staff because it is so expensive here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/19/technology/how-tech-companies-disrupte...). I wish I had better news.

    Congrats on the upcoming move!  

    As you know, CA is generally much more laid back than the East Coast (or so I've heard, I've never lived outside of CA).  If you haven't been back in a while, you should know that the Peninsula is nothing like it used to be - the orchards and cows have been replaced by houses and office parks, people in the South Bay cherish fancy cars (almost like LA), and people actually want to live in Mountain View!  It is still gorgeous though but it is all a bit bizarre for those of us who grew up in the Bay and witnessed the change... 

    A few thoughts...

    Schools: If you live in Palo Alto, certain parts of Menlo Park, or Los Altos, you should really take advantage of the public school system.  The districts are very well funded and have strong academics with dedicated parents.  The curriculum may be a bit more traditional than what you have now but there will be plenty of arts, music, and other extracurriculars (even the less well funded public schools I know include gardening and yoga in the lower school experience).  Plus, saving money on private school can help free up some money for a house.  As for K-12 private schools there are a few in the Bay Area (for example, Head-Royce in Oakland is co-ed, K-12) but I'm not as familiar with the peninsula options.  Yes, the private schools will have testing and interviews and other admissions criteria that obviously don't apply to public school students - the intensity of those will vary by age more than anything.   

    Housing - Yes, its pricey (welcome back!) and the peninsula is particularly insane.  $2M generally buys a 1500sft fixer in Palo Alto (or, in some cases, complete tear down).  I would try to work with the University to see if your family is eligible for any housing subsidies, I know Stanford offers them for certain roles.  If that fails, rent while you dip your toes in the water.  I think it is great that you plan to prioritize a bike commute into your housing decision - it may mean you need to settle for a smaller house, or smaller yard, slightly less "desirable" neighborhood, but commute traffic throughout the entire Bay Area has reached crisis mode and Palo Alto is a wonderful place to bike.  Plus biking to work saves time, money, sanity, the environment, and improves health!  

    Stress: I'd say people here are intense about their jobs but equally intense about their lives outside of their jobs.  So if you like to bike, hike, surf, volunteer, etc., there is a crowd for you!  As for children, there will always be parents who are competitive with their children.  Peninsula students may have a bit more pressure to succeed academically; the Bay Area is a pretty intellectual/academic community and sitting in the shadows of Stanford and other extremely successful one-in-a-million entrepreneurs/startups compounds this.  But you can control for the stress by setting your own expectations with your children and teaching them to filter out the noise (because that's all it really is).      

    Just take a deep breath, get your true priorities in line first to enable you to make the best decisions!  Best of luck!  Everything will be fine.  


    Welcome to the Bay Area!

    As a parent of a student just graduated from K-12 private school, I strongly recommend the Harker Shcool. It's a co-ed and rated #2 smartest HS (based on Avg. SAT) in US, My student loves all his teachers and the staff.  He made amazing friends too.

    Good Luck!


    Hi there. I lived in DC for 10 years, in Gtown and on the Hill, and now I live in the East Bay. To respond to a few of your many concerns -

    Yes, house prices are WAY more expensive in the Bay Area. Zillow is accurate. Contact a few Realtors immediately and get an accurate picture of areas and what's available and also how much you'll have to bid over to win a property. You will probably downsize - but in a few years, your house is highly, highly likely to be worth much more than when you bought it. The economy here is dramatically better than in DC - and it's pretty stable in DC.

    Stanford (and nearby) is a very exciting and dynamic place to live. It's very different in culture than staid DC. I loved my time there, but it is very different here, in ways both good and bad. Traffic is worse than DC, but bike commuting is possible. I didn't find the parents I knew in DC all that mellow about their kids/school ... but it is certainly true that there are many intense parents here and lots of kids do tutoring and Kumon, etc. That said, there are TONS of youth recreational sports leagues -  So no, your kid doesn't need to be an expert to play soccer. (The sports options here in the Bay Area CRUSH DC - this is a sports-lovers paradise - on this one point, there's no comparison.) The reality is that the Stanford/Silicon Valley area is very achievement oriented - but I know plenty of relaxed and lovely parents, so I don't think it's a nightmare. And there are some exceptional opportunities for kids that you won't find around DC.

    Schools - yes, there are K-12 schools in the Bay Area, but I'd consider public school in Stanford. We have several friends whose kids went through the public schools and ended up in Ivy League universities. They're good schools. I don't know that you'll find them any more pressure-cooker than private - in fact I'd say they're LESS. My son is in a public school with a rep for intensity, but I (a product of K-12 Bay Area private school) don't find it intense at all. You will find yourself supplementing public schools with sports and arts however.

    Speaking for our family, while there is much that we adore about the Bay Area, the stress and expense makes it not a great choice for raising a family. I'm a native, and I still feel that way. DC was just an easier life. But it's hard to beat the beauty - mountains and beaches, skiing and surf, the adventures you find in the West, the space and lack of crowds just 20 mins out of the Bay Area, and the very very exciting culture of innovation and entrepreneurial opportunity.

    Hi, wish I could offer you a dissenting opinion on any of your concerns/fears; alas, they are all spot-on. Some of your questions were phrased in terms of "the Bay Area"; I'd suggest that in almost every area you mention in a negative light, Palo Alto is really "ever so much more so". Housing prices, crowding/traffic, pressure, etc. the one area you might be wrong is in terms of schooling; there are plenty of private schools that span K-12. Then again, Palo Alto is considered to have good public schools (part of the reason housing is even higher there), so not sure why you'd feel private is necessary. Whatever you decide, good luck with your choice!  

    Without knowing anything about your husbands situation if things are good in DC (your school sounds amazing!) and he can bike to work -- I'm not sure why you are considering this. But here is my two cents: you can prob find like minded parents although where - which school/community - I am not sure. Biking distance to Stanford I'd say 2 million for the size house you want is optimistic. It will not be lower stress than DC. Many families have parents with crazy jobs, mountains of money (think corporate jet to lacrosse tournament) and all that goes with that. It's very different from the east coast (lived on both) and I'd say if what you are looking for is a slower pace, less car time and laid back parents - not sure it is in the communities around Stanford. But the weather is amazing and the physical beauty of the Bay Area is unbeatable. Good luck!

    Stress levels vary quite a bit from community to community. You might want to think about public school because the money you spend for 2 kids in private school could go quite a ways towards house payments. Your husband might want to think about a combination CalTrain/bike commute which would give you a wider variety of choices in terms of communities (i.e. San Mateo which is pretty walkable/family friendly.)

    Many who don't want the craziness and all the pressure attend Peninsula School ( Menlo Park)  to 8th grade and then Sacred Heart in Atherton 

    (  Catholic but even atheists attend due to the preparation & well rounded great reputation & kids going off to Stanford & Berkeley & top schools out east) 

    Yes, housing is crazy but this is a GREAT place to live!! 

    Sacred Heart schools nearby are from PK-12.

    I know you liked the private school but if you can move over to the idea of a public school, you will save so much money.  I was raised in the Palo Alto schools and had my child in the Mountain View elementary school recently for a sabbatical back.  I thought it was pretty good but I would probably try to get into the Los Altos system if we moved back as it seems to me as really good but doesn't have that weird hyper competitive feeling (I believe it is merges with Mountain View district for high school).  For example there is a pocket in Mountain View where the kids go to Los Altos Schools up by San Antonio Rd and El Camino. Trulia is a great resource to pull up either houses for sale or apts for rent and then in the map feature select schools and hover to see the boundaries for a particular elementary school.  You wish list is quite reasonable for most areas but not silicon valley as you know already and you may want to shift you thinking so as to not see it as a negative. For example, we picked an apt with a pool/gym/pingpong etc so although we only had a balcony, we didn't miss an outdoor area as the pool had cabanas and bbq and lots of kids, really it was quite nice. We also move from a large place into a 2bed/2bath and again, strangely were happier than our big house. We spent more time together and were more connected.  And we didn't feel bad because the apt complex was FILLED with families packed into small spaces - high earning highly educated families who also don't have 2 million or maybe not sure what they want to do.  A lot of places offer little garden areas in the common area.

    So with that in mind I noticed a few places if you are willing to think of a different idea. This one is directly behind Whole Foods and has a lot of grounds https://www.trulia.com/property/3246396014-5-Los-Altos-Sq-Los-Altos-CA-9... bike on the back roads to Stanford. Another one that one could walk to shops such as Target or Trader Joes or the train that goes to SF with LA schools https://www.trulia.com/property/3246396014-5-Los-Altos-Sq-Los-Altos-CA-9... This one is in Palo Alto, the advantage to PA is closer to Stanford and that people are more careful about bicyclists than other communities. I almost got hit a few times trying to ride in MV https://www.trulia.com/property/3246396014-5-Los-Altos-Sq-Los-Altos-CA-9... all those are 2 bedrooms. 

    Here is a 3 bedroom which might be a good match, remodeled, in Menlo Park right above Stanford, cheaper than the others (not as close to google/fb) and close to Sacred Heart and excellent public schools.  https://www.trulia.com/property/3245748363-665-Monte-Rosa-Dr-914-Menlo-P... Once I got over the idea that I would be moving back living in an apt which felt at first like a step backwards, I realized how fun it was not just for me (no maintenance) but my kid who LOVED the pool and other kids in the building with other families highly educated great jobs and not ready or can't put aside that kind of money.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


SF or Silicon Valley for a job in Silicon Valley?

June 2016

Hi everyone!

My family lived in SF from 2007 to 2010. We rented a house in inner sunset then, and we're very happy. We then moved to NY, but now we are coming back. My husband will work in Silicon Valley, and we have a 6 yo going on to 1st grade and a 4yo, who's going to her last year of preschool.

Right now we live in a small town 30 min by train from NY. Husband commutes most days (it takes him about 45 min door to door, most part siting on the train where he can work/read). Kids go to public school/co-op preschool. I work from home and stay with them too. Our house is large, big backyard, space for toys, music instruments, guests, etc. big backyard.

Here's our dilemma: should we move to SF or a small suburban town in Silicon Valley? From what I've been looking, on either place we won't be able to afford more than a small 3bedroom house. We'd like the kids to go to a very good public school. We would love to still have some private outdoor space. We would like to live in a safe area. If in SF, close enough to the FB shuttle but not in a very busy/not so safe area like the Mission.

Help? What would you do? In all honesty, it took me three years to adapt to the suburban town we live now and I dread having to start that over. We still have lots of friends in SF. Which neighborhoods in SF and towns in Silicon Valley would you recommend? We are looking for good schools, safety and a diverse community. A vibrant, artistic community would make us feel at home. Would love to hear thoughts/suggestions! Thank you

Move to Silicon Valley. The only way you have any shot at getting a school you will be happy with in SF is to move to a neighborhood you say you won't like, like the mission. You don't sound like you would like living in the city. In the Valley, there are dozens of places you could live with good schools and shorter commutes and go to your neighborhood school (which you cannot do in SF). Woodside, Menlo, San Carlos, Los Gatos, Los Altos, lots of choices. visit the city

I grew up in Silicon Valley and lived for years in SF in several neighborhoods.

For SF, my vote would be Potrero Hill. Lots of families, nice feeling but urban and arty. A local organic store The Good Life and the Whole Foods. Plus nice cafes on 18th and a library. Some of the best views in the city. Sunny neighborhood. Quick to get on the freeways and just a 5-7 minute drive down Townsend to south beach to walk along the water. Oh I guess South Beach is my new favorite but not sure if it is family oriented.

Re small suburban towns of Silicon Valley, that isn't really how I would characterize most of them. That makes them sound less than vibrant bedroom communities and that really isn't the energy of them. The are vibrant filled with some of the smartest people around working on interesting exciting stuff. They don't really play second fiddle to SF.

Personally Mountain View is my favorite, I love its main street Castro. I grew up in Palo Alto which is lovely but maybe a little too pleased with itself. Los Altos is getting more young people and the schools manage to be both great but not where kids are under too much pressure that they seem to have in Palo Alto or Cupertino. Menlo Park is a lot like Los Altos. Redwood City is another option and was traditionally cheaper.

The weather in Silicon Valley is beautiful, low crime, great diversity, smart interesting people doing amazing things, hey it ain't to bad down here! anon

FB Shuttle? Are you writing about Facebook? Then I suggest Fremont. It is just across the bay from Facebook, about an hour on public transit. You can take BART into San Francisco. For the kids, Ardenwood and Coyote Hills regional parks are right there. Anon

Best neighborhood for commute to south bay

Jan 2012

We have lived in north Berkeley for years, but my husband works in the Internet world and there is a good chance that his next job will be on the peninsula. From north Berkeley, that commute is tough. We are committed to staying in the east bay, but we are considering a move to Oakland if it would make his commute easier. I would love to hear people's opinions about where we might look - if you commute to the south bay, do you like your neighborhood, and what's your commute like? Oh, a neighborhood with lots of kids would be great. Thanks for the suggestions! M in Berkeley

How far south are you willing to go? Fremont Ardenwood district would fit your bill, if you can go that far south. Close to Dumbarton bridge. Getting from Oakland and points nearby down I-880 to the San Mateo or Dumbarton Bridge will have you wishing you moved all the way to the peninsula... Driver's Ed

I suppose it depends on your tolerance for sitting in traffic every day! I live in Montclair and have worked in tech in the south bay for five years -- four in Belmont, and the last year in Mountain View. Montclair is a family- friendly neighborhood with good schools and easy access to Highway 13, which can take you to 580 and then on to 880, or to 24 and then 880 (this route tends to get bigger backups than going on 13 south). My commute to Belmont was 40-60 minutes, with most of the backup occurring at the interchange of 92 and 101 South in the mornings, and 92/880 in the evenings.

At best, my current drive to Mountain View is 50 minutes, but that's at very early or late times of day (leaving well before 6:30 a.m. and after 7:30 p.m.). Otherwise it's anywhere from 60 - 120 minutes, but most frequently about 85-90 minutes to get home. I try to leave work by 4:15 most days to avoid the worst of it and finish up my work at home. The most congested portion is 880 South in the morning, North in the evening.

Frankly, I'm sick of the drive and would love to find a job in SF or the East Bay. But some people do it for years and don't mind it. I'd consider a very fuel-efficient car if you're going to knowingly sign up for a commute like this, unless you like filling your tank a lot. I estimate it costs me about $20 a day in gas and tolls to commute with a Subaru Forester. Or join a car pool, or get a job for a company that provides shuttles to work (Google and Genentech both have this). But know that the shuttle doesn't always save time; you can work on the bus which is nice, but you're still sitting on the highway in traffic for about 3 hours a day, and usually have to drive to the shuttle pick-up spots.

Commute aside, I love living in Montclair, and to me it's worth it to stay somewhere with nature and a farmer's market rather than moving further south to the more 'suburban' towns. You could also think about Alameda, but I'm not sure it'd improve the East Bay portion of the commute that much. The schools there are great though.

Aiming for a company in the peninsula (Belmont, Redwood City, San Mateo) rather than further south (Mtn View, Menlo Park, Cupertino, etc) -- with easy access to 101 -- might shave a nice chunk of time off. Or consider some of the tech companies in Fremont. Good luck! worn-out ultra commuter

My husband commutes to the south bay (Santa Clara) off of 237 from our neighborhood in Oakland (Crocker Highlands ). We have a number of neighbors who commute down there (Mountain View, Sunnyvale, etc) as well. Our experience has been to expect about an hour+ commute each way. My husband leaves at 6:30am to try to beat the rush and can get down there in about 50 min. but always hits traffic around the San Mateo bridge and the entrance to 237.

Crocker Highlands is a wonderful neighborhood conveniently located right off of 580 (Lakeshore exit). There are stores, restaurants, a Traders Joes, etc. within walking distance. We also have a weekly farmer's market that the entire family enjoys. Lastly, the elementary school is rated one of the best in Oakland. However, I would caution anyone looking into buying a home in the area the impact the recent school closures (specifically Lakeview elementary) may have on Crocker Elementary. As Oakland is looking to expand school boundaries, there is a small chance that the school may not be able to accommodate all the children in the neighborhood, similar to what happened in Hillcrest.

Hope this is helpful. happy crocker family

My family is in the South Bay, we work in the East Bay

May 2010

I know this question has been asked a million times, and I have combed the archives, but I'm hoping a few people will be able to give some suggestions on my specific criteria. My husband and I have a 2-year-old, and jobs in Oakland and Richmond. Our top criteria are:
1. Good public schools
2. Short commutes (30 minutes or less)
3. Proximity/easy access to regional parks
4. Family friendly neighborhood
5. Prefer peace & quiet & nature over urban setting
6. We'd like a 3-, or preferably, 4-bedroom house

The final kicker is that my family, which helps out with the toddler sometimes, is in the South Bay, and we'd really like to be below the maze for that reason. I lived in El Cerrito for a couple of years, and while it's a great town, it made it very difficult to get down to the South Bay at times. However, if our (pipe?) dream neighborhood is above the maze, so be it. Any thoughts? happy to be househunting

You have described Alameda perfectly. We are walking distance to great schools, the beach, movie theaters and lots of coffee shops. It is very, very much a community feeling yet has many of the desirable aspects of suburban life. Lots and lots of fantastic parks (I use to drive her for the parks/playgrounds when I was 20 minutes away.) We love it and can't say enough about it. Alameda has the reputation of being faraway but it actually takes me LESS time to get into the city. Good luck with your move. lovin' la vida Alameda

Albany meets all of your criteria perfectly, except that it is above the maze. I think Piedmont would too, but it's pricier. Albany mom

I'm a realtor with an urban planning and environmental analysis background, so spend a lot of time mulling the short commute/good neighborhood/good schools equation. I LOVE Rockridge for its quick commutes (including a reverse commute on I-80, the meanest of the commuter freeways), and lots of usable public transit commute options (BART to downtown Oakland and SF, casual carpool to downtown SF). Chabot and Peralta Elementary schools are fantastic, and Claremont Middle School is strong. A bit higher in the hills ('upper Rockridge'/'Claremont Pines' neighborhoods) are good elementary and middle schools. Crocker Highlands, Glenview, Oakmont and Montclair are other Oakland neighborhoods with good public elementary schools. Piedmont is in a prime location, though the public transportation options (for commutes) are more limited than in Rockridge. Home prices are higher than in Oakland but your kids can stay in Piedmont public schools through high school, and get into good colleges - well worth the premium house prices. Berkeley is another place to think of, but enough detail for now...! I can give you more specific reference material and infirmation if you'd like it. Email me if so. Lucy

Although there are several very lovely Oakland neighborhoods along the 580 and 13 freeways, I think they wouldn't work for the South Bay commute. Here's the thing: we live in northern San Leandro near the 580, and the only time my husband makes it to work in Sunnyvale within 40 minutes is at noon or midnight. On a good day with a commuting buddy he can make it a bit under an hour, but generally it's a 60-70 minute drive. (If your South Bay commute is to Santa Clara, Foster City or Palo Alto you might be able to knock 10-15 minutes off of that time.) If you were to live further north (Rockridge, Temescal, even the Laurel District), this would only get worse.

I dearly miss living in Oakland, but we found it was simply not a viable option with the South Bay commute. As for driving north, I can't recall which city you wanted to commute to, but in zero traffic it takes me 15 minutes to get to Emeryville; if you add in a drive north of the maze, well, I expect you're looking at a 25-30 minute drive in zero traffic and a 35-45 minute commute in traffic. To even out the commute you might consider living further south in San Leandro near where the 580 and the 238 meet. There aren't really any 'neighborhoods' down that way, though, just general suburban sprawl.

Your other option is to find a place along the 880 corridor. For this, I'd like to second the recommendations for Alameda . My husband and I would move there in a hot second if we weren't committed to keeping our son in the local school district for a couple more years. I'm not actually sure how long it would take to get to the South Bay from Alameda (though I'd suggest living in the Southwest quadrant of the island, and driving the back way past the airport before hopping on 880), but I suspect the commute would be similar to our San Leandro one. If you were looking to keep both commutes truly equidistant, your best bet would probably be Southwest San Leandro or San Lorenzo, but again those are not areas that appeal to me. My personal preference would be for Alameda, just because it's such a lovely place with great restaurants, stores, coffeehouses, and people. - Alameda fan

Wife works in Richmond, husband works in Sunnyvale

Feb 2010

Ask for your suggestions and opinions! I work at Richmond and my husband works at Sunnyvale. We both like our jobs and we have a kid! Now I have to make a decision where we should live and this really cause me a headache!! I want to buy a house or a townhouse and live there for at least 5 years as I've moved too many times and I really hate it. I just moved from other states so I don't know much about bay area. Here is something in my mind:
1) the place is better within 30 min driving from Marina Bay,Richmond (where I work).
2) Safe area, family and kids friendly and public elementary school is fine--may be not a great school but at least is a good school.
3) better to have some Asian families in that area. (I am a Chinese)
4) the house is better within 30 years old but could be within 50 years
5) our budget is $800,000
Is there a place like what I described or I am just dreaming? thank you! Eve

We live in Richmond View (Also called Mira Vista neighborhood)...It's East Richmond unincorporated county. The local school is Mira Vista Elementary School...Some things about MV are fabulous, and it has it's problems like most of our public schools. My kids went to MV in younger years adn you can't ask for more dedicated wonderful teachers. Next year MV will start a 7th grade class and the next year 8th grade so ultimately it'll be K- 8. We're about a 10-15 minute drive from Richmond Marina. Up the hill from 80. Close to Del Norte BArt. This neighborhood is older...houses built mostly in late 40's and on. Great mix of ages, cultures, lots of kids around. I know all of my immediate neighbors. Houses range anywhere from $400-$650,000 or so. We've been in our house for about 21 years and are very happy here. Feel free to e-mail me for more info too, Good luck. Tough decision.

Albany is an easy drive to Marina Bay, though it's not easy to Sunnyvale! And (for California), the public schools are good. R.K.

Sunnyvale and Richmond are at the opposite ends of the Bay Area. Commuting from the East Bay (Richmond, Berkeley, Oakland) to the West Bay is an arduous process. Although you are looking to buy, it might be a good idea to rent for a year or two, and see if you can end up with jobs that are closer together. You might consider Fremont -- it has decent schools, although you both would have long commutes from there (about 45 min each.) I commuted from Berkeley to Newark for a couple of years, and if I left very early in the morning it took 35 min; I also commuted from Oakland to San Jose (about the distance to Sunnyvale) and that took about 75 min. One of you could combine transit with leaving a junker car at one end which would reduce the stress a little. work and live in the same town now

It sounds like Albany could be a good fit for you. It fits most of your criteria:
- Very close to Richmond (far from Sunnyvale, though) - Safe area, family and kid-friendly, great public schools - Plenty of Asian families (and mixed families, too) - Plenty of houses for $800,000 or under (nothing huge, but plenty of room for a family of 3)
The only thing that would be tough to find in Albany is a newer house... many of the houses are older, but many of them have also been partially or totally remodeled in recent decades. Good luck with your search! Happy Albany Resident

the Mira Vista neighborhood, also called Richmond Heights, is a lovely place to live. We are a cohesive neighborhood with neighborhood meetings and care about the area. It is close to highway 80, close to Del Norte Bart, and close to numerous AC transit bus lines. We also have a small dog park below Mira Vista school that is fabulous. Sandra

Wife works in Oakland, husband works in Hillsborough

Dec 2009

We are moving up from Los Angeles. I will be working in Oakland and my husband might be working in Hillsborough. Our daughter will most likely go to daycare near my job. We would like to take BART. Ideally, we want to be in or close to San Francisco but we are open to suggestions. We don't have high incomes, so a lot of SF is out of our range. Pam

I highly recommend Alameda . It is close to BART and also to the freeway (#880) going either to SF or Hillsborough. I have lived here for 22 years, raised my kids here and have found it to be a wonderful community. good luck!

Welcome to the Bay Area! Lots to consider. I recommend that you look FAR beyond day care when considering where to live. If you plan to go to private schools later on and have the means, you can chose your community without regard to public schools. If you plan to go public, that should be the driver of where you decide to live. There is good day care and preschool everywhere. Public schools - ALL THE WAY THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL, need to be considered before you settle. You build your friends and community through the families you will meet at day care and preschool/elementary. You do not want to move again once those important networks are in place. You will find yourself deciding between moving to an area with a public high school you like - and severing ties with wonderful freinds, or staying put and shelling out for private. You don't want to end up in that position. We live in Berkeley.

Public schools are very good, some of them excellent. The High School is world class. There are also many private schools in the area. I know there are many good public schools in Oakland but you have to get comfortable with every school in your child's path. Skyline High I believe is considered the ''best'' public high school in Oalkand.

Figure out what the catchment area is for that High School and what the elementaries are that feed into it. Pick your favorite elementary among them and check out housing in that school's area. On the other side of the Bay, I am not very familiar. I am sure there are quite a few districts/communities with good schools, but housing prices can be very high. I used to live in an SF neighborhood called ''Dolores Heights''. It's above the Mission, below Noe Vally. I have NO IDEA about the schools, but it's cheaper than some areas around it, has the BEST weather in SF (protected to the West by big hills that block the fog) and has all the best SF can offer - great food, views, a very diverse community, and an urban vibe without an edge. Good luck. Happy in Berkeley

If you want to live on the Peninsula side, the cities that are close to BART are Millbrae, San Bruno, and South San Francisco and Daly City. They have easy access into San Francisco. In the East Bay, you may want to consider Castro Valley, Alameda, or Berkeley. I work in real estate so if you have question on locations I would be happy to try and answer any questions. Good luck. WC