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

Parent Q&A

  • 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.

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