Living in Silicon Valley

Parent Q&A

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  • A friend is likely being transferred for a job from NYC to Palo Alto. She doesn't know anything about the area and wants to know where to begin to figure out the best neighborhoods to live and for schooling, etc. She has a kindergartener and is looking a public school.

    If anyone has any experiences with the Palo Alto (or surrounding cities) school district, or has resources on how to figure it out please pass along. Also, any general resources for parent groups, to find housing or anything else that might be useful?

    Thank you in advance.

    Palo Alto Weekly online.   Their website is   Should be generally useful.

    There is a Parents' Club of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, which is a great resource to learn more about the area from current moms.  In terms of schools, it all depends on which school district she is in and which school she is assigned to.  She can check out the website to see the ranking of the various schools in Palo Alto and then she can work backwards and see where she should look for housing to get into those schools.  If they can afford Palo Alto, Los Altos or Menlo Park those are all great places to leave with good schools.  Mountain View is nearby and also has good schools.  If they cannot, other areas with good schools that are less expensive are San Carlos and Belmont.   It will require commute to Palo Alto, but the schools are good and the commute is manageable.  Hopefully others will have further suggestions as to cities to check out. 

  • This is kind of sudden but we need to move to bayarea for work. Our office will be in mountainview and want to live not too far from there. I have a 7th grader and kindergartner. i understand that schools have already started. my kids go to private school here and i only know of harker in bay area. we are open to good public school choices and want information on palo alto vs los gatos. need to decide housing accordingly. also not all palo alto schools have been rated good. so how do i choose?

    Welcome to the neighborhood! Both my husband and I work in Mountain View and live on the Mountain View/Los Altos border but our son attends Los Altos schools and I can honestly not say enough good things about it. Our son is 7 and started there in Kinder (after a play-based preschool experience), the kinder had 17 with a full time teacher and full time aid. Additionally, they offer PE (2x per week), Art (1 x per week), STEM (1x per week), library (1x per week) and music (1x per week) all with dedicated staff who is hired for this particular subject. The amount of enrichment activities that they provide is better than a lot of the private schools we considered and we love Los Altos' neighborhood school commitment as it means my son has made a ton of friends within our little neighborhood. His first grade class only had 19 and this year his 2nd grade has 21. 

    Since you mentioned enrolling in the middle of a year, another benefit is that Los Altos schools aren't crowded (like many MV and PA schools are) plus, we have found that our school community is AWESOME and super involved. It would not be a problem to enroll in any LASD schools at anytime during the year. I will say one turn off for us personally was that it is definitely a wealthy public school system (i.e. not a single child in our school has free/reduced lunch, parent driven field trips included 5 Teslas and an Escalade) so it does sometimes give our child a very unrealistic view of the world. We really want him to understand that this area we live in is not the norm and he is beyond lucky to be gaining these amazing experiences. However, I do feel that the level of diversity in the schools are exceptional and our son has friends from around the world who have shared their cultures within the classroom which has been awesome for our family. 

    The last thing I would say is consider your commute, both PA and LG schools are great as well but the commute (even just a few miles) can be TREACHEROUS! We started off commuting from Willow Glen (near LG) and our commute could be up to 1 hour in the morning and evening. Our house we rent now is smaller but I don't care as my sanity and family time is totally worth it. 

    No matter where you choose I am sure you will find a great experience as I think all of our school systems in the Valley are pretty spectacular. 

    Let me know if you want more info or have specific questions and good luck! 

    Not too familiar with Palo Alto schools but I grew up in Los Gatos and went to public schools from elementary through high school (Dave’s Avenue , Fisher Middle School, Los Gatos High). The public schools are all fantastic and nationally ranked. Los Gatos is also know for sports excellence if you are interested in that aspect. If you are looking for private options, Hillbrook in Los Gatos is great (JK-8th) — my BFFs mom taught there for 20 years and then went to Harker before she retired (also a great school). For private high schools — Saint Francis (co-ed, Mountain View), Bellarmine (boys only, northwest San Jose) and Castilleja (girls only, Palo Alto) — are all fantastic options. Kids travel from all over the Peninsula to attend these schools. 

    One thing to note — traffic in the Bay Area is no joke. Rush hour commute from Los Gatos to Mountain View can take 1hour on average — so be mindful of that as you consider options. Happy to chat if you have more questions! Good luck!!

    I would second the comments on the commute from Los Gatos to MV.  Avoid it.  Besides, you'll find LG is just far from everything.

    I grew up in PA schools, but lived in MV as an adult and sent my child went to Huff for a few years. It's a top rated MV school (I think Huff & Bubb are their top schools) and I thought it was just fine. There was NOTHING spectacular about it at all but fine. I would be very wary of those ratings. Any school in PA will be fine too. Good ratings reflect a lot of things and not all of it has to do with the school or teachers. PA schools along with Cupertino are a little too much into those ratings. Too much pressure on students, parents pushing too hard, overly ambitious 9 year old kids, lots of brilliant kids who dazzle teachers.

    I agree the person who recommended Los Altos. When I was planning our move back to MV for a few years and trying to figure out the best school, I spoke to people at the school district offices for PA, MV, Cupertino and Los Altos. The Los Altos office was by far the nicest, with friendly helpful attitude. PA and Cupertino very much had attitudes like you are lucky just to talk to us (which was true, it was impossible to get a hold of anyone and took me a week just to speak to a live person at the Cupertino district). Now that doesn't mean much for the class room I suppose but it was an indication to me of the organization, lack of chaos, overall attitude of a school district.  Anything in LA should be fine. You could also consider Cherry Chase in Sunnyvale. 

    If I were you, I would just start like I did, calling each school district and finding out which of their schools has room in the kindergartens and in 7th grade.  You are lucky because the school year has already started, so they know that info now.  Next, you figure out which of these elementary schools with the kindergarten opening is close to a middle school with an opening. Then you look at the neighborhoods that would work for the schools and see if you like chose neighborhoods. This seems to be the biggest hurdle - do you like, can you afford, and is there a home available in that area?  Use Trulia to see the exact school any home/apt would be assigned assuming there was space.,CA/37.372227638176,37.435159426303,-122.12212397938,-122.0404560793_xy/14_zm/#map-school-elementary-middle-high

    Many of the elementary schools are over crowded, so it is certainly possible to buy a house (or rent an apartment) only to find out your kid can't be fit in to the closest school. They are eligible to transfer in a later year when an opening comes available. There were many students like that at Huff.

    We lived in Palo Alto and while the schools are very highly rated, that's a reflection of parents having their kids in private tutoring and after school educational programs. Many of my coworkers, and friends are in the Los Gatos school system and I see many similarities to the issues we had in Palo Alto. 

    Have you considered Los Altos (not Los Altos Hills). When we were looking to move away from Palo Alto for schools we considered it over Los Gatos. The Los Altos school district had a better math program and seemed friendlier to us. The community is wonderful and we have many friends whose children thrived in Los Altos.

  • My family is contemplating moving to the Bay Area. Hubby will work from home and I'm a stay at home mom. I used to live in San Jose but I've lived in NYC for the past 10 years. I have 2 kids in elementary school. We want to move to a neighborhood with an excellent public school system but also want to get a nice, spacious, modern looking home. I've been looking at Palo Alto and Cupertino but my 2m budget will only buy a small home that is in need of a lot of work. I recently came across Orinda. It seems like I can get a bigger and newer home (compared to Palo Alto and Cupertino) given my budget in a place like Orinda. My question is, how do the Orinda schools compare to Palo Alto or Cupertino? Also, I've seen some posts about Orinda being too materialistic and competitive... NYC is very much like that so I think I can handle it but wondering if other people can elaborate or explain some differences. Other than Palo Alto, Cupertino and Orinda, are there any other neighborhoods that I should consider? TIA.

    Orinda is definitely no more materialistic and competitive than Palo Alto and Cupertino, and it's probably a bit less so. It's also way way more mellow and pretty as a place to raise children. House prices are better, and you're in a fantastic school district. Consider Lafayette too, and possibly Moraga if your husband doesn't need to commute every day. Danville is another area that is wealthy and privileged, but also has charm, community and great schools. But it may be more expensive than Lamorinda - Good luck!

    After living in Oakland for many years we moved to Orinda and couldn't be happier. Schools are ranked #1 in the state, the weather is perfect and basically everyone who lives there also used to live in SF or Berkeley - but also wanted more space and good schools.  

    I have a lot of experience with both areas.  I went to high school on the Peninsula, my sister teaches at Palo Alto High School, and I live in a town next to Orinda.  Given that you don't need to worry about a commute, I would vote for the Orinda area.  The schools are comparable and I believe that the API scores reflect that.  

    The neighborhoods near the Orinda Country Club (Sleepy Hollow Elementary) have some of the highest priced homes in the area and it has a reputation of being pretty snobby.  Hard to generalize - it is an area with a lot of wealth but I do have friends there.  Honestly, it's no different than the Palo Alto area.

    If you are looking for a modern-style home, you may also want to look in Lafayette.  I am specifically thinking about the Happy Valley area.  All of the schools in Lamorinda are good (Lafayette/Orinda/Moraga).   Good luck!

    I live in Lamorinda and although I have not lived in Palo Alto or Cupertino I did work there. I see both populations as being similar.  Yes Orinda is materialistic, competitive, very exclusive and homogeneous but I believe Palo Alto to be the same. The Orinda schools provide a competitive academic environment with many extra curricular opportunities. Like Palo Alto self imposed parent and student academic and social pressure is very high.

    This is quite broad - I wonder what other things might be important, such as ability to walk downtown or weather (Bay Area is a micro climate)  or ethnic community etc.

    Re Cupertino, personally, I would skip it as my impression (having grown up in Palo Alto and spending many years in Mountain View) is that it has that bland, 1960s concrete suburban vibe that is a little deadening and while their schools are highly ranked, kids find them extremely stressful.  Even kids who would be top students at other schools can feel inadequate and discouraged going through the school system.  And Cupertino is expensive too, you'd end up with the same problem as Palo Alto, very little to show for your 2 million.  Of course Palo Alto has a similar reputation for the schools but at least it has a "there there" a little sense of culture.  Personally I would choose Los Altos if deciding between these communities but it is just as expensive.

    Orinda is very pretty but hilly and more isolated. Re if the schools in Orinda are as good as Cupertino, I think they are good enough. I would really caution you about these top schools that are filled with kids from extremely ambitious smart and wealthy families, even if your family is the same.  It is often NOT the best educational experience, sometimes it is more advantageous to be in a quite good but not the top schools. 

    In the East Bay, my favorite city is Walnut Creek. They have done an amazing job with their downtown, just  a charming mixture of walkability, shops and restaurants. It's still able to support a few big department stores which is rare in these suburban cities so it actually has a tiny urban feeling despite being very safe and well, well-off. But more modest than Palo Alto where the entitlement can get annoying.  Go get coffee in Walnut Creek, it would be great to live walking distance of the downtown.

    Have you looked into other Peninsula cities - San Mateo or San Carlos will be a little cheaper than Palo Alto, good schools but aren't as high status.  They also won't have summers as hot as Walnut Creek which you may or may not like. Danville is also supposed to be really nice. Or maybe something in Marin? 

    Your budget will certainly get you more in the East Bay then the Peninsula.   Good luck!

     Do you want to live someplace walkable? Then you would be better off in Palo Alto or San Mateo. If that matters (and it will for your children, eventually) check the walk scores before choosing a place to live.

  • 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: 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: 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 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 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 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. 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


Move from East Bay closer to job at Stanford?

Sept 2015

I love the East Bay, and I've been living in the East Bay commuting to Stanford.... but the commute is becoming unworkable, so I'm thinking about moving. However, rents in Palo Alto are almost certainly beyond my means, so I'm trying to figure out where I could live. Are there places within 1/2 hour of Palo Alto that are not crazy expensive? Good school options are important to me. Rent would probably need to be not more than about 3500/month for a two-bedroom -- would strongly prefer a single-family residence. Is this pie in the sky, or are there places where this is doable? -California dreaming

As far as I know you will have to move to Fremont/Newark/Union City to be within 1/2 hour of Stanford and have reasonable-priced housing and decent schools.. As you no doubt know the traffic across the Dumbarton bridge will be bad. Union City schools were quite good when we lived there up to ten years ago. I think that Fremont school quality depends on the neighborhood. No idea about Newark. $3k per month rents a nice house in a good neighborhood. went back to Oakland

Just curious, but for that rent you could buy a condo in Mountain View or Sunnyvale - have you considered that?

Not sure about single family homes but in case you are also considering apartments, you certainly can get a 2 bedroom apartment in Palo Alto. We just went through this search and moved into a place 2 months ago.

It's actually rather nice way to live if you can get past the 1960s look. Most buildings have pools, gyms, and other stuff, some have a lot of tech families so friends for your kid(s).

The advertised rent varies a lot, they can adjust it daily or weekly depending on supply and demand but in general it is about 15-25% more expensive to sign the lease in the summer than the winter. A few places warned us about this when we flew out in January but weren't planning to sign the lease til July and sure enough it was true, they jack up their prices. But maybe they are starting to drop again.

Craig's list and Trulia were the sites I liked - trulia lets you see what schools are associated with the complex and where cafes and stores are. Some we looked at and liked are Springwood in Los Altos - 2br/2ba with Cupertino Schools (top schools but also very competitive) a trader joes, peets coffee and starbucks right next door and about $3000 per month, shoot down foothill Exwy to Stanford. The Americana in Mountain View decent schools - sometimes Palo Alto and Cupertino districts are best to be avoided as they can be too stressful, half olympic size pool, gym, etc take El Camino to Stanford $3000-3500 per month for a 2br/2ba. Both started at $2700 back in Jan. Another one that is closer is Palo Alto Plaza, actually in Mountain View but right at the border, in the PA school district I believe and next to San Antonio Center, this has one pool and a putting green, you could bike to Stanford from here but this one was more expensive. There were others in PA in midtown and downtown PA that also looked okay and affordable.

If you haven't lived in the south bay/peninsula, it's got more of a sprawling 1950s feel than Berkeley/Oakland but with the emergence of the 'mid century' craze, lots of these buildings almost seem cute again. It's also safer and less crowded than Berkeley and Oakland.

Re cheaper homes to rent, I would look into Redwood City - the neighborhoods that closer to Alameda De Las Pulgas which takes you to Stanford - I have no idea how crowded that gets during commute hours but RWC tends to be less expensive than PA or MP. anon

Moving to the Bay Area for a job in Palo Alto

Feb 2013

We are moving to the Bay Area from L.A. in a couple of months are are looking for recommendations for what cities/areas to look at. My husband's job is in Palo Alto, but he is willing to commute 45 minutes or so.

Our priorities are:
-Good schools. We would be willing to pay more for housing if the public schools are good K-12. We have a kindergartner and a 4th grader. But if the housing is cheaper and we like the neighborhood but not the public school, we could go the private school route.
-Walkability, proximity to shops, restaurants, parks, family-friendly things to do, etc.
-A place where we can rent a house or something house-like
There are so many parts of the Bay Area to look at that I'm not even sure where to start. East Bay? Peninsula? SF? Any recommendations or opinions? Kate

Palo Alto has some of the best public schools in California, so there's really no need to consider other areas if you can afford to live there and your husband's job is there. It sounds like everything you're looking for. Check out for more research. Good luck!

Living in Mountain View or Menlo Park

April 2011

We're considering a move to the Peninsula from Berkeley. We want to be as close as possible to work - aka the Stanford campus. Palo Alto seems unaffordable, but there are a couple of areas in Menlo Park and Mountain View that seem more affordable and perfectly nice. Yet, when we mention Mountain View or certain neighborhoods of Menlo Park to people we know who are from the Peninsula, they crinkle their brows. We ask why not, but no one will elaborate on why we shouldn't live there.

We are most interested in Monta Loma in Mountain View, and the Willows in Menlo Park. Other areas we are considering in Mountain View are Rex Manor, Jackson Park, Old Mountain View, and Cuesta Park. In Menlo Park, we are also looking at Stone Pine Lane (Park Forest area), but it makes us a little nervous because of the proximity to the train tracks. Any specific input about why we should or shouldn't live in these areas would be much appreciated. Neighborhood schools are not an issue for us since we want to send our kids to ISTP (bilingual private school). We're open to other suggestions of places to live, but again, we don't want to be more than 20 minutes by bike or car from ISTP or Stanford.

We are looking for a nice, safe, family neighborhood with friendly people of diverse backgrounds, lots of trees and good parks. Thanks in advance for your helpful advice. -flying south

I lived in Palo Alto for 13 years, and just moved over here less than a year ago. I know exactly what you're describing re people's reactions.

If you are looking to buy a home, Palo Alto will be astronomical prices! And IMO, so not worth it! Everyone wants to live in Palo Alto since Steve Jobs and others like one of the Google founders live there, to name a few. There is a LOT of money in the Peninsula, so where you live kinda sends a message about where you fit on the food chain. My conclusion is that some people consider Menlo Park and Mountain View as 'low rent' for the area. Especially Mountain View. (I also used to live in Mountain View for 2 years.)

If you are looking to rent (a GREAT option), you could probably find a home for a decent price in Palo Alto. I truly loved living in Palo Alto and that area in general because of the great weather, close to the ocean, trees, relaxed attitude... I didn't care for Mountain View because there are lots of areas where the streets are 4-6 lanes and I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. Menlo Park is very pleasant, and you'd be closer to University Ave in Palo Alto where all the cute stores are.

Email me if you have more questions.... Cynthia

Maybe Mountain View is too racially and culturally diverse (mostly different types of Asian/South Asian) for your friends, or maybe the housing is too dense. I find the downtown quite charming, and it has a very large farmer's market on the weekend at the train station. The city government functions reasonably well. I don't know much about Menlo Park. Are you planning to rent or buy? If you rent you can try out Mountain View or Menlo Park before making a long term decision. anon

I loved living in Mtn View (10 years). I grew up in PA and worked in Menlo Park so I am familiar with them. After 12 years living in SF & Oakland I moved back down to the pennisula to MV and LOVED it.

People who have been around the bayarea for a long time have an old out-dated idea of MV as I did from growing up in PA. But I found it a wonderful lovely calm diversified place to live without the attitude of PA (and possibly MP), & wo the crime & crowded feeling of SF & Oakland. I really don't like going into PA now as cute as the downtown is, I always notice this strange vibe like everyone is hyper aware of how great and successful they are and there is a pushy sense entitlement too (sorry if I offended anyone but one visit to downtown Whole Foods & you will see what I mean). It depresses me. I don't notice that attitude in MV.

My favorite neighborhood in MV is old MV of course but since google went public it can be really competitive to get a place but it is ideal nice new library, nice cafes, farmers market etc. I don't like Monta Loma so much - just personal preference, not a big fan of Eichler style homes. Cuesta is nice, it does have a total ranch suburban feeling but there are worse things than trees and safety:-) I personally wouldn't live in Rex Manor or Jackson Park, I just find those areas depressing. I lived near Sylvan Park - benefits are it has superquick access to hwys 85 & 237 and from their you can get everywhere. It also a quick bike ride to downtown (via backroad East Dana which goes over the freeways). Do you want a home on a regular lot or have you considered detached home on a small lot in a development (or townhome) - you could check out The Crossing down near San Antonio Rd - easy walking to lots of shops like trader joes and quick bike ride downtown (btw there is an underpass under Shorline Rd near Villa Street so you don't to cross that busy road.

The Willows is lovely my hesitation was access to freeway I felt trapped by congested Willow (think there is a back access to University Ave in PA but that too is busy) and hard to get to 280. But if this is not a concern I would say it is lovely, not sure of safety, but may be the best area for Stanford & ISTP. You could consider North Fair Oaks MP, it is a real mixed bag of house styles and no sidewalks but does have charm and may be more affordable. And lastly, this may be too far but in Sunnyvale near Washington Park and the Heritage distract - some cute places, close to shops & cafes.

Family friendly neighbourhoods in South Bay

Nov 2010

Hi! This my first post and I would really appreciate some advice. My husband and I are moving with our two young kids (aged 4 and 2) to the South Bay from Ireland in early 2011. My husband will be working in Downtown San Jose but is willing to commute 30 minutes or so. We are looking at areas to settle in, renting at first then hopefully buying a home in the neighborhood. Can anyone recommend a family friendly area? I had been looking (on-line!) at areas such as south San Jose, Morgan Hill, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Los Gatos etc. but is really hard to get a real feel for them. I worry that a 'better' i.e more expensive area will have an older age profile and a less established area may have social problems. We may go the Catholic school route, so being in a good school area is not a deal breaker. Thanks in advance! lorr

We live in SoSJ and are reasonably happy. We live in a cabana club neighborhood so have a community pool to swim in every summer. It is delightful in SJ to have pool access. Some cabana clubs have waiting lists, some have mandatory membership. Our neighborhood, Rancho Santa Teresa, is a wide age-mix. The homes were built in the late 60s and some original owners remain. Some homes are now owned by adults who grew up here. And some are young families like us. We are near a lightrail station so getting downtown without a car is easy. You may do well to join the yahoogroup SBParentschat and post there too. You can also ask the moderator to put you in touch with me. happy in SoSJ

I love our neighborhood in West San Jose (95129 area code); it's called Happy Valley/Country Lane which is close to Cupertino, Saratoga, Campbell and Santa Clara and I also belong to a moms group in Sunnyvale. I think there are many kid-friendly neighborhoods in the South Bay; each city offers many programs for children and there are tons of parks. Since you are not particularly concerned about public schools, there are a lot of options for you -- different parts of San Jose (mine, Willow Glen, Almaden for e.g.), Los Gatos, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Campbell, or Cupertino (and maybe Saratoga). Sorry this doesn't really narrow down your list but this is a pretty big area and your budget and preference for architecture, neighborhood feel, etc. will play a key role in where you settle. southbay mom

Have you considered Mountain View? GREAT weather, close to the bay, excellent parks (Shoreline), close access to Stanford, Palo Alto nearby, fine city services, easy access to freeway. The Monta Loma community, just off San Antonio Road, is a small community of Eichler type ranch homes from the 1950's. (Think Dwell Magazine). Walk to market or Cal Train. It's a small, close knit community and family friendly. Fairly diverse. Higher than normal no. of engineers and Europeans settle here. Generally one of the lowest crime rates in Mountain View, though there have been two recent strong arm robberies. You can pay a lot more to be in other parts of South Bay but likely you will not find a better, closer community. Sssssh. One of the best kept secrets around. My second recommendation would be for Sunnyvale. Bigger homes but not quite as convenient. Why don't you rent until you find a place to buy? Anon.

Life in Silicon Valley?

Jan 2010

We love our East Bay neighborhood, but my husband has a brutal commute down to the South Bay. The public schools in Silicon Valley are apparently very good and I find myself wondering if we should consider a move.

I've read all the posts on BPN about moving to the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, and while none are very recent, not many are extremely positive. Is it really that much different than the East Bay? We have a typical wishlist: a family-friendly, walkable neighborhood, good schools, outdoor activities, & nice people. Can we find all this down there? I would especially love recommendations of neighborhoods to check out.

We moved from Oak/Berk in 2004. We settled in SoSJ, Oak Grove school district. Happily, it is less badly hit by the current school budget woes as they sold some real estate when prices were up. Cupertino, 'the' public school system down here, is hard hit by budget woes. We have hiking hills in walking distance and the rebuilt library will reopen in Feb! But groceries are 2 miles away and there is no cute 'center' to walk to. SJ really is strip-mall central and you drive everywhere. I was overwhelmed by the pizza, fastfood, and baskinrobbins on every corner when we first moved. But now I know where the family run mexican joint is, and the good sushi, ethiopian, and french. But we drive for most everything. we are near the lightrail so take it into SJ downtown to the museums. You could move to Los Gatos for the cute walkable downtown. It's more expensive and has no light rail connection. Saratoga, mountain view, and Palo Alto might also meet your needs, also pricey. campbell. SV is the land of the newly rich and many like to flaunt it. Latest car, all tres-chic accessories for baby, etc. We don't try to keep up with the Jones' and find others like us. I RARELY see a homeless person, though downtown SJ has plenty, we're just not there like we were when in Oak/Berk. We have great outdoor activities nearby. The zoo will reopen in March. It is different than Oak/berk. very suburban living for being 'San Jose.' shorter commute

Boy do I understand - I have the same commute. 2 hrs each way by BART and bus. I 'thought' I wanted to move closer but the only place I would consider is along the 280 corridor that has open space, green hills and is mucho expensive. There is a lot to consider - how long will your husband be at the job? If he's got a secure job until he retires, then start looking at houses. If he's doing this for 2-5 years - stay put. I have a friend I stay with if the morning meetings are too early - I just can't get up at 0400 anymore - too old! She lives in San Carlos and it still takes me 30-45 mins to get to Stanford where I work- because there are so many people in the South Bay. We do not have the kind of traffic they have all the time. It is like Southern California. I didn't realize it until I tried to drive it every day. Another alternative I thought about was to rent a room - not an apt - a room like for visiting professors or students in a nice house in a nice area. That way, your husband doesn't have to buck the traffic every day. Have him talk to his boss about telecommuting at least 2 days/week. My boss agreed to it when I told her I didn't know how much longer I could do this commute. Those two days makes a BIG difference - I feel like I 'breathe' again. And taking BART and the bus lets me keep up with emails (the bus has WiFi) and prepare for morning meetings so it's not wasted, frustrating driving time. Good luck! catgetsdown

I lived in Los Gatos and Palo Alto for many years. Here are the main differences 1) the really nice communities down there (like Los Gatos and Palo Alto) are really expensive but I'm sure you can finds ones (Campbell, Sunnyvale etc) where you can walk to things and still have nice communities. In general I'd say houses are more expensive there than the east bay. 2) its definitely more surburban feeling. 3) weather is nicer - imagine eating your dinner outside most of the summer long! 4) I still had tonnes of great friends down there and of course there's tonnes of great restaurants and great ethnic food. Definitely more affluent people there in general (SV employees) I'd guess you would find more SAHMs there, if that's what you are.

I know what you mean about that commute. My husband commuted from Berkeley/Albany to Santa Clara for 22 years, and the best way he discovered was after we inherited a car and just left it parked near the Amtrak station in Santa Clara. He would take Amtrak from the Berkeley station and then use the extra car to commute back and forth from the Santa Clara station to the job site. That probably saved his life!

Recently, after being laid off in 06, he was invited back on a freelance basis as a consultant. We decided to try Mountain View as a base for the time while he was back at work. We found a rental near Castro Street, which is a great street with lots of shops, restaurants, bookstores, etc. It's a lot like Solano Ave in Berkeley/Albany or the Elmwood or Rockridge district. I don't know about your price range, or whether you would be renting or buying. It's expensive there. Oh, there's a fantastic Farmer's Market at the Cal Train station on Castro Street on Sundays!

Anyway, it's off the Shoreline exit from 101. Really a nice little area. Becky

Moving to Silicon Valley to avoid the commute

Oct 2007

My husband recently took a job in San Jose and the commute from Berkeley (driving or on Amtrak is just too long) so we are thinking of relocating. However, I don't want to be stuck in the suburbs where we will need to drive every time we leave the house. I've heard about a area in Fremont called Niles canyon (any feed back on this area would be helpful).Can anyone suggest other neighborhoods in the south bay or peninsula that are family friendly, walking friendly and close to public transportation? Don't really want to leave Berkeley

If you don't want to leave Berkeley then don't. Make it work somehow. To me, moving to San Jose would be like moving to Omaha. See if you husband can arrange to telecommute one or more days a week. Work 4 long days and have a 3 day weekend in Berkeley. Search for a new job. Anything. Life is too short to commute that long or to live in San Jose! I love Berkeley

After tiring of commuting 1-2 hrs. a day to Silicon Valley, we gave up our No. Berkeley bungalow, with a remodelled kitchen, and a coveted spot at Jefferson School and moved. My husband doesn't miss the crowds, the parking madness, the Rent Board antics, crime, dirtiness and the overall stress of living in Berkeley at all. Schools are diverse, range from good-excellent and kids don't get hassled at school. Our neighborhood is very family oriented. I can get Acme bread at Costco or at the farmers market on Sunday, cause Acme has wholesale site in MV. The local farmers market is not as upscale as the Berkeley Farmer Market, but it's bigger and the prices are more reasonable. We don't have Monterey Market, but Milk Pail Market comes close. I can walk to Cal Train and shopping. There is no shortage of good food here--upscale, ethnic, or cheap eats. Stanford is a few minutes away. The libraries are a fabulous resource with far more availability and more generous lending policies. There is close proximity to many adult schools and Foothill College. We have Deer Hollow Farm and Rancho San Antonio Preserve for hiking--much like Tilden Park. Situated close to the bay means the air is clean, though warmer than Berkeley. Ideal growing conditions, if you like to garden. It is a longer drive/commute to SF but there's no bridge to cross. In short, with the local resources, I do not feel shortchanged for anything in Berkeley, well, except for Cheeseboard Pizza, which I buy and freeze. Mountain View is a hidden gem!

I would rather endure the commute! In fact, we are enduring the commute. We lived in Silicon Valley, where my husband works and just could not make a life for ourselves. We moved to Oakland a few years ago and have never looked back. Yes, the commute is awful and takes time away from the family, but we were miserable living in the south bay and never found like-minded people. We didn't really even have friends let alone a sense of community. It's a high-pressure place to live and values tend to revolve around money, the accumulation of it and what you can buy with it. I'm sure there are exceptions - there always are - but we wanted to live a life where our values (things other than money) were the norm, not an exception. You spend a lot of time in the car, on the freeway, at strip malls. Not a fan of Silicon Valley

Moving to the Silicon Valley from the East Bay

July 2002

My husband is taking a new job. We will be quickly moving. As we're leaving our friends and the city/area that we love. Any tips/recommendations about city/area which are ideal for young families? Do you now something about Foothill college? Do you have experience living there? Thanks, Camila

We, too, are transplants from the East Bay to Mountain View, and have been here for a little over a year and a half now. We were very reluctant to move here because we loved the East Bay so much, but we have had some very pleasant surprises. There is actually quite a lot for families to do in the area -- from city-sponsored classes and other activities to lots and lots of open space for hiking, kite-flying, bike riding, etc. And you're certainly not limited to Mountain View: we go with our 3-year-old to Los Altos to visit Hidden Villa Farm (animals, organic garden, hiking trails -- very close to Foothill College) and take swimming lessons, to San Jose for the Children's Discovery Museum and Happy Hollow (small theme park and zoo for young children, with free rides and very friendly animals), to Redwood City for ice skating, Palo Alto for various things at Stanford, and to libraries in the area for storytime. And, of course, we still spend time in the East Bay and San Francisco. The weather here is nice, too -- we actually have seasons!

Downsides to life in Silicon Valley include the ridiculous cost of living and limited cultural and ethnic diversity -- with the occasional lack of awareness or tolerance that you might expect in such a setting, unfortunately. It's still the Bay Area, though, so you can pretty much find every type of person and lifestyle, especially around Stanford. It can also be hard to find great restaurants! They are out there, it's just that you have to look around.

We're still relatively new here, and we feel like there is a lot that we haven't discovered yet. It really isn't so bad a place to live! I know it's hard to make the transition, though -- I used to be depressed every time I came back from visiting friends in Berkeley or Oakland. But that hasn't happened for a while, now, and we've started to feel more at home here. Good luck with the move. Lauren

I live in Mountain View (I moved here about two years ago). The questions you posted were rather vague. If you want to contact me directly, I'll be happy to answer as many of your questions as I can. -- Caroline

I grew up in Palo Alto and went to Foothill college. I stayed in Berkeley when I came to Cal and still live here. Foothill is one of the best JC's (we used to call it Harvard on a Hill). The area is mellow and great for young families (all my family is out there). You will be in between San Jose and SF so you have access to fun. More conservative then Berkeley for certain, but still diverse. My husband gets bored when he goes down there with me but I like it that it's less busy then the East Bay and there is so much more out there to keep me busy (Stores and Malls). Please email me for additional info if you wish. Newsha

San Antonio Ranch with Deer Farm is nice place for a family walk in Mountain View. Easy acess from 280: exit Foothill Blv. to the south, then first light right and just follow the signs. Have a nice trip! Gabriela,

After looking for a house for seven months, we moved from the Oakland Hills to Los Altos in November. Like you, we were also reluctant to move and wanted a neighborhood that was very family-oriented. Well, the first weekend we moved into our house, all the neighbors on our street that had kids came to introduce themselves and to offer help and advice! It was great - we immediately found a teenage babysitter for our 2.5 year old daughter and got info on a variety of preschools in the area.

We might just be incredibly lucky with our street, but in eight months of living here, my observation is that in certain ways, it's not much different living here - people here are also very involved in their kids so there are plenty of activities, classes and events and you don't have to go far for them. The community centers offer lots of classes for kids and there's a Parents' Place in Palo Alto that offers some great parenting classes as well as other parenting resources. You're also moving here at the peak of the event season - in the past month and a half, there's been an ice cream social in Mtn View and the Los Altos Wine & Art Festival, and all the seasonal farmers' markets are in full swing.

I feel like we're still in the early stages of discovering all the things to do here but I'd be happy to share what info I've picked up so far. Good luck with your move! Joan