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Where to live in Bay Area - couple w/ commutes to Redwood City & Oakland
July 10, 2014 10:29 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend currently pays $1500/month for a studio in a less than stellar area of San Francisco (his car has been broken into 5+ times in the past year), and works in Redwood City. For various reasons now, he's sick of the city and wants to move. The idea is that eventually we would move in together. Since I work in Oakland, we're having trouble imagining where we might live that would make commuting at least not soul-sucking for both of us.

Here's what he's looking for (possibly a unicorn?)

-Commute within 45 min of Redwood City (driving)
-Rent: $1500/month (if possible - we'd need the rent to be affordable on just his income initially, but we could pay up to $2,300 together)
-1 bedroom (not a studio) with free parking
-Safe, interesting enough enough area (i.e. we're not going to be worried about car break-ins, and neighborhood should have some character)
-Challenge factor: Location also offers a reasonable commute to Oakland (by public transit if possible). We're not ready to move in together now, but are considering for the future. But - I work in Oakland. I love my job and want to stay for at least another year. (I could potentially get a cheap car and suck it up, but I'd need to reduce my driving anxiety with my therapist first). I work at a nonprofit and imagine my next job would be in the easy bay/SF. I know this is a lot to ask for, but we've realized how important a reasonable commute is and would like to prioritize this if possible. I'm very open to being challenged on this.

The goal is to free ourselves from the fog and city pace (and break-ins), have enough space for co-habitation, and live below our means so we can save. Right now I'm pretty worried that there's just no middle ground, and am feeling fearful and kind of trapped given a) how expensive the area is, and b) the crappy commuting options (especially public transit). I want to be able to carve out a niche for myself and my boyfriend eventually, but I worry that just might not be possible.

So my questions are:
1) What recommendations do you have for where to live, given our situation?
2) Is what we're looking for totally non-existent? If so, what compromises do you suggest we consider making?
3) How can I reframe my fear that we won't be able to create a home in the bay area, given the expense, poor commuting options, and our east bay/Peninsula workplace situation?
posted by girasol to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think you can easily find all the things on your list. You can find parts of them for sure. San Leandro hits price, access to Oakland and Redwood City, but not I can't speak to the character you might specifically be looking for. The price you have listed for the short term is going to be really hard to find most anywhere that's interesting and transit accessible.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 12:56 AM on July 11


Hopefully some others will chime in, but I think you're limited to having him live near the BART in Hayward, Union City or Fremont. He can take the San Mateo or Dumbarton bridge to work, and BART up to your place. $1500 in those places is doable, but just barely. None of those cities are interesting. I think the other option for him is getting a place with roommates in a better part of SF, say Mission, where he'd be close to BART as well as 101/280 to get down to RWC.

It's difficult out here, you have my empathy.
posted by MillMan at 12:56 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking either Emoryville or Albany, any of the southern most cities before you get to San Francisco, that are adjacent to I-80.

You can take A/C transit where you need to go, and your BF can pick up slugs at the A/C transit stop, deposit them at the Transbay Terminal, and then boogie straight through SF to Redwood City.

I did this for two years when I was going to SFSU. It was quick and easy and I'd make it from Albany to Daly City/SFSU in about 40 minutes with no bridge tolls.

The return won't involve slugs, but it's a reverse commute with no bridge tolls anyway, and you're getting off at the first couple of exits so even if traffic is slow, he'll still get home without to fuss, muss and bother.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:20 AM on July 11


Eventually, there will be a ferry from Alameda and Jack London Square to Redwood City, which would be a pleasant commute. That's not available now, but I mention it to help assuage your long term fears...

Do either of you, but especially your boyfriend, have the option to work at unusual hours or telecommute at least some of the time? I'm not familiar with places like San Leandro, Hayward, etc, so I can't speak to that, but Alameda is a nice (albeit quiet) place to live and the commute to Redwood City wouldn't be *that* bad if he could avoid rush hour. I used to commute to Stanford from Berkeley one day a week after morning rush hour, and that was okay (coming back, at rush hour, was much worse).

SF might be most fair for both of you, but I ca't imagine finding something in your price range.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:06 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I actually think downtown San Leandro is super cute. It's cheaper and safer than Oakland and does have character and culture. There's BART, restaurants, art, etc.
posted by latkes at 8:26 AM on July 11


How far off is this eventual moving in together? I agree it's going to be really hard to hit all your points on just $1500.

But it looks like with your combined budget you could probably get a place in Glen Park which has a BART station for you and 280 for him. It's safe, has a small but interesting assortment of restaurants and shops, and is just one stop away from the Mission on the BART.
posted by grapesaresour at 2:01 PM on July 11


San Leandro is a possibility. He might have to up his rent to $1800 or so but I bet you could find a decent place there. It has a cute Farmer's Market, restaurants, etc. My guess is the commute from Redwood City to San Leandro would be closer to 50 or 60 minutes though.
posted by barnone at 3:05 PM on July 11


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