Neighborhoods and small towns near Sacramento
July 14, 2017 5:59 AM   Subscribe

What are the best neighborhoods to live in near downtown Sacramento? Or small towns within, say, a one-hour commute of Sacramento?

We're trying to find places to live that we haven't looked yet. I'm hoping to find a "forever home" for our small but growing family with young children but without overly straining our budget, which might not be possible.

There are two scenarios: in one, I take a flexible job and work from home 3-4 days / week. In another, I need to be downtown every day. (My partner's job is 100% remote.)

We've looked at all the obvious neighborhoods near downtown: Midtown, East Sac, Riverpark, Land Park, Curtis Park, Hollywood Park, North Oak Park, by the Med Center... and are having trouble finding something in our budget that we like. The stuff we really like, we're priced out of (or could maybe afford a starter home or serious fixer), and some of what we can afford doesn't quite work for us. Are there other neighborhoods we should be looking at? Maybe "undisovered" neighborhoods that still offer a lot of value?

I also have this idea that maybe there's some small town just up into the foothills / oak woodlands. If we went that route, our budget would be a bit lower because the flexible work-from-home job pays a bit less.

I think we mostly want what everyone wants, tilted toward "character" and "sense of place" and willing to give up some indoor square footage to afford more of that. We do need to find relatively decent schools (or figure out how the whole magnet-school thing works, I guess). We'd love a place with some diversity and walking / biking distance to parks or restaurants. All ideas welcome!
posted by slidell to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This may be out of your price range and out of your traveling distance wishes, but I loved Davis, CA. Everything you're searching for is pretty much there, although I'm unfamiliar with the housing market there. Whatever you and your family's decision, I wish you the best of luck in your search!
posted by Tardis_Spin at 8:07 AM on July 14


The Davis housing market is brutal and in no way affordable.

Look at Winters, Auburn, Grass Valley, Clarksburg, or Placerville. Also Woodland, which is affordable for the area and whose charm is increasing.

Incidentally, I talked to a coworker yesterday who bought a house in Land Park three years ago. While he loves the neighborhood, he's planning on moving because of how much the traffic has increased in just a couple of years. Lots of Bay Area folks are moving into Sacramento -- driving up prices and squeezing the market and clogging up the roads.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:53 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


I was going to mention the exact towns that mudpuppie did, in addition to Lincoln, Penryn, and Loomis (though I like those less than places like Auburn, Grass Valley, and Placerville, which have a bit more charm).

Closer to the city itself are a few areas that you didn't mention as having looked at: South Land Park (cheaper than Land Park proper), the Pocket area, College Glen, and La Riviera. West Sac is pretty up-and-coming too, but from what I understand it's still pretty hit-and-miss, and the southern area is better than north.

There is also North Natomas, which I think is pretty blah but a lot of educated professionals I work with downtown live there (probably because they travel a lot and it's between downtown and the airport).

We bought in Tahoe Park five months ago (after living in midtown for a decade and having a very good idea of where we wanted to look) and we love it. You mentioned the Med Center area, but TP is just slightly southeast and surprisingly cheaper than Med Center/Elmhurst despite it being literally just across a major thoroughfare from those neighborhoods. (For what it's worth, you might find it to be a little cheaper than North Oak Park...which in my opinion is extremely over-hyped at the moment. We looked at a number of sloppy, over-priced flips there on streets that I still would question whether to walk down at night, despite the area slowly getting safer.)

I recommend having a very clear idea of what you want, finding a reputable and aggressive agent, and being prepared to act quickly. Prices are going up everywhere in Sac, due in part to the Bay Area influx mudpuppie references.

Best of luck and welcome to Sacramento! I love it and cannot imagine living anywhere else. :)
posted by lovableiago at 9:25 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


God, personally I'd buy a house in Locke if I could. But that's a wild dream and I don't have kids to worry about the education of.
posted by tapir-whorf at 10:14 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


but TP is just slightly southeast and surprisingly cheaper than Med Center/Elmhurst despite it being literally just across a major thoroughfare from those neighborhoods.

I'm guessing without actually knowledge, but surprisingly cheaper adjacent neighborhoods are most likely a bunch cheaper because they are in a different school district.
posted by puddledork at 10:19 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Winters, Auburn, Grass Valley, Clarksburg, or Placerville. Also Woodland,

All good choices. Winters and Grass Valley are both small and remote. Clarksburg is absolutely tiny. I'd give Grass Valley the edge in culture by far. Placerville is a little bit bigger town, as is Auburn. Woodland is bigger than all of the others by an order of magnitude, and still relatively affordable. It's fairly walkable if you're close to downtown.

I would add Sutter Creek and Jackson to this list, though they're further out than all of the other options. Prices are almost certainly lower in the outlying towns, however. Those two towns are a little more than an hour without traffic. Like Grass Valley, they are very small, remote towns, but they do have character. In general, the further outside Sacramento you go, the less diversity you'll experience and the more conservative the area is (except for Grass Valley).

Elmhurst is another close-in neighborhood to at least check, but it's basically East Sac in pricing now.

Tahoe Park is definitely a neighborhood you're missing. Keep in mind that the closer to Stockton Blvd you are, the more likely you are to have problems. In general, the neighborhood is good and not outrageously unaffordable. The streets are safe, have nice walking blocks and the park is there, but there are only a handful of restaurants (and very little retail) on Broadway that you'd want to walk to.

I'd throw out Natomas if character is important to you. You can get a nice sized, newish house with two (!) bathrooms for about half the price per square foot of the central city neighborhoods, but you'll absolutely be giving up character to do it.

You might look at the Pocket as well, as it has some nice walking parks. But like Natomas, it doesn't have a ton of walkability in terms of commercial being mixed with residential.

South Land Park north of Fruitridge is much more expensive than Hollywood Park right across Freeport. You might find something more reasonable south of Fruitridge, which is sometimes called South Land Park Hills. Not much to walk to down there though. Note that the triangular neighborhood bordered by Freeport, Fruitridge and the railroad tracks, across from Executive Airport, is really not the same neighborhood as South Land Park Hills.

If you're going to consider North Oak Park, look at the crime map. I know someone who lives there, walks around the neighborhood and has been 100% fine. But I'd still look at the crime map.

I'm guessing without actually knowledge, but surprisingly cheaper adjacent neighborhoods are most likely a bunch cheaper because they are in a different school district.

Tahoe Park is in the Sacramento School District, but as is the case in Curtis Park, the neighborhood has largely abandoned the local school. Few of the kids who live in the neighborhood attend that school, and most of the kids who do are from the lower income, surrounding areas. You can apply to attend an out of neighborhood school, but I'm not sure how or how well that process works.

My guess is that of the close-in areas, Hollywood Park and Tahoe Park, in that order, are going to get closest to being affordable and including the other features you'd like.
posted by cnc at 11:53 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


Thanks for all the good answers so far. I really appreciate them. They've all been helpful (though we probably won't be moving to Locke, but now I do want to visit!). I wanted to add a comment and a question. The comment is that we haven't been looking at the Pocket, because we currently live pretty close to a highway and have gotten a bit concerned about air quality -- just FYI and so someone will correct me if I'm wrong in having estimated it to all be pretty close to one.

The question is -- what about neighborhoods along the American River heading east? There's the parkway, right, which potentially I could bike to work along? Consulting Google maps, I see places like "Rio Del Oro," "Walnut Glen," "Wilhaggin," "Carmichael." I don't know how those places feel in terms of character, nor what's going on in neighborhoods just south of the river. I've actually been to Fair Oaks once and seem to remember it having a little town square, but could I actually bike that far to downtown? Maybe? (Also it doesn't look super-duper affordable there either.)
posted by slidell at 12:50 PM on July 14


Carmichael and Wilhaggin are pleasant, upscale suburbs with good schools. Walkability is not a thing there.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:00 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Wilhaggen and "Rio Del Oro," which I don't think is actually a defined neighborhood, generally have big houses on big properties and are really expensive. Nice, almost rural style-neighborhoods though. You can't walk to much, as Fair Oaks Blvd. is almost a highway.

Carmichael is a little more middle-of-the road in terms of pricing. Agree that it's not really walkable, and the bigger issue is that there are no usable freeway connections in Carmichael. I'd expect to drive 15 minutes just to get to a (busy) freeway onramp.

The comment is that we haven't been looking at the Pocket, because we currently live pretty close to a highway and have gotten a bit concerned about air quality -- just FYI and so someone will correct me if I'm wrong in having estimated it to all be pretty close to one.

Two things:
1. The furthest edge of the Pocket is almost two miles from the highway. There isn't any reason you'd have to live super close. Most of the other central city neighborhoods are around the same distance from highways.
2. The wind blows up the Sacramento river from the south and the west, so in general it blows away from the highway. Now, Sacramento is not especially windy, and I don't know what the wind is like inside that neighborhood. But the wind in general is going to blow air crud the other way.
posted by cnc at 2:29 PM on July 14 [2 favorites]


Hey, one other thing to factor in to your equation is that some neighborhoods may be in FEMA flood zones, meaning you'll have to tack annual flood insurance premiums onto your overall costs. Map here.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:51 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Oops, one other thing:

The comment is that we haven't been looking at the Pocket, because we currently live pretty close to a highway and have gotten a bit concerned about air quality

Whether you end up living near a highway or not, you should be aware that Sacramento and the Central Valley don't rate well on air quality. (Sac Bee article.) I developed asthma after living here for about 10 years, which isn't all that uncommon.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:00 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


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