Backyard-y Bay Area location for SF and Menlo Park commuters?
January 25, 2010 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: Where in the Bay Area should a couple with one person commuting to the Embarcadero BART station (not Caltrain - this person works literally above the station) and the other person commuting to Menlo Park near the Dumbarton Bridge live?

He says they're looking for "a little backyard, a bit more space [they're currently in an apartment in North Berkeley], dog/cat (especially dog), nice local walks, a good park, and room for the electronic drum set over a hip nightlife. We basically go out of town every weekend anyway to Monterey/Tahoe/Yosemite/southern California. Fremont and Millbrae seem like the most reasonable options, or maybe North Fremont near the Union City BART stop."

They have one car and they're big nature/animal/zoo/wildlife-type people. The timeframe of the move, I presume, is in the spring or summer.
posted by mdonley to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is the person commuting to Menlo Park taking the Caltrain? If so, Millbrae seems like the winner. There are lots of cute little houses there (to rent, I presume?).

Millbrae to Embarcadero instead of Union City to Embarcadero via BART also saves you 10 minutes per ride.
posted by purpleclover at 2:04 PM on January 25, 2010

It's so rare I get to use the same exact mefi response over again so quickly...

Try the folks on the SF forum.

Note: I'm not being snarky, the folks at those forums are just super helpful with "where should I live" sort of questions. You might even snag a local real estate agent who will have super specific answers.
posted by mrsshotglass at 2:04 PM on January 25, 2010

Response by poster: purpleclover: The Menlo Park commuter could presumably take Caltrain or drive, but the SF commuter seems keen on BART access.
posted by mdonley at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2010

They should live in SF, near the Glen Park or Balboa Park BART station. Sure the poor bastard that works on the peninsula has a longer (40min) commute, but they're not stuck living in suburbia and they wouldn't need two cars.
posted by foodgeek at 2:29 PM on January 25, 2010

I'm skeptical of SF. Most days, the commute from Glen Park to Menlo is going to be longer than 40 minutes. My friends who drive from the Excelsior allot an hour from home to the office in Menlo Park.

The Menlo Park commuter should also keep in mind that taking Caltrain to Bart (or vice-versa) seems theoretically like it would work, but in reality is pretty miserable because the trains just aren't that well-timed. Millbrae is best if Caltrain is involved, because they could take the joint car to the single Caltrain/Bart station, say goodbye, and go their separate ways. (Then, meet up again in the evenings and drive home.)

Ideally, a house near-ish El Camino Real in Millbrae or northern Burlingame would allow either partner, if the other one had the car, to get home to the Millbrae station via Caltrain or Bart, and hop on a SamTrans bus up or down El Camino and walk the couple of blocks to get home.

This part of the Peninsula has some nice things about it, based on your description of the couple: There is good hiking up the hill (Sweeney Ridge, part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a dog-friendly favorite), pleasant neighborhoods, a few interesting businesses in the little downtown area (especially Chinese restaurants/groceries), and easy access to the coast.

It also has the advantage that if, for some reason, the Menlo Park commuter with the car had to go pick up the Embarcadero partner at the office, the drive from Millbrae to SF is only half an hour. Fremont to SF any time around the commuting hours could take twice that.

People who are obsessed with San Francisco are obsessed with San Francisco, and insist that Glen Park (a pretty dreary neighborhood, imo) is better than anywhere farther south. As a contrary data point, I lived with my partner in two different cities on the Peninsula in a one-car household for four years. We could always walk to restaurants, coffee shops, and other evidence of civilization. Plus, we were near a ton of beautiful open space areas for hiking.

MeFi mail me if your friends have questions about specific locations.
posted by purpleclover at 3:27 PM on January 25, 2010

I can only speak to the Peninsula side of the equation

Millbrae/Burligame or North gives you caltrain and bart access. The nicest neighborhoods in a reasonable price for what you want is probably on the northern border of of Burligame between California and El Camino. From about Trousdale south to Broadway in between California and El Camino. Cute area in there.

Easy access to Bart/Caltrain in San Bruno, SSF etc kind of put you in some sketchy areas.

I can appreciate wanting to take bart door to door, but Caltrain to a light rail train (N Judah and the like) will take you to the same embarcadero station with a very quick transfer between trains and give you a bit more reach south on the pennisula.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:37 PM on January 25, 2010

Near the Fremont BART station? That way SF person could bus/bike+BART there, and Menlo park person could drive, but it isn't too far across the bridge.
posted by ctmf at 5:13 PM on January 25, 2010

Caltrain to a light rail train (N Judah and the like) will take you to the same embarcadero station
Just wanted to elaborate on this -- unlike BART to Caltrain or vice versa, this is actually a pretty easy transfer to make. During normal commute hours, there are two different Muni light rail lines (N and KT) that take you from Caltrain to Embarcadero, and they are mostly reliable.

Depending on commute benefits for the two people involved, consider getting TransLink cards. Not a promoter, just a happy user. It's especially useful if you do any transferring from one transit agency to another, and works with BART, Caltrain, and Muni, among others.
posted by tantivy at 6:02 PM on January 25, 2010

I would say Burlingame, because Fremont is a totally crappy place to live. Charmless gridlock and asphalt. I like the area around the San Jose Mission for it's occasional rural-ness, but no. At least in Burlingame, your friends might be willing to come visit once in awhile. Downtown is kind of charming, and there are lots of decent neighborhoods.

I also agree that Glen Park is pretty dreary. Especially after sunny Berkeley.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:21 PM on January 25, 2010

I shouldn't say Fremont is totally crappy- it's a very diverse place. But I highly recommend driving around town before choosing to live there.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:23 PM on January 25, 2010

I'd second Burlingame-ish. Or perhaps near the Hillsdale Caltrain station.

It's a nice split between SF & MP. As has been mentioned Caltrain to Muni would work for commute into the city -- and likely be cheaper than Bart from Millbrae. Plus much more pleasant than those noisy cars, modulo someone hurling themselves in front of the train.
posted by herrtodd at 12:46 AM on January 26, 2010

There are neighborhoods near San Mateo that are very nice, such as Aragon, particularly if you find a location that's walking distance to 3rd (great japanese restaurants, pasta shops, draegers, tea/dessert shops, fro yo, movie theater, etc - less foodie than N Berkeley but filled with a surprising amount of restaurants). The SF person would have to be willing to either drive up to Millbrae to hop on BART, or take Caltrain and transfer to BART in Millbrae.

Burlingame also has nice homes near a great downtown (little bit more mall-like), but has the same Caltrain/BART commuting issues.

Millbrae and Fremont, though more BART-friendly, don't have the charming downtowns that make living in surburbia bearable.

Lake Merritt may be an alternative, but makes the commute for the Menlo Park person pretty painful.
posted by cranberryskies at 8:03 AM on February 12, 2010

Response by poster: Late late late update: they chose Millbrae and love it! They have an avocado tree in the backyard.
posted by mdonley at 5:07 AM on August 29, 2010

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