What do you know about living in Carlsbad?
July 17, 2011 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Tell me all you know about living in Carlsbad, CA.

I may have to move to the San Diego area, and if that happens I think I want to live in Carlsbad. What do you know about it, and what should I know? What's good, what's bad? How are the neighborhoods, how are the beaches? Is it safe there? Quiet, or wild? Good place to raise kids? What about the fun? What's the vibe? Tell me that and more!
posted by Opal to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I lived next door to it for over 20 years. Carlsbad is dead safe, dead boring, and way expensive.

There's a large industrial park off Melrose, the municipal airport, Legoland (I worked there, as do many local kids over the summers), Aviara Resort, the Outlets, the former Pea Soup Andersons, the Flower Fields, the beaches, and of course the 'village' of Carlsbad. Those are the primary attractions of the city. Nothing to sneeze at, but these are all safe, slightly upscale attractions and Carlsbad very much prizes that reputation.

Your biggest problem will either be finding enough money to live there or staying awake (it's a quiet town). It's a great place to raise kids, but very expensive to do so, especially if you're not familiar with SoCal prices.

Carlsbad is very, very safe. Its reputation is that it's much safer than Oceanside (all the drunk Marines) and so of course the cops are always bored and giving out tickets for speeding (I can attest to that; I also have a friend who was offered a job as a cop there and turned it down because it was too boring).

There's some lovely beaches in Carlsbad, certainly my favorite in the county. Carlsbad State Beach, the one with the old seawall, is my personal favorite. Carlsbad makes sure to keep its beaches clean and every year it ends up importing sand from the lagoon into the beach area so the beaches tend to be quite nice. Beaches are public property, and there's a complete lack of Stuff (like, say, food, entertainment, or anything like that) on the. The beaches in Carlsbad are just beach. Enjoy.

The neighborhoods range a bit, with the ones closest to the beach being quite a bit more expensive, obviously. I can't think of a terribly cheap place to live in Cbad (that's what Oceanside and Vista are for). La Costa is nice, even if it's further from the better beaches and downtown. Schools are generally quite good, though I know some of the older ones are a bit behind the newer schools.

Cbad is also pretty white, or at least more so than the surrounding cities. If you don't mind that, you should be fine. And it's not like there's not plenty of diversity in the area.

Traffic can be nasty--the 5 can be a parking lot and it's not like 101 is better at rush hour--but you get used to it.

Hmm. I can't think of too many more relevant things. I certainly KNOW quite a bit more about it, so if you have questions feel free to Memail. I'll also be there this week and next week if you're going to be in the area and would like to grab coffee.

Good luck on your move, even if you decide Carlsbad isn't for you!
posted by librarylis at 5:47 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

It might be useful to know if you have any other considerations (schools, for example) or commute requirements. If you have to get to work in San Diego, I would consider Carlsbad too far out unless work is in way far North County. Or maybe way south Orange County.

San Diego is geographically much larger than it seems, and has a terrible case of Can't Get There From Here because of the terrain.

I just moved to SD in March. If you want any information (or contact info for our awesome Realtor, who found us a rent house super-fast), feel free to MeMail me.

Before I lived here, just from a map, I thought of Carlsbad as relatively convenient to SD proper. I don't anymore, and only get out there if we're on the way to LA or Orange County. (From an outsider's opinion, though, if you're looking in that area you might also consider Cardiff-by-the-Sea, which seems kinda more affordable than Carlsbad. It's all expensive as shit out here, especially on the coast itself, but if you're coming from somewhere with substantial air conditioning bills, there's a trade-off.)
posted by Lyn Never at 6:13 PM on July 17, 2011

Agree with (fellow Legoland veteran) librarylis to say that Carlsbad's defining characteristics are safe, pricey, and boring. That might be just what you need, but it nearly drove me crazy in the short summer I spent there. And as I remember, getting down to San Diego from anywhere in North County can be a pain if you're planning on doing it all the time (although I guess many make it work for them).
posted by villanelles at dawn at 6:14 PM on July 17, 2011

My Dad has lived in Carlsbad for years and I've stayed with him several times, often driving to San Diego or LA while I'm there. The above sounds pretty dead accurate to me.

My father likes it there, but he's in his late 60s and retired. His favorite activity is cruising estate sales, which are apparently excellent in the Carlsbad area.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:44 PM on July 17, 2011

Thanks for the responses so far!

My work would be in the area west of Rancho Bernardo, which Google Maps tells me is 26 miles away from Carlsbad, taking the I-15. Does that sound like a feasible commute?

As far as cost of living and rental goes, I currently live in New York City, which is, as you know, rather pricey. How do you think Carlsbad compares?
posted by Opal at 6:56 PM on July 17, 2011

Ah. that is actually quite a ways from San Diego proper; it's past Poway on the way to Escondido. There is a pretty direct route from Carlsbad, but I don't know what the commute situation is. Safe to say that it's horrible, but it might not be so bad as going to San Diego from there. If you were going to San Diego I'd say take the Coaster (commuter train).
posted by zomg at 7:05 PM on July 17, 2011

Here is a cost of living comparison, FWIW. I live in Poway (considered north county inland vs. coastal Carlsbad), and if you're not set on Carlsbad, it's a good (cheaper) option. I work in Rancho Bernardo and my commute is 10 minutes. Good schools, good place to raise kids.
posted by yqxnflld at 7:23 PM on July 17, 2011

I'm not sure anything compares to NYC, but what kind of place are you looking to rent/own?

I live in Mira Mesa, which is a couple of exits south of RB. Will you be in the biotech corridor along the 5 (Sorrento Valley, Torrey Pines?). People give me a Face and say "oh, I'm sorry" when I say I live in MM, but I like it fine and it has excellent access to the 805, 15/163, 52, and pretty close to the 5.

We rent a 3/2 house with a yard enough for 3 dogs for $1800, and we're juuuuust close enough to the ocean (about 9 miles) to split the difference between the Coastal and Inland weather microclimates (I'm sitting on my patio, it's 71 degrees at 7pm), and because we're so close to Miramar there's just about everything you could need in terms of shopping and daily activities.

I'm right at the exit where traffic north and south on the 15 gets nuts (Mira Mesa Blvd) for the 80 minutes that constitutes rush hour (seriously, these people don't know from rush hour, but it's still harsh for those 80 minutes). I lived here for a month and worked out traffic, and this is precisely where I wanted to be. Also, Trader Joe's is at my exit, as is the best movie theatre in the area.

Would I live in Carlsbad and commute to RB? Fuck no. RB is lovely, Poway (and Sabre Springs, a little closer) is really lovely (though a smidge more expensive if you want a house vs apartment, but there's lots of great apartments in Poway), Rancho Penasquitos is lovely, Mira Mesa is entirely livable, La Jolla if you'll be working right off the 5/805, even Escondido would be preferable - there's many, many happy places to live way closer to RB than Carlsbad, where I wouldn't live unless I had family or a really unhealthy attachment to Lego. It's just...the infrastructure here isn't really good enough for the North County traffic and it's so awesome out here you'll be able to get home and enjoy it without a nightmare 30-mile commute much closer to work.

My advice is what I did: live as close to work as you reasonably can for a year, and decide in that time where you really want to be. Because of the military presence, there's a ton of really great rental properties out here where you can be happy for a year while you work it out.

Seriously, let me know if I can help, I'll be happy to do whatever I can.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:29 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

My work would be in the area west of Rancho Bernardo, which Google Maps tells me is 26 miles away from Carlsbad, taking the I-15. Does that sound like a feasible commute?

That sounds like an awful commute, frankly. Carlsbad is on the 5 (I-5) and Rancho Bernardo is on the 15 (I-15). You'd have to take 78 (godawful) or...67? (whatever it is) to get between the 5 and 15 unless there's some secret way I'm not thinking of. Either way, it's not a fun commute.

For comparison, I used to commute from Vista (off the 78, so accessible to either the 5 or 15 much more quickly than Carlsbad) to just barely south of Rancho Bernardo. We're talking a 32 mile commute instead of a 26 mile one. It took an hour, each way, every day. Unless traffic was, y'know, bad. You will more than likely want to be closer to RB than Carlsbad, is what I'm saying.

As far as cost of living and rental goes, I currently live in New York City, which is, as you know, rather pricey. How do you think Carlsbad compares?

Well, I've never lived in NYC but I have lived in West LA. I would say that San Diego County (most definitely including Carlsbad) can be on par with LA and therefore is fairly close to NYC. Housing is likely to be just as steep and I think the only thing cheaper will be food costs. I'd look for an NYC-West Coast expert to be sure, though.
posted by librarylis at 7:44 PM on July 17, 2011

Agreeing that it's an awful commute. Also it's accurately described as "pricey" and "boring"...

I would personally look into Encinitas, if you're willing to live far enough away from work. Not as pricey or boring.
posted by brynna at 7:52 PM on July 17, 2011

Traffic patterns make a huge difference in commute time so you'll need to live and work in the area to really understand what you can handle. I'm in LA (much worse traffic, but SD is almost as bad) and 10 miles from work is about my limit of dealing. Any time spent in the car is not spent having fun, sleeping, cooking, exercising, taking care of your house, spending time with family...

If you're coming from the city in NYC you'll have major commuting culture shock. If you already commute in a car you probably know your own limits. Remember that commuting 45-60 minutes in stop and go traffic is really stressful - it's not like an hour on clear roads.

Cost of living wise - it will feel cheaper than NYC. If you don't have a car now you will need one, so that's the major difference. Car insurance is pretty expensive, but no worse than NY/NJ and gas can add up quickly with a long commute. Housing is generally less expensive.

I'm guessing you want to be at the beach? Everyone who moves here from the east coast wants to live on the beach at first. I lived literally across the street from the beach at first, and it was definitely nice (though a smaller place than an east village studio apt). But it was also a little cold for me unless it was the height of August-September. Once I got that out of my system I moved a bit inland and am very happy with it. I actually prefer the weather not right on the beach. Maybe try a beach city for a year and see how it goes - you may find the sacrifice worth it.
posted by rainydayfilms at 10:37 PM on July 17, 2011

Tough draw.

I lived and worked in Carlsbad for 6 months when i was aged 26 and that was as long as I could last. It's a quiet, affluent exurb and the commute to RB, as mentioned, will be a daily horror.

Carlsbad is cheaper than NYC because everywhere is cheaper than NYC. I rented a nice, spacious 3 bedroom house for $1900/mo in Carlsbad (split w/ roommates).

If I had to move back to north SD county, I'd find the Leucadia area to bit a little bit more interesting and less sterile than Carlsbad, but that's purely a matter of preference.

Although I found it stifling boring at the time, there are some perks to Carslbad (in no particular order):

- Pizza Port. Low key, picnic table seating pizza joint with a great beer selection.
- Texas Wine & Spirits. A tiny store with a huge selection of craft beers.
- The beaches are spectacular.
- Tip Top Meats. German deli. Meat heaven.
- Stone Brewing Company. A short ride on the 76 to an unassuming office park in Escondido. It's beer heaven. You know when the kids first see the inside of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory in the movie? It's like that but for beer.
- The Golden Tee. This is a fine drinking establishment.

This list is drinking-centric because Carlsbad is boring.
posted by outlaw of averages at 2:16 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

My wife and I lived in Carlsbad for 2 years when we first got married. As others have mentioned, it's quite far from downtown San Diego. The traffic on I-5 is unpredictable and it's not uncommon for it to take an hour or more to get downtown, even on a weekend. If you're planning to use the San Diego airport a lot (I was flying to Boston for work on a regular basis when we moved), it's extremely inconvenient.

The schools in Carlsbad are overall pretty decent. They are probably about in the middle of the local districts. Some parts of Carlsbad are in the San Marcos school district, which is ranked quite a bit lower. The best school districts in town are Del Mar, Solana Beach (both coastal), and Poway (covers Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, and 4S Ranch).

As far as your commute goes, count on close to an hour each way from Carlsbad to Rancho Bernardo. If you're coming across the 78 to the 15 South, that is some of the worst traffic in the county. The area through Escondido where the 78/15 interchange is located is frequently a parking lot in the morning. You could also take the 5 South to the 56 East, which would be a bit better, but the 5 is often very backed up as well. There are also some back roads that go through Rancho Santa Fe, but they aren't any faster. We have friends who live in Carlsbad and driving from our house in Rancho Bernardo to theirs takes 30 minutes with no traffic. Driving up there from where I work in the UTC area (biotech hub as mentioned above) takes close to an hour during rush hour.

We actually just went through the real estate market here (buying instead of renting, though) and looked all over the place. We ended up buying a great house in RB, primarily for the schools, the neighborhood, etc. We looked all over the place, though, and if I was hung up on living at the coast, I would be focused on Encinitas/Leucadia, Cardiff, Solana Beach, or Del Mar. They are very expensive, though, and we couldn't find anything in our price range that we liked. If you look inland, pretty much anywhere in the Poway School District is really nice. You are also a lot more centrally located. We can be downtown or in North County in 30 minutes; I can get to the beach in less than 20.
posted by sbrollins at 9:34 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

We just moved to Carlsbad, and everybody else's descriptions are spot-on. Our reasons for moving here were a need to be very near the 5, a desire for decent schools, and an eagerness to be away from the "excitement" of Oceanside. (Marines, domestic violence, and gangs, oh my!) Encinitas/Leucadia/Cardiff would have been a better fit for us (safe, great schools, liberal-leaning, and lots of fun things to do and see), but were well out of our price range. One thing I will mention is that the north bit of Carlsbad bordering on Oside has a bit of that Oside flavor.

About the Carlsbad beaches: my understanding is that, in the next decade, the southbound lanes of the coast highway are going to be moved east to make room for a more community-minded walking/shopping area.

If the slogging commute outweighs the attractions of North County coastal, I'd consider living closer to your work. Poway seems nice, but I'm not sure about the personality of the area. Personal preference would keep me out of Escondido, but your taste may vary.
posted by moira at 2:14 PM on July 18, 2011

Thanks everyone. I got enough material here to keep me busy while I wait to find out if I will, in fact, be moving that way.

I'll definitely come back to this thread for reference, and will be reaching out to those who offered help. You rock!
posted by Opal at 5:27 PM on July 18, 2011

Oh! And yeah, the reason I thought of Carlsbad is because I am a hardcore beach lover and supposedly they got some pretty nice beaches over there. I would sacrifice on-the-shore living in favor of a less hellish commute, but I still want to be close to the sand.
posted by Opal at 5:30 PM on July 18, 2011

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