Striking distance from the Googleplex
August 20, 2011 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Bay Area living, reassurance-filter. People who liked [North Oakland] also enjoyed [these smaller neighborhoods near Mountain View].

I'm anticipating a potential job offer in Mountain View, CA that might just be my dream job. But the 1 hour commute each way from North Oakland just won't cut it, which means we'd need to move sometime this fall.

Are there areas that will have anything close to a similar feel? We don't like everything about where we live now, but we do feel strongly about being able to walk to grocery stores, coffee shops, independently-owned restaurants and a low-key bar or two. We'd be okay with a smaller neighborhood that kept that walkability factor, but need to be able to swing rent under $2100/mo for a 2BR. Right now we also have a BART station within a 10 minute walk, but I know asking for the same proximity to CalTrain may constrain us even further in the South Bay.

FWIW, I'm totally aware that the peninsula is going to be more suburban and less loved here on MeFi, and I'm okay with driving to work. We come from Atlanta, Land of Sprawl and tend to stick pretty close to home if we have food and grocery options in walking distance, so I'm not expecting the density, nightlife or range of options as in Oakland or SF. Instead, I'm looking for reassurance that I'm not asking the impossible, and specific neighborhood suggestions. Hope me?

Additional considerations: 1 large dog, no kids, purchasing not out of the question within same budget.
posted by deludingmyself to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Downtown Mountain View and downtown Sunnyvale both fit those requirements. Good walkability scores, close to CalTrain. A reasonable number of apartments near the downtown areas. Unfortunately, the dog means a very limited number of rentals. Some people with pets ruin the rental market for anyone with a pet.

In general, the areas immediately around the downtown area of any of the cities in the Silicon Valley fit your desires, but if you're working in Mountain View, I'd start there. Palo Alto and Menlo Park are likely to be too expensive, but check out the California Avenue/Mayfair district of Palo Alto. That might work. Note: some "cities" such as Cupertino have no downtown and would not fit your desires.

Scan craigslist constantly. Ask your new company if they will spring for Apartment hunting assistance as part of the package. There are firms out there who will find you all the apartments in your price range with the requested amenities, for a fee. Hopefully the new job will pay that fee.

Good luck.
posted by blob at 11:26 AM on August 20, 2011

I don't live there, but we've hung out in this neighbourhood of Mountain View and had some great coffee, great food, and the houses are super cute. There are some new-bulld condos in that area too.

If I were moving across the San Mateo bridge that's where I would choose. Good luck!
posted by guster4lovers at 12:04 PM on August 20, 2011

A few years ago, I lived in a not-so-expensive area in Palo Alto (if you can believe that) off Middlefield and there's a nice little strip that includes a Safeway, some coffee shops, a big park, etc.

I could bike to the California Caltrain station really easily.

The neighborhood's gotten even nicer, so perhaps it's not as affordable, but I liked it.

I also lived in Mountain View for years and while it was a different era (I lived across the street from Netscape back when it was joyous and street hockey), I loved my quiet little duplex, as well as being biking distance to downtown Mountain View, the Caltrain Station, Tied House (because I don't drink and drive, but biking...). I still occasionally find myself walking down the main strip when I meet up with Silicon Valley peeps.

I agree with everyone that you start close to work and work your way outwards. Sunnyvale is hit or miss and the area near the downtown strip can be noisy/skeezy depending on where you are.

I commute from SF to Palo Alto every day and while I'd never leave the city, I think you're very, very smart for moving just for quality of life.
posted by Gucky at 12:14 PM on August 20, 2011

Oh, also downtown Redwood City and San Mateo can be quite jumping -- you know, on a suburban scale. There are sketchy areas of both, but we live in SF and when we want to get our suburb on, we head down to Redwood City occasionally.
posted by Gucky at 12:17 PM on August 20, 2011

Downtown Sunnyvale is really only one block of Murphy Ave. They've packed in quite a few eateries, bars, and a few independent shops into that one block, but that's it. It is right next to the Caltrain station, but the housing in the area is... eh. They aren't the nicest of houses, but you might be able to find something in your price range that will allow dogs. There's a Target with some groceries within walking distance to the south, but you'd probably be better off driving to the nearby massive Safeway and/or Trader Joe's and/or Sprout's.

Note that Caltrain does not function like BART - don't set your expectations high there. I commute every day up to SF by Caltrain, and I love it for what it is - a commuter rail.

I don't know downtown Mountain View well enough to advise you on housing, but you're more likely to find what you want there than Sunnyvale. However, every urban Googler who isn't riding the shuttle down from SF is looking for housing in the same area, so prices are pretty high.

Downtown Los Altos is cute but ritzy - it might be worth checking out. Also might consider Santa Clara near Santa Clara University.

You'll get the most interesting nightlife in South Bay in downtown San Jose, near the university & the Shark Tank. We were strongly considering the Museum Park Apartment Homes (which accepts dogs and is only a couple of blocks from a dog park) before we decided to suburanize it up with a yard in Sunnyvale. The whole area near there has a pretty decent walkability score with groceries, bars, coffee shops and the like.
posted by Gori Girl at 12:21 PM on August 20, 2011

I live within walking distance of downtown San Mateo, and I love it. (My partner works at the Goog.)

Memail me for commuting logistics details, but this arrangement works fine for us. We're 20 minutes from the city by car. From home, we can walk to a (fancy, silly, but lovable) grocery store, several Japanese markets, a coffee shop with great beans, a movie theater, a bunch of other restaurants, an independent bookstore, mellow nightlife, Central Park, etc.

(I know that the commute is long from the East Bay, but I think Google runs shuttles from relatively close to you too. And from the city.)
posted by purpleclover at 12:38 PM on August 20, 2011

Mountain View is surprisingly nice. I hate Sunnyvale but I love Mountain View.

Downtown Mountain View would suit you fine. You can walk to a CVS and an Asian grocery for staples on Castro. Castro is pretty much the "downtown" - it's one long, pleasant street of interesting restaurants, bookstores, some practical stores like Kinko's and the post office, bars... very nice for evening strolling. The excellent library is a block away. There are lots of cute older houses nearby, and one or two new condo communities.

The San Antonio shopping center, about 30 minutes' walk from downtown, is not cute or evening-stroll-atmospheric but it is insanely convenient: in one big block, you have a Trader Joe's, a Safeway, a Target, the Milk Pail (fabulous cheap independent produce and dairy and imported foods store); a Kohls, a Ross, a Carters, a 24 hr fitness, a Joann's, an independent coffee shop, a Japanese dollar store, restaurants (including sushi, Thai, decent Chinese fast food), a UPS store, a Payless shoes, several dry cleaners... if you live near there you pretty much never need to drive to do errands. There is lots of housing right there, in the Crossings townhouse/condo development.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:38 PM on August 20, 2011

Sunnyvale has great housing a ten minute walk from downtown (Washington Park neighborhood among others). People who hate Sunnyvale don't know Sunnyvale.

Mountain View fits your description better, with a much larger downtown, including nice streets to live on, but it's more expensive and the good rental housing can be hard to find. I lucked out and rented a cute cottage 2 blocks from Castro St for a while a few years ago and loved it.

Either way the drive to Google is about ten minutes, or you could bike.

I'd recommend Sushi Tomi, Cascal, Dana Street Coffee, Kabul, Shalamar.

I'm afraid there's no direct replacement for Market Hall, Scream sorbet or Olliveto. ;-(
posted by w0mbat at 4:53 PM on August 20, 2011

Google has wifi-equipped shuttles all over the Bay Area. Ask GHR for a map.
posted by zvs at 4:55 PM on August 20, 2011

It might be worth looking into Downtown San Jose. I used to live in a cute Japan Town suburban neighborhood and ride CalTrain to Palo Alto. Bit of a hike to CalTrain. I find DownTown a bit soul-less, but aesthetically pleasing and the price is right. Some very nice craftsman/victorian/1930's neighborhoods. Light Rail is a bonus.

Also agree with people suggesting Downtown San Mateo and Santa Clara around the University. I miss the weather in SJ/SC, so if you like it warmer than Oakland, investigate those areas. Use Yelp to check out nearby stuff.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:46 AM on August 21, 2011

Thanks for all the suggestions. I feel relieved. And excited. I sent my resume in last week, and they already want me on-site for a half-day interview, so this is kind of moving faster than I expected.

To clarify belatedly: the company in question isn't Google, but only a few blocks from their HQ. So I don't think I get shuttle privileges.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:37 PM on August 21, 2011

(And yes, chickens, eggs, etc., etc.)
posted by deludingmyself at 9:38 PM on August 21, 2011

Memail me. I know a very specific place (near El Camino and El Monte) that might work for you.
posted by tangerine at 4:57 PM on August 25, 2011

« Older Why is Alan Dean Foster's name on the UK quad...   |   Lucy has an infected foot. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.