Having regrets about moving...it's eating me up inside and I'm not sure how to deal
October 1, 2011 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm about halfway through setting up my new studio in Oakland, and I feel this overwhelming sense of feeling like I should have looked for a place in San Francisco instead. I'm not sure what to do at this point.

So I've recently relocated to the Bay Area from a small East Coast town. I was staying with family in Oakland and was in a bit of a hurry and eager to find a place of my own, which is what I've wanted for a LONG time. I was going to look all over the Bay Area. However, I was a bit homesick at the time I was doing apt hunting and it's expensive and a hassle to get around the Bay Area. I was lazy and unmotivated to get in touch with people in SF to ask them about housing. It was so much easier to search for a place in Oakland instead.

I walked up and down a few streets near my family member's place, fell in love and decided I wanted to live there. Found an apt in a nice neighborhood with a landlord who is as nice as he could be.

What I failed to consider was the safety of getting to places beyond my immediate neighborhood. I've found some great things in Oakland that I want to try (meditation classes, fitness centers, meetup groups, etc), but everything meets in the evenings. This means walking back to my apt at night from bus stops. I don't own a car and have no interest in getting one, so I rely on public transit. As a single female, I don't feel safe walking around in Oakland after sunset. My neighborhood is mostly residential and the buses don't go all the way into the neighborhood.

Every time I visit SF, I get this overwhelming feeling that I should have searched for a place there. SF is busier, more opportunities to meet people (dating, hanging out with co-worekrs, etc), less crime, easier to get around, doesn't have a bad reputation, etc, etc. The energy in SF makes me feel alive. I only tried searching for SF apartments once, on craigslist. My budget allows for no more than $1150 toward rent. My studio in Oakland is $865 in a nice neighborhood. If only I could move it to SF!!!

I'm still in the process of moving my things over to my studio in Oakland. My family in Oakland says there's no rush to move out of their place. My question is, do you think I should cancel my rental agreement now (luckily it's month to month) and search for a place in SF? The problem is I've already got Ikea furniture there and no where to put it. I know some people in SF and I would just need to put up the effort to ask them for advice on apt hunting and make time to go across the Bay regularly to look at places.

Also, how realistic is it to find a studio in SF for $1150 or less, in a nice neighborhood that allows cats? Or do I have no choice but to live with roommates?

So here are my options:

1. Continue setting up my apt, give it 6 months, and after that, reevaluate if I still want to stay there or move.

2. Use my Oakland apt as temp storage for my furniture, stop setting up the apartment, and start searching for a place in SF immediately. This would be awkward b/c I've already gushed about how happy I was about my studio to my family, co-workers, friends, etc. Lord knows what they will think of me when I tell them I've had a change of heart?

Just 2 days ago I was all excited about living in Oakland. But when I went to SF yesterday, that's what brought this on. I thought I'd feel better today, but I'm not. Any insights would be appreciated. If you were in my situation, what would you do? Thanks!
posted by starpoint to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Seems like you're describing a more extreme form of buyer's remorse.

You're only two days into it. You need more data. Set up the apartment and re-evaluate in 30-60-90 days.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:21 PM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you have a bike? That would help get around the bus issue while you evaluate staying in Oakland.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:36 PM on October 1, 2011

This crime map should help you evaluate the relative safety of your area.

I've lived in Oakland for six years now, and in the larger Bay Area for 20 years. Safety is a block-to-block thing in Oakland. I live in West Oakland, but my immediate area is safe -- largely families and whatnot, no gangs on the street. But I don't have to go too far before things start to get hairy.
posted by mikeand1 at 12:37 PM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you should give it time. You're close enough San Francisco that you can spend a lot of time there without living there. You've already found a place. I'm guessing that you signed a 12 month lease so you're only talking about living in Oakland for a year. Embrace Oakland but figure out what it would cost to break your lease and tell friends in San Francisco that you're situated but would like to move to SF so please let you know if they find out about affordable places to live closer to the city. If you can spend $1150 on rent and you're currently spending $865, can you save $285/month so maybe, in a year, you'll be able to spend $1435 on rent there? (Sorry if my math failed me, just tried to do it in my head). Being able to spend more on rent will certainly increase your likelihood of finding a place in SF that meets your needs.

My experience has been that in places where there is a high demand for cheap housing, it takes a couple of tries and moves to find a place that meets your needs/wants when it comes to cost, location and quality of apartment. When I first moved to DC, my future husband and I were sharing a room in a house that was really cheap but a little far from things. Then we moved to a place that was in a cool neighborhood but a little more expensive and the apartment itself was only okay. We currently live in a big, cheap apartment in a great part of town where we've lived for five years. I feel like each move meant circling in closer to what we wanted.

Basically, don't look at this as an either/or situation. You're in a good place so make the best of it but keep your eyes open for something that might be even better.
posted by kat518 at 12:37 PM on October 1, 2011

I think the first thing you need to figure out is if is actually unsafe for you to walk around at night alone in your neighborhood. Do some research online (e.g. padmapper.com will show you how dangerous your neighborhood is compared to others nearby, I'm sure the oakland police department has some more comprehensive statistics if you hit up Google), and also, ask the neighbors! Coming from a small town, it may be difficult at first for you to disentangle what's creating unease because it's unfamiliar, and what's creating unease because it's actually dangerous.

I'm not intimately familiar with Oakland, but I do know that its reputation for dangerousness is somewhat exaggerated. But safety or lack thereof is something that can very strongly vary street by street, or even block by block, so do some research.

If you determine that you can get out in the evenings to explore some of what Oakland has to offer, then I'd come down strongly on the side of waiting six months or a year before deciding. As you're setting up an apartment, that extra money you're not spending on rent will very much come in handy, and once you've been in the city a year, you'll have a much better handle on how to find a place in SF itself that's within your budget range.

However, if after doing some research, you still don't feel safe walking around at night, then I think you should get back to looking ASAP. The furniture can be put in storage, or you can move in while you look...that's a really easy problem to solve. But you will not be happy, and you will not settle in to the Bay Area, if you feel stuck alone in a small studio at night. That's a recipe for loneliness and isolation.
posted by psycheslamp at 12:39 PM on October 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Can you give us a general neighborhood?

In any case, I would wait the 6 months and see where you are then. I've lived in Oakland for over 10 years, and have come to have a deep civic pride in all the great things happening here. My boyfriend and I own a home here and have no plans to leave. We hella heart it!
posted by waitangi at 12:49 PM on October 1, 2011

Do you work in SF? Are you here because you had a desire to live in The City (even if you hadn't articulated which one)? Move to San Francisco. If you want to live where the action is, I would consider living with other people. You can get something pretty nice and also central for $1150 if you have housemates. A studio for that price would probably be not so nice (zero light and/or not great cooking facities and/or in a bad neighborhood and/or pretty far away from the stuff that excites you about SF.)

I say this as someone who recently moved to Lake Merritt from SF. I'm thrilled beyond belief with my choice, but a) I have a car b) I lived in SF for two years so I had my time there and know what I'm trading in and c) I date women, so Oakland has an edge over SF for me for dating.

It's hard to get back from the city at night after midnight unless you want to take a cab. The all-night buses leave from a terminal that's in a sketchy neighborhood of SF.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:52 PM on October 1, 2011

Response by poster: Waitangi, my neighborhood is in the Grand Lake area. I feel safe in that area, but most of the things I want to do at night are all in downtown/uptown and near the 19th Street Bart station. I hear that they can be deserted or sketchy at night. If I had someone with me maybe I'd feel safer but as a single woman I have to be extra viligant. Have you been to those places at night?

kat518, my lease is month-to-month.
posted by starpoint at 12:53 PM on October 1, 2011

Response by poster: needs more cowbell,

I have always wanted to live in a city. That is why I'm here. My job is work from home, but my company has a workspace in SF for locals to work in if they want. I wanted a city where I could live in that was interesting, diverse and walkable. Oakland is all of those things, but I just wish the crime rate/reputation wasn't so high here, then I'd feel better about getting around.

Thanks for the info about the transbay all-nighter buses, that's good to know.
posted by starpoint at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2011

The downtown/uptown area is very nice, and I do not believe I would feel too unsafe taking bart down there for a nighttime activity (I have been down there at night, but not taken bart specifically there. Generally for me, though, bart is not a problem.) Uptown itself is extremely well-lit, and it's a popular part of town so there are usually people out.

The Grand Lake area is nice too, I wonder if anything that interests you happens in your own hood?

The Grand Lake Ace is the best place around to get plants, if you're into that. :)
posted by waitangi at 1:09 PM on October 1, 2011

I feel safe in that area, but most of the things I want to do at night are all in downtown/uptown and near the 19th Street Bart station. I hear that they can be deserted or sketchy at night. If I had someone with me maybe I'd feel safer but as a single woman I have to be extra viligant. Have you been to those places at night?

I have- I live 8 minutes from 19th st BART. I ride my bike if I feel like I'm going to be out at night by myself and don't want to be hassled. That being said, I can't even remember the last time I was hassled on foot at night. Downtown is a lot less deserted than when I moved here 12 years ago. But if you're really concerned, get a bike! Biking from Downtown to Grand Lake is a breeze.

I doubt you could do better in SF- the rental market is extremely tight there.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:16 PM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

San Francisco is pretty expensive - looking at Craigslist, I'm not seeing a whole lot of options in your price range except for some stuff that looks suspiciously like it's in the Tenderloin. Most of the young professionals I met in SF are either married or have roommates for this reason. I paid a ludicrous $1700/month to live in a studio in the Mission this past summer (completely absurd and would not have done that long-term, as much as I loved being there). I am sure you can find a much better deal than that, since you have time to look around and are in the area to meet with people (I was on a tight schedule and had to arrange something without meeting landlords in person), but I still think you may need to rethink your budget just a little or save up a bit while you're living relatively cheaply in Oakland, if you actually do want to move into SF. I did get the impression that I was having a lot more fun than my coworkers who lived across the bay, so I am very much biased toward SF, despite the price downside.
As for safety...I don't know Oakland, and I think it's probably worth doing some research on crime rates, etc. Coming from East Coast cities (including some time in a DC neighborhood that hadn't gentrified when I first moved in), the Bay Area in general felt a bit grittier to me - more homeless people (and more who were clearly mentally ill), more street harassment from men (pretty constantly), etc. That said, there was only one time when I felt particularly unsafe (a guy on a bike was following me) - since I lived in a pretty busy neighborhood, there were generally people out and about in the evenings. A completely deserted street would definitely have been much scarier, and if that's what you've got then I feel for you.
I think you are well-positioned here in that 1) actually being nearby you can look for a new place relatively easily if you're not comfortable with this one and 2) the month-to-month thing means you're not stuck in a long-term commitment. I can't really answer your question, but I do think that whatever you decide should be all about what you want and need, not what you're worried others might think of you. I get the impression that people in the Bay Area are really sympathetic to housing difficulties (one of my summer coworkers moved probably 3 times throughout the summer and always came in with a different horror story about her apartment woes - neighbors hiring noisy prostitutes, spiders the size of her head, emotionally unstable landladies, etc. etc.) and I really don't think anyone would judge you harshly if you said it just didn't work out
posted by naoko at 1:16 PM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Specifically regarding crime, San Francisco has its share of gang violence that spills over onto people not in gangs (just the latest incident that I can think of) as well as more "ordinary" crimes like muggings and so on. I live in the Mission and had been at the restaurant in my link just a night or two before that shooting.

As with Oakland, cheaper rents in SF are going to be farther from BART/Muni stops. I do like the Mission because the main commercial drags are busy until pretty late, which makes it *feel* safer (even if it objectively isn't); on the rare occasions when I'm out late, alone, I've generally felt pretty safe waiting at a bus stop or even walking home (I'm a woman, but I read pretty easily as male to most people, so YMMV in this regard).

I'd say give it six months; pretend that your rent really is $1150 instead of $865 and put the difference away each month for a cushion. Do your best to make community and go out and explore and do fun stuff. Then, if in six months you still really want to move, you'll have more resources to do so and will have a better idea of what and where you want to be. Since you already feel like you rushed into this decision, don't double-down by doing that again. Take your time; San Francisco will still be here in six months or a year. (Probably.)
posted by rtha at 1:17 PM on October 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

My momma lives about a mile from you. I love Oakland, it's a treasure. And a bike is your best friend. That being said, the BART midnight downtime can be a NIGHTMARE. (I would be hard-pressed to live in the non-SF Bay Area without a car myself.)

San Francisco is a shared house town at its best for people on a budget. There's great apartments that you only have access to if they're shared. Why don't you stay in Oakland for a couple months, make some pals in SF and move into a shared place? You can use the time to get to know the neighborhoods you don't know well enough yet. (So you don't end up living in the Sunset.) You're in the perfect transition situation! This is awesome! You don't have to make any hasty choices. Look how cute your neighborhood is.

Also I felt much better about Oakland after I took self-defense. (Also? San Francisco is not exactly the safest place in the world! I've been robbed and beaten more than a few times in busy hip neighborhoods there.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:26 PM on October 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I lived in San Francisco for over 7 years and have recently moved to the East Bay in the Lake Merrit-esque area, so I bet we're neighbors. At first, I did not feel that safe walking home from the bus, but now I do, so I agree with the others to say to give it time.

As far as your budget, it was similar to mine, and I was limited to either Tenderloin-ish area ( which is a whole new set of problems) or the outer avenues, which can also be a pain in the ass to get from other SF neighborhoods. A lot of the studios in those neighborhoods are also in-laws, so you'd have to live with your landlord. Once you put a pet into the mix, it's going to really limit your options.

What I do when I am coming home from SF or from downtown is take taxis if it is too late. There are cabs at the Marriott at 12th & Broadway, and also at 14th & Broadway. It's really, honestly not that bad. I used to work nights and take the bus late at night (at like 3, 4 in the morning) from Port Authority in New York and I have a lot of experience with this. It will be okay.

The AC transit all nighter buses actually pick up from Market, starting at Van Ness, not solely from transbay terminal.
posted by lollipopgomez at 1:27 PM on October 1, 2011

Also, if you find yourself reading the answers by people like me who think you should really give Oakland a try and wanting to reply "but guys, I REALLY want to move to SF," go for it. I don't have to live your life, you do. And if this is what you really want, go for it. But I stand by my suggestion that you give Oakland a good faith effort.
posted by kat518 at 1:33 PM on October 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think you can have the best of both worlds. Spend one week apartment hunting like crazy in SF before you move any more of your stuff into the Oakland apartment. If you can find something for under 1150, go for it. If not, move into your Oakland apartment and work on increasing your income so that you can move to SF in 6 months.

I don't think this is an either or question as much as when.

Good luck!
posted by fantasticninety at 2:02 PM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Uptown is pretty lively at night, which is a change from a few years ago. A bunch of bars have opened up in the last few years, and as the many apartments and condos (including The Uptown) continue to become occupied, it will only get better. I spend a lot of time in downtown Oakland at night, and while I can't recommend 14th and Broadway after 10 pm or so as a great place to hang out, it's not that bad either, and the Uptown area is a lot better.

And there are parts of SF that really don't feel safe to me at night. It's kind of a mixed thing. If I compare the Mission to Uptown, there are more people on Mission Street so it feels less deserted, but there are also far more people who are clearly high or strung out, holding loud arguments in the middle of the sidewalk, getting tackled by cops, etc... Even worse is the Civic Center / Tenderloin area, where I've also lived and the only place I never got used to.

Of course, SF is a very different energy, and there are really great places to live, and especially as someone who doesn't drive much, you may well want to try living there at some point. But you didn't "make a mistake" by living where you are now, in my view. Where you live is honestly pretty nice. In fact, I know someone who just moved to that neighborhood from the middle Haight (in SF) to get a greater sense of safety. For a sense of security, take a walk up in the hills east of Lakeshore Ave. on streets like Rosemount and Grosvenor, and just imagine what people there spend just on their landscaping. :)
posted by salvia at 2:02 PM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd give it some time. 19th looks skeevy, but if you look like you know where you're going and/or have a bike you should be fine.

Most of the drama that goes down in Oakland involves people already involved in criminal activity - unless you're caught up in it (or flashing expensive electronics while you walk down the street), you're probably not going to encounter anything.
posted by yeloson at 2:21 PM on October 1, 2011

I sometimes go ice skating at the rink at 19th and Telegraph, a block away from the BART station. Some of the sessions end after 10pm, and I used to take the bus or BART back. Sometimes I've felt a little wary waiting for the bus, but never unsafe.

Give it time. The Lakeshore/Grand area is great. And, as others have mentioned, the average place in your price range in SF is probably not going to be in a safer neighborhood.

P.S. Try taking a look for things near Piedmont Avenue. The walk from Grand goes through Piedmont, which is almost exclusively residential area made up of large, single-family homes on pretty tree-lined streets.
posted by clorox at 2:39 PM on October 1, 2011

If you want to live in the city, live in the city. Life is short.

But you have time to find a place that works for you.
posted by fshgrl at 2:40 PM on October 1, 2011

Since no one has yet put it so bluntly, let me do so: You will not find a studio in the city that is within your budget, allows pets and is in a nice neighborhood.

Now, think about whether your priority is to be in the city or to live alone. If it's to live in the city then set aside some time to look, because the rental market is tight and it will likely find a while to locate a place 1. in a neighborhood you like and 2. that can take pets and 3. with people you can get along with and 4. who select you over other candidates. I don't mean to sound gloomy, you can have all of these things but it will likely take some time and work to get there. I would move into your Oakland studio in the meantime regardless, it sounds like a great place and even if you end up moving later you'll never wonder "what if I had taken that place in Oakland?"
posted by cali at 3:15 PM on October 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm you neighbour. Get a bike for getting around when/where you don't feel comfortable, don't stumble around drunk in the middle of the night, make some friends. You'll be fine.
posted by quarterframer at 5:23 PM on October 1, 2011

Padmapper shows a tiny handful of listings that'd meet your criteria. If you use the widget at the bottom to uncover the "super secret advanced" options, you can overlay heatmaps of crime activity.

...Which is useful for understanding the tradeoff you'd face in moving to the city: the very few low-crime neighborhoods you could afford are way off BART. The parts of SF that are "busier, more opportunities to meet people (dating, hanging out with co-worekrs, etc), less crime, easier to get around..." are going to be a long MUNI ride from where you'd bed down.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:55 PM on October 1, 2011

Life is short!! Get thee to SF ASAP!!!!

Every time I live in the less ideal suburb of anyplace.... Miserable Me! When I finally move to the more desirable city/neighborhood, I feel alive again.

Stop wasting time.

I also lived in a sketchy neighborhood in LA for a while. The worry is not worth it, hon. Move where you want to live!
posted by jbenben at 6:01 PM on October 1, 2011

The other thing PadMapper shows is that the cat is your biggest problem for meeting your wishlist in SF's tough market. Toggle the cat setting, and watch like 98% of those listings go away from SF only.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:02 PM on October 1, 2011

Your lease is month to month. Take advantage of that & spend some quality time finding the right place in right neighborhood. I moved to Lake Merritt for more affordable rent (love it), and I have lived in SF (in The Mission & The Dogpatch). But I'm not a car or bike person so I dream of moving back to SF. When that happens, I will take my sweet time searching for the right place - because a shitty apartment in SF is not better than living in Grand Lake.

Also FWIW, I thought I would take taxis late at night from the Bart & be all nervous and such. But it turns out I don't take taxis unless I'm drunkety drunk, and I'm not nervous almost ever - I just keep alert & if my spidey sense goes off (once in a blue moon) I get myself out of there. I've never had an actual problem in 4 years. YMMV of course, but you'll probably be fine in this area for a few months.
posted by jenmakes at 6:24 PM on October 1, 2011

I agree with everyone who said you maybe can't afford SF / get in the rental market with your cat etc, that you might learn to love Oakland, give it time, etc.

and it's expensive and a hassle to get around the Bay Area
This is something else that will ease with time. You say you're from a small town so I'm not sure what you're comparing it to. I don't drive and while I found it overwhelming and got lost a lot at first, it's now second nature. It is more expensive / difficult than the NY subway, but what isn't? I have a family member in her 60s who hasn't driven a car in probably 40 years and refuses to go anywhere she can't get on public transit. She lives a very busy, rich life!

I've lived in Oakland a year and my lease was just up, and my roommate and I considered moving to SF. However, the places we could afford (and even then it was a stretch) were in the inner Richmond and inner Sunset. Gorgeous neighborhoods, no mistake! And there is a lot happening in the inner sunset, the park, the lake, all those great restaurants and bars. However, this is what did it for us: most of where it's happening is in downtown SF, and it takes just as long, if not longer, to bus or metromuni it to downtown SF from the inner richmond or inner sunset as it does from where we live in Oakland. (Our situation is different from yours, we both work in Oakland and have less for rent, so we stayed.) Still, something to consider.
(Also - we could have afforded the out Sunset and outer Richmond, but that is even further from anything whatsoever, it's miles of residential, and takes even longer to get downtown.)

Also, think about what it is you love about San Francisco. There are definitely affordable and safe areas of Oakland that look San Francisco-esque. As much as I fangirl Oakland, I concede that SF is overall a prettier city! But right above Grand Lake is Adam's Point, a beautiful, hilly neighborhood that you might like. Also, Piedmont is very quiet and safe, and has some really lovely areas (hilly ones too, which for me brings in a lot of the charm of SF). You'd still have to bike to bart because of the distance, but they're quite safe. Try Temescal too, and a lot of that is walking distance to Macarthur bart.
posted by fireflies at 9:01 AM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

BTW, in case it wasn't clear above- I am female. I get around Oakland on foot and bike. Right now I am a student at UC Davis, so I am up before the sun trekking across Downtown to the train station, but before I was going to school full time I worked in the City and took BART from 19th street to get to and from my job. My boyfriend has a CityCarShare account, and so we use that for car stuff. I understand about the fear of deserted streets- when I lived in West Oakland and walked to and from BART over the freeway, that empty stretch where I was alone over 980 with no residential and no one to hear me shout was an area I never relaxed. I think it's easy to get overwhelmed by Oakland's bad reputation, particularly if people who have never lived here are telling you how bad it is (I'm thinking of commenters on SFGate who have decided Oakland is some sort of war zone and say so in every article about a new bar or Lake Merritt or whatever).

It's great that you're in a month-to-month, because that give you a lot of leeway for making a move to the City if you decide that's really where you want to be. In the meantime, remember that moving is stressful. If you're anything like me you can move into a place that's awesome and it will still feel wrong because it's not home yet, and you've made a monumental decision and now you're stuck (it seems!). I cried when we moved into this apartment because we moved away from all the roommates we had in our West Oakland warehouse, and into a strange place where I knew no one. Though we now had our own kitchen and bathroom, actual wall outlets and light switches, and were in one of the most wonderful neighborhoods in Oakland, it was upsetting. Moving sucks.

So anyway, remember you're not stuck. Remember that in Oakland, young women all around you are also getting around at night on public transit and doing okay. Remember that moving is stressful and what you're feeling this week may not be how you feel next week. Remember that if the City is the sort of energy you really want that you'll be in a much better position to make a strategic move if you've saved up extra cash (you will want to be able to compete with the thirty people who show up at an any open house for a decent SF apartment) and know what you want.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:48 AM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Hoping to deliver comfort, not additional work.   |   Thinking with Portals Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.