Moving to San Diego from New York
October 3, 2011 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Moving to San Diego in December. Some questions about location, lifestyle and prices inside.

I'm moving to San Diego from New York by the end of the year. My work is in W Bernardo Drive, close to the junction of I-15 and Rancho Bernardo Road. We're a couple with no children, but a baby may be joining us within the next year or so. Our rent budget is around $2000.

So far there's Option 1 and Option 2:

Option 1: Since I want to avoid having two cars in the household, plan A is to live in a radius of max. 5-10 miles from work and commute by bike. That would mean Rancho Bernardo and vicinity. We could probably get a large house for less than we pay for rent in New York and enjoy having some space for a while.

I wonder how bike-friendly is the region, though. I can see there's a bunch of bike lanes in the region, but that doesn't mean much if it's an area where drivers are hostile to cyclists. Do people commute by bike in San Diego at all?

Another concern with options inland are wildfires. How much of a problem are these, really? Does the risk of wildfire affects rental prices? What about the cost of rental insurance?

Option 2: Another side of me thinks that moving to San Diego and not living by the beach is like moving to New York and not living in Manhattan - you may be saving money, but you're just not getting the full experience. So another option would be finding a place close to the beach in San Diego proper or any other coastal community north of that (from LaJolla to Oceanside) and commute by car to work. I got a truckload of information from this post, by the way.

There's a lot of telecommuting in my work, and I may end up having to go to work only 2-3 times a week so traffic is less of a problem. Also, my wife works from home, so if we live in a walkable community, we may be able to stick to the 1-car plan, as she could walk and bike places and not be stranded when I'm out with the car.

From what I'm seeing, as you move closer to the coast real estate prices rise and we wouldn't be able to have a large place, but being by the beach would compensate for that. But can you find a somewhat peaceful location close to the beach that is not infested with tourists/drunk college kids/belligerent marines that doesn't cost an arm and a leg?

So, I know this is very lifestyle related and it depends on personal interests and whatnot, but how do San Diegans feel about Options 1 and 2? Are the plans realistic? We haven't decided which way we're going, and probably will only make that call once we're in San Diego and looking at the rentals available in the coast vs. the Rancho Bernardo area, but we'd like to know which scenario is more likely.

Feel free to talk about specific neighborhoods and places and we should be looking at. Thanks!
posted by falameufilho to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Coming to SD from NYC will likely require you to have 2 cars in either scenario. Public transportation is not very comprehensive, and most everything is going to be in driving distance versus biking distance.

Bike-ability isn't bad in RB. The lanes are wide and open, not much in terms of blind curves. People drive unreasonably fast from time to time, but that's suburban sprawl for you. I don't think there is a culture of hostility to bike riders, as bicyclists and drivers don't have to compete as much in the RB area.

I think the Ranch Bernardo area is about as suburban as you can get outside of Orange County. I don't know the comparable NJ or Long Island neighborhoods, but I imagine there are some.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:00 AM on October 3, 2011

I went to UCSD and lived in a few places around San Diego. Neighborhoods vary greatly in character. If I were young and childless and living there again I would go back to around where I used to live in 2008, University Heights, which is part of the general Hillcrest/NorthPark/SouthPark area. Coming from NYC, no other neighborhood short of living downtown will have anything that impresses you. Unless you're really desperate for the suburban lifestyle, and you want nothing in terms of amenities or entertainment except big-box strip malls, avoid inland or far north.

The World Famous is correct that Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach are probably not your scene, too young and full of frat kids.

La Jolla is ritzy, yuppy, jammed with tourists in summer and deserted in the winter, and pretty much the same goes for Coronado, although it is cute and historic. Yes, UCSD is in La Jolla, but the students are confined to live on campus or way away in Clairemont or Mira Mesa because of prohibitively expensive housing, so there is no college scene. Not many places in La Jolla in your price range, but a handful. Bird Rock, just to the south of there, is where you should look. Parts of the area around Mission Bay might be in your price range and I've seen some very cute houses there, but again, be careful to feel out the neighborhood in person.

Hillcrest/NorthPark/SouthPark have decent dining, number of grocery stores including a Trader Joes and a Whole Foods, proximity to Balboa Park for leisure outdoors or museums, and these areas are the epicentre of San Diego craft beer, which is a big deal. You would be able to bike to everything you wanted except work, which might be a decent trade-off. You won't be right by the beach, but you would be within a 5 mile bike ride of the downtown waterfront.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:33 AM on October 3, 2011

If I were in this scenario, I'd live somewhere fun and commute into Rancho Bernardo -- mainly because you say you can likely telecommute a couple times a week, and your wife works from home -- but I'm not a fan of the suburbs. As you know, anywhere in the coastal metro will mean much less space at greater prices. The World Famous is also correct that the beach areas of San Diego are either ridiculously ritzy (La Jolla), hippie-gritty (Ocean Beach) or a little too west coast Jersey Shore (Pacific Beach, Mission Beach) -- though don't get me wrong, each is fun to visit. Not sure if a peaceful location near the San Diego beaches really exists anymore, if you don't have a multimillion dollar budget. Maybe check out the Kate Sessions area of Pacific Beach, easing into Mount Soledad and Bird Rock, or Bay Park. Not right on the water, but within a couple miles. Bay Park has epic views and is "affordable", at least compared to the actual coasts; both my in-laws live there.

On the flipside, Rancho Bernardo is indeed bikeable (though not walkable) and my husband's coworker regularly commutes from the UTC area of La Jolla home to Rancho Bernardo. It's long, but he LOVES it.
posted by changeling at 11:34 AM on October 3, 2011

My impression so far has been that the beach is for tourists and rich people. It's similar to wanting to live in an urban downtown/hot area: you'll need to have the financial and personal lifestyle to want to do that. But I don't think there is a unifying desire here to live near the beach unless you have a very specific use for it, like really devoted surfing (but surfers here routinely drive miles and miles to surf, living there isn't really a priority). It's cold, traffic is crap, it's blindingly expensive and/or it's tourist-infested. It's nice to look at, but it's not going anywhere, so you don't necessarily have to keep a constant eye on it.

Like TWF just said, you might want to look really hard before you commit to that idea. I just don't think most people who live here consider the beaches to be especially desirable. San Diego is SO much more than beaches.

If you want to be close to RB, the beach isn't really an option anyway. It's nice, it is suburban if that's a problem, it *seems* fairly bikeable to me as a driver. The previous thread stands on all those points. My advice is always rent pretty close to work the first year and see what happens. My husband and I try to go out on field trips to other areas as often as we can to get to know them and figure out where we might live next. You're going to be renting, so it's not like you're stuck forever where you land.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:36 AM on October 3, 2011

(My husband and I live in Clairemont, bleh, and are actively trying to move to uptown -- specifically University Heights or South Park, in the fantastic uptown area slow graffiti mentioned. Not close to the beach, but so much art & culture, the best in SD)
posted by changeling at 11:37 AM on October 3, 2011

I live a mile or so from the junction of the 15 and RB Rd. If I worked in the industrial park I'm betting your new job is in, I would almost feel compelled to bike or walk to work, even though I haven't been on one since I was 16.

Rancho Bernardo as a whole isn't very walkable, but if you cherry-pick your home, you can improve that a lot (comparatively speaking, of course). If you want to be able to bike to work and walk to a grocery store, I'd look on the other side of the 15, around Bernardo Center Dr., or in 4S Ranch (which might be even more suburban than RB proper).

Commuting from the beach inland and back would mostly put you in reverse traffic, I think, so that is certainly an option as well. You'd want to look in La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Encinitas. Those can be expensive places to live. Outside of those areas you get beach bums, college kids, and long commutes. You'd definitely want to take the 56 across rather than the 78, because traffic on the 15 south of the 78 gets nasty.

As others have said, the uptown areas around Balboa Park are the cool places to live, but you're not much closer to the beach than you'd be in RB. And they do have plenty of brewpubs, but, if you're into that thing, most of the breweries are actually in north county along the 15 and 78, so you'll be fine either place in that regard. Traffic on the freeway would be OK from the 15 to the 52 (another reverse commute), and then get worse as you go farther south.

Re: wildfires. Rancho Bernardo got hit pretty hard in the 2007 wildfires. My roommate and I were evacuated, but our condo at the time was never in any real danger. Where I live now is much closer to some of the burned areas, and I would have been worried had I lived there in '07. However, there were plenty of north county coastal areas evacuated as well, so I'm not sure that should be a deciding factor between the two.

North county inland gets a lot of crap for being out in the boonies and boring, but the cool stuff is there -- you just have to look a little harder. There's a gastropub up here that my friends look forward to driving the 30-40 minutes to eat at. I like RB -- I own my own place, have plenty of parking for me and my guests, I don't have to deal with tourists and bar hoppers, and the weather is almost always better than the coastal areas that get stuck under the marine layer. It's not right for everyone, but it works for me.

If you want more info on RB specifically, MeMail me.
posted by natabat at 11:56 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I live in OB and commute 30 minutes each way to RB.

The biggest thing you have to realize about SD: The coasts are 10-20 degrees cooler than inland during the days. RB is extremely hot, and is also pretty generic suburbia. All the areas around RB are similar.

I love OB, I have no plans on leaving. Despite what some people say, OB actually has a lot of families, a little bit of culture, and a really nice main street with lots of little shops and such. Obviously, yes, real estate is expensive, but I can walk to the ocean before work, and I pay 1050 a month for a decent sized one bedroom.

OB, PB, La Jolla, and Del Mar, are all nice and cool(in terms of temperature) areas to live in SD. Del Mar is expensive, but also about 20 minutes to RB vs 30 minutes for OB / PB / LJ.

North Park, and Hillcrest are excellent neighborhoods with culture and interesting goings on. They are also warmer than the coast. They are a few minutes closer to RB.

Your question boils down to:
Live near RB an deal with the heat and isolation(but have the most space, though RB is not SUPER cheap).
Live on the coast and enjoy slightly cooler weather and slightly more goings on(and the ocean).
Live around downtown, deal with the heat, but lots of activity.

Truthfully though, SD is not SF. This is a beach town and though stuff goes on all the time, we are a bit lacking in the culture department.
posted by satori_movement at 12:13 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

The World Famous is also correct that the beach areas of San Diego are either ridiculously ritzy (La Jolla), hippie-gritty (Ocean Beach) or a little too west coast Jersey Shore (Pacific Beach, Mission Beach)

I think Encinitas fits none of these categories. It is more of a surfer town that has become a bit more upscale. And it has a walkable downtown area and a great community. Expensive, though.
posted by vacapinta at 12:41 PM on October 3, 2011

Yes, I was just thinking, somewhere between Solana Beach and Carlsbad (Encinitas included) may not be a bad place to look. That part of the coast is on the beach, not touristy (except Legoland, but that's in the further north Carlsbad), pretty Bike-friendly, and you can probably find fast side-streets into Rancho Bernardo if you don't want to take the 78 or 56. There are a lot of military families along that coast if that might be an issue, but San Diego is still a military town no matter where you are.

Rancho Bernardo is in the middle of fire-country. The basic rule, though, is that the closer you are to the foothills, forests, or the chaparral, the closer you will be to fire-risk. I mean, you have to be in one of those newer neighborhoods that were built on the outskirts to the east or further north. If the house you are looking at is near a bunch of nothing, then you'll have to worry about fire. As you move into the more heavily developed areas, there should also be less risk of fire. I don't know how that translates to insurance, though.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:22 PM on October 3, 2011

My wife and I both grew up in RB, have lived all over San Diego County, and moved back to 4S Ranch (2004) and now RB proper (2011) when we were ready to have kids. My parents moved my family here when I was a kid for the same reason my wife and I decided to move our family here: the schools are some of the best in the area. Overall, RB is a sleepy area that's generally pretty good for families and retirees. 4S Ranch, which is a newer area just west of RB on the other side of the 15, is basically the same thing but with bigger houses and smaller lots. 4S is pretty walkable and would be an easier bike ride to work, if you're in the industrial park I think you're in. RB has never struck me as particularly walkable, but most of the shopping, library, restaurants, etc. are pretty centrally-located, and you could certainly find somewhere nearby. Also, having grown up here I am a pretty stereotypical Southern Californian used to driving everywhere as a matter of course; our definitions of walkable are probably pretty different.

Parts of RB got hit really hard in the 2007 fires. We were evacuated from our house in 4S for 3 days (my neighbor shot a video of the fire coming close to our street). My childhood house on the eastern edge of RB burned down. The Westwood neighborhood, which runs north along West Bernardo Dr. from where you'll be working, was severely affected. As someone else mentioned, these are all outlying neighborhoods that back onto open space. The previous big fire we had in 2004 mostly hit a neighborhood a few miles south of RB called Scripps Ranch, which also backs onto open space. Fires are a concern, but I don't particularly worry about them, and neither did my insurance company when I got my homeowner's policy for our last house (that we were evacuated from) or the current one.

As far as the coast goes, I posted in that previous thread you linked to but I'll repeat what I said there and what others have said above about Encinitas. It's fantastic, and we looked at several houses there this year before we settled on RB again because we couldn't quite make the math work on a purchase there. Also, the schools are not as good and with our oldest starting kindergarten next year and a new baby, that was a primary concern for us. Without kids, I would have gone for a smaller place on the coast without a doubt. Encinitas, Cardiff, Solana Beach, and Del Mar are all great. I would avoid La Jolla and anything south of there, personally, although parts of Point Loma are great.
posted by sbrollins at 3:58 PM on October 3, 2011

Don't knock the beach.

We've recently moved to San Diego from the East Coast and fall into the "why would you move to San Diego and not live by the beach?" camp. We found several neighborhoods that didn't seem particularly fratty-- La Jolla, Bird Rock, north Pacific Beach, as well as parts of Mission Beach. And we live in one now, very happily.

As for cost, we saw plenty of 1-2 bedroom apartments well within your price range in those areas. If you want a freestanding house, that will be trickier, although not impossible.

You should get two cars, though we manage with one.
posted by willbaude at 4:01 PM on October 3, 2011

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