Where should I live in Silicon Valley?
June 28, 2005 8:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Silicon Valley in the next month, but I have no idea where I should live! Also, how much is it going to cost for me to live out there on a day-to-day basis?

I'll be working in Sunnyvale, but I'm not sure where to live. I currently live on the waterfront in Jersey City, NJ, across from Manhattan, and I pay $1655 for a 1-bedroom apartment, plus $170/month for parking.

With that in mind, I'm hoping to spend less than I am today and start saving a little money. I've searched for some apartments in San Jose on some of the online apartment rental sites, and it looks like it might be cheaper out there.

Where should I live in the area if I want to live in an apartment complex that's fairly new with some nice amenities, but still within my price range? What's it like to live in the area in general?

Also, will it be grossly more expensive for me to live in the San Jose area than it is for me to live in the New York City metro area today?
posted by superboy422 to Travel & Transportation around California (5 answers total)
No, it's not more expensive. I'm also moving out there next month, but have lived there the past two summers. $900 can get you a nice place if you look hard enough, $1200 will find you something very nice.

If you're working in Sunnyvale, I highly recommend living in Mountain View. It's just the next town over, and it has a cute little downtown with lots of great shops and restaurants, and has ample high-quality housing. Palo Alto has a lot of nice places, too, but they are much more expensive due to the proximity of Stanford and the cool downtown environment there. You can live in PA for $900/mo, but it's not going to be near anything interesting; however the same rate will get you walking distance to downtown Mountain View. If I was willing to spend $1300/mo for a cool place near University Ave, though, I'd probably consider Palo Alto.

If you're not ready for what amounts to an amplified suburbia, your choices are San Francisco and San Jose. The former will net you a long commute time (expect an hour unless you're living south), but it's an amazing place to live (and can be done still around $1000/mo for a decent 1BR place). The latter gives you the urban environment without the long commute, but I don't think it's too nice/exciting/unique of a city personally. People might argue with me on that, but I prefer the open-air feel and the people of the Valley cities more.

To be a Bay Area cliche, I will of course recommend Craigslist. I have found my last two summer places, and my current new permanent residence (Mtn View, Los Gatos, Mtn View, in that order) on there and have not been let down.

Just do the research, and don't believe everything the ad says -- go check out the apartment in person, and check apartmentratings.com if you're looking at a larger, property company-owned complex for any major downsides. I recommend finding places that are privately owned if you can.

The day-to-day living cost is much less than I expected, given the hype. Certainly more than living here in Boulder, Colorado, but I suspect it'll be more affordable than Manhattan by quite a bit (this even goes for San Francisco). And frankly, I just really like the area. The people are nice, and it doesn't suck being 45 minutes from the ocean beaches, 1.5 hrs from snow in Tahoe, and 1 hour from one of the most exciting and varietal urban centers in the world.

Hope that helps you out some.
posted by symphonik at 9:52 PM on June 28, 2005

Sunnyvale will be cheaper than what you're paying now; I paid about $1200 one year ago for a 1BR. Nice complex, parking was included. If one phrase characterized my impression of peninsula apartments it would be "Luxury Suites." Every complex is Luxury SomethingorOther, 9 times out of 10 is a complete misnomer.

If you're looking for modern amenities, you'll be able to find it. If you're looking for character, that might be a little harder.

On a day-to-day basis, I'd have to wager it's pretty comparable if not cheaper. Utilities, food, entertainment, probably the same, maybe cheaper. I found car insurance way cheaper on the peninsula versus the city.

As for the area, Sunnyvale is pretty tame. There's a couple of good bars on Castro Street (no, not that Castro) but you're not going to find the same nightlife as you will in San Jose or The City (wait, did I use "San Jose" and "nightlife" in the same sentence?)

If you go North on El Camino you will a) noticed that all of the storefronts repeat themselves every 5 minutes like the backdrop of classic cartoon and b) eventually hit Palo Alto. University Avenue is a bit more posh, but that's about it. You might be better off hitting up the British Bankers Club in Menlo Park, lighting up a cigar, and smoozing with the snooty bootyTM.

The City's about 45-60 minutes north up 101; unlike Gustave Aschenbach I would not head south for respite and pleasure. I've got nothing against San Jose personally, it's just that most of the clubs, well, they're a little too proud about their guest lists full of radio call-in winners and high school girls. As for that night I got way too drunk at Toons, I deny everything. There were no pictures.
posted by Loser at 9:57 PM on June 28, 2005

I actually just recently moved to San Jose (but only from Santa Clara, just a few miles away). It depends on where you want to live, but you can definitely find cheaper prices than that $1600 NJ place you mentioned.

FWIW, my new place is $1150/mo 2 bed 2 bath, in one of the (supposedly) nicer parts of town, in the Willow Glen area. But it's out in suburbia land. As symphonik mentioned, I found apartmentratings.com to be pretty helpful, but no substitute for actually looking at the place.

And judging from your blog posting...I have a guess at where you might be working...good luck! (and if true, know that I'm working for the competition up the road in M. View).
posted by fishbulb at 2:12 AM on June 29, 2005

The former will net you a long commute time (expect an hour unless you're living south), but it's an amazing place to live (and can be done still around $1000/mo for a decent 1BR place).

Um. Sort of, depending on how much you care about where you live. Prices in SF are on the order of 2/3 what they are in NYC. Plenty still pay $1000 for studios here in SF, even with rent control. South Bay is cheaper, but rent control is not common out here, so there can be some dizzying price rises, depending on economic conditions. General cost of living is lower than in NYC, across the board, in the Bay Area (although of course, if you elect to, you can spend as much as you want on anything).

San Francisco is fantastic, and I moved here while I was still working in Mountain View (I'd come to the area when my boyfriend was relocated to Sunnyvale, of all places - quite possibly to the same place you're going, now that I've read the blog entry!). We hated the South Bay with a passion that burned with the heat of a thousand suns, but many people find it quite a pleasant place to live. For us, the commute from a place we wanted to go home to - and happily paid more for the privilege - was vastly preferable. But I think even we, huddled against a heat wave in our Sunnyvale relo, wondering which circle of hell we'd entered, benefited from the year we spent settling in before we moved to SF.

Anywhere you go, you'll probably be in a one-year lease that goes month to month afterward. Take a place convenient to work, and use it as a base to get to know the area without saddling yourself with an awful commute for the inevitable rush times at work. Spend that year exploring, and asking everyone you meet how they like where they live. Take walks in places that appeal to you, and accept every barbecue or other social invitation that gets you into homes in different places. Come up to SF from time to time for a meetup!

Mountain View is quite likely the most efficient South Bay suburb from a cost-vs-benefit perspective, and you can even find pleasant complexes with tree-filled, park-like interior (to a ring of buildings) spaces. It's a great place to start. Depending on your preferences, don't necessarily stick to the 101 corridor, though, and don't necessarily discount south of San Jose or toward the water - you might find something you really love, especially if there is a particular kind of outdoor access you deeply appreciate.
posted by caitlinb at 7:31 AM on June 29, 2005

I've lived in Mountain View for eight years now. Some quick reactions:

The Castro Street Loser mentions is in Mountain View, not Sunnyvale. Murphy Street is the latter's downtown 'main drag' but these two adjacent towns are an interesting contrast: Sunnyvale followed the conventional wisdom a while back and destroyed their downtown by plopping down a huge mall in the middle, which is now a curious derilect: a mall anchored by a Target at one end and Macy's at the other, with everything in between closed. Mountain View, on the other hand, revitalized their main street, and it's the attractive nightlife destination now, instead of Sunnyvale. For more info about Mountain View see Nck Perry's Guide.

you'll probably be in a one-year lease that goes month to month afterward

Nonsense -- I came from Back East where the year-lease is standard. Not so, out here -- 6 month lease is what I usually encounter, but some places will offer the month-to-month option right away. The more expensive apartments usually insist on a one year lease, however.

1.5 hrs from snow in Tahoe

How's that? Took me 4 hours to get there, in September.
posted by Rash at 8:57 AM on June 29, 2005

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