Looking for suggestions for middle-class to upper-middle-class rural areas around the Bay Area.
May 17, 2012 3:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions for middle-class to upper-middle-class rural areas around the Bay Area.

I may be single again soon and and thinking of possible places to move to. Here's the list of what I'm looking for:

-An area where you're living in the country, but could drive for 20 or 30 minutes and be in a great town or city with a lot going on. Major crime should be far away.

-Solid middle-class (everyone stable and employed, happy, no big drug or crime problems, not many broken down dwellings or yards full of beat up cars) ranging to upper-middle-class or even a bit above. If you're thinking about an area that is outside of this range but meets everything else, please include it.

-The area has a thriving community. Many neighbors and community members know each other.

-Most houses have at least an acre or two of property, but most still have a few neighbors within walking distance.

-The area has a decent number of roads that are mainly only driven on by the people who live there - roads that are kind of off the beaten path, dead ends, or circles. The area is kind of out of the way and not being driven through by tons of strangers.

-Kids and pets run around and play and people aren't worried about them being snatched if they are outside playing in the yard.

I'm open to pretty much anywhere in the Bay Area and a bit south, from Santa Rosa all the way down to Monterey. A bit outside of that range is okay too.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you can afford it, I think pretty much anywhere in Marin County would fit this description. Mill Valley in particular comes to mind, although not all houses will have acreage.
posted by smirkette at 3:08 PM on May 17, 2012

We live in Petaluma, but volunteer with a 4H program that's out of Hessel Grange near Sebastopol, and like the people we've met there. Western Sonoma County has a lot to recommend it, and you're surrounded by touristy towns, so there's always something going on.

The Sebastopol area certainly has various thriving sub-communities.

We also lived out in Marin County's San Geronimo Valley (we were in Lagunitas, my sweety lived for years before that in Woodacre), that may match your criteria more, although the break is probably "a lot in town" (for what constitutes "town"), or tens or more acres. And entry price for a place with land is certainly above 5 million, possibly closer to 10.

The only thing I'm not sure about in Sonoma is the "only driven on by the people who live there", there's a bunch of gorgeous cycling out in the west county, and cyclists ride most of it.

On "worried about them being snatched", realize that stranger child abduction in the U.S. is an amazingly rare occurrence (something you can verify by just how much of a big deal it is when you hear about it), and I'd be far more worried about coyotes or other wildlife than humans as dangers for pets. Live in rural areas with outdoor pets and you'll get used to the notion that the line between pets and deer and raccoons can get pretty blurry, in all sorts of ways.

If you do end up somewhere like the San Geronimo Valley (or up near Nicasio), be thinking south-facing. We were on the south side of Sir Francis Drake, and the year round in the cold dark wet redwoods is part of why we're happy urban dwellers now.
posted by straw at 3:13 PM on May 17, 2012

Portola Valley, Woodside. You better like horsey people, though, because it's horse country down here (I work on the west side of Menlo Park, live in SF). Also many cyclists.
posted by rtha at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've never been, but a couple of friends moved to La Honda a few years back and really love it.
posted by neroli at 3:17 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, I just thought of another: Bonny Doon, in the hills above Santa Cruz. I went to the house of a guy I know - only one time, but I remember the drive up being very beautiful, and I know we went down a private road to get to the development where the house was. And I say "development" but you couldn't really see other houses from his house. Big lots, is what it looked like. It's ridiculously beautiful, and maybe 20 ish minutes from Santa Cruz, an hour and a bit from SF.
posted by rtha at 5:46 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Canyon, sort of behind Orinda in the east bay is like this. Fantastic place. Very suddenly farmland, but still totally modern convenience accessible.
posted by brainmouse at 7:03 PM on May 17, 2012

2nding Marin. Maybe you can find a nice place in Novato near my girlfriend's parents.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:33 PM on May 17, 2012

Felton, Bonny Doon, La Honda, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek. Maybe El Granada and Montera on the coast. The roads immediately above UCSanta Cruz.

Bolinas, Fairfax, Oak Manor. Sebastopol would fit well as well, but it's a bit bigger and further north.

All of these areas have a unique and close community. Some suffer from weekend traffic on the main roads, especially bicyclists in La Honda/Skylonda, motorcyclists anywhere on Highway 35, and motorcyclists on any straight stretch of the roads north of San Francisco.
posted by blob at 7:48 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Bolinas and Fairfax, though I live in one of blob's "South" communities, none of which except perhaps Ben Lomond is solidly middle-class in the way you specify, and even there you will find random meth-related oddnesses. Bolinas is the town that takes down the "Bolinas" signs Caltrans periodically installs.

I'd add Tiburon. Tiburon is a ferry ride away from SF.
posted by jet_silver at 7:55 PM on May 17, 2012

Sonoma County (north of Marin County) has plenty of areas with land that might interest you.
Napa County, too. All depends on your budget. Perhaps you could find a little vineyard.
And in Marin County, the farther reaches of Lucas Valley sounds like what you're after.
posted by artdrectr at 11:19 PM on May 17, 2012

Oh yeah: I've got a friend who's got a small vineyard west of Fairfield. His daughters are in 4H and raise hogs, and if you watch high end cooking shows there's a certain breed that are undoubtedly his daughters animals. His neighbors are trying to turn the road he lives on into a bit of a wine destination, struggling hard against being just over the line from Napa.

Fulfills your "middle to upper middle" criteria, is relatively affordable (I think you can get into something with land in that neighborhood for as low as a bit over a million), seems to have some sense of community.
posted by straw at 6:30 AM on May 18, 2012

Sonoma & Napa (the towns, not the counties), Sebastapol, Cotati, maybe Penngrove, far West or East Novato. Most everywhere is suburban near 101 in Marin/Sonoma county. Anywhere south of Novato that's not Fairfax distance or further from 101 is going to have too little land.
posted by Four Flavors at 3:18 PM on May 18, 2012

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