Another question about housing in the Bay area (with a twist).
March 18, 2013 10:59 AM   Subscribe

I accepted a job in Santa Clara and need to move to the Bay Area in two weeks (my company will put me in a hotel for two more if needed). My fiance is staying behind until she finds a job in the area (but no later than 7 months). Please help me focus my thinking on how to handle my living situation during that period.

During the up to 7 month period, we'll be covering two rents and all of my furniture will stay in SoCal with her. Her job prospects will likely have her working in the South Bay once she moves up to the bay area. I'd like to live in an area where I won't go stir crazy (e.g., an airport sheraton). I know nothing about the area, and am looking for some help in focusing my thinking / limiting my options. For the 7 month period, I am willing to over pay in the name of comfort. I'll also buy a new bed, dresser, and something to sit on. I'm eyeing areas in SF by CalTran, but am open to living closer to Santa Clara during that temporary period. We would likely move again when she moves up if my initial selection creates an unsustainable commuting situation for her. Please let me know if you have any advice generally with respect to handling a similar staggered moving situation, bonus points if it applies to the Bay Area. We like urban areas with things to walk to, and are anticipating kids in the next couple of years. How would you approach this if you were me? Thanks.

I reviewed past questions, but didn't see anything dead on.
posted by jengapiece to Work & Money (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For a temporary rental, I'd see if you could get something near mountain view or palo alto downtown on Craigslist. Both places are walk able and have lots of restaurants. Once your fiancé gets here, you can find something permanent together.
posted by bananafish at 11:25 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't move to the city (SF) and work in Santa Clara, even though a lot of people do that sort of thing, because the commute is just way too long. I'd much rather move to, say, downtown Mountain View, which is also very walkable, and yes, smaller than SF, but so much closer to where you'll be working.

Since you'll have up to seven months to look around before trying to find more permanent housing with your fiancee, I think you might want to look at short-term places, even vacation rental type places, if you can afford the rates, and that would let you try a few different areas/neighborhoods so that you can pick your favorites before your fiancee moves up.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:43 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

You will have a much easier time finding something to rent in Santa Clara than you will in San Francisco, also, since $$ is an issue, the rents will be far cheaper.

You could look for a sub-let agreement on Craigslist, but I'd rather just rent a 1-bedroom or Studio.

Here's a list of all the complexes.

These are sorted by price (cheapest).

I lived in The Woods, I liked it fine, there was a pool, etc. Not too much drama. But, that was 25 years ago! So...check them out.

You might like staying in downtown San Jose, for the hip and happening action.

As long as you're close to a freeway, you should be fine.

While living in the city can be fun, it's also VERY expensive. I'd get a place close to your work for now (you don't need the stress of a commute) then use that as a base to explore the area. Find out where you like.

Los Gatos
Santa Cruz
Palo Alto
Mt. View

These are all South Bay suburbs that have a lot going for them.

San Mateo
Daly City
Foster City

Are San Francisco suburbs on the Caltrain line.

My friends live in San Jose and love it. YMMV.

Don't think of the initial move as the big one. Just find a place you can deal with and make the 7 months a time to really get to know the area.

Good luck! I had a ball living in Northern California.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:47 AM on March 18, 2013

San Francisco to Santa Clara is a LONG commute. I would look at Mountain View as bananafish suggested; downtown San Jose is also much closer if there's anywhere interesting to live around there (I am not sure whether there is or not).

Also I'm detecting a possible subtext in your post along the lines of "I really want to live in SF, but if my fiance can only get a job in the South Bay, then I will suck it up and move down to the peninsula later for her sake." If that's where you're at, I give you permission to live in SoMa for the next little while and take Caltrain. But just know that 1) SoMa is getting crazy expensive right now, and 2) you yourself basically work in the "south bay" for all practical purposes. Perhaps better to figure out now if you can deal with that commute, and give yourself an escape hatch in 0-7 months if she also works down there and it turns out to be unbearable.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:47 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Not Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is not near Santa Clara. You do not want that commute.
posted by ryanrs at 12:02 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also Pacifica is not anywhere near Caltrain. Pacifica is kind of a ridiculous place to commute to Santa Clara.
posted by ryanrs at 12:05 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you're looking in downtown Palo Alto, Hotel President might be a good choice - they rent month-to-month studios. As of 3-4 years ago, their prices were good for area, but it's not a particularly nice building.
posted by asphericalcow at 12:18 PM on March 18, 2013

Also, to follow up on ryanrs' comments:
San Mateo
Daly City
Foster City

Are San Francisco suburbs on the Caltrain line.
Actually only Burlingame and San Mateo are on Caltrain. Daly City is on the other side of the enormous mountain in San Bruno; Pacifica is a little coastal town, like a miniature Half Moon Bay; Foster City is a planned community built on reclaimed land on the bay with a single entry & exit for all traffic. FC is vaguely close to Redwood City Caltrain, but you would need a shuttle.

Also, Burlingame is far up the peninsula if you're going to Santa Clara; might as well live in the city at that point.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:24 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're going to work in Santa Clara, live down there. Especially if you're going to have kids.
posted by radioamy at 12:26 PM on March 18, 2013

Yeah, anywhere on the coast (Pacifica, Montara, HMB, Santa Cruz) is right out, the commute is just not feasible.

Nthing Mountain View, Palo Alto or maybe San Jose.

If you are really wanting to be in SF for the SF thing, the commute is such a bear, maybe consider trying a temporary place halfway between, like San Mateo.

Will your job be convenient to or have transport to from the Santa Clara Caltrain? Makes a big difference. Will your job be a good match with having to work around a train schedule? Caltrain runs frequently during peak commute times but service drops off precipitously. If you have to work late, you have a loooong wait for the train.

I totally get the last-few-months-of-being-single-want-to-be-in-the-city thing, but SF to Santa Clara means spending two and a half or three hours daily commuting (by train for sure, and similar by car at peak commute.) Is that how you want to spend your free time?
posted by ambrosia at 12:35 PM on March 18, 2013

Nthing 'live down near Santa Clara'. When I first moved to the Bay Area (for a job at A! Big! Webmail! And! Search! Company!), I was working in Sunnyvale and living in Campbell. The VTA (Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority) made getting around a breeze, and it connects up to CalTrain at San Jose Diridon and Mountain View, should you really need to get into the city.
posted by hanov3r at 1:18 PM on March 18, 2013

I did a short-term furnished rental in Palo Alto from 2B Living that was fantastic. Brooks, the guy who runs it, is a great property manager. Super responsive.
posted by ewiar at 1:26 PM on March 18, 2013

Not Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is not near Santa Clara. You do not want that commute.

I meant that more as a "Check out Santa Cruz" than as a recommendation for living and commuting, although when I worked on Almaden Blvd downtown, my boss commuted from Santa Cruz. He was a nut though.

I'm all about having little to no commute. ALL about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2013

Others have given you location suggestions. I think the bigger question is if you are city or suburban folks. If you are more of a city type, then look into San Jose or yes, you can try that commute from SF down to Santa Clara, though it is long. If you love suburbia, then the South Bay cities of Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara itself, and Sunnyvale are pretty good options.

I'm also from LA and made that move here--in fact, I live in Mountain View close to the downtown area (MeMail me if you want more info or even, would be interested in taking over my one-bedroom flat). I've been here a year, but suburbia is not a good fit for me, so I'm moving up to San Francisco at the end of the month.
posted by so much modern time at 2:37 PM on March 18, 2013

This is an off-the-wall suggestion but: why not use the time between now and when your finance arrives to explore living in different parts of the Bay and deciding where fits you best? I think you're going to have to hate one of these two things more than the other - suburbia or a commute. You won't know until you do it, so maybe use AirBnB or Couchsurfing or something to try a few different places for a couple of weeks each at a time. You'll get a good feel for different places, more than just being there for a few hours and understand what it means to live in, say, San Mateo, and commute on the train to Santa Clara.
posted by marylynn at 7:24 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check out the Japantown-area of San Jose. You'd have a 15-30 minute commute during rush hour, possibly less if you rode a bicycle.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 9:38 PM on March 18, 2013

Lots of great advice / answers. I'm going up this weekend to check out Mountain View.
posted by jengapiece at 9:37 AM on March 20, 2013

I disagree with the notion that if you live near a freeway you'll be fine. There is a LOT of traffic in the bay area. Living close to some public transportation if you can easily get to the public transportation from work is a great idea. If that is not feasible, then try to live pretty close to work.

Also, I used to live in Palo Alto and commute to Berkeley. Trust me when I say it's best to be on ONE line of public transportation (i.e., you do not want to need to take a bus to a CalTrain to BART). If I had taken public transportation, and technically I could have, the commute time would have been 2.5 hours. Each way. I used to commute from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz. That's not a fun commute and it's against traffic.

Mountain View is great. Sunnyvale downtown is getting increasingly better, and is cheaper than Mountain View, generally.
posted by freezer cake at 8:27 AM on March 22, 2013

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