Least corrupt part of a metro area in or near northern California?
March 6, 2014 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a place to live that's reasonably urban, reasonably priced, reasonably egalitarian, and on the up-and-up, in that it has low to no gang trouble or backroom cigar smoking deciders or other crime, organized or not. Does this exist in the Bay Area? Sacramento? Elsewhere?
posted by Baeria to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I lived there, Solano County was the "bedroom community" of the Bay Area. About 40% of residents commuted to jobs in other counties because it was far cheaper to live there, It was very multicultural, which I liked. Some of the towns there are more "urban" than others.

Suisun City is small but has a train stop that connects you to other parts of the Bay Area and also Davis/Sacramento and has some good live-work areas. Vallejo is the largest town. I am not personally familiar with it but it might be more urban. I personally liked Fairfield for being more big-city-ish in some ways at 100k residents (at the time) than the city in Georgia I most recently lived in (with about 180k residents). It had some all night grocery stores, good bus transit and other things I think of as big city amenities just because it is in the Bay Area.

Davis is something you could also look at. It is like 15 minutes from Sacramento and has a huge university and lots of solar energy attached to residential construction.
posted by Michele in California at 3:00 PM on March 6, 2014

I think that "reasonably urban" and "low to no gang trouble or [...] other crime" are pretty much mutually exclusive. On preview, I would agree with "Davis" but would not have originally considered that "reasonably urban"....if you just mean NEAR an urban area, that would work. I could also suggest some other places if you're willing to redefine "reasonably urban" to include places that would really be considered "suburban" (like Folsom, for example, which is about 20 minutes outside Sacramento).
posted by lovableiago at 3:02 PM on March 6, 2014

Your perception about "backroom cigar smoking deciders" seems a little off base from my experience of the bay area - I'm not convinced that exists anywhere here according to the TV show picture you present - but reasonably affordable, no gangs, little crime, and reasonably urban (not sure what that means to you), I'd go for Davis or Sacramento - Midtown or Eastern portions.
posted by latkes at 3:28 PM on March 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

How flexible are you on urban?

Urban areas have a wide swath of socio-economic types which will likely scuttle your desire for egalitarian living. It's hard for me to see that people from the lowest income brackets have equal opportunities to people from wealth. Northern California has both homeless and migrant worker poverty.

Gang trouble is really about where you are in a specific city. Plenty of people living in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Newark, Oakland and Oklahoma City never encounter gang violence even though those five cities are the hotbeds of gang homicide in the US. The Department of Justice provides info on the Extent of Gang Problems. If you want low/no gang trouble then that's difficult to find in even small cities.

Maybe a different question is what are you minimum requirements for urban, then look at the small group of locations that fit your definition.
posted by 26.2 at 3:50 PM on March 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Here is data on crime rates by California city. (I am very interested to hear people's opinions of which jurisdictions are more vs. less politically corrupt.)
posted by salvia at 4:15 PM on March 6, 2014

Unfortunately you're not going to find something that hits all these marks. Any place that gets reasonably close is going to exclude one of your criteria. For example there are some very nice parts of the SF Bay Area (Marin County, Los Altos/Mountain View) that are wonderful places to live, suburban but not cookie cutter and close to big cities, very safe, but they're expensive for those reasons. Then again there is a small amount of gang activity even in Marin (in parts of San Rafael and Novato). No place is perfect.
posted by radioamy at 4:27 PM on March 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Pick the quality that is most important to you, and put together a list of cities that meet this. Now, pick your second most important quality, cull your list of cities as necessary, and repeat. At some point you'll be down to a handful of cities, and you can pick from those.

This is an odd list of requirements. I don't think of Northern California as being particularly corrupt these days, though of course individuals can be corrupt. But when I think of cities being corrupt, I think of some place like Bell or Vernon in Southern California, where the corruption was all but institutionalized. Not that this couldn't happen in Northern California, but that sort of city-wide, entrenched corruption hasn't been a problem here in decades.

FWIW, I live in a city on the Peninsula. It is safe by almost any definition of the word and a nice place to raise a family, but terribly boring if you want to do anything after 9:00pm...and honestly, not too exciting before 9:00pm, either. But we're safe, lol! I also believe we're on the up-and-up, with "low to no gang trouble or backroom cigar smoking deciders or other crime, organized or not." However, we're a suburb on the Peninsula, so our housing is not particularly affordable. Does this fact automatically prevent us from being egalitarian? I don't know...
posted by mosk at 5:08 PM on March 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think Davis fits your credentials. The one tricksy thing about it is that we have very low housing vacancy (I don't check the real estate values, but I don't think most people can buy a home here) and virtually everywhere runs on a September to September lease....and you would need to sign a lease here yesterday in order to get in for this September. But we don't have much in the way of gangs, we're pretty egalitarian, we're pretty fancy for a technical non-big-city and you can head to Sacramento if you want more city life.

Davis Wiki will help you out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:19 PM on March 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

To add on to mosk's post: The Bay Area, as a whole, is not a hotbed of corruption. There are corrupt individuals, but the Bay Area (indeed, Northern California) is not a byword for corruption like some other places*; no instutionalized corruption, no jailed politicians. My own suburban East Bay city is boringly uncorrupt. Also heinously expensive. And while there is a lot more going on than there was 20 years ago (we have a very good theater, live music venues, and lots of great restaurants) - it's not hopping like, say, San Francisco is.

California IS an expensive state. You're not going to find bargains. But there's a reason it's so expensive - the quality of life is terrific if you can afford it.

*Mom told me a story about when she and Dad first moved to California in the 50's. They had my Dad's parents, from Chicago, out for a visit. Grandpa expressed astonishment that Mom and Dad actually paid a parking ticket. In Grandpa's view, you went to City Hall and talked to The Right Person who would fix it for you so you didn't have to pay. I, a native Californian, can't imagine "fixing" a parking ticket...
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:48 PM on March 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Davis is bigger and sprawlier than it was when I lived there but I still think it's got a wonderful quality of life. It's not "urban" but if you live near downtown you can walk or bike to most of what you need, including pleasant restaurants, musical performances etc and the worst crime you'll find is some car break-ins.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:54 PM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

i lived in sonoma county for 19 years and still have fondness for it, enough that i still look at its leading newspaper, the press-democrat, every day. summer weather inland got too warm for me (yes, global warming is real) and i saw greener pastures in oregon.
posted by bruce at 4:11 AM on March 7, 2014

Midtown Sacramento is urban (90% plus Walkscore), is liberal, affordable (nice studios can start at $700 per month), has a somewhat high property crime rate, but also has relatively few gang or violent crime problems. It's not San Francisco urban, but is as urban as Berkeley (meets your criteria, but isn't that affordable) and Downtown Oakland (higher crime than you probably want). East Sacramento and Land Park (on the other side of the freeways from Midtown) are inner-ring suburbs that are much less urban, but are close to Midtown and have a lower crime rate.

Sacramento is the State Capitol, so there's lots of backroom cigar smokers making decisions, but they're generally not what you'd think of as traditional criminals, depending on your view of politicians. Practically speaking, State politics doesn't really affect the day to day lives of Sacramentans.

Davis is less urban, has lower crime and is less affordable than Midtown. It's philosophically egalitarian, but practically speaking, it's full of students and college professors. Most university staff and poor people can't afford to live there, and the city is stridently anti-growth. That being said, it's a very nice town and everything you'd need day to day can be within walking distance of where you live. It'll be cheaper than most places (everywhere?) in the Bay Area and has much closer knit community than Midtown.

Vallejo (mentioned above) is not urban, has terrible crime and local budget problems and should be strenuously avoided unless you understand what you're getting into and need to live cheap in the Bay Area.
posted by cnc at 12:48 AM on March 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

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