Where should I live in SF?
July 11, 2014 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Mefites of San Francisco: Where do you live? Where should I live? When should I move? How does this happen? I'm a special snowflake with my own special snowflake needs.

I'm planning on moving to SF for my job in September or October. I'd like to go sooner rather than later but there's some stuff we're waiting on that might not be finished by September so there's no way to tell at this point.

Here is the sum total of everything I've been told about SF: (I've only been there once, for a few days)
My office is in the Union Square area.
The peninsula is a very expensive place to live.
There's public transit.
There's a place called Oakland across the bay that might be more affordable.
There's a neighborhood near my office called the Tenderloin where I should never, ever go.

Here's the kind of place I would like to rent:
A 2 bedroom with in-unit washer & dryer, cats allowed. Balcony or patio would be optimal.
A popular, walkable neighborhood that will facilitate socializing among other 30-somethings and making friends, and a reasonable commute (no more than 1 hour, no more than 1 transfer). (For example, right now I live in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago that is reasonably priced but very far away from the cool hip stuff going on; the distance away from everything makes me never want to leave the house and I don't want to get into that trap again.)
Maximum budget of $1700.
Parking isn't necessary, we don't have a car.
I know this is asking for a lot but they're all important.

Here's what I would like to know about SF:
What specific neighborhoods & areas should I be looking in?
What specific neighborhoods are in the middle of getting gentrified so I can avoid having my rent raised by 50% next year? Is it even possible to avoid this?
What would be a good time line, start to finish?
When should apartment scouting begin?
When should we plan to be moved-moved?
How should I go about finding an apartment, logistics-wise? We move out there, stay in a hotel and spend the 27th-30th of the month roaming around making phone calls?
posted by bleep to Home & Garden (49 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Maximum budget of $1700.

This seems really low, considering what you want.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:42 PM on July 11, 2014 [24 favorites]


I was living in Fremont, which is like...an hour+ on pubtrans from San Francisco, on the other side of the bay, and suburban in a multicultural way (which I liked, but most people claim is boring).

I had a 2 bedroom with in-unit washer & dryer, cats allowed. (These things are hard to find.)

Rent just went up to $2100 before I gave up and moved even father away.

I realize this may seem unhelpful, but you're probably going to have to adjust your expectations. (Unless you mean $1700 for *half* of a two-bedroom apartment...) Good luck.
posted by wintersweet at 3:43 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maximum budget of $1700.

Is this based on what you desire to pay, or what you can afford if you max out?

Did you negotiate a cost-of-living increase for this move? It sounds like you are still thinking in terms of Chicago rental prices.
posted by nacho fries at 3:45 PM on July 11, 2014

Um, you can't find a 2 bedroom with a w/d in Oakland for under $2500, much less SF. I know this because I was just in the market for this unit, but with a much larger budget. Realistically, you are looking at $2400-2900 in Oakland for this. I didn't even bother trying to find this in SF because I don't believe it exists. I really think you'll need to reassess your needs and expectations. Take a look at Craigslist and see what's there.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 3:45 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify, I'm talking $1700 as the entire budget for an entire apartment, not a share.
Would $2,000 be more reasonable or are we talking like $3,000 or GTFO?

I am getting a cost of living upgrade but I don't know what it's going to be. I should find this out.
posted by bleep at 3:45 PM on July 11, 2014

Find out that COL increase before you agree to the move. Put a pause in the moving plans for now.
posted by nacho fries at 3:48 PM on July 11, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Would $2,000 be more reasonable or are we talking like $3,000 or GTFO

You could probably do $2000 for a 1-bedroom in parts of Oakland that are not right next to BART, like Adams Point. I'd also look up by North Berkeley BART, which is a little cheaper and a nice area.

Check out Padmapper, which maps Craigslist listings (virtually all apartment renting happens on Craigslist here).
posted by brainmouse at 3:48 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I've been looking around lovelyapartments.com and the prices are high but I don't know what neighborhoods are good so what prices I should pay attention to. Like if someone were saying "Wow, prices in Lincoln Park are really high!" I would say "Well, you don't want to live in Lincoln Park so it doesn't really matter."
posted by bleep at 3:48 PM on July 11, 2014

Best answer: Oh, and the majority of stuff on Craigslist is available now or in less than a week, and there is basically no chance of you getting something until you're here, so you might want to look at doing an AirBNB for a month when you first get here in order to try to get a place.
posted by brainmouse at 3:49 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oakland and the East Bay are more affordable than SF, which is not to say you will find Chicago prices anywhere. Some places on the Peninsula are not too unaffordable, although the cheaper places will not give you the social environment you are looking for, or won't be as accessible by transit.

Union Square is BART-able, so you can factor that in.

$1700 for a two-bedroom in a decent neighborhood close to BART in the East Bay is... optimistic. But as a fr'instance, my niece is looking at studio apartments that go for $1200+, in decent neighborhoods which are not very close to BART.

You may have to revise your expectations of what you can get for what you're going to spend.

That said, there are good neighborhoods you can afford, but you won't have as short a commute as you might want. Consider Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, El Cerrito. Or look at the western side of San Francisco: the Richmond and the Sunset districts.
posted by suelac at 3:50 PM on July 11, 2014

Response by poster: Last thread-sit: specific neighborhoods in terms of livability are the most helpful if my initial desires are totally unrealistic, especially if there are specific intersections I can zero in on. Knowing what the going rate is for the places I want to live will help me know if my cost of living upgrade is going to be sufficient.
posted by bleep at 3:54 PM on July 11, 2014

I honestly wondered if this was a trolling question, but then realized that my inner cynic should take a break for Friday.

What everyone said so far is true. What you want is not doable in San Francisco, period. To find what you want in SF for even $3500 would be a stretch within the City limits (except for maybe Hunters Point/Bayview and that is not really a good place to be).

It's not really doable in Oakland either. In fact, I would say it's not doable in the Bay Area unless you're willing to live in some high crime/low amenities areas like Richmond or Pittsburgh/Antioch (and you when you get out to Antioch, you've totally busted your one-hour commute limit).

One point I would like to make is that you are going to HAVE to be flexible on having a W/D in your apartment. Unlike the rest of the country, it's just not considered a standard amenity in California - at least not in the apartment stock older than, say, fifteen years ago.

You might take a look at Walnut Creek. It fits your commute. There are *some* apartment communities there that have W/Ds in the apartments (but not many). The downtown is very walkable and fun. You're still going to have raise your price for a 2BR though. 2.5 to 3 is more likely in Walnut Creek for a 2BR.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 3:55 PM on July 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: OK, just forget I said anything about budget, just tell me the good neighborhoods.
posted by bleep at 3:59 PM on July 11, 2014

Best answer: If your maximum budget is $1,700 (does this include utilities, the whole shebang?, or is this just for rent), you need to be honest with yourself and figure out where your REAL priorities are.

For instance, the downtown Oakland / Lake Merritt area is $1,700 for a 1 bedroom, but that's just a beautiful 35-40 minute door-to-door commute to Union Square via Bart.

You might be able to get more bang for the buck if you live further out on the Bart line, but the one thing to factor in, is if you're going to have a typical "morning/evening" commute schedule, your ride on the Bart might end up being standing room only, or sitting in the aisles only.

Some areas in East Bay to begin your Craigslist search: downtown Oakland / Old Oakland, Lake Merritt in Oakland, Temescal in Oakland, Jack London Square in Oakland, downtown Berkeley, etc. These neighborhoods all have different flavors, so you'll need to do some sleuthing on say yelp to figure out if they have the vibe you're looking for.

Agree with others that you will NOT be able to secure an apartment until you're local, but you can absolutely use Craigslist to start sniffing out where the likely candidates will be now. Also, one pro tip is that once you've landed, be aggressive and be prepared to lock in an apartment. I grabbed mine in the first 15 min of open house even as other couples were walking around.

Good luck.
posted by ellerhodes at 4:03 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was also going to recommend Walnut Creek -- I moved here from Oakland, thinking I'd hate it, but I'm walking distance to BART, downtown, near several crackerjack walking/biking trails -- and the weather is pretty great, too.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 4:03 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Good neighborhoods in Oakland near BART: Rockridge, Temescal, North Oakland (for various values of "good"). If you want to go more urban you could look at Oakland Uptown, or for a more Latino/multi-cultural experience, the Fruitvale District. (Like the Mission in SF, the Fruitvale is historically Hispanic/Latino, but with a large mixture of other ethnicities and a growing white professional population.)

If you're willing to be a bit farther from BART, Adams Point is quite nice, as are the Glen View and Dimond Districts.

I lived on the North Berkeley/Albany line for a year, and it's lovely: 15-minute walk to BART, beautiful gardens, easy access to the freeway, some great shops along Hopkins and Solano. But that's almost all single-family homes, with limited rentals.
posted by suelac at 4:06 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I looked at a 250 square foot, windowless closet in the Tenderloin that shared a wall with the Great American Music Hall for $2100 and that was 3+ years ago. There was human shit on the front door step and the park across the street was infamous for drug dealing. I literally lol'ed at the $1700, shit is crazy here.

Your best bet is downtown Oakland (on craigslist: Old Oakland, Jack London, Uptown, Lake Merritt, Downtown, Chinatown) anywhere near 12th St / 19th St / Lake Merritt BART stations. This is where I live - it's awesome, walkable, tons of young people, very safe (don't believe the hype). This will get you to Union Square with a 20ish minute train ride. Even then, your budget will maybe possibly get you a 1 bedroom and there is no way in hell you're getting an in-unit washer and dryer or a balcony. You need to adjust your expectations - good luck!

As far as what you need for a timeline or logistics, you better show up to the showings with a check in hand.
posted by bradbane at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm guessing you'd like Rockridge in Oakland (though you'd be lucky to find a 1-bed in your budget, likely no laundry). Berkeley's not great for socializing in your age range. In SF, maybe the Richmond would be slightly closer to your price range, though likely way higher. From my perspective (maybe skewed since I'm coming from NYC) downtown Oakland has a few great things but overall is kind of dead, not many people around.
posted by three_red_balloons at 4:13 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A lot of Oakland is pretty block-to-block. I love the downtown & uptown areas, though it's not especially nice in between them (they're slowly closing the gap). Once you cross west of the freeway (980), even though that's technically still Downtown, stuff gets... shady quickly. I also wouldn't go to Fruitvale, or anywhere sort of South-East of Lake Merritt (though north and north east are lovely... i'm unfortunately not quite sure where the divide happens, maybe E. 18th/Park Blvd). Rockridge and Temescal (though again, a little block-to-block here) are both great areas, as is the Piedmont Avenue area (though the commute is rough from there).
posted by brainmouse at 4:17 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I work near Union Square. Most people who don't live in the city commute in via BART and most who contemplate moving out of the city say that it would have to be on a BART line for them to keep working in this location. In city commutes from the Sunset / Richmond can take as long as some of the BART commutes from further out depending on the Muni train / bus line you have to take. When I take a bus to the underground in SF it can take as long as it does for my coworker to train in from Walnut Creek.

As others have said in unit washer / dryer is not as standard as you might expect for even nicer places.

The Tenderloin has some awesome food so take that advice with a grain of salt. Use caution and some common sense and you should be fine.
posted by oneear at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2014

You may want to go poke around Craig's List to see some SF listings and get a better idea of pricing. No other site is as widely used as Craig's List. Your housing expenses will easily be double of what you're expecting if not more. If you want to stay in SF, pare down your wants and look in the outer Sunset and outer Richmond districts (warning: they're famous for being foggy and they're not happening). You'll be ok in most neighborhoods as long as you're not in the Tenderloin or Bayview/Hunter's point, or mid-Market St. area of SoMa.

The other thing you need to be prepared for is how competitive the housing market is here. SF is very small and it has a very low vacancy rate. And, this competitiveness is really being seen in a lot of Bay Area cities. When you're set to go look at apartments, be ready to hand over a package that includes financial info (salary, credit scores, job info), reference letters from past landlords with current contact information for them, and I'd also include information and detailed landlord references for your cat(s) so that the landlord knows that you don't have incontinent, spraying, scratching animals. Most landlords will run your credit scores again, but being prepared with your own printouts of everything can help. And, be prepared to fork over first/last/deposit immediately.
posted by quince at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Walnut Creek? Really? To me, Walnut Creek sounds exactly like what the OP doesn't want: "the distance away from everything makes me never want to leave the house and I don't want to get into that trap again." Walnut Creek is a good place to go for the price and it can very much make sense if you have kids, but it doesn't sound like it's what the OP wants to start with.

Speaking of which, are kids involved? This will change your search strategy dramatically if you're concerned with schools.

Let's throw price out the window for a second as requested. In SF, you're likely interested in neighborhoods like the Mission, NOPA, Mid-Market, SOMA, or South Beach (or the Marina is you like frathouse life). These are all really desirable locations for the same reasons you'd be interested in them, so a 2 bedroom in these areas will run you over $3500/month (here's a quick rental price map from January by some of the main neighborhoods in SF proper.

So if that's out, depending on your cost-of-living increase, you're basically looking at places near the BART corridor in Oakland (good suggestions above) or somewhere like the Richmond (where a 2 bedroom can still run you over >$3K/mo). Do you truly need a 2 bedroom?

If you're moving for your job, you should try to get your employer to hook you up with a relocation consultant, which is someone who helps with this kind of thing for a living.

And once you get here, please remember to call a meetup!
posted by zachlipton at 4:38 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: No kids, none planned.
posted by bleep at 4:43 PM on July 11, 2014

Response by poster: I'm also specifically interested in knowing where Mefites live.
posted by bleep at 4:48 PM on July 11, 2014

Best answer: I pay $1500 for a quasi-legal 2-bedroom basement addition in the Ocean View/Ingleside area. It can be done; $1000/bedroom is pretty standard for bad neighborhoods. Bad neighborhoods include Ocean View and some but not most of Ingleside, Bayview/Hunters Point, and to a certain extent the very Outer Mission. I suggest looking in the Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond districts, since it's a little better, and give up now on hookups, a yard, or a parking space. Pretend your cat doesn't exist and sneak them in, or, claim the cat as a service animal.

Expand your definition of "livable." Can I live without a stove or windows that show the sky? Apparently I can, if I get to stay in the city.

I have a buddy who lives within 30 minutes of Lake Merritt in Oakland and pays $1700 for a two bedroom, but the Oakland market is heating up. Look for big house/many roommate situations, too.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:54 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just a note, commuting from the Richmond/Sunset neighborhoods in SF to Union Square will take longer than BARTing in from Oakland. So you might be able to find something in your price range out there in the fog belt, but being in SF doesn't necessarily mean your commute time will be shorter than places close to BART in the east bay. When you get here you may want to actually jump on the Muni or BART from wherever you're looking and do some real world tests to Union Square because it's not always obvious what's fastest (if that's important to you). Union Square is hella easy to BART to, you really want to be near a BART station if that helps you narrow down neighborhoods.

I freelance and commute all over the place on transit so I've got a lot of experience with getting basically everywhere in the bay area. My recommendation is to consider adding a bicycle to your commute calculus, the weather here is amazing year round and it opens up a lot more options for where you can live without a car (since you can live a mile or three from BART and still have a totally reasonable commute).

Also, I know a lot of people like Walnut Creek and rent's probably cheaper but to me that is way way out in the burbs and not what most people would consider the kind of urban life it sounds like you're looking for.
posted by bradbane at 4:56 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bradbane, that is completely true. The Richmond/Sunset are lovely places to live but they are literally 45 minutes minimum by transit by where it sounds like the OP works. (I commute out there myself!) The good news is you're by the park and the ocean, and the other good news is there's very little crime. The bad news is cabs won't go there because it's too far away, and your commute will be ridiculous. Which is why it's relatively cheap.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:04 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pretend your cat doesn't exist and sneak them in,

... and be prepared to be evicted when the landlord or property manager finds out, because they will. Guess how I know.

Doing this is a huge risk and could make you have to do another search for housing fast and right after you just did one. Please don't.
posted by scratch at 5:09 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Check your MeFi mail.
posted by ellerhodes at 5:19 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Others have addressed the price issues and neighborhoods, so I wanted to try to answer some of your questions about the timeline. Most places will be posted right about a month before they're available (sometimes more, sometimes less). The easiest way to do this would be to find temporary housing (sublets on craigslist, airbnb could also work) and do that for the first month you're in SF/Oakland. So if you move in September, sublet a place for that month, and plan on spending a lot of time jumping on apartments as they become available.

Now, it might be possible for you to come to the bay area the month before you want to move for a couple of weekend visits (the first two weekends of the month) and try to find a place then, but this is going to be much harder and will narrow your options considerably - you'll only be able to consider things that are being shown on those 4 days. You will see things posted that they're showing on Thursday night that you won't be able to get to, and it's essentially a crapshoot whether you'll find something. It's much riskier. So I'd really recommend subletting for the first 1-2 months if at all possible - it'll make it easier for you to find a place you really like (which I predict will be a nice 1-bed in Oakland, btw).
posted by leitmotif at 5:24 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wanna point in a few more datapoints so you get an idea on the housing market here:

- I live in the Rockridge area of Oakland. Lots of young families (as in lots of little kids) and middle-aged folks. It's really pleasant and kind of hip, but not so super-hip that you'll feel awkward around 20-somethings drinking wacky draft beers. I've seen 2BR's going for $1800 up, sans W/D and pets. The problem with Rockridge is that there aren't that many rentals available in the first place; this neighborhood is SUPER desirable. The majority of residents own their homes. I have a 1BR for $1325 + gas/electric + Internet, and it's a 10-minute walk to the BART station. My commute, when I was working in the SOMA district (not that far from Union Square), was ~30 minutes, factoring in walking.

- My ex lives in the Mission area of SF, in the exact place that you described: a 2BR with in-unit W/D, a tiny balcony that can squeeze in maybe two people, and a cat. Just his share of the rent is $1900 (his guess, he hasn't been keeping track, stupidly), before utilities. His room has its own bathroom. He owns a car too. The living room and kitchen is actually smaller than mine. His commute to work (we used to work together) is maybe 15 minutes tops, via BART and walking. The Mission is... interesting. Very lively with a colorful demographic - I mean you get 20-something hipsters, Latino families, and um... interesting characters, all in this neighborhood. I find it a bit too dirty for my tastes, but holy crap, the eateries here are so good. Might be a bit young for you overall, but if you love to eat out...

Finding the right place can take, seriously, months. It took me almost two months to find my current place - and I had to bump up my budget (though I was already living in the area), and a friend once took five months to find an SF apartment. So yes, get a "rental package" ready: pay stubs, security deposit, credit info, previous landlord references. In short, approach a open house like you're going to a job interview! I recommend writing a "rental resumé" outlining what you're looking for in a rental, your job info, etc.... Having it handy helps with filling out those annoying applications. It'll take many tries, but you'll find something.

Good luck!
posted by curagea at 6:05 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Can you get where you're going via the AC Transit Transbay bus lines? I think you could walk from the TransBay terminal to Union Square in 10-15 minutes. If so, that opens up a lot of places - e.g., Emeryville. It is likely that your best commute from the Lake Merritt area is by Transbay, too. Google maps has those lines on there --ask for directions by transit for some weekday during commute hours to see what you get.
posted by slidell at 6:29 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ugh, this City is so damn expensive. I used to live in a much more affordable city and we had a 2br, 2ba, with W/D and a yard, so it was definitely a downgrade space-wise. On the plus side, SF is much more tenant-friendly and we haven't had the horrific landlord problems that we had in New Orleans. But basically we pay twice as much for half the space. So you definitely want to look at your new job offer and make sure that it works out for you economically. I'm sorry that you're getting piled-on. We're all pissed off at the rent situation (and other aspects of the culture/economy that contribute to it, like ridiculous funding for apps that don't exist yet, and brogrammers...but I digress)

I currently live in the Inner Sunset and I love it. We pay $2400 for a 1br that allows dogs and has a dishwasher. We moved in less than a year ago so I'd consider it market-rate. There's laundry in the building but not in my unit. I would definitely look at the Sunset and the Richmond.

Inner Sunset and Inner Richmond are a bit foggier than the rest of the city but not terrible. It does get noticeably foggier when you go to the far west coast (past, say 25th Ave). The Sunset (and a lot of the Richmond) were built to be the "suburbs" within SF. They're more affordable while still being safe. I'm definitely in a city but I don't feel as claustrophobic as when I lived in Nob Hill. Granted, my last place in Nob Hill was much closer to my work downtown, but having a little more breathing room is worth it to me. There is a cute little area around 9th/Irving that has shops and restaurants and such. Commute-wise, it takes me about 45 or 50 minutes door-to-door including walking.

People have mentioned that Richmond/Sunset are a longer commute than parts of the East Bay. While that's probably true when you're talking about work commute, I personally like the advantage of being *in* the city. When you're tired from a night out it's much cheaper to take a cab (or Lyft or Uber or whatever) home within the City than it is out across the Bay Bridge. And BART doesn't run past 12:30 am or so. But a lot of people love the East Bay.

I agree with the advice you were given to avoid the Tenderloin. Areas adjacent to the Tenderloin that have different names but the same vibe are Tendernob, Lower Nob Hill, and Mid-Market. Mid-Market is supposedly undergoing a "transformation" now that Twitter's headquarters are there, and there are a lot of nice buildings, but it's still got a lot of nastiness.

One thing to consider in the City is rent control. It's part of the reason that rent is so expensive - a lot of people are living in places that have artificially depressed rent, so landlords jack up the price of places on new leases. Any place built before June 1979 is under rent control, and your rent can only be raised a tiny bit, which is great once you have the lease! Outside of the City I don't believe there is this type of rent control anywhere, but the economic climate is such that rents in adjacent cities are probably higher than they should be. And some of the big complexes are raising rents a huge amount. My mom's rent in the North Bay is being raised 12%, and a friend in Mountain View is having the same increase. Most rentals in SF are older buildings however. There are some new buildings Mid-Market and in SoMa but I don't know how rent increases work.

I disagree with recommendations for Walnut Creek. It's quite suburban-sprawl. It's lovely if that's what you like, and I know a Mefite who lives there in a cute apartment, but it's probably not what you're looking for. If you go East Bay, Oakland is probably the way to go.
posted by radioamy at 6:52 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If living in the east bay, Living near Bart helps with the commute, but it doesn't have to limit you. Casual carpool (carpool meeting spots to cross the bridge) locations are in many spots near the freeway. This makes a commute from say Adams point in oakland more do-able. There is also the ferry (which makes jack London square livable).

I am going to put an alternative out there. Truly consider if you could live in less space. I thinking living in San Francisco, even for just one year would be an incredible experience for you. My wife and I lived in sf for one year and while it was pricey, it was an idyllic experience. She was able to commute to work everyday using the cable car (you would also be able to do this if you lived in say nob hill, Russian hill, north beach or some other places). And there is just an incredible density of amazing quality experiences that you would be able to walk/bus to if you lived in the city that you would never be able to living in oakland or walnut creek. I'm not saying live there forever, but being there for a year with the understanding that more space a lower rent will be coming in the future.

Studios in Hayes valley and nob hill look like they cost about 2300. I would absolutely live in those places. Inner sunset would also be on my list.

I currently live in Oakland now and I love it here.
posted by poyorick at 7:29 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I pay $2200 for a 2 bedroom in San Mateo right next to the in-building washer and dryer. My commute to the city is 25 minutes on Caltrain and then whatever from the station but shouldn't be too bad to Union Square. I actually just moved to the bay area from Edgewater and San Mateo reminds me of that part of town in a lot of ways tbh.
posted by Carillon at 7:53 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tldr I did something quite similar to you in march and really found San Mateo to be what I'm looking for.
posted by Carillon at 7:55 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I first moved out here, I moved to San Leandro for a big apartment that allowed cats and gave me access to BART. It was cheap. It was fine. And I left town if I wanted to do anything interesting. I've lived in Palo Alto (not the rich part), Mountain View and Daly City, too. I much prefer SF. But that's something I did once I A) found a magic place B) could afford that magic place.

I live in Ingleside (down the hill from blnkfrnk, I guess). I love that I can escape the city easily, but I'm just a few blocks from BART and lots of MUNI lines. There are things I can walk to here, but I normally hop on the K to head to The Castro, the BART to head to The Mission or SOMA or BART to head to Oakland/Berkeley. We have walkable dim sum, boba tea, nail salons, dive bars and a Whole Foods.

I like Ingleside in SF because it's diverse, less neighbor snobby, relatively cheap and has way more public transport options. If I had to pick somewhere else to live on just by vibe, I'd probably do Inner Sunset just because of all the book stores and stuff, Alameda (the hipster Mayberry - awesome but no public transport) or Temescal in Oakland - if I had the money.

If you like to go out at night, keep in mind that BART stops running at roughly midnight - making things you would enjoy doing on the other side of the bay even more difficult. And that goes both ways because Oakland has a ton going on.

The neighborhoods aren't as "hard lined" as Chicago. You'll find scary and cool and yuppie all kind of jumbled. You can make generalizations - yes, the % white is way higher in North Beach and The Marina. Yes, there are blocks in The Tenderloin to avoid late at night. But they're better than many, many sections of Chicago without a doubt. Oakland has more of the dangerous, where-the-f-did-all-the-people-go-and-why-am-I-being-followed-by-that-dude feeling than anywhere in SF minus The Bayview. There are also some incredibly shmancy neighborhoods in Oakland. And almost every housing listing will be misclassified on Craigs List as the nicer neighborhood it's near.

For example: There are some amazing, wonderful bars, restaurants and apartment buildings near the Tenderloin (The Tender Knob - between The Tenderloin and Nob Hill) but it's urban/NYC style noisy.

There are some beautiful places that aren't ridiculous in Parkside and the Inner Sunset that have tons going on but you have to take MUNI (slow) rather than BART (fast but expensive and closed at midnight.)

I would recommend taking as much time as you can once you're out here. If you can get your company to pay a 3-month temp lease, etc. Magic things do come up on Craigslist. Because you'll want to check out neighborhoods, not just drive through them, before you decide if they're for you.

Because of rent control and the fact that property tax never goes up, people often stay put once they find a good place here. And honestly, Craigslist is the only genuine bet in town - if you avoid the "apartment finders fee" scames. "Apartment Finders" and services like that are pretty awful - from a price perspective and from the fact they'll want to shove you into the Avalon Colma and tell you you'll love it.

It's been really sad to me as of late to have lots of cool people and art stuff flee to the East Bay due to cost, but it's changed the face of Oakland, making Oakland a destination in itself.

Good luck. And have lots of pizza and Portillo's before you come out here, because nothing compares to it.
posted by Gucky at 8:18 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here's a rent price map of SF. For one bedrooms. As you can see, most of the prices are way over $1700, and that's not even for two bedrooms. SF just went through a rent hike, and rents around the city have tripled. This is not to say it can't be done, but you would have to be here and really hunt to find a place like you're looking for.

If you are willing to live with roommates, like splitting a 3 or 4 bedroom house/apartment or something, you might be able to get all those perks for the price you want. That's what a LOT of people do out here. The only people I know who don't have roommates are tech industry folks who make $150K a year and are paying over $3000 a month in rent.

Oakland is another place to check out, just stay out of East Oakland and you should be fine. That said, I lived near Mills College in East Oakland last year, and that place is cheap...I was paying $500 for a room in a 4 bedroom house. If you don't mind long bus rides to grocery stores and things, it's not a bad place to look.

It's also really hard to get a place when you're not in the area to swoop in on a moments notice and slam down a deposit on something. You will probably need to come to the city for a week and look at a few dozen places. That's what I did when I moved from Denver, and every single place was rented except for one fairly pricey place in Emeryville that I ended up renting. If I had to do this again I would have looked for a month or two sublet so I could find something that was exactly what I wanted.

Good luck!
posted by ananci at 8:22 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might, might, want to consider points north. You can commute via bus only (or ferry if you can get to the terminal) but there are express commuter buses to downtown and rents are less-ish, depending on how far north you go. It's not a great place to live sans car but I certainly know people who commute from as far north as Petaluma and have done for years.
posted by fshgrl at 10:13 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I live on the southeast side of Lake Merritt (the area brainmouse said to avoid!). There are 2BR apartments here within your budget... not sure if you'd find any with laundry and pets allowed.

This is not an especially hip part of Oakland, but I think it's one of the best values in town. Lots of amenities are in walking distance, including the lake itself (which is gorgeous and very popular with runners, walkers, and picnickers). BART and several bus lines are nearby.

That said, the neighborhoods that are really bustling with people your age are a couple of miles away. If you can stretch your budget, you might like Grand Lake or Piedmont Avenue.
posted by aws17576 at 10:53 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Something to keep in mind when you're searching/talking to people: The (Inner/Outer) Richmond is a neighborhood in San Francisco. Richmond is a city in the East Bay. They're really, really different.
posted by rtha at 10:56 PM on July 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: fshgrl: "You might, might, want to consider points north. You can commute via bus only (or ferry if you can get to the terminal) but there are express commuter buses to downtown and rents are less-ish, depending on how far north you go. It's not a great place to live sans car but I certainly know people who commute from as far north as Petaluma and have done for years."

Petaluma commuter here and I wouldn't recommend it until we get SMART (the train) finished, unless you're going to have a car.
posted by subbes at 11:02 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I actually just moved to the bay area from Edgewater and San Mateo reminds me of that part of town in a lot of ways tbh.

I grew up there and spend 4-6 weeks a year there. I now live in Chicago. You really really really do not want to live in San Mateo without a car. Especially if you're trying to avoid the trap of being far away from stuff, not having a car there is likely to leave you socially isolated. This is true of most places on the peninsula.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 12:15 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We paid 1700 for a 1 bedroom in North Berkeley -no laundry/dishwasher-, 3 years ago, and now live close by in a house we bought. We are boring bores with a kid, who like it here...the restaurants are fabulous, but I would try Oakland if I were you (Rockridge or Lake Merritt). Stay the hell away from Walnut Creek. Everytime I go there, I think 'Wha...? We're 15 mins from the Bay, how can people be so *different* here?' - it's cute, but it's a terrible sprawly boring white suburb. And the prices are not even much lower over there because, I guess, some people like it that way...
posted by The Toad at 6:18 AM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't recommend living north of SF (Marin/Sonoma counties). Lovely places but very difficult without a car, and the commute is *long*. I have taken the bus from the City to central Marin and it takes almost an hour (plus walking to/from bus stops). The busses are also very much timed with peak commute. So if your schedule ever puts you late/early, or you want to go to the City on the weekend, it doesn't work.
posted by radioamy at 8:27 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Agree with radioamy. I live on the coast in the middle of nowhere in Marin County. There is bus service to Petaluma only 1 day a week. It fits your budget but it's not a good place to commute from, because it's about 60 miles from The City (that's what we call San Francisco around these parts). I wish you luck!
posted by Lynsey at 10:13 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I live on the southeast side of Lake Merritt (the area brainmouse said to avoid!). There are 2BR apartments here within your budget... not sure if you'd find any with laundry and pets allowed.

This is not an especially hip part of Oakland, but I think it's one of the best values in town. Lots of amenities are in walking distance, including the lake itself (which is gorgeous and very popular with runners, walkers, and picnickers). BART and several bus lines are nearby.

I used to live over there as well (you want to be west of 14th Ave, use that as your boundary) and have friends there and totally agree. This is definitely your best bet for getting a 2 bedroom + backyard near your budget, most of the rentals are Victorians split in half and have backyards. I know my friend just moved into the upper level of a Victorian with an amazing backyard for $2200-ish on E 8th Ave.

My issue as a non car-owner over there was it felt like I was constantly biking to the other (downtown) side of the lake to go to restaurants or get a drink or run errands, which maybe was because that's where I had moved from (and moved back to). That is changing though (if you're over there go get a beer on the patio at Portal). It was fine and I did for a few years - I was like 1.5 miles from Lake Merritt BART station, under 10 minutes on a bike. There is a good bus system along those corridors so you can do it that way (the 1 and 1R in particular). One major upside to not being in the "hip" neighborhood is that there is an amazing selection of cheap specialty Asian & Mexican grocery stores and a LOT of great restaurants nearby.

Door to door commute with bike+BART to Union Square you'd be looking at like 45ish minutes from east lake. If you'd rather trade the backyard for walkability and a 30ish minute commute then look downtown.

Stay the hell away from Walnut Creek. Everytime I go there, I think 'Wha...? We're 15 mins from the Bay, how can people be so *different* here?'

Just as an anecdote, I ride my bike through Walnut Creek a lot to get to Mt. Diablo and this is the only place in the bay area where people honk/throw things/yell at me. One time a guy got out of his truck and confronted me and a friend for not being on the sidewalk. Totally bizarre.
posted by bradbane at 3:21 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Berkeley around the gourmet ghetto is a really pleasant place to live, with the kind of demographics you want and a perfectly reasonable BART commute to SF but I don't know what rents are like there now.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:31 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Regarding cats: When I first moved out here, I found that it was very difficult to find an apartment that was willing to allow not just one cat, but my two cats. When you have a market that's crazy like this one, landlords have a lot of options and you can't really sway a "no pets" landlord like you can in other cities with tales of your responsibleness.

Make yourself a pet resume. Seriously. I had a little photo of my cats and below it, I had their ages, that they were strictly indoor cats, with no health issues. I listed my Vet's name and number. I listed that they didn't scratch carpet or floors and had a dedicated scratching post. I listed that they had no litterbox issues and that I cleaned the box twice a day. I also put down that when I was on vacation I hired a petsitter to come daily and included her reference.

That, along with my rental package (references from previous landlords credit report, bank statements, paystubs) is what showed that I was a responsible pet owner and good tenant.

Good luck.
posted by vivzan at 1:36 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

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