Moving to SF!
June 15, 2016 12:37 AM   Subscribe

What 'hoods should we look at as we plan a move from NYC to SF?

My boyfriend and I are planning a cross-country move to SF next year, in part because I want to be closer to my family on the west coast and also because we are ready for a change. My boyfriend's company has an office in Oakland so he will likely be working there, and I am an RN who will have two years' experience and am open to working in either SF proper or Oakland, wherever I can get a job really as I understand it is quite competitive.

We have been in NYC for close to 5 years, and while we love it here we are ready to move. We lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn for three years (LOVED it) and now live in Hell's Kitchen (hate it). What neighborhoods should we look at in SF? We loved Fort Greene because it was very neighborhood-y and quiet, but also had a lot of restaurants, cute shops, and a good amount of street activity. I also loved how beautiful the area was.

We are not big fans of Hell's Kitchen mostly because it is SO busy, crowded, stressful and nightlife central. It doesn't feel like a neighborhood and the crush of people is exhausting. We are definitely not ready for the suburbs and we like the urban lifestyle, but midtown Manhattan is definitely too much. Brooklyn is much more our speed.

We currently pay $3300 for a one bedroom, and we would love to pay a bit less ideally but we know that SF is very, very expensive. We are willing to look at Oakland. We have a small, well-behaved dog. I would LOVE a small yard/outdoor area for the dog (this is probably insane, I realize), a washer/dryer (the NYC dream), and a potential place to park a car would be nice (this is the least stringent requirement, I love not having a car but owning one at some point might be nice depending on life circumstances).

Obviously this depends a lot on my exact job location, but what are some places we could start looking? We will be out there for a week next month to scope it out and it would be nice to have some 'hoods to look at.

Thanks in advance!
posted by queens86 to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would definitely look in the East Bay, it tends to be much cheaper. If as an RN you are looking at potential night shifts, understand that BART shuts down around midnight except on big Holidays like New Years Eve, leaving you at the mercy of the incredibly slow bus system.
posted by gryftir at 12:50 AM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you prefer Brooklyn to Manhattan and your boyfriend will be working in Oakland, you should probably look in East Bay before looking in SF. Check out Berkeley. I hear the Lake Merritt area of Oakland is nice. There are neighborhoody parts of SF, but they by and large aren't the ones that are the easiest to commute to Oakland from.
posted by phoenixy at 12:53 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rockridge (N Oakland). UC Berkeley and CA College of Art at each end of college st, and Rockridge BART in between. College has lots of coffee shops, restaurants, grocers, indie book shops etc; lots of young families, young professionals, grad students, dogs. Everything off College is really residential. Not many undergrads live there - though I loved the neighborhood and had lots of babysitting jobs. The restaurants are open late so there's nightlife, but it's not party-ish. Nice community feel.

If you have night shifts spring for a car - I've been caught out by the BART thing, and it sucks. The buses are terrible. Otherwise Rockridge is really walkable and BART goes straight to the city.

Other Oakland neighbourhoods I've heard good things about are Piedmont and Lake Merritt, but no personal experience there.

I've only visited friends, but I too far prefer Brooklyn over the city.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:45 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

My daughter lives in San Leandro, south of Oakland, and enjoys it, I think her rent is about what you paid in NY, but for a two-bedroom. It's a 'not so busy' town, but close enough to the sights and sounds of the big city. She commutes into San Francisco, which is a long trip, but she goes to Oakland quite regularly so it's not too far of a commute.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:01 AM on June 15, 2016

In SF proper, Potrero Hill and Bernal Heights are close to a hospital that's always hiring (and most places, even if they're multi-unit) have yards. We just went through an open house, 3rd (top) floor 2 bed 1 bath in Bernal, that rents for $3200. Huuuge back yard. Both neighborhoods are casually referred to as villages for their laid back neighborhood nature.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:56 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you pick your hospital? The neighborhoods near the Alta Bates Berkeley hospital are really nice. Live in Elmwood or Rockridge. You can shop and get brunch on College Ave, and he can take the 1 down Telegraph. If you end up at Kaiser, Piedmont Ave is also a nice walkable place with a grocery and restaurants, if you can find housing near there.
posted by salvia at 9:20 AM on June 15, 2016

* I should've said "if you lived in Elmwood or Rockridge, you could..." There are lots of neat neighborhoods in the East Bay, so if you can visit and check them out, that'd be great. Other notable spots: Adam's Point (just north of the lake), Lake Merritt / Grand, and North Berkeley (close enough to BART). Those should all be workable commutes for you both.
posted by salvia at 9:29 AM on June 15, 2016

If you end up living in the East Bay, which I strongly recommend, you'll want a car. Things are very spread out, and as noted above, public transportation is far inferior to the NYC system you're familiar with. Oakland is awesome, with lots of great neighborhoods and interesting people and culture, and while you're unlikely to pay less in rent than what you're paying now, your budget will get you a nice place.

Do your two years of nursing experience involve time at the bedside in an acute care hospital? Because without that, you're likely to have a difficult time getting a hospital job here. Bay Area nurses are among the highest-paid in the country thanks to a strong union, but competition for jobs is pretty fierce because of it. If you can be flexible about benefits at first, you'll have more luck getting a foot in the door as a per diem and then bidding for staff positions as an internal candidate.

I would not recommend setting yourself up for any commute that involves a bridge--no living in the East Bay and working in SF, or vice versa. (I did it for five years and the commute got progressively worse each year. Even off-hour commutes were frequently ruined by bridge construction/road repair, which is done exclusively overnight here to avoid ruining the rush hour. It sometimes took me an hour and a half to drive 12 miles at midnight because of the bridge.)

I'm an East Coast transplant, too, and I've lived in the Bay Area since 2009. I've worked as a bedside RN in a couple of different hospitals; feel free to MeMail me if you'd like some insight.
posted by jesourie at 10:12 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am a big fan of the East Bay, and if your boyfriend is definitely going to work in Oakland I would caution against a crossbay commute (it can be long), BUT: the west side of SF proper is lovely. Lots of greenery (GG Park and the Presidio), cheaper and roomier housing than the rest of the City, and with real neighborhood-y neighborhoods (both the Richmond* and Sunset Districts have great commercial strips). Plus we have California Pacific Medical Center and UCSF!

The downsides are that the transit connections aren't are robust over here - mostly buses and one or two overstuffed rail lines, so it feels less connected to the center city - and the weather is generally cooler/foggier. It's not as trendy as Potrero/Bernal (mentioned upthread), but it does have Old City charms.

*not to be confused with the City of Richmond, which is full-on suburbia
posted by psoas at 10:23 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, my husband and I have been car-free in Oakland for almost ten years now and wouldn't go back to owning a car if you paid us to have one. Public transit here is reasonably good, and for things that just aren't transit-accessible there are rental cars, City CarShare, and that kind of thing.
posted by Lexica at 10:47 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I love the Richmond and Sunset neighborhoods on the west side of SF, but be aware that commuting from there to Oakland is likely to take 2 hours one way. Not recommended. Also, many people on the west side own cars (but housing often has an off-street spot included).

Not sure about proximity to hospitals, but Glen Park is a lovely neighborhood-y area in southeast SE that has its own BART station (so the Oakland commute might be doable, if your partner's office is close to BART).

Your best bet is to both work and live in Oakland, if you can swing that. Better housing for equivalent price and much more of a Brooklyn feel.
posted by serelliya at 11:32 AM on June 15, 2016

I appreciate that people with a 9-5 job can live without a car pretty easily, but as a nurse with variable hours, I found public transportation untenable for my commute.

If you're leaving the hospital at 11:30 pm, for your safety I can't recommend that you stand around at a bus stop. Plus, depending on the bus, at that time of night it might only run every half hour, in which case you could expect to be waiting a while if you just miss one. (And of course you'll never be allowed to leave early just to catch a bus!) Likewise, if you work nights, I wouldn't feel OK about you standing alone at a bus stop at 10:00 or 10:30 pm on the way to work. And if your hospital has mandatory call, you'll never be able to get there within the half-hour reporting period without a car.

Timeliness will also be difficult. When I used to work day shift, I tried to commute by bus every day for a month before giving up in despair and driving instead. Even though I religiously checked bus tracking apps and schedules, I was late to work multiple times because the bus that was supposed to come didn't show up, or showed up late, or couldn't keep moving because someone was arguing about the fare, or just plain drove past me at my stop.

A nurse being late to work is not a trivial thing; for one, the previous shift's nurse is forced to stay late because she has no one to whom she can turn over the care of her patients, and for another, staffing decisions and patient care plans are made with the assumption that all scheduled nurses will be present to start their shift at the correct time. Multiple late arrivals are grounds for termination.
posted by jesourie at 11:36 AM on June 15, 2016

Wait and see where your job is. Most of the hospitals in Oakland and Berkeley (including Kaiser, Alta Bates Oakland, Alta Bates Berkeley, and to a slightly lesser extent Children's and Highland) are in nice areas where you could probably live walking distance from your work, have a good neighborhood feel, and pay less than you do now for a pretty nice 1-bedroom. This housing market is crazy by most standards, but not crazier than where you're coming from!
posted by aws17576 at 11:56 AM on June 15, 2016

As the folks above said: you'll find more space in the East Bay, and if you need a car, you'll be much more likely to get a place with a driveway (or maybe even a garage!). Say you get one car, for you to use for commuting and your partner takes transit.

The closer you are to BART, the more expensive your options are, unless you're looking around Fruitvale and the Coliseum. After a quick look at Craigslist, it looks like you can probably find something in your range in Temescal, less likely in Rockridge.

If your partner will be working in downtown Oakland, public transit during regular commute hours can be pretty good in a number of Oakland areas: Adams Point, Rockridge, Temescal, North Oakland, Piedmont Avenue (not Piedmont, which is a super-wealthy separate town inside Oakland), Dimond, Laurel, Fruitvale, Maxwell Park, Allendale... Those neighborhoods are mostly single-family homes on small lots, with varying levels of other services in walking distance.

But there is a relatively decent bus system that accesses the rest of the East Bay, and I would recommend checking the AC Transit maps to get a sense of what areas are best served. The further out from downtown Oakland you get, the sketchier your transit connections will be (although AC Transit is currently in the middle of a major upgrade, which will add more frequent buses on major thoroughfares and cut back service on side streets). On the other hand, the further out you get from downtown, the easier it is to park.

Good luck!
posted by suelac at 12:12 PM on June 15, 2016

Nthing no buses, no bridge commutes. I'm another person who was almost fired for being late when my bus failed to show. Driving across the bridge takes anywhere from five minutes to an hour and a half or so, with no pattern I could ever discern. Also, the freeway is a total clusterf*ck coming off the Oakland side, esp slow going N on 80 past IKEA toward Berekeley.

Temescal is really beautiful.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:17 PM on June 15, 2016

I'll throw my neighborhood into the ring - Golden Gate neighborhood in North Oakland/"NOBE" (North Oaklamd/Berkeley/Emeryville). Emeryville is a small town sandwiched between Oakland and Berkeley that is mostly box stores (IKEA, Target, etc), but the northeast part of town is a very adorable neighborhood with a nice park & greenway, good coffee shops, bars, gyms, restaurants, etc. The borders between the three cities are all over the place here, thus the NOBE name. It's up and coming, so rents are a bit cheaper. Stay in Oakland/Berkeley if you can for better tenant rights. We're renting a small two bedroom house for $3k, but we got in two years ago - rents have gone up since.

More generally, if you're living in any of the "close-in" Oakland or Berkeley neighborhoods (most of which have been recommended above), consider a bike for commuting to downtown Oakland (or most of the nearby hospitals). There's good bike lanes throughout East Bay and it's pretty safe to bike through even the sketchy neighborhoods (West Oakland) after dark as a woman, as long as you pay attention to your surroundings. (I would NOT walk through there after dark or wait at a bus stop, in comparison.) Don't plan to take a bike on BART unless you're doing it in the off-commute hours or you have a folding bike - the transit system is ready way past capacity. Also if you're thinking of using BART for one or both of your commutes, be aware that 20 - 30 minute delays happen at least once a week, some portions of the system get shut down on weekends (and this will increase since the system is teaching the end of its life), and complete meltdowns due to police activity or suicides occur once or twice a quarter.

Anti recommend any place in SF that isn't within 10-15 minutes of either a BART stop or the Transbay bus terminal for your partner's commute into Oakland - so that means the west side of SF is out, as is Bernal and Portero Hill (unless you're biking). Neighborhoods that would be feasible in SF for a commute into downtown Oakland include SOMA (but there's not much neighborhood feel), Mission (but pricy!), Glen Park (lovely neighborhood, but for lots of SF folks it's too far south to be considered part of the city proper), and spots around the Civic Center BART stop (but much is pretty sketchy). Biking in the city is totally doable day or night - there are routes around most of the hills of you end up at UCSF, for example. But you'd probably be happier in East Bay.
posted by Jaclyn at 3:36 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I've driven the bridge commute for the past eight months, and don't find it too painful - the secret is to pay attention to the tolling lanes, because some move MUCH faster than others (20+ minute differences), but which move faster depend on the time of the day. But sometimes the bridge can be a complete cluster, and you'll never know that until you check google maps. If you don't have a job where "the bridge was a disaster" is a perfectly acceptable excuse, you'll have to pad your commute by a lot to ensure you get in on time.

Also, I have no idea how the nursing profession works, but UCSF has strong demand for at least L&D nurses at their Mission Bay campus, I think - I had three travel nurses care for me there when I recently delivered my son, and there were a lot of new folks on staff.
posted by Jaclyn at 3:44 PM on June 15, 2016

I say this a lot, but Brooklyn is like SF proper and Oakland is pretty much far Queens, in terms of density & transit access. Oakland has its charms, but if you live there, you'll want a car and you will miss the MTA.
posted by dame at 4:43 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

My partner and I have lived in Oakland without a car for the last ten years. It's by no means required (and we both work in the City). If you're not a bike rider at all or have an off-hours commute a car might be necessary- however we're by BART, the Transbay bus, several other bus lines that go useful places, and Lyft/Uber is of course readily available and insanely cheap if you use the pool option.

If he has a job in Oakland you are pretty much going to want to avoid any of western San Francisco. But I think if you want a yard and a parking space the East Bay is really where you want to be. Temescal might be a good fit for you: MacArthur BART is there, the wee shopping area has shops and cafes. Telegraph avenue is blowing up from Downtown to 60th street. There are leafy little nooks and crannies within walking distance of bars and restaurants. And if you do have to BART to the City, MacArthur is the last station that both Richmond and Pittsburg/Baypoint lines go to. If you live in Berkeley or Rockridge you have to switch to the proper line, and some trains don't run the full line on off-peak hours.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:29 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

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