Where to live with a family near UC Davis--Sacramento or Woodland?
July 26, 2016 12:52 PM   Subscribe

I might be moving back to California after 7+ years living in Massachusetts, and am interviewing for a job at UC Davis. Where should my husband and our 1 and 3 year old boys live?

I grew up in the suburbs of Sacramento, and lived there again for a few years in my late 20s while going to school at UCD. This time I have two small children, so I'm wondering what are the current family-friendly but affordable neighborhoods in Sacramento?

While we would love to live in Davis looking at the house prices that doesn't look like that is going to be possible. My husband stays home, at least for now, so we're living on my income. I'm looking at areas within commuting distance of Davis. The Oak Park/Med Center area is appealing because of the shuttle that goes between UCD and the Med Center, but how are the schools in Oak Park? What about Woodland or Winters?
posted by apricot to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What do you consider affordable? And do you have any other requirements besides the neighborhood being "family friendly"? What's the maximum amount of time you're willing to spend commuting? Do you want your kids to go to public or private school? We need more info please.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2016

While we would love to live in Davis looking at the house prices that doesn't look like that is going to be possible.

Take a second look. One of the reasons Davis has high housing prices is because a lot of houses in Davis have their own solar panels. See if a real estate agent can give you some data concerning how much lower your energy bill would be in such a house and if that is enough to offset the increase in the mortgage. Those houses in Davis with solar tend to sell for more, by something like $15k. But that doesn't necessarily mean they are less affordable. If I got a job in Davis, I would crunch some numbers in that regard and see if I could make a local house work for me.

Second, if housing affordability is a big issue, consider Fairfield/Suisun City. There is an Amtrak station in Suisun City that is in walking distance of parts of Fairfield. Housing there is probably still a lot cheaper than Davis (I haven't lived there in some time). It would be a long-ish commute, but you could potentially take the train from there to Davis. When I lived in Solano County, it had a much higher percentage of families than surrounding counties and about 40% of residents commuted to jobs outside the county because the county is substantially more affordable than the surrounding counties, generally speaking.
posted by Michele in California at 1:13 PM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I live in Tahoe Park which is just on the other side of Stockton Blvd. from Oak Park and it's a great, affordable area. There are lots of young families. You might look into it if you want to do the shuttle thing.

I would consider these areas family friendly: River Park, Elmhurst if you can afford it, some gated areas of West Sac, East Sac if you can afford it, Pocket, Land Park, until you get to very far South Land Park, some parts of Natomas, and some parts of Carmichael. I'm less familiar with Yolo county: West Sacramento has a bunch of newish residential neighborhoods, so I wouldn't discount that area, but Woodland is pretty rough, and Winters is beautiful but also seems pretty pricey.

My overall impression is that schools in Sac. City USD are good but not great and vary a lot. You kind of have to seek out the best program via magnet and charters and whatnot. The neighborhood elementary school in Tahoe Park is okay, but me and my ex-wife are planning charters or magnet schools. Leonardo da Vinci is popular, so is Alice Birney and they're both fairly impacted as a result. There are a few others. Davis schools are excellent.
posted by Llamadogdad at 1:20 PM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: More info: The kids would most likely be in public school. I'm guessing we could afford $300K, maybe a bit more. We rent now so aren't bringing any cash from a sale, but could do a VA loan.

Thanks for the answers so far!
posted by apricot at 1:45 PM on July 26, 2016

Best answer: One of the reasons Davis has high housing prices is because a lot of houses in Davis have their own solar panels.

Sorry, but this just isn't even remotely true. Davis home prices are crazy, even for mid-century starter homes that haven't been updated. $300k in Davis is going to be reaaalllly hard to manage. Davis PUBLIC schools are also competitive to get into. We had a faculty member moving to Davis who tried to get her kids enrolled in school, but they wouldn't even talk to her until she had either a housing contract or a lease in hand. This was one of the highly sought-out elementary schools. Other schools may not have the same issues.

Winters is lovely, but it's small and there isn't a lot available. I would love to live there -- as would lots of other people, so you kind of have to be ready to swoop in.

Dixon is also an option and is quite a bit more affordable than both Davis and Winters. It's quiet and, honestly, a little dull, but it's safe and the schools are good.

Leaving Sacramento aside, because I don't know the neighborhoods well, Woodland is the area that's changing the most. Home prices are still relatively low for the area (although there are new developments going in that are starting more in the $350k range). It's downtown is growing up a bit too, with some nice farm-to-table stuff coming in now. I think Woodland 10 -- or even 5 -- years from now is going to be more like Davis and Winters. I've been out here for over 15 years, and it always had the reputation (among Davisites, anyway) of being run-down, working class, and having gang problems. It's definitely more working class than Davis, but not in a bad way. And, the only reason Woodland has a bigger gang problem than Davis is because Davis is so damned affluent.

One thing I'd caution you about if you're considering moving to Sacramento is that commuting over the causeway sucks.

Also, I don't have kids, so I can't tell you anything about schools. Davis is definitely considered the cream of the crop among the places you mentioned.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:21 PM on July 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh -- and if you're interviewing for a faculty/other academic job at UCD, check out the campus's Mortgage Origination Program. There may be help there for you.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:36 PM on July 26, 2016

Best answer: Woodland. Everyone who has to own a house lives in Woodland or Dixon and commutes in these days. Some may come from Suisun-Fairfield area as well, or Elk Grove.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:41 PM on July 26, 2016

Best answer: There are lots of neighborhoods in Sacramento that are fine, but your price is going to be a big hangup. The following are excellent neighborhoods/towns where you’re almost certainly not going to be able to buy for $300K:
* Davis - Unless you look at an *old* multifamily condo.
* Land Park
* Curtis Park
* South Land Park
* East Sacramento
* Elmhurst
* River Park
* Midtown

West Sacramento (buy south of Highway 50) is a maybe.

Good neighborhoods where you may be able to buy:
* Hollywood Park – Don’t be right on Fruitridge. North of 22nd is a little more patchy with run down apartments, etc. but not bad. Has some character, but you’re looking at a two bedroom one bath.
* Tahoe Park (or South Tahoe Park) – Stay away from Stockton Blvd. Not sure if you can get three bedrooms for $300K. Not much in the way of services (restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops) in the neighborhood, but has character, is affordable and has a really nice park.
* North Natomas - North of I-80. Beware of the flood risk here. It isn’t likely, but it’s possible. Houses are newer and bigger here. Three bedrooms is no problem. Very car-oriented.
* Pocket
* College Greens - Very much a pocket neighborhood, and the main streets around it are ugly.
* La Riveria
Those are pretty much in my personal order of preference. I work in the central city, and Hollywood Park is pretty walkable (park and grocery/services in walking distance) and the others aren’t, except in patches.

Your commute to Davis in the morning from these neighborhoods would be not terrible. It’s getting home around 5:00 PM that’s the issue. From Tahoe Park (for example) it’s 22-35 minutes in the morning, according to Google maps, and 35 minutes to an hour in the

Also be aware that in the Sacramento and Natomas school districts, a number of the public school populations are much more heavily minority and poor than the neighborhoods they’re in. You’ll find individual schools (a couple charters in Natomas and schools in Land Park and East Sac) that have disproportionately low minority populations. The math says (to me) that non-minority local residents have pulled their kids out of the local schools and concentrated them in a few places. Make of that what you will. Just want you to be aware of it.

I don’t know Woodland or Dixon well, so I can’t speak to those. The second ring-ish Sacramento neighborhoods (Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights, Carmichael, Fair Oaks) I’m not as familiar with, though I think the commute wouldn’t work. Folsom and Roseville/Rocklin are definitely too far and too expensive. Elk Grove you could probably afford, but it adds 30-45 minutes to your commute.

You might also consider Vacaville. It’s not incredibly cosmopolitan, but it seems fine and is relatively inexpensive.

FWIW, I worked at UCD for a while, and nearly everyone on staff lived in Woodland, Dixon or Sacramento. Non-academics didn't live in Davis because their jobs didn't pay enough to afford it, and Davis refuses to expand or build housing for any reason.

I'd really recommend renting for your first six months to a year until you get settled and learn neighborhoods a bit. I also think browsing crime stats is extremely useful in taking the bias and emotion out of the advice you'll receive.
posted by cnc at 12:30 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Two more notes:
* Oak Park is gentrifying rapidly, but has seen its share of trouble over the years. Consult the crime map and decide accordingly.
* Be aware that Vacaville is so remote that it can be really terrible to commute from if you don't work in one of Vacaville, Fairfield or Sacramento, and Sacramento is 30 minutes with zero traffic.
posted by cnc at 12:39 PM on July 27, 2016

Further data point: someone I know in Woodland* said his commute is about as long as it takes to drive from UCD to the freeway in South Davis at 5 p.m., and there's pretty much nobody ever out on 113 to have traffic problems. "They have cops out there every six weeks, pretty much on a schedule, to check for speeding, but that's it." Every other place mentioned is on I-80, so...you're gonna have traffic.

* also, apparently everyone who lives in Woodland loooooves it, even though I think the place is dull. YMMV.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:20 PM on July 27, 2016

Response by poster: Well, I got the job and we're moving! We're hoping to live in Woodland. Yay!
posted by apricot at 7:08 PM on August 30, 2016

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