San Jose, CA- Apparently not the coolest place to live.
August 21, 2016 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm likely moving to California at the start of October. Recently, the location has tentatively changed to San Jose. I don't want this to happen, so please convince me that San Jose is the worst place ever, or give me some reasons for why it's really not that bad.

I've got a friend that lives in Santa Cruz. This friend has convinced me to make a semi-spontaneous transplantation to California for an indefinite period of time. So I decided to vacation from Mid to Northern California a couple months ago and Santa Cruz was the dominant vacation spot. I liked it, but didn't love it. However, it reminds me of Boulder, Colorado by the beach so that really added to the appeal. As of a couple weeks ago, this friend of mine has changed his desired living location to San Jose, and the reasons why are absolute bullshit.

He's claiming that San Jose is supposedly "cheaper" than Santa Cruz, and you can get more bang for your buck, even though all I've heard and read is to the contrary. And apparently he has "projects" in San Francisco (that I've never heard of) and doesn't want such a hellish commute. My intuition is telling me that the real reason for him wanting to relocate to San Jose is to be closer to his fairly new and substantially younger girlfriend and her priorities.

Anyways, if this move is to happen, I'd like some input as to what it's really like to live in San Jose. It reminds me of the district in Colorado where I did much of my growing up-- a safe, upper to upper-middle class superb where nothing cool exists. All it consists of is houses, strip malls, and Targets. Nothing else.

Here's what I'm looking for as far as a living situation goes. Honestly, I couldn't give two shits about what amenities the place has, as long as it's moderately affordable and it's close to at least some action. I really like what Santa Cruz has to offer: young, laid-back liberal people; various types of recreation; water of some sorts (preferably salt water); and walking distance to at least a couple decent bars. You know, 20-something kinds of things.

I know i have the option of finding random roommates in Santa Cruz on the Internet, but sometimes moving in with people you don't know kind of sucks. I'll also be moving out there with roughly $2K and no job, which is probably a horrible idea, but that makes initial rent+deposit+living tough until I land a job. Any input into any of what I said would be very much appreciated. Thank you in advance.

posted by omgkinky to Travel & Transportation around San Jose, CA (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
San Jose does require a lot of money to get by. In all honesty, $2k and no job is going to be tough unless you can couch surf or something. It is not as expensive as San Francisco, and more suburban, but also bigger. There is a lot of jobs here, but the best paying are in tech.

There is a lot of neat things about SJ - you just missed the weekend Jazz festival, San Pedro Square is an awesome hangout, and the downtown area is fun with lots of clubs, bars, restaurants, some beer gardens. Check out parks like Alum Rock, which has some great hikes.
SJ is close enough to San Francisco and Santa Cruz, so it is not too much of a pain to go to either place.
posted by coberh at 1:42 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I live in San Jose, I like it. Santa Crux is nice too.

San Jose is definitely suburban, but it's also pretty diverse. It's a big city. I would say first find a job and get established somewhere, anywhere, really, it hard enough already because this is such an expensive place to live. Then explore, there's so much in the Bay Area that it's a real mistake to fixate on one place.
posted by Long Way To Go at 1:43 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think you should move to where you want to move to. Honestly living with this friend of yours sounds like it'll be a pain in the ass - I really would not want to get involved with this whole situation and the younger girlfriend. The only reason to choose San Jose is proximity to work/Silicon Valley/San Francisco. If none of those matter to you, then yeah living by the beach sounds really nice to me.
posted by bleep at 1:43 PM on August 21, 2016 [19 favorites]

And also I would think twice about whether or not this is a good idea at all - this friend who talked you into it sounds like a flake, and your gut is probably right about him. You should be second-guessing anything he thinks is a good idea. $2k isn't a lot of money out here, it will go very fast.
posted by bleep at 1:45 PM on August 21, 2016 [27 favorites]

I lived in San Jose for 2 years, and moved from there to Oakland half a year ago. San Jose, Santa Cruz, and just about all of the Bay Area are super expensive. I'm not sure how $2000 would clear moving expenses, rent, and deposit, and having no job will mean that you'll need to find something really, really quickly. I wouldn't necessarily count on that, and you can't get California unemployment benefits.

I went out and did things in San Jose and had friends and made the most of my time there, but I can't argue with your impression of it. It's not a cool or hip place with any kind of notable or exciting culture happening (just my impression; I know opinions vary). If you're looking for something along the lines of Boulder, you will be miserable in San Jose. Move there because you have to, for work or something. Don't move there when you have so many other options. The price of rent + quality of living don't add up. It was a relief to leave. Oakland is fantastic in comparison.

I don't have much experience with Santa Cruz, but it does seem to have the things you want out of it. I don't get the impression that there's a whole lot to do there culturally, but if you like the outdoors, you'll probably never be bored. But again, the expense of living here is so high I would urge you to look at many other places in the country, or at least have a solid job lined up first.
posted by naju at 2:12 PM on August 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

2k and no job is a recipe for living in your car if you're aiming for San Jose. This friend sounds like a flake who is really prioritizing things that aren't in your best interest. Most of the Bay Area has been very impacted by Silicon Valley and that means crazy rents and lots of competition. Unless you have high-value and in-demand tech skills up your sleeve, you may want to reconsider the move altogether.
posted by quince at 2:34 PM on August 21, 2016 [9 favorites]

If you are a fan of Boulder and Santa Cruz, you will find San Jose boring, sprawling, hot and expensive. Your friend sounds lame. Reconsider this move.
posted by Toddles at 2:45 PM on August 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm having a hard time figuring out what your original plan even was. Were you going to sleep on this friend's couch? You basically can't move anywhere in the US with 2K in your pocket and no job prospect and expect to not be homeless in a period ranging from immediately (San Jose / Santa Cruz), in a month (an intermediate cost city like Denver), or maybe a few months (hicksville USA). If you don't have a degree it will be hard to find a job that pays any bill in CA, and because you're not a resident it will be harder to get on programs like food stamps, which you would need if you really have this little savings and no job prospects.

Stay where you are and figure out your life. Find stable employment. Stop running away from your problems. This "friend" of yours is leading you down a bad path that will end with you posting questions about how to get out of homelessness.
posted by permiechickie at 2:50 PM on August 21, 2016 [16 favorites]

This is insane. The only good thing about San Jose is that it has a lot of tech jobs. It's very expensive and very crowded, and very very hot.

If your goal was to move to a place where there are a lot of jobs, then yeah, not a bad idea. But for all the criteria you've mentioned, no.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:52 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

From previous questions, I'll surmise that you're not in IT. All of Silicon Valley and the Bay area is hideously expensive and changed or changing to cater to people with six figure incomes. There is absolutely nothing in your plan that sounds like a good idea, other than maybe moving some place to make a fresh start. I'd suggest that you consider a college town or moderately priced city like Cleveland , Pittsburgh, or Durham while you figure things out.

as long as it's moderately affordable

It's one of the least affordable places in the country. A 3 bedroom townhouse can easily be $1.4 million. There was a recent Ask here by someone who was tired of feeling broke in SJ and they made $75K/year. It's really that bad.

it's close to at least some action.

You'll be working two jobs to afford living expenses so you won't have time for action and when you do have time, you'll be competing with people that can drop $200 on a night out and not blink.
posted by Candleman at 2:53 PM on August 21, 2016 [11 favorites]

Don't do it. This is a horrible idea. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but neither Santa Cruz, nor San Jose are cheap, and your $2k can certainly go a lot further in other areas.
posted by invisible ink at 2:54 PM on August 21, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you're really stuck on doing this, what is probably the smartest plan is to get a room in a shared house with a bunch of students. There are always lots of those in Downtown SJ, and there are even more random twentysomethings (locals, SJSU dropouts, skaters) who had a housemate flake out and need someone to fill a room. Check Craigslist and have this set up in advance. Also, try to get a job first.

Fun stuff in SJ is only walkable if you live in downtown. The entertainment area is quite small besides, though there are still some dive bars that you can go to. Because you will be poor.
posted by rhizome at 3:13 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is nowhere even remotely close to the bay area that you should move to with $2k and no job. Run, do not walk, away from this plan.

People who make six figures complain about not being able to afford an apartment, and those are the people you will be competing against in the rental market. Your impression of San Jose is correct which is what makes this an even more terrible idea.
posted by bradbane at 3:18 PM on August 21, 2016 [12 favorites]

This has Bad Idea written all over it in six foot tall flaming letters.

First, your friend has bailed on you. His new honey is his new priority. He is also a flake. Neither one of you can count on him. If you plan to go to California, plan it as a solo thing that does not involve him. Let him know you look forward to hanging out with him some time and having a beer/coffee/whatever together if/when you get there, but cut him out of this plan.

Second, why does this have to happen in October? That is an awfully short time frame. You sound like you are unmarried, unattached, have no kids and are pretty footloose. What is the big rush?

Consider trying to implement one or more of the following options:

1) Put the move off until you have something more solid in hand.
2) Try to have more money in the bank prior to going.
3) Try to have a job lined up before going.
4) Try to establish a portable income prior to going. Even if it isn't enough to outright live on in California, it can help reduce the pain of the transition. Consider it to be a means to extend your "runway" so to speak: $2000 I hand plus $100-$200/week with the potential to build that income to more or to get a job is less crazy than $2000 in free fall.
5) Consider going to the Central Valley instead of The Bay Area. It is substantially cheaper. Even if you want to eventually get to The Bay Area, it can give you a viable toehold so you can look for a job in the SFBA, etc.
6) If you just absolutely MUST go to the SFBA in October with no job lined up, no apartment lined up, and just $2000 in hand, consider going to Solano County. It is substantially cheaper than other counties in the Bay Area.
7) Start looking for low rent options, like couch surfing, camping legally in a tent somewhere, or finding an actual friend that you can crash with for X amount of time while you job hunt.
8) ??? <> 9) If you can't come up with a more viable solution, just do not go. Live someplace cheaper that makes more sense for you.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 3:39 PM on August 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oops. I don't know what I did wrong. #8 should be "brainstorm other possible solutions to make this move not crazy."
posted by Michele in California at 3:51 PM on August 21, 2016

Going to echo everyone else here. The Bay Area is the most expensive metro area in the country. I would use the blink tag if I could. You are genuinely better off driving to NYC to try the same thing.
posted by MillMan at 4:44 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I moved away from Santa Cruz in 2011, and I doubt it has gotten any less expenaive.

When I was there, it was about on par with DC or Brooklyn for rents on group houses- I.e., not cheap. Its one of the most expensive rental markets in the state because it's a small, beautiful town, with a big student population, and folks commuting to San Jose on the rt 17 bus, working in tech and making $100k plus. People were paying $600 to live in an unheated garage. I got lucky and ended up paying about $850 for half of a 2 bedroom apt. You can get cheaper, especially in a big student or young 20-something group house, but consider your tolerance for living with a bunch of strangers.

On jobs, a lot of UCSC students take a while to finish, working part time, or stay in Santa Cruz for 1-10 years after graduation, basically living the broke beach bum life. The good news is that it is a huge tourist town, so service jobs are (or at least were) pretty easy to get. If you don't have a class schedule to work around, that will also help you be competitive. The bad news is that those jobs don't pay much, there is a huge pool of other 20-somethings competing for them, and there are very few career type jobs in Santa Cruz, except the university.

It's not a terrible idea, if you had $5k to give you time to find a job and a not-terrible living situation. No way I would do this with $2k in my pocket.
posted by foodmapper at 4:54 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I live in San Jose and I think it has a lot to offer. We have great food variety. There is a ton of places to hike, camp, bike, run, etc. We have world class wineries within 20 minutes of driving. You get to the ocean and back in a day and there is world class diving in Monterey and Carmel. I'm not a surfer but I know plenty of people do surf out here. You can be to the mountains (The Sierras: Yosemite, Sequoia and King's Canyon) for the weekend in a few hours drive. There is a lot that sucks here: traffic, crowds, cost of living, but it is what it is and you have to choose to be happy. If you come here planning on hating it, you will.

I don't have any suggestions for how to afford being here based on your givens though. But if you are able to crash with this friend to make your $2k last while job searching then you can probably make it work.

And really, Santa Cruz is not that far. Plenty of people live there and work in San Jose. If you like the vibe of Santa Cruz and want to live there, make that your focus for where to work and live while using your friend's place as your base while doing so.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 7:15 PM on August 21, 2016

Mod note: Couple comments deleted. omgkinky, rather than focusing on what you don't like about some answers, please just clarify what information you're actually looking for; it's not clear from the original question.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:45 PM on August 21, 2016

There's little about this idea that's good. The absolute cheapest two bedrooms in San Jose are going to be around $2,000, which is a $4,000 move in, and they go WAY up from there.

I lived in San Jose for about two years, including several months right in the middle of downtown. Your impressions are correct. There's very, very little going on down there, aside from the party scene on weekend nights, which is fairly insane. Downtown San Jose is one of the few places I've ever seen where the population at midnight is five times what it is at noon.

Look at Google Street View of Second Street between San Fernando and Santa Clara. It's basically all empty storefronts, in the middle of Silicon Valley. On the other hand, if you're looking to score something illegal, Fountain Alley on Second is the place to go.

There are little events here and there, but my impression is that people in the South Bay are really work-focused, kind of to the exclusion of everything else. The South Bay is almost completely car-oriented and traffic is generally terrible. There's little live music, or live theater, or events or festivals or pedestrian traffic. Commuting over the hill (Santa Cruz to San Jose) is difficult at best, and if there's an accident, it can take you hours.

There are good things, though. There are mountains are nearby, and there are multiple, gorgeous parks with tons of good trails. The Mountain Winery is awesome. Lick Observatory is very cool. The ocean isn't far (45 minutes to an hour without traffic), and San Francisco is an hour on a good day. Monterey/Carmel/Big Sure are relatively close. The weather is beautiful. The airport is quick, clean and easy to get in and out of.

Again however, based on affordability, your financial situation, the flakiness of this person, and what you're looking for, this is a BAD idea.
posted by cnc at 10:19 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

San Jose is nearly as expensive as the neighboring (ridiculously expensive) cities, and has none of the 'up-sides' of any of them, except for proximity to some nice nature/parks/etc. Santa Cruz is pretty cool, but again, expensive.

I would never, never, NEVER consider moving to the bay area without an extremely high-paying job lined up already.
posted by destructive cactus at 11:26 PM on August 21, 2016

Someone mentioned going between San Jose and Santa Cruz, but CA-17 is no joke. I avoid it as much as possible.
posted by delight at 12:40 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Someone mentioned going between San Jose and Santa Cruz

^^I mentioned it. To clarify, it was in the context of the poster now living in San Jose with the BFF but still wanting to be in Santa Cruz. I didn't think the reverse commute was bad and thought it might be an option for the OP to start out living in SJ while getting things in order to move them self to live/work in SC.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 7:54 AM on August 22, 2016

so please convince me that San Jose is the worst place ever.

San Jose is not that close to the beach, very expensive, has close to no night life unless you look good in stilettos and can drop a couple hundred on drinks, is not that walkable unless you're living in Campbell or another extremely expensive area, and it's already very expensive anywhere.

I also don't see much of what you want in this ask. It's normal for people to move around in their 20's but you should ask yourself why you feel obligated to tag along.
posted by Llamadogdad at 10:08 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

so please convince me that San Jose is the worst place ever.

There is a black cloud hanging over the city at all times and everybody who lives there for the reasons you want to move there is either passing through or a local who stayed in town. Almost nobody of your cohort moves to San Jose and stays, so it's likely that sooner or later you'll think to yourself "Ugh, I gotta get out of here."

It has a highly jealous relationship with San Francisco (and probably Oakland by now), because it has a higher population but its cultural offerings can fit into Union Square. It is an area torn in personality between its agricultural and mining history and the military contractor (later computer) industries. I used to say that it was the largest city with a small-town mentality.

There are a lot of seriously important ethnic and cultural history stories in the South Bay, but none of them will be a natural fit for most outsiders. It is the place I've lived where racist policing was the most obvious.
posted by rhizome at 10:28 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

San Jose will not have what you want on offer. Santa Cruz sounds like it might but you can't afford to live here. You can't afford to live in San Jose either for all the reasons everyone's said. Don't believe me? From the Guardian today:

By some measures, Santa Cruz is considered the “least affordable” small metro area in the US. Santa Cruz – which is about 58% white and 33% Latino – also recently counted nearly 2,000 homeless people, which translates to one of the highest concentrations in the country, according to the federal government.

Don't become one of our many many homeless people.
posted by marylynn at 11:31 AM on August 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

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