Moving to the CA Bay area. Need some advice.
May 14, 2007 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Moving to the CA Bay area. Need some advice.

I landed a job in Palo Alto, CA. My income will be roughly in the 80k per year range, and I'm trying to find 'affordable' rent in or around the San Francisco area. I was thinking about Daly City (any MeFis live there?). I'm basically looking for a one bedroom apartment that doesn't exceed $1200-$1400 a month. I'd like to be close to indoor and outdoor climbing, yoga, mountain biking, snowboarding and a decent electronic music scene. I'll have some time to 'browse' the area while my new gig puts me up in temp housing. I just wanted to get some feedback from anyone living in San Francisco, or the neighboring cities (and who commute to the Palo Alto/Mountain View/Cupertino area).
posted by bizack to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Daly City gets real foggy and cold, it's also a hell of a commute to Palo Alto. I'd look closer.
posted by zeoslap at 8:16 AM on May 14, 2007

I don't live in Daly City, I live in SF, but one thought -- you might want to hook up a temporary spot (a three-month sublet, say), and then go from there. You might hear of something good through connections, you might figure out exactly where you want to be, etc.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:16 AM on May 14, 2007

Daly City is foggy.

I live in San Francisco's Mission District, and commute daily to Menlo Park, via 280, since I work on the 280 (as opposed to the 101) side of Menlo. The commute is pretty good, and takes about 30 minutes door to door. There's a climbing gym in the Mission that some friends of mine really like. You won't be "near" any snowboarding if you live in SF or anywhere on the Peninsula - it's all up in the Sierra, and you don't want to make the commute from the Sacramento area to Palo Alto everyday. From this area, it's 2.5-4 hours to Tahoe, depending on traffic and weather conditions.

Anything farther south than Daly City on the Peninsula is going to have better weather. 101 runs down the Bay side (east) of the Peninsula; 280 runs down the coast (west) side; Palo Alto kind of stretches between the two, so look at a map when you're looking at places to live, because the cross-Peninsula commute can suck.

Craigslist for housing, natch. You should be able to find something in your price range without too much trouble.
posted by rtha at 8:22 AM on May 14, 2007

I live in San Mateo, about a mile from downtown Burlingame. There are some nice areas here. East Palo Alto is not so good. San Carlos, Foster City, Daly City are all pretty ok. DEFINITELY look here on craigslist, specifically for housing on "the peninsula."
posted by miss lynnster at 8:38 AM on May 14, 2007

Depending on where you're working, you could Caltrain it from SF to PA.
posted by gramcracker at 8:40 AM on May 14, 2007

Can't recommend Daly City (lived there).

On the peninsula you should be able to get a decent 1 bedroom no problem for that price range, heck if you shop around you can probably get a 1 bedroom in the city for that range.

Your interests are a bit indoor and outdoor, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Menlo Park and even parts of Redwood City will cover most of your outdoor activities nicely if you want to live on the peninsula.

Otherwise SF proper will probably meet all of your requirements. There's a huge difference though between SF and it's most proximate burbs (So. San Francisco, Daly City, Brisbane) You seem young and active, these towns probably aren't for you. Burlingame is really nice though a bit pricy (you get what you pay for, it can also be a little snobby) but it does make it pretty easy to get down to PA and/or into the city.

Palo Alto has a nice down town, it's younger because of Stanford and it's a quick hike to some riding trails, it would be my second choice after SF (I live in SF now, but have lived in Daly City, So City, Millbrae, San Mateo, Redwood City, Portola Valley and EPA) feel free to ask more.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:11 AM on May 14, 2007

Oh and personally I wouldn't go South of Palo Alto, that's a personal opinion YMMV.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:14 AM on May 14, 2007

Decent electronic music scene: San Francisco proper. (although it was much more decent about ten years ago.)

Snowboarding: 3-4 hours away from the Bay Area.
There are lots of places for mountain biking, but you may have to take an initial drive to get there, depending on where you live and what you like.
I'm not sure you'll be able to find a place in San Francisco for 1400- it's possible, but you'll really have to work at it. Avoid immediately south of the City- you'll be living in a serious fog belt. If I were you, I'd probably look from San Mateo south to Palo Alto along CalTrain.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:22 AM on May 14, 2007

If you want to live in San Francisco, a nice one bedroom will set you back at least $1600/month. When I looked last year all the apartments I saw for < $1600/month were not very nice. If you live in some out of the way part of the city (outer sunset, for instance) you could probably find a cheaper place - I was mostly looking in the Mission and Potrero Hill neighborhoods.
posted by pombe at 9:34 AM on May 14, 2007

Craigslist current has 133 one-bedroom apartments in San Francisco for $1400/month or less, but as pombe says they're likely to be not very nice (or very big) and in out-of-the-way parts of the city. The out-of-the-way parts are convenient for commuting to the Peninsula, though.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:37 AM on May 14, 2007

I probably would pick either SF proper and thus choose a more active social life and suck it up on the commute front or choose to live close to work and spend your weekends elsewhere - Daly City seems like a sort of odd, no man's land, kind of choice that I don't think really splits the difference as much as you might think.

I live down in Menlo Park, which is next to Palo Alto, and I work in MP too (less than 5 minute commute, which is important to me). If you have questions about this area I can help.
posted by marylynn at 10:38 AM on May 14, 2007

Response by poster: Hmmm... seems like the consensus is to maybe live closer to where I'll be working (Palo Alto, Los Altos or Menlo Park). I'm moving from the East Coast, so whenever I here about Northern California, it's always San Francisco. My only worry about San Francisco is the cost of rent, and the commute (doesn't seem bad without any traffic, but with traffic it's a disaster). I certainly enjoy outdoor activities but I do like being close to all the culture a larger city has to offer. But San Francisco isn't that far away from all the places mentioned. I guess I'll narrow this down to:
San Francisco
Palo Alto
Menlo Park
Los Altos

Thanks for the feedback.
posted by bizack at 10:47 AM on May 14, 2007

Sunnyvale and Belmont both have climbing gyms (Planet Granite) but I wouldn't live in either.. I'm moving out of the former this month for SF proper because I couldn't take the overpriced dull suburbia. My only other prospective place I looked at was close to University Ave in Palo Alto, though you'd have to make some tradeoffs (roommates, quality, etc.) to be *close* to it at your price range.

Some friends have backyard cottages closer to midtown PA, near Oregon Expy/Embarcadero. These are generally converted garages, and vary wildly in quality, but it sounds like what you'd like if you could find it. Skip East Palo Alto, definitely. The only place south of PA I'd even think of is close to Castro in Mountain View, but, I'm not in love with MV and it's kind of bland and boring as it goes.

One last thing - there will be a ton of places for rent on California Ave in MV and in EPA. Just.. avoid them. Dense and/or lower-class.

There's a ton of mountain biking in the south bay just south of PA/Atherton/, although with the roads here you may just turn into a roadie. :) Any sports you want are at hand, either with the buses to Tahoe (e.g. BASB), the biking, climbing (Mt Tam is big for bouldering AFAIK), etc.
posted by kcm at 10:57 AM on May 14, 2007

The people who live in San Francisco always seem to think that everywhere on the Peninsula has cheaper rent than SF. While this is true for a number of the less desirable cities on the Peninsula, the Peninsula cities you have listed above are generally more expensive than SF (excluding the eastern portions of Palo Alto and Menlo Park).

Pretty much everything you want is reasonably close to any location in SF or the Peninsula. In my view, your choice is really the following:

Commute daily for work or commute weekends for nightlife.

Most young single professionals seem to choose the former. I chose the latter (I live in Palo Alto and work in Menlo Park), but I enjoy ample parking at the grocery store and have tons of friends who offer me a place to stay when I want to go out in the city.
posted by dbolll at 11:29 AM on May 14, 2007

I recently made the move from NYC to the Bay Area for a new job. After looking (albeit briefly) in the peninsula, I ended up signing a lease on a 1-bedroom in San Francisco. I commute every day from SF to Mountain View, which takes about an hour and change each way, depending on the traffic. The commute is long, yes, but after living in NYC for my entire life before moving out here, I don't think that I was ready to live down in the Peninsula.

I've been out here for almost 5 months now but I'm still getting used to life out here. Good luck with your search :)
posted by moxyberry at 11:36 AM on May 14, 2007

We're living in Pacifica, which is pretty much Daly City by the Sea. It's really worth considering for (a) the ocean views, (b) the weather (better than Daly City since it's on the other side of the mountain range), (c) sleepy town feel, (d) good access to I-280. I-280 is a much, much faster commute than the 101 plus there are some awesome views.

Travel to SF on evenings/weekends is good. Bart is 5-10 min drive away in Colma, then 20 mins into city.

Also, to find rental properties, try using housing maps, which is an awesome combination of Craigslist and Google Maps.
posted by yorkie at 11:39 AM on May 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

What dbolll said. The nice places in the Peninsula aren't any cheaper than SF. You're going to have to make the trade-off he describes.

I live in SF and commute down to the pensinsula. CalTrain is good and fast these days if you prefer not to drive. The bullet trains will get you from SF to Palo Alto in about 45 minutes.

Daly City is cheaper but its a no-man's land. And you'll be commuting both for work AND your social life which, to me, sounds horrible.
posted by vacapinta at 11:47 AM on May 14, 2007

Agree totally with vacapinta. I should've concluded my post by saying that we're thinking of leaving Pacifica for SF because it's just too damn quiet. Depends on your lifestyle really.
posted by yorkie at 12:01 PM on May 14, 2007

Response by poster: Tons of good info here... I'll have to spend some time looking at all the places mentioned (I should have about two weeks to do this). I certainly don't want to be in a no-man's land, and I've lived in the city (Baltimore) for the past 6 years, which I've enjoyed. A 1 hour commute might be pushing it for me, then again, San Francisco has a lot of great culture and what seems to be an endless list of things to do. I was just told that Palo Alto isn't the most 'fun' place to live, but that's obviously dependent on interests (looked pretty cool to me when I was there). I'll be working right off University Avenue (near the Stanford Bookstore, if I recall correctly).
posted by bizack at 12:12 PM on May 14, 2007

I pay $1600 for a 'nice' apartment in Sunnyvale, and I make more than $80k/year. Everything I've seen in SF that is comparable costs almost 2x what I pay now.

$1200-$1400/mo will get you a place, but it might not be the most snazzy or hip place, if you know what I mean.

Being down towards Palo Alto, I think that you're actually *closer* to the outdoor activities that you mentioned. Plenty of yoga classes.

It really depends on what you consider to be "fun." If you like biking, I think it's better down here. There are several trails in Santa Clara/Sunnyvale and up on the Arastradero area. Oh, and Sand Hill Rd too. Lots of bikers along that route.

The "San Francisco culture" is a mere 1 hour train ride away. I'd rather live close to work and go on trips to see the culture than be surrounded by it 24/7 and commuting 2 hours a day to/from work. I think that you end up enjoying the culture more if you're not constantly surrounded by it. ;)
Heck, sometimes I think we have more culture down here than in San Francisco. Drive for a couple miles down El Camino Real and you'll pass by food joints from every culture you can think of.
posted by drstein at 3:13 PM on May 14, 2007

If you do decide to live in SF, pick your neighborhood carefully. For instance, you might not want to live in the Marina if you're working in PA - in addition to a freeway commute, you'll have to fight your way across the city to get to the freeway. I used to do this in reverse (Mission District to Marin), and driving across the city was by far the worst part of the commute.

For the city: Mission, Potrero, Dolores park, Duboce Triangle, Hayes Valley, Lower Haight. There are probably others, but off the top of my head, those involve the least amount of city driving before you get to a freeway on-ramp.
posted by rtha at 4:02 PM on May 14, 2007

Palo Alto is okay-ish, but definitely nowhere near as interesting as San Francisco. The college crowd stays mostly on campus, except for seniors who'll go out to Palo Alto's bars. There are definitely a couple of bars that have 25+ crowds, so not everything is college-y. In terms of other things to do, there's a decent variety of restaurants between University Ave, Castro Street in Mountain View, and the other assorted "downtown" areas of the cities near Palo Alto. Movie theatres (other than the old-school Stanford Theatre) are about 20 minutes away.

If you live in the city, and you want to avoid the traffic, you can get to Palo Alto by Caltrain (if you're working near the Bookstore on University, it's about a block walk), but this depends on how close you are to the SF Caltrain stations (either 4th+King or 22nd Street) in the first place.

If you're living down in the Peninsula but want to go up to the city often, make sure you have friends who don't mind you staying there every few weekends - the Caltrain only runs until midnight, making it woefully inadequate for the nightlife (you could also drive up, but depending on whether you drink or not that may not be a possibility).

The advice above on finding a sublet for a month or two is sound - try taking a sublet down in the Peninsula (you can even look for craigslist listings of rooms in apartments on the Stanford campus, which are decent for the price) and seeing if you mind the trip up to SF for the social activities, or take one in the city to see how you feel about the morning commute. Also, this will give you time to look into where your coworkers are living, and weigh the pros/cons of their setup. In my experience, even though the city is "right there", people down in the Peninsula don't get up there as much as they'd like.
posted by mikeyk at 1:51 AM on May 15, 2007

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