Where are the hip places to live in the South Bay?
July 22, 2008 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Possibly moving to the Silicon Valley region... any suggestions on a place to live that meets the following criteria?

I've interviewed for jobs in San Jose, Saratoga, and San Francisco. I've been to SF several times, and between having friends who live there and the ubiquity of craigslist I think I have a good handle on where I may live if I end up taking that gig. But I'm far less familiar with San Jose.

I live in LA at the moment, in the Los Feliz/Silver Lake region (for those familiar with LA), and I freaking love it. Best neighborhood ever... walking distance to stores/bars/cafes, a cool community, kind of a hipster vibe. I'd like to duplicate that if at all possible, and in my short time visiting SJ I didn't really see anyplace like that. I'm openly queer and definitely have a more alternative lifestyle, and would probably be very happy in SF, but if I take a South Bay job living in San Francisco probably isn't feasible. Additionally, my partner is writing a dissertation and probably won't work full-time, and her preference is to live someplace that is somewhat walkable/public transport friendly as a result. My surroundings are just as important to me as the job I eventually take, if not moreso.

So, are there any South Bay neighborhoods that are hip, queerish and/or pedestrian-friendly? "No, you should consider San Francisco instead" is a totally acceptable answer, and I am already doing so.
posted by the_bone to Travel & Transportation around California (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
not a lot of hipster anything in san jose, but consider living near the alameda, which is kind of charming.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 12:51 AM on July 23, 2008

Wellll... Santa Cruz is pretty perfect. The commute time would be the main consideration. It's like eh, 30 minutes to SJ and Saratoga, but over the windy forested 17, and then another 45-60 to the city. But it's not LA driving, the 280 is preeeetty.

I always felt perfectly satisfied with the access to "big culture" events over the hill and up in the city, and the beauty and pleasant small town qualities of SC are really well-paired with its politics and amenities. There would be nothing to miss from Silverlake, I daresay.

Pedestrian-friendly? It's ridiculous. Rent on the westside if you can, downtown SC is compact and complete. 2 effing indie theaters, a rollercoaster, yadda yadda.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:31 AM on July 23, 2008

hip and/or pedestrian-friendly?

Willow Glen in San Jose, and maybe Palo Alto or Mountain View (but others here won't share my appreciation of PA). As for queerish, nowhere in the South Bay could be considered anti-GLBT, except mabe the Asian enclaves in Sunnyvale and Cupertino, but if you want overt acceptance the Castro's really your only choice.
posted by Rash at 7:24 AM on July 23, 2008

Consider San Francisco. You can take Caltrain to work. I know a good half-dozen people who do this and they all seem pretty happy with the situation. Just make sure you get one of those little mobile wireless cards so you have internet on the train.

I live in Palo Alto and the idea of a "hipster vibe" here is completely laughable. The average age of Palo Altists is about 70. Sure, the restaurants look cute at first but then you notice that about half of them serve mediocre Italian food.

If you end up in PA anyway, look me up :)
posted by crinklebat at 8:11 AM on July 23, 2008

Best answer: So, are there any South Bay neighborhoods that are hip, queerish and/or pedestrian-friendly?

No. I could pretend that Castro Street in Mountain View was cool, or one of the two business distrcts in Palo Alto. But while they're not empty they're not hip, they're not queerish, and they're only mildly pededstrian friendly. I'm a San Francisco snob, so feel free to discount it, but if you're looking for a hip non-car-oriented life you really want to be in The City.

OTOH, the commute from SF to San Jose or Saratoga will kill you.
posted by Nelson at 8:21 AM on July 23, 2008

I'd agree with what everybody else is saying, it sounds like the best place for you would be in SF. It doesn't have to be the Castro, there are a lot of other great places that are public-transit accessible. Just to be clear, whether a neighborhood in SF is "pedestrian-friendly" is debatable; pretty much any way you walk will have huge hills or steps or something crazy.

The Caltrain Baby Bullet train can get you from SF to San Jose in about 45 minutes, which is quicker than driving. The problem will be getting to the Caltrain from your home and then getting from Caltrain to your workplace and then back again. Check with your potential employers; they may know of local shuttles (that aren't run by the local transit agencies) that could help you. You could bike to/from the Caltrain as well, but there are so many bikes on the train now, and if there isn't enough room on the train you want, they deny you boarding and make you wait for the next one.

If the long commute from the city doesn't seem feasible, check out the Menlo Park, Redwood City, and Millbrae areas (besides Mountain View and Palo Alto). Not necessarily hip, but definitely public-transit friendly.
posted by sarahnade at 8:58 AM on July 23, 2008

I am no longer young and hip, but if I was then I would check out the lofts at Santa Row in San Jose. There are lots of beautiful people there and clubbing and nightlife.

I was once driving through a cute little neighborhood in San Jose and my boss told me
that the gays had taken it over. I wish I could remember where it was, but there have got to be gay message boards or websites for this kind of thing, right? Downtown Mountain View is probably a good bet, too. I also like Willow Glen in San Jose which has a lot of coffee shops and places to walk, but more in a family friendly way and less of a "queerish way"
posted by bananafish at 10:07 AM on July 23, 2008

Hipster/walkable - you are describing SF not the South Bay.
All the South Bay is very open minded about sexuality. I've got a work friend who is obviously trans-sexual and nobody gives a fuck anywhere.
Most of the mini-cities have a nice walkable downtown, like Sunnyvale or Menlo Park does, so if you live downtown you won't have to drive just to go out for dinner or to grab some groceries.
I reject Rash's bizarre racist characterization of Sunnyvale and Cupertino as possibly anti-gay, whereas Mountain View is allegedly not. I've lived in all 3 places and they are practically indistinguishable in every way.
posted by w0mbat at 10:17 AM on July 23, 2008

A little further out, Los Gatos was a neat little town when I was there in the '80s.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 10:37 AM on July 23, 2008


San Jose isn't very hip. The downtown area is pretty decent, but outside that area, try the Alameda and Willow Glen areas. Avoid the East Side, though; I lived there since day one of my life and found it too bland to enjoy.

bananafish mentioned Santa Row... I believe you meant "Santana Row"? It's got great lofts and a fantasic shopping complex, and the Valley Fair mall is just across the street if you're looking for more mainstream shopping. A warning: that area is notorious for having perhaps the worst traffic in the whole Bay Area. It's like that little chunk of area alone can create global warming >.<>

Just about every South Bay city is accepting of LGBT, so there's nothing to worry about.


Like others have said, SF is walkable, but... it's pretty hilly. Especially the Chinatown area. That place can leave you huffing and puffing for breath. But then, that's why there's the trolleys :).

Sunnyvale, Saratoga, and Santa Clara are also good. Just be wary of housing prices if that's a concern.
posted by curagea at 11:33 AM on July 23, 2008

Yes, I meant to say that if I were hip, I would live in the lofts in Santana Row. Sorry. The traffic is pretty bad right outside santana row, but once you get on 280 it's not bad at all. Also, if you dig movies, there are three movie theaters right there and one of them shows indie films.
posted by bananafish at 1:14 PM on July 23, 2008

San Mateo and Redwood City are pretty nice and have decent downtowns. Mountain View and Palo Alto are also not half bad. None of them are funky fresh hip groovy.
posted by chairface at 3:36 PM on July 23, 2008

Live in the City. Take CalTrain. Really, there's no place hip in the South Bay, though I'd say it's all pretty much queer-friendly. Some Peninsula towns have cute downtown areas with good places to eat, but they're not exactly happening. San Francisco is extremely walkable, IMO. Hills and stairs are good for you. If you can't live in the City, at least try for downtown San Jose which has density and character. I personally think Santana Row is kind of a horrible place to live- like living on Main St, USA in Disneyland. But that's just me.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:56 PM on July 23, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm. The "live in SF and take CalTrain" suggestions are compelling... but if I'm reading the CalTrain fares correctly, I'd need to make a five-zone trip and it would set me back $245/month for a monthly pass. It's not too much less than what gas would cost, and I'd at least have my car during the day if I drove. The Santa Cruz suggestion is also a good one, but that puts us further out of the city. (I'm not concerned about the time it takes to commute; I currently spend 45 minutes a day in the car traveling 10 miles from Los Feliz to Beverly Hills.)

Some more info: I'm a music teacher. The job in Saratoga is probably going to be the most musically rewarding and the district has an amazing program. The San Jose job is downtown at a couple of charter schools, and seems like it would be a fun gig, but it's middle and high school and I'm enjoying elementary music ed more these days. The SF gig looks like it'll be really grueling (itinerant position at 5 different elementary schools)... but I'll be in San Francisco. I'm equally competitive for all of them, and I'm certain I'll be offered the latter two jobs (it's a coin flip on the position in Saratoga). So it's a choice between "amazing job in a place where I don't necessarily want to live," and "super-challenging job in the perfect location." Argh.

Some great input here. I'm gonna keep thinking about it, and will come through and mark some "best answers" tomorrow (although really, they're all great).
posted by the_bone at 8:29 PM on July 23, 2008

If I were to work in Saratoga and didn't want to commute from the city, I'd probably seriously consider Los Gatos, especially if I could live within a block or two of downtown. At least then for most evenings if you just wanted a place to eat or get coffee you could do so and your work commute would be minimal (leaving you time to drive up to the city on weekends, Friday after work, etc.).
posted by marylynn at 3:14 PM on July 24, 2008

Best answer: Don't be tempted by living in SF and commuting to SJ. It will freaking kill you. Seriously, it'll take three hours out of your day.

Also, while Santana Row is hip, it's teeming with straight early-20-somethings. I doubt you'd get guff from anyone, but it's not a queer scene.

I've been in a similar predicament, and I illustrate it this way:
Great Job-----Great City
        \     /
         \   /
      Short Commute
Pick up to two.
posted by jewzilla at 8:26 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I reject Rash's bizarre racist characterization of Sunnyvale and Cupertino as possibly anti-gay

Now, now -- I only echo the attitude of Asians I Know towards non-het peoples. And Cupertino especially is overwhelmingly Asian. Apologies if I'm in the wrong.

Don't be tempted by living in SF and commuting to SJ.

Agreed. Don't even consider using the Caltrain from SF to like, PA or MV. Not just the fare-money, as you've discovered, but especially the time you'll lose. I'd rule out living in Santa Cruz for the same reason -- all's well when there's no problem drining over the mountain, but often there is a problem, and that drive's too scary for me, as a regular thing.
posted by Rash at 8:07 AM on July 25, 2008

dring driving
posted by Rash at 8:08 AM on July 25, 2008

i've only been there once, and it was like 5 years ago, but santana row used to be this god-awful soulless place, devoid of any real character and full of corporate fake; it reminded me of the themed casinos in las vegas or the lines you wait in disneyland. everything plaster and bogus, quite literally the opposite of hipster.

has it gotten better since then? like, it can be described by multiple people as hip? i'm not snarking, i'm just asking.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 9:56 PM on July 25, 2008

>>"I reject Rash's bizarre racist characterization of Sunnyvale and Cupertino as possibly anti-gay"

>"Now, now -- I only echo the attitude of Asians I Know towards non-het peoples. And Cupertino especially is overwhelmingly Asian. Apologies if I'm in the wrong."

According to census data, Cupertino is 44.4% asian and 50.1% "white". I don't call that "overwhelmingly Asian", and in any case I do not agree that Asian's are all homophobic or are to be avoided as neighbors.

Sunnyvale is about a third Asian and Mountain View about a quarter, but you only describe Sunnyvale as "an asian enclave" (which it is not) and suggest that that would be a bad thing (which it wouldn't be). I personally don't care what race my neighbors in Sunnyvale are, and they don't care who I fuck.
posted by w0mbat at 11:37 PM on July 25, 2008

I do not agree that Asians are all homophobic or are to be avoided as neighbors.

Nor do I. Sorry if I gave you that impression.
posted by Rash at 9:14 AM on July 26, 2008

And Santana Row is certainly not hip. The comparison to Vegas and Disneyland is valid. The SoFA district of San Jose strives to be hip.
posted by Rash at 9:20 AM on July 26, 2008

Response by poster: Followup: I ended being offered the job in Saratoga, and was getting set to move to either Mountain View or downtown SJ... and then was offered a job with the Los Angeles Unified School District that wouldn't require me to have to move to a charmless part of LA to avoid an awful commute. So I'm taking that one instead of uprooting myself.

Great answers. Thanks, all, and I'll buy each of you a beer the next time I'm in the Bay Area.
posted by the_bone at 9:22 AM on August 5, 2008

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