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Old 08-26-2014, 01:18 PM
 
9 posts, read 7,379 times
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This will be a little more challenging (and quite a bit longer) than some of the usual ďwhere should I go?Ē threads. Kudos to anyone who makes their way through it. There is a prize at the end!

After living in LA for 25 years, we moved our family to Minneapolis in 2011. We generally loved it, but for reasons mentioned below, we moved back to LA earlier this year. Unfortunately, we are reminded daily why we left LA in the first place. For reasons that will become clear, we simply do not like Southern California. Itís a personal preference thing, nothing more.

So we are trying to find that all-elusive ďperfect placeĒ. And by perfect place, I donít mean a city. We pretty much know which cities fit our criteria. What I mean is specific neighborhoods within a city.

Our priorities, pretty much in order:
  • Great public schools with strong music programs:

    Our boys were enrolled in Edina schools during the two years that we were in the Twin Cities. Say what you will about Edina, they both thrived, and mightily so. They did much better in Edinaís system than they did in their highly-regarded LA private school. Itís extremely important to us that we find a neighborhood that is serviced by a public school system comparable to Edinaís.

    However, there are caveats.. One, we did not like the heavy emphasis Edina (the schools and the community in general) places on team sports, specifically hockey and football. We also did not like the fact that Edina forces 6th-graders to take music. I am a music professional and both my kids are on their way to becoming exceptional musicians, but when you have a music class with 130 kids, 60% of whom do not want to be there, it ruins the experience for those kids who do want to be there. Though my boys arenít there yet, a strong high-school program with good marching and concert bands would be awesome.

  • Easy access to outdoor activities, ďDistant Nature":

    We are snow-sports fanatics. I grew up in Reno/Tahoe, and spent the first 18 years of my life at Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood. My wife grew up in Telluride, and my sons have skied and/or boarded since they were both 2 years old. My cousin was an alternate on the US Ski Team in Calgary. Itís very important to us that we are within a couple-hourís drive to good skiing. Not just OK skiing, but great skiing. This is why Portland is a hard sell for us.

    We also want easy access to hiking, climbing, biking and some water. I also like to go on drives in my moderately-priced sports car.

    One of the things we really didnít like about Minneapolis was a lack of what we call ďdistant natureĒ. We like to be able to SEE mountains and potential outdoor activity. Minneapolis is flat - canít see anything but trees really.

  • Easy access to an airport with non-stop flights to LA, preferably into Burbank (though not required):

    As I said, I still own my business in LA and need to be able to get to LA on short notice fairly easily. BUR would be ideal, as my building is one stop south on the MetroLink line, but itís not required. Iím not a 9-5er - I set my own schedule. Much of my work can be done from wherever I live, but there are occasions, once or twice a month, when I have to return to LA. Iíd like it to be no more than a 3-hour flight.

    We also travel to Europe once or twice a year and like the ability to go nonstop, though that's also not required.

  • Architecturally interesting, established and vibrant neighborhood where a kid can ride a bike:

    Mid-century is our thing. In Edina, we saved a 1966 Nuetra-esque house that was set to be torn down and replaced by yet another Edina McMansion. We transformed it into a mid-century masterpiece and sold it in April. Itís the 7th mid-century house we have saved and remodeled since 1997. We want to be in a neighborhood that not only has a nice representation of mid-century homes, but has a little architectural diversity as well. In other words, it doesnít have to be ALL mid-century, like Krisana Park in Denver or Lucas Valley in Marin, but a nice mix of different architectural styles would be great. Bend, OR was high on our list at one point, but one thing we didnít like was the fact that most of Bendís neighborhoods looked the same. And note that by mid-century, we are including modern and single-story ranch and ramblers.

    We also like being in a neighborhood where a kid can get on his or her bike and ride safely. We never had that in LA, but did have it in Edina.

  • Relatively close proximity to thriving restaurant scene and decent ďfoodieĒculture:

    Minneapolisí restaurant scene is seriously underrated, but itís not yet on the level of Seattle, San Francisco, or Portland. However, it is growing fast, and we really appreciated that. We want to be near a place with a decent level of culinary sophistication. It doesnít have to be on the level of NYC or SF, but something with a strong local sense and some creativity. Something at least as good as Minneapolisí scene. In other words, not Reno.

    We also want to be able to get a strong variety of quality healthy foods, also with a strong local influence when possible. Think Wedge Co-Op (MPLS), Bristol Farms (LA) or France 44 (MPLS). And this includes good coffee!

  • Strong club soccer programs:

    My youngest plays club soccer for one of the top club programs in the country (Golden State FC), in the top league in the country (Cal South). He was invited to play for the USMNT development academy in Minneapolis, and also played on the top-flight traveling team in the Edina Soccer Club. We need to be someplace that has strong competitive soccer programs that run year-round. Seattle seems like a good fit here, but there must be others.

  • Seasons!

    Enough said. We donít need 4 of them, but something that is on the cooler side generally and has at least a semblance of an autumn would be nice. We love rain and snow, but can do without the 6-month winters of the Twin Cities, thank you very much.

  • Relatively close proximity to thriving music scene:

    As I said, I work in the music industry. While itís not critical, it would be nice to be able to see low or mid-level touring acts. The best venue Iíve ever been to by far is First Avenue in Minneapolis. I donít expect to be able to duplicate that anywhere else besides SF or Seattle, but it would be great if there was something thatís at least trying.

    Also, my oldest is an accomplished drummer and wants to be in a place where he can find like-minded middle-school-aged kids who like to make music.

  • Hip business districts:

    We really like diverse neighborhoods with hip restaurants and nice local shopping. We donít need to be close to them, but an easy drive to them would be nice. Itís more important to live closer to outdoor activities.

  • Left of center politically, and not heavily religious:

    Again, this is not that important, but is worth mentioning. I know that Salt Lake City will be recommended by many based on my criteria above. After all, Alta is my all-time favorite place to ski, and I would LOVE to have access to Cottonwood and the Wasatch Range. I get along with everyone. We are regulars at our Unitarian Universalist fellowship. I love a healthy debate and donít need to be surrounded by people who only agree with me, but I have heard stories about how difficult it is to be a secular (read: non-LDS) liberal in Salt Lake City. If Iím wrong, please tell me!

  • Decent cost of living:

    I donít want to live in San Francisco. Too expensive (though I would consider East Bay). That said, I make a decent living and can afford decent housing. Something in the $500k - $600k range for a moderately-sized 3-4 bedroom would be ideal, but I could go up to $800k. We are not opposed to buying land and building a prefab or modular house, and we are not opposed to doing another complete remodel either (in fact, we welcome either challenge). It just needs to be in a neighborhood that fits all or most of the criteria above.


Places we have considered:
  • Seattle: On paper, this seems like a good choice. I work in Seattle a lot and visit regularly. We have looked at Magnolia, Bellevue and offered on a house on Mercer Island but were outbid. Issaquah? Lake Washington? We check 360Modern.com regularly. Anywhere 30 minutes or so outside the city we should know about? We are scouting Seattle again next week and would love ideas. The only potential negative is the winters - my wife is prone to SAD, but I think it's is a darn-sight better being somewhere in the 40s where you can still go outside despite the misty rain, as opposed to somewhere like Minneapolis, where it may be sunny but -10 outside for weeks on end.
  • Portland: Not close enough to skiing (sorry, Hood doesnít count). But it does meet many of our other criteria. We have look in the areas around Chapman Elementary, Duniway Elementary, Ainsworth Elementary, Sylvan Highlands, NW (very little mid-century there, though), and in Lake Oswego. There is also something a little bohemian about PDX that my wife doesnít like. She calls it the home of the stretched earlobe.
  • Denver: Though we ski Colorado annually and have family there, we really donít know enough about Denver. Other than Krisana Park, which seems to have tons of mid-century but bad schools, what neighborhoods might fit our criteria? And note that we are NOT opposed to living closer to mountains than the city. We donít even know where to start in Denver. MileHiModern.com is decent for houses, but doesn't go in depth on the neighborhoods. And the one negative for us about Denver is that the arts seem to be more of an afterthought, but thatís just our perception.
  • Reno: Not an option. I went to UNR, was born in Reno and still have most of my family there. Not governed well at all, lousy schools, almost total lack of sophistication, and forget about decent architecture. Major drug problems as well. Yes, I know Seattle and PDX (and pretty much everywhere) have that too, but for a city the size of Reno, itís alarming how bad the problem is. The Mexican Mafia runs the entire north side of town.
  • Salt Lake City: See above. We could be persuaded, however. And it does seem to have decent architecture.
  • Bend, OR: Too small, not a lot of diversity (people or architecturally). I think Iíd get tired of Bachelor. We offered on a house in Shevlin Ranch in 2010, but thankfully were able to pull out. Amazing amenities for a city that size, though.
  • Vancouver: It seems like Vancouver would be perfect except for that one lingering issue..
  • East Bay: We like Lamorinda, and almost moved to Lafayette prior to going to Minneapolis. Iíd prefer something less expensive with more direct access to outdoor activities. I worry about the drought and attendant lack of snow at Tahoe, which seems to be getting worse.

Thinking outside the box:

We have considered the following locations as well. Each lack more than a few of our above-mentioned criteria, but are still intriguing.
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Santa Cruz
  • Petaluma

So, for those of you who made it through, have a virtual coffee or a beer on me. And thanks for the ideas!
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Old 08-26-2014, 08:20 PM
 
Location: Salt Lake City
21,958 posts, read 22,104,197 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Floyd S MacGillicutty View Post
Left of center politically, and not heavily religious:

Again, this is not that important, but is worth mentioning. I know that Salt Lake City will be recommended by many based on my criteria above. After all, Alta is my all-time favorite place to ski, and I would LOVE to have access to Cottonwood and the Wasatch Range. I get along with everyone. We are regulars at our Unitarian Universalist fellowship. I love a healthy debate and don’t need to be surrounded by people who only agree with me, but I have heard stories about how difficult it is to be a secular (read: non-LDS) liberal in Salt Lake City. If I’m wrong, please tell me!
Certain parts of Salt Lake City are more liberal than others. Unless I'm mistaken, two elections ago (Obama vs McCain), Salt Lake City itself voted for Obama (Utah, as a whole, went for McCain). I'm in Cottonwood Heights (25 minutes from the airport, from which Delta flies direct to Burbank) and there are actually more non-LDS families on my street than there are LDS. There is a UU church about 1 mile from my house. The Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center is an incredible sports facility. Obviously a lot of people in this area are skiiers (we're only about 20 minutes away from Alta, and less than a half hour's drive from six other world class resorts). Soccer is also huge here. I'd say Salt Lake City easily fits a great many of your criteria. If you're seriously considering it, I'd post something over on the Salt Lake City forum and see what kind of responses you get.

Last edited by Katzpur; 08-26-2014 at 08:32 PM..
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Old 09-12-2014, 06:42 PM
 
171 posts, read 150,954 times
Reputation: 243
Reading your above criteria and having lived there until just last month, I think you may really like Petaluma. The houses are in your price range and you could easily find a mid century fixer and make it your own masterpiece on the West side. It is close enough to SF to access a decent music scene.P-town has lots of local culinary treats downtown and Acre coffee on Kentucky.
I would stick to the west side from what you said about housing as it has a mix of old mansions (D street), midcentury gems and victorians, etc.
Mcnear elementary is a nice community school and if we had stayed there we were going to start our youngest at River montessori (which is a public charter school)
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Old 09-13-2014, 05:52 AM
 
21,187 posts, read 30,351,954 times
Reputation: 19614
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katzpur View Post
Certain parts of Salt Lake City are more liberal than others. Unless I'm mistaken, two elections ago (Obama vs McCain), Salt Lake City itself voted for Obama (Utah, as a whole, went for McCain). I'm in Cottonwood Heights (25 minutes from the airport, from which Delta flies direct to Burbank) and there are actually more non-LDS families on my street than there are LDS. There is a UU church about 1 mile from my house. The Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center is an incredible sports facility. Obviously a lot of people in this area are skiiers (we're only about 20 minutes away from Alta, and less than a half hour's drive from six other world class resorts). Soccer is also huge here. I'd say Salt Lake City easily fits a great many of your criteria. If you're seriously considering it, I'd post something over on the Salt Lake City forum and see what kind of responses you get.
Salt Lake City is a terrific choice and yes it is quite liberal. The city has had Democratic mayors for decades, has a large (and visible) LGBT community, and did indeed vote for Obama in 2008 though not in 2012 when Romney the Mormon was running. In-town neighborhoods like Sugar House, 9th and 9th/15th and 15th as well as The Avenues or University Heights would be excellent options.
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Old 09-14-2014, 09:53 PM
 
300 posts, read 327,216 times
Reputation: 312
Maybe try this site, I actually found it helpful. Moderator cut: link removed, linking to competitor sites is not allowed

Last edited by Yac; 09-24-2014 at 07:22 AM..
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Old 09-16-2014, 12:27 AM
 
Location: Miami-Jax
6,312 posts, read 6,965,178 times
Reputation: 3502
Your writing flows nicely and I didn't feel like it was any trouble reading all the way through!

It sounds like you are more traveled than I so I'm really not sure how well I can help. The only city I feel like perhaps you've overlooked is Dallas. It doesn't hit on everything but it's not a bad compromise at all. I'm thinking Oak Cliff or Lower Greenville (and surrounding neighborhoods) might offer the housing you want at a low cost. There's certainly many more...I've really only scratched the surface on my visits.

Of course you might hate the idea of Texas. Closest skiing is still ten hours drive, it's pretty flat all around, and there are no direct flights to Burbank. Not sure if the foodie culture is that great either. I've had a tons of good food every time I've gone, but I've spent less than two weeks total and almost everything I've eaten was BBQ, Steak, Mexican, or Vietnamese. Dallas does well in those categories, but perhaps that's the extent of it (save for one really awesome homemade noodle Chinese restaurant I went to)
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