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Old 08-18-2014, 08:03 PM
Location: San Francisco
10 posts, read 9,471 times
Reputation: 16


We are a young family (1 infant and a dog) looking at a move to the bay area within the next 2 months. My husband has offers in Palo Alto and Los Gatos, but is leaning toward the Los Gatos option. Assuming that cost of living is no object even though it is (we live minimally and would rather love our area than love our apartment), what area(s) would you recommend focusing our search in?

We are:
Currently LA westsiders
Planning a permanent move to the PNW within 3 years (so no plans to put down 'roots' in the bay)
Spoiled with a 6 minute commute, used to 45min-1hr until recently
--both options have shuttle and working-commute options but this is a new concept for us
Hoping to find a walkable area, with nice scenery and/OR businesses to walk to
We have a few friends IN the city, so are considering living in SF proper to be close but the commute sounds daunting
Inconveniently hoping for good air quality, which I know can be a sticking point for silicon valley.

I'm familiar with all the normal renters' tools like walkscore, crime maps, etc. but hoping to get recommendations from locals based on our background. Thanks in advance for any feedback, and if there's other relevant info I can share please ask!

Last edited by Jkec; 08-18-2014 at 09:19 PM..
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Old 08-18-2014, 08:30 PM
Location: "Silicon Valley" (part of San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA)
2,074 posts, read 811,129 times
Reputation: 1009
Well, most people on here disagree with me, so take it for what it is. And I make minimum wage so buying a house is not a possibility for me right now. The reason people tend to disagree with me is that seem to think that if someone has a child, they should never consider any other housing option besides a monolithic (detached) single family home with a yard, and they restrict themselves to "good school districts" (as opposed to average quality but not necessarily top of the line public school districts), which naturally means that housing seems extremely expensive around here, from their perspective.

But, I think downtown San Jose is the most awesome place ever! I lived there for a year. If you could get a condo in that area it would be awesome. Like in the 88, or Axis, or 360 Residences. Any of the condo complexes in downtown. Light rail is right there, so you can ride that into Campbell and then take a bus to wherever you work. Basically anywhere close to the Santa Teresa or Winchester light rail lines would be great.

Actually slightly east of downtown is an area called Naglee Park. It has lots of single family homes, all of which are walking distance from the light rail, but they are all probably expensive.

Campbell is near Los Gatos and has some cheap condos, and it has light rail too.
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Old 08-18-2014, 09:17 PM
Location: San Francisco
10 posts, read 9,471 times
Reputation: 16
Thanks for the response, neutrino! We definitely don't feel limited to single-family homes and school districts are not a concern (other than that they often correlate to 'niceness' of an area) as we're planning to have left the bay by the time our kid starts preschool.

We currently live in a guest house rental, but up until a year ago were in a small apartment building. So our standards of living don't require the picket fence, but we certainly wouldn't turn down the lack of shared walls as that has been a welcome luxury for the last year!
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Old 08-18-2014, 10:27 PM
Location: San Jose, CA
1,109 posts, read 1,918,927 times
Reputation: 648
I guess the most relevant question is what do you value most?
You have given us very little I information to go on, so I would say to try to rent a condo or townhouse or apartment near Diridon station, walking distance from downtown SJ, next to Alameda, short bike to drive to Willow Glen, mostly reverse commute to Los Gatos. A 1hr express train ride to SF.

On the other hand if you like suburban areas try just north of downtown Los Gatos, they have a nice park, with a bike trail going to Campbell and near Willow Glen. Downtown Los Gatos has a nice selection of restaurants, and rents for older apartments are not bad.
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Old 08-19-2014, 07:34 AM
Location: San Francisco
10 posts, read 9,471 times
Reputation: 16
Thanks cardinal. I try to avoid writing TOO much, because too much to read often hinders response motivation. I thought I gave a pretty accurate (if brief) picture of us and our needs, what we're accustomed to.

To elaborate:
We are living on LA's west side, so used to a semi-urban atmosphere. SF proper would be more urban than we're used to, but we are open to it especially since this is a short-ish stint and it would put us near friends.

Since I would prefer better air quality, downtown San Jose appeals less because of airport proximity. We currently live near the Santa Monica airport and, as a result, get to enjoy some of the worst air quality in LA: http://ow.ly/Au0b5
If I had my druthers, we would not live in valley areas also due to the heat (one of the reasons we will later be moving to the PNW), but with a small child a short commute is valuable.

By walkable I mean safe, not excessively hilly (moderate grade is welcome as we are fit), not economically depressed. My preference would be to have shops and restaurants within walking (<1 mile) distance, bonus if there is a concentration directly in our area.

And, like I said, both of these jobs have shuttles available and will allow him to clock hours during his commute. Given this, I can see living in SF to take advantage of the city since it will be a short time we are there, but we'd have to consider the trade-off in rent prices (and inability to pop home during lunch, etc.).

I can't think of anything else that's relevant, as these are our top priorities. Hopefully the elaboration on those points helps, but as I said if there are more factors that you're wondering about please ask so that I can share. Again, thanks for the feedback!
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Old 08-19-2014, 08:41 AM
Location: San Jose, CA
6,488 posts, read 11,793,465 times
Reputation: 7961
Los Gatos and Palo Alto are two of the most affluent towns in the bay area. Most people would be insanely happy in either location, assuming they could afford it. For a young family, I personally would lean towards Los Gatos as it's more laid back. But you may prefer Palo Alto if you're looking for more of an urban feel. PA is also closer to SF if you're planning on spending time there.

San Jose's air on a bad day is better than LA's air quality on a good day, so that shouldn't be a concern if you're looking for more affordable digs. I'm not sure how good the schools are in downtown though. The schools in the Almaden area of San Jose where we live are top-notch. We're also 15 minutes from Los Gatos and more affordable. Lots of parks and walking paths, but no downtown or shopping district to speak of.

Speaking of air quality, it sounds like you might have the wrong impression of the area. True, this is a valley, but there's an ocean breeze that flushes it out almost daily. Los Gatos will have the edge there too.
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Old 08-19-2014, 09:06 AM
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
4,247 posts, read 6,074,260 times
Reputation: 1837
Air quality throughout the Bay Area is much better than in LA. You don't need to worry about heat in this area either, it usually doesn't get too hot (the reason most apartments don't have air conditioners here.) The entire South Bay (Silicon Valley, San Jose, etc) could be considered 'suburban' so it's probably going to be similiar to what you're used to in LA. Most of the area is also very safe: the places that aren't are obviously not so.
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Old 08-19-2014, 10:52 AM
Location: San Francisco
10 posts, read 9,471 times
Reputation: 16
I suppose heat and air quality are all relative, not just to current experience but ideals as well. The Los Gatos forecast for this week has the highs on average 10-12 warmer than where we currently live, and to me where we live is pretty warm. I know that comparing on any given week won't give an accurate picture of the differences, and the monthly averages on weather.com do have it as pretty comparable. My preference would be to get into a cooler/cloudier area of the bay if that exists within a reasonable commute (I know reasonable is relative as well).

The reason I mentioned our end point (PNW) was to illustrate the ideal: cool weather. Obviously we aren't moving to the Silicon Valley area for the weather (I do realize that I'm in the teeny minority in finding warm, sunny weather undesirable).

TO CLARIFY, also: we are not deciding only between PA and Los Gatos to live. Those are the job locations, and I'm trying to figure out what the good commuting options are in order to narrow the search. We have to do our apartment hunting mostly long-distance and the jobs start in 1-2 months depending on final negotiations.
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Old 08-19-2014, 05:01 PM
218 posts, read 154,223 times
Reputation: 265
I'll take you at your word that money is no object, so given that, there are cute, walkable downtown areas in Palo Alto around University Ave, and to a lesser extent, California Ave, as well as Los Altos, Mountain View and Los Gatos. All have apartments in the area.

In Los Altos I know you can live a car-free lifestyle as the very small downtown area has restaurants and good markets. It has recently been bringing in more businesses friendly to those with pre-school children.

If you are a decent biker, you can take flat bike paths and side roads from the University area of Palo Alto to the California area, downtown Los Altos, and on to downtown Mountain View. There are train stations in Mountain View, University area of Palo Alto, and California Ave in Palo Alto that will take you to San Francisco.

I wouldn't worry about air quality along these lower peninsula cities. The sea breezes tend to blow out the stale air.

If you are serious about the weather, San Mateo is not too bad of a commute to Palo Alto, and from there north you really get the fog and cooler breezes. San Mateo also has a cute downtown area.

And yep, San Francisco, though a bit of a commute, is much cooler than Palo Alto or Los Gatos. You pretty much need a sweatshirt year round.
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Old 08-19-2014, 08:30 PM
Location: San Francisco
10 posts, read 9,471 times
Reputation: 16
Thanks, charmed! That helps a lot.

A quick padmapper search for the suggested areas shows plenty of affordable options, so depending which job he ends up accepting we should have some good jumping-off points. Thanks a bunch.
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