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Old 04-14-2013, 04:35 PM
 
2 posts, read 8,589 times
Reputation: 12

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First a little background. Me 30 black, white, japanese; Wife 27, white; Daughter 4 , all of the above. I'm currently an Environmental Engineer Specialist in Air Quality field, but have extensive knowledge and experience in Nanotech research (Energy & EQ), Energy & Enviro Policy/Program Design, GIS. Wife is highly qualified and experienced teacher (Early Childhood Ed, ESL, SPED). We are more liberal/progressive, enjoy outdoors, like culturally diverse areas and loathe phoenix. I spent many years of my childhood in Santa Monica and Occidental/Sebastapol. Wife doesn't like Santa Monica/OC/SD...too big/busy (traffic on/around 405), too pretentious and beaches too dirty respectively. She grew up in Vermont, but has traveled to many of the 50 unique states. Daughter loves California, but SoCal is out of the picture because of air quality among other reasons.
We would like honest opinions from anyone willing regarding settling down and raising a family in or around SLO, Santa Cruz, or Santa Rosa. We are looking for decent schools, good air quality, reasonable housing (relative to middle class California standards), and economy with strong renewable energy/environmental tech and education sectors. Decent surf and clean beaches are a high priority for me and my daughter...I long for the Pacific. Lots of outdoor and family activities are a priority for all of us. Sense of community is a high priority for my wife. We would like to find a smaller urban area (<100,000) that has a good variety of activities, temperate climate, some history, and a overall laid back feel so we can have some contrast to our generally fast paced professional lives. We are not upper crust, but we would like to stay away from areas with high violent crime/drugs. As for the schools, we are into more of a integrated curriculum/Montessori philosophy that incorporates things other than what is found on standardized tests. Multiple languages, particularly Spanish, Mandarin, and French integrated into curriculum are a plus.
Generally, we have found that people in California are nice, and the vibe is much more open and trusting than the larger cities on the east coast and southwest we have lived (I know this is a gross generalization). We currently live in a nice neighborhood in the Phoenix Biltmore district, but really dislike this city. Here are the things about phoenix we dislike:
1) Horrible schools/educational philosophy
2) Polarized society full of intolerant people...Very diverse, but very little tolerance
3) Hot as F*** without any waves
4) No sense of community
5) Walled society...bad neighborhoods mixed with good so every property is walled...shootings blocks away from million dollar homes...high crime rates
6) Can be more racist than the deep south
7) Horrible Air Quality
Things we like about phoenix:
1) Easy access to outdoor activities and pristine wilderness
3) Great winter climate
4) Phoenicians idea of "Bad Traffic" makes me laugh
5) Great colleges and entrepreneurial environment
The cost of living in Phoenix is cheaper, but the quality of life is also lower than Cali so this is not really a concern. We just want to be comfortable, happy, and find a good work-life balance. Any advice from current Californians to a former Californian would be greatly appreciated. We are open to suggestions beyond these areas as well.
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Old 04-18-2013, 09:55 PM
 
Location: istanbul, turkey
2 posts, read 7,785 times
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I am moving to Santa Cruz with my family from Yorktown, In. I would be happy to hear some responses to this thread, too
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:05 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
87,821 posts, read 81,562,175 times
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Who knew all that about Phx? Thanks for the report, OP.

I'd recommend Santa Cruz. University town, great beach, great for kids--bike riding, beach, surfing, hiking, redwoods. Close to the Bay Area for entertainment, shopping, city stuff. Not to mention: closer to jobs than SLO. Can't beat the air quality. I hadn't noticed any "diversity" there, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If everyone's mellow, it doesn't matter. There must be some diversity among the college student and faculty population, at least. Santa Cruz could be a great place for your Enviro angle. Who knows, you might even get a part-time teaching gig at the university, if you wanted one. I'm not familiar w/the public schools there.

Santa Rosa: more landlocked, relatively, hotter weather (though nothing like Phx), though there are areas with good schools. More in the middle of major traffic than SLO and Santa Cruz, certainly.

If I were a kid, I'd LOVE growing up in Santa Cruz! On another thread we had about Santa Cruz, though, people said the charm wears off for adults, after awhile, and there's some drug activity. But where isn't there?

Last edited by Ruth4Truth; 04-18-2013 at 10:14 PM..
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Old 04-19-2013, 11:29 AM
 
345 posts, read 910,567 times
Reputation: 296
Disagree with most of your PHX assessment. Unnecessary to bash a great city when this question has nothing to do with Phoenix.

But to answer your question:

Santa Cruz is a terrible place to raise children. Way too much drugs and homelessness in that city. And a fair amount of crime for a small population. If you wanted to live in the area consider Aptos or Scotts Valley. Much more family oriented and normal. I'm a big fan of Scotts Valley. You're not on the beach like Santa Cruz, but a quick 10-15 minutes away.

SLO would be a good place to raise kids. But keep in mind the isolation. You're far from a major city and airport.

I don't know much about Santa Rosa. But I do know it's more affordable for the Bay Area but is also a bit "out there" in the far north bay. Has some issues with gangs and crime; so choose your neighborhood carefully.
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Old 04-19-2013, 01:15 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
87,821 posts, read 81,562,175 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy Millennium View Post

Santa Cruz is a terrible place to raise children. Way too much drugs and homelessness in that city. And a fair amount of crime for a small population.
I grew up in Berkeley, which was probably considered to have "too much drugs", homelessness, and crime. I was oblivious to all of that, as were my friends and relatives my age. We were too busy riding bikes, going to the beach, hiking in regional parks or just hanging out with each other. If you invest quality time in your kids when they're younger (which, I'm guessing, the OP and his wife do), you'll reap the rewards when they're older.

My 2 cents, as a former kid.

P.S. OP, i just read your wish-list item for multiple languages in the school curriculum, including Mandarin. The only place you'll find that, probably, is San Francisco. Spanish and French are usually standard in highschools, though. If you want that in grade school or middle school, you're looking at private schooling.

Last edited by Ruth4Truth; 04-19-2013 at 01:36 PM..
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Old 04-19-2013, 01:26 PM
 
Location: Pahrump, NV
2,536 posts, read 3,490,824 times
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born & raised in santa rosa. the sidewalks roll up around 8, altho with the new casino that's getting ready to open that might change.

sr averages 30" of rain per year. there are some parts that are very rural - chicken or dairy cows can be prevelent. in some areas it's very ubran. because of this you can find everything from a hippy culture to a fancy caviar scene. each area of town & the surrounding suburbs will offer a different atmosphere.

there are a BILLION wineries in the area (sonoma county is the TRUE wine country, always has been, always will be).

* the coast is ~1 hr west
* sacramento is ~2 hrs east
* san francisco, depending on traffic, ~1.5 hrs south
* tahoe is ~4 hrs east. during ski season, this can increase dramatically!!!

as for the beach, you can forget about swimming in the ocean up there, unless you have a skin divers suit. the ocean is C-O-L-D year round. the beaches are gorgeous, but swimming in the ocean isn't done by everyone.

traffic in town can be yucky. depending on where you live, leaving your house after 3pm is just un-wise. leaving my parents house at 4pm, i end up making a lot of right hand turns & traveling X amount of miles out of the way just to get to where i really wanted to go.

every town has problems with gangs & crime, it's not JUST santa rosa.
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Old 04-19-2013, 03:37 PM
 
Location: County of Slight Imperturbation
536 posts, read 475,502 times
Reputation: 209
I'm pretty easy and like all 3 actually.

Santa Cruz is a bit of a problematic commute to San Jose if that's where you end up working. Santa Cruz is a bit more liberal.

SLO is a bit more conservative. But it's a pretty good for nature and trails if you can find a job.

Santa Rosa's been a long time since I've been there, but it's pretty nice.
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Old 04-19-2013, 06:22 PM
 
Location: California
1,028 posts, read 1,221,604 times
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None of these three cities have everything you are looking for, though all are good choices.

-Santa Rosa is the most affordable to live, but furthest away from the beach. There are jobs but a lot of people eventually end up commuting to the bay area because that's where most of the jobs are. Not an incredibly strong sense of community. There is one or two heavily hispanic areas with higher crime rates than the rest of the neighborhoods, but its really not that bad. Just don't go downtown on Cinco Demayo, there has been gang shootouts before.
-Santa Cruz is a great beach town, and is considered one of, if the not the most liberal city in America. It's right next to the South Bay area which has a huge tech job market. Lots to do and lots of wine and cheese, gluten free type people which sounds like you'd fit in with. Pretty strong sense of community too. However it is very expensive, and as many have said, there is a druggie culture there and rising gang problems. In the last two months a college girl was shot and robbed at a bus stop, a drive by shooting resulted in the death of a man downtown, and two police officers were ambushed and killed by someone they were questioning. Every big city is diverse in that it has rich parts, college parts, bohemian parts, homeless/druggie parts, tourist parts and gang parts. Santa Cruz is unique because it's a small city with all of these elements mixed in. If you're not in a gang, not a police officer and don't go out late on weekend nights, you should be fine though. Santa Cruz also used to have a VERY localized surf scene and people from out of town, or even from the other side of town surfing a different break, would get beaten. It's really mellowed out though. There's some minor skinhead activity there too.
-SLO is very family friendly and very beautiful as well. Very strong sense of community. Small town California feel. It gets very cold in the winter (most people don't know that) so beach is really only a mid summer thing (even then, the water there is very cold) unless you have a thick wetsuit. Not a big job market though so only come if you have a job offer, work for yourself, are retiring, or don't mind working lower wages at entry level positions-if you're lucky.
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Old 04-19-2013, 07:03 PM
 
Location: Pahrump, NV
2,536 posts, read 3,490,824 times
Reputation: 2329
Quote:
Originally Posted by Surftown831 View Post
end up commuting to the bay area because that's where most of the jobs are
that's where the WELL paying jobs are.... there are jobs in santa rosa, but they don't pay nearly as much as the bay area does.
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Old 04-19-2013, 08:24 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
87,821 posts, read 81,562,175 times
Reputation: 91628
Quote:
Originally Posted by Surftown831 View Post
In the last two months a college girl was shot and robbed at a bus stop, a drive by shooting resulted in the death of a man downtown, and two police officers were ambushed and killed by someone they were questioning. Every big city is diverse in that it has rich parts, college parts, bohemian parts, homeless/druggie parts, tourist parts and gang parts. Santa Cruz is unique because it's a small city with all of these elements mixed in. If you're not in a gang, not a police officer and don't go out late on weekend nights, you should be fine though.
What about the college student who was shot and robbed at a bus stop? Was she out late at night? Where was the bus stop--downtown? Near/on campus?
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