OP, what did you decide? We are also investigating Santa Cruz currently, and this thread was helpful, very helpful. Wondering where you're at in all of it now, 6 mos later?
I grew up fairly close the Valley Center but about 15 minutes south. I don't know much other than you can get more land and have a more rural feel and that it gets SO hot there. But no humidity so perhaps it won't be as bad as MD. It would be amazing to have avocado trees! My good friend's parent live there - they have a beautiful home. I'm sorry I can't help too much with food, etc. It's been years since I've lived in San Diego. Though I do know that my favorite natural grocery (it's a local chain but family owned), called Jimbos, isn't horribly far away in Rancho Bernardo. Good luck to your DH!
I grew in up in San Diego and now live in Berkeley. While I much prefer the bay area and adore Berkeley, there were things I loved about San Diego as well. Did you consider living in a more rural part of san diego county, like Ramona or Jamul? You can get land and larger houses for much less cost while still only having a 30-45 minute commute from anything you'd want to do. Both are much closer to the mountains as well.
Oops! Didn't see you'd settled on San Diego area (love it there too!).
Will leave my Sacramento raving up in case it is helpful to anyone else....
I'll second those who are saying Sacramento area. I've lived there off and on throughout my life and I really feel like it's one of the better kept secrets in CA. It's incredibly affordable to live there--my husband and I bought a house and our mortgage is a third of what we pay in rent for our apartment in SF (we moved here temporarily for me to finish grad school).
The food & farming community is wonderful--great farmers markets, CSAs, local farms. It's really one of the best places in the country in that regard.
I've worked with most of the midwives in the area and they are all fantastic. Sacramento also has great schools--public waldorfs, a social justice high school, etc, etc. Lots of free things for families to do too.
Downtown/midtown Sacramento has plenty to keep most people busy. There is a busy Second Saturday art walk each month, a decent amount of live music, GREAT and not too expensive restaurants...I actually really miss it living in SF. I feel like it's just enough that you always have something to do (and can actually afford to do it), but not so much that you are overwhelmed or out a ton of $$
Neighborhoods I would look into include:
Central Sacramento: midtown, curtis park, land park, north oak park/med center, tahoe park, east sacramento
Suburbs: Carmichael and Fair Oaks are both cute in areas
Davis is also a really cute college town, but has a little bit less going on in terms of entertainment and is slightly less affordable.
He might be further than you'd like to drive, but I can reccomend a pediatrician. Dr. Zaguli. He was my doctor growing up and my brother and cousin bring their kids to him and still love him. I can't speak to how he feels on vax bc my family (other than me) just follows doctor's orders. But he is a very experienced and kind doctor. He's all the way down in mira mesa - though I think he might have an office in Poway now. My family drives from Rancho Bernardo to see him.
I'm glad you're so excited! :-) I'm excited for you.
I am living in Vista right now and get the Be Wise CSA...we get the large size (we're vegan too!!) and love it. We get a huge variety of foods....lots of fruit (today we got persimmons, plums, pears, avocados, grapes, tomatoes and apples) awesome veggies (lettuce mix, persian cucumbers, eggplant, butternut squash, carrots) and herbs (parsley, basil plant and cillantro). We pay $30 a week, and it is well worth it.
We love hiking in the Elfin Forest...It is by far my favorite place to hike in North County.
Instead of a ped we see Natasha Wolf, an AWESOME naturopath.
We also love Queen Califia's Magic Garden (and I'm sure you will really appreciate it, as an artist).
I play at the "Sketch Jam" at this gallery every so often.
Anyways, I think we'd be great friends . My husband and I are musicians and very much a part of the art scene. We should definitely have a play date when you move here (I have a 1 year old daughter)!