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San Francisco Mamas - your help?! Noe, Berkeley, cool neighborhoods?

399 Views 14 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  flyingspaghettimama
My husband has a tentative job offer in the SF Bay area, I think in Menlo Park. We currently live in Seattle, and I'm not sure if we can do it...

What is that area like? Is there something comparable to where I live now - a walkable urban area, no strip malls, etc, but very safe (for a mid size city), in San Francisco? We currently live in a townhouse - what would that sort of setup cost in a good area? We do not want to live in a suburb. Is Menlo Park-SF commutable or horrific? How much money would a family of four need to make to be comfortable (i.e. my definition - can still shop for organic groceries, and buy a coffee two-three times a week, most of the time)? Are there any alternative/public Montessori schools in a specific areas?

Lay it on me. Please. Very desperate for first-hand, anecdotal information.

We really like Seattle, and our specific neighborhood, and our family lives here. It would be very, very difficult to leave. Sell me!
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We're in the north bay, 35 miles north of San Francisco, or 1 - 2 hours driving time, depending on the commute traffic. Hopefully you'll get some responses from moms in the Menlo Park area, 'cause I don't know it. In the mean time, look at for info on rent in the Bay Area. Basically, living anywhere here is expensive! We spend $100/week on groceries for two adults and a toddler who doesn't eat much. We can't afford much organic and don't buy coffee, or even beer often. We're in a 3-bedroom house for about $1650/month. DH is self-employed and I'm home with ds. I think we're spending about 50K a year, and we can't save anything so we're gonna leave the state and go back East. If I was also working, that would help, but we could never buy a house here. Places similar to what we're renting go for $700,000 and up. The closer you are to the city, the worse it is. Think and plan carefully so you're prepared.

I'm in San Francisco and don't know much about Menlo Park but there is a public montessori elementary program in San Mateo. Anywhere in the Bay Area is going to be expensive. We're actually planning on moving to Bellevue, WA in the near future because it's so expensive here.
guys, this is not selling me so much.
Unfortunatly I can't give you all the info you need since I moved out of SF and into the Valley before we had kids. But, IMO the commute from SF to Menlo Park is do-able. My brother did it for 3 years and didn't have a problem or mind it too much. One thing you will get in SF is the amazing culture. There's so much to do and see. People are much more open minded then out here in the valley where I now live. Rent's are high though like the others said. My SIL teaches at SFSU and she is getting 2 bedroom places for approximately $2K/month. She has a BIG dog though, so that makes it so much harder to rent. If you go out in the Sunset or Richmond area I think you can get more space for your dollar. Theres a great Farmers market downtown, and shopping in China Town is also pretty cool. Public transportation is great compaired to other cities (bus, train and BART), so you will hardly ever have to drive anywhere, so there is a savings there. Anyway, I think if you think financialy you could swing it I would take the risk. Not everyone loves the Bay Area, but for me it was a really great experience.
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I think you'd need to come and see for yourself. Noting that you live by your family and stuff and seem to really like Seattle, you may not like what you see...

I've lived in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and presently live on a little island off Oakland in the bay Called Alameda. I think it is really hard to live in the city with kids unless you have a lot of luck or a lot of money. I've found the East Bay to be far more family friendly--with the benefit of being a short drive/bart ride from San Francisco. To rent the type of place you have in Seattle will cost a great deal in San Francisco. Berkeley is not much better since you have students to compete with but there are many sweet duplexes in the area. If you check out craigslist you will learn a lot. Craigslist is used for everything here from housing to jobs to just connecting with others.

Areas in the east bay that are cool are Alameda (a nice ferry ride from sf), Rockridge are of Oakland/Berkeley, North Berkeley. Parts of Oakland can be sketchy--and crime seems to be really bad this year.

I love Alameda, though, and know many families that have moved from SF or Berkeley and just really like it here. There is this weird small town feeling, but you are in the middle of the bay. The public schools are pretty normal but they are good public schools-- There are many coffee shops and restaurants, and great parks. You can ride your bike with a kid trailer anywhere here, easily, because it is flat. There is a kick bottom farmers' market on Tuesday with a smaller one on Thursday (in case you forgot anything!). There is one stip mall--but it is on the outside of the island--and even that is okay because there is a Trader Joe's there.

The weather is great. There are tons of cool museums for children and stuff for kids.
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I think commuting from SF to Menlo Park would be possible, many, many people do the reverse and commute from the Penninsula into the city, so why not the other way? I imagine it would be roughly 45 minutes unless there is terrible traffic. There is no way the East Bay would work though, the commute would be horrific to the Penninsula. When I visit my friend in Oakland I go at non trafficy times and it is easily an hour, and going into Berkely can take even longer, and sometimes the traffic is shockingly bad, it could be an hour and a half each way easy, if not more. If he is in Menlo Park for work I don't think you should rule out places on the Penninsula, maybe Palo Alto, Mountain View, or Menlo Park. Yes, you will find strip malls and it won't be as urban as you have now, but it isn't exactly the same as suburban in most places either. It is really beautiful here, and there are really cool, interesting things to do all around us on the Penninsula, very different from other suburban areas I've seen where I would HATE to be. That said, if you are city through and through I think commuting from SF to Menlo Park would be fine. Honestly though, you sound VERY happy where you are, it seems like it would be hard for you to leave there no matter where you were going. Does he have to look outside Seattle for a job? If he has to, I think the bay area is absolutely fantastic, but from your post it seems like maybe you guys have already found something that is a perfect fit for you where you are. I moved here away from my family a few years ago, and that part is pretty hard, but we love it here, although we will likely go back one day because of family.
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We currently live in Noe Valley, and I love it here. I'm expecting my first babe in November, but am really excited by all the resources we have for moms and families. A cool co-op day care, parenting center, tons of libraries, etc. You'll find Noe to be very community-centered, with tons of families with dogs and kids. It is also on the pricier side for sure. Two neighborhoods that we border that would be worth looking into are Bernal Heights and Glen Park. Both have their own little commercial areas, good weather, and great freeway access.

FWIW, we own our condo, a small 2 BR, and feel like we'll have outgrown it for sure in a year or two. Our plan is to move to Alameda, which I love, as we won't be able to afford a housing upgrade in an agreeable neighborhood in the city.

Originally Posted by CityGirl43

FWIW, we own our condo, a small 2 BR, and feel like we'll have outgrown it for sure in a year or two. Our plan is to move to Alameda, which I love, as we won't be able to afford a housing upgrade in an agreeable neighborhood in the city.
CityGirl, I smiled when I read about you guys eventually moving to the meda. It feels like there is a lot of change going on here, too, with the re-development of the former navy base and stuff.
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We currently rent a 1 bedroom apt. in Noe Valley and LOVE, LOVE it!!!
The J train takes us all the way across town to the best farmers market (ferry building). We buy most of our organic produce there. There is a CSA in the neighborhood too. There's also several great bus lines in the neighborhood. SF has so much to offer. The public transit is great (check into cal train to commute to Menlo Park), the museums (first tues. of every month is usually free), zoo, beaches, playgrounds, FOOD, free concerts in the summer (check out stern grove, dolores park etc.) and so much more! Yes, it's expensive. Our priority is eating healthy delicious food. So, we save money in other areas (we only have one car and live in a 1 bedroom apt. ). There's so much to do outside that we don't feel cramped in our apt. We also cosleep so that kinda helps. There is a Waldorf school in the city and Waldorf inspired schools along w/great co-ops.

Oh, did I mention the weather is fabulous here!!!
I used to live in SF and work in Menlo Park. I carpooled, and I think it took us 30-40 minutes each way, from the Mission. Sans carpool lane, it might be longer.

There are lots of great distinct neighborhoods within the city: the Mission (young, hip, great restaurants), the Castro (gay/lesbian area, super fun, lots of 24-hr stuff), the Sunset and Richmond areas (long rows of older tract-type housing, with neighborhood centers in certain spots ... can be close to Golden Gate Park or the beach), the Marina (wealthy, lots of shopping/restaurants), North Beach (touristy but fun). We rented for a while in the Presidio, a beautiful park that used to be a military base; it's filled with gorgeous old houses, lots of trails, and beaches, and it's right next to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We loved living there, but wanted to buy a house and so we moved north. If you are happy where you are now, I wouldn't move -- the cost of housing here is crazy.
I live in Menlo Park. I can't help you with the commute too much. There is a bullet train that runs from the city to Menlo Park. But I think it still takes about 35+ minutes and then you still need to get from the train station to work. If you want to take a look at the real estate market, try We love it here but it is expensive. We have wonderful farmers markets and we buy organic groceries. But pretty frugal on other items. I believe rent is pretty reasonable comparatively speaking. Come visit and take a look for yourself.
: just because you are in my area mamas. Everything useful has already been said.
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Originally Posted by irinam
: just because you are in my area mamas. Everything useful has already been said.
Yeah. That.

I'm north of the City too, Betzi and could have written your post, except I have always had to teach part time to pay the rent on that 3 bdrm
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Thanks, mamas. After doing some more research (thanks for the craigslist tip)and talking with the office some more, we decided it is not a good match for us. Thanks for your help though, in any case.
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