Tell me about living in the SF Bay/Silicon Valley area
After 26 long years of staving it off… it looks like I am going to be transitioning into “real adulthood” soon. (Meaning, I should be finishing up my doctorate this summer and I will hopefully be gainfully employed soon).
I’m from MD, bf is from Ohio. We’re looking to move to the SF Bay/Silicon Valley area. Thankfully we both have graduate degrees in a very employable and well-paid field, so (fingers crossed) finding good jobs shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Now I implore the COTHers of OT day... tell me about this area. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I’ve visited and liked it, but I’d like to know the real scoop about living there. What would be a minimum livable salary for a couple in the area? What salary would constitute “good”? What is the horsey scene like? Is there anything important to know before moving out there?
Tell me everything.
That said, I obviously don't live there - and can't give too much. But it's freakin' expensive. More freakin' in some areas than others. I have two nieces and two good friends out there. Nieces are in San Carlos and Hayward; friends in San Jose (just moved from Sunnyvale) and SF proper - top of Stanyan Street.
I'm sure folks will share on here, but if you want people-specifics (none of the above are into horses) from any of those locations, I'll be happy to ask and relay.
I LOVE the bay area. Grew up in the most northern part of the Santa Cruz mountains, in a little town in the redwoods, yet 35 mins from San Francisco, I always felt that it was the best of both worlds. I have lived in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, San Jose, Santa Cruz and now the tiny town of Pescadero (all south of San Francisco, and west of the bay). I moved to Orange County for a few years in between (and drove up to the top of twin peaks and cried at the thought of leaving SF! – I left my heart… in San Francisco…). So glad I was able to move back!
There is so much to see, watch, hear, eat and do in this area. I am always discovering new places, amazing natural beauty, and cultural diversity. There is always something to do. Lots of outdoor opprotunities, and the weather tends to be good, never hot, never cold. Some rain in the winter, fog mid summer. January was dry, and in the 50's - I was able to ride every day!
Last weekend included dog walks on the beach, kiwi picking at a coastal farm, horseback riding in beautiful hills above Half Moon Bay, a craft brew beer tasting event, discovered a great BBQ place in downtown Oakland, and drove home across the bridge and through San Francisco, a pretty sight with its twinkling lights.
In short, I love it here. I rarely go on vacations, because I enjoy “stay-cations” despite my years here, there is always something new to do, places I have never been.
And all of this comes at a price. It is EXPENSIVE here. Honestly, everyone I know that is “comfortable” (not pay check to pay check, or renting a itty bitty apartment while scraping by), earns six figures. Less than that, it’s a struggle ( I am in the struggle category!). I believe the average monthly cost for a 2 bedroom apartment is around $3,000 right now in San Francisco. Boarding ranges from 450 to 1200 depending on the facilities. You can find a few places in the 350 range if you clean.
I make it work by living “out in the woods” where rent tends to be a bit cheaper (I rent a small house on 90 acres) and spend a lot of time and $ commuting to San Francisco. I board my horse in Half Moon Bay, its $375 for a paddock which I clean, and basic hay, I supply additional hay / concentrates. i "co-op" with some other boarders for turn out and blanketing. We have a small arena and access to trails.
Horse scene – there are a ton of training barns down the Peninsula from Woodside to Gilroy (also consider the Milpitas hills if you are going to be in San Jose). The Woodside Horse Park hosts a number of shows (and the town itself is very horsey, with a trail system throughout).
Appsolute, that sounds amazing!! That's exactly the kind of place bf and I are looking for. Your pictures are so beautiful.
With our expected combined salaries ($200k-range, maybe a bit more), it sounds like we can live comfortably.
I'm thinking of taking up dressage. Lessons and perhaps half-leasing(since it's so much less to take on than actually buying), if I can find an appropriate horse and trainer. Can you speak to the dressage scene in the area?
I hate to be the voice of dissent here - we just moved in December and I'm just not loving it so far. We moved from San Diego - relocated for my bf's job. I got transfered and didn't get a raise with work, so where I was comfortable in SD I don't even make enough to pay my bills here in SF. We are just breaking into the six figures with our combined income, and I wouldn't say we are "comfortable" between our student loans and other bills - we are just getting by. Rent is 1900 for a small mediocre 1 bedroom. We are in between Mountain View and Sunnyvale.
I don't have a horse, but in the area I've looked at that would be a reasonable commuting distance, board runs $600 + for the bare bones basics. I thought living in San Diego was expensive (I've been in some part of CA my whole life) but this just blows it out of the water. You can get by a little cheaper by living farther out as Appsolute mentioned, but if you have to come into an office, you will have to deal with commuting, which can be a real nightmare depending on where you are trying to go.
Traffic is HORRENDOUS - and I spent 2 years in LA - worse than LA traffic if you are trying to get anywhere on the freeways. It takes me 12 minutes to get to work in the morning (4 miles away) and usually 40 + minutes to get the 4 miles home. I come in early and leave at 5:30.
Sigh. Can't wait to leave!
It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got.
There was an article a few years ago about the cost of Silicon Valley. It was in Time or Newsweek I think. There was a woman who made just below six figures, and was living in her car while saving enough for a first month, and security deposit.
And I understand the area aroundthe former SAC headquarters at Offett AFB in Nebraska is quite a hot spot for computers also. Papillon is the 'in' place to live there. I think Austin TX has a booming tech economy also.
As someone who grew up in the Bay Area, I think the only thing I miss about it is the weather. It is not a place I would choose to live now, due to the extremely high cost of living (saying you need a mid six figure salary to be "comfortable" is not an exaggeration) and the massive amount of people. And it has only gotten worse since I left 10 years ago! Things are continually being developed, with lots of high density housing due to the demand to live in the area.
I would say if you stay away from the Peninsula and focus on the South Bay (so San Jose) you will probably have a more reasonable cost of living, but its pretty packed down there. I don't know much about the riding scene either, and if you would be planning to commute to a barn at anytime near main commuting hours, forget it! Plus, the weather in the South Bay is definitely not as nice. It does get a lot warmer in the summer.
I do like Santa Cruz and the coast, but the commute from there is not easy either.
Dream location for me would be in the Woodside/Palo Alto/Los Altos stretch. Lots of horsey stuff, housing isn't crowded in and its a pretty area. Also, I always found that taking I-280 versus I-101 (the two main freeways in the Bay that run north/south) was less traffic-y, although this has probably changed! However, if you want to live there you would need to be a millionaire!
Hopefully I don't sound too negative about the Bay Area-I really did enjoy it growing up. But after being there, then spending 4 years in LA, I was ready for some dog gone space! That is how I ended up in Sacramento, which I love.
By the way – I encounter barely any traffic, my commute up highway one is wide open, and I do not encounter many cars until I hit SF proper. Amazingly, I do an “opposite” commute – more cars head from the east bay or SF south to San Jose, then those that head from the south to SF. Hubby commutes "over the hill" to San Jose - again opposite commute, and not bad traffic.
When I lived in Orange County I had a 10 mile, ONE HOUR commute, the traffic was horrendous. Now I have a 45 mile, 1:15 commute (half of it spent carpooling). When I lived in San Jose I commuted by train to San Francisco which was a nice option.
I do sacrifice TIME living out where I do, but there are affordable options in Half Moon Bay (a bit closer) and Pacifica as well.
I have boarded in Morgan Hill, Milpitas, Half Moon Bay for under $400 a month – but most of these options do not include cleaning (often an extra $50). There ARE some cheaper, and safe places. Training centers do cost much more, $600+
As for Dressage, check out the San Francisco Dressage Society. They hosts shows and clinics. My mother is a lifelong dressage rider, and enjoys their shows. There are many training barns ($$) in the Woodside / Portola valley area, along with some private instructors on the coast.
JanM - "There was an article a few years ago about the cost of Silicon Valley. It was in Time or Newsweek I think. There was a woman who made just below six figures, and was living in her car while saving enough for a first month, and security deposit."
This was on 60 Minutes, I believe. Horrifying! I don't recall them giving her salary, although she'd worked for the company for several years. Very scary.
I grew up there and moved away after getting married. Most of my family still lives there. Very expensive, very crowded, everywhere you go you encounter massive traffic. There are a lot of horse activities and a lot of stables to board at and no matter what your discipline if you want to compete or take lessons you won't have a problem finding a place. Did i mention expensive.......
I used to board my horse at the SF Water Department in San Bruno. It's very hidden and safe. Lots of trail access. However, it's hard to get into. I have no idea if it still exists. We had a special key to get in and to access the trails because the fence around the reservoir is impressive.
There are some very good dressage trainers out there, I am from the East Bay Area and my dad commuted into SF everyday and HATED it. It is a killer commute, but we couldn't afford to live much closer. I know dressage trainers in the East Bay, and Bethe Mounce who posts here is out there too. At $200,000 a year you should be able to live reasonably well.
ccoronios-I think there was a print article about it also. If you watch House Hunters or look at realtor.com the prices for Silicon valley stagger me.
There were some people on HH a while ago that had been look for a house for years, and finally found something they could afford, and it wasn't a fancy house at all. Another couple that had been looking for a long time also, settled for a one bath, three bedroom fixer upper, that I thought was ridiculous for the price they paid. Of course, I totally loathed the husband of the second couple, so I imagine that didn't help my feelings about the house either.
I grew up in the Bay Area as well - Los Altos Hills, near Palo Alto. All other posters are correct about the cost, it is extreme. However, if you're in a comfortable financial situation, I think the Bay Area (especially the Peninsula) is one of the best places to live. Stanford and Palo Alto are beautiful, fun cities, it's an easy drive/train up to San Francisco for a bigger city feel, and the Woodside area has great horse activity. Another poster was correct in saying that I-280 is much less congested than I-101; I commuted just about 8 miles up I-280 to school and to the barn and it often took me just 8 minutes.
Both Stanford Red Barn and the Horse Park at Woodside are great options for boarding, but both are in the $900-$1100/month range. Glenoaks and other stables in Portola Valley are a little more reasonable, and have great trainers as well. For dressage, I would HIGHLY recommend Rachel Williamson, who trains out of Stanford. She is an amazing rider, very enthusiastic and helpful instructor, and brings in clinicians almost every month. Rachel also coaches the Stanford IDA team, so lesson horses are available if that is something you might be interested in.
Please PM me if you have any questions - I just moved out of the Bay Area for school a year ago, and return for vacations, so am quite in touch with the community
My husband and I grew up in the Bay Area, for the most part. I lived in Terra Linda and SF as a kid, and we both went to high school in San Jose. Unfortunately, that was long time ago, and it has built up since then.
The weather and the people are nice, but the commutes are deadly. I trained and rode in the hills on Bear Valley road, off the freeway to Santa Cruz - can't complain about the trail or the weather there, but I never owned a horse in that area. I did have a horse with a friend in Redwood City, and there was plenty of trails to ride. I didn't discover dressage for another 15+ years, though.
Don't tell me about what you can't do. That's boring. Show me what you can do. - Mom
Like others said, it depends on where you are. The issue with Silicon Valley is that has such huge growth and big salaried people that living there is insanely expensive. They had a news story on last night about $2 million dollar shacks having multiple bids on them because land is so expensive. To rent or buy could cause a heart attack.
That said, you can live more affordably in other areas. It depends on what your employment is. You should be OK with $200k. And, yes, I mean "OK," not in great straights. You do want to live near where you work because we just got voted worst traffic in the country!! Oh yeah, and we have the highest gas prices in the country, except for Honolulu and Manhattan.
But, it's great. I commute 8 miles to work, and the barn is between work and my house. I am super lucky with the barn and have great pasture, facilities, super trails, and a great view of the bay. In general, you have access to good barns and people depending on where you are, but it will cost you. It's a fairly competitive area, and you can show almost all year.
We whine when it's 50 during the day because it's too cold, and 30's? No way. We can't handle that. You don't need so many clothes for weather here, and none of that dealing with snow and stuff, and depending on the year, maybe no dealing with rain. I've been out riding in a T-shirt this last week.
Lots to do here if you want to. You can spend months exploring stunning little places all over like in Appsolute's pictures. All concerts come here, things like ballet and opera, sports teams (I think, hm, we have some) and things such as that. Three airports where you can pretty much fly anywhere from makes travel much easier. Great food of all sorts, especially depending on where you live. One of everyone lives here, so being racist, bigoted doesn't work so well.
I lived in Berkeley for a year, worked in San Francisco during that time. Housing was paid for (AmeriCorps type program) so I can't speak to that.
However when my program was over my boyfriend and I were looking at apartments in the North Bay (Santa Rosa area). Rents were roughly $700-800 for studio apartments in the woods. Like 30 minutes outside of Santa Rosa proper. I heard horror stories from friends living in San Francisco that split rents of $1500/mo in the Tenderloin.
They Bay Area is beautiful but as someone who grew up in Maryland (hi OP!) and lived on the east coast my whole life it was a bit overwhelming in all honesty. In my opinion, as a 20-something, California (even the hippie Bay Area) was very flashy, very look-at-me. Lots of partying, lots of competition amongst people. Also, as someone who was raised to be very tactful and polite in social situations, I encountered a lot of native Californians who were just very socially awkward in my opinion. Another non-Californian that I knew commented that frequently people would mention events to him but not invite him directly, making it hard to make legitimate friendships I guess.
All of that to say that you and your husband may love it! I also spent significant time on Alameda and in Oakland. I was not a fan of Oakland but Alameda is cute and much more low-key, family oriented. Traffic was crummy but still nothing like DC rush hour. I also don't miss the expense of everything. Gas almost always 50 cents higher than the average.
On the plus side, camping is GREAT and really fun. We camped often. And I wish I had done a bit more sight seeing in San Francisco when I wasn't working. We really enjoyed a couple of bars in the Mission and Twin Peaks (very romantic!)
My boyfriend's family still lives there so we visit occasionally (have since moved to Texas) and I enjoy visiting. But I have no desire to live there again. I like seasons! Or at least temps over 65! Thought I'd throw my 2 cents in.
In my opinion, as a 20-something, California (even the hippie Bay Area) was very flashy, very look-at-me. Lots of partying, lots of competition amongst people. Also, as someone who was raised to be very tactful and polite in social situations, I encountered a lot of native Californians who were just very socially awkward in my opinion.
This. Except it's not the "native Californians" that are the problem, it's all the people that come here to "make it big". It's like Hollywood but for the corporate/IT set.
I have lived here for 15 years and am a native Californian (4th generation from Southern California). I haven't met a single person in Silicon Valley that's actually from California. There are pockets in the Bay Area that are nearly unbearable, like a real-life version of the Real Housewives every day. But there are also little pockets of reality that are truly wonderful, filled with wonderful people. I live in a little town that is rough around the edges and a little funky, but in the East Bay and a very easy and pleasant commute into downtown SF. I can drive into SF in about 20 minutes, yet maybe 1 in 10 people that live in the Bay Area have even heard the name of my town, no one knows where it is! It's like the land that time forgot, people still ride horses down the street and have chickens in their backyards...
So, it's impossible to generalize about the "Bay Area". But if you guys are planning to move here and join the "Silicon Valley" lifestyle, you will be competing with people that wipe their butts with your 200k a year salaries, and you will be reminded of that fact in everything you do. But some people love that, so it really depends on what you want.