Monday, January 7, 2013

Where should a couple of newlywed yupsters live in the BAY AREA?


Hi There!

It seems you (and your readers) are infinitely wise when it comes to many things, so here's my current dilemma.

FH and I are moving to the Bay Area after we get married in Chicago this summer. We've both lived in Chicago since we were 18 and came here for college. We'll both be working in the Valley; let's call our companies "Dapple" and "Schmoogle." We both abhor long commutes, but we're on the hipster side of yuppie so also enjoy bars and restaurants with plenty of handlebar mustaches to be seen.

Bottom line: where should we live? It seems like a nearly impossible question. We're used to living in the city (currently we live in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago) but the thought of commuting 2 hours a day sounds more than a little bit nauseating.

I'm lost and need help!

Thanks ever so,
SF Stupid

*****

For fun, I asked two different Bay Area ladies to offer their opinions. Here's J, who lives in San Francisco proper:

The kids who were cool before they started working for Google live in the Mission. And that's where you go for moustaches, best restaurants, finest cocktails, plus the occasional rock show, art opening, cool boutique. There are Google buses, and probably an Apple bus, so you don't have to commute; you just get on, log in and ride. Since you're from Chicago you probably won't be turned off by occasional gang violence or multiculturalism. I'm sure there are **some** hip things happening in Palo Alto, San Jose, Cupertino or Sunnyvale but I bet you'll feel like you're living in an 80's suburb after being in Chicago.

I don't know where the actual cool kids live, probably in the Tenderloin or the Outer Sunset.


And here's Celia, who just bought a condo in Oakland:

Hello, SF Stupid, and welcome to the Bay Area... where buying produce that isn't grown locally is almost worse than being a Republican, pedestrians take the right of way to whole new heights, and everyone's go-to fashion accessory is their favorite winter coat. If you do it right, the Bay is one of the best places to live in the world. Yes, THE WORLD. 

The simple answer to your question is, unfortunately, you will HAVE TO commute. We're talking CALIFORNIA real estate here, and you simply can't have your cake and eat it too. The plain truth about the South Bay is that there just isn't a lot of CITY going on down there. The closest thing you're going to get to any sort of bustling city environment would be downtown San Jose. I happen to have lots of family in SJ, so I'm fairly familiar, and it just doesn't cut it for me. Though it's a big city, in many ways SJ has a "sleepy town" vibe to it. And the only handlebar mustaches you'll come across are rocked by Mexican men wearing big, fat, bronze belt buckles (the original hipsters, IMHO).

The good news is that you have options when it comes to your commute. You're not the only people working for "Dapple" and "Schmoogle" that are attracted to city life, so getting to work doesn't have to be horrendous. I'm assuming you've looked into the shuttle system that has a wide variety of stops in the city and will drop you off right at the front doors of Dapple and Schmoogle? I have personally not had the privilege of riding one of these fancy buses, but I've only heard great things. Cush seats for napping, free wifi, and I'm pretty sure I remember a friend of mine telling me the shuttle he takes to that dreaded valley even provides coffee and snacks. Lady, if you ask me, that commute sounds like a DREAM.

You can also look into riding Caltrain. All I know about those trains is that their scheduling tends to be off. I'm a Bart rider myself (and no, Bart doesn't make the magic trip to SV), and since Bart trains are rarely more than a minute off, an unreliable train would drive me to insanity. That being said, if punctuality ain't really your thing, then it might be worth it to you. 

Since all of that is out of the way, let's talk neighborhoods that would be good for you. Now, if you were on the hipster side of hipster, I'd send you straight to The Mission... but let's not tell the Mission hipsters I said that, because the last thing we want is for them to get their sensitive sally hipster panties all in a bunch, mkay? Being on the hipster side of yuppie (and you should know that I'm not entirely sure I know what that means... do you flip through J Crew catalogues while enjoying some PBR?), I have a feeling that your best two options will be Noe Valley and Bernal Heights. I spoke to a good friend of mine who is a Chicago native, and from what I gather, Logan Square is probably closer to Bernal Heights. AND seeing as you don't have kids, I think that would also make Bernal Heights a better fit, but those SV geeks (ahem, hipster yuppies) do love them some Noe Valley, so it would definitely be worth a look into. Both of those neighborhoods will offer you nearby restaurants complete with the occasional handlebar mustache. What's not to love?

And lastly, I will give you the other side of the spectrum, San Francisco's super scary stepsister, Oakland. Probably didn't even consider Oakland, did you? That's ok... most people wouldn't. 

[Incidentally, J lives in Noe Valley, the neighborhood we grew up in. When I told her I'd also asked a friend from Oakland to weigh in on this, she said "Hilarious 'cause I forgot all about Oakland. SF snob!"]

Ok, so Oakland isn't exactly closer to the dreaded SV. If anything, it's a touch farther. BUT, if you take into account the traffic you will sit in getting in and out of San Francisco, your commute from Oakland shouldn't be much longer. Oh, and those fancy shuttles I was talking about earlier? They also make stops in the East Bay. As for Oakland being super scary, it is. I live in Oakland, and I'm not going to lie to you. HOWEVER, in no way shape or form is it scarier than San Francisco. These are big cities we're talking about, and since you live in Chicago, I'm sure that you're well aware that big cities have super scary crime attached to them. It's just part of it. That being said, Oakland has some insanely rad neighborhoods that are also worth checking out. So if Oakland is, or does become an option, try looking into the Rockridge and Piedmont Ave. neighborhoods. I have a feeling they'll be the right glass slipper for you.

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage, and tons of luck to you on the big move. 


Photo by Todd Hido of my favorite Noe Valley Victorian, occupied (natch) by an interior designer and a professional skater

50 comments:

  1. I have three useless observations to make:

    1. my husband and I use the portmanteau "yupster," which you're free to use.

    2. I'm assuming that the lady from Chicago read the words "winter coat" and burst out laughing, as I did.

    3. I just read a newspaper headline that said "meet Oakland, the Brooklyn of the West Coast," so maybe you'd be on the yupster cutting edge by moving there? I didn't click on it because I had to get off my bus, but food for thought.

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    1. Hello, my name is Melissa and I think I might be a yupster.

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    2. Oakland is the cutting edge of yupster, but the commute over the San Mateo or Dumbarton bridge to Dapple and Schmoogle will be pure hell every. single. day.

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    3. I live in Oakland (and love it!) and agree with LPC. The shuttles take about 1.25 hrs/day each way + commute to shuttle. If that sounds doable to you, then for sure check out Rockridge/Temescal/Piedmont as Celia suggested. Unfort, the Peninsula is not so yupster.

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  2. If you are looking for something a little closer to your companies you can always look at san mateo, mountain view, and willow glen (which is a cute neighborhood in san jose). although they are definitely NOT the city, they are decent towns and all further down the peninsula.

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  3. To Celia's point about big cities and crime:

    Chicago is SUPER segregated. Way more than any other big city I've ever been to. Crime happens in "the nice parts" of the city but it's pretty rare. I, dumbly, never ever feel scared or worried walking alone here at night (in "the nice areas," I mean--I don't go to the bad ones often).

    SF will be a big change, I bet, for SF Stupid, in that regard.

    And the winter coat statement IS funny. Of course, I just got this insane new puffer coat, and while it's been cold here lately, it hasn't been snowy or anything.

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    1. I've spent a lot of time in Chicago and SF and couldn't agree more. In Chicago violent crime tends to be very location (neighborhood, street corner within neighborhood) specific.

      In SF, avoiding potentially dangerous situations seems to be more difficult to navigate.

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    2. I also totally agree with this. I moved to SF from NYC and was amazed by how much harder it was to feel safe.

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    3. whoa this is surprising to hear as an SF native--in my nearly 3 decades of living here I've very rarely felt truly unsafe. I think with time you get better at evaluating perceived "threats" and assessing the likelihood of anything actually happening. Perhaps my perspective is biased since the city is my default frame of reference, or maybe I've just been spending too much time in the Sunset lately!

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  4. Bernal Heights resident piping in here. Though the techies are indeed driving up prices in our neighborhood, you won't find too many handlebar mustaches up here. Bernal remains primarily a haven for lesbians, dog-lovers, and young families. (Case in point: our neighborhood bookstore is rebranding to sell kids books only.) I love it here, but you'll find much livelier nightlife & many more restaurants to choose from in Noe or the Mission. You might also want to check out Hayes Valley, on the fashionista side of things but well-served by tech transit and good food.

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  5. we all know how i feel about SF, so i'll spare you guys another version of that. i will pipe up on caltrain, though (thwarting members of my family since 1996 - oh, caltrain, you sucked ass when i was in college), and say that it's awful. my super-stingy sis lives in SF and commutes down to palo alto, and she's considering buying a car to avoid caltrain. it's that bad (and she's a muni enthusiast, so she knows bad). do not make it a building block of your transpo scheme, newcomers.

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  6. OP here. Thanks to EVERYONE for the tips! I so appreciate it. Since writing to ESB, I had come to the conclusion that living in the city would be the best option, at least at first, so this is super helpful.

    I suppose my definition of "hipster side of yuppie" is that I have a corporate job (and enjoy flipping through the J.Crew catalog, so sue me) while at the same time enjoying the occasional shot of Malort and riding my single speed as transportation all summer. (You might not know what Malort is, I think it's a Chicago thing, but most of our hipster bars have it on tap)

    All I can say is THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. If you're committed to your single-speed, best stay in the Mission. Elsewhere in the city you will want—nay, need—gears.

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    3. what is your budget? Can suggest some neighborhoods - will you have access to corporate housing (or a couch) when you first arrive? housing market is really crazytown right now in sf and oakland. I think $2900/mo is avg rent for a 1 bedroom.

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    4. I can verify that rent is crazy in the city and oakland right now. Sad times. I'm being pushed into the peninsula. Dear OP, I know you'll be super rich working at schmoog and schmap so you won't worry about it as much as I do, but prepare to prepare a shot ton of rent.

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  7. This girl and her ilk are one reason I'm happy to be leaving SF for Oakland. Dude, people f-ing hate those corporate shuttles. They're horrible for the City and they're horrible for the neighborhoods they barge through.

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    1. I just moved to the East Bay too, and what a weight was lifted off my shoulders--I don't have to walk around hating everyone I see.

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    2. BAHA! this thread is such a good example of east bay people.

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  8. One important thing to remember about San Francisco is that it is pretty small, especially compared to Chicago. Your neighborhood doesn't have to have all the hipster bars/restaurants/coffeeshops you want, because the neighborhood that does have those things can be a moderate (although perhaps hilly) walk away. This may actually be the desireable situation, because the fun neighborhood may also have people sleeping on your doorstep or doing various things in the alley next to it. I lived in Ashbury Heights/Cole Valley for several years (very close to the Stanyan/Frederick shuttle, btw) which was peaceful and gorgeous, had a smattering of coffeshops/restauarants, allowed me to run in Golden Gate Park all the time, but was a longish walk or a short bus ride from the Mission. Also, a note on the Mission -- it is a HUGE and varied neighborhood and not all parts of it are a yipster wonderland replete with handlebar mustaches, artisanal coffee, and vintage clothing stores. I would really consider it more like four neighborhoods, one of which is pretty iffy in parts (east of Van Ness) and one of which is a great, but not hipster, Mexican/Central American neighborhood (centered around 24th st).
    Another thing about San Francisco is that compared to Chicago, EVERYWHERE is hipsterish. OK, everywhere in the southeastern third of the city. Marina/Russian Hill/Nob Hill/North Beach etc are their own weird universe. The Richmond and Sunset/West Portal have some great stuff, particularly great Vietnamese and Chinese food and access to Golden Gate Park, Seacliff, and Ocean Beach, but are pretty un-hipster for SF, except for a little area near Ocean Beach that is surfer-hipster.
    Oakland is cool, but in my experience will add a LOT of time on average to your commute to the South Bay.
    My strongest recommendation would be to live there for a while before picking someplace more permanent. There are always lots of people looking to sublet their apartments for a month or two.

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  9. I moved to Oakland 3 years ago and I absolutely love it. I was scared of the city before I moved there and convinced myself that I would live in Berkeley instead, but I ended up preferring Oakland over every other city in the Bay Area!

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  10. as a chicagoan there is nothing funnier than visiting SF in July and seeing people wear North Face puffers to the bar. IT's 65 DEGREES!

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    1. You know what's funnier? Seeing all the tourists who thought it was going to be warm shivering in their flipflops and brand new Giants hoodies.

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    2. people still wear hoodies?

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    3. San Francisco is the world capitol of fashion crimes. People wear those five toe shoes TO WORK.

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    4. Only when they are running TO WORK. With a backpack flapping as they run.

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    5. @Rhubarb or my personal favorite, shorts and a fisherman's wharf fleece jacket.

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  11. I think you want Hayes Valley. It's high-end hip, and a lot of people have jobs at Schmoogle-type places. The Mission is skewing that way lately (Zuckerberg just bought a place near Dolores Park), but as someone who lived there for many years and saw/was complicit in the changes, I find the whole place sort of revolting these days.
    What you really need to know about moving to SF is that the market is TIGHT right now. We're a few years into another dotcom bubble and the city is filling up with people in your income bracket, and they all need to live somewhere. It might be a slog to rent a place in your dream neighborhoods, and it will be a nightmare to buy. I'd say the Mission and Hayes Valley should be your top choices, but look at Bernal, Glen Park, the Panhandle, and Noe Valley too.
    Good luck!

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    1. I also find the Mission kind of insufferable these days. It's all stores I like selling objects I like, but it feels like a theme park. Too merchandised. If you're not stuck on your memory of it from years ago when the gentrification was less intense, you'll probably really like it.

      Frances is 100% right that the housing market is crazytown. I do not envy your search, despite the presumably excellent funding situation you will have for it.

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  12. Cold snobbery. . .is so annoying.

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    1. correct. i live in san diego and since it is such a transplant town, the same people who move here who are so quick to say "psssh, why do you people own coats?!" are the same ones who are in coats the following winter when it's 55 outside. your body acclimates accordingly, whether you're from chicago or orlando. WHODATHUNK?!

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    2. I'm not one to cry, "you're just jealous" but is jealousy the root of cold snobbery?

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    3. What people don't understand is that SF has DAMP COLD. I'm from Detroit and I'm more miserable in SF's foggy-wet 62° than 22° in the D. Also, you have to walk everywhere and the houses are poorly insulated here, where in the Midwest people sensibly drive all the time and heat their houses effectively.

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    4. Frances, YES. No one (including people who live there) actually understands how stupid cold it can be. I once did an event in SF in May which involved standing for FOUR HOURS in 45º drizzle. That does not happen in the Midwest, where I grew up. If it's going to be that cold people stay inside with their insulation and central heating.

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  13. If you are REALLY cool you will buy a little yellow house in Redwood City, in Little Mexico. And eat tacos, birria, and oxtail stew to your heart's content.

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  14. I just want to ad my Oakland love. It really is the best. I would never live in SF after living in Oakland. However, I have to agree that the commute would be a big pain.

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  15. I have nothing of relevance to add, only that that is MY favorite Noe Valley Victorian, too, and I was crazy excited to see it here! And to see the inside! Eep!

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  16. Dogpatch? Anyone? Preferably near the Hell's Angels headquarters (ha, ha, I kid...) But seriously, maybe consider Portrero Hill--from what I recall, the competition for parking is MUCH less intense than the Mission, yet it is nicely Mission-adjacent when you're feeling like flying that hipster flag.

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  17. Either live near work or live near a shuttle. Don't live in the East Bay and DO NOT rely on BART, MUNI, or Caltrain. Bay Area commutes are horrid, it's part of why we left, and I've lived in a lot of cities and dealt with long commutes.

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    1. I'd also like to add that the Peninsula is a nice place to live.

      In the Bay, there isn't that whole city vs suburbs vibe like in a lot of other cities. I like RWC, San Mateo, etc. Also, there is more sun. But, you basically need a car each, and as someone who had never owned a car, I found that onerous. We had one car and if we hadn't moved (job opportunity overseas), we would have bought a second.


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  18. celia's reply was pure comic gold

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  19. OAKLAND!

    I moved from Logan Square to the Lake Merritt neighborhood in Oakland and it was the easiest transition ever. At the time all my Bay area buddies were living in the Mission, but all it took was a couple hours driving around Oakland to know I'd be much more comfy here. We even have our own Longman & Eagle (Boot & Shoe), minus the inn part.

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    1. Oh, I will miss Longman & Eagle most of all! Thanks for the input, all helpful!

      -OP

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  20. The Grand-Lake Area of Oakland is the best; love piedmont ave and richmond and some parts of north oakland. I love living here--whenever I visit SF I am always happy we ended up here instead, and we are slowly seducing our mission frieds over the bridge.

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  21. I've lived all over sf (outer sunset, western addition, glen park) and I much prefer living in Oakland. I don't commute to the south bay, however. Find out where the shuttle stops are and look for housing around those. If I had to move back to sf, I'd live back in the outer sunset near the beach and the park. There's much more cool stuff going on now vs when I lived there 8 years ago! But for now, as long as I live in the bay, I'll be in Oakland. It's home.

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  22. I just moved from Andersonville in Chicago. The Bay area isn't nearly as cool or awesome as CHicago as far as a livable awesome city. I am always at a loss to find the same quality of transit, shops and restaurants. I really prefer living on the West Coast but the city life you had in Chicago will NOT exist here. Instead you will go on hikes and enjoy nature. I would look at some areas of Oakland and Berkeley. Also Inner Sunset and Bernal Heights are super appealing if you aren't priced out. Logan Square is a pretty cheap place to live and you get some of the best shit in Chicago there. A similar priced area in the Bay will land you next to some really poor cracked out hoods, like drive-by land!

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