Deano’s answer to: “Where is the best value for housing within a 30-45 minute commute of San Francisco?”

While we claim to enjoy our "hidden gem" status, I do highly recommend Alameda as a great place to live if working in SF. The options for travel (Bus, Bus+BART, Car, Ferry) allow you to compensate for many types of traffic issues, including total Bay Bridge shutdowns (happened during a bomb threat a few years back… 300 people on the ferry WAS a bit much, but we still zoomed across the water in 20 minutes).

The neighborhoods vary from very reasonable to quite expensive, but there are many options up and down the rent/own ladder, and thus also a very interesting mix of individuals and families of all races/ethnicities/ages. 

There are two "downtown" areas with major shopping centers/service providers, a big mall, a beach and nature preserve facing the bay (great kite boarding I hear). Very pet and child friendly town and businesses. A great modern library (not open nearly enough). A movie theater that never should've been built, but still provides a nice option to see a first run movie with little risk of a packed auditorium. 😉

There are several niche/boutique bars, including the famous Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge… But nightlife on the island leaves a bit to be desired most nights. Still, if you want to go out, you hop in your car, and in 25 minutes or so you're parked at the 5th and Mission garage. Extrapolate from there… 

On the East Bay side, you're a quick drive/bus ride to downtown Oakland, with a fairly hopping scene there, shopping and dining options in Jack London Square, Emeryville, and even Berkeley. All within a 30 minute radius (with "normal" traffic). 

Lots of "big box" shopping (Home Depot, WalMart, CostCo, etc) to the south on the 880… And again in light traffic, you can start to hit Santa Clara/San Jose in 45-55mins.

Overall, Alameda is a great place for a married couple, especially if you're pondering a child or pet. All the excitement of the city is a half hour away, but things are nice and quiet and even reasonably clean… It's like a cheaper version of the Richmond or Sunset districts, maybe. And the bridge/tunnel access does seem to have a distinct effect in lowering the overall crime rate.

On the downside, there's still a very "townie element" to the place, especially in government administration and the older more established businesses. The perceived corruption level at the mayoral/town council level is pretty high. Most of the time, that's not really going to matter to you, but it does mean that at every decisive juncture, where Alameda could possibly take some innovative/leadership role in city planning/green tech/urban renewal/etc, they're likely going to mysteriously vote against progress at the last minute for reasons that are not entirely clear. Not to get too sensational, but we still have no idea why the mayor two terms ago committed suicide… That investigation went by pretty darn quick.

And with that, you have the basics… Surrounding communities are also pretty decent – Oakland is grimier and crimier for a similar price point (or downright dangerous for not much cheaper), San Leandro and Hayward are snoozefests, Emeryville is the little-1-square-mile-postage-stamp-that-could, and if you can't stand being more than walking distance to Ikea, is probably your best bet. Berkeley is pricey, filled with crazy hippies turned crazy conservatives, and most of the town closes at 6pm, on the two and a half days a week the worker-collective-owners allow the shops to open. 😉 Richmond is… occasionally in the news for reasons I don't even want to think about.

Really, Alameda is just plain awesome. But Shhhh! Don't tell anyone I told you!

Where is the best value for housing within a 30-45 minute commute of San Francisco?

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