Commuter Solutions: The Best Suburbs Close to San Francisco
When you think of San Francisco, your first thoughts may be of cable cars and rows of houses on inclined streets. However, with one of the highest costs of living in the country, San Francisco housing prices can be as steep as its slanted streets. The average small apartment goes for more than $3,000 a month and median home prices top $1.5 million.
But if you’re okay with a commute, San Francisco has many suburbs with connected mass transit options that get homeowners close to the big city action with relative ease. These Bay Area suburbs match San Francisco’s vibe with their own offerings of historic homes, farmer’s markets, nightlife, and dining choices. Some are offer affordable family homes (some in the $500,000 range, this is San Francisco after all), while others offer campus-size space (if you’re willing to fork up to $5 million). But no matter what you’re looking for, you’ll have to act swiftly: Even in the ‘burbs, the real estate market moves quickly. Interested? Take a look at these six suburbs—each one will get you to downtown San Francisco in an hour or less. And just a reminder: They’re not necessarily cheaper than San Fran, but they’ll offer you something you can’t find in the densely populated city.
Mountain View is perhaps most synonymous with Google, but it also houses cozy neighborhoods and a diverse downtown. Appropriately, the suburb is also home to the Computer History Museum and features a collection of tech artifacts. From kite-flying in Shoreline Kite Flying Park to shopping and dining on Castro Street, there’s something for families and twenty-somethings alike.
$1,939,100 median home value, $3,995 median rent.
43 minutes by car (without traffic); 1 hour, 15 minutes by Caltrain
Los Altos Hills
Los Altos Hills hit Niche’s number one spot on the San Francisco’s suburbs list in 2017. But that ranking comes at a price. The median home value is right at the $5 million mark—though you’ll have access to bigger homes in Los Altos Hills than you would in San Francisco. While you won’t save money moving to Los Altos Hills, you might just save your weekends with a variety of biking, hiking, and jogging options including popular Stevens Creek Trail and the Windy Hills Open Space Preserve. There’s no reservations at the eponymous Los Altos Grill, just grilled artichokes and cornbread to write home about. With a population of less than 10,000, this suburb still maintains a small-town feel (albeit with expensive homes and an easy commute to San Fran.)
$5,029,800 median home value, $10,969 median rent.
45 minutes by car (without traffic).
South of San Francisco, the San Mateo suburb is a bay area town with beaches that guide daily life. From surf contests on the shore to marine spaces to explore, San Mateo provides quintessential California beach feel with nearby San Mateo County’s Half Moon Bay State Beach, Pillar Point, and the Montara Marine Reserve. Seafood is on the menu at local favorites The Fish Market and Pacific Catch. While fishing is abundant, catching an affordable house in San Mateo is still a little tough with a median home price nearing $1.5 million.
$1,463,000 median home value, $4,000 median rent.
35 minutes by car (without traffic); 32 minutes by Caltrain
Taking a short BART ride from San Francisco to Emeryville brings home ownership or renting down to a more manageable price range (by California standards, of course). Emeryville offers up its own brand of suburb with an artistic feel throughout the town due to the Art in the Public Places ordinance that has brought more than 70 art installations to the city.
$586,200 median home value, $2,748 median rent.
30 to 40 minutes by car (without traffic); 45 minutes by BART/Bus
While California may be known for its redwood trees, the eponymous city in San Mateo County offers more than just foliage. Once a port city, this suburb is now run by tech companies like Oracle. But it’s not filled with Silicon Valley horror stories: Live/work culture is enhanced by only a few rainy days a year. Housing options include traditional homes but also modern condos in Redwood City’s downtown. Enjoying that great weather is easy with Redwood City’s array of options including the Bair Island Aquatic Center, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, and Crystal Springs Reservoir. When temperatures drop, Redwood City still has a few cool surprises for residents with the Nazereth Ice Oasis skating rink. From pizza to burrata, Vesta is a local and tourist-favorite Italian pizzeria.
$1,665,500 median home value, $4,000 median rent.
40 minutes by car (without traffic); 45 minutes by Caltrain
Even through ongoing development, Concord manages to maintain the history of the area with homes that feature architectural details at median values under $600,000. Walking tours of the area’s homes and a weekly farmer’s market with local produce keep locals moving. Hungry commuters have a wide range of global restaurants including Taqueria Los Gallos and watering holes like the Brewing Network.
$595,100 median home value, $2,500 median rent.
45 minutes by car (without traffic); 47 minutes by BART; 58 minutes by BART/Bus
South of SF, commuter-friendly Millbrae is rooted in the Scottish word “brae,” meaning rolling hills, which is quite apparent in the city’s terrain. Filled with great schools, family-friendly neighborhoods, and an easy commute, Millbrae also offers outdoor activities, dining and shopping from Bayfront to Central Park. The history of the area comes through at the Millbrae History Center and the Southern Pacific Train Depot. From the Millbrae Farmer’s Market to the annual Art & Wine Festival, this commuter alternative feeds the California spirit.
$1,749,700 median home value, $3,800 median rent.
30 minutes by car (without traffic); 16 minutes by Caltrain; 28 minutes by BART