The excellent ratings schools receive in both Los Altos and Palo Alto helps drive prices up in those two cities. The odds of finding a $3k rental is very small. A nice studio is most often just over $2k
The commute from Menlo Park or Redwood City might not be too bad depending upon the hour. Quite a few peninsula residents work for companies located along 237 but most traffic would be going the opposite direction. Traffic near bridges can be heavy due to commuters from the East Bay but again most of it will be going opposite your direction.
Sunnyvale has many commuters heading north. Traffic can be slow. If you look in Sunnyvale look for multiple commute paths which head northwest (Central Expressway, 101)
Mountain View home values are available at
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You will either have to pay more or adjust your criteria, smaller, or longer commute.