asifis2505, Renter in San Francisco, CA

Where to live if I intend to work in San Francisco, CA and my boyfriend will be working in Santa Clara, CA.?

Asked by asifis2505, San Francisco, CA Tue Sep 25, 2012

I intend to work in San Francisco, CA and my boyfriend will be working in Santa Clara, CA. We have considered the following:
1) living in Sunnyvale and I would caltrain to SF daily
2) living in Foster City and we would both Caltrain, me north and him south
3) living in San Francisco and he would drive commute or caltrain to south bay
4) living in Santa Clara area and I would commute driving to SF.

How is driving from the South Bay to SF in the morning? What about the afternoon? How is SF to the South Bay?

Any advice would be appreciated!

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Katie Daire’s answer
Hi there -

My husband and I dealt with this for a couple of years before we both worked in the city; he worked in downtown SF, and I was in Palo Alto.

We compromised and lived in Upper Noe Valley so he could take the J to work, and I had a 2 minute drive to the 280 freeway. I found that if I left early (like, before 7 or 7:30), the drive really wasn't bad at all - unless it rained, then all bets are off. But I could normally get door-to-door in about 45 minutes. If you do SF, would highly recommend sticking south of Market.

If you both work close to a connection with Caltrain, it can be really great - especially if you can take the baby bullets. Before we were in Noe Valley, I lived in Burlingame and took the train regularly to work and to SF. I loved living's more quiet, but still some great restaurants and things to do. San Mateo might be a great spot, too. Caltrain station, and a good location with lots to do on the Peninsula.

Good luck!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 26, 2012
Thank you Katie! Awesome advice, truly appreciated!
Flag Fri Sep 28, 2012
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 20, 2012
Have you thought about where you like to spend your time after work? San Francisco offers tremendous activities that could offset the drawbacks to commute to the peninsula.
I used to live in the suburbs and moved BACK to SF because of the quality of living here offers so many more things that our family enjoys. We actually found it cheaper to live in SF as well....
Happy home hunting!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 28, 2012
SF is one of the unique places in the entire world to live. The rest of the areas you mention lack character and are very ho hum kind of boring car culture, character-less architecture suburbia. It depends on how important it is to live in an amazing, walkable place full of character, activities, nightlife, and awesome dining. I've lived in Sunnyvale, San Mateo and SF (as well as Walnut Creek)...SF is a whole different world compared to those places.

That being said, the weather is nicer in the Peninsula and South Bay, more sun. And the reason I moved to Sunnyvale & San Mateo back when I lived in the Bay Area, was because I didn't want to commute. For me it was a trade-off where getting 2-3 hours of my life back by not having to commute, was worth putting up with the drabness of the suburbs.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2012
Stop thinking so much. If you can afford it, live in San Francisco because it has so much more diversity, culture, entertainment, art, and music.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2012
I would suggest trying the commute yourself, in the morning and afternoon during rush hour. Stay in an extended hotel for a couple days or so in the area that you are planning to live, SF, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Foster City. Then you can determine whether a commute like this is doeable for the next few years for you both.

I grew up in SF and I know commute can be a real pain and you easily get home feeling really worn down.

Best of luck,

Susie Kay, Realtor®
United Real Estate
III Lincoln Centre, 5430 LBJ Freeway #280
Dallas, TX 78240

Servicing your real estate need is my priority!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2012
Thanks for your response, I am definitely trying to avoid feeling worn down! I think a full commute from Santa Clara to SF even on the caltrain would be too much. 50 minutes of public transportation followed by 3/4 mile walk.
Flag Tue Sep 25, 2012
I've actually done that commute. A lot depends on you and what you like. If you love San Francisco, you should live in the city and take Caltrain. So at least you sleep where you want to be, can telecommute and you'll have weekends in the city. That's what I did. Happy to help, email me at for more information! Best, Tom Flinn Hill & Co.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2012
We are open to either place. Not too preferential regarding moving to SF. I just think that a 50 minute commute on the train then the walk might be too much for either of us. We are considering the middle (san mateo, foster city) but his work doesn't have any mode of transportation from the caltrain! Thanks for your response!
Flag Tue Sep 25, 2012
It sounds as if you are a young couple. You will have a whole lot more fun living in San Francisco, hopefully near a train stop or a shuttle stop should your boyfriend work for one of the peninsula companies that provides employees with shuttle services. Avoid driving- it is brutal.

San Francisco is a world class city, named time and again as one of the ten top destinations in the world.
What a lucky couple you are, having the chance to live here!

Astrid Lacitis
Keynote Properties
415 860 0765
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2012
Thanks for your response! We definitely want to avoid driving... his work unfortunately isn't close to the caltrain, so it would be hard for him to take the train out there. But I do like the idea of living in SF, open to options though!
Flag Tue Sep 25, 2012
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2012
A lot depends on where specifically in those cities you intend to work, especially on the Santa Clara side, where public transit between Caltrain and his destination may be sparse. Caltrain does allow bicycles on the train, however.

San Francisco has lots of transit options, but it can still take much longer than you might think to get between work and the Caltrain station.

If both of you have relatively convenient ways of getting from train stations to your destinations, you might add Millbrae to your list. It has access to both BART and Caltrain (in the same station, no less). BART gives you better access to downtown SF than Caltrain does, but of course it depends on where exactly you will work.

For six months or so I commuted from San Francisco to Santa Clara. I lived in the Inner Richmond district at the time, and it took me 50-70 minutes to drive to Santa Clara leaving home at about 9am. A good 20-30 minutes of that was just getting to the freeway, though; it would be a much shorter commute from south of Golden Gate Park, or someplace close to a freeway (preferably 280).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2012
Probably 101 would be the right choice, but again it depends on the specific location, especially in Santa Clara. If his work is closer to the 280 than to 101, it may very well be faster to take the 92 over to 280. 280 tends to have lighter traffic, and is just generally a nicer drive. 101 is very industrial and ugly, and 280 actually has some scenery in places.

Unfortunately I really can't give you any insight on how traffic is for commuting at those times in particular, as I've never done it. But Google Maps usually gives some information about how traffic might impact a route, so maybe that can give you some insight.
Flag Wed Sep 26, 2012
You brought something very true to my attention! Thank you for your response. Unfortunately his work isn't near the caltrain station and there is no shuttle. So if we were to either choose SF or somewhere in the middle of the road like foster city/ san mateo then he wouldn't be able to take the caltrain... If he were to leave SF around 6:45am and head back to SF around 5pm would the commute be terrible driving? Any insight to driving from San Mateo (he would probably take the 101, right?) to Santa Clara ?

Thanks Again for your help!!
Flag Tue Sep 25, 2012
Hi there,

If driving, the commutes will be bad either way. I'd say the worse traffic is from SF to South Bay though, especially in the morning. Is your boyfriend's work easily accessible by caltrain? You will be able to catch a bus to get to work in the city from caltrain, but buses aren't as easily accessible in the south bay, which might make it so he will have a hard time getting to work once he gets off the caltrain.

Because commutes will be hard either way, I would really consider where you want to live. Where do you want to be on the weekends? I am happy to help further, please feel free to contact me.

Caitlin Dunn
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2012
Hi Caitlin, thanks for responding. Unfortunately this just came to my attention that his work is not easily accesible from the caltrain. It is far and there is no shuttle. We are open to living in multiple places. The place where I would be working is around a 3/4 mile walk from the caltrain. I just have trouble imagining a 50 minute caltrain ride followed by a 3/4 mile walk in all weather.... but it definitely seems like driving is not an option for either... Thanks for your help and response!
Flag Tue Sep 25, 2012
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