Not a realtor, I'm a resident, recently returned after 30yrs' city life If you consider Richmond a metropolitan area (makes the map a LOT easier to navigate), I'd recommend San Pablo. While any town may show variations block to block, this town here shows a consistency of values: bootstrapping personal responsibility, and neighborly generosity, are key features. My previous experience with Richmond/San Pablo/El Sobrante was as a child, living in El Sob and attending St. Paul's in San Pablo. I've lived in El Sob since, as an adult, and spread my dollars at Richmond merchants, and each area has something uniquely awesome. At risk of pushing sensitive buttons, I'll put on my Anthropologist [Cal, ,'94] hat and offer that the safest feeling/most stable areas, whatever economic strata, are often the most religious if not demonstrably observant. San Pablo is older than CA: originally settled as pasturage for the equines serving Mission Dolores, it has a palpably Catholic, multi-ethnic, polyglot and amazingly populist vibe. Bonus: courteous drivers.