In general terms you will probably find that the Triangle area offers a nice quality of life, but not the quantity you might be used to. There are several places to live where you can be in a more urban, walkable area and the housing values will be a fraction of the bay area also.
However, if school quality is important and one were to assume that you are more progressive in your thoughts and politics you might find the downtown Chapel Hill to be a nice starting point, like Berkely without the crime issues of Oakland. Housing will range from older historic properties to more recent construction and any commute to Durham will likely be half the 45 minutes you asked for. Downtown housing prices will range from approximately $250-400+ per sq ft and you can be reasonably walkable for well under $200/sf.
On the south end of town is another development called Southern Village, which has a broad range of newer construction (~1990-2000s), a neighborhood commercial center, and an active lifestyle for families. Elementary and middle schools are also walkable and community events include a farmer's market, restaurants and a neighborhood movie theater, including outdoor movies in the summer and Sunday free music events. Prices will range from under $200/sf to just over and options will range from $400k to over $1MM.
This is a wonderfully international area and cultural diversity is common, with public schools that are considered among the best in the country. Welcome to the southern part of heaven and most of the other respondents, I will be happy to consult with you further at your convenience. If you want an experienced, knowledgeable, and more proactive Realtor working for you, please contact me at your earliest convenience.
919-960-6332 email@example.com http://www.TarHeelHomes.com