North, South, East, but Not West: Which Bay Area Suburb Is Right for You?

This post is sponsored by Suburban Jungle.

I’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years (yes, I can hardly believe this myself). I’ve lived as far south as Santa Clara and as far north as Novato and spent several years living in San Francisco. Although I have not lived in the East Bay, I have many friends who have migrated there or plan to do so in the next few years. So, I think I’m now considered somewhat of a native.

I think my best years were living in the city, but once I had my second and third child, it was time for me to move to the ‘burbs. Although I personally would have loved to relocate north to a suburb such as Mill Valley or Corte Madera, it was my husband’s company in Silicon Valley that relocated us to Menlo Park. But what if you just want to leave the city and are fortunate to have flexibility on which direction you go?  

Let’s take a look at some of the amazing suburb locations the Bay Area has to offer.

To the north: Marin

Is there a bridge more beautiful than the Golden Gate? I don’t think so. Imagine if your daily commute involved driving across this vibrant bridge and the magnificent scenery surrounding it. The view might just justify the $6.75 daily commute toll! Living in the North Bay is filled with a laid-back lifestyle, outdoor activities, natural beauty, and amazing weather, along with easy access to the world-renowned wine country of Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

Mill Valley, Corte Madera, and Larkspur are popular towns for San Francisco families to migrate. The towns boast beautiful views of Mount Tamalpais, convenient shopping centers, and still maintain a reasonable commute to San Francisco. As you continue north, San Rafael and Novato are a bit more affordable. However, the commute to SF becomes more intense (an hour with traffic) and the weather becomes quite a bit warmer (super hot and dry in the summer months). Of course, there are even more towns to explore in Marin County, and it’s worth the research to find just the right one for your family. 

Some of the drawbacks to this area: real estate is limited, which means housing is expensive, and traffic to cross the Golden Gate Bridge can be quite intense. Still, if you are lucky enough to work in Marin County or in San Francisco, this is definitely a good option.

To the south: The Peninsula and South Bay

Heading south of San Francisco is ideal if you work in the tech industry. Although companies such as Google and Facebook ease the stress of commuting from San Francisco by offering comfortable commuter vans with Wi-Fi, it can still be taxing on those of us looking to have a better work/life balance and spend less time on the road.  Hence, there is great appeal in moving to a suburb closer to Silicon Valley.

Unless you are willing to live in the foggy cities right outside of SF such as Daly City or San Bruno, you will pay a hefty price tag to have a backyard in a suburb on the Peninsula. Don’t feel like you are getting a deal by leaving the city, as the approximate cost per square foot in Burlingame and San Carlos is $1,000, which is essentially the same as it is in the popular neighborhoods of San Francisco.  Palo Alto and Menlo Park are currently even more than that per square foot! Moving even farther south to San Jose may save you some money but the traffic and commute will likely be as intense as it was from San Francisco.

I can tell you, though, that after moving from San Francisco to the Peninsula, it is well worth the money. I love having a backyard, warm sunny summers, and easy parking for shopping and taking the kids to activities. Life definitely feels a bit more relaxed and easier as compared to when I lived in the city with my little ones.

To the east: The East Bay

The weather is also amazing in the East Bay with plenty of parks and outdoor activities. Summers can be super hot but there are awesome country clubs and swim clubs where you can spend the weekends enjoying lunch and a swim, and many of the towns have a strong sense of community. Housing is a bit more affordable than San Francisco and the Peninsula (although still insanely high compared to the rest of the United States).

The biggest downfall to living in the East Bay is the traffic over the Bay Bridge. The commute can be awful. If you or your spouse works in the city, you may want to consider a suburb that is close to a BART station. I have friends in Orinda and Lafayette who just hop right over to the city on BART. If BART is not convenient to your work, then the commute might again be something to consider before moving east.

How to Choose 

If you have children or plan on it, the main things to consider when choosing a suburb are how will your work/life balance be for both you and your spouse, how are the schools, how safe is the neighborhood, and where do you frequently travel (e.g. do you need to be near an airport, do you like to spend weekends in Tahoe or Napa Valley)? If you have family nearby, how close will you be to them (think: babysitting, so you can get a date night with your partner)? 

If you’re ready to give the suburbs a try, reach out to Suburban Jungle, an entirely free service that works with you to match your family with the town that best suits your needs. With offices in New York, the Hamptons, Boston, DC, Chicago, Dallas, and LA, they can even help you relocate outside of the Bay Area. You can read more about how it works here.

The Bay Area is a beautiful place to live. Within a few hours, you can get to the beach or the mountains. You can taste wine and go to some of the most eclectic and amazing restaurants in the country. The weather is generally sunny and mild and I find that most people living here are nice. The technology industry is at the forefront and it’s a bit of a bubble; I personally feel super lucky to live here!  


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Wendi is originally from New Jersey but has lived in the Bay Area for over 20 years! Her career as a nurse allowed her to work in many areas such as the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric emergency room, and management of a pediatric critical care transport team. She then ventured on to become a mompreneur and founded a company called NewboRN Solutions which offered in-home education and services to new and expecting parents. Following the birth to surprise baby girl #3, Wendi and her husband moved from San Francisco to Menlo Park in August of 2017. After having two babies 14 months apart, Wendi chose to improve her work/life balance and currently works one day a week at a healthcare consulting company in San Francisco. In her free time, she enjoys getting back into an exercise routine, adjusting to life as a mom of three, drinking wine with friends and reading cook books/magazines in hoping to find more time to cook healthy and yummy meals that at least one of her children will eat.


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