Sunday, October 21, 2007

San Francisco Bay Area Neighborhoods

This was something very interesting and new for me that I found out during my housing search. I have always assumed that the demographic of Bay Area cities is very different than those in Southern California.

For example, a city, such as West Covina in LA, can have both very nice as well as ghetto areas all located within the city limits. As you enter West Covina from Highway 10, you drive through cars on blocks in front yards and run down homes with bars across their windows. Yet as you start going uphill, the houses get significantly much more upscale and expensive. Yet we’re still in the same city and zip code.

I have always thought cities in the Bay Area have borders where neighborhoods within the city are very similar – like Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Cupertino and even Los Gatos. East Palo Alto can be assumed to be mainly a dangerous neighborhood (i.e. not somewhere you want to live if you can avoid it), while Palo Alto and Los Gatos are generally all upscale. What I didn’t realize (and what you cannot see driving up and down Highway 101N/S) is there are pockets of great neighborhoods in cities (just like Southern California) that you normally would dismiss if seen from the highway.

Cities such as San Mateo, Redwood City, San Carlos, and Belmont will not look very attractive as you exit off Highway 101. In fact, they look darn close to being an industrial center with all of the auto body, paint shops, and run down apartments dotting their freeway exits.

Good rule of thumb would be the location of the neighborhood within these cities. Once you cross El Camino Real, you find amazing pockets of neighborhoods that will rival or surpass even what prestige cities such as Palo Alto and Los Altos can offer. These areas include, but are not limited to, San Mateo Park, Belmont Hills, San Carlos Hills, and Burlingame Hills. The beauty of these locations is they offer the same safe and clean neighborhoods as Palo Alto but at a significant discount. Keep the house hunt for between Highway 280 and El Camino Real and you will find some amazing gems being sold for a bargain.

On the reverse, avoid areas of Menlo Park that is on the East side of highway 101. You will understand once you visit there. Long story short it is just an extension of East Palo Alto.

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