Moving to the San Francisco Peninsula? Read Our Relocation Guide. (Updated for 2020)

October 10, 2018

Note: This article has been updated to reflect rental prices in 2020.

If you are thinking of moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, consider checking out the Peninsula, a collection of suburbs just a stone’s throw from San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Known for being close (but not too close) to major cities, the Peninsula offers the eclectic dining and art of its international neighbors, with a small-town focus on schools, neighborhoods, and outdoor recreation. Below is our relocation guide for newcomers, giving you what you can expect in terms of weather, schools, traffic, and more!

 

What is the Peninsula?

 

Let’s start by defining the geographic boundaries of the Peninsula. The Peninsula is the stretch of land between San Francisco and San Jose, starting with South San Francisco, all the way down to Mountain View. The Mid-Peninsula refers to the area from Redwood City in the south up to San Bruno in the north. Depending on who you ask, Palo Alto and Mountain View round up the southern portion of the Peninsula, though many locals consider these towns as part of Silicon Valley (the tech capital of the world) to the south.

 

 

 

Why move to the Peninsula? Schools! Weather! And of course, proximity to both Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

 

Don’t expect the same nightlife and the eccentric soul that comes with San Francisco, the Peninsula is the ‘burbs’. The downtown areas are oriented to families, techies that want to live close to work, or those who crave some peace and quiet in a house with a yard. The Peninsula tends to be clean and safe, offers some of the best schools in all of California, consistent sunny warm weather, and access to a ton of green spaces. Almost every city on the Peninsula holds a weekend farmer’s market and free community events, such as concerts and movies.

 

Commuting

 

An advantage to commuting by car from the Peninsula is you don’t have to cross a bridge to get to San Francisco as you would in the East or North Bay.  Google, Facebook and several other companies provide commuter shuttles to and from San Francisco neighborhoods to their offices located in the South Bay or Peninsula. There is also a commuter train, Caltrain, that runs north/south, which will get you into San Francisco or south to San Jose. Otherwise, using public transit on the Peninsula is difficult. The southernmost BART train stop is in Millbrae, so BART isn’t accessible to most of the Peninsula.

 

Outdoor Life

 

If you love the outdoors, the Peninsula is for you. Bike trails, hiking trails, water recreation, jogging, mountains, grasslands…it’s all here. Sawyer Camp Trail offers access to an 11.5-mile biking/jogging/walking/equestrian trail that follows along the shore of Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir. The Bay Trail is a “500-mile walking and cycling path around the entire San Francisco Bay”, accessible just about anywhere on the Peninsula. And let’s not forget another 500+ mile loop known as the Bay Ridge Trail that traverses along the ridge lines overlooking San Francisco Bay.  About 30% of the Peninsula is nature preserve, parkland, or otherwise undeveloped, offering some of the most varied terrain in the Bay area. The possibilities for outdoor adventure are endless.

 

Source: Flickr user Phil King

 

Weather

 

The weather is glorious! It is temperate, dry, and sunny most of the year. The cities north of Burlingame are more susceptible to the infamous SF fog, as are the areas closer to the Coastal Foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains or on its ridge, like the Skyline, or along the beach, like Pacifica. It’s important to keep in mind, the fog is seasonal and not year-round. Summer months are the worst.  Bottom line: invest in plenty of high SPF sunscreen!

 

Advice

 

Debbie Wilhelm of Coldwell Banker offers this advice to newbies: Don’t assume the Peninsula is cheaper than living in San Francisco. The Peninsula is home to the most expensive zip code in the nation-Atherton. What the Peninsula offers over San Francisco is top public schools and more open space.  Also, research your commute times. Many newcomers are often surprised by how long it can take to get to San Francisco and San Jose by car, shuttle, or by Caltrain.

 

The Peninsula is home to 5 of the top 7 places to live in the entire Bay area.

 

Now that you’ve got a gist of the general Peninsula area, here’s a look at a few of the cities,
including average monthly rents.

 

 

Pacifica

Source: Flickr user Magda Wojtyra 

 

Surf’s up! Pacifica is where to live when you want to be a part of the beach culture or crave a more laid back, peaceful life style away from the “tech nation.” Beach and hiking trails are all in walking distance. The ocean and nearby Santa Cruz mountains offer natural beauty and stunning sunsets, but beware! The fog can roll in and stay in throughout the summer. But if you want more sunshine, there are pocket neighborhoods near the headlands, like Linda Mar and Valley Mar, that offer a sunny microclimate.  Jason Born of Born Property Management notes that you can see “cool stuff happening in Pacifica” new restaurants and breweries popping up which is a sign that it’s an area on the rise.Those with kids should note, however, Pacifica schools are not the 10-ratings you see on the Bay side.

 

Commute challenged. For those that depend on mass transit, you may want to look elsewhere. There are no trains servicing the beach side of the Peninsula, and bussing to the city can be a hassle.

 

Pro tip: Debbie Wilhelm notes that Half Moon Bay, south of Pacifica, is serviced by a Google bus and has access to HWY 92, getting you to Silicon Valley easier. So, if you work in Silicon Valley and want beach, Half Moon Bay might be a better location for you. If you work in the City, then Pacifica might be the better beach choice.

 

Average rent for 1 BR: $2400 - $2800

Average rent for 2 BR: $3000- $3400

Average rent for 3 BR: $3700 - $4100

 

Don't miss: Demographics, Schools

 

 

 

Milbrae

Source: Flickr user Prayitno

 

Are you committed to mass transit? The Millbrae BART station is the largest intermodal terminal west of the Mississippi. It is not only the last stop south of SF for BART, but it is also home to a Caltrain and Samtrans (bus) stop making this city a sensible option for commuters working in the San Francisco area. Jason Born points out that Millbrae’s transit-oriented development has really helped to encourage growth so you will find many multi-unit housing options, and a developing retail/restaurant scene. Rent for homes is more affordable than its southern neighbor, Burlingame, and it boasts top notch schools to boot. So, live in Millbrae if you work in San Francisco, want to save on rent and desire 10-rated schools.

 

Pro tip: The airport is 5 minutes away which is super convenient, but if you are going to live in Millbrae, make sure to live west of 101. The further away from 101 you live, the better for airport noise.

 

Average rent for 1 BR: $2200 - $2600

Average rent for 2 BR: $3200 - $3600

Average rent for 3 BR: $4300 - $4700

 

Don't miss: Demographics, Schools

 

 

 

Burlingame

Source: Javelinca (CC-BY-SA-4.0)

 

People are drawn to Burlingame for it’s safe neighborhoods, walkability, top notch schools from K-12 and a convenient CalTrain station heading to SF and Silicon Valley.On any given weekday afternoon, people are shopping high end retail stores, working on laptops while sipping iced lattes, or engaged in conversation at an outdoor table of a 5-star restaurant along Burlingame Ave. Burlingame is an affluent and highly desirable area to live so the housing costs and tiny inventory of available rentals reflect that. If you are considering a move to Burlingame, give yourself several months if possible to search for a rental and consider hiring a relocation consultant to scout rentals for you. Burlingame is expensive, and the rental market is competitive but with its beautiful older homes and quaint downtown, it sure is an attractive place to live.

 

Pro tip: If you want to live in Burlingame, you will need to give yourself time to find a home. Inventory is short and tends to go fast. Living closer to the border of Millbrae, or by the train will help bring down the rent, as will renting a townhome or an apartment.

 

Average rent for 1 BR: $2500 - $2900

Average rent for 2 BR: $3400 - $3800

Average rent for 3 BR: $5000 - $5400

 

Don't miss: Demographics, Schools

 

 

 

San Mateo

Source: Flickr user Doc Searls 

 

San Mateo is one of the larger cities on the Peninsula, if not the largest. It is more down to earth than its richer cousin Burlingame to the north, is economically diverse and, as Jason Born points out, it harbors pockets of greatness along with transitional and gentrifying areas. Debbie Wilhelm asserts it is currently one of the most popular Peninsula cities in which to buy a home, along with Belmont and San Carlos to the south. For commuters, San Mateo gives you easy access to Hwy 92 which links you to both 280 and 101, as well as the San Mateo bridge. The beaches are only ½ hour away and you are pretty much equidistant between San Francisco and San Jose. On the weekends you can play a round of golf at any one of 3 golf courses, grab dinner at one its many ethnic restaurants, or hit one of the two major shopping centers. There are good school options, but the San Mateo school district is one of the more complicated districts in the  Bay Area. It is critical to understand how the district works and check  to see if your designated school has space before renting or buying a home or consider hiring a local relocation consultant to help you navigate which schools are attached to which rental addresses.

 

Pro tip: If you are a fan of mid Century modern, check out the Highlands, home to over 700 Eichlers, the largest contiguous development of Eichler homes in Northern California. According to Debbie Wilhelm & Jason Born, Hillsdale is becoming a main hub of activity and Bay Meadows is a favored area with the younger crowd. And, if you like views, check out the Knolls neighborhood.

 

Average rent for 1 BR: $2400 - $2800

Average rent for 2 BR: $3200 - $3600

Average rent for 3 BR: $4800 - $5200

 

Don't miss: Demographics, Schools

 

 

 

Redwood City

Redwood City is booming! Thanks to Smart Growth, the once ‘Deadwood City’ is now where all the action is.. It is also one of the more affordable cities on the Peninsula, but given its growing popularity, you can guess that it won’t be affordable for long. Redwood City is architecturally charming, community-oriented, and quite vibrant thanks to a thriving Latin culture and a revitalized downtown. Lots of new families, couples, and young people are moving in to take advantage of appealing houses that sit on tree-lined streets, the brand-new downtown with tons of shopping, diverse eateries, and majestic 20-screen movie theater. The HOA regulated town of Redwood Shores to the west, offers waterfront living for people who dream of a home with a dock and a boat in their backyard. And, last but not least, if perfect weather is top of your list, then this may be the place for you. The welcome sign even says “Climate Best by Government Test.”  

 

Pro tip: The hot neighborhood is Mt Carmel, or Edgewood Park. People love its character and walkability. Also, the local high school houses an International Baccalaureate program.

 

Average rent for 1 BR: $2400 - $2800

Average rent for 2 BR: $3300 - $3700

Average rent for 3 BR: $4800 - $5200


Don't miss: Demographics, Schools

 

 


Palo Alto

Welcome to the heart of Silicon Valley, home of Stanford and startups. Here you will be surrounded by Facebook techies, brilliant professors, Stanford students, and billionaires all living the dream. Palo Altans enjoy the gold standard of living on the Peninsula with posh homes, tree-lined neighborhoods and easy access to a swanky, but charming downtown and two world-class shopping centers--Stanford Mall and Town & Country Village. To top it all off, the #1 rated high school in all of California (and the nation) is here—Gunn High School.. The “gold standard” living comes at a price though. Housing rental prices are at the top end. So, if money is no object, Palo Alto is an excellent place to live.

 

Pro tip: While the most attractive neighborhoods are Professorville and Crescent Park, not every budget can afford it. Your best value is South Palo Alto, such as the Ventura neighborhood. The homes tend to be smaller, but this area allows those on a tighter budget to access the outstanding schools at a more reasonable price. And Mid-century modern buffs will be happy to know, out of the 10,500 Eichlers in northern California, 2700 of them can be found here.

 

Average rent for 1 BR: $2700 - $3100

Average rent for 2 BR: $4100 - $4500

Average rent for 3 BR: $5600 - $6000

 

Don't Miss: Demographics, Schools

 

 

 

Mountain View

Source: Flickr user Eric Fredericks

 

Welcome to Mountain View—home of Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Intuit, Symantec—where a mix of families and techies make their home. Living here comes with some impressive perks. Residents have access to free city-wide WiFi compliments of Google, a free community shuttle bus, and the option to live green! Mountain View is also home to a thriving downtown located on Castro Street. Castro is lined with cool restaurants, bookstores, odd shops, and historic homes, making Mountain View a very desirable place to live. For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s a 750-acre nature reserve with access to waterways, and for music lovers there’s the Shoreline Amphitheater, a 22,000-seat open space, concert venue. So yes, you can live the good life in Mountain View.

 

As tech has grown, so has Mountain View. To service the boom, Mountain View responded by building transit-oriented, mixed-use developments, like Whisman Station, so residents could walk to shops & restaurants and have easy access to mass transit.    

 

Pro tip: South of El Camino Real has the highest ratio of park land to residents in the city. For  larger lots, think Cuesta Park. Old Mountain view has the historic charm and high walkability score, but tends to be more expensive.

 

Average rent for 1 BR: $2600 - $3000

Average rent for 2 BR: $3300 - $3700

Average rent for 3 BR: $4500 - $4900

 

Don't miss: Demographics, Schools

 

 

VISIT!

 

Bottom line: Researching the area before you move is extremely important, but all the research in the world can’t replace the experience of actually visiting the area and personally viewing homes. Move Bay Area’s expert local guide will escort you through these varied Peninsula cities and create a property tour so that you can get a complete picture of your potential lifestyle in each city. Diligent research, a local resource and an orientation tour will give you all the information you need positioning you to make the comparisons that narrow the options efficiently find the right Peninsula home to fit your ideal lifestyle. It may even be a bit fun! Contact Move Bay Area.

 

Source: Flickr user CucombreLibre

 

 

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