Updated: Mar 14
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.
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.
The Peninsula is home to 5 of the top 7 places to live in the entire Bay area.
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 ridgelines 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.
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!
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.
Now that you’ve got the gist of the general Peninsula area, here’s a look at a few of the cities, including average monthly rents.
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 lifestyle 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