Moving to SF Bay Area

These resources were originally gathered to help fellow Google employees (Googlers) and their families (hence the Mountain View-centric language), but much of this will be useful to anyone moving to the Bay Area (especially working in Silicon Valley):

Housing Resources


This map shows "isochrones", or "what areas are within XX minutes of [place]"? can change the transport mode (e.g. biking, walking, etc.) and also do a (rudimentary) affordability search

  • Cars

    • in parts of the Bay Area, it's hard to get around without a car...but it is possible

    • traffic is highly variable—depending on the time of day, day of the week, and time of year (e.g. it's often very bad in mid-November and early December, when almost everyone is at work and almost no one is on vacation)

    • consider joining AAA (American Automobile Association) for easy roadside assistance

    • some highways have HOV ("High Occupancy Vehicle") or"carpool" lanes...for example, 101 near Google requires at least 2 people in the vehicle to legally ride in the HOV lane

    • to get a driver's license you need to apply at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in any California county

  • Walk/bike

  • Public transit

  • Taxi/Uber/Lyft/Sidecar

    • Taxis are typically slow and hard to get in the Bay Area, but thanks to new competition they are getting better

    • Uber - lets you hail a "black car" (professional private driver), taxi, or "UberX" ("ride-sharing" with an amateur driver, usually the cheapest option)

    • Lyft - "ride share" (similar to UberX), Lyft Plus is 6 passengers and Lyft Line is sharing with other riders going in the same direction (so it's possibly slower, but also cheaper)

  • Borrowing/Renting a Car/Carshare


  • bestplaces gives you a bunch of statistics on different cities

  • Peninsula

    • Mountain View the area closest to Google, and thus in many ways hardest to find affordable housing

    • Los Altos - town just "up the hill" from Mountain View, south of El Camino Real.

    • Sunnyvale - just south/east of Mountain View

    • Palo Alto/Menlo Park/Atherton - expensive, very nice suburbs on the outskirts of Stanford University, where many tech company executives live

    • East Palo Alto - this separately-incorporated city is on the east side of 101 from Palo Alto and close to Facebook's headquarters along with many other tech companies...and yet it has relatively low housing prices. Why? It's a very long story, but this TechCrunch article is a good introduction

    • Redwood City/San Carlos/Belmont - nice suburbs northwest of Atherton

    • Foster City/San Mateo - nice suburbs a little ways further north; Foster City is interestingly built on landfill in the Bay...nearby Redwood Shores (technically part of Redwood City) is home to Oracle's headquarters

    • Burlingame/Millbrae/Hillsborough - suburbs not far from the San Francisco Airport; Hillsborough is a bit nicer/more expensive than the other two

    • San Bruno/South San Francisco/Daly City - all close to YouTube, but is pretty far for MTV-based employees without the urban amenities of San Francisco...still there may be some housing bargains in this foggier stretch of the Peninsula

    • Santa Cruz Mountains (Woodside, Portola Valley, La Honda, etc.) - these relatively towns have a rural feel despite being relatively close to Silicon Valley; as a rule they are very nice but very expensive

    • Half Moon Bay/El Granada/Pacifica - along the Pacific Ocean, not very popular with Silicon Valley employees but for some it's worth the drive over the hills

  • South Bay

    • Cupertino/Santa Clara - east and south of Sunnyvale

    • San Jose - a pretty sprawling city, including North San Jose (NorthPark Rivermark area), Central San Jose (280 corridor), South San Jose (Silver Creek/Ohlone/Camden corridor)

    • Saratoga/Los Gatos/Campbell - nice communities close to the Santa Cruz mountains

    • Morgan Hill/Gilroy - south of San Jose, cheaper but further away

  • San Francisco - also "The City" or SF, the most dense/urban area in the Bay Area and thus the hub of culture/food/tourism...but also increasingly crowded and expensive, with long commutes to/from MTV

    • Mission - one of the most popular neighborhoods, due to its walkability, restaurants, and relatively quick travel times to Silicon Valley; since the 1960s it has had a strong Latin American culture

    • South of Market (SoMa) - another popular neighborhood, close to many startups

    • Bernal Heights - nice, hilly neighborhood with small-town feel, traditionally a Lesbian enclave

    • Potrero Hill/Dogpatch - the extreme east end of SF, has a wide range of housing

    • Haight/Cole Valley/Hayes Valley - "hip", vibrant part of the city but with some sleepier corners, (Stanyan/Hayes/Polk/Civic Shuttle)

    • Noe Valley/Glen Park - nice neighborhoods with a small-town feel; Glen Park is a bit cheaper than Noe

    • Cow Hollow/Marina/Russian Hill - on the north end of San Francisco, these neighborhoods have some of the longest commutes, but feature great nightlife and views; stereotypically "yuppies" and/or "bros"

    • Mid-Market/Tenderloin/Tendernob/Polk Gulch - this area near Civic Center and to the north was until recently plagued by homelessness and poverty; while much of this remains, the area is changing rapidly in part due to local tech companies such as Twitter

    • Castro/Duboce Triangle - nice, walkable neighborhoods, traditionally (since the 1960s) a Gay enclave

    • Sunset/Richmond - known as "the Avenues", this area north and south of Golden Gate Park is less dense and more suburban than the rest of San Francisco, with a diverse range of immigrants from many countries; some of the cheapest housing in SF

    • Other guides to neighborhoods

  • East Bay - the east side of San Francisco Bay has somewhat warmer weather and cheaper prices than SF or the Peninsula, but there are also expensive areas (e.g. the Oakland hills)

    • Fremont/Union City/Newark - just across the Dumbarton Bridge from Silicon Valley, these towns often have cheaper housing options, but the bridge can be a traffic chokepoint at some times

      • the Dumbarton Bridge also has a bike/pedestrian path, but it can be intimidating for beginners and total travel time to most tech companies is at least an hour (but like SF2G you get your workout for free!)

    • Hayward/San Leandro/Castro Valley - suburbs between Union City and Oakland

    • Milpitas - close to San Jose, at the far southern end of the East Bay

    • Oakland/Emeryville/Berkeley - the heart of the East Bay, Oakland and its surrounding cities has the most vibrant, urban culture in the East Bay. Berkeley is home to UC Berkeley and thus has an urban college town feel.

    • 680 Corridor (Pleasanton/Livermore/Walnut Creak/etc.)

  • North Bay (Marin County) - very nice suburbs north of the Golden Gate Bridge, but due to expense (at least as expensive as SF/Peninsula, if not more) and distance it's not that popular with Silicon Valley employees

  • Santa Cruz - a nice "beach town" on the ocean; a bit far away but due to traffic patterns travel times are comparable to parts of San Francisco


If you have school-aged children, you have three broad options: