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Thread: Disillusioned San Diego Planner Relocating to Bay Area/San Francisco and the Bay Area

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    Disillusioned San Diego Planner Relocating to Bay Area/San Francisco and the Bay Area

    I am a San Diego urban planner who is disillusioned with the "So Cal" lifestyle and am interested in a location with more charcter and quality of life on the West Coast. I plan on moving with my fiance in the next few months specifically to Northern California. Does anyone have any thoughts on towns in which to consider moving to, primarily in the East Bay? I have heard great things about Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill...

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    Quote Originally posted by vtboy99
    I am a San Diego urban planner who is disillusioned with the "So Cal" lifestyle and am interested in a location with more charcter and quality of life on the West Coast. I plan on moving with my fiance in the next few months specifically to Northern California. Does anyone have any thoughts on towns in which to consider moving to, primarily in the East Bay? I have heard great things about Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill...
    Well....Contra Costa County may be good for SOCAL refugees wanting a gentle transition to Northern California. Plenty of freeways, ultra-planned somewhat homogenous beige stucco tract homes, office parks. Kinda "OC north," imo. You've got everything from Danville/San Ramon (Irvine north) to Lafayette/Orinda/Moraga (La Canada-Flintridge) Much greener and more rustic than Orange County, but if you are talking about "character" it's still suburban.

    Walnut Creek does have a nice downtown-dominated by chain stores in pastiche foam trim traditional buildings, but it actually works pretty nice. Pasadena is more historic and has better architecture-the two cities are somewhat comparable demographically (at least the more affluent parts of Pasadena).

    Pleasant Hill is comparable to the nicer parts of the San Fernando Valley but is a separate city. Mostly mid 60s housing stock on fairly well-treed streets. Not particularly posh, very middle class suburban. They tried to build a downtown Pleasant Hill that is sub-mediocre in design quality and tenant mix. It is better than a 50s strip or no downtown at all, but nothing to write home about it.

    If you really want a more urban, historic characater (and better weather) you need to try to find a place west of the Berkeley/Oakland hills ridgeline. Expensive, and parts of Berkeley and Oakland can have crime and blight issues, but Berkeley also has some of the best single family residential architecture in the country.

    As a planner, you won't be able to afford The Penninsula or Marin County, but they are also quite nice, if snobby, places to live. The South Bay (San Jose/Silicon Valley), except for maybe a couple of elite towns like Los Gatos, is little different than SoCal.

    You might also consider some of the less urban fringe counties. Napa City has a historic downtown and is trying hard to reinvent itself. It remains very "real"-a working class town.

    I would also look very carefully at Petaluma, a former chicken farming town that has spectacular historic architecture, form-based zoning (with somewhat blah results, but they're trying and the downtown is becoming quite an attractive, urbane place)

    You might also look at Santa rosa, which is a bit sprawl-y for my tastes.

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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Well....Contra Costa County may be good for SOCAL refugees wanting a gentle transition to Northern California. Plenty of freeways, ultra-planned somewhat homogenous beige stucco tract homes, office parks. Kinda "OC north," imo. You've got everything from Danville/San Ramon (Irvine north) to Lafayette/Orinda/Moraga (La Canada-Flintridge) Much greener and more rustic than Orange County, but if you are talking about "character" it's still suburban.

    Walnut Creek does have a nice downtown-dominated by chain stores in pastiche foam trim traditional buildings, but it actually works pretty nice. Pasadena is more historic and has better architecture-the two cities are somewhat comparable demographically (at least the more affluent parts of Pasadena).

    Pleasant Hill is comparable to the nicer parts of the San Fernando Valley but is a separate city. Mostly mid 60s housing stock on fairly well-treed streets. Not particularly posh, very middle class suburban. They tried to build a downtown Pleasant Hill that is sub-mediocre in design quality and tenant mix. It is better than a 50s strip or no downtown at all, but nothing to write home about it.

    If you really want a more urban, historic characater (and better weather) you need to try to find a place west of the Berkeley/Oakland hills ridgeline. Expensive, and parts of Berkeley and Oakland can have crime and blight issues, but Berkeley also has some of the best single family residential architecture in the country.

    As a planner, you won't be able to afford The Penninsula or Marin County, but they are also quite nice, if snobby, places to live. The South Bay (San Jose/Silicon Valley), except for maybe a couple of elite towns like Los Gatos, is little different than SoCal.

    You might also consider some of the less urban fringe counties. Napa City has a historic downtown and is trying hard to reinvent itself. It remains very "real"-a working class town.

    I would also look very carefully at Petaluma, a former chicken farming town that has spectacular historic architecture, form-based zoning (with somewhat blah results, but they're trying and the downtown is becoming quite an attractive, urbane place)

    You might also look at Santa rosa, which is a bit sprawl-y for my tastes.
    BKM, thanks for the advice. I am hoping to live close to public transit (BART) if possible, which is why I was considering Walnut Creek or Pleasant Hill. Petaluma is definitely enticing, but I am trying to eliminate my auto-oriented commute into The City, Oakland, or Berkeley. Cost of living wise, how does Napa City or Petaluma size up? I am definitely not interested in the I-680 corridor south of Walnut Creek (see Dahlin Group/Blackhawk/Alamo McMansionland)

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    Quote Originally posted by vtboy99
    Cost of living wise, how does Napa City or Petaluma size up?
    I noticed Napa curently has a planning position open.

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    Quote Originally posted by vtboy99
    BKM, thanks for the advice. I am hoping to live close to public transit (BART) if possible, which is why I was considering Walnut Creek or Pleasant Hill. Petaluma is definitely enticing, but I am trying to eliminate my auto-oriented commute into The City, Oakland, or Berkeley. Cost of living wise, how does Napa City or Petaluma size up? I am definitely not interested in the I-680 corridor south of Walnut Creek (see Dahlin Group/Blackhawk/Alamo McMansionland)
    Well...Napa is probably comparable or lower than Walnut Creek. There is more variety in housing stock, too, with a significant Victorian/Craftsman era historic district. Napa is not as homogeneously affluent as suburban Walnut Creek (it's a somewhat working class town, actually). The job market is not that strong, though the opening might be interesting. I like Napa a lot. The climate is nice (cooler than Contra Costa County in the city), I like wine snobbery and good restaurants, and the countryside is extremeley beautiful and very diverse (rolling vineyards and sloughs to the south, agriculture to the north in the valley, redowwod forests to the west, and dry but beautiful oaks and chapparal to the east. It's an amazing place.

    Petaluma is a little more expensive because they have growth control and pretty high standards for the new suburbs. The town has a littl more "going on" downtown (although Napa actually has a Mervyn's Department store and a Santa-Barabra style paseo mall that has always struggled) . Petaluma is an old agriculture center, so it is not completely polished-there is more gritty agribusiness stuff around, including big grain siols downtown. I think this adds character to the town myself.. There are also more jobs and a stronger economy, overall. Petaluma is a short distance to other jobs centers, including Santa Rosa. Petaluma's setting is not quite as scenic (but still pretty, just not as varied), and the dairy farming in the surrounding lands can be...fragrant

    Both of these options are very car-dependent, although both towns have downtowns that are worth living near and walking to for boutique shopping and


    Good luck!

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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Well...Napa is probably comparable or lower than Walnut Creek. There is more variety in housing stock, too, with a significant Victorian/Craftsman era historic district. Napa is not as homogeneously affluent as suburban Walnut Creek (it's a somewhat working class town, actually). The job market is not that strong, though the opening might be interesting. I like Napa a lot. The climate is nice (cooler than Contra Costa County in the city), I like wine snobbery and good restaurants, and the countryside is extremeley beautiful and very diverse (rolling vineyards and sloughs to the south, agriculture to the north in the valley, redowwod forests to the west, and dry but beautiful oaks and chapparal to the east. It's an amazing place.

    Petaluma is a little more expensive because they have growth control and pretty high standards for the new suburbs. The town has a littl more "going on" downtown (although Napa actually has a Mervyn's Department store and a Santa-Barabra style paseo mall that has always struggled) . Petaluma is an old agriculture center, so it is not completely polished-there is more gritty agribusiness stuff around, including big grain siols downtown. I think this adds character to the town myself.. There are also more jobs and a stronger economy, overall. Petaluma is a short distance to other jobs centers, including Santa Rosa. Petaluma's setting is not quite as scenic (but still pretty, just not as varied), and the dairy farming in the surrounding lands can be...fragrant

    Both of these options are very car-dependent, although both towns have downtowns that are worth living near and walking to for boutique shopping and


    Good luck!
    BKM, one more question. How about salaries in SF, Berkeley, or Oakland for private sector urban planners and designers with intermediate/senior level experience (3-4 years) and a Master of City Planning Degree?

    I know the public sector pays VERY well in the Bay Area as compared to San Diego, but I see myself staying on the private side for the next few years with an architecture or landscape architecture/planning/design firm (hopefully practicing New Urbanism).

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    Quote Originally posted by vtboy99
    BKM, one more question. How about salaries in SF, Berkeley, or Oakland for private sector urban planners and designers with intermediate/senior level experience (3-4 years) and a Master of City Planning Degree?

    I know the public sector pays VERY well in the Bay Area as compared to San Diego, but I see myself staying on the private side for the next few years with an architecture or landscape architecture/planning/design firm (hopefully practicing New Urbanism).
    Not personally familiar with many, but they compete for a similar job pool. Given the cost of living, you can probably expect higher overall salaries. There are some MAJOR LEAGUE design and planning firms in San Francisco, like Roma, for example, so there are a lot of jobs-but a lot of comepetition, too. Peter Calthorpe works out of Northern California, if I remember correctly.

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    the bay area

    yes - calthorpe's office is in industrial west berkeley. i used to work in the office downstairs from them and they seemed to be a great group.
    i'm a bay area ex-pat and i miss it sorely. (i'm planning my eventual return...) it couldn't be more different than socal. the food, the people, the culture, the landscape....it's amazing.
    ...but you pay for it in housing. the salaries are better because they absolutely have to be. in general, housing in oakland and berkeley is a slight bit less spendy than in san francisco proper, but not by that much. rockridge is a great little hub with bart cruising right through it, lake merritt is allright - both are good for the bart shuffle to the city. walnut creek, ew. north bay (sausalito, tiburon) can afford some really lovely vistas and there are some little neighborhood hubs, but generally an auto is also necessary. anything in napa/sonoma/petaluma will lend itself to a car-centric commute, though not near as bad as what i've heard socal is like.
    as for east bay v. city salaries, i worked on both sides of the bay (private sector) and didn't find much of a difference, but at that point i was just starting out, too. i think it really has much more to do with the size of the firm than location.
    good luck!

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    Quote Originally posted by gridgirl
    yes - calthorpe's office is in industrial west berkeley. i used to work in the office downstairs from them and they seemed to be a great group.
    i'm a bay area ex-pat and i miss it sorely. (i'm planning my eventual return...) it couldn't be more different than socal. the food, the people, the culture, the landscape....it's amazing.
    ...but you pay for it in housing. the salaries are better because they absolutely have to be. in general, housing in oakland and berkeley is a slight bit less spendy than in san francisco proper, but not by that much. rockridge is a great little hub with bart cruising right through it, lake merritt is allright - both are good for the bart shuffle to the city. walnut creek, ew. north bay (sausalito, tiburon) can afford some really lovely vistas and there are some little neighborhood hubs, but generally an auto is also necessary. anything in napa/sonoma/petaluma will lend itself to a car-centric commute, though not near as bad as what i've heard socal is like.
    as for east bay v. city salaries, i worked on both sides of the bay (private sector) and didn't find much of a difference, but at that point i was just starting out, too. i think it really has much more to do with the size of the firm than location.
    good luck!
    Did you happen to work for Peter Walker in Berkeley by the way? Thanks for the advice, much appreciated!

    Actually, real estate and rentals in the East Bay (Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill) are identical to where I live currently in the Mission Valley neighborhood of San Diego. Therefore, with a 20% salary increase as a planner/urban designer, which I can most definitely expect by moving north, I will be doing much better than here in So Cal. The lack of affordability in San Diego is actually quite worse nowadays than in the Bay Area by in large.

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    Quote Originally posted by vtboy99
    Did you happen to work for Peter Walker in Berkeley by the way? Thanks for the advice, much appreciated!

    Actually, real estate and rentals in the East Bay (Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill) are identical to where I live currently in the Mission Valley neighborhood of San Diego. Therefore, with a 20% salary increase as a planner/urban designer, which I can most definitely expect by moving north, I will be doing much better than here in So Cal. The lack of affordability in San Diego is actually quite worse nowadays than in the Bay Area by in large.

    I just bought a monograph on Peter Walker's work. Quite nice.

    I do like your sig line. I'm not THAT conservative.

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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    I just bought a monograph on Peter Walker's work. Quite nice.

    I do like your sig line. I'm not THAT conservative.
    Thanks, I found it on www.quotationspage.com Your's is pretty humerous as well!

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    Quote Originally posted by vtboy99
    Thanks, I found it on www.quotationspage.com Your's is pretty humerous as well!
    I change mine hourly, it seems.

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    Pwp

    yes, i worked for pete. i was fresh out of school and not really 'ready', i don't think. i have friends there and i might go back one day, we'll see. there is such a glut of good firms in the area...but i'm busy pacifying my do-gooder/public sector leanings at the moment.

    if the housing price is similar to where you are now, you'll be in fine shape for the move with the relative salary increase...and for enjoying sf a bit. i can direct you to just about anything, just let me know. it's 'home' to me, still...o i miss it!

    having lived in both the east bay and in the city, the city would win out any day. it really depends upon where you're working though and how your commute would be. there was some study done not long ago about longevity of employees in the workplace and the number one killer of overall personal satisfaction/happiness is a long/trafficky commute. (which i'm living now and o, don't i know it!) ...but being a planner, you already know that!

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    Quote Originally posted by gridgirl
    yes, i worked for pete. i was fresh out of school and not really 'ready', i don't think. i have friends there and i might go back one day, we'll see. there is such a glut of good firms in the area...but i'm busy pacifying my do-gooder/public sector leanings at the moment.

    if the housing price is similar to where you are now, you'll be in fine shape for the move with the relative salary increase...and for enjoying sf a bit. i can direct you to just about anything, just let me know. it's 'home' to me, still...o i miss it!

    having lived in both the east bay and in the city, the city would win out any day. it really depends upon where you're working though and how your commute would be. there was some study done not long ago about longevity of employees in the workplace and the number one killer of overall personal satisfaction/happiness is a long/trafficky commute. (which i'm living now and o, don't i know it!) ...but being a planner, you already know that!
    I'll be located right near the BART station in Walnut Creek, so my non-automobile commute will be a cinch, no worries. I've already ridden/timed the commute into the City from Walnut Creek. Same commute time as what I do here in San Diego EVERY day. That is why I am convinced the Bay Area is a good move for both me and my fiance.

    Thanks so much for the San Francisco "insider" advice offer. I may take you up on that in the near future...

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    Quote Originally posted by vtboy99
    Thanks so much for the San Francisco "insider" advice offer. I may take you up on that in the near future...
    claro que si!

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    San Francisco (and the Bay Area)

    Post-dot com bust, skyrocketing real estate, and economic implosion...

    Is San Francisco (and the rest of the Bay Area) still an innovative regional/global center of culture, the arts, technology, literature, recreation, and commerce?

    Or is the region in 2006 merely an overly-yuppified enclave for the Bobo (bohemian bourgeois), liberal, highly educated Ivy League/Stanford/Berkeley elite which has proven itself to be an economically unsustainable place in which to live...

    I'l like to hear all of your opinions as my fiance and I are planning on relocating our left-leaning liberal selves there next year from politically and culturally oppressive San Diego, hallelujah!

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    overly yuppified.

    Its still a neat place though.

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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner
    overly yuppified.

    Its still a neat place though.
    Agreed. The charm of the place is too strong for us to deny!

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Having spent a lot of time in both places I would say I like San Diego more as a region. Classic beach towns, access to Mexico, mountains, desert, girls in bikinis. It can't be that culturally oppressive a place when girls are running around in bikini tops and drinking tequila out of the bottle.

    Bay area is pretty cool too - can't go wrong in either place.

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    Both, of course.

    As a proud yuppie (so sue me ), yuppiedom is not all bad. San Francisco is full of beautiful design, fascinating architecture, great restaurants, etc. etc. etc. The very limits in the place inspire creativity-why design an interesting, creative house in Dalls when you can sprawl out on ten acres of prairie? You can't do that here. Limits impose creativity.

    The Bay Area still is where the technology ideas are coming from. Still a ton of creativity, lots of idea people.

    Off-topic:
    The decline in its importance merely reflects the ongoing shortsighted destruction of our overall American economy by the top 1/2% in the interests of short term profits. (Why design something in California when all the manufacturing, all the industrial engineering, all the shipping, and all the customer relations are done overseas. Heck. We've even sold to the Chinese government the only factory in the world that manufacturers a critical magnetic component of missile guidance system. But, the casino manipulators, lawyers, and pirates are getting rich, so joing the party.)

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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner
    Having spent a lot of time in both places I would say I like San Diego more as a region. Classic beach towns, access to Mexico, mountains, desert, girls in bikinis. It can't be that culturally oppressive a place when girls are running around in bikini tops and drinking tequila out of the bottle.

    Bay area is pretty cool too - can't go wrong in either place.
    Thanks for your input imaplanner, I do appreciate and respect your opinion!

    However, the reasons you indicated for liking San Diego are precisely the ones why my fiance and I are so ready to get the hell out of here. It is so politically conservative, backwards, narrow-minded, stupid brainless beach/party atmosphere, uncultural, unsophisticated, and unintellectual which is why we feel it is an opressive and pointless place to raise a family (and practice as a professional and progressive/New Urbanist planner).

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    I like the SF Bay area. It is the only place in North America with a Mediterranean climate. There is good access to big city amenities -- cutting edge medical stuff, colleges, and so forth. It is a lot more sophisticated as a region than any place else I have lived. I don't quite know how to explain/quantify that. But cost of living and housing prices are a serious issue. The last time I checked, more than half of the most expensive U.S. housing markets were in the Bay Area (like 7?). If you want to live someplace relatively "cheap" -- like Solano County -- you are likely to have a long commute. The pricier towns tend to have relatively few kids -- ie the high cost of living makes the Bay Area somewhat less "family friendly" than a lot of places. Fairfield has a lot of families, compared to other towns there.

    Another serious issue in my mind is pollution and the mysteriously high rates of breast cancer in Marin County. Given my family history of breast cancer, I think I would seriously hesitate to move to Marin for that reason alone. No one seems to have any idea what is causing women to drop dead from breast cancer like flies in that county. Also, my understanding is that Silicon Valley is basically a cess-pool, in terms of toxic contaminants (there are very high rates of autism spectrum disorders in Silicon Valley, generally attributable in part to the "geek" gene pool and in part to the toxic environment -- I haven't heard the same thing about Research Triangle Park even though they have the Geek factor in abundance there).

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    You already posted this question in February:

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=23582

    As far as I'm concerned, all Californians are the same: much, much talk about nada.

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    You already posted this question in February:

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=23582

    As far as I'm concerned, all Californians are the same: much, much talk about nada.

    you ever been to california?


    vtboy- although I really love socal alot I left socal for similar reasons - too many guys in leather jackets driving bmw's picking up on blond women and stuff like that - the pretentiousness is what started irritating me - although the cost of living was a big factor as well. I lived in norcal for quite a while after that and liked it but the cost of living there also eventually drove me out of the state.

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner
    you ever been to california?
    I said nothing about California. I did say plenty about Californians, who I have had quite a few opportunities to meet.

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