Its been a couple of months since our move to San Francisco. Its been crazy, hectic but we are finally settling in. We now have a car, an apartment for a year, a doctor for the kids, midwife for me and not to mention a pre-school for Varun.
We are as set as can be before the new baby chaos takes over.
Lots of friends have pinged me, to ask about our stint in India, about moving back to US and about “whats it really like to be in Bay Area?”.
Here is what I sum things up to based on our ~ 2 months stay in San Francisco.
Its crazy expensive
Didn’t we know that already?
Well, yes we did. We did the math and the number crunching and more math. Excel spreadsheets were involved and we thought we should be able to manage. But when you actually see what you get for your money, you do feel bad. Deprived and enraged at times.
My advice, don’t go by cost calculators alone. Keep a buffer of 15 – 20% and you will be fine!
Its crazy diverse
More Asians and Hispanics than Caucasians/ African-Americans. That’s what I have experienced so far in my day-to-day – be it in schools, public transits, libraries, playgrounds, laundromats etc. And no they are not the service providers – they are paying customers. The only place where “white” people rule are the coffee shops and the tourists spots.
This may not be true once we move to Pac Heights / for rest of the Bay Area but was especially true here in SOMA.
While touring preschools, I met so many people you have moved here from Chicago, Philadelphia, Canada, Australia…it truly is a melting pot. And as most as transplants they are all helpful, warm and willing to share information. No Seattle freeze here!
Finding a House is a Battle ( Not to mention Small but Expensive)
15 minute Open houses. If you are late by even a minute the realtor showing the apartment has disappeared. On his way to another showing. Across town.
Dated, small, 1 bathroom houses where if you can fit your bed you won’t know how to open the closet or the door.
Long line of tenants, prepped with manilla envelopes detailing their income, family history and generally anything that will “upsell” them as “THE” tenant.
And a year-long lease to make sure you don’t “occupy” the space forever.
Unless you are willing to commute, shell out even more $$ or are incredibly lucky.
If you like something put a ‘ring’ on it. Apply immediately. Upsell. Upsell. Upsell. Else it will likely be gone faster than getting coffee at Philz.
We wanted to keep Vipul’s commute short so are paying $$$ for the apartment but the view and the neighborhood really are great.
Luckily, the owner will kick us out in one year so we will be forced to re-evaluate.
Buying is probably out of question. Not till I find a job and even then plunking down $1.5 M + on a dated small house will be a real hard pill to swallow.
30 minute Commute is A Real Sweet Deal
Seriously. To have more space, better schools, weather and to keep things affordable, people have to commute. North bay and East bay can be anything between 30 – 45 mins. South bay probably a bit more. Peninsula is the sweet spot but prices there are no less.
Public transportation is great
I love not having to drive anywhere during the week. I can pretty muck walk or take the bus/train anywhere. Walking to get to public transportation as well as the hilly terrain are built-in daily exercise for slackers like me. Though it sucks to wait for a bus or a train with a kid. And walking to and fro to bus stops/train stations with a kid needs more time than google maps suggest. They dawdle, get distracted or generally refuse to walk.
People have train and bus friends – like they do in Mumbai! While they don’t save a spot they do have groups that they can chat with on the way to work/ back.
We do have a car to drive down to meet friends and go about on weekends; but really if it’s in the city we don’t bother with the car. Parking is usually $$$ and hard to get. Even with apps that help you find one.
Weather is Awesome
Folks on East Coast , Mid-West and Pacific Northwest – its in upper 60’s for the last couple of days. No jackets, walk to work/park, play outside.
I would pay $$ for the sunny weather after living for a decade in Seattle.
South/ East bay is even warmer and sunnier.
I love seeing the fog roll in over the city sky line. Lets see how long that enamors us 🙂
Parks, Playgrounds and Green Spaces
There are many many parks and green open spaces in the city. We walk to most of them.
But be warned, a park is not a park if it does not have a play area. Any 3-year-old will tell you that. If it doesn’t have a play structure it’s not a park.
Luckily, parks with play structures are plenty too. They are overrun by kids on weekends – primarily because the weather is good and houses are small. So you want to head out.
Walkscore is usually great
Walkscore makes sense here. You can walk to farmers market (most sub areas will have their own and its highly advertised by landlords and agents), library, playground, super market, public transportation, dry cleaners, restaurants, coffee shops, hair dresser etc.
But walking with strollers may be hard. The terrain is hilly with many ups and downs. There are even “step hikes” in the city!
Walking to schools may be iffy based on where you end up!
Getting into schools is tricky. Both public and private. There are parent groups to help you navigate the process formally.
Nursery’s feed into pre-schools into Pre-K into Elementary and beyond. You need to be hooked in to the chain earlier. Some even do it while the kid is in utero.
There is some truth to above and some exaggeration. We have applied to 5-6 preschools. Some popular, some less so. Some immersion and others more mainstream. All private as we are still in preschool phase.
I think the diversity of schools ( Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio-emillia, immersion (Spanish/ Chinese/Japanese/ Italian) and number of schools both public and private is truly amazing.Most of them are $$ but offer part-time and half day programs to reduce costs. Co-ops are another way to keep costs in check.There is a fit for everyone.
Lets see where we land. But more on pre-school application process in a separate post.
Another area that has long wait and is $$. It’s probably along the same lines as in Seattle.
A full day M-F program will set you back by $2000/ month at least. Food may or may not be included. Half day programs, part-time programs are popular with parents using nanny shares for younger kids. And there are plenty of daycare centers tall over the city; though most in financial district/ working areas are subsidized and reserved ( Fed, UCSF employees, low-income etc).
Finding a nanny is tricky as is the case everywhere.
Many Many Things to Do ( Free, Paid and Everything in Between)
This is truly why people love the city. And don’t want to move. There is a ton to do here – music, parks, parades, beaches, art walks, free movie nights etc. Restaurants for every budget and cuisine. And if that’s not enough, we are a short drive to farms in North Bay to see the farm animals and pick fruits/veggies not to mention wine tastings.
I have listed only kid friendly stuff but you can browse through here for more adult listings (like movies, burlesque shows, food tastings etc)
When we moved, since we don’t have any friends with kids in the city, I thought SF is not kid friendly at all. Most people who we know and love the city have lived here before kids ( or are still around but don’t have kids yet). But during home and school search we realized many family friendly neighborhoods, see kids (even multiple kids) around. So hopefully Varun will have company as he grows up.
Just that we may need to switch houses often (unless we manage to find a place where we can live for a few years).
Overall we are in love with San Francisco. Its like living in Mumbai. Small apartments, fast pace of life and generally no time for anything else during the week. Streets are bustling, there is ambient noise everywhere due to traffic/ trains and activity.
We wonder what took us so long to move here. But now that we are here, we are loving it.
Well, better late than never eh!