Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sacramento vs. Bay Area

Okay, things are a little slow here, so I thought I would stir up some controversy. I know there are quite a few folks out there who merely "put up" with Sacramento. They consider it to be a low-brow cow town. However we are here because we prefer it. In theory I could move to the Bay Area, since I work out of the house...but I can't really think of any compelling reason to do so. Aside from living in SF proper (which is not a place I want to raise kids), the rest of the Bay Area seems like a big sprawling suburb to me, especially East Bay. What am I missing?

So lets examine the quality of life evidence....*

Housing - Sacramento much less expensive
Traffic - Sacramento not as bad (although I can't say for sure). Both cities have clean and efficient public transit system (hubby takes the light rail to work).
Weather - Hard to say, while Sac has the heat, SF has the fog.
Air Quality - Most likely the Bay Area.
Economy - SF is more dynamic and diversified, while Sacramento is more stable but growing.
Public Schools - Really hard to generalize this one.
Cultural Events - Bay Area (In all honesty, this no longer enters into my decision making since I can't take my kids to these events).
Parks and Recreation - Not sure, but Sac has a lot to offer in this department.
Downtown District - Both cities have unique downtown districts. So its hard to compare.
Restaurants - Bay Area has more to offer. But once again, I'm not at that point in my life where we get to take advantage of what is available. Sac has some nice places to eat, and considering how often we go out (date night is once a month) the more limited selection is not an issue.

*Non of this applies if you are young and single. In that case, the city (SF) is where you want to be.


Gwynster said...

Lived in Berkeley and SF for many years when I was younger. The one thing the Alt A Bay has going for it is the weather and the arts. Salaries aren't really that much higher, certainly not enough to justifiy the cost of living. Housing and the traffic make it a non-starter.

I can't think of a worse place for young families that don't have filthy rich parents to help them.

That should get you started >; )

buying time said...

Wow G, never thought I would see the day when you almost speak favorably of Sacramento (I'm ovbiously extrapolating).

And here I thought I was picking a fight.....

G Spot1 said...

Weather is much better in the Bay Area unless you are talking about SF itself or Berkeley. It's just too damn hot in Sacramento during the summer.

We were free to choose either Sacramento or the Bay Area when we decided to move from So Cal, and we choose Sacramento for a simple reason - good schools in affordable areas. There are plenty of good schools in the Bay Area, but good luck paying a mortgage (or rent) in those areas.

Giacomo said...

I think you've uncovered part of the reason the "Best Places to Live" and "Best Places to Retire" lists are ridiculous. It's impossible to access unless you assume everyone has the same values and priorities!

BTW, I'm always amused when weight is given to "cultural events." I think most people just talk the talk...

Gwynster said...


well I think Sacramento is generally overrated too, just not as much as the BA. For comparision, I think SoCa is worthless.

The things I care about are: can the average family afford to live in a community, find a decent job, and raise their children without fearing poverty or significant health and crime risks. The rest is merely the window dressings of personal choice.

BTW, I loved Sacramento when I first moved here. People were kind, you could find a decent home and make a decent wage, traffic was reasonable, and all our children were above average>; )

The more sacramento resembles OC, the more I hate it. OC is my perosnal version of hell.

buying time said...

The arts have always been very important in my family. My grandmother was an artist, and my mom is on the board of the local arts council. As for me, I love to go to attend local theater and dance productions when I can. However concerts, theater, and dance have all gotten so expensive compared to other activities (when the cheap tickets are $60 each, I find it hard to justify the expense...especially when you add another $50 in babysitting).

Personally I am much more inclined to attend a cultural event compared to a sporting event...notice I left that one off the list =)

buying time said...

Side note...when I was living here out of college, we always refered to San Fransico as "the city".

This of course suggests that Sacramento isn't one, and we have to go to SF to find a real city. Don't hear that term used as much anymore...but folks who have been around for a while still use it.

Giacomo said...

I meant to say "impossible to assess."

We went to the opera /concerts / art openings several times each year when we lived in L.A., but we figured that we could do about same by carefully planning our "big city" visits from our new location.

I think perhaps too much emphasis is placed on conditions in cities or states, when the things that affect you day-to-day (home, immediate neighbors, job, school) are much more specific.

G Spot1 said...

Living in the LA area had its charm, mostly the outdoor activities. We lived in Pasadena and routinely went hiking in the San Gabriels. But we are so close to great hiking here that it makes up for it. I will miss the beach, though, which is unequaled in No Cal.

What really started sucking about LA was that the already bad traffic was getting worse during the 7-8 years that I lived there. It was getting impossible to drive anywhere on the weekend. Trying to go to the Westside and back was unbearable.

"Cultural events" is a hilarious category. There was a story in the LA Times a several months back about how the rich people on the Westside couldn't make it ontime to events at the new (and ugly) Disney Concert Hall downtown because of traffic. Ha! Some lifestyle. Here in Cow-Town we can always spend a weekend in The City...

Gwynster said...

I still call it the city as most of my friends. We go in on a regular basis.

Sure I'd like to live in the marina and keep a studio at Ft mason like the other big artists but I just don't want that life anymore. I'm just getting old I suppose.

And SF is ok for museums, but I'd have to argue that LA has them beat. But if you want edgy, SF and NY are still the places to be. I'm just not willing to pay the price of admission.

Giacomo said...

G spot1: We're from Pasadena, too, You nailed it! In other words, SoCal would be pretty nice spot, with a few million fewer people!

G Spot1 said...

giacomo, when did you leave Pasadena? If you left a few years ago, you are lucky not to know what the 210 extension did to traffic. If you left recently, you must have been driven out like we were!

Giacomo said...

G Spot1: We were driven out last year (sold our house last July). I had been in the area over 20 years, since graduation from Art Center.

At one time, I took comfort in the area that Pasadena, being an older community, was "built out;" I didn't anticipate that they would tear down SFHs and small businesses to build 4-story condos with underground parking. And we attended enough city-council and historic-preservation meetings to know which way the (ill) wind was blowing.

Honestly, I think those last couple of years living there with the increased noise and congestion has left me a little "shell-shocked"- that's probably why we're renting out here in the boonies (Cool, near Auburn), where there's plenty of open space and good places for hiking and biking.

JOATMON said...

I was in the BA and recently left for the Carson Valley in NV. Traffic in Bay Area was horrible, weather just east of 680 is optimal. Not too much fog, not too much heat. Cost of Living - astronomical. Thus I'm in Income Tax-Free NV enjoying a 10 mile commute on US 395. My tax will be the heating bill instead.

Cultural Events - went into SF maybe 3 times in my 3 years living in the East Bay. It's a priority in your 20s, not so much after that.

Keep up the fun, entertaining work on the blog.

Cmyst said...

Sorry to jump in late to this one, but I had a HELLACIOUS day at work yesterday.

I love SF, and used to have friends there (well, they are still there but we're not close any longer) and really enjoyed the ambiance of the city. But LIVE there? No way.
Too expensive. I did hear an anecdotal story a few years ago about a home health nurse who used the transit system and her bicycle to make visits, and that was charming. I'd love to use a bicycle to make visits here, but it's too hot in the summer for that option.

And I'm in the same corner as most of you when it comes to "cultural" issues. Sacramento has every other place I ever lived beat when it comes to parks, trails, rafting, archery -- you name it. There are plenty of local artists, and more art galleries and Second Saturday type events than I will ever be able (or inclined) to attend. There is the Music Circus, and having been to Broadway shows I can tell you that it ain't that much better.
The Crocker is great, and there are always a lot of seasonal events there, as well. The zoo is nice.

I actually love Sacramento, and a lot of the problem with attitude getting worse here is brought by people moving here who really want to live somewhere else. I sincerely hope that someday, they will move back.

But as much as I love it, Sacramento does not have the base economy and wages to support the prices we were seeing in '05 and '06. And it will take some time for things to normalize, and that will mean some local pain.

I was reading about the SoCal fires, and the generally positive response from people to our evacuees. A lot of people were commenting about "personal responsibility" and there were also some comments by officials about the dependency of fire departments on taxes, and how many of the worst-hit areas were very averse to tax increases. I can only imagine that the lower property values will cause this to be a huge issue.
As for me, I have a high degree of personal responsibility and have raised my kids this way, but I also have a high degree of social responsibility and I think that this is perhaps the truer yardstick. "Personal responsibility" is great, so long as you back it up with large charitable contributions and ready volunteerism. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.
I am very proud to be a Californian these last few days.

watchingthebubble said...

The real answer to this question is, "It depends."

I went to college in the Bay Area and then lived there after graduate school for 7 years (Oakland near Piedmont Ave). I loved the fact that on weekends I could walk down the hill to Piedmont avenue, get breakfast, browse bookstores, go to a movie, grab lunch, go to another movie, get a massage, grab dinner, and walk up the hill, all without even using my car. I loved running around Lake Merritt and going to the Grand Lake Theater to hear the Mighty Wurlizter on Friday nights. On those counts, Sacramento can't compete.

However, I was young and single then. Given that I'm now closer to retirement than to being carded in a bar, Sacramento wins for this stage of my life. Unless you're willing to sell your soul to the corporate version of the company store in order to make the big bucks to live anywhere decent in the BA, Sacramento wins, especially if you have kids. I never met a Bay Area professional who lived in Oakland or San Francisco and had their kids in a public school, except for Lowell High School in San Francisco. Not only were they getting reamed on their overpriced mortgages, but they had private school tuition to pay, too.

My biggest problem with Sacramento is that the leaders here lack vision. I see all the possibilities for urban infill, and except for Kevin Johnson's failed efforts and some of what Allen Warren is trying to do, Sacramento's leaders appear to be sitting around, waiting for the developers to tell them what to do. Having lived in other parts of the country where housing is planned around public transit and not the other way around, I just wish we had smarter leadership here.

Also, could we get some private industry here, please? Being a government town kinda makes this place somewhat homogeneous in terms of class.

Anonymous said...

Well, we are a family living in SF, while my son is still a baby, I love the fact that we are walking distance to the Zeum (which has a beautiful full size ice skating rink with a view), Grace Cathedral Park, the temporary Bay aquarium, the oraganic farmer's market, what will be his school, chinatown and north beach, quick bus rides to the Exploratorium and the Randall museum, Aquatic Park, the Fort Mason School, the Ocean and the pacific coast trail, and well, for him, crappy ass fisherman's wharf.
Here is my late response that nobody will probably see:

Housing - My friends who have moved to Sacramento from SF had taken large pay cuts and were required to purchase cars which actually left them with significantly less pocket money, this would be the case for us too, perhaps not all.

Traffic - Wouldn't know anything about that, traffic doesn't effect me in any way, unlike Sac a car is completely unnecessary here. I'm talkin' 5 minute bus intervals on Sunday!

Weather - This is completely a matter of personal preference, I prefer a mild year round 55-80 degree climate myself..HATE SAC HEAT! Also, it's not foggy bay side after 10 a.m. it's foggy out by the ocean though. I love fog.

Economy - Lots of high paying jobs, Sac? not so much. Also my friends in Sac hold onto their jobs with a death grip due to the difficulty they had finding them.

Cultural Events - Bay Area for the win.. But since all of my family in Sac consider a trip to the mall a cultural event I suppose this is unnecessary to a lot of people.

Downtown District - Both are mostly dead at night, just places to work mostly, unfortunately for Sac though, the downtown is half of the entire "metropolitan" part of the city.

Restaurants - I'd have to say SF for the win.. Outside of midtown Sac it's chain store galore.


Patient Renter said...

I must have missed why your only two living locations are Sac or the Bay area..? Being that you work from home, couldn't you live wherever?

For what it's worth, given those two choices, Sac is fine with me. Given other choices though and I'd probably be elsewhere :)