Not that long ago, people — especially young people — couldn’t wait to move to the city. Living in San Francisco was the height of the city cool, and everyone from suit-clad professionals to bohemian artists was in love with San Fran’s downtown.
Oh, how times have changed. More and more people are heading out of the city center to live in the suburbs. They want a little more space, a little more open-air, and maybe more affordable rent. Families can find more space for the kids to play and professionals can still get to their jobs fairly easily. What’s more, Bay Area suburbs maintain the presence of the culture and vibrancy that makes people love SF.
So if you’re thinking about moving to San Francisco but want a little more space, check out these suburbs. They are all an hour or less away from the city and have lots to offer!
Mill Valley (35 minutes)
14 miles north of San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge, Mill Valley sits on the eastern slopes of Mount Tamalpais and at the edge of the Muir Woods National Monument. For those seeking outdoor recreation opportunities, there are miles of coastline on Richardson Bay, forested canyons, and even some redwoods.
With a population of 14,295 as of 2018, Mill Valley isn’t exactly a small town. You’ll find plenty of chic restaurants, music venues, boutique shops, and breweries. The Mill Valley Film Festival, Mill Valley Falls Arts Festival, and Mill Valley Shakespeare in Old Mill Park Amphitheater all bring the community together every year to celebrate the arts.
The high demand for Mill Valley real estate has driven prices up over the last decade. As of July 2020, the average selling price of a home in Mill Valley was $2.1 million. The average cost of rent was around $3,500 for a 900 square foot apartment.
Hillsborough (35 minutes)
This primarily residential community is 17 miles south of San Francisco on the San Francisco Peninsula. Settled by a wealthy shipping magnate, the “attractions” in the town are mainly mansions and estates like the Carolands Chateau (above) built in the early 1900s. Just to the west, Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir and Rancho Corral de Tierra offer 7,766 acres of open space for hiking, biking, and more.
Although Hillsborough itself is primarily residential, neighboring San Mateo offers all the restaurants, shopping, and entertainment you could want. That means life at home is quiet and serene — may be just what you were looking for when living outside of San Francisco.
As of July 2020, the average home price in Hillsborough was $4.7 million with a fairly competitive market. Rent averages around $3,000 for a 791 square foot apartment.
Tiburon (40 minutes)
Located on the Tiburon Peninsula in Marin County, Tiburon is largely surrounded by unincorporated towns. This waterfront town is particularly beloved by boaters who enjoy the easy access to beaches and marinas. The neighborhoods are also full of families, who adore the excellent school system and low crime rates. The waterfront is home to a number of top-notch restaurants where locals and tourists can enjoy a meal with a view. Visit the nearby shops, or just enjoy the quiet surrounds — all within such a short commute to San Francisco!
The annual Tiburon Wine Festival and Tiburon International Film Festival draw crowds to the peninsula every year. Rapid ferry services between Tiburon and San Francisco as well as Angel Island make this suburb, an attractive one for commuters and tourists alike. So if it’s a San Francisco suburb you want, Tiburon has a lot to offer.
The average cost of a house in Tiburon is $2.69 million in a somewhat competitive market. Rentals here are pricey, with an average cost of $4,684 for a little over 1,000 square feet of space.
Walnut Creek (45 minutes)
One of the largest suburbs of San Francisco outside of Oakland and Berkeley, Walnut Creek is a desirable spot for those who want suburban living without giving up the restaurants, nightlife, and activity of the city. Easy commuter access from the East Bay is another draw; if you’re wondering where to live to commute to San Francisco, Walnut Creek could be your next place to land. Take advantage of accessibility via the BART train system and avoid the city traffic!
Walnut Creek is home to the north-south Iron Horse Trail running through downtown. The Contra Costa Canal Trail runs east-west in the northern end of the city, which makes bike recreation and travel a popular part of life in Walnut Creek. The city also maintains extensive bike lanes on main streets for safe biking and alternative commuting to downtown San Francisco.
The average home price in Walnut Creek is $920k, making this one of the most affordable San Francisco suburbs. The average rental is around $2,460 for a 790 square foot apartment.
San Ramon (60 minutes)
San Ramon has all of the amenities you’d expect for a city of nearly 78,000 people and plenty of space to roam. Speckled with golf courses and city parks, Mount Diablo flanks the city to the northeast, and Las Trampas Regional Wilderness Area borders the very northwest corner. After a day full of recreation, downtown San Ramon offers plenty of tasty restaurants, breweries, and shops.
Families will appreciate the many highly rated schools in San Ramon. Many of them score top-notch rankings from GreatSchools and boast high graduation rates. The many parks, including the recently constructed Memorial Park, offer great play areas for kids right within the city.
The real estate market in San Ramon is quite competitive. The average house cost is $1.01 million, and houses move fast. Rentals average around $2,406 for 863 square feet of living space.