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San Francisco area

Otis Redding is going through my head....... sittin' on the dock of The Bay.......

We're planning a long visit to the San Francisco area. Part of the reason is evaluating it as a place to live when we're done with our nomadic lifestyle. To that end our intention is to stay in several different areas. Arrival is mid-July, after our 90 days in the Schengen area. We'll return to Florida and the RV in late October. With all the changes to the area, any research resources I may have saved are doubtless dated. Can anyone point me toward "neighborhood" (for lack of a better word) information to help us decide where and when please? I even had one that contained information as to where the fog regularly is and isn't, but can't find it.

We are thinking of two or three rentals, with some time after Labor Day to visit Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, which are just darn near impossible to do in the RV. We're assuming that if we stay in The City proper, we won't need a car for that part. Is this correct? After our 2017 visit to Europe, we're not at all opposed to grocery shopping on foot, as we got used to doing so. I was thinking the ocean side first, while it's still full-on summer, because that would be cooler, and moving to the land side later when it's not as hot.

Also, the farmers market website I used when we spent time in California is no longer functional. I sure would appreciate a good replacement for it if someone knows of one. Especially if we're walking to and from them, because during the growing season that's where we get most of our perishable food items, which as vegans are a serious portion of our diet.

Thanks all!

Posted by
6454 posts

Seriously?

Hope you have a ton of cash to spend. SF and the surrounding area is one of the MOST expensive places to live in the US. And I mean expensive. Grew up near San Jose.

The home I grew up in ( 2 bedrooms 1 bath on a 1/4 of and acre) which Dad sold in 1989 for less than $70K now goes for 2.5 million.

First part of your research would be look at Zillow. or https://www.rentjungle.com/average-rent-in-san-francisco-rent-trends/

THAT will give you an idea of the insanity of real estate costs in the Bay Area.

No, if you stay in downtown SF you won't need a car. Get a Muni pass for the trains and buses or walk.
BART pass as well.

If you are visiting Yosemite and Kings Canyon in July you need to reserve your camping or hotel room (especially in Yosemite) NOW. Both parks will be crowded with Yosemite looking like Disneyland.

As far as Farmer's Market's: http://www.cafarmersmkts.com/

And welcome to the late great state of California.

Posted by
13211 posts

My son and his family live in San Francisco, and they love their location. So do I. It is on the western edge of the Mission, almost Noe Valley. Near the corner of 24th and Valencia if you look at a map. I have yet to see fog there; usually it is sunny even when the Golden Gate and downtown are fogged in. They have a rooftop deck that is very enjoyable.

They have a car but do not use it locally. The neighborhood is very walkable and a BART station is three blocks away. I walk to the Whole Foods Market on 24th in Noe Valley to shop. There is another (independent) natural foods store along there too. They actually grow a lot of their own veggies in raised beds in the back yard. And they belong to a CSA and get weekly deliveries of produce in season.

I do not know if there is a Farmers'Market near, but we enjoy hopping on BART and riding downtown to the Saturday market at the Ferry Building. There is a weekday market there as well, but I am not sure which day.

Be prepared for sticker shock when you see housing prices.

Posted by
49 posts

Hi Donna and Denis, one thing to keep in mind regarding SF is that it is rarely hot, especially in summer since that is when the fog is present. The warmest and sunniest months in SF tend to be Oct and Dec/Jan while the coldest are July and Aug. I have never been hot in the city proper. You won’t need a car but you will need to know how to learn to use the bus and muni systems as BART only services the east side of the city. There is also Cal Train which can bring you further south on the peninsula to explore areas outside of the city (including Stanford University, which is quite lovely to explore). Fog in the summer tends to stay north of divisadero but can migrate across the entire swath of the city. It’s a quite small city but you will find much charm in all the different things to see and do. Don’t miss Land’s End walk, the Legion of Honor museum, golden gate park, and a walk or bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito (take the ferry back to the city from Sausalito for great views). If you are interested in Alcatraz you need to pre-book. Enjoy!

Posted by
13211 posts

Visiting Yosemite are Sequoia National Parks after Labor Day: we will be there then. I was able to book the historic Wawona Hotel ( now called the Big Trees Lodge) with no difficulty right on the official,website.

https://www.travelyosemite.com

The Ahwahnee and Curry Village were available as well, and a few nights at Yosemite Lodge.

If you want to bring the RV and stay in a Campground, the reservation window for early September opens April 15 at 7 am Pacific time. Campsites in Yosemite Valley will disappear within two minutes, but the other campgrounds will last longer. Book on www.recreation.gov

For Sequoia and Kings Canyon, I found availability at all the lodges: Wuksachi (the nicest), John Muir Lodge, Cedar Grove (avoid), and Grants Village cabins.

Campsites there would also be reserved at recreation.gov, but I don't know the particulars regarding dates.

Posted by
3160 posts

My hot tip is if you are eligible for a senior rate, apply for a senior BART card which gives you about 65% off on most public transportation. BART.gov

We recently moved from a very expensive market in Southern California to the Sacramento area to position us closer to our kids and equidistant between the Sierras and San Francisco. Our summer heat is a nice dry heat.

Edit: the information about the deeply discounted Clipper Card is a little buried on their webpage: https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/discounts/index.do

Posted by
8859 posts

We are happy that Mona moved to the Sacramento area because they make a great addition to our Sacramento Travel Group.

As others have mentioned, housing is VERY pricey in the Bay Area. Price is relative, but it is not as expensive when you move inland a bit. That not be an issue for you.

I hope you enjoy your trip!

Posted by
8832 posts

I think the concerns about the cost of housing in SF is misplaced as it relates to OP.

OP seems to have a surplus ( or at least a very sufficient amount) of $$ as they mention spending 90 days in Europe, an RV that is too big for Yosemite and ( seemingly) a residence in Fla. and the ability to wander at will.

Posted by
8394 posts

I’ve experienced plenty of warm/hot weather in SF during the summer through Oct. Last Labor Day weekend it was 103-106 for several days and in the 90s for a week or two. Not to mention 80s often. All depends on where in SF, SF has many micro-climates. The whole Bay Area does.

Check out a SF weather app.

If you are willing to stay in Marin County, just north of the GG Bridge, rents in north Marin (from San Rafael up to Novato) are affordable. Obviously it’s relative and depends on your definition of affordable. But much of Marin is less expensive than SF and it’s a beautiful area w charming towns, on the bay and lots of open space. You would need a car though, unless you’re willing to take a bus into SF.

Have you checked out AirBnB to get a sense of rental prices?

BART is very limited in SF, 6 or so stops. It’s of limited use for getting around the city. Muni buses are for getting around, as Claudia mentioned. Or Uber/Lyft which are very popular. Or old school taxis.

A house in San Jose appreciating from 70K to 2.5 million since ‘89 is amazing. Appreciation like that didn’t happen in Marin unless there was major renovation.

Posted by
15037 posts

I lived in the Bay Area from 1998-2006. I've been back about every 2 years since to visit friends I made during that time. For me the Bay Area is divided into the City, the Peninsula (south to San Jose), Marin (north across the Golden Gate Bridge) and East Bay (across the Bay Bridge from the City, the San Mateo Bridge from mid-Peninsula (sorta). Getting in/out of the city means traffic jams across one of the bridges or living on the Peninsula. Traffic is awful much of the time most everywhere, but especially in rush hour and Sunday afternoon/evening when everyone's returning from their weekend. Weather varies greatly from one "weather pocket" to another. Mid-Peninsula (from the airport south to Palo Alto) has the best weather (IMO), rarely hot in summer, not too cold in winter, and not usually humid. It's also one of the most expensive parts of the Bay Area, though there are some neighborhoods that are cheaper (well, less expensive). There are at least a couple of farmer's markets on weekends (I used to buy at one on Sat mornings just off CA--92 - maybe the San Mateo College campus? very expensive but good) and a friend goes to one in or near San Bruno. I believe the northern part of the East Bay (Berkeley, maybe Oakland) tends to be cool in summer, while farther south and more inland (eastward) can be brutally hot. It can be 60 in Berkeley and 100 in Hayward at the same time in summer.

The fog comes in from the west as the cold wet air over the ocean hits the hot dry air from inland. There's a mountain ridge running north/south along the western side of the Peninsula which gets a lot of for (much of San Bruno). The most extreme variations are in summer. It can be 60 in the City and overcast (not foggy), with clear blue skies 10 miles south, Palo Alto at 80 (25 mi. south of the City) and 100 in San Jose (50 mi. south of the City).

The 8 years I lived in Redwood City and then San Mateo (near 101), I had neither central heating nor any AC, using a small electric coil heater for an hour or two a day on the coldest winter days and a 12" table fan in the summer, never needed more.

You are right that you won't know what it's like to live there until you're there. It will be a great adventure, whatever you decide.

Posted by
1806 posts

I think the concerns about the cost of housing in SF is misplaced as it relates to OP. OP seems to have a surplus ( or at least a very sufficient amount) of $$ as they mention spending 90 days in Europe, an RV that is too big for Yosemite and ( seemingly) a residence in Fla. and the ability to wander at will.

I disagree that it's misplaced. I spent a year traveling non-stop around the world - it doesn't automatically make me a millionaire. Neither would having a pre-owned RV or a place in Florida (I've got some older, retired family members who purchased some perfectly nice homes in Florida for well under $150K which they escape to every winter).

If one is evaluating San Francisco and the surrounding area as a potential place to settle down, that's a whole different ball of wax and you want to do your homework ahead of time to really get a sense of what neighborhoods are truly viable candidates both in terms of your true day-to-day lifestyle (not your "I'm on vacation and isn't all this wonderful!" lifestyle) as well as your true budget.

Hey, in an ideal world I'd love to live in Pacific Heights, but knowing what I'd be comfortable paying in rent combined with not wanting to live in something the size of a phone booth would keep me from wasting my valuable time playing at being a "local" in that part of the city. So look on Zillow at the present cost of homes for sale and rents to get a sense of which area suits your budget best, then cross check that with the wealth of information you can find online about those neighborhoods and what your intended lifestyle is going to be and focus on staying in those parts so you get a truer sense of what it would be like.

Posted by
184 posts

First, I'd like to thank all of you for your responses. Second, perhaps some further explanation/clarification is in order. I'll start by providing our profile here, as it will answer several questions:

In late 2008 we bought a used RV, closed up our house in Columbus, Ohio, and headed south on a “shake down” trip. Returning to Columbus in the spring, we set about remodeling it to make it suit our needs and cleaning out our house. That which could not fit into the RV was sold or donated. Having sold the house, in September 2009, we bid Columbus a fond farewell and “went on the road” full time. Since then it has been a pleasure and a privilege to have visited all fifty states and forty three of the state capitols, a good many of our National Parks, as well as seven Canadian provinces and several Canadian National Parks. We call this mobile retirement.

We are currently planning step two of our mobile retirement, international travel part one. The RV will go into storage, and we will go to Europe for our first visit, an extended one. The present plan is to sail in April 2017 and return to Florida for the winter. Lots and lots and lots of reading going on here!

Denis is a retired architect, so, as always, he gets to choose most of the buildings. I (Donna) have an interest in growing things, so the garden and green space choices are mine. We are both vegan and both like to cook.

So, as you may see, we don't have a fixed address, as our home has wheels. All we own is with us, nothing is in storage. Therefore, unlike those with a fixed domicile, we must decide where to be each and every night. That grants us a great deal of freedom. Traveling in our retirement was part of our long term financial plan. We have a budget, just like everyone else, and we live within it.

We are no longer interested in full time travel in the RV, as, to borrow from the late, great BB King, the thrill is gone. So we have turned our sights toward that part two of our mobile retirement, international travel. Last year the beast (its nickname) went into a storage garage and we sailed to Europe in early April, returning shortly before Thanksgiving. We wish to structure this year's trip a bit differently, using our permitted 90 days in the Schengen area earlier in the season, before a good many visitors arrive. That leaves us with three and a half months to fill before we return to Florida and get our home out of its garage and live in it for the winter.

Our first visit to the San Francisco area was in October of 2010, where we parked the beast at an oceanfront site in Pacifica. Oops, those no longer exist, coastal erosion. But the sunset picture we took is still on the (old) GPS. ;-) We met some people from my (Donna) veg discussion board, who showed us around a bit. Our second visit was two years later, and showed us some of the opposite side of the metropolitan area, as we stayed in Pleasanton at the fairgrounds. We have also stayed at the Napa and Sonoma county fairgrounds. We found we liked the area and filed it away as a place to consider when we stop roaming. Yes, we are indeed aware that housing costs are very high. But then, coming from central Ohio, that really rather applies to all of California for us!

This visit has two purposes. As we've always wanted to return, we have the opportunity to do that now without needing to find a place to park the RV, which is not always easy in many places. We also wish to look at the area without the tourist colored glasses we saw it through before. We want to see if it is indeed an option for post-nomadic life, or if it just cannot work. One way or another, we hope this trip will answer that question. And we'll have a good time as well.

Posted by
184 posts

As for taking the RV into the national parks...... Most of the campgrounds were built long before camping units were as large as they are today. As we wished to live in the RV full time for as long as it took to see and do what we wanted to, and Denis is tall, we made a choice, knowing that we would not likely be able to go some places, and that includes taking it inside of many/most of our national parks. Plus, neither of us is particularly fond of dry camping, as in without power, water and sewer. That's simply personal choice. We picked up a map put out by CalDOT when we got there that is for motorcoaches and motorhomes. It's color coded and tells us which highways on which we can legally (also safely) travel, and on which we exceed the permitted vehicular length, which does include the car towed behind the motorhome. After kissing rock formations on a narrow, curvy road to the tune of a five thousand dollar repair, we are very cautious in that regard. So some of our national parks are not so accessible to us in our RV.

We just finished booking our Europe segment, including a flight from Copenhagen to Oakland, so we have not yet had the opportunity to look at rental options in California. Denis wants to try a month in the City proper, we'll choose two other locations as well, but have yet to decide where. The Yosemite and Kings Canyon portion of the trip will be after Labor Day, as we've definitely had our fill of summer insanity in that respect. (An RVers rule, make sure all three summer holidays are covered, preferably someplace quiet, well in advance.)

So thank you all for providing us with more homework to do, lol! We'll look at all your suggestions.

Donna

Posted by
315 posts

We have done a trip in the central coast area with our RV Sprinter, we can unhook to drive. Carpenteria State Beach Park (walkable), Flying Flags RV Resort Campground, San Luis Obispo area and others. In general, the RV private "resorts" were very nice. A quick search shows private RV "resort" throughout California. We are spontaneous and found Redding, California worth exploring!

Posted by
3336 posts

I grew up in the SF/Marin County area and now that I've left, I'll never be able to afford to move back. SO expensive...my niece and nephew just bought a 2 bedroom condo together across from a park full of vagrants in Haight-Ashbury (right on Haight Street) and they paid in the low 7 figures...it's completely nuts there. If you have the cash I would head to Cow Hollow...below the uber expensive Pacific Heights but above the earthquake-vulnerable Marina District. I also really like the area along Golden Gate park on the north side that runs between about 3rd street and 25th...Inner and Central Richmond and Balboa Hollow. It's quiet compared to much of the city and there are nice little clusters of shops and restaurants. There are quite a few weekly farmer's markets in easy reach of the area. It's a little more foggy on that side of the city but you aren't so far west that you are in the dark 75% of the time!

Posted by
3706 posts

Donna:

If you successfully use the staying past 90 Schengen days by exiting Schengen directly from Denmark (the Danish exemption), please post back your experiences.

I can't image that buying a property in the Bay Area makes sense for retirees. You could put all your money into something that loses 50% of its value, and you don't need access to IT jobs which is why people are paying that much in the first place.

Posted by
184 posts

Once again I wanted to say thank you to all of you for your responses and links. We did our homework and decided that this is not the right time to visit this area. Instead, after our time in Europe this spring, we'll head back to Orlando and pick up our car, which we'll drive up to Columbus to spend the remainder of our "travel season". After that, read that when it gets cold in Ohio, we'll go back to the place we park the RV in the winter, near Disney. So thanks again all.

Donna