The San Francisco Bay Area is considered far and wide to be one of the great epicenters of arts and culture in the country. Offering everything from historic landmarks to high-tech points of interest, there’s also plenty of natural beauty to be found in its various state parks and ruggedly beautiful coastal areas. Moving to the Bay Area, you’ll discover that there’s so much to see and do that there may not be time for it all.
As one of the most auto-centric regions in the country, the Bay Area is known for its frequently colossal traffic jams and generally busy roads, even during downtime hours. This may make your initial arrival into town as a new resident something of a challenge. Here are a few tips to help you avert the inherent catches and snags of moving to the Bay Area.
Although you’ll rarely encounter a vacant freeway at any hour of the day or night, the most heavily congested times of day for road travel are the Monday through Friday rush hours of 6 to 9 a.m. and later from 3 to 7 p.m. Try to schedule move in the early afternoon if you can.
Many freeways throughout the Bay Area have the left-hand lane dedicated to carpoolers during certain posted hours. Carpools are defined as more than one person in the vehicle, including a child in a car seat.
Remember that just because you’ve got more than one person in your vehicle, you’re not required to be in the carpool lane. If you don’t plan on passing traffic, keep to the right.
It’s a good idea to get the lay of the land prior to your arrival to account for any especially steep inclines or narrow streets that could impact a moving van’s progress. If you’re moving to downtown San Francisco, for example, you’ll encounter plenty of hilly streets, so plan your move accordingly.
Determine if you need a moving permit. There’s no requirement for you to obtain a moving van permit when moving the Bay Area, but if you’ve ascertained that parking shortages in the immediate vicinity may cause you to have a tough time unloading a moving van, contact the police department or city offices to find out how to get a permit.
Map out student populations. The California state university system has dozens of campuses scattered throughout the San Francisco Bay area, in addition to many private colleges. This could impact your decision about precisely where to put down roots when moving to the Bay Area, especially if you’re not interested in living in a neighborhood with a heavy student population. Some of the cities with the largest student populations include San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose and Santa Cruz. Learn where the various universities throughout the Bay Area are by visiting CA.gov.
Check the weather. The Bay Area has varying climates, depending on your proximity to the coast or how far inland you’re located. Often, temperature changes from one area to another can be significant. To ensure you’re adequately prepared for your move, check weather forecasts in advance here.
Earthquake activity in the San Francisco Bay Area is frequent, but the majority of tremors are so small they’re undetectable. Quakes of moderate size are relatively infrequent, which may come as something of a surprise to newcomers, especially considering that the Bay Area is the location of the infamous San Andreas Fault.
Don’t forget to fill out a change of address form with the United States Post Office before you move to ensure continuity of mail delivery. The best advice is to submit paperwork one week before your move, since processing can take as long as 7-10 business days.
If you’re going to be hiring a moving company to assist with your move, visit the Better Business Bureau website to review the reputation of the movers. This will help avert any unfortunate customer service experiences and will help guard you against moving scams.
The San Francisco Bay Area is a big place, measuring almost 7,000 square miles. It has a total of nine counties to its credit and six distinct sub-regions that are home to its 7.15 million residents. These six sub-regions are comprised of the following recognized areas.
- San Francisco
- The East Bay
- The North Bay
- The South Bay
- The Peninsula
- Santa Cruz/San Benito Counties
Cost of Living
If you’re moving to the Bay Area, you’re probably already well aware that you’ll be taking up residence in one of the most expensive areas in the nation. But it’s not all gloom and doom when it comes to the cost of living in the Bay Area, primarily because earnings here are significantly above average when compared to the rest of the country. Recently, the San Francisco Bay Area was ranked as having the second highest household income in the nation. The collective wealth of Bay Area citizens is mainly due to the high-tech corporations and computer-based businesses that are in no short supply throughout Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
Moving to the Bay Area provides you with a bevy of alternatives to vehicle ownership. For those who live and work within San Francisco city limits, it’s entirely possible to rely solely on public transportation and to not own a vehicle. On the other hand, getting around throughout other sections of the Bay Area will likely require one of two things: a car or plenty of additional time, required to make use of the various public transportation options. The links below will provide you with information on all available public transportation programs in the San Francisco Bay Area.
If you’re moving to the Bay Area and are arriving by air, there are three main points of entry serving commercial airlines both domestically and internationally.
- San Francisco International Airport
- Oakland International Airport
- Mineta San Jose International Airport
The Bay Area is served by an extensive system of highways and freeways that enable trans-bay travel and route traffic to and from all points on the map. The major freeways leading into the Bay Area include:
- US Route 101
- Interstate 80
- Interstate 280
- California State Route 1
- California State Route 35
- Interstate 880
- Interstate 680
- Interstate 580
- State Route 152
- State Route 156
- State Route 29
If you’re relocating to the Bay Area to find a better way of life for yourself and your family, you’ve chosen the right place. Overall, the San Francisco Bay area is one of the most affluent areas in the nation, boasting two of the wealthiest counties in the United States: Marin County and Santa Clara County. In Marin County, average per capita income is $91,000. In Santa Clara County, the median household income is between $85,000 and $90,000.
Although unemployment in California reflects numbers that are above the national average, jobs in the Bay Area remain plentiful for qualified personnel in a variety of industries. Encouraging numbers, like 2009’s reported Gross Domestic Product of $487 billion for the Bay Area (if compared against other countries, this would mean the Bay Area has the twenty-second highest GDP in the world), continue to illustrate that its job market remains healthy, despite far less desirable conditions throughout the rest of the country.
Are you moving to the Bay Area? If so, one of the first things you’ll want to do is read up about local news and happenings, while keeping your eye on national and international news. Here’s a list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s top newspapers and local TV channels.
San Francisco Chronicle
Published seven days a week, the San Francisco Chronicle is one of California’s longest-running publications. Founded in January of 1865 when Abraham Lincoln was still in office, the Chronicle’s daily average circulation is around 225,000, with its Sunday edition fetching close to 290,000 readers. The Chronicle, which has earned top honors by winning six Pulitzer Prizes throughout its history, is full of local, state, national and international news.
Despite its slightly left-leaning political bend, it’s read far and wide and considered to be the premium news source among residents living in San Francisco, as well as the city’s numerous outlying areas. The newspaper's sections include news, sports, business, entertainment, and a living section that often caters to the city’s LGBT population.
The San Francisco Examiner
Beating out The Chronicle in age by a full two years, The San Francisco Examiner has been churning out daily news since the Civil War was still raging. Throughout its history, the newspaper has hired a number of writers who later went on to become classic American authors, including Jack London, Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce. In 1965, The Examiner and Chronicle joined forces. These days, The San Francisco Examiner is a free publication that runs six days per week and reaches approximately 200,000 readers with its mix of local news, sports coverage, business and job listings, and local entertainment features.
San Jose Mercury News
Starting out in 1851 as The San Jose Weekly Visitor, today’s San Jose Mercury News reaches an audience almost as wide as San Francisco’s Chronicle and Examiner combined. With close to 530,000 readers during the week and an impressive 602,000 for its Sunday edition, the Mercury is also no stranger to acclaim, having won two Pulitzer Prizes in the 1980s. Considered by most to be a left-leaning publication, it features a healthy mix of national and international news articles, sports, business and entertainment. Local news includes not only the city of San Jose, but also stretches north to neighboring San Francisco and as far south as Santa Cruz.
The premiere free daily publication catering to San Francisco’s culturally diverse population, SF Weekly is an alternative news publication that focuses on local stories and local arts and entertainment. Its circulation is estimated at between 75,000 and 85,000.
Local TV News Channels
If you’re moving to the Bay Area you can tune into the following local TV stations for full news coverage:
Because of the diversity of geographical regions within the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s impossible to categorize its weather within any single definition. Temperature variations here can be drastic, sometimes as great as 40 degrees from the coast to inland areas in a single day.
- Coastal areas offer the least amount of temperature variation year round, with winters that are mild and wet, and summers that are comparatively cooler than what you’ll find moving further inland. Living on the coast frequently brings fog during the summer months.
- Inland areas that are separated from the Pacific breeze by mountains usually experience the greatest temperature swings, with hot, dry summers and winter nights that can drop to near freezing.
Because of the number of cars on the road at any given time, smog levels in the Bay Area can be heavy, although conditions are not nearly as bad as those you’ll find further down the coast near Los Angeles. The state-run AIRNow website publishes an Air Quality Index (AQI) that offers frequently updated information on air quality.
If you’re moving to the Bay Area with school-aged children, your first order of business should be to research the quality of learning institutions available. In the state of California, there’s an open enrollment policy that gives you the option of sending your child to any available school—including charter schools—as long as that school in the same district as your home. Below, you will find a listing of the top five elementary, junior and senior high schools in the Bay Area to help you make the wisest scholastic choices for your young.
Top 5 Elementary Schools
- William Faria Elementary (Cupertino)
- Nelson S. Dillworth Elementary (San Jose)
- Mission San Jose Elementary (Fremont)
- Millikin Elementary (Santa Clara)
- Herbert Hoover Elementary (Palo Alto)
Top 5 Junior High Schools
- American Indian Public Charter School II (Oakland)
- William Hopkins Junior High (Fremont)
- Redwood Middle (Saratoga)
- John F. Kennedy Middle (Cupertino)
- Ardis G. Egan Junior High (Los Altos)
Top 5 High Schools
- Dr. T.J. Owens Gilroy Early College Academy (Gilroy)
- Pacific Collegiate Charter (Santa Cruz)
- Lowell High (San Francisco)
- Monta Vista High (Cupertino)
- Palo Alto High (Palo Alto)
Top 5 School Districts
- Hillsborough School District
- Las Lomitas School District
- Los Altos School District
- Lakeside Joint School District
- Orinda School District
For helpful information when moving to the Bay Area, visit the following government websites covering a broad range of services from car registration and licensing to tax law considerations.
- The Association of Bay Area Governments is a helpful online resource with links to individual city websites where you can find information on local utilities and trash and recycling services.
- Find vehicle registration and driver’s license information at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
- The California Tax Service Center will answer any tax law questions you may have.
- For recycling information, visit the Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition.
- Find information on education, business and training grants here.
- Voter registration for new Bay Area residents is processed through the Secretary of State.
- The California Department of Agriculture has information on rules about the importation of plants, fruits, vegetables, pets, fish, game and livestock.
- The CA.gov website offers a section for Home & Family, which offers numerous helpful links and resources for those with questions including job listings, crime rates and firearm registration.