Stretching from San Francisco and all the way to Mountain View, the Bay Area Peninsula is a beautiful sanctuary where nature, arts and culture, and technology exist harmoniously. With plenty of excellent towns and cities to choose from, you might find yourself stuck on where to concentrate your home search.
This guide details several key factors to consider when choosing the best neighborhoods in the Bay Area Peninsula. These can have a significant impact on your overall quality of life. Continue reading to learn more.
ECONOMIC STABILITY AND GROWTH
Economy is one of the major factors that affect real estate property values. Things like unemployment numbers, interest rates, population, and overall consumer confidence are strong indicators of home value appreciation. And with some of the biggest tech innovation companies choosing the Peninsula as its headquarters, it’s easy to see why it has a strong and resilient economy.
UNPRECEDENTED GROWTH AND INNOVATION
The San Francisco-Silicon Valley Bay Area has been one of the country’s leading economic hubs in the past 50 years, home to a highly skilled workforce, a renowned higher education system, a business- and start-up-friendly environment, and a strong influx of venture capital across a variety of traditional and innovative industries.
While it has experienced exponential growth in recent decades, positive trends show that the Bay Area is on a path of continued growth. Between 2014 to 2017, the Bay Area GDP grew 4.3% year-over-year, with a per capita GDP of $80,000. Moreover, in 2017, around 45% of venture capital investment in the United States was made in Bay Area companies.
RECORD LOW UNEMPLOYMENT RATES
In the latest Unemployment Analysis from Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Institute for Regional Studies, the tech and innovation hub has recorded its lowest unemployment rate in recent years at 2%. Total employment increased by nearly 223,600 workers since April 2020, which was when job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The trade, transportation and utilities sectors had the biggest month-over-month increase in employment, adding over 2,700 jobs (1% increase) between November and December 2022. Education and health services sectors followed, particularly in Ambulatory Health Care Services and Social Assistance, adding 1,200 jobs (0.3%).
Moreover, despite massive layoffs among tech companies like Meta, Salesforce Inc, and Google, Silicon Valley and the rest of California had a job growth of 3.6%, which was higher than the nation’s 3% growth rate.
Known as the county seat of San Mateo County and an economic cornerstone in Silicon Valley, Redwood City houses some of the biggest high technology companies in the world, such as Electronic Arts, Box Inc., Evernote, PDI/DreamWorks, and Informatica. Moreover, aspiring tech industry leaders can begin their education here, with STEM-focused schools like the McKinley Institute of Technology, Design Tech, Summit Prep, and Cañada College.
What attracts multi-million dollar ventures and a highly skilled workforce to this city? A holistic and well-balanced quality of life. For all its emphasis on tech, one can find a wealth of parks and nature preserves within the city, such as the Bair Island Ecological Preserve, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, and Edgewood County Park.
History and innovation come hand in hand in this beautiful city. Its historic Courthouse Square and Fox Theatre are the main sites for a variety of art and film festivals. Decades-old local favorites like Gourmet Haus Staudt stand alongside new ones like La Viga. So, whether you prefer art exhibits or the outdoors, fine dining or laidback gastropubs, tradition or innovation, there’s something for everyone in Redwood City.
ACCESSIBILITY AND CONVENIENCE
The biggest advantage to living on the Peninsula is the easy commute to and from San Francisco and Silicon Valley cities like Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and more. San Francisco is located on the Peninsula’s northernmost tip, so you wouldn’t have to cross a bridge – and go through heavy traffic – like you would if you were coming from East or North Bay.
Many major highways pass through the region. On the eastern side of the Peninsula you have State Route 82 (El Camino Real) and US Route 101, which run along the bay. Straight through the center is Interstate 280, while State Route 35 (Skyline Boulevard) winds along the ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains. State Route 1 runs along the Pacific Ocean and State Route 85 passes by the southern part of the Peninsula.
Caltrain, a commuter train that runs north to south along the Peninsula, can take you from Mountain View to San Francisco. North of Millbrae, you have the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which offers transportation from San Mateo County and San Francisco to the East Bay, as well as other areas on its route like Daly City, Glen Park, and San Francisco’s Mission district. BART, as well as US Route 101, can also provide you with direct access to the San Francisco International Airport.
With its location in the northernmost part of San Mateo County, being a homeowner in Daly City gives you the same benefits of living in San Francisco – proximity to the best restaurants, art and history museums, offices and commercial spaces, and nightlife – without having to deal with the inconveniences of city life.
As one of the closest suburban cities to San Francisco, Daly City is perfect for young professionals and jetsetters who prefer to come home to a quiet neighborhood. While there’s not much in terms of nightlife, this waterfront community boasts a variety of stores, restaurants, and shopping centers.
TOP-QUALITY SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION
Peninsula residents have a wide range of schools and education options to choose from. The prestigious Stanford University, for example, is located 20 miles northwest of San Jose and serves as a training ground for tech innovators and global business leaders. Renowned universities like Santa Clara University, Notre Dame de Namur University, and San José State University also call the Peninsula home.
SOME OF THE BEST K-12 EDUCATION
Serviced by the San Mateo County and Santa Clara School Districts, students in kindergarten to high school have access to some of the best schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Henry M. Gunn High School and Palo Alto High School, the top public high schools in the Bay Area, can be found in Palo Alto. The Nueva School and Crystal Springs Uplands School, two of the best private high schools in the region, are located in Hillsborough.
A SAFE AND SECURE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
The Office of Education in San Mateo County has many programs centered on students’ well-being and safety. Their Behavioral Health and Recovery Services received a $6 million grant through the Mental Health Students Services Act, as well as a $135,000 grant for their Safe Routes to School program from the California Office of Traffic Safety.
The County Office was also recognized for its leadership, action, and community impact at the 2021 Kent Awards Ceremony, 17th District PTA, and the San Mateo County Jobs for Youth program.
Palo Alto is a culturally and academically vibrant community in northwest Santa Clara County. Home to the renowned Stanford University and award-winning public school districts like Palo Alto Unified and Mountain View-Los Altos Union, it’s no surprise that this city’s residents are some of the most educated in the country.
But enriched learning experiences aren’t limited to the classrooms. Companies such as HP, VMware, and Intuit currently have their headquarters in Palo Alto, making it a Silicon Valley epicenter. Many art galleries, museums, theaters, and historic sites are also concentrated in the area, including the Stanford Theatre, Cantor Arts Center, University Avenue, Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish, and more.
STRONG COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
When searching for the best neighborhoods in the Bay Area Peninsula, it’s not always about the proximity to amenities and conveniences. The people and community that live in that town or city is what turns a property into a home, and it’s important that your home is located in a safe and inclusive neighborhood.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
The San Francisco Bay Area has long stood as a paragon of diversity and inclusion. Since the 1980s, people of color made up the majority of the population, which was roughly more than 60 years before the rest of the nation caught up. Today, it is home to the largest Asian population and the second largest Pacific Islander population in the country.
The Bay Area also has a deep and complex LGBTQ+ history. From earning its title as the “Gay Capital of America” in 1964 to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, the San Francisco LGBTQ+ community has been at the forefront of the nation’s move towards equality and inclusivity.
Regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity, the San Francisco Bay Area continues to celebrate and empower its diverse community through foundations like the San Francisco Foundation, the Bay Area Council, and the SF LGBT Center.
In the Bay Area Peninsula specifically, several organizations utilize the area’s economic and technological resources to bridge gaps and reduce systemic barriers in the community such as Thrive: The Alliance of Nonprofits for San Mateo County and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
Located along the San Francisco Bay, Burlingame offers proximity to San Francisco while also providing a green environment and an active, tight-knit community.
Emblematic of Burlingame’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and history is its first permanent public artwork: Anson Burlingame and the Principles of Eternal Justice,created by Bay Area artist John Roloff.Consisting of two sculptural portals, six benches, and a pathway mural, the Burlingame’s centerpiece represents the life and work of its namesake, who was instrumental in the Abolitionist Movement and the landmark Burlingame Treaty between the US and China.
More importantly, Burlingame residents translate these values of courage, tolerance, and equality through its family-focused events, youth programs, volunteer initiatives, and environmental sustainability projects.
A STORIED CULTURE AND HISTORY
The Bay Area Peninsula has witnessed several centuries’ worth of history, from the first meeting between the Ohlone people and Gaspar de Portolá’s Spanish exploration party to the latest and ongoing tech innovations made in Silicon Valley.
Many of its historic sites are still standing today, such as the Pigeon Point and Point Montara Light Stations, the Sánchez Adobe Park, the Carolands Mansion, and the Pulgas Water Temple. The San Mateo County History Museum and the Computer History Museum both give different perspectives on how the Peninsula grew and developed over the past century.
Moreover, with its abundance of natural beauty, the Peninsula has served as both a haven and a source of inspiration for many aspiring artists. You can take classes and meet other like-minded creatives at Bottle & Bottega, Half Moon Bay, Swirl Works, and the Sanchez Art Center. The Society of West-Coast Artists, The City Arts of San Mateo, and The Peninsula Arts Council also hold various events and programs that promote the cultural arts and local artists.
Menlo Park and Hillsborough
Known as the “Capital of Venture Capital” and the starting ground for Facebook’s Meta, Menlo Park is also slowly building its reputation as an art colony. The Allied Arts Guild, a historic garden courtyard filled with eclectic boutiques and cafés, art studios, and gorgeous event spaces, is a place where artists can thrive and where art enthusiasts can appreciate their work.
Hillsborough, a prestigious residential town located 12 miles away from San Francisco, is home to many historic mansions and architectural marvels. Aside from the Carolands, some of the most notable ones are the Arthur and Mona Hofmann House, the Sidney Bazett Residence, and the infamous Flintstone House.
PROXIMITY TO NATURE
The Peninsula is home to a wide range of landscapes and ecosystems, from redwood forests and oak woodlands to estuarine shorelines and coastal scrub. Around 30% of the Peninsula consists of wildlife, parkland, and undeveloped open spaces, and you’ll find that many of the best neighborhoods in the Bay Area Peninsula are located near beautiful parks and nature preserves. This includes:
- San Bruno Mountain
- Edgewood Park
- Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area
- San Francisco Bay Estuarine Research Preserve
- Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
- Shoreline Park
The Peninsula is also a mecca for hikers, runners, and cyclists. Here are some trails you can explore:
- Sawyer Camp Trail, an 11.5 mile trail that runs along the shores of the Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir, is perfect for biking, horseback riding, and jogging.
- The Bay Trail, a 500-mile path that winds throughout the entire San Francisco Bay, is easily accessible and great for runners or cyclists of all levels.
- The Bay Ridge Trail is another 500+ mile trail that circles around the mountain ridges overlooking San Francisco Bay, offering gorgeous views and a fun yet challenging hike.
“Climate Best by Government Test.” This century-old slogan is engraved on the archway in Redwood City’s downtown area, and its staying power encapsulates San Mateo County’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty. Sustainable San Mateo County, for example, is a nonprofit organization established in 1992 to track, support, and initiate a wide range of environmental sustainability programs.
Woodside and Atherton
As its name suggests, most of the town consists of woodland, making it perfect for vineyards, farmland, ranches, and expansive estates. Its rural charm and tranquil environs also makes it great for creative and wellness centers, such as the Djerassi Artists Residency and Canyon Ranch Woodside.
Atherton, an exclusively residential town northwest of San Jose, goes above and beyond to preserve its scenic wooded landscapes. Its zoning laws allow only one single-family home per acre and no commercial zoning at all, ultimately preserving Atherton’s pristine environment for generations to come.
FIND THE BEST NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE BAY AREA PENINSULA
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