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Moving to SF and the Perils Thereof

So, I got a job offer, which I intend to accept (though right now, it's only verbal). The job is in a great location in the Financial District. I've started to think about the mechanics of moving to SF. The relocation is, at best, symbolic. So money matters, and I don't intend to bring my car. This isn't one of those huge companies that puts you in corporate housing for a few months while you find a place to live - I'm on my own finding a place to live.

This process is an expensive nightmare. I've read a variety of unhelpful and often out of date advice (e.g., referring to rents perhaps half of what they are today, failing to acknowledge that Oakland or Daly City actually exist, etc).

An actual conversation I had with a local:
him: move to oakland
me: what part of oakland is the non-sketchy part?
him: the part outside of oakland

That's brilliant, isn't it? But this is typical. It seems, unlike the "neighborhoods define you" type advice would imply, you are practically going to be to trying to see how far you can stretch your dealbreakers.

Grumble grumble. Anybody need a roommate?

Sure I'll be making more, but taxes are so much higher that whatever advantage that grants will be wiped out. Sure, I won't have a car to maintain, in theory, anyway. But paying $3k/month is just tough. I think I might go for $2.5k, but it'll be an adjustment, for sure.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 27th, 2013 08:35 pm (UTC)
First off, congrats on the job. I think it's been clear to everyone for a while now that you "belong" in SF.

Don't mind the hipsters who tell you that they lived in SF "back when it was cool" but Oakland is "so much better" than SF. As I understand it, it is not about the cost of living, strictly speaking---it is a certified "thing" now, and if you were "cool" you'd live in Oakland with all of the other people at the vanguard. (A sample I saw a while back.) You don't have to play the hipster game if you don't want to.
Apr. 27th, 2013 09:10 pm (UTC)
I have to say, I love the irony of the "friends" calling all tech workers "dotcommers" and railing against them for moving to "their" city, and pricing them out, when the tech workers are just trying to find a place to live. As if someone isn't doing the same to Oakland, moving in just trying to find a place to live.

I really find hipsters so funny.

I should now find a site railing against hipsters for moving to "their" city.
Apr. 27th, 2013 09:24 pm (UTC)
I just read a great one this morning, it's about Oakland, and how all the "out-of-towners" are ruining things by doing crazy stuff like calling the cops when their stuff gets stolen.

Apr. 27th, 2013 09:21 pm (UTC)
Any pretensions or concerns I may have had about hipsters were dropped as soon as I saw the rental unit prices. Still, I do care about relative safety (am I going to feel sketchy coming back after a night of drinking? Dressed as a woman?) and how long my commute would be.

Also, walkability; I don't plan to bring my car.

So all this advice about how the cool kids have now infested a neighborhood and it's now cool/not cool any more... whatever. For me, it is about the cost of living, because it's a difference of say, $1k/month. Now, granted, I do care about gentrification to the extent it keeps me from feeling unsafe. But am I going to pay several hundred dollars a month more because the [asian ethnicity] food is more authentic there? Or the bars aren't full of pretentious douchebags? No.

I'm not going to look at some PBR index to figure out where to live. And hey, at least I'm actually working in the city, not commuting to Palo Alto or Mountain View.

Apr. 27th, 2013 10:07 pm (UTC)
Of course you'll have to draw your own conclusion, but just knowing you and your circumstances, it's hard for me to not think that the extra $1k will be overwhelmingly worth it for you. I agree with Jorge that finding a roommate would be ideal, though. I wish I could help you with that, but I only know one guy who actually lives in SF, and I don't know whether or not you'd necessarily get along.
Apr. 28th, 2013 02:19 pm (UTC)
Well crap, I dropped this reply on the wrong comment. It was intended for you, anyway:

Well, it depends on which $1k, and what it buys me. The difference between $2500 and $3500 is the difference between really steep and completely unaffordable, for instance (but $1500 and $2500 is tangible)

To use DC-relative terms, I wouldn't think that living in say, Dupont vs Arlington is worth $1k more, but either of those versus Herndon is (especially if my job was in the city).

By the way, when you say it's been clear to everyone that I belong in SF, is this simply because of my crossdressing, or is there something deeper at work? (You aren't the only one to express the sentiment, certainly)
Apr. 28th, 2013 06:25 pm (UTC)
I don't think that there is a reasonable analogue of the choice you're facing in the DC area. DC itself is less desirable than SF in pretty much every way possible (as you noted) except cost of living, and that's more equal throughout the DC area---which is to say, in DC, where you live doesn't make much of a difference, you just choose wherever minimizes the commute time. SF doesn't lend itself to optimizing a single objective in this way.

However, I'm saying that if we're looking at things as a function of rent, since living in SF is a more desirable outcome in every (other) possible respect for you (e.g., it decreases your commute time instead of increasing it, you aren't looking for a backyard "for your kids," etc.), if it is worth the cost for anyone, it is worth it for you. (I admit this does not rule out the possible existence of irrational actors, though.)

Finally, it is not simply about your crossdressing, that merely seals things. Like Jorge said, given your career objectives since leaving SAIC, SF is the place where you can make that happen. I'm sure you'll be more focused and fulfilled working at early-stage startups, and really, only SF has the culture and ecosystem to make working for such places a viable choice. You need a support network, and need to be able to move fluidly on to the next opportunity if/when things fail (as they sometimes assuredly will). Nowhere else has the critical mass to provide these things.
Apr. 27th, 2013 09:04 pm (UTC)
Jon, congrats on the job.

Yeah, I used to earn almost that much, and I would've balked at $2k/mo, $3k/month would break the bank, it is almost what my entire expenses are right now.

I don't know what makes sense in terms of rent vs neighborhood trade-off for you. I've already mentioned many different places in SF vs the East Bay, and I haven't mentioned the peninsula because its rents are higher due to easy commute to Silicon Valley. To tell you the truth you would have to visit the area to get a feel for different neighborhoods if you want to honestly compare.

To be honest when I graduated Stanford I was happy living in a large apartment complex with a short commute to work, and when I dated guys in the city I would just drive up there, or sometimes use BART, and I didn't care about the drive, and no guys ever really ragged on me for living in the suburbs. If I were still single I admit I would've probably not moved to San Jose though, it is a major trek to go to SF from here.

If I were you I would try to find a good roommate to share an apartment, probably in SF to minimize the commute.
Apr. 28th, 2013 04:35 am (UTC)
Well, it depends on which $1k, and what it buys me. The difference between $2500 and $3500 is the difference between really steep and completely unaffordable, for instance (but $1500 and $2500 is tangible)

To use DC-relative terms, I wouldn't think that living in say, Dupont vs Arlington is worth $1k more, but either of those versus Herndon is (especially if my job was in the city).

By the way, when you say it's been clear to everyone that I belong in SF, is this simply because of my crossdressing, or is there something deeper at work? (You aren't the only one to express the sentiment, certainly)

Apr. 28th, 2013 05:00 am (UTC)
Jon, it was Brendan who said:
I think it's been clear to everyone for a while now that you "belong" in SF.

Though I think to a certain extent it has been clear to me for a while that you should move to the Bay Area, or at least NYC, with regards to jobs, and any fulfillment you get from that.
Apr. 28th, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I meant that comment to go on Brendan's reply
Apr. 27th, 2013 10:20 pm (UTC)
Move to Berkeley. It's nice, it's got two(!) BART stations and it's much cheaper than SF.
Apr. 27th, 2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
"it's much cheaper than SF." That might not be true

Rent in downtown Berkeley is about $3.58/sqft, it is rivaling Mission Bay at $3.88/sqft.

If you lose the word "much" then I think it is pretty accurate, Jon doesn't sound like he wants to live far from BART.
Apr. 28th, 2013 12:57 am (UTC)
Downtown Berkeley is a crappy place to live anyway and everything else is ~$2.50.
Apr. 28th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC)
Whereas for $2.50 in SF you can live in the avenues or in beautiful ~BaYviEw~
Apr. 28th, 2013 01:31 am (UTC)
I was actually going to suggest West Portal, since it was at $2.29, and it seemed like a nice area the last few times I've been there, seems like a value to me. But he would have to cross the tunnel using Muni.
Apr. 28th, 2013 01:36 am (UTC)
Nevermind, I see why now, the rents are accurate, but everything out there is SFHs, you have to shell out $4K/mo for a 2000sqft house, and try to get 3 roommates.
Apr. 28th, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC)
Where or what is the avenues? Does that just mean living on the streets? If not, does it have good BART access?
Apr. 28th, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC)
No, "the avenues" means the residential Richmond and Sunset neighborhoods of SF (so-called because they are where the numbered avenues are). I presented it as a counterpoint to Jorge because they are basically pessimal for transit. One of the neighborhoods is served by the N muni line, but both have pessimal BART access. Outer Sunset is even sometimes jokingly referred to as Inner Japan due to its practical distance from downtown, etc.

Oakland and Berkeley are much closer on public transit to downtown if you live near BART, which isn't hard. Where I lived was a 16 minute walk from the Downtown Berkeley BART, and I was not in the rent heat map's "Downtown Berkeley." Seeing as how I was on a grad student's stipend (as is a lot of Berkeley's population) you can imagine that my housing was pretty affordable—it was in the $2.57/sqft area just north of the university's campus, where it's much quieter and more pleasant than this "Downtown Berkeley" which is mostly just somewhere you can walk around and eat and get on BART.
Apr. 28th, 2013 03:30 pm (UTC)
To be fair, I lived with roommates, but some of my grad student friends lived alone on monthly salaries that could not be more than $2500-3500.
Apr. 28th, 2013 05:29 pm (UTC)
15 minute walk to BART is 15 minutes of commute on top of waiting for the train and taking the train. That's not a trivial amount - 30 minutes a day. Getting on BART would probably be something I do almost every day.

Anyway, living alone on $3000 (Even post-tax) is an impressive feat for the area. One thing I also don't have a good handle on is how my non-rent expenses will change. Taxes will be higher, and I'm told everything is how expensive. What that works out to in real terms, though, I have no idea.
Apr. 28th, 2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
Or you know, you could just live at work in the bathroom because you have a crappy attitude.
Apr. 28th, 2013 05:59 pm (UTC)
As much freaking out as I'm doing about the actual mechanics of moving, I'm SUPER EXCITED. It has been a life dream of mine to move to the west coast since I was a teenager, and I'll make it work, somehow.
Apr. 28th, 2013 04:45 am (UTC)
$3.58*600 = $2148, which is... not... TOO bad. Sounds kind of nice really. Heck, $2400 for a 600 ft^2 apaartment? Seems doable to me.

It's surprising how expensive tenderloin is, I heard it was a bad neighborhood.
Apr. 28th, 2013 04:04 am (UTC)
yay congrats!! somehow we need to get everyone to migrate to the west coast.

if you're not going to have a car but you still want to enjoy nightlife in sf, i would say get a roommate. city life is worth it.
Apr. 28th, 2013 04:37 am (UTC)
I'm not opposed to the concept of getting a roommate, but the idea of moving to an apartment I've seen with someone I've never met is a bit intimidating. Thankfully, I think I've found a way to buy a few weeks to sort that out.

I have no idea where to find a roommate, though. They obviously would have to be totally cool with my gender bending, XD.
Apr. 28th, 2013 05:03 am (UTC)
Congrats Jon!! That's great news :D It'll be a lot of work moving out there, but you get to reap the benefits later.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )