Coit Tower in San Francisco

Coit Tower in San Francisco

How hard could relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley be? It’s the same time zone, the same “San Francisco Bay Area” region, and depending on which part of Silicon Valley you target, the drive time could be all of 20 minutes – or perhaps well over an hour.

Relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley can be a little bit of a culture shock, which is surprising given the close proximity of the two areas.  What’s so different? In short:

  • Scenery
  • Density / Sprawl
  • Weather / Climate
  • Parking / Transit / Traffic
  • Events & Dining
  • Housing Sticker Shock

We’ll go over each of these below.

Silicon Valley Scenery

Most noticeably, the scenery is different.

You won’t be seeing the Golden Gate Bridge,  facing frighteningly steep hills, or catching a view of the Pacific Ocean from the Cliff House when you’re in Silicon Valley. Nob Hill, the Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Union Square, Market Street, Mission Dolores, the SOMA district and so many other colorful parts of the city will be places you visit on weekends rather than drop in on some evening for supper. The scenic beauty of San Francisco may be the thing you will miss the most if you move out of that fabled city.

Beauty isn’t absent from Silicon Valley, though!  There are views of the San Francisco Bay in many places (Foster City and Redwood Shores especially).  Scenic vistas of the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains can be enjoyed from many locations in the South Bay, especially Los Altos, Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and the Almaden Valley in San Jose. Part of Silicon Valley reaches into North San Jose, Milpitas, and Fremont, where views of the eastern foothills can be quite lovely, too.  Some of these communities have a high elevation and can see the bay as well as the valley.

San Mateo County - Crystal Springs path by water - different views when relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley

San Mateo County – Crystal Springs path by water: relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley means trading views of the Pacific for views of lakes, among other things

If you are relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, you’ll want to be outdoors more and enjoy the many open spaces available to you. Parks and hiking areas abound on the Peninsula and in Santa Clara County. For example, you’ve probably driven past Crystal Springs Reservoir many times- but did you know that you can hike there?  Santa Clara County has a network of trails following various creeks.  The Los Gatos Creek Trail (with some adjacent percolation ponds) runs from Lexington Reservoir down into the valley, stopping at Meridian Avenue. There are also trails around parts of the bay – and eventually trails should ring the whole SF Bay Area, but that may take quite awhile.

At Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos you can rent a paddle boat and roam the lake in style! Or how about sauntering on horseback in the low foothills of Saratoga at Garrod’s? A day at Filoli in Woodside is always good for the soul – lovely places to walk around both outdoors and in. (Really spectacular during the holidays, too.)

Got wine?  You’ll get great views if you take in some wine tasting in Saratoga (several spots, also at Cooper-Garrod’s if you want to sip wine after riding horses) or Cupertino at Ridge Vineyards, too. There are dozens of wineries in Silicon Valley, including J Lohr near the San Jose airport.

Lovely sights are bountiful in The Valley.

Relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley: Sprawl

The population density is quite different in most of Silicon Valley as compared to SF, too.  Most of Silicon Valley consists of sprawl (or you may come to like it as “elbow room”).  Not everywhere, of course: there are plenty of more compact, walkable, urban communities south of The City, including areas within Burlingame, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, Los Gatos, and Saratoga. Plus the urban neighborhoods within San Jose,  including the downtown area, Willow Glen, Japantown, Santana Row – to name a few.

Weather Differences are very noticeable when relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley

In general, summers are warmer and winters are cooler in Silicon Valley than in the City by the Bay.  Fog can be beautiful, but many of us think of it a little like snow – it’s nice to visit but great if we don’t have to live with it all the time. Most likely, you won’t miss San Francisco’s freezing summers!  The whole Bay Area enjoys a sub-tropical climate, but the difference in climate is pretty noticeable just the same. See also: Silicon Valley: A Word About the Climate

Transit, Traffic, and Parking

What about transit, traffic, and parking?  Street parking is slightly easier south of SF – 18″ from the curb, not just 12″ as the required minimum in The City. The cost of parking, when you need a garage, is generally less costly, too.  Traffic is bad everywhere, both in San Francisco and in the region generally.  Unless you can use CalTrain, though, the odds are good that outside of San Francisco you will need your car to commute to work.

We have buses and some light rail, too, but they are not a quick way to get around (back to sprawl).  San Francisco’s public transit is far better, hands down.  Thankfully, BART is now Santa Clara County, and expanding further in the years to come, and many jobs are getting built in downtown San Jose (Google plans to have a massive number of jobs near the main San Jose train station, Diridon).

Gasoline is a little cheaper in San Jose than in San Fran, but of course it varies from one corner to the next.

Dining & Events

Diversity in restaurants & events is a huge plus in San Francisco, but you may be surprised to learn that it’s also a huge plus in Silicon Valley. One example is downtown Mountain View along Castro Street.  It is bustling with shops, cafes, pubs, and eateries of all kinds.  A theater on the same strip is a great place to enjoy live performances.

Stanford University is just around the corner in Palo Alto and offers many interesting events throughout the year: sports, music, art, lectures. My husband and I love to hear the exceptionally good Stanford Jazz Band. The Peninsula and the San Jose area both have a number of small theater troupes.

San Jose alone has about 1900 restaurants, with a very wide variety from all over the globe. Many neighborhoods have live, free, outdoor music events in the summer, too.  Community colleges and nearby universities scattered throughout the region all offer a great variety of interesting, educational, and fun events.

The South Bay is full of interesting pockets with great ethnic dining, including areas such as Japantown, Little Italy, Koreatown, Little Saigon, and Little Portugal. Most of these don’t get the press that they deserve!

Annual festivals are abundant too, including the Greek Festival in San Jose and the annual Italian Family Festa, as well as the annual Obon Festival in Japantown, also in San Jose. Art and wine festivals are found in Los Gatos, Campbell, and many other areas. If you’re relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, there will be no shortage of interesting, fine dining and also no shortage of festivals and events!

Housing Sticker Shock when Relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley

Real estate and housing costs may be better in Silicon Valley, ever so slightly, depending on where you choose to live.  Most of Silicon Valley is in Santa Clara County, which is generally more affordable than San Francisco. The California Association of Realtors just put out a Housing Affordability Index report, which you can view online. It states that the median home price of a house in these counties are as follows for the first quarter of 2023, the most recent data available from this source:

  • San Francisco $1,550,000
  • San Mateo County (The Peninsula) $1,850,000
  • Santa Clara County (San Jose, Palo Alto, Cupertino etc.) $1,618,440
  • Alameda County (Fremont) $1,128,000
  • Santa Cruz County (“The Central Coast”, Scotts Valley) $1,200,000

There’s much more info at that link, including the median income needed to buy a single family house in each of these counties.

Apartment living is similarly painful. If you are relocating to Silicon Valley from SF, though, most likely it won’t be worse and may be better!

Strong public schools can be a primary driver for people to move out of San Francisco and into a suburb in Silicon Valley. The Valley does not have uniformly good schools,  however, there are loads of communities and neighborhoods here with exceptionally strong schools.

Making the move from an iconic city to Silicon Valley may be emotionally challenging. San Franciscans love their city, as do those of us who live near it.  Rest assured that you can visit it easily enough on the weekends, and that there’s much to see, do, and love in the South Bay and Peninsula.  Explore Silicon Valley’s many interesting communities. It’s a wonderful place to call home.


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