California here we come. Tell me about the San Diego area.

So, my wife has almost finished her Ph.D., and has scored a job as an Assistant Professor at California State University at San Marcos, which means we’ll be moving to Southern California over the summer.

She’s California born and bred (albeit from the Bay area), so she’s really looking forward to being on the west coast again, and as a transplanted Aussie i’ve always felt very at home in California. It’s also closer to friends and family in Australia.

About the only thing we’re (almost) certain about right now is that we don’t want to live in San Marcos itself. No offense to anyone who might live there, but i seems a bit too much like freeway/suburban hell for our liking. Right now we’re tossing up between living in San Diego (on the northern side of the city, to make for an easier commute for her), or in one of the oceanside communities north of the city. I think we’re leaning towards the city though, as we’re both city people, and there look to be some nice neighborhoods around the zoo area, etc. But i’ve never been to San Diego, and she hasn’t been there for years, so any advice that SoCal dopers have to offer would be most welcome.

Although we probably won’t move to the area until the end of July or beginning of August, we’ve been looking at places online, and it seems that the rental market is not especially tight at the moment. There appear to be plenty of places for rent, and lots of apartment and condo complexes are offering deals like low deposits or first month’s rent free.

We can’t afford to buy immediately, and even if we had the money we wouldn’t buy for a year or two anyway, just in case the job or the area don’t work out and we need to move. I’m still working on my dissertation (should have been finished already, but that’s another story), so we’ll effectively be on one income for a while, with perhaps a little extra that i can bring in doing some on-the-side research or teaching work. But i definitely can’t work in the fall, until my permanent residency application has been processed.

Ideally, we’d like to pay as little as possible in rent, but we’d also prefer not to live in a crappy place. Given the choice, we’d pay a little more for a nice place rather than put up with something we didn’t like. We’re also fans of wood floors and older places; if we have to live in a new condo or something for a while, we will, but would prefer not to. Two bedrooms is a must, and two and a half or three would be nice so we can each have an office.

In looking on CraigsList and a few other places over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some decent places in the $1400-1800 per month range that would probably be fine. Unfortunately for us, it seems that newer condos tend to dominate the market, but we’ve also come across a few nice little houses that look like they have some character. We’d like to stay under $1800 if at all possible, and less would be better.

While we’ll obviously need a car, we’d also like to live somewhere where we can walk places, such as grocery stores and markets, and/or places like parks or the beach. While we both love Baltimore, and will miss it, the one thing we really miss is living in a walking city, a place where you can easily and safely do things on foot if you want to.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling on for now. If you live (or have lived) in the San Diego area, i’d be very happy to hear any opinions or advice you might have.

After reading about the lifestyle you like, I’d have to agree that you probably wouldn’t be happy renting in San Marcos. The problem is that the places you would like to live are a pretty good commute TO San Marcos. You would probably like the Hillcrest/North Park area (so long as you aren’t homophobic), or South Park, Golden Hill, downtown San Diego or Kensington. Those are the most “walkable” neighborhoods in town and all very charming with older-style home with some character. Del Mar and Encinitas up north have charming “downtowns”, but the rent there would be mighty spendy. I think you’re absolutely right to rent for awhile, if only to give yourselves some time to explore different neighborhoods. In fact, you may be able to find something month to month, and that might not be a bad idea. Don’t unpack too much, see what the commute is like, explore different neighborhoods, have tea with my partner and I so we can fill you in further (really, we’d be happy to meet with you and help you get acquainted with the city - private message me when you get in town if you’d like!) I’m a psychologist here in town and my partner is a computer consultant. I’ve lived in San Diego for about 18 years but I grew up on the east coast (Delaware). Congratulations to your wife on her Associate Professorship!

Thanks for your reply, jellyblue.

It seems to be about 35 miles, according to Google maps. This seems like a manageable commute, though, for a couple of reasons.

First, we were assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that commuting from the city to San Marcos would probably mean that she is driving in the opposite direction to most rush-hour traffic. I assume that most people commute into San Diego to work, than vice versa.

Second, and perhaps more important, her teaching and administrative schedule is such that, in the first year at least, she shouldn’t need to be on campus more than three days a week, and sometimes will be able to get away with two days. The other days, she’ll be able to work on lesson plans, research, etc. at home. While a full week’s commuting to San Marcos would be a bit of a grind, two or three days a week shouldn’t be so bad.

Those are precisely the areas we’ve been looking at. We’re both from cities with large gay communities (she’s from San Francisco, and i’m from Sydney), so we’re both perfectly happy living in the middle of gay-friendly neighborhoods.

Thanks for the offer of advice and counsel. I’ll definitely get in touch when we arrive, and will probably return to the boards before that with more questions.

By the way, is San Diego a bike-friendly city? One of the first things i want to do when we arrive is buy a bicycle.

Oceanside and Vista are very nice and have much less of the “suburban hell” feel to it as they were fairly large and self-sustaining before the population explosion.

This is true to some degree, but less than you’d think, unfortunately. The commute south is always bad, it doesn’t matter when. Remember than besides daily commuters, we are in between Mexico and Los Angeles and lots and lots of people go to/from those places. Buy/rent a much more comfortable vehicle than you think you’ll need.

This, however, will help considerably. Her schedule sounds like mine!

Please do, we’d love to meet you :slight_smile: .

Well, I consulted with the spousette on this one since she’s the cyclist in the family (I, myself, am barely coordinated enough to walk without falling down). She says that in the sense that there are bike clubs and shops and lovely weather, yes it is. In the sense that there are tons of hilly canyons connected only by freeways, no, it’s not. IME, there are a LOT of cyclists in North County - many, many professional cyclists train there. They have definitely made their presence known and muscled out some space for themselves, so it’s relatively safe to ride there, especially up & down the coast. Where you would like living, not so much. People do get creamed and it’s astonishingly difficult to chart a reasonable course from one place to another. In the 3 years she’s been here, the best ride she’s found is from Imperial Beach to Coronado and back, up & down the Silver Strand. There’s a dedicated bike lane, and it’s flat, beautiful and safe.
Hope that helps!

Chiming in to mostly second Jellyblue’s recommendations.

  • Definitely rent first. I think with the housing market these days, you will have your pick of rentals.

  • It sounds like North Park, Hillcrest, or downtown would most fit what you’re looking for. However, even the downtown pales to most “downtowns” of major cities. The Gaslamp is nice for restaurants and clubs, but there just isn’t that many blocks to wander about (nothing like SF). Just setting expectations.

  • Though 35 miles may not seem that bad, depending on the time, it could still be a long commute. Yes, most traffic is heading south into downtown. But your choices for going north in the morning aren’t great either: I-5 becomes a parking lot in Del Mar, and once you get off I-15 onto 78, it will be slow again. Only needing to commute a couple days will help. But if the hours were flexible (say head in after 9am), that would be best.

  • A nice, older house in North Park or Hillcrest sounds like it would fit what you’re looking for (having character and all). But be warned - the older places will be small. Small bedrooms, etc… And also may not be as well insulated: cold in the winter (it doesn’t snow, but yes it does get cold in the winter here), and hot in the summer (but usually low humidity). Something to consider.

  • San Diego is most definitely a bike friendly area. You have your choice of some challenging hilly areas, dirt for mountain bikes, and nice and flat along the coast. The coast rides are very popular. I was a bit intimidated in that it seemed that you had to be wearing an acceptable outfit to ride there (including the sport sunglasses ;-). But I’m sure that was just my imagination.

  • Perhaps it’s just me, but I think your description “freeway/suburban hell” pretty much describes all the rest of San Diego except downtown (and La Jolla). If you do decide to live closer to San Marcos, there are some reasonable areas in Vista and Oceanside. I’d stay away from Escondido, though (the prices are lower for a reason). I don’t know much about San Marcos, but there are some nice neighborhoods around the lake.

One last note: I grew up in the SF bay area (silicon valley) and have been down here for 20 years. Along with the beach/surfer/sun-worshipping vibe, be prepared for a much more republican/conservative atmosphere when you get here. (the dopers, of course, are the exception).

This is kind of what I thought, too. In my opinion most of the San Diego neighborhoods (with the exception of the ring around downtown mentioned before - North Park, Hillcrest, etc.) is all pretty “suburbia.” That’s kind of Southern California in a nutshell really. There are probably pockets that aren’t as bad, but to me, that’s really what it’s like here.

The commute up to San Marcos won’t be fun, but it’s doable. I’ve done commuting in the LA area, and we aren’t that bad (yet) and if you’ve ever been stuck in the Bay Area traffic, I don’t think it is as bad as that. I know people who do long commutes, and while it’s certainly not ideal, if you want to live for cheaper money in rent, sometimes that’s what you have to do.

Best weather in the world, though. Seriously- it’s always nice.

Hubby did his undergrad degree in philosophy at USD, and we lived right down the street from the Mormon temple at La Jolla Village Dr off the 5 freeway.

No kidding? I went to USD, too.

La Jolla Village? Are you sure you don’t mean UCSD?

One can go to school at USD and live near UCSD.

Cool. Hubby graduated in 1994. Was Sister Feury Dean of Students when you were there? I always thought “Fury” was a great name for a nun! :smiley:



Thanks for all the information folks. We still have a few months before we move, so you can be sure i’ll be back with some more specific question as the move gets closer.

I appreciate that the car culture and suburban life is pretty much standard in SoCal, and that i won’t get the sort of “city living” experience that i associate with places like New York or Chicago or San Francisco. Still, some of the areas you’ve mentioned look pretty good. We’ve been looking online at a bunch of rental places, and while most of the housing stock in our price range seems to be newer condos, we’ve also come across a few nice little houses.

I graduated in 1995 - we probably walked right by each other on the way to class!

I’ve been working in the area, off and on, for the last month or two. It is really a beautiful area, and the weather is fantastic. If the housing were more affordable I’d consider moving there. A lot of diversity in food options, plus the standard stuff, the ocean is gorgeous, people I’ve met are pleasant, very active, outdoors oriented lifestyle.

Traffic is worse than Baltimore, IMO, although I’ve not lived in Baltimore for over 10 years, so it’s probably gotten worse.

Driving is such a huge part of living in San Diego. The city had no real plan for expanding- it just “growed like Topsy,” so to speak, and is spread out to hell and gone with no real organization. Traffic can be very bad in some areas, although they have been trying to fix the bigger trouble spots in the last few years.