The Skinny on SJ
Perched on the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay and circumscribed by the majestic Santa Cruz mountains, San Jose is unarguably one of NoCal’s most aesthetically pleasing stomping grounds. But life in the hub of the Silicon Valley is about more than postcard-perfect vistas. A few facts about SJ life that might help make your migration easy breezy include the following:
Diversity: Even for California’s high standard for variety, San Jose is remarkably diverse. You’ll find peeps from all walks of life living there. Hispanics accounts for nearly a third of all residents, while more than 300,000 Asians and nearly as many American-born Caucasians call the South Bay home as well. Other neighborhoods boast large numbers of Vietnamese (head to “Little Saigon” for outstanding pho), Japanese, and African-Americans. In fact, more residents in San Jose speak Tagalog (no, doofus, it’s not a Girl Scout cookie—it’s the native language of over 30 million Filipinos) than anywhere else in California. Bottom line: if your dream city resembles a U.N. summit, you’re in the right spot.
Brains: High-tech engineering and computing conglomerates (hence, the chemical moniker “silicon”) dominate economy as well as conversation, so brush up on your geek-speak before arriving. Also, bring your entrepreneur’s hat: San Jose witnesses more U.S. patent applications than any other American city, and the proximity of such genius-factories as Stanford and Berkeley only serves to further qualify this corridor as one of the smartest regions in the world.
Fun-ness: Sister-city San Francisco may be the City that Knows How, but when it comes to entertainment, San Jose is no slouch. Can you say… “Parks and gardens”? How about “trails”? “Festival grounds”? “Sporting events”? Shopping centers? Sidewalk-surfing hotspots? Museums? Theaters? Nightlife venues? Okay you get it: even those for whom “bored to death” is a frequent tweet aren’t likely to suffer from SJ-induced ennui. The bottom line here is to make sure you have a disposable income (and some tight pants).
Apartments: This housing market’s got its junk together. That means you ought to expect standardized options, such as lease length (6 months to a year), deposit ($350 and up, according to montly rent), pet-friendliness (small-uns, sure; big-uns, not usually), an application criteria (credit report, references, etc.; do yourself a favor and make an archive of copies of these documents to hand out at open houses). With any luck, you’ll get on a two-year waiting list in no time!
Logistics-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named: Harry Potter XVI isn’t the only blockbuster with one of these in the cast list. One by one:
- Do you need a car? Yes, unless you attend SJSU and don’t plan on leaving campus or downtown except to go to San Fran. Expect to pay for parking at an apartment complex in the downtown/SJSU areas.
- What if I don’t own a car and actually enjoy looking down on all you fossil-fuel-enslaved suckas? The City of San Jose has a passable bus system and CalTrain gets you anywhere along the Bay. We hear the crowded bus platform, particularly as you heave your month’s worth of Trader Joe’s groceries onto it, is a fabulous place to practice nose-snubbing.
- Is SJ dangerous? Hmm, compared to San Francisco? Yes (marginally). Compared to LA? Hells no. You’ll see po-po around the downtown bar scene on weekends, but that’s mainly just to give those blokes a job and to break up barfights. That said, there are some (easily avoidable) bad pockets north of Santa Clara and west of 10th streets.
- Is SJ “affordable”? For the nearsighted in the crowd, those are quotations. Around the word affordable. Why? Because—like crime—cost of living is relative. SJ is cheap compared to Beverly Hills, but expensive sompared to Duluth, Minnesota. Expect to pay Northern California prices and taxes. ‘Nuff said.
- How likely is an earthquake? Puh-leeease. You know the answer to that one. Earthquake-preparedness is gauged not in likelihood, but in possibility. You might need renter’s insurance, depending on the complex. You’ll certainly need a “go bag,” which contains essentials such as a headlamp or flashlight, bottled water, first-aid kit, pocket knife, local map, and other emergency items. (If you really want to get crazy, the City of San Francisco has created a helpful website with heaps more info.
A Seafarer’s Guide to South Bay Barrios
Ahoy, mateskis! In SJ, neighborhoods are like sea creatures. (Wasn’t that a line from Shrek?) Regardless, climb on into the SeaGazer 3000, our patented vehicular contraption for examining the curious sea life of the San Francisco Bay—and the worth-checking-out locales of SJ.
Behold, the mighty octopus! Downtown San Jose is a multi-faceted area, combining a studenty university feel with an urban skyline vibe. You may get inked after 3am on a weekend, but if you play nice this neighborhood will awe your friends and keep you in style. Rent range in this sector is just as eight-sided as it’s cultural appeal: luxury condos can start at $1500/month, but one might also find a room share in a student house for under $600/month. (It all depends on how you define “spacious.”)
Next, ladies and gents, cast your attention toward the elegant swordfish. Luna Park & Hyde Park present sophisticated alternatives to downtown residency. Commute times from these neighborhoods are as slim as the swordfish’s muzzle (and cocktail lounges as curvy as its… fins?). Heaps of townhouses and vintage buildings glut this market with 2BRs, which drives the prices down (expect around $1200/month for a 2BR townhome) if you’re into roommates. If you’re not into roommates, expect to drop $1400/month on a (luxury) single.
Perhaps the most eclectic area in SJ is Midtown. It ranges from the prickly blowfish district of Burbank (one of the riskier areas west of downtown) to the old wealth neighborhood Willow Glen, akin to those elderly sea turtles from Finding Nemo (classic, but surfer dudes at core). If you’re keen on the scene, you’ll likely gravitate toward Burbank. That said, studios and 1BRs near Santana Row will still cost ya over $1000/month. On the other hand, if you love that polished look (check out the decorations on Lincoln Ave. at Christmastime if you need a refresher), settle in a 2BR/1BA brick townhome for between $1400 and $1800/month.
Folks love to ooh and ahh at the deepwater sea urchins. “Further out” San Jose usually means no further than Campbell, a cute, family-oriented district on the Los Gatos Creek bike path. One is more likely to purchase rather than rent in this corner of the South Bay, but young professionals can still find decent apartment living in “West SJ.” House shares run around $600-800/month and 1BRs over $1000/month. Beware that most of your neighbor urchins spend their workweek commuting to shallower waters, so finding community on Monday-Thursday might mean getting tea with the housekeepers. Watch yer fingers as we chug-a-lug back to the dock here, folks. Thanks for joining us on our brief voyage—we hope something caught your fancy. If not, strap on them flippers and snorkel about on your own. There’s no better way to find an apartment than to remember that adage your granny taught you: “Search the interwebs, silly!”