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20 Cities Near San Francisco, CA to Live in, 2021

By: Davina Ward
June 15, 2021

There’s no denying that San Francisco is a fabulous city to live in. Its location, famed landmarks, and fast-paced lifestyle make San Francisco one of the prime destinations for anyone moving to California. Moreover, the massive job market in San Francisco means the city employs millions of people.

As much as San Francisco has to offer, it’s not the right city for some. Luckily, even if you work in San Francisco, you don’t have to be tied to the city. There are a ton of awesome places to live near San Francisco that don’t have the same heavy traffic, high costs, noise, and distinct culture.

We’ve taken the liberty of organizing this list of cities near San Francisco from the closest cities to San Francisco to the farthest.

Let’s get started!

Marin City

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 10.3 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 26 minutes via the US-101 S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 38 minutes via the 70 bus
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 1 hour and 13 minutes
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: Starting at $2,100
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: Starting at $2,100
  • Population: 3,126
  • Median Household Income: $115,246
  • Walk Score: 61
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 51

Marin City is quite small. It's not exactly a bustling metropolis, but it isn’t a sleeping village either. Residents in Marin City enjoy close proximity to San Francisco with a less than half-hour commute to the city’s center.

The quiet city boasts apartment units that are generally found in split-level houses, rather than massive apartment complexes. However, there are a few apartment complexes to be found within city limits, for those that prefer them.

Oakland

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 12.3
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 24 minutes via I-80 W
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 19 minutes via the Red-S/Yellow-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 49 minutes via Alameda/Oakland - San Francisco Ferry Building including a ferry ride
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,994
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,982
  • Population: 433,031
  • Median Household Income: $73,692
  • Walk Score: 74
  • Transit Score: 56
  • Bike Score: 65

As one of the most well-known cities near San Francisco, Oakland is just a stone’s throw away from the city’s center. Pairing its excellent location with its convenient public transportation options through BART, Oakland is a veritable dream destination for commuters.

In addition to these benefits, Oakland residents enjoy more affordable housing prices and a slightly more relaxed vibe than their SF neighbors. From Adam’s Point to Fruitvale, Oakland boasts awesome neighborhoods that you’ll never want to leave.

Berkeley

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 13.5 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 31 minutes via the 1-80 W
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 1 hour and 11 minutes via the 72 bus with transfers to the Red-S/Yellow-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 1 hour and 16 minutes via Alameda/Oakland - San Francisco Ferry Building including a ferry ride
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,822
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,909
  • Population: 121,363
  • Median Household Income: $85,530
  • Walk Score: 83
  • Transit Score: 59
  • Bike Score: 82

Berkeley is one of the most famous cities in California. It’s home to the oldest University of California campus in the state and has a fun, laid-back, and prestigious atmosphere that’s hard to replicate anywhere else.

If you’re making the move to Berkeley, your commute time will be low, but you may experience a significant increase in your expenses. Berkeley is not as affordable as other California cities, but it isn’t exorbitantly priced either. That said, if you’re looking to save, you should consider move-in specials in San Francisco.

Alameda

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 14 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 27 minutes
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 55 minutes via the 20 bus with a transfer to the Red-S/Yellow-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 44 minutes via Alameda/Oakland - San Francisco Ferry Building
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,223
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,736
  • Population: 78,522
  • Median Household Income: $99,406
  • Walk Score: 66
  • Transit Score: 41
  • Bike Score: 76

Nicknamed “The Island City,” Alameda is a gorgeous city with perfect weather and tons of outdoor recreation options, from surfing to skating. The city is an environmentally conscious renter’s dream with eco-initiatives that make it one of the greenest cities in California.

Unexpectedly, Alameda boasts a small-town vibe. However, the bustling streets of San Francisco are easily accessible. Whether you commute to San Francisco via car, public transit, or bike, you won’t spend more than an hour getting to your destination.

Mill Valley

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 14.1
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 35 minutes
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 1 hour and 18 minutes via the 17 bus and a transfer to the 30 bus
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 1 hour and 28 minutes via Mill Valley-Sausalito Path
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: Starting at $2,050
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: Starting at $2,050
  • Population: 14,259
  • Median Household Income: $163,614
  • Walk Score: 91
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: N/A

A quick trip over the Golden Gate Bridge delivers you right into Mill Valley. The picturesque little community offers a treasure trove of geographical wonders within its limits. Mill Valley residents enjoy canyons, hills, the namesake valley, and massive redwoods.

If you’re looking to rent in Mill Valley, be prepared for its high rent prices, especially compared to San Francisco’s average rent prices. It’s not a great location for someone looking to save big on rent unless you’re renting with roommates. For its short commute into San Francisco, the gorgeous views, and festivals galore, Mill Valley is certainly worth the money.

San Mateo

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 19.8 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 32 minutes via US-101 N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 47 minutes via LTD A with a transfer to the Red-N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 1 hour and 56 minutes via San Francisco Bicycle Route 5
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,055
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $4,116
  • Population: 766,573
  • Median Household Income: $122,641
  • Walk Score: 65
  • Transit Score: 40
  • Bike Score: 65

Gear up for a fight against time when you’re trying to lease in San Mateo. Unfortunately, there are more interested renters than available apartments in this warm, scenic city. If you want to avoid the competition, you should consider some of the cheap apartments in San Francisco.

Of course, if you have some time and a lot of determination, it’s not hard to land an apartment in San Mateo. With a plethora of entertainment and recreation options, as well as a booming job market, San Mateo is worth the wait.

Walnut Creek

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 25 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 40 minutes
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 43 minutes via CA-24 W and I-80 W
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 3 hours and 9 minutes including a ferry ride
  • Median Rent: $2,179 / month
  • Population: 70,166
  • Median Household Income: $105,948
  • Walk Score: 39
  • Transit Score: 26
  • Bike Score: 49

Getting into one of Walnut Creek's covetable apartments takes some finagling, as the market isn’t exactly flooded with vacant units. You’ll have to ensure that your rental application is airtight and paints you as a fantastic tenant to stand out among your competition.

If you possess the patience, persistence, and funds you’ll need to rent in Walnut Creek, you’ll find yourself in a gorgeous city with tons of aesthetically pleasing characteristics, including green hills, trees, a lake, and the namesake creek.

Redwood City

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 26.6 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 37 minutes
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 1 hour via the LTD A with a transfer to the Red-N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 2 hours and 35 minutes via Bicycle Route 5
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,541
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $4,342
  • Population: 85,925
  • Median Household Income: $117,123
  • Walk Score: 61
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 67

Arguably the best part of living in Redwood City is its collection of unique neighborhoods, ranging from the distinct hipster areas to the snoozing suburbs. Regardless of your preferences, you’re likely to become a member of a tribe within your local Redwood city community.

That said, the city is pay to play. Expect higher than usual security deposits, higher rental rates, and, of course, the luxury amenities to match those prices. To save, consider renting with roommates, commuting via bicycle, or renting a studio, instead of a one-bedroom.

Hayward

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 26.9 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 37 minutes (route with tolls)
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 57 minutes via the Green-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 1 hour and 48 minutes including a transfer via ferry
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,079
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,809
  • Population: 159,203
  • Median Household Income: $86,744
  • Walk Score: 55
  • Transit Score: 40
  • Bike Score: 54

Hayward is the place to be if you’re looking for a reasonable commute to and from San Francisco, without having to deal with the sky-rocketing housing market in the city. That said, location isn’t the only thing that Hayward has going for it.

A small downtown area currently undergoing revitalization, a smattering of retail options, and a few outdoor recreation options, including Garin Park, make Hayward an ideal destination for any renter looking for a charming place to call home.

Vallejo

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 31.7 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 49 minutes via the I-80 W
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus:1 hour and 39 minutes via the 104 R with transfers to the Orange-S and Blue-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 1 hour and 3 minutes including a ferry ride
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $1,250
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $1,600
  • Population: 121,692
  • Median Household Income: $69,405
  • Walk Score: 40
  • Transit Score: 31
  • Bike Score: 36

The commute to San Francisco from Vallejo is well under an hour and will save you tons of time during the week. Not to mention, average rental rates in the city are affordable compared to neighborhoods nearing San Francisco’s downtown area.

Beyond those enticing benefits, Vallejo offers a mix of suburbs, grand old Victorian houses, apartment complexes, and even some high-flying lofts. There’s a lot to choose from, so you don’t have to worry about settling for something _close enough _to your dream apartment.

Palo Alto

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 33.6 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 40 minutes via the US-101 N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 1 hour and 12 minutes via the LTD A with a transfer to the Red-N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 3 hours and 6 minutes via Middlefield
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,512
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,482
  • Population: 65,364
  • Median Household Income: $158,271
  • Walk Score: 60
  • Transit Score: 39
  • Bike Score: 91

Whether you’re a tech lover or work in the industry, Palo Alto is an ideal destination. As the tech capital of the US, Palo Alto offers tons of job opportunities for recent Stanford graduates and any rising tech stars.

That said, you’ll have to make big money in the tech industry to afford living in this city, as its prices are exorbitantly high compared to San Francisco’s cost of living. If you can afford it, there are tons of neighborhoods to choose from, ranging from suburban vibes to upscale living.

Mountain View

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 39.5 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 50 minutes via US-101 N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 1 hour and 22 minutes via LTD A/LTD B with a transfer to the Red-N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 3 hours and 36 minutes via San Francisco Bicycle Route 5
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,176
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,819
  • Population: 82,739
  • Median Household Income: $139,720
  • Walk Score: 65
  • Transit Score: 43
  • Bike Score: 90

Before you decide to move to San Francisco, check out the more tech-focused Mountain View city. This Silicon Valley hotspot attracts San Francisco daily commuters and its residents are some of the most affluent in the state.

However, if you have the funds, and wish to live the high life with tons of pools, slowed down suburban living, and a plethora of housing options — Mountain View is the place for you!

Pleasanton

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 39.9 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 50 minutes via the I-580 W including tolls
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 2 hours and 6 minutes via the ACE with transfers to the 10R/30R and the Blue-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 2 hours and 55 minutes via the San Francisco Ferry Bldg - Alameda (Harbor Bay) including a ferry ride
  • Median Rent: $2,534 / month
  • Population: 81,777
  • Median Household Income: $156,400
  • Walk Score: 40
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 58

As the name suggests, living in Pleasanton is an all-around great experience, although it's one of the most expensive places to live in California.

Pleasanton earns its notoriety with some of the most luxurious living experiences that the state has to offer. With a diverse culture, mid-century modern homes, and amenity-rich apartment complexes, Pleasanton lives up to its name.

Cupertino

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 43.6
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 54 minutes via the US-101 N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 2 hours and 17 minutes via the Rapid 523 with transfers to the LTD A/LTD B and the Red-N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 4 hours and 7 minutes via Foothill Expy
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,705
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,576
  • Population: 59,276
  • Median Household Income: $171,917
  • Walk Score: 48
  • Transit Score: 35
  • Bike Score: 66

Apple made Cupertino famous, but it’s famous in its own right. The small city is known for its prominence as a Silicon Valley hotspot with exorbitant housing prices. If you’re looking for an apartment in Cupertino, don’t expect to spend less than $2,000 a month.

Cupertino is a diverse mecca for tech nerds and those looking for high-class living near San Francisco. If that’s right up your alley, you’ll fit right in!

Santa Clara

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 45.1 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 52 minutes via US-101 N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 1 hour and 35 minutes via the CC and Green-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 4 hours and 35 minutes via E Evelyn Ave.
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $1,716
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,227
  • Population: 1,927,852
  • Median Household Income: $124,055
  • Walk Score: 58
  • Transit Score: 41
  • Bike Score: 74

Santa Clara is synonymous with three things: tech, eco-friendliness, and recreation. The city is located in Silicon Valley and offers excellent job opportunities to those within the tech industry. Moreover, Santa Clara’s government has committed to going green and set initiatives to bring down the city’s carbon footprint.

Finally, soccer and football teams, skate parks, museums, and a plethora of shopping destinations make Santa Clara one of the most interesting and entertaining cities near San Francisco.

San Jose

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 48.5
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 57 minutes via the US-101 N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 1 hour and 37 minutes via the LTD A with a transfer to the Red-N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 5 hours via the Bay Trail
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,890
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,561
  • Population: 1,021,795
  • Median Household Income: $109,593
  • Walk Score: 49
  • Transit Score: 41
  • Bike Score: 62

Not only is San Jose one of the most beautiful places to live in California, but it’s also one of the most exciting. With a focus on outdoor recreation, San Jose residents enjoy some of the city’s lush gardens, winding trails, and festivals.

The housing market is also relatively easy to navigate, with tons of rental options ranging from the standard 1-year lease to short-term leases for those preferring as little commitment as possible. Pricing isn’t too bad, as the average rent in San Jose is relatively affordable.

Cities Near San Francisco with Higher Commute Times

As remote work is becoming increasingly common, finding a great place to call home near San Francisco could be the right move for you long-term.

That said, near is a relative term. For those who may make a rare trek to San Francisco, we’ve got a breakdown of cities with longer commute times to the city’s center.

Though these cities aren’t ideal for those who must drive to work in San Francisco daily, they may be a good fit for you if you are a remote worker or only have to go to work once or twice a week.

Here are some of the best cities near San Francisco with higher commute times.

Vacaville

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 54.4 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 1 hour and 8 minutes via the I-80 W
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 2 hours and 14 minutes via the BLUE bus with a transfer to the Yellow-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 3 hours and 40 minutes via Vallejo - San Francisco Pier 41
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $1,962
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,651
  • Population: 100,670
  • Median Household Income: $87,823
  • Walk Score: 33
  • Transit Score: 24
  • Bike Score: 46

Why move to Vacaville? You crave a small-town vibe and a location that makes commuting easy. At just over an hour’s commute to San Francisco, Vacaville is perfect for those that may have to make regular trips to San Francisco.

While there are some expensive neighborhoods in Vacaville, they offer safety and security that less expensive areas just don’t offer. So, you’ll have to make a decision before starting your apartment hunt.

Davis

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 73.3 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 1 hour and 25 minutes via 1-80 W
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 2 hours and 19 minutes via the CC bus with a transfer to the Red-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 5 hours and 41 minutes via Vallejo - San Francisco Pier 41
  • Median Rent: $1,720
  • Population: 69,413
  • Median Household Income: $69,379
  • Walk Score: 44
  • Transit Score: 34
  • Bike Score: 90

Have a bike and a willingness to use it on the muggiest of summer days? If so, Davis, California is the best place for you. Crowned as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, Davis is easy to get around on two wheels.

Davis’s awesome Farmers Market, parades, and festivals make it a social haven for those with a variety of interests. However, the best part of living in Davis is how easy it is on your bank account with its notably affordable rent prices.

Santa Cruz

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 74 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 1 hour and 45 minutes via the US-101 N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 2 hours and 36 minutes via the 17 bus with transfers to the LTD A/LTD B and the Red-N
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 7 hours and 27 minutes via the CA-1 N
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,666
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $3,696
  • Population: 273,213
  • Median Household Income: $82,234
  • Walk Score: 62
  • Transit Score: 37
  • Bike Score: 84

Santa Cruz is a veritable beach town located right on the edge of Monterey Bay. For those that love surfing, salted air, and lazy beach days, Santa Cruz is the perfect place to call home. It’s a far cry from the quirkiness of San Francisco.

You’ll find tons of apartments for rent in Santa Cruz across its many unique neighborhoods from Downtown Santa Cruz to the West Side. Just be prepared to encounter a younger crowd, as UCSC’s prominence in the city means tons of college kids milling about.

Sacramento

  • Miles away from Downtown San Francisco: 87.6 miles
  • Commute time to San Francisco via car: 1 hour and 42 minutes via the I-80 W
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Train/Bus: 2 hours and 11 minutes via the Gold Train with transfers including the FlixBus, and the Blue-S
  • Commute time to San Francisco via Bike: 7 hours and 2 minutes via Vallejo - San Francisco Pier 41
  • One-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,008
  • Two-Bedroom Average Rent: $2,283
  • Population: 513,624
  • Median Household Income: $62,335
  • Walk Score: 45
  • Transit Score: 34
  • Bike Score: 68

As the capital of California, Sacramento doesn’t get a lot of love with quirky cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles nearby. However, Sacramento deserves its own time in the limelight.

The city has a rich history with incredible architecture. Its collection of distinct neighborhoods and various entertainment options make it hard for new residents to choose where to put down roots. Price will play a big role in the decision, as Sacramento apartments can be costly.

Finding the Best City for You

Choosing the best city in California can be challenging, especially with the many options available near San Francisco, which why we’re here to help.

Take the quiz to get started on your apartment search and finding your dream home!

Learn more about:

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AUTHOR
Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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