About twenty miles east of San Francisco there is an expansive oasis of calm. A place where the air smells of grass and bay leaves, where the hills transition from burnt yellow to mild green with the seasonal rains. It’s where you can buy a home for about a million dollars and feel pretty good about it.
I moved to a small community called Saranap, smack in between the downtowns of Lafayette and Walnut Creek in Contra Costa county. Like most city folk I worried that I would miss San Francisco. It was one of our biggest concerns about leaving the city.
In fact, the Marina district, insular bubble within the broader insular bubble of San Francisco, is a great spot to have and raise a kid. Everything we needed was just two blocks from our apartment. My favorite cafe, my wife’s manicure spot, our favorite sushi restaurant… It was all there. I enjoyed riding my bike to work, past Moscone field, up and back down Polk Street, and through the Tenderloin on my way to SoMa. Crissy Field was the perfect spot to take my stroller jog in the mornings. Yes, all true!
But do we miss it? No, actually, not at all.
When we first moved to the burbs, my wife and I would gut-check each other. “So… do you miss our apartment yet?” “No, do you?” “Umm… no.”
It never varied. For those who moved out of the city the reasons don’t need to be explained. For those still considering it, here’s why you won’t regret leaving.
- Parking. Wow, I can’t tell you how nice it is to pull into a driveway. Family can park near our house without circling for the elusive Marina parking spot. I feel better about asking my mom to come visit us, and we see her and my dad a lot more these days as a result.
- Ownership. There’s also something deeply satisfying about owning a home and the land beneath it. It’s beyond the equity. There’s a pride of ownership that I didn’t expect. When the toilet is acting up I want to fix it, the way a painter might look at a flaw in his painting and need to grab a brush. I enjoy pulling up thistles in our huge backyard and spot painting our walls. As a renter I would just get pissed off that no one was fixing it.
- Commuting. I was worried about BART. I thought it would drain me. Not so much. I’m back on my podcast game. I read more, and I write too. In fact, I wrote this entire post on my commute. I get between my house and the Lafayette BART on the road bike I could never let out of my sight in SF. The BART here has great covered bike lockers for less than fifty cents a day. Funny enough, after listening to one podcast, I wiggled my way onto it as a guest!
- A dog and a grill. The two most obvious benefits of having a house with a backyard are the ability to grill and get a dog. I waited 33 years for it, and I want to enjoy having a dog and a grill for the next 33. Here’s the grill I chose, and here’s my dog chasing Lily.
- Peaceful easy feeling. We all miss Glenn Frey, don’t we? When I cruise home, this tune randomly jumps into my head. It tells me I’m relaxed, ready to see my daughter, wife and puppy when I get home.
- Neighbors. The last thing I have to mention is a little bit about the community we’ve found ourselves in. In our apartment building we got to the know the apartment managers (we outlasted three of them) and just a few of our building-mates. For some reason it was hard make real friends even though we lived just feet apart. Here’s a picture from the day we got the keys to our house.
All of those kids live on our cul-de-sac, and I hope Lily gets to catch the bus to school and go swimming and have sleepovers with them and all of those things you get to do when you’re growing up. She’s very happy with her neighborhood friends, and it makes us happy too. It’s a whole other dimension to moving to the suburbs that I didn’t anticipate. My neighbors aren’t going to change every six months; instead we get to enjoy these people for years!
It’s slower out here and the air smells good. I like it.