Palo Alto, California

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What's it like to live in Palo Alto?

What is it like to live in Palo Alto?

The weather is very uneventful from about May - October. It almost never rains during these months and can actually get pretty boring. By September things start to feel incredibly dry. You will notice a drastic difference compared to Seattle!

Palo Alto is one of the most bikeable cities in the Bay Area if not the country. The city has placed a lot of emphasis on creating bike safe routes, so you should definitely plan on having a bike. It is also extremely easy to walk around, HOWEVER, depending on where you live there isn't always anything to walk to. If you live within a few blocks of University, then you will be able to walk around a lot to things. If you live closer to San Antonio Road, then you are unlikely to walk as much as you will want to bike.

As for demographics, it is pretty tricky to describe. It is EXTREMELY wealthy and there are many outrageously wealthy people here. But there is a massive difference between the people in Palo Alto display their wealth and the way people in places like Beverly Hills, Los Altos Hills or Atherton display their wealth.

Many of the people who live here are doing so because they want their kids to go to "good" schools. So the culture is very much family oriented and can be a little bit skewed towards a focus on academic excellence. People don't flaunt their status with a shiny Rolls Royce. Instead they flaunt the achievements of their children!

But the city is big enough that there are sub cultures. South of Oregon Expressway things feel a bit more down to earth than they do in the neighborhoods between Oregon Expressway and University.

If it is too old and stodgy for you, then you might want to plan on moving to Mountain View or Redwood City which has a much younger vibe.

What is it like to live in Palo Alto?

Rents in PA are very expensive but apart from that it's a great place to live and work. Very safe and clean. Lots of good bars and restaurants. Temperate pleasant weather throughout the year. Regarding walkability, all the peninsula towns are basically suburban in nature with small downtowns. If you live close enough to work, you can skip getting a car I suppose?

If you're a high paid tech worker, I consider living here to be better than both Seattle and San Francisco.

Pros and cons of living in Palo Alto

My experience has been different. I find the neighbors via Nextdoor very helpful, giving, open-minded, forgiving, compassionate, wise, and always giving others the benefit-of-the-doubt. I have learned a lot from them and received kind help from them. With the wealth around here, I'm sure there are some snobby folks, but worse than the other nearby wealthy towns? I would say 'no', based on my experience. I've run into my fair-share of what I'll call "hippies" attitude, which to some might be a con, but to me has been a good experience (open minded, live and let-live, granola, activist for rights, compassionate).

Apartment vacancies are at all-time, or near all-time highs, so there may be some good deals on apartment rentals. But probably not house rentals because everyone wants a yard during the pandemic.

Buying a house is difficult, especially if you have any criteria in which you cannot be flexible; expect to compromise a lot unless you have tons of money. A lot of people give-up and get seduced into buying at other nearby cities, which are not as difficult IMO. The good side is once you own in PA, it's all upside ($ and comfort) after that (based on nearly everyone I know/met).
Pros and cons of living in Palo Alto

I find the city leadership is thoughtful and seems to genuinely care / make decisions with the citizen in mind. To me it feels like a small town, yet has advantages of a large town: tax income from a significant commercial/business base, adjacent to Stanford, national recognition, equally easy to get to SFO or SJC (and Caltrain), good Internet service (i have FTTH), at least two commercial districts: University Ave and California Ave, recently renovated libraries, an art center with classes for kids, a rec center with swim lanes, YMCA, JCC gym/pool, good parks and Baylands wilderness.
One con is that I wish it was closer to the beach. I'd like to be able to drive 20m and be at the ocean.

How is it living in Palo Alto CA ?

I’m a transplant from SoCal 30 years ago, so take my comp with that in mind. It’s pricy & that impacts everything. There are no (in Palo Alto proper) socioeconomic nooks to be alternative. If you are 20 minutes away, you are not in Palo Alto or you are experiencing the pressure of traffic. It’s challenging to make friendships due to the transactional nature of relationships in the valley. Everyone must work a great deal to keep up. If you’ve vested, there is a pronounced sense of information boxing.

If you have resources, you are proximal to the best of everything.

The folks who succeed are, historically, not well rounded but rather Uber trained in a technical direction. Culture, even with a diverse multicultural community is narrowly trained on technical & corporate prowess. Having trained their minds so narrowly, there is a lot of social emotional lag which contributes to the difficulty in making friendships. Additionally, the global allure within a narrow scope contributes to a transience & lack of roots. People arrive, make it financially or don’t, and leave.

This all may sound negative, but, I am a natural critic who shares his love by identifying areas of truth & growth. Which sounds pompous to me, but I Hope is useful.

It is beautiful here. There is a huge brain trust here, which is deeply satisfying, even if narrowly focused. I have set roots here & after decades,have made great friends. It feels relevant, for good & bad, to live here.

Moving to Palo Alto: What You Need to Know | Living in Palo Alto 2023