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A "Hacker's" Guide to the Bay Area (islandofatlas.net)
312 points by presty on Oct 5, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 128 comments

> One of the biggest shocks I faced when I arrived to the Valley was finding out that it was a very suburban environment. Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale are completely suburban.

I suppose it depends on your definition of "suburban". Each one of those cities has a bona-fide city center and nearby residential development dense enough to allow a very walkable environment. It's a lot worse in many places back east including my area.



Suburbs vary a lot and in the bay area I find it especially noticeable. Yes, the peninsula is suburban but a lot of it was built up in the 1950s-70s and it shows in the density and land use patterns. It's not the same as a city center, but you can get around on foot or a bike and there is some semblance of a night life and strip malls are not the only type of commercial building. Cf. suburban Chicago or Boston. On the other hand a lot of the newer suburbs in the East Bay are as bland and sprawl-y as anything you'd find in other fast-growing US areas like Phoenix or Tampa or Orange County.

Where is the Sunnyvale city centre?

Murphy ave. near the Caltrain station.

That's, what, 2 blocks of urban form surrounded by big box retail and parking lots? Very suburban sounds about right.

I am, without any sarcasm, very glad to see the scare quotes around the word "hacker" here. I'm thankful that there's a dawning collective agreement that the term as used in this community ("someone who makes websites or software, generally as a career") has completely devalued its original meaning, which is not without merit, and which is very hard to bind to another term at this point.

I'm not sure if the author means what you think. I think the quoting is about ... not presumptuously putting one's self in that group, more like modesty.

Although I am sympathetic what you're saying ... but we are on HN ... Hackers and Painters and all.

That and it just sounds silly.

There are lots of other gyms in the city besides the wretched, filthy 24-hour-fitness syndicate: Club One (slightly more expensive, but better), Crunch Fitness (ditto), World Gym (caters toward meatheads), Fitness SF (formerly Gold's; tends toward gay/female clientele), Sports Club LA (super expensive; incredibly nice), Equinox (also super deluxe/expensive), Bay Club (ditto), Mission Cliffs and Planite Granite (climbing/hippies/hipsters), Planet Fitness (almost as cheap as 24hr; fewer locations but much cleaner), and the YMCA (moderately cheap, clean, functional). There are tons of smaller gyms, as well...mostly expensive crossfit and personal training outfits, but some boutique all-purpose gyms, too.

If you're looking for a gym, do yourself a favor and don't just sign up for a 24-hour fitness membership without looking around. You can do a lot better for not much more money. About the only thing you can say in favor of 24h is that they're cheap and open late.

If you can afford ~$60 a month, you have a lot of options, particularly if you negotiate. The YMCA is a good option in this range, and they don't jerk you around with contracts and high-pressure sales.

Any of them properly equipped for strength training? Went ot at least a couple in the area where they didn't want people to use chalk and the floors were not meant to hold anything heavy, so they'd forbid you to deadlift.

World Gym caters to the powerlifter set that I think you're seeking -- they provide chalk (iirc) and have multiple squat cages and a deadlift mat and use olympic barbells.

But then...I have yet to go to a gym in San Francisco that didn't have at least one squat rack and space for deadlifts. I don't know where you were going that wasn't properly equipped for strength training.

Planet Fitness is known to discourage powerlifters and to focus on a more casual crowd.

Let's be honest, that's where the money is. Casual gym goers who will come in twice a week for 30 minutes (and then possibly stop coming, but keep paying) on a Nautilus, followed right away by a nice glass of Jamba Juice. Gym goers who will pay exorbitant amounts of cash for personal training to "strengthen their core".

Some dude who has a high chance of getting himself hurt and who might bust your floors is probably not even worth considering for membership in the big scheme of things. Too much of a hassle.

I have tried Crunch, World Gym, Club One, Fitness SF, and the Embarcadero YMCA and I would have to say that World Gym is the most serious gym here in the city. They have 3 really nice squat cages (shown here: http://s3-media4.ak.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/ZsbwBday0IKkB1SljAUbQ...), tons of bumper plates, a huge assortment of freeweights, and a ton of different machines. Oh and they have a bucket of chalk next to the cages, so that's definitely encouraged there.

If you're looking for a gym to just lift heavy shit, this is the place. Yeah, there are some typical gym bros here, but I've never had an problems and everyone is pretty good at following proper gym etiquette.

World gym has 3 combo cages/deadlift platforms and rubber plates that people drop from above their heads all time. I see people use chalk as well.

The YMCA gyms are also incredibly family friendly - way more so than any other gym we ever found in the Bay Area.

Agreed, I work out at the Embarcadero YMCA and it's great. My only gripe is there's nowhere to deadlift, but other than that there's a ton of machines, weights, and free classes.

Yes, please god avoid 24 Hour Fitness. Their business model isn't selling you fitness. It's selling the dream of fitness to people who will come in about twice during their contract.

In addition to all the options mentioned above, check out the city pools. The lap swims are $5 a go, with no contract at all. You just show up, slip Mr. Lincoln under the glass, and go do your thing.

>Their business model isn't selling you fitness. It's selling the dream of fitness to people who will come in about twice during their contract.

That's the business model for (almost?) all gyms. Don't make a decision based on this; decide based on if the gym offers the equipment/availability/classes/etc. you need, feels like a place you'd like to go to, is in a convenient location, etc.

24h fitness is $350 for 2 years Sport and below, and $600 for 2 years Super Sport and below.

It varies based on whatever promotion is going on, but you get exactly what you pay for. At best, the gyms are tolerable, at worst...well, I'm surprised that the Mission location hasn't been shut down for health code violations.

That's the Costco deal, which runs virtually all the time.

Thanks. Added a reference to your post.

Haha, not bothering to explain the wired Internet situation. Short version: You probably should get Sonic.net.

The dominant companies are AT&T and Comcast. I hate them both, but I hate AT&T more, because of their poor customer service and slow speeds and high prices and defective software. In much of Europe, 6Mbps is not considered broadband. In the San Francisco Bay Area, 6Mbps is the standard.

If you're stuck in an area with AT&T, and you're unable or unwilling to deal with Comcast, then you should use Sonic.net. They use AT&T phone lines, but their business model is based on Free.fr. I'm hoping that the more customers they get, the quicker they can get around to installing fiber in my neighborhood, like they said they would 2 years ago.

And then there are various other, small Internet providers. In select neighborhoods of San Francisco, you can get Monkeybrains fixed wireless. In select apartment buildings, you can get Webpass fiber to the premises. If you want cable without Comcast for some reason, there's Astound.

That's about it for San Francisco, unless you're a business spending loads of money. Also, one neighborhood each of Palo Alto and Sebastopol have test runs of fiber from Google and Sonic.net, respectively. I don't know what else is available in the rest of the bay area.

Moved to San Francisco two weeks ago (Mission District), decided to go with Sonic.net and have been very satisfied thus far.

Getting 16 down 1 up for $40/month, great customer service (always with a human being) and no long fixed-term contracts (you can cancel at any time at no extra cost).

Whether it's Sonic.net or Moneybrain or Webpass, I'm just glad there's a lot of great alternatives to the big (evil) players.

$700 seems way, way too low as a starting point for rent in downtown San Francisco or Palo Alto. Double that and you might get a crappy studio--maybe.

The author wrote clearly that $700 is for a room, not for a whole apartment.

Still too low in general.

Yes, I meant a room, _starting_ at $700. It is definitely not that hard to find. But ofc it won't come with all the luxuries that one might want.

I lived in SF from May last year to marry this year for $500/month in chinatown. Horrible building but great location and very affordable.

So assuming you'd live with others (strangers)? So that basically means single folks, 20-30, no kids...

Opening sentence of TFA:

"This guide is targeted to “hackers” who wish to move to the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically San Francisco or Silicon Valley. This guide reflects my lifestyle - male, single, focused on work (in tech) and saving money, but keeping an eye on my health."

Absolutely. Good luck finding a place that cheap in SF.

Pardon my ignorance, but is it $700 a month or a week? I'm used to Sydney prices where a 1-bedroom apartment could easily cost around $500 a week.

$700 a month for a room in a shared apartment. In San Francisco, the median rent price for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2800 a month, and in some neighborhoods (SoMa) the median is almost $3500 a month: http://priceonomics.com/the-san-francisco-rent-explosion/

The San Francisco Bay Area is named after our largest bay, the San Francisco Bay.

Which was named after St. Francis in 1769. Later, there was the Mission, San Francisco, in 1776; later still, the village of Yerba Buena took on the name San Francisco.

Welcome aboard!

As long as we're talking about being cheap and transportation, there's a pretty quick bus completing the loop from the end of the BART to the south in the East Bay to San Jose and Caltrain. As someone who rents in deep East Bay, Walnut Creek, it's often faster to go along the bay like this to get to Ebay/Paypal/whatever than BARTing into the city and taking the Caltrain down. OAK airport is very nice as well, with SFO constantly closing runways due to weather.

I heard they wanted to extend the bart from the east bay down to SV but SV blocked it too keep out the riff raff, anyone know if theres truth to this or not?

I've always thought it was interesting how physical barriers like water, hills, bridges and trains play such a big role in separating different types of people in the bay area.

The riffraff story is actually about the peninsula extensions. BART was originally intended/hoped to include service roughly parallel to 101/280/SP/Caltrain at least through to Palo Alto, but Santa Clara and San Mateo counties opted out. This is why there is less BART on the peninsula (it only started operating south of Daly City in 1996) and why it took forever for SFO to be connected (2003).

Construction is currently happening to bring BART from East Bay to outer San Jose (Berryessa, scheduled for around 2016). There are unfunded plans/hopes for an extension of that through central San Jose and Santa Clara.

I would love to have the BART go all the way around the Bay. It's just so much faster / more trains / more convenient than the Caltrain in my experience (although both are pretty good as far as US public transit goes).

Well, they aren't really intended for the same type of service. BART is rather unusual by combining what is in some places almost commuter-rail station spacing with full grade separation ($$$), but it's still best when running more high-demand, high-frequency service. I wouldn't expect local SJ-SF BART service to be a lot faster than local Caltrain - faster acceleration would help a bit, but at that stop spacing it's not a huge factor.

In the long term there would definitely be utility for round-the-bay BART service, but right now Caltrain provides way better nortbound service than San Jose-East Bay connections, so that extension does make more sense for having more priority. With any luck, Caltrain electrification driven by the HSR project might happen before Santa Clara gets around to funding BART to Mountain View, further reducing the need.

Would electrifying Caltrain make it run faster? I'm not very well-versed in trains.

The other issues with Caltrain that I have include: The last Northbound train on Sundays being at 9pm and the last Northbound train on other days being around 11pm. Also, the fact that there are regions of time when they go every hour. Unfortunately, I doubt electrifying the train will really affect either of those.

It would make it a little faster since electric trains can accelerate out of stations a little faster. It's not a major difference at Caltrain's station spacing though.

The other issues you mention have little to do with diesel/electric Caltrain/BART differences. Caltrain could easily run late trains if its funding allowed, and in fact might be able to run later than BART, which begins shutting down at midnight to do maintenance on its raised and tunnelled track. Mid-day and weekend frequency is again a function of funding/chosen service level - more is clearly possible since there's 5 trains an hour during weekday rush hours.

One difference that might arise from electrification is support for electric multiple unit rolling stock. This is a setup where rather than being pulled/pushed by one big locomotive, each passenger car has smaller motors and propels itself. (BART cars are like this, but this can also be done with more commuter-level service.) This way the costs for three shorter trains an hour vs one long train an hour are closer than in diesel, which has the big fixed cost of the heavy locomotive, and it becomes more feasible to operate same capacity but more frequent service during times of less demand.

But again, this is also possible with diesel (diesel multiple unit) and has more to do with type of service Caltrain chooses/is asked to operate rather than electrification or dedicated right of way.

The real difference stems from funding models and goals of the service. BART is treated as near-metro (and in the central parts, is a metro) where moving people fast and conveniently is a goal. Minimum service is kept at 20 minutes even in outlying areas at 11 pm on a Sunday, not because there's many people taking it, but because that's the standard. Caltrain is primarily a commuter service through wealthy areas to make fairly rich people's commutes a little easier. People taking trains at 9 pm are not a particular priority.

Thanks, that's quite enlightening. I hadn't considered how much electrification could make things more efficient and thus easier to make more convenient.

Yeah, when I moved to the East Bay from San Mateo it was like I'd moved to Mars. I believe the BART extension was to go to San Jose, which has plenty of riffraff of its own. If I'm not mistaken, it's still in the planning/funding.

Thanks for not mentioning the 280. We're trying to keep that a secret.

Who is this "we"? We don't refer to highways with the definite article around here.

It's a California thing.

The joke is that it's a SoCal thing to use the definite article, or so I hear -- although I moved to SF sometime back, never lived in SoCal, and find myself saying "the 101".

I call them the 101 and the 280 as well--and I never lived in SoCal. I think more people do it up here than they'd like to admit. :P

Using 'the' to refer to a freeway is a dead give away you are not a native as is "San Fran" or "Frisco".

However, "the city" and "the bay" are perfectly acceptable.

I could never understand why people cared <_<

It's mentioned indirectly. pg wrote about it on his blog post

We moved here 3 days ago from the UK, so some other random tips (more family oriented than single person)

1) In addition to Craigslist, Livelovely.com seems to be a great amalgamator site for finding houses.

2) Be careful when about booking a place without seeing it (we booked a 1 month Airbnb while we searched for places) There are lots of INSANE hills that are totally impossible with a stroller. Even driving up and down them was daunting.

3) Credit score seems to be important for everything. We had to put an additional $400 down on each phone because we didn't have credit.

4) Saying that - so far every landlord who we've spoken to has been open to some other kind of deal - normally an extra months rent as a deposit, or paying a month or 2 in advance.

Check out Outpost.travel (http://outpost.travel) too for the nightly rentals -- works better than Airbnb

+1 for livelovely. I used it to look for apartments and it was pretty nice. Much better than padmapper, imo.

Joe! Using American lingo already I see :)

Nice! I've lived here for almost 2 years and a half now, and love the Bay Area. Some personal responses to the article:

- re:exercize, I highly recommend climbing. It's easy to pick up, you can do it alone (bouldering) or with a partner (great thing to do with a date/SO :-), and the equipment cost is minimal, it uses all the muscles in your body and is oddly technical. The Touchstone network is great; it includes Mission Cliffs (SF, Mission); Great Western Power Company (Oakland). In the valley, Planet Granite is good. Swimming is also similarly great but harder to find nice clean pools in the city.

- re East Bay: I highly recommend living there if you work in downtown SF. Your commute will be slightly more expensive than if you lived in SF, but it could end up being shorter (I live near 12th St Oakland and get off at Montgomery- 25 minutes total commute).

- re:rent - the situation in SF sucks and will keep sucking for a while. It's a constant competition, you have to kiss the landlord's ass and fight with 20 other people at open houses, etc. Once again, the East Bay is highly recommended (Oakland for a city feel, Berkeley if you like to have a yard and be surrounded by trees- but the commute will be longer). In the valley, roommatehood is recommended. I lived with Stanford med students for a while, which was amazing because a) they were poor so they encouraged me to live frugally, b) they were delightful people and it's always nice to hang out with non techies, c) they were mature and focused on their studies so there was zero drama and zero messiness in the house.

- re:food - learn a dozen or so basic recipes, and cook yourself. You will save money, and what you eat will be way healthier. Also as a European I find US portions huge and feel bad about throwing out food everytime I eat out.

- re:meetups: it can be hard to make friends outside of work when you're out of college- meetups are amazing for that. For romantic aspirations, I would also recommed online dating. OKCupid is heavily used by young people in SF, and also allows you to meet people from outside the tech circle.

- re:meetups^2: at first, it can be tempting to go to meetups 2-3 times a week or more. I've found it to be pretty draining after a while - not all meetups are created equal, sadly. These days, I tend to do more 1-2 meetups a month tops, but of very high quality (to me- naturally, high quality for me is not necessarily high quality for you, and vice versa). Of course, finding high quality (in terms of interests, but also in terms of the kind of people you get along with best) meetups can only be done through experience - so if you've just moved here, go insane and explore!

- The valley is minuscule and after being there for a bit it feels like everyone is within 2 degrees of separation. Be professional, friendly and respectful of everyone, and don't burn any bridges. Keep in touch with people you like - a coffee/meal once a month or so is a great way to do so. If you can, find mentors (ideally not at your workplace- your boss is rarely the best person to go to for career advice) whom you can look up to.

- re: Hacker Spaces - I really love noisebridge and its mission, but it can be a little grungy (mostly because of SF's socio-economic shape at the moment). Especially in the recent months, there has been a lot of drama due to some people not playing by the rules there. Sadly, it can hurt the atmosphere a bit. I would recommend checking it out, but be aware of that. Hacker Dojo is way more PC and family friendly. I've heard great things about Sudo Room in Oakland.

- side/open source projects are important for your mental and intellectual sanity, for your "personal brand", and because they can lead to positively unexpected situations. However, some employers frown upon them (some will subtly discourage you from partaking in them or submitting a talk proposal to that conference, while others will outright forbid them ⁂cough cough Apple cough⁂). In those cases, I like to apply the "forgiveness rather than permission" and "what they don't know can't hurt them" heuristics :-).

- on a similar note, Silicon Valley has a very friendly atmosphere, and as it was put- there are no other places in the world where you can work in sandals while eating M&Ms. However, don't forget that at the end of the day, your employer is your employer - not your wife, or your girlfriend, or your parents, or your kids. It's a two way street - you should be getting as much out of the job as the job gets out of you - and jobs in Silicon Valley are very demanding and tend to take a lot from you. Don't feel bad about quitting a job that does not jive with you just because your boss is a cool guy who will play beer pong with you on Friday nights. Be thankful for what you have, but remember that engineers are in high demand. "Company loyalty" and "company culture" are words that employers know how to use to their ends. In what I've seen of Silicon Valley Companies who claim loudly that they have "work/life balance" and actually do encourage it are a minority (that can't mean that it's impossible to achieve- just that you may have to work a bit for it to get it).

Finally, a tip for fresh grads: it can be pretty mindblowing for people right out of college to have a 5 figure (or in some cases, 6 figure) salary after living on ramen for years. Some people spend it by getting a really nice place, buying a fancy car, and going to Tahoe every other weekend. I would recommend trying to put aside 50% or so of your take home paycheck every month - it's easily doable without compromising too much, and if you want to treat yourself down the road (take 3 months to travel the world, or dive into your own startup, etc.) you'll be happy to have several months (if not years!) of living expenses saved up.

> there are no other places in the world where you can work in sandals while eating M&Ms.

Heh, sure there are! I run a startup here in Austin, and there are plenty of tech jobs, sandals, and free M&Ms here. After living 10 years in the Bay Area, I am also enjoying owning my own house with a yard for far less than I would pay in the Bay Area. And, if you like to cook, Central Market beats the pants off any grocery store in/near SF.

Ha, here in Berlin I wear these on winter http://www.reinokauppa.fi/images/mreino_ruskea_0912_c1e_vs_b... and sandals on summer. M&Ms are not tasty, but fruits and club mate is a good alternative :)

And, if you like to cook, Central Market beats the pants off any grocery store in/near SF.

Berkeley Bowl.

In 1995 I worked for a local internet provider that was in the back of a computer store in Kerney Mesa in San Diego. I worked in the back doing phone support and wore sandles. The number of subscribers doubled in the 6 weeks I worked there.

One day a customer shows up in the computer store with an Internet question. I get called out of the back room to go to the sales floor, and I went onto the floor with my birkenstocks on.

The sales floor manager had a complete conniption fit and I was going to have to dress up like a sales guy to keep working there. There was no way I was going to do that, so I resigned.

Seattle area, ditto. We also have real weather here, which I found that I missed terribly after 20 years in the Bay Area.

Hong Kong - I'm sitting here in my sandals, shorts, football top, TV on high up on the 32nd floor in the office :)

It's a culture that's spreading. I just spent the summer at a quantitative finance company in New York, and that's a perfect description of the atmosphere there. Both literally and metaphorically.

Not sure about "spreading" - it was the norm in crappy Polish software houses when I started there ten years ago.

Oops, edit window is over and I just realized that this post is very masculine-pronoun heavy. I usually pay attention to this when writing (especially since the first startup I worked at had 2 female founders and a fantastic female advisor, two of them being long term mentors whom I deeply respect), but I clearly did not here. Apologies!

"no other places in the world where you can work in sandals while eating M&Ms."

There might be more by percentage in the bay than other places but not the only place by far. Standard wear at my jobs have been flip flops, jeans, tshirts for everyone who wasn't meeting with clients regularly.

Yea, this is true of the greater software industry. It's not specific to the bay area.

One of my internships in the midwest was at a place where barefoot was ok, sandals were the norm, and M&Ms (specifically the peanut variety) were called "developer pellets" and consumed in great quantity.

I found the rents quoted seemed low (even if you're sharing a space) I pay $1650 for a one bedroom near downtown San Mateo - and I feel like I'm getting a deal. One of my coworkers used to split a 2 bedroom that code $3500/mo in Foster City (near Target/Playstation) so yeah rent is expensive here.

Food: Jacks Prime, Jeffery's, Super Duper and In and Out all make great burgers.

One plus to living in the San Mateo area is 92 can bring you to the 280, 101, El Camino and the East Bay with Half Moon Bay only a 20min drive over the mountains and you're closer to SF. it's by far my favorite area in the valley.

- re:re:food: "cook yourself"? agree that will save money, not sure about healthier; though if gangrene necessitates limb removal, then possible best choice there.

On housing, I'm happy to report that Craigslist isn't the only option. http://apartmentlist.com is somewhat more pleasant to use and less full of duplicates / other nonsense.

Disclosure: I work at Apartment List. Since someone already mentioned LiveLovely, I suppose I'll recognize them too :-D

This is cool. One addition: a great place to work out for those who like throwing heavy shit around is Catalyst Athletics in Sunnyvale. http://gym.cathletics.com/ (Disclosure: I work with the monthly journal they put out--but only b/c they're awesome.)

Please note that I am jealous of where you work. Everett's is my favourite Oly book in my collection.

I actually work remotely, but thanks! He is great to work with. Super nice guy, too.

Hi. I moved to the Bay Area last week. I'm a family guy with little kids. I split my time between San Mateo and San Jose. Regular tech job. In about 6 months I will start lookin for a house to buy. I don't mind upto 50 mins of commute each way. Any recommendations?

Having just left the Bay Area for the UK I will have to second the recommendations made by others to look in the Campbell and Willow Glen areas. Throw the Cambrian area of San Jose into the mix as well (you will end up with lower house costs due to not being in the prime areas but it is otherwise equivalent.) The primary and middle schools are highly ranked, the high school for that area is a bit sketchy but improving. 280 and 85 are close and light rail out of downtown Campbell gets you to Didiron station in two stops for easy access to Caltrain. San Mateo is up 280 to 92 and across; not a great commute when traffic is ugly, but better than just about any other path in that direction.

It depends on your down payment and your salary. Does your wife work? Are you open to sending your kids to a mediocre school or do you want them to attend a private a school?

All areas with good schools will run you over 1M for a house. A place that isn't ghetto with mediocre to bad schools will run you about 750k.

School district is important. How about if I increase my commute time? Would you say San Ramon or Pleasanton are bad options?

Those cities are way, way out there and absolute commute gridlock hell. You also need to understand just how dense the suburban strip-mall monotony gets once you cross the hill...

East Bay (Walnut Creek / San Ramon area) has houses ~700-800k in top 1% of school districts in the country. Check zillow where each house for sale has assigned schools and their ranking. Commute is 45 min to city by Bart and 1hr to south bay.

I think South San Jose/Campbell and Fremont (via Dumbarton) should be good bets for you.

You probably want to live in the San Jose area. There are a lot of good neighborhoods like Willow Glen or Campbell. Get a place close to I-280 rather than US-101. 101 is not as well maintained and it's crowded all day.

San Mateo is not a bad place to live, especially if you like urban areas. Rent is more expensive there, though, and there is more traffic.

I loved this guide. I appreciated the information on expenses, transportation and the summary of which companies are where. I'm impressed that it is possible to live on 30k/year even with the high rents and other costs.

Palo Alto: Palantir

While an awesome company, Palantir is hardly the biggest or most prominent tech company in Palo Alto. Even though giant Sun Microsystems is gone, HP, VMWare, SAP, Lockheed and other giants remain. Loral Space Systems (by 101) is one of the city's biggest employers.

Indeed, as a general point, I do hope that Palo Alto is not known solely for Palantir, but also for its many long-standing institutions. From Stanford and the Palo Alto Unified School District's amazing (top-ranked) public schools, to its 6 libraries (for 66,000 people).

--A Palo Alto native (born and raised).

And Microsoft Research has a big facility near Google in Mtn View, and NetApp in Sunnyvale, a bunch of more mundane companies (Grumman, Lockheed, and Etc). I do need to get out and hike more though.

and VMware, which is the largest non-hospital, non-Stanford employer in town.

Added. Forgot about those (shame on me). Specially Palantir, since their building is right across the Caltrain.

Tesla Motors headquarters by VMWare and SAP also employs quite a few.

Also, Nvidia, and Applied Materials in Santa Clara. Xilinx, Altera, and Maxim in San Jose.

Silicon Valley still has lots of silicon tech!

I just recently moved to San Francisco, and for the "Housing" section, I highly recommend mentioning "Padmapper" (web app & mobile app) to quickly navigate all the different Airbnb and Craigslist listings in one place.

They have a great map-based UI that easily lets you see how many listings are available where and for how much, and you can easily filter by price, type of stay, # of bedrooms/bathrooms, etc.

The Bay Area has a lot of hiking trails where not many people know. Marine county alone has hundreds of trails. Lots of trails in the mid-peninsula, inland, in the mountains, along the coast, along various reservoirs, lagoons, or lakes. East Bay has lots of trails in the mountains. Evan SF has some. Land's Ending at the Pacific coast is perfect for an easy sunset hike.

Under activities, you must add a link to http://www.bahiker.com/

The Bay Area is not Northern California. It is Central California. Examples of places in Northern California include Yreka, Eureka, Redding, and Klamath Falls.

I have found that (Bay Area subset of N. CA) is a very common misconception of people who have recently moved to the area.

"SF isn't north enough to be Northern California" is a common view of people who live in Eureka, Redding, etc., but in my experience people who live in SF think of it as northern California. California basically has two big centers of population: SoCal is LA and friends, and NorCal is SF and friends. Above that are remote regions heard of in legends (either old legends about the gold rush, or newer legends about pot farming).

The Bay Area is definitely not within Central California, taken as a sociogeographic term. The Central California Coast is the coastal region between roughly Santa Barbara and Point Lobos, centered on SLO. There is also another inland definition of Central California: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_California

I would make the comparison to "Upstate New York" [0]. I like this Wikipedia article more than the one for Northern California because it admits that "there is no clear or official boundary between Upstate New York and Downstate New York".

The same is true for Northern and Southern California. There's no official distinction. Calling the Bay Area part of Northern California places too much emphasis on the Los Angeles area. By analogy, saying that "North" begins at the Transverse Ranges is like saying that "Upstate" begins at Yonkers. Ridiculous.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upstate_New_York

Yeah, we are in NorCal for all practical purposes; actual geography be damned.

Wikipedia disagrees with you.


"Northern California is the northern portion of the U.S. state of California. The San Francisco Bay Area (which includes the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose), and Sacramento (the state capital) as well as its metropolitan area are the main population centers."

Klamath Falls is in Oregon. Common joke up here is "If you're south of Hilt, you're SoCal."

I meant Klamath.

It's relative. For example, most of the people in what is called "Northern Ontario" really live in almost-southernmost Ontario. That probably drives the people who really do live in the north crazy, but since there are almost none of them, almost nobody cares.

The fitness section missed rock climbing! It's a great community that's very popular with young engineers. Mission Cliffs (touchstone gyms) and Planet Granite are the big names and there's endless beautiful real rock around the area to be found too.

My friend and I curate a secret list of fun events to go to in the bay area, most of them tech and startups. Hope someone finds it useful! http://events415.com/

Couldn't get beyond the splash page because you apparently require Facebook?

Thanks for the guide I just moved out here this week to start as a founding engineer in a new VC-backed startup in San Francisco. Anyone have any recommendations for finding roommates in the area?

Suggestion for more food: East Bay? Berkeley Bowl is pretty awesome.

What about the Peninsula? Close to SF but with sun and car friendly. Close to SV but easy drive to SF. Personally, I like being within an easy drive to SF but not be in SF.

Now, does anyone know of a similar guide, but for Seattle area?

I used a reddit thread (google barbiedreamhorse seattle neighborhood) for the housing. It is also getting expensive out here, but if you're willing to not live on capitol hill it shouldn't be as bad.

No idea on the tech scene out here - I've been consulting & bootstrapping from home.

One thing is missing: bay area bike share


I wish I had this two years ago when I moved here.

You are so good, I love all the details about the day to day requirements you included in your blog.

What do you guys recommend for health insurance as a freelancer? (Short term and medium term visit)

If you're a non-resident visitor, you probably need to buy travel health insurance from your country of origin. U.S. health insurance will typically only sell to residents. You don't have to be permanent resident, but do have to be a legal resident of the state in which you're buying health insurance.

For example, coming from Denmark, I was able to buy travel health insurance for coverage in the U.S., from http://www.gouda.dk/, for $100/mo. It would've been cheaper if it were for travel to any other country besides the U.S. (there are three price categories: Europe, world excl. US, world incl. US), but c'est la vie.

If you become a California resident, you can buy health insurance here: https://www.coveredca.com/

excellent article. Why doesn't this exist for every city in the world?

This is really great. Recent grad from Boston here :)

Don't forget Google Shopping Express!

How is the nightlife in the Bay Area?

Great guide, thank you

Someone should write, for the starting-out 22-year-olds out there, a guide on how to do technology outside of the Bay Area.

The Bay Area had a great run, spanning several decades, but the VC darlings and private equity carpetbaggers who never belonged in the tech scene, in their zeal to turn everything into a shitty New York knock-off, ruined it.

It's not the land of opportunity any more. You're not going to get rich on 0.05% "equity" (inequity?) in some hail-Mary startup, nor are you even going to get the implicitly promised (but rarely delivered) investor contact and the mentoring to be a founder in the next go; get real, the train has left the station. I don't know where the next emerging opportunities are, but if you're 22 right now and have no inherited connections, the VC-funded nonsense is far along in its decline process that, by the time you'll be positioned to take advantage of it, the opportunities will all be gone.

Bay Area VC-funded companies are now the conservative, boring choice. They don't involve much risk. There's almost no upside, because engineers aren't respected in that world any more. It's what you do if you're 22, intelligent, prestige-focused, and can't think of anything else. There's nothing wrong with it, as such-- most 22-year-olds have no clue what the fuck they want to do with their lives, that's nearly universal, and it's generally not a mark against the person-- but it'd be better to see more material pointing the young to something that still has real opportunities. VC-istan social climbing ain't it. It's become like the investment banking analyst program, but instead of getting a bonus every year, you get a get a bonus at "liquidity" if that ever happens-- and if you're an engineer, it's a mediocre one and you'd have done better at a hedge fund.

If I were just coming out of school, I'd move to Chicago or Austin before San Francisco, just to avoid the effective debt bondage of exorbitant rents. New York's also nice if you're into finance, although its tech scene is pretty pathetic.

The real goal should be to end the tyranny of location, because it hurts people on both sides. First, it forces people to move out to San Francisco who really don't want to be there; that's probably half the Bay Area tech industry-- people go for the opportunities that are there, not the place itself. Second, it drives up rents and ruins things for the natives who've lived there forever and love the city-- and it should be given back for them.

> "Bay Area VC-funded companies are now the conservative, boring choice. They don't involve much risk"

The question I love to ask around is whether any of these VCs or so-called "angels" of today would write a check to a smelly barefoot bum in a garage working with two other nerds on some unknown unproven electronic board. (in other words, how Mark Markkulla wrote the check to Steve Jobs to fund Apple)

> "I don't know where the next emerging opportunities are"

I am not sure either, but if I was 22 today I would be packing my stuff and buying a one-way ticket to China. (I did live 2 years in China and left recently due to family reasons, but I am almost 40 now).

Micheal, just once make a post without VC'istan or whatever new derogatory term you've come up with. There's plenty of great stuff out here, and I'm sorry that someone didn't fund your dream, but saying stuff like "Bay Area tech startups are the conservative choice" is silly, and betrays a lack of awareness about a lot that is going on here. And that's fine - none of us know the whole landscape, but only you seem to assume the kind of hubris that suggests you do.

He was an exec at a funded startup, and then was asked to do some very shady crap to screw over the equity slices of employees by co-founders (or VCs) because the employees didn't 'deserve' it.

It can be understandable why he doesn't like them.

Be that as it may, does it mean everyone deserves to be painted with the same brush?

What about Boston area? Where it stands comparing to SF, Chicago, Austin and NYC? There many start-ups around, but I don't know how viable they are.

Lots of viable startups in Boston/Cambridge (and also further out--though those probably tend to be more established tech companies). As a very general rule the Boston/Cambridge tech/startup scene tends to be a lot more varied than the web/mobile ecosystem that the Valley is probably best known for these days, e.g. lots of biotech-related in addition to all the big firms, Boston Robotics, etc. Though there's still quite a bit of software as well. BTW, Boston/Cambridge are pretty expensive too if one wants to live in the city though not at the SF level.

There are people I like out there, and people I don't. Boston is the #3 tech hub, but I don't see it rising, if only because it's too expensive. Austin's catching up pretty quickly.

But if you find something cool in Boston, don't let the location discourage you. I haven't been out there much, but I like the city and, in general, am a pretty big fan of New England.

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