Author Topic: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice  (Read 4398 times)


  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 218
  • Location: Malaysia!!!
San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« on: June 27, 2014, 08:47:05 AM »
Hi Fellow Mustachians,

We are family of 4 with young kids. I lived outside the US for 20 some years and relocated back here with my wife and kids about 2 years ago (for family and education reasons). We currently live in the midwest.

We decided to give SoCal a try as we want better weather and to be in a more Asian / ethnically diverse environment.

<We need advice>

About Me
I have been FI since I turned 40 (I did very well in Asia). I have been busy investing in real estate. For a while I flipped homes in Arizona and now own rentals in the midwest. RE and other businesses provide a decent stream of cash.

I may go back to work. Before returning to the USA my savings rate was over 100K a year - so the pile was growing. I would feel better with a bigger pile.

Of course I would only do something I enjoyed. I have done start ups and would move in that direction or a global business position (aka free travel!).

Although I grew up with 4 feet of snow, I lived in the tropics for a long time and good weather is very important to me. A bit more heat is OK actually.

Wife manages some existing investments I have that are overseas (basic bookkeeping, banking, etc.) She loves to cook (various ethnic foods) and bake. We eat healthy as a result.

This is the hard part. My daughter is in a Chinese Immersion elementary school program (Immersion programs are regular American school classes but the entire day is taught in the target language). She wants to stay in Chinese Immersion.

So we need to relocate to an area with a decent Chinese Immersion program. I have a list of every Chinese Immersion school in the US.

Housing Funds
We have 2 existing investment homes that do not perform that well that we want to sell. They would net about 360K. We have other assets but do not want to bring anymore into the USA as per our "global" diversification plan. So we have 360K for a house - or add a mortgage for more (yuck).

In the past we lived in some big (and expensive) Asian cities where blowing 10K a month was a cheap month.

Now we have gone much more Bohemian and shun fancy and expensive. We try to "keep behind" the neighbors. We need a decent place to live in a decent, safe neighborhood with enough space but nothing super fancy. We never go to bars - but we do like good ethnic (preferable non-fancy) restaurants. No nightlife needed.

House Wish List
Space for a garden. We eat organic and like to grow our own (not to smoke, if that was what popped into your mind).

Near decent co-op or natural grocery store (Sprouts is OK. Co-ops would be better).

Near the Immersion school (5 or 10 minute drive). My wife has never driven much (we had a driver for many years!) and is a weak driver. In most of CA, there are no school busses for elementary schools (as I was told).

3/2 SFH with some yard. Could do a townhouse.

Park nearby for kids.

We spend about 30K currently and live pretty well. We are somewhat Mustachian. No new cars. All toys from garage sales.

We owe nothing.

Our current house would rent with a net of $1800 a month --> to be used toward rent in SD.

We would rent initially. And may continue to rent if it doesn't make sense to buy.

School Locations
There are 4 non-LA SoCal Chinese Immersion schools. I have visited all of them. I interviewed the principals and sat in on classes, etc.

1. Fletcher Elementary School - Orange

2. Marian Bergeson Elementary - Languna Niguel

3. Mandarin Language Academy - Lakeside (this is a magnet school and 99% of the students do not come from Lakeside. I quickly realized Lakeside is probably a hick town with little to offer. Since it had an empty elementary school, the district made it into an Immersion magnet school).

4. Barnard Asian Pacific Language Academy - 2445 Fogg Street   San Diego (this is in Pacific Beach area. AKA expensive).

Numbers 3 and 4 were the best schools. It would be a coin toss between them.

What are decent areas that meet our criteria and not too far from school numbers 3 or 4?

We are open to any ideas - nothing is etched in stone yet. Even other areas with good weather.


If anyone needs advice on living overseas (especially Asia) give me a shout.




  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 206
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2014, 09:15:35 AM »
I grew up outside San Diego in a town called Ramona.  It's actually just through the canyon (about 25-30 minutes) from Lakeside.  Lakeside is....well, definitely a "hicktown".  There isn't much there, that I remember.  It could have changed drastically in the housing boom with lots more grocery store choices than I remember.  It's fairly inland, so it doesn't have the stereotypical beach weather that San Diego is famous for.  The summers are going to be HOT.  You'll be somewhat near San Diego State (SDSU), which can be a plus and a minus. 

My brother lived in Pacific Beach (everyone calls it "PB") for a few years and absolutely loved it.  He rented a 1br/1ba apartment about 1/2 block from the beach for $850/month, and that was about 8 years ago.  So, expensive.  He also grew very tired of all the beach-goers.  It created a lot of traffic on a daily basis, and tourists don't always make the best neighbors because they don't have to live with what is left behind.  But there seemed to be a genuine sense of community amongst the residents, which is harder to find in the outlying suburbs (like Lakeside) since the housing boom happened and lots of people flocked to the outskirts of San Diego.   In PB you are fairly close to downtown San Diego, which means lots of parks, things to do, great bike riding, etc. 

It looks like La Jolla borders where the PB school is, which is definitely uber-expensive and very non-Mustachian.  It's right near University of San Diego (USD), which again, could be a plus or minus.  Probably better than living near San Diego State because it's a private university and the reputation is much calmer than SDSU.  But it also might lack some of the diversity of a state school. 

I've also heard really good things about Point Loma, but it might be farther from your daughter's school than you'd like. 

If you choose the PB area, you also are super close to Balboa Park, which is just amazing for kids.  The zoo, science center, galleries, museums, and lots of gardens and indie artists.

Not sure if any of that helped since I don't have a ton of specifics.  I've spent a lot of time in San Diego visiting family and for work.  We also attend Comic Con every summer and love to hunt and peck around the gaslamp district for fun stuff to do while we're there that gets us away from the crowds.  So, a lot of my knowledge is a little shallow. 

Good luck! 


  • Guest
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2014, 10:33:50 AM »
Well if I could pick one place to live it would be the Pt Loma/Sunset cliffs/Ocean Beach area.   There's a real sense of community and it's rather hippy dippy....which I love.   It also about 5 miles from your PB school.

The issue is costs.   Homes are in the 800k plus range.   They tend to be older but have character.

There's are very large Asian population in Orange County.   I'm partial to Huntington Beach myself but grew up in Orange / Tustin area.   I feel blessed to have been raised in such a nice place :)
« Last Edit: June 27, 2014, 10:46:02 AM by surfhb »


  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 138
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2014, 01:31:11 PM »
It's going to be very tough to find cheaper housing that is close to the school in Pacific Beach -- although there is a lot of run down looking stuff in PB that may be an option.  Being near the coast commands a premium.  If you can live with a longer drive to school, you might look at the Clairemont Mesa area.  There are a ton of Asian grocery stores and restaurants clustered around Convoy near I-52, and some middle eastern stuff off Clairemont Mesa Blvd west of I-805.   Western Mira Mesa and University Heights might also be worth a try.  Mira Mesa has a lot of Vietnamese population, grocery, and restaurants.  Indian shops cluster around the Miramar and I-15 intersection.  Mission Hills/Mission Heights may be more diverse but also a bit more expensive.

For the Lakeside school, you could look at Santee -- lower cost than the coast but I think mainly Caucasian.  Areas further south like El Cajon may tend more toward Latino rather than Asian ethnicities. 


  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 267
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2014, 01:32:35 PM »
I don't blame you for concentrating on the non-LA areas. However, since I'm not sure how familiar you are with SoCal areas, I just want to point out that you should realize that there is a pretty significant difference in the size and extent of the asian communities between LA and SD (i.e. it's by far much bigger and more diverse in/around LA). SD is down right diverse compared to say.. the midwest, but it doesn't even compete with LA. I don't know OC too well, but it seems to be somewhere in the middle, depending on what parts of OC you're in.

Between the two schools you specifically ask about, I'll offer some insights one by one:

You're right, it's a tiny little town with not much to offer. I could be wrong, but I don't see it as a particularly ethnically rich part of SD. Some possibly decent areas to look at if you want to stay within 5-10 minutes (probably closer to 10, and maybe a few more): La Mesa, some parts of El Cajon, maybe Santee (I don't know too much about Santee). If you want to go further, Poway and Ramona may be good options. Most of those areas are fairly affordable by SD standards, and tend to have more properties with larger (again, by SD standards) yards as well .

The more affordable area that's closest to this school is Clairemont (to the east, across the 5). I would say Clairemont is probably middle of the pack in terms of affordability (in SD) -- at least it's definitely cheaper than the nearby alternatives (PB & La Jolla). Your options for yard size is probably more limited (at least compared to areas around Lakeside), and there's probably fewer lots with larger yards. But then, I'm not sure what kind of yard size you're talking about, so maybe the typical size there would be plenty for you. There's Mission Bay Park relatively close. Balboa is probably about 20-30 minutes away, not really a neighborhood park for here.

Neither of those would be what I'd consider the asian heavy areas of San Diego, but Clairemont probably more so than the areas around Lakeside, and definitely closer to the asian areas Zette mentioned.


  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 218
  • Location: Malaysia!!!
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2014, 01:51:34 PM »
Thanks everyone for your input so far.

Oh, we don't have to be in an Asian neighborhood in particular - just being in SD is enough. I'm as white as white can be but did spend 20 years in Asia.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 46
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2014, 02:16:38 PM »
360K with 4 kids is not going to get you anything out here. Twice that might get you a three bedroom two bath older home. Especially in a more diverse area, tons of multi language schools out here though.

Rent where I am is 2400$ for a two bedroom home in the 1sqf range and ~3.2K above 1500sqf closer to the water and it climes even higher.

OB is kind of bohemian but its not the sort of place that you want to raise three kids unless watching strung out corpses dig through your garbage is part of the core school curriculum.


  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 218
  • Location: Malaysia!!!
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2014, 05:15:58 PM »
Thanks for your input hermoninny. I didn't think about Balboa Park. Free and fantastic. I like a bit more heat than SD but my wife doesn't so SD weather is a good compromise.

surfhb. I didn't think of Loma/Sunset cliffs/Ocean Beach. They are probably more like 15 minutes to the school but a scenic drive nonetheless. I'll have a look at prices in the area.

Zette. Clairemont did come up on the radar. It isn't that far from the school. I had hoped to be within 5 minutes - or at least easy roads for my wife to navigate. It would be a trade off.

I stayed in University Heights for 1 week on a scouting trip over Christmas. Nice area - but not really child or family oriented (at last what we could see). We did an AirBnB deal there.

HoppySwede. Not sure what you mean. Are you living in Lakeside?


  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 218
  • Location: Malaysia!!!
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2014, 09:27:50 PM »
Other than the cost of a house or rent, what do you think in San Diego is more expensive? Or cheaper?

Electric? Gas? Water? Vehicles (used of course)? Internet?

I spent a few weeks in SD this year. My observations for pricing were as follows (compared to the midwest):

- Gas $.50 more per gallon (looked at Gasbuddy App) in SD.

- Organic fruits & veggies. Way cheaper in SD.

- Small, non-fancy ethnic restaurants. Cheaper & better in SD.


  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 206
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2014, 06:44:38 AM »
Water in CA is generally more expensive, as well, because they have to buy it from other states.  And electricity, depending on where you are.  I believe they just took San Onofre (power plant in OC) offline.  Not sure where they're getting the extra power from.  I do know they're experimenting big time with solar (we just saw the big solar field on the NV border a couple weeks ago- so cool!) but not sure how it's going.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6590
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2014, 06:54:22 AM »
I quickly realized Lakeside is probably a hick town with little to offer

This is a really disgusting attitude to have....
What's wrong with being accurate?

I grew up in a hick town. People hunt and fish, it's beautiful with rivers, rolling green hills, forests.  Nice neighbors.

If you want to bike for fun, there's no place to do it.  Because people don't do it there and they drive 55 on all the back roads and try to run you off the road.
You cannot find organic foods.
"Ethnic" is taco bell.
The nearest actual grocery store is 18 miles away.
It's pretty much just a white small town.

Sure, there are advantages to living there, but if you know what you are looking for and a "hick town" doesn't provide that, there is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps the wording could have been better.


  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 218
  • Location: Malaysia!!!
Re: San Diego / SoCal Relocation Advice
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2014, 02:14:53 PM »
hi HoppySeed -

I guess I could have used more accurate wording / description. Everyone I asked about Lakeside had the same reaction. Negative.

I lived in a few Texas hick towns some years back. Nothing wrong with them. Some much better than others.

I did spend a day in the area around the school (9308 Winter Gardens Blvd. Lakeside).

"I quickly realized Lakeside is probably a hick town with little to offer"

Let me reword it:

"I drove around the town near the school my daughter might be attending. There were many shack like homes and half of the local businesses were closed. There were a few rancher types driving rancher type pickups - OK in my book (I respect people who work hard for a living). And there were some visually unappealing people - not your cool hippy dippies but people who looked like they had little going on in life. It smacked of destitution. But these are just my superficial observations."
On the other hand, there are new housing development going on in the western part of Lakeside (near El Cajon). So my guess is that just parts of Lakeside are not so great.

Maybe one day as SD grows Lakeside will be the new cool place undergoing gentrification.