Author Topic: Sizing up San Francisco  (Read 7549 times)

LoneStar

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Sizing up San Francisco
« on: April 30, 2015, 01:10:31 AM »
Hello!

I'm considering taking a job opportunity in SF(SoMa).

I had sworn it off based on the cost of housing, however I'm looking at options outside of the city and I think I can get something suitable.. I need some pointers though.  I'm married and won't be looking for flatmates I don't believe, and I'm more interested in having a modicum of space and niceness over living in SF proper.  I'd like to maximize what I can get for <2k/mo in rent with the potential to purchase something later in the year.

I'd consider driving in because the job starts later but the parking expenses may make it not worthwhile, so I'm looking at BART and other options.  I would prefer to keep commute down to 30 minutes door to seat tops.

I'm thinking maybe Oakland or Berkeley area and it appears to be the go-to area for cheaper rents.  Any tips from the community?

Mother Fussbudget

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2015, 04:32:26 PM »
I lived near Rock-Ridge BART station for 3 years.  It's in Oakland just South of Berkeley. 
It was a great neighborhood...  20 years ago(!)  I have no idea what the neighborhood is like today.
I remember an apartment complex that sat near the Caldecott tunnel (west side) that had a banner reading:
  "If you lived here, you'd be home now".  The complex burned down in the Oakland hills firestorm of 1991 - but I'll never forget the banner.  That was what made *ME* find housing on the west side of that tunnel.

The Pigeon

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2015, 04:37:43 PM »
*Nothing* is cheap around here. Especially near BART.
With the exodus of people from SF who *aren't* pulling down 6-figures, that's putting extreme pressure on the surrounding communities, and sending rents through the roof.
Here's a recent infographic that details rents within a half-mile of BART stations.
http://blog.onradpad.com/renting-a-1-bedroom-apartment-near-bart-in-san-francisco/
Both Berkeley and Oakland have sketchy areas, so you'll have to do some research so you don't end up in a bad part.

Median rent in SF for a 1-bedroom apt is now about $3400. That amount in the East Bay can get you into a single family home, or a super fancy apartment. Below is an SF-specific graphic:
http://blog.zumper.com/2015/03/san-francisco-rent-prices-continue-rapid-rise-february/

The Bay Area is a great place to live. So many outdoor activity opportunities, year-round great weather, and the place is damn beautiful. However, all that's gonna cost you. A lot!

Oh, yeah, and purchasing? You're looking at 500-650k for a 2BR/1BA fixer-upper, 750k-1.2MM for a modest but in better shape 2- or 3-bedroom home. At least in the general Berkeley/Oakland area. Of course, sky's the limit, really. And buyers are overbidding anywhere from 40k to upwards of 150k-200k (!!) above asking price. The real estate market is certifiably insane here.

:-)
Good luck!
« Last Edit: April 30, 2015, 04:46:43 PM by The Pigeon »

stringcheese

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2015, 06:05:25 PM »
i lived in berkeley/oakland for several years (had to migrate south to the peninsula for work). i love the east bay. i agree 100% with The Pigeon's assessment of the bay area market. a story i read recently posited that landlords in more desirable parts of SF (i.e., the mission) are committing arson as a way to evict their rent-controlled tenants and jack the rent, sometimes by 4-5x. it is routine to see 1BRs going for 3500-4500+/mo in SF and ritzy parts of the peninsula -- truly insane.

i recommend looking for places around the north berkeley bart station (but not in the berkeley hills -- $$$), ashby bart, rockridge bart, and maccarthur bart. you could also look at lake merritt in oakland -- close enough to 19th st. bart station. not sure what your tolerance is RE: neighborhood/perceived safety, but i lived in areas that some of my friends called "shady" and i felt 100% safe all the time (and i'm a young woman who works crazy hours and comes home at weird times). i commuted to SF by BART regularly, and it's about 30 minutes from berkeley, less from oakland. you can also take your bike on BART at all times of day now, which is nice, and SoMa is a very easy bike commute from the downtown SF BART stations. you will not get a 30min overall commute if you are BARTing + biking, more like 45min-1hr.

general rules for berkeley: closer to campus = more expensive. north berkeley hills = super expensive. south and west berkeley = cheaper. don't know oakland as well. it's also super easy to be bike-only in berkeley - i did it for years. you could also drive to SF and try to find a decent long-term parking situation, but you have to factor in the bay bridge toll (6 dollars/day unless you're carpooling, which means 3 people, and which is 4 dollars i believe). lots of people take the casual carpool -- they wait at designated spots in the east bay for SF-bound cars to pick them up. that way the driver can take the carpool lane (faster, cheaper) and the passengers typically give the driver a dollar or so. BART both ways will run you about 8 dollars total, while driving is 6 + whatever your parking is (my husband has long-term parking for 160/mo, and it works out to just over 7 dollars/work day. casual carpool, i believe, is one-way only, bc the bridge toll is unidirectional (into SF), but i'm not 100% sure.

hopefully that helps!


LoneStar

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2015, 06:53:57 PM »
Thanks for the tips everyone.  I'm hoping to get 140k and we will be single income for a bit at least, so I have absolutely zero interest in living in SF proper due to rent.

So a good situation parking plus bridge for driving commute would be about 280+ then gas :|  I can obviously manage that, but yikes!  I do free parking and maybe 100NZD on gas now for work commute.  BART and a bike for commute for now is looking better.. Plug I'm not a casual bike rider; I'm doing whatever race speed I'm in shape for whenever I'm in the saddle.

So looking on Trulia I am seeing some okay looking house in the 400k+ range east bay.. Are these a trap?

I'm getting more and more excited about the prospect as it settles with me.  The proximity to Yosemite should be great as I do a bit of rock climbing.

electriceagle

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2015, 07:31:21 PM »

Median rent in SF for a 1-bedroom apt is now about $3400. That amount in the East Bay can get you into a single family home, or a super fancy apartment. Below is an SF-specific graphic:
http://blog.zumper.com/2015/03/san-francisco-rent-prices-continue-rapid-rise-february/


That amount will also get you a 2-3 bedroom house in outlying areas of the city like Bayview or Visitacion Valley. Light rail takes 30-45 minutes to SOMA, but these neighborhoods are off everyones' radar, so there are good deals to be had. You can buy a 2-3 bedroom house for $700-800k. There are rather few 1-2 bedroom apartments available.

frugalecon

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2015, 07:33:53 PM »
Thanks for the tips everyone.  I'm hoping to get 140k and we will be single income for a bit at least, so I have absolutely zero interest in living in SF proper due to rent.

So a good situation parking plus bridge for driving commute would be about 280+ then gas :|  I can obviously manage that, but yikes!  I do free parking and maybe 100NZD on gas now for work commute.  BART and a bike for commute for now is looking better.. Plug I'm not a casual bike rider; I'm doing whatever race speed I'm in shape for whenever I'm in the saddle.

So looking on Trulia I am seeing some okay looking house in the 400k+ range east bay.. Are these a trap?

I'm getting more and more excited about the prospect as it settles with me.  The proximity to Yosemite should be great as I do a bit of rock climbing.

I would be stunned to find desirable housing in the $400k range in the close-in East Bay.

stringcheese

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2015, 07:44:12 PM »
you could also look in south SF and more northern parts of the peninsula (san bruno, millbrae, san mateo, san carlos, belmont, redwood city, etc). we moved down here and some of the pleasant (and unexpected) side effects have been a) no bridge tolls and b) less of a stop-and-go commute because there is no bridge traffic (we are farther distance-wise from SF than we were, but the highway drive is actually faster thanks to less traffic). we live in redwood city and found a very nice 1BR for 2150/mo, though that appears to be "bottom-of-the-barrel" pricing in this end-of-days rental market. you could also look in san mateo, though it can be a bit more expensive because it's been identified and marketed as the "compromise" distance-wise between SF and silicon valley.

the east bay is great, but i've found that people are flooding there in droves to flee the SF market. as a result: higher rents due to more competition as well as hellacious - and ever-worsening - traffic and very crowded BART trains during commute hours. also, when you're looking on zillow etc., keep in mind that the cheapest homes tend to be inland, away from the bay, and thus much farther in terms of commute times when you account for traffic. those areas are also HOTTER, substantially so, and i think people use air conditioning quite a bit (this factors into your utilities...). also, i was listening to the news at the gym recently, and i heard that the worst commutes are from hayward and fremont to SF proper -- precisely bc housing in those areas tends to be relatively cheaper. something else to keep in mind, because traffic out here is a nightmare during commute hours. that's why i do anything in my power to take transit + bike.

SF Semi-Mustache

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2015, 10:06:09 PM »
There are a few sub-$2k month apartments in the Excelsior and Bayview in SF proper.  The latter isn't super super safe, but it's not awful and is no worse than many parts of the East Bay.  RE: East Bay, look near the MacArthur, Ashby, North Berkeley, and Rockridge BART stations.  (Be careful around MacArthur -- think east, not west.)  Downtown Oakland is interesting, but is probably above your price range.  You could also look in or near Jack London Square and take the ferry to work, which sounds delightful (but I think it's $12-ish a day).

You will hate yourself daily if you try to drive across the bridge, unless you get to work at 6:30 in the morning or pick up folks in the casual carpool to use the HOV lanes.  In addition to the cost, traffic is awful.  One accident and you'll be stuck waiting for 2 hours.  It's a huge bottleneck.   Even if you do casual carpool.  My secretary is late at least once every couple of weeks because of the bridge traffic. 

tommy murph

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2015, 12:06:28 AM »
I don't know how helpful this will be for you LoneStar but you could consider Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill. The BART ride is definitely longer; probably 40-45 min ride. Total commute time about 50-60 min depending on how close you live to either the WC or PH stops. Lot of people commute in to the city from here. Definitely don't recommend driving in though!

Home prices are pretty outrageous here too: $650k-plus for something decent in nearby Concord. Rent is between $2-3k for a decent 2br apt or condo.

But the quality of life is really nice. It's quiet, there are great trails, lots to do in the area without going into the city. The summers get pretty hot though.

Just another Bay Area location to consider!

LoneStar

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2015, 01:12:47 AM »
Here are a few okay looking 500k and unders in Oakland.  These appear to be very nice compared to what is available in Auckland for the money.  It's not Texas value, but I could make it work.  The question is, what's wrong with them?  What's the catch?  I'm guessing it must be something?


http://www.trulia.com/property/3196785703-3005-E-19th-St-Oakland-CA-94601
http://www.trulia.com/property/3197756570-2512-Rawson-St-Oakland-CA-94601#photo-8
http://www.trulia.com/property/3195469288-3873-Coolidge-Ave-Oakland-CA-94602#photo-8
http://www.trulia.com/property/3199768313-2987-Morcom-Ave-Oakland-CA-94619
« Last Edit: May 01, 2015, 01:55:04 AM by LoneStar »

NorCal

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2015, 07:25:14 AM »
I'll take a contrary opinion.  BART goes into SF, but nowhere near SOMA.  At least, I'm assuming you'll be near the ballpark, and not near market street (common usage of that neighborhood name).  You don't want to take BART and then have to wait for another bus.

If that's the case, look for something along the Caltrain route.  While the peninsula is more expensive, you'll make up quite a bit on commuting time and costs.  Check out Brisbane, Daly City, or South San Francisco.  Pacifica is also on the more affordable side of the peninsula (and right on the ocean), but that will add a bit to the commute.

The Pigeon

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2015, 10:33:38 AM »
Here are a few okay looking 500k and unders in Oakland.  These appear to be very nice compared to what is available in Auckland for the money.  It's not Texas value, but I could make it work.  The question is, what's wrong with them?  What's the catch?  I'm guessing it must be something?

Yes! The catch is CRIME.

http://www.trulia.com/property/3196785703-3005-E-19th-St-Oakland-CA-94601
NO! Fruitvale tends to be block-by-block as far as decent, but it's too spotty. I wouldn't live there!

http://www.trulia.com/property/3197756570-2512-Rawson-St-Oakland-CA-94601#photo-8
NO! Stay away from Seminary Avenue. Gangs. Crime. Hello break-ins and smashed car windows.

http://www.trulia.com/property/3195469288-3873-Coolidge-Ave-Oakland-CA-94602#photo-8
Coolidge is also block-by-block. One block good, one block not so good. Too close to Fruitvale.

http://www.trulia.com/property/3199768313-2987-Morcom-Ave-Oakland-CA-94619
NO! Seminary-adjacent. Crime.

Here's a "gang map" of Oakland. Generally stay away from these areas:
https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zJYwgpQUcLcQ.kDxanAoh5Q0E&msa=0

Better Oakland neighborhoods:
Rockridge $$$$
Piedmont $$$
Laurel $$
Anything between Park Blvd to the South, Broadway to the North, Highway 580 to the West, and the Ridgeline to the East. Anything in the hills, though, $$$$ and a pain to get to BART.

I would say, generally, anything in Oakland for a half-million dollars is going to be in a sketchy neighborhood. (Boy that just grinds my gears to acknowledge that truth, especially when 500k would buy you a beautiful home in a great neighborhood in the midwest). A half-a-meg for a shithole. :-/

I would suggest finding a decent rental for a year, and getting to know the area better before deciding on a neighborhood in which to purchase. Alameda is a very nice and safe community ($$$), and if you live on the furthest South part (generally called "The East End," it's really easy to bike to the Fruitvale BART. You can then either take your bike on BART to your job in SF, or leave it at the manned "bike station," where you can leave your bike safely under supervision whilst you take BART to your final destination. There are bike stations like that at other BART stations, too:
http://bikehub.com/bartbikestation/


Hope that helps.

SF Semi-Mustache

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2015, 11:08:15 AM »
I'll take a contrary opinion.  BART goes into SF, but nowhere near SOMA.  At least, I'm assuming you'll be near the ballpark, and not near market street (common usage of that neighborhood name).  You don't want to take BART and then have to wait for another bus.

You can just bike.  Most of my friends who do that commute grab a bike from the bikeshare and bike down to SOMA, or take a folding bike on BART.  It's quite easy. 

I'm assuming he means ballpark-type SOMA, otherwise his parking estimate would be much higher.  I work in SOMA but close to the Montgomery BART station, and parking in my building is $500/month.

Here are a few okay looking 500k and unders in Oakland.  These appear to be very nice compared to what is available in Auckland for the money.  It's not Texas value, but I could make it work.  The question is, what's wrong with them?  What's the catch?  I'm guessing it must be something?


http://www.trulia.com/property/3196785703-3005-E-19th-St-Oakland-CA-94601
http://www.trulia.com/property/3197756570-2512-Rawson-St-Oakland-CA-94601#photo-8
http://www.trulia.com/property/3195469288-3873-Coolidge-Ave-Oakland-CA-94602#photo-8
http://www.trulia.com/property/3199768313-2987-Morcom-Ave-Oakland-CA-94619

I'm torn.  I have lovely lesbian friends who bought a house in Maxwell Park, installed a high-end security system, and seem to be doing fine.  I'd move there.  But I'm used to rough neighborhoods in America.

But I was just in Auckland three weeks ago, and your police don't even carry guns!  I think this would be a crazy transition for someone from quiet, lovely, friendly, low-crime New Zealand.

Also, realize these houses are going to sell for over the listing price. 

stringcheese

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2015, 12:42:13 PM »
another thing to inquire about is whether your company will subsidize your commute somewhat. many tech companies in the bay area are doing this now, particularly for public transit. i took BART with a bike for many years, and i've also done so on caltrain now that we live south of the city. another tip - millbrae and south SF could be nice places bc they have both caltrain and BART stops. and note that both BART and caltrain fares are dependent upon distance traveled and are not flat-rate -- this is particularly relevant for caltrain commutes!

GreenPen

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2015, 01:54:58 PM »
another thing to inquire about is whether your company will subsidize your commute somewhat. many tech companies in the bay area are doing this now, particularly for public transit.

I also recommend looking into this -- and maybe even ask if your company will pay for a wireless hotspot for you to work on the Caltrain. My DW's company has this setup for her, and it makes her longer commute days more reasonable.

If you are looking to live along the Caltrain line, it's worth looking into which stops allow you could catch a bullet train. The trains that make every stop add a lot of time to your commute. I'm not sure if you will need a bike for the last leg of your commute, but it's worth pointing out that the bike sections of the bullet trains often fill up quickly during peak commuting times (so you might need to arrive to the station early to guarantee a spot). Or at least that's what I've seen in my limited experience.

But to be honest, in your situation I might just consider paying the ~3.4k / month to live in SF if that is something you would enjoy. You will be starting at ~140k, and your SO will eventually be working (also in SF?). You would not need to own a car, and your life would be simplified quite a bit by cutting out the commute. But I guess this is a very personal decision, since it involves both how you spend your time and your money.





dragoncar

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2015, 05:32:58 PM »
I think you're asking too much.  You gotta give up on either the rent or commute time, particularly because "SoMa" is typically harder to commute to than FiDi.  Where exactly in SoMa?

Driving: No, just no.  Look up monthly parking

I'd look into Alameda.  Crossing the bay gets you a lot of bonus points, since you are no longer competing with dual-income families splitting commutes to SF and SV

LoneStar

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2015, 08:05:31 PM »
But I was just in Auckland three weeks ago, and your police don't even carry guns!  I think this would be a crazy transition for someone from quiet, lovely, friendly, low-crime New Zealand.

Haha, well.. If your looking for a good stabbing you can always head to west Auckland.  Seriously though, I actually had my nose broken in the CBD.. NZ has a strange issue with random acts of violence.  Potentially due to the national alcohol problem.. Which is part of the charm for me :)  So would a 400k house go for 700k, or more like 450-480?

I'm actually from the US though so I'm pretty practised at the "Don't bother me and I won't bother you" face.

I think you're asking too much.  You gotta give up on either the rent or commute time, particularly because "SoMa" is typically harder to commute to than FiDi.  Where exactly in SoMa?

Driving: No, just no.  Look up monthly parking

I'd look into Alameda.  Crossing the bay gets you a lot of bonus points, since you are no longer competing with dual-income families splitting commutes to SF and SV

It's just a six minute bike ride from 16th and mission at google map speeds.  I do quite a bit of reading on the internet.. Figure I can do that just as well on the train.. And that 1.5k difference between SF and not is 18k/yr!

ClaycordJCA

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #18 on: May 01, 2015, 11:58:41 PM »
Alameda also has ferry service to/from San Francisco and you can bring your bike on the ferry. Really a small town vibe just minutes from SF, but weather can be quite cool with the fog.

THere are also a lot of apartments near the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill BART stations. If you go in later and leave work later, this may be better from a crime standpoint if you are biking as there are areas in Oakland that are unsafe. BART from Walnut Creek to downtown SF is about 35 minutes. About 40 minutes to Pleasant Hill.  You'll need really good locks if you leave your bike at the BART station as theft is all too common.

electriceagle

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2015, 06:35:29 AM »

It's just a six minute bike ride from 16th and mission at google map speeds.  I do quite a bit of reading on the internet.. Figure I can do that just as well on the train.. And that 1.5k difference between SF and not is 18k/yr!

BART is mostly below ground, so no internet. Caltrain is mostly above ground, so you can bring your own 4G.

The Pigeon

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #20 on: May 02, 2015, 12:40:18 PM »

You'll need really good locks if you leave your bike at the BART station as theft is all too common.

That's why the BART stations that have the manned "bike stations" (http://bikehub.com/bartbikestation/) are preferred. (I now see some only offer self-service, I don't know what that entails. The ones I've seen (Fruitvale & Downtown Berkeley) feature full service: The manned bike stations are similar to a bike shop (with a counter person/mechanic, and offer parts & service, PLUS the "valet parking" which means your bike is ferried to the back of the shop, where there is no public access to the bikes. To use the service, you simply sign up (it's a free service). When you arrive at the bike station, you hand off your bike to the attendant, and he puts it in the back area. So there's no possibility of theft, unless an a thief decides to rob the bike station!

Parking your bike anywhere in public is very, very prone to theft, either of the whole bike or parts. I had an awful bike (found, left for 3 weeks in front of an apt building--nobody wanted it!) So I picked it up and rode it for a while. I had the rubber hand grips stolen at BART. :-/ They'll take anything not nailed down.

Be sure you always lock (or take with you) any quick-release parts. (wheels, saddles, seatposts).

Hopefully your employer will either allow your bike to be parked near your desk or provides a secured bike parking area.

-pigeon
« Last Edit: May 02, 2015, 01:02:27 PM by The Pigeon »

dragoncar

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Re: Sizing up San Francisco
« Reply #21 on: May 02, 2015, 01:41:15 PM »
I think you're asking too much.  You gotta give up on either the rent or commute time, particularly because "SoMa" is typically harder to commute to than FiDi.  Where exactly in SoMa?

Driving: No, just no.  Look up monthly parking

I'd look into Alameda.  Crossing the bay gets you a lot of bonus points, since you are no longer competing with dual-income families splitting commutes to SF and SV

It's just a six minute bike ride from 16th and mission at google map speeds.  I do quite a bit of reading on the internet.. Figure I can do that just as well on the train.. And that 1.5k difference between SF and not is 18k/yr!


Not entirely sure if we're crossing our wires, but I'm saying "30 min door to seat" is pretty hard to do.  You can't even do this in many parts of SF proper, for example outer richmond to downtown is about an hour via public transportation. 

How long will it take you to get to BART?  Lets say you live right at 12th street bart in downtown Oakland.  It'll still take you maybe 5 min to get down to the platform.

It's 18 min on the train, best case.  But unless you time it perfectly (and BART doesn't really have minute-accurate schedules) you could wait 5-10 min on the platform.

So google says it's 6 min bike from BART.  Could be accurate, or you may have to add 4 min depending on whether you plan to obey traffic laws (you go much faster running red lights or biking on the sidewalk or going the wrong way down 1-way streets).

Getting from platform to street is not negligible.  As a pedestrian it can be 2 min, those stations are deep.  With a bike you aren't allowed on the escalators.  Lets just call it another 3 min.

But you have to lock up your bike or bring it up to the office.  Taking the elevator or stairs?  I'd add at least 5 min just getting from street to seat, and securing your bike.

So that's anywhere from 36-51 min "door to seat" and I suspect it's a bit on the longer side of that range.

I don't personally have a problem with that kind of commute -- mine is around an hour "door to seat" and I read a lot of internet on the train, and get in some exercise when not on the train.  My point is that getting under 30 min is not going to be cheap.

P.S.  even when I lived in SF proper, my door to seat commute was about 20 min on the bus, 30 walking.  Rent was astronomical!
« Last Edit: May 02, 2015, 01:42:56 PM by dragoncar »