Moving to Santa Rosa

Surrounded by lush vineyards, redwood and oak-covered hills, and known for its fine wines, breweries, and locally sourced organic foods, Santa Rosa evokes what everyone thinks of when musing about the classic northern California city. Situated about 55 miles north of San Francisco in central Sonoma County, bustling Santa Rosa grew up as the commercial center for the groves, farms, ranches, and small rural towns that encircle the city. Santa Rosa has evolved into a sophisticated but unpretentious city with a diverse and strong economy. As a relatively affordable choice over San Francisco’s ultra-high cost of living, many Bay Area residents have transplanted to Santa Rosa. San Francisco still maintains the highest rate of same-sex marriages in the US, but Santa Rosa comes in second.

Many residents prefer Santa Rosa’s genuine, down-to-earth vibe over the Napa Valley lifestyle. Santa Rosa doesn’t get the intense tourism of the Napa Valley, but it still has all the natural beauty, similar amenities, and retains its charming historical character. Restaurants, cafes, hip coffee shops, bistros, wine bars, and breweries serve up creatively prepared locally sourced ingredients. And speaking of local, many locally owned businesses, from saddle shops to high-end car dealerships, plus three large malls, provide for every shopping need.

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Living in Santa Rosa: What to Know Before Moving to Santa Rosa, CA

About 504,000 people live in the greater Santa Rosa metro area. But the city proper of about 175,000 residents, offers urban amenities with the friendliness and welcoming vibe of a small town. Covering 41.5 square miles, this urban area retains a fringe of land that is undeveloped or used for agriculture. Locals regularly spot deer, wild turkeys, and other wildlife along the outlying areas of the city.

Pros and Cons

Check out the great things that make living in Santa Rosa special. But be sure to learn about the downsides that you may encounter too.

Pros

  • Economy
  • Climate
  • Proximity to San Francisco and other Bay Area cities
  • Locally grown high-quality food, wine, beer
  • Friendly down-to-earth vibe

Cons

  • High housing costs
  • High cost of living
  • High taxes
  • Rush hour traffic
  • Living in some Santa Rosa neighborhoods requires a car

Economy and the Job Market

Because Santa Rosa housing costs increased significantly in the decade between 2000 and 2010, job growth slowed, and the cost of doing business increased. But as of July 2019, the job market has grown by 1.7% in the past year, and over the next ten years, the job market is forecasted to grow 1.4% stronger than the US average. Unemployment is a low 2.8% compared to the 3.9% US average.

By occupation, most residents work in health care and social assistance; retail trade; manufacturing; accommodation and food services; and educational services. The five top Santa Rosa employers are the County of Sonoma; Kaiser Permanente; Santa Rosa Junior College; St Joseph Health System; and Santa Rosa City Schools. The industries paying out the biggest paychecks are Utilities; Public Administration; and Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services employers.

Sonoma County offers Job Link, a free service for job seekers. They provide training funds for new careers, connect employers with your skills, career counseling, and job search assistance. Because so many companies use digital hiring practices, exploring online job platforms is a great way to find employment. Just a few of the many platforms include indeed.com, glassdoor.com, simplyhired, and ZipRecruiter. Be ready: fine-tune your resume to make sure it’s ready to send (by pdf only) when a prospective employer is interested in your skills.

Tax Rates

  • State income tax: California residents pay income tax based on ten brackets. Each bracket is taxed at a different rate. The average income tax rate is 9.3%, based on incomes between $53,980 to $275,737. The average US rate is 4.6%.
  • Property tax: For a Santa Rosa home valued at the median home cost of  $597,100, the median property tax is $3,582.60 per year. If you buy a property in Sonoma County, your property will be taxed at an estimated 1.126%. Actual property tax rates can vary from property to property within counties and cities because of special property tax boundaries. Be sure to discuss your property tax rates with your realtor before signing a purchase contract.
  • Sales tax: Santa Rosa residents pay 8.6% on retail goods compared to the 7.3% US average sales tax.

Housing Market

According to Zillow, the median list price of a Santa Rosa home is $635,000, but the median home cost is $574,000. Median home values dropped 0.6% between 2018 –2019 and are forecast to drop an additional 0.8% in 2020. If prices continue to fall, you may find yourself in a buyers’ market as 2020 approaches. 61.3% of residents own their homes, and if you’re in interesting in purchasing a home, you’ll find properties ranging from upscale urban condos to rural country escapes.

Before the Tubbs Fire, a huge wildfire that jumped into urban Santa Rosa in 2017, there was a significant housing shortage. After the fire, which destroyed 5% of Santa Rosa’s homes, many people were forced to rethink their housing options and left the area. The Tubbs Fire marked the end of more than half a century of population growth in Sonoma County and was likely the reason for recent housing price reductions.

The Santa Rosa city median rent is $2,568 but rises to $2,800 in the Santa Rosa Metro area. You’ll find a variety of rental options, including apartments, condos, townhomes, urban, and rural houses.

Cost of Living

Compared to the US cost of living index of 100, Santa Rosa’s cost of living is 168. Housing accounts for the greatest expense. Here’s a rundown on cost indexes: Groceries 111/100, Health 92/100, Housing 313/100, Utilities 100/100, Transportation 111/100, and Miscellaneous (such as repairs, clothing, eating out, etc.) 104.8/100. As you can see, most expenses are in keeping with the national average. But housing is three times as much as the average.

Monthly costs for two working adults and two children living in Santa Rosa add up to $9,165. The Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator lists basic living costs for a family of four: Housing $1,843, Food $913, Child Care $1,247, Transportation $1,367, Health Care $1,114, Other necessities $1,112, and Taxes $1,469. These costs total  $109,977 annually. The same family of four in Dallas would pay $75,488 for the same expenses.

According to datausa.io, the Santa Rosa median household income is $80,409, an increase of 8.77% over 2018. The median income in the US is $60,336. In Santa Rosa, 31% of residents earn over $75,000 per year. You can see that you’ll have the opportunity to bring in a healthier paycheck in Santa Rosa than you would in many other US cities.

Weather and Natural Disasters

Santa Rosa’s Marine Mediterranean climate produces mild seasonal variations with warm, sometimes hot summers, and cool, damp winters. You can expect July and August to be the hottest months, with average highs of 82 degrees F and lows of around 53. December and January are the coolest months where daytime highs average 58 and night times cool down to the high 30s. Rain averages about 31 inches per year, with most precipitation falling from November through March. Snow doesn’t happen unless a freak Arctic storm blows through. In that case, snow would be minimal and last less than a day.

With climate change in the news almost daily, natural disasters are catching many people off guard. Santa Rosa is prone to earthquakes, floods due to winter storms, landslides, and urban/wildland fires. In 2017, a wildfire that started in the Napa Valley quickly spread west to Santa Rosa, taking down homes, businesses, and skipping six lanes of Hwy 101 to burn a large shopping center completely. Being prepared for an unexpected threat is key to your safety. Read through the County of Sonoma Hazard Mitigation Plan to stay prepared.

Traffic and Transportation

US Route 101 is the major six-lane freeway that runs north-south through Santa Rosa. Highway 101 will connect you with San Francisco to the south, or the rural towns and the Oregon border to the north. Highway 12 runs east from Sebastapol through the southern part of the city. River Road runs east-west at the northern area of the city and connects west to the Pacific Ocean, or east to Napa Valley. Locals try to avoid Hwy 101 during gridlocked rush hours, preferring surface streets like Fulton Rd, Stony Point Rd, Mendocino Ave, and Santa Rosa Ave.

If you are commuting, plan to spend an average of 24.7 minutes behind the wheel. Your Santa Rosa commute will be a fraction shorter than the national average commute time of 25.5 minutes.

United, Alaska, Sun Country, and American Airlines service the Charles M Schultz-Sonoma County Airport (STS) located eight miles northwest of downtown among beautiful vineyards, oaks, and redwoods. If you are flying out of Oakland (OAK) or San Francisco (SFO) International Airports, you can leave your car at home and take the Sonoma County Airport Express bus to catch your flight. The SMART, Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, connects Santa Rosa with locations along US Route 101 as far south as San Rafael. Sonoma County Transit (SCT) runs bus service throughout Santa Rosa.

If you’d like to get around Santa Rosa while getting some exercise at the same time, an expansive network of bike trails winds through the city. All of the public transportation systems allow you to bring your bike onboard. How great is that? Each SMART train has space for up to 24 bikes, and most buses accommodate two bikes. Santa Rosa has earned Walk Scores of 27/100 for transit, 48/100 for bikes, and 44/100 for walkability.

Things to Do

Wine and Restaurant scene: Bestplaces.net has designated Santa Rosa/Napa the #1 ‘Top Foodie Cities in America.’

Sonoma County is famous for its quality wines and fresh organic, locally sourced food. Of course, wine tasting is a popular pastime, and plenty of top-notch wineries will keep you busy comparing reds, whites, rosés, bubbly wines, ice wines, and more. Unless you have a designated driver appointed for the day, be sure to opt for a tasting tour. You’ll avoid the risks involved with driving and truly enjoy the amazing variety of wines in gorgeous settings. Some refer to Santa Rosa as the Microbrew capital of the US, but that’s probably up for argument. However, it’s worth heading over to Russian River Brewing Company or Moonlight Brewing Company to taste some of their fresh brews.

Performing and visual arts: Santa Rosa has an extensive performing arts scene for a city its size. Some options to explore include the Summer Repertory Theatre; the Santa Rosa Symphony; the Sonoma County Philharmonic; 6th Street Playhouse; and North Bay Theater Group, a consortium of 40 Bay Area theater companies representing five North Bay counties. The Sonoma County Museum and many independent art galleries provide creative options for visual arts lovers.

Attractions: Plant lovers will enjoy the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, which keeps the famous horticulturist’s work alive. Peanuts, Lucy, and Snoopy fans will love investigating the Charles M Schulz Museum and Research Center. Safari West is home to over 1000 animals that represent around 98 species. History buffs will enjoy seeing the Carrillo Adobe, the first home built in the area in 1837. Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square and downtown boast restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, antique stores, shopping, and the highest concentration of historic commercial buildings in Santa Rosa. Pacific Coast Air Museum showcases vintage planes displayed on the tarmac.

Parks: Greenspaces and parks in Santa Rosa include Spring Lake Regional Park; Trione-Annadel State Park for mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, and exploring; Prince Memorial Greenway, an urban bicycle and pedestrian path that winds through downtown, and more.

Shopping: Montgomery Village with 70 upscale shops in an open-air setting; recently renovated Coddingtown Mall with over 40 shops and a Whole Foods Market; Santa Rosa Plaza with 100 shops; plus 12 neighborhood shopping centers and 17 commercial districts provide just about any commodity you could desire. You don’t even need to leave town when you’re ready to go car shopping. Auto Row features dealerships from high-end automakers to popular brands such as Toyota and Honda.

The City of Santa Rosa provides this helpful color-coded map to help you navigate through the city. You can click on Arts and Culture, Dining, Shops, Salons, Services, and Accommodations to get a great idea of all there is to do in the city.

Schools and Universities

If you have school-age children, they’ll receive a quality education in Santa Rosa. The city has 42 public elementary, middle, and high schools plus 50 private schools. US News and World Report rank four Santa Rosa high schools in their ‘best’ rankings. Santa Rosa public schools receive an above-average index score of 7.5/10 for college readiness, and the student-teacher ratio is 18:1. Some of Santa Rosa’s top schools are Austin Creek Elementary School 10/10, Mark West Charter School 9/10, and Strawberry Elementary School 8/10.

Post-secondary options include San Rosa Junior College, Empire College, and California State University at Sonoma. The University of San Francisco maintains a Santa Rosa campus and offers graduate programs designed for working professionals.

Crime

Santa Rosa ranks 31.4 for property crime compared to the US average of 35.4. Violent crime is 17.0 compared to the US average of 22.7. Before Santa Rosa became gentrified and the housing cost increase changed the nature of the city, both property and violent crime rates were much higher, especially in the southern areas of the city. In 2003, property crime was twice what it is now, and violent crime was 1.5 times as prevalent. As with all cities, various pockets of crime exist, so be sure to check the crime ratings for neighborhoods you’re interested in exploring.

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Best Neighborhoods in Fresno, CA

The city of Fresno, CA, has a total of 12 neighborhoods to choose from. Each offers something for everyone, whether it’s the urban environment of Downtown, the fun college town vibe of the Tower District, or the more suburban appeal of McLane. According to AreaVibes.com, the neighborhood with the highest Livability Score is Woodward Park with tons of green space and walkable attractions. You’ll notice that the schools listed for each neighborhood specify their greatschools.org ratings.

Central/Downtown

Central Fresno is a triangular shaped area, bordered by Hwy 180 at the north, Hwy 40 on the east, and Hwy 99 on the west. You’ll find high-rises and city living at a pretty low rate — apartments go for around $1,017 per month, compared to the average Fresno rent price of $1,450. Downtown house values are fairly low as well. With a median home value of $127,400, home prices rose 22.7% in 2018, and Zillow expects they’ll rise 9.5% in the coming year.

Downtown has easy access to amenities like grocery stores and entertainment. You can walk just about everywhere, or use ride shares and public transportation to get to places like the newly revitalized Fulton Mall, the Fresno Convention, and Entertainment Center, and several sports venues. On the downside, schools in Central Fresno rank lower overall, and the crime rate is 60% higher than in the rest of the city. The population of this neighborhood is primarily young adults rather than families, so if you want to be right in the middle of the action, Central might be a great place to live.

  • Population: 14,052
  • Median home value: $127,400
  • Median rent price: $1,017
  • Median household income: $51,900
  • Schools: Lowell Elementary 6/10; Tehipite Middle School 2/10; Roosevelt High School 2/10

Figarden/Bullard

Figarden, formerly known as Bullard, is an unincorporated community in Fresno. It’s 6 miles northwest of Downtown, bound by the San Joaquin River at the north, Hwy 99 at its western side, W Shields Ave on the south, and Hwy 41 on the east. Figarden/Bullard is ranked the “1st best neighborhood” in Fresno by StreetAdvisor.com. This charming neighborhood features some of the oldest homes in the city, with a median home value of $290,700, and median rent price of $1,512.

The vintage houses, some dating back to the early 1900s, are surrounded by mature cedar trees and plenty of greenery. Residents enjoy the outdoors, biking, or going for walks. Every year, the Fig Garden Homeowners Association sponsors “Christmas Tree Lane,” one of the longest-running holiday events of its kind in the country.

  • Population: 100,730
  • Median home value: $290,700
  • Median rent price: $1,512
  • Median household income: $63,516
  • Schools: Figarden Elementary School 5/10

Hoover

Hoover is a popular suburban neighborhood, about 15 minutes northeast of Downtown. Its northern boundary is E Bullard Ave, Blackstone Ave on the west, Ashlan Ave on the south, and Willow Ave on the east. It’s an established, family-oriented area with a reasonable cost of living. Hoover is safer than 60 percent of the neighborhoods in the city. Walk Score rates Hoover the second most walkable neighborhood in Fresno with a Walk Score of 60.

The housing market is very competitive with a median home price at $240,000, a 5.9% rise over the past year. Homes get multiple offers and sell quickly. Hoover rents are around $1,277. Most of the neighborhood’s shops and services sit on E Shaw Avenue, and Fashion Fair Mall is nearby. Fresno State is centered in the neighborhood, providing lots of sports games to attend at their stadium, as is the Save Mart Center where residents can enjoy a variety of first-rate concerts.

  • Population: 55,566
  • Median Home Price: $240,000
  • Median Rent Price: $1,277
  • Median household income: $45,225
  • Schools: Wolters Elementary School 4/10; Herbert Hoover High School 3/10

McLane

McLane is an up and coming commuter neighborhood. Ashlan Ave creates the northern boundary, N Blackstone on the west, Hwy 168 on the south, Hwy 180 on the southeast end, and N Clovis Ave on the east. It encompasses the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, making travel extremely convenient. The airport takes up a large portion of the community and offers civil-military, cargo, and public air travel for the greater San Joaquin Valley area. Fresno Airways Golf Course, an 18 hole public course, is adjacent to the airport.

McLane is only a brief drive east from downtown and the Tower District, so commuters appreciate quick access to all things work-related. McLane rent index is $1,289, compared to the Fresno index of $1,378. The home value index of $205,000 puts home prices slightly lower than the rest of the city. The median home value rose 10.9% between 2018 and 2019 and is expected to rise by 6.3% in the coming year. The crime rate, however, is slightly higher than the city average,

  • Population: 56,716
  • Median home value: $205,000
  • Median rent price: $1,289
  • Median household income: $37,406
  • Schools: Norseman Elementary School 3/10; Scandinavian Middle School 2/10; McLane High School 2/10

North Growth Area

Despite its unimaginative name, the North Growth Area was rated the top neighborhood to live in Fresno for the second year in a row by homesnacks.net. The median home price is $392,800, well above the average for the rest of the city. The triangle-shaped district borders the San Joaquin River on the north, E. Copper Ave on the south, and N. Willow Rd on the east. Much of the western border abuts the top-notch Dragonfly Golf Course, and the more southerly quadrant incorporates the Copper River Country Club and Tennis Centre. Farms, ranches, and stables also dot the surrounding landscape. The North Growth Area, where 91% of residents own their homes, is a pleasant, green place to live featuring highly rated schools and beautiful parks and lakes.

  • Population: 11,693
  • Median Home Price: $392,800
  • Median Rent Price: $1,566
  • Median Household Income: $89,000
  • Schools: Valley Oak Elementary School 10/10; Clovis West High School 9/10

South Growth Area

The South Growth Area is rapidly rising on the Fresno desirability scale, traveling up from eight to rank “Fourth Best Neighborhood” on homesnacks.net’s Top 10 ranking. The area is a small rectangular neighborhood east of Downtown, intersected by Hwy 180 and De Wolf Ave. The area features the wildly popular Fresno County Blossom Trail, a scenic drive known for its beautiful displays of blooming fruit trees & wildflowers in February and March.

The median home value in the South Growth Area is $201,550. Homesnacks gives it a 10/10 safety rating. If you’re looking for a safe, up-and-coming area with affordable home prices, the South Growth Area is for you.

  • Population: 3,848
  • Median Home Value: $201,550
  • Median Rent Price: $1,245
  • Median Household Income: $66,411
  • Schools: Temperance-Kitner Elementary School 6/10; Reyburn Intermediate School 7/10; Clovis East High School 7/10

Tower District, population 22,761

Bordered by W Shield Ave at the north, N Golden State Blvd on the west, and Hwy 41 on the east, the Tower District forms a triangular neighborhood where most Fresno residents go for a night on the town. And it’s easy to see why. The beautiful Tower Theater for the Performing Arts is a historic Streamline Moderne mixed-use theater that hosts a variety of shows, ranging from country artists to comedy shows. Once you park your car, you can easily walk to the bars, restaurants, shops, record stores, and cafes that make this district all the more desirable.

Most businesses are locally owned, giving the Tower District a unique and distinct vibe. Fresno City College students like to hang out here. But, best of all, it’s just two miles north of Downtown, so you have access to all the amenities you need within a 10-minute drive.

  • Population: 22,761
  • Median Home Price: $225,000
  • Median Rent Price: $1,352
  • Median Household Income: $49,217
  • Schools: Morris E. Dailey Charter Elementary School 10/10; Hamilton Elementary School 3/10; Fresno High School 4/10

Woodward Park

Woodward Park, situated on the northern outskirts of the city, is bordered by N Friant Rd on the north, Hwy 41 on the west, Hwy 47 on the south, and N Willow Ave on the east. You’ll find plenty of open space, access to parks, a much lower population density, and quiet, tree-lined streets. Woodward Park offers a more rural feel than the rest of the city; the schools rank as some of the best in Fresno with the highest graduation rates, and property values are significantly higher, with a median home value of $360,400. Rent in Woodward Park is significantly higher than average at around $1,800 per month.

Crime rates are the lowest in the city, making it an eminently walkable part of Fresno, although you’ll probably want to have a car due to its more remote location. Woodward Park offers 300 acres of green space, including ponds, picnic areas, and more than five miles of trails. Also, the park boasts an amphitheater that seats up to 2,500 people, a golf course, dog park, mountain bike course, and the beautiful Shinzen Japanese Gardens.

  • Population: 58,752
  • Median Home Value: $360,400
  • Median Rent Price: $1,800
  • Median Household Income: $78,412
  • Schools: Valley Oak Elementary School 10/10; Clovis West High School 9/10

Whether you’re relocating within California, moving to Fresno from out-of-state, or need a new sectional sofa delivered to your home, Great Guys Long Distance Movers has your back. Trusted movers who are vetted, licensed, and insured can arrange for just about any moving service you might need. Click ‘Get Free Quote’ and let’s get started!

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