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Moving to Santa Cruz, CA

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Housing, Neighborhoods, & Moving > Moving to Santa Cruz, CA



Nov 2013

Re: Good schools and lots of trees and nature
I know the PERFECT spot for you. The San Lorenzo Valley USD in the Santa Cruz Mountains (Felton, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek) is FABULOUS!! My daughter and I lived there for a number of years and it just can't be beat. I'm a credentialed teacher and have taught in Santa Clara County as well as in Santa Cruz County and SLV beats any of the districts I've known by many miles.

The truly excellent MS and HS are on the same campus (Outstanding Elementary adjacent). The community is tight, the sports program super strong, and the people are mellow, kind and good mountain folk. PLUS you are surrounded by state parks and redwoods, while just 10-20 mins from the beach and downtown Santa Cruz. Definitely check it out!

You will likely miss the diversity that abounds in these parts, an the winters can be rough, especially if you must commute Hwy 17. And making a living locally is pretty tough. But all so worth the sacrifices if you can make it work. As a bonus, rents are a bit cheaper than in SC proper, but sunlight is a factor. The last place I lived there had mushrooms growing out of the carpet! The right rental may take some hunting, but you just can't beat that special community. Miss Feltontown


Job in Santa Cruz - live in Santa Cruz or San Jose?

Feb 2012

My husband has accepted a job in Santa Cruz and we will be relocating to avoid a very long commute. We are looking for opinions about living in SC vs. SJ or Campbell. We lived in SC before we had kids and really loved it. We have a lot of friends in SJ and it is a little less expensive overall. I feel like there might be more opportunities for our kids to be involved in things like sports, music, clubs, etc. in SJ. On the other hand, SC is so beautiful and less hectic and is our kind of place. Does anyone know if the schools are better in SC or SJ? Thanks for your help! cj


Just go with Santa Cruz. Your lives will be better without the commute from SJ. You already know and like the town, so it seems like a perfect situation. Don't overthink it! wish I could move too

Moving to Santa Cruz for UCSC grad school

Sept 2009

Hello all! It looks like my husband, our toddler and I will have to move to the Santa Cruz area in a year so he can attend UCSC for his five-year doctoral program. We are already familiar with the campus because my older daughter attends (obviously my kids are far apart in age!). I have looked at the archives and there is some great but aging information about Santa Cruz neighborhoods that I have already made note of. In a month my daughter will be back in college, and I'd like to visit some neighborhoods the day we take her back to school in order to get my bearings. Can I get some advice about neighborhoods or small towns where we can walk to nice business districts or town centers? I'd also like to hear about areas that are nice and affordable even if they don't support a walking lifestyle. We'd like to stay within 30 minutes' drive of the campus as our son will probably attend child care there. Thank you! Trying to get used to the idea of moving


I lived in SC for 5 years during school, and plan to also move back there next year with my two toddlers.

I lived in 3 different neighborhoods, as well as Felton 9 miles from downtown in the woods. Felton was beautiful and had the basics, less expensive rent, but felt too ''far'' from town for my taste.

My favorite area is Seabright. Either side of Seabright Ave, all the way to the beach. Walk to: beach, small museum, groceries, restaurants, harbor, boardwalk, brewery with live music -in minutes. Nice modest homes. Young families. Excellent elementary school. Gardens. Great weather. Walk downtown in 15-20 minutes, great for bikes too.

West side is my 2nd choice. On the beach side of Hwy 1. Very close to UCSC, cute bungalows, nice yards and gardens, lots of families, groceries, stores, close to west cliff for evening strolls, near beaches, also good for biking, restaurants- all with 5-10 minute walk.

I also like the East Cliff/Pleasure point area. Further into Aptos, past Capitola and you're getting into the fog belt, weather wise. Near campus is also a nice area to try.

Those are my favorites. All in all, great community, beautiful area. Good luck! fairlightde


May 2009

Hello BPNers. My family and I are considering relocating from the Bay Area (Montclair) to the Santa Cruz area. Whenever I visit Santa Cruz, I feel connected to the area (I've always been a ''place'' person).

There's an energy to it that I rarely experience anywhere else. I'm looking for advice from anyone who has lived there. My concerns are with the school system, which I hear is below average and the fog. I lived in San Francisco for years but eventually moved to the East Bay to escape the fog, which I found depressing. Is it overwhelming? Also, I'm wondering how inconvenient it is to come up to the Bay Area on a regular basis? I still have numerous friends here and imagine coming back monthly. I have a great job with lots of flexibility and can live anywhere and still succeed. Please bring some reality (good and bad) to my fantasy.

Thanks! Wanderlust


I grew up in Aptos and lived and taught in Santa Cruz for several years. If you don't like the fog, I would definitely not recommend living in Aptos as it is regularly ten degrees cooler than Santa Cruz and the fog stays in much later in the day. Santa Cruz weather is roughly the same as the East Bay. May and September tend to be the nicest months, and in the summer it's foggy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon. The Seabright/East Santa Cruz area is known as the banana belt and is the warmest part of town. It is also warmer the farther you go toward the hills.

Santa Cruz and Aptos are also very different culturally. Aptos is much more conservative, insular and affluent than Santa Cruz, although since the tech boom a lot of less well-to-do people have been forced out across the county due to rising home prices. I'm not sure how the recession will effect that dynamic.

Another big difference between Santa Cruz county and the East Bay is that the ethnic mix is almost entirely white and Latino with a smattering of other ethnic groups. It's also small and geographically confined, so these groups live much closer together than they do here. There is definitely tension, but there is also a lot more interaction than there is here. The Latino community also has a strong cultural presence in town.

I suspect that the reason that you've heard the schools in Santa Cruz are not very good is because there is a high percentage of immigrants and second-language speakers, which in general does not lead to high test scores. In my opinion, that doesn't mean the schools aren't good. My experience as a teacher in Santa Cruz City Schools was positive, and my colleagues were dedicated and hard-working. Again, the East Bay is more geographically segregated, and, especially for elementary school, parents can simply move away from poor and low-performing kids.

As for getting back up to the Bay Area regularly, it will take you about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get here, barring horrible traffic. HIghway 17 is a serious obstacle. It's a dangerous road with frequent accidents and back-ups. In the summer, tourists make for lots of traffic, and in the winter you have to be careful of mudslides during rain storms. That said, there are plenty of people who commute over 17 everyday. Personally, I'd move or take a pay cut to work in Santa Cruz before I'd commute over that road.

Which brings me to another important Santa Cruz fact. In general, jobs in Santa Cruz pay less than they do other places. So many people want to live there that employers don't have to pay as much to get people to stay.

In other words, Santa Cruz is a great place, but Eden it is not. Hope this helps. anon


My parents retired in Aptos and it is lovely. I don't know about the schools, but I do know the fog. Parts of Aptos seem to stay foggier, longer, especially along the coast. I believe Santa Cruz has better -- and more dependable -- weather. Another issue in Aptos is that it is not an incorporated city, so many services are lacking. In particular, I've noticed that there is no composting, and fairly lax building rules (you should see the huge houses that are built on small lots). Good luck with your decision! Elizabeth
April 2008

Re: Best town in California to live?
first of all, CA is a huge state! reading your description, the santa cruz area comes to mind in norcal. it's nature-oriented and by the beach without being too out of the way like the very north parts of CA. btw, the water is SO COLD!!! unfortunately, you need lots of money to live in santa cruz, but i think the cities just outside of santa cruz are more affordable.


You might look at some of the communities in the SantaCruz mountains; that will get you your outdoors and Waldorf... Even just in outer Los Gatos there is ''the mountain school'' which would place you nicely for community. well, you won't get your warm-to-swim in oceanside home, but you have to head to SoCal for warm oceans in CA. outside
We have lived in Santa Cruz for about two years now and I think it fits all your criteria except for the warm water. Many people swim without a wetsuit, but I wouldn't say the water is warm. Santa Cruz is a wonderful place to raise a family, and you could get a good house in your price range here. There is so much natural beauty around that we rarely spend money on ''entertainment'' for our family. We spend every weekend at the beach, hiking in the redwoods, going for walks, biking, or taking short drives to the state parks (Big Sur, Big Basin, Ano Nuevo, to name a few)in the area. We are an hour and a half south of San Francisco and half an hour from San Jose. There are great services and events for families here. The Live Oak Family Resource Center offers great programs for toddlers that meet there as well as in the local parks, making it really easy to meet other families here. Capitola has many festivals; both Santa Cruz and Capitola have outdoor concerts on the beach, free, all summer long. There are Waldorf schools here, as well as many options for private, public, and charter. The community is very unique with many progressive thinkers, lots of holistic healing, and great availability of organic, locally-grown produce year-round. I feel so lucky to be here.
Sept 2007

My husband just got a great job in Santa Cruz. We have a nine year old son and would love to have him go to a good public school. He is a very bright, social, athletic kid with a lot of energy. Any information about Santa Cruz, Aptos, and/or Scott's Valley as places to live and send a child to school would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Sue


Hi: I have been living in Santa Cruz for one year. I spent hours on the internet trying to figure things out before moving here, so your query sounds familiar to me. My children attend Westlake Elementary School. It is located at the base of UC Santa Cruz Campus. We are happy with the school so far. There are many many options for schools. One thing to keep in mind about this area is traffic can be bad - so keep that in mind when thinking about home/school commuting. There is a publication called Growing Up Santa Cruz which may give you some leads about various groups in the area. 1 year resident
Feb 2005

Hi All! I'll try to keep this brief... My husband works in Santa Clara and we currently live in Oakland. The commute has us thinking about relocating. A bit to avoid this particular drive - - but also to find a place where we feel more at home. We're looking for somewhere pretty and peaceful to live - and we realize that will still involve a commute. We just hope living somewhere we love will make it more worthwhile. The areas we're considering are Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, (maybe Los Gatos) and the surrounding smaller communities of Boulder Creek, Felton, Bonny Doon... We're both really into outdoors stuff like running, hiking, camping - and we love the proximity of these areas to state parks, beaches, etc.. Just a little more info: we're early 30s, no kids yet - but hope to start a family soon - and we're renting, not buying. Also - my career is flexible.

Any advice you can offer would be very much appreciated. I'm looking for feedback on all aspects of living a bit off the beaten path from isolation, commute times and power outages to a general sense of what's it like to live there. Thanks in advance for any input. We really appreciate it! Searching for Peace and Quiet


I lived in Santa Cruz, Bonny Doon, Scotts Valley, and Boulder Creek for 6 years . Briefly -- I liked Scotts Valley the least. It's commercial, feels suburban, no good food or grocery stores. Just didn't like it. Very different feel from other SC mountain communities or SC itself. I loved Bonny Doon -- there are two different parts to it. It's more removed than other communities, soemtimes takes longer to get to. But can also be warmer. The part that's more north-west is warmer. There are gorgeous homes. No community though -- as in, no stores, center, restaurants, etc. It's very expensive now. Felton is a really nice mountain community, still fairly close to SC but definitely has a different feel. Good restaurants, cafes, etc. Boulder Creek gets really cold in the winter and is the most likely to be cut off due to rain/mud slides, etc. You take that risk as soon as you go up, but Felton and SV are easier to get out of. Once you're above Felton on Hwy 9, you can get easily trapped. I liked that however. Hiking is great but some of the communities (the higher and farther out you go) tend to be on the big trucks and guns end of rural communities -- so you literally have to be careful when exploring the woods that you don't wander into someone's land and get shot. Not joking. If you dont' have to drive a lot, BC is great -- it's also easier to get to 17 and over the hill if necessary (Bear Valley road). But you can also feel isolated and trapped -- it takes almost 30 minutes to get to SC. The farther up and out you go the cheaper the rent also. SC in the summer is kind of miserable -- the fog is horrible and traffic/tourists are thick. That's when being in the mnts feels like a good break. A Santa Cruz mountain lover
Santa Cruz is a great area to live. I've spent a lot of time there ever since I was born, and everyone I know who lives there loves it. However, the commute over the hill on Highway 17 is heinous. Scotts Valley would lessen the pain some. For the amount of time you'll spend driving to work versus driving to the beach and such, Los Gatos would be a better location.

Actually, for what you're looking for, it sounds like anyplace in the hills west of Highway 280 would work (from Woodside down to Los Altos to Los Gatos). The commute to Santa Clara would be decent. There are lots of parks in the hills for hiking and outdoorsy stuff. Santa Cruz beaches would be about 45 minutes over highway 17. Or if you take one of the roads going west past Skyline Blvd, you'd get to the beaches around Pescadero.

I spent some time living in Mountain View and did a lot of cycling in the hills. The location was very convenient (commuted to Sunnyvale). The weather is nicer than the East Bay. So check out the hill area there, you probably can find what you like that is a good balance between outdoor access and a reasonable commute.


March 2004

My husband and I both have jobs that we can do remotely, from home. We are thinking of selling our house in Oakland and moving to Santa Cruz. We have a 4 year-old who will start kindergarten in a year, and a 19-month old. I was hoping to get some recommendations on neighborhoods or areas of Santa Cruz that would be worth looking into. We would like to find a place with good schools, and relitively close to shopping, beaches, etc (not too far up in the mountains). Also, any experience with living in Santa Cruz in general (especially with kids) would be helpful. anon


My sister, who lives in Berkeley, passed along your request for information on living in Santa Cruz. My husband and I have lived in the Santa Cruz area for a number of years, so I'd be happy to give you a few pointers. We have a 5-year-old and a 15-month-old, so please feel free to reply to my e-mail and perhaps we can connect at some point.

We live in Aptos, which is about 15 minutes from Santa Cruz. The benefits of living outside of Santa Cruz are many, including a large yard and Nisene Marks State Park in our backyard. The downsides are that you do have to spend more time in your car, and the schools generally get worse as you go south in the county. If you're looking at public schools, don't go further south than Aptos, certainly. To get the statistics on the public schools in the county, go to http:// www.santacruz.k12.ca.us. Some of the schools are in trouble and you should make sure that you are up-to-date about school closure plans before you get set on ones. I'm not completely sure, but I think the ones being discussed for closures are Natural Bridges, Bay View (which I've heard is a poor school), and Branciforte. They are also talking about closing a high school (Santa Cruz, Harbor, and Soquel High Schools all are in one special high school district).

Starting at this end of the county, we do love Aptos but it is unincorporated and has all the joys attached to that. No dependable sidewalks for walking, growth unregulated. Our local school, Mar Vista, is the smallest elementary in the county and apparently people here love it. We're right in the midst of making the decision for our son, and haven't met anyone who has any problem with Mar Vista. Rio del Mar is another area of Aptos which is more towny -- they have a great neighborhood school, the beach, and some shopping. The town of Soquel has a lot of charm and a few nice neighborhoods, but it's not a great place to live where you can walk to things unless you're lucky. Most of the housing is spread up into the hills. But their elementary school is universally beloved and the town is very nice. Capitola is very family-oriented, extremely built-up (it has the mall and all its attendant charms), apparently has good schools. Some of the neighborhoods there are great. I know someone who can walk to the beach and the touristy village as well as to grocery stores, and lives a block from their elementary school (which, now that I remember, they told me might be closed!). If you want anything like Berkeley, though, you'll have to be in Santa Cruz. The rest of the county is more rural or more suburban, not that Santa Cruz is terribly urban! (I find everything just a bit on the provincial side here, both in a good and bad way.) An unincorporated part of SC, Live Oak, is much cheaper and has lots of neighborhoody areas. But see above about unincorporated and the attendant charms. It's a bit on the scruffy side, but if you don't mind that my husband used to live there and liked it a lot. I don't know those schools. The hilly area around Branciforte Elementary is very nice, very pricy in places, near lots of shopping. Be careful about neighborhoods near downtown SC. Although it's great to shop there, the neighborhoods are variable. I don't know the schools well. The westside of SC is very desirable, though generally the houses are closer together. But you get the walk to the beach, walk to shopping combination, as well as good schools and nature nearby. You'll pay a hefty price for going up the hill toward UCSC, but I know people who live up there and have a fabulous place right near the open space, Pogonip. They say their local school is excellent (I'm not sure which one that is).

SC in general has a good quality of living, though I have found that I feel a bit of resentment that it's so expensive but lacks the qualities of SF and the Bay Area that I really treasured: a diverse population, great shopping, and above all, great food. The food here is (generally, not always) overpriced and not great. Don't bother to even try the one Indian restaurant. The Westside has, I guess I'd say, the most varied restaurants and stores in a location in the county. Watsonville is culturally really interesting and has some good food, so we do go there. There's a variety of activities for families -- see http://growing-up.com/ . The proximity to nature is really the greatest thing about it. We're at the beach or in the forest at least several times a week and it's a huge part of my son's life. The most annoying aspect is traffic, which is really horrible. Hwy 1 is the only way to get through here, and it's full of commuters and tourists on the weekend. 17 is the way to get here, and it's full of commuters and tourists as well. If you live on the Westside, you have to deal with the fact that 1 turns into Mission St, the main corridor through that part of town.

Good ways to meet other families include the parks (all the neighborhoods have good ones except for ours! -- we have the beach, though) and programs for kids. I have loved Music Together for that. We have found the typical problem in our neighborhood of families always going somewhere else to entertain their kids, so we don't have a real neighborhood feel here, but I would guess that might be different in the more densely populated areas.

That's off the top of my head -- I hope it helps. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions. If you are thinking about a particular neighborhood, I may be able to refer you to someone who lives there. Susana


I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, and lived there until I left for graduate school. My family still lives there, and I return there every few months to visit. My sister is now a kindergarten teacher in SC. Here is my take on the place, from a ''native's'' perspective:

1. Santa Cruz is beautiful, no doubt. There are few places that can match the beauty of the hills, beach, forest, and so on.

2. The university is great! As a child, though, I remember my parents talking about how they did not like the university students because they move into SC, but are not invested in the long-term care of a small city. Many want to foster the myth that SC is a ''hippy'' town, which it is not. The standard of living there is as high as it is in the Bay Area. the city of SC struggles with large homeless and street-people issues, and in the past, it has caused a lot of tension for everyone involved. I do not think that these issues have been resolved.

3. The public schools are not great. There are some good ones, but there are also some really poor ones. Before you move, check out greatschools.net to see which ones look good to you (however you define ''good'').

4. When I recently attended my high school reunion, I was struck by how many people from my school literally went nowhere. They were still working low-paying, part-time jobs, surfing, and smoking pot. I think that the culture of SC traps a lot of people, and because there is not a lot to do there, a lot of the high school kids from my school smoked pot, surfed, and hung out at the beach all day.

5. If you move there, you must deal with the fact that SC is a tourist town, and summers there are packed with tourists. This is not a bad thing, but it IS a reality. Without tourism, SC could not survive.

6. I would suggest looking a bit south before you move, to one of the smaller towns, such as Soquel or Aptos. They are still part of Santa Cruz County, but offer a more small-town feeling. These areas have less tourists, also, but still offer the beaches and forests.

7. Not a lot of diversity. There is more now, and I think it is becoming more diverse all the time, but as a child, there was one Mexican girl in my school, and no African American students. Of course, I thought nothing of this as a child, but when I moved to Berkeley, I was struck at my own ignorance about all of the -isms: racism, sexism, and so on. I definitely had culture shock.

8. Good luck. Have fun. But, try to look beyond the beauty and decide what it is that you are really after. There are a lot worse places you could end up! Happy to visit at this point


December 2002

My family and I are considering moving to the Boulder Creek, Felton area from the East Bay. We are interested in hearing from anyone who has lived there or knows the area. If you have knowledge about the schools, public or private (my son is entering kindergarten this Sept.), any of the communities in general, the pros and cons of living there, job opportunities (my husband is a general contractor/real estate agent and I am a licensed clinical social worker) etc. Anything you can offer would be helpful. Thanks m.m


Santa Cruz County is a great place to live! I don't know much about the schools in Felton/Boulder Creek but some of the schools in Santa Cruz are quite good. The beaches and mountains are beautiful and easily accessible and the people are pretty friendly. There are quite a few ''alternative communities'' in the mountain areas which may or may not be attractive to you. There are more dot-commers moving to those areas because it's a shorter commute over the hill to San Jose. The county is not nearly as diverse as the Bay Area but it's slowly changing.

You didn't mention if you're in private practise or work for an organization. Unfortunately, jobs for social workers in the county are low-paid and hard to come by. The best paying jobs for LCSWs are with the county and with the hospitals (Watsonville Community Hospital and Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz). You might try santacruzjobs.com. Real estate is booming in SC County which is great for real estate agents but if you're looking to buy, you won't get as much for your money as you can in the Bay Area--believe it or not! Amanda


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