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The Best Place to Live in California

Updated on February 13, 2011

 The annual "best places" to live polling has been completed by the National Gallup-Healthways group. This is a poll for the best places to live in the USA. The ask numerous questions about job satisfaction, health and environment, projected well being, mental happiness etc.

Sonoma County, 70 miles north of San Francisco, with its largest city, Santa Rosa (150,000), got the fifth best in the USA and first, numero uno, in California. A very close second for California remained Santa Barbara, 100 miles north of LA on the coast. Boulder, Colorado received the #1 spot to live in for the USA. San Francisco got 5th for best large city in the USA.

Hmmm. Living in Santa Rosa and knowing SF all to well, it makes one wonder just who do the pollsters ask and what other data do they use to justify the results. Sonoma County and the county that Santa Barbara resides in, both are very similar in most respects and with only minor differences. Both cities are about the same size, have lots of vineyards, rolling oak studded hills, have the same traffic congestion at the wrong time and both contain UC campuses. Sonoma County is a bit more rugged and scenic, but Santa Barbara has the huge beach, much warmer ocean water you can actually swim in, a much more tropical look with its swaying palms. Both areas have rather high unemployment because neither is really high tech, although, Sonoma County does have more of it. Both are basically agriculture (vineyards) and tourist economies.

Both have about the same high cost of living and taxes. Housing costs differ only a little. Both only have one main highway artery running through it, meaning, if traffic is bad, you have few alternate routes. Oddly enough, Santa Rosa is a common name in the Santa Barbara area, both were early Spanish Missions.  Many in SB think SR is near to them. it is, about 6.5 hrs to the north.

I certainly cannot believe that SF is America's 5th best city to live in. Its 700,000 people are crammed into a few miles, usually soaked in fog and coolest, parking there is a total nightmare, getting around is no picnic. If you commute in, you pay $6 simply to cross the Golden Gate and when you commute in during work hours, you actually crawl most of the time making your day much longer. For all its culture it offers, it usually is a real pain to get there to enjoy it.

Thus, these kind of polls are simply BS.  Santa Rosa is nice, but #1 in California? I would vote for Santa Barbara or South Lake Tahoe with its Alp-like vistas. Even Redding, which is centrally located to snow skiing, water skiing, low cost of living and clean environmentally ( a few hours north of Santa Rosa and Sacramento) might be a good place. As to best large urban areas, I think only Sacramento or San Diego would qualify. SF? oh please........ did they only ask those living there?

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    • Doodlehead profile image

      Doodlehead 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      Three Rivers is the best place to live in California-undiscovered, next to Sequoia National Park, filled with artists, 3 hours to LA, mediterranean climate, skiing, swimming, hiking, and no crowds.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      6 years ago

      @Robert, hard to read it as it is just one long run-on sentence. Nothing is false, just differing opinions. Having lived in SoCo for over 15 yrs, some would call it boring as well and there are plenty of tourists here visiting vineyards. SB and SR are very similar in many ways, but SB has a great beach with warmer water.

    • profile image

      Robert 

      6 years ago

      I would have to beg to differ I lived in San Luis county for 18 years and it is one of they most boringest places to live and the article starts with counties first Santa Barbara is at the very bottom of the county and the space between there and San Luis obispo county there is not alot sure you drive by the ocean you can do the same in Sonoma county as well I recently moved to Santa Rosa and I'd say its a 100% improvement and to say it is a tourist place is false you want tourism go check the coast out where every summer millions of people from Bakersfield flood the coast that is the worst time ever is to deal with those people

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 

      7 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      I have to put a vote in for San Luis Obispo. I grew up there and love the weather and downtown.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      I'll bet the pollsters asked the people in the city they were in at the time and naturally the people said their own city, maybe that's what happened as far as San Francisco is concerned. Because as most of the comments said San Francisco is not an easy place to live. But I do love visiting. All in all a very interesting hub, perrya.

    • profile image

      getgoingcanada 

      7 years ago

      Now I know where to visit on my next trip to California. Thanks Perry!

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      7 years ago

      Pleasanton is like Sonoma. Small commuter town and I once considered relocating there, so, no complaints from me!

    • profile image

      Joanne 

      7 years ago

      I have a few places in mind Cupertino,Ca, Pleasanton, or San Jose. It is all away from SF. But not too far away. If you want to be close toSF, live in Pleasanton, Ca. All you got to do is drive over the bridge an easy commute. It is a nice town. Lived there for a year. The people are wonderful. If you rent a home it is not that expensive. Aswell as the Bay area, I find renting more affordable than purchasing homes! So you can enjoy life to the fullest!

    • cambriahermit profile image

      cambriahermit 

      8 years ago

      Yes, unless you are willing to take on a few jobs or open your own business it isn't the easiest place to find work, but it is an amazing community that does truly care about one another. Great lifestyle. I had to make my house a B&B to keep living here! lol But well worth it. I had family in Santa Cruz 40 years ago and it used to be a sleepy burg...so maybe the job thing helps us retain that small town feeling. You have to really want to be here to find a way to make it work. But all in all California is one wonderful place.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      8 years ago

      Yea, that area is GREAT. My fav is SB for sure, love that beach, tropics and the whole small town atmosphere, so laid back. Not a lot of jobs, though. San Luis Obispo reminds me of Santa Rosa about 30 years ago. Cambria and Ojai are great. Still, close to LA. I would move to there but for one reason-jobs.

    • cambriahermit profile image

      cambriahermit 

      8 years ago

      So in the list you mention, I have either lived in or have relatives in all the areas. I was born in San Jose, lived in both SF and Oakland. MUCH prefer the East Bay to live in than SF. It was fun in college, but too noisy and chaotic anymore. I have a ton of relatives in Redding which is insane in the summer with seriously debilitating heat. I think Santa Barbara is like a mini-LA anymore. There is one small are along the central coast that still is small and quaint and not overrun by tourism. Come to Cambria if you really want a beautiful place to live. Different lifestyle for sure, but the most relaxing vacation you can imagine! There are a few small towns near San Luis obispo that are just wonderful. Cayucos and Cambria are my favorites. Very different and 13 miles apart.

    • TinaAtHome profile image

      TinaAtHome 

      8 years ago from California

      I think working from home is best - no commute

    • profile image

      marion 

      8 years ago

      SF is a wonderful city in many ways--full of culture, great food, bustling city, and a redwood forest and the beach in close enough proximity; however, it is a better vacation spot than a home base. SF is a true city and everything that implies! SF also has depressing weather and an over-the-top cost of living.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      8 years ago

      Probably because you are from around there. Understandable, but most would not think that.

    • profile image

      Art of legend india.com 

      8 years ago

      I think India is the best for living place in the world.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      8 years ago

      Many think that way- but for a commuter, a nightmare regardless of the money you make.

    • profile image

      A. L. Painter 

      8 years ago

      I LOVE San Francisco. Classy, cosmopolitan, surrounded by vast tracts of preserved nature, and a good place NOT to own a car. Zipcar rentals cheap and easy. Green consciousness high. A bit hard to break into socially, but so many places and communities for shared interests to help counteract that. Climate pretty easy once you realize how easy on the eyes and magical the fog can be. Warm clothes necessary to have in the closet, but certainly not always needed. BEAUTIFUL, charismatic city!

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      8 years ago

      I agree. many locals avoid SF totally because of traffic

    • profile image

      Angie Schneiderman 

      8 years ago

      I agree with the author of this article 100%..I work in San Francisco, I live in the East Bay, Oakland to be exact. San Fran is by far one of the greatest places on earth to visit, vacation, hang out. BUT it is COLD, it is VERY difficult to drive in the city, takes a long time to get acclimated to directions here, that is to say, it is complicated! There is NO parking, and the homeless population is OUTRAGEOUSLY bad. It is CRAZY expensive to live here. So if you dont have a lot of money, or dont mind living with 6 other people, its difficult to have a FUN time here...despite all the FUN things to do. ANd there is a lot of fun to be had in this small city for sure!!!!!! So although I do think SF is one of the greatest places in the world,its not the greatest place to live. Thats my two cents.

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