6.2 out of 10

Benicia

38.0780021904506 -122.15103754734
Great for
  • Clean & Green
  • Neighborly Spirit
  • Eating Out
  • Peace & Quiet
  • Safe & Sound
Not great for
  • Childcare
  • Medical Facilities
  • Public Transport
  • Cost of Living
  • Gym & Fitness
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Country Lovers
  • Singles

Reviews

4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 2/5
2yrs+

"Nice, Quiet and Affordable"

I have always found Benicia to be an appealing location. The attraction of Benicia is this: it has lower property prices but a bayside feel that many would be willing to pay far more for. The drawback is that it is a bit outside of the Bay Area and there is a toll bridge you would have to cross every time you went into Contra Costa County.

I remember that one of my instructors at Diablo Valley College lived in Benicia and had nothing bad to report about it. A friend of mine house sat for him once and I was rather impressed that he could afford this kind of place on an instructor’s salary.

The oldest part of Benicia is down on the southern end by the Carquinez Strait (which is the waterway that connects San Pablo Bay to Suisun Bay). This is where you will find the oldest homes in Benicia--Victorians that actually date back to the late 19th Century. Homes from before WWII seem to only make up about 10% of the overall number of homes in the area. As a general rule the farther north you head away from this part of Benicia, the more newer homes you come across. Just to north of Military, for example, you get a number of 1950’s era homes and just north of that you will find lots of 60’s and 70’s Era homes.

It is not just single family homes here, of course. There are a fair number of apartments, condos and even a trailer park or two.

The median home price in Benicia is around $375K--very low by Bay Area standards for a location with good homes, okay schools and low crime.

The crime rate in Benicia, though not non-existent is lower than the national average. They get only about 1 murder per year and only a few dozen assaults. The murder this past year was a domestic battery of a local girl by her boyfriend. The year before it was a murder suicide. In other words, these are not gang related or the kind of murders that have to do with the location. (By the way, Lake Herman Road on the northern end of Benicia is one of the locations where the Zodiac killer struck back in the 1960’s.)

Schools are more than solid here, as well, if the API’s are any indication. Benicia High School, for example, actually has a 9 out of 10. Even the schools on the low end of the spectrum don’t fall below a 6--still on the high end of average.

The Benicia-Martinez Bridge has recently seen the inauguration of two one-way bridges with the UP tracks in between. I watched it go up as I commuted to my graduate school classes over the course of a couple of years and actually drove across it on it very first day after having opened.

The western end of Benicia is a commercial area where you will find fast food places, gas stations and some fairly non-descript businesses in the office park that is located there. I worked briefly as temp for one these businesses some twenty years ago and have driven and taken the Amtrak through this area on Highway 680 on my way out to UC Davis hundreds of times.

My familiarity with it has given me an appreciation for what is attractive about it. When you are on one of the bridges for example, to the east you can often see one of the tankers docking to unload crude on the eastern end of the bridge (it goes to the refineries in Martinez). On the Suisun Bay side of the Benicia Bridge you can see the ship graveyard where you can see all the ships tied together in the bay--kind of an amazing sight to see millions and millions of dollars in workmanship just sitting out there on the bay like so much rusting junk.

To the north you get vast expanses of open space--a sort of marshland where from the tracks you can see little farm houses out in the middle of nowhere, seemingly, and shooting grounds and waterways. You will see egrets and other birds, and you get just a taste of what the majority of the Bay Area must have been like some 250 years ago. Except that, from the descriptions you read from the first explorers and European settlers there were not small flocks of birds like you see now, but thousands of birds blanketing the sky when they took flight from marshes like these.

On days when I made my commute via train (a great way of getting from the East Bay to Davis), I often thought about these things when I was staring out my window instead of finishing some very important reading.

In terms of the commute, depending where you are going, Benicia might make a good starting point. Basically, within an hour you can drive as far as Emeryville, San Ramon and Brentwood to the south and as far as Vacaville and the edge of Napa on the north. The Amtrak station in Solano is up in Fairfield, which means you might actually be close to the Martinez station than the one in Benicia’s own county.

In terms of nightlife and eating out Benicia is usually not the first place that comes to mind. There are some okay restaurants like Sailor Jack’s, a couple of Italian places, a Thai place, and an Indian place enticingly named Aroma.

There are couple of bars as well--pretty laid back places as far as I can tell. The Rellick has been voted the “Best Bar in Solano County” though I’m not sure by whom.

Overall, I would say that if you live within a reasonable commuting distance and are looking for a nice quiet place where you can raise kids, Benicia might just be the place to go.
Pros
  • Quiet Bayside Community
  • Nice Affordable Homes
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • Outside the Central Bay Area
  • Not Much to Do
  • A Bit Unappealing on Commercial End
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
2yrs+

"Up and coming city"

Benicia is an up-and-coming waterfront city in the greater Solano County. It is a relatively middle-class, family friendly community with safe streets and a hilly geography. Benicia itself is separated into four distinct neighborhoods which include the East Side, the West Side, the industrial park and Southampton (newer suburban community). The city is approaching 30,000 residents according to the 2010 census while the the racial make-up of Benicia is predominately white (about 75%) with the remaining ethnic groups mixed between African American and Asian.

Neighborhoods in Benicia vary in quality but don’t necessarily escape the middle-class suburban aesthetic. Housing prices are within the vicinity of $200,000 to $750,000, while those same houses were mostly built between 1970 and 2000. However, housing prices have plummeted in the last six years. The Benician median household income is around $82,000, a significant boost from $67,000 ten years ago. For your shopping needs, head to Benicia Main Street and First Street where you’ll find acres of shopping, dining and business quarters.

Benicia has a number of great attractions. For one, its location next to the San Francisco Bay make it prime real-estate in the Bay Area. More specifically, Southhampton Bay, Lake Herman and the Carquinez Strait are all prime waterways for yachting and other water recreational activities. Moreover, Glass Beach is a main attraction among out-of-towners, mostly known for the miles of sea glass that wash up onto its shores. Elsewhere, locals can trek along the San Francisco Bay Trail. The path offers miles of cement trails while heading through the Benicia State Recreational Park.

There are a plethora of schools within the community. The most notable of which is Benicia High School and Liberty High School. The city is served by two Interstate freeways: 680 and 780. 680 runs along the eastern border while Highway 780 cuts through the southern edge and connects to Interstate 80. Benicia Breeze is the main public transit bus system, which serves the whole city.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
  • Beach Lovers

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