4.8 out of 10

East Palo Alto

Ranked 101st best city in California
37.4656216271937 -122.135015539517
Great for
  • Parking
  • Resale or Rental Value
  • Medical Facilities
  • Clean & Green
  • Neighborly Spirit
Not great for
  • Childcare
  • Schools
  • Lack of Traffic
  • Pest Free
  • Gym & Fitness
Who lives here?
  • Students
  • Singles
  • Professionals
  • Retirees
  • Hipsters

Reviews

1/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 1/5
  • Schools 1/5
2yrs+

"The ghetto (dont be a hero)"

Part of the greater San Mateo County, East Palo Alto is an ugly bayside community. Its one redeeming quality is that it is roughly halfway between San Jose and San Francisco, which gives residents a convenient option to job hunt in both prominent employment hubs. However, it stops with that. For locals, East Palo Alto’s history of crime and poverty tell the story of its rough look and debilitating reputation. In fact, the city is partly known to Bay Area residents as the “ghetto,” so keep a good distance.

For many, East Palo Alto is commonly confused by East of Palo Alto or a part of Palo Alto, but actually East Palo Alto is its own unincorporated city. It’s approximately 2.5 square miles in size and sits between U.S. Route 101 and the San Francisco Bay. In more broader terms, it’s situated along the San Francisco peninsula with distant views of the beautiful San Francisco Bay. Demographically speaking, the area contains about 29,000 residents and has gone under recent gentrification in the past decade.

East Palo Alto’s residential quarters are nothing to brag about. Most homes are one story in size with shallow, mostly unmanicured lawns. While you’re driving the neighborhood, you’ll come across streets that are barely a step above dirt roads and some areas where sidewalks just don’t exist. However, there are a few streets concentrated around the southeastern corner of the city that have been under recent redevelopment. In terms of price, median household incomes average just below $50,000/year. If you’re looking to rent, you’ll likely pay upwards of 1,000/month, little of which is reasonable. With crime significantly above the national average, it will be hard for East Palo Alto’s reputation to change in the next couple years.

The city accommodates little commercial real-estate. It’s public schools are just short of pathetic. Costaño Elementary School, James Flood Magnet School and Belle Haven Community School all produce underwhelming test scores. If you’re a music lover, you’ll be interested to know that the Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View is within close proximity. The venue hosts theme park-like music events and accommodating the biggest talents in current pop culture.
Pros
  • Close to lots of great Silicon Valley locations
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Dangerous parts
  • Traffic central
  • Dirty and unkempt
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 1/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"Gangland"

Okay, so don’t be fooled by the name “Palo Alto” in the name East Palo Alto. This place really does not have much to do with Stanford and all that. As people who live in the area will tell you, EPA as it is called, is basically gangland.

Here’s some facts for you: only 33,000 people live in EPA, but in 2005 there were 15 murders there. That is basically 1 in each 2000 residents. Those are not my kind of odds. Now that was a bad year for EPA. Typically murders are only in the single digits and last year you had only 4 murders. But that was unusually low—the year before it was 8 which is closer to the norm. The crime rate is twice that of the average in the United States.

Put simply, this is the kind of neighborhood where you hear the police choppers at night and you never know when there will be some kind of police action. You can find low rents and there is a mall but the price you pay is security.

The schools are pretty bad too, from what I hear.

That said there are plans for development and crime, locals tell me, is not as bad as it was about 10 years ago. Personally though, I would wait until some of these improvements are in the present rather than in the hazy future.
Pros
  • Signs of Improvement
  • Close to lots of great Silicon Valley locations
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Dangerous parts
  • Traffic central
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
2yrs+

"Invest here, and live somewhere else"

While the city is a far cry from where it was fifteen years ago when murders ran rampant, one could argue that it still has a long way to go. Drive through this town at any time of day and you are likely to see souped-up police cars with their signal lights on, driving into a nondescript drive to take care of god-knows-what drug bust. It's a common sight that you are disillusioned to after living here long enough.

I have been here for nearly eight months, and while I certainly prefer being in this suburb to a more urban working-class neighborhood like Oakland or SF's Mission District, it is not the town itself that keeps me going. I spend very little time here other than to sleep and do laundry, and am perfectly content with the proximity to Palo Alto, SF, Santa Cruz and its mountain range, the East Bay, San Jose, and everything else that Silicon Valley has to offer. I did not initially feel unsafe until a home break-in shook me up and made me diligent about utilizing our new home alarm system. Generally, I tell my friends that I live in Palo Alto; if I say I am in EPA, half of them look at me with sheer pity while the other half don't even know that it is a separate town.

The town is due for a massive overhaul, and momentum from the local government has propelled it forward. Construction projects abound and I am confident that ten years from now, this will be just like every other expensive city in the area. However, don't be fooled into thinking that you are getting a steal when buying a house - this town is still in one of the Forbes top 500 most expensive zip codes in the country, despite once being the murder capital of America, thanks to nearby Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto.

If you can afford to, the best investment opportunity here would be to buy a home near an empty lot that will surely be turned into a business center, refurbish everything that you can, live in it for the minimum one-year requirement found on many home loans and get roommates to help with the mortgage, then rent it out and go live elsewhere. You will get the bang for your buck in the long run, and can still enjoy being in the Bay Area without having to deal with late-night sirens and gang meetings. There are worse places to live, but there are certainly better ones, too.

In the meantime, be prepared to drive to nearby towns to run your day-to-day errands, or spend abnormal amounts of time sitting in traffic at the Ravenswood Shopping Center next to 101.
Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Close to lots of great Silicon Valley locations
  • Good investment opportunities
Cons
  • Dangerous parts
  • Traffic central
  • Dirty and unkempt
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Students

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