6.2 out of 10

Martinez

Ranked 75th best city in California
37.9958779744442 -122.110313871062
Great for
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Childcare
  • Medical Facilities
  • Internet Access
  • Schools
Not great for
  • No ratings yet
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Who lives here?
  • Retirees
  • Families with kids
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Country Lovers

Reviews

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

"Occasionally Toxic But Still Pretty Nice"

Martinez was once the capitol of Mexican California, if I remember my history correctly and is still considered the county seat for Contra Costa. Now it is more known for being one of the North Bay cities that is home to refineries which every so often belch toxic fumes and send everyone rushing to shelter in place.

I lived in Martinez for a year way back in 1998 and actually found it a pretty nice place. What you get in Martinez is relatively affordable homes and a fairly suburban environment, which is well-located for anyone who is trying to commute to a job (or jobs for 2-job couples) in the North Bay. From Martinez you are well positioned to commute as far south as Livermore and as far north as Napa and Sonoma. The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge makes it good way to get to Marin and though the traffic is terrible, you can jump on BART and make into to city in a relatively reasonable amount of time. You can even commute out as far as Sacramento by taking the Amtrak commuter (which I used to do—very enjoyable though a touch on the expensive side).

The only place that I think would be hell to get to would be the Peninsula and Silicon Valley, it is just far enough away that you would be on the freeway forever.

That said, Martinez is pretty nice in itself. By Highway 4 (which goes all the way out the Pittsburgh area) is the more residential area. The farther south you go the better and nicer the homes. You get some of the homes up in the hills that were built in the last generation. You have a movie theater there and lots of the typical shops you expect in the suburbs, like a Home Depot and a Walmart if I remember correctly. As you go farther north you get older, smaller homes and the Chevron refinery. Up by where the Amtrak station is, it feels a bit like a port town (which of course it sort of is). That is where you will find the court house and prison and where crime is the highest. When I took the train, I would always worry a bit if I had to park by the boarded up houses around the station to trek up to the station but I never really had a problem.

Home prices, of course, vary depending on where you are trying to live. For example, south of Highway 4, the median home price is $375 K, with only about 10% of homes selling for more than $600 K. North of Highway 4, on the other hand, the median home price drops to about $275 K with only about 10% of homes rising over $425 K and no recent homes having sold for over $600 K.

On the northern end of Highway 4 you get homes that date as far back as the first quarter of the 20th Century. You will actually find a number of California Bungalow style homes with their comforting protective look. Many of these are in the Mission Revival style and are well kept. A drive down Pine Street will show their various styles off.

Of course, the vast majority of homes on the northern end of Highway 4 date to the 1950’s, which of course means tons of Ranch style homes (mostly in the smaller, kind of shabby style that makes neighborhoods look old and kind of run down).

Right around and to the south of the freeway you mostly get Contemporary style homes dating from the 1970’s and on.
These are some of the nicest houses in Martinez and although they fetch some of the highest prices you can occasionally find some pretty good deals.

It is also possible to rent in Martinez and get a 2-bedroom for $1500 or less.

As to the schools here, they are actually pretty strong with Alhambra High holding an API of 8 and Martinez Junior High (they apparently didn’t get the memo about calling them “middle schools” in the 21st Century)a 7. Most of the elementary schools are at the same level.

As to crime, that too should be divided according to the north of the freeway area near the courthouse and the rest of Martinez. North of the freeway, there have been about 100 assaults, with the epicenter being right around Main Street. South of the freeway, the number of assaults drops to less than 2 dozen.

Of course, up by the courthouse is also where you will find the fun dive bars and unusual stores.

Overall, I think Martinez is one of the hidden treasures of the East Bay, an affordable area where you can live a sort of suburban life without having to drive yourself into the poor house. There is also a wide selection of homes, good schools and good transportation options for much of the East Bay.

Of course, one of the main downsides is the chemical plant that sometimes forces you indoors and may be having a negative effect on health that you don’t know about.

I would not mind living there again, however.
Pros
  • Good Schools
  • Good Spot for North Bay Commuters
  • Nice homes
  • Relatively affordable
Cons
  • Some Crime Worries On Northern End
  • Not Good For Silicon Valley Workers
  • Oil refinery
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
2yrs+

"Good place to buy a home"

I have no expertise on the area, but having visited here once and driven through many times, Martinez seems like a very average, suburban Bay Area town - which certainly has its perks! Homes here are affordable by comparison, and the brand-new condominium complexes certainly are appealing to first-time homebuyers and veterans alike, especially given the current market conditions. It is a nice, safe, suburban town, and the BART station can transport you almost anywhere in the Bay Area without ever needing a car.

That said, that is about all of the appeal that Martinez has. It is at the junction of one of the major bridges and the 680 interstate, which means consistent traffic. There is no true downtown or nightlife - Walnut Creek, at 20 minutes away, is probably the closest that it has.

And oh yes, the oil refineries occasionally pose a problem to the air quality and are a constant eyesore. Small detail.

But if you want a nice, safe (save the occasional oil leak), reasonably priced place to raise kids in the Bay Area, Martinez may work just fine.
Pros
  • Relatively affordable
  • Safe
  • Nice homes
Cons
  • Oil refinery
  • Far out from San Francisco
  • Not much nightlife
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees

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