5.4 out of 10

North Fair Oaks

Ranked 99th best city in California
37.4771044024368 -122.205535971837
Great for
  • Clean & Green
  • Peace & Quiet
  • Cost of Living
  • Internet Access
  • Parks & Recreation
Not great for
  • Nightlife
  • Resale or Rental Value
  • Shopping Options
  • Gym & Fitness
  • Public Transport
Who lives here?
  • Singles
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students


3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 1/5
  • Schools 2/5

"Small city and lowly neighborhood aesthetics"

North Fair Oaks is considered an unincorporated area in the greater San Mateo County. It doesn’t boast much, except for a convenient location and mild residential aesthetic. The town is predominately residential, made up of three neighborhoods which include Ampex, Fair Oaks and Friendly Acres. The city is small in size, spanning just over 1 square mile and densely populated with over 15,000 residents. Demographically speaking, the area is a melting pot of ethnic families. In fact, the area is known as Little Michoacan, due to its large population of Latino residents (more than 3/4ths). North Fair Oaks’ most attractive quality is its coastal landscape and proximity to the western mountainside.

While the city of North Fair Oaks is close to ascending cities like Foster City and Redwood City, the area suffers from a lower middle-class aesthetic. Within the city’s residential quarters are a plethora of blemished and unflattering house fronts, messy yards and gritty streets. Sidewalks are mostly non-existent in this neighborhood, with properties flowing over to streets and overgrown shrubbery consistently lining the roads. Houses are typically one story in size and sit on small plots of land squeezed along lengthy residential blocks. And with smaller homes, you will just see the cement driveway taking up the whole front yard, displaying a rugged and ugly aesthetic.

Statistically speaking, the median household income is around $50,000/year. If you’re looking to live in the area, expect housing prices to range anywhere from $400,000 to $750,000. And don’t expect to get the most out of your dollar. Residents typically pay overboard for the bayside location. And for young families, be aware of the poor school system. The neighborhood schools have failed to score high test marks in the last 15 years.
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Bad Schools
  • No Nightlife
  • Too Close to East Palo Alto
Recommended for
  • Retirees
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5

"Nice Except for the Schools"

North Fair Oaks is often considered too close to East Palo Alto (what a lot of people basically consider to be “gangland”) for comfort. I personally, however find most of North Fair Oaks a pretty charming, leafy neighborhood filled with attractive older homes. It is one of those older neighborhoods without sidewalks on most of the residential streets. Instead you get sandy, lawns that roll right up to the narrow lanes where they give way, somewhat unevenly to the asphalt and where the trees, shrubbery and picket fences hug the lanes, tightly encroaching on you so that you feel protected from the outside world.

Another feature I like in the neighborhood is the occasional traffic circles that dot certain corners. All of this adds up to neighborhood that seems a bit underrated to me in terms purely of its aesthetic appearance.
I think one of the things that pushes a lot of families away from this area however are the schools—which I hear sort of suck—low test scores and the usual problems of underperforming schools. If you can get your kids into the Menlo Park/Atherton schools just to the south though, this could be a good solution to your problems, since those schools are excellent.

As far as restaurants and that sort of thing, you actually have a fair number of choices. You don’t even have to leave town and head down into Palo Alto. Right in North Fair Oaks you have a number or Latin restaurants, my favorite being a Peruvian place called Traduciones Peruanas.

As far as buying your own food, there are a number of Latino grocery stores in the neighborhood and more traditional Safeway supermarkets in both Menlo Park and Redwood City.

Basically, I would say that this is an okay neighborhood for families (would be better if the schools were stronger). Things are moderately priced so this might be a good choice if you are thinking of living here and commuting into Palo Alto or Silicon Valley.
  • Nice Homes
  • Pretty Streets
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Bad Schools
  • No Nightlife
  • Too Close to East Palo Alto
Recommended for
  • Families with kids

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