"NormanRockwellVillle but 20 mins to downtown SF"
Alameda is secret locale. Many people don't know how to access the island, and for a lot of the locals that's OK. This City/Island is a throwback to a bygone era, of old Victorians, friendly service and neighbors’ who care. On top of that you are 15-20 mins by car to downtown San Francisco (on a good day). Buses run frequently to downtown SF as do two ferry services. San Jose Ave is typical of living in the "Gold Coast" area, lots of block parties, and a huge parade on the 4th of July. Shopping or "retail therapy" has always been a little lacking though, but that is changing. There is an extreme bias against a chain anything, in this town. However the local shopping center which is within walking distance is now joining the mainstream, with Bed Bath and Beyond, Borders Books and TJ Maxx. The parks are great and cute, and the beach is a few blocks away. It's a nice little center, reminds me a little of the Larkspur landing. My one gripe as a new puppy owner is that there are somewhat limited facilities for dogs on the Island. Yet, everyone seems to have one -- in fact I have heard Alameda referred to as "Dog Island." Overall, Alameda is pretty special as is San Jose Ave, come for a visit but only stay if you want to play!