8.1 out of 10

San Rafael

Ranked 20th best city in California
37.9868934068588 -122.513026361284
Great for
  • Resale or Rental Value
  • Safe & Sound
  • Schools
  • Clean & Green
  • Parks & Recreation
Not great for
  • Cost of Living
  • Public Transport
  • Pest Free
  •  
  •  
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Retirees
  • Singles

Reviews

5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
Feb 23, 2015

"Archangel Raphael"

As it turned out, I spent quite a bit of time in San Rafael recovering from an injury. What a blessing. As a pedestrian, this city is fantastic. You can walk literally everywhere, and it's so manageable in so many ways. Historic buildings, lots of parks, great restaurants, hip vibe, lots of cultural events, film festivals, street festivals, what a great place. Great music scene. Gateway to West Marin...take Sir Francis Drake all the way and see the beauty and charm of this amazing place. Great professors at community college as well as Dominican University.
Pros
  • Diverse
  • Family-oriented
  • Great nearby attractions
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
  • Beach Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
2yrs+

"Diversity in Marin"

San Rafael is one part wealthy liberals, standard of Marin County, and one part Mexican immigrants, many of whom are first generation. Such a combination would be unique to almost any other area in the world, but is quite normal in Northern California, where very different demographics seem to coexist all the time.

The northern part of town, Terra Linda, is home to the former, while downtown San Rafael is home to the latter. Shopping complexes are aplenty and the downtown area has some great restaurants, many of which are of the Mexican nature, but overall nightlife in this city is pretty slim.

Interestingly, the yuppie population in this town has a bit more of an influence of displaced east coasters than some other similar neighborhoods on the Peninsula, which is neither good nor bad. The town also has a high Jewish population.

Proximity to San Francisco, wine country, the coast and the redwoods, combined with a near-perfect Mediterranean climate make San Rafael a very nice, desirable place to live, no matter what side of town you are on.
Pros
  • Diverse
  • Family-oriented
  • Great nearby attractions
Cons
  • Somewhat segregated
  • Some rough neighborhoods
  • Very expensive
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
2yrs+

"Small Town with Big City Amenities"

Terra Linda (meaning 'beautiful land') is just about 11 miles North of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge. Its a little suburb of San Rafael, which is part of Marin County. San Rafael really is made up of Lucas Valley, Terra Linda and Santa Venetia (along with the Downtown San Rafael portion). In reality these little suburbs are really BIG neighborhoods comprising the city of San Rafael.

Terra Linda is the 'older' part of the city. It started being populated in the early 1960s with the Military (Presidio in San Francisco and Hamilton AFB in Novato, which is just a tad bit further North of Terra Linda) families moving in and needing affordable housing off base. The homes that were built were by an architect Joseph Eichler, who's floor plans called for more glass to give a more open feel (blurring the lines between the outside and the inside). They have high beamed ceilings and plate glass windows with under the floor heating and are truly beautiful to live in. BUT they are fire traps - and in Northern California where the heat in the summer gets horrendous and the hills all end up in a blaze, it can be a bit scary living in an Eichler.

Terra Linda itself is a hub of activity. It FEELS like a small town - with the neighborly mentality of a small town, but it has the huge Northgate Mall with all the same shops you can find in a much bigger city... rivaling even San Francisco for quality.

It used to be the families who lived in Terra Linda had been there since its inception in the 1960s, and few, if any, moved away. A child born in Terra Linda in 1960 would have gone to Santa Margarita Elementary, Vallacito Middle and then Terra Linda High School - and then on to either College Of Marin or San Francisco State (or even Berkeley or Stanford) and their idea of 'moving away from home' or 'travelling far' would have been the going to College part of it. They would then come back to Terra Linda, and find a job and raise their families as well.

Now, however (I want to say in the last 15/20 years) there have been more new families, younger familes moving in and more of the middle aged moving out. There are still some pockets where the neighborhood has stayed the same but those are now few and far between (as far as you can get in Terra Linda anyway).

There is any number of different denomination of Churches and religions in Terra Linda, and while there is the Terra Linda Recreation Center along Del Ganado, you also have the Lucas Valley Community Center in the next town over (just about 10 blocks south) and the Ann Curtis Swim Club several blocks North. Of course at Northgate there are the requisite '24 hour fitness' and 'Ballys' as well.

There isnt much in the way of 'night life' (night clubs or bars) in Terra Linda - you would have to drive the (5 miles) into San Rafael proper for that - or even make it a night out on the town by driving the 11 miles into San Francisco. But because its in a little pocket of hills, the nature and greenery around Terra Linda (indeed all around San Rafael) is magnificent. It would be, as you have just up the road on the way to San Francisco the John Muir Woods and you have in Lucas Valley (Nicasio really) the 'woods' that were featured in the original Star Wars Movie (and no, Lucas Valley was named that BEFORE the famous George Lucas bought his "Lucas Ranch" out there).

Employment opportunities in Terra Linda are a bit limited as the salaries really are NOT on par with the same type of job in bigger cities. But the jobs themselves do have more a smaller town flair to them - a little more relaxed atmosphere and a bit more lenient and flexible.

Crime rate in Terra Linda is probably lower than elsewhere and I know the 'gang' activity is also lower. There have been some instances of 'tagging' on property but its not well tolerated and because the families are more affluent than in other parts of the country, the children tend to be better educated with a better choice of life opportunites and therefore less likely to join gangs.

The use of drugs tends to be more popular, however, probably because the children have more 'pin money' to spend and tend to be just that little bit spoiled. But its not the kind of drug epidemic that you would find in a bigger city.

All in all, if you can afford to live in Terra Linda, then do so. Its a lovely little town and its a great place to raise your children. Its so close to San Francisco as to feel almost a part of it, but without the headaches associated with living IN a Big City.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees

Travelling to San Rafael?

Find Hotels

Unranked Neighborhoods in San Rafael

"Nice Hillside Neighborhood With Good Bayside Views"
37.9789405547539 -122.4803189746

Bret Harte

2.5/5
"Older Neighborhod But Close to Outdoor Splendour"
37.9570096911412 -122.517700004509
"Nice Hilly San Rafael Neighborhood"
37.9551959594594 -122.511788582437

Canal

2.5/5
"Companies South, Condos North"
37.9578665981815 -122.500754797497
"A Slice of East Coast in NorCal"
37.9837947820175 -122.510061105581

Downtown

3.5/5
"San Rafael- A little Urban Gem in Central Marin"
37.9734192709811 -122.52895949958
"A Major Commercial/Industrial Force in Marin"
37.9645151698052 -122.518084791526

Gerstle Park

3.5/5
"Quiant Older Neighborhood Close to 2nd Street"
37.9657980870851 -122.534356009269

Glenwood

3.5/5
"Nice Relatively Affordable San Rafael Neighborhood"
37.9886413925886 -122.483483337509

Loch Lomond

3.5/5
"Right on the Water"
37.9775107522151 -122.488471520696

Best Neighborhoods to Live In

Best Cities to Live In

Tell everyone what you love about your neighborhood!

Leave a Review

Have a question?

How are schools? Is the area safe? What about public transit options?" Why not ask our community of locals!

Ask Now

Selling or Renting Your Home?

Maximize the selling price of your home by sharing what you love about your suburb to increase its appeal...

Leave a Review

Corporate Relocation Manager?

Enable your employees to share local knowledge in a private, trusted environment with those relocating... while building community.

Learn More