California dreaming: Longing for wide open cheap spaces


Sow the land: To what purpose?


Yesterday, I spent five hours walking about San Francisco and Oakland trying to assess my possible new-home options. Let me start off with the conclusion that my options are dismal; as they are for a grand portion of the population here in the San Francisco Bay area. As I was traipsing about, I overheard a woman behind me telling someone on the phone about her frustrating apartment search.  She noted that she had gone to open house after open house to only find that there were hundreds others offering stock options and the like. I flinched and kept on walking. I am not mortgaging my future away for a 300 square foot apartment in the bay area. I do not care how sunny it is at mid-day.


As I made my way to the east bay area, I found a lovely neighborhood that I fell in love with. I cannot say which neighborhood it is because this is a dog-eat-dog rental world.  Suffice it to say, I really liked it there. I immediately contacted a building realtor inquiring about availability of 3-bedroom apartments. Lucky me the person emailed me back within minutes to let me know there was indeed a three bedroom available immediately. Unlucky me, it was $5700 a month, including water but no other utilities.   What a thrill that it includes water.   As I continued my walk, I came across two young women who appeared exasperated. One was on the phone calling the realtor letting the individual know that they were there waiting to see either a studio or one bedroom. Yikes.   I looked quickly at the building and assessed that these two young women must really like the area since the building looked like it would present a challenge to live in.


This adventure in apartment seeking in the bay area was disheartening on many levels. You fall in love and then are immediately deflated. I sat for a few seconds on a bench soaking in the sun. I dreamed of my happy places.  I also thought about what it would be like to live outside of the urban jungle. I have lived in cities almost all my life. I have also lived for a short time in suburbia. Which always reminded me of the Pet Shop Boys’ song about the oddities of suburbia.


I have traveled much throughout the United States and have seen vast rural lands. Occasionally, as I snap away taking photographs of the landscape, I think about what it would be like to live there.  I dream of running through the lands. At one point we thought of getting land and having some llamas hang out.  I have dreamed of having four or five dogs just lazying about. I have thought of pretty photo shoots of my child in bright yellow and us standing whimsically under the great big sky.   Yes, it could be pretty. Yes, it could be charming. Yes, it could be physically freeing.


I don’t think I am ready for the big plot of land. I could see myself getting such a space having a big satellite dish, getting packages every other day from Amazon, and scouring vacation packages throughout the world.   I suppose that is how I live now within my small cube.Living out on a grand patch of land would probably just mean that I would see less people; which my curmudgeon-self could greatly appreciate.  I surely would love not having to wake up at 1am because firecrackers are being set off indiscriminately across the street. I surely would love not having stomping footsteps above me at all times of the day. I surely would like to step outside the front door and not step in fecal matter that may or may not be human-produced. Then again, I do love being able to run down the block and have a barista create a caramel latte perfection.   Then again, I do love having to pick between Pakistani, Italian, Korean and Thai food for dinner.  Then again, I do love being able to run up the hill (well, labor up) and get a great view of the water.


I am left with some questions as I hit the apartment-hunting pavement. What is a New York girl to do out on the other coast that is actually more expensive?  As I look about I need to figure out my priorities. I need to consider whether short commute is more important than space? I need to figure out if costs are the end-all-be all. I need to figure out what am I willing to compromise since there is no perfect place. I can dream of the wide open land populated by llamas and dogs with a coffee shop at the edge of the land.






14 replies »

  1. From my perspective I just can’t fathom prices like that. It seems like someone should be building those huge apartment buildings like you find in Hong Kong, that come with a virtual self contained city on the first floor. Seems the demand is there.
    I may not have the food choices or a Starbucks on any corner, but I like my space. I love to visit cities but am not sure I have the personality to live in one like NY or SF. I hope you find something reasonable and nice soon.


    • thanks. it truly is a bit of a nightmare. lol. self contained cities in buildings would be nice. but then we may never leave them and will not get our vitamin D 🙂 Although, I could take the vitamins. hoping to find something soonish


  2. Hmm, that price seems mighty steep, just like the streets. The middle class is getting squeezed out of cities. How can we afford to raise families with space constraints and prices like that? It’s a puzzle our society needs to address. At least in the Bay Area, you don’t have to deal with 100 inches of snow… That seems like a pretty valuable concern at the moment as I look out the window.


  3. Very poignant, beautifully expressed, and my god I’d heard the west coast was bad, but that is NUTS. I do the same thing with regards the push and pull of longings to be in the city versus the wide open and way cheap space. I love the image of your child in bright in yellow…the romance in the imagination, but who knows whether us city girls would last a week without the bustling throng of culture and cuisine pressing up all around us…
    Best of luck with it. 🙂


  4. Indeed, the “city” is a beautiful place . I am not sure how long of a commute you could endure but prices might be better in Walnut Creek and other surrounding areas. Then take BART over. I so miss the west coast but the prices and other reasons make me scared to come back home although central CA is not as expensive.


  5. Doesn’t NYC still have rent control? Just asking as I’m thinking that may be reason why housing cost seems to be lower there than in the Bay Area.

    If you get desperate, my old college roommate rents a room in her house out. She’s in a nice part of Richmond, not far from BART. She is also a kindergarten teacher which could be an added bonus for your son!


  6. I had heard that SF was steep in more ways than streets, but that rental is ridiculous! You have a great task ahead, sorry to say. Since I’m late in catching up on my emails, it could possibly be that you have already found an apartment as I’m writing this comment. 🙂 I hope so, for your sake, Mimi.


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