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Living in San Carlos September 4, 2009

San Carlos: What’s “Good” about the City of Good Living…

by Chuck Gillooley

“Why do you want to live in San Carlos?”

That’s a question that I often ask buyers who are looking to settle in San Carlos. It’s interesting to hear their what their perceptions are of San Carlos, and what’s important to them personally. Below are probably the 5 most common answers I hear (in no particular order.)

#1: Small Town Feel.

San Carlos has a small-town feel — everybody seems to know everyone else.  This makes sense, because with a population a little south of 29,000 San Carlos is a small town.  Especially when you compare it to its neighbor to the south, Redwood City, which is 2.5 times the the size of San Carlos.   It’s funny — when I used to work in Silicon Valley, many people had no idea where San Carlos was. Not necessarily a bad thing.

The downtown area of San Carlos is a big draw for many.  What’s unique about the San Carlos downtown is that it’s comprised of mostly small, locally owned businesses.  It’s refreshingly devoid of the chain outlets that give many communities a “strip mall” feel.

#2: Weather.

Redwood City has long laid claim to the slogan “Climate Best by Government Test.”  I have always been suspicious of this so-called “test”, but I lived in Redwood City for many years, and it would be hard to dispute that claim – the weather in Redwood City is indeed great.  But it doesn’t turn foul as soon as you cross Eaton Ave and head into San Carlos!

San Carlos is a very popular relocation destination for San Franciscans who are sick of the constant fog, and are looking for better weather.  And San Carlos is ideally situated just south of the notorious “fog belt” that exists at the shoulder of the mountain where Highway 92 snakes over to Half Moon Bay.  You get the cooling effects of the fog, but without the living in the pea soup. The bottom line — it’s not too hot, and it’s not too cold.

#3:  Schools.

This could easily be the #1 reason for many families.  San Carlos has an outstanding public school system, which has been well documented on this site.  With consistently high scores across all of its elementary schools, and the fact that both of its middle schools have been designated California Distinguished Schools, it’s the best that public education has to offer.

I don’t think it’s a big deal that San Carlos no longer has a high school, and I’m probably in the minority in that stance. Yeah, it was probably a short-side decision when San Carlos High School was leveled in 1982. But I haven’t seen a compelling reason why another one should be built. Because of geographic limitations, the population of San Carlos will probably never exceed 30,000. And each of our adjacent neighbors have an excellent high school that services San Carlos. Add to that the significant percentage of families who opt for private education, and having our own high school isn’t necessary.

#4: Location.

This is a big plus for the dual-income families. If you draw a line between San Jose and San Francisco, guess where the midpoint lies? You got it…San Carlos. So it’s perfect for those couples that commute to both the City and Silicon Valley. With easy access to 2 freeways, and Caltrain running up the spine of the city, it’s a great solution for commuters.

#5: People.

The demographics of San Carlos have changed quite a bit since we moved here 20 years ago.  Retirees have passed the torch to a younger generation — one that’s typically highly educated, professionally employed, and likely raising a young family.   It’s a big reason why people want to settle here and raise a family — because there are so many others already doing it.

I think the biggest asset to San Carlos is the people.  Whether it’s elementary school or AYSO soccer, San Carlos is known for involvement.   Much of what is great about San Carlos — be it the organizations, the businesses, or the schools — would be nothing without the great people behind them.  This isn’t something you can wave your hand and make happen.  Either you have it, or you don’t.

San Carlos definitely has it.


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  • We sold our house in Orinda and moved to San Carlos last year to be closer to work. The only thing we miss is the quality of the Orinda public schools, which beat any of the San Carlos schools by a mile; including White Oaks.

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