The Best Towns In California to Live In A listing of the towns with the lowest population and crime rates and the highest education ratings

While THE BEST PLACE IN THE USA TO LIVE was an interesting page to research, it didn't provide practical alternatives for my family because moving to the city identified in it would mean moving away from the rest of our relatives. The solution was to repeat the study but this time limit it to our family's home state of California. This page presents what I discovered using primarily the information available on:

http://cgi.money.cnn.com/best/bplive

http://www.city-data.com/city/California.html

 

The First Cut:

The first step was to establish the primary criteria, which I selected to be low pollution and crime rates. For reference, the average US pollution level is 100 with the lowest being 11 for Barrington, Illinois. The averages for Los Angeles and New York are 101 and 116, respectively. I'm suspicious of these numbers because my own home town has a pollution score of 96, just slightly lower than Los Angeles, yet the air here is consistently much clearer and easier to breath than L.A. The average California crime rate is up around 140 with the lowest US being Islip, New York at 4. Los Angeles has a crime rate of 353 and New York is 270.

The top fifteen California cities with the lowest pollution and crime rates are:

 
Town Name.....Pop....House.....Pollution.....Crime.....Annual.....High........Low
................................Cost.........................Rate......Rainfall....Temp......Temp

Aliso Viejo.........54K....$500K..........50.............28...........13...........77...........44....

Los Altos..........40K..$1,400K..........44.............51...........16...........79...........40....

Shingle Springs..30K....$400K...........40.............56...........39...........93...........33....

Rancho Palos
Verdes.............43K....$900K...........55.............50...........15...........78...........46

Palos Verdes
Penninsula........26K..$1,200K...........27.............73...........15...........78...........46

Moraga............17K.....$700K...........87.............36...........26...........75...........42

El Dorado
Hills.................24K....$520K...........81.............45...........25...........95...........39

Westlake
Village..............21K....$800K...........36.............79...........14...........74...........45

Goletta............50K.....$800K...........46.............74...........17...........77...........41

Thousand
Oaks...............80K.....$600K...........72.............59...........16...........88...........41

Orinda.............20K.....$940K...........87.............46...........25...........70...........44

Folsom............63K.....$413K...........82.............55...........25...........95...........39

Vista.............112K.....$443K.........102.............39...........14...........82...........45

Valencia..........51K.....$450K...........68.............70...........14...........94...........36

San Ramon......50K.....$650K...........85.............58...........24...........85...........39

 

The Second Cut:

The next step was to select towns from the list above with reasonable housing costs and those located near, but not in, a large metropolitan area. That reduced the list to four. I then looked up data on the percent of students graduating from high school, the percentage of adults with Bachelors or higher degrees and the percentages of the major ethnicities. Since the house prices above were taken from 2000 - 2003 averages, I also visited several current real estate sites to get a more accurate feel for what current (Fall of 2005) house costs were running for a 2000 square foot single family house with 4 bedrooms and three bathrooms. Finally, I researched the percent of people unemployed.

 
Town Name...High...College.,House..Unemployed...White...Hispanic.....African
..................School...Grad......Cost.........................Rate..Ra......all.....American...
...Tem..........Grad.................2005

Aliso Viejo........96........49......$800K..........2.6..............71..........12..............3

Shingle
Springs............87........23......$600K..........4.0..............90...........7..............2

El Dorado
Hills................97........52......$570K...........3.0..............87...........5..............2...........

Folsom............89........38......$550K...........7.0..............75..........10.............6..

 
Aliso Viejo is located south of Los Angeles a few miles from the beach. Almost completely surrounded by parks and with golf courses on its northern and southern boundaries on paper it appears an almost perfect town for raising a family. The other three towns are located just east of Sacramento. Of these Shingle Springs is unique in that every single real estate listing I found was for a house located on 1 to 5 acres of land, suggesting that is a more rural setting than the other towns.

For a young family interested in a community with the highest education standards, clean air and very low unemployment and crime rates as well as affordable housing, El Dorado Hills near Sacramento looks to be the optimum choice..........

 

The Final Cut: First-Hand Looks at Each Town

While the four towns that made it to the final list all look good on paper, up close and in person they may not appear as desirable. This section will report on what I discovered when I visited each one.

 
Aliso Viejo:

Located just south of Laguna Hills, Aliso Viejo is virtually surrounded by parks and golf courses. The town itself is extremely neat and clean with roads that appeared well maintained and are adequite for the traffic. I didn't see a single sign of graffiti or vandelizm during my 1-hour drive through the city.

Aliso Viejo is located in very hilly terrain, with houses and apartments terraced up the sides of the hills. The roads are laid out well so that unlike San Francisco you seldom have to drive up or down steep streets.

During my tour I drove by at least 50 houses and apartments. Each and every one had the principle structure in impeccable condition and the yards were universally very well maintained. No one had a let their yard go weedy, die back, or even need mowing. This suggests a city-wide appreciation for the importance of maintaining property values through responsibly taking care of houses and grounds. This is to be expected because the average house runs well over $700,000 and no one willing to invest that much is likely to let it deteriorate.

I did not see a single run-down neighborhood anywhere I went.

Although the natural landscape for this area is scrub brush, the town and all surrounding areas are well watered so that the net impression is that the city was built in a lush garden. The weather is mild year-round. The beach is only 2 miles away as a crow flies, though the only way to drive there is around a park and golf course and takes six miles.

Aliso Viejo is a small town and the main shopping center near its center is only an outdoor affair with a Ralphs, Lowes, TJ Max, Micheals, PetsMart, and several other medium-sized stores. There is also a 21-screen multiplex and a moderate selection of fast and full-survice restaurants. Howevery, there are three large malls within a 20 minute drive from the heart of Aliso Viejo.

The biggest downside to Aliso Viejo for some people might be that it feels crowded. The houses are almost universally compact, two-story affairs on extremely tiny lots. Most back yards are little more that small patios. Many front yards are only a few square feet of grass between the sidewalk and front door. The sides of the houses are only a few feet appart, so close they almost look like duplexes. Much of the housing is apartments or condominiums. The overall impression is that even in areas dominated with single family dwellings it feels like a city of townhouses jammed together cheek-by-jowl.

The average 2,000 sqaure foot house sold for $800,000 in 2005. Comparable condominiums run $100,000 or so less. Larger houses up to 4,000 square feet can be had for $1,800,000. Apartments run around $1,200 per month for 650 square feet to $2,100 for 1,100 square feet.

A typical street of single-family dwellings.

 

A typical house in Aliso Viejo. This style is so dominant that
many areas give the impression of being tract housing. I didn't
see a single, one-story house, though I'm sure there are some.

 

Shingle Springs:

Coming soon.

Eldorado Hills:

Coming soon.

Folsom:

Coming soon.

 

 
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