10 Best Places To Live In California For 2019

We used science to determine which cities in the Golden State are pure gold.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2019. This is our fifth time ranking the best places to live in California.

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Where do you think is the best place to live in California?

San Francisco? Maybe if you only looked at home prices and considered the biggest cities in California.

Beverly Hills? Maybe if you only watched TV in the 90's.

Today we're taking a look at the best places to live in California based on science and data -- not any preconceived notions of the best places. We've been doing this for over five years now digging into the data and crunching the latest census and FBI data to determine the best places to live across America. We take into account all the things that make a place great to live -- education, home prices, and safety. And while California has an abundance of all these things (Not to mention traffic and sunshine), certain places have them in spades. It's these places that we want to shine a spotlight on today.

Nothing against SoCal or anything, but we grew up in Cali, and we know it's hella better up north. So, with that aside, it's time to visit the lighter side and take a look at the best places to live there. Because, after all, California has some really great places. You just have to know where to look. (Hint: Look up).

What is the best place to live in California? Looks like the best place to live in California for 2019 goes to Los Altos. Right in the heart of Silicon Valley, this city combines all the great things of San Francisco, without all the negatives.

To be clear, the price of admission to these cities is steep -- with median home prices above $500,00 and median incomes over $100,000 -- but the reward is worth it.

Continue on for more on how we calculated the best places to live in the Golden State and for a detailed breakdown of the top ten. We also mapped out the location of each city so you figure out how long your commute will be.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the best states in America or the best places to live in America.

For more California reading, check out:

The 10 Best Places To Live In California For 2019

Los Altos, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 30,238
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.2% (5th best)
More on Los Altos: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Perhaps what makes Los Altos so amazing is the high emphasis they put on quality education: they have one of the highest rate of education at attainment for adults.

However, quality education isn't all that makes Los Altos great. They also have the 7th highest median income and the 105th shortest commute time.

Los Altos Hills, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,376
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (10th best)
More on Los Altos Hills: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Los Altos Hills is just about as close to a perfect area as you can get. Residents here are gainfully employed, and the schools are some of the best in the state. It's safe, and residents get to enjoy the benefits of quality at home living.

It's quite a gem tucked away in California.

Aliso Viejo, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 50,219
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $539,000 (131st best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.9% (84th best)
More on Aliso Viejo: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Aliso Viejo is Mission Viejo's twin sister. The unemployment rate here is the 84th lowest in the state of California, and almost everyone who lives here has a job. That's almost unheard of. The only real difference between the two is that Aliso Viejo has slightly lower priced homes, meaning it's not as popular here as it is in Mission.

But, come on. Both are the best enclaves in the O.C.

Piedmont, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,201
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $1,572,700 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.7% (13th best)
More on Piedmont: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Piedmont gets to enjoy the best Oakland has to offer without dealing with all of the crime that plagues Oakland. Residents here earn a staggeringly high income, and get some of the warmer weather that the east bay gets without the hot, dry climate in the Sacramento Valley.

So, yes, in this case, life up in the hills is better.

Coronado, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 24,852
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $1,332,500 (20th best)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (98th best)
More on Coronado: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Coronado ranks as the 5th best place in California for 2019. Let's take a look at why.

Coronado has a lower crime rate than the cities mentioned above. Coronado's cost of living is a tick higher, but families also earn much higher salaries - to the tune of $92,413 a year.

The knock? We can't really find one 🙂

Belmont, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 26,918
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $1,074,600 (31st best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.0% (48th best)
More on Belmont: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Who wouldn't want to live in a place where there's low crime and everyone is rich? That's the case with Belmont.

Things are looking peachy keen here. The unemployment rate is the 48th lowest in California and the median income comes in at $120,169.

This is the kind of place you brag to your friends on Facebook about.

Cupertino, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 60,297
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $1,214,300 (21st best)
Unemployment Rate: 6.8% (142nd best)
More on Cupertino: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Back to the Bay Area we go. There's two types of people who live in Cupertino. Either the old hold outs who have lived there forever and are watching their home values skyrocket, or the tech elite who work in the Silicon Valley and who can afford to buy a home there.

Either way, you're set. Your kids go to great schools, there's a ton of things to do, and you earn a great salary. Cupertino is exactly what you hoped for when you played that board game, LIFE as a kid.

Atherton, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,127
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (98th best)
More on Atherton: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Atherton is another great city in California with a low unemployment rate and where residents earn high salaries.

Said one reviewer on City-Data.com: " We feel incredibly safe in Atherton. The houses and neighborhoods are beautiful, the people are friendly, and it's wonderful to have such good neighbors. People watch out for each other here, they teach their children to be respectful of others and things."

Enough said.

Hillsborough, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,312
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (66th best)
More on Hillsborough: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Hillsborough is a short drive from everything, but who would want to leave the 9th best place in California?

Homes are priced around $2,000,000 and residents have the 220th shortest commute in California.

San Ramon, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 74,366
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $810,700 (54th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.9% (16th best)
More on San Ramon: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Let's take a look at why San Ramon is a great place to call home for 2019.

There's low crime in San Ramon, and the residents here are gainfully employed (3.9% unemployment rate).

You can make San Ramon your home for only $810,700 which won't be too hard on a $134,188 household salary.

Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in California

The Pressing Question: Size

Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Sacramento with a population of 484,530 against places with a population of 18?

We firmly decided no, that just isn't fair.

So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:

  • Cities -- Populations over 5,000
  • Towns -- Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
  • Small Towns -- Populations below 1,000

This left us with 410 cities, 381 towns, and 265 small towns.

We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best places have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be 'the best'.

Now we also realize that city living might not be your cup of tea, so we ran the following analysis on towns and then again for small towns.

You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.

How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In California

Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.

We ranked each place in California across a number of criteria from one to 410, with one being the best.

We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best Place To Live In California".

The criteria we looked at were:

  • Median Home Values
  • Median Income
  • Population Density (Higher better)
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Commute Time
  • Crime
  • Education Levels
  • Health Insurance Coverage
  • Poverty rates

Sources of criteria include the New Census Data and FBI Crime Data.

After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in California? That would be Los Altos.

If your city or town isn't among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in California.

Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Los Altos at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In California

If you're looking at areas in California with the best economic situations, where there's lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

Los Altos made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in California for 2019.

Best Towns To Live In California

  1. Shell Ridge (Pop. 1,123)
  2. Ladera (Pop. 1,514)
  3. Loyola (Pop. 3,425)
  4. West Menlo Park (Pop. 3,830)
  5. Acalanes Ridge (Pop. 1,000)
  6. Emerald Lake Hills (Pop. 4,716)
  7. Mission Canyon (Pop. 2,769)
  8. Monte Sereno (Pop. 3,514)
  9. Highlands-Baywood Park (Pop. 4,261)
  10. Los Ranchos (Pop. 1,630)

Best Small Towns To Live In California

  1. Blacklake (Pop. 895)
  2. Diablo (Pop. 807)
  3. Alto (Pop. 649)
  4. Tomales (Pop. 245)
  5. Spreckels (Pop. 745)
  6. Alhambra Valley (Pop. 501)
  7. Silverado Resort (Pop. 988)
  8. Los Olivos (Pop. 871)
  9. Rolling Hills (Pop. 832)
  10. Lake Almanor Country Club (Pop. 357)

If you're curious enough, here are the worst places to live in California according to the data:

  1. Wasco (Pop. 26,061)
  2. Clearlake (Pop. 15,070)
  3. Desert Hot Springs (Pop. 28,092)

For more California reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places To Live In California?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Los Altos 30,238 3.2% $2,000,000
2 Los Altos Hills 8,376 3.5% $2,000,000
3 Aliso Viejo 50,219 5.9% $539,000
4 Piedmont 11,201 3.7% $1,572,700
5 Coronado 24,852 6.1% $1,332,500
6 Belmont 26,918 5.0% $1,074,600
7 Cupertino 60,297 6.8% $1,214,300
8 Atherton 7,127 6.1% $2,000,000
9 Hillsborough 11,312 5.4% $2,000,000
10 San Ramon 74,366 3.9% $810,700

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

31 thoughts on “10 Best Places To Live In California For 2019

  1. Do you realize that “Up North” in California does not end in the Bay Area? You missed many beautiful parts of our State by ending your ridiculous and biased “survey”…in which you completely left out 1/2 of the state…

  2. Burbank has a population of 5789? Looks like there are problems with your data, to say nothing of methodology. Income means nothing if it’s not compared to housing etc. cost of living.

  3. I live in San Diego County and I am appalled that you totally skipped my beautiful city in your “best of” list but included many of the small towns of San Diego in you worst list. Hey, talk to us in December when we are in shorts and flip flops with our sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures and you guys in SFO are freezing!

  4. Dude, I liked your article. Not science but info-taining. I grew up in Mission Viejo in the 70’s and am glad to see it made your list. I would probably be one of those “shady” people moving back to MV. Hahaha

    1. Downey used to be a fantastic place. Then again, Southern California used to be a fantastic place until it turned into the mecca for every 3rd world immigrant. There are still pockets of goodness in Downey, if you have the money, but overall Downey is surrounded by gangster crime ridden sanctuary cities or cities of very high immigrant populations Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Bell, Compton, Lynwood, Bell, Cudahy, Santa Fe Springs, Paramount. Downey is also surrounded by 4 freeways so it like a pollution vortex (105, 5, 605, 710). Downey’s biggest claim to fame, Karen Carpenter lived there.

  5. Seriously? Have you ever BEEN to Foster City? There’s no “there” there! Just shopping malls and business parks. And being literally on the water, it’s gray a good part of the time.

    I grew up in Goleta, and it’s quite nice now, but to mention it without mentioning that it’s a suburb of Santa Barbara is ridiculous. Most of what there is to do is in Santa Barbara.

  6. Ridiculously biased article. Anyone who has lived in CA, knows that Southern is 10 times better than Northern in most every category. Better weather & people, waaay lower crime and any list of best which leaves off Laguna Beach and San Juan Capistrano, was written by a Communist.

    1. I agree, Laguna deserves to be in the Top 5. San Juan, too.
      But actually, Laguna (I’m from there) is an oasis of Liberalism in Red desert of Orange County. So anyone who left it out was probably a Trumpist.

  7. I have lived in Hemet for 35 years. It is a pretty good size city. Size wise. Everything from A to Z. Orange groves. Big Lake. Farms. Horses. Nice schools. Lots of nice shopping nearby.
    Very affordable. Now the bad part. Water rates and taxes are high. Drugs. Unemployment.
    Minimum hour drive for a decent paying job. Very few people maintain their property. This is probably due to so many people renting. Sections of downtown are kinda scruffy. But if you like a house with a little land to do something. Hemet is really nice. Yes Hemet has bikers. Gangsters. Street people. People that live in the parks. Alot of the community services that once helped the retirees that flocked their in the 70’s and 80’s now attract people that need that kind of support. It was bad for a few years. But it is
    stabilizing. The high cost of housing in surrounding areas is forcing people to take another look at Hemet. Just find a nice part of town. And get a good dog or two.
    By the way. Hemet city is run very well. San Jacinto city is corrupt as hell.

    1. Your crazy HEMET CRIME IS HIGH..
      PLUS the Auto Accidents on every road way and Gang bangers Paridise
      The homless drugs gangs
      Shame could be a nice place
      But no way..Highway Hub for Drug trafficing and Gang BANGERS

  8. Heh, La Mirada made the list. I’m happy to see that since I have been a resident nearly my entire life. Hoping not to sound bias but La Mirada has the distinction of remaining a very good city for many years despite being surrounded by cities with “issues”. It’s not to say there aren’t spots within all cities that are good or have great people.

    La Mirada is also interesting in that it manages to retain a lot of people that grew up here as children. I’m 53 and still run across multiple people I grew up with. Many school classes still get together annually for parties. La Mirada is truly unique. Part of the allure of living in La Mirada is that it is a “Bedroom Community”. Not a lot of shopping or dining opportunities here. People complain about it but I like it that way. Keeps out the un-disirables looking for trouble.

    Sadly though, So Cal traffic and crime keeping squeezing La Mirada and the “area” (not specifically La Mirada) isn’t what is used to be. Traffic is stifling, crime is increasing, and starting to look more like the United Nations. La Mirada City council has undergone some significant changes in recent years and the conservative old guard isn’t here to watch over as it once did. We hope the newer council remains firm.

  9. I live in Camarillo now, from Thousand Oaks. Love both towns. Camarillo (and San Diego) has the most even temp in the state, average year round is about 71 degrees F. While Thousand Oaks jas the lowest crime rate in the country for cities of 100k or more. The folks from No-Cal that put the data amd article together are just jealous, as So-Cal is so much better; No-Cal is full of SFO weirdos, they can have it.

  10. Just goes to show how scientific methods skew the facts. Cupertino and Foster City are just typical slightly higher end suburbs with cookie cutter development and traffic conjestion. The sky high costs, generic exixtence and that Foster City sits on fill that becomes jello in an earthquake make neither of these cities the best of anywhere.

  11. I have lived in Palm Desert all my life except for the 20 years I lived in OC, Newport Beach area. I moved back because I got tired of the congested freeways, over populated and the high cost in housing.
    Even though Palm Desert has grown a great deal it still has that small town feeling and I too still run into my childhood friends. There a lot of Pioneers and Old Timers down here too. We also have a lot of people who come down here and retire too. I also love the history and the nostalgia of the area. From Dwight D. Eisenhower training his troops , the speak easy’s in the 1930’s, the old time movie stars, Jimmy Hoffa hotel, all the presidents who visit down here and of course Coachella. However the summer are very hot but then the wheather is great the rest of the year. We go from sunny to extra sunny. We actually want rain to break up the menotony.

  12. This is the list of best places to live for the one percenters. Just because the inhabitants of a place make a lot of money doesn’t mean they make it in that town, grew up in that town, got educated in that town, or made their money in that town. The reason there is low employment is because you have to have a high income to live there. This list leaves out the other 99%. I highly doubt that the service people in that area actually live there. What a ridiculous list.

  13. I agree with the comments thus far.Many great places like Alamo..Sausalito,Monterey Bay Area deserve a mention..along with Malibu and Santa Barbara.
    I grew up in Sharon Heights,Menlo Park and attended prep school in Atherton.It was great being so close to Stanford/Palo Alto.
    A trip to The City was easy by train
    I left for Universities in Miami and New Orleans before returning home to a very different environment.
    I moved to Newport Beach but loved Laguna Beach and Las Brisas Restaurant!
    I returned to The Bay Area…married…children in Walnut Creek..we worked in Oakland and The City but our favourite time was going To The Snow…North Lake Tahoe.
    We moved to Benicia as an avid sailor.
    But it was time to relax and leave the craziness
    I reside now in beautiful Oro Valley,AZ…However,I left my heart in San Francisco.

  14. all I can say is that the bay area places (1,2,4,6,7-10) are all home values from what– 2010? they are no less than $500,000 too low. Median home value for Los Altos early 2019 is $3 million ++.

    1. EXACTLY! Where did they come up with 500k? More like 6 x $500K. Whoever came up with that (bogus) $500k house amount didn’t even bother to research current 2019 real estate purchases. Because there are usually “bidding wars” and the house sells for way over the listed price. The listed price is always over $1m. Example: 1300 sq foot bungalow house made in 1950, on a teeny-tiny bit of land, sold in my neighborhood (Where I rent a room.) The buyers bid up from the $1.2 million to$1.7 million! They paid cash. Then had it demolished and rebuilt. So they paid $1.7 for just the teeny-tiny lot. Insane prices here.

    I’ve lived and worked in Atherton, Silicon Valley and Los Altos areas. This report of “median home prices above $500,00.” IS WRONG! Their typo of $500,00. There are bidding wars on houses in the Silicon Valley/Bay area. You CANNOT find a house in either of these areas for under $1,200,000. No idea where they came up with half a million. Completely unrealistic. Average rents on a (crappy) studio apartment are $2,500 a month and up. Average 2 bedroom walk up apartment $3,000/ On a nice apartment up to $5000 a month. Sigh..

    Factors to avoid or move out of this area: Unfriendly people, bad pot hole ridden roads, traffic congestion (A 20 mile commute takes at least an hour, each way, during morning and evening commutes) high sales tax (Upwards of 10%) high income tax, gasoline (Over $4.50 a gallon right now) Scarcity of homes for sale (Median house price over $1.2 million) and you may also come to the conclusion–unless you are a MULTI millionaire, this place is to be avoided. I applied for “Low income rental” only to find out I don’t qualify. My 30K salary was )Extreme poverty.) I had to make over $75K to be “Low income” and rent a shoebox apartment in Palo Alto (“Shallow Alto.” No thanks.. I am outta here! Just Google “Exodus from the Bay area” and see how it really is here.

    I. like so many others are these days, renting a U-Haul one way to another state.

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