Where do you think is the best place to live in California?
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).
Here are the 10 best places to live in California for 2019:
- Los Altos (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Los Altos Hills (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Aliso Viejo (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Piedmont (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Coronado (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Belmont (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Cupertino (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Atherton (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Hillsborough (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- San Ramon (Photos | Homes For Sale)
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.
For more California reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Counties To Live In California
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In California
- 10 Best Places To Raise A Family In California
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’.
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
- Education Levels
- Health Insurance Coverage
- Poverty rates
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.
The 10 Best Places To Live In California For 2019
Los Altos’s unemployment rates are some of the lowest in the state and the median income is the 7th highest, making Los Altos a great place to work and settle down if you’re look for a stable job with a stable income.
Additionally, Los Altos has above average education and low crime, making this place a safe place to live.
Los Altos Hills offers an impressive amount to do while maintaining a small town’s charm.
The unemployment rate sits as the 10th lowest in California and incomes are the 2nd highest.
When you come into town be sure to check out the parks as they are a good time for people of all ages.
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 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.
Well, I guess technically 6.1% of Coronado residents who want to have a job can’t find one, so not everyone has a job, but it’s the 98th closest of any city in California.
You can tell they take business seriously as they have by far the coolest Chamber of Commerce website we came across in our research.
In addition to its incredibly low unemployment rate, Coronado also ranked well for crime (66th) and median income ($92,413).
Belmont had the 48th lowest unemployment of any place in our research (5.0%) and the 50th lowest crime rate. However, the relative lack of population density and long commute times held it back from being higher on our list.
Belmont is home to an exceptional Volunteer Fire Department that represents so much about what it’s like to live there.
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.
Good things do come in small packages; it’s true for Atherton, which with a population of 7,127 makes it one of the smallest on this list.
Relatively low unemployment and relatively high adjusted income are just two blessings Atherton residents enjoy.
The 48th lowest crime rate in all of California makes Atherton one of the safest place on this list.
Say what you want about cheap living. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s A LOT of demand to live in Hillsborough.
Hillsborough ranked impressively high for its crime rate (23rd overall) and its short commute times (220th).
We think that’s worth the price of admission.
The Town of San Ramon might be a bit of a surprise to some in terms of how well it ranks according to science.
The crime rate in San Ramon isn’t amazing, but it’s far below the state average. The homes are valued at $810,700 here, and the schools get some of the most funding in California.
If San Ramon can get some more of their residents to work, things will look even rosier here. The unemployment rate (3.9% is the 16th highest in the state.
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
- Shell Ridge (Pop. 1,123)
- Ladera (Pop. 1,514)
- Loyola (Pop. 3,425)
- West Menlo Park (Pop. 3,830)
- Acalanes Ridge (Pop. 1,000)
- Emerald Lake Hills (Pop. 4,716)
- Mission Canyon (Pop. 2,769)
- Monte Sereno (Pop. 3,514)
- Highlands-Baywood Park (Pop. 4,261)
- Los Ranchos (Pop. 1,630)
Best Small Towns To Live In California
- Blacklake (Pop. 895)
- Diablo (Pop. 807)
- Alto (Pop. 649)
- Tomales (Pop. 245)
- Spreckels (Pop. 745)
- Alhambra Valley (Pop. 501)
- Silverado Resort (Pop. 988)
- Los Olivos (Pop. 871)
- Rolling Hills (Pop. 832)
- Lake Almanor Country Club (Pop. 357)
If you’re curious enough, here are the worst places to live in California according to the data:
- Wasco (Pop. 26,061)
- Clearlake (Pop. 15,070)
- Desert Hot Springs (Pop. 28,092)
For more California reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In California
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In California
- 10 Safest Places In California
- 10 Worst Places To Live In California
Detailed List Of The Best Places To Live In California
|2||Los Altos Hills||8,376|
|15||Palos Verdes Estates||13,582|
|23||Rancho Santa Margarita||49,038|
|24||Rancho Palos Verdes||42,412|
|38||Rolling Hills Estates||8,206|
|73||La Habra Heights||5,406|
|77||South San Francisco||66,587|