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’s a look at the 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.
Los Altos 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.
Taking a similar route to the top ten as many others on this list, Los Altos Hills ranked highly for adjusted median income (2nd), crime (4th), and unemployment (10th).
With a population of 8,376 it was one of the smaller in the top ten and its government website actually goes to pains to say that it’s a “community though not a city”.
But don’t listen to what they say people of Los Altos Hills, you can be anything you want.
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.
Coronado has a strong showing in our best places to live in California analysis, coming it at 5th best.
It ranks highly like many others in the top ten for a low unemployment rate and high adjusted median income. It scored extra points relative to the top ten for its size and things to do.
If you’re thinking of moving to California, Coronado is a great option.
The Town of Belmont might be a bit of a surprise to some in terms of how well it ranks according to science.
The crime rate in Belmont isn’t amazing, but it’s far below the state average. The homes are valued at $1,074,600 here, and the schools get some of the most funding in California.
If Belmont can get some more of their residents to work, things will look even rosier here. The unemployment rate (5.0% is the 48th highest in the state.
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 has a long and illustrious history and its ranking in the top ten of our best places to live is just another notch in its belt.\n\Atherton had the 1st highest household median income adjusted for cost of living at $250,000.
Not to mention that its residents have plenty to do on the weekends.
Say what you want about expensive houses. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s A LOT of demand to live in Hillsborough.
The median home costs a cool $2,000,000 and households make $216,292 which is good for 4th in California.
Add that all up and Hillsborough places 9th in our ranking of the best places to live in California for 2019.
At an unemployment rate of 3.9%, everyone who wants a job can get one in San Ramon. And the residents command high salaries ($134,188 a year combined income), and live in big fancy homes ($810,700 each).
We’re not saying money is why these cities are the ‘best’ in California. What we’re implying is that money means safety and peace of mind. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
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|