As a resident of San Jose, I was able to see both the good and bad the comes with living in this city. San Jose is home to over 1 million people, so although the area appeals to many people, there are negative aspects about living in this city that everyone should consider beforehand. Here is a list of 17 things everyone should consider before moving to San Jose, both from my own experience and the experience of people I met while living there:
1. It’s Expensive
One of the biggest reasons people move to San Jose is because they have hopes of finding a job with higher pay, but the cost of living in San Jose is high, so as a resident, a high-paying job is absolutely necessary just to get by without constant anxiety about how you’re going to pay the bills and make ends meet.
I know many families in San Jose where both parents have to work full-time to get by, which can make it difficult to raise kids in this city. According to National Low Income Housing Coalition, renters in San Jose pay the second-highest rent in the country. Paying rent can be a huge burden, as even a small two-bedroom apartment can cost around $3,050 a month. This means that the average renter needs an hourly wage of $58.67 to afford rent without spending more than one-third of their income.
2. Lots of Traffic
In San Jose, you have to leave yourself plenty of time to get to work or other appointments on schedule. Traffic backs up the freeway sometimes for hours, and traffic can be slowed to a full stop even earlier in the mornings at 7 or 8 am. The commute home from work during rush hour is also a nightmare. Even when traveling at non-rush hour, expect travel to take more time than you would like.
When it comes to time spent in traffic, the San Jose area is fifth-worst in the nation with drivers spending 81 hours in traffic over the course of a year. Other than it being a huge waste of time, researchers say that traffic congestion costs the economy in the San Jose area $2.36 billion.
3. Far from the Beach
Although relatively speaking, San Jose might be closer to the beach than other U.S. cities, the city itself lies inland and does not border the ocean. Commuting to the beach by car generally takes no less than 40 minutes, so beach days may not be as convenient or frequent for those not willing to make a day of it and spend at least 2 hours roundtrip in the car.
I took the bus to Santa Cruz from San Jose many times, a trip that takes over an hour one way.
4. Hot/Dry Summers
San Jose is famous for its moderate climate, with many locals vouching that the nice weather makes the cost of living worth it. Although the annual mean temperature of San Jose is about 60 degrees, the weather during the summer months is not always so temperate. In recent years, San Jose has reached some of the highest temperatures of the decade. Summer heat reached up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit just a few summers back in 2017.
5. No Snow/Winter
Winter in San Jose is cold enough to have to wear a winter coat outside to stay warm, but not cold enough to get any snow. I never saw any snow during the winters while living there, so if you are into winter sports or snowy winters, this is not the place for you. San Jose averages zero inches of snow per year, far below the US average of 28 inches per year, so getting any bit of snowfall is a very rare occurrence.
In a city of over 1 million crammed into a space of 181.4 square miles, don’t expect to find a free parking space with a lot of ease. Neighborhoods are constantly lined with parked cars on both sides since many people use their garage space for storage or housing. A packed city and packed neighborhoods also means that houses and apartments are positioned close together, with not a lot of yard space.
7. High Taxes
Another thing that makes living in San Jose expensive is high tax rates. Sales tax in San Jose as of 2022 is 86% higher than the rates in other California cities. On a national level, the average U.S. sales tax rate is a little over 5% (as of 2021), so California is one of the 32 states that fall above this average. High tax rates are an important factor to consider before moving here.
Another downside to living in San Jose is the likelihood of being robbed. Property theft is 1 in 42, so not altogether uncommon.
While living here, several of my friends had their bikes stolen as they were eating at a restaurant or at a friend’s house. And yes, they did use bike locks as a preventative measure to keep them safe.
As a resident, it’s unfortunate to have to worry about your belongings being stolen just while going about your day normally, and life in San Jose requires residents to be alert and take precautions that they may not be used to if they are more accustomed to life in a different area with lower frequencies of property theft.
9. Far from Jobs in San Francisco and Other Cities
Many residents who live in San Jose work in neighboring cities, so they have to spend a significant chunk of their day commuting. Due to large amounts of traffic, commuting can take up a portion of the day that is not insignificant.
Although living in San Jose is about 25.5% cheaper than San Francisco, it may not be worth the inconvenience of distance and time it costs to commute from one city to the other.
10. Not a Walkable City
Due to the urban development and layout of the city, life in San Jose is also not the most walkable city. Like many American cities, living in the city almost demands that its residents own cars.
The layout of the city is pretty spread out, so getting around on bike or on foot takes longer and even feels unsafe at times because of the number of cars moving at high speeds on the roads next to you on the sidewalk. Even though the neighborhoods themselves are pretty compact, neighborhoods are spread out from one another.
11. Lack of Nightlife, Dating Pool
Many residents of San Jose complain about the lack of things to do at night. There are a few clubs and bars, but younger populations might struggle to find fun things to do with others of their same age group.
San Jose residents have described many of the bars downtown as either overpriced and geared toward wealthier crowds or geared toward college students. Most locals suggest heading to San Francisco for more exciting nightlife.
A 2015 American Community Survey estimated that in the age group of 20 to 30-year-olds, there are about 134 men to every 100 women–a significant disparity. San Jose has also earned itself the nickname “Man Jose” due to the disproportionate number of men to women in the city. Because they outnumber the amount of younger women in the city, the dating pool in the area is not ideal for younger men.
12. Unsolved Homelessness Crisis
Like most big cities, San Jose has a high number of homeless people. The number of homeless people has continued to grow year after year, with the number of unhoused residents hitting 7,000 in 2019. One local news source reported in 2021 that “There are only 34 affordable and available housing units per 100 extremely low-income households in Santa Clara County.”
This crisis has also resulted in “increased tensions” between homeowners and the unhoused population of San Jose, with little explanation as to how the local government plans to get people off the streets and into affordable housing.
13. Competitive Job Market
Although the competitive job market is a source of attraction for many young job-seekers, older workers might have trouble competing with the younger generations for jobs due to much of the tech industry jobs being relatively new fields of education, training, and work.
California is also one of the hardest states to find a job due to its extremely competitive job market, and siliconvalley.com named it the 2nd hardest state to find a job in the U.S., with a ratio of 100 job openings to every 129 job seekers.
14. Too Many Techies
San Jose is part of Silicon Valley, which is home to thousands of employees of high-profile tech businesses like Google, Facebook, and Apple that make up a good chunk of the population. For those not interested in the competitive culture of big business, the techies of San Jose would not be the most enjoyable company to be surrounded by.
The tech and business culture of Silicon Valley and the metropolis of San Jose may not be a good fit for those more interested in supporting small, local businesses and who want a more relaxed and slower-paced lifestyle.
As a city with a high population and a large number of businesses, San Jose’s bad air quality is not surprising, but still a reason for concern. The State of the Air Report by the American Lung Association revealed that San Jose ranked “3rd for worst 24-hour particle pollution out of 216 U.S. metropolitan areas and 5th for worst annual particle pollution out of 204 U.S. metropolitan areas.”
For those concerned about air quality and overall health, San Jose is not a city that should be at the top of your list.
16. Wildfires/Fire Season
Fire season typically occurs during the hottest and driest summer months, so typically June-August of each year. Due to the warmer climate, fires can, however, occur at any time of the year. During fire season, the San Jose Fire Department typically responds to 1-3 vegetation fires per day.
In the summers that I lived in San Jose, the air was often filled with smoke from fires both in San Jose and neighboring California cities, often for months at a time. There were days when the smoke was so bad that the skies were covered in gray and warnings were issued out to residents to stay inside because the wildfire smoke was unsafe to breathe in.
Pet owners in San Jose have reported a coyote problem, and several dogs and cats have become the victims of wild coyotes. Pet owners in this city must take care to not leave their animals unattended outside for too long, as coyote sightings have been reported almost daily in recent years. Some pet owners are especially frightened because they have found that the coyotes are not afraid of humans and have attacked their pets while walking them or playing outside.
One local, Cheryl Genovesi told ABC7 News:
“We’ve got sightings every single day. Coyotes that are just walking down the street, laying in peoples’ driveways, just kind of walking around like they own the place.
They’re predators. They’re not afraid of human beings. They will not back down. And if they know they have a free meal, they’re going to come back to your dog. It’s gotten worse, we (the community) had two dogs dead.”
Many residents have found themselves taking precautions and carrying bats, air horns, walking sticks, and rocks while taking their dogs on walks in order to protect their pets in case any coyotes show up. Pet owners who live or are considering moving to San Jose should have plans in place to keep their pets safe from the natural predators existing in the area. Source
There are many great aspects to life in San Jose, but significant downsides to consider as well. Are any of these reasons a dealbreaker for you?