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Boise, ID

Wonderful city with incredible outdoor li - 11/22/2022
Anthony, folks in Boise are definitely nice. So much so that there's even a thing here known as Boise Nice (https://boisenice.org) and it's normal to see stickers around town that say "Keep Boise Nice." Strangers wave to each other and say "hi" while walking in our neighborhood, and I've had strangers go out of their way to help me load stuff in my vehicle.

Boise, ID

Wonderful city with incredible outdoor li - 2/18/2022
Daniel, thanks for the comment. I agree, the "Boise Nice" thing is really great and worth mentioning. I gave 5 stars on my review. The 2 stars you see is Sperling's average from all reviews, though it's not entirely clear how this works as many older reviews seem to be missing star ratings.

Boise, ID

Wonderful city with incredible outdoor li - 10/22/2021
Carolyn, glad you found a place that's a good fit for you. It's all about trade-offs. I'll keep Rapid City in mind when I come across people who feel Boise has gotten too big.

Boise, ID

Wonderful city with incredible outdoor lifestyle - 10/1/2021
We’ve been in Boise for about two years. To be upfront about my biases, we love it here, so keep that in mind. That said, this review is my attempt to provide a balanced assessment of the pros and cons so that those considering a move can make an informed decision.

Boise is situated in the high desert at the base of the foothills of the Sawtooth range. It’s an interesting mix of urban and the great outdoors. It has a moderately sized downtown, year-round fly fishing, nearby skiing, approximately 200 miles of hiking/biking trails, paved paths along a river greenbelt, beautiful city parks, emerging foodie scene, thriving university, international airport, and much more. The city is situated within easy reach of wilderness areas and the great outdoors is available in all directions. Boise isn’t “the best” in any single category, but the combination of everything together is what really makes it stand out.

Downtown: Boise’s downtown has buildings of moderate height. It is very clean and safe with little graffiti or crime. There are restaurants, bars, offices, government buildings, boutiques, and other amenities one expects in a city. Yet it isn’t a big city. It’s more than adequate for our family, but if you really like the hustle and bustle of big cities then Boise probably isn’t for you. On the flip-side, don’t expect a rural or small town feel as there are close to 1M people in the Treasure Valley. Expect some traffic, and places that get busy at times.

Housing: Don’t move here because you think housing is cheap. It’s not. The housing market has been on fire for a number of years, and then the pandemic threw gasoline on it. So check your expectations. You’re unlikely to find a large renovated house in a quaint historic district for under $1M. The same can be said for homes in the foothills with views. You can still find older smaller mid century ramblers on the Bench for under $500k, but these are becoming harder to find. Housing is less expensive further from the city center towards Meridian and Southwest Ada County and Kuna, but these areas have a more suburban feel with fewer parks and amenities and worse traffic. A lot of new housing is being built in Boise. If you buy in the city next to a privately owned open field you should expect it to be filled with housing relatively soon. Review the city zoning map before buying. If you buy in a higher density zone you should expect higher density buildings in the future. Near commercial, you should expect some sort of business operation. As an example, most of the North End is zoned R-1CH whereas much of the West End is R-2/R-3. So while these two neighborhoods look somewhat similar, you should expect new developments with 2-3 times the density in the West End. Know what you’re buying into because you’re unlikely to stop developments that are within zoning guidelines.

Food: Boise may be in the high desert, but it’s no food desert. We have two incredible farmer’s markets and lots of independently owned eateries, from cheap eats to up-scale dining. There are many breweries and a growing food truck scene. It’s not all steak and potatoes and there’s a good amount of healthy and vegan/veggie. So lots of variety even though it’s not on the same level as a major city.

Climate: 4-season climate with hot summers and cold winters. Very dry with low humidity and low precipitation. Unirrigated areas of the valley are dusty sagebrush land, and the foothills are mostly grass and sagebrush with riparian canyons. Don’t expect conifer forests -- go north or higher into the mountains for that. Low triple digit heat is fairly common in the summer months, which is good for swimming and playing in the lakes and rivers. Overnight winter temperatures are typically in the mid-20s, though it can get down to single digits. Winter daytime temperatures are usually above freezing, though it doesn’t get warm. Low snowfall on average, and it tends to melt quickly, though there are years where we get more and it sticks around longer. Spring is green and rainy, and the Fall colors are spectacular with the large number of deciduous trees. If you like a true 4-season climate then you’ll love it, otherwise there are better areas if you really dislike hot or cold weather.

Politics: Boise is a moderate Blue island in a deeply Red state. You’ll find BLM and rainbow flags near “Don’t Tread on Me” and Trump flags. People mostly (but not always) respect political differences. Whatever your political leanings, don’t move here if you cannot tolerate ideological diversity or you will be frustrated. Oh, and guns. There are a lot of guns here. I’m not making a value judgment, it’s just part of the culture. Idaho is an open carry state so expect to see people with holstered side arms, and know that many more are secretly concealed carrying. It’s fairly common to encounter hunters with firearms at trailheads and on public lands, including in the foothills above the city. If you really dislike firearms or are otherwise offended by them then you’re probably not going to like it here.

Skiing: Bogus Basin Ski Resort is 16 miles up the mountain from Boise. It’s a non-profit, which means revenues go into operations and investing in facilities. By acreage it’s the second largest ski area in Idaho. It doesn’t get a ton of snow, but what it gets is typical of the inter-mountain west, dry and light. The snow pack can get hard/icy at times, especially during periods of little snowfall. It can get busy on holidays and weekends and on pow days. Not as busy as say Tahoe, but parking may be limited and you may wait in lift lines for 5-10 minutes. Really, the biggest annoyance are the few salty old timers complaining bitterly about the minor inconvenience of it all, and they're easy to ignore. The drive to Bogus Basin is a steep and curvy two-lane road. Do not attempt it in winter conditions with real-wheel drive. At a minimum you need either front-wheel drive with chains or all-wheel drive with decent tires. If you plan on going often, do yourself a favor and get all-wheel drive with a dedicated set of winter wheels. Whatever you’re driving, slow down and take it easy and you’ll be fine. Having Bogus Basin so close to town is an amazing resource even though it’s not the best skiing in the world. There are other resort towns (with their own tradeoffs) if you need world-class skiing in your backyard.

Hiking/biking trails: There are around 200 miles of hiking and biking trails in the Ridge to Rivers trail system in the foothills above the city. These trails extend up to Bogus Basin, and the network continues to expand as new trails are added. Most trails have little to no shade as they are in grasslands and sagebrush. During the summer people hit the trails early morning or late afternoon to avoid excessive heat. Most winter nights are cold enough to freeze the ground, so people are strongly encouraged to be off the trails before they thaw, usually around mid-morning. With such easy access from the city, trails and trailheads can get busy, especially during mild weather and weekends/holidays. I wouldn’t say it feels crowded, but don’t expect solitude.

River/Greenbelt: This is a real gem in the Treasure Valley. The greenbelt is a contiguous network of mostly paved trails along the Boise River. It starts in Eagle, goes through Boise, and continues to Lucky Peak State Park. In total it’s about 30 miles long and connects a series of beautiful riverside parks and provides access to the river. Float season on the Boise River runs from about late June to Labor Day. During this time shuttle buses run between Barber Park and Ann Morrison Park and tubes/rafts/life jackets are available for rent.

Parks: There many great parks in Boise, from small neighborhood parks to large expansive ones. Clean and safe, with lots of green grass and mature shade trees. Playground equipment and restroom facilities are generally in good working condition. For the most part Boise has been good about preventing camping in the parks. Local leaders and the PD work to ensure people needing a place to sleep end up indoors at shelters.

Wilderness: Boise is surrounded on all sides by nature. The Sawtooth Wilderness , Boise National Forest, Payette National Forest, Birds of Prey Conservation Area, the Owyhees, Eagle Cap Wilderness, and more. Each area is special and unique in its own way. Access to many places requires long distances on dirt roads rated for high clearance vehicles.

Air quality: Like much of the US we get wildfire smoke when the West is burning. This can be for a few days or it may go on for weeks. This past summer was unusually bad. By mid-September weather patterns usually shift and blow the smoke away. During winter months the Treasure Valley can get temperature inversions, where cold air sinks to the valley floor with a layer of warmer air on top. This worsens air quality by trapping pollution and fog in the valley. Inversions can last several days to weeks, depending on weather patterns. Whereas inversions make life in the valley gloomy, it usually makes for exceptional weather at Bogus Basin, with bright blue skies and vistas above a sea of clouds in the valley.

I could comment on more but this review is already too long. If anyone wants additional information then ask in the comments and I’ll try to respond. The goal of this review isn’t to persuade or dissuade anyone from moving here, I just want to paint a realistic picture. Please don’t move here and complain that it’s too hot or too cold, too liberal or too conservative, too big or too small, too crowded or not crowded enough, too expensive, or whatever. On the other hand, if Boise is a good fit and you like what it has to offer then you'll probably love it.

Santa Cruz, CA

Some love it, others not so much - 11/20/2020
I lived in the Santa Cruz area for 20 years. UCSC alum. Our kids were born there. There are wonderful things about Santa Cruz, but also many serious problems that we could no longer ignore.

First, the good.

Spectacular natural beauty with beaches, ocean cliffs, and redwoods. Great mountain biking, miles upon miles of great single track meandering through redwood, oak, and chaparral. Scenic hikes. I hear the surfing is great, though I don't surf.

And now the bad.

Crime is off the charts terrible. Property crime is even worse than the stats indicate because many have given up and no longer report it. Nothing happens, even if the perpetrator is caught, so why bother. If you park your car on the street it will eventually get broken into. Even if you don't leave anything of value in view there's a good chance your window(s) will get broken. Anything not locked or bolted down will eventually be stolen. Gets old fast. There are pockets where this is less of a problem, but these areas are the priciest.

The city itself has the potential to be gorgeous, yet it's run down and grimy. Human excrement, trash, and filth on the sidewalks. Used hypodermic needles discarded on the street and in city parks. Large numbers of people camping and injecting along the river greenbelt and otherwise polluting the river. When it rains this pollution is flushed out to the bay, and the needles wash up on the beaches. Roads are generally in very poor condition. City parks are also run down, with bathrooms in particularly bad condition as homeless bathe/wash clothes in the sinks and inject in the stalls. Some neighborhood groups have lobbied to have park restrooms permanently shuttered due to the problems they attract.

Traffic, especially during the summer tourist season when you most want do stuff, is atrocious. Bad. All. The. Time. Forget about parking at beaches/trailheads on weekends or holidays during the high season. Due to no-growth policies, HWY 1 is essentially the only option for East-West travel and is severely congested. There are "back roads" but these are just as congested, if not more. Need something in Aptos midweek afternoon? Forget about it! You'll be sitting in traffic for an hour.

Climate is very mild, which can be good or bad depending on one's preferences. Sept-Oct are *the* best months to live in and enjoy Santa Cruz. The tourists have gone home, it's warm, and the June-gloom is gone. June-gloom is when the marine layer blankets most of the city with fog/overcast. It's cold and dreary. And it's a bit of a misnomer... June-gloom often happens during much of July and August. Yes, Santa Cruz summers are often quite chilly. Winters aren't icy, yet often very rainy. Or not, which usually means drought and water rationing and fire danger.

Housing is unbelievably expensive. Unless you're wealthy/very high income, you're basically looking at cramped and/or substandard housing. We were fortunate to have purchased before housing prices got too bad, yet we could see it was extremely unlikely that our kids would ever be able to even afford rent. It's nearly impossible to make ends meet unless you're in the highest income brackets.
There's essentially zero affordable housing. A few affordable units may occasionally open up, but expect hundreds of people on the waiting list. I cannot emphasize this enough: Do not move to Santa Cruz without a solid plan for how to cover housing expenses or you will end up homeless (couch surfing, living in your vehicle, camping, etc).

In short, if you're wealthy and can easily afford the priciest parts of this extremely expensive city (e.g. beachfront or ocean views, gated property, garage), or if you just love the ocean and beach and redwoods so much that none of the other stuff matters, then you'll love it. However, if you're looking for a good, clean, safe, livable city then there are many better options.

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