Foster City, California!

November 14, 2011 at 12:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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So as some of you may recall from an earlier post, our new apartment is in Foster City. And it turns out that Foster City is really cool! When I found the apartment I had no idea what  a great place it was, but now I just keep finding out more and more spiffy things about it. We’re not moving in until the end of November, so I’ve got a good two weeks to keep being excited.

Let’s just get right down to the cool things about it. First of all, here’s what it looks like:

What Foster City looks like from space! Or maybe a plane.

Cool, huh? Coincidentally, the last time I flew into San Jose (at which point I knew nothing about the area), I noted Foster City from the air and thought it looked really cool. “Gee,” I said to myself, “I bet that place is neat. It looks so cool but it’s probably a kajillion dollars to live there.” (As it turns out, it is a kajillion dollars by anywhere-else standards, but by Silicon Valley standards it’s pretty reasonable.)

As you can probably infer from the photo, Foster City is a planned city. It was built by a guy (whose last name was Foster) in the 1960s. It has a planned-city feel to it, too — the roads are gently curving and have beautiful medians and lovely views of the bay and the lagoon. And there’s water everywhere — the city is 19.8 square miles and only 3.8 of them are land! Our little apartment complex has a man-made lagoon snaking through it with willow trees and fountains and cute bridges. It’s adorable.

And the town seems really… nice. As you drive through it it just feels clean and orderly. There are no plastic bags blowing against chain-link fences. There are no unsightly bags of trash or appliances sitting on a porch or tacky-looking houses or businesses or cars. There are no crazy people causing disturbances or pooping in the street. But at the same time, the town feels very real and homey and non-fake. The houses are all different (and have an average cost of $800K!) and interesting and nice and you don’t feel like you’re in a white-washed fake Pleasantville. It’s neat.

I'm going to feed the ducks all the time. I love feeding ducks!

Before we signed the papers at the apartment complex, I asked the leasing agent if they ever had car break-ins. This is a question I ask routinely when evaluating apartment complexes, and the answer is virtually always some variant of “Well, every place has break-ins sometimes — especially if you leave stuff in your car.” (In fact, given that the answers are almost always the same, I don’t know why I keep asking.) But instead she said “Oh, I don’t think so. I’ve been here for a year or so and there haven’t been any while I’ve been here. In fact, in Foster City there’s sort of a running joke that the cops here are really bored. There’s hardly any crime, so they have nothing to do all day long except drive around. Just make sure you come to a complete stop at stop signs!”

That sounded pretty good, and once I thought about it I could see that crime wasn’t a problem: every balcony had chairs and tables and wind chimes and other pretty things. Anybody could have walked off with the stuff if they’d been so inclined, but it clearly wasn’t a problem here. Later I looked at the Wikipedia page and discovered that Foster City is one of the safest places in the country — with a murder rate of one per decade.

The walking trail that surrounds all of Foster City

As if Foster City weren’t great enough already, it also has a bunch of lovely features: a walking/biking trail that surrounds the whole town (shown above next to our complex’s parking lot), an abundance of parks and other recreational areas, a public amphitheater with oodles of free summertime events and a beautiful lagoon where you can rent canoes and kayaks and boats and the like. Oh yeah, and the city takes care of keeping the mosquito population under control. If they’re going to take our tax dollars anyway, that is at least a benefit I will enjoy! And Foster City is within a comfortable distance of San Bruno, so Blake can take his motorcycle in our charming (and frequent) sunny weather.

And finally, our apartment itself looks really great. It was built in the 80s, I believe, but they’re being totally refurbished. The new kitchen looks beautiful and there’s laminate wood flooring everywhere except the bedrooms. Our little patio has enough space for the dogs to do their business — no more waiting for them to poop in the tea garden on cold nights! — and it looks out on a private mini-lagoon. The whole complex is surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers and it’s just… lovely.

As a funny side note, many of Blake’s youthful and single coworkers eschew Foster City because it’s too suburb-y. It’s full of families and yuppies and people who don’t go out to bars and wear hipster glasses. They all live in San Francisco and drink expensive coffees and listen to music so cool that we’ve probably never heard of it. And they don’t live in Foster City and they don’t want to. =) Which is fine with us — we’ve done the city thing, and it was really fun. But we’re ready to live in a place where it’s quiet at night and the streets are clean and you can park for free and there are Cheesecake Factories and malls and nobody plays a vuvuzela on the sidewalk at 1 a.m. We like suburbia.

Anyway, we’re very excited.

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What we’ve been up to

November 11, 2011 at 10:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Since we arrived on October 20, we’ve actually been pretty busy. Here’s what’s been going on:

The view from our balcony at Archstone San Bruno

Blake went to Startup School. Many of you know that Blake would like to start a company, and Silicon Valley is of course the best place to do that. Startup School is a free two-day event where famous successful entrepreneurs come and speak to people (like Blake) who would like to be famous successful entrepreneurs. The event is hosted by a famous startup funding firm called Y Combinator. It’s invitation only, though, and only a few hundred people are accepted out of (I believe) thousands of applicants. Which makes it pretty nifty that they invited him!

I would have liked to go also, but due to a miscommunication between me and Blake, I thought I was covered by his application but I wasn’t.  So I stayed at home while he got to listen to Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Andreessen (founder of Netscape and other things), Max Levchin (cofounder of PayPal and other things), Mark Pincus (founder of Zynga – creator of Farmville), Ashton Kutcher (the actor — who is apparently a big investor in tech startups), and many other famous people who are less well-known if you aren’t into startups. I was pretty jealous.

Apartment hunting. For those of you who haven’t heard, we finally, finally, finally sold our house in Austin. Coincidentally, we were actually in Austin for the closing date when my friend Beth got married in September, so we didn’t have to mess with faxing and notary publics and other inconveniences. Also, as my regular readers know, we came very close to buying a house in Seattle. If we had done that we’d now be in the same situation that we were before: moving to a new city and paying rent there while also having a house payment back where we used to live and trying to sell from afar. As a result, we’re feeling a bit reluctant to jump into another house right now. (Like many people.)

Nano can make the tiniest ball ever.

Additionally, since we plan to stay in California for a while and houses here are insanely expensive, we don’t want to buy a house until we know the area a lot better. Like, in a year or two. A series of mopey news articles continue to inform me that the housing market will still be crappy by then (for sellers), so maybe we can get an inexpensive $1.6 million house for only $700K. (Seriously, housing here is SO pricey!)

Anyway, this is an extremely roundabout way of saying that we decided to find an apartment here instead of jumping into house hunting the way we did in Seattle. Google covers thirty days of temporary housing, which means that we’ll be out of here on November 19.

So we spent much of our first two weeks driving around looking at rental houses and apartments. We had four main constraints: under $2000/month,  some sort of fenced-in yard (so we won’t have to walk the dogs), at least 1000 square feet (so we can fit all our stuff in), and within 35 minutes of YouTube. Sadly, this mythical paradise of an apartment just doesn’t exist in Silicon Valley — at least, not at that price. After searching in vain for days and days, we slowly inched up our max rent until we found a place for $2240 — which increases to $2340 after pet rent. The place is lovely and is in the also-lovely town of Foster City, but I’ll talk about that more in a future post.

I made cupcakes the other day. Yum.

Arguing with Plus Relocation. Google contracts with a relocation company called Plus Relocation, and they manage a series of other move-related contractors — the people who ship our cars, the guys who pack and load our stuff onto a truck, the people who handle our temporary housing here in CA, and etc. Plus has mostly been great throughout the move, but they kind of screwed us over at the end. They accidentally gave us incorrect information that was going to cost us six or seven hundred dollars, and then they were unwilling to make it up to us even though they admitted it was their mistake. I may go into the details in another post, but every time I think about writing it my smile turns into a frown and I become irritated all over again. So we’ll see. But it’s taken a lot of time to argue with them on the phone, write emails explaining our circumstances, and etc. It’s been very frustrating and time-consuming and has somewhat tarnished what was otherwise a charming stay in our temporary housing.

Finding a place to stay until November 29. Our little dispute with Plus is related to the fact that our new apartment in Foster City won’t be available until November 29 but our temporary housing expires ten days earlier on November 19. As a result, we’ve had to scramble to find some place to stay — for a carload of stuff and two dogs — for ten days over Thanksgiving. Now obviously there are places to stay in this area, but they all cost a kajillion dollars. In the end we found a place using Airbnb.com that looks pretty nice: it’s a mother-in-law suite in a Victorian house on the south side of San Francisco. There’s a little kitchen and they take dogs and it looks great in the photos, so I think it should be pretty fun to stay there for ten days. We finally booked that this past Wednesday night, and now we can finally relax. Before we had that lined up, there was always the nagging feeling of us having no place to go and the clock ticking on our time here.

So now there are no nagging problems to be dealt with, which is fantastic. We can truly relax for our last week in temporary housing before heading to SF.

Good news and bad

October 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Blake and the dogsWell, things have been pretty busy around here. And not really in a good way, either. Let’s jump right into the bad news: we’re not getting the house. Our beautiful, wonderful house that we had been hoping for and planning on for quite a while now. It turns out that due to some recent changes in the government guidelines for FHA loans, Blake has to have this job and salary for six months before we’re eligible for a home loan. The thing that’s made it so unpleasant is that we didn’t find out until very late in the financing process — after we had turned in all the forms and paperwork and the lender spoke to his underwriter and said we were good to go.

I’m pretty devastated about it to say the least. After our lender told us, we talked to a couple other lenders who confirmed that this wasn’t a judgment call but instead something mandated by the laws pertaining to FHA loans. Unfortunately, for each of these other lenders we couldn’t find out immediately — the guys selling the loans assured us everything would be fine each time, then we’d turn in our paperwork with much hurried emails and faxes and optimism only to be told several days later that the FHA guidelines had recently changed and gee, they were sorry. So for the last three weeks we’ve been yo-yo-ing between sadness and then hopeful optimism as each new lender initially sounded positive and then later dashed our hopes upon the rocks. Also I had a terrible cold for about half of October, and generally speaking this wasn’t my favorite month ever.

It’s not like it’s the end of the world, I know. I mean, if our biggest problem in life is that we can’t get this beautiful house right now, then life is very good indeed. But all that work! Ever since we got to Seattle I’ve been working 40-50 hours per week on home-buying — searching for houses online, spending days and days checking each one out with the realtor, dealing with the lender, tracking down all the documentation, etc. It’s been a huge undertaking and all that work is now effectively wasted. Not all of it, I guess — I think I’ll be much more efficient now in the upcoming round of househunting and lender-hunting — but it’s still a tremendous loss for that reason alone. (Needless to say, we won’t be going with that lender again. If they had told us this before several weeks had passed, I wouldn’t be nearly so sad.)

To make matters worse, we didn’t really know that there were no other options until this past Thursday. (Til then we thought another lender would work out fine.) And on this coming Thursday, our free corporate housing from Amazon expires! (We were originally supposed to close on the house on 10/27.) So Thursday night I was pretty sad indeed — faced with the prospect of finding an apartment and new storage for our stuff in less than a week. But we’re working on it.

…which brings us to the good news. After spending all day Friday and most of Saturday looking at apartments, I was able to get us into a spacious 665-square-foot apartment in downtown Seattle: Uwajimaya Village Apartments. The reason that this news is particularly good is its location — it is about 50 feet from the building where Blake works! Not only that, Uwajimaya Village Apartments is named for a very interesting Asian market called Uwajimaya which is right downstairs from the apartments themselves. Uwajimaya is so interesting, in fact, that it deserves a post all its own which I’ll probably do once we’re all moved in over there and I’ve taken some photos.

So what’s our plan for a house? Well, we can’t get a home loan until Blake’s six-month anniversary of February 2. So in January or so I’ll start house-hunting again and see what’s available. Maybe, just maybe, this home will still be on the market. It doesn’t seem likely. Nor does it seem likely that its sellers will be too inclined to give us a good deal, since we’d have to go through making a whole new offer, negotiations, and etc. Although this situation was not of our making at all, I get the impression the seller’s realtor doesn’t think too highly of us. (Just as we were waiting to hear back from the final lender we spoke with last week, the seller’s realtor was getting antsy and threatened to put the house back on the market anyway. She also called us on the phone — which is apparently considered inappropriate and unprofessional since she should instead have been calling our realtor — and whined to us for a while about how time was getting short and she was concerned. We assured her that we were concerned too because we wanted the house and we’d be glad to let her know when we heard something.) So it’s possible we’d still get this house, but I am in no way planning on it.

So we have a nine-month lease at Uwajimaya that won’t be too hard to break when we find a house we like. And if we decide we want to build, we’ll have from February til July for that to happen. And if we start shopping in January, we can have all our ducks in a row for February to get the home loan and make things happen.

So things are good. Everything’s fine. It’s been kind of a sucky month, but not really. Not in the grand scheme of things. In the grand scheme of things we’re fine and happy. To end this on a high note, please enjoy this video of Nano:

Apartment tour

August 8, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Our apartment building is full of the future and orange and trendiness:

The lobby of our apartment building looking trendy and orange and futuristic

It's like we've gone back in time to the 1960s and then gotten in another time machine to go to the 60s' imaginary future.

Here’s the nickel apartment tour. The last couple minutes of it are a bit dizzying, so be prepared. Watching this video taught me a lot about what to do differently next time I’m taking a video tour of an enclosed space.

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