Buy a home and go car free… The top Bay Area cities where you can do this

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For all the talk in recent years about more Bay Area residents steering toward a “car-free” lifestyle, it sure is hard to find a place to live that is affordable and pedestrian-friendly once you leave San Francisco’s city limits.

Emeryville-based ZipRealty Inc. ranked the most walkable cities with the most affordable homes near San Francisco and came up with a whopping four cities: Emeryville, downtown San Jose, Albany and Berkeley.

ZipRealty used data from, which ranks locations with walkability scores of 0 to 100, to come up with its list.

“One of the allures of living in San Francisco is the city’s beautiful and convenient walkability, and that appeal is well-reflected in its lofty real estate prices,” said CEO and President Lanny Baker. “According to our partner Walk Score, San Francisco is the second-most walkable large city in the United States, behind New York City. In the local study we conducted, the most walkable and affordable communities were quite surprising alternatives to the high average price in San Francisco, which currently exceed $1 million.”

Here is a breakdown of the four cities with median home price and Walk Score:

  1. Emeryville: $388,888 / 80.
  2. Downtown San Jose: $508,450 / 74.
  3. Albany: $622,500 / 86.
  4. Berkeley: $786,256 / 95.

This list points out some interesting dynamics about Bay Area real estate. It appears living in a city where you can get around without a car will cost you a premium. San Francisco by nature is a dense, walkable city with amenities around the corner in most neighborhoods. In contrast, cities around San Francisco developed with the more suburban model of separating residential and commercial areas, making residents dependent on cars.

Emeryville is a compact, 1 square-mile sized city that has undergone a major transformation during the past few decades from an industrial wasteland to a city with thriving commercial and retail districts. Most of the housing there is either apartments or condos, as is the case with most of the homes for sale that fit ZipRealty’s criteria for affordable and walkable.

Having alternatives to driving is not just better for the environment and buyer’s pocketbooks, but has other benefits, said Josh Herst, CEO of Walk Score.

“The trend in urban areas is moving toward less dependency on cars and a greater commitment to live more sustainably,” Herst said. “People in walkable neighborhoods weigh six to 10 pounds less than those who don’t. Walk Score has also done extensive research showing that walkable places make people happier and healthier. Finally, short commutes reduce stress levels and give people more free time to be involved in their communities.”

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