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Retire in Sonoma, CA?
Old 02-10-2008, 10:23 PM   #1
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Retire in Sonoma, CA?

I grew up in upstate NY, college in OH, lived in FL for 10 years, San Fran for 3, Seattle for 8. I am thinking of Sonoma for retirement spot. Anyone there or lived near that can offer some thoughts. I wanted to be within a reasonable drive of a great city with a NFL team. Looking for decent weather. Thought the wineries would offer some fun places to work a little bit. Plus seemed like a fun town with lot's of great people.

Anyone?
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Old 02-10-2008, 10:49 PM   #2
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I grew up in upstate NY, college in OH, lived in FL for 10 years, San Fran for 3, Seattle for 8. I am thinking of Sonoma for retirement spot. Anyone there or lived near that can offer some thoughts. I wanted to be within a reasonable drive of a great city with a NFL team. Looking for decent weather. Thought the wineries would offer some fun places to work a little bit. Plus seemed like a fun town with lot's of great people.

Anyone?
I think that it would be a great place if you can get past the cost of housing. Not sure what your priorities are but Bicycling magazine had an article about Sonoma county a couple of years ago that basically proclaimed it as bicycle paradise.

Are you thinking of the Sonoma valley or the coast? The weather of course can be very different. It can get a little warmer in the valley than I like and the coast is almost always cool but the weather in both is still great compared to most of the country.

I would start looking in the northern part of the county. There are a lot of people that commute from Petaluma and Santa Rosa to the City and Marin.

SF qualifies as a great city but as I'm sure you know neither the 49ers or the Raiders currently qualify as great teams.

I'm in Santa Clara valley but I seem to recall someone on the forum from either Sonoma or Napa that may be able to give you more detailed info.

MB
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Old 02-11-2008, 12:35 AM   #3
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Not sure what your priorities are but Bicycling magazine had an article about Sonoma county a couple of years ago that basically proclaimed it as bicycle paradise.
I have biked around Sonoma County a few times. Very scenic, very nice, quiet cycling, except for
weekends after 10am, when the drunks come out. Most tasters are fine, pass safely, etc, but a few
drunks go a long way.
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Old 02-11-2008, 06:29 AM   #4
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I saw a subdivision of 5 acre lots where the homeowners were running their own mini-wineries, growing the grapes in their own back yards. That sounds like a fun retirement business, if there is one.
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Old 02-11-2008, 06:41 AM   #5
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Just be aware that California taxes will kick your fanny. If you can tolerate that, what an area to live in! It's gorgeous!
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Old 02-11-2008, 08:00 AM   #6
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Those trophy mini wineries are a PITA - do it if you like lots, and lots, of work for likely mediocre results (unless you're already a winemaker).

Sonoma is OK, but horribly expensive now that it's become a ticky tacky tourist town. If you have lots of money maybe you'll like it, lots of other rich people moved there already.
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Old 02-11-2008, 12:01 PM   #7
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Those trophy mini wineries are a PITA - do it if you like lots, and lots, of work for likely mediocre results (unless you're already a winemaker).

Sonoma is OK, but horribly expensive now that it's become a ticky tacky tourist town. If you have lots of money maybe you'll like it, lots of other rich people moved there already.
That sums it up.If you got the money its a nice place. Im moving out of CA the second we are retired
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Old 02-11-2008, 12:18 PM   #8
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Just be aware that California taxes will kick your fanny. If you can tolerate that, what an area to live in! It's gorgeous!
Also, census.gov says that the median home price in the town of Sonoma in 2006 was $618,500 and median household income was $60,821. Hopefully funding your ER is not a concern for you, because you will need some substantial funds to live there.
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Old 02-11-2008, 01:53 PM   #9
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My wife and I live in Sonoma County (in fact, we were both born and raised here). It is a beautiful place to live, and we intend to stay. Because of its proximity to the SF Bay area, it has become very expensive, however, it is also an area that has been hit hard by the housing bubble. Home prices are down about 25% from the peak in 2006, and there are bargains to be found (as if ANYTHING in California can be termed a bargain). For example, there's a house on our block that is currently listed at $400K, but was last sold in 2005-2006 for $530K. Apparently, the previous owners took out one of those variable interest-only loans that imploded on them. These same homes were going for about $300K in 2001.

Sonoma and Petaluma are relatively expensive and except for Healdsburg, the Northern part of the county tends to be the least expensive. Windsor and Cloverdale still have some moderately priced homes being built.

Weather here is great compared to a lot of the US. Winter highs range in the 40F to 60F range with 30" to 50" of rain, depending on location. Summer temperatures run in the 75F to 95F with an occasional hot spell in the 100s. We can get some rain well into spring; fall is usually spectacular, with warm days and cooler evenings than summer.

On weekends and during off-commute hours, it's about an hour drive to the Golden Gate Bridge, and just a bit longer into SF. It's less than an hour to the Sonoma coast, where there is spectacular scenery and numerous beaches. The ocean temperature here stays in the mid 50s, so it's too cold to swim in for extended periods without a wetsuit. There are also several lakes (Sonoma, Mendocino, Berryessa, etc.) in the area for boating. And, as has been noted, there are hundreds of miles of country roads for bicycling.

And of course, there are also hundreds of wineries and many great restaurants in the area. It's truly a great place to live, but definitely not inexpensive.
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Old 02-11-2008, 04:15 PM   #10
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Friends retired there after selling progressively more expensive S.F. houses; they paid more than they wanted for their retirement home in Aqua Caliente, beautiful semi-rural area. The guy said he had to revise his wardrobe when he got there (maybe 12 years ago), what was it then? short sleeved plaid shirts. They joke about "Walmart-style" jobs at the wineries for retired people, greeters, tour guides.

I went to a wedding in Sept. in downtown Sonoma, it was ungodly hot, hot, hot but was a nice evening reception at one of the wineries.

Orchid is right about the taxes, I just did a first draft and Arnie wants a big check from me. It's a cool tourist area, don't miss Jack London's home.
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Old 02-11-2008, 05:38 PM   #11
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I know that taxes can be a deal breaker, but as I write this it's 5 degrees F. outside and yesterday we had a wind chill of -25 degrees...the garage door was frozen shut and the dogs refused to go outside.

Sonoma sounds like heaven right now. Sigh.
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Old 02-11-2008, 06:09 PM   #12
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We live in Santa Rosa and today the temperatures are in the 60's with spring like conditions. The coldest part of the year doesn't last very long and by mid-February seems to be practically gone. Today did an 8mi run in Annadel State Park and saw a salamandar crossing the path (my thrill for the day).

The town of Sonoma gets a little hot on occasion in the summer. Further towards the coast you'll get a little more ocean relief. We live about a half hour from the beaches and can see the fog rolling in many days from our hill view perch. Suggest anyone interested in the area rent for awhile and check out several of the towns around the area -- Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Windsor, etc. I don't mean to brag but haven't found anywhere I'd rather move to although we like to visit a lot of places.
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Old 02-11-2008, 08:21 PM   #13
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I know that taxes can be a deal breaker, but as I write this it's 5 degrees F. outside and yesterday we had a wind chill of -25 degrees...the garage door was frozen shut and the dogs refused to go outside.

Sonoma sounds like heaven right now. Sigh.
Today where I live was around 70. However during the mid summer it can get to over 100 which isnt exactly something you want to run around in either.
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Old 02-11-2008, 09:28 PM   #14
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We've lived in Santa Rosa since 1985. Moved here because it was cheap back then. It's pricier and more crowded now, but still has a lot going for it. We've thought of cashing in our equity (we own our house and a rental, both with no mortgages) but have yet to find a place we like more. Plus our kids are only 11 and 12 and we like the roots we've set down here. We're close to the redwoods, the ocean, the wineries, San Francisco. Northern California is liberal, which suits us. Missoula Montana was the closest I've found to something that could feel like home, but I'm afraid of the snow (third generation Californian) and my hubby says no.

FYI - The city of Sonoma is small, rural, expensive and touristy, as is Healdsburg in northern Sonoma County, but the county of Sonoma has a variety of cities, each with its own flavor. Santa Rosa is in the center of Sonoma County. It is more urban but still has some small town character to it. Sebastopol to the west is the land of homes on 2 acres, with a strong scent of aging hippie/yuppie. (I have a bit of aging hippie in me, so no disrespect is meant.) Windsor and Rohnert Park are more family, suburban oriented, filled with more tract homes, and possibly more SUV's than the rest of Sonoma County. (I think Sonoma County has a high % of Toyota Prius' on its highways.) And our airport is named after Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts cartoons. We don't take ourselves too seriously!
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Old 02-12-2008, 12:45 AM   #15
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Thanks for the response. I guess I need to research the towns as touristy is not my thing. We were impressed when we went because we always went to Napa and so in comparison Sonoma was better. I like the idea SimpleMom had with the 2 acre homes as I have become accustomed to my 1 acre now. Will check out Sebastopol.

Wow, just looked at the taxes and can't believe 9.3% state tax! That is incredible. What in heavens name are you getting for that? 7.75% Sales tax added on is incredible. Am I paying that state income tax on my retirement portfolio or is it just W-2 income?
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Old 02-18-2008, 11:45 PM   #16
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I can't recommend Sonoma county enough. I've lived her all my life, and have always really enjoyed it. We're a quick drive to the coast, an hour from SF and Oakland, and you can drive to ski too. The weather is beautiful, and people are nice. The food - lots of great food.

And, for retirement jobs, my active 65 yr old father in law for example is a bicycle tour guide - they cycle from winery to winery. A 60 year old neighbor works in a winery tasting room - basically filling people's glasses up while chatting with them. Might be fun for a couple days a week.

The cost of housing is high, but not like it was two years ago. My wife's in real estate here, and it's been very interesting to see the prices come falling down in the last couple years. If you want to see what your budget will buy, drop me a message and I'll put you in touch with her.

-DJ
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Old 02-19-2008, 01:10 PM   #17
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Several years ago DH and I spent a week in Sonoma Valley (stayed in Calistoga). We went for cycling and wine tasting. We were disappointed with the lack of room for cyclists on the roads. We didn't feel safe with all the trucks on the roads. We cycled around Calistoga, Heraldsburg and some other areas I can't recall. We didn't have any bicycling tour maps - was that our mistake?
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Old 02-19-2008, 02:50 PM   #18
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Several years ago DH and I spent a week in Sonoma Valley (stayed in Calistoga). We went for cycling and wine tasting. We were disappointed with the lack of room for cyclists on the roads. We didn't feel safe with all the trucks on the roads. We cycled around Calistoga, Heraldsburg and some other areas I can't recall. We didn't have any bicycling tour maps - was that our mistake?
I have bike - wine tasted around Sonoma a few times, and I thought it was great. I was based in
Healdsburg each time. Most of the roads around there are great for cycling, and have little traffic
most of the time. I suspect the lack of bicycle maps was a problem - there are a few bad roads,
and you were probably on them. Resources like :

Maps and Rides

can make your cycling trip much better. Another mistake is riding on weekends - 10 times the
traffic, even on the back roads. I have tasted in Sonoma on weekends (in a car), and found
traffic levels unpleasant (and I bike-commuted in Los Angeles for 27 years).
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Old 02-19-2008, 08:04 PM   #19
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It's expensive, it's California, but it sure is beautiful. It might get very hot and dry for a couple of months in the summer, but it is an easy escape to the San Francisco fog. Lots of things to do, regardless of what you like to do- fine dining, sophisticated culture, outdoor activities, close to the coast, close to one of the best cities in the world and all of it's amenities. Gosh, I'm talking myself into retiring there!
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Old 02-22-2008, 11:10 AM   #20
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I know that taxes can be a deal breaker, but as I write this it's 5 degrees F. outside and yesterday we had a wind chill of -25 degrees...the garage door was frozen shut and the dogs refused to go outside.

Sonoma sounds like heaven right now. Sigh.
I agree with you. I left Minnesota a couple days ago (2/20). It was -11F. I am in the Bay Area today. The temperature is in the 50s with slight rain - not bad compared to the weather in frozen Minnesota.
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