15 Pros and Cons of Living in Brentwood, California

A photo of the 405 Freeway from the Getty Center, in Brentwood, California. It shows a large highway surrounded by rolling green hills

Brentwood is a city to the east of San Francisco/Oakland in Contra Costa County; not to be confused with the well-known community of Brentwood sitting on the westside of Los Angeles (of OJ Simpson fame).  

The land in which Brentwood is built was originally purchased by John Marsh in 1837. Marsh was an early settler to California and the area’s first college-educated doctor. He purchased the land with his $500 life savings and became the first white settler in Contra Costa County. He was scared of losing his ranch to a land dispute with Mexico, so he sent letters back to the East to encourage more Americans to come to join him in California. His writings helped spark the start of American emigration to the West and Brentwood became one of the destinations along the California Trail. With Marsh’s help, California became a US state in 1850.

For nearly 150 years, the Brentwood area was predominately agricultural. Today, the city is surrounded on three sides by 11,000 acres of protected farmland called the Contra Costa County Agricultural Core and is known for its cherries, corn, and peaches. 

Since 1990, the area inside city limits has undergone significant suburban development, with the farms inside city limits being replaced by residential homes. The population of 7,563 in 1990 has since exploded to a population of 65,902 in 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing cities in America.

Keep reading to learn what has been attracting so many people to Brentwood.

10 Pros of Living in Brentwood, California

Pro #1: Beautiful Lands

Reading online reviews from residents, nearly every review on Brentwood mentions the word “beautiful”. Residents are especially proud of their city’s parks. According to their Parks Department, “Brentwood has 252.67 developed acres of parkland, nearly 100 award-winning parks and facilities, 19.2 miles of beautiful trails, and 63 miles of bike lanes.“  And that’s just what is inside of city limits.

Outside of city limits, you will find the gorgeous foothills of Mount Diablo to the west, protected farmlands on the east, and the California Delta waterways to the north.  

The three golf courses scattered around the city also add a touch of green to the sprawling suburban landscape. 

Pro #2: Beautiful Weather

The City of Brentwood enjoys 260 sunny days of the year, with rain occurring on 57 days. The annual rainfall in the city is just 15 inches per year, compared to the US average of 38 inches. 

Summers can get hot, averaging 90 degrees on 57 days of the year. Residents get some relief from the heat via the Delta breeze, which blows cooler, humid air from the Pacific and up the Delta waters.

Fall and spring are a perfect 70-80 degree average, and winter can drop to an average high between 50-60 degrees. The city does not experience any freezing temps, with the winter months dropping down to a minimum of 40 degrees.

Pro #3: Close to Major Destinations

The City of Brentwood is in a perfect location for residents to access several major destinations within a 3-hour car drive. 

  • 1 hour from San Francisco
  • 1 hour from Sacramento
  • 3 hours from Reno, NV
  • 3 hours from Lake Tahoe
  • 3 hours from Yosemite

Residents of Brentwood have the ability to travel every weekend to a different world-famous city or attraction. 

Pro #4: Close to Water

Folks move to California for the beaches and Brentwood won’t disappoint. There are at least 10 beaches within a 30-45 minute drive. 

If you prefer freshwater adventures, the California Delta system is just 30 minutes away, specifically the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, and the many associated smaller rivers, bays, and lakes of the area. Popular activities include:

  • World-class windsurfing and kiteboarding thanks to the Delta Breeze
  • Fishing for salmon, steelhead, striped bass, and sturgeon
  • Boating (large and small)
  • Kayaking 

Nearby onshore activities are also abundant with plenty of hiking trails and camping spots. Nature watching and photography are popular hobbies as the Delta area is home to over a dozen endangered species. 

Pro #5: Close to Farms

Since the early pioneer days 150 years ago, the Brentwood area has been known for its productive farmlands, growing cherries, peaches, and corn. While most of the farmland inside city limits has been developed, the city is still surrounded on three sides by 11,000 acres of protected farmland called the Contra Costa County Agricultural Core. 

With such close proximity to farms, Brentwood residents get to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables all year round. The Brentwood Farmers Market runs every Saturday morning and hosts local farmers selling every type of farm product imaginable. 

If you want your farm products even fresher, there are over 50 U-Pick Farms in the area where you can harvest your own fruits and vegetables. Many of the local farms are certified organic.

Wine aficionados will enjoy the seven local wineries and the world-famous Napa Valley is just 1.5 hours away. 

Pro #6: Close to Well Paying Jobs in San Francisco

An aerial panoramic photo of Residential Buildings and Construction Sites around Brentwood Mall

Many Brentwood residents make the daily commute into San Francisco, where well-paying jobs for the tech industry are plentiful. The average salary in San Francisco is $101K.

As a result of the impressive pay in the big city, Brentwood enjoys a median family income of $112K, which is $42K higher than the national average. 

Top employers inside the city are the school district, the city government, and major retailers. 

Pro #7: Clean Air to Breathe

Most areas of America take clean air for granted, but the cities of California are unfortunately famous for having some of the worst air quality in the nation, with California cities making up the majority of the Top 10 list of most polluted air. The San Francisco Bay area is not spared, ranking an average 7th on the list, with an Air Quality Index a dismal 37 out of 100

Nestled between mountains and surrounded by farmland, Brentwood enjoys much easier breathing. Its Air Quality Index is 66 out of 100, almost double that of San Francisco and better than the US average of 58.

Pro #8: Strong 50+ Community

Brentwood is a great place to retire, offering four age-restricted communities, and over 20 retirement homes. About half of Brentwood’s adult population is over 50 years old.

The City also runs a 3,000 sq foot Senior Activity Center where seniors can enjoy recreational activities, socialize, participate in education, and receive human services such as reduced-price meal catering.  

For seniors that need help getting around town, there is a senior transportation service available.

Pro #9: Public Schools are Decent

The city operates eleven elementary schools, six middle schools, and six high schools. It is also home to a satellite campus of Los Medanos College.

California was once the gold standard of American education. However, after the passing of Proposition 13 via referendum in 1978, property taxes were slashed and spending per pupil plummeted. CA public schools are now ranked 36th in the country for educational quality and dead last for school safety 

Despite the state problems, Brentwood schools are rated in the top 20% of the country, making them a decent choice for parents. If the State of CA can return its school system to its past glory, Brentwood schools should rise towards the top in the nation.

Pro #10: Diversity

A photo of several hands with different skin colors, representing the diversity of Brentwood California

Brentwood ranks in the Top 10% of the nation in diversity. This metric is primarily based on racial diversity, but also factors in age and income diversity. The demographics of the City are 60% White, 30% Latino, and 10% Other. Latinos looking to move to Brentwood will find a strong community with plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, and shops catered to their demographic.

Brentwood politics is also diverse with 40% being Democrat, 28% Republican, and 27% Independent

Related: What State is More Tax-Friendly: Nevada or California?

5 Cons of Living in Brentwood, California

There are two sides to every coin and, in California, the bad side of the coin usually has something to do with the cost of living and mother nature. Continue reading below to learn what may make you think twice about packing up and moving to Brentwood. 

Con #1: Cost of Housing

The above advantages to Brentwood are very impressive; the City is actually a great place to live. But being so great means everyone wants to live there, which is why the population has exploded in the last few decades. And an exploding population means a very high demand for housing, which then translates to skyrocketing housing prices. 

The average house in Brentwood sells for $810K, which is more than double the national average of $375K. Rent in Brentwood is $2,156 per month, which is also double the national average of $1,062. 

Brentwood is a great place to live… if you can afford the housing prices.

Con #2: Long Commutes

A photo of grid locked traffic on a highway in Brentwood California. It shows several lanes of backed up traffic

With an average home price of $810K, Brentwood residents have a hefty mortgage payment to make. So many residents commute to good tech jobs in San Francisco, where the average salary is $101K

But living around beautiful farmland while working in a major city means a lot of time spent on the road commuting to and from work. The average commute time for a Brentwood resident is 45 minutes each way, which is more than double the commute for the average American. 

Those commute times can grow, depending on traffic, and San Francisco has plenty of traffic. In fact, the Bay Area ranks as the 4th worst traffic in the country. 

Con #3: California is in a Drought

In the list of Pros for Brentwood, we advertised the city as being perfect for folks who love sunny weather because Brentwood enjoys 260 sunny days of the year, with rain occurring on just 57 days. The annual rainfall in the city is just 15 inches per year, compared to the US average of 38 inches. The city is in the rain shadow of Mt. Diablo and gets even less rain than its neighboring cities.

Those rain statistics are perfect for your suntan, but not for your front lawn. Even more worrisome is the impact of minimum rain (and melting snowcaps) on the area’s public water supply.

California, including the Brentwood area, has experienced five straight years of drought; the worst in 500 years. If the state is indeed in a “megadrought” then these conditions could last decades more.

California Governor Newsom recently called for change, “The hots are getting a lot hotter in this state, the dries are getting a lot drier. We have to recognize that we’re living in a world that we weren’t designed to love. We have a conveyance system, a water system, that was designed for a world that no longer exists.”

Folks looking to move to California should understand the area may face some difficult years ahead when it comes to the water supply.

Con #4: California is on Fire

Increasing heat and decreasing rain is a perfect recipe for wildfires. Being surrounded by natural woodlands is wonderful ….until it catches fire. In 2020, California set unfortunate records for the most acres burned. The Bay area is not immune to the risk of fire and fires have been occurring in the area more frequently. Scientists think the risk of fire will only get worse in California as the drought and record heat continue into the future, perhaps even made worse due to climate change.

Con #5: California is Waiting for “The Big One”

According to Earthquake Track, Brentwood is experiencing one microearthquake every day (micro means too small for a human to feel). There are over 15K fault lines in California and more than 500 of them are believed to be active. According to the USGS, the San Francisco area has seven significant faults, with the largest being the well-known San Andreas Fault. The USGS warns that, in the next 30 years, the San Francisco area has a 98% chance of getting hit with a 6.0+ quake.

Related: Pros and Cons of Living in Temecula, California