I live in San Francisco and commute to the South Bay (Silicon Valley) daily. Many years ago, I lived in the South Bay.
The South Bay is largely suburban. Even San Jose, the largest city, is spread out and full of two-story buildings surrounded by parking lots. Gay life is concentrated in San Francisco -- which is a good hour's drive away, or longer on public transit. Many people live in San Francisco and make the commute.
The job market is absolutely beserk these days, and has been for several years -- as long as you're in high-tech. For everyone else, unemployment is still high.
When I lived in South Bay, I mountain biked with a buddy nearly every weekend, and commuted the few miles between home and office on the bike. (Populated areas tend to be flat; the hills surrounding the valley are pretty and preserved as parkland or less-developed public "Open Space.")
Housing is insanely expensive compared to practically anywhere except other parts of the Bay Area. Even then, the nicer areas are some of the most exclusive housing in the nation, with prices to match.