If you aren't scared of a little commute, I recommend Turlock, CA. It's like a small midwest town in the valley of California. They have a University there that's really nice. I stayed there for awhile and all the people I met out at restaurants and stuff were very nice (including some city officials!). There is shady areas to every city - that goes without saying. But it's away from Modesto maybe like 20ish miles? And the housing there looks nice. It's a very nice smaller town and you can't beat the fruit stands! :) If you don't mind a little commute, I'd check out Turlock. But it's completely up to you! Just throwing out my ideas if you're kind of turned off to Modesto.