|Berkeley Parents Network|
|Home||Members||Post a Msg||Reviews||Advice||Subscribe||Help/FAQ||What's New|
||Also See Reviews of Specific Cities:|
Compare/contrast living in Piedmont vs. living in Lafayette. We are considering a move with 3 small children (husband working in downtown SF) and need the space and good schools that both of these places offer. However, we are real 'city' people. I think Lafayette/Orinda will be too suburban for us, and I'm afraid Piedmont may be the same? Piedmont is closer to SF/Oakland/Berkeley so that is attractive to us. Jennifer
Lafayette has some good walkable areas, more so than Orinda, plus a pretty robust downtown, with good markets, restaurants, walking/biking trails, and a very nice brand new library. The schools are fantastic. It also has a BART station. Lots and lots of ex-urbanites out this way, so you'll meet lots of folks like yourself.
But if a true urban atmosphere is important to you, then perhaps Baja Piedmont would be a better choice for you, which is the area of Piedmont closer to Grand Avenue. I think that area can be noisy, though, and the houses are pretty close together.
I guess it all depends on your budget and how much house and yard you feel you need with 3 kids. If you want space, then you'll find more of it out this way at a better price than Piedmont.
Long story short: husband is sick of living in 1,000sf house with two kids and wants to move out of Alameda - more space inside and out. Oldest kid is in 1st grade at our public school and we love it. Love his teacher, K teacher, other families, kids, etc. There are downsides but mostly its good. We have lived here for 10+ years, and know many people both thru school and otherwise. I too would love more space (both in and outside) but I am worried about leaving something that is good and known. I know that I can request a good teacher next year, and find out which ones to avoid. I am sure there are a mix of teachers at the Lafayette schools - and I would have no idea. 6 yr old is also very, very sensative. I also know the schools are often 'full' and that many kids are divereted - two kids in two different schools is pretty unattractive - plus the driving if that happens or staring in one school and moving to another (very unattractive). We love walking to school now. The big downside to Alameda is that the parcel tax that is keeping our schools together is a 6 year one - and it was very tough to get it passed (failed first time). And I know that when our kids get older I want them to have their own rooms (maybe in 4 to 5 yrs - boy and girl). Our options include staying put, moving within Alameda but staying with our same school or moving thru the tunnel. remodeling not a great option because of cost and not loving the exact location of our house. Kids 6 and 3. Advice? did you move? glad you did? wish you had not? some other place? is there a good age to move? oh, and financially its not going to be an easy move for us - we have equity, but money will be tight. do-able, but definately tighter. I am cramped but somehow I put up with it better than he does. I am looking for any and all words of wisdom on this!! and advice on other places to consider too... wish I had a crystal ball
As far as the move, we *love* it here. We have a bigger house, giant front/back yard, kids can run/play in the yard after school and on weekends w/o direct supervision. Before we lived on a street that had a nice sidewalk for running and biking but no way for the kids to play on their own. Very friendly families and many families with young kids. And it is sunny and warm when it is cool and foggy in Alameda. Happy with our move
But, if you do decide to move to Lamorinda, your kids will adjust very easily. Lots of kids move through the tunnel all the time. My kids were 6 and 10 when we moved, and they made friends the first day of school...and one of my kids is ridiculously shy. So, the kids will be fine. I'm not totally up on what real estate costs in Alameda, but it might be pricey to move up from what you have in Alameda, and the local/parcel taxes really add up. Our three towns are always having some kind of school-funding parcel tax pop up on the ballots. (I'm not complaining, but you mentioned the issue in your post.)
Lafayette sounds like a good community for you, in that it isn't as remote as Moraga and has lots of walkable areas.
You might want to sit down and write up pro & con lists for staying vs. moving. Then take a few Sundays and cruise some open houses. Stay and have dinner or come early and have lunch in the area. Check out the awesome farmers' markets (Moraga's is big. it is on Sunday; Orinda's is on Saturday; Lafayette has a Thursday evening one, but it might be seasonal.) Take your kids to the local parks before open houses. You know, just get a feel for the area. The good thing is, you probably won't make a wrong decision, but that is what makes it difficult.
We've just moved to Moraga with our baby and are hoping to find some other progressive kid-toting folks. Are there other gay parents out here? We're wondering... Suggestions to meet people would be great. Moraga Mom
Our oldest in high school feels quite safe - no complaints of teasing/slurs but then he's grown up with most of the kids and it's no big deal. I hope middle school will show the same respect for our youngest! You won't regret moving here - but you may regret not moving here!!
Hello! Could someone please help guide my husband and me? We are planning for a move to the Lamorinda area, and I much prefer Lafayette because, being new to California, it feels like Lafeyette has a stronger sense of community because of the vibrant downtown. I am eager to feel a part of things and meet other families and friends. When I drive through Moraga and Orinda, it feels like it might be harder to feel a sense of belonging because they seem more isolated, sleepy bedroom communities. Possibly this might make it harder to meet people and feel like you a part of a larger community. Could someone speak to this? Thank you so much in advance. Carrie
Moraga and Orinda are lovely communities, too. We avoided Moraga because it's a schlep to get out there, but that makes it a special place too because it's off the beaten path. We looked mostly in Orinda & Lafayette and ended up finding a house we loved in Lafayette. I don't think you would go wrong with any of the towns, and I'm sure you'd be satisfied with the sense of community in any of them. It's amazing how having kids connects you to the community in a multitude of ways. Christina
We moved to Moraga two years ago and while I love our neighbors, and the schools are off-the-charts great, I miss having a city center like Lafayette where there's always something going on, for kids and adults. And the new library is fabulous. Diane Diane
As far as Lafayette goes, it is a bigger town, but you're right in that it has more going on. My kids are involved in the drama programs at Town Hall Theater and we go to the new (and gorgeous) library in Lafayette more than we go to our own. Not sure how that all translates into 'community,' though.
As far the towns go, I think Lafayette is more 'happening' because it is larger and has more commerce, but the downside is more crime (obviously relatively speaking...not a ton, but more than in Moraga and Orinda if the police blotters are to be believed); Orinda is very quiet, has hillier terrain, and is a bit wealthier overall (has a reputation for snootiness, although I know a few down-to-earth folks there); Moraga is probably the most traditionally suburban of the three towns, further from BART and freeways, less commerce, but the upside is that it is quiet, pretty, and safe. Great schools in all three cities.
Since I can only speak for Moraga (but I think this is the case for all three towns), I would say that there is actually a tremendous sense of community here. Moraga is a very small town, so you end up seeing the same people everywhere you go which adds to that sense of community. Where I live, you can walk to the elementary and middle schools, so there are kids everywhere. The neighbors and everyone we've met is beyond nice and generous (it's actually been an adjustment for me!). Everyone is here for the same reason: the schools so that adds to the sense of community and purpose.
The first thing I did is get involved in playgroups with Lamorinda moms club which is a great way to meet people. All the moms are from the three towns and some from Walnut Creek, so there doesn't feel like a divide between the three communities in that you would be isolated in one or the other. It's actually my feeling that people are frequently going between all three towns, especially if you have small kids, because you are going to all the different parks (Moraga Commons, etc.). That may change as the kids get older and go to the local schools. Good Luck! Anon
I am in Lafayette several times a week, getting groceries at Diablo Foods & for misc. other errands. I bump into preschool parents regularly and I've gotten to know shop keepers. I feel very much a part of the community in Lafayette and Orinda.
I live in the hills above the Orinda Country Club (moved here 5 years ago). With small children I went to the park a lot and got to know neighbors on our walks. I've found my neighbors (though sometimes hard to spot because of the hilly nature of the neighborhood) are friendly and open. I've had four tell me independently that we should feel free to stop by any time to use their yard (play structures, waterfalls) even if they're not home.
My kids go to TOPS (The Orinda Preschool) and because it's a coop I very quickly got to know other parents and felt a part of the community. We also joined a local swim club and we bump into neighbors and preschool families there all the time.
I'd consider what you want from a house long term - hills with a view - or flat with access to walkable shopping? No matter where you live, if you're open and friendly, you will quickly feel welcome and a part of things. This area is a lovely place to live and I feel so lucky to live here. Happy in Orinda
Hi, My husband and I rented in Moraga (without kids) about 5 years ago and loved it. We moved to the coast mainly due to him finding a job in the city and wanting to own a home. Now that our kids are school age and we are not very happy with the schools here (much have changed since I looked into the schools before we moved here), we are considering moving back. We are also having a very difficult time with the weather. Has anyone made the transition with kids (coast to lamorinda) and can describe their experience e.g. in terms of commuting to the City from the Lamorinda area or have any advice? Thank you very much for your time! Unsure Mom
I can say the Schools are awesome and BART makes commuting to the city very easy. The weather between Lafayette and Orinda can be quite different than the coast, it can get quite hot here in the summers. anon
Hi, My husband and I have always lived on the west side of the Caldecott Tunnel. We have always enjoyed the great restaurants, shopping, and a sense of community, whether this is taking a stroll on College Ave or checking out the Gourmet Ghetto in North Berkeley. Now that we have a baby, we started thinking about schools and yard--hence moving to the lamorinda area. Since both of us work on the west side of the tunnel, Orinda would be our best choice. There are quite a few neighborhoods in Orinda--Ivy Drive, Del Rey, Orindawoods, OCC, Glorietta, etc. I am familiar with the general population demographics of Orinda. Our goal is to try to raise our child to be as down to earth and self sufficient as possible. I would really appreciate any advice you could give about the neighborhoods, of course, recognizing these are generalizations. Also, we are Asian Americans--how diverse are the schools (k-12)? Thanks so much! potential lamorinda resident
My husband and I are thinking of moving to Orinda or Lafayette for the schools but we're worried we won't fit in. We live in Berkeley now and fit in fine -- we wear jeans and T-shirts, have solar panels, shop at farmers markets, grow some of our own food, etc. From visiting Orinda and Lafayette it seems like people are more country-clubby. Is this true? Would we fit in? Are there areas in one town or the other where we would meet other people like us? Where? Need a new home
As a result, the communities are changing very, very quickly. A huge majority of the Education bonds and measures pass. There are now Mandarin classes and Korean churches available. It isn't Berkeley but for every stage in life there are different priorities and when you have toddlers and elementary school age children, the services and programs available here are unmatched in Berkeley. And, being the bleeding edge of the charge over the hill has really paid off financially as all the money we would have spent on private school tuitions went straight to the mortgage.
As someone who lived in Berkeley for 9 years, before children, I can understand the historical concern over ''suburban'' and ''conservative'' values but as I get older and my life becomes more kid centered, the ''conservative'' nature of Lamorinda is becoming negligible as the Berkeley/Piedmont crowd filters in. contented mom
Editor Note: responses were also received about Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda
Hi, My family (DH, 4 year old son and twin 1 year old girls)is considering moving to Lafayette or Orinda in the near future. So far we like Burton Valley in Lafayette and the Ivy Dr and also Glorietta areas of Orinda. We'd love to be walking/biking distance to elementary school AND a market/coffee shop/something like that. I know the trail runs from Burton Valley to downtown Lafayette but how is that for a morning ride with a 4 year old? What about riding a bike from Glorietta elementary school to the little downtown area of Orinda? And is Ivy Dr. just too far from downtown Orinda? What about Ivy Dr. area to Moraga's little shopping center? It seems to be pretty hilly most places. What neighborhood(s) are relatively flat and have a flat bike ride to a shopping area (hopefully something a 4 year old can ride without taking an hour!)? And, what about riding a bike to the trail head at the Lafayette Res. Can you easily do that from Glorietta? I'm hoping to avoid huge hills! You can only gather so much from driving around on Sunday open houses! I'd love to hear from people who live there! hoping to move to Lamorinda
I would generally say that Moraga Way is bad for biking with kids. Tons of bikers use it, and some people ride there with kids, but it gets really busy. It's better now that it is repaved, but it still wouldn't be my choice route. I don't think you can get from Glorietta to ''downtown'' without going down Moraga Way or going over pretty good, pretty windy hills. Ivy Drive to Moraga Shopping Center works--you can vary the route above to make it work depending on which end of Ivy you use.
Schools are great, and all the open space is wonderful. Biking with kids, though, is not the easiest. good luck. Bruce
The only through street to downtown Orinda (or, to the south, to Moraga) from the Glorietta and Ivy Drive areas is Moraga Way, and, as you know if you've been coming to open houses, although it has a bike lane, it's also a 45 mph speedway. Whenever I've had to walk even short distances along it, I've felt VERY unsafe. I do see kids in bike trailers sometimes, but not often. Kids always go to the park to ride their own bikes.
Plus it would take you 45 minutes of breathing exhaust fumes to walk to downtown Orinda, where you would find coffee shops, and maybe slightly less time to walk to Moraga, where you won't find much but the Starbucks inside the Safeway. In Orinda the commercial areas are segregated entirely around the freeway, and although there is also housing in those areas, there aren't any schools.
I don't think you could possibly bike with children from Glorieta to the trailhead of the Reservoir -- the hills are incredible and the traffic is speedy. There might be a ''back door'' to the park somewhere in that neighborhood, though you'd probably have to cross private property.
The so-called ''trail'' neighborhoods in Lafayette may be your best bet -- it's flat, there are a variety of commercial areas, and the trails are going to be a lot safer than trying to ride on the streets. Maybe your real estate agent can help? Ours was awesome, and she really understood all the different Lamorinda neighborhoods: Patti Camras at Coldwell Banker in Orinda, (925)253-4609.
Good luck! I hope you find what you're looking for. Nicole R.
We live in Moraga. Our house is in the neighborhood that runs between Camino Pablo Elementary and Joaquin Moraga Intermediate. It is a pretty flat neighborhood and very walkable. My kids will be walking to school through 8th grade. (And we're very close to a bus stop, so they'll take that to high school.) The streets are busy with people walking for exercise too. Safeway, Longs, the pilates studio and the Farmer's Market are walkable, but we usually bike there. We are very close to the Lafayette-Moraga trail for longer walks and biking, plus we are surrounded by hills, all of which have walking/hiking trails.
You do need a car to get in and out of Moraga, because unfortunately, all our needs aren't met in town, but I do go car-less a few days a week, which isn't bad for the burbs.
I also like the area in Lafayette that is close to Mt. Diablo, off Moraga Road. In this area, you can walk to Lafayette Elementary and Stanley Middle School, plus the library, Town Hall Theater, and all manner of shopping and dining (Peet's, Noah's, Ferrari's, and soon-to-open Whole Foods.) It is much busier than Moraga, but it is a great area. The trail area, as others mentioned, is good too.
Orinda, on the whole, isn't as walkable, unless you get something very close in to Theater Square or Orinda Village, but honestly, there isn't much in the way of housing very close to these areas.
We are contemplating leaving SF to move to the Lamorinda area. As a young family, the urban grind is getting too difficult - and we'd like a more ''community'' and ''neighborly'' environment for our kids, as well as good public education. We completely realize that there are trade-offs - we will miss many aspects of SF - the culture, diversity, politics - the parks and ease to walk everywhere. Our agent has introduced us to Ivy Drive (Orinda), Del Ray(Orinda), Glorietta (Orinda) Burton Valley (Lafayette), Hidden Valley (Lafayette) and The Trails (Lafayette) neighorhoods which all seem very nice and closer to our price range (hopefully).
- We understand that Lafayette is more diverse. Any of these neighborhoods more ''diverse'' - ethnically and politically (we are pretty liberal - hope we're not the only hybrid driving family!).
- Is one more ''family-friendly'' than another? - we're looking forward to actually making new friends with our neighbors and being able to talk to them and possibly share a meal (which is not that easy in SF based on years here).
- Commuting to SF for work is a concern. We like to use public trans, so we like that BART is accessible. One neighborhood easier to commute from to SF?
Thank you anon
Lafayette is more liberal, in my opinion because the property values are less and Orinda is the least liberal. I live in Orinda, moved here from Berkeley and absolutely hate in. Almost all the woman drive enormous car like a Lincoln Navigator for one kid, dye their hair blond, appearance is everything out here. Forget Orinda when if comes to being diverse same with Moraga. The other thing that is disturbing to me is how many parents drug their kids. I only found this out by volunteering at my daughter’s elementary school. Just found one in four parents have a prescription to clam their kid in class or for use on trips to Tahoe.
We’ve had a hard time keeping friends and it’s been very hard on our kids. It seems like families move in, stay for a few years, and move on. (Job transfers, they can’t afford the area, divorce. etc.) My third grader just learned the best friend she made a few months ago is moving to Oregon – job transfer. She lost tow last year, job transfer to Denver and a divorce.
I also don’t feel as safe in this area. At our daughter’s elementary school I just learned there have been 5 home robberies, (the homes were ransacked); one car jacking while the kids in the car, a couple of attempted kidnappings and a few murders. I’m also amazed at how many times the banks here have had attempted robberies. About a year ago, the WellsFargo branch installed cameras everywhere. For a three teller bank, I counted 18 cameras.) I’m sure there are more.) It just feels so creepy to see your face on all the monitors.
Our here you let you guard down. In Oakland/Berkeley I know this kind of stuff is going to happen so I take precautions. Since Orinda, Lafayette and Moraga are all easily accessible by BART, the bad guys take BART out here to score big.
The areas you are looking at are considered the slums, but I like them. But then I also drive a small car which is fuel efficient, ride a bike or walk to the store to go shopping, volunteer my time at schools in Richmond and for non-profits, and I refuse to dye my hair blond they think I’m mentally ill – I’ve heard a group of mom’s at school events actually say that. But once they find out who our friends are, and that one two of my kids are very good friends with the people who live in the $8.5 million dollar house, and that we vacation in Europe for a month or two, own a bit of property, all of a sudden want to be our best friends.
I hope I have not scared you off, but when I moved here from the other side of the hill I thought it would be wonderful, I was wrong. What I would suggest is that you visit the schools in the morning or afternoon and look at the parents who are picking up their kids, Look at their cars, the way they look, how they dress, how they act, the way they treat their kids to see if that could be you.
You asked about BART to the city. In the past couple of years it has become a nightmare. Orinda all the spaces are gone before 8:00, Lafayette they are gone by 8:15-8:30. It used to be I could find a space at 9:00, not any more.
Hope this helps aids in your decesion. Anon
First off, Lamorinda and family friendly are one in the same. You can't go wrong finding family-friendly neighborhoods. Second, you mention missing parks, etc. I am amazed at the plethora of parks, trials, hiking, bike paths and of course, Mt. Diablo.
Liberal is another thing entirely. There are liberal folks and there are hybrid drivers; however, liberal is something you stumble upon, as it does not grow on trees. It take some getting use to. However, since everything is so family oriented, you become...family oriented. You will find yourself with an abundance of things to do...soccer, t-ball, softball, basketball, swimming...the sports can be a year-around affair if you want/let them. There is Scouts - both boys and girls.
There is MUCH to do and many wonderful people to meet while doing it. They will NOT all be like you...but somehow you get past that as it becomes about your kids and not about you. You teach kids what you believe and hope for the best. So far, it has worked for this very liberal family just fine.
The other thing that is hard to get use to is that so many moms do not work. Therefore, what I now consider liberal is a working mother. Especially, a fulltime working mother. We seem to find each other and help each get our kids to all of the many events mentioned above that happen during working hours. My kids do EVERYTHING and I average a 60 hour work week with a San Francisco commute.
We do not regret the move. The schools and opportunities for kids are amazing and that's why we moved here. Good luck Anon
Here in the Donna Maria Way area we have an annual block party where we meet everyone, and so nearly every time we walk the dog or stroll down the street to the school playground we get greetings from friendly neighbors. We've been to dinner and children's birthday parties with our neighbors; when our son was born, three neighbors stopped by with gifts. As far as ethnic diversity, our neighborhood has families of Latino, Asian, and Indian descent, but sadly it isn't as diverse as the Bay Area's more urban areas. (You can look at the school's Web site to see the ethnic breakdown for students.) However, we do have families with kids of all ages, from infant to teen, as well as many retired people, so there's age diversity.
Politially Orinda is the most liberal of all the ''over-the-hill'' communities of Contra Costa County, consistently voting Democrat -- you can look up voting maps online to see! On our street sometimes you'll pass five hybrid cars parked (if you count ours), and there's only one Hummer and one Escalade. Another point people forget is that Orinda is much closer to the East Bay than to Walnut Creek. When traffic is agreeable, we can drive to Rockridge in ten minutes, which is also only one BART stop away.
Good luck in your search for a home! Nicole R.
Also, this particular area of Saranap uses Lafayette schools
(Burton Valley for elementary). Basically, it is a better deal
than buying a Lafayette home, if that is the school district that
you want. On the other hand, we moved here to go to a private
school (The Meher School/White Pony). Which is a wonderful
private school/preschool run by Sufis. The school attracts a
diverse population (although nothing like S.F. or Berkeley), and
many of the staff/teachers live in the neighborhood, which helps
give a more 'Berkeley' feel to things. One more advantage to this
area is that it is 'secluded' but five minutes from downtown WC,
five minutes to both freeways, close to two BART stations, and
close to downtown Lafayette. A disadvantage is that the public
school is a good 15 to 20 minutes away. Although they do provide
bus service your kids won't be walking to school (at least for
elementary). Also, driving through the tunnel (which I do a
couple of days a week)can be a slow - friends that take BART to
S.F. say that the commute is fine.
You will find that the downtown school has more cultural/economic diversity. The Happy Valley area is known to be wealthier, Burton Valley the largest school, and Springhill small but further from the mail drag in town! We have found that the area has changed tremendously even since we moved here with many, many people from Oakland, Berkeley, SF, choosing Lafayette for their new homes, hence the political/cultural thinking is much more liberal/progressive. Families here live a very outdoorsy life with kids involved in many sports throughout the year. There is a local community center offering numerous classes both for adults and kids. Many coffee shops, restaurants, a couple of grocery stores including a Trader Joes, auto repair, department, drug stores and yes even thrift stores that we all love either shopping or donating to! A bit of everything. There are buses taking in the main roads to the Bart Station and if I've had to use the bart have not had a problem parking even at 11 in the morning. Good luck with your search and feel free to email me if you want more info. runnerz
The neighborhood is, in its own way, a walking/biking neighborhood. Almost all of our kids' friends are in the neighborhood so they walk, bike or scooter to their playdates, sports practices, etc. We have two swim/tennis clubs right here so kids find each other at the pool all summer. I can't tell you the last time I got in the car to go to a party - we just walk! Politics are no worry. All of our friends are left-leaning ex- SF residents - you'll find plenty of kindred spirits.
I have all kinds of friends in Burton Valley, more than I can
handle. And I've noticed that the ones who aren't happy here
brought their unhappiness with them. Eventually, they blame the
neighborhood for their unhappiness. Just something to think about.
Finally, about diversity. We have gay parents, people of color,
and the other usual markers of ''diversity''. But we don't have
much economic diversity. Everyone is here for one reason:
excellent public schools. And they've all paid to live here.
There's not much diversity in that.
When I look back on what I've written here, I'm not sure much of
it is unique to Burton Valley. I do think many of these thoughts
apply to Glorietta, Del Rey, etc. By the way, don't choose a
neighborhood based on proximity to BART. You'll get over the small
differences in proximity in just a few short months
- Burton Valley Neighbor
Having said that, I have found that most of the people on our block are just like us: transplants from Oakland, Berkeley, and SF, looking for a family-friendly, safe place to raise a family. I know families that drive beater cars, go on peace marches, and have anti-Bush and anti-war bumperstickers. Also, I have never met so many families that do volunteer work with the poor and homeless. Way more than I ever knew in Oakland.
Here's the rundown on Lamorinda (specifically Moraga) from my point of view.
Plusses: Safe, lots of kids to play with your kids, decent family-sized houses with family sized yards, great access to outdoor activities, amazing schools, lots of opportunities for extra-curricular activities (sports, art, dance, etc.)
Minuses: Pretty white (but not exclusively), more wealth and displays of wealth, not as much shopping/dining within walking distance, further out from cultural activities in SF, Berkeley,etc
Don't Get Scared Off
We are thinking about making the move to Orinda/Lafyette and I am looking for
comments from those of you who have made the move or are a young family already
living in the area We live in Oakland now and I LOVE our house, neighborhood and
friends here. We are making the move for better public schools, more property
(especially a yard)and warmer weather. What neighborhoods do young families tend to
be moving into? Have you been able to connect with other young, hip families? My
impression is that the community seems to be empty nesters and more conservative
folks. I would love to hear why you love living in Orinda or Lafyette and what draws
it has for a young family looking for other similar families to connect with.
Convince me to leave Oakland
Left the City and am over it
1) Lafayette and Orinda are not as conservative as people ''through the tunnel'' think. I've spent a tremendous amount of time in Berkeley, have many friends there, and have been disappointed at the lack of real political *argument* there. Everyone I know and meet in Berkeley is quite liberal so, of course, George Bush is evil, gay marriage is an absolute right, there's only one answer for the immigrant issue...Please know that I agree with my Berkeley friends on all these points. But in Lafayette, we argue. I have friends who actually voted for George W. (can you imagine?) and we listen to each other. If you don't want to listen, learn and argue about important issues, don't move here.
2) Beyond politics, we shop at Berkeley Bowl, have organic gardens, have solar panels on our homes, take our own bags to the grocery store, are outside enjoying nature as much as possible, volunteer in Oakland, march against the war in Iraq, support our gay friends in their ongoing search for equality...
3) The schools are, indeed, excellent. My favorites are Sleepy Hollow (Orinda), Glorietta (Orinda), Burton Valley (Laf), Springhill (Laf) and Happy Valley (Laf). Sleepy Hollow and Happy Valley have the highest concentration of high household incomes and feel more conservative- I think they are closer to what you fear in your move. Burton Valley is the biggest and most diverse (700 students). Burton Valley has children of gay parents, kids of color, all different kinds of families. We live in the Burton Valley neighborhood and our kids have gone there for six years. I could go on and on about the school but I'll just say that, on every measure, it's been a great experience.
4) It sounds like what you're looking for is a liberal, friendly, kid-crazy neighborhood. Then, move to Burton Valley. Kids play through the neighborhood, ride their bikes to and fro, enjoy the humongous schoolyard, explore in the creek, and walk the trails in the bordering open spaces. Of course we have empty nesters who we actually *value* and enjoy. They are our children's ''surrogate grandparents'' as their real ones live far away.
5) Whichever neighborhood you choose, look for flat! It's been my experience that the kids who live in the hills are socially isolated. Burton Valley, Glorietta, Sleepy Hollow, Del Rey are flat neighborhoods where you see your neighbors every day, kids can more naturally find each other to play, it's a very social experience.
6)Everyone lives in a ranch-style home. That took me a while to get used to! I grew up in the Midwest and always imagined a wrap- around porch, two-story home. But after years of living here, I've come to enjoy the blurred line between inside and outside that these ranchers allow. Because of our great weather, the doors and windows are usually thrown open, our gardens are steps away. I'm writing this at the kitchen table about 3 feet from my kitchen garden.
Good luck with your decision Living in Lafayette
While many people here are a bit older, we've noticed that lots of families are moving in as home turn over. Our new neighbors just moved here from Orinda and Palo Alto and we're noticing a lot of kids under 5 in our vicinty now. We don't miss our old neighborhood at all now that we are here.
The only negative about Alamo is the high ticket price ($1.4
median home price) which is higher than Lamarinda area but it
is well worth it if you can find a house you'd be happy with.
Most of the homes are on .5 acre lot so there is a lot of
spacing between the homes here
Highly Recommend Alamo
--Incredible public schools --Having a yard --Warm weather plus: --MANY family/kid centered activities --Safety; low crime rate --Decent commute distance from the city and other business/cultural centers --That small town feel where a kid can be a kidThere is quite a baby boom in the area and you will find loads of kids in every neighborhood of each town. My street has kids under 6 in every other house! Of course, the extremely expensive areas have fewer young kids, but they are still there in numbers.
Speaking of empty-nesters, you’ll find many have “cashed out” and sold their homes to young families and retired elsewhere. (I know my parents and all their friends have!). Although I must say it’s nice to have a generational mix in any neighborhood.
We made the move from Oakland to Lamorinda (LAfayette, MORaga, OrINDA) 2 years ago. We’ve connected with other families by getting involved with our daughter’s school & her various activities, by getting to know our neighbors, going to local events (summer concerts in the park, farmers market, etc.) and joining a local swim & tennis club. My husband and I work full time, so these outlets are a great way to meet people fast when we only have a small amount of time to socialize. We have met some wonderful and cherished friends in the short time we’ve been here. You will find many Oakland transplants here!
A person that really helped me get situated in Lamorinda is my neighbor and real estate agent Molly Smith. She grew up in Orinda and her husband in Lafayette, they have lived in the community for over 23 years. Molly works with many young families moving over from Oakland. She has young children too and can help w/ information/recommendations, etc... She’s very easy to work with. You can go to her website www.mollyslist.com and get more info.
Hope this is helpful! Julie
The schools here are nothing less than great. You quickly realize that buying a house here pays off in the end (compared to mortgage + private school tuition). Also, the schools are much more diverse than I originally thought.
The families are cool, like I said, MANY have moved from Oakland, Berkeley or SF to be here. Yes, there are quite a few older more conservative people, but many of them are selling and moving into retirement homes making way for younger families.
We live in the Ivy drive neighborhood, which is close to all three schools my children will attend all the way to high school. It's a lot ''easier'' going than some other parts of Orinda (Downs, Sleepy Hollow). Join your neighborhood pool club and meet even more families in your area and or Elem. school.
Lafayette is also a great town, but I don't know enough about
the neighborhoods to tell you anything
Happy I moved
I have read the previous postings about moving through the
tunnel to Lamorinda and am looking for input from someone
who's ''been there''. We have two children (infant + preschool)
and have this on-again, off-again approach to moving from our
beloved Oakland neighborhood to Lamorinda for schools and a
backyard. My biggest concern is the impression of exclusivity I
get from hearing about the area, from my limited experience of a
Gymboree class in Lafayette, and through people I've met since
I've had children. It seems that many young moms grew up there
or have been there for awhile, belong to expensive country clubs
and have a pretty substantial budget for discretionary spending
(e.g. SAHMs with lots of childcare) and I'm nervous about
fitting in, even though I've never had trouble making friends
before. Everyone says ''you'll meet people through the school''
but since we'll have skipped the preschool experience there, I
feel like my daughter (and I) will be the ''new kids'' on the
first day of kinderegarten. Am I nuts? We are looking at houses
in the $800's, I am a SAHM and we're not loaded. Will we fit in?
Any suggestions for neighborhoods to check out, or a realtor who
can give us an honest viewpoint of these issues? We have a truly
wonderful neighborhood now, but to stay for the sake of
neighbors who may pick up and move for the same reason seems
- scared to start over
The only thing I've noticed is that everyone goes to church. I've been invited to people's churches and I've just politely thanked them and said we're not church-goers. That seems to end it with no hard feelings. I found the biggest detractors to life on this side of the tunnel are the ones who have never done it and are just making crass generalizations about people they've met. We labored our decision forever for ALL of the reasons you mention in your post. Now that we're here, I can't believe I didn't do this sooner.
We have a few farmer's markets, a Trader Joe's and Whole Foods close by, good restaurants in Lafayette and Walnut Creek, BART in Orinda and Lafayette, excellent libraries, parks, and schools, wonderful walking and bike trails...there is a lot to recommend this area. Don't let people freak you out about it. It's not like you're moving to another planet.
Happy in the Burbs
Re the social scene: Don't worry that you didn't do preschool in Orinda; the elementary schools are where most Orinda family relationships are built. The SAH moms bond well and strongly. Groups of women drop their kids off at school and then walk together for exercise. There are endless opportunities to work in the school (lunch program, musical productions, field trips, working in the classroom) and connect with the parents in the school community. But if you ever opt to be a working mom (as I am), prepare to feel marginalized. School activities/events tend to involve mid-day meetings or contributions that working parents cannot make. And I don't think I am imagining the subtle judgment I feel from some of the SAH moms in Orinda for my choice to work.
Re neighborhoods: North of 24 is more affluent; south of 24 is more mixed (mixed in Orinda, of course, being a relative term). The school with the craziest Get-Your-Kid-Into-Harvard-at-10 parents is Sleepy Hollow. The most relaxed and creative schools are Glorietta and Del Rey. We are at Glorietta, which was pretty good for our oldest and with more recent innovations has been wonderful for our youngest (now 9). Other neighborhood considerations: The hills largely dictate how much neighbors see each other, how much kids ride bikes, and so on. The areas around Del Rey school tend to be flatter and lend themselves to riding bikes to school and in-the-street playing, though there are some great neighborhood-y streets (Park Lane Drive, Martha Road, Darryl Road, Meadow Lane) around Glorietta too.
Good luck. An Orinda mom
So I don't find it to be ''exclusive,'' if by that you mean, ''Do you feel excluded?'' I don't feel we stand out, despite being former punk rockers, anti-conspicuous consumption (my husband drives a 1994 Honda Civic), and politically liberal--we are white and relatively wealthy, however. We live in south Orinda (which is not the Country Club side of town) in the Moraga del Rey area (surrounding Del Rey School), and there's no sign of snobbishness on our street, despite the million-dollar ranch houses. We did wonder about bringing our son into a perceived culture of wealthy entitlement, but figured all parents have to teach their values at home. Orinda's Not Blackhawk
I think Lafayette offers the widest range of incomes of the three communities, and hopefully, a good realtor could steer you in the direction of the neighboorhood that would be the best fit. Good luck with your decision! Claire
My neighbor & friend Molly Smith (who introduced us to practically everyone) is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Orinda. She grew up in Orinda and knows the area very well. She specializes in working with families and people buying in the Lamorinda area for the first time. Molly's children are in preschool and 1st grade so she is a great person to talk with regarding the schools, neighborhoods, activites and getting to know people. Her contact information is:
Molly Smith Coldwell Banker molly[at]mollyslist.comHope this is helpful! Julie
So, to answer your question: ''Will I fit in''.....that all depends upon your willingness and interest to make the monetary effort to do so. People don't post to this venue asking if they will make friends if they move to El Cerrito, for instance, because I think it is safe enough to generalize and say that the higher up you live on the monetary food chain, the more monolithically conservative everyone BEHAVES...and depending upon your point of view, that could be very restrictive....and make it much harder to feel like you are fitting in. Although, I am sure, that there are many people who live in Lamorinda and don't subscribe to the whole scene because ''fitting in'' in their immediate environment is not a priority for them. So whether or not you'll fit in depends upon you, what type of lifestyle you are seeking regarding your immediate geographical community and your priorities.
By-the-way, you can get schools and a backyard in places other than Lamorinda....but then again, schools in other areas with high APIs tend to be the elementary ones and by junior/high school, most public schools begin to fall apart. Many arguments have been made that even schools with APIs that are not high, still provide good educations within a much more diverese setting....but that is a whole other question. Though, before you move for ''schools'' you probably want to have a clear idea of what exactly constitutes a good school in your own mind.
Pay attention to your own feelings. If you picked up on feelings
of exclusivity, I think you will get more of the same once you
live there.....unless of course, you buy into the whole scene. I
know a family that has transferred into the Lamorinda school
district, and they pay for country club membership so that their
kids can see their friends and fit in. If you really want to fit
in, I think you'll need to be able to afford to do the same
thing. I, too, attended a preschool in Lamorinda this past year.
I noticed a couple of things. 1-the drop off/pick up scene at
school is much more brusque than what I am used to.....parents
were less likely to hang out a bit and chat....so that community
link is not present like it is in other communities 2-the
element of diversity is definitely different....there was only
one african-american child in the school, and interestingly
enough, he was a foster child. 3-the look of most material
possessions is much more expensive....cars, clothes, etc. I did
socialize with other parents when the opportunity presented
itself, and I was initially surprised at one thing....once others
found out that we didn't live in Lamorinda, I noticed that
slightly imperceptible flaring of the nostrils and the
conversation faded away. I suppose that if you go through the
effort to buy into/live in Lamorinda, you want to cultivate
friendships with others that are of the same mindset. Fair
enough...but too constrictive for me.
I know it is a complex decision!
As for your concern about the ''country club'' lifestyle in LaMorinda,I know of few country clubs. Many pools and clubs to join, but most are fairly down to earth. Yes, there are many people who were born and raised here in LaMorinda and have now chosen to move back and raise their own families (and you'll see a ton of Cal bumper stickers and license plates!). But I believe that speaks well for the community. My husband and I try very hard to make sure our kids are grounded, have culture, go into SF, experience diversity, modest travel, and have exposure to those less fortunate by doing charitable work. I always believe it starts from the home. When we encounter snooty behavior, we simply ignore it, as I would with anyone. As a result, I'm proud to say my kids are leaders and well liked (and no they are not on the traveling soccer team, they don't play baseball and as a result, we have free time to hang out and enjoy our family time outside of a moving vehicle).
Lastly I want to say this...I have siblings who live in Oakland and Piedmont-two wonderful places. They all have children. The Oakland sibling has had all the children in private school and will now be looking at a very expensive private high school (all while trying to save for their college educations). My childrens education is paid for through my property taxes (which I get to write off, private school you do not). And for all the volunteering and fundraising my husband and I do for our Lafayette schools, my sister does 10x more.
Your biggest challenge of course will be trying to find a home as nice as the one you're in. Don't let that get you down. There are many homes on the market right now. If you need a few names of real estate agents, I know some great one's...not pushy! Check out the Reliez Valley area and the Burton Valley area in Lafayette. Moraga's nice too but far out. Best of Luck to you. You sound like a very nice, thorough person.
It seemed mostly white and Asian with very little diversity.
We decided to stay in El Cerrito and participate fully in our local public school by raising money for enrichment stuff to benefit our own children and other students who truly need it.
I think the idea that public schools on this side of the tunnel are inferior to Orinda schools is just a perception. There are good schools with strong parent involvement in every district.
If a school district composed of students from more affluent households post higher API's, it doesn't mean the teachers are doing a superior job. It just means they have the easiest to educate kids and the most resources to do it with.
Happy on this side of the tunnel.
I am a SAHM and have found that unless you are from the ''white gal'' culture it is VERY hard to find truly good friends. There is a ton of superficial politeness, but it is clear that some people don't want to have anything to do with me because I am just not like them. Money, money, more money and a big house and fancy car that let's everyone know I have money would buy me entry into some of the cliques. Cliques are established and tough to break in to. It can be a VERY lonely place.
The ''great'' school reputation is deserved because of the parent involvement both in the classroom and financially. The rate and amount of ''donations'' expected is voluminous. At our elem. school there is a handful of ''great'' teachers the rest are mediocre to woeful. One the first grade teachers wrote up a sentence for the children to copy that ended in ''at''. Schools are for the most part white. High stakes testing means there is no time (and in reality little interest) in teaching cultural diversity. This maybe true of public school in the Berkeley area but at least your children are experiencing cultural diversity by just going to school with children of color and different nations. I know very few children who are NOT enrolled in intense enrichment including private tutoring, Kuman and Sylvan. The pressure on the children and the parents to succeed academically is frightening.
Save your children and yourselves and your money - stay where you
are and go to a private school!
Can't wait to bust out of here.
The most troubling experiences I had were the lack of tolerance both for a full time working mom (which I was at the time), and for racial diversity (we are a white family). I had an extremely disturbing experience at the Moraga Commons at a party, where there was a lot of talk about how the lack of diversity was responsible for better schools. The racist remarks were made quite freely and were more explicit, but you get the picture....
Please note that I realize that the above does not reflect the attitude of everyone living in Lamorinda; nevertheless, it was my experience.
My children were a preschooler and a baby, so I can't speak to the school experience, although I know several families from Oakland with children who have ADHD or learning differences, who moved to Lamorinda for the public schools because they were not able to get them into private schools in Oakland or Berkeley.
Basically, I always felt that I was on my best behavior while living in Lafayette -- that I could never be myself. We subsequently bought a house in the Oakland hills and I remember breathing an enormous sigh of relief on the day we moved! My kids are happy at Montclair schools, where there is diversity and a much more tolerant attitude, generally. We will probably do private schools for high school, but when you figure the higher cost of houses and property tax a move to Lamorinda would involve, it's about the same cost. Most importantly, we feel comfortable and happy where we live now.
We have friends who are happy in Lamorinda and those that
wished they had never moved. If you are thinking about a move
through the tunnel, I strongly suggest either renting first or
housesitting to really get a feel for the lifestyle.
glad I'm not stuck in the suburbs
I am hoping to hear about any experiences you have had with the
Lamorinda Mom's Club. What membership entails, were the members
welcoming to you as a new member, how (by child's age?) and
where are playgroups arranged? Where do the majority of
families in this mom's group live? Etc, etc and whatever else
you'd care to add. Thank you!
Thinking of joining
I will be moving to Orinda this June. I have a 14-month old daughter and would like to start signing her up with activities in the area. Does anyone have any recommendations for activity groups and/or mother's groups in Lamorinda? I am open to anything - swimming, kindergym, music classes, etc. etc. Any info would be a helpful start. Thanks!
You will also want to check in to http://www.lamorindamomsclub.org if you are interested in joining a playgroup. This moms club has 400 plus families, so it is likely you will find some connections there.
Also, The Nurture Center in Lafayette will be offering Music Together classes starting in June. You can learn more at http://shop.nurturecenter.com/clatnuce.html But hurry, the classes are filling up quickly!
Good luck! SherryH
My husband and I are considering moving to Lafayette/moraga/orinda for the schools. I am African American, he is white. Can anyone give me any insight as to what it would be like for me and my kids to live in the area? We've spend a lot of time in the area (dinner, movies etc) in an effort to get to know the community more, and I have noticed that there are rarely other people of color, with the exception of some asian- american. He grew up in that area and is still friends with most of his high-school friends, and I am friendly with most of their wives (all white), so I know that there are lots of people from there or who live there who think nothing of a mixed-race family, but I worry about my kids rarely seeing anyone who looks like them (at school, at a restaurant, at a movie) unless we traveled through the tunnel...
The area has some great qualities, though. From what we have seen with kids in elementary and middle school, the schools are quite good. There is a great small town feel, and you often see middle school kids out on their own at the movies and at restaurants like Nations hamburgers, and at the pool in the summer. I think it is a good place for teens because they can have some early freedom here (like I had when I was growing up) and then, when they are older, can get into Oakland and Berkeley and SF via BART to participate in a more urban scene. One thing that has struck me is how many people I have met here that recently moved from Berkely or Albany or elsewhere on the Bay side of the hills. I assume they don't suddenly become more conservative when the moving van enters the tunnel; instead I like to think that they/we will make this area more like Berkeley and its neighbors. More diverse families would be a welcome part of this transformation. Good luck with your decision! anne
We have debates about whether our biracial children are best served in the Lamorinda community. I do not know what the right answer is, but will give you my thoughts. There are many families that we know that have other racial backgrounds other than European. Most of these families are interracial or asian. Here are some of the families that we know in our community: Chinese-Chinese, African American- European American, European American-Phillipines, Hispanic- Jewish and more. We are here and I hope you join us. The main reason I stay here as many other parents in this community, is for the education. My biracial children deserve the same high level of education and expectations of them as the blond child sitting in the next seat. So far, my children have been doing well academically. I do not look to the Lamorinda community to provide diversity or cultural education. We try to do that in other ways.
As a balance, we also do participate in other activities in Berkeley. We attend the City of Berkeley family camp at Tuolumne. We have other biracial family friends that live in Berkeley. David
We are two gay dads with a 1 1/2 year old living in Berkeley.
We are considering moving to the Orinda/Layfayette area for the
quality of the public schools, but are concerned about how our
child might be treated as a child of gay parents when he gets
into school. Does anybody have a sense of what we and our
little boy might experience out there?
We live near the trail so the children get to bike, walk, scooter etc. to school. We love running so it's the perfect location for us and also walking to downtown. It's great. There are pools all over you can belong to. Our boys play on the soccer, baseball, hockey, and swim teams (yes we drive a minivan!) and no one bats an eyelid to our family make-up.
There are another couple of Lesbian families here and in Moraga and tons in Walnut Creek/Concord/Pleasant Hill. Actually there is a fairly new group (for us families thru the tunnel) called Rainbow Families that meet once or twice a month with the kids in different areas for pizza etc. Last month everyone came to Freddies in Lafayette. The group has many two Dad/single families from 'thru the tunnel' as well.
I can't speak for Orinda but we did also look there and found it quite a bit hillier and all we could think about was ''Gee, how do these people make it up their driveways when it snows''??
Phew, I went on a bit but we really do love Lafayette and would
just love more gay and lesbian families to come out here. We
actually found it cheaper then living in Berkeley/Oakland and
got more for our money. feel free to e-mail us if you want any
more info or would like to come out to visit and we can show you
the neighborhood! We can also recommend a great real estate
broker who's a Gay Dad from Alamo. Good Luck.
lesbians loving Lafayette
I'm sure there are some differences than there were 10 years
ago, but not that many. I'm a therapist now and I occassionally
see kids who go to Acalanes (high school) & the stories they
bring to therapy sound pretty similar to what I witnessed when
I went to school there.
Lafayette School System Survivor
I am looking for input on living in Lafayette or Moraga. I currently life in upper rockridge & have two young kids (3 years and 18 months). I am dreaming of living in a flat neighborhood where kids can ride bikes.
Question is: my kids are adopted & very hispanic looking (they are from California but I am frequently asked "what country are they from??"). Does anyone have any input on issues with their living in these communities? I looked at some recently published census numbers on Lafayette & the hispanic population was around 4%, so I am aware that these areas are not very diverse. I am hoping to get input on the "culture" or "openess" of these communities. Thanks.
Oh, i should mention we are a lesbian family (more diversity) and the only ones in our local elementary school l along with a gay dad family who have two boys, both adopted and one from South America.(they have been very happy with the school also) You are right, there really isn't much in the form of diversity, any kind to think of it but in the downtown school (Lafayette elementary) there is certainly a lot more then in the others. There are many children of Asian, and Hispanic descent. In my sons class of 20 there are 5 children of Asian or Hispanic descent. We have also felt very welcomed there. I'd love to write more but I have to go out now. Feel free to e-mail me if you have other questions.
I would not have any reservations to living in this area in your situation. There are also quite a few families I know of that have adopted children of all different nationalities.
Good luck with your decision, and hope you make the move to the sunny, hot side of the Bay!
|Home | Post a Message | Subscribe | Help | Search | Contact Us|