Living in Albany, CA
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Living in Albany, CA
Re: Affordable area (low $300k's) with good school district
I live in Albany. The school district has a good reputation. Other school
districts with good reputations and without risk of a lottery system (for
elementary, middle and high school) include (but are not limited to) Piedmont and
Orinda. One of my neighbors rented a house and said the only reason he was
renting was so that his children could attend schools in Albany. I have a
colleague that rents in Piedmont, so his children can attend Piedmont schools.
If it's possible, look into renting. It may open up possibilities of expensive
(to buy) school districts and take the pressure off of needing to buy into a
desirable school district. There is also flexibility in renting. You could rent
in a great elementary school district in one town and move when middle school
comes along, if needed. Best wishes!
Living in Albany vs. Moraga
I'm currently living at UC Village in Albany. My husband is
a PhD student at UC Berkeley. I'm working at SF. We're now
thinking of buying a condo. We have a 2-year-old daughter.
I personally love Moraga for the top schools, the space and
environment. However, Albany is really convenient, walkable
to shops and close to Bart. Does anyone have the same
experience and know the difference between the two? Maria
I don't know Moraga, but my family loves Albany: great
community involvement, wonderful schools, safe parks. We're
raising 2 kids here and feel very lucky to be a part of
I have lived in Moraga for about 13 years. I haven't spent
much time in Albany. However, it seemed to have more local
commerce and public transportation options than Moraga. We
have to travel to either Orinda or Lafayette to get to BART
(there is a bus). The schools are great here and it is very
quiet and has low-crime. However, if you want the easy
walkability of a city with more retail shops, you may want
to think about Lafayette, which also has great schools.
One thing to think about is the amount of time that Moraga
will add to your commutes. Because there is really only one
road in and out of town, Moraga Way gets very backed up.
Although you may think only about the distance to the
freeway exit, that drive through Orinda adds a lot of time.
Other than that, I think the choice has lots to do with how
much you like urban living. The schools are good in Moraga,
and it's beautiful and quite, but it is also very suburban,
homogeneous in terms of population, and I found it
surprisingly provincial in feel. Living in Berkeley now
Moraga is safe and clean with excellent schools, a family-
friendly attitude and nice, quiet neighbors. You get a good
sized house and lot for the price and great weather for
growing vegetables, riding bikes and walking.
Mom who likes Safe and Clean
I live in Albany
and I love it with all of my heart. I love my neighbors, I
love the schools, I love my neighborhood, I love being
walking distance to stores, parks and public transportation,
I love the diversity of the community. I also spend time in
Moraga and it is is quieter, less urban, less crowded
(dense), definitely bucolic compared to Albany. Comparing
these communities is like comparing apples and oranges.
They are both great towns with great people and wonderful
schools. If you read the stats at cita-data.com, you can
compare median household incomes, demographics, crime
statistics, education levels, median age of the populations
and so on. I would chose Albany over Moraga for several
reasons that may not be important to you, but every time I
go to Moraga I wish I could live there, too! Noel
I don't know
much about Moraga, but Albany is a lovely community composed
of families who are extremely unjudgmental and accepting. It
seems to me the greatest difference between the two
locations is location. Albany is closer to SF and Berkeley,
whereas Moraga is more suburban and probably more rural in
feel. Obviously, there are benefits to both.
Good luck in your search.
Editor Note: this discussion also appears on the page about
Kensington or Albany?
We are trying to decide between a move to Kensington or Albany.
We are a one-child family getting ready to start elementary school. I've
heard great things about the community that surrounds Kensington Hilltop.
However, we like being able to walk to things and bike ride along flatter
streets. I'd like to hear some opinions of people who have chosen between
these two districts for their homes. Are we guaranteed a spot at Hilltop
if we are Kensington residents? How does the school selection process work
in Albany. How do the elementary schools and the communities differ? What
questions do you think we should consider when looking at these two
We appreciate hearing your experience.
obvious difference between these two areas is middle school and
high school. Yes, Hilltop is a great school, however Portola
Middle School and El Cerrito High School both have mediocre test
scores, and those would be the schools where Hilltop kids go
to. Albany Middle School and High School both have fantastic
scores straight through. Another difference with the schools is
diversity - Kensington isn't nearly as diverse as the Albany
schools. My kids will go to Hilltop, and I'm pretty happy about
that, but I would trade for Albany schools anyday.
I have been told that if you live in the zoning area for Hilltop
and register in time, you will get in.
Albany is a really great place to raise kids. You can walk
everywhere,and as the kids get older, so can they. Marin is a
great elementary school, stellar teachers and great community.
The middle school is not quite as wonderful, but as far as
middle schools go, it's pretty good-and way better than
Portola, which is where your kids would go if you live in
Kensington. Also Albany High is much better than El Cerrito
High. So, my vote is Albany.
Both Albany & Kensington are lovely places. In Albany, you have
great schools k-12. In Kensington, many people opt out of
public after elementary. We live in Albany and are thrilled
with the sense of neighborhood and community.
I have been renting on Stannage Avenue between Marin and Solano
for about 2 years. I love it here, but want to buy a house when
I find the right one. I recently found a great house on Madison
Street (500 block) on Albany Hill and wonder about the
neighborhood. If you live there, can you share with me your
thoughts on the neighborhood? Is it safe? How is it being below
San Pablo Ave? Are there lots of teens around the area? Do you
worry about earthquake and possible hill movement from above? It
seems very quiet-I wonder how the neighbors and neighborhoods
are? My current neighborhood is full of families that hang out
on the front porch and visit. I like this aspect of where I am
Anything would be helpful for me in making my decision. Thanks
want to make the right choice
I actually live on Madison St. myself!
I love where I live. I like walking to places, and BART. I'm not
worried about earthquakes and the hill shifting--but that's probably a
function of my personality and not any scientific information. I feel
very safe, and walk all over. However, there are many bars and the
bowling alley near where you propose living, no? Those areas are the
places that tend to have problems at night with rowdy people leaving,
etc. However, if your proposed house is not on a major thoroughfare,
which I don't think it would be--this would not be an issue for you. I
live on the 700 block of Madison, and never have problems with noise or
rowdy behavior. However, some friends who live on Washington hear it
when the Mallard lets out at night. And, I thought I'd hate the noise
from San Pablo, but I really don't notice anything.
I suggest you come visit at night and see what you think.
love living on Albany Hill.
We are a family of four who are very happy living on the Albany Hill
for the last 7 years (Jackson, near Castro). We weren't looking for a
view of the Berkeley Hills, but it would be hard to live in the
flatlands now. As far as earthquakes, a friend with a Phd in Geology
lives on the Albany Hill largely because it is more secure being on
rock. We enjoy walking to Solano for movie dates and cafes. And San
Pablo Ave is gentrifying (eg, a spa, Butter Creme cafe, Cafe St.
Honore, a furniture store that used to be on upper Solano...), You
will be very close to a little hike with blackberrys, the creek and the
Olone Indian grinding stones and to the farmer's market in El Cerrito
on Tues, & Sat. As far as teen polulation, they live in households all
over Albany. People seem to be a touch more private on the hill, but
there are many families who are friendly too. There are a lot of
people who walk and jog in the morning and after dinner (we do the
latter on summer evenings) Safety is fine. Our elementary children
scooter on our block all the time. Hope this info is helpful!
Happy on Albany Hill
Re: Cheaper but "safe enough" neighborhoods
In 2000 we sold our Elmwood area one bedroom and bought a 4
bedroom, 2000 sq. ft. home on Albany hill for less than we sold our
Berkeley house for. The neighborhood is definitely not as great in
a lot of respects (mainly in respect to the architecture), but the
schools are much better, and it seems to be much more of a
community here, almost small town-ish. In 8 years we've gotten to
know so many of the locals and can call some business owners by
first names, and they in turn know us and our kids. There aren't a
lot of wealthy stay at home moms here, but there are tons of moms
who are willing to help out with car pooling, etc. I would
definitely check out Albany. I think it is safer than Berkeley.
There are something like 26 cops in the APD for only a mile and a
half square little town.
Glad I left Berkeley for Albany
I am thinking of moving to Albany, but the only places in my
price range are right under the BART tracks. Where I live now
is very quiet, so I was a little bit shocked by noise from the
trains passing overhead. How strongly does it impact day-to-
day life? Is it something you get used to? I would love to
hear from people who live in all those houses by the Ohlone
Greenway bike path, which is where I am looking, or other BART
I have lived in Albany for 13 years in two different houses, both
next to the BART tracks. That means that yes, we moved from one
house next to BART to another house next to BART, mainly for the
sake of keeping our kids in the Albany schools. I can definitely
say that the sound of the tracks varies from place to place, but
as we have learned recently, it also varies over time depending
on how well BART maintains the tracks. Over the past four years,
BART has done no maintenance (track-grinding) and the sound has
definitely gotten noticeably worse, as many recent letters to the
editor in Albany papers attest. Even I, who am by now quite used
to the sound and don't usually notice it, have been irritated by
the increase in noise. Luckily, BART has just purchased new
equipment and has begun resurfacing the line, but their squeaky
wheels only ''get the grease'' when the community's ''squeaky
wheels'' complain to them. When the tracks are well maintained,
the sound does not seem particularly intrusive to me anymore
inside the house--just a whoosh in the background every now and
then. Currently, however, it definitely interrupts conversations
outside and drowns out TV inside when it goes by.
There was an article in the most recent ''Journal,'' the local
weekly newspaper for Albany and El Cerrito, about BART's plans to
do something to quiet the trains, so maybe there will be some
improvement. For a while, I rented a house in Albany, on Evelyn
Ave., a block away from the BART tracks. To me, the BART noise
was always bothersome, and the electrical interference was also
annoying as it briefly fouled radio & TV reception. My friend
lives on Masonic, right across from BART, and she doesn't mind
the noise. But, she NEVER opens her windows on the front side of
her house, and that's how she copes. If you are noise sensitive,
I wouldn't recommend living near BART tracks.
likes quiet too
Moved 2 few blocks from the BART tracks on Gilman near boogie
woogie bagel boy 3 years ago. At first i thought i would never
get used to the tracks - within a month, i didn't hear them
anymore. Also on the plus side, you are near the greenbelt -
great place to walk the dog, etc.
We live on Evelyn, about 1 block below the BART tracks. Young
kids love it - my nephews think it's a treat to visit a house
and see BART. Personally I have a problem with it, but it is
worth the sacrifice for the schools. It is exceptionally loud
right now, but the mayors of El Cerrito and Albany have finally
gotten BART to agree to straighten the tracks, which should
reduce the noise quite a bit. During the day I really don't
care. It's when they start up, around 5am, that it's hard.
Our bedroom is the closest to it, though, without any trees for
barrier or anything. When we lived in a different bedroom in
the house, it was a non-issue. Good luck making your
decision. I'd say, consider it a definite sacrifice and then
decide if it's a sacrifice worth making.
Oh my god, BART is soooooo loud. I have a dear friend who lives
just on the Ohlone Greenway at Gilman, and her entire apartment
shakes and no one can speak when that damn train goes by.
Forget about talking on the phone, too.
After experiencing this I will never live close to the BART tracks.
Lisa in Oakland
I used to live on Key Route Blvd. in Albany. The tracks were outside my
back yard, and
it was noisy. I got used to it eventually, but everyone has different
tolerances. It may
be a harder adjustment for someone who currently lives in a quiet 'hood.
One thing to
keep in mind: what rooms are closest to the tracks? Our bedroom was in
the back of
the house, which faced the tracks, and it was louder there. When I
lived there (it's been
a few years) about once a month BART ran a train that checked the
tracks. It rolled by
slowly in the middle of the night (3 or 4 AM), but had really bright
lights. The first
time it came by, I thought a UFO had landed in the back yard! Good luck
Hello, for three years I lived on Key Route Boulevard between
Marin and Gilman, on the hill side of the street facing the BART
tracks. You can't escape the BART noise anywhere in Albany
really, but yes, the sound of the train really is loud from those
homes right next to the tracks. The first night I slept in my
house there, I thought I wouldn't be able to stand it but ...
amazingly enough I got used to it and can honestly say that it
stopped registering after a week or so. The sound inside the
house wasn't bad at all--even with only single paned windows--but
outside in the yard was kind of loud. You have to pause your
conversations for a moment or two. If the place you live now is
very quiet, it may take a while to get used to. BART only runs
every twenty minutes or so and not at all during the night,
though, so I actually found the sound of the railroad trains down
in Berkeley below San Pablo Avenue more bothersome at night. Most
of my neighbors were people who had lived on that street for
decades--so I think it's actually a really wonderful location if
you do get used to the sound, and the Greenway is great for
walking and biking.
Former Albany Resident
My husband and I are thinking of moving to Albany. We are interested in
feedback from those who live there. Is it safe? Are the schools good
through high school? Is there a strong community of parents/kids? Are
there houses there that are big enough for a family of 5? We love Solano
and the idea of moving somewhere where our kids can stay in the public
school system through high school, but in the past when we looked the
housing was really expensive and mostly we saw small bungalows (we would
be pretty cramped there as a family of 5). Any advice?
Hi! We live in Albany, moved here for the schools like almost everyone
else around town. Yes, there is a strong sense of community among
families! Turn outs at school events is phenomenal, parent involvement is
awesome. The schools are not perfect, but if you have realistic
expectations, they are quite good. We have been involved at the
elementary level and are just starting at the middle school level. The
transition process has been very smooth. At the upper grades there is
some concern about alcohol and drugs (that's probably true everywhere?).
For high school, certainly one smaller high school cannot offer as large a
variety of electives as a school like Berkeley High. Now, in terms of
affording a house here, certainly the market is in your favor. But I know
a lot of families who have given up trying to buy and just rent. Rents
here are pretty reasonable, houses are definitely not. We have a 4
bedroom home, but there are not very many large homes at all. When!
you do find a large home, it means it was a small home that was added on
to. That means you have a tiny yard in exchange. I miss having a real
size yard (which I had in Berkeley). I miss having some sun (there is
more fog in Albany then in Berkeley if you can believe that). But it is
totally worth it. The environment feels safe enough for my kids to walk
to school, get some milk for us at the store, that kind of thing. Street
traffic moves slowly because there are a lot of stop signs, and lots of
routes for kids where there are stop signs all the way to keep it safe.
Good luck deciding!
Albany mom for 6+ years
Albany works really well for our family of four. Schools have been great
(up through 8th grade so far), though I know the high school is
overcrowded. It also feels safe (considering it's in an urban area near
Richmond). Because it's a small town, the police are never more than 2-3
minutes away. Very neighborly, with people looking out for each other.
We really love that it's walkable (my kids walk to school and stop for ice
cream on Solano, walk to friend's houses, etc.). Home prices are high,
though. I don't think I know anyone who could afford to buy their house
for current market value (I sure couldn't) but if the market softens, it
might be a chance to get in.
I have lived in Albany for 6 yrs and absolutely love it. I don't know the
market right now to comment on how big a house you will get for your money
but it seems to me that it's come down a bit over the past few years, so
perhaps you should look again? And, the amount you would likely save
versus paying for private schools somewhere else would certainly be a
We live just off Solano. The area, particularly relative to Berkeley,
Oakland, El Cerrito, Richmond, etc, is very safe. Just watch our police
blotter - the worst things we see are petty theft/car theft and the
majority of that is west of San Pablo.
The community is tight and there's this great feeling of small town
comradery. We have block parties, the town sponsors things like Music in
the Park and National Night out which have great showings and have been
wonderful for getting to know the people we live by.
Wherever you are, you can walk to schools and parks and shopping. You
can't go wrong. Who needs a huge house when there are so many easily
One thing to consider - I've noticed many homes in the neighborhood where
the owners seem to buy a smaller house and then remodel to expand it. Our
house, for instance, had a lower-level garage and basement that have been
converted to finished living space. Our neighbors also had a bungelow
that had a 2 stall garage below it and they remodeled that to be 3 more
bedrooms. Others nearby have added a second floor onto a 1-story house.
From what I understand it's a valuable investment.
We have been a residents since 85. We live near Solano Ave. Both daughters
educated k-12 in Public Schools. They both had a successful emotional,
social, and academic experience. Both in top ranking Grad schools after
completing a top ranking College. Albany schools are to be credited for
their part in this academic success. Is it safe? Seems that way to me. My
children have made friends that they have maintained to this day. We have
made friends in the neighborhood.Are there houses there that are big
enough for a family of 5? Most homes are not. There are 3 and 4 bedrooms.
Get an agent or two to work for you. Tell them of the minimum
requirements. And yes, it is expensive. We love Solano Ave and the annual
stroll is a time when both my children and I look forward to bumping into
old friends and acquaintances. I also can walk to two movie theatres,
several grocery stores,bakeries, coffee shops,speciality shops,
restaurants, chiropractors, therapists, lawyers, etc.
We love Albany! Yes, it's safe, it's walkable, and there is an awesome
sense of community -- especially among families connected to the public
schools. (And we like the schools so far, but we're only up to first
grade.) And yes, the housing stock is mostly old and small -- and
expensive. But there are some larger homes, mostly little bungalows that
have been added onto, so if you don't have a deadline you may want to just
watch the market until something big enough for you comes up. Or you can
buy a small bungalow and add onto it yourself.
Hi, we are also a family of five, and I understand your concerns. We moved
to Albany attracted by the schools and the great community, and bought one
of those charming cozy houses--a typical 3/1 Albany 1940s cottage--and
built a large shed in the backyard to use as an extra space (3,000, doing
some of the work ourselves). Still we found ourselves busting out of the
house and endlessly surrounded by our stuff because of the lack of storage
space (and also our lack of tidiness). We found ourselves putting off
having kids' parties and never inviting friends over because there was
nowhere for guests to sit apart from the floor. Our children fought a lot.
Finally, after two years we moved to a cheaper area where we bought a
house twice the size for less money--with lots of storage. We find it less
stressful and easier to manage our household on a daily basis when our
space is well-organized. The kids argue half as much and family life is
way more mellow. The trade-off is that we might be considering private
schools after sixth grade for our youngest. Having said that, just because
the Albany schools are considered ''good'' (i.e. they are safe, and offer
programs in art, music, etc. which some other school districts consider
luxuries), it doesn't mean all your children will find the schools a good
In all other ways, though, we are glad we moved. It all depends on your
priorities--after our two-year ''experiment'' in living small in Albany we
found we valued a bigger house more than the schools and proximity to
Solano. By moving to a cheaper area we could afford private school (with
some financial aid) for two of our kids, and the third is now in college.
Yes, Albany is generally safe (most crime incidents are concentrated in
the bar and entertainment areas on San Pablo), Solano shops and cafes are
quirky and fun, it's all walkable and you have great access to Berkeley,
the shops and BART at El Cerrito Plaza, etc. etc. BUT if you have three
kids with differing interests and want space to spread out a bit, remember
that you can find homes in areas only ten-fifteen minutes' drive away from
Albany that are a lot more affordable, with a bedroom for each kid! Areas
we liked when we were looking were W. Berkeley, Richmond Annex, Richmond
View, El Sobrante, and the San Pablo !
hills--all have quiet, safe, family-oriented neighborhoods, though they
don't have the schools or Solano.
If you manage to find a well-designed roomy house for an affordable price
in Albany (rare, but possible), or if you are good at managing your
family's stuff or finding creative ways to deal with lack of built-in
storage, or if you just don't mind living on top of each other you will
probably love living there. When house-hunting, remember to look out for
good closet space, garage or basement space, and more than one bathroom
(in Albany, having a second bathroom is like gold!).
Also, something people don't always mention, but be sure to ask
about--esp. if you have a sensitive sense of smell or anyone in the family
has asthma or respiratory problems: parts of Albany, like parts of W.
Berkeley, suffer from pollution from the Pacific Steel factory near Gilman
and Second Street--the community is actively trying to do something about
it, and the factory has agreed to take some measures, but so far it sounds
like the ''burning pot handle'' smells are still wafting over some
residential areas. Be sure to ask your potential neighbors about this if
you are concerned.
Hi, I'd like to hear from people who live in Albany about crime
in the town. We've been looking at buying and have been kind of
alarmed that in ''desirable'' neighborhoods like Rockridge and
near Piedmont Ave. there is a good deal of crime, particularly
purse-snatchings and minor assaults.
What's Albany like? I've read in the archives that there is a
bit of petty theft in the schools, but what about out on the
Thanks for your input.
I'll be blunt. Purse snatchings and assaults happen all over Albany as they do in every
community in the East Bay. Even in the nicest parts of the city. The part of Albany that
seems to have more cars stolen is near the waterfront. There also seem to be more
assaults there because it's right by the freeway. Another hotspot is Albany Bowl. There
are a lot of arrests there as well. However, to be truthful, if you read the police log
for Albany in West County Times, you'll notice lots of stolen cars all over. And
robberies even in the areas closest to the hills. For the most part, Albany is a pretty
safe place. The police have a very visible presence. Compared to other cities, there is
less crime. But we don't walk around at 2 am as we wouldn't in any East Bay city.
Overall, we feel pretty safe living here.
No Place is Crime Free Anymore
I live in Albany just off Solano. As a runner and a mom, I am incredibly aware of
safety in the area around us. I am so proud to say that Albany is the safest
neighborhood you can choose right now.
First, I watch the police blotter weekly and the crimes are things like car theft and
thefts at stores like Safeway and Target. As far as home robberies and car theft, these
are rather infrequent and seems like 80% are west of San Pablo.
Second, just being out and about I think Albany police are very good about patrols and,
being a small town force, are willing to hear your comments and you can tell them if
you'll be out of town and they'll keep an eye on your house!
The ''hitch'' is that Albany is only one square mile, so to some extent it depends where
in Albany you are because you'll always be just a block or two from Berkeley or El
Cerrito, etc where crime stats of course are higher (although areas ajacent to Albany
are generally safe with the exception, maybe of the San Pablo corridor). Even per
capita, crime rates are low in Albany and violent crimes are even lower (next to none in
the past few years although I'm aware of one assault on the BART trail a year or so ago
and a few purse snatchings on Solano).
Of course Albany has other huge advantages - great schools, great small town feel (we
have block parties even), lots of festivities (Solano Stroll, Taste of Albany, Fourth of
July Festival, etc), and tons of great parks and cafes all walkable.
Judging from my 18 years of reading the weekly Albany police summary, there is plenty of
property crime in Albany, all over town. It seems like eight cars a week get stolen or
broken into. Less frequently, banks are robbed, stores have shoplifters, houses and
garages are burgled. There are one or two DUI arrests every week, and in June there was
a daylight pedestrian fatality (drunk driver) at a crosswalk at Marin and Talbot. (Not
to be confused with the nighttime pedestrian fatality at Solano and Fresno, a week or
There is also plenty of crime against people. I personally know of an old lady who last
month was robbed of her purse at gunpoint in the middle of the day near Safeway. I've
heard of another person robbed in front of her house in the evening. We warn our kids to
watch out for cruising cars on Solano and side streets, or gangs of kids on the BART
path; it's become common for bikes and iPods to get grabbed from students. There's
usually a domestic violence call every week or two. But I do let my teens walk around
town, including up Solano during the day, and to friends' houses or from school at
I feel personally safer in Albany than I did my 4 years living in southwest Berkeley
years ago (when my house was burgled 3 times, there was a crack house around the corner,
and gunshots were heard monthly). My neighbors there were great; it was the people who
drove through the neighborhood who scared me. Crime will come to you no matter where you
are in the Bay Area.
I moved to Albany 1985. My two children are now in their twenties. My home is in the
North East Corner of the City. My neighbor is in his late 60's and has lived on this
block his whole life. One home burglary in all those years and numerous car burglaries.
The community feels safe and I guess that the stats will prove that to be true.
More questions feel free to write.
I have lived in Albany for 20 years, before and after having children. For an urban
area, it's very safe. The crime that exists is mostly auto thefts, bicycle thefts. Very
little violent crime. I walk alone at night (I'm female) and feel safe. My kids walk all
around the neighborhood, to school, etc. The police are very responsive-much more so
than Berkeley or Oakland. I think it's as safe as you can get in the east bay. And
neighbors know each other, so if they see someone unfamiliar or suspicious hanging
around they are aware of it. The Journal (a weekely paper) has a weekly crime blotter
for Albany and El Cerrito-you'll see the crimes in El Cerrito are more violent and
extensive, while Albany is almost exclusively car and property crime, shoplifting from
Check out the local weekly paper, the El Cerrito/Albany Journal crime blotter. It gives
a good sense of what's going on in Albany, which, in my experience (and looking at the
weekly crime summary), is mostly car crime - break-ins, car theft. For the most part,
Albany is truly one of the last sleepy Bay Area towns, with almost zero violent crime.
Not too many people know where Albany is and I think that must include criminals. I'd
also just check with the local police for crime statistics. Their office is easy to get
to, at San Pablo and Marin, right next door to City Hall.
I've been living in Albany for about 8 years now and think it's a very safe place to
live. Every 2 weeks there is this local paper called The Journal that's delivered free
to Albany, El Cerrito and Kensington residents, or you can buy it from the local street
newspaper dispensers. In it is a police blotter that we always read - it gives a
highlight of police activity for Albany. After reading it for years, I can pretty much
sum up the main activity as follows:
1) DUIs on Buchanan or San Pablo (because of the bars)
2) Shoplifting at Target
3) car thefts or break ins (mainly along Pierce or several streets over on each side of
4) Store break-ins on San Palbo and sometimes Solano
Other than that there is the occasional assault (like on the Ohlone Greenway),
disturbing the peace, domestic disturbance, etc. But nothing to the degree I've heard
about in Grand Ave or Rockridge (where an aquaintance was held up by gun point after
work at 5pm).
I like to go for walks and often don't get the chance until after dark, sometimes around
9pm. I'll go up and down the length of Solano and have always felt safe. The police
patrol around the city and are very responsive. Any time I or my neighbors have called
the police, they've arrived in minutes (and this was for such things as no one had seen
an elderly neighbor for over a week and she wasn't answering her door, because teenagers
were speeding up and down our street, or we saw someone climb over a neighbor's fence).
You are just not going to see that kind of response in Oakland where the police are
stretched to the max.
I love Albany!
When we moved here from SF last year I called the Albany Police Dept. and asked them
basically the same thing -- ''What's the story here?'' They were really great and took
the time to talk to me, very friendly. Their take on it is: the only real crime is an
occasional burglary when folks are away for the day, and stuff involving cars (taking
stuff out of the car, or taking *the car* for a joyride). The officer I talked to says
his impression is that it's mostly kids (bored, looking for PlayStation stuff or things
they can hawk to *get* PlayStation stuff). I read the little ''police beat'' section of
our free paper avidly every week -- there is *very* little (if any) violent crime. There
have been a very few muggings over near the BART station, and they hope to address that
with better lighting, etc. The officer said Albany is small, and there's not much
crime, so if you *do* call ''we can be there in about two minutes.'' Sold me! When we
moved, a police car pulled up (!
we thought they were going to complain about our big truck blocking traffic) -- the
officer got out to introduce himself, give us his card, and welcome us to the
neighborhood!!! We haven't had a lick of trouble since we've been here -- neighborhood
kids are always zooming around on their bikes and scooters, we go for walks at night,
and I feel pretty comfortable walking around the area by myself at night. You can call
the Albany Police and see if things have changed at all and what their take on it is now
(they said it does differ a bit by area -- there's often stuff going on over by Albany
Bowl, and other parts of San Pablo).
Feelin' safe n' snug in Albany
Based on what I've read in the police report in the local weekly paper, The Journal, the
most commom crime seems to be stolen cars or car break-ins. And it usually happens to
late model Honda's, which are easy to break into. Keep in mind that the first medical
marijuana dispensary will open some time soon, and who knows what kind of new crime that
will introduce to Albany. Other than that, I consider Albany very safe relative to the
Albany, like any town or neighborhood in a major metropolitan area, has its share of
crime. But I've lived here for eight years and have never been a victim of even the
most minor. If you read the police log in the Daily Journal you can see that car
break-ins, shoplifting, drunks creating disturbances and the like are fairly common;
purse snatchings and assaults do occur but not often. I consider it a ''safe'' place to
Loves Living in Albany
We're thinking of moving to Albany for the good high school. A
couple of weeks ago, we heard comments about how difficult it is
to buy a house in Albany, and how expensive. Is this true? We
know that houses in Albany tend to be tiny. Is it worth it to
pay so much for tiny living space and good school?
Do you know of good realtors who can help us once we decide to
Thank you very much.
We moved to Albany last fall and perhaps our experiences were an
anomaly but after getting crushed in the SF real estate market it
seemed much simpler and more straight forward out here. We got
the first house we bid on and we weren't even the highest bidders
(take that, SF!). Our little local paper seems to only list one
or two houses in Albany for sale each week, they average $650K --
slim pickins for sure. Most of them are small 2 BD but there
are exceptions. If you can find a place near the El Cerrito
Plaza BART station then you don't have to fight bridge traffic
every time you want to go into the city (plus you'll be close
to Trader Joe's). Can't really recommend a realtor as we just
stumbled on this place but Red Oak Realty up on Solano seems to
have most of the local listings. Feel free to email me off list if you have questions,
tho' I haven't been here too long myself!
Alas, you are not the only ones trying to move into Albany for
the schools--in fact, that is the number one reason people move
there, and it keeps home prices very high, particularly given the
small size of most of the houses and lots. Only you can say
whether it is worth it. It may depend in part on what school
system you are in now. Personally, I have always suspected that
Albany schools are considered ''good'' because there are fewer
students of color and from low-income families than in
neighboring districts, not because they are of such outstanding
academic quality, but I could be wrong. Berkeley High has a lot
going for it too, but it is more ''urban'' (code for diverse). Homes in Berkeley are
expensive too, but at least they are a
little larger, and there are more of them. I'd encourage you to
check the schools out yourself, and talk to lots of parents.
Houses in Albany tend to be small, and yes, they are also expensive. One of the main
reasons they are expensive is because the public schools are decent. They are as good as
it gets in the East Bay, unless you consider Piedmont (even higher housing prices) or
beyond the tunnel (bigger houses, great schools). There are other things that are great
about Albany - primarily that it is a walking town, and you can walk to grocery stores,
movie theaters, restaurants, dentists, hair salons, clothing and shoe stores, banks,
Whether or not it is ''worth it'' depends on your individual circumstances. If you do
not buy in Albany, will you send your child to private high school? How much would that
cost? If you are just looking at putting one kid through high school for four years,
maybe you could rent out your current place and rent in Albany for four years. I think
you need to figure out what your priorities are and crunch the numbers. Good luck with
We live in nearby Thousand Oaks, and yes, Albany houses are small
and expensive. Some folks are working around that by adding
second stories or additions, or converting garages, etc. Figure
adding $150K to price. Overall, a great place to live. A realtor
I trust completely: Kathryn Stein of Thornwall Properties on
Shattuck. She lives in the area and knows it well. Good luck. Settled In Nearby
Don't just move to Albany for the schools! There are so many other reasons. We have lived
here for two years and couldn't be happier. We can walk to Solano/El Cerrito
Plaza/Monterey Market for just about anything we need. And a quick drive up to Tilden, or
over to Marin. City services like parks and libraries are wonderful. It is a truly
diverse community. And it has the best of a small town feel, with community celebrations
and involvements for all ages. Housing prices here are maybe a little more than they
would be in Berkeley, but it is so worth it. Yes, many houses are in the small bungalow
mode, but bigger ones do come along. Ours is about 1300 square feet, cozy but livable. I
almost hate to say anything, but I think Albany is by far the best place to live for
parents in the East Bay.
Happy Albany Mom
You can tell by looking at the paper that the houses are incredibly expensive, you can
tell when you look at the houses that the lots are narrow and the un-renovated houses are
tiny, it's obviously fun to be near Solano Avenue, but you should be aware that there is
a lot of crime in the schools, at least at the Middle school level. My child's locker has
been broken into at least 6 times this year alone. And I assume you've heard about the
party this year in the Berkeley Hills of an Albany HS student where a kid was killed...?
Oh and the spirit day that the kids turned into ''pimps and ho's day'' where they dressed
the part? It sure ain't the perfect place I was sold when I moved there! It's still
beautiful in the spring. Lots of fog in the summer.
The teachers at AMS have been mostly good, and the education seems solid. We haven't yet
experienced High School - we're hoping for a vast improvement in security. It sounds
like they have a good assortment of AP classes that they offer. I think you can probably
check out the classes offered on their website.
Tired of Albany
We moved to Albany a year and a half ago and we spent way too much money for a way too
small house. But, we'd do it again in a heartbeat. Think about it this way - who in
their right mind would buy a teeny house for a ton of money? Someone who really cares
about schools for their kids! We have a marvelous neighborhood and have made wonderful
friends with many families on our block. In fact, on our block - on our side of the
street - our daughter has four other kids her age! Plus, we're close to Solano, to
Westbrae, to Target, to tons of great restaurants and shops...Plus, Albany is what I
picture 50s neighborhoods to be like - people help watch each others kids - there are
lots of lovely town festivals (Solano Stroll, etc.) There is even a town newsletter!
Very sweet - especially being so close to SF. Finally, if you buy in Albany, while your
house may cost a lot more money per sq. ft. - it's unlikely to lose value because the
schools are so terrific and it's in a great location.
Have I convinced you yet?
If you want a terrific realtor - call Marni Fischer or her partner Jean Shrem at
510-882-9992. They specialize in El Cerrito, Albany, and Berkeley and really know what
they're doing - plus they're super nice.
Welcome to Albany!
Very Happy Albanian
When we moved out to California from the Midwest we had a choice between bigger houses in
the hills in Oakland and a tiny little house in Albany. We chose Albany not only because
we wanted to feel confident and at ease about the public schools, but also for the size
and feel of the community. Everything is basically within walking distance in Albany.
Even if my son had been assigned to the most remote elementary school of the three, we
would be able to bike. All services, including movie theaters and restaurants and you
name it are within walking distance (the town is a mile square). There's a tiny but very
friendly YMCA where I know most everybody. The library is a big community gathering
place and very accommodating for readers, writers, kids, people studying, etc. There are
community pancake feeds and concerts. We go to the high school plays -- it's kind of
like growing up in the rural Midwest, for Pete's sake! Except I couldn't get a decent
serving of sushi back there and, despite what people sometimes like to say, the town is
diverse culturally. My son's class of twenty-one students has seven of European
This is a small town with a Bay Area attitude neighboring Berkeley and straight across
the Bay from Marin and San Francisco. It doesn't really get much better than this IMHO.
Our house is tiny and it sometimes drives me nuts. It is expensive to move into Albany
and if you have two or more kids, it will be especially expensive; you might not find a
big enough house. But the town is more than just good school scores. I say check it
happy in Albany
We've been living in Albany for many years, since before we had kids, and we love
it. It is a wonderful, engaged, diverse community. You can walk everywhere, the
library and community center are great, and we are very happy with the public
schools. Our kids are learning a lot, and thriving socially as well. The
parents here are very committed to the schools, and it shows. Yes, the houses
are tiny, but it is a great place and it is very easy to get out of the house w/
itchy kids -- plenty of parks, etc.
In response to one poster, I'd like to dispel the notion that Albany is not
diverse. It is a very diverse place; the Albany school district is a
majority-minority district. About 41% of the students are non-hispanic whites;
the remainder (so almost 60%) are students of color. Despite the expensive
houses, there is also socio-economic diversity here. You can look at the
percentage of students qualifying for free lunch to get an idea of this. Also,
there are many apartments and rental homes here that make Albany affordable for
those who can't afford to purchase the homes (we rented for many years
ourselves). In fact, that is one of the other wonderful things about Albany --
on our block alone, there are small apartment buildings, single family homes,
rental duplexes, etc. We have seniors, families with children and empty nesters.
There are people from numerous countries, and from many ethnic groups.
Albany is a great place! As for a realtor, consider Bill McDowell at Berkeley
Hills. He's great, and specializes in Albany.
Happy in Albany
I have to agree with Berkeley booster that the perception that
Albany schools are the best has more to do with their
demographics--the majority of students are white or Asian and
from middle class homes--than anything else.
We looked at houses in Albany and decided on El Cerrito because
you get more for your money.
Just as in Berkeley and Albany, most of the elementary schools in
EC and Kensington have a good amount of parent involvement and
offer music/arts/science. The academics are similar because all
classrooms in CA are supposed to be following the CA content
standards which are very rigorous.
El Cerrito's middle school, Portola, has advanced classes in
every subject that are more challenging than what some of the
private schools offer and they have a strong music and arts
program. It is also in line for a complete re-build and ECHS will
have a brand new campus in a few years.
The high school has a lot of AP classes and a handful of students
get early admission to schools like Yale, Stanford, Harvard, and
Brown every year. The mayor of El Cerrito sent five kids through
El Cerrito schools and a few of her kids went on to Harvard.
Albany Middle School is so overcrowded that classes are being
held in portables across the street and the high school has
nearly 1,200 students in a building built for 800. That's not my
idea of an outstanding school district.
My kids are now at AMS and AHS. IMHO, the main reason why the schools in Albany
get good test scores is that Albany has a very high percentage of parents with
college educations, regardless of income level. (About 1/3 of the Albany
school-age kids live at University Village, while their often foreign-born
parents attend Cal Ph.D. programs.) This means many Albany parents value
education, understand how to comply with the system, expect their kids to work
hard, and send their kids to school each morning rested and fed and ready to
learn. Although Albany teachers traditionally grumble about their salaries (''I
can't afford to buy here''), you'll notice there's low turnover.
Despite international diversity in ethnicity and culture in Albany, there's a
preponderance of middle-class, college-
educated, land-poor Asians and Caucasians. Blacks and Hispanics are
underrepresented in Albany schools, particularly in advanced classes. There are
no African-American students this year in the award-winning AHS jazz band or the
AHS rhythm and blues group! And hardly any in the advanced bands and orchestras.
(Better representation in the choirs, though). I'm just guessing that's related
to who's had years of private instrumental music lessons.
Local parents spend thousands of unpaid hours running the PTAs and booster
groups, and helping out. In addition to high parcel taxes, local groups raise
hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to support art, music, sports,
counselors, librarians, foreign languages, tutoring, etc. If you move here for
the schools, I hope you contribute.
The Albany schools are terribly overcrowded, and seem to have a high proportion
of English language learners. Alcohol and drug use becomes too common starting in
7th or 8th grade. (FYI, I've heard that Piedmont has a much worse problem with
unsupervised teen drinking parties!)
We've looked around for a smaller, cheaper retirement community but keep coming
back to all the things we love about Albany: it's walkable, it's liveable, it's
convenient to big city amenities and nature, and for us it's near extended
family. It has urban crime and urban problems too.
Albany resident for years
We are a multiracial lesbian family thinking of moving from
Berkeley to Albany. We wanted to know what people thought of
living in Albany in terms of raising kids in a progressive
environment. We know it is close to Berkeley but sometimes, a
few blocks can even make a difference, so we thought we would
check it out with folks to be sure. Specifically, we want to
know about the positive or negative experiences of families of
color or lesbian/gay parents raising kids in Albany both in
terms of the schools and the neighborhoods. Any feedback would
be appreciated. Thanks!
thinking of moving
Living in Albany is great! We are a lesbian couple expecting
our first child in June -- I am black and jewish and my partner
is white and jewish. My adopted little sister (who, by the way,
is from Liberia) lived with me and my former partner for two
years when she was seven to nine years old, and attended Cornell
School on Talbot. I don't believe any of us ever experienced
any kind of problem related to our race(s), religion(s) or our
''family configuration,'' shall we say. My sister had friends
from all kinds of family backgrounds -- straight, gay, all
ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, religions and political
affiliations -- there were no problems that I recall. We were
just like any other family. Oh, and we moved to Albany from
Berkeley, too. Is Albany as progressive as Berkeley? Is any
city as progressive as Berkeley? Feel free to email if you want
to discuss it further.
Albany is less diverse than Berkeley, that's for sure. But it
isn't any less tolerant of all kinds of families, as far as I (a
straight white married mom) can tell having lived both places.
Albany is a fantastic town for raising kids no matter what kind
of parent(s) they have. My own block (on Santa Fe) seems to be
mostly white married couples but there is one lesbian couple
with a preschooler (both parents look white, daughter looks
Asian), and I have friends who used to live on Evelyn and they
told us that nearly every house on their block was occupied by
either a lesbian couple or an interracial couple (the latter of
which they were one)!
For what it's worth, I know of *at least* three same-sex couples
(two with small children) on Evelyn St. in Albany. (I don't know
them personally, but since my daycare lady is on Evelyn we wave
hello a lot) Albany in general is a tolerant, friendly,
walkable, community-oriented place with great public schools.
Come on over!
mom of two in Albany
There are many multi-ethnic families.
I don't know any families heades by gay/lesbian parents. This
is not to say there aren't any; I just don't know of them.
However, I think Berkeley is more ''diverse'' in this respect.
A good thing about AUSD ( http://www.albany.k12.ca.us/ ) is
very good community support, an important thing considering the
CA budget crisis. Albany's SchoolCare (
http://www.albanyschoolcare.org ) asks that parents donate $480
per child per year to preserve school classes and programs (I
bet Berkeley is similar?)
AMS just got a distinguished school designation.
good luck in your decision
We're lesbian moms who have lived in Albany with our two kids for the
past three years and love it! We know two other lesbian families in the
immediate neighborhood, and our experiences with neighbors, schools,
etc. have been great. Feel free to email us if you want more info.
Re: I work in Richmond, husband works in Sunnyvale
It sounds like Albany could be a good fit for you. It fits
most of your criteria:
- Very close to Richmond (far from Sunnyvale, though)
- Safe area, family and kid-friendly, great public schools
- Plenty of Asian families (and mixed families, too)
- Plenty of houses for $800,000 or under (nothing huge, but
plenty of room for a family of 3)
The only thing that would be tough to find in Albany is a
newer house... many of the houses are older, but many of
them have also been partially or totally remodeled in recent
Good luck with your search!
Happy Albany Resident
Re: Neighborhoods for car-free life with a toddler?
We moved from the Mission to Albany last year -- it's not
strictly Berkeley but it's right ''next door'' and so far it's
working out great for us. My husband BARTs to work (El Cerrito
Plaza station is a couple blocks away). I don't even have a
driver's license so I walk to everything. Great schools are just
blocks away, and most everything you need is also close by --
either on Solano Ave, which is crammed with cafes, two movies
theaters, shops, restaurants, bookstores, bakeries, etc., or at
El Cerrito Plaza, a new-ish mall with a Barnes n' Noble, Trader
Joe's, Pier One, Petco, Albertsons, more restaurants, video
rentals, etc. Other nearby stuff: Starbucks and Pete's coffee,
parks, tons of afterschool programs for kids at the rec center
(everything from karate to carpentry to dance, music and more), a
nice library, and the new El Cerrito Speakeasy -- a pizza n'
movies theater opened by the same folks who own the Parkway. I'm
not sure how ''low budget'' the housing is -- we bought a major
fixer at a great price and have been noodling away on it ever
since and we know other families here who are *far* from wealthy.
It's a really swell place to be -- quiet, super friendly,
diverse. Might be worth checking out!
Re: East Bay neighborhood that's commutable, progressive & kid-friendly
We've been really happy in Albany, and it has all the things
you're looking for:
1) A small-town atmosphere with lots of families, walkable
neighborhoods and easy access to natural groceries &
2) Several nice local parks, quick access to large parks like
Tilden, easy access to a bayside beach and a quick hop
across the bay to Marin County and Point Reyes
3) A great school system with motivated kids, good teachers
and lots of parent involvement
4) Walking (or easy biking) access to BART
Yes, it's expensive. And the school budgets are getting
slashed, just like most in California. But it works pretty well
for us. Good luck!
Re: Seeking a friendly neighborhood w/kids
You can't beat Albany for what you're looking for -- the good
schools mean there are a lot of families with kids here. Our
neighborhood (the area behind the Mallard bar) is full of kids.
On our block there are 11 kids on our side of the street, and 6
on the other. Granted there are neighbors I've never met, but
those with kids all know each other, our kids play together,
when someone needs a hand we take care of each others kids, and
when I'm short an egg when baking a cake I can always run over
to my neighbor. When we were interested in buying our house we
talked to the neighbors and asked about the ages of kids in the
neighborhood, and we drove by at different times of day and saw
all the kids in the area. Good luck in your search.
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