|Berkeley Parents Network|
|Home||Members||Post a Msg||Reviews||Advice||Subscribe||Help/FAQ||What's New|
General Questions about Living in Berkeley
Reviews of Specific Neighborhoods
This is sort of a strange question, but I think this community might have some answers for me.
Our family of four recently moved to the Bay Area from out of state for my husband's job, which is in the south end of the East Bay. We decided to rent in Berkeley for a few reasons: good schools, proximity to the city, proximity to BART, and (for us) nice weather. Happily, my kids are thriving in their public elementary and private preschool, and we have enjoyed much of what the community has to offer.
I am wondering, though, if we really 'fit in' here, and (partly) this is why: whenever we tell someone that we live in Berkeley, the assumption is that we are either from here or are somehow affiliated with Cal. We are neither, and in addition are not really 'crunchy' people, so most people we meet seem sort of bemused that we would choose to live here.
My impression - after being here a few months - is that people choose to live in Oakland because it is reasonably priced and 'cool'/arty/up-and-coming, or they live in Albany for the schools, or Piedmont for the schools/la-ti-da atmosphere, or Marin for schools/safety and wealth/proximity to outdoor rec, or Walnut Creek and Lamorinda for schools/access to BART/warmer weather.
But why do people choose to live in Berkeley? Are there people out there who make a conscious choice to come here despite the fact that they are not connected to the university? Is there a healthy population of people who like the public schools for what they are, and not just because they feel righteous about the way the schools redistribute and mix up kids from all kinds of backgrounds (which I really like, by the way)? Are there people out there like me who like living here, but aren't all that crazy about Berkeley Bowl and attachment parenting?
All you Berkeley transplants: what brought you here? Did you find it? If you embraced Berkeley, did it love you back? Wondering
I have settled here and have two kids in BUSD. I also own a small business that thrives on the higher income base of people who live here/around here. I couldn't do what I do in a lower income area. But my main reason for not moving is the schools. My kids have special needs and BUSD is AMAZING in terms of the support I get. I have to say i do highly value the diversity. My kids are welcomed and accepted by their peers and I credit the school's focus on diversity and acceptance for allowing my children to fit right in and thrive.
I don't have an issue with the crunchy factor (i'm not crunchy). Live and let live. As long as no one judges me, I don't judge them. I find the community pretty accepting overall. Not a Typical Berkeley-ite
My guess is that folks assume you're somehow here by way of UC Berkeley because you're a recent transplant. As you can imagine, a lot of people move here to start undergrad or grad school at Berkeley or get jobs there.
I'm interested in reading other responses to your question as I wonder if they were as irritated reading it as I was. I don't think diversity in our schools is righteous. Many people come to the bay area for the diversity. I somehow don't think you did. And Berkeley and Oakland have extremely rich histories. I wonder which parts of Oakland you consider 'up-and-coming' - you might be witnessing gentrification. Good luck to you
We choose to live in Berkeley (my husband is from the East Coast and I am from the UK) and we have no affiliation with Cal (both work in San Francisco). We love it here -- great community, good public schools, wonderful neighbors and a nice balance for us between the culture/walkability/city feel of San Francisco and the ability to live in a little house with a yard without feeling like we live in the 'burbs. Berkeley may not have schools considered as 'good' as Marin or Piedmont (whatever that means) or be as affordable as Oakland but I think it has the best balance. And yes, I appreciate Berkeley's diversity.
I'm not sure where in Berkeley you live -- perhaps if it is up near campus you feel more like everyone is part of Cal -- but in our 'hood (West Berkeley) folks come from all over and do all sorts of things. The thing I love most about my Berkeley neighborhood is how close I have become with my neighbors. We have regular block and back-yard parties. We hang out on our stoops. We watch each others' kids, pickup each others' mail, and water each others' yards if we're out of town. I have never felt that we don't belong because we're not from here or associated with the university -- explore Berkeley for yourself and nevermind the 'bemused' responses you're encountering. Happy Berkeley Transplant
As far as why you're receiving so many questions about being from Berkeley or associated with Cal, I would imagine that either A) People are thinking of a Berkeley demographic if yester-year? Or B) People just talk and make assumptions, so the first thing that leaps into their minds is the university and fail to realize that Berkeley is now highly sought-after community in the bay area, whether you're employed there or not. So, people will be people and will ask their ill- informed questions, but this does not mean you're not welcome in Berkeley. I know several families who choose to live in Berkeley for its parks, neighborhoods, schools, restaurants, culture, overall vibe, etc. You would not be the first, nor the last.
I think once you've been living here a while and have met a wider variety of people, you'll see that it doesn't matter who you are when it comes to living in Berkeley. I'm technically in Oakland, but I love and embrace both cities. And I'm not crunchy. And I often feel like the only 'AP' parent in a 3-mile radius. It's diverse, so don't worry about it. don't sweat it
Before kids, we decided to move to the SF Bay Area for work, and we ended up in Berkeley only because the one person we knew on the West Coast happened to know about an apartment in Berkeley. We knew nothing about Berkeley before we came here, literally nothing. Here's why we chose to stay: For the first decade here, we were poor but we lived very well in Berkeley. Our first apartment was near Elmwood and I've lived in this area ever since. For not that much money we rented such a pretty flat in a neighborhood with so many beautiful flowers and trees, and it was lovely just walking around in the neighborhood. Telegraph Av was thriving then and just a quick walk to book stores and record stores. We had the Bowl, Magnani's, Ver Brugge, and the Nabalom right down the street for a Sunday morning danish, and Peets of course. Here and there lived an actual famous person that even our redneck cousins had heard of! We didn't have big heating bills in the winter, and we didn't need AC in the summer. So many free things to do with kids - Totland, Tilden, Willard Park, Russell St. on Halloween, exploring the pathways around Berkeley, and the UCB campus.
What I love about it now: I hate to drive and I don't have to do it much in Berkeley. I now work at UC Berkeley so I can walk to work. In 10-15 minutes, year-round, I can walk to a big grocery store or a mom and pop market, a wine store, a movie theater, BART, multiple cafes, multiple bakeries, multiple restaurants with incredible food, and any number of one-of-a-kind shops in Elmwood and Rockridge. Our dentist and doctors are near Alta Bates which is also walking distance. Berkeley is urban enough that world-famous performers come here, which I can walk to, and there are many cultural and literary events associated with the UCB campus that we can attend. If we need more Urban than Berkeley can provide, Oakland and SF are both easily accessible via BART. Berkeley also has a rural feel - the groves of trees, creeks, climbing rocks right in the middle of a neighborhood, and backyard chickens, even in the ritzy Claremont district.
I think my favorite thing about Berkeley is the architecture - all the houses and buildings that were intentionally built by artists and UC faculty to be beautiful and/or interesting, from the sprawling Julia Morgans and Maybecks to the tiny bungalows to the hobbit houses and fairy tale houses and the modern eco re-habs. All of the houses big and small with their roses and nasturtiums and trumpetvines and lavendar and jasmine - that's another thing: Berkeley smells good!
Well, there are a few reasons I love it here. And no, I don't love everything - I have plenty of complaints - but the pros far outweigh the cons.
Somebody I spoke to said that people that aren't from Berkeley think they need to send their kids to Albany for school because they score well, when really the schools in Berkeley are as good -just have more diversity (which we also value), thus affecting the test scores. They also seem to have great, progressive programs, and smaller class sizes than even the private school I attended as a child. A good friend of mine here in Berkeley once said that this place is amazingly supportive of personal growth. For children and grown-ups alike. It took her awhile to 'go there'. When she did, she felt nurtured and supported, and never wanted to live any other place (well, besides Southern France). I'm excited to be here and feel lucky to have stumbled onto the place. Though, I appreciate Berkeley Bowl and already kinda like attachment parenting It takes a while to settle in to any community, to get acquainted and assimilated. You never know... Same time next year, you might be buying your food in bulk and fighting for front door parking at Berkeley Bowl Remember, you're adding to Berkeley's diversity by defying it's 'type' and being the person you are. 'Free Leonard!'
We have been through it many times ourselves: why Berkeley and not one of the adjacent neighborhoods? For a while we couldn't put our finger on it, and we figured it our little by little - we are not Lamorinda types. We like a little village-y and urban action. We like the nearby hum of Shattuck and all its offerings. We did want to be close to the city and have the quick commute when needed.
So why not Oakland or Albany? Here's where it gets a bit more abstract: Berkeley has this rich and quirky history: the university, the food, the architecture - we have not been here long but already we have given friends some 'tours' of our new favorite spots and there's this pride-of-place that feels specific to Berkeley. I like how it feels like a very very small town in some respects but one in which the locals are palpably tuned in to the bigger world. I guess that could be said of many college towns, but this one also has Tilden park, blazing sunsets, intense coffee, people from everywhere, insane culinary options, proximity to SF and wine country and PCH...so to answer your question, we like Berkeley and yes, Berkeley has liked us back. I sometimes get the sense that people are confused by us (ie. 'remind me again why you moved here?'), but everyone has been friendly, open, and very neighborly. Happy to Be Here
I think Berkeley is sometimes a victim of its own press - certainly folks who don't live here have an odd view of the place. And it is easy to surround yourself with 'fellow travelers', should you choose to do so. Certainly I have experienced an unattractive 'we're different and that means better in Berkeley' vibe among a certain stripe of person, but those folks are easily identified and avoided. Most folks are just trying to get along. Not-so-crunchy mama
I have a wonderful 3 year old boy who has unfortunately had pneumonia twice now, once being hospitalized for a severe case. We live literally across the street from the freeway in Burlingame (Peninsula) and finally made a correlation between my son's lung sensitivities and the pollution. We are moving ASAP and wanting to move to Berkeley as I lived there before my son, and our only family in the area is there. Though I am really happy about the idea, i'm also worried as Alameda's air quality gets a pretty low rating. Can anyone help me to know which areas of Berkeley have the least air pollution? Is the hills less polluted (though so expensive we probably can't live there) or is it more as there is less breeze? What areas should we look in or stay away from? What's the overall impression of Berkeley's air quality and kids? Any help is oh so greatly appreciated. Thank you. Young mom who wants to keep her son healthy
1. pollution from roads - bad everywhere close to areas that have major traffic but normally doesn't carry that far - choose a residential neighborhood away from the freeway
2. pollution from industry - in general Berkeley air quality is actually not so good compared to other areas in the Bay - best air is in SF proper and Marin (basically everything close to the ocean, since most wind comes from the West) - places like Pacifica too. Then all the dirt from the city gets blown over to the East Bay, which also has a lot of heavy industry (West Berkeley, Richmond) that adds to the mix. Unfortunately most of the industry zoning is close to the bay, so all the fumes get blown over residential Berkeley. If you still choose Berkeley, definitely don't move to West Berkeley close to the Pacific Steel Foundry, Berkeley's largest polluter; here is more info about the area affected: http://www.berkeleycitizen.org/Air%20Quality/monitor.htm A really great resource for you is also from USA today - they calculated expected air quality for all schools in the US (based on industry pollution) - you can check a school in each neighborhood you're interested in http://content.usatoday.com/news/nation/environment/smokestack/index Please note that the 2nd worst school in California in terms of air quality is located in Berkeley. http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-12-18/article/31845?headline=Berkeley-Schools-Top-Bad-Air-Quality-List--By-Kristin-McFarland
3. indoor air quality can be worse than outside because of all the emissions that are coming from carpets, furniture, building materials...; allergies can also be a factor (dust mites etc) http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/450.html
Don't mean to frighten you, most people deal quite well with this level of contamination, but if your kid already has respiratory problems, I would move as close as possible to the Ocean - Pacifica, SF, Half Moon Bay... the humidity will be good for the airways as well. And I would take a look at interiors and make sure you're using low-VOC carpeting and paint, and furniture without formaldehyde (choose used solid wood furniture over new particle board furniture).
Also note that GW Bush eliminated the clean air act and that Republicans are currently trying to get rid of the little bit of regulation that prevents excessive pollution....good to know for the upcoming election. Hope your little one is feeling better soon! Julia
Outdoor air quality is an important health consideration, but indoor quality is even more important. Perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning products, smoke, new carpet, new paint, etc, etc, all affect health. If the indoor air quality is good, outdoor air quality becomes less important. Anon
Our family currently lives in San Carlos on the Peninsula and while it's a nice small town that is great for kids, we're yearning for a more progressive environment and a larger city. We plan to start taking monthly trips over to Berkeley to explore and get acquainted with the different neighborhoods, parks, etc. We'd love to hear from you if you live in Berkeley. What neighborhoods do you like? What elementary schools have you had a positive experience with? What do you like to do with your children in the area? What do you consider to be the biggest benefits of living in Berkeley and what things are on the down side? We moved to CA in August 2010 from Seattle, and while we have some experience with the Bay Area, we're still unfamiliar with the nitty gritty details. Any info you can provide would be so helpful as we consider another major move with two little boys (4 and 7). E.
The public schools are great and kids get an amazing, diverse, vibrant, real life education. It is urban-lite. I would never consider the schools dangerous, but stuff gets stolen. Students are from all kinds of different kinds of families. We get Malcolm X Day as a holiday, and we have an elementary school named for him.
We have 2 BART stations and decent bus service to most places, except the hills. Tilden park has lots of fun stuff to do and explore. There are little parks and playgrounds all over the city.
Berkeley has small-town familiarity with a very slight urban/international edge. Not San Francisco, but not Danville, either. --Moved away but missed it and came back
We are considering buying a home that is next to a public walking path in the Berkeley Hills. What is it like to live next to one? We were just curious to hear anyone else's experiences. Pros \ cons. Thank you. Curious
Most people are courteous and respectful, but many are not. Hopefully, those who use the paths and are reading this will remember to be aware of the proximity of private homes to these paths and walk through quickly and quietly. :)
-- My usually sweet dog goes absolutely insane when people walk their dogs on the path. They must think we have Cujo chained up in our yard.
-- It is sometimes weird to be relaxing in our yard and suddenly hear people walking by and talking. Although, I don't think it is THAT different from having a neighbor on the other side of the fence.
-- We occasionally get young trouble-makers hanging out at night drinking and smoking. Once or twice, they have scribbled graffiti on the fence, which irks me. I do have to pick up a little bit of trash from time to time. Fortunately, we live in small town, so I sent an email to all our neighbors, asking if they have seen any kids drinking and smoking on our path (and leaving their empties!!). I did this having a pretty good idea of whose kids it was. It stopped. That's the beauty of living in a small town like Moraga...
-- Then there is the issue of who is responsible for keeping the path clean, non slippery, etc. My neighbor on the other side of the path just hired a gardener who cleans the path regularly, which is awesome. Before, we'd get out there and clean up the leaves and other detritus from time to time.
Those sound like BIG negatives, but in our case it isn't a big deal at all. We love having the cut through, which gives my kids a 2-block walk to school rather than a much longer one. If you're outgoing enough, you could knock on the neighbors' doors that border the path and ask them. Also, walk it and see if there is a ton trash, graffiti, etc.
You will want to know that the city has a 10' on center right-of-way on the path. Measure 5' from the center of the path into your property. It worth checking all of this before you build any fences, etc. within that 5'. Also, the city is responsible for the trees within that 10' right of way. Good luck, Rachel
Hi all I am relocating to Berkeley from NY, with my 14 month old baby girl. I have friends in different neighborhoods but they don't have kids. So I'm hoping some of you who have or had toddlers in Berkeley can offer advice. Without a young child I'd want to live in the hills but I'm afraid of feeling isolated up there, esp as a single mom (and I don't want to have drive everywhere.) Thoughts on Elmwood and anything on North Berkeley would be helpful. Thanks much! Christine
We moved to North Berkeley when I was pregnant with my first child. I didn't want to be too far into the hills, wanted to be able to walk to a park and to grocery shopping, so I set my eastern limit at Euclid Avenue and my northern limit as Eunice. It was a great decision for us - wonderful having Codornices Park and the Rose Garden to explore with young children and meet other families. However, my northern limit was really out of ignorance - I only knew the campus area from my days in college here, and wasn't aware of other great neighborhoods within walking distance of Solano Avenue, or close to the Monterey Market area. We were equally fortunate in finding a small, neighborly street, and know all of our neighbors! There are many great neighborhoods in north, central, west, south Berkeley - So I'd say, get out a compass and draw walking distance from good parks, grocery shopping (including farmer's markets) and transportation, and for bonus points, find yourself one of the smaller, shorter streets and you'll be as happy as we! Berkeley Mama
I lived in South Berkeley all through my daughter's elementary and middle schools years. For the most part I was very happy there, though there are some rough parts that I would avoid.
Out of necessity we moved to Central Berkeley around high school (there's only one, so it doesn't really matter at that point as far as schools go). I'm really happy in central Berkeley, about 4 blocks west of downtown. Lots of stuff is accessible on foot and the streets are pretty and quiet.
I would visit some of the neighborhoods with a friend when you visit next to see where you feel comfortable and where you can afford (if that's an issue). anon
Due to the economics of buying a house in the Bay Area, one of the parts of Berkeley with a very high concentration of new families is South Berkeley. As recent as 10 years ago it wasn't considered an option for many people but most of it has transformed and there are a lot of benefits.
It's relatively affordable, it shaves off 20 to 30 minutes a day on commutes heading to most of the job centers nearby, kids can bike, plenty of parks, Berkeley Bowl West recently opened and is great, there are walking shops and restaurants (Dwight and San Pablo or Dwight and Sacramento are of note) Two of the nicest shopping areas are close (4th street and Emerybay) There are multiple high quality child care options in the neighborhood and nearby. Alex
We are trying to figure out everyone's favorite neighborhood in Berkeley so that we can narrow our search. We have a 5 year old daughter so schools are of interest too. Thanks!
Elmwood (centered around College and Ashby) is a great Berkeley neighborhood, especially if you want to be close to campus, but it is very expensive. And North Berkeley has two very good neighborhoods - Gourmet Ghetto (centered around Shattuck and Vine) and Thousand Oaks (centered around Solano and The Alameda). All of these are expensive, but are safe and have supermarkets and copious restaurants within walking distance. You didn't really say what your criteria were for a good neighborhood, but I'd assume such things would figure in.
As for schools, once you've settled on a hood, check out the Berkeley Unified School District website to figure out which zone you'd fall into. Each zone encompasses upper- and middle-class neighborhoods, so your kid(s) will likely end up being bused, but I've heard the majority of schools in all zones are good (probably better than the current state of the Seattle public schools). There's good school info on BPN, obviously!
If you give us more info on what you're looking for and what you like in Seattle, that would help. (But if you just loooove Mercer Island, I don't think I can help you!) Good luck with your search and move! The Thing I Miss Most About Seattle Is The Rain!
Are there any eco-villages close to Berkeley? The nearest we've found is in Davis but I'm thinking there has to be something closer. We want something with houses that are very energy efficient, small plots of private property but far more common property, edible landscaping, etc. We are okay with some elements of co-housing like a weekly shared meal and a family job, but don't want to go full bore with shared finances and all meals in common. I realize we can do things to make our own home energy efficient or live in a condo complex and try to get efficiency projects off the ground, but we'd rather live with a group of people who are really trying to build a community with values we share. We want to live someplace kid-friendly, with good public schools nearby, within 15 miles of U.C. Berkeley, and in a quiet, safe area. Does such a place exist? Looking for a place to call home
Berkeley, Calif. Ashby Lofts
I was priced out of Berkeley when I bought my home four years ago. Now I am becoming a single mom and have less money than ever, but I REALLY want to move back. If I sell my house, can I find an affordable Berkeley/Albany 2 bedroom to buy on a schoolteacher's salary (NOT a fixer-upper -- I have enough on my plate right now), or a clean, well-maintained rental in a quiet neighborhood that the landlord is not likely to sell for many years? The only reason I even dare ask is that I have noticed some new condo construction and was hoping some of it might be reserved for ''affordable housing'' or that there might be some kind or program for cops, teachers, nurses, etc. out there. Thanks. Grateful for info
Re: Best town in California to live?
My husband and I moved from Chicago 19 years ago, initially to San Francisco, then 6 years later, after we had 2 kids, to Berkeley, where we currently live. Just about anywhere in the Bay Area has a better connection to nature than Chicago. Based on your criteria, you should consider Berkeley--it is close to Tilden and other regional parks, the ocean, is a liberal community and has neighborhoods with walkable amenities.
Re: Kid friendly neighborhoods in the East Bay I noticed that noone from Berkeley responded to your question and wanted to chime in. In Berkeley (also Albany) there are a number of wonderful kid-friendly neighborhoods. Our family (w/ 2 girls) looked for houses within walking distance to parks & shops. We just bought a house in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood (where I grew up) and loved living in Westbrae neighborhood (for 13 years). There are jewel-like parks all over the city - and a bay trail that is great for kite flying, bicycling, walking, biking & dog walking. Left up to me, I would avoid areas near campus just because they tend to be heavily studented and parking is difficult - so the vibe is different.
Another thing that I think should be noted when looking at cities - Berkeley has historically and consistently been a big booster of schools & libraries. Contra Costa voters recently failed to pass bond measures for schools - but Berkeley voters tend to pass library & school measures. I profoundly hope we pass Measure A and continue this trend.
As recent home buyers/ home-sellers, we can attest that the prices seem to be lower than we've seen recently so this might be a good time to get in. Berkeley booster
Please give me your opinions (and if you know of good affordable housing, that too!). I grew up in and around Berkeley and went there as an undergrad. Loved it. We moved to a nearby university town, much more suburban (i.e. peaceful and boring). Now I am single and need to move back (school) with my 16 year old daughter. I know this sounds odd, but while I like some of the things and groups Berkeley has to offer, when I am there and read about the crime, it sort of unnerves me. I also have this odd concern that it will be difficult to make friends. I hope others who have moved there, or who are in meditation or music groups can give me some advice.. was it hard to make friends? Do you consider people generally friendly? How do/did you connect with others (in their 30's and 40's?). I guess I want reassurance it will be ok! HELP. And if you know of two rooms in a shared place, or a 2 bedroom apt not too expensive, please let me know :). Thanks. bg
|Home | Post a Message | Subscribe | Help | Search | Contact Us|