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We are moving from SF to the East Bay and trying to determine whether Elmwood, Berkeley or Rockridge, Oakland will be better for for our family. We have two kids -- 2 and 1 -- and we are planning on having one or maybe two more. We are 30ish professionals, but I am currently a SAHM while I reconsider my career options. We are Middle Eastern, and we value diversity quite a bit. Other priorities include great neighborhood, strong community feel, walkability, good schools, and a hip but not too hip vibe. We are NYC transplants, and though we LOVE the Bay Area, we definitely miss that NYC/Brooklyn edge at times. The key thing for us is that we want a home and a neighborhood in which we can raise our children and grow old. Therefore, we are looking for a stable community that offers us a mix of cultures and age groups while maintaining a bit of an edge. Also, cost isn't a huge factor, as our income can support a home in either places. Any suggestions and insights are welcome! Thank!! Soon to be new in town
I live in Oakland in a fantastic house, in an up and coming area, but we weren't thinking about these things when we bought, didn't even have a kid then So currently we're homeschooling and looking at private schools for the future... Food for Thought and Grounds for Further Research
One obvious difference is they are in two different school districts. In Oakland, you will know ahead of time which school your kids will be assigned to - it depends on where your house is. In Berkeley, you will be assigned to one of four schools, very possibly to one that is too far to walk to. There are Rockridge schools that have better 'numbers' than Berkeley schools, again depending on where you live in Oakland, and which school you are assigned to in Berkeley. So I wouldn't necessarily let the school district be your determining factor. I think that houses are cheaper in Rockridge because of the perceived school district difference.
I actually enjoyed life in Rockridge better in terms of getting to work and shopping for food. There's a BART station in Rockridge, more restaurants, more markets. Elmwood has a selection of restaurants, but not as many. Elmwood does have a movie theater and a nice library (as does Rockridge) but if you live in Elmwood you can't really run out on foot for a piece of fish and fresh veggies for dinner. In the Elmwood, for a last minute dinner, you are looking at either a restaurant or high end takeout like Summer Kitchen. In Rockridge you have Safeway, Ver Brugge, and Yasai Market all clustered together, and of course Market Hall a little further down. This is so convenient, on the way home from work, or while you're out for a stroll with the baby.
I would say that Elmwood is more upscale than Rockridge, and with an older demographic than Rockridge. I do see plenty of people pushing strollers in both places, but more in Rockridge. If you really want a more hip neighborhood, though, you want Temescal! a mom
Rockridge is a fun shopping and dining district, with proximity to Temescal and Uptown which of course are hipster neighborhoods par excellence. Oakland is pretty much the Brooklyn of the Bay Area, very diverse, past its golden era of working-class pride but bubbling with artisan/locavore/indie energy. With BART and the highway right there, it's also faster getting to other parts of town than from the Elmwood, which gets clogged at rush hours.
The public schools are where you'll find the biggest difference. Berkeley has very high taxes to offset California's lousy school funding, and also buses its students, so all of its elementary schools are similarly (very) diverse racially and economically. There's really not a bad school in town. Oakland schools are zoned by neighborhood for the most part. In the Rockridge area, there are some excellent public schools with mostly affluent families whose PTAs raise $250K or more a year--but of all the white families in Oakland I know, not a single one has stayed in OUSD all the way through high school. glad 2 B in Elmwood
Editor Note: this discussion also appears on the page about Rockridge
Re: new to Elmwood/Rockridge
Welcome! I can speak more about Elmwood and South Berkeley than Rockridge -- you will surely get some great suggestions from both areas. A good place to meet other moms of babies is at the Alta Bates new mothers support groups, which are drop-in: http://www.absmcparented.org/class_detail.php
Berkeley Public Libraries have some toddler-friendly activities, though the Claremont Branch (Elmwood) is closing for renovations very soon. http://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/children/programs-and-events/
I highly recommend purchasing a membership to Habitot in downtown Berkeley. For $140 for one year, you have access to play at Habitot with your children, and borrow from their toy lending library and library of parenting books, and I it appears that you may even have reciprocal access to Lawrence Hall of Science, which your 3 year old may enjoy. It is a wonderful place!!
Re: Kid friendly neighborhoods in the East Bay My daughter is in a nanny share in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley. The homes and yards are beautiful, lots of Craftsman and shingle style homes, tree-lined streets, etc. The home is on a dead-end street with lots of kids, an easy walk from Bateman Tot Park (near Alta Bates Hospital)and Willard Park. Elmwood and Rockridge shops and restaurants are in walking distance. FWIW, they live on Lewiston between Woolsey and Alcatraz, and I think there is at least one home expected to come up for sale soon. I'd live there if I could afford it. Carrie
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