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Living in El Sobrante

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Questions about El Sobrante Related Pages

2008 - 2012 Reviews


Buying in Pinole/San Pablo/El Sobrante?

May 2012

We are looking into buying in the Pinole/San Pablo/El Sobrante area and would love some input from everyone since the previous posts are a bit old. Is it safe for small children? How are the schools? Are there things to do for a SAHM? We are looking to buy, but would also like to know how easy a house would be to rent. Any recommendations on good areas are also appreciated. What has been your experience in the area? Thanks Helen


I live nearby Pinole in the El Sobrante area of Richmond, and I think the Pinole/El Sobrante area makes a really nice community. It's very diverse, in terms of race/ethnicity and economics/class, there are a lot of people raising families out here, a lot of SAHM (and also working moms). Many of the elementary schools are quite good, the middle and high schools are a bit uneven, but there are good programs/niches within them. One complaint about the area is that it's very car oriented, you have to drive everywhere, lots of chain stores/restaurants, and you have to drive to either Berkeley/Oakland area or Walnut Creek/Concord area to go to most kid type places (other than parks which we have tons of). But on the upside we are so close to beautiful countryside, the bay, the woods, etc. So, I think it's a fair trade-off. Would I live somewhere else if I had the money to buy an $800,000 house or something? Possibly. But given that I really don't, this is not a bad place to raise a family. --west county mom
I can offer some perspective on El Sobrante. We bought a house in the May Valley area in 2008 and are very happy. The neighborhood is very quiet overall and seems relatively safe. Our house was broken into last year unfortunately, but I do think that happens in many neighborhoods/cities including wealthier ones. There are 2 very good elementary schools in the area, Olinda and Valley View. The schools after that are not quite as good (although they are completely rebuilding DeAnza), so we will need to cross that bridge in several years (we have a 26 month old son).

We have a very nice group of diverse neighbors, and it seems like I am seeing more and more small children in the neighborhood. I do know there have been a few houses for rent on our surrounding streets, but it would also be a great time to buy (houses have come down significantly in price, to your benefit, but unfortunately not ours). anon


Living in El Sobrante

June 2008

We currently live in Lafayette. I know this is supposed to be the ultimate desireable place to live, but I'm miserable. The values here are achievement and materially -oriented, aspiritual and apolitical. Everyone looks the same. The schools get high test scores, but it's because there is so much homework the kids are all sleep-deprived.

I am looking to relocate to a community which is progressive to alternative and artsy, and values creativity, questioning, and genuine intellectual activity versus an MBA degree from a name college. We are middle income (which translates to struggling in the Bay Area!) and also, of course, want some place safe for our kids to play and attend public schools. I also value the natural world very, very highly.

I am interested in El Sobrante. There is so much land there and Open Space, and it is affordable.

Is there a community of progressive people in El Sobrante? Is it safe? Can anyone recommend neighborhoods of artsy/hippie/progressive folks raising kids? Are there neighborhoods to avoid (safety)?

Sorry I'm sounding so negative but I'm just having a low moment over here today! Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. Jasmine


Sorry to hear about your experience with Lafayette but I understand you completely. My inlaws leave there and I call it ''lala'' land. My husband, 2 kids and I live in El Cerrito and love it. Schools are not bad though I am not fond of the middle and high school. Bad rep. El Sobrante has some great areas and I think you would enjoy the area before Carriage hills off of Hillside drive. I just sold a house there and the neighbors were all there because they wanted to have their little community. It has an entrance to Kennedy Grove Park as well. Very few homes come on the market there. Otherwise the area off of May Road has some nice homes and Valley View Elementary school which is considered a good school. good luck. Catherine
El Sobrante has some lovely areas with larger lots, more reasonable prices, and a semi-rural atmosphere. It is slowly evolving into a more sophisticated area, but retains a great deal of its ''redneck'' tradition (said in a positive sense). It is reasonably safe (there are a few areas where several meth labs have been raided), and it is in close proximity to recreational areas such as San Pablo Reservoir and the Briones and Kennedy Grove areas. It is also close to Tilden Park.

The ''downside'' is the school system. It is part of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (formerly Richmond Unified) and, while the elementary schools are reasonably good in El Sobrante proper, the middle and high schools, IMO, leave much to be desired. If I had young kids, and wanted to stay in El Sobrante (where I now live), I would seriously consider private school.

Public transit is also less-than-favorable. The Orinda BART is relatively close, but involves a bus ride on The County Connection or a 10 to 15 minute car drive (with parking charges) to the BART station, but the BART connections are good (the line is the one which goes to San Francisco and SFO Airport directly. Robert


Hi Jasmine,

I live in El Sobrante, in one of the developments off of Castro Ranch Rd. We certainly have lots and lots of open land around us. Makes for quiet nights (unless the cows are mooing!), beautiful scenery, and gorgeous bicycle riding right outside your door.

The huge downside, of course, is the current state of the school district. I would seriously ponder what you want from your institutionalized schooling services (unless you intend on pursing alternative routes such as charters, homeschools, etc.) before you move. In general, the stressors here revolve around lack of resources, whereas the stressors there seem to revolve around diminishing returns and the perceived need to be ''on top.''

I don't know of specific artsy/hippie/progressive neighborhoods. Carriage Hills has been pretty safe but we've had our share of vandelism, car theft, etc. Coming from Lafayette, crime might seem higher just by relative perspective.

So, you are looking for a spiritual, political, less status driven community....you mention progressive, alternative, artsy, creative and intellectually engaging......off the cuff, it sounds pretty Berkeley to me.

Aside from the location of your house, and I could be wrong, but I don't think you'll find all of these things as a factor of where you live but rather, who you cultivate friendships with. We live amongst attorneys, MBA'ers, entrepreneurs, blue-collars, pink collars, rednecks, etc. It is quite a mix of demographics....much like the housing structures. good luck with your search!


There is certainly a progressive community in El Sobrante interested in environmental conservation, electoral issues and Barack Obama, the Waldorf School (progressive education). Our supermarket, Raley's, has a great natural foods section. My own interests are in the arts and particularly animal husbandry and environmental conservation of land. I was successful in obtaining a clean up grant for a local riding stable to aid in conserving the integrity of our local creek, and teach horseback riding with a strong eye toward loving integrity of land and horses and people. Kari
Editor Note: Reviews were also received for El Cerrito because the heading on the original question was "Living in El Sobrante or El Cerrito".

2004 - 2007 Reviews


May 2007

Re: Safe, family--oriented neighborhood?
We love El Sobrante. We moved to El Sobrante from Albany in order to purchase a larger home. El Sobrante is somewhat rural (there are horses and goats in our neighborhood), diverse and family friendly. It is also very safe. There is an active neighborhood association which just oversaw the installation of a brand new toddler/kid park. Olinda and Valley View are wonderful schools. I have heard great things about them from parents who have children there. There is a beautiful creek, library, boys and girls club, dance studio, soccer league, and some great restaurants (peruvian, salvadoran, chinese, italian, mexican, indian as well as local breakfast places). The Lakeridge Athletic Club is also in El Sobrante and offers swim, tennis and other aerobic classes and camps. We also have Canyon Swim school which is quite popular for children's swim lessons. One of my favorite places is Central Foods on Appian which just changed owners and has lots of organic and natural products, produce and meats. Another wonderful place is Eco Village Farm which is a community learning project for sustainable farming. The weather is great, just outside the fog belt. My husband works at UC Berkeley which is a 20 minute ride. He can also drive the back way through Tilden to avoid traffic. We are very happy here. Come check it out! Loving El Sobrante


Is El Sobrante queer-friendly?

March 2005

I'm growing weary of our small, old North Berkeley home. It's in the best location in the universe, near totland, gourmet ghetto, BART, all the wonderful things Berkeley has to offer BUT a) we're too close to our neighbors and b) to be the house we want it to be, we'd have to sink another $100k into it and c) we can't afford all those gourmet ghetto restaurants and stores anyway! We have an infant and are planning another baby. We're a lesbian couple. So here's what I want to know: I've heard some great things about El Sobrante -- chiefly that you're so close to the regional park and you get so much more house and land for your money. But I'd love to hear from some lesbian/gay couples: is El Sobrante queer-friendly? And I'd love to hear from anyone who has kids who's moved from Berkeley/Oakland: do you miss the city environment? Is there enough for your kids to do? What age do you think does best in El Sobrante v. in a more urban area like Berkeley? And is El Sobrante still a great deal comparatively? eyes on El Sobrante


We are a lesbian couple with a 3 year old and a newborn. We moved from Oakland to El Sobrante last summer and we love it. I left Oakland kicking and screaming, not wanting to leave. My partner stays home with our kids and she wanted to move and we could no longer afford Oakland. I relented because she's the one who has to really deal with where we live, i.e shopping, the neighbors, getting from point A to point B so I said okay. And I have to say I LOVE THE BURBS!!!!! Oh my god, with the Pinole shopping center right near our house, what used to take days to do with errands takes 1-2 hours, our nieghbors are so nice, the man next door mows our lawn, it's so quiet it really feels like we don't live around 5 million people, we live on 1/4 acre and i've met so many people who have just moved here because thay are being priced out from berkeley/oakland area that i think in a few years it will be an extension of that area. If you own your home in N Berk (sound like you do) you could buy a mansion here with a view. We have never felt anything remotely homophobic, there is so much more i could tell you, feel free to write to us and we can give you more insight into the area out here. We love it and I think it's one of the last overlooked areas in the BA. Of course I'd love to see more queers here so perhaps I'm biased but it rocks. erin

2003 & Earlier


Thinking of moving to El Sobrante

June 2003

My husband and I are thinking of moving to El Sobrante. We are looking for a more relaxed setting but not to far away from the city. I work in Berkeley and my husband works downtown San Francisco. We have a two year old son and we would like to know what peoples experience has been in moving to El Sobrante. We are looking to develop a group of friends who also work as we do, with kids that we can share time with on the weekends. What have your experiences been in moving there. What are the upsides to it and the downsides? Thanks, any thoughts are welcome. Chris


We moved to the El Sobrante area in 2001 from El Cerrito where we then found an affordable home and we love it! It has now appreciated well over $100,000. It is a beautiful, little known area with views of the Wildcat Canyon hills (hiking only minutes away), very peaceful and the weather is perfect, we're right on the edge of the fog line. It is an area with mostly 50'sh ranchers with a lot of old time residents, although that is changing with people moving in from the Berkeley area. It is remarkable that this area hasn't really ''caught on'' yet, it is very close to El cerrito/Berkeley/Orinda (about a 15-20 minute drive, usually) but yet totally isolated from that culture, almost like a time warp going back to the 50's. The down side: there is really no ''center'' to go to or much culture. The best restaurant is Uncle Sam's (Chinese buffet, incredibly good) in a defunct shopping center, no book stores or theaters. But hey, the Berkeley area is right around the corner. Valley View elmentary school is pretty decent, Waldorf is also in the neighborhood. Murphy and Sheldon schools are not so good. If living in an unpretentious, peaceful, friendly, spacious area without all the hype, this would be for you. It takes me about 10 to 15 minutes to drive to either the EC Del Norte or Orinda Bart station around 7:00AM. Great place to raise kids! SF/Brkly/EC transplant.
Chris, My husband and I bought a house in El Sobrante nearly 4 years ago and really enjoy living in that area. The reason many people move there is the low cost of living. We were able to buy a newer, larger home than we could have afforded in Berkeley. In addition, it is quiet and peaceful. It is ethnically diverse and has the basic shops nearby (market, drug store, drycleaner, bank). There is an entrance to Wildcat Canyon Park off of Clark Street and Kennedy Park near the dam has a play ground and a huge openspace for little ones to run. The biggest downside for parents is the school system. The elementary schools are ok, but the high school performs very poorly in the annual testing. In addition, downtown El Sobrante is also not very attractive or well planned and can get quite busy with weekend traffic. Give me a holler if you have other questions or concerns. Cheers! Cindy
Hello Chris, We have lived in El Sobrante for five years. We moved here from central San Rafael. As you noted, there are pros and cons to living in El Sobrante, but then, there are pros and cons to living just about anywhere. I really like El Sobrante. I am active in a neighborhood mom's group, and it's great to have other families with young children near us. Some neighborhoods may be different, but our neighborhood has many families with young children and babies. We are close enough to SF to get there in 25 minutes on a Saturday morning (sans trafic), yet so far, we still have less local traffic than many other bay area towns. My favorite part of living here is watching the fog roll off the hills into the sunshine, it's beautiful. And our weather is great - when the fog rolls over the hills, it will be sunny here, while foggy in El Cerito. It's only hot a few weeks out of the year, and our winters are mild (compared to my mom's house in Union City). It does take a while to find the parks, fun library events, and events at Kennedy Grove that suit you and your family, but there are many things going on locally. There are several local hiking spots, horses, and fun farm vehicles for kids to see. Please feel free to email me when you move! grace

Is El Sobrante a nice place to live and raise a family?

July 2002

Does anyone know anything about El Sobrante? Is it a nice place to live and raise a family? Anna I moved to El Sobrante over a year ago from Montclair. I highly recommend the area....especially for raising a family. If you are planning on using the public school system and buy into the API ratings, you'll see that Valley View, Olinda and Ellerhorst all score between 8-10 (out of 10). You can ask your agent to show you houses that fall within the boundaries of these schools. Be careful, though, as the other local schools vary and some score very low on that same API scale.

Also check Pinole out. It is very pretty there and also out of the hubub. To get a good feel for the area I suggest you take a drive on the following roads and check the houses/developments on them: San Pablo Dam Rd (before Castro Ranch Rd), Castro Ranch Rd., Wright ave (off of Pinole Valley Rd), etc....

The only thing I *really* miss out here are independent stores for books, for groceries, for restaurant food, etc. ...but all is within a 1/2 hourish drive...... good luck, ---lucia


I lived in El Sobrante for 6 years. I think it's getting better every year as more development happens. It has pleasant weather, and easy access to the freeway. I have siblings who attend Pinole Valley High, and it is not a very good school. There are lots of kids who are not into academics there and who are a bad influence on others (according to my step-mom), though I'm sure that can be anywhere. My sister went to two different private Christian schools, and both were not very academic either. a.m.
Regarding El Sobrante-- it's like so many places in the Bay Area--a lot depends on your individual neighborhood and neighbors. We've lived here for 2 years and bought here because we had a need for more space than what we could have purchased in Berkeley for the same money. The town is unincorporated, so can have an ''unzoned'' look about it, and there is no well-defined downtown and no ''cute'' shopping areas. There is easy shopping for necessities, though, at the huge strip mall complex on Fitzgerald (Target, Mervyn's, etc.) There is a good supermarket, Raley's, on San Pablo Dam Road. A big drawback is that we are not able to walk many places from our home, although our neighborhood is quiet, hilly, and multi-ethnic--all bonuses in my view. The schools are apparently a very mixed bag, but my child is not school age yet so I have no experience there. My biggest advice is to talk to the neighbors and try to figure out if they, and the neighborhood itself, are a good fit for you. Cheri
El Sobrante is quiet, has beautiful views of the Wildcat Canyon hills, good school system, friendly, unpretentious people and is still (but not for long) ''affordable'', by the Bay Area standards. Weather's perfect, we still get the ''air conditioning'' effect from the coast. We bought here about 2 years ago after Berkeley/EC and never regretted it. It's a bit of an unknown, tucked away area, probably the reason why it hasn't been that popular. We still visit Albany/Berkeley frequently, it's only about a 15 minute drive to Solano. My commute to SF is about 45 minutes using public transportation (you can take the trans- bay bus or drive to EC Del Norte). Drawback: the town doesn't really have a ''center'' or much culture but very easy access on the freeway to whatever your interests are. Super nice place to raise kids!

Can't afford Berkeley - how is El Sobrante?

Feb 2000

Does anyone live in El Sobrante? We love Berkeley but cannot afford to buy so may consider moving further north. Was wondering what the community is like, how the schools are rated, is it convenient for shopping etc. Robert


John
Really the best people for this sort of info are realtors. Drop Ira Serkes a line (Realtor at home-buy-sell.com) and ask his advice. Tell him I sent you. Ira's "area" is N. Berkeley, but he does know a lot of people and he'll point you in the right direction. He should be able to tell you who to talk to, at the very least.
Trish
After realizing that Berkeley and Oakland were out of our league for home buying (we did not want a fixer upper that needed a min. of $60K just on foundation work alone!), we looked out in El Sobrante to rent on some recommendations of friend. We had initially thought we would look for a home to RENT, especially since the homes were incredibly reasonable in comparison to what we had been looking at in Oakland (Montclair, Adam's Pt., Crocker, lower Piedmont). [Note: Let me add that we were expecting our 2nd child and had been living comfortably crowded with a 2 yro in a LARGE 1 Bedroom apt (930 sq ft). We realized it was necessary to find larger quarters before the due date of March 1998.]

After doing the math over and over again, we realized it might be cheaper to buy in this area than to rent and it sure was! Low and behold we were charmed by the ultra quiet and country-like feeling of the unincorporated community of El Sobrante. We went from looking to rent to actually OWNING a no-fixer-upper! Considering we never thought we would own w/o an inheritance in our pocket, it was really an amazing feeling when we found our house. It feels like we are zillions of miles away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded cities, w/o being far away at all. We have a FABULOUS yard for the trikes, playhouse, kiddie pool, general running around that little ones need. The daily park outings in the city were beginning to cramp my style. The weather is great (we have a TRUE summer), the commute is reasonable, shopping is readily available locally as well as in many different directions (WC, Orinda, Lafayette, Pinole, El Cerrito), and my neighborhood school did relatively well in the recent rankings (it scored a 7) and is a serious consideration this year for my soon-to-be kindergartner. My neighborhood is incredibly diverse (UCB Faculty, state employees, educators, contractors, nurses, teamsters, artists....you name we got it!). I could go on and on.


Soheila
We live in El Sobrante because we could not afford a house in Berkeley or Albany or El Cerrito or ... Besides, my husband hates samll rooms with short ceiling and damp, mold-smelling rooms (characteristic of houses in the price range we could afford in Berkeley and Albany.) Our house in El Sobrante is relatively new and relatively spacious with a nice yard and nice diverse neighbors (though not a very intereactive neighborhood). The elementary schools are even better than those of Berkeley and sorrounding areas, but high schools are terrible and many residents opt for private schools. I still shop at Berekley Bowl because WebVan does not deliver to the area yet! I go through Camino Ranch Rd and Orinda Village and 24 and 13 to get to the campus. It takes 30-40 minutes, but is not as tiring as freeway. It is GEORGEOUS every morning to watch the dam and its green sorrounding. good luck.
"Bonnie
The East Bay Waldorf School is in El Sobrante, on Clark Road just three or four blocks off of San Pablo Dam Road. It is a thriving private school, with three kindergartens, the grades, and starting next fall, a high school. Prices are in the middle range compared to other private schools. The school is attracting more families from nearby communities each year since the move from Emeryville several years ago, and also has two bus routes serving Berkeley, Oakland, Orinda. The school is strong on languages, the visual arts, theatre, and music. We have built a unique woodworking and gardening building on the upper 5 acres. (My oldest daughter was in the founding kindergarten.)

Carriage Hills area of El Sobrante/Richmond

July 1999

Does anybody live in the Carriage Hills area of El Sobrante/Richmond. If so, do you like it? Is it family/kid friendly? Are there moms groups there? Do you have to come to Berkeley/Oakland for playgroups, music classes, habitot, everything? Is the commute long? Is it safe? Would you recommend it to your friends?


I do not recommend living in Carriage Hill just because it is built on landfill. We live in El Sobrante, next to it, and we enjoy having beautiful parks around us and we go on short hikes very often. we first considered Carriage Hill for living, but in an earthquake area living on landfill is not very desirable. (July 1999)
Although I do not actually live in this area, I have a number of friends that live in the El Sobrante area and speak highly of Carriage Hills. It is probably one of the most affluent areas of El Sobrante with *newer* tract home developments. These homes feed into the best of the West Contra Costa schools (although I don't personally think too highly of this school district - I would recommend checking into the test scores of these schools - if you're seriously thinking of moving to this area.) It's a relatively safe area of the bay area to live in (not really urban but not truly suburban living either). It's about a 30 minute commute to the university.

While I can't speak to the Carriage Hill area specifically, I have found El Sobrante and West Contra Costa County not to be very child friendly. You certainly don't get the same kind of strong family/strong community/small own feel like you do in Berkeley, Albany or places like Benicia. The parks and library facilities are mediocre, O.K. at best. While youth sports programs, special park and rec programs, daycare and preschool programs exist - it has been my experience that you really have to seek them out. These programs are not highly advertised or promoted. If you are looking for a special kids programs you'll probably have to drive to places like Orinda, Walnut Creek, Berkeley or Albany.

There are two well established play groups in the West Contra Costa area. Moms, Dads and Munchkins meets at West Contra Costa parks on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. For more information contact, Pierrette Johnston (510) 222-8557. Family Fun Connection meets in the El Sobrante/Pinole area every couple of weeks.


I do not recommend living in Carriage Hill just because it is built on landfill. We live in El Sobrante, next to it, and we enjoy having beautiful parks around us and we go on short hikes very often. we first considered Carriage Hill for living, but in an earthquake area living on landfill is not very desirable.
Although I do not actually live in this area, I have a number of friends that live in the El Sobrante area and speak highly of Carriage Hills. It is probably one of the most affluent areas of El Sobrante with *newer* tract home developments. These homes feed into the best of the West Contra Costa schools (although I don't personally think too highly of this school district - I would recommend checking into the test scores of these schools - if you're seriously thinking of moving to this area.) It's a relatively safe area of the bay area to live in (not really urban but not truly suburban living either). It's about a 30 minute commute to the university.

While I can't speak to the Carriage Hill area specifically, I have found El Sobrante and West Contra Costa County not to be very child friendly. You certainly don't get the same kind of strong family/strong community/small own feel like you do in Berkeley, Albany or places like Benicia. The parks and library facilities are mediocre, O.K. at best. While youth sports programs, special park and rec programs, daycare and preschool programs exist - it has been my experience that you really have to seek them out. These programs are not highly advertised or promoted. If you are looking for a special kids programs you'll probably have to drive to places like Orinda, Walnut Creek, Berkeley or Albany.

There are two well established play groups in the West Contra Costa area. Moms, Dads and Munchkins meets at West Contra Costa parks on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. Family Fun Connection meets in the El Sobrante/Pinole area every couple of weeks.


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