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My husband and I are thinking of moving from Berkeley to Pleasanton or to Lafayette because we would like to be in an area with stronger public schools and because I am changing jobs and want to shorten my commute. I will be working in Pleasanton. Has anyone moved from Berkeley/Oakland/SF to Pleasanton? What did you like/dislike about the change? We also are considering Lafayette. Has anyone commuted between Lafayette and Pleasanton? How was it? Also, how would you compare living in Pleasanton to living in Lafayette? Thanks very much for your help! anon
It was def an adjustment but I'm happy, feel like I made the right decision. My oldest is in 1st grade and I am thrilled with his school - small class sizes (20), lots of extras (paid for by LPIE), high parent participation. It took us a while to get a house but happy with the one we got. I do miss the walk- ability of Rockridge and the amazing restaurants. Lafayette has a few good places, but not the plethora of Oakland. That said, Oakland is not that far away.
I was worried that Lafayette would be super conservative and my hippy-dippy values would stand out. But what I have found is that it is very common to do the SF to Berkeley/Oakland to Lamorinda journey, so lots of folks with very similiar values/politics. good luck.
Now I'm living in Lafayette and absolutely LOVE it here. I think the schools are some of the best I've experienced and although it's a fairly wealthy area, there's not a lot of overt show off attitude from my experience. It's been pretty easy to make friends overall and there seems to be more varied socioeconomic and political diversity, and attitudes. I adore the semi-rural aspect with deer,wild turkey, the occasional coyote, and raccoons passing through our property. It's great to so close to the City, Oakland, Berkeley and Walnut Creek depending on what my family wants to do. As for the drive to Pleasanton---don't know what it's like at rush hour, but it's 20 minutes without traffic. Weather here is perfect for me...we sometimes get the cooler mornings/a little fog that always burns off by 10am, then heat in the afternoon. Good luck with your decision. fionoodle
I have a fantasy of moving from Oakland to Lafayette for safety and good schools. (We have a 5 year old son.) However I do not know anyone who lives there. How can I figure out if we would like it? We are very liberal and not very materialistic. We are involved in the Buddhist community. Do you have any ideas of places to go or things to do to figure this out? k
1) Great schools and a very family-focused community.
2) Low crime and very green. We have deer and wild turkeys in the yard on a weekly basis; my kids can wander in the yard and I have no worries about safety.
3) Commute is not bad - get a permit for BART parking (which does take a while - put your name on the list now if you're even considering it) and you're set.
1) Expensive (which I know can be said for Bay Area overall). I did end up spending $50K more for our house in Lafayette than the house in Rockridge but I got more room and a yard.
2) More car-centric though how much depends on what part you end up living in. I wanted to be in downtown Lafayette and then my kids would have been able to walk to school and myself to coffee. But we ended up on the west side and so we can bike into town but no walking.
I am happy I made the choice to move to Lafayette; it's a great place to raise kids. But I do fantasize about moving back to the city once the kids are out of school and I can downsize.
Best of luck with your decision - it's a tough one. happy in lafayette
Re: Moving to the East Bay from SF - where to live?
I highly recommend that you check out Lafayette. I am also a single mom with one child...it is lovely here...the public schools are excellent, there are apartments/rentals within walking distance of the school and downtown area which includes a Trader Joe's, Safeway, cafes, restaurants, parks, playgrounds, community activities, and the Lafayette Reservoir...BART is also centrally located in the downtown area. Good luck! fellow single mom
We're currently in Berkeley but are looking to move to an area that is more suburban in feel. We have 4 small children and life in a semi-urban environment has grown too hectic for us. We're looking for the following: 1) Excellent public schools (elementary, middle, and high school... a tall order, I know!) 2) A great sense of community 3) Good amount of cheap/free kids' activities (robust rec center and public library programs, well-cared-for public parks and pools, kid-friendly biking trails, etc.) 4) Proximity to BART (husband works in SF) Based on this criteria, the towns we're currently considering are Pleasanton and Walnut Creek. Pleasanton seems to have the edge on schools and community feel, as well as proximity to a lot of newer playgrounds and parks. Walnut Creek is a little closer to San Francisco and Berkeley and the fun urban parts of the Bay (which we would still love to visit). Do you live in Pleasanton or Walnut Creek? I'd love to hear any info you might have. Also, if you live in another city that meets the criteria above, that's great, too. Thanks so much, in advance! Mom to 4
Lafayette has excellent schools. All 4 elementary schools are fantastic, and I've not only done the research but heard from multiple sources that the teachers and parent involvement make the schools top-notch. I don't know much about the junior high, but I know that Acalanes High is also excellent.
There is definitely a sense of community here. I've only been here 2 months, but I love the small-town feel, the 'Love Lafayette' bumper stickers, and the reminders to 'Try Lafayette First', which is Lafayette's campaign to shop local. I have met several moms and families so far while at my daughter's school, and everyone has been very welcoming and friendly.
There are a bunch of parks around here, and tons of walking and hiking trails. The Lafayette Reservoir is beautiful, with 2 different trails that loop around it, a playground, boat rentals, and picnic tables. We can't wait to spend more time there in the summer--we are always looking for cheap/free activities, so we hike and picnic a lot.
There is also the Regional Trail which is a flat, paved trail that runs all the way through Lafayette, Moraga, and beyond. We've taken our 6 year old biking on it and I frequently jog with our little one. We've also explored Briones Regional Park, a huge open space with trails and picnic areas, as well as nearby Mt. Diablo State Park and a few local community parks.
The Lafayette Library is beautiful and was just built a couple years ago with tons of community support. We love spending time there.
And, there is a BART station right in downtown Lafayette.
Only drawback is housing prices. It's expensive to live here, and we are by no means wealthy or in a position to buy a home, so we are renting a nice apartment. But we have felt welcomed by the people we've met and have found that it seems like a wonderful community to raise a family in, no matter what your income is.
So, I didn't answer your Pleasanton vs. Walnut Creek question, but I think Lafayette fits the criterion you are looking for nicely!
Good luck with your move, no matter where you end up! SoCal to Lafayette and loving it
Re: Sense of Community in Lafayette vs. Orinda/Moraga
I can't compare the sense of community between the cities. But I can speak for Lafayette (where we live) and say that we love it here. Lafayette definitely has a strong sense of community. Between school activities, sports teams, our wonderful new library and learning center, our downtown park with its music/farmer's market, or annual reservoir run. Great restaurants, BART access. I'm also constantly amazed how many people here grew up here and decided to come back and raise their families here. Many teachers in our school actually went to our schools! We're very happy here.
Moraga and Orinda are lovely communities, too. We avoided Moraga because it's a schlep to get out there, but that makes it a special place too because it's off the beaten path. We looked mostly in Orinda & Lafayette and ended up finding a house we loved in Lafayette. I don't think you would go wrong with any of the towns, and I'm sure you'd be satisfied with the sense of community in any of them. It's amazing how having kids connects you to the community in a multitude of ways. Christina
My husband and I are thinking of moving to Orinda or Lafayette for the schools but we're worried we won't fit in. We live in Berkeley now and fit in fine -- we wear jeans and T-shirts, have solar panels, shop at farmers markets, grow some of our own food, etc. From visiting Orinda and Lafayette it seems like people are more country-clubby. Is this true? Would we fit in? Are there areas in one town or the other where we would meet other people like us? Where? Need a new home
Editor Note: responses were also received about the Lamorinda Area, Moraga, and Orinda
We are seriously considering moving to Lafayette and would like to visit sometime that local folks are out in force. Any festivals or special events at the schools (or elsewhere)? We have a 2 year old and 4 year old and another one on the way, so something kid oriented would probably be best. And not too much walking. Looking to move
We are considering a move from Berkeley to the Burton Valley neighborhood in Lafayette. It would be hard for us to leave Berkeley, but we’re also drawn to the idea of having great schools for our kids, a large garden, and sunnier weather so that we can spend more time outdoors. We have a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old. We know it would be quite a cultural shift from Berkeley to Lafayette. We have a great sense of community here and we feel like we can connect easily with most other people/parents around us. We wonder if we’d feel the same way in Lafayette. We’re liberal, not wealthy by any means, we watch little to no television, we drive older cars, we can walk to a lot in our neighborhood. We’ve read all that’s been posted about Lamorinda on BPN and have been concerned about some comments concerning the “culture of wealth” in the area. I worry about what the high school experience would be like if these comments are valid? Our other main concern is the lack of racial diversity in the area. We know that more and more people are moving from Oakland/Berkeley/SF to Lamorinda, so is this shifting? Pondering.....
You will have to actually drive to the store or the park. Our kids are preschool age and younger, so we don't have them in public school yet, but my friends send their kids to the local schools and the parents are expected to ''donate'' I think it's $300 at the beginning of the year to the class. My friends cannot afford this and after being harrassed by the office staff for 2 weeks my friend finally told them off, reminding them that it's a public school, and ''donations'' aren't mandatory. (this is how the schools can afford extra curricular things and such, they don't spend much on the schools, many voters are old and have grown children or no kids at all so they don't pass bond measures for schools or the roads. Laf. cannot afford to fix it's own roads. they also don't pay a competetive wage for the teachers, but I digress) ANYWAY, after being here for a while we've realized that just cuz it's different doesn't make it bad. The people we have met have all been very kind. I am the one who's been tying myself in knots about parties and ''fitting in'', and really, that's my problem. I haven't met any people who've mad me feel inferior.
there are actually lots of working families and mom's who put their kids in daycare, etc. When you drive to the store, at least there's no traffic (I'll take Mt. Diablo B. over San Pablo any day), when you go out to eat, know that you will most likely have to go to a chain restaurant, when you miss Berkeley, drive throught the tunnel. When you come home you will have your nice big yard with all the trees to hang out in! anon
Water finds its own level, you will search out and find families with the same values. It just took longer than if I lived in Rockridge or Albany (we have been here 5 years now). There are some very, very wealthy people here but I personally can say that they will still welcome your children into their homes regardless of your financial standing.
To be brutally honest, people would be surprised if you do not contribute anything financially to the schools. There is a reason why Lamorinda _always_ has the 2nd highest APIs (high school) in the state. The $400 a family we give every year pays for the 2 art teachers, the extra library staff, the choir director's salary, the band director's salary, the 30 brand new iMacs we got this year, to name a few things. The $400 is voluntary - you can give what you feel you can afford. Some families give $100. But I look at it this way - $100 is $8.33 a month. I translate that into one less Safeway sandwich a month in exchange for a wealth of educational benefits.
So while lack of diversity is a glaring issue, the benefits of a deeply involved community, fabulous school enrichment programs a reasonly safe area to live and raise children and generally nice people outweigh the negatives. anon
It also asks for this money from residents without children in the schools, and part of the reason is that the schools' reputation is a direct factor in real estate value--hopefully everyone wins if LASF does it job well. Some people misinterpret the calls as bullying for money, but LASF relies so much on community funding and gives back a tremendous benefit to the schools and therefore, back to the community. I have worked those phonathons asking for money, and I am not school staff--I am a school parent volunteering for LASF.
We miss diversity, yes. We embrace the slower, less urban environment here, though, too. I enjoy going to the store and recognizing faces. Everything we still love about Berkeley and Oakland are just 15 minutes away by car, 20 or so by BART. We get more sunshine, fantastic gardening weather and space, bike trails abound for runner, skaters, bikers and walkers.
There are plenty of non-chain restaurants--Chow, Pizza Antica, Bo's Barbeque, and even more in Walnut Creek, just 5 miles away. Lafayette has plenty to offer, and the road issue is definitely being worked on through ballot initiatives. Good luck! Carolyn
My husband and I and two young boys (ages 3yrs. & 18 months) will be relocating to Orinda or Lafayette California in June of this year, after having lived 20 years in Southern California. Although I have plans on becoming integrated (mom's group, community classes) into the community I'm nervous about how quickly I'll be able to make friends and therefore feel at home. This will be my first move since moving away from my parents home to go to college in the late 80's (thats how i landed in S. Cal). Does anyone out there have any advice for me? Also, do the two areas have a lot of mom's in there late 30's with young kids? mj
My family is moving from Boston to Berkeley in January. We are
looking for some apartment to rent. I have found an apartment
at Lafayette Commons Apartments located at 3255 Mt. Diablo Ct.
I know it's always recommended to see the place before you rent
it, but since I am unable to make it there for a visit soon, I
am wondering if anyone on this list would know about this
apartment complex and its neighborhood schools etc. I have two
kids (7 and 11). I would REALLY appreciate it if you could help
me with this.
Many thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving! Sarah
We're considering a move to Lafayette from Berkeley for a variety of
reasons. We particularly like the idea of living near the bike path, giving our kids a safe way to get to school and friends' houses. It seems like the ideal place for younger kids and preteens (we have one of each). After reading the archives about living in Lamorinda, however, one issue that worries me is the pressure on teens living in an affluent area.
Can anyone with firsthand experience with a teen in Lafayette shed
some light on the issues and how their teen has coped? I also wonder
about the general flavor of Lafayette compared to other East Bay
suburban towns. We were in Danville over the weekend and we
amazed (disgusted, really) at the outward show of wealth in terms of
cars, clothing, etc. Stopping in Lafayette on the way home for a Jamba
Juice and at the elementary school park nearby where a kids' soccer
game was happening, we found the environs more subdued. We saw
more minivans and Ford Explorers than Jags and BMWs. Was the
snapshot accurate or are we just fooling ourselves?
Considering a move
I would guess that Danville is a lot like Lafayette...there are areas of extreme wealth and areas of more moderate incomes. I had concerns before I moved to Danville (''older'' parents, adopted kids, mid-level income)but I have found a friendly & welcoming community and we love it here!!
Re: Family-friendly and more liberal Lamorinda 'hoods
Hi, I grew up in Lamorinda. For what you are looking for, Lafayette is much better. Burton Valley is a really nice neigborhood. To be honest, you are probably not going to find that much difference is neighborhoods as far as liberal vs. conservative, etc. A good rule of thumb in Lamorinda, is the more money, the more likely the family is conservative, even if they claim to be liberal. Of course this isn't always the case! But like I said, it's a general rule of thumb. For example, Happy Valley was generally considered more elitist when I was growing up. (By the way, I'm 32, just to give you a point of reference.) As far as commuting, if you are taking BART, there really isn't much difference between Lafayette and Orinda, except that parking may be a little easier in Orinda.
You will find that the downtown school has more cultural/economic diversity. The Happy Valley area is known to be wealthier, Burton Valley the largest school, and Springhill small but further from the mail drag in town! We have found that the area has changed tremendously even since we moved here with many, many people from Oakland, Berkeley, SF, choosing Lafayette for their new homes, hence the political/cultural thinking is much more liberal/progressive. Families here live a very outdoorsy life with kids involved in many sports throughout the year. There is a local community center offering numerous classes both for adults and kids. Many coffee shops, restaurants, a couple of grocery stores including a Trader Joes, auto repair, department, drug stores and yes even thrift stores that we all love either shopping or donating to! A bit of everything. There are buses taking in the main roads to the Bart Station and if I've had to use the bart have not had a problem parking even at 11 in the morning. Good luck with your search and feel free to email me if you want more info. runnerz
The neighborhood is, in its own way, a walking/biking neighborhood. Almost all of our kids' friends are in the neighborhood so they walk, bike or scooter to their playdates, sports practices, etc. We have two swim/tennis clubs right here so kids find each other at the pool all summer. I can't tell you the last time I got in the car to go to a party - we just walk! Politics are no worry. All of our friends are left-leaning ex- SF residents - you'll find plenty of kindred spirits.
I have all kinds of friends in Burton Valley, more than I can
handle. And I've noticed that the ones who aren't happy here
brought their unhappiness with them. Eventually, they blame the
neighborhood for their unhappiness. Just something to think about.
Finally, about diversity. We have gay parents, people of color,
and the other usual markers of ''diversity''. But we don't have
much economic diversity. Everyone is here for one reason:
excellent public schools. And they've all paid to live here.
There's not much diversity in that.
When I look back on what I've written here, I'm not sure much of
it is unique to Burton Valley. I do think many of these thoughts
apply to Glorietta, Del Rey, etc. By the way, don't choose a
neighborhood based on proximity to BART. You'll get over the small
differences in proximity in just a few short months
- Burton Valley Neighbor
Re: What neighborhoods do young families tend to move to? As a native San Franciscan, I was reluctant to leave the city for the suburbs but our family's experience in Lafayette has been great. The idea of it being all empty nesters/conservative folks is outdated. No doubt it may seem 'conversative' compared to other parts of the Bay Area but it really isn't. I have met some pretty liberal people if that is truly a concern for you, much more so than the other end of the spectrum. There are plenty of families with young children, school age, and older and all have come for the great schools. I have joined the local mother's club (www.lamorindamomsclub.orgO which provides a great resource for connecting with other parents of young children. There are many other organizations you can join at the broaded community level. I doubt anyone would consider me hip but I have met all of kinds interesting people.
Left the City and am over it
Re: Worried about exclusivity if I move to Lamorinda
We also made the move through the tunnel to Lafayette, although we still spend a lot of time in Oakland we have met wonderful neighbors and other friends who also made ''the move''. I recomend that you join Lamorinda Moms Club, good way to meet others, and join playgroups.
I think Lafayette offers the widest range of incomes of the three communities, and hopefully, a good realtor could steer you in the direction of the neighboorhood that would be the best fit. Good luck with your decision! Claire
As for your concern about the ''country club'' lifestyle in LaMorinda,I know of few country clubs. Many pools and clubs to join, but most are fairly down to earth. Yes, there are many people who were born and raised here in LaMorinda and have now chosen to move back and raise their own families (and you'll see a ton of Cal bumper stickers and license plates!). But I believe that speaks well for the community. My husband and I try very hard to make sure our kids are grounded, have culture, go into SF, experience diversity, modest travel, and have exposure to those less fortunate by doing charitable work. I always believe it starts from the home. When we encounter snooty behavior, we simply ignore it, as I would with anyone. As a result, I'm proud to say my kids are leaders and well liked (and no they are not on the traveling soccer team, they don't play baseball and as a result, we have free time to hang out and enjoy our family time outside of a moving vehicle).
Lastly I want to say this...I have siblings who live in Oakland and Piedmont-two wonderful places. They all have children. The Oakland sibling has had all the children in private school and will now be looking at a very expensive private high school (all while trying to save for their college educations). My childrens education is paid for through my property taxes (which I get to write off, private school you do not). And for all the volunteering and fundraising my husband and I do for our Lafayette schools, my sister does 10x more.
Your biggest challenge of course will be trying to find a home as nice as the one you're in. Don't let that get you down. There are many homes on the market right now. If you need a few names of real estate agents, I know some great one's...not pushy! Check out the Reliez Valley area and the Burton Valley area in Lafayette. Moraga's nice too but far out. Best of Luck to you. You sound like a very nice, thorough person.
I am a SAHM and have found that unless you are from the ''white gal'' culture it is VERY hard to find truly good friends. There is a ton of superficial politeness, but it is clear that some people don't want to have anything to do with me because I am just not like them. Money, money, more money and a big house and fancy car that let's everyone know I have money would buy me entry into some of the cliques. Cliques are established and tough to break in to. It can be a VERY lonely place.
The ''great'' school reputation is deserved because of the parent involvement both in the classroom and financially. The rate and amount of ''donations'' expected is voluminous. At our elem. school there is a handful of ''great'' teachers the rest are mediocre to woeful. One the first grade teachers wrote up a sentence for the children to copy that ended in ''at''. Schools are for the most part white. High stakes testing means there is no time (and in reality little interest) in teaching cultural diversity. This maybe true of public school in the Berkeley area but at least your children are experiencing cultural diversity by just going to school with children of color and different nations. I know very few children who are NOT enrolled in intense enrichment including private tutoring, Kuman and Sylvan. The pressure on the children and the parents to succeed academically is frightening.
Save your children and yourselves and your money - stay where you
are and go to a private school!
Can't wait to bust out of here.
Re: African-American in Lamorinda
I grew up in Moraga, and presently live in Lafayette. Being white, I am not sure I can really answer your question as to how you might feel here, as you are correct in that there are not many African-American families here (I believe there are two families at our elementary school). However, I just wanted to write to say that I sincerely hope you will consider moving here, and that I am sure you would be warmly welcomed in this community. Most of the people I talk to who live around here name the lack of diversity as one of the few drawbacks, so slowly, I hope that will change!
We have debates about whether our biracial children are best served in the Lamorinda community. I do not know what the right answer is, but will give you my thoughts. There are many families that we know that have other racial backgrounds other than European. Most of these families are interracial or asian. Here are some of the families that we know in our community: Chinese-Chinese, African American- European American, European American-Phillipines, Hispanic- Jewish and more. We are here and I hope you join us. The main reason I stay here as many other parents in this community, is for the education. My biracial children deserve the same high level of education and expectations of them as the blond child sitting in the next seat. So far, my children have been doing well academically. I do not look to the Lamorinda community to provide diversity or cultural education. We try to do that in other ways.
As a balance, we also do participate in other activities in Berkeley. We attend the City of Berkeley family camp at Tuolumne. We have other biracial family friends that live in Berkeley. David
Re: Gay dads considering a move to Orinda/Layfayette
Hi Gay Dads!
Yes, come on out. We are a lesbian couple who have lived in Lafayette for 3 years now. We have 2 boys, one almost 9 years (next week) the other almost 5 years. We moved from NYC, rented in Richmond for a year and toured the East Bay. Found Lafayette and fell in love. Our neighbors are great, we are always trading off children, pets and helping each other out as any other neighbor would. The schools have been great. Not the diversity of Berkeley/Oakland but for us that wasn't our #1 piority. You will find more ethnic/family/economic diversity in the downtown school then any other and also the one middle school in Lafayette. The teachers have been great (not perfect, but who is?). We speak to them at the beginning of the school year. We have spoken with our Principal about the forms from the district not being gender neutral and they are working on that. There have been no negative incidents at the school or anywhere else where people know us. I work at the local community center (coaching gymnastics) and certainly don't advertise my sexuality but when asked about my children and spouse I tell them and everyone is cool about it.
We live near the trail so the children get to bike, walk, scooter etc. to school. We love running so it's the perfect location for us and also walking to downtown. It's great. There are pools all over you can belong to. Our boys play on the soccer, baseball, hockey, and swim teams (yes we drive a minivan!) and no one bats an eyelid to our family make-up.
There are another couple of Lesbian families here and in Moraga and tons in Walnut Creek/Concord/Pleasant Hill. Actually there is a fairly new group (for us families thru the tunnel) called Rainbow Families that meet once or twice a month with the kids in different areas for pizza etc. Last month everyone came to Freddies in Lafayette. The group has many two Dad/single families from 'thru the tunnel' as well.
I can't speak for Orinda but we did also look there and found it quite a bit hillier and all we could think about was ''Gee, how do these people make it up their driveways when it snows''??
Phew, I went on a bit but we really do love Lafayette and would
just love more gay and lesbian families to come out here. We
actually found it cheaper then living in Berkeley/Oakland and
got more for our money. feel free to e-mail us if you want any
more info or would like to come out to visit and we can show you
the neighborhood! We can also recommend a great real estate
broker who's a Gay Dad from Alamo. Good Luck.
lesbians loving Lafayette
Re: Should I move to the suburbs for the schools?
I don't know if it's the solution for you, but moving to Lafayette was the best thing we did. We were living in the N. Oakland Hills and were in the Kaiser district. I don't know anything about that school but wasn't thrilled with the prospect of Oakland schools in general (not an educated opinion I admit) or Oakland Tech. We ended up in Lafayette for it's schools, for their arts and science foundation and the community. Our son is now in 2nd grade at the downtown school, Lafayette elementary and started there with kindergarten. Our second son is in preschool still. The teachers, principal and support staff are amazing, very hands-on and concerned and knows every family by face and name. The foundation LASF is funded by contributions from families and community to the tune of $750k - 1mm a year. It supplies additional music, art and science programs to the 4 elementary, 1 middle and 1 high schools. There is a meeting tonight about the school budgets and what we can do to lessen the impact. Most parents I've spoken with are going. Finally the community is totally family oriented. You can go anywhere with your kids without people looking funny at you and can get whatever services and activities you can dream of. We were ones that said we never would go over the hill, but are very happy about it now. Life is much easier where we are. Linda
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