Living in Oakland CA
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Living in Oakland CA
My husband and I hope to buy our first home in the 650-700K range--a three
bedroom 2 bath with yard. We have a one year old and hope to land in a good
school district, at least through elementary. We have bid on five properties
focusing on North/Central Berkeley and Albany and we're now realizing we prob
can't afford these primo neighborhoods in what is quickly becoming a very
My question is how to extend our home search to other neighborhoods,
specifically comparing North Oakland vs. El Cerrito, focusing on home values
and school quality. We want to live in a walkable neighborhood, ideally close
to Bart or easy public transportation to SF, so the El Cerrito hills are not
an option (this also rules out Kensington). Which school districts in North
Oakland are worth considering? How are the El Cerrito elementary schools? (All
the reviews on BPN are older). How do these districts compare? We're both
public school grads and hope to use public schools, but we've heard terrible
things about the middle and high schools in both El C and Oakland, so we'd
want to preserve our exit strategy and be able to sell our house in 10 years
and move to a better district by the time our son is middle school age if need
be. Comparing El C and Oakland, which neighborhoods would be most likely to
retain their value?
Our final concern is safety. We hate the idea of spending so much on our home
and ending up in a dicey neighborhood. Any and all advice is appreciated.
Discouraged by Bay Area home prices
To MSG from ''El Cerrito vs Oakland'' for home buying and schools - I don't know
good schools of No. Oakland personally (tho have heard Peralta is quite good - but
our son went TI Cleveland Elementary in East Lake neighborhood
(also called Cleveland Heights). It's a great school, and so is
the surrounding 'hood, and lots more affordable than Berkeley. Nance
Moderator note: reviews were also received for El Cerrito
We are a family of four (two children under two) currently
living in Wellington, New Zealand. However, I am originally
from the East Coast and lived in NYC and Brooklyn for 10
years. My husband is a Kiwi and we are beginning to think
of moving back to the US. California is the natural choice
as it's half way, reminds my husband of home with the
climate and topography, but I still get my culture and a
break from 24 hour journeys with children to see my folks!
My question is what are the good neighborhoods in Oakland
for young families. We are very pro-public school, but also
would like a pedestrian, urban-feel, where community is
important and it will be easy to meet people. I've heard a
bit about Rockridge. Any other suggestions? And any good
sites for real estate browsing, even just for fun?
Rockridge is definitely one of the most walkable parts of
Oakland, and also has a good elementary school (Chabot).
You'll find a lot of shops, an excellent public library,
easy access to BART/public transportation and lots to do
I live in Montclair myself - it has a slightly
more rural feel than Rockridge and the 2 public elementary
schools here are excellent (middle school is improving
steadily); because of the hills some parts are more walkable
than others, but you have easy access to large and beautiful
regional parks for hiking, etc.
Crocker Highlands has a
good elementary school, very cute houses, seems to have an
active family/community vibe (we go play on their school
playground sometimes and it's always full of families
hanging out together on weekends); not necessarily easy to
walk to things from there.
The Trestle Glen and Piedmont
Avenue areas are walkable to shops; I don't know much about
their schools. Have fun exploring neighborhoods! Oaklander
You may want to consider Alameda, which borders Oakland. We
know MANY Kiwis here on the island and it's a great life -
right on the water, fantastic for walking, wonderful parks,
decent schools and more. alamedamama
You should have several options open to you in Oakland!
Rockridge is definitely a great neighborhood for families
(for anyone for that matter!) and the local schools are good
The area around Piedmont Avenue (both in the cities of
Oakland and Piedmont) are also very walkable and family
friendly. In many ways I prefer Piedmont Ave over Rockridge
as it feels more like a real neighborhood with a larger
variety of businesses along the avenue rather than just
restaurants, cafes and boutiques.
If you stay in the areas
of Montclair that are close to the business district, it is
also very walkable, but not so much in the hills. All three
are well established, good neighborhoods.
I also like the
areas along Grand or Lakeshore, particularly north of the
Temescal (near Telegraph and 51st) is a bit
more 'up and coming' but it has some great shops and
restaurants. Just a little grittier than Piedmont Ave or
There are probably a few other spots, but these
are the ones I have lived in or spent time in over the
Oakland has a lot to offer families and I hope you find the
area that works best for you! Maria
Welcome to California Erin! I have two recommendations for
you. My friend, Eddie Moran, is a local realtor and New
Yorker who has fallen in love with Oakland. I'm sure that he
would be willing to direct you as much or as little as you
like. http://apr.com/emoran/ My second recommendation is to
look the area above MacArthur Avenue around Sequoia
Elementary School. We are currently living out of the area,
but were happy with the neighborhood and the school when we
were there. http://www.sequoiaschool.net/ Susan
I am searching for a 1-2 bedroom rental in the $1200/month
or less price range for me and my toddler. I have been
living in the South Berkeley area for the last several years
and am familiar with Berkeley, Emeryville, and North
Oakland/Temescal, but not much else. All of the archived
info on the forums is for home owners rather than renters
and seems to assume ownership of a car.
I walk and take public transportation and would like to hear
from others about the neighborhoods around Lake Merritt,
especially on the north side, and up near Piedmont Avenue.
Of particular interest to me are:
(1) how safe and family friendly they are for walking and
busing and if there are particular portions of each
neighborhood to be wary of
(2) good parks, libraries with story time, and related
(cafes, play spaces) for toddlers in the area
(3) easy of walking and busing for grocery shopping and
getting to BART and other parts of the east bay.
If you have another neighborhood that you think is worth
considering that is north of Lake Merritt and fits the above
criteria, I'd love to hear about it as well.
exploring outside my comfort zone
Grand Lake (2)
Can anyone recommend a good but not too expensive
neighborhood to buy a house in Oakland? We are looking for
an area with homes in the 300-400k range with good schools
and parks. I realize this may be a fantasy but if anyone
has a recommendation, we would appreciate it!
Having just looked in Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda for our
first house I'm afraid what you're looking for may indeed be
a fantasy. Of course part of that depends on how good is
good enough for schools and parks. Try looking at one of
the websites like Ziprealty or Redfin that has searchable
maps of houses for sale -- you can specify price range,
number of bedrooms, minimum square feet and see what there
is. If you're not familiar with the schools, you can look
at greatschools.org to get data about test scores, student
composition, etc. In general the stronger-scoring schools
are those between I580 and Hwy 13 and those above Hwy 13.
almost a homeowner
The trick is not so much affording a decent neighborhood,
but that neighborhood having good schools. The good news,
in my opinion, is that Oakland has a few really great
charter schools (and in case you are unfamiliar with these,
they are free). Millsmont is our neighborhood - a little
known gem, on the wooded side of Mills College near the top
of Seminary, by hwy 13 and 580. This area is affordable and
My son's charter school is quite close by - about 12 minutes
away by car (on the streets - no freeway driving). This is
K-12, Lighthouse Community Charter School. They've just had
their charter renewed - and they have a beautiful new
facility at 444 hegenberger, next to the Marriot. I can't
praise the school enough - a truly wonderful education - my
sons has been there for nearly 4 years.
We are thinking about purchasing a single family house in
Oakland. Can someone give us some recommendations on some
neighborhoods where we might want to look and the advantages and
disadvantages of living in some of the different neighborhoods?
Also, can someone recommend a realtor to help us in our housing
search? To those of you who have purchased recently in Oakland,
what's the market like? Thanks
We are thinking of moving to Oakland as well, so I am interested
to see the answers. Meanwhile, Zip Realty is fantatic for
searching. Why? You can search by map, and look only in the
areas you are really interested in. And then you can look at
recently sold homes and what they went for.
yOu have to sign up, but it is free
Once you've gotten to SF Bay Area Real Estate click on Search for
Homes and then look for the tab that says Interactive Map. This
is the best invention ever. You zero in on an area you are
interested in and it will show up to 100 homes in that area. They
are all in a list on the left, or you can mouse over the map and
get some details and then click for the full listing. Once you
are in a full listing you can click on SOLD HOMES at the top.
That will give you info on nearby homes and how much they sold
for. They are not super up-to-date the most recent ones listed
are in July, but still the info is useful. It tells you sq
footage, number of BD/BA, sale price, and price/sq foot.
I highly recommend Stan and Sharon Hammond of Wells & Bennett in
Oakland. Stan used to be a contractor so was really great at
helping us determine what kind of work each house we looked at
needed and how much the work would cost. Sharon was always on top
of what was going on the market, so we could jump on a property
before or just as it was going on the market. They are both very
honest and execeedingly responsive, even now over a year after
buying our house and selling our old one. Our current home is in
Berkeley, though the Hammonds know Oakland the best.
We used to live in the Dimond area, near Dimond Park. Other
Oakland neighborhoods to look into are: Maxwell Park, Crocker
Highlands, Tresle Glen, Glen Park/Glenview, Rockridge.
I worked with the most spectacular realtor based out of
Montclair/Oakland. Her name is Carla Buffington and she works
with PacUnion. She was wonderful I can't sing her enough praise.
We used her to purchase and sell our home. She was patient, well
informed, a GREAT negotiator (she got us a brand new roof for
free!!!), She sold our house in a slumped market in
2 weeks and got us a great price, she did all of our staging, and
paid to get our house cleaned and gardened. She was a pleasure to
work with and we have remained friends with her even after it was
all over. I HIGHLY recommend Carla. I plan on using her again if
we ever decide to move. Her website is:
We bought our house about a year and a half ago in Oakland.
Some of the more sought after neighborhoods are these:
Rockridge - very family oriented, 2nd best elementary school in
the Bay Area (Chabot), mostly craftsmen style homes, centrally
located, lots of shops and restaurants to walk to, (mainly College
Elmwood - actually in Berkeley, but right next to Rockridge, going
down College Ave. With the exception of the school district, as
I'm not familiar with theirs, all of the above listed under
Claremont - also in Berkeley, but Rockridge and Claremont areas
are often lumped together. Homes tend to be in larger and higher
price ranges. A little more walking necessary to get to
restaurants and shops.
Montclair - originally a place for vacation homes, the houses are
a very eclectic mix, varying in size, age and prices. Most homes
are on hills. Has it's own nice shopping district.
Glenview - an up and coming, transitional area. Most conviently
located to freeway, borders Piedmont, small shopping district,
charming homes. Need knowledgeable realtor to show you more
Trestle Glen - one of the most attractive streets in Oakland, in
my opinion - lovely homes, very pricy.
Lakeshore and Lake Merritt - have some nice homes, but I am less
familiar with the market there.
Piedmont - actually not part of Oakland, (or at least anymore),
but overall the most prosperous area, currently the only area with
a very good academic highschool, homes cost substantially more.
In general, the market has softened. But in Rockridge and
Piedmont, it's been pretty steady due to school districts, etc.
The other areas, I'm simply not familiar enough with recent sales.
We were really happy with our realtor, Hope Broderick.
Hope this helps!!
Some of the best neighborhoods in Oakland include the Montclair
district, the Glenview District, the Lake Merritt District, & the
Rockridge & Temescal districts. These areas are great for their
beautiful homes (where prices have remained relatively stable in
comparison to other Oakland areas), & friendly neighbors, they
each have lots of parks & great schools (national test scores are
comparatively high); great shopping & restaurants, & all are short
commute distances to pretty much anywhere in the East Bay (20-30
minutes to most locations).
There is also ample public transportation (train stations, &
buses). When you're ready to start looking you should call Shaun
Martin. She was recommended to me, & I've had the pleasure of
recently working with her. She's a Realtor who specializes in
Oakland neighborhoods. She's very knowledgeable & extremely
accessable. Her office # is 510 531-7000 ext. 240 Good luck!
Welcome to Oakland!
I highly recommend Ruth Goldstone as a realtor who really knows
her stuff. Her number at Marvin Gardens is: 510-527-2700 x41
In my experience, Ruth is responsive to individual tastes and
needs and has a good sense of neighborhood, including what
neighborhoods are affordable given what a client can/wants to
spend. She also has a great grip on the many details associated
with buying houses (is also a great explainer of what things
mean) and generally has a great bedside manner. At the same time
she knows the market on a business level and is a great advocate.
She is at Marvin Gardens on Solano (but has much Oakland
experience). Again, 510-527-2700 x41
Well, the obvious neighborhoods are the ''nice'' ones such as
Rockridge and anything with ''Heights'' or similar in the name.
The advantages of these are decent to good public schools due to
family involvement and donations. The downside is that these are
expensive. Slightly less expensive than lower Rockridge (but
probably not for
long) is Temescal. I lived in Temescal 5 years ago and it has
changed/improved quite a bit. Downside to that is most of the
houses are smallish bungalows. I would thus like to recommend West
Oakland, where I live now. Disadvantages: Schools not so hot, drug
and crime activity. But actually it is not so bad. Advantages:
houses cheaper, big houses, big yards. It's really block by block
so do your due diligence.
''Dogtown'' west of Adeline and north of West Grand is close to
Emeryville and pretty nice. There are also some really nice old
Victorians in ''Lower Bottoms'' west of Mandela Parkway. Just come
drive around--there are lots of houses for sale.
West Oakland Mama
Call Dave Higgins at 510-595-7699. He is an amazing realtor who
works with his business partner and wife, Carla. They have two
young children and live in Oakland. They are very knowledgeable
about all of the neighborhoods in Oakland, about the housing
market, and real estate in general. We have bought and sold a
couple of houses with them and the process has been so smooth. I
recommend Dave and Carla VERY highly. Do not hesitate to call.
They have a very comprehensive website- www.daveandcarla.com
The Montclair area is wonderful, often described as a
Tahoe-like setting. Lots of trees in the hills. However, there's
not a really easy way for kids to meet and play, unless you drive
them. There's a small ''downtown'' or ''village'' where people go
to meet. It's very safe and has a low crime rate. Schools are the
best in Oakland.
I recommend Linda Andersen as a real estate agent. Her number is
292-8704, with Keller & Williams
Signed: Linda F.
we moved to a neighborhood right off of piedmont avenue and love
we worked with maison nouveau, it's the only way to go, they don't
require the full 3% and give 1% back to you to up your offer or
apply towards closing costs. really helpful!
Without knowing a price range and other criteria, your question is
difficult to answer. Of course the most ''desirable'' areas are
the most expensive. Though there are many ''hidden gems'', too.
We live in Rockridge - ''upper'' as the part above Broadway is
typically called (though that is really where the Rockridge
subdivision is if anyone cares about the accuracy of the
designation). Anyway, we LOVE it here and couldn't imagine any
other location. The proximity to freeways, shopping, weather, the
demographic, everything. The other neighborhoods with similar
charateristics (and, thus, similar prices), are Montclair and
Crocker Highlands. We never really considered Montclair as we
liked the more ''neighborhoody'' feel of Rockridge and Crocker
Highlands. We ultimately decided on Rockridge as we decided we
wanted a new (aka fire re-build) house. If any of these three
neighborhoods appeal to you, we loved our agent - Dee Knowland at
Pacific Union. She knows EVERYONE and therefore knows what the
''word'' is on the houses and market. She is also practical and
honest - if we walked into a house and it was awful, she'd say it
before we did. Not that she wouldn't help to visualize what
''could be'', but, if it had irrepairable issues - like road
noise, busy street, etc., she acknowledged it and wouldn't try to
gloss it over. She is definitely an ''up-market'' agent - not a
''I won't touch anything-but-Piedmont'' person (like a couple of
agents we talked to before meeting Dee), but, I wouldn't recommend
her for anything below College Avenue or south of Park Blvd.
As far as the market goes, from what we can see in our
neighborhood, things have slowed considerably. But, high-quality,
well-designed houses that are decently priced still move in a
couple of weeks (versus days a year ago). Houses that are odd
floor plans/designs and/or overpriced are just sitting there.
And, even well-priced houses on the high-end (over $2 million in
upper-Rockridge) seem to be sitting for some time (still selling -
though below asking). So, from the perspective of a year or two
ago, it is a buyers market now.
My friend Jodi Nishimura is a trustworthy, friendly and honest
agent that will help you to buy or sell your property as if it
were hers. She is a former teacher and a North Oakland resident,
and she knows the market: she is very familiar with Oakland and
Berkeley neighborhoods and schools. In addition, she is a great
listener and she really cares about doing good work. Jodi works at
Marvin Gardens on Solano Ave. and you can contact her at
jodi[at]eastbayabode.com or 510.459.0471.
I highly recommend Maison Nouveau in Berkeley in College Ave. Although we were looking
and bought a place in Berkeley, they are also very familiar with Oakland. We used their
services over 3 years ago, I think we were one of their first clients. We couldn't have
been happier with them. We worked mainly with Heather Sittig, but her entire staff is
great. She helped us find and make an appropriate offer on the type of house we always
wanted, and didn't waste our time with anything above our max price. We bought an
entry-level 2br/1ba and we were treated as well as I would expect someone who was
buying a $1MM home at full commission would be treated. To this day, I think that the
extra 1% boost to our offer won us the house against multiple other bidders (Maison
Nouvea offers to charge only 2% instead of the typical 3% commission, as a buyer you
can apply the extra 1% to your offer to give it a little boost- see their website for a
Their website is http://maisonnouveau.com/ and their phone number is 510-849 -9900
Happy house hunting - Susie
I was fascinated to read the recommendations about the best places to live with kids in
Oakland -- but I didn't notice anyone recommending Oakmore. When we were looking for a
house 15 years ago we looked at Rockridge, Montclair, Redwood Heights... but wound up
in Oakmore, and it's been a great place to have our children grow up. Oakmore is below
hwy 13 off Park Blvd., above the Glenview neighborhood (which is also good for kids,
with really active parents in Glenview Elementary).
Oakmore has better access to freeways and AC transit than most parts of Montclair, but
uses Montclair schools (Joaquin Miller, Montera, Skyline) and especially on the ''bay
side'' of the hill is a quiet neighborhood with great walks, stunning views, easy
access to the trails in Dimond Park, good neighborhood store, friendly feeling.
And though the state of Oakland public schools is uncertain under state control,
Skyline High is a great educational experience for many, many kids, has high-profile
programs in arts, sports, and AP, and sends many well-scholarshipped students to
prestigious colleges every year.
Re: Schools, commutable,urban under $500k?
I just bought a house in the Bushrod neighborhood in North
Oakland five months ago. It has almost all the things you
are looking for: diversity, affordability, close to FWY and
emeryville, and we can walk to rockridge, elmwood, temescal,
and berkeley. Some of the schools are a little sketchy, but
others like Peralta are great. Its a really great area!
Re: Cheaper but "safe enough" neighborhoods
We live in Oakland, in Leona Heights, between Edwards and Semanary
- Houses are much less expensive here then in Berkeley, Rockridge,
etc. The upside is that it is quiet, sunny and not much happening
on the streets -on the downside we don't have many services - no
stores, only one bus line that's very infrequent so it's not an
area where people hang out - anon
We're planning to buy our first house and are currently
looking all over Albany, Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda.
We've got two kids (one in elementary school), aren't sure
about a third, and are able to spend low to mid 600s for a
three bedroom house. There's nothing in the archives about
Lincoln Heights, which is an area where we keep seeing
houses that could work for us. So far Albany, Alameda and
Glenview are easier to get excited about, but the houses we
like there are just a bit out of our range. Do people who
live in the Mormon Temple area love it or is it just OK? Is
it a kid-dense area? Are people neighborly? What's the
crime (petty or major) and nuisance situation like? There's
a lot of enthusiasm on BPN and greatschools.org for Sequoia
elementary -- is that fairly universal or is it just the
happy ones speaking up? Thanks for any and all comments!
We've lived on the opp. side (north) of Lincoln for 5 yrs,
and are VERY happy. Check out: http://oakland22x.org/ (our
active/effective neighborhood group); http://shopdimond.com/
(about our shopping district); re:crime, see
http://oakland.crimespotting.org/ (interactive maps for all
over Oakland); http://www.dimondnews.org/ (community based
volunteer group) http://www.oaktoberfest.org/ (our fun
annual neighborhood festival) There's a 22xNCPC mtg. on
Mon.22ndFeb, 7pm @ the Greek Church on Lincoln: everyone's
welcome! --Love Living in Oakmore/Dimond/22x
I've lived in the area my entire life. You are looking in
what we locals call the DMZ. You are better off crime and
school wise to buy above 13. Below the Mormon Temple and
Greek Church there are some (few) nice areas with less crime
but walk just one block down or one street over the crime
rate goes up. It really depends on street and the block. I
use to take walks/run, but don't do that anymore just don't
feel safe. As for shopping I almost always want to Diamond
District but I don't feel safe going there anymore.
This really isn't a kid friendly area due to the hills,
traffic and crime. I use to know all of my neighbors and we
were quite friendly, but many have moved and the new ones
are more reserved. As much as I like the view, this is not
an area I would move to know especially if I had kids.
If you are looking for houses make sure you have the
foundation checked. Over the years several houses have slid
and some have been condemned others have had over a $100k in
foundation damage. ANON
I've lived in the area you are asking about for over six
years. We looked in many other places and were outbid many
times before buying our home here. Although you might find
it hard to get excited about, we've found there is quite a
bit to love about this area: the views, the grow-anything
weather, big yards, cute houses, the freeway access, the
nearby trails in redwoods, great neighbors, the fantastic
Dimond Library (my opinion: best children's librarians in
Oakland), Dimond Park, and Sequoia Elementary School. Plus
there are many great local businesses: Loka Yoga, Laurel
Books, Full House Cafe, Kids n Dance, Farmer Joe's,
StableCore Pilates, Paws and Claws, Food Mill, Peet's, and
La Farine. There are also the things that aren't great, but
I personally consider those to be big city/Oakland problems,
not necessarily neighborhood-specific problems. So, to
answer your questions, yes, the neighborhood is kid-dense.
My street neighbors are neighborly, but my
Sequoia-School-community neighbors are incredible. In the
past few years, Halloween has become quite an event and it
feels very small-town. There is a neighborhood Yahoo group
for families that has over 140 members...we trade info on
schools, gear, childcare, events, and more. Reported crime
can be looked up...my feeling is that it is the same as many
other similar parts of Oakland...car and home break-ins and
the occasional more serious (and more disturbing) crime. The
vast majority of families I know at Sequoia--and I know
many, many of them--are very happy. It's a lovely little
school with nice kids, great teachers, cool families, and
solid programs. There are other families in the attendance
area who aren't at Sequoia and, like almost any other
reasonably well-off neighborhood in Oakland, they have opted
into other OUSD schools, or have gone to any number of
private schools (I don't know of any attendance area in OUSD
where this same phenomenon isn't happening). They don't seem
as connected to the neighborhood community as those with
kids at the neighborhood school--again, I think this is a
typical dynamic. It's really convenient to get to know your
neighbors when your kids also happen to attend the same
nearby school. I also can think of many families who used to
live in the neighborhood, but like many others in Oakland,
decided to move out of Oakland altogether prior to
kindergarten. As far as specific streets, I've noticed that
the one-block streets between Laguna and Lincoln are
well-kept and many of those neighbors seem to know each
other. Traffic moves more slowly on those streets. The
streets running up and down the hills often have views but
seem a bit busier. Lincoln seems to divide the neighborhood
a bit although both sides are part of the Sequoia attendance
area. All this said, all of the places you listed have
plenty of happy residents as well...good luck! At Home in
My brother has two kids who go Sequoia elementary and they
love it over there. They moved there because of the school
and the neighborhood. The area is very neighborly that I
have observed and there are lots of kids. There is more
crime near certain places...like major roads with lots of
businesses. I am Pro Lincoln Heights
We have lived in the Dimond district, near Lincoln Heights
and right next to Dimond Park, for more than ten years. We
have a child at Sequoia Elementary and another who will
start there in the fall. We love our neighborhood, and love
the school. Here is why - The neighborhood is very
walkable, with a great library, park, cafes, restaurants,
and a great locally-owned supermarket. We hardly ever go
anywhere in the neighborhood without running into a friend
or neighbor. There are all kinds of families, including
many families with school-age kids and babies. There is an
active family yahoo group, where people share info, swap
bikes, clothes and toys, and help one another. Crime is
fairly minimal, and people seem to look out for each other.
As for Sequoia, we have found it to be a great school with a
wonderful staff and a strong and welcoming parent community.
The community events are fabulous, and the school offers a
number of enrichment programs, such as garden, art,
drumming, choir, instrumental music, and library. The school
definitely has its challenges, mostly because they don't
have the resources they need, but this is not unique to
Sequoia. The funding for public education is horrific.
However, despite this reality, we feel very lucky that we
have such a wonderful public school in our neighborhood.
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