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Living in Orinda, CA
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We are Berkeleyans, looking to buy a house. I read through the archives on what people had to say about Orinda and was concerned about the comments about the competitive, snobbish nature of the high school, and also about the feeling there is a significant segment of the population that is focused on materialism, manicures, test-scores, etc. and a bit oblivious about the rest of humanity. Still, we keep coming back to it because, man, they do seem to have roomy houses with pleasant, tree-lined back yards! There have been no comments since 2011. Does anyone want to try to convince me moving to Orinda isn't too scary? Any thoughts would be appreciated, good or bad. Befuddled in Berkeley
My kids are in middle and elementary school, I cannot speak to the situation in high school. I imagine there is a lot of focus on grades, but that seems to be the situation everywhere. As to the materialism, there are kids here with a lot and other with not so much. Some kids work and those we have met and used as babysitters have a great work ethic and are eager to earn money. Other kids either do not have to or do not want to work. A lot depends on your kids, their group of friends, and the extent to which they notice and are affected by others having greater academic achievement or more money than them.
As to the issue of caring about others and the world, the kids here are no more or less absorbed in themselves than kids are anywhere else. Volunteering is encouraged through school, scouts, churches, and synagogues, and many kids participate. A fan of Orinda
Re: Moving/staying - Lamorinda vs Alameda
We moved from 'the other side of the tunnel' to Orinda this summer. We have a 2 year old and a 5 year old just starting Kindergarten, so we didn't have experiences with the schools in our old neighborhood. We moved in July, and until you get your first PG&E bill, you can't register for school. So at first we were redirected to a non-neighborhood school. We did get a space in our neighborhood school 3 days before school started, but I have met other families who have not been as fortunate or have split kids. I would say the best chance to avoid that is the timing of your move and when you register - if you can move before school ends here (1st week of June) you're more likely to get an assignment in your neighborhood. *Lots* of families move over the summer and spaces fill up quick.
As far as the move, we *love* it here. We have a bigger house, giant front/back yard, kids can run/play in the yard after school and on weekends w/o direct supervision. Before we lived on a street that had a nice sidewalk for running and biking but no way for the kids to play on their own. Very friendly families and many families with young kids. And it is sunny and warm when it is cool and foggy in Alameda. Happy with our move
Re: Sense of Community in Lafayette vs. Orinda/Moraga
I thought I'd share my perspective since you didn't get any replies from Orinda residents. Short answer is I don't think it matters which town you move to, they are very much integrated and most people living in the area travel between all three (maybe to Moraga less) regularly.
I am in Lafayette several times a week, getting groceries at Diablo Foods & for misc. other errands. I bump into preschool parents regularly and I've gotten to know shop keepers. I feel very much a part of the community in Lafayette and Orinda.
I live in the hills above the Orinda Country Club (moved here 5 years ago). With small children I went to the park a lot and got to know neighbors on our walks. I've found my neighbors (though sometimes hard to spot because of the hilly nature of the neighborhood) are friendly and open. I've had four tell me independently that we should feel free to stop by any time to use their yard (play structures, waterfalls) even if they're not home.
My kids go to TOPS (The Orinda Preschool) and because it's a coop I very quickly got to know other parents and felt a part of the community. We also joined a local swim club and we bump into neighbors and preschool families there all the time.
I'd consider what you want from a house long term - hills with a view - or flat with access to walkable shopping? No matter where you live, if you're open and friendly, you will quickly feel welcome and a part of things. This area is a lovely place to live and I feel so lucky to live here. Happy in Orinda
Hi, We live in Orinda, we have young kids, one in the early school years, and while we've felt so lucky to be in one of the 'best school districts in the country' we are starting to wonder if it is really the best for us. The schools do seem great, but there seems to be such a focus on competitive sports, holding kids back for kindergarten so they'll have an 'edge', overscheduling kids, and mostly white families with stay at home parents in some kind of business or finance. We are very liberal and feel somewhat out of step here. We do have some friends and love the safety and landscape, but we just don't feel connected to community. We are thinking about moving elsewhere, but wonder if the competitive sport/overscheduled kid is everywhere, and maybe we are just lucky to be here. We are thinking about Walnut Creek, Martinez, or Pleasant Hill with the hopes of finding a bit more diverse community in the area, but not sure if we will really notice a difference. Would appreciate any advice. anonymous
I grew up in the Tri-Valley corridor and when I left, it was like a weight came off my shoulders. Not to bash it, because it's beautiful and everyone is so damn good-looking, but not a lot of depth there. ...happy on the flats
Hopefully you can find peace wherever you land (or whether you feel you must move)..but you should also try to be more open minded and less critical of others and consider how other people's life choices impact your own beliefs. lisa
On the plus side our house value has quadrupled in price over the past 10 years, the schools and teachers for the most part are outstanding, and the amount of money the parents raise for the schools to good but it's an obscene amount of money. And then there's the amount of money spent on the seniors for grad night. (The amount of money spent on Grad night is enough to put 1 or 2 students through 4 years of college. Another plus for Orinda is there's very little petty crime here, but the crimes that are committed which are few tend to be quite serious.
Our family is also quite liberal, environmentally friendly and do volunteer work in Oakland/Richmond and Berkeley. While we feel good about the things we do, it is frowned upon by our peers. And then there's the issue of race and religion. If you've lived here I'm sure you have experienced it, it's dreadful.
They only reason I'm tolerating Orinda is because I want my kids to receive the best education they can receive. I don't think Oakland, Berkeley, Lafayette or Walnut Creek schools can compete with Orinda's schools.
We thought about moving to Lafayette, and it's almost the same as Orinda, but they know they are not Orinda so they are the Want-to-bes as is Walnut Creek. To me there is something more genuine and honest about the people who live in Berkeley and Oakland. The competitiveness just doesn't seem to exist there. We still have a house there and as soon as our youngest graduates, we're selling and moving back. SO no, I don't think you are crazy at all. It's the people who live in Orinda who are obsessed and fake who are the crazy ones. anonymous
I realize this is a very personal question so the answer will be different for different people. But when I think about the reasons I moved here and how lucky I feel to be here, I can't imagine choosing to leave - despite the downsides of Orinda (which aren't many).
You mention parents who hold their kids back to gain an edge. I wonder if you're reading into things too much. Personally, I kept my September birthday child out of school to give her an extra year of childhood and an extra year of being home with me. I think a good education is great, but am not hell bent on my kids getting into Ivy Leagues because of the many I know who did attend Ivy Leagues, most are still in debt and few seem to be living happy lives.
Sport obsessed: maybe. But there are plenty who are not. Personally we love swimming because it feels good, but are not interested in competing. We love hiking, and we love biking. Orinda is great for all of these things. We also love gardening, and with the acre lots here, Orinda is perfect for that, especially native plant lovers like myself, with so many native species thriving here, plants and animals.
I can not imagine giving up my valley oaks, my views of hills, the fresh air, and the space and quiet.
You said you don't feel a part of the community. I wonder if maybe you could become more involved by finding activities you enjoy. For me it helped to go to the library often, get involved with gardening, meeting people at the nursery, taking walks & getting to know neighbors, joining a local club, and being friendly.
It took awhile to make friends, and we have friends with different values than we do, which surprised me at first. When we lived in Oakland & Berkeley all our friends were the same as us. Now we have friends who are much more 'mainstream' and are far more 'overachieving' than we have any interest in being. We find their company stimulating & challenging - something we enjoy. We still have our liberal friends, but we've branched out a bit.
Finally you complain that people here are either stay at home parents or in some sort of business. There you have me stumped, I'm not sure what you want people to be doing with their time if those to things are not cool with you. I'm a part time stay at home parent as well as a business owner. I guess you'd be doubly troubled by me.
It sounds to me like maybe something is missing your own life and you're aiming blame in the wrong place. Maybe taking a look at what you can do in your own life to make yourself happier: make new friends? take up a new hobby? get a new job? visit neighboring towns (shop, buy groceries, check out the parks & libraries in the prospective towns you mentioned) see if some of the shine wears off once you're spending more time in these places.
I find it hard to believe you won't have other issues pop up soon enough where ever you move. Make the community you want where you are, and be happy with what you have. That's my advice. Orinda Isn't the Problem!
I will say, not in a critical way, that what you are looking for sounds like the holy grail of cities that doesn't totally exist in the Bay Area. You want excellent schools, safety , diversity, a liberal environment. I think you need to decide what tradeoffs you're going to make.
I live in Moraga after having lived in most of my life in Berkeley, SF, and Oakland. We don't do the competitive sports, don't belong to a swim club, etc. We are liberal. Sounds like your kids are pretty young, so it might be a matter of giving it time to find your groove. As we have moved through the years here, I have found more and more people like me. It just takes a little time. Also, I keep in close contact with my other friends through the tunnel. I realize my entire life doesn't have to center on my zipcode.
Regarding Orinda itself, we avoided it when looking for a home out here. I have friends in Orinda and a good friend who has worked at both Miramonte and Campolindo high schools. What I have noticed, experienced, and heard pretty much matches what you said about the town. When we moved out this way, Orinda was at the bottom of our list. Lafayette was at the top, Moraga in the middle. I do find Moraga to be a little more down-home that Orinda, but we certainly have our share of uptight, helicopter parents, that's for sure. I just avoid them and in doing so, I've found a nice group of moms--some working, some stay at home--to keep me sane.
So, I can't advise to move or not move. I'm just not sure what you're looking for exists.
We left NY when our son had just started kindergarten, but I know at least one child from his small preschool who was held back a year to mature more. We signed our son up for various sports so he could try them out, and quickly discovered that he was already behind at the age of four, since he didn't have parents that had been throwing balls to him in the back yard since he could stand up.
When we arrived in SD, I was shocked to see the moms in my son's kindergarten class arriving to pick up their children: expensively dressed, fully made up, and sitting around discussing the merits of the various spas in town. (They have been known around our house ever since as the 'spa chicks.')
Here in Orinda, some of my kids' friends do live in gated mansions with stay-at-home moms. Others have two working parents and live in modest houses (like us). You don't see as much of the working moms, because we're at work and not constantly volunteering at the school, but we do exist! It may vary from one part of Orinda to another, but I've found the parents at our school to be very warm and welcoming. I don't usually discuss politics, but based on the yard signs I've seen during elections, there are a lot more liberals here than conservatives.
What's more important is what you make of your situation. You don't have to overschedule your kids, or sign them up for ultra-competitive sports. We belong to a swim club, but our kids are not on the swim team--we just like to hang out there on hot summer evenings and use the barbecue and pool. Our son is involved in one sport, which practices twice a week, and he's not on the competitive team. Our daughter is probably bordering on overscheduled, but she likes it that way and wouldn't dream of dropping anything. Edna
We're considering moving to Orinda for the schools. Can anyone give me some input on the different neighborhoods in Orinda? I hear about Sleepy Hollow, Glorietta, Del Rey, Country Club, and all the others but have no idea about the ''personalities'' of these areas or of the different elementary schools. We like wooded areas with trees and deer, and don't like housing developments or planned community types of areas. Thanks! Lisa
I can only really speak for my neighborhood. I live near St Stephens Church (north of 24) but realtors still call this ''country club'' - we are about a mile from OCC. We are in the Sleepy Hollow Elementary district, but up in the hills, with lots of deer, oaks, and views. FYI - lots of rats too! No one warned us about that part of living in the hills!
We've lived here for just over 4 years now and I know quite a few neighbors by now. Almost everyone is very friendly and warm. Having two little talkative kids helps I'm sure. We get invited into their homes and gardens frequently when we take walks, and I've learned we have a professor of botany and a master quilt maker on our street as well as two CFOs. Because of the hills it can be a little hard to meet people, but there are many devoted walkers and you will slowly get to know people if you spend time out on your land (weeding, most likely) or walking around yourself. Most of our neighbors are in their late 40's through age 70+ as well as a few teens, and many children 12 and under.
Our neighborhood has a somewhat funky mix of old ranch homes (built in the 50s) and older cottages- some updated, some not, as well as many with recent major renovations. Most people seem very down to earth, intelligent, friendly, but also generally private and respectful of others time/privacy.
It would be hard to put a personality on this neighborhood, but I see lots of creativity in landscaping (natives/drought tolerant), tasteful renovations, solar power, as well as a tendency to be understated. Subtle rather than flashy about home improvements, etc. Most people seem to be very family oriented, coming home to have dinner together (we get the most traffic on our street around 5:30PM) and helpful: neighbors offering tools, tips on plants, offers to help with childcare in an emergency, etc.
I've also noticed that the children and young adults I meet who attend the local schools are all very polite, thoughtful, confident, comfortable speaking with adults, and intelligent. When I take walks in the neighborhood, often I won't notice a kids or teens in their yards, but very often they will call out ''hello'' as I walk by - I used to be surprised by this, my prior experience being that kids always sulked away and ignored adults.
I feel very at home here in Orinda and I love where I live. It did take me awhile to feel part of the community here because of the large lots and hills and trees making it harder to see and meet neighbors, but this is a beautiful, peaceful place to live and I feel very lucky to be here. Happy in Orinda
Hi, My husband and I have always lived on the west side of the Caldecott Tunnel. We have always enjoyed the great restaurants, shopping, and a sense of community, whether this is taking a stroll on College Ave or checking out the Gourmet Ghetto in North Berkeley. Now that we have a baby, we started thinking about schools and yard--hence moving to the lamorinda area. Since both of us work on the west side of the tunnel, Orinda would be our best choice. There are quite a few neighborhoods in Orinda--Ivy Drive, Del Rey, Orindawoods, OCC, Glorietta, etc. I am familiar with the general population demographics of Orinda. Our goal is to try to raise our child to be as down to earth and self sufficient as possible. I would really appreciate any advice you could give about the neighborhoods, of course, recognizing these are generalizations. Also, we are Asian Americans--how diverse are the schools (k-12)? Thanks so much! potential lamorinda resident
Editor Note: an additional response about Lamorinda in general can be found here.
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
When I walk in my neighborhood I see solar panels on several of the homes I can see from the road. Most of my neighbors are older than us (ranging from mid 40's to their 70's+). They are friendly, and mostly dress quite casual. Several are retired professors, a few are artists and there are a few gay/lesbian families. There are also several CEO types (who I've found to be quite friendly) and there are many others I've never met. Most of our friends still live in Oakland, Alameda, and SF. I haven't met many women my age around here that I socialize with... but I haven't made a huge effort. I have met a couple neighbors I like a lot and one I now call a friend. I figure building a local social network will happen naturally over time, as my kids enter preschool. It hasn't been an urgent issue for me. I find people are mostly friendly when I smile and am friendly myself. I do run into a certain stereotype that irritate me: the self centered, overly manicured, rushed and rude types, male and female, who drive gas guzzlers and move so fast they might knock you or your toddler over (or run you down) if you're not careful. I take a deep breath & usually at least one other person in the crowd is rolling their eyes along with me.
I have no idea if some parts of town are more liberal than others. Mine seems pretty liberal (lots of Obama signs), but I don't hang out with my neighbors often. We're spread far apart from each other and we're a quiet hood. I mostly see the Lamorinda masses when I get my groceries at Trader Joe's or Diablo Foods in Lafayette, run an errand in Walnut Creek, or go to the library & park in Orinda. Most people here dress more conservatively than I do but that doesn't mean they don't shop at farmers markets, own solar panels, and grow their own food. It also doesn't mean they aren't liberal, friendly, kind, smart, and interesting, and it doesn't mean I won't like them. Do I feel like I ''fit in'' here? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. But I can't say I 100% fit in in Berkeley, Oakland, or Alameda. Have I ever felt the need to ''fit in?'' Not really. Good luck. Orinda isn't Berkeley. But for me that's a good thing. Happy in Orinda
No, Orinda isn't Berkeley -- Orinda is a small town, for one, and it's a lot less diverse in just about every way. But Orinda isn't Danville either -- Orinda is way more liberal and casual. So country club (or swim club) membership isn't required! Nicole R.
Editor Note: responses were also received about Lafayette, Moraga, and the Lamorinda Area
Single parent of 3 under 4 will be moving to Orinda in the next month or so (just a few blocks from Glorietta Elementary).
Kids are b/w mixed. Tell me everything there is to know about the area. I drove through it and it seems kid-friendly with parks (only one grocery store that I saw) but not very diverse from what I saw.
If we end up staying there, how tough will it be - will they be the ''different ones'' in their classes? I wanted the school district since I cannot afford private schools.
So, now that we will be going, I need to know from the people who know. What is it like to live in Orinda, both for me and for my angels? Where do I start to get them into some play activities and meeting other little ones? Anything you can share is so greatly appreciated. New to the area
We've been living here since 2000, and with a son since 2005, and although we were initially scared that it would be conservative and snobby, it turns out that it's not -- and we love it. My friend who also lives here, with a son who is half Filipino, told me just yesterday how ''blessed'' she feels to be living in such a beautiful, friendly, positive environment. My neighbor, a Cal chemistry professor, just told me that he while he wouldn't want to visit Orinda, he loves living here. So don't judge it until you've lived here for a while -- there are so many benefits.
Orinda isn't lily-white, exactly, but there are few African-Americans -- so welcome; we're glad to have you! The town is politically pretty liberal (lots of former Berkeleyites). If you're interested in the specific ethnic composition of Glorietta Elementary, you can look at their Web site.
With preschool-age kids, you'll want to check out the great activities offered at the community center, which is by the main park and the excellent library. Orinda is VERY kid-centered and I have found it easy to make friends that way.
Welcome to the neighborhood! Nicole R.
Recent transplants from Berkeley/Oakland seem to make up a larger and larger part of the population. The people I've connected with well have mostly been from that group, as I am, or, interestingly, people who grew up here and moved back to raise their kids -- there are quite a few. When they were growing up, Orinda was quiet suburb with no pretentions.
For me, the key to finding people I connected with well was finding the community at Orinda Community Church, an open-minded, progressive church. For those like yourself with younger kids, the swim clubs are probably the main place to find other kids in the summer. Meadow is the one near Glorietta. It's pretty much all about swim team for many families in the summer. There are a couple of highly regarded preschools, (as I've heard, anyway -- I have teenagers.) TOPS is one, there are also a couple in the churches clustered on Moraga Way just south of Glorietta.
Orinda is not a racially diverse community, but I hope it will be welcoming to you and your angels. Drop me a note if you'd like to grab a cup of coffee, or need a teenage babysitter. Anne chillytoes
Upside: geographical beauty, resource rich schools, safety. Nice rural feel, with deer and wild turkeys roaming through the backyard. Quiet. Nice park downtown. Small town feel in that you run into people you know at the movie theatre or coffee shop.
But we found some serious downsides. Some have to do with lifestyle (for example, you have to get in a car for everything, as very few areas are within walking distance to services, and neighbors are often spread out and have little opportunity to know each other). But those kinds of issues don't bother many people. What we found problematic was the incredible homogeneity (ethnicity and socioeconomic class), privilege, and absolute lack of awareness of same. I really disliked the sense of entitlement in the community, which was especially apparent in the school. The school had lots of good qualities (again, resource rich). But I don't know that the downsides in the schools really make up for those high API scores. The parents, as others have suggested, are over-the-top. A lot of academic pressure (in kindergarden!?!) and my daughter felt it. A pretty narrow idea of ''normal'' in terms of behavior and experience. And no awareness of how idiosyncratic these ideas are. Doesn't everybody go skiing in Tahoe? Spring break in Hawaii?. I felt quite alienated from the concerns and interests of most other parents, though I did run into a number of people who were dissatisfied with the narrowness of experience provided by the schools and sent their kids elsewhere, esp around the time of high school.
My husband's experience as a kid reflects all this: some things idyllic in terms of safety etc. but lots of social pressure around income, lots of competitiveness, and very limited range of experience and exposure to people who are different from you and your neighborhood. Stephanie
As others have said, it is difficult to be a working mom at Glorietta--I feel much less involved with the school than I did at the kids' previous school (when I only worked part-time). They do have good before- and after-school care at Glorietta, which is available on a drop-in basis (no reservation required).
There is only one grocery store, as you noted, but Lafayette is a short drive away. Lafayette has Trader Joe's, Diablo Foods, and a bigger Safeway. And Berkeley really isn't that far, although the tunnel seems to be a psychological barrier for some :-) (we go to Berkeley Bowl once a week).
Social life (especially in the summers) revolves around the private swim clubs. Meadow is the closest to Glorietta, but we have not joined, due to the cost of annual dues. It's a little awkward when well-meaning friends keep asking if we're planning to join.
In short, I think you and your angels will be welcomed here. You won't find many people that look like you, but you will find many with the same values (education, education, education). New to Glorietta
With a bit of sadness we are leaving Berkeley for sunny Orinda (near the Ivy Drive neighborhood). I've looked through the UCBP web-site and wanted more specific information/thoughts than what was provided:
1) For those who have made the Berkeley to Orinda move was it difficult to adjust to a suburban environment? I am moving from a fairly busy neighborhood within walking distance of shops, library etc. to a somewhat remote looking area(from my perspective). Will I get lonely out there? I'm an active stay at home mom.
2) Is it a very conservative town or moderate (compared to Berkeley)? We are quite liberal.
3) My children don't watch a lot of television, will that be an issue in Orinda esp. as they get older(will we be out of the norm)?
4) I am Asian American, will I feel uncomforable there?
5) Are the public schools in Orinda as good as they say they are? Any specific thoughts on Glorrieta and Del Ray Elementary?
6) In general, are people friendly and accepting? Is it easy to make friends with neighbors or do people keep to themselves?
7) How hot does it really get? We are moving into a ranch house fixer with no a/c...are we crazy? Does any of that wonderful, cool fog creep over the hills into Orinda?
We move in a month and I'm scared about this huge transition from all the things I love about Berkeley. Mainly, I'm concerned about the urban to suburban transition. Thank you! Suburban living here I come!
1) I was a bit lonely for awhile, as I had no friends and no kids. I now have 2 kids and find it quite easy to meet people through kids' activities, at the park, etc.
2) I think there's a wide variety of political views here. Definitely more conservative than Berkeley, but frankly where isn't?
3) We don't have TV so my kids watch no television (they're quite young, though, so I'm not sure how this will play out). My personal feeling is that people, regardless of where they live, think anyone who does not have TV is almost nuts.
4) I do not think you'll feel uncomfortable here as an Asian American. In fact, that's probably the most represented ethnic group in this area (more so than African Americans or hispanics).
5) My kids are not yet in school, so I cannot give my personal experience, but I read the California state ratings every year and this past year every Orinda elementary schools scored in the 90's and each school (I believe there are 4) increased their score from a year ago.
6) My experience has been that people are very friendly and accepting. Orinda is not the monolith (I thought) of snobby people with money. There are elderly people, young families, older families, etc. I like the mix in my neighborhood and have found that my paranoia about the suburbs is mostly unfounded: people give each other privacy, but we do speak to each other (unlike my apt. building in the city).
7) We have A/C, but rarely use it. It does get about 10 degrees hotter on average than Berkeley and yes, we do get fog, although the further you are towards Moraga the less you get (I think).
Hope this helps. All in all, I still miss SF, the culture, the diversity, the restaurants, etc. but I am happy I am raising my kids here. Julie
Yes, this is the suburbs, so you will drive to most locations (shops, grocery stores). The schools you mention are excellent, and there is lots of parent support. There are many Asian families, and many, many stay-at-home moms.
Many people who move to Lamorinda are from Berkeley, Oakland, or SF, but many move here from other parts of the country as well, so I think it is fair to say that the politics are all over the place. I think most people are pretty moderate. I do notice that politics rarely comes up in conversation, probably because most people figure there are a wide variety of opinions. In Berkeley you can make some general assumptions about people's political views, but not in Lamorinda.
As far as meeting people, there is the Lamorinda Mom's Club if you have pre-schoolers, otherwise you will hopefully find some like-minded people through your child's school, joining a pool club or church, etc. Your neighbors may have kids your age, or they may be in their 70's.
And, of course, the most important question - do you need AC?!?! Most houses were built without it, and we lived here for 4 years before we put it in. Many realtors say ''you don't need AC in Lamorinda'', but it seems most people end up putting it in at some point. There will probably be between 10-20 days/year where your house might feel pretty warm, depending on how much shade you have. So, if you can stick it out for those days, you will be fine!
There is no question - the ''pros'' for Berkeley are the ''cons'' for Lamorinda, and vice versa. Luckily you will be close enough to hopefully be able to go back and forth quite frequently! SherryH
2) Anyplace in the US is going to seem moderate if not conservative compared to Berkeley. You can find ultra-conservatives as well as liberals here. People may not be as outspoken about their politics here as they are in Berkeley, but I'm fairly liberal and have found many others who share my views. In addition I'm quite friendly with some very conservative foks. We have many other things in common and just don't discuss politics. It's not that big a deal.
3) I know several households who disallow television. We disconnected our cable for the summer (and there's no reception out here in suburbia, so our kids can't find anything to watch even if they try). Like anywhere, there are some people who have the tv on all the time and others who don't watch it at all. I don't think there's a huge difference on this one between Berkeley and Orinda.
4) There are many Asian Americans here, but many more Caucasians. I don't know if you'd feel uncomfortable. There certainly aren't many other ethnic groups out here, which is a negative.
5) My kids go to Del Rey. They love it. I love it. I think it's a great school with a great staff and very involved parents. I have a few friends who send their kids to private schools west of the tunnel. Their views differ from ours.
6) In general people are friendly. In the hillier neighborhoods people aren't on the street as much and may keep to themselves more. The Ivy Drive neighborhood has tons of kids and families and has a nice friendly feel.
7) It can get way hot. Look into joining the Moraga Valley Pool (on Risa Rd. near OIS), Meadow pool (Heather Lane closer to Glorietta), or another pool. You can always cool off there. The parks in Orinda and Moraga have water play areas. Sprinklers in the back yard can entertain the kids for hours Even when it bakes in the summer it usually cools off at night (the fog does come in frequently), though there have been some nights in summers past when we've all gone outside to sleep because the house is still baking. Overall, content in Orinda
1) Orinda is a very conservative town. Mostly Republican. But my mom was pretty liberal, as were many of her friends. So there definitely cool people there. In particular, there is ''hippie hill'' which is the hill that El Toyanol runs through on the north side of town I think. A larger number of Democratic types live there. But overall, pretty conservative. In fact a neighbor of mine and her family moved there and lasted six months. They hated it. Too conservative, not friendly enough, etc. They moved to Mill Valley!
2) Not so sure about the TV thing. I grew up watching a fair bit of TV. Maybe the issue here is conformity? You are concerned your kids will not fit in because they can't converse in TV language? Well, conformity is a big issue there. I felt it more in terms of having designer clothing, a brand new car at 16, and other ''stuff''. I grew up in the ''rich'' part of town and remember (with much embarassment) looking down at the kids from the ''wrong side of the tracks'' (the Ivy Drive side). So dumb. I tried for years to fit in and be popular, and finally gave up. Lots of social pressure to conform for sure.
3)When I lived there in the 1970s, there were maybe three African American kids at my high school, and a few more Asian Americans. I think there are a lot more now (Asian Americans that is; don't know about the former) so that probably won't be an issue.
4) My parents moved there ''for the schools''. I guess they test well. But I can tell you that I got good/decent grades fairly effortlessly, and when I went to UC Berkeley, I was totally slammed. I was not prepared at all for that level of learning and to this day resent it. My husband on the other hand went to some prep school back east and found Berkeley ''easy''. HMM. And again, the social pressures are pretty harsh. I really did not have a good high school experience, but all in all I got a fine education and if you an involved parent, I'm sure your kids will too.
5)We lived on a block where all the kids knew each other. The parents knew each other too but didn't really socialize like they do where I live now. The houses/lots are bigger so its hard to get to know people that way (versus where I live in Oakland with teeny lots, and so we are in the front a lot and know everyone). We belonged to a swim/tennis club so my parents at least got to know a lot of people that way (and my mom is very social so it was easy for her). The Community Center wasnt' there when I lived there, and there were a lot less offereings (Orinda wasn't a city yet). There are some cool groups that I remember my mom joined, and if you are interested in what they were, I could find out for you (just email me).
6) It can get hot there, but the fog does creep over and it is probably the coolest of the burb towns. To be honest, I can't even remember if the house I grew up in had AC. But it is definitely hotter there than here.
I'd be glad to chat with you more about it if you like or if you have any questions. Hilary
Re: Family-friendly and more liberal Lamorinda 'hoods
We've lived in the neighborhood around Del Rey Elementary school in Orinda since 2000 -- first renting for two years to see how we liked it, and then buying a home. We were afraid it would be too country-clubby and elitist, but at least out here in south Orinda folks are mostly unpretentious and tolerant. I get a definite sense of the ''community'' and ''neighborly'' environment you say you're looking for -- along with a big yard, a medium-sized house, strictly limited development, and some of the best schools in California.
Here in the Donna Maria Way area we have an annual block party where we meet everyone, and so nearly every time we walk the dog or stroll down the street to the school playground we get greetings from friendly neighbors. We've been to dinner and children's birthday parties with our neighbors; when our son was born, three neighbors stopped by with gifts. As far as ethnic diversity, our neighborhood has families of Latino, Asian, and Indian descent, but sadly it isn't as diverse as the Bay Area's more urban areas. (You can look at the school's Web site to see the ethnic breakdown for students.) However, we do have families with kids of all ages, from infant to teen, as well as many retired people, so there's age diversity.
Politially Orinda is the most liberal of all the ''over-the-hill'' communities of Contra Costa County, consistently voting Democrat -- you can look up voting maps online to see! On our street sometimes you'll pass five hybrid cars parked (if you count ours), and there's only one Hummer and one Escalade. Another point people forget is that Orinda is much closer to the East Bay than to Walnut Creek. When traffic is agreeable, we can drive to Rockridge in ten minutes, which is also only one BART stop away.
Good luck in your search for a home! Nicole R.
Re: What neighborhoods do young families tend to move to? We moved to Orinda from a great East Bay neighborhood. Sad at first we quickly realized that yes, it is warmer(nice), the yards are huge(houses smaller), lots of young liberal families and the schools are great. Luckily, the neighborhoods, friends and shopping I love in Berkeley and Oakland are NOT far from Orinda (maybe 10 minutes). I get my urban fill and then drive back to peaceful, safe(we often forget to lock our doors) and quiet Orinda.
The schools here are nothing less than great. You quickly realize that buying a house here pays off in the end (compared to mortgage + private school tuition). Also, the schools are much more diverse than I originally thought.
The families are cool, like I said, MANY have moved from Oakland, Berkeley or SF to be here. Yes, there are quite a few older more conservative people, but many of them are selling and moving into retirement homes making way for younger families.
We live in the Ivy drive neighborhood, which is close to all three schools my children will attend all the way to high school. It's a lot ''easier'' going than some other parts of Orinda (Downs, Sleepy Hollow). Join your neighborhood pool club and meet even more families in your area and or Elem. school.
Lafayette is also a great town, but I don't know enough about
the neighborhoods to tell you anything
Happy I moved
Re: Worried about exclusivity if I move to Lamorinda
I could have written your post last year when we were still house-hunting. We moved to Orinda exactly one year ago, and we're very happy here, despite the fact that I literally cried when we left our beloved Rockridge. I understand your fears (they were mine, too!) but they are largely myths. Let me debunk a few - or at least give my perspective. Orinda (or Lamorinda in general) is not the moneyed country club scene you fear. Yes, there's a country club in town. I'm sure some people belong to it, or it wouldn't still be in business. But I don't know any of them. The folks I have met are interesting, down-to-earth, outgoing, kind-hearted and generous. When we told friends in Oakland/Berkeley that we were thinking of moving here, we heard again and again that Orinda was insufferably snobby and conservative. I can't tell you how far that is from the truth, in my experience. I've just saw some recent demographic info and learned that registered democrats now outnumber registered republicans in Orinda.
At home in Orinda
Re the social scene: Don't worry that you didn't do preschool in Orinda; the elementary schools are where most Orinda family relationships are built. The SAH moms bond well and strongly. Groups of women drop their kids off at school and then walk together for exercise. There are endless opportunities to work in the school (lunch program, musical productions, field trips, working in the classroom) and connect with the parents in the school community. But if you ever opt to be a working mom (as I am), prepare to feel marginalized. School activities/events tend to involve mid-day meetings or contributions that working parents cannot make. And I don't think I am imagining the subtle judgment I feel from some of the SAH moms in Orinda for my choice to work.
Re neighborhoods: North of 24 is more affluent; south of 24 is more mixed (mixed in Orinda, of course, being a relative term). The school with the craziest Get-Your-Kid-Into-Harvard-at-10 parents is Sleepy Hollow. The most relaxed and creative schools are Glorietta and Del Rey. We are at Glorietta, which was pretty good for our oldest and with more recent innovations has been wonderful for our youngest (now 9). Other neighborhood considerations: The hills largely dictate how much neighbors see each other, how much kids ride bikes, and so on. The areas around Del Rey school tend to be flatter and lend themselves to riding bikes to school and in-the-street playing, though there are some great neighborhood-y streets (Park Lane Drive, Martha Road, Darryl Road, Meadow Lane) around Glorietta too.
Good luck. An Orinda mom
So I don't find it to be ''exclusive,'' if by that you mean, ''Do you feel excluded?'' I don't feel we stand out, despite being former punk rockers, anti-conspicuous consumption (my husband drives a 1994 Honda Civic), and politically liberal--we are white and relatively wealthy, however. We live in south Orinda (which is not the Country Club side of town) in the Moraga del Rey area (surrounding Del Rey School), and there's no sign of snobbishness on our street, despite the million-dollar ranch houses. We did wonder about bringing our son into a perceived culture of wealthy entitlement, but figured all parents have to teach their values at home. Orinda's Not Blackhawk
My neighbor & friend Molly Smith (who introduced us to practically everyone) is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Orinda. She grew up in Orinda and knows the area very well. She specializes in working with families and people buying in the Lamorinda area for the first time. Molly's children are in preschool and 1st grade so she is a great person to talk with regarding the schools, neighborhoods, activites and getting to know people. Her contact information is:
Molly Smith Coldwell Banker molly[at]mollyslist.comHope this is helpful! Julie
Re: African-American in Lamorinda
My family moved to Orinda from Berkeley last May. We are all white, so I can't comment directly on the experience of people of color here. But I'm sorry to say I can confirm the lack of diversity. When my daughter started at the middle school here, she complained that all the girls were tall and thin and blond. She has since made good friends, and they seem to be really nice girls, but I confess that I sometimes have a hard time telling them apart.
The area has some great qualities, though. From what we have seen with kids in elementary and middle school, the schools are quite good. There is a great small town feel, and you often see middle school kids out on their own at the movies and at restaurants like Nations hamburgers, and at the pool in the summer. I think it is a good place for teens because they can have some early freedom here (like I had when I was growing up) and then, when they are older, can get into Oakland and Berkeley and SF via BART to participate in a more urban scene. One thing that has struck me is how many people I have met here that recently moved from Berkely or Albany or elsewhere on the Bay side of the hills. I assume they don't suddenly become more conservative when the moving van enters the tunnel; instead I like to think that they/we will make this area more like Berkeley and its neighbors. More diverse families would be a welcome part of this transformation. Good luck with your decision! anne
Re: Gay dads considering a move to Orinda/Layfayette I live in Orinda and still struggle to find my place in this land of conservative wealth. However, my neighbors are a lesbian couple with 3 boys 9, 13 and 14. They moved from Oakland to here about 10 years ago and are very happy and at home. The kids seem like nice well adjusted kids who have told me nice things about the schools. My general feeling is that any discrimination would not be overt (if thats of comfort?) and plenty of perfectly accepting folks too. Nowhere else is going to have the level of diversity and acceptance that Berkely has. But one can't just hole up in Berkely forever. Christina
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