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Living in Rockridge & North Oakland, CA

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Housing, Neighborhoods, & Moving > Living in Rockridge & North Oakland, CA

Questions about Rockridge & North Oakland Related Pages

2011 - 2012 Reviews

Where to live - Elmwood or Rockridge?

April 2012

We are moving from SF to the East Bay and trying to determine whether Elmwood, Berkeley or Rockridge, Oakland will be better for for our family. We have two kids -- 2 and 1 -- and we are planning on having one or maybe two more. We are 30ish professionals, but I am currently a SAHM while I reconsider my career options. We are Middle Eastern, and we value diversity quite a bit. Other priorities include great neighborhood, strong community feel, walkability, good schools, and a hip but not too hip vibe. We are NYC transplants, and though we LOVE the Bay Area, we definitely miss that NYC/Brooklyn edge at times. The key thing for us is that we want a home and a neighborhood in which we can raise our children and grow old. Therefore, we are looking for a stable community that offers us a mix of cultures and age groups while maintaining a bit of an edge. Also, cost isn't a huge factor, as our income can support a home in either places. Any suggestions and insights are welcome! Thank!! Soon to be new in town

One factor to consider, since you have kids, is the schools. I know it's hard to think so far down the road, but it is another factor that will sooner, rather than later become an issue in your life. In the Elmwood you have access to Berkeley Public Schools, in Rockridge you have Oakland schools. So, you might want to do some research on the California Department of Education website about API scores etc...and on BPN about school experiences, as you begin house hunting.

I live in Oakland in a fantastic house, in an up and coming area, but we weren't thinking about these things when we bought, didn't even have a kid then So currently we're homeschooling and looking at private schools for the future... Food for Thought and Grounds for Further Research

I'd go with Elmwood. Rockridge is the Oakland school system, and while the local elementary is fine, my understanding is that the high school that Rockridge kids go to is not so great. While Berkeley schools can be frustrating, overall they're pretty good all the way through high school. Piedmont is supposed to be the best for schools, though, if you can afford it.
I've lived in both Elmwood and Rockridge for 20+ years - I now live in Berkeley in the Claremont district just a few blocks from Elmwood. Elmwood and Rockridge are very similar, and so close to each other that, depending on where you live, you can easily live in one and walk to places in the other. It's about a 15 minute walk from my house to either Elmwood or Rockridge, so I shop on foot in both neighborhoods.

One obvious difference is they are in two different school districts. In Oakland, you will know ahead of time which school your kids will be assigned to - it depends on where your house is. In Berkeley, you will be assigned to one of four schools, very possibly to one that is too far to walk to. There are Rockridge schools that have better 'numbers' than Berkeley schools, again depending on where you live in Oakland, and which school you are assigned to in Berkeley. So I wouldn't necessarily let the school district be your determining factor. I think that houses are cheaper in Rockridge because of the perceived school district difference.

I actually enjoyed life in Rockridge better in terms of getting to work and shopping for food. There's a BART station in Rockridge, more restaurants, more markets. Elmwood has a selection of restaurants, but not as many. Elmwood does have a movie theater and a nice library (as does Rockridge) but if you live in Elmwood you can't really run out on foot for a piece of fish and fresh veggies for dinner. In the Elmwood, for a last minute dinner, you are looking at either a restaurant or high end takeout like Summer Kitchen. In Rockridge you have Safeway, Ver Brugge, and Yasai Market all clustered together, and of course Market Hall a little further down. This is so convenient, on the way home from work, or while you're out for a stroll with the baby.

I would say that Elmwood is more upscale than Rockridge, and with an older demographic than Rockridge. I do see plenty of people pushing strollers in both places, but more in Rockridge. If you really want a more hip neighborhood, though, you want Temescal! a mom

I would definitely stick to Berkeley if your intention is to send your kids to public schools. Berkeley has good schools K-12, and in Oakland the middle and high schools can be rougher and sketchier... I prefer North Berkeley, as it is safe, clean, yet still has cool and funky shopping and dining areas. I'd look north of University and east of San Pablo. The hills are nice, but not walkable to most places in town. Happy mom of 3 in N. Berkeley
Both Rockridge and Elmwood are beautiful, safe, fun and hip neighborhoods with gorgeous houses. Both neighborhoods are VERY predominantly white. We would choose Elmwood for these reasons: Berkeley schools are much better and Rockridge is closer to the freeway (we would not want our family breathing CO all the time). To us, Elmwood also just has this amazing charm. In Elmwood, I would be careful to check about neighbors, if there are houses rented to college students nearby (noise). But there really is no edge in Elmwood (I'm a New Yorker, so I know what you mean) as far as I can tell. I recommend walking around these neighborhoods and see how they feel to you. The stores on College are overpriced and esp in Rockridge, overly quaint. You can look up ethnic or racial make-up on the web (not sure where) for different neighborhoods. Berkeley west of Telegraph or the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland will give you more diversity and more edge. There are some gorgeous craftsman houses in those areas too. Good luck.
I'm a Brooklyn transplant too, and we moved from SF to the Elmwood nine years ago. Elmwood's proximity to Cal gives this neighborhood the real feel of a college town, with all its pluses and minuses. You can't beat the diversity of wandering toward campus with your kid like we did this morning, and stumbling upon the Indian Student Association's Holi festival and getting pelted with fragrant colored powder. There's great theater downtown; undeveloped hills with owls and coyotes are just a few blocks east; a nice park or two for the little ones, and decent eats are all nearby (better eats farther afield); a variety of churches, synagogues, and Berkeley's only mosque are right in the neighborhood.

Rockridge is a fun shopping and dining district, with proximity to Temescal and Uptown which of course are hipster neighborhoods par excellence. Oakland is pretty much the Brooklyn of the Bay Area, very diverse, past its golden era of working-class pride but bubbling with artisan/locavore/indie energy. With BART and the highway right there, it's also faster getting to other parts of town than from the Elmwood, which gets clogged at rush hours.

The public schools are where you'll find the biggest difference. Berkeley has very high taxes to offset California's lousy school funding, and also buses its students, so all of its elementary schools are similarly (very) diverse racially and economically. There's really not a bad school in town. Oakland schools are zoned by neighborhood for the most part. In the Rockridge area, there are some excellent public schools with mostly affluent families whose PTAs raise $250K or more a year--but of all the white families in Oakland I know, not a single one has stayed in OUSD all the way through high school. glad 2 B in Elmwood

Editor Note: this discussion also appears on the page about Elmwood

April 2012

Re: Moving to Oakland with small children

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 with kids.

North Oakland below MLK?

Dec 2011

We are considering moving from South Berkeley (near Ashby Bart) to North Oakland (below Martin Luther King). It seems that safety has improved in the area in the last few years. I would love to hear from people living in the neighborhood about your thoughts. Does it feel safe for families with children? Thank you! Thx for the help!

We've lived in what is recently being called The Longfellow (apparently, a historical name long lost, now found) since fall of 2003. Since 03, the neighborhood got a little worse (circa 2007) and now, since the housing bubble imploded, is getting much, much better. Many of these over-leveraged homes are being scooped up for a song by young couples moving out from SF. We see lots more dog walking taking place (including a fair number of single women walking dogs) and, in what I see as the greatest indication of change - many more little children. Couples walking with babies in Bjorn carriers. Strollers.

There are still, certainly, rough spots and flares of violence (45th and Market was an issue, less so recently; 52nd and Genoa seems to be the new hot spot). But you can see the changes - the 40th Street median was just replanted again - with irrigation this time. There is a Longfellow association that meets monthly, has committees (blight, beautification, grants) and is working hard to make the neighborhood better each day. West and Market have bike lanes, and the Telegraph Avenue love is starting to seep over to the 'other side' of Hwy. 24.

In short, I don't think it's *that* much different from your current location. Different housing stock, different problems, but similar. And there are kids for sure. We have 2 (5 & 7) and there are 7 more on our block alone. Longfellow Resident

Sept 2011

Re: Relocating to the Bay Area, looking for a walkable neighborhood
We live in and love the Rockridge area of Oakland It's highly walkable and close to BART, good restaurants, etc. though as not as comprehensively useful as Piedmont Avenue. Admittedly it's not the cheapest place to buy a house.

We also adore our pre-school, Room to Grow. It's a reggio inspired program with really caring adults, who go the extra mile for the kids. You'd be amazed what kids can accomplish given adults who are open to seeing what they can do. The outdoor space is small, but they make the most of every inch. You get yoga, lots of art, great science exploration, cooking, and a gentle place that really understands kids.

It currently has openings. Our older child who is now in elementary went there for 2 years, and our youngest has been for six month. Happy Parent

Living near Shattuck & 58th St

July 2011

I am currently in the process of downsizing and moving to a smaller house since my children are grown and living on their own. I have lived in North Berkeley for twenty years and know the area well but haven't found a house I like in the area. I have found a lovely small house in North Oakland on the west side of Shattuck at 58th street but don't know anything about the neighborhood. The streets in the area seem quiet and safe and most seem attractive and well tended. Is the area safe, friendly and stable? moving on

My boyfriend and I bought a house in North Oakland, west of Market street. We've been living here almost a year now and haven't encountered any major problems. Our hubcaps were stolen so now we park our car in the garage. There are the illegal dumpings on our street and cars blasting their music. The neighborhood is usually pretty quiet and neighbors are friendly. There are some sketchy elements but I think the area is improving with the recent influx of new homeowners. North Oaklander
I live in Berkeley at the North Oakland Border (Woolsey and Shattuck), so about 8 blocks north of where you are looking. I like the neighbor hood a lot - very convenient - close to Berkeley bowl, Elmwood, Temescal and Rockridge. But I think crime is pretty high here. Not sure how N. Berkeley compares. While I feel safe during the day I do not walk around on my own at night and car break ins are very common - house break ins are not as high but still prevalent (we've had both in our 1.5 years here). It is going to be a lot more racially and socio-economically diverse that N. Berkeley. These neighborhoods can really vary block by block too - I'd definitely try visiting at all different times of the day and also knock on doors an ask neighbors how they like the neighborhood. good luck.
If you want to see the crime stats for your new neighborhood you might want to look at the website

You can search back in time to see what was happening in the area for the last few months.

You also might want to read about the city of Oakland and its financial problems; the financial situation is causing difficulties for citizens to get the services they need. You might want to compare the governments of Berkeley to Oakland. The city police force is definitely understaffed; street maintenance is suffering; parks and rec are being defunded; etc. is a good blog to give you some insight into the city.

When you look at crimespotting's website you can find out what Neighboorhood Crime Prevention Group (NCPC) you would be in ; you might want to contact them for some neighborhood advice. Sue

April 2011

Re: new to Elmwood/Rockridge
Welcome to the area! I live in Rockridge and have a daughter who is just turning two. There are tons of things to do - we almost never use our car. Here's a list of places we go and things we do together...

1. Rockridge Library. They have story time on Wednesdays and Saturdays. But we also go at other times. They have a great kids area with toys, crayons/coloring sheets and (of course) books. The childrens' librarians are also wonderful.

2. PARKS. In the area, we frequent...
--Colby Park on 61st near Colby
--Bateman Park, right next to Alta Bates Hospital
--Willard Park (Hillegass and Stuart-ish)
--FROG Park, down where Claremont Ave crosses the 24 freeway
--On weekends, we use some of the local elementary school parks, including Chabot School (on Chabot Ave) and John Muir (on Claremont up by Ashby).

3. We take Music Together classes at Rockridge Danspace. (Andy Fullington is a GREAT teacher.)

4. There are great toddler/baby swim ''classes'' at the Berkeley Warm Pool on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. This isn't in rockridge/elmwood but is near downtown Berkeley and easily accessible by BART.

5. In warm weather, the beach at Temescal Lake is great.

6. Kid-friendly coffee shops in the area are...
--Cafe Zoe on College and Harwood. The chairs and big and sturdy and won't fall over if your toddler likes to climb. The staff there is super friendly to kids.
--The Beanery, on College Ave in Elmwood. The coffee there is wretched, but they have an awesome enclosed patio in the back - great for letting your toddler roam and relatively private if you need to nurse.

7. Check out Habitot in downtown Berkeley - right near BART.

8. Also check out MOCHA (the museum of children's art) in downtown Oakland. It's also right near BART and offers hands-on art projects for kids. My daughter loves it.

There are tons of used toys/baby gear to be had if you don't want to bring your own. Check out BPN's Marketplace newsletter. And there's tons of stuff on craigslist. We have also found some great stuff at Child's Play on College and Chabot (sells used kids' clothing as well as baby gear, toys, even some books). Best of luck to you - hope you like it here as much as we do... A Rockridge Mom

April 2011

Re: Where's the 'Park Slope' of Berkeley/Oakland?
From everything you said, Rockridge sounds like the best match to what you are looking for. I think it resembles Park Slope the closest, although you will never get a perfect match. Walkable shopping areas, close proximity to BART, good public elementary schools, tree lined streets, and nice weather. M

We moved to Rockridge from Park Slope 8 years ago -- in fact, we call Rockridge 'Park Slope West.' We LOVE it here. Though not nearly as dense as Brooklyn, this part of Oakland has a similar feel with highly-educated, interesting people, nice housing, and an easy walk to shops, school, and transit, plus it's only 20 minutes to downtown SF on the train.

Coming from New York, you will find the pace slower, but it is also much easier to cope with daily life. You'll never have to haul a stroller up subway steps again. As in the slope, public schools are less certain after elementary, but our neighborhood middle school is getting better all the time and more neighborhood families are choosing it each year. Lastly, although the bay area is expensive compared to most of the country, we've got nothing on the most desirable parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan so you should be spared some sticker shock. Good luck in your choice!

Moving to Rockridge neighborhood with small kids

Jan 2011

Greetings! My husband and I are seriously considering moving to the Rockridge neighborhood from Danville with our 2 year-old son and new baby. We are looking to live in a more urban, culturally diverse neighborhood but want to make sure that this is a good neighborhood for raising small kids as well. In particular, we want to know what families in Rockridge do with their small children, is it easy to meet other families, how are the parks and other kid facilities, are you happy with your decision to raise your small kiddos there? Thanks so much! Mama hoping to move to Rockridge area

We have a 20 month old son and live in Upper Rockridge. During my teenage years, I grew up in Alamo and can tell you I definitely prefer living in Oakland with my family because of the variety of things to do here, the cultural diversity, and the easy access to San Francisco. I feel like we have yet to discover all of the kid-friendly things we can do here, but here's a list of what we've found and enjoyed so far:
-Plenty of parks with playgrounds. Near us are Temescal,
Dracena, Montclair, and Frog Park but there are lots more
throughout Oakland and Berkeley.
- Lawrence Hall of Science
- Oakland Zoo
- Tilden Park, especially Little Farm and the Steam Trains
- Farmer's markets
- Storytime at the Rockridge and Montclair libraries
- Lots of classes: music, kindergym, yoga, swimming, toddler
I am sure there is more I am forgetting, but suffice it to say that Rockridge is very kid-friendly, we meet other families in the area all the time, and we are very happy to be raising our son here. Good luck with your decision! Carrie
Rockridge is an excellent neighborhood for small children. It's a very walkable neighborhood, for one thing. We walk to parks, library, grocery store, toy store, friends' houses, just about everywhere. The local elementary schools are top-notch (Peralta and Chabot). The middle school, not sure yet, but I hear it's improving year by year. There are plenty of preschools in the neighborhood. The only downside is the high cost of houses, but if you're coming from Danville the sticker shock won't be too much. You will love Rockridge! Rockridge Mom of 3
Sept 2010

Re: New job in SF - where's a sunny place to live?

If I were you, I would look near Rockridge in Oakland instead. It's a fun area, very kid-friendly, sounds like a good match to your self-description, and it is on the Pittsburgh/Bay Point BART line rather than the RIchmond line. There are more trains, and you never have to transfer, whereas on the Richmond line, you sometimes have to transfer (direct service from SF is intermittent), which would add time to your husband's trip. I found that my commute from downtown to Rockridge took half the time, or less, than it took me when I was in the avenues in the City itself. anon

Consider living in Rockridge! It has many attributes...

--It's a wonderful walking neighborhood full of shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. (OK, Rockridge is oversupplied with places to get your brows waxed, but where else can you walk to the bay area's best butcher shop?) I walk EVERYWHERE - to get groceries, to the post office, to the playground with my kid, etc. I routinely park my car and then don't look at it for a week.

--There is access to GREAT food here - both restaurants and groceries and a great farmer's market on Sundays.

--It is so easy to commute from here. The BART gets you from Rockridge to SF in 20 minutes. And it's right on the freeway too.

--Rockridge is FULL of families w/ small children, and it feels like a village. I routinely see the same people when I am out with my daughter, and I have made friends at the park, the coffee shop, etc. Although it has all the fun and interesting stuff of an urban neighborhood, it *feels* small, and you see the same faces regularly.

--There are about six trillion preschools in Rockridge (maybe even more preschools than waxing salons). Take your pick.

--Rockridge is home to two of Oakland's best public elementary schools, Chabot and Peralta.

--Downside: Rockridge is an expensive place to buy a house (see above if you wonder why). But renting here is not that different than other nice neighborhoods in Berkeley/Oakland. I have been both a renter and a homeowner here, and, in my opinion, the location is so special and wonderful that it's worth maybe squeezing into a smaller space.

Best of luck on your move! Rockridge Mom

2007 - 2008 Reviews

Moving to Rockridge with little ones

July 2007

My husband and I are moving to Rockridge (from Cambridge, MA) this August with our 2 and 4 year old girls. We're very excited! I'm a SAHM and would love some initial pointers on the area - yummy child-friendly restaurants & hang out spots, best places for groceries, and, most of all, best places/ways to meet other families in the neighborhood with preschoolers. It seems playgroups and such tend to be mostly for infants/younger children -- any advice on good ways to connect with other parents of similarly-aged kids? Any parents interested in meeting up - please feel free to email me! Jen

Welcome to the Bay Area! I'm sure you'll get a million responses on this one, but here are some things we love to do in Rockridge: dinner at Cactus Taqueria (fresh, yummy, kid-friendly); cookies and coffee (and fresh pasta, interesting cheeses, etc.) at Market Hall; FROG Park; Rockridge Library (read the bulletin board -- they often have fun free activities for kids); Pasta Pomodoro (not a foodie place, but heated outdoor seating and good for kids); Rockridge Kids toy store (train table and good birthday gift source). A new Trader Joe's grocery store is opening near Rockridge BART this fall (I think) -- they're hands-down my favorite grocery store. As for meeting other kids, preschool has been a good resource for us, if you're going that route; also music classes (eg, Music Together) and other classes, library events and meeting people through BPN. You're on the right track! JP
Not to worry, you will be in heaven. Just cruise down College Avenue and you will see all the other parents and kids and all there is to see. Practically all the restaurants are child-friendly--the fancier ones are easy to spot. Hang out at the Frog park and you will meet lots of people. Rockridge is easily accessible to Berkeley and the rest of Oakland so everything you see on the gold old BPN applies to you! See you around!

2005 - 2006 Reviews

Playgrounds & parent groups in North Oakland?

Feb 2006

We will soon be moving to North Oakland (Rockridge adjacent -- 61st and Shattuck) -- I'm wondering if there are any active local parent groups, or even a local playground where kids (and parents) congregate and can get to know each other (I'm new to the Bay Area)? I have a 10-month-old daughter. Kim

Dear Kim, Welcome to the neighborhood! We've been in North Oakland (just a few blocks from you) for a couple of years and like it very much. We are pretty new parents and still figuring out the scene so I look forward to reading the other responses you get. I can tell you that there is a relatively new playground on Dover St (I think between 59th & 58th, between Shattuck & MLK). There seem to be a mix of little kids with parents and bigger, unsupervised kids. Each time I've been there I've run into someone else pushing a stroller, so I encourage you to give it a shot. I understand that the playground was created with a lot of community support, and so far it is very well-maintained. Bushrod Park has had an iffy reputation in the past, but it seems to be undergoing a revitalization, and if we all turned out and used the playground I'm sure it would help. Then there's the Frog Park up in Rockridge, which is just too damn charming and I would guess a hotspot for parent networking. happy in Noakland
Welcome to the neighborhood! You can subscribe to the Lower Rockridge Parents newsgroup at Heather
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