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Re: Mills College neighborhoods - yay or nay?
My husband and I lived in Berkeley right near campus, literally a block away, so we can definitely relate to your experience with noise, no garden space, and the safety concerns. We searched for the right home and town that gave us what we were looking for. We searched high and low: Crockett, Pinole, Walnut Creek, then tried Oakland but cringed a lot and read a lot of reviews on BPN about how various neighborhoods really weren't all that safe, and they just didnt feel right. We couldnt afford the 'better' neighborhoods of Oakland. What we eventually found: San Leandro. Great location, great prices on homes, great neighborhoods, excellent public library with great events and open more than Berkeley Public Library, we still have the rolling hills and the bayside town, and we got a city that is dedicated to making this town a wonderful place to live and work. My husband commutes 15 miles to work in South Berkeley. About once every 3-5 months, there's a bad commute day that takes 45 minutes. Most of the time, it's around 20-30 minutes. I also commute to Berkeley for work a few days a week and most of the time, it's an easy 20 minute drive. It's all worth it because running errands in town is so much easier than it ever was in Berkeley - we literally save hours each week. We also have friendly neighbors and absolutely love our neighborhood. We have an affordable house that is amazing (we got very, very lucky and found a gem). We can actually afford a home! Our neighborhood has adorable houses built in the 1920-40's. Great, tree-lined streets, and blissfully quiet! Other areas in town have houses built in different eras. We can, and do, walk downtown regularly. Our quality of life has improved considerably in all the things we were missing in Berkeley, and in all the things we most wanted. K M
I've been in Oakland (in the middle of the lake, piedmont and temescal area) for 3 years and we are looking to move and purchase a home in a nearby city. Prior to Oakland, I lived in SF for twelve years. I'm feeling sad to leave Oakland and move to the burbs, but we have a child now and its important to be in a safer area than we are now. It would also be dreamy for our child to attend her school of residence rather than have to win the lotto to get into a decent school. Does anyone live or know someone who lives in nearby cities? I'm hoping to hang out in these places more and get a feel for them-thinking lunch, coffee, visit parks... I was wondering if anyone has any hints of areas to hang in. Also our budget is tight so we are looking for houses around 300,000. Fancy, dreamy, hillside neighborhoods are out. 8( Sad to leave!
To explore San Leandro and other towns: visit the public library. Check out the open hours, look at the collection, browse around the space. We were amazed that San Leandro Public Library had more open hours than bigger cities, and learned later that the city and its residents fund the library. This is also a great place to get a feel for the people who are in the town - people watch, talk to staff, and check out the Children's Library, too. The magazine selection is remarkably good, much better than I've seen elsewhere. You will be delighted to see the large parking lot with free parking for 2 or 3 hours. The library also has a cafe and great events for kids, adults, and families.
We discovered Cafe Sorriso and love it. They've got great sandwiches - try the chicken salad on raisin bread. The bread is made there and it's so good - the cinnamon will wow you. They also have breakfasts, soups, excellent salads, and my husband and I always have to get their thai ice tea. Staff are friendly and remember us.
This cafe and the library are downtown, so walk around in this area. I've also liked Los Pericos Mexican food nearby.
Farmer's Market is downtown on Wednesday evenings in the summer - stop by and check out the produce, people watch, and even get dinner. Check out the city's website for information about the Farmer's Market and what event is happening each week - I think another Margarita night is coming up soon. There's another Farmer's Market on Saturdays but we haven't tried it yet.
If you practice a religion, attend a service in town. It's another way to get to talk to locals and see people.
Lake Chabot is 10 minutes or so from town and it's a great park for a nature hike. Also check out the San Leandro's parks. They've got great playgrounds and parks through town. We're still exploring them.
We went to the San Leandro marina and loved the walking-running trail along the water with exercise stations along the way. There are also picnic tables, kids' playgrounds, and open spaces. Restaurants are there, as well, so stop for a drink or a meal.
Fortunately a BPN post in the archives pointed out how long it would take to run basic errands from Berkeley, and how much of an impact it makes on your life and time if you have to drive 30-40 minutes to the basic stores you visit regularly each week. We've got Home Depot, OSH, Costco, Safeway, Target, Macys, Old Navy, as well as some clothing outlets. These are all within a few miles of our house. The only thing we miss is Trader Joe's, though there's one in Castro Valley about 7 miles away. We've also got a convenient BART station if we ever need a commuting back up.
What especially made us love San Leandro after all these bonuses: beautiful homes. We've still got those great hills framing our town like Oakland and Berkeley do, and the gorgeous houses from the 1920's and 1930's, and tree lined streets where you can actually park your car. Of course, there are homes from every decade here, but my husband and I were looking for a pre-1940's house and found it.
Another thing we noticed in our research: the town has 2 freeways that rarely have a back up. You're not stuck with just one freeway if something happens, which is really helpful if you're commuting to work (we drive to Oakland and Berkeley).
Check it out and see if it's what you're looking for. K M
[editor note] review also received for Castro Valley
Re: Moving to the East Bay from SF - where to live?
Check out San Leandro! My husband and I searched high and low for an affordable place to live that had a good commute to Berkeley and for a town that felt like home. We tried many different cities (Walnut Creek, Crockett, Pinole, Oakland, Albany, Alameda, etc) and what we were looking for was this: beautiful neighborhoods, a safe town, historical homes (pre 1950's), and an affordable cost of living. San Leandro fit all of our criteria so well. Great homes at really affordable prices, a quick and easy commute (our home is just 15 miles from my husband's work in Berkeley, 9 miles from my job in Oakland, and we both have 2 freeways we can use that rarely ever have a back up). We are so happy we just bought a house in San Leandro. It's sunny and warm enough to grow tomatoes in our garden, and people are laid back and friendly. We are especially looking forward to friendly neighbors. The town has a beautiful marina with a great jogging track along the bay with exercise stations and a huge park with great playgrounds. We've found a favorite cafe with excellent food, and downtown is a nice walk from our new home. We are excited to be learning more about our town and participating and contributing to our wonderful new community. Check out this often overlooked but wonderful little town. K M
We are thinking about buying a house in the Farrelly Pond District of San Leandro and would like insight from people who live there or have first hand familiarity with San Leandro in general. Most of the previous BPN discussions have centered around the nearby Estudillo Estates neighborhood, lovely but a little too expensive for our first house. Can anyone offer insight about the safety of the neighborhood, the walk to BART, the local kindergarten, etc? We have a 6 month old--are there other families with little ones in that area? We would appreciate the input! New Mom
My Parents are retiring this year and moving to the Bay Area. They'll be moving here from Maine, and are looking for ideally a safe walkable neighborhood with access to public transportation. They would like to keep their house purchase around 500K I'm little help because I tend not to leave my little orbit in Rockridge and even though I'm well into my second decade of living here I don't know much beyond Piedmont Ave, Rockridge, and a little bit of Solano. Can anyone recommend other neighborhood is the East Bay that might fit the bill? If they have to look further out beyond Oakland/Berkeley/Albany are their other communties that would be suitable? Does anyone live in San Leandro near downtown? Lousy Local Guide
Re: Cheaper but "safe enough" neighborhoods
Come check out San Leandro! I live on the north end of town (Estudillo Estates) and although it's not North Berkeley, it's a beautiful neighborhood. The homes were built mostly in the 30's and 40's, there are lots of big trees and good community spirit. We have a good elementary school with great parent involvement. We have a coffee shop with a really nice kid's area, a meat market, a produce market and a few restaurants all within walking distance. I don't know current home prices but I'm sure it's less expensive than Berkeley. anon
Dear Members: My family is moving from Boston to either the Oakland Hills or San Leandro this July. I have read older postings about the differences between living in Oakland vs. San Leandro both in terms of quality of life and school quality. My impression is that beginning several years ago, people who were priced out of Berkeley and some parts of Oakland moved to San Leandro for better home prices and a sense of community. Given that so much has changed in the market, and the exodus may have been quite some time ago, could anyone comment on what it is like to live in San Leandro vs. Oakland now? Have others of you made a similar choice recently? We are much more oriented towards a city existence, and don't want to feel too isolated in San Leandro. On the other hand, I don't know if we want to struggle with a higher mortgage in the hills, and it doesn't take very long to drive into the city from San Leandro. The other issue, of course, are the public schools in both! places. I've done a lot of reading about the Oakland schools, including postings on this site, and it's unclear to me if there are still struggles to get kids into their own neighborhood schools or if that has calmed down. I don't want to buy an expensive home only to have to switch to private school because of a lack of space in my neighborhood school. I should say that we are not obsessed about schooling- we know the pitfalls of public education (my husband used to work in OUSD) and know it's an issue in the area. We do, however, want our daughter to go to public school and are not fixated on having ''the best''. If people have any thoughts on comparing the two locations, different school issues, etc., we would be most grateful to have them.
Hope someone can help. We are in the process of relocating to Northern California from Texas. Have heard so many mixed reviews and viewpoints on San Leandro that it would be great to hear from people who actually live there. My husband is already living in area in temporary housing, but someone has suggested Estudillo Estates because of distance to work, etc. Have heard that schools aren't great, so private school would probably be the way to go for our soon to be 5th grader, but have questions in particular about safety, quietness of area and the like. Please help as we are really puzzled. daphne
Both neighborhoods feed into Roosevelt Elementary school (http://www.roosevelt-hornets.com/)which has a very active PTA and excellent teachers. My oldest is now at the middle school (bancroft-broncos.com) and thriving, though many parents leave for private schools at that time. The city recently passed a bond measure that will fund a 9th grade academy and arts center at the high school.
Since I've moved here the neighborhood gets better and better. New restaurants, a community oriented cafe ( http://www.zocalocoffeehouse.com/ ) , a children's resale store (Cherrytownkids.com) , lots of new neighbors pouring in from over-priced Berkeley who think and vote like me :-)
A great local reference is the forum at the San Leandro Parents Network website : http://slparentsnet.org/forum
Of course, there are other nice places to live in the Bay area as well. Good luck with your move. ---Sophie
The district elementary school, Roosevelt, is the best in town, so I'm pleased about that. The other option, which others go for, is Assumption, a K-8 Catholic school.
IMO, this neighborhood is the best in town overall. It's well- kept, nice for walking, many trees, and people who come in from outside SL often comment ''Wow, what a great neighborhood.'' It's always felt quite safe, although most of northern SL is relatively calm. In addition, you are buffered from the Oakland border by SL's Broadmoor neighborhood, which has a lot of things going for it as well--great homes with huge lots, and wonderful, progressive residents, but being near the borderline, they get some of the riff-raff, unfortunately.
Regarding commuting, SL is in the center of the East Bay, so, it's great whether you're going to SF or SJ, ''great'' being a relative term. I mean, there's still traffic. If you're going to SF, the BART system is a huge advantage. anon
We have found public schools to have talented and dedicated teachers. However, like other school districts where money is tight, there is some emphasis on teaching to achieve higher standardized test scores. This means that there might be more classroom time spent on math/language than on science/art. Our kids, ages 13 and 11, are in the public schools and we prefer to supplement their learning at home rather than deal with private schools. (Been there; done that.) San Leandro overall has a large retired population, so funding for schools does not always get enough support from the voters.
Our neighborhood is very quiet (those retired folks again who watch over things while the rest of us are at work), diverse (students at our son's elementary school speak over 20 different native languages) and relatively safe (depending on the street there can be a lot of non-residents passing through, so don't leave bikes in your front yard). Our kids are free to roam to the donut shop, hardware store and comic book store on their own without us worrying about them. The commute to Berkeley is 25 minutes if there's no traffic; about 45 minutes during rush hour. BART is close by, as are all major freeways. I would rate it the best neighborhood in San Leandro if looking at access to services, safety, schools, quality of housing and access to commute routes. A Happy San Leandro Resident
Re: Kid friendly neighborhoods in the East Bay Consider the North area (Broadmoor and Estudillo Estates) of San Leandro. Beautiful houses, lots of people pushing strollers, an amazing community center/cafe (Zocalo Coffeehouse) and a real sense of community. San Leandro also has one of the most amazing children's libraries and children's programs in the Bay Area (all thanks to our children's librarian, Ms. Penney). Check us out. And if you want to find out how people living here, go to Zocalo any morning and talk to other moms & dads Marga
Like many people, we are priced out of Berkeley and Oakland, and are now bidding on houses in San Leandro. We have two young children (3 and 6 mos.). I have heard about the excellent library and have read the recommendations previously posted in 2002, but would like updated recommendtaions for: preschools, parks/playgrounds, markets ( I know about Trader Joe's in Castro valley), restaurants, cafes, etc. I guess I'm asking those of you who live there to share your favorite places/activities. Thanks! lrc
There are good parks too: in Sheffield Village, Marina, and in Hayward at Hesperian. Also the Dunsmuir House will let the public on the grounds for free during the week from April - October (I think) which is fun for walks. Again, you're really not far from the Oakland, Berkeley, or even LaMorinda parks as well. We used to play at all of them when we lived in SL. As far as Preschools, our son went to St. James and liked it very much, as did we. Good luck. We found San Leandro to be a nice place to live, and met lots of nice families, who, like yourselves, were drawn to the more affordable housing there. Bobbie
We (a stay-at-home mommy, a go-to-work daddy, and our one-year- old daughter) are moving from Berkeley to San Leandro next month. We will miss our mommy's/play group, the Berkeley Y (goodbye Kindergym & mommy's step class, boo hoo), Music Together, and all of Berkeley's wonderful parks. Can anyone recommend activities for a mommy and a baby in San Leandro or Castro Valley? And where can we find others of you like us? Thanks! Karen
Favorite Parks (see www.ci.san-leandro.ca.us for more details) Marina - tot playground with a whale and dolphin water fountain for hot weather, 1-mile par course, lots of grass for kite flying, borders the shoreline Washington Manor - tot playground, big kid play ground, about a 1/2 mile path to walk around, public swimming pool in the summer
Favorite Walking trails: Bay Trail - you can catch it at the Marina Park and walk/bike all the way to the San Mateo bridge Lake Chabot - catch the trail by the marina, which is in Castro Valley,
Mothers Group: The Castro Valley Mother Club has a lot of San Leandro Members. It is a very active, strong club. www.castrovalleymothersclub.com/
Classes - The city sponsors many classes at the various community centers, nursery schools, and library. Pick up a catalog at the library. The Laurel Center in Castro Valley (run by the Hayward Adult School) also has a ton of classes http://www.haywardadult.k12.ca.us/. Helena
As an aside, Pee Wee's pizza on E. 14th is great and pretty child friendly. And the Loard's (sp?) on Bancroft has good ice cream and a lawn nearby for running/eating ice cream. Have fun and good luck. Kean
This is a fast food haven, but there are some decent restaurants (good sushi at Tsuru and Musashi, Berkeley-type fancy restaurants are Paradiso and Creasian, and the best taqueria is Los Dos Pericos). It's also big on superstores, so not many boutiques and such, but good shopping can be found nearby in Oakland, Alameda, and Castro Valley. Trader Joes is in Castro Valley now, and Cull Canyon is a great swimming hole in the summer.
Plus, you really don't have to give up on your favorite Berkeley haunts--just get used to driving a bit more, like the rest of us. It's only 10-20 mins to whatever you could possibly want. And so much cheaper here, so what you save on housing can be used for extra gas. Whitney
Anyway, it's the Castro Valley Mother's Club. Website is castrovalleymothersclub.com. Also, my daughter is a bit older than yours (27 mos), but if you'd like to e-mail me about stuff in this area, I'd be happy to help. Jen
We moved to San Leandro in the summer of 1996. We chose it because we liked the neighborhood, the schools are reputed to be good, it was a compromise commute between me (Berkeley) and my husband (Silicon Valley), and it was far more affordable than Berkeley.
Neighborhood: It's fairly suburban for being in the midst of such an urban area. We like that we are still within reach of all the advantages of the cities (ballet, symphony, etc), but are a little out of the main hustle and bustle. We live in the Broadmoor neighborhood in the very northern part of San Leandro. (We also liked the Estudillo Estates neighborhood, which is a bit pricier.) There's a neighborhood association, and a small shopping area within a few blocks. For holidays, there's usually some sort of special event on that corner, for instance for Halloween there is a "safe trick or treat" afternoon where all the shops give out candy to kids who come in costume. We feel safe, and have had very little trouble with crime so far.
Schools: The elementary schools are supposed to be excellent. We are around the corner from Roosevelt, and I am confident that I will be able to send my younger daughter there when the time comes in a couple more years.
I was very pleased with Bancroft Middle when my stepdaughter was there (for 7th and 8th grades). It is a "California Distinguished School". I much preferred it over Longfellow in Berkeley, which she attended for 6th grade. I found the teachers far more responsive to our concerns. The school grounds were clean, and there was a wide variety of extracurricular activities.
I was not particularly impressed with San Leandro High for the few weeks my daughter attended. The teachers were not as responsive to my concerns (several never returned my phone calls), and the extracurricular activites seem lacking in some areas--there is NO extracurricular Drama, for instance. When we asked about Drama, we were told that, if the child wanted to have Drama, they would sign up for the class--totally ignoring the fact that a child on an academic track bound for the UC system would not have enough elective time to take Drama every semester as well as the other required classes. We ended up pulling her out and placing her in a private school. We are currently reconsidering whether that is serving her, but I must say I am not excited about sending her back to SL High for the remainder of her high school career.
Commute: It's about 25 to 35 minutes from our house to my office on campus, door-to-door including parking time. I usually commute in a little late, though (arrive at 9:30 pm), and I travel on 13. 580 is a reasonable option. 880 is a BAD IDEA. Similarly, my husband shifts his hours a little late for his drive to the south bay, arriving at about 11 am and leaving after 7 pm. His commute is 45 min to 1 hr each way at those hours.
Affordability: We have a small 4-bedroom house (the square footage is comparable to most 3-bedrooms). A similar house in a similar neighborhood in Berkeley would have cost us 1/3 to 1/2 again as much. For contrast, a similar house in a similar neighborhood in Santa Clara was fully twice as much. Our house has increased in value by 28% in the past 3 years.
Hope this is helpful! Dawn
Affordable family housing?August 1999
We are at the point in our lives where we are 1) wanting to by a house and 2) looking at public schools for our daughter who will enter kindergarten next fall. Berkeley and Albany seem to be out of the question for affordable housing. We currently rent in El Cerrito but aren't crazy about the school district. So, we are turning to other nearby communities: Alameda and Benicia are currently at the top of our list. Does anyone on this list live in either place? Can you tell me a bit about the quality of life in these towns? We are looking for "affordable" housing, good schools, and a tolerant, diverse, family-friendly community all within commuting distance (30-40 minutes max) from Emeryville where my husband currently works. Not too much to ask for is it? I welcome any and all input on either Benicia or Alameda or any other town that might fulfill our needs. Thanks! -Allison
We were doing the same comparisons about 3 years ago. We also decided that Berkeley and Albany were unaffordable. We narrowed our search to Alameda and San Leandro. We finally bought a house in northern San Leandro. We are very pleased with it. The commute is reasonable (about 25-35 minutes to Berkeley door-to-door along 580). The neighborhood we live in is quite safe, and there's a small-town atmosphere (though this is less true as you go farther south, as a rule). The schools are excellent in the lower grades, through Middle School, though I wasn't real happy with our short experience with San Leandro High (for various reasons, we ended up pulling our daughter out and putting her into a private school after a few weeks--though most of this was *not* the fault of the school--just what *she* needed to perform well).
Anyhow, you might want to check out San Leandro and see if it might meet your needs as well.
More reviews of San LeandroMay 2007
Re: Safe, family--oriented neighborhood?
We were in your boat four years ago and we found near-nirvana in San Leandro! The neighborhoods around Dutton (right off 580) are just what you're describing: kids play on our street day and night, neighbors know each other, and the local cafe (Zocalo) makes for a friendly, progressive community center. While San Leandro was known in the 70s as one of the whitest towns in the East Bay, it is now very diverse, which we see reflected on our street and in our school. Our son is in the local public elementary school (Roosevelt) and we love it; he's learning a lot, gets great attention, and it's a wonderful community of involved parents. Plus we all love that we can just walk there. (We understand the middle school is only so-so and high school is worse -- we hope to be part of making them better by the time he gets there, or we'll look at other options.) I'd recommend that you look at real estate in the Broadmoor (north of Dutton), Estudillo Estates (between Dutton and Estudillo, on both sides of the creek), and Sheffield Village (east of 580, officially in Oakland but part of the S.L school district) neighborhoods. Most houses are cute and well- maintained, and we found prices to be about 10-15% cheaper than for similar homes in Berkeley/Oakland when we were looking (not sure if that's still true). San Leandro isn't perfect -- we especially wish for more good restaurants! -- but Berkeley and Oakland are just up 580 and/or 13, and the joy of feeling part of a safe, caring community outweigh the drawbacks by far. Good luck to you! Happy in suburbia
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