Which Bay Area Neighborhood to Live In?
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Which Bay Area Neighborhood to Live In?
I am planning to accept a position at UC Berkeley and trying
to sort out where I should be looking to live with my wife
and 9 year old daughter. We will be moving long distance to
the bay area. I have some must haves, and some nice to
haves and I'm hoping someone can help me understand the
tradeoffs for different areas and which I should not
consider at all.
Less than 45 minute commute to campus via car
At least 2 bedrooms
Sub $2500 rent
Nice to Haves:
Less than 30 minute commute to campus via car
Sub $2000 rent
Townhouse or Single Family Home
I know I can't have all the nice to haves, but is it
possible to have any of them given my must haves?
I have been reading the other recommendations, some appear
to be a little older. But I am thinking that Walnut Creek,
Emeryville or San Leandro might be good places to look, but
I'm not entirely sure about commute times.
Thanks very much for having us in this community and for any
advice you can offer.
I live in Lafayette and I love it here! It's only a short
drive through the caldacot tunnel to Berkeley and we have
some of the best schools in California! For $2500 you could
rent a small two bedroom home, it's more like $3000 for a
three bedroom. It's very safe here and friendly and is well
worth the expense.
If you're looking in Walnut Creek it's a
little further out from Berkeley, maybe 30-40 minutes
commute with traffic. Only 15 minute commute without. Make
sure you look at the Walnut Creek school district area, not
Mt Diablo school district which is also in walnut creek but
is a much larger school district. There are a few elementary
schools in Walnut Creek school district that are great such
as Buena Vista Elementary and Parkmead Elem. You should look
at greatschools.com to read the reviews on the school that
your considering putting your child in before renting a home
there. Best of luck! Alicia
A lot of my answer to your question will depend on how you
define 'safe.' Do you mean generally safe, but with a fair
amount of crime (most of Emeryville) or downright safe, like
you can walk around at night without a concern (most of
Walnut Creek)? A commute from Walnut Creek to UCB
(depending of course, on how far you are from the freeway in
WCR) will take about 30 minutes without traffic. Good luck
with your search
You could consider Moraga or Lafayette. Moraga is
semi-rural. Lafayette is more happening. If you are
willing to do a 2BR townhouse you might be able to get one
for $2500 or less and the best place to see if that is true
at this point in time is to check craigslist. The schools
are very good, and closer commute to Berkeley than Walnut
Hi I recommend you look hard at Albany. The houses are small
and pricey for the size because the schools are good. Plus
the community has a lot available. The Albany YMCA runs a
headstart program and after school care for school age kids.
They also run a full summer camp schedule, a youth in
government program and model UN for high school aged kids.
The community is civic minded, the school district is good
and well run. Albany is safer than many other areas close
by. No one is truly 'safe' from crime in the Eastbay. We are
too close to areas of high unemployment. It's common to have
your car stolen. your bicycles stolen, and your house broken
into. Join a neighborhood association when you move. Your
neighbors can help you figure things out. You are safe on
the street, walking to school or the library. Its a
wonderful place to live - it's just an urban area with all
the good (theater, diversity, restaurants, culture) and the
bad that implies. long time resident
Try Lamorinda. The small towns of Lafayette, Orinda, and
Moraga (Lamorinda) are beautiful, safe and have excellent
schools. Walnut Creek is also safe and has great schools.
WC is larger and is a little farther from Berkeley. You can
check school ratings on the greatschools website.
Depending on the time of day, the commute can be long or
short. Commuters have to drive though a tunnel which is
stop-and-go traffic at peak times. Alternately, you can
take BART from these towns to UC Berkeley.
Moraga has many rentals, and it is definitely possible to
find a 2+ bedroom rental between $2k - $2.5k per month.
Craigslist is a great way to find a rental. Good luck!
You should check out El Cerrito. Much closer to UC than
Walnut Creek and San Leandro, and safer and cheaper than
Emeryville. Don't know much about the schools in those areas
but I think El Cerrito schools are pretty good- some better
than others, of course (Madera is considered to be a great
school, Harding and Fairmont both have good reputations, and
parts of El Cerrito go to the adjacent town of Kensington,
which I hear is excellent). We rent a 3 bdrm house with a
great yard for less than $1800 (this is probably a little
lower than the norm but I know of several others who also
rent great houses for less than $2k). It's about 20min to
UC driving through town. It's safe and very family friendly
and has a small town feeling, which is cool. Main drawback
is there are very few good restaurants around here! (It's
the only thing I miss from our old neighborhood in N.
Definitely look into Alameda. It's a nice, safe,
family-oriented city. Rentals are hard to come by, but it
wouldn't hurt to look.
Since you'll be working at Berkeley, you should check out
Cal Rentals. They actually have people you can talk to about
finding places/communities to live:
I work on campus and live in El Cerrito, and it's a very
family-friendly community (good schools*, great community
center/pool) and a 20-25 minute surface street commute (plus
there are two BART stations and buses) to campus, and you
could probably rent a house for your budget. It can get a
little boring here, but it's not too far from Berkeley and
San Francisco. We have a few good restaurants, a farmer's
market, an off- the-grid night, a movie theater that serves
pizza and beer and first-run movies, and the best damn
hardware store (Pastime).
(*All the k-6 schools are good, and your kid will be
assigned to your neighborhood school; whatever Bay Area
community you decide on, visit the school district website
to check out the boundary maps. You can also check all
California school statistics here:
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap/.) Good luck on your move
I read all the responses about areas with good neighborhoods and a reasonable
commute to Berkeley. Lots of people commented on the safety and nice
neighborhoods in Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga. I can't add
anything to that-- they are all excellent areas, have absolutely beautiful
hillsides, hiking only minutes away, top schools, safe neighborhoods, etc.
Both my kids got excellent educations and got into elite universities coming
from the local public school system.
People commented on the commute to Berkeley from various towns in the east bay.
I have been commuting from Lafayette
to Berkeley for work for 15+ years. Here's
what I want to add that I didn't see in any comments: the commute from
Lafayette to Berkeley is 22 minutes door to door for me and is an absolutely
breath-taking drive and one that I look forward to. On more than one occasion
I have pulled over to take a photo of the views with my iPhone. I have a very
short drive via highway from Lafayette to Fish Ranch Road. Then I either go
Grizzly Peak or Fish Ranch road over the hill into Berkeley. Driving from El
Cerrito to Berkeley through stop lights and traffic may take the same amount of
time, but wouldn't be the same type of commute. The commute rarely takes me
more than 25 minutes, no matter what the time of day. barbara
Moving from Santa Fe to El Cerrito area?
My partner and I and our 19 month old daughter currently
live in Santa Fe, NM (moved here from Brooklyn for my
partner's job/love of the desert) and we're thinking ahead
to schooling for our daughter - we can't stay here for her
school years, NM schools are the worst in the country. Also
I really really miss the city. We recently visited Tehiyah
Day School in El Cerrito and absolutely fell in love with it
for our daughter, so we're thinking about whether it will be
feasible for us to move to the Bay Area when she's ready for
kindergarten or pre-k (we would probably have to stay here
until then because it's so much cheaper, but we might also
want to move much sooner because there are no tolerable jobs
The questions we have are, what neighborhoods should we look
into - easy access to el cerrito (I'm a new driver and not
so great at lots of city driving), good (jewish? queer?
neither? whatever) community of people with kids, safe for
running/letting kids play in evenigns/mornings, decent
public schools in case we are not able to afford tehiyah at
some point - and is it realistic for us to live in the Bay
Are and send our kid to a private school? My partner is a
physician assistant and I''m a social worker (LMSW - I'll
probably have to start some or all of my ''internship''
hours over again due to strict rules in CA). A wild guess is
our combined incomes would be $120-130k but its hard to get
a sense of what salaries are over there. We would need at
least 2 bedrooms. We would rent cause I can't imagine we'd
ever be able to afford to buy but maybe I'm wrong? Also is
there somewhere besides craigslist that people post places
for rent because what i'm seeing there is so prohibitively
expensive but I''m not sure where I should be looking.
Thank you so much for your advice just trying to get an idea
of whether this could work for us and we should plan on it
and what it would look like. Hope to join you guys in a few
years, or sooner
I wanted to respond to your question because my husband and
I were in a similar situation as you. We were able to save
enough to put 10% down and buy a small house in El Cerrito.
I think it would be difficult to afford a mortgage on a
house and private school at that income, but if you are open
to public schools, both Madera Elementary and Kensington
Elementary are highly rated. The other two EC schools are
good as well. I want to make a pitch for public schools,
because you get out of them what you put into them. If
parents are involved and donate their resources to their
local public school, public schools can be great.
But back to housing. A little more affordable and very close
to El Cerrito is Richmond Annex and Richmond Heights.
Renting a house can be expensive, but if you are OK with
renting an apartment I think the area is definitely
affordable. Besides the internet, I see rental listings
posted outside of apartment buildings, posted on local
bulletin boards, etc. Buying a condo is also a bit cheaper
than buying a house. If you are set on private school you
could look at places like Marina Bay, which has more
affordable condos. If you decide buying a house is right for
you, my suggestion for the EC area would be to buy a fixer.
If the house looks fantastic and everything is already
upgraded and the house is staged nicely, you are going to
pay a HUGE premium for that. If you are willing to buy a
place in need of cosmetic work and some repairs, that will
save you a lot of money. I think the key to buying a house
here is to either be very wealthy, or be willing to make a
lot of compromises. Good luck with everything! Katie
I think you will find it very expensive to live in the Bay
Area. Santa Fe is on the expensive side for a small town,
due to the prices driven up by tourists and the mountain
nature of the town. BUT it is far, far more affordable that
the Bay Area. Craigslist is the place to look, and
unfortunately, due to the tech boom, rents really are that
expensive. Also, in Santa Fe, if you have a more or less
clean credit check and less than 4 dogs/cats/chickens and
enough cash for the security deposit/last month's rent, you
will have your pickings for rental properties. Here,
securing a rental even with no pets and great credit and
good income and referrals is VERY difficult and competitive.
Like people showing up with checkbooks for deposit and
prepayment of rent for 3 months crazy.
Also, the public transit is decent but not excellent so
there are some things you'd really want to have a car for,
and Bay Area driving sucks - little parking, LOTS of
traffic, etc. If you have difficulty driving in Santa Fe,
you will HATE driving here. Unlike places like Brooklyn with
subways that run every few minutes and very late into the
night, the BART service here isn't nearly as complete -
stops are far apart and trains don't run often outside of
peak times. You can make it work without a car - plenty do
so - but be prepared for bad driving.
I spent a lot of time in Santa Fe as a kid, and it has been
a long time since then, but in the 1980s we were allowed to
roam around the neighborhood and the surrounding open space
in a way that I don't think is possible in the East Bay.
If you are considering private school, I think your choices
are more limited in Santa Fe but it would be more feasible
with your income given how expensive rents are around here.
The Bay Area is vibrant and cosmopolitan is a way that
cities that Santa Fe will never be, but the cost of living
here is a huge drawback. I would consider living in Santa Fe
myself if it weren't for the poor job prospects. I love the
East Bay but for the expense!
There's no reason not to live in El Cerrito off Barrett Ave
or Richmond View, right around Tehiyah / Tassajara Park /
Mira Vista (public) Elementary. Just map those locations and
possible rentals close by. Mira Vista, like Tehiyah, is K-8,
and most of Richmond View is zoned for El Cerrito High
School. You can also try the flats of El Cerrito / Richmond
Annex, which is a lot more walkable but not quite as scenic.
Public schools in Berkeley, Albany, Alameda, North Oakland,
and El Cerrito (including Richmond Annex, Richmond View and
Pt. Richmond) are totally fine. Best to You and Yours!
We're moving at the end of June from Montreal to the Bay
Area (the husband is being transferred to San Francisco).
We're looking for a place that has an urban feel (in terms
of diversity, resources,etc), has great schools and lots of
after school activities for our children (ages 6 & 3)and
that's close to Bart or any public transportation for hubby
to go to work to SF. We're priced out of San Francisco
proper, so are thinking of Berkeley or Walnut Creek
(anywhere else seems too far/long of a commute). Any ideas
or suggestions? Also, besides craigslist, is there any
other site to find a rental home? - Thanks! Laura A.
Walnut Creek is a nice suburb but doesn't have an urban
feel. You might want to look at Albany as well as Berkeley.
Where will your husband be working? If it is in SF, then you
could also look at the Penninsula (Brisbane, Millbrae) --
basically old railroad suburbs with appealing little
downtowns. You could also look at the Richmond and the
Sunset in SF -- they are more affordable. anon
If you are looking for a place with an 'urban feel' then I
would caution against Walnut Creek, since that is where
people go to get AWAY from urban areas. Despite what its
defenders and loyalists will say, it is very white and bland
compared to the real East Bay. Walnut Creek has many things
to offer families, but IMHO diversity and culture are not
among them. --Staying on this side of the tunnel
I'm sure everyone will say that their own neighborhood is
the best, so I'm going to chime in to say ALAMEDA is the
best! Alameda is an island off from Oakland, and it's a
little oasis. The schools are good, the kids ride their
bikes to school, and sometimes it seems like the entire
(small) city is made up of families with young children.
Alas, BART doesn't run here, but the ferry goes straight to
the Ferry Building in SF. Definitely check it out. As for
rentals, you could try a rental agency. Good luck!
We're a family with 2 kids and two parents-in-law and we are
all moving to the bay area in the next month or so. My
parents-in-law recently arrived from China, don't speak
English, and don't know how to drive a car.
I'd appreciate any advice as to which areas we can live in
so that my in-laws can have a reasonable life while here in
the US! I'm thinking about an area that has good schools for
the kids (1yo, 3yo) but easy access (single bus ride?) to an
area with a higher density of Chinese stores, Chinese
community centers, etc.
P.S. My in-laws speak Mandarin, not Cantonese.
Have you considered the Sunset or the Richmond in San
Francisco? These are the two neighborhoods lining Golden
Gate Park and sloping down all the way to the ocean. These
neighborhoods get a bad rap, especially from East Bay
dwellers, because they are foggy. However, if I were in your
situation, I would definitely consider those neighborhoods;
there are many Chinese families in these neighborhoods (you
hear both Cantonese and Mandarin). We lived in the Sunset
for 5 years, including the time when my son was 0-3 and my
daughter was an infant; I loved the neighborhood, despite
the fog. I know less about the Richmond because we never
lived there, but it has a similar feel -- lots of Chinese
families, though maybe a bit more diverse. We lived in the
Outer Sunset (on 25th, very near the park) -- great walkable
neighborhood, for in-laws who don't drive. Right on the
corner of 25th and Irving is an amazing Chinese supermarket.
I loved shopping there...Great Chinese restaurants (and
other Asian restaurants as well) -- I miss the Chinese
bakery and take-out dim sum! The inner Sunset (away from the
ocean) is somewhat dominated by UCSF and also is more
expensive. The middle and outer Sunset is more
'Chinese/Asian' (for lack of a better description), more
affordable (bigger houses, lots of single-family homes), and
quieter. Golden Gate Park is an amazing resource to have
with young children -- great playgrounds, great walking
paths, a beautiful lake, the Academy of Sciences, etc. We
moved to the East Bay (my husband wanted to get out of the
fog) before our kids started school, although I did spend a
lot of time learning about the schools while we lived there
and have friends in the schools now. The SF public schools
are a mixed bag. But the Sunset and the Richmond have some
of the better neighborhood schools in the city. Our local
school would have been Jefferson, and I have friends who are
very happy with the school. There are also several Mandarin
immersion schools in the city; if your children are
bilingual (Mandarin/English), I believe this would increase
their chances of getting into one of the Mandarin immersion
programs. That said, the Mandarin immersion schools are
highly ranked and highly sought after, so there's no
guarantee you'd get in. And there's no guarantee on your
neighborhood school, either. SF has a complicated algorithm
that determines school assignment. I'd read up on it,
certainly, before I bought a house there. There is also the
Chinese American International School, if money is no object
-- that school is supposed to be amazing. All in all, I have
lovely memories of living 'in the Avenues' (as we call the
two neighborhoods) and probably would have stayed if it had
been up to me. I don't mean to downplay the fog, however; it
can really drive some people crazy during a bad summer. And
the uncertainty re: school assignments would be anxiety
provoking. But I have to say, every single one of my friends
in the City has landed at a school they are happy with. Some
of them had to white-knuckle it through a couple of rounds
of wait-listing, but those who stuck it out have been very
happy so far (these are all elementary school aged
families). Sunset Booster
You didn't get any East Bay recommendations in the first
round, so I thought I would mention that Oakland's Chinatown
is an easy walk from BART. So easy access to BART = easy
access to Oakland's Chinatown. East Bay girl
I felt I should chime in,
since you got so few responses covering the East Bay.
Someone mentioned Oakland Chinatown, which of course is nice
for shopping and restaurants, though a bit
desolate/dangerous at night, so maybe not ideal for a living
situation (though there is the senior center and nearby
senior apartments and retirement communities, if they are
looking for that type of thing). But there is also a large
Chinese-speaking population in Albany, Berkeley, El
Cerrito, and Richmond, which is in part why the Pacific East
Mall was located and is thriving in that area, though there
are also a lot of small businesses and community resources
along the San Pablo Avenue corridor that serve
Chinese-speaking clientele and other Asian communities. And
you would find a similar situation if you look to southern
Alameda County/north Santa Clara County, Hayward, Fremont,
and Milpitas in particular--this area is very diverse, and I
think it would be fairly easy to find a nieghborhood where
your parents will be comfortable and have resources and a
I saw several replies to your post and had to seek out your
original post because San Leandro has a very large Chinese
population that you might find to be a good fit for your
family and grandparents. We think it's a lovely city and I
think it would be very possible for your grandparents to
find friends who also speak Mandarin fluently. love our
We need more TREES! Our family is looking to relocate within the next 1-2 years.
We currently live in Oakland and our kids attend a wonderful
Oakland public school. However, we're not convinced that any
of the OUSD middle schools and HS are the right fit for us.
We want to relocate somewhere that our kids can attend both
middle and HS, and we'd like more nature and TREES around
us. Ideally, we'd love to live somewhere that is safe, has
more nature and neighborhood feeling to it, hopefully some
diversity, and GOOD schools! We'd also love it if the area
wasn't too conservative. I know, we're asking for a lot.
Here's the issue - rent is out of control right now, so our
options are even more limited. Can anyone tell me about
their experiences in Petaluma, Walnut Creek, Castro Valley,
Lafayette (maybe too expensive), and Santa Cruz? Am I
missing anywhere??? Wants more nature for my kids!
I was in a similar situation and picked Lafayette as our new
city. We lived in Rockridge and I loooved it - diversity,
could walk to anything, blocks from BART for commuting into
the city. The downsides for me were crime, cost (our 1200
sqft house was big when it was 2 of us, 2 kids later it was
tight and we couldn't afford a bigger place in Rockridge)
and schools (elementary was good but that's where it ended).
Lafayette is suburban - no way around that. And no where
near as diverse as Oakland of course. It is super green -
we ended up on the far west side of Lafayette and are
surrounded by trees (I'm getting in shape with all the leaf
raking I'm doing). We frequently have deer in the yard and
love the easy access to Briones and Tilden for hikes. The
schools are amazing - I truly could not be any happier and
feel very lucky. Crime does exist in Lafayette but it's
mostly property crime. Lafayette is not cheap but we were
able to buy a 4/3 in Lafayette for what we sold our 2/1 in
Rockridge for. Not in the downtown neighborhood of
Lafayette, though, which has the draw of walkability. We
are on the west side and can not walk to anything but other
houses - it's a 2 1/2 miles bike ride into town.
Good luck - it's a hard decision. Check out redfin for
houses (I used that a ton in our research) and spend time in
the cities that are options; will help you get a feel for
what is a good fit. nowalafayettemom
I know the PERFECT spot for you. The San Lorenzo Valley USD
in the Santa Cruz Mountains (Felton, Ben Lomond, Boulder
Creek) is FABULOUS!! My daughter and I lived there for a
number of years and it just can't be beat. I'm a
credentialed teacher and have taught in Santa Clara County
as well as in Santa Cruz County and SLV beats any of the
districts I've known by many miles.
The truly excellent MS and HS are on the same campus
(Outstanding Elementary adjacent). The community is tight,
the sports program super strong, and the people are mellow,
kind and good mountain folk. PLUS you are surrounded by
state parks and redwoods, while just 10-20 mins from the
beach and downtown Santa Cruz. Definitely check it out!
You will likely miss the diversity that abounds in these
parts, an the winters can be rough, especially if you must
commute Hwy 17. And making a living locally is pretty tough.
But all so worth the sacrifices if you can make it work. As
a bonus, rents are a bit cheaper than in SC proper, but
sunlight is a factor. The last place I lived there had
mushrooms growing out of the carpet! The right rental may
take some hunting, but you just can't beat that special
community. Miss Feltontown
One of the first things I noticed about San Leandro was when
we were driving on 580 towards Berkeley, the view of the
city was beautiful because it had so many trees. When my
husband and I were looking for a new town to live in, we
really loved the neighborhoods and trees and the feel of San
Leandro. We bought a house here in 2012 and still LOVE it
here. The city is great - we took a great city class on how
to do a seismic retrofit project on our house, and just
dealing with the city to get the permit and pre-inspection
and borrowing the tools (a great perk!) has been remarkably
easy. Who ever heard of a permit office being friendly and
helpful?? But that's how city employees are here. Talking
to neighbors about the schools has been very encouraging.
We have a lot of diversity in our city, which may be a
factor in schools' test scores, but the new city passed bill
to fund schools should show some improvement. (I've never
thought a test score really told about the quality of
education anyway - tests never indicated my intelligence or
ability as a kid). It's also got a Great small town feel
while being very centrally located in the Bay Area. People
are friendly here. We did have neighbors stop by as we
moved in, and we've developed great friendships with them
and love our neighborhood (Farrelly Pond). And check out
the fabulous library - it's got an excellent collection, has
great open hours that beat most libraries in the bay area,
and has a lot of fun programs for kids and adults. And
cost of living is great. The funny thing is that people
think San Leandro is so far away - it's just 15 miles from
our house to my husband's job in South Berkeley. Happy San
We (myself and 2 kids) lived in Walnut Creek for several
years and loved it. There are many nice neighborhoods, tons
of trees and lots of activities geared toward kids and
families. It felt more laid back than the Berkeley/Oakland
area and it was easier to get around like finding parking,
signing up for activities, etc. I expected WC to be mostly
white, older, and conservative but I was wrong. There are
many liberals, maybe just not as outspoken as the liberals
you find in Berkeley and Oakland. WC is mostly made up of
professionals and the diversity you will find mostly comes
in the form of immigrants; lots from India and Southeast
Asia. You will find even more diversity in the Concord area
but the schools are not as highly rated there. You didn't
mention where you work so you will have to factor in the
commute and what your tolerance level can handle. Overall,
we enjoyed and miss the area. Best of luck in your search
for TREES~ anon
Family friendly neighborhoods w/ great schools
Hi there. Our family is relocating to the Bay Area from Rocklin, and I'm hoping to get
some advice on schools and neighborhoods. We have some flexibility regarding which
community we live in, long as we're living in the East Bay. We have three children
(ages 6, 8 and 10), and finding fantastic elementary and middle schools are our primary
concern. Our current school has wonderful teachers, a very involved principal and a
great sense of community. We'd love to find something similar. We're also concerned
about class sizes and finding a school that has a good balance between strong academics
and nurturing the ''whole'' child. We are primarily looking in Castro Valley, San
Ramon, Danville and maybe Alamo and Lafayette. If anyone can make recommendations
about specific schools in those areas, we would be very thankful. We would also love
to find a family friendly neighborhood; somewhere that's safe, with lots of kids.
Again, any recommendations on this front would be appreciated as well.
Anxious about our move
If you haven't considered Alameda in your search it is definitely worth doing!
Super family friendly neighborhoods where kids can safely play, ride bikes,
etc, high quality neighborhood public schools from K through 12 with high
parental and community involvement, and additional school choices in the form
of respected charter schools and private schools (at elementary, middle, and
high school levels). Alameda is a fantastic community for families!
You might also consider Orinda or Moraga as having great schools and being
family friendly probably around the same cost as Lafayette. Good luck with
Hello. My husband just interviewed for a position in Oakland
last week and the position begins in Sept. We currently live
in a rural town in Ohio but are from Oregon originally. We
have a small 15 acre farm here. I ride horses and reining is
my discipline. I also teach riding lessons. Are there any
towns that have a rural/in the country feel where you can
rent a small farm or some acreage but are close to great
schools? We have 15 year old and 8 year old daughters who
are both involved in horses, drama, dance and music. Thank
Martinez is not that far from Oakland and has a rural area
that there are horse stables and such. You can try there.
Good Luck Bobbie Jo
I think your location is going to be heavily influenced by
your budget and commute length tolerance and how much land
you really want.
If one hour is acceptable and money is no object, and you
don't need a ton of land, Marin and surrounding areas
definitely have barns and good schools.
Next tier down, and only 20-30 minutes commuting to Oakland
(and can be done by BART) is Orinda, but it will be
expensive still in comparison with Ohio and still isn't all
Then Lafayette, Martinez, and Pinole, but I don't know about
the schools there, you'll want to check city by city.
Same with San Ramon, Danville, and Dublin. There's both
Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national labs near Dublin, so
there might be a more intellectual base there to influence
schools, and plenty of surrounding rural area there too.
The Bay Area has a lot of Western and English horse people,
and the East Bay has horse-appropriate trails, but the cost
of living is going to be an adjustment.
You might be surprised to find that there are stables in the
Oakland hills. On the other side of the hill, in Moraga,
there are riding arenas and stables. Schools are excellent
in Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga area. Also look at the Briones
Park stables. These might work for you, if you want to be
closer to Oakland and can't find the acreage you want. Out
further in Walnut Creek, closer to Clayton, there are houses
on more acreage. Same with El Sobrante, but I'm not sure how
good the schools are there.
Glad to hear that more horse people are moving to our area!
The good news is that Oakland has a rich history of
equestrian life, and there are many fine horse properties
The bad news is that the public schools suck beyond K-5
grades. Sorry to say! Up to grade 5 you will do very well
with Thornhill, Montclair, Redwood Heights, Joaquin Miller
Schools. Check the online Academic Performance Index.
Those of us who love Oakland and continue to live here often
end up sending our kids to private school for middle and
high school. If you do the math, it is cheaper to live in
upscale Piedmont, pay a lot for your house, send your kids
to the public school,and board your horse at Skyline Ranch,
Anthony Chabot Equestrian Center, Redwood Ranch, or Piedmont
In Oakland, there are horse properties along SKyline
Boulevard, Joaquin Miller Road, andin the Chabot Park
Highlands neighborhoods where you can keep your horses at
home on an acre or so. A few folks will share backyard
boarding. There are lots of excellent horse vets and a feed
and tack store.
And some of the other towns around here - Martinez, El
Sobrante - have affordable horse properties and boarding
stables, but the schools are in the West Contra Costa school
district, which also leaves much to be desired.
Some of the farther suburbs (Walnut Creek - Heather Creek
Farm, North Gate area of Mt. Diablo State Park) have good
schools and horse neighborhoods, but you might get sticker
shock at the housing prices. Same goes for Briones and
If you can afford Marin County, there are many horse
properties, the public schools are excellent, and the
commute from Oakland to Novato (say) is about one hour,
reverse of most of the traffic.
One affordable option might be the Hayward Hills (few horse
properties, no major public boarding barns) or Castro Valley
(many equestrian centers, some good schools, half an hour
We have friends with a terrific large stable in Brentwood.
They board about 60 horses. Places are still pretty
inexpensive out there. I also have co-workers who commute to
Richmond every day from Antioch and Brentwood so it is
do-able if you can get up early enough to beat the traffic.
There are also smaller places where you can keep horses in
Orinda (check with their riding shop there), Lafayette,
Walnut Creek out near Castle Rock Arabians against Mt.
Diablo, and next to Briones park in Martinez or Pleasant
Hill. You could ask the owners at Bottomley Farm, a local
riding school in that area. Best wishes for your search.
We are looking for a great place to land with a 5 and 8 year
old. We want to bike or walk to school, have lots of kids
around us, friendly neighbors, quiet area, big yard,
neighborhood pool and great schools (reasonable class sizes,
great parent community, solid principals). We can not afford
Lamorinda. We love the areas near Parkmead school but prices
are soaring. We are wondering what folks who are in the good
Mt Diablo Elementry schools (Strandwood, Valle Vista...) are
planning for middle and high? Private? And what about the
area with Walnut Acres/Foothill/Northgate? I hear terrible
things about the district but the bike paths and
neighborhoods seem great. What about areas that feed
Strandwood? We need to be within reasonable commuting
distance to the Oakland airport. We will consider Marin -
and have even talked about going as far as Davis or even the
foothills near Sacramento but its far. We are considering
parts of west San Ramon as well. Neighbors keeping chickens
and bees, lots of cummunity spirit....your thoughts? Are we
crazy to hope for it all and spend less than $800? $700?
Read the responses to the above question on Alameda and the
BPN archives. Your list of things you want in a community
so perfectly describes this town it's almost comical. Our
only weak spot on your list is that a large yard may be hard
to find -- they're out there, but you might not be able to
find one right away. In every other way you're describing
Alameda to a T. Schools are solid all the way through,
great sense of community, walkable and bikeable, swimming
pools at Lincoln and Franklin park (membership costs
$380/year), and lots and lots and lots of kids. We even
have an annual back yard chicken coop bicycling tour! And
we're closer to the Oakland airport than most of Oakland.
Depending how much house/yard you want, it should be in your
price range. lovin' it
You just described Alameda and the reasons we just bought a
house there. Great school district along with a good choice
of charters and parochial schools. VERY family friendly. The
streets are flat and you can bike from one end of the island
to the other. Beach! Safe. Neighborhood pools (free swim
classes during the school year to any kindergartener).
Close to east bay and SF. We are very excited to be moving
in a few weeks. Not cheap but less competition than Albany.
East end and and Gold Coast areas are nice. New alamedans
Since you mentioned rather outlying areas, why not think of
something closer but has all you need? We moved to San
Leandro last year and absolutely love it here. Neighbor
kids stop by to say hi, we know all of our friendly, down to
earth neighbors, and all of the parents I have talked to who
have kids at the neighborhood school really like it.
Schools arent earning stellar 10s, but some score pretty
well and there's a lot of cultural diversity in the schools
and town. I would feel very comfortable sending my children
to school here (we are not yet parents but considered good
schools an important thing to research before choosing a
town). One family on our street has kids at the local
Catholic school and they love it.
Since cost of housing
here is really good (homes are in high demand now, however),
to us private school might be worth it especially in middle
school and high school, if needed.
It's what we were
looking for: people smiling and saying hi when you walk by
and sometimes striking up a friendly conversation. It is
easy to get our errands done in town (we spend far less time
running errands than we did when we lived in Berkeley), good
commute to work, affordable homes, beautiful neighborhoods,
and more. Median home prices are now $335,500. It might be
a bit harder to find larger homes in San Leandro, though.
It's a town that is thinking ahead to the future and working
hard to attract tech jobs thanks to Lit San Leandro
(http://litsanleandro.com/) a fiber optic loop throughout
the city for service providers to get ultra high speed
internet connections. And the city really works to make
this a great place to live. We just attended the Seismic
Retrofit class the city offers and it was excellent.
feel comfortable walking and biking in town - streets have
sidewalks, there are good bike paths, and generally flat
roads and easy and pretty neighborhoods to ride through to
get downtown. Lots of trees here (I noticed San Leandro
because we were driving through on 580 and I saw so many
trees). Oakland airport is close by and easy to get to
without freeways. The library is excellent (I'm graduating
with my Master in Library and Information Science), and is
open great hours, has a big parking lot, and is well loved
in town. You don't have to go so far as Davis or Marin
County, there are some great towns much closer by. We also
considered Pinole, Crockett, and El Sobrante. We read a lot
of reviews on bpn and did a ton of research to find the town
that suited us. Good luck on your search. K M
We were in the same dilemma 10 years ago and looked
throughout Walnut Creek and Lafayette. My realtor insisted
we look at a Concord neighborhood, and we ended up here! Our
neighborhood attends Foothill Middle School and Northgate
High School, and the homes are a fraction of the cost of
those other areas. We live on a cul-de-sac, have a green
belt with walking paths, pools, swim team, tennis courts,
preschool, dog park, and playgrounds. We live at the base of
Mt. Diablo, so hiking trails are minutes away. Our
neighborhood is diverse, there are a ton of kids, and we
really couldn't be happier. The homes were built in the
70's, the yards are mostly on the small side, but my kids
ride their bikes in the front and in the green belt instead.
You can check out the neighborhood at www.walnutcountry.com.
Young family with toddler and infant moving from LA to Bay
Area for work (in SF/SOMA). Looking for an upwardly mobile,
safe and clean, ethnically diverse, family friendly
neighborhood in the East Bay with convenient proximity to
good restaurants and nice shops. Nearby walkable downtown
area would be nice. Thinking about Albany/Northbrae/North
Berkeley or Upper Rockridge/Piedmont/Crocker Highlands. Am I
on the right track? What are the differences between those
neighborhoods? Is there an equivalent of Santa Monica or
Culver City up there? Alternatively friom the East Bay
should Palo Alto be a consideration or is it too far a
commute (would like to keep in under an hour. 30 minutes
ideally)? Is there a Palo Alto of the East Bay? Any advice
welcome. Thanks. LA parent
I love Palo Alto but the commute to the city can be a total
PITA. If your office is close to CalTrain then that is an
option. CalTrain is a very clean, comfortable, fast way to
commute. However, it is expensive, the trains don't run all
that often and most skip stops so you are limited in what
times you can go home at night. Also, I've had issues
getting parking in the CalTrain lots (but I never got there
There can also be issues with parking at BART stations in
the east bay so I guess you pick your poison. The nice thing
about BART is that it runs frequently and doesn't skip stops
unless there is an emergency. There is a lot more
flexibility commuting on BART. Now I ride the transbay bus
from the east bay most of the time and it is fantastic. But
the times that you can use it are limited to commute hours
and some of the lines don't run very frequently. The nice
thing about the east bay is that I can BART to work in the
morning and the bus home at night. If I miss the bus, I can
always take BART. Peninsula to East Bay Transplant
Your list of neighborhoods sounds about right. Piedmont is
the Palo Alto of the East Bay, just know that some areas of
Piedmont are less walkable than others.
If you're looking to buy, and use public schools, then I
would avoid Rockridge. My understanding is that the local
elementary school is good, but then you're in the larger
Oakland High School, which has some real problems. The best
schools in the East Bay (in general, of course) are
Piedmont, Albany, Berkeley, in that order. L.
When our family was in a similar position, we chose Elmwood
in Berkeley. It was a great place -- close to BART,
restaurants, parks, etc. The reason I'm writing though, is
to let you know that we found that my husband's commute from
the East Bay to SF was much worse than what we had to deal
with in LA. He did the casual carpool in the morning (which
he enjoyed) and took BART home, but his location in the city
was not particularly close to BART so that added some extra
time. Door to door, he spent an hour each way. In
retrospect, I really wish we had considered what ten hours
per week of commuting would do to our family (I'd have to
say that it's probably a large part of why we ended up
moving). I'm sure that living in the city would have some
big trade-offs, but the reality of the East Bay/SF commute
is worth some consideration. Traffic weary in the Bay
Welcome to the Bay Area! I grew up in LA so I can tell you
a bit about what I've learned. I've lived in the city and
now in Kensington (which is adjacent to Berkeley). I'm not
sure why you're looking in the East Bay as opposed to SF.
If you want real walkability you'll find the best chances
for that in SF, but areas of Albany that are off Solano Ave
are super walkable too. I think Rockridge in Oakland is
also, but I don't know that area well. North Berekely is
also walkable off of Solano Ave. I don't think there is a
real equivalent to Santa Monica or Culver City here.
Perhaps Alameda reminds me a bit of SM, but not as upscale
or trendy. Hope that helps! Former Angelino
Baja Piedmont is within walking distance of Piedmont Ave and
Grand Ave (nice Farmer's market on Saturdays), and is a 20
minute bus ride into the Financial District. Schools are
decent too! Anon
I need to relocate from my current home in SF's mission
district to someplace w/ more affordable homes (I would
likely be renting, not buying) - presumably in the east bay,
but not necessarily. I have a five year old son, a dog, and
no car (could buy one, but prefer to not). My son is gets
severely motion sick, so short easy commutes to school etc
are necessary. I can't afford private school, so would want
to live someplace w/ excellent public schools. I am a
single mom, so a neighborhood with a good sense of community
(and charm/character) is also highly desirable. Any
suggestions would be so much appreciated - I am feeling
completely overwhelmed by this move right now, and how to
best give my little family what we all need & want!
I highly recommend that you check out
Lafayette. I am also a
single mom with one child...it is lovely here...the public
schools are excellent, there are apartments/rentals within
walking distance of the school and downtown area which
includes a Trader Joe's, Safeway, cafes, restaurants, parks,
playgrounds, community activities, and the Lafayette
Reservoir...BART is also centrally located in the downtown
area. Good luck! fellow single mom
If commute issues are equal, I would go with
San Ramon). As far as I know, the Tri-Valley area has
little or no graffiti and no gang activity. In addition,
they have top notch schools because the average income of
the community is higher and families are highly encouraged
to give $'s when registering for school each year which goes
to support the schools (as well as fundraisers throughout
the year). I grew up in Pleasanton many years ago and would
move back to the area if my husband didn't work on the
Pennisula. I would consider San Ramon as they also have top
notch schools and you can get more house/yard for the money.
I highly recommend Lafayette. It has great public schools, a
cute little downtown area with BART right there, lots of
restaurants and some little shops, a Safeway, Whole Foods,
Trader Joes AND another specialty market with stellar
service (Diablo Foods), Plenty of very nice people (many of
them are 'rich' and many of them are not, including me). The
community is very welcoming, there's a new library, and a
community center with lots of classes for preschoolers
through senior adults (they share this with Moraga). Plus
the weather is great. Not alot of fog, very hot in summer.
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
You may want to try Alameda. From my home I can walk/bike to
Trader Joe's, Safeway, multiple parks, and our great school
(we live near Otis Elementary but there are many other
fantastic schools.) If you don't have a car I would suggest
living walking distance to Park Street which is the main
commercial area, complete with fantastic movie theater,
great bookstores, etc. Alameda is cheaper compared to nearby
walkable cities. People have this idea that ALameda is so
much father from SF compared to neighboring cities but that
really just depends on where you live in Oakland/Berkeley.
It takes us less time to get to SF now that we live in
Alameda. I usually only end up driving once, if that, a day.
Rockridge in Oakland is also doable w/out a car if you can
find a place walking distance to Rockridge Bart. Good luck.
Try Alameda! We moved to Alameda for the great schools and
active parent communities. There are a bunch of small
elementary schools within each neighborhood so you can walk
to school. It was a big factor in moving out here. We have
been renting our house since late 2008. Most of the
elementary schools are pretty good, even if some have lower
test scores, parents who have their children there love
their schools and are happy with the level of instruction.
My kids went to the parks and rec preschool before attending
Kindergarten and are now having a great school experience.
Neighborhood schools means all the kids they know are within
(mostly) walking distance. It's a lovely island city, flat
for easy biking, the beach is great and I can't recommend it
enough. Many families here have moved from San Francisco.
The rents are a bit cheaper than Berkeley, a bit more than
some areas of Oakland, but way lower than SF. Check out the
AUSD website for a map of school zones, look into those
before and than hone your search to school zones you would
like to attend. There's also an alameda parents network on
yahoo if you want more insight. It's not without it's issues
(local politics, the newbies vs. the 3, 4 generationers),
but I really really love it here. Alameda Lover
Hello! I realize this question has been posted many times,
in one way or another, but most of the posts I could find
were outdated and I figured it couldn't hurt to request some
advice specific to my situation. I grew up in the Bay Area
but moved to NY City in 91' when I was 13. I am now moving
back to the Bay Area with my 13 year old son, our 2 cats and
one dog. My husband will be coming out to join us in the
near future. I have been researching towns, counties,
neighborhoods and I am more confused now then when I began.
I want to find an area that is 'safe' but I feel that what
is considered safe varies greatly from person to person.
For example, I feel perfectly safe in NY but many people do
not. My main concern is gang presence, since I have a
teenage son. 'Affordable' is another word that means
different things to everyone. Basically, around $1500 for a
2 bedroom is the max for me. More for a 3 bedroom
obviously, because I could get a roommate in that case.
Good schools are very important to me as well. I don't mind
communting to SF but I would love a town with a vibrant
downtown so that mayve I can find a decent job. I work in
Food and Bev, which is decent money in NY and SF, but not
necessarily everywhere else. I've read some negative things
about the schools in the East Bay and that snobby attitude
of Marin. Any advice about these things would be very much
appreciated. Thanks in advance!!! going back to Cali
Have you considered Santa Rosa? Lots of food and beverage
jobs around here since it's the Sonoma wine country and you
can find decent housing in your price range especially in
one of the historic neighborhoods near downtown. School
quality varies so you should definitely examine that closely
but there are some excellent public charter schools in
addition to neighborhood schools. Santa Rosa's population
is greater than 160K so while it's certainly much smaller
than many cities, it's not a teeny tiny town either. Santa
Hi: I've also lived in NYC as a child and young adult, Marin
as a teen, and more recently I've been in the Bay Area for
20+ years, in Oakland for 13 and Albany for 3 (whew!) I
always felt safe in Manhattan, not as much in Brooklyn, but
that was in the late 80's. So I get where you're coming
from! I also have a 13 year old, who has begun to walk
around with her friends and alone. (We now live in Albany).
I think that if you want the urban amenities such as great
food, great grocery stores, some degree of diversity and
safety for kids who are out and about, Albany and
North Berkeley are by far your best bets. Albany and Berkeley
public schools are used by many people and are good (other
than the Prop 13 issue but that's the case all over CA)
IMHO, Elmwood and Rockridge are very pricy and do not offer
as much for kids to do alone. Solano Ave and anywhere
within walking distance is safe, there's lots of low cost
food options for kids (pizza, burritos, coffee shops) and
there's tons of kids out and about. If it were me, and you
want urban life, I'd avoid the hills, but you're not going
to find a rental there in your price range anyway. I have a
friend who is raising her 13 year old girl twins in the
Mission area of SF and she has a very similar life style,
but her girls are more street smart than mine. Good luck
with your decision! anonymous fellow traveler
My husband, 18 month old son and I are moving to the Bay
area this summer from the Washington DC - Northern Virgina
area. My husband will be working in downtown San Francisco
but we are looking to rent somewhere in the 'suburbs'. Can
anyone suggest neighborhoods on the outskirts that are
family-friendly, safe and affordable but still commutable
downtown? Easy access to grocery and big box stores and
parks would be good. Don't need to be close to public
transportation. Any great parts of Oakland that we should
check out? What areas should we strike off the list that are
too far out?
Thanks very much! Jennifer
Alameda! It's a great town -- and an island in San Francisco
Bay with a gorgeous beach --family friendly, a few minutes
to the city. Nice.
Formerly from DC
For family-friendly, safe, and commutable, I'd say look in
the Montclair and maybe Rockridge
areas of Oakland. Public
schools are decent in elementary, okay in middle and high
school, depending on what schools you attend. Many people go
private after elementary school. You child is only 18
months, so you'd have time to figure that out.
A little further out in the East Bay, Lafayette is great. It
has pretty easy freeway access, a BART station, and good
shopping/dining. The schools are excellent all the way
through. Orinda is pretty and has good schools. It is quite
hilly (as is Montclair), so many neighborhoods aren't the
best for walking, bike riding, playing in the street, etc.
We will be moving from Barcelona, Spain to the Bay Area in
June 2012. We are city people, we like the buzz and
diversity of cities ( I grew up in Buenos Aires and my
husband in Madrid). We have two kids, who will be ages 7 and
5. We were originally thinking of Noe Valley, but have heard
such awful things about the public schools in SF and can't
afford private school. We would like some advice on
Berkeley. Is it urban enough? Are the public schools
significantly better than the ones in SF? Which neighborhood
should we look into? I would like somewhere where I don't
have to drive all the time, and can walk to cafes, markets,
etc. My husband will probably be working either in SF or
somewhere in Sil Valley, so close to Bart would be
important. Thanks for your advice, we are very much in need
of it! Camila
I haven't lived in Barcelona or Buenos Aires, but grew up in
Sydney and England -- and when I moved to the Bay Area it
took some time to adjust to the sometimes 'pokey' feel of
this region. You won't replicate the feeling of a major
metropolis here (no matter what any native will say :)) and
while many Bay Area communities are wonderfully walkable,
there is nothing here like New York or the big European
With that said, it's still a great place to live! If you
like the sound of Berkeley and want to feel the constant
buzz of people around most of the time, I would go for
Berkeley or Rockridge, an Oakland neighborhood adjoining
Berkeley. I lived in Berkeley for five years and it not a
particularly urban place, but because of the student
population it feels fairly densely populated. The most urban
shopping/strolling strips are Shattuck Ave, College Ave, San
Pablo Ave, and University Ave but all are rather sleepy.
Obviously the food scene in Berkeley and Oakland is really
vibrant and that lends a buzz to both neighborhoods. There
are two BART stations in Berkeley; Rockridge also has BART.
Berkeley elementary schools are, my friends there tell me,
generally great. Not sure about middle and high schools. It
does seem a lot of Berkeley/Oakland families who can afford
it send their kids private once middle school rolls around.
Both areas have broad ethnic and economic diversity.
I also lived in Noe Valley and actually wouldn't recommend
it for an urban feel. Better
San Francisco neighborhoods would be North Beach, Eureka
Valley (the larger neighborhood above and behind the Castro,
adjoining Noe Valley) or Potrero Hill. I believe there are
some good public elementary schools in North Beach; Potrero
Hill's SFUSD schools are fine to iffy (at the moment; these
things can change fast too); not sure about which schools
are in Eureka Valley. Yes, public schools in San Francisco
are not uniformly great, but neither are they all dreadful.
We left the city because of the unpredictable school
assignment system -- you don't get to go to the school
closest to your home. This has been remedied somewhat but
neighborhood schools are still not the rule there. Be aware
that San Francisco is, sadly, a city of extremes: among
families, there are many people at each extreme of very poor
and very well-off. It also has one of the lowest percentages
in the U.S. of households with children. San Francisco is no
major metropolis, but it's going to have the most urban buzz
of all the cities in the Bay Area.
Hopefully someone from the San Jose area will respond too. I
don't know that area well, but San Jose is a large city with
a great climate, and you can always commute up to Silicon
Valley rather than down from the East Bay or San Francisco.
There are a good number of strong public schools in Santa
Clara County, too.
Don't move to the Peninsula (San Mateo County/heart of
Silicon Valley.) It has fabulous weather and some very good
public schools, but is a chain of sleepy-to-moderately
lively towns strung along a major highway and a smaller,
minor highway. Not urban. At all.
We ended up moving to Piedmont, a small town nested in
Oakland. We are 15-20 minutes by foot from two BART stations
and close to two major shopping/strolling streets. There is
incredible family involvement in the public schools, which
are excellent. Still, it's also not particularly urban here,
e.g., we have a backyard; people have chickens, gardens,
etc. Contrary to what you may hear, Piedmont is actually
ethnically quite diverse; it is also for the most part a
middle to upper middle class community.
I hope this helps!
Miss the big, big city!
I hope you enjoy your move to the US, no matter where you
end up. From your post seems like you are searching for
urban vibe, good schools, and good public transport. You'll
find some of that in many East Bay neighborhoods, definitely
Berkeley, but I can't imagine that any urban vibe, even SF,
will come close to the vibrancy of Barcelona. So as long as
your expectations are that it will be a 'different' kind of
urban feel, then you will find entertainment (plenty of
music and theatre venues) within walking distance of most of
Berkeley. Berkeley public schools are generally seen as
good but you will find detractors-- most CA public schools
are underfunded so you may want to do more research to see
if curriculum and class size are what you want for your
kids. Berkeley school system is like SF-- lottery system--
so even though you live in one part of Berkeley, your kids
could end up going to school in another part of Berkeley--
meant to increase diversity and level the socioeconomic
playing field, but not to everyone's liking. As for
desirable neighborhoods, my preference is for
area, but you'll soon see that most of Berkeley, except
downtown, looks like a suburb, not an urban center. If you
live anywhere in Berkeley, you will probably be near a BART
station -- there are 3-4 to choose from, and if going to SF
there are also trans-Bay buses. Good luck with your
transition-- and I wish I could move to Barcelona!
My husband, two and a half year old daughter and I are relocating to
the Bay Area this December, for my husband's job. We're New Yorkers
who've spent the last two years in LA, and are really, really excited to
move to such a seemingly wonderful, diverse, and WALKABLE place. Our
biggest issue though, is getting our daughter into a preschool/ nursery
school or even activity centered part time daycare, where she could
begin in January.
We understand the process is long, as it would be in
NY, and so far have scheduled tours, etc., for places where she would
begin the following September. She's already beginning part time
preschool here. I'd hate for her to miss out on nine months of
school, friends, interaction, just because we need to move on such short
notice. Does anyone know of any great places that might consider or be
able to accommodate a new child mid-year?
We have a lot of freedom in what neighborhood we choose...although it
can't be outrageous. For now what draws us most is the inner
sunset/Richmond areas, bernal heights, Berkeley, and the safer but more
citified parts of Oakland...we definitely don't want to be driving a
lot. Other than that, we may very well plan where we live around where
we can get her in school!
thanks ahead of time for any suggestions!
If you're relocating to the Bay Area, I hope you'll consider
less expensive than San Francisco, has a few destination restaurants, some
nice shopping areas, a mall with a future despite past struggles. Alameda
has a great climate, has an up-and-coming art scene, and the schools -
despite admitted funding issues - are decent to excellent (as far as I'm
concerned, the distance from ''decent'' to ''excellent'' is as wide as these
three letters: ''P-T-A''.
Alameda was formerly a base town and has been something of a hidden treasure
(some might say a backwater) but more and more young, progressive families
are moving in. Most neighborhoods are walkable. There's a rather sparse but
decent network of buses connected to AC Transit and BART, and on the West
End there is now a bike commute shuttle through the ''Posey Tube''
connecting Alameda to Oakland, BART, etc.
In terms of preschools, talk to Fuzzy Caterpillar, Little Lions, Rising
Star, KinderHuis, KinderCare and Child Unique Montessori - among many
Drawbacks (or benefits, depending on your POV)
- no big-box stores
- occasionally if a drawbridge is up over the estuary, it can be hard to
- 25 MPH speed limit even when I'm in a hurry
- public beach isn't great for swimming, and public pool arrangement is lame
- very limited range of seasons: we get spring, we get something sort of
like fall, no real winter, and summer has cool nights
You didn't say where your husband will be working but you did express some
interest in the Sunset or Richmond area of San Francisco.
If you are looking for a
family friendly and walkable area in SF I highly recommend the Laurel
Heights nieghborhood. It is flat and very walkable to everything you'll
need and I do mean everything! The only issue is the public school
situation. If you're kids are going to be in elementary school soon that is
something to consider. Definitely research the SFUSD process to see if you
can stomach dealing with the lottery. We just moved to the East Bay from
Laurel Heights in SF because we didn't want to deal with the public school
situation there. Other than that, it is heaven! Good luck with your move.
Former city girl
We were in a similar situation last year at this time, when we moved to
Berkeley too late to apply to preschools. We were lucky enough to find a
very good preschool, The Model School, that does not have a college-like
application process. They operate on a first-come, first-serve basis and new
kids can enter when space becomes available. It is on Prince at Telegraph,
in a very walkable neighborhood close to Elmwood, Whole Foods, Berkeley
Bowl, Ashby BART.
Happy Model School Parent
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.
If you are still looking for a preschool you should definitely be in
touch with Betsy at Griffin Nursery School. I just saw on the website
that she's still looking for girls in the morning program. We've been
delighted by Griffin in the year that we've been there. The teachers
at Griffin are warm and deeply experienced. I feel like I learn from
them all the time (and I've spent a good chunk of my adulthood
studying how kids learn!) When I share a behavior that I am trying to
resolve with my son, their answers often surprise me (in a good way!),
and help me think about the issue from his perspective in ways I could
not have otherwise. It's such a safe and sweet setting, really very
charming. We found it easily, since our close friends had sent their
kids there and were very happy with it, but some of the parents of our
son's Griffin-friends checked out many other preschools and at least
two of them have emphasized to me how lucky we were to find our way to
this special place. The big trick is that kids only go for half a day
the first year, and in the second year you can add extra hours, but I
think it's worth it to figure out other childcare for the rest of the
time you need. And yes it's not the co-op I'd always hoped we'd join
once we had kids (we're in South Berkeley and I didn't want to spend
so much time commuting to preschool, but I can understand your
interest!), and I don't know what being in a co-op is like, but I
think this is as close as you are going to get outside of a co-op.
My husband and I are thinking of moving to SF (silicon
valley) next year or so. We have two kids (5 and 3) and need
to find good schools and a family friendly area. We are an
Asian Indian family and are professionals. We would love to
find an area with moderate number of Asian Indians. We have
no idea about SF and would love to get some feedback as to
where to start looking for a place to live. We are thinking
of renting now and later buy a place. So, we would really
appreciate experiences from other first time movers. What do
you think of the place ? We really love the weather in SF
and the diversity it has to offer. Looking forward to
hearing from you. Thank you. Ann_2_SF
I have a couple of wonderful friends from India who live in
Redwood City and work on the Peninsula. He's in software,
recently left a big co to start his own company, and she's a
researcher. They have a baby girl and seem happy where they
are, where housing is a little more affordable than some
other parts of the Bay. I'd be happy to try to put you in
touch with them if you'd like, feel free to email me.
There is a large Indian American population in many areas of
Silicon Valley - Sunnyvale and Mt. View in particular. Also,
in the outer East Bay in Fremont and environs. Most other
areas of the bay area have diversity, however.
Two things about SF, in particular: first, there is a
lottery to get into public schools, so you could wind up at
a school across the city (45+ mins.) from where you live or
work. It is a notoriously challenging system. Second, make
sure you actually really like the weather in SF. You may
already know this, but it is chilly and foggy during most of
the summer. good luck
SF is a different place than SV than East Bay. So where are
you moving to? Asian Indians are well represented most
anywhere you go - really most areas are somewhat racially
blind as there is such diversity or unevenness in ratios
versus 'norms.' Some communities you will find only one or
two 'white' kids in public classrooms full of asians and
indians. Other areas may have more latinos, whites, or
blacks, but most people are accepting of whatever diversity
they find themselves within. Do you want a walking
neighborhood for dinner and transport? or a suburban area
with a community pool and library branch? Museums and
cultural fairs? It varies greatly! We love it here. in
We are quickly realizing that with Baby Girl here we have
grown out of our Albany condo and are hoping to move. The
question is, where to?
Given the dynamic and turbulent nature of the California
budget situation and local politics and that our daughter is
still a baby we have decided NOT to use schools as a factor
in our decision (by the time it really matters, things will
very different than they are today.) We are starting to
research so we can narrow down neighborhoods and what home
features are most important.
The place where I need advice is to compile a list of
factors that we should consider in looking at specific homes
and neighborhoods. Please no endorsements of why your
neighborhood is so great. What I really need are the
specific things you more experienced parents think are
important. Here are a couple of examples that I already
have on my list so you can see what I mean: 1) It would be
nice if kitchen had window to backyard so kids can play
there while I make dinner 2) Living in a hilly area makes
stroller walks difficult 3) Bedrooms are better above main
living space than below so parents dont keep kids up if they
are walking around after kids go to bed.
If any of you have ideas for things to add to our list based
on your experiences, we would greatly appreciate it!
Fellow house hunter, we're looking for a new place to call
home as well, and so I'll share what I've discovered after
thinking about all of this for over one year. Personally,
the idea of a ranch with a longer backyard for play is very
appealing. Usually the bedrooms are located at one end of
the house, away from the main living area and kitchen, so
there is never the problem we currently have of worrying
about banging around in the kitchen while our son sleeps in
the room above (or worrying about downstairs noise in the
living room, while dad works in the office upstairs). Our
friends who live in ranch style homes have such spacious
backyards that the children can run and explore to their
hearts delight. No running in circles due to lack of space!
Depending upon what is important to you, check out the
walkability of your new digs on walkscore.com. I would also
drive around the neighborhoods you are interested in at
various times of day - try it early in the morning during
commute, and late at night. Park your car and take notes.
You can also source neighborhood crime reports. Personally,
I feel that schools are something to consider because due to
unforeseen circumstances and simply how fast time seems to
fly once kids enter the picture, we sometimes get 'stuck' in
a living situation longer than we anticipate - and
considering that preschool and kindergarten happen before
you know it (plan on the application process one year out
from school entry), schools can definitely be a factor. If
allergies are an issue, consider what's hanging around your
neighborhood (I live on the other side of the hills now and
allergies are worse); consider your proximity to your
support network of friends and family, and your medical
crew, your savings (or not) with car and house/rental
insurance (we saved a bundle from our last place), any
increase or decrease in your utilities budget (this can vary
widely) and most of all any work commutes. If you or your
partner have to extend your commute, that could negatively
affect family time. You might not feel it right away, but
when your baby girl is older, it may become an issue. I
would also consider where you see yourself down the line
because it takes time to get grounded in a community.
Lastly, I check the shake maps at USGS, look around for cell
towers and the like, and consider where you could
potentially be if a major quake happened (are you separated
from your partner by bridges, tunnels, etc. I know this
could potentially be seen as catastrophic thinking, but we
do live in a major earthquake zone). Oh, and sap from pine
trees will totally destroy the paint job on your car if you
don't happen to have a carport or garage, and regular
car-washing expertise. just another house hunter
What an interesting question! The thing is, a lot depends
on just how you want to live your life; some people will
prefer a more urban environment and others a more rural or
suburban lifestyle, whether they have kids or not. And many
details flow from that. Also, of course, especially when it
comes to the specific size and features of a house, the
price you can pay determines a lot.
But I will tell you what mattered to us, OTHER than the
schools, in choosing a neighborhood and a house in which to
raise our family (my kids are now 10 and almost 7, and we've
lived in the same house since before the older one was
- Pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, where it is easy and
pleasant to walk or bike to schools, parks, restaurants
and grocery stores, and the houses are close enough together
that kids can walk next door or around the block to visit
friends. This excluded the hills, as well as the more
car-oriented suburban areas.
- Area with a community feel, people working in their
yards on weekends, someone organizing block parties and
that sort of thing. A place where my kids would HAVE
neighborhood friends to visit on a casual basis, and I
could send them next door to borrow a cup of sugar.
- Enough private, fenced-in yard space for a young kid to
run around and play with little or no supervision. With a
large enough lawn for things like a climber, playhouse,
croquet game or what-have-you. I wouldn't care whether
there's a kitchen window overlooking the yard, as long as
the yard itself is reasonably safe and I can HEAR what's
going on in the back yard, from inside the house. (I also
wanted good access from the 'public' areas of the house to
the back yard, and did not like the houses where the only
door to the back deck was from the master bedroom or the
view from the living room toward the back of the house was
of a bathroom. But I think this has more to do with our
entertaining habits than with parenting per se.)
- We couldn't afford as large a house as we knew we would
ultimately want, so we looked for one that it would be
relatively easy to add onto. The configuration of
bedrooms, bathrooms, and spaces for work, play, crafting,
etc., is so individual that it's hard to generalize. Your
own family's sleeping arrangements and habits will
determine what makes sense; for us, I like having the
bedrooms close together and also within earshot of the
kitchen and living room, as it seems safer when the kids
are very young. Only now as they get older do I sometimes
think a bit more separation might be nice.
- Lots of storage space! We are not exactly minimalists
to start with, and the accumulation of STUFF as our family
grew and the kids get older is kind of astounding. Yes, we
do give away or sell many things that they have outgrown,
but it is still a challenge to manage everything. And I'm
not talking just closets, but also attic/garage/garden
- A laundry room. Kids generate a ridiculous amount of
laundry! I did not want the washer & dryer to be in the
kitchen or in a grimy basement or outdoors, but in a
separate space inside.
Your list is a good start. I'd add that a hilly area also
is harder for kids to learn to ride a bike, etc. It is nice
to have a neighborhood park, a place where there are not
train tracks, airplane traffic, busy street (especially
w/trucks). For us, we prefer a neighborhood that has some
land between the homes (rather than stacked on upon the
other) as there is more privacy as well as yard space for
the kids. We chose a neighborhood that the houses have
larger front yards too so the houses aren't right ontop of
the street. If you like to be out in the yard a lot, an
area that has less wind and warmer days (not a lot of days
that are fogged in). It's nice to have easy access to good
food stores, etc. Another thing to check out when looking
at an area is to go at different times during the day
through the neighborhoods as well as the stores in the
neighborhoods for it will give you a feel for the area. If
it's a new city you'll be moving to, you'll want to see if
they have programs for kids (and parents/kids) to help you
meet people in your new area w/children around the same age
as your child. Good luck. anon
Help! I just got a dream job with a wonderful SF company
after having lived for over 25 years in NYC, 21 of them in
Brooklyn. And while I'm definitely counting my blessings,
I'm also grappling with my sense of loss (I developed an
amazing network of friends during my 25 years and I love
Brooklyn) as well as panic--we have about five weeks to find
a place and get settled before I start my job. I'd like to
get some recommendations from members about the best places
to live--that are family friendly, ethnically diverse, have
strong public schools and interesting communities (by which
I mean, not exclusively the hedge-fund type). And the names
of some good realtors as well (we'll be renting at first).
Thank you! G.
I hope you'll check out Alameda. Buying is less expensive than
San Francisco or Berkeley, although rents are probably
higher than Berkeley's because Alameda doesn't have rent
We have at least 29 languages spoken in the public school
district, which like all districts in California, struggles
for funding and does a decent job considering everything.
There's a reasonable diversity of restaurants and small
businesses. There are a couple of shopping districts with
cute boutiques; there are several independent bookstores
that kept a toehold while Borders came and went. We have a
mall called 'Towne Centre' which unfortunately is nowhere
near the center, often referred to by its old name, 'South
Shore'. Towne Centre was recently purchased by a major
developer and there are improvements in shopping choices in
the works. Currently the mall is kind of low-rent. But there
is a Trader Joe's with the best parking lot of any Trader
Joe's I've ever shopped (usually they're a nightmare for
Alameda's flat (great for riding bikes and trikes), has many
well-kept parks. Alameda has a low crime rate, 25-per-hour
city-wide speed limit, and most neighborhoods have high
walking index scores. There are many lovely views of San
Francisco Bay. Housing options are diverse, all the way from
hideous 70s era apartments to adorable bungalows to
Victorian mansions and storybook cottages and beachfront
condos, the occasional art deco or midcentury modern and...
ok, no mud huts.
Note, I'm not a real estate agent or professional booster or
anything, I just love this town - have lived here 10+ years
and while it can be a little on the sedate side, it's
getting more interesting every day. I hope you'll check it out.
happy in Alameda
What a great problem: dream job *and* in a great part
of the country
I'm tooting my own horn here - my husband and I are great
real estate agents! I hope you'll give us a call when you're
sorting out whom to work with. I can honestly say my clients
are a very satisfied bunch, and we can give references.
So: you have budget, schools, commute and community to sort
out in your decision. You didn't say if your budget would
allow you to live in San Francisco, closer to where you'll
work. If budget and schools bring you across either the Bay
Bridge or the Golden Gate, there are many communities to
choose from. I know you'll get many great opinions from the
members here, and I'll add my vote for you to consider
and Montclair (in Oakland). I'm leaving out
El Cerrito because you're coming from Brooklyn and my
opinion is that you'll feel more at home in these areas, and
many neighborhoods in SF.
Whichever neighborhood you choose, I'm sure you'll build
another great network and community out here - welcome!
My main advice is to rent for a year or two before buying a
house so you can spend time visiting neighborhoods. Berkeley
is reasonably diverse, has decent public transit, good
schools. Albany has most of the above advantages but is not
as racially or economically as diverse as Berkeley. There
are some towns on the Peninsula to consider as well -- San
Mateo is less diverse, but has a nice downtown, ok transit
to San Francisco (though not anywhere else) and good
schools. I wasn't clear from your note how much money you
have -- San Mateo is pricier than Berkeley, as is San
Francisco. In San Francisco you might want to consider Noe
Valley, Bernal Heights or the Inner Sunset or the Richmond.
The school assignment process in San Francisco is
complicated, so be sure to research that before choosing a
long-term unit there. Noe Valley looks more like Brooklyn,
but I think Berkeley is more like Brooklyn demographically
-- depending on where in Brooklyn you were living before.
Luckily with a four-year-old changing schools on your way to
finding the best community is less of a problem than with an
older child. anon
Congrats on the dream job and your move! You'll soon see,
the Bay Area trumps NYC for raising kids- really! I have a 4
and 2 yr old. Having lived in NY for many years, as well as
many other places around the world, here is the place we
want to settle.
The East Bay, particularly Berkeley and Oakland, is the most
like Brooklyn you will get. It's very diverse, a lot of
stuff is walkable, more bike friendly here and there is TONS
of stuff to do with kids. We live in Berkeley (we also love
Rockridge in Oakland). Both have great elementary schools.
For middle/high school you would probably have to move out
of Oakland though or go to private as I understand it. (We
only moved here in May so are still learning). Berkeley has
great high schools. You could also consider Albany, just
North of Berkeley. Same vibe, great elementaries, cute main
street and accessible to everything as well. If you are
commuting daily into SF (I do as well), all 3 are great
options. My commute door to door is 35 min including a 10
min walk to the Bart in the morning. My commuting time far
beats what I used to do in NY.
We're also a multicultural family so feel very at home here-
we last lived in a place where we were one of the few
intercultural couples we knew and it has been so refreshing
to be around so many others families like us.
Starting over anywhere isn't easy and it takes a while to
form the same awesome community you are leaving (we are in
the process of that now) but I bet you will love it here. I
would never want to live in NY again after life here!
Feel free to get in touch with any questions via the
moderator (don't think it lists my email here but not sure).
Also, I'm not sure what you meant by interesting community
being not hedge-fund like. Are hedge funds ever
interesting (I worked at one)?
Montclair Village, Lafayette
or Berkeley, unless you are
unGodly wealthy, then Piedmont or Orinda. If you opt to
live IN San Francisco, near Golden Gate park. Julie Gardner is
your realtor http://juliegardner.com/ . If she's too
busy, Aaron Brown, same office.
You'll LOVE IT HERE!!!! Welcome! Now you can get a puppy!
Welcome to the west coast! I feel your pain about moving,
but know that you are moving to a WONDERFUL and vibrant
place - I HIGHLY recommend you look at living in Alameda, it
has everything on your list and more! Alameda is a small
island directly across the Bay from San Francsico, great
commute, great weather, tons of families and great schools.
You can rent through one of the many agencies in town. For
sales I highly recommend Valerie Ruma with Alain Pinel Real
Estate, (510. 579-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org) she's lived in
ALameda for 20+ years and knows the town and the East Bay
like the back of her hand - good luck! island mama
I highly recommend Alameda as a place to live with young
children. Alameda is a small island off Oakland, and it has
a small community feel. The public schools are generally
considered good (although with widespread budget cuts all
schools are suffering right now), the area is safe, and it
is VERY child friendly. Kids still walk or bike home from
school in Alameda, and there are lots of trails around the
lagoons and the water for biking or walking. Alameda won't
be as 'city' as Brooklyn, as it is a suburb, but it's more
of a 'small town' suburb rather than a sprawling
What might affect your decision will be where
your office is. The Bay Area is a lot bigger than East
Coasters imagine (I used to live on the East Coast), and you
might want to figure out where your work is before you
choose a neighborhood, to save yourself a 2 hour commute
each way. Alameda is pretty close to San Francisco downtown
btw. You can take the ferry there, or else get dropped off
at the BART (commuter rail). Lots of people drive into the
city but the traffic often gets bad. For realtors, I
recommend the one who helped us buy our house: Catherine
Bierwith, longtime Alameda resident who is very
knowledgeable. (http://www.alamedafinehomes.com/) --Alameda
It really depends on your budget, since housing it very
expensive in the Bay Area and in certain communities in
particular, but you're probably used to that from New York.
I live in Alameda, and think it would meet your criteria
very well. It's got good schools, is diverse, safe, and has
a small-town, neighborhood feel that you're probably looking
for. It's actually an island, right next to Oakland, so
it's off of a lot of people's radars. The one drawback is
that since it's an island, the best way to access it is by
ferry, car, or bus. BART doesn't reach it, although you can
take a bus to a BART station pretty easily.
Another good neighborhood is Piedmont, although it's pretty
upper-crust and expensive. The schools are amazing, though.
And Berkeley and Albany
are both really great cities with
great restaurants, good schools, and lots of little
neighborhoods within them. I lived in Berkeley and Albany
for a decade, and finally moved to Alameda because I was
sick of fighting with all of the people who crowd those two
towns for a parking space, restaurant reservation, daycare
spot, etc. I find Alameda to be much more relaxed when it
comes to those kinds of little things that make life so much
easier, and I've been happy that I moved ever since. If you
need specific Alameda location recommendations, feel free to
email me. Cassie
In the East Bay, Berkeley and Albany
have good public
schools, and Oakland has some good elementary schools. Linda
Elkin is a great Realtor (and also my sister). I recommended
her to another family that is moving from Brooklyn (I used
to live in Park Slope) to the East Bay and she is currently
working with them. She helped them find a rental, and has
been introducing them to different neighborhoods that fit
their needs. She is a great resource for school information
and life in the Bay Area. Linda Elkin Red Oak Realty
510-282-5666 email@example.com Loved Brooklyn and happy
Congratulations on your new job and move! I too moved from
the east coast, and have really grown to love the bay area.
I highly recommend checking out Alameda. It's close to the
city (takes me 15 minutes to get to the financial district
from my home in the west end; would be a little longer from
the east end), it has great schools, restaurants, beaches,
toy stores, book stores, yoga studios, and farmer's markets.
Is crazy diverse (in the five houses that surround mine I
have one black family, two gay couples, one Chinese woman,
and one white couple) and it's a real biking/walking town.
Everyone is always walking or biking to
restaurants/beach/parks etc. And it is the strongest
community I've ever lived (neighbors really get to know each
other) in the east bay so far (having lived in Montclair,
Elmwood, and Rockridge prior--which are all very nice, too).
Last but definitely not least, it is kid heaven here. I
honestly had no idea until I moved here how much freedom the
kids can have and how much they really thrive in an
environment like Alameda. If you're into some of the
concepts of free-range kids, Alameda is the place. The
schools are great and very neighborhood oriented so the kids
develop a really strong network of friends from an early
time. They all walk/bike to school together. Once they get
old enough (usually 8 but depending on the maturity of each
kid) they walk/bike to school on their own and go to friends
house for playdates. Then later they start to bike
everywhere around town (it's an island so they can't go too
far) to the beach/parks, to the shops/restaurants on Park
Street (main shopping district), to the movie
theater/plays/etc. It's amazing--the kids just blossom here.
They can have that sort of freedom because Alameda is really
safe (both with crime and with having a speed limit that is
25mph on most of the island), and people really look out for
each other. If needing advice and guidance, I would highly
recommend checking out Gallagher & Lindsey. I used them to
buy our house in Alameda and was really impressed with their
knowledge and professionalism. They've been around a long
time and they really know the neighborhoods and current
market. Best of luck with your move! Alameda Mama
We live in SF now but I would love to get recommendations on
which Berkeley-area neighborhoods to check out in case we
decide on an East Bay move with our 2 year old for more
space, better weather and more affordable private schools.
I'm originally from NY and miss the density, buzz and foot
traffic so ideally, I'd love to live in a neighborhood that
has the best of both worlds in terms of being near a BART
station with a walkable, urban shopping area and yet still
have a yard, leafy streets and block parties.
I've only done a few drive bys but the area near the
Rockridge BART and the North Berkeley area near that Totland
Playground seem nice. My husband lived in Berkeley long long
ago for grad school and seems to like the Hills area but I
feel like we'd always be bound to have to drive then.
On schooling, I'm particularly interested in Mandarin
immersion and know there is AIM, GMIS and Shu Ren in
addition to the new Charter School.
In NYC, I'd probably be inclined to live in or near Park
Slope, Brooklyn. In SF, my favorite area is probably the
neighborhoods near Dolores Park. Considering all this,
which neighborhood do you think would have the best vibe for
Thanks for any thoughts!
I am totally unfamiliar with Park Slope, but your
description of what you're looking for is *exactly* what
Rockridge is like.
I've also lived near the North Berkeley BART station, and
it's a great neighborhood -- compared to Rockridge it's a
little less affluent and a little more crunchy-hippie, with
somewhat smaller homes on average and not quite so leafy,
but the two areas are not wholly dissimilar, especially if
you go a bit more east and north than the area right around
the N Berk BART station. My husband and I moved from
Rockridge to Albany because, among other reasons, we wanted
to send our kids to public school -- but for you, planning
on private school, probably Rockridge is better located for
commuting too. The area has plenty of great private schools
although I don't know anything about Mandarin immersion
options specifically. We love Albany, and Solano Ave has a
sort of similar vibe to College Ave in Rockridge, but I do
sometimes miss being *so* close to a BART station! Holly
I suggest our area - the LeConte (sometimes called Lower
Elmwood) area of Berkeley. Our borders are Telegraph &
Shattuck, Ashby & Dwight. We are seriously in walking
distance to everything - we haven't had a car in years. We
walk to bart, our choice of well-stocked grocery store,
Telegraph, Shattuck and Elmwood shopping districts, schools
and parks on tree-lined streets with yards. Families,
college students, aging hippies, a great mixture of friendly
neighbors. We love the neighborhood! It's just the right
mixture of urban and suburban. Love our spot
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
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!
My family and I want to move to the East Bay or Sonoma
County. There is such a diversity of cities in that area
that we're overwhelmed by the choices. We're actually just
trying to figure out if any cities/towns/neighborhoods fit
our wish list. We'll be moving from Los Angeles and would
like to live in a safe area with diversity, culture, access
to quality food and farmer's markets and restaurants and a
good school system but we're ready to live without pollution
and traffic and would love a city or town where we could
walk or bike in order to run our daily errands. I just want
a safe place for our son to grow up, thrive and be a part of
his community. We'll both be working from home so commute
is not a major factor but we'd love to be able to get to SF
relatively easily. Any suggestions? Thank you for your
time and Happy Holidays! Jen
Try the neighborhood around
North Berkeley BART or between
there and downtown berkeley BART. Farmers markets on on
stuarydays downtown, on thursdays near shattuck and Rose and
on Tuesdays on MLKing at Derby. The area is flat with bike
routes on streets and along the Ohlone greenway. The public
elementary, middle and high schools are good (although
elementary schools are not by neighborhood).
Many other neighborhoods are good, too. this is the one I
know best, although I live in a less accessible area,
myself. Berkeley Parent
I highly recommend Alameda. Alameda is a small island off
Oakland, and many parts of it still have a small town, Leave
it to Beaver vibe. I can ride my bike everywhere--to the
supermarket, to the shopping district on Park Street, and
since the speed limit on the whole island is 25mph, it's
pretty safe. We see kids riding their bikes or walking by
themselves to go home from school all the time. The food on
the island is good but not great but San Francisco and
Oakland are short drives away. The weather is also
great--not as cold and foggy as San Francisco, but not as
hot as the areas on the other side of the hills, like Walnut
Creek or Dublin. There is a small community feel in Alameda
that we like a lot.
When we moved to the Bay Area we drove through many of the
neighborhoods to get a feel for all of them. I recommend
that as it was educational to actually be on the streets,
instead of just looking at real estate postings.
We recently moved and had the same list of criteria as you
did and felt overwhelmed knowing the bay area really well!
From your wish list it doesn't sound like sonata would be a
good fit because it lacks diversity and is somewhat of a far
drive to sf, especially in the type of traffic we have in
the bay area although much more tolerable than la!
We found the east bay to really be a good fit in terms of
diversity, being entrenched in good eats and local farming,
and being close to sf. Oakland,
Berkeley, and Albany were our
top choices but ultimately we narrowed it down to Berkeley
and Albany because of the good public schools in addition to
all the other things we wanted and are very happy with our
choice. We can walk to shops, hop on Bart and go to sf, and
live in a community that is very diverse and feels like a
good place to raise a chikd without going out to the
I have been a longtime reader of BPN and now that we are
moving to the area I am pleased to join the community and
ask your advice. We are moving her for my partner's work in
downtown San Fran. It will be a big adjustment for us as
we'll go from flex, working from home to long office hours
and to a city where we know few people and have no family.
We want to find a place to live (we'll rent at first) that
is not longer than a 45 min commute. Not seeing Dad every
morning, noon and night will be a huge change for the kids
and adding more than an hour on to his workday seems too
long for everyone yet is it realistic to find a less than
45 min commute?
I'm worried about the fog. Like a plant I need sun. Any
thoughts on places that are more sunny? We care deeply
about schools. Any leads on great schools? We'd like to
find a real community where we can settle and stay put. We
want to know our neigbors and walk places. We enjoy
healthy, good food, we are eco-conscious, we like kids
parks, biking, skating etc. We are liberal cultural Jews
and former New Yorkers. I grew up near Madison, WI (which I
LOVED) and I think there are some similarities in Berkeley.
Yet, would we feel like a family in a sea of students if we
lived near the Ashby Bart stop?
My older child will be changing schools mid year in K and
any hints on how this works mid year are very welcome. Also
any good private or charter school options if we can't
navitate a midyear public move. Also leads on play based
social emotional empahsis or Reg Emilio preschools
apreciated too. I know it's lots of questions in one so
thanks very much in advance! New BPN Mama
so....is your partner's work near BART? if so, you have a
wide range of places you can live which are within 45 min.
i only know east bay but i'm sure there is stuff on the
peninsula. for sunny, hot you can go through the hills to
Lafayette, Orinda, etc.
i think those are more suburban. if
you want more 'city'ish, consider Rockridge (i think some of
the public schools are good) and North Berkeley BART area
and Albany (el cerrito bart/north berkeley bart). bike
trails etc all over. for schools, lots of good listings on
bpn, maybe see which parents are excited about the things
you care about. we are the academy which we like, i also
hear great things about black pine circle, windrush,
prospect sierra, it really depends upon your kids too, what
motivates them. for public schools people often choose
albany, but there are a variety of public schools that
people like all over. it's more expensive to rent/buy in
albany, i believe, because of the schools. i think near the
ashby bart stop can be rough. welcome!
I live in Alameda. The commute to downtown SF can be less
than 30 minutes (depending on exact downtown destination).
My son attends a RE preschool on the island (Home Sweet
Home). Alameda is sunny and walkable and I have great
neighbors and... I love it. Best of luck with your
relocation. your new neighbor?
I am sure you will get a ton of responses with everyone
advocating for where they live but can personally recommend
the Montclair area of Oakland - we are objectively warmer
than most other Bay Area locals, 12 miles from Montclair
Village to downtown SF (which translates to an average 30
minute drive or 40 minute BART with drive time to a nearby
station), and currently a relatively affordable section of
Oakland. Your children generally go to neighborhood schools
in OUSD and for elementary most of the Hills schools are
very good with strong parent communities and well rounded
education (arts, music, computer, etc.). On foggy days
because we are up high and the spacing of the canyons we are
often either fog free (sitting above it) or we warm up
faster - average Oakland temp today is 70 - we are 75+ There
are a number of 'liberal' jewish communities in the area -
we are members of a large reform synagogue with a great
pre-school and educational program for older kids - there is
a TON of amazing food in and around Oakland, and despite
being up in the hills there are a lot of paths that get you
around so I often walk to farmer's market on Sunday mornings
- I also walk my son to school most days.
Welcome to the Bay!
I would strongly recommend that you check out Alameda, CA
-an island off the coast of Oakland-as a wonderful Bay area
option for living. Our family moved here last summer and
have been thrilled with the open and welcoming community we
have found. The commute to SF is only 15-20 minutes
(non-rush hour), and in rush hour about 30-35. However,
there is a ferry (20 min), an hourly transbay bus (20 min),
BART (from Oakland), and many carpool options, too. The
community is full of beautiful victorian-era and
craftsman-style homes and the city takes great pride in its
historical character. The crime rate is low, and my kids
(10 & 15) ride bikes and skateboard wherever they want to
go, my husband & I walk and ride bikes, too. The schools
are highly-rated (check greatschools.com), and very
pro-active in the face of recent budget crunches, but there
are also great charter schools available (ACLC & NEA). It is
a rich, culturally-diverse community with great restaurants
& stores, festivals, and beaches, plus it is the sunniest
place in the Bay area. (Temps are typically 10 degrees
warmer than SF. Since our arrival in July, we've had only 2
completely overcast days and no fog!) It was just selected
as one of the 'Top Ten Suburbs' in Travel & Leisure magazine
and one of the 'Top 100 Communities for Kids' by America's
Promise Alliance. There is also a similar online parent
network called 'Alameda Parents Network' which offers great
friendliness and support. Plus, it is only a 10+ minute
drive from Berkeley, so you can enjoy the benefits of
Berkeley very easily as well! We love it! Bara Waters
Okay get out your bay area map and we'll color code it
together. First North Bay: Tiburon, Sausalito, Belvedere,
Mill Valley, they are all Blue Fairfax, San Enselmo,
Larkspur Corte Madera, GreenBrae, Ross, San Rafael, these
are Green. Novato and Petaluma, Purple
Piedmont, Berkeley Hills, Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette,
Danville, Alamo Blue. Oakland Hills (Montclair) Berkeley
flats, Rockridge, all Green, San Leandro, Oakland above
lake merrit, Albany, Hayward, Purple.
Hillsborough, San Mateo Blue. Pacifica and Millbrae, Green.
Bellmont, San Carlos, Foster City Purple.
Blue is where everyone wants to be. Perfect weather,
gigantic homes, good schools, every day is vacation. High
percentage of stay home mothers. This will work if your
combined income exceeds $200k. North Bay blue's tend to be
fairly liberal and artsy, where the east bay Blues have some
pockets of .... how do I say.... 'not very open minded'
Green, also VERY nice, great climate, generally more liberal
folks, artists, athletes, writers. The schools are sometimes
alot of work to ferret out, though it can be done. Everyone
in green has a dog. This is more the $100 to $175K folks.
Purple is your classic, 'moving further out to get more for
your buck', areas. Schools tend to be pretty good, but the
culture is not quite as dynamic.
The farther east you go, the warmer the climate. Berkeley
Oakland is ideal. Sausalito is absolute heaven, Pacifica is
foggy. Soon as you get 'through the caldecot tunnel it gets
hot; as far out as concord is deadly hot. North- Petaluma
gets rather hot as well, but its really quaint.
The Bay Area really is the most beautiful place in the world
wherever you land, but it can be expensive.
there are definately places to avoid: anywhere near an
airport. East oakland, Richmond.... South San Fran.
You are going to be SO HAPPY.
Welcome! Please email me with any further questions. I
Welcome to the bay area! Based upon your
background/interests, I think you'll like it here. If you
are looking for more sun, the east bay is definitely the
place to be. And yes, it is definitely possible to have a
commute of less than 45 min each way if you live somewhat
close to a BART station. We live in Temescal (6 blocks from
MacArthur BART), and my husband commutes to downtown (Powell
St. station) in about 30 minutes, door to door. His office
is right above the station, so that helps.
Re: neighborhoods, you don't say how much rent you can
afford, which would inform my recommendations. Don't shy
away from Oakland--there are many wonderful neighborhoods
here. In addition to Berkeley, you might check out
Rockridge, Temescal, or Piedmont Ave. areas of Oakland. Of
these, in general, Rockridge is probably the most upscale
and Temescal the cheapest, but more up-and-coming/artsy/etc.
They are all centrally located making commuting pretty
easy--a simple walk or bike to BART. W. Berkeley is less
expensive, Central Berkeley medium, N. Berkeley and
Claremont area are more affluent--again, these are
generalities. Can you visit here to see what neighborhoods
you like before signing a lease? While the Ashby Bart area
of Berkeley is not flooded with students (at all), you might
find some of the aforementioned Oakland neighborhoods
better. Berkeley is full of families, students are more
around the campus and where Shattuck and Telegraph intersect
Be aware that both Berkeley and SF have a lottery for public
schools. Not sure how that works re: mid school-transfers.
SF's is very intense and you could wind up in a school
across town. Berkeley's is more manageable, though you are
not guaranteed your neighhorhood school. The more affluent
neighborhoods of Oakland have pretty decent public
elementary schools and you are much more likely to get your
local school, though sometimes they are oversubscribed. I
would call to check about transferring in mid-year.
Re: play-based preschools. Yes, there are many, Regio and
otherwise. Hopefully someone else will offer current
recommendations. There are also many progressive, private
schools in the east bay, too many to list! Google is your
friend. good luck!
I only have a few mins so I can't get into the whole where
to live but I can tell you we live in South
Berkeley near the Ashby Bart - and it
is not a student area at all - the students mostly live near
campus. I work in the financial district and my door to door
commute (walk, bart, walk) is 32 mins total so very
manageable. We love Berkeley -it is the burbs but still lots
of access to SF, theater etc if you still want that. So I'd
say its fairly urban as suburbs go, particularly for the bay
area. good luck with the move! Berkeley fan
I recommend Piedmont. Your husband can catch casual carpool
and be on the highway in 1-2 quick minutes. Or go to nearby
Rockridge or Oakland BART stations. Berkeley is much bigger
with much more stop n go traffic. Piedmont is like a small
town where you know your neighbors and can walk around the
whole town. Berkeley is larger, more urban, and your
neighbors kids go to different schools. Piedmont is
surrounded by farmers markets and groceries as well as
restaurants and other such things. The absolute best thing
is being able to sign your kids up for recreation dept
classes and a FREE van drives the kids around! Don't
believe the image of Piedmont. There are so many great and
caring families here! And of course the weather is great,
less fog than the Berkeley hills (where I work.)
I would not live near Ashby BART with little kids. When I
lived there a few years ago, there were muggings outside my
window, and people would go to the door or tap on the window
asking for handouts, etc. Plus, the walkable shops are not
that close or that great. Some people will surely disagree,
but it would not be my choice. 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
--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
--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!
We live in Alameda and we highly recommend it. Alameda is a
small island off of Oakland, and we are a small community
with a small neighborhood feel. People like to describe us
as a place stuck in the 50's--in a good way! Kids still ride
their bikes to school and play on the streets, and there are
tons of parks, lagoons and beaches where people exercise and
walk their dogs. The schools here are also very good, from
K-12 (some better than others, so be sure to check first). I
hear the problem with Oakland schools is that even though
your neighborhood elementary school might be good, some are
admitted by the lottery system, and later on the middle
schools/high schools are not that great, and we were told
some parents then move or send their kids to private school.
At least in Alameda I take comfort that we can settle here
and send our kids to public school all the way to high
You can drive to downtown in 30 minutes (more with traffic),
take BART (unfortunately you'll have to be driven to BART in
Oakland), or take the ferry (very convenient). I hear some
people carpool into the city from Alameda. A 45 minute
commute seems like a lot when you are not from the Bay Area,
but you will find that you have to drive at least 20-30
minutes just to get anywhere, so you might have to readjust
your expectations. At least within Alameda, everything is
just 5-10 minutes away. Oh, and did I mention the weather is
good? It's never too hot, and we don't get the fog.
Good luck with your move!
--Vote for Alameda!
We recently moved to Oakland from Brooklyn (Park Slope).
While I grew up in San Jose, it had been nearly 20 years
since I left the Bay Area, so coming back feels very much
like we are getting to know things from scratch.
We knew we did not want to be in the South Bay. Too far from
work, not urban enough, or interesting enough. Before moving
here, I was pretty set on Berkeley. I lived on BPN and real
estate web sites and pretty much had a lay of the land
before we even came to visit. However, spending time in
Berkeley left me feeling a bit empty. The places in our
budget didn't seem like communities I wanted to live in (we
wanted to buy a 3-4 bedroom for 800K or less). I was really
surprised by this, so I absolutely recommend you take a few
trips out in advance to see the areas for yourself.
We ended up really liking many parts of Oakland--
Rockridge, Lake Merritt, Crocker Highlands, Montclair.
There was an energy here I really appreciated. My parents--
after more than 30 years of listening to Oakland-bashing
on the news--were surprised to see that Oakland was really
an interesting and beautiful place.
We fell in love with a house in Montclair, and the zoned
public school seemed excellent, by test score and because
the parent community was hugely involved. We took a risk and
It's been 3 months since we moved and we really love living
here. It is nowhere near as pedestrian-scale as Brooklyn,
but there are other things we appreciate. Our street is so
lovely--our neighbors are very friendly, our kids all go to
the same school, they ride their bikes and scooters in the
street (it is a dead end street, so little traffic), we have
BBQs together... we feel so fortunate to have that and
without it, we would likely feel lonely. The school is also
terrific, though certain things about it have taken some
adjustment (the parent involvement is enormous, and
expected. as a working mother with 2 small children, I have
found it overwhelming at times the extent to which I am
asked to participate). The farmer's markets are amazing. The
weather is incredible. My neighborhood is gorgeous. We love
our house. The work-life balance is better here culturally
than in NYC... my husband is home earlier despite a longer
commute as people seem to put down their jobs and go off to
pursue their own interests. He is not as stressed out. I
have always worked from home, so it is no different for me.
Culturally, it feels quite liberal, and the families I have
met seem to share our values in education, healthy living,
the arts, politics, etc.) I am sure there are varied
opinions no matter where you go, but it does not feel
The cons: We've put more miles on our car(s)--we need 2
now--in 3 months than we did our entire driving history in
Brooklyn (we owned a car for 2 years there). My husband is
driving to Brisbane temporarily for work, and the traffic is
a bitch. He sometimes makes it in an hour, if he is lucky.
He will normally go to SOMA, which should allow him to take
BART. I miss the vast selection of great, independent coffee
shops in Park Slope. I have yet to replace my beloved
Grumpy's. I also miss the Park Slope Food Coop, which was a
great place to buy inexpensive organic food. I love Berkeley
Bowl, but it is not cheap. Same with Whole Foods. I miss
fall and that snap in the air when you can pinpoint exactly
when the season changes. Also, my daughter's school in
Brooklyn was pretty economically and racially diverse, which
I appreciated. Her school in Oakland is less so.
All in all, I think you will find something to love about
your Bay Area experience, no matter where you end up. We
ended up in a place we didn't expect and we love it. Just be
open minded and embrace the change. Feel free to contact me
if you would like to ask me anything else.
well, i read the responses and i have to take issue w/ the
post that said stay away from Richmond. i didn't see the
original post, but there are plenty of great places to live
in richmond and we have a lot of middle class families here.
in addition, you will find cute, affordable houses, some
good public schools--including a dual immersion school--and
plenty of high quality private schools. plus the diversity
here can't be beat. we have richmond art center, free music
festivals, horse stables, and access to other cultural
venues. it's 25 minutes to sf, 20 to san rafael, 45 to napa,
15 to oakland. neighborhoods to look at are richmond view,
richmond annex, north & east (north of the 30s), point
richmond and some of the newer areas near hilltop. the city
has problems, no doubt about it. but so does berkeley,
oakland and sf. it all depends what neighborhood you're in.
the one thing i have to say that does suck about richmond-el
cerrito is the summer weather, which is just like sf. but
i'm an old beach bunny from l.a.. anyway, to whoever said
stay away: you should come up here sometime. you might
actually like it! in richmond 10 years
we are moving into the area in august from london with 2
boys of 7 and 10 and have no idea where to live and where
to send our kids to school. our 7 year is an average child
and the 10 year super smart.we will both be working from
home so can live anywhere
any advice on where the good schools are and also a good
neighbourhood. we can go private or to public. any advice
gratefully received. we are thinking about marin county,
and palo alto but i dont really know SF and surrounding
areas at all. what are the differences between the 2
areas.we would also like to live in a place which has some
soul and where people are open and are not totally money
minded. we are finacially very comfortable so can look at
reasonably expensive areas
I'd consider Piedmont . . . nestled in the Oakland hills,
close to Berkeley and San Francisco. Friendly, walkable
community, great schools. I'd be happy to talk to you
If you're looking for 'soul', I would avoid the Peninsula
(eg Palo Alto area). We moved there from San Francisco for
the school district and immediately realized that we had
made a mistake. While the schools there rank very high in
API scores, we felt that we were giving up diversity most
definitely there. (I generally found that the majority of
diversity could be found on the playgrounds where the
nannies were taking care of the children...) Not to mention
that the Peninsula is wealthy and folks seem to focus on
that fair amount.
We made the decision to move to the East Bay and while there
are challenges with the public school system here, we are
trying to make it work. So far I love the feeling of
community at our neighborhood school. A group of very
dedicated parents who want the best for EVERYONE.
I know Orinda has very good schools. We decided against
buying there as that would put a bridge and a tunnel in the
way of getting to the city, although there is BART. Also, it
was a bit too rural for us.
-Happy to be in the E Bay
If I could live anywhere in the Bay Area and money wasn't a
concern - I think I would choose Marin, specifically Corte
Madera or Mill Valley.
I live in Oakland now, but grew up in Marin.
Pros: weather - much more temperate and reliable;
accessibility to variety - SF, beaches, mountains, etc.
Gorgeous area. Lots of things to do, both outdoor and more
cultural activities. Nice variety of architecture. Still
places to live where you can walk to to most things.
Cons: Traffic on 101 - even for non-commuters. Demographic
variety is limited. General stereotype of Marinites: they're
all rich, white and money-centric.
Schools: Public schools tend to be better in more affluent
areas - parents have time and money to give. It's the only
way they can survive the crippling state and city budget
cuts. Private schools - you can pick and choose what suits you.
With any education system anywhere though - there are no
guarantees - you can't predict the crap teacher, the
bullies, the terrible principal, the peers you disapprove of...
Choose based on what your family likes to do, preferred
weather (Bay Area has dozens of microclimates), type of
architecture, type of neighborhood.
My 2 cents
First of all, congratulations on your move. Daunting I'm
sure but exciting in so many ways. I have a 4 and 7 year
old and can absolutely relate to your question about
finding the right neighborhood and community to join, one
that is right for you as well as for your kids. I would
highly recommend the east bay and specifically Prospect
Sierra School, a fantastic private school in El Cerrito.
My 7 year old is a 1st grader this year and he is happy
and thriving. We have families who come from all over the
east bay but I believe most are from Berkeley, Albany or
El Cerrito, all beautiful areas with great family friendly
neighborhoods. While I know many families both in Marin
and the Palo Alto area, my family has found the east bay
to be the perfect fit for us. We have always found the
east bay to be diverse, interesting and full of
personality. With kids being exposed to so much, Prospect
has been the perfect setting for them to explore, focus
and really engage in all that they see and hear. Prospect
is a very progressive school in which all ideas are not
only accepted but welcomed and the stuff that the kids do
just amaze me. My 1st grader's class is having a Poetry
Cafe this week to share their works of poetry with family
and friends. Each week, his class packs up fruits and
vegetables from a local farm for school families who have
purchased the farm box as they learn about farming and
sustainability. My son also plays in the elementary
orchestra and has learned to love reading, math and
learning in general. With a science lab and an art
studio, he has been able to learn from specialists who not
only teach but truly share their passion. I just can't
recommend Prospect enough and for me, the school has now
become one of the reasons we stay in the east bay. Good
luck with your move and decision on a school. Please feel
free to contact me if you have any questions.
I suggest that you consider the East Bay neighborhoods of
North Berkeley, Kensington and El Cerrito. From the
perspective of our inter-racial family, we feel blessed to
reside here. These communities should provide your family a
rich experience while living in the Bay Area. You can have
it all. San Francisco is a short BART ride away. You can be
in Marin County or the Wine Country in under an hour. UC
Berkeley attracts diverse peoples to the area. Your
neighbors will be a mix of professionals, social activists,
elders, adventurers of all types, athletes and fun loving
characters. We have chosen to send our boys to a wonderful
school in El Cerrito named Prospect Sierra. I have pretty
much described our school community above, so should your
search bring you to the aforementioned neighborhoods check
Prospect Sierra out. Our boys love the school and I suspect
yours would as well.
I'd hate to have husband commute but I must have sun. Is it
better to live in Berkeley, Sausalito, parts of SF or avoid
SF complelety? Concerns about crime as well. I am Cal mom age
63.I hope to teach cooking to kids out of my home. Many
Go to sfgate.com, and search the entire archive for
'microclimates'. There is a story by Harold Gilliam with
maps of SF microclimates, fog etc. A place that seems even
sunnier is through the tunnel--- Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut
Creek, and they are directly on a BART line. We briefly
lived in Marin and did seem less foggy than SF. Some of the
commutes can be fast--for example if your husband works in
Embarcadero Center, the ferry is fast. anon
have you looked at Noe Valley. It's a fabulous family
friendly neighborhood. We used to live on 22nd st at Church.
It was sunny most of the year. We watched the fog roll in to
the right and left eventually meeting in Potrero and never
quite make it to us. Ah, I miss those days. miss those
Noe Valley is relatively sunny for the city (as is the
Mission, but you said you were concerned about safety -
probably not the best area for you). Potrero Hill would be
another option. Anything south of the city, too. (Just don't
In the East Bay, I wouldn't go north of Emeryville -- too
much fog coming across through the golden gate. Oakland is
pretty reliably sunny in all parts, I'd say. A Fan of the
Oakland has much more sun than Berkeley and there are very
nice neighborhoods there. Real sun is through the Caldecott
Tunnel - Orinda, Moraga. Don't know about Sausalito. SAD
sufferer in Berkeley
Hi, We are moving to East Bay from DC Metro area for my husband's new
job. He'll be working in Oakland and Pleasanton. We have a 1 year old
boy. We love where we are currently living. We are 1/2 mile to 2
subway stations while only 1 and 1/2 mile to DC. When we have to
drive, we can travel to anywhere in the area within 30-60 mins top(we
are against the traffic during rush hours). Our neighborhood is
diverse (in a mixing bowl, melting pot sense, not pressure cooker
kind). Even though we tug away in a very safe/friendly neighborhood
w/ very few cars pass by (we are behind a service road), within 1/2
mile, we have great restaurants, bars, shopping, 3 playgrounds, great
public schools. We want to find a neighborhood that comparable to
where we are. We can afford a home up to around low to mid'900k (but
lesser we need to spend the better). Any advice is welcome. Our
first thought is Berkeley b/c my husband lived there long long time
ago, but any advice on any place is welcome. !
Moving to East Bay from DC Metro
I used to live in DC (Adam's Morgan area), and we now live in
Berkeley with our 22 month old and love it. We live in
Berkeley, in the Westbrae neighborhood, and love the fact that we
are a 10 minute drive from the city (with no traffic, 30 with
traffic), less than 10 min. walk from BART, have several local bus
lines that stop within a block of our house, and plenty of great
shopping within walking distance (Monterey/Hopkins shopping
district, as well as Solano Ave), and can walk to several really
nice playgrounds and parks. We rarely need to use our car. I think
this is an ideal neighborhood for someone used to diversity and
convenience of urban living, but looking for a bit more quiet,
child-friendly living environment with plenty of parking. You
should definitely consider Berkeley for your relocation.
Oakland! My husband and I moved to Oakland 8 years ago from
Hoboken (NYC Metro area), and both love Oakland. Many of the
attributes you mention about DC we have here: close to transp
(BART), parks, shopping, good food, etc., diversity, proximity to
SF, Napa/Sonoma, Marin, Tahoe... Since you have a child, I'd
recommend looking at the following areas of Oakland:
(closest to trans), Montclair or
Crocker Highlands. I know a
terrific realtor, who I can put you in touch with. If you're
interested, please email me. Good luck with your move! Missy
We moved from DC to Oakland two years ago and like it SOOOOO much
more. We lived in a variety of neighborhoods in and around DC
(Adam's Morgan, Capitol Hill, Clarendon, Silver Spring) over the
years always still felt cramped. The pace of the area just feels so
different to me than here. For example, people here brake for
pedestrians! At first, it drove me nuts -- I would get enraged at
cars stopping in front of me to let someone cross the street when
there wasn't even a light or stop sign. And then I realized, ''Wow,
that's really nice. You don't have to risk your life to cross the
Anyway, on to your topic of interest. I think Oakland is terrific
and has a ton to offer. In your price range, you could easily live
in more upscale neighborhoods in Oakland and have a nice
single-family home (which there are a lot more of in this area
compared to cramped, apartment and row-house/townhouse crazy DC).
For a neighborhood that has BART within walking distance plus shops
and restaurants nearby, I'd look at Rockridge
and maybe Temescal. I
also really like the Dimond District. Grand Lake/Lake Merritt has
some terrific shopsand restaurants and the North side of the lake
is considered nicer, but there are mostly apartments right around
the lake and then houses a few blocks out. Great houses with
terrific walkability. Montclair and Broadway Terrace are really
nice too but it's quite hilly and many houses aren't walking
distance to the shops and restuarants or BART.
We live in Maxwell
Park and really like it but we aren't as close to BART. But, it
does have a very neighborhoody feel to it with mostly all single-family homes that
have been here since the 1920s.
Working downtown in Oakland would be a quick BART ride away or like
a 10 minute drive from most of the neighborhoods I've mentioned.
Depending upon the age of your kids and whether you plan to go
public or private for schooling may influence your decision as
well. We only have a baby so I can't speak to the quality of the
schools from experience. I'm sure others can chime in on that.
Best of luck with your move! I'm sure your family will love your
move to the Bay. :)
Happy to be out of DC
Sounds like you would really like
North Berkeley - specifically the
neighborhood near the Monterey Market, because it has a wonderful
urban community feel complete with daily farmer's market, deli,
cheese shop, fish shop, pizza, wine store. And, a public pool,
tennis, parks, library. Plus Bart for public transportation into
the city (SF) close by. Also, decent public schools. Especially
look into MLK middle school because it is famous for its Edible
Schoolyard program started by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. Your
house budget will serve you well in almost any neighborhood in
Berkeley. The nice thing about this one is it is between the hills
and the flats and it has great housing stock with lots of character
abound, and it's a very walkable part of town. You really don't
need a car. Check out specific neighborhoods' walk score on several
Love North Berkeley
My partner and I are the parents of 2 toddlers and live in
Oakland. We are sick of the increase in crime, poor-performing
schools, and our lack of a cohesive, safe neighborhood where
kids can play together outside. I was raised in a more rural
setting and long for that, but for many reasons, we need to stay
in the East Bay. Is there a neighborhood or area that has a
more rural feel to it, with kid-friendly neighborhoods? I want
our kids to be able to run around outside and play with other
kids in a place that does not seem so urban. We also want a
decent public school near us. Is there anything in Oakland that
meets these criteria? Anywhere else in the East Bay that is not
prohibitively expensive (we are middle class). Thanks!
Looking for a better place
While it's not rural, Alameda has a lot to offer: nice parks and
neighborhoods, low crime, good schools and friendly residents. Come
check it out!
We moved to Moraga a few years ago, after spending the previous couple
of decades in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco. We enjoy it here
very much. Many areas have a rural vibe, especially the neighborhoods
that back up onto cow pastures! In our area (off of Camino Pablo) we
are surrounded by hills on three sides. When we sleep with our window
open, we often hear owls at night and cows in the morning. The schools
are good and not all the houses are totally expensive. I found the
prices to be in line with Oakland's Montclair and Rockridge districts,
but with better schools and lots of open space, trails, and such.
My kids play in the street, ride their bikes to their friends' houses,
walk to and from school, etc. I ride my bike to the farmer's market and
pilates (AWESOME pilates studio in Moraga...a real hidden gem).
No, it isn't Berkeley or Oakland hip. But it has a lot to offer,
especially if you are looking for a something rural and close in.
We currently live in the Dimond/Laurel area of Oakland with our
young children. Unfortunately, there has been a recent
increase in crime in our neighborhood, to the point where we no
longer feel all that comfortable living here. We are interested
in living elsewhere in the East Bay, somewhere that is safe and
very kid-friendly where the neighbors really know and look out
for each other, close access to nature, and in a good school
district. Oh yes-and affordable. Don't know if this is too much
to ask? We have thought about living through the tunnel in
Moraga, Lafayette, etc., but I do like the progressiveness and
diversity of Oakland/Berkeley. Are there some neighborhoods we
aren't aware of? Rockridge is great but there is no way we
could afford it. I don't know if it is too much to ask to live
in a place where the kids can run around in the neighborhood
after dark-or is that something from the past that we were able
to do in different times? Or is it possible still to do that
somewhere like Lafayette/Moraga? I would love any suggestions.
We are planning to send our kids to public school, by the way,
so we would like to live in a neighborhood that has a good
elementary school. Thanks.
Looking for safer pastures
We live in El Cerrito
and both of our elementary school age children attend the
local public school.
It's not perfect because we are a resource-poor district but it's worked out great
for our kids. The parents are very involved (volunteering in the school) and they
raise funds to provide the students with a good education. The PTA provides art,
music, and science programs to supplement what the district provides.
At last count, there were at least 8 elementary school children on our block--all
living within 5 houses of each other. At night they run in and out of each others'
back yards and play in the front yards. Some parents in El Cerrito opt to go to
private schools but I think the local elementary school is just fine. We are also
planning to go to the local public middle school when my son is ready. Most of El
Cerrito is very safe and family-friendly. There are great parks and a terrific
Unfortunately, I don't think it's that affordable for first-time home buyers but
houses are slightly less expensive than Albany, Lafayette or Orinda. Consequently,
there is more diversity in the local public schools.
You're in luck - such a place does exist! We were looking for a similar place as
you describe, and we found it in Alameda.
It's a very neighborly, friendly place, where most people will say hi to you as you
pass on the street, kids play together outside and the ice cream truck stops on the
corner in the summer. The schools are good - some have better reputations than
others, and I cannot attest to that as my kids are not yet in elementary school, but
you can check out the basic stats on www.greatschools.net.
We love that we can walk to the park or to dinner, and there is a good mix of people
(ages and ethnicities) and young families. Holidays are fun here - the whole town
is out for the 4th of July parade, Halloween is so fun and tons of kids abound, and
over the holidays we love going to ''Christmas tree lane'' to see the lights.
Lots of changes/improvements are in store over the next year or two - the historic
theater downtown is getting renovated, the mall is undergoing a revitalization and
will have more restaurants and shops, including Borders books, and plans to develop
the old military base on the west end are in the works. I think it's a good time to
get in the market here.
Prices vary, with the gold coast neighborhood and the east end being the most
expensive - gold coast due to the concentration of large mansions there, and the
east end due to the good reputation elementary schools and proximity to shopping on
Come on down and take a drive through the town - you won't be disappointed. I would
recommend it over Lamorinda - you can actually walk to school/grocery
store/restaurants here and there is more diversity. Good luck!
at home in Alameda
We were in your boat four years ago and we found near-nirvana in
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
Have you ever consider Benicia?
It's affortable and close to Easy Bay. It's 20 plus
minutes to the Bay Bridge and 10 mins or so to Walnut Creek so it's not a bad
commute and there is a ferry service into the city. If there is anything else you
like to know please email me. A great and safe community with
a lots of parks.
We lived in Oakland for a long time and now live in Moraga.
It is ridiculously
family friendly. All the kids in the neighborhood are in and out of each others
houses after school and on weekends. The other parents in the neighborhood are
extremely kind and helpful. Yes, my kids can walk or bike to school, walk or bike to
the farmer's market, and play outside after dark. When I moved here, I was braced
for feeling like a fish out of water, but I have been surprised and humbled at my
generalization that all people out here would be conservative and narrow minded. I
It is very white, but that is changing, slowly but surely. I have seen a slight
demographic shift in the couple of years that I've been here.
When you compare a place like Moraga to the safer neighborhoods of Oakland
(Rockridge, Montclair, Redwood Heights), I think you get a little more for your
money out here. The lots are bigger, the streets are conducive to kids playing in
them, and the schools are among the best in the state. The property taxes are
expensive though, which is the downside. You'll have to do your math and decide the
best solution for you based on your income, number of children, commute, and so on.
For us, it has been one of the best changes we ever made. There is so little stress
now: no serious crime, no worries over school quality and safety, no constant
scheduling of and driving to/from playdates. My kids are happier than they've ever
We LOVE living in what has recently been dubbed ''Piedmont Pines'' - the
Oakland just above Joaquin Miller Elementary School. Our backyard is the trailhead
to Joaquin Miller & Redwood Regional Parks, we have great neighbors, many with
children, and living on a cul-de-sac allows us to let our children (with
supervision) to run around in a safe environment, where we all look out for each
other. Cost is an issue. When we moved in, things were not so bad, but we've been
looking at housing prices skyrocket since. If you own your home though, I'm sure
you'll get a good price when you sell and could find a place in our neighborhood to
make it work for you.
Hope we meet your family soon
We love El Sobrante.
We moved to El Sobrante from Albany in order to purchase a
larger home. El Sobrante is somewhat rural (there are horses and goats in our
neighborhood), diverse and family friendly. It is also very safe. There is an active
neighborhood association which just oversaw the installation of a brand new
toddler/kid park. Olinda and Valley View are wonderful schools. I have heard great
things about them from parents who have children there. There is a beautiful creek,
library, boys and girls club, dance studio, soccer league, and some great
restaurants (peruvian, salvadoran, chinese, italian, mexican, indian as well as
local breakfast places). The Lakeridge Athletic Club is also in El Sobrante and
offers swim, tennis and other aerobic classes and camps. We also have Canyon Swim
school which is quite popular for children's swim lessons. One of my favorite places
is Central Foods on Appian which just changed owners and has lots of organic and
natural products, produce and meats. Another wonderful place is Eco Village Farm
which is a community learning project for sustainable farming. The weather is great,
just outside the fog belt. My husband works at UC Berkeley which is a 20 minute
He can also drive the back way through Tilden to avoid traffic. We are very happy
here. Come check it out!
Loving El Sobrante
It has become my favorite east bay city. Close enough to freeways so
you can get anywhere. Easy shopping at the E.C. plaza and E.C. Natural Grocery.
There are lots of new families moving here, it is relatively safe and has good
schools. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually more diverse
than our old neighborhood in SF. Our block has lots of different kinds of families
- different ethnicities and family structures. There is crime everywhere and E.C.
is no exception but we have not experienced anywhere near what we did in SF or what
some of our friends in Oakland have. I think it is in part because even though El
Cerrito is a part of the larger bay area community it still has a small town feel.
Our neighbors here have been friendlier than anywhere I have lived and about 1/3 of
the houses in our immediate neighborhood has kids.
My husband, 9 month old daughter and I live in a small house in Kensington at the top of
the hill. We're looking for a larger home in the East Bay in a kid friendly
neighborhood. We long for walks in the stroller, parks, playmates for our daughter and
a lovely home. Our income (thankfully) allows for great flexibility in where we live.
What we'd like to know from parents is which neighborhoods most fit this criteria?
Where do people LOVE living with children?
Any advise about neighborhoods, things to look for as a parent and home owner would be
Benicia may be a bit too far North for you, but it is an
amazing little treasure. The community is warm and friendly,
the schools are very good, there are many (!) beautiful parks
and the social activities in town are always wonderful. The
downtown area is pretty flat, so it is perfect for strolling
around or bicycling. We lived there for 10 years and I actually
miss it tremendously.
Alameda! I don't think there is a more family friendly community
in the East Bay. Great victorians and craftsman homes as well as
new cookie-cutter homes available in Bayport as well. Great parks
and a beach. Need I say more?
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
As I was reading your post asking for a recommendation for a
kid-friendly neighborhood in the East Bay, I could not wait to
reply!! My husband and I have a 9 month old as well and we LOVE
our neighborhood. We live in Pleasanton, which I believe is
about 40 min. away from you. I can't tell you enough good
things about it. The neighborhood is filled with families with
children, there are tons of great parks and green areas and the
schools are top notch. I love living in Pleasanton because you
have easy access to the freeway, and traffic is not a problem.
There is a beautiful downtown that is great for a Sunday walk,
cute stores and great little restaurants and cafes; it has its
own farmer's market every Saturday with lots of goodies. You
always see families with their strollers and kids. The only
thing is housing costs are higher than other areas, but since
you mentioned that thankfully your income allows for
flexibility, I really encourage you to check out the
Feel free to email me directly for more info or if you have
We recently purchased our first home after living in a few
different parts of east bay over the last 3 years. I don't
claim to be an expert on east bay neighborhoods, but we live in
Alameda and I am very pleased with our decision. It has a
small town atmosphere, yet is so close to San Francisco and
Oakland/Berkeley geographically. We live within walking
distance of Park street and there are many lovely shops and
restaurants there. I have greatly enjoyed strolling around our
neighborhood and looking at the great variety of architecture
(many victorians, craftsmans...) and overall the island has a
nice ambiance. There seem to be a lot of children around, the
parks are nice, schools are very good, and I just can't say
enough about how nice it is to call Alameda home. Good luck
with your search.
My daughter is in a nanny share in the Elmwood neighborhood of
Berkeley. The homes and yards are beautiful, lots of Craftsman
and shingle style homes, tree-lined streets, etc. The home is
on a dead-end street with lots of kids, an easy walk from
Bateman Tot Park (near Alta Bates Hospital)and Willard Park.
Elmwood and Rockridge shops and restaurants are in walking
distance. FWIW, they live on Lewiston between Woolsey and
Alcatraz, and I think there is at least one home expected to
come up for sale soon. I'd live there if I could afford it.
I live in the ''Totland district'' of North Berkeley, it runs
between Sacramento and MLK; University and up to Hopkins, I
think. I'm 2 blocks from North Berkeley BART, 2 blocks from
Totland, about a mile from the ''gourmet ghetto'' on Shattuck.
There are kids and dogs and families everywhere you look, I
absolutely love this neighborhood and highly recommend it for
what you're wanting!!
I would like to recommend Alameda for kid friendly
neighborhoods. I live in the East end of the island and in my
2 block radius, we have 11 three years! This is great since I
myself have 3 year old twins. The sidewalks are flat so
walking and riding bikes with the kids is easy. Downtown
Alameda is about 3/4 mile away so morning walks to breakfaast
or Starbucks or Petes has become our Sat. ritual. It is also a
very friendly family neighborhood, we have block parties twice
a year where we block the streets and get jumpy houses for the
kids and barbque all day. If you live in Kensington, you'll
think alameda is very affordable! I'd be happy to give you
more info on specific neighborhoods that are kid friendly
Alameda! We just moved to the Gold Coast neighborhood and
absolutely love it. The neighborhood elementary (Franklin
School) is excellent, and we are walking distance from several
parks, including Crown State Beach and Crab Cove and two
Since Alameda is very flat, it couldn't be more stroller
friendly. The city parks and rec department has lots of
activities for kids and families, including a program offering
free swim lessons for all kindergarteners.
Park Street has lots of fun shops, good food and coffee, much
like Solano or College Avenues.
The housing stock in the Gold Coast neighborhood is older, with
lots of turn of the century Victorians. In our house-shopping,
we found that homes in this neighborhood were pretty well-
maintained, and the prices weren't completely insane (at least
by bay-area standards).
For shopping, there's a Trader Joes and new Safeway in the
Alameda Towne Center. Target is also interested in building a
new store there, but they're getting a lot of opposition. Near
the Park Street bridge, The Marketplace is like a mini Rockridge
Happy Alameda Mom
We love our neighborhood, Redwood Heights in the Oakland
foothills. It's crawling with kids; has a real community feel;
lovely '20s- through '50s-era homes; a great neighborhood
elementary school (Redwood Heights Elementary); a well-used Rec
Center with lots of interesting kid and adult programs; a
wonderful park and playground; friendly, involved residents;
well-tended gardens; mostly flat streets with sidewalks for bike
riding and scootering; etc.
(In fact, when we outgrew our small starter house last year, we
purchased a larger house just a few blocks away so that we could
stay in the neighborhood, where our kids have lots of friends and
where we really feel like a part of the community.)
Demographically, it's somewhat ethnically diverse, with mostly
middle- and upper-middle class residents (it's definitely been
skewing more upper-middle class as home prices have tripled in
the last 8 years or so; most houses now sell in the high $600K to
low $800K range). Among the newer residents with kids (who are
quickly replacing older residents who moved in decades ago and
stayed), I'd say that most are white-collar professionals, with
scientists, medical professionals, and educators making up pretty
significant subgroups, plus a smattering of writers and artists.
A lot of people here are Cal alumni.
There's an active neighborhood organization with a softball team,
a baby-todder mom's group, block emergency captains, etc., and a
really involved community at the elementary school as well.
This being Oakland, it's fairly progressive politically and
socially. There are lots of two-mom families, a fair number of
MoveOn members and Green-party voters, etc. There is the
occasional property crime (car break-ins and home burglaries
every once in awhile) -- as there is everywhere -- but all in all
the neighborhood is extremely safe. It's just a comfortable,
open, and welcoming place to live -- maybe a bit suburban in feel
but also close to all the urban stuff that Oakland, Berkeley, and
San Francisco (you can be in downtown SF in 20 minutes, barring
rush hours) have to offer.
Anyway, come on over and check it out!
I noticed that noone from Berkeley responded to your question and wanted
to chime in. In Berkeley (also Albany) there are a number of wonderful
kid-friendly neighborhoods. Our family (w/ 2 girls) looked for houses
within walking distance to parks & shops. We just bought a house in the
Thousand Oaks neighborhood (where I grew up) and loved living in Westbrae
neighborhood (for 13 years). There are jewel-like parks all over the city
- and a bay trail that is great for kite flying, bicycling, walking,
biking & dog walking. Left up to me, I would avoid areas near campus just
because they tend to be heavily studented and parking is difficult - so
the vibe is different.
Another thing that I think should be noted when looking at cities
- Berkeley has historically and consistently been a big booster of schools
& libraries. Contra Costa voters recently failed to pass bond measures
for schools - but Berkeley voters tend to pass library & school measures.
I profoundly hope we pass Measure A
and continue this trend.
As recent home buyers/ home-sellers, we can attest that the prices seem to
be lower than we've seen recently so this might be a good time to get in.
In a year or so my husband will be taking a job in San
Fancisco. We presently live in Hawaii where I am from. We are
looking in the East Bay area for a place to live. We have
three kids- 3 year old twin boys and a 4 month old baby boy. I
know very little about the area and am very nervous about this
move because this is a decision we are making for our whole!
family. I have been trying to research areas from Berkeley all
the way to Walnut Creek.
Here is a summary of my ''dream'' place: I would love to find an
area that is progressive with natural living/organic living
resources. An active community would be nice. I am looking
for a place with easy access to outdoor activities such as
hiking, biking, running, parks, playgrounds and open space to
run loose. I want a place that is kid friendly and close to
good schools- public and/or private. Other places (ie:
children's museums etc... are a plus too). My husband will be
commuting to San Francisco so it needs to be within a
reasonable distance to the city (I hear BART is very easy). I
realize that the cost of living is outrageous- even compared to
Hawaii, so I am prepared for that, but are some areas more
expensive than others? I guess that covers the aspects that I
consider most important. I have seen the other postings on the
website but I was hoping for more information about some of the
specific qualities that I mentioned. Any input would be very
If you are looking for a great East Bay neighborhood, I would
pick our neighborhood -- Upper Rockridge between Broadway
Terrace and Moraga Avenue. This is a very diverse neighborhood
and is close to everything (nature and modern conveniences).
It also has a terrific K-8 public elementary school,
Hillcrest. (You may need to send your kids to private high
school though.) We really love it here -- there are tons of
kids on our street that are the same age as yours (my twins and
baby are separated by the same time as yours are but are about
a year older). As far as commuting to the city, my husband
takes the bus from about a block away. It is an express bus
and he is at his desk 35 minutes after walking out the door.
Of course, BART is always an option but the bus is generally
faster for him given the location of his office. The commute
is a huge benefit to being here. Also, the weather is not
nearly as hot as the cities further east.
you are describing berkeley and oakland. consider these
neighborhoods: rockridge (upper and lower), montclair, crocker
highlands, berkeley hills, elmwood, and north berkeley.
a happy oakland resident
We've been really happy in Albany, and it has all the things
you're looking for:
1) A small-town atmosphere with lots of families, walkable
neighborhoods and easy access to natural groceries &
2) Several nice local parks, quick access to large parks like
Tilden, easy access to a bayside beach and a quick hop
across the bay to Marin County and Point Reyes
3) A great school system with motivated kids, good teachers
and lots of parent involvement
4) Walking (or easy biking) access to BART
Yes, it's expensive. And the school budgets are getting
slashed, just like most in California. But it works pretty well
for us. Good luck!
Since you are from Hawaii, you should be aware that the Berkeley
area, basically from North Oakland to north berkeley/albany/so.
el cerrito gets A LOT of fog in the summer. I live in No.
Berkeley. Our nicest time of year is the spring. Lots of blue
sky. From June through August there is a lot of fog. Some
times it's just in the morning, some times it lasts all day.
Because this area is located directly across from the ''open''
area spanned by the Golden gate bridge, the coastal fog rolls
through, across the bay in a tube, and sits nestled in the
Berkeley hills. I love sun and still love this area despite
this, but it CAN be a drag on summer days that are warm
everywhere but here. The good thing is that even when we have
hot days, eventually the fog rolls in and cools things off just
aorund the time you are tired of the heat.
For summer hot weather, you'd need to live ''through the tunnel''
in Orinda, Concord, Walnut Creak, Pleasonton area.
For this side of the tunnel, the best public schools are found
in Piedmont. You trade good schools (v. Berkeley) for a fairly
Berkeley has tons of diversity, poor/mediocre public schools,
great access to the outdoors (literally out your door, if you
live high in the hills, adjacent to Tilden Park), tons of arts
and restuarants...in fact, Berkeley is all about food, whether
its the abundance of fresh everything at the markets or tons of
choices for excellent dining out. Lots of theaters, movies, art
shows, music. This is why we live here.
There is good access to Rockridge Bart station in North
Oakland/Rockridge area, or at North Berkeley Bart, central
Berkeley BART or even El Cerrito Bart.
Berkeley distinguishes itself from other areas nearbye in that
most of the houses are old and have a lot of architectural
charm, and the neighborhoods have lots of trees.
There are tons of excellent private schools to choose from.
Let me know if you have any specific questions.
Alameda is a wonderful place to live! flat, so biking/stroller
stuff is easy. easy bus ride to the city, 35-40 min. schools
pretty good i think (we homeschool). lots of scouts, soccer,
little league, churches, etc. trader joe's and a new
marketplace (organic stuff, fish, bakery, niman ranch meat) in
town. quick to get just about anywhere in the bay area from
here. good luck!
I currently live in Oakland, but if I had my choice (maybe in a
couple of years) I would live in Orinda. It is exactly what you
described in your message, and it is west of Walnut creek.
Orinda also has a BART station so commuting to SF is a breeze.
Actually, most towns around Walnut Creek are pretty nice, but I
have heard that Walnut Creek schools are not as nice as they used
to be. You could look at Lafayette and Pleasant Hill, both
between Orinda and Walnut Creek. Other towns out that direction
will just put you even farther from SF. Best advice though is
come take a look, and maybe rent for a year before putting down
roots. The real estate prices will really make you gasp.
Also, be sure to find directions and drive by Orinda Public
Library. It is huge and new, beautifully set next to new
community center and very large playground/public tennis courts.
I have three kids (3yr, 6yr, 11 yr.) and we will go spend 3
hours or so doing various activities around the library & playground.
You didn't mention whether you would be buying or renting a home
when you arrive, but either way you can get a good sense of the
cost of housing in the various East Bay cities by going to
www.realtyadvocates.com. Just click on Home Search (East Bay),
then select the different cities you are looking at, and conduct
a search with broad parameters (2+ bedrooms, 200,000-800,000
dollars...). This will give you a pretty good sense of how much
most homes are going for in that area.
Most of your desires can be met in most of the communities in
the Berkeley-Oakland area. As far as schools go, some districts
are better than others, but California's budget is in a shambles
and our schools are taking the brunt of the blow. All the
districts, even the ''good'' ones, are scrambling to maintain
decent class size and enrichment programs in the coming years.
Good luck to you,
I took an interest in your request b/c I too am from Hawaii
(Honolulu), and I understand what your leaving behind to move to
the Bay Area.
My husband also commutes to the city on BART and we've lived in
different East Bay neighborhoods over the past 10+ years. I've
found the following to be really nice, kid friendly, good parks,
easy commute to city etc.: Piedmont, Rockridge(Oakland), Elmwood
(Berkeley), West Brae neighborhood near the N Berkeley BART
station/Monteray Mkt all to be great. Living on the
Berkeley/Oakland side of the East Bay puts you within easy
access of great restaurants, food shopping at farmer's markets,
Berkeley Bowl/Monteray Mkt, museums both in the East Bay and the
City and close to the neighborhood parks and regional parks
I've also heard that living in Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga can
be very nice too! So many choices, good luck!
We live in and really like Castro Valley. It's family friendly,
there are community groups, I hear (my child is only 2 1/2) that
the schools are good, it's small-ish but with all the
essentials, well situated for either a BART or car commute to
SF, also well situated for access to other cities such as
Hayward/Union City, Oakland and Dublin/Pleasanton (I work in
Oakland and my husband works in Dublin). Lake Chabot, which has
hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicing and fishing, is just
minutes from downtown. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any
questions I might be able to answer. We're also relocating this
coming June, but it has nothing to do with Castro Valley!
I have been looking into buying a house in the east bay (mainly
oakland). And unless you are willing to pay exta ordinarily
expensive prices for your home I would NOT look in piedmont,
rockridge (oakland), and most places through the tunnell
(orinda, lafayette). Although I'm sure these are great places
to live they come with great big price tags, and are somewhat
Although berkeley is a great place to live, my only complaint
is that many parts of it are a pain to get out of, because
there is only one freeway 80, and it is often congested. (also
the property taxes are more than oakland). But still there are
MANY nice neighborhoods in berkeley, & some good schools, and
lots of parks/family oriented stuff. But I do not know berkeley
as well as oakland.
Some neighborhoods in oakland that have good schools, and nice
family neighborhoods are: oakmore, montclair, trestle glen, &
crocker highlands, to name a few.
If you are interested in getting a general idea of the
price/location of homes check out
Oakland school district finder
For school ratings (bear in mind that it is always best to get
opinions of parents/and even better teachers on how a school
is, also this does not list the correct school districts in
oakland, that is why you have to use the other school finder)
some general info on oakland
Also besides this site (impressive you found it!)For local
Also, Alameda has really started to grow on me. It is has a
small town feel, but is close to oakland/berkeley, and not to
hard to get to san francisco. I love the old victorians (it is
also slightly less expensive than oakland & berkeley). Also
though coming from hawaii it will surley be a huge
dissapointment, there is a beach there (with a nice view of
S.F.- Hey you can't get that in Hawaii). But some of it is land
fill, and Bay farm (part of alameda) which has great schools I
believe is all Landfill, and it has a gated community feel
which I personally do not like (and it's farther out).
Hope this helps, the bay area is a great place to live, it's
just everyone seems to want to live here, so housing is out of
control, and so is traffic during commute hours. But once you
adjust to the few negatives you will fall in love with the
diversity,& open mindedness of the residents, and the beauty of
the surrounding reginal parks.
signed: an oakland resident for 13 years
I was just reading the last set of recommendations and was taken
aback by the description of Berkeley for the family from Hawaii
seeking a nice neighborhood in the East Bay. ''Berkeley has tons
of diversity, poor/mediocre public schools..'' There it is,
casually tossed out as if a given, ''poor/mediocre public
schools.'' Excuse me? Says who? I have had four children in the
Berkeley Public Schools. Currently my oldest is teaching at
Berkeley High School and my youngest is a sophomore there. My
children attended Cragmont, Columbus (now Rosa Parks), Franklin,
King and the high school. They had wonderful teachers. They
learned to read and write, to help others and enjoy life. They
went on field trips to Chinatown, Alcatraz, Ano Nuevo, Pt.
Reyes, and Monterey. They had chicks in the classroom, visits
from the Bat lady, music lessons in the fourth grade. They
worked on the Award-Winning Berkeley High Jacket, played
lacrosse, field hockey, water polo. They took AP Chemistry, AP
Biology, French, Latin, and Calculus BC (not offered at many
schools.) The three that graduated went on to Ivy League
schools. But the best part is they made wonderful friends--kids
who were resilient, caring, and thoughtful. And I have been
lucky enough to make friends with their parents--people who work
hard at supporting public education in their community.
It is NOT a given that the Berkeley schools are either poor or
I second the recommendation that Castro Valley is a nice place
to live. I've lived in the Bay Area all my life, and as an
adult bought my 1st and 2nd house in Castro Valley. CV is a
smaller community and has a small town feel which is something I
like. I understand public schools here are excellent. (Our CV
renter tells us the CV public schools aren't affected by the
budget cuts as much as other schools because CV is considered a
Distinguished school. Someone correct me if this is wrong).
Also, I've been told there is afterschool daycare/activities at
the CV schools. There is a BART station in CV, and also close
by in San Leandro where parking isn't a problem until about 9am
(?). There are many hiking + bike trails and parks, such as at
Lake Chabot. Horse stables are nearby too, and campsites at Lake
Chabot. CV is centrally located to the freeways. If you are
considering buying a house, you get more for your money in CV
than say Albany or Berkeley. Same with renting. Feel free to
email me if you have questions. hana
We are going to move soon and would love to find housing in a
neighborhood that has other small children and is community-
oriented. We would comsider cohousing but we can't afford that
right now as we are renters. The next best thing would be to
live in a neighborhood where people know each other and there
are other small children. These days it seems that most
neighborhoods are somewhat anonymous, but I have heard that
there are some special ones out there that have a communal
atmostphere. I haven't lived in one myself, though.
We could go almost anywhere in the East Bay, if we found the
right place (we live in Oakland right now and my husband works
in Concord). If you know of or live in such a neighborhood,
could you drop me a line or post a response to let me know about
it? You don't have to know of any rentals available there. I am
just wanting to find out where such neighborhoods might be in
order to guide our search for housing and to give me hope for
the future. (When I say neighborhood, by the way, I mean a small
area within a town. Towns can vary a lot depending on what block
you live on, in my experience.)
We have been living in the Glenview area of Oakland for 3 years
now and really love it. There are lots of small children around
us for our 3-year old daughter to play with, and for the first
time in my life, I can say that I know and am friendly with all
my immediate neighbors. There is a very strong sense of
community in Glenview.
Within walking distance, we have a great park(Dimond) with
activities for kids and a pool, as well as a small commerce area
(Park Blvd.) which has a neighborhood market, a cafe, and couple
of restaurants. I sometimes see rentals available in the
neighborhood. For more info on the area, you can check out the
Glenview Neighborhood's Association website at
You can't beat Albany for what you're looking for -- the good
schools mean there are a lot of families with kids here. Our
neighborhood (the area behind the Mallard bar) is full of kids.
On our block there are 11 kids on our side of the street, and 6
on the other. Granted there are neighbors I've never met, but
those with kids all know each other, our kids play together,
when someone needs a hand we take care of each others kids, and
when I'm short an egg when baking a cake I can always run over
to my neighbor. When we were interested in buying our house we
talked to the neighbors and asked about the ages of kids in the
neighborhood, and we drove by at different times of day and saw
all the kids in the area. Good luck in your search.
Hi, We live in the San Pablo Park area of Berkeley on Carleton
Street (the 1200 block). We find the neighborhood to be very kid
friendly and in the 3 years that we have lived here we have
gotten to know pretty much all the families with kids around the
ages of ours (2 and 4). The neighborhood is no paradise mind
you, but it has a lot of very nice qualities. There is a very
nice and active park near by (San Pablo Park). The area is
pretty diverse ethnically (primarily a mix of African-American
and Caucasion families). And it is very centrally located
(perhaps too much so) close to freeways and major streets. There
are a number of rentals in the area, though our street (which I
am most familiar with) is mostly owner occupied. One more note,
neighborhoods in this area are really different, street by
street, so check them out pretty thoroughly.
Hi. In response to your message about finding a friendly
neighborhood with children - we live near Poinsette Park, off
Barnett in El Cerrito. Our block on Mono Ave. in particular is
very close knit - most of the neighbors know each other and we
have holiday parties (Halloween, Christmas, and progressive
dinner parties). It's a true gift. I've never lived anywhere
like it, and it easily is one of the best things about our home
(which we love). There are several families with small children
on our block, and I see lots of children when I drive through
the neighborhood, and when we go to Poinsett Park (on Poinsette
St. or Dr. - up the hill from Home Depot and the San Pablo
Safeway). Hope you find something comparable. Best wishes.
We recently moved to Alameda, because we wanted to be in a
neighborhood that's good for raising children. In our
neighborhood at the East End of Alameda, there are lots and lots
of children, friendly families who all know one another, quiet
pretty streets with kids playing on the sidewalks, lots of kid
activities and parks, relatively less crime than most other
parts of the bay area, good public schools, several nearby at-
home daycare places that are less expensive than those in
Berkeley or Oakland, good preschools nearby. It's a nice place
to be raising our children, and is very convenient to many other
parts of the Bay Area (10-20 minutes to many parts of Oakland or
Berkeley; not too bad a commute to San Francisco or other places
east or south of here). There are lots of rentals as well as
owner-occupied houses, and when I was looking for a house I
found prices for both to be somewhat less than in Berkeley,
Albany, or Oakland. I think most of Alameda is very family
oriented. It feels like a small town hidden in the Bay Area.
My sister lives in the Glenview area of Oakland and her street
(Randolph Ave) is very neighborhoody - in fact, I take my son
over there almost every weekend as he has so much fun with all
the kids playing outside. I have noticed this on some other
blocks in the area, so you might want to check it out.
We are looking to move to a family friendly, safe and especially
multiracial neighborhood somewhere between Alameda and San
Leandro. Can anyone recommend such an area? Thanks a lot.
We live in the Redwood Heights area of Oakland (technically, we're
actually Leona Heights). We have a really diverse neighborhood --
not only multiracial but queer-friendly too. Lots of families and
kids and a good elementary school. For me, our neighborhood
represents the best Oakland has to offer: diversity, good weather,
and a family-friendly feeling.
You didn't say whether you were looking to rent or buy, but I
think there are a few rentals in our neighborhood, although most
houses are owner-occupied.
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