AA family looking to move to Berkeley for cultural diversity


My husband and I are an affluent African-american couple (Pharmacist and Googler) who currently own a home in the peninsula. We have a 1 and 2 year old toddler and do not wish to raise them here in the peninsula due to the lack of other affluent African- Americans in our community (and along the peninsula overall). We plan on staying here for the next 2 years before Kindergarten. Can anyone recommend any great neighborhoods for purchasing a home near or in Berkeley where my kids can walk to attend great public schools, and have a more diverse experience growing up and us not worry about crime, race, or meeting others like themselves? We are also looking for areas accessible to stores, shopping, and a great social scene if desired.

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Before you make the move, you should research how Berkeley assigns public schools, because this may mean that walking to school is not possible. I know people that are not able to attend the schools closest to them, but love how diverse in a socioeconomic way this makes them. If Oakland is also on your radar, Crocker Highlands is a great neighborhood with a great elementary school, not as diverse as we would like, but still lovely in other ways. There certainly are families of all colors in the same ish tax bracket. Piedmont might also be more inclusive than certain Peninsula cities, but still very white. It is also a very small city, so there is a real sense of neighborly connection there for better or worse. I agree it's not for everyone. People who live there do walk to school and it is very child/family focused.

Parts of South Berkeley are considered "historically" African-American and now have are quite a mixture. However, as the Save Black Berkeley (http://www.saveblackberkeley.org/) movement can surely attest to, many in these communities are selling their homes and leaving. That said, there are definitely upper middle class African Americans in Berkeley neighborhoods from all points west of Sacramento and Alcatraz to University. 

Hi there.  I would recommend El Cerrito and a few neighborhoods in Richmond.  Fairmont and Harding are both good schools and their cachement areas are very walkable and diverse. If you're worried about the test scores you can move to the hills and send your kids to Madera, but it's mostly white and Asian up there, also you'll need to drive.  Richmond Hills families go to Mira Vista, which is a sweet little K-8 school in the hills, incredibly diverse in every way, with a strong parent community.  Depending on where you live your kids can walk there.  They have a good library, computer lab, band and glee club, and teachers from Richmond Art Center. The numbers aren't as good as Madera but families in the district still transfer their kids to MV because it's a good school. My kid has friends from the neighborhood and I feel safe letting them tear around on their bikes together.  I have friends who live up in Hilltop in some of the developments.  There are a lot of professional class AA families there, although I don't think they send their kids to the local school.  If you want more info you could contact Mocha Moms of West Contra Costa.  They're online and a great group.

I'm a white mom in Berkeley.  As noted by a previous poster, BUSD assign schools very differently than other districts.  The city is divided into 3 diagonal zones. You are assigned to a zone based on your address.  Within the zone, you declare a preference of elementary schools.  And 2/3's of families get their 1st or 2nd pick, which means 1/3 gets their 3rd pick or not even!  This does result in a bit of schlepping around town, but the upside is... all of the schools are good, and all of the schools are diverse!  And pretty darned similar.  If you visit some of the schools, they will start to all look alike to you. Middle schools are assigned based on address.  Apart from one "magnet" middle school, although so far I haven't figured out what it's a magnet for?  Technology maybe? There's only one HS, so everybody goes there.  

The affluent African American families that I know mostly live in the hills (a typically somewhat affluent area), although I can think of one family that lives near San Pablo Park (a typically middle class area.)  Of course, you own a house on the peninsula, so you can probably afford to buy or rent a house in Berk, and you know that a middle class house in Berk would buy you a mansion in most of the rest of the country.  

If I had to guess, the most diverse area of Berkeley including affluent and not-so affluent folks of all colors would be around Berkeley Bowl.  But no matter what elementary school you attend, I think you will find a community including some affluent black and brown folks.  I would guess a better sense of community here than on the Peninsula.  School tours are starting soon if you want to come take a look.  Some schools require you to sign up for the tour, but many allow you to just show up.  

ps I would guess Albany is a little whiter in general than Berkeley, and El Cerrito less affluent in general.  Also, you can search for the city of Berkeley crime map.  Crime is predictably centered around commercial streets like University, Shattuck, San Pablo & College, and also near UCB.  A little more in South Berk, a little less in the north.  Probably more than on the peninsula in general.  Hope this helps!