Buying a home in Richmond/ surrounding areas

Hi BPN families!

My husband and I are desperately trying to buy a home for our small family. We have a 1 year old and plan to have a second child in a year or so. My husband works in San Francisco and I work in San Rafael. I am so distraught over housing prices and I'm just not sure what to do. We have essentially ruled out the North Bay due to cost. We are stuck in terms of commute with both our jobs. Currently we live near Lake Merritt and my commute is already over an hour so I'm not looking to move farther down the 580 if I can avoid it. We could probably afford a home for $600k if we really stretch.

We obviously want a safe neighborhood where we can take the kids for a stroll in the evening. Currently even in our nice neighborhood in Oakland I don't feel safe doing so, people get mugged all the time here. Good schools are a plus but this seems impossible.

We can afford something in Richmond but I don't know much about the city at all! I've been told the North/East Neighborhood is up and coming, but is it safe? How are the schools?

We can definitely afford Pinole, but I'm so worried about the commute. Does anyone here commute from Pinole to either the North Bay or SF? 

I'm freaking out! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

Parent Replies

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In normal times, I think Marina Bay area of Richmond might be *ok* for your commutes, if your husband could take the Richmond Ferry and you could go to San Rafael at slightly off hours to avoid the worst of the commute traffic on 580/Richmond Bridge. But in these times, I'd sit tight for a couple months, until the shelter in place lifts, then look for nice rental housing in either San Rafael or San Francisco, if that's where you both still have jobs. With kids, you don't want to both be across a bridge if one of them needs you during the day, IMHO.

You might try looking in the Richmond Annex. It tends to be more affordable than El Cerrito, but still safe and family-oriented. East Richmond Heights is also a good area to look, although it's a little further from 580 than the Richmond Annex. Marina Bay area of Richmond would also be close to 580 for your San Rafael commute and if your husband is able to take the ferry to SF, that might work too. You're right off the Bay Trail there for scenic walks and bike rides.

In terms of schools, a lesser known option for WCCUSD is the West County Mandarin School. It is located in East Richmond Heights and is open to anyone that lives in the District (El Cerrito/Kensington to Hercules). It's currently K-2, but will grow by one grade each year to become a K-8 school. 50% of the seats are held for low-income families, English language learners, and foster youth. It's extremely diverse (not all heritage Chinese families) both ethnically and socio-economically. You don't need to know any Mandarin when you start in Kindergarten. Our family doesn't speak any Mandarin, and now my 2nd grader is bilingual - speaking, reading, and writing in both English and Mandarin. We love this school - the school community is supportive and lovely, the academics are strong, and we feel like we have a 2nd family there. Also, Skytown Preschool is a cooperative preschool that recently relocated to East Richmond Heights. This is such a sweet, loving community of parents and teachers that allow toddlers and preschoolers to truly find themselves and be kids. They've been around for over 50 years for a reason. I think you'll find that Richmond has a lot to offer!

I moved to the North and East about 5 years ago. I find that it's very safe here, neighbors know one another and are friendly. There's definitely been an uptick in remodels and young families moving in. The local elementary school is undergoing a ground-up construction, expanding and modernizing the school. El Cerrito del Norte BART station is very close. I have had many more opportunities to walk through the whole neighborhood lately, and if I were younger with small kids I'd choose this area. The only downside is that there are very few restaurants nearby, and only one good coffee spot.

I commute from Pinole/Hercules area to Marin. The morning commute is tricky but it is also tricky from Richmond because the problem (as you probably know since you are doing this from Oakland) is the bridge. I have been able with my schedule to leave between 5-530am and then the commute is a breeze. I take the Richmond Parkway and not 80 most days.I used to commute from Oakland to Marin and the Pinole commute is easier than that since you don’t also have to drive home on 80.

The afternoon commute, at least when I leave has been fine since they put another lane on the bridge, however the Richmond Parkway does get backed up at around 4pm- I’m lucky I can arrive early and leave early from my job. With the hours I arrive and leave it takes me 25-30 in the morning and 45 in the afternoon (I’m able to leave around 315 from Marin). If I leave at 4 it takes me about an hour from Marin.

It has been worth it for us because we have bought a lovely home in a wonderful community. I can’t speak to the SF commute though. There is a transbay  bus that leaves from Hercules and also a shuttle to El Cerrito BART that many people take.

With $600k budget, North East Richmond will most likely be where you can get a house. You can look on crime map to get an idea for safety, it's generally pretty quiet residential neighborhood with working class families. Check out Great School dot com for Richmond public school ratings and see if they are acceptable to you. I don't have personal experience with the schools but with a very large immigrant population who are English as Second Language learners, the school scores are generally low. You might be able to find something in Richmond Annex which feed into El Cerrito schools that are rated higher than Richmond schools. I like what the other commenter suggested about renting in San Rafael so at least one of you have a shorter commute in case the kids need you during the day. But San Rafael public schools are only marginally better unless you live in the higher price neighborhoods. 


I have lived in the N&E neighborhood of Richmond for over 10 years and love it here! The N&E is a friendly, safe and diverse neighborhood. The people in the N&E who I've met are a really nice bunch and look out for each other. Closer in, we have some great neighbors on our block as well! My kids (K & 4th) attend the neighborhood school Wilson (just renamed Michelle Obama elementary) have been very happy there. It is currently being rebuilt and this upcoming fall we will have a beautiful new campus! The principal Ms Velez if fantastic and very responsive and the teachers are warm and caring. It is a great community of staff who have been there a long time and really nice kids & parents as well. Houses in the N&E are going for around 500k here on average. I can't speak for the commute, but I know a lot of people enjoy the new ferry terminal at point Richmond. Feel free to reach out directly if I can give you more advice. :-)