Where are the sidewalks & playgrounds in Lamorinda?

We are considering a move to Lamorinda from our current home in the Oakland hills. Desire for more space and better schools are the motivating factors.

One thing that has surprised us when we drive around the various neighborhoods is that there are very few side walks and the roads are quite tight. It does not seem like a place that would allow for walking around with small children. Yet we continue to hear how family friendly these neighborhoods are, and that in many areas, kids walk to school. For example, I have heard that in Happy Valley, kids walk to elementary school. I just don't see how because the roads don't have sidewalks. Also, are there playgrounds/parks in the area? Where do kids congregate on weekends? 

Maybe I am seeking something that isn't there - but would love perspective from those with young families in Lamorinda.

Thank you!

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We moved from Oakland to Pleasant Hill when our youngest, who is now in college, was 2. A few blocks from Strandwood elementary school. The streets are nice and wide and flat and very walkable. Large flat backyards. Kids walk to school, the park, downtown and other places. Lamorinda was out of our price range and I’m glad we didn’t move there in retrospect, as Pleasant Hill is more diverse and more down to earth. 

It really depends on where you're looking. Orinda north of hwy 24 is hillier, like Montclair, but the Ivy Drive area of Orinda is more traditionally suburban, with kids walking to school elementary through high school. Lafayette is similar. Burton Valley might have more what you're looking for, and certainly the area closer to downtown will, too. Much of Moraga has either sidewalks or streets wide enough to walk and ride bikes.

Hello! Happy Valley parent here. This is going to be very neighborhood-by-neighborhood and street-by-street specific, but for Happy Valley specifically a lot of the neighborhood is situated along kind of a loop that is made up of Upper Happy Valley Rd. and Happy Valley Rd., which the elementary school sits in the middle of. There is a sidewalk/path all along both of those roads (on one side only) that is frequented by adult walkers and school walkers alike. There are more houses than meets the eye that are either directly on this path, or on random offshoots of these streets that allow for easy access to the main path to walk to school. And while you are right many of these side streets do not have sidewalks, a lot of them are “private” or otherwise not busy roads so I think parents feel comfortable letting their kids walk the short distances on them to connect to the main path. Of course, there are many kids not walkable to the school (for example, if you are very high up in the hills), and many kids that are walkable but still get driven, so I don’t mean to imply it is a walker’s haven for all, but to answer your question there is the one path at least.

Truthfully I was a little surprised by how few playgrounds there are around us. Most people here play at the elementary school’s playground, and for your best chance of finding other neighborhood parents to congregate with that would probably be your best bet. There is also the playground up at the Reservoir. Beyond that, we rotate amongst other playgrounds in Moraga and Walnut Creek although of course we are less likely to randomly run into with neighborhood families there which I think is the crux of your question. With sports/activities/and birthday parties, that is kind of where our weekend congregation happens. 

Good luck!

We moved to Walnut Creek (Saranap/Parkmead area) last year from Berkeley to get more space too. We have more space as my elementary kids now can have their own bedrooms, and walk to school, but most of the people drive their kids. It's a really unpleasant walk- only half of a mile, but a good chunk of the walk has no sidewalk. There is heavy traffic, so we walk single file in some spots. People are often parked halfway on the lawn and half on the road, so we have to walk further into the road to get to school. I sometimes drive the kids to school, but it takes longer to drive than walk. We do love having more space, and especially more than one bathroom. We would have preferred to stay in Berkeley/Albany, but the cost of a bigger house was way too much there. There aren't any parks/playgrounds in our new neighborhood, but the school playground is open on weekends, and we play there. Like most of the people with kids in this neighborhood, we have a pool membership too.

I'm sure it's because of the pandemic, but we haven't found the neighbors overly friendly and haven't made any friends here yet. Everyone seems polite, but we haven't gotten together with neighbors for dinner or beers has we have in our other neighborhood whenever someone would move in. Unlike our old neighborhood, we drive most places- the store, the library, kids lessons. I love our house, and we have a big yard for the kids to play in- but it feels a bit like living on an island, because there are no pedestrians walking by, no one coming over other than the amazon truck. If we want to go anywhere we get in the car and go.

Also depending on where you want to live, there is highway noise from Highway 24 or possibly 680. We looked at houses all over Lamorinda and Walnut Creek. Many of the Lafayette and Orinda houses had noise from 24, so I'd recommend visiting the neighborhoods during different times of the weekdays. When we saw some houses on weekends it fairly quiet, but then after work showings, it was constant hum of 24 rush hour evening traffic. With the difference in temperature from Berkeley (many 90 & 100 degree days last summer) it didn't matter that it was so loud on the road, because we had the windows closed and air conditioning on, but in the spring and fall, it's loud.

We love the schools here, I can't say enough about the excellent schools, but I still miss my old neighborhood and neighbors.

The lack of sidewalks is frustrating and I have seen parents complain about it in local FB groups. But I would say sidewalks and walkability are not the only things that make neighborhoods family friendly.  There are lots of different classes and activities for kids as well as community events. Our neighbors here have been super kind, picking up our mail and watering our plants for free when we are out of town. Don't be surprised if you get cards or gifts to welcome you to your neighborhood. The local Facebook groups provide ways to share toys (Buy Nothing) and support families in other ways. 

If sidewalks are important to you, there are some neighborhoods with them (varies by street), like Burton Valley - which is well known for it's community / family vibes - it has sidewalks and the elementary school has multiple playgrounds. Campolindo, part of Moraga, and Orindawoods also have some sidewalks. In our neighborhood, we have hills and no sidewalks but people are always walking their dogs and pushing strollers - it's expected so people who live here drive carefully (can't say the same for food and delivery drivers).

The playgrounds in the area I am aware of include Orinda Community park, one up the street off Wild Plum Way, Wilder playground (in Wilder development), Dalewood Park in Sundown Terrace neighborhood, Lafayette Community Center, Moraga Commons, Rancho Moraga, Reservoir playground, and then the ones at elementary schools. Part of Tilden Park is also technically in Orinda, we love the little farm and playground. We also love and frequent Moraga Commons, we also drive to Walnut Creek for Heather Farms. Depending on where you live in Lamorinda you could be close the parks in Danville / San Ramon area as well. And there are multiple country clubs and swim clubs, etc. here that people join. 

Also, with more space it is easier to host friends at home!  

- Mom who moved here 2 years ago from small SF apartment 

I do know that in Lafayette, they've hired a company to examine this problem and look for ways to make the city more walkable..so you're not the only one to notice, and likely things will change over time.

Thank you for asking this question! We are considering a similar move and have the exact same questions. Streets are often narrow, with no sidewalks, and seem potentially unsafe for all walkers, not just (but especially) kids. How do Lamorinda families navigate this?

We moved to Lamorinda a year ago from SF. We live in the Wilder development in Orinda which is a bit different because the roads are a little wider and more spacious. I do agree that many areas of Orinda and Lafayette have narrow roads and no sidewalks. But I think it depends on each individual neighborhood within Lamorinda. If you are considering, I would start going to a bunch of open houses within Lamorinda to try and see which specific area you like. For instance, I know Happy Valley and Burton Valley are popular in Lafayette, but I think the best thing to do is start going to these neighborhoods so you can narrow down your search.

I do agree that Lamorinda is very very family friendly. We have three young kids and we love it in Wilder. We use the playground a fair amount there but also the sports fields. I am not sure where all the kids congregate but I will say that sports is a big thing here in Lamorinda and our kids actually end up doing a lot of soccer/swimming on the weekends with other kids their age. Between sports, school or neighborhood birthday parties, that is pretty much what most kids are doing every weekend I would imagine.

I will put in my two cents about our community Wilder, we love it, but there is not much inventory. I think some houses go on sale every so often. But overall I think you cannot go wrong with Lamorinda and you will enjoy it!