Considering moving to El Cerrito

Hello, 

I'm considering moving to El Cerrito from North Berkeley and would like some advice. I love Berkeley, but with an expensive rental market here and a toddler who needs more space, I started looking elsewhere. I was surprised to find a great rental in El Cerrito near Huber Park. Before I sign the lease, I have a few questions:

*I've read that wildfires are a threat in El Cerrito because of the proximity to Wildcat Canyon. What level of threat do you feel? How do you feel about the current evacuation plan in place in your city? 

*What is the wildlife situation like in the El Cerrito hills? The rental I'm considering has lots of fruit trees in the yard - which seem amazing! - but I'm worried that will be a draw for all kinds of animals.  

*My husband is currently working from home but will eventually go back to working in SF. How is the commute to SF from the El Cerrito hills?

Thanks very much for your help! 

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I live near Huber Park and love the area. It's great for kids! I am closer to the open space that's on Moeser Ln so I do worry about smaller fires there but not coming down from Wildcat Canyon. You will regularly see turkeys, deer, and occassionally a coyote, but my kids think this is awesome and I think adds to the appeal of the area. Huber Park is not far from El Cerrito Plaza BART station which had pretty good parking if you got there by 830am. If he plans to drive, I assume traffic will be less than before but typically takes about 45 min to 1 hour during peak traffic. Casual carpool in N Berkeley or El Cerrito near 99 Ranch Market is another option (although in COVID era, may be less ideal). I love El Cerrito for young kids (abundance of parks, local community center) and the feeling of a little more space and busy-ness but still with proximity to Berkeley/Oakland/SF. 

We live near Huber Park in the El Cerrito hills. It is a great neighborhood. I do not feel a high level threat from wildfires. We have participated in city CERT (emergency response) programs, we know our neighbors, the streets are wide so fire engines can get up hill easily and we can descend. There is a lot of wildlife around here. Mostly deer and turkeys that visit all of our streets and yards.  It all is part of the charm of the area, and we all use a lot of fencing around our gardens. We do not experience any threat from the wildlife. BART and Transbay buses are easy commutes into the City [pandemic aside]. The traffic on 80 is (was?) bad, impacting a driving commute. But all said, it is not so different than commuting from North Berkeley, and from here you can traverse EC/Kensington/Albany on city streets pretty quickly to gain access to 80 from a Berkeley on ramp. We moved here from N Berk 15 years ago for more house/more yard. 

We have lived in El Cerrito near the high school for 6 years and have a 2 year old. 

Wildfires: I don't worry about them in the lower parts of the hills. Huber Park area isn't that high up in the hills- seems like you could evacuate very quickly and that there would be multiple routes to leave. Last year at least, Colusa delineated the high risk wildfire zone, so if you're on or below Colusa you don't generally have your power shut off in PG&E power shut offs and you're not considered high risk. By Huber Park you probably will be and will have your power shut off those days- probably similar to where you are in the hills now in Berkeley.

Wildlife: lots of deer and gophers and some raccoons and skunks. Neighbors who have fruit trees and grow food have to work hard to protect it. Was just at a house in Del Norte though with massive gardens and no deer. So, can really depend on the yard and location. Deer generally can't access our yard due to fencing. There have been coyote sightings recently on NextDoor by the high school.

Commute: El Cerrito Plaza BART is great and parking fills up a lot later than the North Berkeley station. Maybe because people park at the Plaza shopping center to avoid paying and less people use it. EC Del Norte seems busier/less sleepy- I'm happy to be close to Plaza. It's a quick 27 min. trip into SF once on BART. They're considering building on all the parking lots though, similar to North Berkeley and eliminating BART parking. I think there's an AC transit bus into the City up the hill as well, but check the website, as they're getting rid of some of the buses as a result of the pandemic. Have heard the casual carpool stop in El Cerrito is also good. This is all pre-pandemic, of course.