Considering Walnut Creek

Hello BPN,

We have two young elementary kids and have lived in El Cerrito since before they were born. However, we are outgrowing our small home, and looking at other East Bay communities that have both larger homes and better schools. I've heard many people say Walnut Creek is a great place for kids and families, but I don't know any one who lives there. I like the larger homes, and we'd want to be not too far from BART, as someday we will be going back to our offices. The main hesitation I have is that El Cerrito is very walkable, and (pre-pandemic) we would walk to school, BART, library, restaurants, parks, swim lessons and it was easy. We'd often chat with our neighbors on the street. I've been browsing Walnut Creek neighborhoods online, and there seem to be few sidewalks in the neighborhoods and the walk-scores of the neighborhoods are low. Do you just drive everywhere? Are there particular neighborhoods where people do walk more? Is there a culture of all the neighborhood kids walking to school together? Could you tell me if you love your school? Or are there other neighborhoods/communities we should be considering with excellent public schools that are served by BART (or another easy way to get to the city)? We'd like a 4 bedroom home for $1.2M, so unfortunately Orinda, Moraga, and Albany are out.

Thank you!

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RE: Considering Walnut Creek ()

Hi! As as a current Walnut Creek resident with 2 young kids, here are my thoughts. 
1- It’s the suburbs so you will definitely use your car more. But at least parking is plentiful and free for the most part, so it’s not like other more urban areas where finding a spot can be stressful. 

2- Walnut Creek is really large and divided into 2 school districts, Acalanes and Mt Diablo. The latter is not as well funded and the homes are priced accordingly. Definitely do your research as which district the home falls in if you have a preference.  

3- Some neighborhoods are more adept for walking to school in groups; perhaps others can opine on the specifics but my neighborhood is not very walkable. I also think knowing your neighbors is a big plus out here as we know almost all of ours. 

We used to live in Oakland and while I miss the weather, I really enjoy Walnut Creek now. 

RE: Considering Walnut Creek ()

Hi - while I don't live in Walnut Creek, I am familiar enough to answer your questions.  We ended up in Lafayette and all of the items you mention (walkability to/from school, BART, downtown, trails, the library) we enjoy living near downtown. Depending on where you live in Walnut Creek, you may be within walking distance to one or two schools or possibly downtown or BART- maybe not all three, though.  Despite what you hear from grumpy folks on NextDoor or elsewhere, parking is not horrendous and the public garages are reasonably priced.  Granted, I am a San Francisco native so in comparison, it feels free to me.  Going to Broadway Plaza on a weekend (during non-pandemic times) will be chaotic but that's to be expected from a desirable shopping area.  Same for Target.

As a previous responder pointed out,  Walnut Creek is divided into various school districts.  The unincorporated Saranap part of WC (most of the pocket west of 680/south of 24) belongs to the Lafayette School district for K-8 and the Acalanes High School district (4 schools: Las Lomas in WC, Acalanes (Lafayette), Campolindo (Moraga) and Miramonte (Orinda).  There is a Walnut Creek school district for K-8 and I think it covers a wide swath of the city (some parts north of 24/west of 680, south of downtown and some pockets north of there too.  You would be wise to look at a boundary map and confirm. All of these kids move onto Las Lomas if they remain in public school.  Lastly, the Mt. Diablo Unified School districts covers northwest/east parts of Walnut Creek that are close to Pleasant Hill and Concord.  I'm less certain of how the boundaries are drawn and though I've heard good things about Northgate HS, it is true that this district is not well funded and most of the time can't muster the 2/3 vote needed to pass a bond or parcel tax.  Aside from schools,  if you need to take BART to work,  the new parking structure is pricier than before so if one or both of you need to commute - you'll want to take that into consideration.  Then again, we're still in a shelter in place dynamic but it's wise to take this into consideration as who can really predict what employers will expect from workers in the future. 

Good luck to you.

RE: Considering Walnut Creek ()

Pleasant Hill might be a great option for you to consider.  Good schools, friendly people.  Some of the older homes in the flat areas are very walkable and I see plenty of kids walking to school.  We live in a newer area up the hill on the west side of town...the homes there are larger and newer, but we get in the car constantly...

We used to live in the Parkmead area of Walnut Creek, which is a really nice area too.  The homes on that side of town are older, and the elementary schools are part of the Walnut Creek school district. It’s a very small district, well funded, with lots of parent involvement.  We were easily able to walk or bike to downtown Walnut Creek from our home...

RE: Considering Walnut Creek ()

My perception is that Walnut Creek is super homogeneous and fairly conservative.

RE: Considering Walnut Creek ()

We just moved from Oakland to Walnut Creek this year for more space and better public schools (2 elementary school aged kids). Our neighborhood schools are walnut acres elementary, foothill middle, and north gate high, very walkable if you live in the vicinity.  We are 5 minute walk to a small shopping mall, Heather Farm Park, and 5 minute drive to 2 Safeways, Trader Joes, and Whole foods. We drive when running errands but there are so many trails and green space for outdoor activities. Our new neighbors dropped off welcome gifts when we moved in. I have to say, after living in SF and Oakland for most of my life, the suburb has been a nice change. I have not been in love with our highly rated neighborhood school but it's partly due to starting distance learning during a pandemic. 

RE: Considering Walnut Creek ()

I live in Walnut Creek. Depending on where you live, you can walk to downtown, or one of the shopping plazas if you live nearby, but driving is the norm. There does seem to be a lack of sidewalks in some of the older neighborhoods closer to downtown and on the southern end of WC, but there are plenty of sidewalks in areas like Northgate. There are four school districts that Walnut Creek feeds into, but the two main ones are the Walnut Creek school district and Mt. Diablo. I've found that there are some people who will clutch their pearls and advise you to avoid MDUSD, but Walnut Acres, Bancroft, Valley Verde, Foothill, and Northgate are all great schools with very involved parents. I like that Foothill MS and Northgate are tucked away in lovely residential neighborhoods - in contrast, Walnut Creek Intermediate and Las Lomas are located near very busy downtown intersections (which I suppose is more convenient if you need to take WC BART). For what it's worth, Foothill has consistently been rated a 9 on Great Schools for the last few years, while WCI is currently a 7. But I've heard numerous times that regardless of district, you can't go wrong with any of the public schools in Walnut Creek.

As for the poster who wrote "My perception is that Walnut Creek is super homogeneous and fairly conservative." - well, as someone who lives here, I can say that your perception does not reflect reality. I moved to WC from San Francisco and have been very pleasantly surprised by how liberal and diverse it is (much more so than some of the more affluent surrounding towns). Downtown WC has had its own popular and very well-attended Woman's March for the last four years, and has been the site of numerous other protests. Check out our voting stats. Drive through our neighborhoods and you'll see many yard signs in support of Miles Hall (Google him). Your comment just shows that you probably don't spend much time here or know many people who live here.

RE: Considering Walnut Creek ()

I’d pick Lamorinda for schools. I’d avoid Walnut Creek since it has a narco problem, lots of republicans, and snotty LA-types. I’ve lived near Northgate for 7 years and the traffic on YVR is horrendous. The schools aren’t nearly as good as Lafayette- but housing is now more expensive.