Living in El Sobrante and commuting to the city?
Like most of the previous questions, we’re considering a move to El Sobrante from N. Berkeley. We moved to the Bay Area a little less than 2 years ago from New York and so far love it. We’re a small family of 3, with a 3 year old. We have been looking to stop renting and buy a home for a few months but it’s been a struggle. Albany has great schools but is a very small footprint with high demand and high prices. Pushing north, El Cerrito seemed like a great possibility but so far hasn’t been much better. Kensington is wonderful, but as off limits as Berkeley. Next up is Richmond and, it’s just too close to environmental hazards for our comfort. Overall we’ve been very turned off by the quality of the houses that start at what we consider a doable asking price that then is raised significantly by high offers. El Sobrante has come up a few times, and we’re not too familiar with the area other than it’s proximity to outdoor recreation—which is a high value for us. As is fresh organic food (which we’d love to grow some ourselves), progressive minded people, and a rich fabric of people from diverse backgrounds. Logistically it seems a little tricky: Our daughter is starting preschool in Berkeley soon. My husband works in San Francisco and currently commutes via the Transbay Bus. Any recent thoughts on living in El Sobrante? Any commuters to the city?
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We live next door, in Pinole. Some parts of El Sobrante are really lovely and some parts are downright weird since it is unincorporated. A few years ago when we moved it wasn't unheard of to see someone riding their horse to the local liquor store. Lots of people have big gardens and raise chickens, we know one family there that also has sheep and goats. The neighborhoods near Kennedy Grove are lovely and get a highly regarded elementary school, Olinda. Pinole is close by, and has a Trader Joe's, Sprouts, Peet's, etc. and a bunch of other big chain names. People seem to flow easily between El Sobrante, Pinole, and Hercules. Pinole also has a decent weekly Farmer's Market with at least a few organic vendors. This whole area is very diverse and we've met a lot of progressively minded people here, although we've also met a few older folks who definitely were not. I get the feeling this used to be a very conservative area but that a lot of the old guard is aging out/moving on and younger, more progressive families are moving in.
If we ever win the lottery we will move to Northbrae in Berkeley, but in the meantime we just feel fortunate to have found a section of the Bay Area that is still affordable and nice. We love being here, and the outdoor recreation availability has been more amazing than we first thought. It's awesome to be able to walk out your front door and access the Ridge Trail. Logistically: There is a truly excellent play based preschool in El Sobrante called Sunshine Playschool that I would highly recommend over driving to Berkeley. Your husband can take the Lynx bus from the park and ride in Hercules to the Transbay Terminal in downtown SF.
Consider Hercules. Great community. Family friendly and safe. Very diverse.
We live in Carriage Hills which is small community out in the valley between El Sobrante and Pinole. (It is officially considered unincorporated Richmond with an El Sobrante zip) It is an awesome neighborhood with lots of space. The commute into the city is about an hour(my husband casual carpools into the city from Orinda or El Cerrito.) The commute into Berkeley is anout 30 min taking side streets when there is traffic. There are other parts of El Sobrante that are nice but not all areas. Pinole is another consideration for families. Hope this helps. I love living out in the valley even though we have to drive in to the city. It's always nice coming home to a quiet family friendly. neighborhood.(and the weather is always nicer in the valley)
We bought a house next door in Pinole in 2013 and love it here. We have friends who commute to the city -- there is an express bus to downtown SF that picks up from Richmond Parkway Transit Center, and my husband works in Berkeley and gets there by either car (San Pablo Dam Rd to 24 to avoid 80) or commuter bus (picks up right downtown, a 5-minute drive from our house, and goes to Del Norte BART). Pinole has a farmer's market and CSA subscription options; there's a small pick-your-own farm in El Sobrante. We have neighbors from a wide range of racial/ethnic backgrounds, and another friend, a former Lutheran minister, pointed out that El Sobrante has just about every house of worship you can name in one small parcel of land :)
If you have specific questions, feel free to contact me directly. I would also highly recommend the realtor we worked with, Declan Spring from Red Oak Realty; he knows West County very well and is good at meeting people where they're at and giving them a realistic sense of their options.
El Sobrante is a quaint little town but depending on where you live in El Sobrante, it could be less than ideal. Stay far from San Pablo Dam Road because it's busy and a bit dirty but getting something in the hills would be ideal. There is also three of us in my family, my husband and I commute to SF daily and we use the Orinda BART. It's closest to our home and not to mention the ease of commuting on San Pablo Dam Road from Orinda is peaceful, serene and just better than the alternative. I'm also from New York (Brooklyn).
If you're looking for quiet, family oriented and kind of a hippie vibe- then come on over. We actually live at the border of Richmond and El Sobrante. If you google map my address El Sobrante comes up instead of Richmond. We're situated in the regional park and not far from the entrance to the El Sobrante Ridge. There are lots of hiking and space for your family to enjoy. I can't say I love the school options but there is always "district transfer" to get your kid in a good school. Overall, great neighborhood, lots of land for your money if you could get something in Carriage Hills...it's a little known secret neighborhood and it's splendid..we love it.
El Sobrante is relatively a nice little town that is in need of a makeover. It doesn't really have anything other than residential homes. We pretty much shop for everything we need outside of it. Whether it be in Orinda on one end or Pinole on the other end.
We bought our home four years ago and the price has gone up 200K. I would say if you could get something in Carriage Hills North or South, take it because the price is steadily rising. We consider ourselves very, very lucky to have been in the position at the right time to purchase. Good luck and if you want to talk more or come see the place, contact me and I'll happy to show you around a bit.
My parents lived in El Sobrante until 2010, so my information is a little out of date, but it doesn't seem to have changed much.
The main shopping area has a really good grocery store (Raley's) and great hardware store (Olivers) and a pretty good thrift store. Otherwise it's unremarkable and looks like a small town in the middle of nowhere; the main movie theater has been converted to a church. However, Hilltop Mall is pretty close for alternative shopping. El Sobrante is unincorporated, so you have county services (sheriff, etc.), not city services. So you'll need to be especially vigilant about house inspections, drainage, etc., because there are no city codes. Contact the school district to find out where and how students are assigned to schools. I believe the nearest hospital has closed, so you will want to investigate the nearest emergency room. Census data indicates people tend overall to earn less money and be less well educated than Berkeley/Albany area, and it's fairly diverse racially. When my parents lived there, neighbors were cordial but didn't socialize much, and no one was particularly progressive (or regressive). (As housing prices have skyrocketed, that may have changed.) There is a significant Sikh minority population because of the Gudwara Sahib building on Hillcrest. You'll have to drive a ways to get to the Richmond or El Cerrito BART stations. I don't now about Transbay bus service there, so check transit options carefully. There's a ferry to SF from Vallejo, but that's not an easy or cheap commute.
The major problem I know of is that Highway 80 northbound is very congested and there are frequent traffic jams and closures around the two main off-ramps to El Sobrante. I've heard rumors of gang-related shootings around there, but those are often exaggerated in the media. Do check the crime statistics with the CHP and the West County Contra Costa Sheriff's office. From what I've seen, you'll get more space for your money in ES, but house conditions and neighborhoods vary widely.
You might also take a look at Pinole and see if that appeals to you.
Have you looked in the Richmond Marina or maybe Point Richmond? The houses are newer and prices are not as crazy as El Cerrito or Berkeley.
I commute into SF everyday but I drive. When I don't I park at El Cerrito Del Norte Bart station it's easy and fast.
I may be in a rut, but regularly when people talk about going north to find housing, I mention the Richmond Annex. Right across the street from El Cerrito, literally. Our daughter and son in law moved there a couple of years ago, and are happy they didn't get a place in Albany or Berkeley. As our son in law says, "El Cerrito living at Richmond prices". Actually more removed from environmental hazards than most of El Cerrito, which is further north and closer to the refinery. Richmond Annex has even rather quaint family values, like stork flag embroidered with names of local children born in the neighborhood, almost a throwback to a kinder gentler past.
Feel free to message me. My family lived in El Sobrante the first 14 years of my child's life. Rebecca
I would consider Pinole and Hercules too.