Living Just South of University

Hi families,

We are looking at homes in West Berkeley just south of University.

Can anyone help us with you general impressions of this area: mainly--do you feel this is a family friendly area (safe to walk around, parks, etc)? Any impressions about noise from the train and highway? I'd appreciate if there are any other concerns you might flag for us. Thanks so much!

Parent Replies

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The noise from the trains is a real thing - the first few nights we lived here I thought we'd have to move, and then they never woke me up again. You really get used to it. My son was born here, and it's never bothered him. (Actually it's fun for him to go see them.) I never hear the highway. 

There are a lot of families here, which is nice. It feels safe to me, for the most part, but there have been a handful of shootings this year and I once found a syringe in the playground. The marina and aquatic park are fun places for kids, and we see lots of families at both. When there's not covid, there are a lot of family-friendly restaurants too (Tacubaya, Viks, Lanesplitter, etc).

We live in West Berkeley just north of University. I find it to be a very walkable neighborhood and appreciate that as a mother of a young toddler. We can spend a whole morning just walking along and near Fourth Street, as my daughter loves people watching and watching the train go by (and it is a relief for me to be able to do some shopping, or go out for a lunch or coffee without having to get her in and out of a car). There are a number of parks in the area, most notably César Chávez which we either bike to or drive (5 min). They’re also redoing the playground at James Kenney park and it looks like it will be great. 

The two downsides are a) the train, as you point out and b) the proximity to homeless encampments. Re: the train—this bothered my husband for a few weeks but since then we have completely adjusted and don’t even notice it. Re: the homeless encampments, this is the sad reality of living in the Bay Area. We have had a few encounters with folks who seemed to be homeless and/or mentally ill and I’m sure we would have had few of those experiences had we lived somewhere more isolated, like the Hills. This certainly bothers us, but we are city people and the trade off has been worth it.


I just moved to West Berkeley just north of University and I love it so far! The proximity to 4th street, easy access to the freeway, and generally easy access to Berkeley is great. That said, I don't really feel safe walking around at night. I also end up driving my 2 yo to more family friendly parks because there aren't many options within walking distance in my area.

We hear the train all day and night (I think there are 70 something trains per day?) but it's not actually that different compared to when we lived a couple miles away in central Berkeley. It would be really important to have double-paned windows and solid construction in order to limit the noise. We never hear noise from the freeway. I find it's very quiet at night aside from the trains.

There is a very stark contrast between those with privilege and those without in this part of Berkeley. The stores on 4th street are expensive and luxurious; within blocks of it, there are homeless encampments bursting at the seams. It's disheartening to see such opulence juxtaposed with this extreme desperation. I know the city of Berkeley is working hard to address these issues, but I think West Berkeley represents the harshest contrast in our city's disparity.           

I’ve lived In west berkeley, 1 block south of university for 13 years.. I love the area, it’s very convenient and walkable. I know my neighbors and there are many families around. We see all the problems of this area here. We have people living in their cars on our street. We had a small group camping out. We’re occasionally  woken up by people yelling or causing trouble. There’s trash around. It’s the city, but we like living here a lot! Good luck w your decision.