Moving to the Bay Area for SF job, seeking LGBT family-friendly area

Hi! We are planning to move in the Bay Area next year (late Spring). We are looking for an LGBT family-friendly area with good schools. My wife will be working in SF Financial District. We want to stay in the city but our finances might not be able to afford it. We have two kids (11,8) ... so we are looking for a community with good schools, easy/fast/close commute to San Francisco and LGBT family-friendly. Any suggestions? Thank you!

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We moved to Albany, 8 years ago, from out of state, because, at the time, California was one of the few states with legal same sex marriage, and our son was about to start kindergarten. We wanted to live in a place where we would be accepted as a family. We chose Albany mostly for the schools and community. We are very close to a BART station, walking distance. Depending on where you're going in SF, it can take as little as 30 minutes to get there by public trans.  I believe Albany has about a 94 walkability score, which means you can pretty much walk to everything, which we love. It's only 1 square mile, and butts up against North Berkeley. We were looking at Berkeley originally, but had concerns about middle school, as we have a child of color, and I think Berkeley has a lottery system. We also didn't know how our son would do in Berkeley High School, which has over 5000 students, as opposed to Albany which has about 1500. [Editor note: Berkeley High has about 3,000 students]

20-25% of my son's classmates in Albany come from 2-mom families. We've never had any issues regarding our acceptance as a family in our community. The schools score very high on the Great Schools site (all 9's I believe). That's the skinny on paper.

The things we don't care for is that our Albany community is not as diverse as we thought it would be. It's predominantly white and Asian population, not many children of brown or black skin here. Not diverse socially either. And because of it's quaint small town appeal, it can many times, be too small-town for us (we moved here from a large city).

Last warning, depending on where you're moving from, the cost of living is 30% higher than the city we moved from. And we bought a house in Albany, half the size. But we've adjusted just fine, and continue to maintain our Midwestern roots.

I hear Alameda has good schools, Oakland, depending on the area, Berkeley does have great elementary schools. Hope that helps. Good luck!

Alameda. Hands down. 

San Leandro is a very LGBT family-friendly place. Quite a few LGBT families live in the neighborhood and attend the Roosevelt Elementary school for one. In fact, for many years the principal  there was openly gay with a family and a wife, but she has since moved on to another job in the school district.  SL is also very affordable and many of us are transplants from San Francisco who couldn't afford to live there. The commute is a breeze too...there is a San Leandro BART Station and also an AC Transit bus (that many commuters like better.) Its a great community for all families (the 580 side for sure.) One caveat is if you are looking for top notch schools, San Leandro schools are good, but not "top notch" like you would have out in more affluent suburbs. Not sure if they would be as LGBT friendly though, so its a trade off. Berkeley is another friendly place and easy access to SF,  but almost as expensive as SF.  No sure if you are looking to rent or buy, but an example of the difference in price is a couple thousands of dollars comparing Berkeley and SL. For a family of 4 in Berkeley in a decent neighborhood, except to spend $4,000-$5,000. In SL, about $2,500-$3,500.  (And $3,500 would be a pretty nice, big house.) Buying about the same difference in prices.

Northern Marin (Novato, San Rafael, Santa Venetia) have good schools, lots of greenery, and lots of transit options to San Francisco. I don't know of a huge LGBT community, but people here are pretty tolerant of all kinds of diversity, very live-and-let-live.

I recommend Berkeley. It's less expensive than SF and lots of LGBT pride. Welcome to town.

Oakland has many lesbian and gay families--I think it's where San Francisco couples move when they start a family (I don't know if it's because they find SF not kid friendly or if it is just a matter of rental prices). The Lakeshore Area, in particular seems to have many LGBT families (we knew a half dozen or more at my daughter's preschool on Lakeshore). The areas zoned for Crocker Highlands or Glenview elementary schools and Edna Brewer middle school would be good choices. The commute to SF isn't bad by Bay Area standards, and there's also casual carpool available from the Grand-Lake area (drivers commuting to SF pick up passengers so that they can avail themselves of carpool lanes). I believe there's also a trans-bay bus that serves the area.

First of all, do you know about Montclair?  It has been "ground zero" for Lesbian couples for a couple of decades now.  However, Montclair (a) is not well-situated for commuting to San Francisco (compared to the other areas suggested), and (b) I doubt whether it's very diverse.

I'm mostly writing, however, to clear up some errors in the response to you by "anonymous" that starts "We moved to Albany...." She writes: "We were looking at Berkeley originally, but had concerns about middle school, as we have a child of color, and I think Berkeley has a lottery system."

WRONG!  Berkeley does NOT have a lottery system for middle schools!  (The lottery system applies only to the "small schools" that exist -- not geographically, but only in terms of classroom and focus -- on Berkeley High campus.)

"Anonymous" also wrote: "We also didn't know how our son would do in Berkeley High School, which has over 5000 students, as opposed to Albany which has about 1500." 

WRONG AGAIN! To quote from their website: "Berkeley High School is a comprehensive four-year school serving approximately 3300 students. BHS is unique in that it is the only public high school in a community of over 100,000. Drawing from a diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic status, the student population embraces a broad spectrum of people and ideas."

Finally she writes: "[O]ur Albany community is not as diverse as we thought it would be."

RIGHT!  Albany is not nearly as diverse as Berkeley.  That's a well-known fact.  

FYI, I have been volunteering at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School (in North Berkeley) for six years now, and you could not hope to find a more diverse student body.  The percentage of children of color at "King" (as it's called) is very high relative to the population of California as a whole. And the quality of the support staff is out of this world!  We adopted a child from out of State who recently attended King during 7th and 8th grades, and in my opinion the level of attention and support she received was commensurate with that of any private school, anywhere.

As another "Anonymous" wrote, "Welcome to town!"

P.S.  Back in the 80s, Berkeley was home to two fantastic Lesbian owned-and-operated businesses:  the Brick Hut Café and Vivoli's gelateria.  Sadly, both are gone, but that should give you some idea of Lesbian history in Berkeley.


I also just want to add that if you are coming from anywhere except Boston or New York, you will likely be surprised by the sheer number of LGBT people in the Bay Area.  We are everywhere.  My partner and I live with our two kids in Lafayette, which is an East Bay suburb.  It's not very ethnically diverse or socioeconomically diverse, but we wanted a safe place for our kids and we wanted to be close to my aging parents.  We moved in expecting to perhaps encounter some homophobia, but instead discovered two other LGBT couples live within a handful of houses.  Our kids attend a preschool here that is extremely LGBT-positive and there are many kids there who have two moms or two dads (or other out-of-the-norm arrangements).  All of which is to say, the Bay Area is really a unique place in the sense of the sheer number of LGBT folks.  Of course, some areas are more liberal than others, and some areas have more LGBT people than others, but overall, I would say, look for the place you want to live for other reasons (location, traffic, finances, public transportation, etc) and you can generally expect that it will at least be reasonably LGBT-family-friendly.