Moving from Brooklyn with 2 young kids - walkable neighborhoods?

Hi! Thank you in advance for any help and advice from this community! I am writing seeking some advice as my family and I are preparing to move to the Bay Area this summer in a rather stunningly unprepared fashion! My husband and I have been living and working in Brooklyn, NY for 12 years, we have a three year old son and are expecting a daughter in July. Last week my husband was offered a career opportunity that we can't turn down, but it has really turned us on our heels. I have been trying to read a lot (quickly) about the different cities, neighborhoods, in the bay area, and would love anyone's thoughts on where would be a wise place for us to try to narrow our focus as we look for a new home. We will be renting, we have a limited budget, and I have hopes (though maybe it will be impossible) of finding a spot at preschool for my son. We have been thinking about Oakland and would love advice on neighborhoods, but have also considered San Fransisco, and Palo Alto (as my husband will need to be at Stanford once a week). We are used to a high level of walkability living in Brooklyn, and would love to know about even vaguely walkable neighborhoods, but also are open to really any suggestions. I would love a place where I might be able to connect with other parents, build a community, and meet new friends. Feeling very lost adrift! With many thanks. 

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It will be helpful to know what your “limited” budget is. What is limited in the Bay Area may be luxury in other places.  I see many 2 or 3 bedroom rentals go anywhere from around $3000-$5000/ month. The 4 bedroom/2 bathroom house with a nice backyard that we rented in one of the listed premium walkable neighborhoods now rents for a little over $4000.
 

Some of the best walkable areas in my opinion include:

— lower Piedmont / Oakland (Piedmont Ave.) near Beach Elementary School. This was and is our dream neighborhood. We can’t afford a house in Piedmont and rentals are hard to come by. Piedmont has a fantastic school system and you can walk to Piedmont Ave. We used in this area and miss it very much. 

— Rockridge 

— Alameda (don’t turn up your nose at this little place. We regret not buying in Alameda as it is very family friendly and schools are great)

— If you want more urban feel, grand lake and lakeshore area (this is our current neighborhood and there are many young families and excellent preschools. 
 

— Berkeley is so family friendly, has a lot of great rentals and schools and very walkable near downtown bart station and north Berkeley Bart station 

— San Leandro is more affordable and surprisingly walkable. 

All of these areas have great preschool options. 

Hi!! We moved here from Brooklyn 3.5 years ago and miss it sooooo much, the walkability being the main thing! We at first lived in SW Berkeley, right on San Pablo Ave and assumed we would love it because you can walk to a lot of things. We ended up not really liking it, because, while it was possible to walk to a lot of things, almost no one did, so the streets felt kind of “empty,” especially coming from Brooklyn!!

we now live In Oakland, between Broadway Ave and piedmont ave, and just south of college Ave. WE LOVE IT!!!! I think the neighborhood is called “piedmont ave neighborhood,” and is just south of rockridge and just west of piedmont. You can easily walk to piedmont ave and college Ave, and importantly- people actually do! So you get that nice foot traffic that makes walking to errands and stuff more pleasant and less desolate.

good luck with your move!!! California is growing on me now that we found the right neighborhood for us :)

Hi! We moved to Oakland from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn 5 years ago. We opted to move to Montclair hills, which is not walkable, and that is the biggest thing I miss, but that was a conscious choice. You pay a premium to get house with a yard in a walkable area, and we decided to fully embrace Cali living and rely on our cars. I'd be happy to discuss in more detail, just send me a message.

Hi Rosalie, my family made a similar transition 2 1/2 years ago. We moved from Brooklyn (Williamsburg) to Berkeley with our (then) 2 and 4 year olds, and were also looking for walkability and some energy, but more space. In addition to what's mentioned above (those are good recs) I'll give some more specific Berkeley recs. The Claremont and Elmwood neighborhoods are very walkable and near College ave, which has restaurants, shops, etc, as well as near the Claremont Hotel which has some small businesses around it (including an amazing French bakery called Fournee). Also look near the Gourmet Ghetto, which is another area with good food and some energy, nice neighborhoods to the east of it. Another drag is Solano Ave, there are nice neighborhoods surrounding it. None of those areas are cheap but there are definitely a range of house sizes and prices so worth a look, there are smaller homes sprinkled throughout. Berkeley also has the Greek Theater and a bunch of other music venues...which will hopefully be reopened soon!

Get on as many preschool waiting lists as you can, there's a lot of movement lately because of the pandemic. 

Feel free to reach out to me directly, I know it's very daunting to move cross country with little ones, especially since you'll have a newborn! We have loved living here though and even though we were longtime New Yorkers we feel very much at home here.

Agree with the other post about neighborhoods :) we ended up in Grand Lake as well as for a walkable option close to the great parks in Piedmont, rose garden, more neighborhoody feel than urban, and a bit cheaper than other areas that are comparably nice. We had a really challenging time finding a place online though and so we chose to put our stuff in pods that could be stored (thru U-Pack) and we stayed at an Airbnb until we found the right place. It was so hard to have a sense for a neighborhood from just looking at google maps and some places we saw online looked great and then we saw them in person and understood why they were cheap...next to a halfway house or moldy or etc. Good luck and if you find yourselves ending up in Oakland, please reach out to me! It’s so tough relocating and especially with kiddos and especially in a pandemic and I found it really isolating at first so I empathize with your situation! My names Jenneva and I have a 1.5 yr old, please reach out when you get here if you need to connect or get mom recommendations for fun parks and stuff to do with kiddos.  Good luck with your move! 

Also commuting over the bridge sucks so if you don’t have to don’t do it!!

Hello fellow NYer. I lived in NY most of my life (from preschool-grad school) so I can appreciate the challenges and adjustment of moving to the Bay Area. I can’t say much about most of the neighborhood in the Bay Area, but I have lived in Palo Alto (when childless) and Alameda (with toddlers). 

If he is working in Palo Alto only 1x weekly, I would be less inclined to move there. Yes the surrounding area around university ave is walkable with nice restaurants and a Whole Foods nearby, but it is expensive (more than the UWS, which is where I last lived for 10years prior to moving here) and in my opinion didn’t have enough diversity after walking around the downtown area for a couple of weeks. The commute traffic may be miserable for that one day, depending on his commute hours, but think about it sitting in traffic in midtown without cars honking. 

I have frequented around some parts of Oakland (Montclair and Piedmont), cute shops and nice to push a stroller around or walk around with toddlers for a bite, also pricey, but maybe less so than Palo Alto. We have considered moving there.

Alameda, we moved here a few years ago, rented an apt and a house. For a young family, I think this is a very stable, nurturing community with lots of parks, restaurants, and other young families. Also the majority of the public schools are highly ranked—there are a lot of elementary schools on this tiny island, which you can apply by lottery or transfer. (A whole different story and confused the heck out of my East coast friends.) From my own experience, I went into shock when I saw that the rental prices were similar to pricing in NY, but we adjusted and learned to accept the high cost of living in the area. Similarly to you, my husband accepted an offer here that he felt he couldn’t refuse and so we left family and friends in NY to establish a life in CA. The people are extremely kind and helpfu. I still hear jokes that I am living in the Staten Island of the West, but for my family it was a good decision and close relationships were easily developed with other families. When I miss the city-life (pre-pandemic), we drive or ferry (for fun) into SF. It’s just a bridge (long with toll—cheaper than midtown, GW, or Verrazano) and tunnel (short and free) away.

Good luck with the move!

Welcome to the Bay! Just so you aren't disappointed, nothing in Oakland will be like NY/Brooklyn — if you want that level of walkability you'd probably want to live in SF. That said, there are some super walkable neighborhoods in the East Bay. We live off of Piedmont Ave in North Oakland. We can walk to multiple coffee shops, restaurants with food from all over the world, lots of cute shops, a local library, a grocery store and small market that has great produce, and a movie theater (in non-covid times). There are two schools within walking distance that are great for bike riding/scooting with kids on the weekends and a tot playground on Linda Ave. There's also a small creek with a walking path alongside that runs behind Piedmont Ave where my kids love to play. Bigger playgrounds are a little further but there are several that are either a long walk, short bike ride or even shorter drive. And we have the Oakland and Berkeley hills 10-15 minutes away for awesome hiking and mountain biking.

The area around Lake Merritt is also super walkable with all of the above plus the lake itself. Rockridge is also walkable but quite a bit more upscale (and has immediate access to a BART station if that is a priority). There are lots of up and coming neighborhoods further out in Oakland but these are the ones we've lived in and being able to walk to places rather than drive has been a huge priority for us (we also have two kids). If you have the opportunity for even one of you to fly out for a visit in advance I'd say you'd get a pretty strong feel for the neighborhoods just based on that. Good luck!

Alameda is GREAT. Walkable, good schools, easy commute to the city on the ferry. Less expensive than Stanford area but not cheap. We love it. 

Note that the commute (not during pandemic times) from the East Bay to Stanford is soul crushing. There is no good way to get there on public transit, and the traffic is horrible. I am reluctant to make predictions about the future, but if things return to normal like before, you would not want to make this drive more than once a week. You'd have to plan a 2 hour commute (one way) to arrive on time - so leaving by 7 am to make a 9 am meeting. But everywhere near Stanford is incredibly expensive, so the traffic is a tradeoff. 

Rockridge (Oakland). You can walk to Rockridge BART, walk to FROG Park (amazing playground; there is also an enclosed dog park), walk to Trader Joe's, walk to Safeway (supermarket), walk to Rockridge Market Hall (gourmet foods, wine shop, butcher shop, fish monger, produce shop, bakery), walk to the library, walk to two great indie bookstores, walk to numerous fantastic coffee places, incredible restaurants... I could go on. In terms of proximity and convenience to life's necessities and pleasures, I think it's the most walkable neighborhood in Oakland or Berkeley. Unfortunately, housing is incredibly expensive. We've rented here for six years (rent control) and wish we could stay, but are beyond unable to buy a house here, so are moving to South Berkeley (not walkable, alas). So if you'd like to build a longterm community, I would consider whether you'd be able to stay here when/if you're ready to buy.

We made the same move a few years ago and ended up in Rockridge. It's good for Brooklyn transplants because it's walkable, child-friendly and almost as expensive as NYC. For preschools, get in contact and on waitlists (if need be) as soon as you pick a city. It's easier to find a spot than in Brooklyn but still competitive.

My wife and I moved from NYC (UWS) a year ago last June due to a similar work situation/opportunity. We are in Poet's Corner in Berkeley and it is filled with families and young ones. Strawberry Creek Park and Hidden Cafe are neighborhood favs. North Westbrae is also a great area as well as neighboring Albany.

There have been a lot of SF transplants into the East Bay and Alameda County due to the pandemic (three moved onto our street alone in the last nine months). Although we rent, we did attempt to dip our toe into buying but homes are being overbid $400k-$500k with all cash buyers from Silicon Valley. SF is the only place where sales and rentals have dramatically dropped (similar to Manhattan) and you can find good deals. But depending on where the work is located, do keep in mind traffic as it tends to be frustratingly bad. Public transportation is doable, but again due to the pandemic has gotten even worse than usual. If you do move to Berkeley or anywhere in the East Bay, a car is needed.

Rents in Berkeley did drop since last March, but now that UC Berkeley is going back into session come fall, rents are going back up. Also due to the school cycle, much doesn't come to market until May/June/July. We tried looking for rentals in March/April and found next to nothing. Luckily we were able to stay a bit longer in company housing until we landed on something. 

I feel like a little more detail would help us here.  In addition to the budget issue - You mention that your husband will be working at Stanford one day per week, but you don't say where he (and you, eventually?) will be working the rest of the week.  That will influence recommendations, since the commute on non-Stanford days could also be considered. ANd you mention Walkability - are you also interested in bike-ability and public transit options, or are you assuming you'd drive anywhere that's not so walkable?

Hi! I did this same move two years ago while pregnant with my first child (moved in June, kid born end of September). Prior to that I had spent 11 years in South Brooklyn (ending in Crown Heights). 

We ended up moving into a small 2br rental apartment in North Rockridge, just off Telegraph and Alcatraz. Rent was $3300 (has since gone down a bit due to pandemic). When I say small, I mean that even by NYC standards—maybe 600 sq ft, all told. That said, the neighborhood was fantastic: two parks (Willard Park and Colby Park) in easy walking distance; shops, coffee shops, and restaurants within walking distance on both Telegraph and College; and very friendly neighbors, many with young children. The outdoor space that generally comes with an East Bay living situation was also very welcome after years with little other to look at than air shafts and other people's tiny concrete yards. Of course, with the pandemic, many of the businesses that made our landing softer are not nearly as bustling as they once were, but presumably that will change relatively soon (fingers crossed)?

This winter, we moved farther out in the East Bay, and while I wouldn't consider our new neighborhood—Maxwell Park—walkable by my Brooklyn standards, the strip of MacArthur Blvd to the north of us kind of reminds me of Nostrand Ave. when we moved to Crown Heights in 2015: a bit run down but still generally thriving.

Other neighborhoods that strike me as being good in this regard are Temescal Telegraph in Oakland (perhaps a bit less expensive than Rockridge/Elmwood?), along San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, near the university (though not sure how easy it is to find housing over there), and Grand Lake (which I'm least familiar with of all these). I get good vibes from Piedmont but am not very familiar with it (having a baby and then going into lockdown did not leave much opportunity for exploration of our new city).

Good luck and welcome!

I agree with everything the previous poster said. We live in San Leandro and I think it's really worth considering. We were looking more in Oakland and ended up here mostly for the slightly more affordable homes. Estudillo Estates and Broadmoor are really family-friendly with lots of kids riding bikes, playing outside, etc. I wish there was more to walk to for it to be considered "walkable" to like shops and restaurants but there are a few great spots here including Zocalo and As Kneaded Bakery. 

I agree with the first response- a lot of it will depend on your finances and on what areas feel good to you. Plus, there's always the weather to consider, too. For example, I love the North Berkeley/Albany area (can't afford it but LOVE it there!), but my spouse gives it a big NO due to the fog. (It’s true that it’s cooler & breezier there, and the fog does tend to roll in… But come on! Those gorgeous neighborhoods? Strolling on Solano Ave?! The cafes & restaurants in the gourmet ghetto!? It’s FABULOUS there!) Besides, anyone who can handle east coast weather will be totally fine. (haha)

We live halfway between the Fruitvale and the Dimond neighborhoods in central Oakland- I don't recommend that area, actually. It’s sunny and warmer than other parts of Oakland (as well as most of Berkeley and Alameda), which allows us to grow a lot of our food and enjoy our garden, but... The crime and blight is still pretty intense here- more the Fruitvale side than the Dimond. The Dimond's actually changed a lot in the last decade. The Dimond/Glenview/Oakmore areas sort of merge together a bit and are attractive and walkable (so, of course = much pricier).


The Laurel and Maxwell Park neighborhoods are much cheaper than Rockridge, Piedmont Ave. and Lakeshore -but those are neighborhoods are super expensive for a reason: they are fantastic, sunny neighborhoods with unparalleled beauty and walkability. And you pay dearly for it.

Personally, I'd love to live by the lake (my spouse says no to that, too- thinks it's too breezy!) because the Grandlake/Lakeshore area is such a vibrant place to be- so diverse and interesting! LOVE it there. I could go on and on about the lake and all the fun that goes on there- esp on sunny weekend days. The Saturday farmer's market there is a good one and there are endless shops to walk to as well. 


Piedmont Ave. is wonderful, too -definitely one of my favorite neighborhoods! Great shops & restaurants & yoga studios, etc. Love that area. And The Temescal is one that has been completely transformed over the two decades that I’ve been here. Oh, how I wish we would’ve bought an investment property over there… It’s a great little neighborhood that’s cute and close to everything. (Still a little edgy on the outskirts a bit, but worth it for a fried chicken sandwich at Bakesale Betty’s!)

Rockridge is great as well, but it's a monocultural (in terms of both race and socioeconomic class), which can oftentimes = a less interesting vibe. That's how a lot of my friends feel about it, anyway. I still love it though, because… It’s one of the best neighborhoods (if not, THE BEST) in Oakland. Rockridge has a great library, an easy-access BART station, great shops, restaurants, cafes, bookstores- “the whole shebang,” as my kid would say. I would say that Rockridge is still my absolute favorite neighborhood in Oakland, because of all that it brings to the table- even though I will never, ever be able to afford to own a home there in this lifetime.    


PS

I totally forgot to mention the amazingly AWESOME Montclair Village!! (an area up in the hills that likes to pretend it’s in the Swiss Alps- just go along with it.) Great place! And wonderful trails to hike nearby.


~Mailisha 

Hi Rosalie,

congratulations on your move! As an ex-New Yorker who grew up in Hell's Kitchen, I can sympathize. I hate driving and strip malls give me a lot of anxiety. San Francisco will probably be the best replacement for New York life, but it's still a very car dependent place. You'll want to look at central parts of the city (Castro, Duboce, Mission) for proximity to transit. However, these are both expensive and transit is still meh. BART works well enough if you're going on its lines, but otherwise buses and MUNI trains will be needed. 
 

as for Oakland, we moved here 8 years ago when houses were bought out from under us 2x. We like it here and though I used to yearn for SF I don't so much anymore now that we have two kids and enjoy the trails and the privilege of a backyard. We initially lived in N Oakland because it was closer to BART. We found that was only useful for my husband's commute. We now live near Lake Merritt, off of Lakeshore, and I have to say it's a decently urban existence. I love the Grand Lake market and though we don't shop at many of the Lakeshore spots, it's got thing s that are useful and we can walk to it. 
It's really hard to find super walkable neighborhoods in Oakland. Rockridge is highly prized for that, but it's almost expensive as SF without the benefits, I'd say. Near Piedmont Ave (still in Oakland, not the Piedmont town) is pretty walkable and near highway and bus lines. 
 

good luck!