Moving to Potrero ave El Cerrito from Berkeley ?


We are thinking of moving to Potrero ave El Cerrito  from Berkeley, due to high rents and congestion in Berkeley.I work near UC Berkely. We have a 4 year old son who needs pre-school.But we are little concerned about the safety in El Cerrito.Can you please suggest if Potrero ave, el Cerrito is safer enough? Are any issues with that neighbor hood? (Due to our income we will have to pay in full fee for pre-schools either in Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito)

OR do you think it's better  to stay back in Berkeley instead of moving to El Cerrito. Is 500$ rent difference worth it?

Do you recommend pre-schools in Berkeley or El Cerrito which are more better for a 4 year old.

Appreciate your thoughts on this.

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Where on Potrero Ave make a difference. Above San Pablo Ave is probably safer than below San Pablo Ave. There are many preschools in El Cerrito that will be just fine. Google it and start calling/visiting. Thinking ahead to public schools, Madera elementary, Korematsu middle school, and El Cerrito High School are really wonderful, academically and socially. I have recently met several families new to El Cerrito from Berkeley and Oakland who are surprised at how much they like El Cerrito.

I think the neighborhood is safe.  Many families live in the area.  You might want to check out Pine Crest School for your preschooler - it's an awesome program:  There is also Oceanview Montessori on Clayton Av. in El Cerrito.

Agree with the other post: Above San Pablo is OK, below is not so great but much cheaper.  The apartments are ticky-tacky and the school is borderline.  On the other hand, the neighborhood just to the north seems to be quiet.  

It's a great area, especially on the less busy streets. Hug a bug preschool is up by Arlington park and probably one of the best and most reasonable around. Nancy Kelleher is a genius with kids. My daughter just turned 15 and still considers going to hug a bug as one of the best things in her life. Lots of our friends live in that area and love it. Sometimes people don't like shopping at the big new Safeway but that's the only negative I've heard. We live in Albany and almost moved over there since it's so much more reasonable. More suburban but still very close to everything.

It's not that bad. I find that there are more dangerous places in Berkeley than in el cerrito.

We moved to El Cerrito from Berkeley four years ago and live on Potrero near Richmond. Honestly, it's much quieter than Berkeley (we lived near North Berkeley BART) and the people are friendlier and streets are quieter. Traffic can be somewhat heavy but mostly only during the commute hours, I would say between ~7:45-8:30am and maybe 4:30-~6pm (except that day when 80E was closed! THAT was crazy!). We have kids in preschool and there are TONS of kids in the area--four preschoolers and at least three babies on our block alone. I wasn't thrilled when we moved to the area but it's been really good for us, especially with so many kids and new friends nearby. Plus we live near Giovanni's, which is a fantastic small grocery store. As for safety, we've had a couple things stolen off of our front porch but other than that it's been fine. There are also a number of preschools around Potrero--Keystone Montessori, Pride and Joy, Stepping Stone Schoolhouse, and probably others I don't know about. It takes some adjusting to living in a very residential area (it has for me, anyway) but I appreciate El Cerrito and what it offers.

You do not want to be below San Pablo Avenue.Higher up the hill is quite nice.Go online to Great Schools.Madera is quite nice

Please don't worry: El Cerrito is a very safe place, filled with lots and lots of families (as well as older people). I suspect Berkeley actually has a higher crime rate, but what crime there is in El Cerrito tends toward theft/burglary rather than violent crimes. We have lived here for 17 years, and were drawn here by lower-cost housing and a less-congested way of life. It is easy to commute thanks to two BART stations (El Cerrito Plaza and Del Norte), and there is a wide variety of grocery stores, restaurants, parks, etc. There is a nice community pool at the Community Center. The Community Center also offers affordable week-long summer camps throughout the summer (many of which are geared to 4-year olds).

There are fine preschools all over the place. My own children have been out of preschool for many years, so others will have to weigh in with recommendations. The local schools are quite fine for elementary, middle, and high school (the middle school is brand new, and the high school is also fairly new).

We love El Cerrito!  I'm currently a student at UCB, my boys are 4 & 6 years old.  We live on Kearney St, down the street from Fairmont Elementary, and LOVE it.  Lots of walkable parks, restaurants, and shops - we do everything on foot.  I have always felt very safe in my neighborhood - I even left the keys in the door once for several hours (it was one of those days...) and everything was fine.

My 4 year old goes to Casa Cerrito (the city-run preschool) - it looks a bit run-down compared to more expensive private preschools, but the content and teachers are FANTASTIC.  They do special classes in on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons - right now its tumbling, in the summer it will be swim lessons.  

Portrero right on/near San Pablo Ave is a pretty busy area - lots of shopping centers (Safeway, Dollar Tree, Walgreens, which is the only pharmacy in town that takes a certain kind of Medi-Cal and is often really crowded), so with little ones might want to live further uphill from San Pablo.

I'm happy to talk more if you want!


I agree that Potrero below San Pablo is a lot different than Potrero above San Pablo. But there's just as much variation in Berkeley. If you're comparing Potrero by the freeway to Elmwood, I don't think that you'll be happy. But Berkeley is filled with super dangerous areas. I've never seen anything in EC half as sketchy as the area around University and San Pablo. I lived in EC for years and never felt unsafe, even walking home from Bart at night. I think that it's a nice place.

I live in El Cerrito north of Portrero with a preschooler and first-grader and we love It here! It's a great community, small but diverse, and more and more young families are moving in because you get a lot more for your money housing-wise than in Berkeley. Safety wise I don't think it is any more dangerous than Berkeley. The majority of crime seems to take place near San Pablo Ave and the flat areas near the Bart stations, if you are further up the hill it drops off quite a bit.

One thing to consider since you have a preschooler is that if you are on Portrero above San Pablo Ave you are likely zoned for an excellent public elementary school - Madera. It's one of the best schools in WCCUSD and also has a really convenient city-run aftercare program which I really appreciated as a working parent when my son was in Kindergarten! You also have a lot of commute options to UC Berkeley area. Besides Bart and driving the AC Transit 7 stops right next to Madera. 

There are a lot of great preschools in El Cerrito and neighboring Kensington, ranging from small home based ones to parent co-ops to larger Montessori schools. My children have gone to Keystone Montessori which is right by Potrero near Bart.

The only thing we don't really like about El Cerrito is that it is not super walkable (especially in hills) so we end up driving to Albany or Berkeley for a lot of weekend stuff. But otherwise we have been happy here and would urge anyone to give the city a chance.