General Questions about Bay Area Neighborhoods

Parent Q&A

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  • HI everyone, we are planning to move from South bay to east bay (preferably Berkeley) in the next few months.  I'm wondering if there are locations in Berkeley, or even outside of Berkeley that people consider to be good with community? Like kids playing with other neighborhood kids etc.  Just wondering if that's more a reality in East bay than it is sadly in south bay :( Appreciate your input!

    In a word.....Alameda.

    This is definitely a reality but it's very specific at a micro-level (a particular block or a group of blocks) and based on factors outside your control (who moves in / who moves out / who lives in the neighborhood.)

    We live in Grand Lake/Lakeshore area, and when we first moved in, there were 5 families with similar aged kids within 2 blocks. It was great. Kids just all went out and played. During the pandemic, everyone moved out, and younger, childness people moved in.  Many of them had babies recently, so in 2 - 3 years, this will be a neighborhood with many kids out on the street again. 

    Albany, Piedmont, and Alameda are neighborhoods where kids walk to school and play on the street most consistently. 

    Welcome to the East Bay!  This depends so much on the specific neighborhood and block, and on the age of your kids. I've raised 3 kids while living in both Berkeley and Oakland. The most kid-friendly play-in-the-street neighborhood I lived in was in North Oakland. But that was mainly because there happened to be four houses in the same block that had boys around the same ages as my boys, plus it was a dead end street. So there was a lot of street hockey and bike riding and hanging out. 

    My experience in Berkeley, where I've lived the longest, has been that some neighborhoods have plenty of kids, some don't. The more affluent the neighborhood, it seems, the fewer kids.  Age matters too. A block that has a lot of babies and toddlers, isn't so great if you have a 3rd and a 5th grader.  I've also seen young families leave Berkeley for the suburbs when kindergarten was approaching. Even if there are other kids close to your kids' ages, they often will go to different schools. Private schools are popular in Berkeley, especially as you go up in elevation, and BUSD doesn't have neighborhood schools - you are assigned to any one of several schools within your "zone" which stretches from the bay to the hills. So 3 families on your block with kids in public school might be going to 3 different schools.  Plus, most kids have after-school activities and summer camps, leaving very little time for casual neighborhood socializing. If you don't ever see the other kids in your neighborhood, you don't get to know them. That did change in middle school, which in Berkeley is determined by your neighborhood. My kids would be at the same bus stop in the morning with lots of other kids from blocks around, and there were also kids at middle school they knew from camps and sports. And by high school, most Berkeley kids can navigate public transportation to socialize with kids beyond their own neighborhood. I think the more urban neighborhoods in Berkeley and Oakland have a lot going for them once kids become more independent, compared to the burbs. For younger kids, though, it's hit or miss.

    If you have little ones you're more likely to find what you're looking for in a city that has neighborhood schools: Albany, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Oakland. I don't know as much about other East Bay cities, but you can look at the school district's website to find out how kids are assigned to schools. But also think ahead to your kids' adolescent years. My now-grown kids made lifelong friends in Berkeley middle and high schools.  And for me as a parent, all the neighborhoods we've lived in have had some kind of community feeling and I was able to form bonds with neighbors, kids or no kids, and feel like I was part of a community. 

    We are in Kensington and it would fit the bill. Neighborhood school, kids walk and ride bikes, small town feel.

    I would say certain neighborhoods have less kids than others but I feel like that is more of a byproduct of the difference in real estate prices than to the extent that there is community.  Are you planning to rent or buy?  We have neighbors across the street from us who have kids our kids age and it has been great.  The house we rented before didn't have kids our age on the block but there was definitely a great community feel, we had a google group and would often plan activities together.  I would say if you're walking or biking distance to a park or playground you'll develop community that way.  Hope that helps, feel free to send me a DM if you want to talk offline.

    We are in Upper Rockridge (oakland/zoned for Hillcrest K-8) and I will say we have this community.  It has come mostly from the involvement in the school so if your kids are older and/or you don't plan on sending them, I would say this would be hard to find. I have heard the Crocker Highlands district also has this feeling and I have heard how happy parents are who live there.

    Alameda, 100% It's such a hidden gem. Kids everywhere, tons of community, particularly when it comes to families with kids. 

    Agree with the other post-Alameda. Kids walk to school, kids play outside, amazing Parks and Rec camps for afterschool and summer, great libraries, great traditions, beaches--lovely neighborhoods and a great community.

    We've had this in the Upper Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland with a couple caveats: It's not so much that the kids run around on their own outside (while that happens occasionally, the neighborhood is pretty hilly with limited sidewalks), but there's a major sense of community grounded by our neighborhood school, Hillcrest. As a tiny school that relies a lot on parent involvement, it fosters a real sense of togetherness. You will quickly get to know the other families at the school (and, in turn, around the neighborhood) and adults really look out for one another's kids. We rely on a network of parents for carpooling to/from sports practices/games, birthday parties, and more -- I can confidently say that in a pinch, there are literally dozens of parents I could call upon to pick up my kids (and with whom they'd feel comfortable, given the years we've all been together). The "neighborhood school" concept doesn't really exist in Berkeley (BUSD assigns schools by zone) or in all parts of Oakland (where despite neighborhood catchments, families opt for other schools) but is certainly the norm here.

    We live in El Cerrito and this place definitely has a community feel (maybe not so much if you live in the hillier parts where walking around isn't as easy). Many of the neighborhood kids play with one another and walk home from school together.  

    Albany is amazing! You can live on any street in our 1 square mile and find young families, high school families, and elders. Scouts, community center, and when the kids are older they can be free-range, all schools are within walking or biking distance. 

    Rockridge in North Oakland. Most kids here attend the local public elementary school but beyond that there's a strong neighborhood feeling. All kinds of people living here--one neighbor has lived here her entire life in 3 different houses on the same street. At the same time, new families come in with children making for a nice generational feel. Lawton Ave between College and Broadway is a "Halloween street" particularly for little ones. I have 2 kids, 17 and 12, and both of them have friends within easy walking distance along with kids they know in between. Close to BART and bus lines and nice mix of restaurants and shops along College Avenue make it a great place to live.

    I agree with the others, it is often just luck. I doubt that generally the East Bay is any better than the South Bay.

    For example when we lived in Alameda, we happened to live on a block that had a lot of very old people and neighbors with kids who were older than ours. The one house with kids our kids' ages weren't particularly friendly. 

    Some of the things you can control are living on a street that:

    • isn't a major traffic through fare or even better is a dead end
    • has sidewalks
    • is close to a park/school
    • has a lot of housing density 
    • is not near a lot of crime
    • has good public schools - so people are less likely to leave/go private when their children get older

    Some random neighborhoods I've heard to have good community are:

    Alameda: the area around Otis Elementary, the neighborhood North and East of Central Avenue across from Encinal High

    Berkeley: the Thousand Oaks neighborhood

    Piedmont: Lower Piedmont around Wildwood Elementary

    Albany: the areas East of San Pablo

    I don't recommend living in Oakland, even the "nice" areas i.e. above hwy 580. Many of your neighbors will either leave when their children become school age or send their children to private schools. Definitely do not live below hwy 580, there are more gun deaths there than the rest of the bay area combined.


    Strong vote for Albany. Similar to Berkeley in lots of ways, but has a built-in small town feel. You're constantly running into people you know walking around the Albany end of Solano and the various playgrounds and parks; just three elementary schools and then one middle school and high school; and adorable local touches like "fall into haiku," when the city puts up signs everywhere with haikus submitted by residents (mostly kids).


    You can find this all over Alameda. My older kids babysit in the neighborhood and bike to school and sports. My younger child walks to school and the park and plays with friends. We have block parties. The kids have lots of freedom, walk to the corner grocery store, schools are good. Kids have after school jobs. It’s worth a look.

    Albany, the "urban village by the (East) bay"! Everything is extremely walkable (a little over 1.5 square miles) with tons of mostly independent restaurants, shops, etc. along Solano Ave. which ends in Berkeley to the east. Three public K-5 schools all funnel into one middle school, then on to one high school ... all very highly ranked. Kids and families walk, scoot and bike everywhere. Houses and property lots are on the small side, especially compared to South Bay real estate, but imho this "downside" really gives Albany that community feeling. Good luck w/ your move.

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  • My husband and I relocated to Nashville in 2014 after over a decade in Berkeley. We now have two sons, ages 6 and 4, and are soon listing our house for sell with the intention of moving back to the Bay Area. But to where? I'm hoping you can help!

    We are lucky to live in a wonderfully progressive community in East Nashville where we know our neighbors and all of our children know each other. We bike to school and trick or treat together, have playground meetups and porch cocktails while the children play in the yard. It's truly wonderful, except: there is really no outdoor activity here, the weather stinks, and we're very stuck on this tiny blue island with nowhere interesting to explore. 

    We want public schools that are both racially and socioeconomically diverse. Some walkability is preferred. Community vibe. 

    So far in consideration are North Berkeley or the hills, Forest Knolls / Lagunitas, other communities along Sir Francis Drake (Fairfax?)... 

    Any place we should be looking? 

    Thank you!

    Where did you live in the bay area before? El cerrito will likely have more diversity then Berkeley.  If some walkability is preferred I probably wouldn't recommend the Berkeley hills as it's not particularly close to restaurants/shops.  Pretty much anywhere else in berkeley is walkable.  Albany could be an option as well.  My understanding is the weather will be slightly warmer in Marin(fairfax, san anselmo, lagunitas) but the farther out you go from the water, the more scenic it becomes.  Are you looking to buy or rent a home?  I'd encourage you to tour a few homes/apartments before making your decision.  My wife and I looked at places in south berkeley, temescal neighborhood of Oakland, emeryville, Lafayette, Orinda, and Walnut Creek.  We ultimately decided on south berkeley because it was the best house available for our needs at the time.

    Piedmont -…; Outstanding community, fire and police (rarely more than 4-minute response time).,_California

    Be sure to check out the real estate (rental and buyer) prices. It's insane!

    Nowhere in the hills will you find racial and socioeconomic diversity. If you truly mean to find this, then the flatlands in Oakland.

    None of the communities you mention will have diverse schools except Berkeley, and even then I find Berkeley schools to be pretty segregated (my kids go to BHS). The hills are definitely not walkable. I would look in Oakland, maybe San Rafael or Novato if you want Marin County. 

    I will just say, I recommend you think long and hard about this decision. Spend more time here and talk to people with kids. We left the Bay Area 25 years ago and lived for 12 super fun years in Washington DC. Then we had kids and decided to move back to be near friends, family, and to raise children in the cool place that we'd loved for so many years. We did that, and slowly realized over time that it may not have been the best decision. First, even moving from one major urban area to another, our expenses here almost doubled. Those cost comparison widgets online are all wrong. It's insanely expensive here, and not just housing - but that is crazy. We moved from a huge, historic house in an amazing area to a tiny bungalow in the Oakland Hills. We enjoy our house and hood, but it was a big step down. Second, nothing was the same ... WE were not the same. Everything we valued in the Bay Area as young professionals in our 20s and 30s, we experienced very differently as parents of young children. We love the nature - the ocean, the sierras, all of it. But the Bay Area of our youth - all the cool stuff we took advantage of - wasn't as important to us anymore in this new life phase. Third, the Bay Area has itself has changed a TON. The traffic and stress is insane. Moms flip you off in traffic. Fires, drought, insurance issues - people are stressed. It's WAY worse than DC, for example, and we really were not prepared for this at all. It's not just the expense, this area attracts very high intensity people - overachieving, ambitious parents and just a huge added layer of competitiveness and stress for our children and our family. You can choose your own path and refuse to get drawn into it - but your kids will notice what their friends are doing and what is "lacking" for them. We have found a lovely community of friends, but you cannot avoid the Bay Area stress. Close pals of ours have left and landed in mutiple places around the US - Wisconsin, Colorado, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and even France and Canada - and ALL are living a way more balanced life in communities that are better for raising children. The skiing here is awesome, the camping, every ocean sport, and much more - but in my opinion it is not worth the lack of balance, the commutes, the millions of extracurricular activities and wierd values that intense parents have, the lifestyle compromises that you will make just to afford a house, the weak school systems, etc etc.  I have told my siblings (who live elsewhere) not to move back, much as I'd love to have them near. It is no longer the Bay Area of our childhood and youth.

    My suggestion would be to edit your post to include your budget, whether you are renting or buying, house/yard requirements, and any commuting/job locations. I would also think more about whether proximity to nature or walking proximity to services is most important to you. There are a lot of great places to live in the Bay Area, but your budget, your location needs, and your desire for space vs convenience will dictate how much of a fit any suggestions would be. For example, Berkeley schools will be somewhat racially and socieconomically diverse, however, if you want to be somewhere flat and bikeable/walkable, with proximity to bart, and are hoping for a 3/2 with a yard in good shape, you would likely need to be in the 1.5-2 million budget range. Lagunitas is great if you want land and a more rural feel, but I would definitely not describe it as walkable in the sense of walkable to services. I also imagine the commute would be hard on someone needing to go into the city a few times a week. 

    Try the Grand Lake area in Oakland. The Lakeshore commercial district is lovely, you are close to the lake and parks. Crocker Highlands Elementary, Cleveland Elementary, and Edna Brewer Middle School are all good. None of Oakland's high schools are all that great, though I think Grand-Lake is mostly zoned for Oakland Tech was rated highest when we were choosing for my daughter 4 years ago (my daughter goes to Oakland High, which has not been terrible but has presented some frustrations on the academic front).

    Marin is much more suburban than Berkeley, either flats or hills. North Berkeley is walkable, and communities form around the schools. In the hills most of your neighbors would be older people (as in Marin.) You might want to rent for six months when you return to the Bay Area so you can get a better sense of the communities.

    Depends on your budget but we love West Contra Costa: we live in Hercules. The Hercules/Pinole area is super friendly, diverse and beautiful. Prices have gone up in the last 5 years but it is still one of the most affordable areas in the Bay Area. 
    Martinez also seems very cute but a lot less diverse. 

    Budget will dictate where you can live. Housing cost and cost for everything in the Bay Area are astronomical compared to TN. When we go to Nashville where we have family, we are always reminded that everything costs almost 50% less except Avocado and wine. Gas is insanely expensive in CA. TN has better public schools than CA — sad but true. We still love the Bay Area and can’t imagine moving back to TN although we would be close to family. Being a political and racial minority in TN is no fun. Ocean and skiing are so far away.

    We live in Grand Lake neighborhood which is diverse but feels a bit transient. We keep seeing people moving in and out. It feels unstable and poor kids keep losing friends but gain new friends, so maybe it’s good for social skills. Luckily we have made a small group of friends who are deeply rooted in the Bay Area.  We are zoned for a great and diverse elementary school (CLeveland) and the best high school in Oakland (Oakland Tech). We plan to do private, magnet or charter school for middle school. We bought a house here partially due to schools and proximity to urban amenities (shops, restaurant, lake Merritt, theater, parks, etc.) Also, we liked the neighbors as the hood seemed kid friendly but all of those families with kids moved away, and we now have a bunch of childless young couples in the hood, but I think it’s our block and not the general neighborhood. (New neighbors who don’t have kids never come outside and don’t seem friendly. But maybe it’s the pandemic. I see people gathering and being more friendly on other blocks in the hood.) 

    If money is not an issue, Piedmont is amazing but not diverse. I think Alameda is really great — diverse, friendly, small town feel with urban amenities, flat, beach, good schools, mild weather. I wish we had bought in Alameda instead of Grand Lake which is walkable on the map but quite hilly in many parts. Berkeley schools are also great and diverse. I am not too fond of weather in most parts of Berkeley as it gets fog from the Pacific Ocean. Lamorinda or Marin for great schools and lovely homes but both lack diversity. If you will rent, we are seeing our friends pay $4000 - $5500 per month to rent a house with a yard and 3 br or more in a desirable neighborhoods. Zillow estimates our 3 bedroom (1600 sq ft) 100 yr old house to be about $1.7 -$1.8 mil. We refinanced a few weeks ago and received $1.58 mil valuation. Just sharing a data point to aid your search. Good luck! (Oh, one minor thing. We can’t find self rising cornmeal easily here in the Bay Area. We make apple butter and share with friends who think it’s so exotic. Hah!)

    We have kids a few years older than yours and live in Berkeley. I wouldn’t recommend it. I would love to have a community like you describe in East Nashville, but that really doesn’t exist here - at least not for us. And it’s a real bummer.

    Regarding socioeconomic diversity - I would say the way it plays out here is not great - there’s super rich and super poor. The families in the “middle” work their butts off just to scrape by. Meanwhile we have a homelessness crisis and people paying $2 million for a tiny bungalow. It’s crazy.

    People say the schools here are great and diverse, but that hasn’t been our experience at all. Yeah, there’s a lot of diversity, but the achievement gap is embarrassing - just terrible. And the schools aren’t really great either. One of our kids does fine in the public school (not excelling, but fine), but our other kid was doing poorly and having mental health issues and the district wouldn’t do anything at all to help. We ended up moving that child to private school ($$$) to get the needed support - and found out in the process that a lot of families end up doing this for their kids rather than fight with the school district.

    In any event, I agree with the earlier poster that you should think long and hard about the move. It is very expensive here, and I don’t think you’ll find a community like the one you have here. At least not in Berkeley. The outdoor activities are great, but I don’t think they’re worth the trade off for the other quality of life issues out here.

    Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful responses. I'm sorry to see them only now...I guess I'm not quite sure how to use this message board!

    I agree that it is definitely easy to idealize the appeal of a place where you lived while childless! 

    To answer some of your questions: we lived in Berkeley together and my husband spent several years in Alameda, we would likely buy with a budget of ~1.5 million but renting for a bit is not a bad idea, we don't need a huge space, and we both work remotely from home so access to BART isn't necessary.

    And, yes, we have so many people moving to our neighborhood from California and New York! 

    Sorry to seem a downer, but I would agree with some of the other posters about thinking long and hard about moving to the Bay Area with kids. We moved back to the Bay Area when our kids were small, from a very manageable expat life in Paris, because our family is here. My two kids are now finishing high school and in college and I often wish I hadn't raised them here. It is crushingly expensive, from housing to childcare to camps to groceries, and we would have saved literally hundreds of thousands of dollars if we hadn't lived here. We lived in SF for a long time, fought it out until middle school, but now live in Marin. It's not diverse, but it's beautiful with the trees and walks, but our house (which took us six soul-crushing overbids to find) is old and has many issues that will cost $$$ to fix, IF we can even find people to do the work. (Think calling 25 contractors and getting mabye two to call back to give bids of $10K to tile a small backsplash.) And the end result? One of my kids goes to UC Berkeley and we stayed partly for the UC system. But Cal is crowded, underfunded, and had the craziest pandemic response you could ever imagine (think locking kids in dorms with cops outside and outlawing outdoor solo exercise), just like the public K-12 schools. Our friends who raised kids in less expensive places now send their kids to great private colleges because a) it's much easier to get into said colleges when you aren't form the hyper-competitive Bay Area, and b.) they have saved by not living here. Both of my kids want no part of living here as grownups..they are burnt on the odd self-congratulatory smugness, constant grinding competition (think peers who do "medical research" in 10th grade and play two travel sports in hopes of getting into Stanford), traffic, wildfires, power outages, and just general stress of this area. They're considering settling in cheaper cities with more cultural life such when they're older such as London, DC, Boston, or NYC.

    If home prices are not an issue, then Piedmont has a great community vibe.  The small population makes it possible to know and be known by others.  Neighborhoods within a 1/2 mile of schools will have kids hanging out of the trees, block parties, and walking groups.  Join any youth group or team, go to school, or join in a community event and your photo will probably make it into the local news within a few months of your arrival.  It's nice to see familiar faces at school, in scouting at soccer practice, and at community events.  Piedmont could be more diverse racially, but if you take a look at the current school board members, you can see that the city as a whole desires to move in a positive direction and we have some strong leaders who might make it happen.  We used to be at a public school elsewhere that was incredibly diverse (Jewish, Japanese, Korean, Hispanic, Caucasian, other Asian) but there was a lot of self-segregation among the student population that school leadership was either unable or uninterested in overcoming.  Based on what I've seen this balkanization is less along cultural lines and more along socioeconomic lines.  Schools generally seem unable to break down socioeconomic barriers and the inequities in student progress by subgroups is further evidence.  Piedmont is also intensely progressive these days.  Very high voter turnout.  Very high census returns.  93% of kids ages 12-17 are fully vaccinated and 95% of school teachers/staff are vaccinated.

    In San Francisco, the Glen Park neighborhood has that close knit and progressive vibe especially the closer you are to Chenery. Walkable. Mission Terrace nbrhd too. (Of the two nbrhds, Glen Park is less diverse but probably still more diverse than the areas you mentioned.) SF has public schools that are racially and socioeconomically diverse, you can rank those schools at the top of your list. (Not all schools are equally diverse but it’s easy to check.) 

    I'm going to echo others who say to get a realistic idea of cost of living before taking the leap to move. I'm also going to add to consider commute time, for both work and activities, before making your decision. As a parent who left the Bay Area 2 years ago with an 11 year old, it is absolutely astonishing the difference between the Bay Area and everywhere else. Going from a 1-1.5 hour commute (one way) to 6 minutes is life changing, as would be the reverse. The cost of housing and cost of living in general is much higher than you'd expect and online estimators aren't accurate. When we moved, our family income dropped to 1/3 of what it was before, but our standard of living and economic security, not to mention access to great schools, home ownership, safe communities, and kid activities we could only dream about in CA, is SO much higher. We do miss the diversity and food, but that's about it. Honestly, we wouldn't even entertain a thought of moving to the Bay area unless our income was at least 5x higher there and we were able to find good jobs in a safe community with decent schools within a few miles of home. And that's tricky.

    Like someone else said, if you can update with a price range (either monthly housing budget for rental or ownership, or your salary range), you can get a better idea of what is reasonable for your situation. Also, job locations will make a difference, so if you have that info, it can provide more direction.

    Responding to the original poster’s second post, which included the house budget of $1.5 million. I hate to say it, but you are priced out of Berkeley with that budget. You might consider communities North of Berkeley like Hercules, Pinole, Martinez, or South like Castro Valley or San Leandro. I’m not as familiar with the housing markets in those cities but $1.5 million is unfortunately not going to get you anything for a four-person family in Berkeley. You might see listings for less than that but they are under-priced to drive bids. Houses sell for so much over asking it’s absurd - cash only. 

    There are many pockets that are neighborly. Some streets /blocks have regular or even weekly happy hours. Kids come out and play all the time in some parts. But, it’s hard to know what your neighbors are like until you start living there. Pleasant Hill is less expensive with decent schools and really family friendly. It’s getting more diverse. I think Alameda is lovely for families. We live in Oakland but end up driving to Alameda a lot for family amenities. We were focused on good public schools when we were house shopping. After spending 3 years in Oakland public schools, we realized that even the best public school here is still a CA public school. We were at one of the highly coveted Oakland public schools and were disappointed with the experience. Kids had no play equipment for 2 years and finally I ended up buying and donating hundreds of hula hoops and balls because it was such a low priority that PTA had no budget for it. This was a school where PTA raises a lot of money and we donated $2000-$3000/year. We ended up switching to a private school ($30k/year). Good schools help with the property value but I would not count on your child thriving in public school. If public school works for your kid, fantastic! If not, you want to have the resources to switch to private. We have friends who moved to Albany, Piedmont, San Ramon, parts of Oakland (hills, rockridge) and ended up in private schools. 

    Piedmont has a community vibe but 1.5 mil will get you a small 2 or 3 bedroom house with a tiny yard. Our friends live in such a house in the lower Piedmont and often joke that they are the paupers of Piedmont. (They are not poor and are both lawyers who make 6 figure salaries). 

    San Leandro is also popular with families these days. We looked at a few lovely houses there. Estudllo area has a good public elementary school. We couldn’t stomach the commute but with remote working possible, we would consider SL. 

    Hi! We’ve moved to Albany on the Berkeley border 6 months ago, from London. 
    Let me say, it’s just ok. I miss too many things a big city offers but at the same time family life here (with a toddler) is fine. We have walkability near Solano Ave and it is practical for day to day needs. 
    We rented a 3/2 with mini backyard for 4200/month and if you want to buy we’ve discovered that hitting the 2mln mark, quite unfortunately, is needed. Be ready for a bidding war. 
    In terms of community, I honestly don’t know if there’s such a thing or if folks are still quite respectful of covid and thus keep away (which shows in a way respect to the community and is appreciated). 
    Everything here is ridiculously expensive and not easy, for example getting a veterinarian appointment takes a month’s lead time. 
    Think long and hard if you have a good community with good schools. Romanticizing memories might not help when making life changing decisions. 

  • Hi, 

    We are a family of 4 with two young children (3.5 yrs and 6 yrs old). I’m a stay at home mom and I’m looking for the best neighborhood/ area in the east bay to raise children. I am looking for a safe neighborhood where neighbors know each other and kids play together in the neighborhood. Possibly an area with other stay at home moms but that’s not a must.  

    We are currently in Berkeley but thinking of moving to Lamorinda for the schools but are open to other areas as well. Any recommendations on best neighborhoods to raise your kids? 

    Nearly everyday I wish I had bought a house in Lamorinda, Pleasant Hill or Walnut Creek instead of our small 100 year old dilapidated house on a meager sloped lot in what is considered one of the best neighborhoods in Oakland. I am afraid to take a walk due to rise in crime. For the same price point at the time of purchase, we could have had a larger house on a much larger flat lot with a swimming pool in a neighborhood with other kids. Young families are fleeing in droves from our hood to the other side of the tunnel. Within the past 15 months, we have had 3 friends move to Pleasant Hill, 1 to Moraga, 1 to Benicia, 1 to Orinda, 1 to Walnut Creek. (Several other friends to Sacramento area and out of state or country)… *sigh*

    Commute to SF was our first priority in home purchase. It make no economics sense for us to move and we can’t afford the house we want now that the price has gone up so much. But we are very envious of people being able to move.

    Pleasant Hill seems like less snooty, very family friendly and a bit more diverse than Lamorinda. We dream of a 4br/2ba house with a large yard in Pleasant Hill where neighborhood kids come out and play. (All 3 friends who moved to PH live on this type of street)

    This is going to depend a LOT on your pricepoint, and somewhat on your 'style'. We live in the North Berkeley flatlands with our almost 4 and almost 6 year olds and absolutely love the neighborhood. We have become very close with our neighbors, even those with older kiddos or babies, and see little 'packs' of kids riding and running around. It's a little mecca as far as I'm concerned, with proximity to schools, restaurants, bars, parks, libraries, etc. We are fortunate to have a lovely yard as well, though I know it's not all that common in Berkeley. We prioritized being able to walk/bike places, and didn't want to be in the hills. The heat on the other side of the tunnel was also a factor for our family.

    We just moved to Walnut Creek from Oakland last year, during the pandemic, didn't plan it that way but it worked out perfectly. More space, good schools, safe neighborhoods. There are a lot of new families in the area who left SF and Oakland to come across the tunnel. We are in the North Gate area of Walnut Creek and the schools are well rated. A friend in Emeryville is moving to the Parkmead neighborhood of WC, good schools, safe, and close to downtown. Another friend who used to live in Montclair hills moved to Campolindo neighborhood in Moraga last summer for a house with a pool, yard, good schools, and a neighborhood with sidewalks. I don't think you can go wrong with either Lamorinda or WC. 

    Pretty sure Alameda fits the bill on all counts. Safe streets, kids play together, lots of SAHM's and great schools, stores, dining, plus it's an island! How cool is that? Happy hunting!

    What does “best” mean to you because it means different things to different people. People saying Oakland is not safe or not the best area to raise a kid haven’t experienced all of Oakland. There is a lot of crime of course because it’s a major urban city. Obviously there is less crime in suburbs but you lose a tremendous amount in regard to diversity and culture. It’s about what you’re looking for. While I’m certainly weary of the crime in Oakland, I love living here because my kid is exposed to many races, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomics, you name it. My kid is surrounded by working class kids and not a bunch of privileged wealthy kids who will make her feel bad. I love going to parks and finding a multicultural group of kids to play with rather than the all white kids you’ll find in these “safe” suburbs. I’ll take the diversity over a perceived perception of safety any day. 

    Alameda or North Berkeley/Albany seem like good fits, especially if you're not looking for a large yard or country club lifestyle. Walnut Creek or Danville would be worth considering as well.

  • We are moving to the East Bay this summer and are trying to figure out where to go! My husband went to Miramonte (20 years ago) and I went to college in the East Bay. Neither of us have been around the areas much, except for quick visits. In our heads, we want to live in Berkeley. But, with three kids, ages 2, 5 and 7, and for the long term, we are finally ready to settle down, well, mostly.

    For the past 5 months, we've been going between the East Bay and Portland. Before that, we lived in a small town in The South (for 2 years); before that Denver (2 years)  and NYC/Brooklyn for 8 years. Brooklyn is our favorite, but after spending this past winter schlepping kids around in the wet snow and ice, we don't think it's for us. After being home bound in Portland because of the rain, the East Bay is it. We are in a position where we are a few years into launching our own businesses. Commuting to and from an office will not be part of our day (for now, at least). Then comes the "starting business" part; I know we aren't going to save money by living in the East Bay. We want to rent for two years (I know, I know...probably more expensive than purchasing). Ultimately, we want to end up in Lamorinda. But rentals are scant and on par with NYC.

    The question:

    1. Is Lamorinda still as great as it used to be (I used to work at OCC during my summers and throughout the school year and the families were awesome)? A mix of personalities? Interests? Family and people-oriented?

    2. In the five years I've lived there, I set foot in San Ramon two times and Pleasanton once. I hardly remember either but friends keep recommending them. Are they worth checking out? Our kids have been attending Waldorf schools (we know this may no longer be a reality) but we are very big supporters of public education.

    Any direction or insight would be so helpful. We really thought Brooklyn was it, but I think the outdoors and education are our top priorities.

    Lamorinda, San Ramon and Berkeley are all very different and really depends on what you are looking for. Each have different things going for them:

    Lamorinda - Mostly very affluent and white, but good schools. Almost no walkability except if you are close to downtown Lafayette.

    San Ramon - diverse on paper but communities tend to keep to themselves. Whites are more conservative and republican and less enthusiastic about diversity. Schools, houses, parks are all new and shiny. Almost no walkability.

    Berkeley - Lot of diversity, great walkability (most neighborhoods) but public schools are bit disappointing

    Without knowing what your budget is, it is hard to give you advice. The same amount of money results in extremely varied living situations in different areas of the East Bay. 

    Lamorinda has wonderful schools, is generally safe, is not very diverse and is very expensive.  Lamorinda is family oriented and about 15 minutes away from Oakland.

    San Ramon has wonderful schools, is generally safe, is not expensive in comparison to Lamorinda.   The community is diverse, the public schools are fantastic, it is safe and a family oriented community.  San Ramon has apartments but they also have very affordable townhouses and free standing homes.  The town houses are much less expensive than the free standing homes.   San Ramon is only 25 minutes from Oakland.  San Ramon has lots of neighborhood parks and Las Trampas East Bay RegionalPark.  San Ramon is building a new outdoor shopping/walking around plaza which will feature a combination of living space upstairs (rental units) and shopping and a luxury eat-in movie theater 10-plex downstairs. Here is some information regarding the new plaza called City Center in San Ramon  There are also a lot of small businesses in San Ramon.

    Pleasanton has good schools, is less expensive than Lamorinda but slightly more expensive than San Ramon.  It is as safe as San Ramon but not as diverse.  It is a family oriented community.  It is also about 25 minutes from Oakland. Pleasanton has lots of neighborhood parks. Pleasanton has some rentals and lots of houses.  Pleasanton has a really cute downtown with nice restaurants.  There are a number of companies in Pleasanton.

    I know this is not the part of the county you're asking about, but I wanted to put in a plug for west Contra Costa :)

    We have lived in the western half of the county (Pinole) for 3 1/2 years and LOVE it. It is definitely an "up-and-coming" area (there are open houses in our development literally every weekend), lots of young families moving in. The houses are not cheap, but you could definitely get more house for your money than you'd find in Lamorinda or Berkeley. There are tons of hiking trails within an easy walk from our house; neighbors have chickens, goats, and even horses. Before my daughter was born last year, I regularly rode my bike downtown to write at East Bay Coffee Company; now I walk w/her to the playground around the corner from our house almost every day, and have met several very kind mamas and babies there. My husband commutes to Berkeley, and while 80 is sometimes challenging, there are back roads and workarounds that can spare you most of the traffic.

    Public schools here are OK-and-on-track-to-get-better (one of the few up sides of gentrification), and we are 15 minutes from the East Bay Waldorf School in El Sobrante.

    Happy to talk more about pros and cons if it's helpful. Good luck!

  • My family of four has lived in the East Bay for 13 years, first in El Cerrito and now in Albany. (I'm from the East Coast and my husband is from LA.) While we love many things about it, and chose this part of the Bay Area very purposefully when we bought our home, we're feeling a bit disenchanted recently. I'm wondering if our complaints are unique to us, unique to the East Bay (or Bay Area) or simply a product of the changing social landscape we're all living with these days. We have some good friends here, people we like and socialize with somewhat regularly as a family or just as a couple. That said, we've still struggled to find a true sense of community, or a group of friends/couples/families who all know each other and with whom we truly connect-- the automatic casual Friday night dinner crowd. We frequently entertain and are surprised by the number of couples/families whom we've hosted numerous times and have never reciprocated. We're always the family that gives rides to sports practices/games, hosts play dates and snacks and dinners for our daughters' friends. In several instances these efforts are simply never returned. We're starting to feel like we're beating our heads against the wall, making no progress at establishing strong friendships as a result of our many efforts. In short, we feel like we are very much more invested in sustaining relationships and creating a sense of community than most of the people we know. 

    When I talk to my friends on the East Coast it feels to me like there is a marked difference in expectations and experiences with friendships, social engagements and traditions. My question to this group is whether you've experienced any of these same issues and dilemmas, what you have done about it, whether you've considered moving from the East Bay as a result or if you have found another solution. Is it us? Are our expectations out of line? Is it a sign of the times, where everyone is stretched thin and doesn't have the energy or time to foster deeper connections? Does the Bay Area (perhaps specifically the East Bay) self-select toward people who prefer spending time outdoors (camping, skiiing) or alone as a family to socializing? Are we somehow just unlucky in our specific neighborhood or school community? We truly feel like we've tried everything to connect, put down roots and build a life here, but keep feeling disappointed in how our efforts are received. We’re starting to wonder if we’d be happier in another area where people might put more of a premium on community. I'd appreciate hearing from those of you for whom my post rings true, and what if anything you were able to do about it. Thanks.

    Your post rings true. I don't have any particular solution, but some thoughts about the context. I think that the relocation, by itself, is a big part of what you're still dealing with. For example, if you were from the East Bay and had relocated to where you came from on the East Coast, I can't help but think that you'd be telling a similar or even more dismal story. 

    One exercise I'd suggest is to think about your social connections on the East Coast before you left, and analyze how they came about. I realize that they'd be different now, if you'd stayed. But still, how did they come about? If they were connections of long-standing, from grade school on, and so on, that points to the absence of such a foothold here. If you think that they had more (then) contemporary origins, then that might provide some guidance for you now.

    I know exactly what you mean.  I have lived in several other places, and the Bay Area is not the same as the rest of the US.  People here are generally nice, but they are very flakey and self-absorbed, too.  I have friends, but they arent the same depth of friendships I have made elsewhere.  It's not just you....


    You're definitely not alone. We relocated over 7 years ago from the East Coast (the southeast) and found that it is very hard to establish community here. I think it's a combination of people being very busy and not really interested in making new friends. I also think it is a cultural difference - I was raised to believe that when you invite someone or do something for someone they reciprocate but that doesn't seem to be the norm in this area. I hosted crazy inclusive birthday parties and playdates for my kids when they were young and many of the attendees didn't reciprocate. It was very very frustrating.

    I've kind of had to accept that this is the way it is here, but am also happy to report that we have found friends that we like. We have also lost some along the way, which is fine. I also think when you're a parent it's tough because your social life is kind of dictated by who your kids hang out with, which can be challenging. My advice is to do activities that interest you (yoga, community service, whatever) so that you can find people that you connect to and it's not about your kids. That way you will be more likely to find people on your wavelength. It definitely takes time but I'm sure you will find your people. Good luck! - Been there

    I am from the East Coast and I could have written your post verbatim.   I don't know what it is about it here. I find even basic social norms, such as "hello" to be an all too frequent absence.

    What have I done about it?  Lament it. Complain about it on BPN from time to time. That's about it.  

    But, I'm raising my children to be different.

    I too have found a lot of what you say to be true.  I also am from the East Coast and yes the reports i get from family and friends I left behind are quite different from what I experience here.  As to causes, I think it's an "all of the above" answer.  I have been here 20 years and it took me about 10 to get comfortable with the startling cultural differences between the coasts. I think I see this most in the lack of attention to reciprocity on play dates, dinners, etc.   We are friendly with school families but not in a way that translates to socializing outside of the kids' activities where the parents are lined up as spectators.  They all seem nice, but .....  Part of it too is that my kid is behind socially and quite awkward and I don't see the other parents encouraging their kids to notice this and be inclusive.  And so, because my kid has trouble making friends, our whole family is kind of left out of the social scene in spite of volunteering, being socially adept, bringing food by to someone who has experienced a birth or a death.  All that said, we found, as agnostics, a non-denominational progressive faith community that has met these needs for us and we have had a very soft landing there.  The disadvantage is that it's not in town, but the wonderful advantage is a large cohort of like minded people, intentionally social and kind and inclusive, with whom to share our day to day lives, and all the joy and the sorrow.  It's taken care of a bit of the longing I have for my family back East.  I know a faith community isn't for everyone, but for us it worked. 

    I can't help with your situation. With that said, we've lived in Albany for 8 years, and feel as you do. I am a Midwesterner, and, like you, love many things about California, have not established anything more than superficial relationships. Not sure if it's a east side/west side of the Mississippi. But I just wanted you to know that we are in the same boat. I'm extremely active in my community, and lead an active lifestyle. So we are not wallflower folks, yet, here we are. I also have lived in various places and have never been faced with this lack of relationships of depth. anyway, glad to feel that someone else feels the same, but still sad to feel disenchanted also. "Just keep swimming..."

    You are not alone! When we lived in Oakland, I found it hard to form a larger social group. We had several good friends that we'd see individually, but could never quite get a group together in spite of some effort! When my kids were younger, I hosted neighborhood-wide mom/kid groups. When my kids started school, I was organizing fun family outings (water parks, shows, museums, family camping trips etc) so we could all get to know each other. It was a big effort to bring people together but I too wanted to have a sense of community and a group of families that enjoyed each other. Reflecting back, but I came to these conclusions: 1. the area where we lived had a lot of two parent working families who simply weren't as available or committed to building social bonds; 2. often the families didn't quite "line up." My first born befriended a lot of kids who were the second or third child, and the families were "out of sync" in that way. Or I'd like the moms, but my husband didn't have anything in common with the husbands. 3. Organized sports and other activities meant people were already busy.

    A couple of years ago we moved to Lamorinda. Here the situation is different, and overall, I've found it easier to meet people. I may not quite have that tight social circle of families, but I do have 3-4 different groups of friends who know each other. I find that I'm often the one who organizes things like BBQs at the pool, dinner parties or family outings, but I'm not the only one who plans and hosts. One thing that I've learned here is that there are a lot of folks who grew up in Orinda or Lafayette and they are now back here raising their families. Usually, those moms are less available and more likely to have a tight circle already. I worked on getting to know other "new people," and that's made a big difference. Hang in there! You didn't say how old your kids are, but when mine turned about 10 or so, they didn't always want to hang out with "the family friends."

    Not all of us are lucky enough to have that tight group, but it is possible to have tight connections with smaller groups of people. Also, groups may flex and change as kids get older too. Best of luck.

    We've had the same experience. It's so depressing. I've given up on having a close community by my house. I think that you can contact me through my user name. I'd love to hang out!

    I also wish that I had a larger circle of folks in our family's social circle, but alas, there is just not enough time in the week!  From your description, you are putting in a lot of time to form social connections.  I imagine that other families would also like to reciprocate but simply do not have the time.  I know that in our family, with both parents commuting to work and kids in afterschool care and/or activities, we have very limited time during the week.  Play dates are not happening on weekdays.  Friday nights are not great for our kids, as they are usually worn out and frankly, not super fun to be around.  My husband works very long hours, so the weekend is when he recharges and gets to spend a lot of uninterrupted time with our kids. He is somewhat introverted so he is not inclined to invite other families over on the weekends.  Our family schedules some get-togethers with other families, but probably only about 4 times per year.  In addition to time limitations, it has been difficult to find other families where both the parents and the kids get along.  Over the last few years, we have found--through our kids' schools and sports teams--a couple of other families who are good "matches" for our family.  Those families all have limited time as well, however, so coordinating schedules is still challenging.  It is not unusual for us to need to schedule an informal joint family dinner 6 weeks out into the future.  I say all of this to explain that perhaps some of the families who haven't reciprocated to your generous invitations would also like to create "a sense of community," but simply do not have the bandwidth to do so. This may not be encouraging to you, but a realistic viewpoint from someone who also probably owes other people for countless playdates, rides and dinners.

    Before you romanticize the lives of your friends on the East Coast , I would stop to think whether it is an "apples to apples" comparison. Do your East Coast friends live in urban areas?  When I talk to my friends who lives in the DC suburbs, their lives sound just as hectic and stressed as ours do in the East Bay.  In fact, we frequently commiserate about how hard it is to spend time with existing friends, never mind developing new relationships.  Life is likely slowed paced in many smaller towns outside of urban areas, whatever region of the country.  

    I advise that you continue to reach out to families.  Eventually you should find the winning combination with a family with which you connect and that also has enough time to establish a deeper relationship.

    I feel the exact same way. My son is 7. Feel free to message me.

    Oh, we can so relate - when we lived in Berkeley, we felt like we were not making much headway socially and like you, we were very much the ones hosting and offering social events and not receiving anything back. I don't know if it's just the location, or the people we were trying to connect with, or what. We attended a church and people there did not make any effort to connect, either (I always thought church was a great place to connect with people of all walks of life). 

    What helped was moving to San Leandro - our neighbors are friendly, our realtor who we love introduced us to some people in the neighborhood and we've met other neighbors and although everyone is busy, we find the time to socialize and invite each other over. I don't know if it's the town itself that is laid back and down to earth or  we got lucky or we just started meeting more people like us who were looking for friendly connections. 

    Just so you know: friendly people are out there! (And my sister had a similar experience in Spokane and they gave up on it because of that). Look for people who will reciprocate and spend less effort on those who don't. Good luck. 

    As an east coaster (my wife and I are both, relocated to the Bay Area almost 8 years ago, been in east bay about 6), we struggled with similar feelings with even our close friends on the east coast. And to some extent, on the west coast, too. But we are able to see a small cadre of friends more regularly here than we did when Boston winters and habits set in (people hibernated). I do think people are spread more thinly, for sure. Friendships grow more slowly, and it takes more to maintain and nurture close friendships. But we have become more patient and view things over a longer arc. But yes, it can take a while to see reciprocation and develop that "urban tribe". I found joining a nonprofit board and pitching in on a common purpose and shared experiences as a way of really deepening some new friendships. But I think you really raised a thoughtful and important question. Thanks for that! 

    I could have written your post, except my family has only been here two years! Like you, I had a strong community back on the east coast, and socializing was natural and easy -- people dropped by regularly; we got together in parks and playgrounds every weekend, had regular outings, drinks, etc. When I was home with my baby and toddler, I had friends I saw almost every day! I have also found here (Oakland and Berkeley) that people just don't seem to need the same degree of socializing. I don't know why that is, but it does seem to be the case. I've met some great folks and feel like we genuinely connect, but they seem to be content to get together maybe once every couple of months, and I also feel like I'm usually the one putting forth the effort (a bit hard not to take it personally!). I'm beginning to resign myself to the fact that this may be the trade-off: beautiful place and high quality of life instead of a more social community of friends. We haven't been here that long so I still feel like I'm trying, but I too feel a little perplexed by the lack of engagement. As a side note, I'd be happy to meet up with you, though it sounds like our kids are at different stages (mine are 3 and 5).

    All I can say is that I consider myself to have several close friends and a wide circle of friends, and yet I have nothing close to an automatic casual Friday night dinner crowd. I rarely host anything. I never go on double dates. I feel like my friends and I are often just tired by the end of the week. We try to see each other when we can, but there's an understanding that yes, everyone is busy. This is perhaps the busiest time of our lives - raising young kids, working, dealing with aging parents. Long commutes with increasingly bad traffic. And yes, economic conditions in the Bay Area in general probably make it worse for many people. I have lived in the East Bay for 25 years and some of my friends are from the early days. It is possible that the people you are seeking friendships with already have other long-established friendships. I feel like my advice to you is the same as the advice for finding a partner: do activities you enjoy, and you will find likeminded people. And try not to judge other people if they can't reciprocate by having you over.

    Having lived in lots of different parts of the East Bay I can tell you that there are huge differences in the sense of community between Albany/Berkeley and the towns through the tunnel (Orinda, Lafayette, etc.) or further South like San Leandro. But there can also be huge difference within Berkeley just from one block to another. My experience has been that the neighborhoods or blocks that have a majority of stay-at-home moms or dads tend to have a lot more closeness. The kids are out on the street playing with each other, the neighbors are in and out of each others houses all weekend and there are lots and lots of parties. The blocks that have mostly two parents working outside the home have their kids in after-school care and so don't even get home until 5 or 6. There is very little time in those houses for get-togethers on weekdays and even on weekends many of those parents are working or are out-of-town on business or are trying to catch up on a rare bit of family time when they are all together in the same place. 

    So it's not necessarily that you're in the wrong town, but maybe you are on the wrong block for the kind of community you are hoping to find. 

    I think the issue is both the context of living in the Bay Area intersecting with the developmental stage of the families iwith which you are trying to build community. Seems like you are looking for the "whole package" in one group of people. Probably impossible. I break it down into thre categories: community, social support, and friendship. Community is the group you identify with 'parent at X school" "Warriiors fan" " practicing Wiccan"-allows you to come together to reaffirm that aspect of your identity. Then there's social support-concrete help needed at various times. Flat tire, need a ride or pick up, new baby and meals arrive or whatever pops up and you have a way of getting help. Then there is friendship, those you can call on, confide in, share feelings, exchange advice, etc..  There are different groups and people I rely on and provide for that fill those needs. Yes, there is overlap, but there are people I  provide social support and vice versa (gay couple across the street), but I do not confide or bear witness to their innermost thoughts, feelings and dreams,  nor am I part of the gay community. But we are part of the community of neighbors and enjoy and rely on each other. Same with church. We have a wondeful sense of community and belongingness and we celebrate that, and if we needed it would provide concrete help.not many friends there, as most are much older, have lived different lives but still liike and respect each other immensely. School revolves around the kids, and nobody has the time or bandwith to support each other concretely or emotionally for the most part. Yes, there are parents I like, but the burdens of family are real, and make it hard to reciprocate, especially if they live over 3 miles away (literally) and if the kids aren't close or husbands don't click.  My friends are a handful of farflung people, some single, some with kids, some living far away, that I get to see infrequently but can talk to, write to, reach out to and get/give emotional support. These folks are not the ones who are generally available for concrete support, but we are close and are true friends. If I want to hang out and share food, there are generally a few neighbors who will come over, but I do not pressure school parents or elders of my church to socialize. They would likely not be able to reciprocate, and I would not want to put them in that bind. Those people are busy, tired, have their own stuff to deal with. Quit putting your expectations on any one group of people and cobble it together with various groups. It's OK to have community without getting/giving social support and/or building close friendships with them. As long as you have access to getting those needs met, then you are good. Branch out, develop interests and hold those who are friends near and dear in your heart. Don't expect any one group to provide it all.

    I am with you on this one, as I know that being part of a community can make you feel connected, a support system, and companionship.  I grew up in a small town in the Rockies, and by it's nature of being small, it felt like there was more community. I moved away from home and out of state for college at age 17 and never really went back.  My husband is from the Boston area, and when I visited out there with him, it definitely felt like there was more community there, with extended family and long time friends in the area, and many more of them staying nearby to live their lives and be near extended family.  Many people in the Bay Area are from other places, and before we had kids, we had a very strong community through work, activities, and common interests.  As a single person in my early 20's I joined many organizations with weekly "show up events" and had lots of fun and through that developed a close set of friends.  I met my husband through these groups and activities, and over time we naturally coalesced into a tight group that we saw on weekends and evenings. Then we had children and our community changed.  We naturally stopped spending time with friends who chose not to have kids, partly because the activities we done with them were not compatible with doing with kids in tow.  It was a loss, but we cultivated a new community through the kids elementary school and sports activities.  Then as the elementary school friends went to different middle and high schools, the community and friend landscape changed.  You didn't say how old your children are, but relationships do change, and sometimes it is hard to accept.  We had several dear friends with kids the same age as children as ours but the kids didn't really "hit it off", so we spent less time with those friends.  Now that we have one kid in college and one entering high school next year, we are struggling again with re-cultivating the community.  I don't think your expectations are out of line but I do agree that it is a sign of the times.  I agree that many people are stretched very thin in the Bay Area because of the stress of work, commutes, traffic, and the demands of kids school and activities. Finding the community can be based on finding those people who have the same interests and values as you do developing a relationship.  Some people find through their church, temple, book club, kids school, sports team or activities, hobbies, volunteer work, etc.  Sounds like you have tried to foster the connections but haven't quite found it yet.  I feel the same way and recognize it might be a stage of life and that I need to keep working on finding the community, doing what I enjoy and hoping there will be others there who I can be with, and suggesting and hosting get togethers whenever possible, or even just coffee with a potential "mom friend".  Good luck to you! 

    This question seems to come up a lot, so I wanted to respond. A few years ago my husband and I moved to the East Coast (for job reasons). We had a really hard time establishing community there. We became close friends with one family, and we still keep in touch with them, but no one else really clicked. We eventually moved back to the Bay Area, where we have friends and community from long ago. My sense is not that people here are not friendly or polite, but rather that we are all overwhelmed - at least those of us from two-working-parents families. I have met several families that I really liked and wished I had time to connect with, but between work, kids and (now) a sick parent, there's simply no time left over. So it's not that I don't want to be your friend, but that I don't have the mental energy or time to do it. I think a lot of us feel this way. 

    With that said, we have made a few new good friends over the years, mostly through the kids' school, and mostly through their friendships, when the friends' parents happen to be like-minded people. 

    So... my suggestion, if you have the resources/energy to have people over, then do. If you can join a faith based community (if that appeals), then do. If you like some of your kids' friends' parents, hang out before or after or during playdates. Have patience. As our kids get older, we have (just a tiny bit) more room to breathe. 

    I wanted to offer a different perspective on the Bay Area.  I'm from Oakland, and still live here, yet have experienced a lot of the things you have - people not reciprocating, seeming flakey and not so interested in a group of friends.  Interestingly, the vast majority of people we meet are NOT from the Bay Area - they're from somewhere else.  And that kind of goes to what a lot of people have commented about lack of connections.  There are a lot of transplants here from all over, many people don't have extended family or lifelong friends.  It does create a different energy.  I think people's responses about families with 2 working parents is correct, many of us just have less time for developing friendships.  Also whether your families "line up" (i.e., kids the same age) is important, and I agree that it can be a block-by-block thing.  Someone mentioned taking the long view, and that is what worked for us (our kids are now 9 and 13).  We tried many different combinations of families over the years, looking for that perfect foursome that would all camp and go to the snow together, but what worked was just continuing to invite groups of friends over and eventually a bunch of them became friends with each other, and now we have our foursome.  But it took about 8 years.  And we still don't have the "automatic casual Friday night crowd," probably because we're on the wrong block.  ;)  Maybe just keep trying to play matchmaker with your various friends; hopefully some of them will click and you can all do more things together.  Good luck, I totally feel for you.