Living in Lamorinda

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi,

    I know many have made this move and hoping for some good perspectives! I am from Lamorinda and my husband is from Berkeley originally. We are currently renting in the Berkeley Hills- great house and great views, but we are looking to buy soon.

    Ultimately where we are does not meet our needs in terms of size and layout with young kids (2yo and 3yo). We have the option to buy where we are but our toddlers are in preschool in Orinda, I work in Walnut Creek, and walkability and schools are a big consideration. These are just a few of the reasons I'd like to consider the Lamorinda area. That said, my husband works from home, is not phased by the drive up and down Grizzly Peak, and would be perfectly happy to not to move. Would love some perspective from folks who have been hesitant to make the change further east-- benefits? regrets? 

    Thank you!

    We had this same issue in our family, and only being able to work from home finally cinched the deal. The cross tunnel traffic and commute was a major obstacle for us, as we work on the Berkeley side. I would say the Orinda Community Center and Park has been the highlight of living on the other side of the tunnel. Starting about age 4-5, we started taking advantage of the classes, teams and activities on weekends or afterschool. So much, so family friendly - and no drive! Now the kids can be doing different tclasses or teams, and we can still just be at one place. For example, they take Kids n’ Carpentry one afternoon 4-5:30pm, and I just hang out outside, enjoying the park and finishing up some work on my laptop. Then they spend another hour running around and playing on the play structures. Low stress, which is hard to find with 2 young kids and commutes!

    I don't think you'll find housing cheaper in terms of buying in Lamorinda vs Berkeley.  Both have good schools but very different types of living.  The further east you go, the more you're going to need/want air conditioning.  I'd recommend you and your spouse making a list of pros and cons of why you want to move and then compare the notes.

    I would also just note (though I'm sure you'll discover this!) that the walkable parts of Orinda are extremely pricey--you can likely find comparably priced options (though perhaps smaller lots/homes) in the walkable parts of Berkeley. Much of Lamorinda is not especially walkable, which is a tradeoff people make to move through the tunnel, so if that's a big consideration for your family, I'd also consider looking in an area like North Berkeley or Rockridge (for a quick reverse commute to Walnut Creek) as a compromise. (Remember that you are in the least walkable part of a pretty walkable city; Orinda and Walnut Creek are, generally speaking, not especially walkable except in specific neighborhoods.) I would factor in the job if you plan to stay there long term, but remember that you can always change preschools if needed to make things work with your family logistics once you decide on where to buy.

  • We are considering a move to Lamorinda from our current home in the Oakland hills. Desire for more space and better schools are the motivating factors.

    One thing that has surprised us when we drive around the various neighborhoods is that there are very few side walks and the roads are quite tight. It does not seem like a place that would allow for walking around with small children. Yet we continue to hear how family friendly these neighborhoods are, and that in many areas, kids walk to school. For example, I have heard that in Happy Valley, kids walk to elementary school. I just don't see how because the roads don't have sidewalks. Also, are there playgrounds/parks in the area? Where do kids congregate on weekends? 

    Maybe I am seeking something that isn't there - but would love perspective from those with young families in Lamorinda.

    Thank you!

    We moved from Oakland to Pleasant Hill when our youngest, who is now in college, was 2. A few blocks from Strandwood elementary school. The streets are nice and wide and flat and very walkable. Large flat backyards. Kids walk to school, the park, downtown and other places. Lamorinda was out of our price range and I’m glad we didn’t move there in retrospect, as Pleasant Hill is more diverse and more down to earth. 

    It really depends on where you're looking. Orinda north of hwy 24 is hillier, like Montclair, but the Ivy Drive area of Orinda is more traditionally suburban, with kids walking to school elementary through high school. Lafayette is similar. Burton Valley might have more what you're looking for, and certainly the area closer to downtown will, too. Much of Moraga has either sidewalks or streets wide enough to walk and ride bikes.

    Hello! Happy Valley parent here. This is going to be very neighborhood-by-neighborhood and street-by-street specific, but for Happy Valley specifically a lot of the neighborhood is situated along kind of a loop that is made up of Upper Happy Valley Rd. and Happy Valley Rd., which the elementary school sits in the middle of. There is a sidewalk/path all along both of those roads (on one side only) that is frequented by adult walkers and school walkers alike. There are more houses than meets the eye that are either directly on this path, or on random offshoots of these streets that allow for easy access to the main path to walk to school. And while you are right many of these side streets do not have sidewalks, a lot of them are “private” or otherwise not busy roads so I think parents feel comfortable letting their kids walk the short distances on them to connect to the main path. Of course, there are many kids not walkable to the school (for example, if you are very high up in the hills), and many kids that are walkable but still get driven, so I don’t mean to imply it is a walker’s haven for all, but to answer your question there is the one path at least.

    Truthfully I was a little surprised by how few playgrounds there are around us. Most people here play at the elementary school’s playground, and for your best chance of finding other neighborhood parents to congregate with that would probably be your best bet. There is also the playground up at the Reservoir. Beyond that, we rotate amongst other playgrounds in Moraga and Walnut Creek although of course we are less likely to randomly run into with neighborhood families there which I think is the crux of your question. With sports/activities/and birthday parties, that is kind of where our weekend congregation happens. 

    Good luck!

    We moved to Walnut Creek (Saranap/Parkmead area) last year from Berkeley to get more space too. We have more space as my elementary kids now can have their own bedrooms, and walk to school, but most of the people drive their kids. It's a really unpleasant walk- only half of a mile, but a good chunk of the walk has no sidewalk. There is heavy traffic, so we walk single file in some spots. People are often parked halfway on the lawn and half on the road, so we have to walk further into the road to get to school. I sometimes drive the kids to school, but it takes longer to drive than walk. We do love having more space, and especially more than one bathroom. We would have preferred to stay in Berkeley/Albany, but the cost of a bigger house was way too much there. There aren't any parks/playgrounds in our new neighborhood, but the school playground is open on weekends, and we play there. Like most of the people with kids in this neighborhood, we have a pool membership too.

    I'm sure it's because of the pandemic, but we haven't found the neighbors overly friendly and haven't made any friends here yet. Everyone seems polite, but we haven't gotten together with neighbors for dinner or beers has we have in our other neighborhood whenever someone would move in. Unlike our old neighborhood, we drive most places- the store, the library, kids lessons. I love our house, and we have a big yard for the kids to play in- but it feels a bit like living on an island, because there are no pedestrians walking by, no one coming over other than the amazon truck. If we want to go anywhere we get in the car and go.

    Also depending on where you want to live, there is highway noise from Highway 24 or possibly 680. We looked at houses all over Lamorinda and Walnut Creek. Many of the Lafayette and Orinda houses had noise from 24, so I'd recommend visiting the neighborhoods during different times of the weekdays. When we saw some houses on weekends it fairly quiet, but then after work showings, it was constant hum of 24 rush hour evening traffic. With the difference in temperature from Berkeley (many 90 & 100 degree days last summer) it didn't matter that it was so loud on the road, because we had the windows closed and air conditioning on, but in the spring and fall, it's loud.

    We love the schools here, I can't say enough about the excellent schools, but I still miss my old neighborhood and neighbors.

    The lack of sidewalks is frustrating and I have seen parents complain about it in local FB groups. But I would say sidewalks and walkability are not the only things that make neighborhoods family friendly.  There are lots of different classes and activities for kids as well as community events. Our neighbors here have been super kind, picking up our mail and watering our plants for free when we are out of town. Don't be surprised if you get cards or gifts to welcome you to your neighborhood. The local Facebook groups provide ways to share toys (Buy Nothing) and support families in other ways. 

    If sidewalks are important to you, there are some neighborhoods with them (varies by street), like Burton Valley - which is well known for it's community / family vibes - it has sidewalks and the elementary school has multiple playgrounds. Campolindo, part of Moraga, and Orindawoods also have some sidewalks. In our neighborhood, we have hills and no sidewalks but people are always walking their dogs and pushing strollers - it's expected so people who live here drive carefully (can't say the same for food and delivery drivers).

    The playgrounds in the area I am aware of include Orinda Community park, one up the street off Wild Plum Way, Wilder playground (in Wilder development), Dalewood Park in Sundown Terrace neighborhood, Lafayette Community Center, Moraga Commons, Rancho Moraga, Reservoir playground, and then the ones at elementary schools. Part of Tilden Park is also technically in Orinda, we love the little farm and playground. We also love and frequent Moraga Commons, we also drive to Walnut Creek for Heather Farms. Depending on where you live in Lamorinda you could be close the parks in Danville / San Ramon area as well. And there are multiple country clubs and swim clubs, etc. here that people join. 

    Also, with more space it is easier to host friends at home!  

    - Mom who moved here 2 years ago from small SF apartment 

    I do know that in Lafayette, they've hired a company to examine this problem and look for ways to make the city more you're not the only one to notice, and likely things will change over time.

    Thank you for asking this question! We are considering a similar move and have the exact same questions. Streets are often narrow, with no sidewalks, and seem potentially unsafe for all walkers, not just (but especially) kids. How do Lamorinda families navigate this?

    We moved to Lamorinda a year ago from SF. We live in the Wilder development in Orinda which is a bit different because the roads are a little wider and more spacious. I do agree that many areas of Orinda and Lafayette have narrow roads and no sidewalks. But I think it depends on each individual neighborhood within Lamorinda. If you are considering, I would start going to a bunch of open houses within Lamorinda to try and see which specific area you like. For instance, I know Happy Valley and Burton Valley are popular in Lafayette, but I think the best thing to do is start going to these neighborhoods so you can narrow down your search.

    I do agree that Lamorinda is very very family friendly. We have three young kids and we love it in Wilder. We use the playground a fair amount there but also the sports fields. I am not sure where all the kids congregate but I will say that sports is a big thing here in Lamorinda and our kids actually end up doing a lot of soccer/swimming on the weekends with other kids their age. Between sports, school or neighborhood birthday parties, that is pretty much what most kids are doing every weekend I would imagine.

    I will put in my two cents about our community Wilder, we love it, but there is not much inventory. I think some houses go on sale every so often. But overall I think you cannot go wrong with Lamorinda and you will enjoy it!

  • Hi all

    we currently live in the Oakland hills and want to learn from families who made the move from berkeley or Oakland to the Lamorinda area.  (For reference, Hoping to stay in the $1.6M range for a 3BR/2BA.)

    what do you love?

    what do you miss?

    how are your kids public school experiences different?


    kids aren't in school yet, but we recently made this move, and love the space and clean nice big parks and lots of kids around. don't love driving everywhere and i miss the views from the berkeley hills, and walking to work. our house is literally 3x bigger (it was more $$ though) than the old one and we have a pool now, so that makes the move worth it!

    'We left Richmond hills for Moraga and  lived near the Campilindo High neighborhood. We thought it was closer to the freeway but not in a high

    traffic area or we thought, that the neighborhood HOA pool was a great bonus (it was), and that the schools were rated higher.  

    My son was 3 when we went and he enjoyed it untll about 10 years of age when boys became racist and mean.  My son is a Happa, although looks all Asian. 

    During the 9/11, some of my friends who have middle eastern backgrounds faced racism also.   I liked  the pool but found parents too pushy about getting kids to 

    compete and swimming and meets take over the entire summer for many.  We believe he got a good education but he could have gotten it elsewhere also.

    In Moraga, I could not tolerate the traffic out of town each morning.. so unpredicatable.. either 7 to 10 mins or sometimes 25 to 40 mins if there is a problem. 

    It is very hot in the summers.. in the 90's often and I walked my dogs after 10 or even 11PM when it got cooler.  Winters are colder... by about 10 to 20 degrees 

    and many plants will die there like bouganvillia and Princess trees usually cannot be grown there.    I did not like the extreme temps, esp the heat in the summer & early Fall. 

    We moved back when my son left for college to this side of the Tunnel and we LOVE the diversity, which you don't get over there.  Ethnically, you have mostly white, asian, and 

    eastern Indian, some Middle Easterners and that's about it. There are also many priviledged kids who get whatever they want and it was stressful to raise our child in a less entitled 

    way without making him feel that we were simply holding out and being "mean."  Most parents we knew were paying for tutors for their kids.  Actually, I see that here in the Oakland Hills also. Maybe I'm old school in that way.. seems excessive to get a tutor for every class so the kid can get the best grades rather than hiring a tutor for the class(es) are most difficult.

    Although there was some burglaries and car break-in, the crime is MUCH lower than here in Oakland and Berkeley.  All in all, we are glad we moved back here because we love the ethnic restaurants, Berkeley Tennis Club, the amazing cooler weather in the summer and warmer weather in the winter... the neighbors are more engaging here and friendly but it may be the luck of the draw on who are neighbors happened to be on each side of the tunnel.  

    The competition for grades is much harder over there in the Lamorinda area, so your child will have to work harder to get the same grades as in the Oakland and Berkeley area.  Even though there is some slight adjustment by colleges on where you went to high school, unless your kid is a stellar student, they may not do as well GPA wise overall in terms of getting into the college of their choice in the Lamorinda schools and I've heard this from many parents and counselors also. 

    All in all, who knows.. maybe our son got a much better education in Moraga than he would have in a charter school closer to Richmond-El Cerrito. We are grateful that he still has interest in learning and the educational system and may go on to higher levels of education.  One thing I must say is that the Moraga Unified School District's Bruce Burns is a fantastic superintendent.

    A previous poster commented that winters are 10-20 degrees colder in the Lamorinda area. Not true at all! It can be a few degrees colder - barely noticeable. You can look up the climate yourself.

  • Hello every one. We recently moved from MN to Lafayette and planning on buying a house here. We are considering both Orinda and Lafayette area. We have a 3year old and 17month twins. we saw some houses in Eltoyonal and wilder and would love your advise about good neighborhoods.We are looking for a cultural/racial diverse community (we are turkish muslims)and hopefully a good school district. Thanks.

    Hello friends,

    We live in the El Toyonal neighborhood of Orinda and we are also muslims and we have twins and a baby. I have met few other muslim family in El Toyonal. Our local school (Wagner ranch elementary) takes diversity and belonging very seriously thanks to our Diversity and Inclusion parent association.  I will be so happy to have you as neighbor. Welcome.

    I hope the moderators will be able to connect us.

    I wish you the best. Salam

    Both cities have excellent schools - top in the state. There are no “bad schools”.

    I grew up in Oakland and have lived in Orinda for 20 years with 3 kids. I think Orinda is more diverse than Lafayette - but only diverse in that it has more Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern families. Very few Black families.

    I walk around Wilder a lot and anecdotally it seems to have a large Asian population and everyone I personally know who lives there is non white. Biggest cons for that area is that you have to get on freeway to access the town.

    If I were you I would look in the Ivy Drive and Glorietta neighborhoods in Orinda. And join a swim club! Welcome :) 

Parent Reviews

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.

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

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions & Advice about Lamorinda Also See Reviews of Specific Cities: Related Pages

2013 - 2014 Recommendations

June 2014

Re: Looking for a good neighborhood for my family
You could consider Moraga or Lafayette. Moraga is semi-rural. Lafayette is more happening. If you are willing to do a 2BR townhouse you might be able to get one for $2500 or less and the best place to see if that is true at this point in time is to check craigslist. The schools are very good, and closer commute to Berkeley than Walnut Creek. anon

June 2014

Re: Looking for a good neighborhood for my family
Try Lamorinda. The small towns of Lafayette, Orinda, and Moraga (Lamorinda) are beautiful, safe and have excellent schools. Walnut Creek is also safe and has great schools. WC is larger and is a little farther from Berkeley. You can check school ratings on the greatschools website.

Depending on the time of day, the commute can be long or short. Commuters have to drive though a tunnel which is stop-and-go traffic at peak times. Alternately, you can take BART from these towns to UC Berkeley.

Moraga has many rentals, and it is definitely possible to find a 2+ bedroom rental between $2k - $2.5k per month. Craigslist is a great way to find a rental. Good luck!

2010 - 2012 Recommendations

Moving to Lamorinda from Solano County

Sept 2012

We are considering a move from Solano county to the Lamorinda area. Our children are in K & 1st. I am very pleased with their current school (we have full day kindergarten) and am very hesitant to pull them so early in the new school year. If you have made the move early in the year to this area do you have any feedback? How did you children adjust? Both our children are social and enjoy sports, dance, etc. We have time on our side and my thought is to put our current house on the market in January w/ the move hopefully occuring in Apri - maybe optimistic but homes similar to ours our selling in 60 days in our area.

We have looked at homes in Sanders Ranch and Campolindo area and liked both; ideally though we would like to avoid HOA fees. The fact that some children bike to school thrills me as it is not possible where we live now. Is there one elementary school that stands out in the area? Would love to hear from anyone that has made the move - both pros and cons about the area, neighborhoods, etc. Jean

We live in Moraga and really like it. We are in the Campolindo area and the HOA fees only go towards maintaining the pool which is open from May - Sept. There is a swim club at the pool that competes in the local swim meets and is a good way to meet other people in the neighborhood. The best thing about Campolindo is that now that our kids are in high school, they can walk to/from school.

All the schools are good: K-12. -Happy Moraga Family

I don't have any insights into pulling your kids out of school early except to say that taking your time to find the right area for your family is probably the best strategy.

It sounds like you've been looking in Moraga. If you are interested in having your kids bike to school, then the area that feeds into Camino Pablo Elementary is probably your best bet. Sanders Ranch is part of that area, but the neighborhood (a.k.a Camino Woods, Larch, Rimer) surrounding Sanders Ranch is really nice, you can find a better deal on a house, has sidewalks and is FLAT. The middle school (Joaquin Moraga Intermediate) for all of Moraga is also in this neighborhood, so if you live here, you can bike/walk to school for K-8, which you can't do in any other neighborhood in Moraga. Another option is to look at houses that are close to the other two Moraga elementary schools if walking/biking is a priority. On the Moraga School District website, there is a street by street breakdown of school assignments. All the elementary schools are good.

If you are looking in Orinda, the area that feeds into Del Rey Elementary is also bike/walk worthy depending on where you live. It is also close to Orinda Intermediate so if you live in that area you also have K-8 close by. It's bit hillier of a neighborhood and there are no sidewalks in Orinda (written into the city code).

I know less about Lafayette, but the Burton Valley neighborhood is definitely conducive to biking to school. Also, areas closer to downtown Lafayette and Lafayette Elementary. The only middle school in Lafayette (Stanley) is close to Lafayette Elementary and kind of close to Burton Valley (don't know that I'd have my kid ride his/her bike from BV, but maybe kids do?).

You really can't go wrong with any of the schools in the Lamorinda area. Good luck with your search!! Moved Here for the Schools

I love Moraga. I moved from SF before kids and have one in K. The schools are great and it is a wonderful community. There are three elementary schools, as you probably know. Rheem (would be for the Campolindo neighborhood), Camino Pablo (for the Sanders Ranch neighborhood) and Los Perales (ours). The nice thing about the area around Sanders Ranch is that it is fairly easy to bike to school all the way through junior high. It does get a little far flung in some parts of Sanders Ranch. Moraga is off the beaten path to start with. I think all the schools are great and are very similar in terms of scores, etc. You may want to call the schools and confirm that there wouldn't be any issues finding room for your kids at the nearest school.
As far as pulling your kids out of school during the school year, I think the younger you do it, the better. Kindergarteners and 1st graders are still little and spunky enough to be exciting about the 'new kid.' Your kids won't have super entrenched friendships, either.

As far as neighborhoods go, I personally think Sanders Ranch is a little far out there, geographically. If you're considering Moraga and would like your kids to bike or ride to school, I think the area between Sanders Ranch and Canyon Road (nearer to Camino Pablo Elementary and JM Intermediate) is a great area. We live there and my kids were able to walk to school up through 8th grade.

You really can't make a bad choice in Lamorinda, though, it just depends on what you want. I think Lafayette near the Lafayette-Moraga trail is a great area, too. Many people love Burton Valley in Lafayette. The Ivy Drive area in Orinda is popular for its proximity to elementary, middle, and high school. Plus, it can be a little less hilly than other areas of Orinda, which is good if you want your kids to be able to play in the street and walk to neighbors' houses.

Piedmont vs. Lamorinda

Jan 2012

Compare/contrast living in Piedmont vs. living in Lafayette. We are considering a move with 3 small children (husband working in downtown SF) and need the space and good schools that both of these places offer. However, we are real 'city' people. I think Lafayette/Orinda will be too suburban for us, and I'm afraid Piedmont may be the same? Piedmont is closer to SF/Oakland/Berkeley so that is attractive to us. Jennifer

When we moved from Montclair many years ago, we looked in Piedmont before looking at places through the tunnel. We ultimately decided that we got more for our money in Lamorinda. (We live in Moraga.)

Lafayette has some good walkable areas, more so than Orinda, plus a pretty robust downtown, with good markets, restaurants, walking/biking trails, and a very nice brand new library. The schools are fantastic. It also has a BART station. Lots and lots of ex-urbanites out this way, so you'll meet lots of folks like yourself.

But if a true urban atmosphere is important to you, then perhaps Baja Piedmont would be a better choice for you, which is the area of Piedmont closer to Grand Avenue. I think that area can be noisy, though, and the houses are pretty close together.

I guess it all depends on your budget and how much house and yard you feel you need with 3 kids. If you want space, then you'll find more of it out this way at a better price than Piedmont.

Moving/staying - Lamorinda vs Alameda

Sept 2011

Long story short: husband is sick of living in 1,000sf house with two kids and wants to move out of Alameda - more space inside and out. Oldest kid is in 1st grade at our public school and we love it. Love his teacher, K teacher, other families, kids, etc. There are downsides but mostly its good. We have lived here for 10+ years, and know many people both thru school and otherwise. I too would love more space (both in and outside) but I am worried about leaving something that is good and known. I know that I can request a good teacher next year, and find out which ones to avoid. I am sure there are a mix of teachers at the Lafayette schools - and I would have no idea. 6 yr old is also very, very sensative. I also know the schools are often 'full' and that many kids are divereted - two kids in two different schools is pretty unattractive - plus the driving if that happens or staring in one school and moving to another (very unattractive). We love walking to school now. The big downside to Alameda is that the parcel tax that is keeping our schools together is a 6 year one - and it was very tough to get it passed (failed first time). And I know that when our kids get older I want them to have their own rooms (maybe in 4 to 5 yrs - boy and girl). Our options include staying put, moving within Alameda but staying with our same school or moving thru the tunnel. remodeling not a great option because of cost and not loving the exact location of our house. Kids 6 and 3. Advice? did you move? glad you did? wish you had not? some other place? is there a good age to move? oh, and financially its not going to be an easy move for us - we have equity, but money will be tight. do-able, but definately tighter. I am cramped but somehow I put up with it better than he does. I am looking for any and all words of wisdom on this!! and advice on other places to consider too... wish I had a crystal ball

Have you really looked at costs in the two towns? Things have probably changed in the last 1.5-2 years since we looked for and bought our house in Alameda , but Lafayette was quite a bit more expensive then. I know the housing stock in Alameda is generally a good bit smaller. But if you're not in a huge rush to move could you resolve some of your dilemma by waiting for a bigger house to turn up in Alameda? also a happy Alamedan
We moved from 'the other side of the tunnel' to Orinda this summer. We have a 2 year old and a 5 year old just starting Kindergarten, so we didn't have experiences with the schools in our old neighborhood. We moved in July, and until you get your first PG bill, you can't register for school. So at first we were redirected to a non-neighborhood school. We did get a space in our neighborhood school 3 days before school started, but I have met other families who have not been as fortunate or have split kids. I would say the best chance to avoid that is the timing of your move and when you register - if you can move before school ends here (1st week of June) you're more likely to get an assignment in your neighborhood. *Lots* of families move over the summer and spaces fill up quick.

As far as the move, we *love* it here. We have a bigger house, giant front/back yard, kids can run/play in the yard after school and on weekends w/o direct supervision. Before we lived on a street that had a nice sidewalk for running and biking but no way for the kids to play on their own. Very friendly families and many families with young kids. And it is sunny and warm when it is cool and foggy in Alameda. Happy with our move

We moved from Oakland to Moraga about 6 years ago and were in your exact situation (kid ages, house size, walking distance to shops, wanting more space w/o remodel, etc.). I was very nervous at the time, but it was one of the best decisions we ever made. We absolutely love it here. Now, having said that, you sound like you really don't want to move. You gave many reasons for staying in Alameda and mostly downsides to moving to Lamorinda. If you love Alameda that much, you should just buy a house there.

But, if you do decide to move to Lamorinda, your kids will adjust very easily. Lots of kids move through the tunnel all the time. My kids were 6 and 10 when we moved, and they made friends the first day of school...and one of my kids is ridiculously shy. So, the kids will be fine. I'm not totally up on what real estate costs in Alameda, but it might be pricey to move up from what you have in Alameda, and the local/parcel taxes really add up. Our three towns are always having some kind of school-funding parcel tax pop up on the ballots. (I'm not complaining, but you mentioned the issue in your post.)

Lafayette sounds like a good community for you, in that it isn't as remote as Moraga and has lots of walkable areas.

You might want to sit down and write up pro & con lists for staying vs. moving. Then take a few Sundays and cruise some open houses. Stay and have dinner or come early and have lunch in the area. Check out the awesome farmers' markets (Moraga's is big. it is on Sunday; Orinda's is on Saturday; Lafayette has a Thursday evening one, but it might be seasonal.) Take your kids to the local parks before open houses. You know, just get a feel for the area. The good thing is, you probably won't make a wrong decision, but that is what makes it difficult.

Gay couples in Lamorinda area

May 2011

We've just moved to Moraga with our baby and are hoping to find some other progressive kid-toting folks. Are there other gay parents out here? We're wondering... Suggestions to meet people would be great. Moraga Mom

Welcome to Lamorinda! We are a two dad family with two toddler girls living in Orinda. We moved here a year and a half ago and love it. There is another two dad family that we met a few months back. We haven't met any two mom families but we know they are here! Most of our LGBT friends live on the other side of the tunnel - but several of them are interested in moving this way. It's a really great area to live. Please feel free to email and perhaps we can get a local group going. Roger
Sad to say, I don't know many (any?) gay parents in Lamorinda. (Way different from when we lived in Oakland.) I do know a few gay kids, and pretty much everyone I know is progressive, but that could just be due to the people I choose to associate with. I know not everyone out here is progressive. As far as meeting people goes, I'd go the usual route, depending on how old your kids are: the park, schools, sports, drama, getting involved in local organizations, etc. You didn't mention how old your kids are, or I might be able to make more specific recommendations. Mary
Hi. I live in Moraga and have known a 2 Mom family for six years. Their twins are in the same grade as my daughter and are busy with sports, scouts, etc. I can't speak for them but they seem to enjoy living in the area. Good luck! Cindy Hello, We are a lesbian family with 2 boys (16 + 12 yrs) who have lived in Lafayette for 11 years!! We love it - there are numerous gay families in Lafayette with children ranging in age from 3 yrs (that we know of!)to now heading off to college. The schools required a little educating when we first moved to Lafayette - remembering our son had 2 moms on mothers day, changing emergency forms to gender neutral, little details that you won't have to worry about if you move here now!! Our boys have been involved in various sports, us parents volunteering in the schools with no visible, negative comments/behaviors. Our youngest did experience a little homophobia when at one of the elementary schools when prop 8 was in full swing. Staff were a little shocked it was happening and unsure what to do regarding the situation at first - they eventually came through with the appropriate consequences!!

Our oldest in high school feels quite safe - no complaints of teasing/slurs but then he's grown up with most of the kids and it's no big deal. I hope middle school will show the same respect for our youngest! You won't regret moving here - but you may regret not moving here!!

Sense of Community in Lafayette vs. Orinda/Moraga

Oct 2010

Hello! Could someone please help guide my husband and me? We are planning for a move to the Lamorinda area, and I much prefer Lafayette because, being new to California, it feels like Lafeyette has a stronger sense of community because of the vibrant downtown. I am eager to feel a part of things and meet other families and friends. When I drive through Moraga and Orinda, it feels like it might be harder to feel a sense of belonging because they seem more isolated, sleepy bedroom communities. Possibly this might make it harder to meet people and feel like you a part of a larger community. Could someone speak to this? Thank you so much in advance. Carrie

I can't compare the sense of community between the cities. But I can speak for Lafayette (where we live) and say that we love it here. Lafayette definitely has a strong sense of community. Between school activities, sports teams, our wonderful new library and learning center, our downtown park with its music/farmer's market, or annual reservoir run. Great restaurants, BART access. I'm also constantly amazed how many people here grew up here and decided to come back and raise their families here. Many teachers in our school actually went to our schools! We're very happy here.

Moraga and Orinda are lovely communities, too. We avoided Moraga because it's a schlep to get out there, but that makes it a special place too because it's off the beaten path. We looked mostly in Orinda & Lafayette and ended up finding a house we loved in Lafayette. I don't think you would go wrong with any of the towns, and I'm sure you'd be satisfied with the sense of community in any of them. It's amazing how having kids connects you to the community in a multitude of ways. Christina

Hi Carrie,

We moved to Moraga two years ago and while I love our neighbors, and the schools are off-the-charts great, I miss having a city center like Lafayette where there's always something going on, for kids and adults. And the new library is fabulous. Diane Diane

I live in Moraga and feel a lovely sense of community here. It is a small town and you get to know people pretty quickly. We moved here almost 6 years ago. We don't do swim team or too many sports, but I still feel like I've been able to meet some really great people though the schools, drama, and other activities. If you do join a swim club, you will meet TONS of people. If you volunteer even a little bit in the schools, you'll meet people that way, too. There are lots of other organizations around town.

As far as Lafayette goes, it is a bigger town, but you're right in that it has more going on. My kids are involved in the drama programs at Town Hall Theater and we go to the new (and gorgeous) library in Lafayette more than we go to our own. Not sure how that all translates into 'community,' though.

As far the towns go, I think Lafayette is more 'happening' because it is larger and has more commerce, but the downside is more crime (obviously relatively speaking...not a ton, but more than in Moraga and Orinda if the police blotters are to be believed); Orinda is very quiet, has hillier terrain, and is a bit wealthier overall (has a reputation for snootiness, although I know a few down-to-earth folks there); Moraga is probably the most traditionally suburban of the three towns, further from BART and freeways, less commerce, but the upside is that it is quiet, pretty, and safe. Great schools in all three cities.

We moved to Moraga from San Francisco last year not knowing many people in the immediate vicinity, so I have some thoughts on your question. Lafayette was initially my first choice when we were looking for houses because of the downtown area, but ultimately we ended up in Moraga for other reasons. I would say that before we moved, I would have also thought that having a vibrant downtown means there might be a stronger sense of community, but I think that isn't necessarily true. That said, I think you'll find a nice sense of community in all three places.

Since I can only speak for Moraga (but I think this is the case for all three towns), I would say that there is actually a tremendous sense of community here. Moraga is a very small town, so you end up seeing the same people everywhere you go which adds to that sense of community. Where I live, you can walk to the elementary and middle schools, so there are kids everywhere. The neighbors and everyone we've met is beyond nice and generous (it's actually been an adjustment for me!). Everyone is here for the same reason: the schools so that adds to the sense of community and purpose.

The first thing I did is get involved in playgroups with Lamorinda moms club which is a great way to meet people. All the moms are from the three towns and some from Walnut Creek, so there doesn't feel like a divide between the three communities in that you would be isolated in one or the other. It's actually my feeling that people are frequently going between all three towns, especially if you have small kids, because you are going to all the different parks (Moraga Commons, etc.). That may change as the kids get older and go to the local schools. Good Luck! Anon

We moved to Moraga about a year ago from San Francisco. I would agree that out of the 3 communities, Lafayette definitely has the best downtown. Lafayette might be easier to meet people because it seems like there are more young families there. That said, I've had no trouble making new friends and my new friends are in all three communities. My next door neighbor has kids in highschool, but immediately introduced herself as someone we could come to if we needed favors (like taking in the trash when we are out of town). My neighbor across the street is the age of my parents and offered to watch my toddler if I suddenly needed to go to the doctor and couldn't get a hold of my husband/parents (I'm pregnant). Even though I wouldn't necessarily hang out with these people, they are been very friendly and welcoming. I highly recommend joining Lamorinda Mother's group if you have kids. I met some of my new friends through a baby-mother group through them. They also have other events and groups. You didn't mention if you have kids, but it seems to me that much of the socializing and meeting people in Lamorinda is through the kids (baby groups, swim clubs, etc.) Abby
I thought I'd share my perspective since you didn't get any replies from Orinda residents. Short answer is I don't think it matters which town you move to, they are very much integrated and most people living in the area travel between all three (maybe to Moraga less) regularly.

I am in Lafayette several times a week, getting groceries at Diablo Foods & for misc. other errands. I bump into preschool parents regularly and I've gotten to know shop keepers. I feel very much a part of the community in Lafayette and Orinda.

I live in the hills above the Orinda Country Club (moved here 5 years ago). With small children I went to the park a lot and got to know neighbors on our walks. I've found my neighbors (though sometimes hard to spot because of the hilly nature of the neighborhood) are friendly and open. I've had four tell me independently that we should feel free to stop by any time to use their yard (play structures, waterfalls) even if they're not home.

My kids go to TOPS (The Orinda Preschool) and because it's a coop I very quickly got to know other parents and felt a part of the community. We also joined a local swim club and we bump into neighbors and preschool families there all the time.

I'd consider what you want from a house long term - hills with a view - or flat with access to walkable shopping? No matter where you live, if you're open and friendly, you will quickly feel welcome and a part of things. This area is a lovely place to live and I feel so lucky to live here. Happy in Orinda

Moraga has a wonderful sense of community! It has a very small town feel to it because it is so off the beaten track. Families in the area all get to know each other thru the schools (most go to the amazing public schools of which there are only 3 Elementarys that all feed into one Middle school), sports (LMYA soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball, etc. as well - competitive swim teams are HUGE here), and several strong church organizations. Friends and families are always running into each other at the amazing Farmer's Market every Sunday morning and in the summer there is the wonderful Concert in the Park series, with free live music every week at the Moraga Commons park. Joining and volunteering with the Moraga Juniors is also a terrific way to get to know many families in the community. Terri

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Moving from Half Moon Bay to Lamorinda

Oct 2009

Hi, My husband and I rented in Moraga (without kids) about 5 years ago and loved it. We moved to the coast mainly due to him finding a job in the city and wanting to own a home. Now that our kids are school age and we are not very happy with the schools here (much have changed since I looked into the schools before we moved here), we are considering moving back. We are also having a very difficult time with the weather. Has anyone made the transition with kids (coast to lamorinda) and can describe their experience e.g. in terms of commuting to the City from the Lamorinda area or have any advice? Thank you very much for your time! Unsure Mom

Didn't move from the coast, only from Berkeley -- 14 years ago. We live in Orinda. The commute is easy, especially to downtown SF. BART and casual carpool both work great. Things to consider: Living in Moraga or Southern Orinda adds substantial time to the commute. Both Moraga Road and Moraga Way get very congested, and can easily add 20 minutes to the commute time. Areas of Orinda or Lafayette closer to BART are far easier. (We live near Glorietta School, and it is quick to the highway and BART. We were also very happy with Glorietta as a school for two boys.) I have stopped commuting to the City, but some years ago the best kept secret was parking at Theater Square. A parking pass was just $50, and it was covered parking, a short walk to BART and steps to the casual carpool (by the Theater Square Starbucks). Not sure if it is still available, but check it out. Mom of Teenagers
We didn't move from the coast, but we did move to Moraga from Oakland. My husband commutes to SF and it is definitely a longer commute. Some days he takes BART from Orinda, and some days he drives. (He has a parking spot in his building.) He doesn't regret the longer commute though. The trade offs have been worth it: larger, flat lot; kids can walk and bike to school and friends' houses; they can play in the street; very good schools; lots of beautiful hiking and biking trails very close to our house.
I never lived on the coast but visited friends there many times. I did move from Marin to Lafayette which was quite a change for me. I'm glad I did it for the schools and community but I do miss the mountain biking. Which could be a similiar experience if you and/or your husband are into hanging out on the beach or Ocean Sports since that would definitely take a hit if you move here. If you are I suggest you don't move since having a healthy active lifestyle is just as important as good schools for your kids.

I can say the Schools are awesome and BART makes commuting to the city very easy. The weather between Lafayette and Orinda can be quite different than the coast, it can get quite hot here in the summers. anon

I can't speak to relocating from the coast to Lamorinda, just wanted to remind you it can be a schlep from Moraga to the freeway or to BART, something you'll want to consider. We live in Lafayette in a neighborhood closer to the freeway and my husband bikes the Lafayette/Moraga trail to downtown to get on BART to SF. Works great! I would definitely consider a neighborhood in Orinda or Lafayette closer in to the freeway. And yes the schools are wonderful! Christina

Leaving Berkeley for Lamorinda

March 2009

Hi, My husband and I have always lived on the west side of the Caldecott Tunnel. We have always enjoyed the great restaurants, shopping, and a sense of community, whether this is taking a stroll on College Ave or checking out the Gourmet Ghetto in North Berkeley. Now that we have a baby, we started thinking about schools and yard--hence moving to the lamorinda area. Since both of us work on the west side of the tunnel, Orinda would be our best choice. There are quite a few neighborhoods in Orinda--Ivy Drive, Del Rey, Orindawoods, OCC, Glorietta, etc. I am familiar with the general population demographics of Orinda. Our goal is to try to raise our child to be as down to earth and self sufficient as possible. I would really appreciate any advice you could give about the neighborhoods, of course, recognizing these are generalizations. Also, we are Asian Americans--how diverse are the schools (k-12)? Thanks so much! potential lamorinda resident

We moved to Orinda last summer with seven and three year old boys. I'm a Japanese and my husband is a Caucasian. Our older son goes to Wagner Ranch and we've been happy there. We wanted to avoid Sleepy Hollow Elementary area(not that we had a choice since that neighborhood is the most expensive area)as we heard those are the neighborhood that fits the stereotypical rich family neighborhood. Orinda is a very small community (pop 17,000) and doesn't seem like many things have changed since the 50s. When we moved in to our house, a neighbor across the street brought us a home baked cake and welcomed us. How quaint is that?? Unfortunately, it also manifests in a way such as there is only one preschool for toddlers that are available 5 days a week. The other schools are open only two days for three year olds and three days for four year olds. Very few mothers work, I suppose. Our younger one goes to a preschool in Lafayette. 85% of Orinda is white and that ratio is pretty much same in schools. However, I think that is going to be same in any good neighborhood school and that is the realty of California. We don't feel like we are an abnormal breed and feel totally assimilated. The families in the school seem to be quite down to earth at Wagner Ranch. Overall, we feel we made a good choice and are happy to be able to raise our kids in this community. shiho
After living for so many years in Berkeley, I moved 5 years ago first in Orinda and then in Moraga so my kids can go to higher achieving public schools and I was tired of paying private high school fees in Berkeley. I would say that it was a wise idea for my older one who is a high achiever, but for my youngest one who is now in high school, it was an agony. Socially there is a lot of pressure from peers who have driver licenses since 16 1/2 and drive expensive cars, pressure from teachers who have very high expectations and they always suggest tutoring instead of helping, (they are a lot of Miramonte and Campolindo students who have very expensive private tutors for every subject) there are more than 4 tutoring centers in the Lamorinda area because of this pressure to achieve and be the best,pressure from the ''high income'' families who ''take over'' the schools. For sure you will not find the diversity of Berkeley schools here. Campo has probably some Asian students and the rest is white population.I experienced plenty of ''strange stories'' here, being in the PTA of a middle school in Berkeley where things are for sure more ''liberal and democratic'', I was disappointed at the Lamorinda area schools. Although I admit that they are good teachers as well, the overall picture is that everyone accepts that ''if you do not learn, you better hire someone to help you, or go to the homework club in the school (where there is another pressure from peers that if you go to homework club you are ''stupid''). It was shocking when we first moved here. I am glad that my kids had the diversity and the exposure of Berkeley, otherwise I met quite a few students/kids around here who never went out of this area, who ''hang out'' shopping in Walnut Creek, who have no ''round perspective'' of the world. But, it is very safe area, and sometimes it can be fun! I am planning to move out as soon as my youngest goes to College, if I was to do it again, I would have moved into Lafayette, not Orinda or Moraga. As an adult, there are very few things that you can do, the only ''get away'' is Lafayette. anon

Liberal areas of Orinda or Lafayette?

Nov 2008

My husband and I are thinking of moving to Orinda or Lafayette for the schools but we're worried we won't fit in. We live in Berkeley now and fit in fine -- we wear jeans and T-shirts, have solar panels, shop at farmers markets, grow some of our own food, etc. From visiting Orinda and Lafayette it seems like people are more country-clubby. Is this true? Would we fit in? Are there areas in one town or the other where we would meet other people like us? Where? Need a new home

When we first moved to Lamorinda in 1993 it was a different community. Old couples in run down ranchers were our neighbors. Now, 15 years later *EVERY* house that sells goes to a family with 1 or 2 children, from Montclair, Piedmont, Berkeley or San Francisco when the old folks move to assisted living or warmer climates.

As a result, the communities are changing very, very quickly. A huge majority of the Education bonds and measures pass. There are now Mandarin classes and Korean churches available. It isn't Berkeley but for every stage in life there are different priorities and when you have toddlers and elementary school age children, the services and programs available here are unmatched in Berkeley. And, being the bleeding edge of the charge over the hill has really paid off financially as all the money we would have spent on private school tuitions went straight to the mortgage.

As someone who lived in Berkeley for 9 years, before children, I can understand the historical concern over ''suburban'' and ''conservative'' values but as I get older and my life becomes more kid centered, the ''conservative'' nature of Lamorinda is becoming negligible as the Berkeley/Piedmont crowd filters in. contented mom

Editor Note: responses were also received about Lafayette , Moraga , and Orinda

Walkable and Bikeable Lamorinda neighborhoods?

Sept 2008

Hi, My family (DH, 4 year old son and twin 1 year old girls)is considering moving to Lafayette or Orinda in the near future. So far we like Burton Valley in Lafayette and the Ivy Dr and also Glorietta areas of Orinda. We'd love to be walking/biking distance to elementary school AND a market/coffee shop/something like that. I know the trail runs from Burton Valley to downtown Lafayette but how is that for a morning ride with a 4 year old? What about riding a bike from Glorietta elementary school to the little downtown area of Orinda? And is Ivy Dr. just too far from downtown Orinda? What about Ivy Dr. area to Moraga's little shopping center? It seems to be pretty hilly most places. What neighborhood(s) are relatively flat and have a flat bike ride to a shopping area (hopefully something a 4 year old can ride without taking an hour!)? And, what about riding a bike to the trail head at the Lafayette Res. Can you easily do that from Glorietta? I'm hoping to avoid huge hills! You can only gather so much from driving around on Sunday open houses! I'd love to hear from people who live there! hoping to move to Lamorinda

We live near Glorietta in Orinda, and I am a runner, so I am intimately familiar with the hills in the area. It is a wonderful area, but not terrific for biking if you don't like hills. There is no way to get from Glorietta to downtown Orinda without hills, unless you want to ride on Moraga Road, which is very busy; I would be nervous about a young kid on that road, with cars whizzing by at 40 mph. The best place for biking with kids is the Lafayatte-Moraga trail, which is very long, stretching from almost Walnut Creek to the end of Moraga. There are nice residential areas all along the trail. The distance to the commercial areas in downtown Lafayette or Moraga depends a lot on where you start. My younger son, not much of an athlete, easily rode five miles on that trail when he was pretty young. The lower Lafayette Reservoir trail is bikable at limited times (a couple of evenings a week and Sunday mornings), but getting there by bike is a long slog uphill after a stretch of busy Mt. Diablo Road. The rim trail of the reservoir is great for hiking, but very hilly and impossible to bike (and I think bikes are prohibited anyway). Ivy Drive is nice, but again the only way to get anywhere from there is Moraga Road, which is not much fun to bike or walk. There are some streets between Glorietta School and downtown Orinda (Overhill Road, Tara Road, Evergreen, Tarabrook) that would be walking distance to both. But again, it is pretty hilly and not great for biking. Orinda hill runner
I've lived in Orinda for 10 years, first near Del Rey Elementary and now up El Toyonal. I can comment on Orinda, not Lafayette. If you like Ivy Drive you might look at the houses over on the other side of Moraga Way, near Del Rey. There are some fairly flat areas tucked away in there. A flat, safe, biking walking route that takes you to the Moraga Shopping Center is to get to Del Rey, cross though the grounds to the cul de sac on Buena Vista, which is an extremely quite street, go around the corner to the back entrance of Miramonte High School. Take the service road (no cars) along the back of the sports field to the parking lot, cross over into the Miramonte Gardens housing development. Work your way through there out to Moraga Way and you'll almost immediately be able to get on the sidewalk/bike path that runs along the golf course. From there you can follow it to the light where you turn right, toward Moraga Country Club. Take your first left. Now you're on a real road, but it's lightly traveled. As you cross the bridge you hit the last extension of the bike trail leading off to the Vale Vista Staging Area (real nice, but eventually not flat). Straight ahead is a nice little coffee shop, Si Si's. Turn left at the Post Office and it will take you back to Moraga Way, cross over at the light and you're at Safeway. I did this route with my daughters when they were younger and it worked out great. They liked Safeway and I liked not worrying about them getting run over.

I would generally say that Moraga Way is bad for biking with kids. Tons of bikers use it, and some people ride there with kids, but it gets really busy. It's better now that it is repaved, but it still wouldn't be my choice route. I don't think you can get from Glorietta to ''downtown'' without going down Moraga Way or going over pretty good, pretty windy hills. Ivy Drive to Moraga Shopping Center works--you can vary the route above to make it work depending on which end of Ivy you use.

Schools are great, and all the open space is wonderful. Biking with kids, though, is not the easiest. good luck. Bruce

I really like living in Orinda, but I sure wouldn't call it walkable or even bike-able, especially for young kids. We live in the neighborhood surrounding Del Rey Elementary, on the other side of Moraga Way from the Ivy Drive area. It's a nice low-key neighborhood, and we can easily walk to the school, but we have to drive to get to anything else.

The only through street to downtown Orinda (or, to the south, to Moraga) from the Glorietta and Ivy Drive areas is Moraga Way, and, as you know if you've been coming to open houses, although it has a bike lane, it's also a 45 mph speedway. Whenever I've had to walk even short distances along it, I've felt VERY unsafe. I do see kids in bike trailers sometimes, but not often. Kids always go to the park to ride their own bikes.

Plus it would take you 45 minutes of breathing exhaust fumes to walk to downtown Orinda, where you would find coffee shops, and maybe slightly less time to walk to Moraga, where you won't find much but the Starbucks inside the Safeway. In Orinda the commercial areas are segregated entirely around the freeway, and although there is also housing in those areas, there aren't any schools.

I don't think you could possibly bike with children from Glorieta to the trailhead of the Reservoir -- the hills are incredible and the traffic is speedy. There might be a ''back door'' to the park somewhere in that neighborhood, though you'd probably have to cross private property.

The so-called ''trail'' neighborhoods in Lafayette may be your best bet -- it's flat, there are a variety of commercial areas, and the trails are going to be a lot safer than trying to ride on the streets. Maybe your real estate agent can help? Ours was awesome, and she really understood all the different Lamorinda neighborhoods: Patti Camras at Coldwell Banker in Orinda, (925)253-4609.

Good luck! I hope you find what you're looking for. Nicole R.

I'm so sorry I missed this question the first time around. From the responses I gather that you want info neighborhoods where you can get around on foot?

We live in Moraga. Our house is in the neighborhood that runs between Camino Pablo Elementary and Joaquin Moraga Intermediate. It is a pretty flat neighborhood and very walkable. My kids will be walking to school through 8th grade. (And we're very close to a bus stop, so they'll take that to high school.) The streets are busy with people walking for exercise too. Safeway, Longs, the pilates studio and the Farmer's Market are walkable, but we usually bike there. We are very close to the Lafayette-Moraga trail for longer walks and biking, plus we are surrounded by hills, all of which have walking/hiking trails.

You do need a car to get in and out of Moraga, because unfortunately, all our needs aren't met in town, but I do go car-less a few days a week, which isn't bad for the burbs.

I also like the area in Lafayette that is close to Mt. Diablo, off Moraga Road. In this area, you can walk to Lafayette Elementary and Stanley Middle School, plus the library, Town Hall Theater, and all manner of shopping and dining (Peet's, Noah's, Ferrari's, and soon-to-open Whole Foods.) It is much busier than Moraga, but it is a great area. The trail area, as others mentioned, is good too.

Orinda, on the whole, isn't as walkable, unless you get something very close in to Theater Square or Orinda Village, but honestly, there isn't much in the way of housing very close to these areas.

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Family-friendly and more liberal Lamorinda 'hoods

November 2006

We are contemplating leaving SF to move to the Lamorinda area. As a young family, the urban grind is getting too difficult - and we'd like a more ''community'' and ''neighborly'' environment for our kids, as well as good public education. We completely realize that there are trade-offs - we will miss many aspects of SF - the culture, diversity, politics - the parks and ease to walk everywhere. Our agent has introduced us to Ivy Drive (Orinda), Del Ray(Orinda), Glorietta (Orinda) Burton Valley (Lafayette), Hidden Valley (Lafayette) and The Trails (Lafayette) neighorhoods which all seem very nice and closer to our price range (hopefully).

- We understand that Lafayette is more diverse. Any of these neighborhoods more ''diverse'' - ethnically and politically (we are pretty liberal - hope we're not the only hybrid driving family!).

- Is one more ''family-friendly'' than another? - we're looking forward to actually making new friends with our neighbors and being able to talk to them and possibly share a meal (which is not that easy in SF based on years here).

- Commuting to SF for work is a concern. We like to use public trans, so we like that BART is accessible. One neighborhood easier to commute from to SF?

Thank you anon

Hi, I grew up in Lamorinda. For what you are looking for, Lafayette is much better. Burton Valley is a really nice neigborhood. To be honest, you are probably not going to find that much difference is neighborhoods as far as liberal vs. conservative, etc. A good rule of thumb in Lamorinda, is the more money, the more likely the family is conservative, even if they claim to be liberal. Of course this isn't always the case! But like I said, it's a general rule of thumb. For example, Happy Valley was generally considered more elitist when I was growing up. (By the way, I'm 32, just to give you a point of reference.) As far as commuting, if you are taking BART, there really isn't much difference between Lafayette and Orinda, except that parking may be a little easier in Orinda.
Lamorinda 'hoods
A few things you should know if you are moving out this way. Nobody calls this area Lamorinda except realtors or people who are trying to profit off of you. Orinda, Lafayette and Moraga are all very nice and have wonderful schools and teachers. Watch property values, Orinda is the highest, Moraga and is next and Lafayette is the lowest.

Lafayette is more liberal, in my opinion because the property values are less and Orinda is the least liberal. I live in Orinda, moved here from Berkeley and absolutely hate in. Almost all the woman drive enormous car like a Lincoln Navigator for one kid, dye their hair blond, appearance is everything out here. Forget Orinda when if comes to being diverse same with Moraga. The other thing that is disturbing to me is how many parents drug their kids. I only found this out by volunteering at my daughter\x92s elementary school. Just found one in four parents have a prescription to clam their kid in class or for use on trips to Tahoe.

We\x92ve had a hard time keeping friends and it\x92s been very hard on our kids. It seems like families move in, stay for a few years, and move on. (Job transfers, they can\x92t afford the area, divorce. etc.) My third grader just learned the best friend she made a few months ago is moving to Oregon \x96 job transfer. She lost tow last year, job transfer to Denver and a divorce.

I also don\x92t feel as safe in this area. At our daughter\x92s elementary school I just learned there have been 5 home robberies, (the homes were ransacked); one car jacking while the kids in the car, a couple of attempted kidnappings and a few murders. I\x92m also amazed at how many times the banks here have had attempted robberies. About a year ago, the WellsFargo branch installed cameras everywhere. For a three teller bank, I counted 18 cameras.) I\x92m sure there are more.) It just feels so creepy to see your face on all the monitors.

Our here you let you guard down. In Oakland/Berkeley I know this kind of stuff is going to happen so I take precautions. Since Orinda, Lafayette and Moraga are all easily accessible by BART, the bad guys take BART out here to score big.

The areas you are looking at are considered the slums, but I like them. But then I also drive a small car which is fuel efficient, ride a bike or walk to the store to go shopping, volunteer my time at schools in Richmond and for non-profits, and I refuse to dye my hair blond they think I\x92m mentally ill \x96 I\x92ve heard a group of mom\x92s at school events actually say that. But once they find out who our friends are, and that one two of my kids are very good friends with the people who live in the $8.5 million dollar house, and that we vacation in Europe for a month or two, own a bit of property, all of a sudden want to be our best friends.

I hope I have not scared you off, but when I moved here from the other side of the hill I thought it would be wonderful, I was wrong. What I would suggest is that you visit the schools in the morning or afternoon and look at the parents who are picking up their kids, Look at their cars, the way they look, how they dress, how they act, the way they treat their kids to see if that could be you.

You asked about BART to the city. In the past couple of years it has become a nightmare. Orinda all the spaces are gone before 8:00, Lafayette they are gone by 8:15-8:30. It used to be I could find a space at 9:00, not any more.

Hope this helps aids in your decesion. Anon

We moved to the Lamorinda (Lafayette) area almost two years ago. We, too, work in San Francisco and make the commute. Lafayette Bart has tons of parking and you are fine until about 8:30 when it gets pretty tough to find.

First off, Lamorinda and family friendly are one in the same. You can't go wrong finding family-friendly neighborhoods. Second, you mention missing parks, etc. I am amazed at the plethora of parks, trials, hiking, bike paths and of course, Mt. Diablo.

Liberal is another thing entirely. There are liberal folks and there are hybrid drivers; however, liberal is something you stumble upon, as it does not grow on trees. It take some getting use to. However, since everything is so family oriented, you oriented. You will find yourself with an abundance of things to, t-ball, softball, basketball, swimming...the sports can be a year-around affair if you want/let them. There is Scouts - both boys and girls.

There is MUCH to do and many wonderful people to meet while doing it. They will NOT all be like you...but somehow you get past that as it becomes about your kids and not about you. You teach kids what you believe and hope for the best. So far, it has worked for this very liberal family just fine.

The other thing that is hard to get use to is that so many moms do not work. Therefore, what I now consider liberal is a working mother. Especially, a fulltime working mother. We seem to find each other and help each get our kids to all of the many events mentioned above that happen during working hours. My kids do EVERYTHING and I average a 60 hour work week with a San Francisco commute.

We do not regret the move. The schools and opportunities for kids are amazing and that's why we moved here. Good luck Anon

We've lived in the neighborhood around Del Rey Elementary school in Orinda since 2000 -- first renting for two years to see how we liked it, and then buying a home. We were afraid it would be too country-clubby and elitist, but at least out here in south Orinda folks are mostly unpretentious and tolerant. I get a definite sense of the ''community'' and ''neighborly'' environment you say you're looking for -- along with a big yard, a medium-sized house, strictly limited development, and some of the best schools in California.

Here in the Donna Maria Way area we have an annual block party where we meet everyone, and so nearly every time we walk the dog or stroll down the street to the school playground we get greetings from friendly neighbors. We've been to dinner and children's birthday parties with our neighbors; when our son was born, three neighbors stopped by with gifts. As far as ethnic diversity, our neighborhood has families of Latino, Asian, and Indian descent, but sadly it isn't as diverse as the Bay Area's more urban areas. (You can look at the school's Web site to see the ethnic breakdown for students.) However, we do have families with kids of all ages, from infant to teen, as well as many retired people, so there's age diversity.

Politially Orinda is the most liberal of all the ''over-the-hill'' communities of Contra Costa County, consistently voting Democrat -- you can look up voting maps online to see! On our street sometimes you'll pass five hybrid cars parked (if you count ours), and there's only one Hummer and one Escalade. Another point people forget is that Orinda is much closer to the East Bay than to Walnut Creek. When traffic is agreeable, we can drive to Rockridge in ten minutes, which is also only one BART stop away.

Good luck in your search for a home! Nicole R.

If you're willing to look just a little farther out the Parkmead area of Walnut Creek (where I live) is great, and commuting to SF is actually easier here than Burton Valley or some of the other outlying Lamorinda neighborhoods where you have to drive down to BART. It's just a quick jump on the freeway here via the Pleasant Hill Rd. exit and BART is very close by. When we were both working in San Francisco we would go to the Lafayette BART station -- maybe 5 minutes away -- and now my husband walks to the Walnut Creek BART station everyday from our house, and we can walk to school, the local swim club, and downtown Walnut Creek with ease (and there's a Trader Joe's opening up at the corner of Newell and California -- super easy walking distance) with the kids. My kids and I started walking downtown when they were probably 4. Parkmead Elementary is is great and there is a decent amount of diversity here (still suburb-level, but decent) and it's a little more laid-back and low-key that some of the more 'driven' aspects of the Lamorida culture.
We live in and raised our 2 kids in the Reliez Valley area of Lafayette. We love it and the rural atmosphere, and it's somewhat diverse--for this area. But we are totally dependent on our (hybrid) car, and our kids could never walk to friends' houses. We have very ''liberal'' friends who live in all the neighborhoods you mention (all part of a women's peace group here). I particularly like Central Lafayette, especially around the Trails. It's great for families and has good transportation/walking possibilities. Good luck Lafayette mom
A year ago we moved from Kensington (where we had lived for years) to the Saranap area of Walnut Creek (between Pleasant Hill Road, Olympic, 24 and 680), and have had no regrets. We basically 'traded' our small Kensington home on a postage-size lot, for a 2600 square foot house on a 1/3 acre. Saranap is very family-friendly. Kids ride around on bikes, tons of walkers, lots of families, older homes on big lots (not a sterile housing development), safe (not a short-cut to anyplace), and helpful/friendly neighbors. Just about every other house on our street has kids.

Also, this particular area of Saranap uses Lafayette schools (Burton Valley for elementary). Basically, it is a better deal than buying a Lafayette home, if that is the school district that you want. On the other hand, we moved here to go to a private school (The Meher School/White Pony). Which is a wonderful private school/preschool run by Sufis. The school attracts a diverse population (although nothing like S.F. or Berkeley), and many of the staff/teachers live in the neighborhood, which helps give a more 'Berkeley' feel to things. One more advantage to this area is that it is 'secluded' but five minutes from downtown WC, five minutes to both freeways, close to two BART stations, and close to downtown Lafayette. A disadvantage is that the public school is a good 15 to 20 minutes away. Although they do provide bus service your kids won't be walking to school (at least for elementary). Also, driving through the tunnel (which I do a couple of days a week)can be a slow - friends that take BART to S.F. say that the commute is fine.

My family and I moved out to Lafayette 3 years ago and we are very happy. There is a great sense of community out here which you definitely feel once your children start nursery school and even more so once they start kindergarten. As a native San Francisco and ethnic minority, it took a lot to get me out of the city, but I have always felt welcome and am so glad, we made the move. Also, many people who grew up here have moved back with their own families (when they can afford it) which I think is a good sign of what a good place it is to live.
Hello, we moved to Lafayette 6/7 years ago after spending a year taking in all the neighborhoods including, Berkeley, Oakland, Orinda etc. Like yourself we wanted a community and small city feel. We found that in downtown Lafayette, we live right off the trail and our children can walk, bike, scooter or on those rare occasions, drive to school. The boys are now able to just jump on their bikes and head to the trail to see you is out to play! When we first moved here our neighbors were wonderful bringing home-made jams, brownies etc. and we continually look out for each others homes taking in the mail and newspapers without even having to ask. Our family and boys have been very welcomed to the area, we are a Lesbian family, and by no means the only ones! There are about 10 famillies that we know of in Lafayette alone, some in Orinda and Moraga.

You will find that the downtown school has more cultural/economic diversity. The Happy Valley area is known to be wealthier, Burton Valley the largest school, and Springhill small but further from the mail drag in town! We have found that the area has changed tremendously even since we moved here with many, many people from Oakland, Berkeley, SF, choosing Lafayette for their new homes, hence the political/cultural thinking is much more liberal/progressive. Families here live a very outdoorsy life with kids involved in many sports throughout the year. There is a local community center offering numerous classes both for adults and kids. Many coffee shops, restaurants, a couple of grocery stores including a Trader Joes, auto repair, department, drug stores and yes even thrift stores that we all love either shopping or donating to! A bit of everything. There are buses taking in the main roads to the Bart Station and if I've had to use the bart have not had a problem parking even at 11 in the morning. Good luck with your search and feel free to email me if you want more info. runnerz

My husband and I moved from SF to Burton Valley in Lafayette several years ago. We, too, were afraid to leave the city and its diversity, politics, energy, urban feel. The truth is, I still miss the walking. The rest can be found here... First of all, Burton Valley Elementary is an excellent school. Devoted teachers who are given the room to teach in their own style. Very involved parents who make the place work. Kids who feel celebrated for who they are. A school community with high expectations and a lot of love.

The neighborhood is, in its own way, a walking/biking neighborhood. Almost all of our kids' friends are in the neighborhood so they walk, bike or scooter to their playdates, sports practices, etc. We have two swim/tennis clubs right here so kids find each other at the pool all summer. I can't tell you the last time I got in the car to go to a party - we just walk! Politics are no worry. All of our friends are left-leaning ex- SF residents - you'll find plenty of kindred spirits.

I have all kinds of friends in Burton Valley, more than I can handle. And I've noticed that the ones who aren't happy here brought their unhappiness with them. Eventually, they blame the neighborhood for their unhappiness. Just something to think about. Finally, about diversity. We have gay parents, people of color, and the other usual markers of ''diversity''. But we don't have much economic diversity. Everyone is here for one reason: excellent public schools. And they've all paid to live here. There's not much diversity in that. When I look back on what I've written here, I'm not sure much of it is unique to Burton Valley. I do think many of these thoughts apply to Glorietta, Del Rey, etc. By the way, don't choose a neighborhood based on proximity to BART. You'll get over the small differences in proximity in just a few short months
- Burton Valley Neighbor

I know I'm a little late to this discussion, but after reading the other responses, I had to weigh in. Don't be frightened off by the long post from the Orinda resident who hates it there. Yes, there are the blonde, SUV-lovin' Stepford moms out this way. But there are PLENTY of other parents who are not like that at all. And I have made the mistake of assuming I won't like any of the bottle-blonde look-alikes, but in fact, I was merely being judgemental about an entire group of people based on their looks and what they drive--and how narrow minded is that? I have grown up and realized that I can have republican aquaintances and like them. Wow, what a concept You don't have to surround yourself with people exactly like you to enjoy where you live.

Having said that, I have found that most of the people on our block are just like us: transplants from Oakland, Berkeley, and SF, looking for a family-friendly, safe place to raise a family. I know families that drive beater cars, go on peace marches, and have anti-Bush and anti-war bumperstickers. Also, I have never met so many families that do volunteer work with the poor and homeless. Way more than I ever knew in Oakland.

Here's the rundown on Lamorinda (specifically Moraga) from my point of view.

Plusses: Safe, lots of kids to play with your kids, decent family-sized houses with family sized yards, great access to outdoor activities, amazing schools, lots of opportunities for extra-curricular activities (sports, art, dance, etc.)

Minuses: Pretty white (but not exclusively), more wealth and displays of wealth, not as much shopping/dining within walking distance, further out from cultural activities in SF, Berkeley,etc

Don't Get Scared Off

I'm responding because I am a Lafayette resident x 9 years now and have lived in many places before, mostly in SF. My child goes to a Lafayette elementary school and I have never heard ''snooty'' behavior in the 2 years going there, but most families are on the same economic playing field. The cars are ridiculously large, but then the ability to carpool is a greater possibility. Mostly the negative stuff pertains to the SAHM issue. There really are a lot of SAHMs and although I work part-time and from home, there are a lot of off-hand comments that are sometimes hurtful. I think many moms forget I do work because I do put in my time at the school, but I have heard ''I think it is really valuable to spend the time at home with them'', etc. enough to feel that the judgement is there. Interestingly, as I said I don't think the comments are aimed at me in the sense of being purposely rude, but I still can feel the judgement. I would also say that I would not want to live in the Burton Valley area or near Moraga Commons because it is a bit more suburban and too far from Hwy 24 - it feels like forever going from the Commons to 24 Anon

What neighborhoods do young families tend to move to?

June 2006

We are thinking about making the move to Orinda/Lafyette and I am looking for comments from those of you who have made the move or are a young family already living in the area We live in Oakland now and I LOVE our house, neighborhood and friends here. We are making the move for better public schools, more property (especially a yard)and warmer weather. What neighborhoods do young families tend to be moving into? Have you been able to connect with other young, hip families? My impression is that the community seems to be empty nesters and more conservative folks. I would love to hear why you love living in Orinda or Lafyette and what draws it has for a young family looking for other similar families to connect with.
Convince me to leave Oakland

As a native San Franciscan, I was reluctant to leave the city for the suburbs but our family's experience in Lafayette has been great. The idea of it being all empty nesters/conservative folks is outdated. No doubt it may seem 'conversative' compared to other parts of the Bay Area but it really isn't. I have met some pretty liberal people if that is truly a concern for you, much more so than the other end of the spectrum. There are plenty of families with young children, school age, and older and all have come for the great schools. I have joined the local mother's club (www.lamorindamomsclub.orgO which provides a great resource for connecting with other parents of young children. There are many other organizations you can join at the broaded community level. I doubt anyone would consider me hip but I have met all of kinds interesting people.

Left the City and am over it

Hello, The schools in Lafayette and Orinda are top notch. And there are tons and tons of young families that live and move here for the schools and recreational sports. I have met many families who have moved from San Francisco to be here. However, it sounds as if you love, love, love Oakland. Hence, I would consider staying and attending private schools as you need to. If you crunch the numbers, the ultimate dollar outcome may be closer than you think. We pay the equivalent of private school tuition in property taxes every year! I would definitely agree that ''Lamorinda'' is far more conservative and homogeneous. I would also say that many of the young families we live amongst are shockingly wealthy, to say the least. We live among families who can somehow afford to buy a million dollar (plus) home and then turn around and buy a new family car. The public schools are wonderful for the same reason -- families have the time and $$$ to contribute to the local schools, a wonderful thing in my mind. The neighborhoods are very safe. So I wouldn't say, to jump on the bandwagon until you have really investigated further because you do indeed sound very happy where you are now and that is so important! Best to you
We've lived in Lafayette for 12 years now and love our neighborhood. Here's what you might want to know:

1) Lafayette and Orinda are not as conservative as people ''through the tunnel'' think. I've spent a tremendous amount of time in Berkeley, have many friends there, and have been disappointed at the lack of real political *argument* there. Everyone I know and meet in Berkeley is quite liberal so, of course, George Bush is evil, gay marriage is an absolute right, there's only one answer for the immigrant issue...Please know that I agree with my Berkeley friends on all these points. But in Lafayette, we argue. I have friends who actually voted for George W. (can you imagine?) and we listen to each other. If you don't want to listen, learn and argue about important issues, don't move here.

2) Beyond politics, we shop at Berkeley Bowl, have organic gardens, have solar panels on our homes, take our own bags to the grocery store, are outside enjoying nature as much as possible, volunteer in Oakland, march against the war in Iraq, support our gay friends in their ongoing search for equality...

3) The schools are, indeed, excellent. My favorites are Sleepy Hollow (Orinda), Glorietta (Orinda), Burton Valley (Laf), Springhill (Laf) and Happy Valley (Laf). Sleepy Hollow and Happy Valley have the highest concentration of high household incomes and feel more conservative- I think they are closer to what you fear in your move. Burton Valley is the biggest and most diverse (700 students). Burton Valley has children of gay parents, kids of color, all different kinds of families. We live in the Burton Valley neighborhood and our kids have gone there for six years. I could go on and on about the school but I'll just say that, on every measure, it's been a great experience.

4) It sounds like what you're looking for is a liberal, friendly, kid-crazy neighborhood. Then, move to Burton Valley. Kids play through the neighborhood, ride their bikes to and fro, enjoy the humongous schoolyard, explore in the creek, and walk the trails in the bordering open spaces. Of course we have empty nesters who we actually *value* and enjoy. They are our children's ''surrogate grandparents'' as their real ones live far away.

5) Whichever neighborhood you choose, look for flat! It's been my experience that the kids who live in the hills are socially isolated. Burton Valley, Glorietta, Sleepy Hollow, Del Rey are flat neighborhoods where you see your neighbors every day, kids can more naturally find each other to play, it's a very social experience.

6)Everyone lives in a ranch-style home. That took me a while to get used to! I grew up in the Midwest and always imagined a wrap- around porch, two-story home. But after years of living here, I've come to enjoy the blurred line between inside and outside that these ranchers allow. Because of our great weather, the doors and windows are usually thrown open, our gardens are steps away. I'm writing this at the kitchen table about 3 feet from my kitchen garden.

Good luck with your decision Living in Lafayette

We just moved to Lafayette from Oakland. It's only been about 6 weeks, and my kids (2 and 4) are still in their schools in Oakland and I work, so granted, I haven't met a ton of people. But, my impression is that there are a lot of young families in the ''trail neighborhood,'' in between Moraga Boulevard, St. Mary's Road, Moraga Road, and Carol Lane, particularly on Moraga Road and the streets off of Moraga Road. I think anywhere where you find relatively flat parcels with ''inexpensive'' homes there are bound to be young families. still figuring it out
We also were living in Upper Rockridge and were looking in the Lamarinda and Alamo areas. We decided to move to Alamo after looking for 1 year. We love the flat streets, sidewalks, wonderful parks (Hap Magee & Livorna Park), top rated schools and sunny weather. Also, the country clubs are great (Roundhill and Diablo) and have excellent swim and tennis teams for the children.

While many people here are a bit older, we've noticed that lots of families are moving in as home turn over. Our new neighbors just moved here from Orinda and Palo Alto and we're noticing a lot of kids under 5 in our vicinty now. We don't miss our old neighborhood at all now that we are here.

The only negative about Alamo is the high ticket price ($1.4 median home price) which is higher than Lamarinda area but it is well worth it if you can find a house you'd be happy with. Most of the homes are on .5 acre lot so there is a lot of spacing between the homes here
Highly Recommend Alamo

The reasons young families move to Lamorinda is for just the reasons you mentioned:
--Incredible public schools --Having a yard --Warm weather plus: --MANY family/kid centered activities --Safety; low crime rate --Decent commute distance from the city and other business/cultural centers --That small town feel where a kid can be a kid
There is quite a baby boom in the area and you will find loads of kids in every neighborhood of each town. My street has kids under 6 in every other house! Of course, the extremely expensive areas have fewer young kids, but they are still there in numbers.

Speaking of empty-nesters, you\x92ll find many have \x93cashed out\x94 and sold their homes to young families and retired elsewhere. (I know my parents and all their friends have!). Although I must say it\x92s nice to have a generational mix in any neighborhood.

We made the move from Oakland to Lamorinda (LAfayette, MORaga, OrINDA) 2 years ago. We\x92ve connected with other families by getting involved with our daughter\x92s school & her various activities, by getting to know our neighbors, going to local events (summer concerts in the park, farmers market, etc.) and joining a local swim & tennis club. My husband and I work full time, so these outlets are a great way to meet people fast when we only have a small amount of time to socialize. We have met some wonderful and cherished friends in the short time we\x92ve been here. You will find many Oakland transplants here!

A person that really helped me get situated in Lamorinda is my neighbor and real estate agent Molly Smith. She grew up in Orinda and her husband in Lafayette, they have lived in the community for over 23 years. Molly works with many young families moving over from Oakland. She has young children too and can help w/ information/recommendations, etc... She\x92s very easy to work with. You can go to her website and get more info.

Hope this is helpful! Julie

We moved to Orinda from a great East Bay neighborhood. Sad at first we quickly realized that yes, it is warmer(nice), the yards are huge(houses smaller), lots of young liberal families and the schools are great. Luckily, the neighborhoods, friends and shopping I love in Berkeley and Oakland are NOT far from Orinda (maybe 10 minutes). I get my urban fill and then drive back to peaceful, safe(we often forget to lock our doors) and quiet Orinda.

The schools here are nothing less than great. You quickly realize that buying a house here pays off in the end (compared to mortgage + private school tuition). Also, the schools are much more diverse than I originally thought.

The families are cool, like I said, MANY have moved from Oakland, Berkeley or SF to be here. Yes, there are quite a few older more conservative people, but many of them are selling and moving into retirement homes making way for younger families.

We live in the Ivy drive neighborhood, which is close to all three schools my children will attend all the way to high school. It's a lot ''easier'' going than some other parts of Orinda (Downs, Sleepy Hollow). Join your neighborhood pool club and meet even more families in your area and or Elem. school.

Lafayette is also a great town, but I don't know enough about the neighborhoods to tell you anything
Happy I moved

Worried about exclusivity if I move to Lamorinda

July 2005

I have read the previous postings about moving through the tunnel to Lamorinda and am looking for input from someone who's ''been there''. We have two children (infant + preschool) and have this on-again, off-again approach to moving from our beloved Oakland neighborhood to Lamorinda for schools and a backyard. My biggest concern is the impression of exclusivity I get from hearing about the area, from my limited experience of a Gymboree class in Lafayette, and through people I've met since I've had children. It seems that many young moms grew up there or have been there for awhile, belong to expensive country clubs and have a pretty substantial budget for discretionary spending (e.g. SAHMs with lots of childcare) and I'm nervous about fitting in, even though I've never had trouble making friends before. Everyone says ''you'll meet people through the school'' but since we'll have skipped the preschool experience there, I feel like my daughter (and I) will be the ''new kids'' on the first day of kinderegarten. Am I nuts? We are looking at houses in the $800's, I am a SAHM and we're not loaded. Will we fit in? Any suggestions for neighborhoods to check out, or a realtor who can give us an honest viewpoint of these issues? We have a truly wonderful neighborhood now, but to stay for the sake of neighbors who may pick up and move for the same reason seems silly.
- scared to start over

We just moved to Moraga in May after spending all of our adult lives in Berkeley, Oakland, and SF. We moved for a bigger house, yard, and schools. We could not be happier. Granted, our kids have not started the schools here yet as it is summer (and we let them finish the year at their old Oakland school), but so far the experience has been great. Our kids have aready made some friends on our block. (The kids can play in the street because it is quiet and safe...what a concept!) All of our neighbors have stopped by to welcome us. All have offered help with anything we need (and have even come through for us). Most of all, nearly all of them are Berkeley, Oakland, and SF transplants who are here for the same reasons we are. They are not all right-wing, exclusive country clubbers. Sure, there are people who have second homes, belong to country clubs and the like, but big deal. they don't seem to lord it over anyone, and if they do...forget them. You know the saying: People can ! only make you feel bad if you let

The only thing I've noticed is that everyone goes to church. I've been invited to people's churches and I've just politely thanked them and said we're not church-goers. That seems to end it with no hard feelings. I found the biggest detractors to life on this side of the tunnel are the ones who have never done it and are just making crass generalizations about people they've met. We labored our decision forever for ALL of the reasons you mention in your post. Now that we're here, I can't believe I didn't do this sooner.

We have a few farmer's markets, a Trader Joe's and Whole Foods close by, good restaurants in Lafayette and Walnut Creek, BART in Orinda and Lafayette, excellent libraries, parks, and schools, wonderful walking and bike trails...there is a lot to recommend this area. Don't let people freak you out about it. It's not like you're moving to another planet.
Happy in the Burbs

I could have written your post last year when we were still house-hunting. We moved to Orinda exactly one year ago, and we're very happy here, despite the fact that I literally cried when we left our beloved Rockridge. I understand your fears (they were mine, too!) but they are largely myths. Let me debunk a few - or at least give my perspective. Orinda (or Lamorinda in general) is not the moneyed country club scene you fear. Yes, there's a country club in town. I'm sure some people belong to it, or it wouldn't still be in business. But I don't know any of them. The folks I have met are interesting, down-to-earth, outgoing, kind-hearted and generous. When we told friends in Oakland/Berkeley that we were thinking of moving here, we heard again and again that Orinda was insufferably snobby and conservative. I can't tell you how far that is from the truth, in my experience. I've just saw some recent demographic info and learned that registered democrats now outnumber registered republicans in Orinda.
At home in Orinda
We lived in Berkeley for ten years, then moved to Orinda in 1996, when our oldest son (then 4, now 13) was starting kidergarten. Our nine years in Orinda have been a mixed experience, but mostly good. Yes, there is a lot of money in Orinda, and the affluence affects a lot of things. The schools have great resources, and committed parents who spare nothing (and I mean nothing) to provide the best for their kids. The constant fund-raising gets old, and the over-the-top auctions are case studies of conspicuous ego-driven spending. But you can't quarrel with the resulting flush budgets, and what that allows the schools to do. And the elementary schools are really great places to learn and grow. On the other hand, the affluence and privilege make for a pretty brutal middle school experience; girls compete to out-dress each other, and the pressure to perform (academically, athletically, socially) makes for a pretty intolerant culture that is intolerable for unusual kids.

Re the social scene: Don't worry that you didn't do preschool in Orinda; the elementary schools are where most Orinda family relationships are built. The SAH moms bond well and strongly. Groups of women drop their kids off at school and then walk together for exercise. There are endless opportunities to work in the school (lunch program, musical productions, field trips, working in the classroom) and connect with the parents in the school community. But if you ever opt to be a working mom (as I am), prepare to feel marginalized. School activities/events tend to involve mid-day meetings or contributions that working parents cannot make. And I don't think I am imagining the subtle judgment I feel from some of the SAH moms in Orinda for my choice to work.

Re neighborhoods: North of 24 is more affluent; south of 24 is more mixed (mixed in Orinda, of course, being a relative term). The school with the craziest Get-Your-Kid-Into-Harvard-at-10 parents is Sleepy Hollow. The most relaxed and creative schools are Glorietta and Del Rey. We are at Glorietta, which was pretty good for our oldest and with more recent innovations has been wonderful for our youngest (now 9). Other neighborhood considerations: The hills largely dictate how much neighbors see each other, how much kids ride bikes, and so on. The areas around Del Rey school tend to be flatter and lend themselves to riding bikes to school and in-the-street playing, though there are some great neighborhood-y streets (Park Lane Drive, Martha Road, Darryl Road, Meadow Lane) around Glorietta too.
Good luck. An Orinda mom

I grew up in Oakland (in one of the not so affluent areas) and we moved to Lamorinda because of the great schools. We love it here, as it feels like such a safe place to raise our kids. We considered buying a house in Rockridge or Crocker Highlands, but chose not to because of the school issue. We both work full- time and although it does seem as if many of the moms here are SAHM with lots of discretionary income, there are also plenty of others (i.e. working moms or families w/SAHM on a budget). I think that some people who live here definitely do have that exclusivity vibe you are talking about, but there are lots of others who don't. In you are interested in talking more, just send me your phone number. I'd be happy to call you and chat.
Hello, You are asking all of the right questions about Lamorinda. I grew up in Berkeley and we settled here, now with our first home and two young children. The schools are wonderful in Lamorinda, no matter where you are in the three cities. You cannot go wrong in the public schools. But yes, I would say the community is far more conservative and far more homogeneous (economically and socially) than the Oakland or Berkeley areas. You won't likely attend a Martin Luther King parade or celebrate diversity as you do on the ''other side of the tunnel.'' At times this is challenging for me personally. However, Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco are only a short drive or bart ride away. Yes indeed, there are many many multi- million dollar plus homes in the area, but there are also many homes that are not so. And you must understand that the housing market has virtuallly exploded here in the last 6 years or so, so a home you may be purchasing for $800,000, your neighbors were able to get into for $400,000. So go figure. What I love about Lamorinda is being close to San Francisco, yet feeling like I am in the country. The air is fresh, and it is so peaceful! Whenever friends come to visit me, they have a hard time leaving. I love the warm summers which are great for being outdoors and swimming for kids. I love our gigantic yard, and so will your kids. I love not having to entertain the idea of attending a private school. And speaking of schools, I would not worry about being the ''new family on the block'' when your kids start kindergarten. There are so many preschools and so many elementary schools, you won't feel like an outsider. For homes in your price range, I would recommend looking into Burton Valley in Lafayette.
Happy in Lamorinda
I say move. Your kids are so young you will not be the only new mom. We know people who's kids are entering Middle School that just moved out there and we contemplated it and even went house hunting. In the end we decided to stay and pay for private school because we felt the increase in property tax because of the higher price of a home wouldn't make the move worth it for us. There is the upper class folks out there but there are also a lot of people moving there for the schools who are struggling to get by so it is becoming more diverse financially. I think you should look at the school system in Oakland and where your kids will be going to school, not just elementary, but Middle and High School. To me the only reason to move are the schools, and they're a big reason - Lamorinda has the second highest rated school district in the state. If you're happy with the schools your kids will be going to then stay - but if you're not and you can move - now is the time to do it.
I have lived in Lamorinda for almost seven years. Moved my kids here when they were in elementary school. They are now in high school and they both love it, and have grown up to be good- hearted kids, each with a social conscience. There is a substantial number of very well-off folks in this area, but there are also many others who are not (including us). Yes some kids drive new sports cars to school at age 16. Seemingly the average vacation is Europe or Hawaii. And there are many over here who do vote their pocketbooks, but just as often that pocketbook vote means spending a good deal of money to improve the schools. I have not found rubbing shoulders with the well- off to be a disadvantage for me or my kids. In many ways it offers a good learning experience for all of us. We don't get everything all our friends have. It is a good lesson that most of us have to learn at one time or another, no matter where we live. My kids have seemingly gravitated toward kids with like values and incomes, as have I, but we have friends that are both apartment and mansion dwellers. And personally I have found many people on this side of the tunnel to have similar political tastes as me, which run to the liberal end of the spectrum. Life is good over on this side -- good schools, good yard, good friends and only 20 minutes from virtually any neighborhood over there. There are also many, many SAHM and they also run the spectrum. Get involved in the schools and you will find friends with your same worries, desires and needs. Seven years ago I had your worries and wondered if ''they'' were any different than me. Today, I would tell you ''we'' aren't any different.
Lamorinda supporter
Maybe I'm not a good judge of other Orindans, since I don't know that many, but in the five years I've lived in Orinda I haven't found it to be snobbish. But then my husband and I literally have no friends who live here (since we are happily self-contained, this is by choice). I'm 35 and am expecting our first child in September; he's 41. I do know that people here are friendly, much more so than when I lived in a rental neighborhood in El Cerrito, but we don't socialize beyond brief chats while walking our dogs.

So I don't find it to be ''exclusive,'' if by that you mean, ''Do you feel excluded?'' I don't feel we stand out, despite being former punk rockers, anti-conspicuous consumption (my husband drives a 1994 Honda Civic), and politically liberal--we are white and relatively wealthy, however. We live in south Orinda (which is not the Country Club side of town) in the Moraga del Rey area (surrounding Del Rey School), and there's no sign of snobbishness on our street, despite the million-dollar ranch houses. We did wonder about bringing our son into a perceived culture of wealthy entitlement, but figured all parents have to teach their values at home. Orinda's Not Blackhawk

We also made the move through the tunnel to Lafayette, although we still spend a lot of time in Oakland we have met wonderful neighbors and other friends who also made ''the move''. I recomend that you join Lamorinda Moms Club, good way to meet others, and join playgroups.
Lamorinda Mom
We moved to Lafayette from Albany about 7 years ago, although our situation may be a bit different due to the fact that I grew up in Moraga and my parents still live there, so this seemed a natural area for us to move to when we outgrew our little Albany bungalow. However, I can certainly understand your concerns, as I have many of the same ones. We live in the Happy Valley section of Lafayette, and believe me, we live modestly compared to most of our neighbors. Our children go to the wonderful Happy Valley school, but every day to get them there, we drive past homes that would cost a mimimum of $2 million. I am a stay at home parent as well, and it is definitely a bit of a stretch for us to live here, and sometimes I do wonder if it is worth it. However, as you will hear, the area schools are wonderful and Lafayette itself is lovely (and we have a Peets!). There are plenty of what I consider to be superficial, snobbish people that you will meet here (of course, they exist in Berkeley and Oakland too!) but there are also lots of wonderful, down to earth people as well. I think you would do fine if you had not gone to pre-school here. There were only two families from our pre-school that went to the same elementary school as my children, and most of the friendships were formed with other kindergarten families and as the kids made friends of their own.

I think Lafayette offers the widest range of incomes of the three communities, and hopefully, a good realtor could steer you in the direction of the neighboorhood that would be the best fit. Good luck with your decision! Claire

I made the move from Montclair to Orinda myself just last year, and for the same reason: schools and a yard. So many of our neighbors made the move at the same time we did with the same goals in mind. We are very pleased with our new town. However, I am biased as I am one of those you mentioned that grew up in the area and have returned. There is a reason, what a fabulous place to have a family and, most importantly, to be a kid. Virtually all events & activities in the Lamorinda area are centered around families. One more thing about returning to the area, I hardly see anyone I grew up with so I've made all new friends through getting to know our neighbors.

My neighbor & friend Molly Smith (who introduced us to practically everyone) is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Orinda. She grew up in Orinda and knows the area very well. She specializes in working with families and people buying in the Lamorinda area for the first time. Molly's children are in preschool and 1st grade so she is a great person to talk with regarding the schools, neighborhoods, activites and getting to know people. Her contact information is:
Molly Smith Coldwell Banker molly[at]
Hope this is helpful! Julie

I moved to Orinda from Southern CA in March of this year. I have mixed feelings about the area and some common sense advice to offer from my own experience. Please email me directly if you are interested in following up. bune
Someone else once said that almost everyone that lives in Lamorinda is white, and those that aren't white act like it. This phrase has stuck in my mind. Although it sounds very racist, I think the person was attempting to describe the overwhelming pressures of CLASS rather than race. Actually-the NYTIMes ran a long series (I think 6-8 parts) of articles on class a couple months appears that people are much more likely to marry across racial lines rather than class lines...interesting reading.

So, to answer your question: ''Will I fit in''.....that all depends upon your willingness and interest to make the monetary effort to do so. People don't post to this venue asking if they will make friends if they move to El Cerrito, for instance, because I think it is safe enough to generalize and say that the higher up you live on the monetary food chain, the more monolithically conservative everyone BEHAVES...and depending upon your point of view, that could be very restrictive....and make it much harder to feel like you are fitting in. Although, I am sure, that there are many people who live in Lamorinda and don't subscribe to the whole scene because ''fitting in'' in their immediate environment is not a priority for them. So whether or not you'll fit in depends upon you, what type of lifestyle you are seeking regarding your immediate geographical community and your priorities.

By-the-way, you can get schools and a backyard in places other than Lamorinda....but then again, schools in other areas with high APIs tend to be the elementary ones and by junior/high school, most public schools begin to fall apart. Many arguments have been made that even schools with APIs that are not high, still provide good educations within a much more diverese setting....but that is a whole other question. Though, before you move for ''schools'' you probably want to have a clear idea of what exactly constitutes a good school in your own mind.

Pay attention to your own feelings. If you picked up on feelings of exclusivity, I think you will get more of the same once you live there.....unless of course, you buy into the whole scene. I know a family that has transferred into the Lamorinda school district, and they pay for country club membership so that their kids can see their friends and fit in. If you really want to fit in, I think you'll need to be able to afford to do the same thing. I, too, attended a preschool in Lamorinda this past year. I noticed a couple of things. 1-the drop off/pick up scene at school is much more brusque than what I am used to.....parents were less likely to hang out a bit and that community link is not present like it is in other communities 2-the element of diversity is definitely different....there was only one african-american child in the school, and interestingly enough, he was a foster child. 3-the look of most material possessions is much more, clothes, etc. I did socialize with other parents when the opportunity presented itself, and I was initially surprised at one thing....once others found out that we didn't live in Lamorinda, I noticed that slightly imperceptible flaring of the nostrils and the conversation faded away. I suppose that if you go through the effort to buy into/live in Lamorinda, you want to cultivate friendships with others that are of the same mindset. Fair enough...but too constrictive for me. Good luck!
I know it is a complex decision!

I appreciate where you are coming from. We moved from the ''other side'' of the tunnel five years ago, to Lafayette and couldn't be happier with our decision. We too missed the pre- school experience here in Lafayette and it made no difference. Starting kids anytime in a new school environment poses challenges. My kids made numerous friends in kindergarten, I worked in their classroom, volunteered at the school, and worked a full time job. My husband and I tried to integrate ourselves into the community to make it the best experience possible for all of us. I found people to be very welcoming. Of course you will always have those few people that you or your child will not mesh with, but again, that happens anywhere.

As for your concern about the ''country club'' lifestyle in LaMorinda,I know of few country clubs. Many pools and clubs to join, but most are fairly down to earth. Yes, there are many people who were born and raised here in LaMorinda and have now chosen to move back and raise their own families (and you'll see a ton of Cal bumper stickers and license plates!). But I believe that speaks well for the community. My husband and I try very hard to make sure our kids are grounded, have culture, go into SF, experience diversity, modest travel, and have exposure to those less fortunate by doing charitable work. I always believe it starts from the home. When we encounter snooty behavior, we simply ignore it, as I would with anyone. As a result, I'm proud to say my kids are leaders and well liked (and no they are not on the traveling soccer team, they don't play baseball and as a result, we have free time to hang out and enjoy our family time outside of a moving vehicle).

Lastly I want to say this...I have siblings who live in Oakland and Piedmont-two wonderful places. They all have children. The Oakland sibling has had all the children in private school and will now be looking at a very expensive private high school (all while trying to save for their college educations). My childrens education is paid for through my property taxes (which I get to write off, private school you do not). And for all the volunteering and fundraising my husband and I do for our Lafayette schools, my sister does 10x more.

Your biggest challenge of course will be trying to find a home as nice as the one you're in. Don't let that get you down. There are many homes on the market right now. If you need a few names of real estate agents, I know some great one's...not pushy! Check out the Reliez Valley area and the Burton Valley area in Lafayette. Moraga's nice too but far out. Best of Luck to you. You sound like a very nice, thorough person.

We have contemplated moving to Lamorinda and decided against it for the same reasons you listed plus one more. We are a mixed race couple and didn't see many families like us when we drove around to look at houses and check out neighborhoods.

It seemed mostly white and Asian with very little diversity.

We decided to stay in El Cerrito and participate fully in our local public school by raising money for enrichment stuff to benefit our own children and other students who truly need it.

I think the idea that public schools on this side of the tunnel are inferior to Orinda schools is just a perception. There are good schools with strong parent involvement in every district.

If a school district composed of students from more affluent households post higher API's, it doesn't mean the teachers are doing a superior job. It just means they have the easiest to educate kids and the most resources to do it with.

Happy on this side of the tunnel.

Wow, I wish I could write all of the glowing things about Orinda. I moved from Orinda ,after five years, to Rockridge very recently and I couldn't be happier. I had a very difficult time with Orinda residents. I along with my family of three children and husband were never welcomed by the Orinda community felt no particular kindness from area residents and felt that on the whole the people are quite intense about status and appearance. I am so happy to have moved it is unreal. I might add that we are not a white family. I really think that has a lot to do with it. There was a perception that we didn't live there and it was often assumed in Orinda Park, at OPP etc that we were ''visitors'' from ''the other side''. Hard to stomach. We also noticed that those in the Sleepy Hollow area are more likely to suffer from an insuffrable lack of kindness and are more likely to think highly of themselves. We ran out of there. Think hard about your decision and what you want your children to learn about race and class and openness.
I still feel the sting.
This maybe a little late, I just saw your posting. We moved to Lafayette 9 years ago from Berkeley and I can honestly say that if my husband would move back to the ''other side'' I would do so in a heart beat.

I am a SAHM and have found that unless you are from the ''white gal'' culture it is VERY hard to find truly good friends. There is a ton of superficial politeness, but it is clear that some people don't want to have anything to do with me because I am just not like them. Money, money, more money and a big house and fancy car that let's everyone know I have money would buy me entry into some of the cliques. Cliques are established and tough to break in to. It can be a VERY lonely place.

The ''great'' school reputation is deserved because of the parent involvement both in the classroom and financially. The rate and amount of ''donations'' expected is voluminous. At our elem. school there is a handful of ''great'' teachers the rest are mediocre to woeful. One the first grade teachers wrote up a sentence for the children to copy that ended in ''at''. Schools are for the most part white. High stakes testing means there is no time (and in reality little interest) in teaching cultural diversity. This maybe true of public school in the Berkeley area but at least your children are experiencing cultural diversity by just going to school with children of color and different nations. I know very few children who are NOT enrolled in intense enrichment including private tutoring, Kuman and Sylvan. The pressure on the children and the parents to succeed academically is frightening.

Save your children and yourselves and your money - stay where you are and go to a private school!
Can't wait to bust out of here.

Well, I guess we are a rare family that moved *from* Lamorinda to the Oakland hills! Before moving to Lafayette, we lived in Montclair, but my husband wanted to give life through the tunnel a try since he had grown up very happily in a similar suburban environment. From day one, I hated it, and he was frustrated by the commute. We had been told that there was so much to do with our kids, but when pressed, what this boiled down to was some nice parks, the Lindsay Wildlife Museum and shopping... I don't consider shopping a recreational pastime, and the playgrounds were too hot to use during the summer. We felt that you had to either belong to a swim club or have your own pool to get through the summer months. We spent a lot of time driving to Oakland or Berkeley to entertain our kids. Also, it simply isn't true that it only takes 20 minutes to get through the tunnel to Oakland or Berkeley. Except in the middle of a weekday, I have always been stuck in traffic going to/from Lamorinda.

The most troubling experiences I had were the lack of tolerance both for a full time working mom (which I was at the time), and for racial diversity (we are a white family). I had an extremely disturbing experience at the Moraga Commons at a party, where there was a lot of talk about how the lack of diversity was responsible for better schools. The racist remarks were made quite freely and were more explicit, but you get the picture....

Please note that I realize that the above does not reflect the attitude of everyone living in Lamorinda; nevertheless, it was my experience.

My children were a preschooler and a baby, so I can't speak to the school experience, although I know several families from Oakland with children who have ADHD or learning differences, who moved to Lamorinda for the public schools because they were not able to get them into private schools in Oakland or Berkeley.

Basically, I always felt that I was on my best behavior while living in Lafayette -- that I could never be myself. We subsequently bought a house in the Oakland hills and I remember breathing an enormous sigh of relief on the day we moved! My kids are happy at Montclair schools, where there is diversity and a much more tolerant attitude, generally. We will probably do private schools for high school, but when you figure the higher cost of houses and property tax a move to Lamorinda would involve, it's about the same cost. Most importantly, we feel comfortable and happy where we live now.

We have friends who are happy in Lamorinda and those that wished they had never moved. If you are thinking about a move through the tunnel, I strongly suggest either renting first or housesitting to really get a feel for the lifestyle.
glad I'm not stuck in the suburbs

The Lamorinda Mom's Club?

Nov 2004

I am hoping to hear about any experiences you have had with the Lamorinda Mom's Club. What membership entails, were the members welcoming to you as a new member, how (by child's age?) and where are playgroups arranged? Where do the majority of families in this mom's group live? Etc, etc and whatever else you'd care to add. Thank you!
Thinking of joining

If you have a baby or toddler, this group is a win-win situation. Although there is an annual fee (~$40?) you get a monthly newsletter with info re playgroups, local events, membership mtg talks, etc. You also get access to cheap tix to the Ice shows, circus, etc. Your only commitment from what I recall is to make a dinner 2 times a year (I think) for a family with a new baby -something most of us would be happy to do just to be helpful. I think the membership is less helpful with a preschooler and older because your events, friends of your child, etc. come from the school primarily, and the things on offer are for babies/toddlers mostly. The membership mtgs are a bit ''frilly''. Little on parent ed, and mostly how to pamper yourself or other less helpful topics. Anon

Activities for toddlers in Lamorinda

May 2004

I will be moving to Orinda this June. I have a 14-month old daughter and would like to start signing her up with activities in the area. Does anyone have any recommendations for activity groups and/or mother's groups in Lamorinda? I am open to anything - swimming, kindergym, music classes, etc. etc. Any info would be a helpful start. Thanks!

There are plenty of things for toddlers to do in Orinda, I'd first join the Lamorinda Mom's Club, Additionally you should contact comunity center for classes, etc. LMC member
In Lamorinda, your best bets for toddler entertainment are the local community centers (Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda have them, although Lafayette and Moraga have recently merged theirs, and all registration takes place in Lafayette). There are many moms and tots classes, such as kindergym, etc. There is also a Gymboree in Lafayette.

You will also want to check in to if you are interested in joining a playgroup. This moms club has 400 plus families, so it is likely you will find some connections there.

Also, The Nurture Center in Lafayette will be offering Music Together classes starting in June. You can learn more at But hurry, the classes are filling up quickly!

Good luck! SherryH

African-American in Lamorinda

Feb 2004

My husband and I are considering moving to Lafayette/moraga/orinda for the schools. I am African American, he is white. Can anyone give me any insight as to what it would be like for me and my kids to live in the area? We've spend a lot of time in the area (dinner, movies etc) in an effort to get to know the community more, and I have noticed that there are rarely other people of color, with the exception of some asian- american. He grew up in that area and is still friends with most of his high-school friends, and I am friendly with most of their wives (all white), so I know that there are lots of people from there or who live there who think nothing of a mixed-race family, but I worry about my kids rarely seeing anyone who looks like them (at school, at a restaurant, at a movie) unless we traveled through the tunnel...

My family moved to Orinda from Berkeley last May. We are all white, so I can't comment directly on the experience of people of color here. But I'm sorry to say I can confirm the lack of diversity. When my daughter started at the middle school here, she complained that all the girls were tall and thin and blond. She has since made good friends, and they seem to be really nice girls, but I confess that I sometimes have a hard time telling them apart.

The area has some great qualities, though. From what we have seen with kids in elementary and middle school, the schools are quite good. There is a great small town feel, and you often see middle school kids out on their own at the movies and at restaurants like Nations hamburgers, and at the pool in the summer. I think it is a good place for teens because they can have some early freedom here (like I had when I was growing up) and then, when they are older, can get into Oakland and Berkeley and SF via BART to participate in a more urban scene. One thing that has struck me is how many people I have met here that recently moved from Berkely or Albany or elsewhere on the Bay side of the hills. I assume they don't suddenly become more conservative when the moving van enters the tunnel; instead I like to think that they/we will make this area more like Berkeley and its neighbors. More diverse families would be a welcome part of this transformation. Good luck with your decision! anne

I have mostly grown up in Lafayette, with a few years living in Alameda, and I can tell you, those few years taught me A LOT! I never had any children of any color other than white in my schools until I lived in Alameda, where my high school was very diverse, and I was, in fact, a minority myself. As a result, I feel that I learned a lot about cultural and ethnic diversity and came to appreciate ''differentness'' vs. ''sameness''. That said, Lafayette has changed considerably since I was a child. As you said, there are a good number of people of Asian descent in Lafayette, but in the general Lamorinda area, there continue to be very few African Americans. Our family is good friends with a family in which the husband is African American and the mother white in Lamorinda and I don't think that they are treated any differently than all of the other families at the school. In fact, my friend says that she feels very comfortable in this area and that initially, they were worried that they would be ostracized because of their bi-racial family. This is hard for me to assess as they are good friends of ours, but I do know that the daughter is beginning to question why there are not other children with brown skin at her school. Is this bad in and of itself? I don't think so, as she (like me years before!) in a way has the opportunity to appreciate diversity in some form. Currently, I work at our church with teenagers from all different area schools, and I find that despite their cultural diversity, they are very ''white'' -- they for the most part have not experienced economic diversity, ethnic diversity (in that many are very ''Americanized''). Despite their differences in skin color, they are much ! the same in most ways. We are constantly trying to teach them to be mindful of difference and to appreciate it -- we try to get them together with kids from SF, Oakland, etc ... because these kids are very different from kids in those areas, despite sameness in skin color. I don't know if this makes sense, but I guess what I am trying to say is that I do not think you would be considered that ''different'' in Lamorinda, but yes, your daughter would have trouble finding other kids with her same skin color. That's a big thing when you consider that you want her to learn about her ethnicity, but not such a big thing if you want her to look like or ''fit in'' socially with the other kids around her. Hope this helps! lifetime Lamorindan
I attended a birthday party for an old high school friend in Lafayette, and the three of us from Berkeley were the only people of color at the party. My friend who was the only African American joked that ''Lafayette is French for 'no black people.''' Everyone was very friendly but it definitely was strange. You have to be willing to think of yourself as sort of a suburban pioneer (the Chron had a great article semi-recently with a similar title regarding this very topic). How do you feel about the total absence of African American culture and role models in the schools and community (I mean REAL culture, not just hip-hop clothes and music)? How will you feel if your children are removed from African American culture as adults? And yes, your children will experience some amount of distress at some point as the ''only'' or ''one of the few'' in school. As a teacher in Berkeley, I have never heard a kid of color say it was no big deal or not noticeable that most everyone else in their other/former school was white. Most of them were very relieved to be in Berkeley schools for that reason, but none of them seemed traumatized by their previous experience either. All this is to say that I think the trade-offs are real and are not just a matter of other people being nice, or welcoming or open-minded. It's about you and your kids and what you want or need from the place where they will spend their formative years. -- Also raising biracial kids
I grew up in Moraga, and presently live in Lafayette. Being white, I am not sure I can really answer your question as to how you might feel here, as you are correct in that there are not many African-American families here (I believe there are two families at our elementary school). However, I just wanted to write to say that I sincerely hope you will consider moving here, and that I am sure you would be warmly welcomed in this community. Most of the people I talk to who live around here name the lack of diversity as one of the few drawbacks, so slowly, I hope that will change!
Welcome Wagon
My wife and I are the same racial make-up as you and your husband. We have lived and raised our two children in Lafayette for the past 11 years. Our children are thriving, have many friends, participate in sports, and other community based activities.

We have debates about whether our biracial children are best served in the Lamorinda community. I do not know what the right answer is, but will give you my thoughts. There are many families that we know that have other racial backgrounds other than European. Most of these families are interracial or asian. Here are some of the families that we know in our community: Chinese-Chinese, African American- European American, European American-Phillipines, Hispanic- Jewish and more. We are here and I hope you join us. The main reason I stay here as many other parents in this community, is for the education. My biracial children deserve the same high level of education and expectations of them as the blond child sitting in the next seat. So far, my children have been doing well academically. I do not look to the Lamorinda community to provide diversity or cultural education. We try to do that in other ways.

As a balance, we also do participate in other activities in Berkeley. We attend the City of Berkeley family camp at Tuolumne. We have other biracial family friends that live in Berkeley. David

2003 & Earlier

Gay dads considering a move to Orinda/Layfayette

June 2003

We are two gay dads with a 1 1/2 year old living in Berkeley. We are considering moving to the Orinda/Layfayette area for the quality of the public schools, but are concerned about how our child might be treated as a child of gay parents when he gets into school. Does anybody have a sense of what we and our little boy might experience out there?
Concerned parents

I live in Orinda and still struggle to find my place in this land of conservative wealth. However, my neighbors are a lesbian couple with 3 boys 9, 13 and 14. They moved from Oakland to here about 10 years ago and are very happy and at home. The kids seem like nice well adjusted kids who have told me nice things about the schools. My general feeling is that any discrimination would not be overt (if thats of comfort?) and plenty of perfectly accepting folks too. Nowhere else is going to have the level of diversity and acceptance that Berkely has. But one can't just hole up in Berkely forever. Christina
Hi Gay Dads!
Yes, come on out. We are a lesbian couple who have lived in Lafayette for 3 years now. We have 2 boys, one almost 9 years (next week) the other almost 5 years. We moved from NYC, rented in Richmond for a year and toured the East Bay. Found Lafayette and fell in love. Our neighbors are great, we are always trading off children, pets and helping each other out as any other neighbor would. The schools have been great. Not the diversity of Berkeley/Oakland but for us that wasn't our #1 piority. You will find more ethnic/family/economic diversity in the downtown school then any other and also the one middle school in Lafayette. The teachers have been great (not perfect, but who is?). We speak to them at the beginning of the school year. We have spoken with our Principal about the forms from the district not being gender neutral and they are working on that. There have been no negative incidents at the school or anywhere else where people know us. I work at the local community center (coaching gymnastics) and certainly don't advertise my sexuality but when asked about my children and spouse I tell them and everyone is cool about it.

We live near the trail so the children get to bike, walk, scooter etc. to school. We love running so it's the perfect location for us and also walking to downtown. It's great. There are pools all over you can belong to. Our boys play on the soccer, baseball, hockey, and swim teams (yes we drive a minivan!) and no one bats an eyelid to our family make-up.

There are another couple of Lesbian families here and in Moraga and tons in Walnut Creek/Concord/Pleasant Hill. Actually there is a fairly new group (for us families thru the tunnel) called Rainbow Families that meet once or twice a month with the kids in different areas for pizza etc. Last month everyone came to Freddies in Lafayette. The group has many two Dad/single families from 'thru the tunnel' as well.

I can't speak for Orinda but we did also look there and found it quite a bit hillier and all we could think about was ''Gee, how do these people make it up their driveways when it snows''??

Phew, I went on a bit but we really do love Lafayette and would just love more gay and lesbian families to come out here. We actually found it cheaper then living in Berkeley/Oakland and got more for our money. feel free to e-mail us if you want any more info or would like to come out to visit and we can show you the neighborhood! We can also recommend a great real estate broker who's a Gay Dad from Alamo. Good Luck.
lesbians loving Lafayette

I'm not sure how helpful this will be, but I grew up in Lafayette & went to public schools there & I now live in Berkeley. I found the atmosphere to be pretty unappealing. The majority of the families were upper-middle class & there was very little in the way of diversity (racial or otherwise). The social scene, even in elementary school was quite intense with heavy doses of teasing for wearing the wrong attire, parents who had manual labor jobs or failing to vacation in the right places. High School intensified those areas of focus and added the element of drugs and cars (many of the kids drive BMW, Mercedes, Audi, etc). I remember my parents being shocked when, a guy on my swim team OD'd on Coke ... they really believed that because the kids were all well dressed, had money & nice homes - that drugs weren't an issue. Even though I did sports, had a nice group of friends & endured relatively little of the social harassment, I still found the social pressure to be a real turn-off.

I'm sure there are some differences than there were 10 years ago, but not that many. I'm a therapist now and I occassionally see kids who go to Acalanes (high school) & the stories they bring to therapy sound pretty similar to what I witnessed when I went to school there.
Lafayette School System Survivor

We recently made the move to Orinda and are really happy with our decision. Most our neighbors introduced themselves and didn't seem too phased that we are a household of two moms and a kid. There are many Cal alums in the area, so I think its not as conservative as one thinks..especially as there is turnover (the saying is people leave their houses feet first) and a younger crowd moves in. We find ourselves spending more time outside because the weather is nicer, which is good for our son. We also don't worry as much, if at all, about crime, so if we forget to close the garage door or lock the car, its not a big deal. Also, the level of customer service in the stores is great, maybe because they are use to dealing with the senior set, but still, its refreshing. There are great parks in both Orinda and Moraga for the kids and free concerts in the parks over the summer. Feel free to email me if you want more info!

Lamorinda for Hispanic Kids?

January 2002

I am looking for input on living in Lafayette or Moraga. I currently life in upper rockridge & have two young kids (3 years and 18 months). I am dreaming of living in a flat neighborhood where kids can ride bikes.

Question is: my kids are adopted & very hispanic looking (they are from California but I am frequently asked what country are they from??). Does anyone have any input on issues with their living in these communities? I looked at some recently published census numbers on Lafayette & the hispanic population was around 4%, so I am aware that these areas are not very diverse. I am hoping to get input on the culture or openess of these communities. Thanks.

Regarding Lafayette/Moraga and the diversity of the population, I grew up in Lafayette and now live in neighboring Pleasant Hill. I have to say that, yes, Lafayette is very white; in its defense, so is most of this part of the East Bay. I would not judge it,however, by your census numbers, as that only told you the percentage of Hispanics there. I have to say that Lafayette does have some diversity, and while there may not be a large percentage of Hispanics, I see people of all races in town (I do all of my shopping there) -- I would have to guess that the Asian population is much higher than that of the Hispanic population. I do think that the socioeconomic level of Lafayette residents is very comparable to that of the Rockridge area, so I would have to think that people are open to interracial families. I know of 2 friends specifically who have children of a different race and live in Lafayette. I can't really speak for Moraga -- it has always had a different personality than Lafayette, so I don't want to guess it would be the same (but I hope so!). Don't know if this is helpful, but I hope so! :) Trish
Hello. We moved to Lafayette 18mtns ago and couldn't be happier. We used to live in a city and was used to walking most places. We wanted an area where we could be active yet not too far from museums etc. We found that in Lafayette. We live close to the trail, our son rides his bike or scooter to school everyday. We walk, etc., into town for coffee, bagels, shopping as do many of our friends. We take family bike rides along the trail into Moraga and also in the summer to the swim club. Our neighbors have been just so friendly welcoming us with baked goodies when we moved in. We often help each other out with sitting each others children and boy are there children. Everyone uses the trail.

Oh, i should mention we are a lesbian family (more diversity) and the only ones in our local elementary school l along with a gay dad family who have two boys, both adopted and one from South America.(they have been very happy with the school also) You are right, there really isn't much in the form of diversity, any kind to think of it but in the downtown school (Lafayette elementary) there is certainly a lot more then in the others. There are many children of Asian, and Hispanic descent. In my sons class of 20 there are 5 children of Asian or Hispanic descent. We have also felt very welcomed there. I'd love to write more but I have to go out now. Feel free to e-mail me if you have other questions.

Regarding living in Lafayette/Moraga - I have lived in Moraga for 5 years now (I moved here from the Mid-West). You are correct in that this area is not very ethnically diverse, but I think I speak for most Lamorinda residents in that we wish it were. Most people who live here moved from other parts of the Bay Area, and many were born here, and return to raise their children here. Many people who live here work in SF, Oakland, and Berkeley, and appreciate being relatively close to these urban areas to take advantage of their diversity.

I would not have any reservations to living in this area in your situation. There are also quite a few families I know of that have adopted children of all different nationalities.

Good luck with your decision, and hope you make the move to the sunny, hot side of the Bay!

I've been living in Moraga for more than 3 years and I'm not sure I would do it again. I'm a foreigner and feel it everyday, if I have to stay in Moraga all day. We leave in a Cul-de-sac, which I will never do again, and me and my children are constantly confronted to clicks and bigotry. If you don't belong to a church, do not belong to the swim team in summer, soccer team in the fall and baseball in spring, you might find yourself ostracized. I feel the Rheem school district is more diverse than the one we belong to (Camino Pablo). Lafayette seems to be more opened as well, with a wider diversity of activities, stores and population. But.... it's safe! Sophie