Which Neighborhood for Affordable Family Rentals?

Parent Q&A

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  • We are looking for an affordable (~$2,000/month) 2 bedroom apartment (pet friendly for medium dog) to rent in a safe neighborhood ... a place that has good insulation and if possible heating and air conditioning. Our current place is freezing and super hot in the summer and we are paying upwards of $300/month on PG&E for heating because it has horrible insulation and we are relying on an old gas furnace and electric heaters. We work in south berkeley and downtown oakland but would be open to a reasonable commute to find proper housing... and on the same topic would need to find a good daycare or preschool in the area for our 2 yr old.

    Also in the longer term looking into buying a house in case you have any advice on this topic as well. Maybe this is too general and vague but wanted to get some feedback from people.

    Any suggestions on neighborhoods to target in our rental searches or available listings we would be grateful for, thanks!

    It's been a few years since I was a renter, but $2000 for 2 br in a safe neighborhood that allows a dog seems like a tall order in Oakland/Berkeley/Albany, I'm afraid. Even in El Cerrito and San Leandro, I think it's stretching it a bit but you may want to look in El Cerrito and north (Richmond, El Sobrante) or San Leandro and south (Hayward, Castro Valley) or Pleasant Hill and East and South East. Ones in the south and east will also likely have A/C. Alameda is also a good place to look. People often overlook Alameda but I think it's such a sweet place and I wish I had bought in Alameda instead of Oakland.  Also, a "safe" neighborhood in Oakland and Berkeley isn't crime free...

    I'm sorry to say that it is extremely rare to find a place with air conditioning on Oakland/Berkeley side of the tunnel in the East Bay. You can absolutely find a well heated rental and a newer construction will likely have new windows and insulation which will help with heating. Old construction with new double pane windows and insulation will be pretty good in terms of heat retention but old buildings are leaky even with good insulation, so you'll have a higher heating bill. *$200 - $250/ month in the winter was pretty normal unfortunately at our old rental house that was very well insulated and had all new windows (it was 3 br 2 bath and did have tons of windows and we had 2 babies running heaters, monitors, washers, dryers, and my partner worked at night, so using electricity longer than a normal household. we also liked to set the thermostat at 70 degree.). It was also north facing, so it didn't get a lot of sunlight. (great in summer but not so much in winter). Look for places with windows that open up and down (not side to side or in and out like casement windows) and electric outlets near the windows especially in the bedroom. This will allow for a window a/c unit that you can use on a handful of unbearably hot days and you can sleep comfortably. If the unit has windows that are mostly south / southwest facing, that will heat up the house really fast. Also make sure that you have layers of window coverings with a light blocking thermal window coverings which are good to keep the house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Windows really do a number on heat loss/gain. At our first rental where it was really drafty, we taped up a plastic film over the windows in the winter and you could see the film ballooning in and out due to the draft. 

    Good luck!

    I'd try Alameda. $2000 might be hard, but if you can go up by 10-15% you can probably find something (e.g., closer to $2200-$2300 - maybe you can get a basic 2 bd/1 ba if you search). The entire town is very safe, the public schools are great, and there are a number of very good day cares. Great parks! Easy access for your commute. We love it here. Houses here are expensive as everywhere else though ... weather here is moderate being close to the Bay so A/C is not as crucial as it might be even another mile or two inland. 

    Sadly, you will not get a decent 2 bedroom for $2,000 a month with a reasonable commute. Even Hayward is higher than that. You're probably looking at Tracy ... My coworker has a one bedroom with very poor insulation in Alameda for $2400. So I think Alameda is out as well. Unfortunately, in this market, you won't get everything you want - size, location, price - so you'll have to decide what is most important to you. 

    My husband and I (6 months pregnant) are moving back to Berkeley from Canada in March, and we're looking for rentals too. We paid $2k/mo for a one-bedroom in Berkeley between 2018-2020, and THAT felt like a steal, so we were expecting to pay at least $2500-2600 for a two-bedroom this go around. Wish it were different, but safety is a key issue for us too.

    Will be watching this thread closely!

    We rented a lovely, updated and well maintained house (2 bed plus office and 2 bath and a nice yard) in the Piedmont Ave. area for $3250/month which we knew was a steal. When we left in 2018, the landlord raised the rent to $4000/month which I was told was still a bargain. In 2020, our friends found a 2 bed plus office and 1bath house with an enormous backyard near Rose garden in Berkeley for $3000/month and they feel very lucky to have found a house in Berkeley that is dog and child friendly for that amount. Our neighbors who rent a 1500 sq ft 2 bed and 1 bath apartment in the lakeshore area pay $3150. They have 2 large dogs. Another friend who rents a 2 bed/1 bath in El Cerrito pays $2350. She has a cat.  I unfortunately don’t know anyone who pays $2000 for 2 bedroom in Oakland/Berkeley area unless they have been a tenant for a long time in a rent controlled place. We rented a 2 bed 1 bath apartment in a nice part of Oakland for $1400 in 2008. If we stayed there, we would have  an amazingly low rent due to rent control. 

    I think San Leandro, Alameda, El Sobrante, Martinez are nice and much more reasonably priced. 

    No A/C in Oakland/Berkeley/Alameda. I can count the number of nights I wish I had A/C with one hand. 

  • Hi Everyone, We are a family of 4 moving from southwest Michigan to East Bay Area, we have money saved and still waiting to hear back from jobs. We will be permanently moving in June 2018 and looking for a rental house for around 1600 to 2500. We like to live in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Moraga, El Cerritos,San Leandro area, with nice areas for our kids to grow up around( ages 2 years old and 1 years old). Looking for a diverse, long term community for our family to join. Thanks to all in advance! 

    Please don't move here unless the job situation is settled. I know that you've heard about how expensive it is here, and about how horrible driving is here, but you really have no idea just how difficult it is. You need to know where your jobs are going to be before you consider where to live. Your quality of life is going to change moving out here, and you don't want to worsen it even further by choosing a place to live that requires a 3-4 hour commute (it may not look so far on a map, but that's the reality of the drive). Your budget may not be realistic, depending upon what you want. I'm assuming a house with at least 3 bedrooms and a yard in a safe, nice neighborhood? You are going to need to spend a lot more than 1600-2500. 

     To see what rentals cost in the markets you are interested in, you should peruse Craigslist. Single family homes in Moraga rent for $3500 and up.  A 2 Bedroom condo (850 sq ft) in Moraga is available right now on Craigslist for $2500.  El Cerrito, Castro Valley, San Leandro may have options for larger single family homes in your price range.   Good luck with your move!

    You'll be lucky to find a studio apartment in most of those areas at the top of your price range. San Leandro is probably your best bet of those areas, but you can also look into Hayward to the south, Hercules, El Sobrante, and Pinole to the north. Clayton maybe to the east. Craigslist tends to have most of the available options, so check on there. I live in Fairview (unincorporated Hayward), our rent is near the top of your range with enough bedrooms for your family to be comfortable, we like our elementary school (even though the ratings/test scores are low), it's definitely diverse, and there's lots of kid-friendly and often free places to go. BUT, if we were to try to move now, I'm not sure we'd find an available house in your price range- though our rent increases each year, the market rates are sky high and increasing. Prepare for the price of living shock- it's a different world than West Michigan!

    Hi there, if you're looking for ethnic and income diversity, El Cerrito or San Leandro is your best bet. Moraga, Orinda, and Walnut Creek are very white and affluent. I've lived in both El Cerrito and Moraga as a child and an adult, and while Moraga is a safer place (less serious crime), I much prefer El Cerrito. My neighbors are friendlier and genuine,and I feel much more of a sense of community than I ever did in Moraga. As for rent, you will have a very hard time finding a house in your price range in Moraga, Orinda, Walnut Creek, or El Cerrito. I don't know much about the San Leandro market. A 2 bedroom 2.5 bath 1800 sq ft townhome in my old neighborhood in Moraga rented for $3,500/month. A 2 bedroom 1.5 bath house on my street in El Cerrito is renting for $4,100/month. You may be able to find a 2 bedroom apartment in your price range in El Cerrito, but it will be pretty minimal and won't be in a great neighborhood. I hope other people have more helpiful advice for you, good luck!

  • Hello BPN Community,

    I'm in a situation that I'm guessing many of us are finding ourselves in.  I and my 4-year old son currently live in Oakland but the cost of living/housing in the area is so daunting that I am thinking of moving in the next year to be able to put down some roots in a more economically feasible area and avoid changing schools down the road. I'm wistful for the days when Oakland was the hidden gem of the Bay Area. Does anyone know of any up-and-coming places to live? I would love to find a place where rent isn't so insane that I could eventually save enough to purchase a house in the same area, but I'm not sure that place exists. Off the top of my head I'm wondering about San Leandro and El Cerrito (rents there seem a little less than what I'm seeing in Alameda/Berkeley/Oakland right now).  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

    El Cerrito for sure in my mind. Much more affordable but still close to all the great things in the area. Also check out the Richmond Annex area-it is pretty small but because of the Richmond address the prices are lower but very little crime and still close to all that is great about the Bay Area. Also the Richmond Annex area goes to El Cerrito schools which are rated middle of the road but I have friends that have kids in the schools there and love it. 

    The answer is Richmond! 

    We've lived in the Richmond Annex for almost ten years, and own a house there that is much more affordable than similar places in the East Bay.  And we love it.  Richmond has a reputation of being dangerous, but crime has gone way down in the last decade -- I personally had more problems when we lived in Temescal.  Our neighborhood is very friendly, progressive, and truly diverse (including economically diverse).  The shopping isn't great, and there's not much fine-dining (amazing casual Latin American and Asian places though), but as long as you have a car or live close to one of the three Bart stations in the area (EC Plaza, EC Del Norte, Richmond), you'll be fine.  Richmond is also amazingly progressive: we're a sanctuary city, elected a Green mayor, had the first openly gay police chief, pioneered community policing programs, and so on. 

    Check out Point Richmond (though that part is quite expensive), the Annex, the North and East neighborhood, and the Marina (lots of rental housing there).  Message me if you have questions!

    I am a homeowner in El Cerrito, and what I hear from my local renter friends is that it is not affordable (any more). I'd suggest looking to Richmond (maybe Marina Bay), Pinole, or Hercules. Also investigate if you qualify for affordable housing developments in the various cities you're considering (income limits vary by county). Some of them are very nice and well situated.

    I would check out San Ramon.  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.  El Cerrito and San Leandro do not have as good public schools and are not as safe as San Ramon.  San Ramon is only 25 minutes from Oakland.

    Dear JC5,

    My husband and I were in the same boat as you about a year ago. We had been living in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Oakland's Lake Merritt and loved it, but was not affordable for us to grow our family there. We ended up moving to San Leandro's Old Downtown neighborhood which is definitely more affordable than our old Oakland neighborhood and still has a lot of charm.  I really feel like this is the next hidden spot that is still affordable. We live walking distance to the downtown shops, restaurants and a weekly farmers market.  We have met several of our neighbors that have moved into this area from Oakland in the past 5 years on average. So, I get the feeling that it is slowly becoming discovered.  By writing this post I risk making it more discoverable, but at the same time we are always excited to meet new neighbors here that are like minded. One word of caution would be to avoid the Bayfair District of San Leandro which tends to be the sketchier part of town. Good luck!

    We live in Pinole after ten years in Oakland and are very happy here.  It was a big culture shock at first, we accidentally called the police on the paper boy because a decade in Oakland told us that a man going slowly from house to house at 4 am was up to no good.  I don't know about your price point, but I think you can rent a nice 3 bedroom house around here for $2600 and a 2 bedroom apartment for around $1900.  Small houses like ours seem to be selling for around $500-550k.  It's cheaper because the commute to the city is awful, but my husband commutes to Berkeley and it's not bad.  I have a reverse commute to Solano County and that is smooth as butter.  Pinole is a great place for kids.  There are awesome parks and a lot of nature and in general it's just very chill and safe.  We have a newly built Sprouts, a Trader Joe's, a third wave coffee place, a weekly farmer's market, and a bunch of mom and pop restaurants.  There are not a lot of cultural opportunities though, and we still head into Berkeley/Oakland at least once a week.  As far as schools, I toured Ellerhorst Elementary (a 7 on Great Schools) and talked to a lot of people in the neighborhood and people raved about it.  I have no idea what we'll do for middle/high school since their reputations aren't great, but they are both newly rebuilt and who knows what they will be like by then.  In general, I think that Pinole is a "hidden gem" in the Bay Area because driving through on the freeway makes it look like just a bunch of big-box stores, but it's so much more. When we wanted to buy we just kept driving up 80 until we could afford something, but now that we're here I've turned into a Pinole booster! Good luck with your search!    

    We love El Cerrito and there are definitely many young families moving here from Berkeley and Oakland in order to get larger homes and access to the public schools. However housing inventory is low and prices have gone up as a result so affordable is relative. Our neighbors across the street just sold their home for $140k over list price! If you get the right location you have access to some great public schools and the town is small enough that it has a community feel - my kids are always running into kids they know at classes and summer camps. 

    One hidden gem if you are willing to go further North is Hercules. We just bought a relatively affordable condo out there for my mother-in-law and they are adjacent to   a highly ranked elementary school (both her neighbors have young children and moved out there for affordable housing and decent schools). They feel very safe and find the area beautiful and friendly. Our next door neighbors in El Cerrito who had been renting their home but just had a baby also elected to leave and buy a place in Hercules, and I have heard of others doing the same. So I think that is a city that is up and coming for families. 

    West Contra Costa County! We moved to Pinole in 2013 and are now very happily settled in with our 8-month-old daughter, planning to stay here for a long while. We feel like it's perfectly situated on the line between semi-rural (we have hiking trails in the hills behind our development, and neighbors with horses) and semi-urban (there's an independent coffeeshop downtown, a commuter bus that runs to Del Norte BART, a Saturday farmer's market, and very talented community theater). My husband commutes to Berkeley for work, which has good days and bad days, but is generally manageable. And when we are craving more culture, Berkeley and San Francisco are easy to get to. I can definitely feel the place shifting as more young professionals get priced out of Berkeley/Oakland -- the elementary schools are OK, middle and high school are by report not-so-great, but I would not be surprised if they look very different in 10 years.

    Hope this helps. Happy to answer any more questions if you've got them!

    I wanted to chime in and give my vote for Hercules too. We moved here from Albany and have been extremely happy. We have a five year old and have met other young families. We've done lots of classes at the Park and Rec and there are wonderful programs at the library. It is peaceful and pretty. Having grown up in the inner Bay Area it was hard for us to accept being priced out of everything from Oakland to Richmond Annex but now I'm glad: Hercules has turned it to be a real gem. Pinole is lovely too.

  • Hello,

    My husband is being transferred to the Bay Area in July. Moving from Brooklyn. I've been reading about the unaffordable housing market in San Francisco and am slightly worried... Our rental budget is max $1700 (ideally less). Anyone moving to Brooklyn? Maybe we can swap apartments? Or can anyone recommend an area or neighborhood that's affordable with low crime? How far out should we be looking? 

    If we can't find a public school we may homeschool. My son is in a French language program and really likes it, are there any French programs in the Bay Area (free, public or charter)?

    Thank you very much!


    Hi and welcome!

    The Berkeley-based ecole bilingue goes k-8 but is pricey. There is a charter French school (free!) that opened last year in Oakland.

    I can't speak to your apartment search but there is a French charter school in Oakland called Francophone Charter School of Oakland. If your son speaks French he should have a good chance to get in. There's also a private school called Ecole Bilingue but it's pretty pricey.

    I think that you're going to have a difficult time finding a decent rental with that budget. Where is your husband's job going to be? There's definitely more affordable housing the farther away you go but you should be choosing areas to look at based upon where his job will be. Certain commutes are much harder than others. For example, the commute from Berkeley to Silicon Valley is hideous and not something that you'd want to voluntarily sign up for. But the commute from Berkeley to a job that's close to BART isn't bad at all (most days!).

    There is a French immersion charter school (Francophone Charter School of Oakland) that may be able to accommodate you depending on your son's age; the lottery for next year has already run but things always shift over the summer and spots may open up, especially if he is in grades 1-4 and already proficient in French. That housing budget is going to be extremely tough, however. There's not much in Oakland/Berkeley/surrounds in that price range (and what is there will generally be a 1BR). If you don't need to be close to San Francisco you could look further out in Contra Costa County or even Vallejo if you're hoping for a 2+BR at that price point. You might also consider looking to share a house with another family if you want to be closer in. Good luck!

    There's a new-ish French charter school in Oakland: francophoneschool.org.

    If you have rock solid references and can act very, very quickly, $1700 *MIGHT* cover the rent for one single bedroom within a home or apartment in San Francisco city limits. If you can look further out, you might be able to find some 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartments out in Concord, Antioch or Pittsburg for that price range. This would work best for people whose jobs in the city are close to a BART station, and would mean commutes of 90 minutes each way.

    If I'm being honest, I do not recommend the move if that is absolutely the maximum amount of rent you can afford. As a young couple, it might be more doable, but with kids I just don't see a home conducive to a family with kids in that budget. Yes, rents are cooling, but not that quickly.

    As to the French schools, how old is your son? There are a couple of French language preschool programs and private schools, but my Haitian friends weren't able to find a French language elementary or middle school that met their needs. Doesn't mean they don't exist, just means with a bit more information about age, requirements (immersion, one school period a day, after school, etc) we might be able to help identify any that would keep him happy.

    There's a French-language charter school in the Oakland hills (by the zoo, I believe.) Our neighbors send their kids there: http://francophoneschool.org/

    Hello!  and soon welcome to the bay!  We just relocated from Indianapolis about a month ago.  In truth, I fear your "rent-spectations' might be unrealistic... We were hard pressed to find a place that would suit our families needs (family of 4) for under 3000.00/mo (we were searching in San Rafael, SF, Albany and Berkeley).  We now have a 2 bed 1 bath 1000 sq ft duplex with as small yard, and minimal amenities in the 3000.00/mo price range (read: outdated appliances, non renovated for at least 40yrs interior, good neighborhood in Berkeley).  Perhaps if you looked further out, you may find something less expensive... or if you can live in a 1bed apartment, you may find something nice... 
    I'm unfortunately not familiar with much outside of the areas we were searching, though depending where your husband will work, Sonoma is reasonable, as are, likely, further out parts of the east bay and some areas south of SF.  

    We are just entering school world (First is in Kindergarten), though know that in Berkeley anyway, public schools are on a lottery system, so you order the ones in your district by preference and get what they give you in the end.  One of the schools in our district has a Spanish program, though my son did not get into that one. Perhaps some more seasoned parents can speak to the French Language schooling opportunities...

    Best of luck and I do hope you get all you are looking for!!!! You will love the Bay Area!  It truly is an incredible place to live!!!

    The housing is indeed crazy expensive here. I suggest that you look into Zillow and Craigslist to get a gauge. Price is also determined on the school rating. 

    Outside SF, Peninsula area is generally more expensive than the east bay.  And also depend on how long/ far you are willing to commute to work.

    When people say there's a housing crisis in the bay area, it's not a lie. For that price, you may be able to find a studio, maybe 1 bedroom, apartment in an area about 1.5 hours commute to the city. If you just want a room in someone else's apartment, you could get closer to the city and/or be in a safer neighborhood. You could look in the Vallejo (north) to Hayward (south) area in the East Bay, and point in between, and have a reasonable commute, but beware there are some really sketchy areas, especially in parts of Vallejo, Richmond, and Oakland- but some nice (though correspondingly expensive) areas too. If you're up for a longer commute, you could look into Tracy, Stockton, and Mountain House, but if you're traveling during rush "hour", you'd count your commute time in hours.

    I'd advise that you carefully consider how much money you'd be making here to judge if it's really worth it to move, or how much lower your standard of living will need to be, even with an objective salary increase.

    Hi, I'm pretty sure you'll hear this from others, and I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's not possible to find housing here in your price range.  Studio apts may occasionally appear at $1700, but not 1 bedroom (and I'm not sure if even a 1 bdr would work for 3 of you?). There are private schools in both SF and the East Bay that are bilingual French; private school costs $20,000 -$30,000/year or higher, though partial scholarships are sometimes available. If you do find an apt listed at $1700, check the neighborhood carefully. I wish you the best and wish I had better news (or some advice!) for you, it's just really tough here now. A room in someone's house can go for $1300-$1400 month. Best of luck. 

    Charter French school in Oakland: http://francophoneschool.org/

    I think $1700 for a family may be tough unless you're willing to squeeze in a 1 bedroom. SF has a lottery school system, but here's a link for school districts: https://www.niche.com/k12/rankings/public-school-districts/best-overall/...

    Good luck

    Thank you for the helpful advice. My husband will be working in Brisbane, we are flexible and willing to make sacrifices. I'm sure we can squeeze into a tiny apartment for a year or so. 

    I grew up in San Diego and have been waiting for the chance to move back to California. We've been very lucky, we live in a great neighborhood in Brooklyn, rent controlled apartment, way under market rate. (Been here nearly 20 years). Nice school with a French program, progressive community. But we are ready for change! 

    I will check out the recommended neighborhoods. As for schools, I'm happy to homeschool, we just need to be close to an excellent public library. 

    Thank you everyone!

    Think about someplace closer to Brisbane -- Daly City (a very multi-cultural place, mostly different Asian cultures), Brisbane, Millbrae. You also would be near the Outer Mission/Sunset in SF. I don't know what rents are like there now. 

    Hi there, closer to Brisbane for more (on a relative scale) affordable housing you can look at Brisbane proper, South San Francisco, Daly City, and San Bruno.  We just moved from Millbrae (referenced by previous poster) because we were priced out of the housing purchase market there, and bought in Berkeley instead.  I don't know what the going rate is for apartment rentals now but the schools are very highly rated so I'd expect to pay rent accordingly (and I would expect far above $1700).  

Archived Q&A and Reviews


    Moving from Oakland to somewhere with good schools & lots of trees

    Nov 2013

    We need more TREES! Our family is looking to relocate within the next 1-2 years. We currently live in Oakland and our kids attend a wonderful Oakland public school. However, we're not convinced that any of the OUSD middle schools and HS are the right fit for us. We want to relocate somewhere that our kids can attend both middle and HS, and we'd like more nature and TREES around us. Ideally, we'd love to live somewhere that is safe, has more nature and neighborhood feeling to it, hopefully some diversity, and GOOD schools! We'd also love it if the area wasn't too conservative. I know, we're asking for a lot. Here's the issue - rent is out of control right now, so our options are even more limited. Can anyone tell me about their experiences in Petaluma, Walnut Creek, Castro Valley, Lafayette (maybe too expensive), and Santa Cruz? Am I missing anywhere??? Wants more nature for my kids!

    I was in a similar situation and picked Lafayette as our new city. We lived in Rockridge and I loooved it - diversity, could walk to anything, blocks from BART for commuting into the city. The downsides for me were crime, cost (our 1200 sqft house was big when it was 2 of us, 2 kids later it was tight and we couldn't afford a bigger place in Rockridge) and schools (elementary was good but that's where it ended).

    Lafayette is suburban - no way around that. And no where near as diverse as Oakland of course. It is super green - we ended up on the far west side of Lafayette and are surrounded by trees (I'm getting in shape with all the leaf raking I'm doing). We frequently have deer in the yard and love the easy access to Briones and Tilden for hikes. The schools are amazing - I truly could not be any happier and feel very lucky. Crime does exist in Lafayette but it's mostly property crime. Lafayette is not cheap but we were able to buy a 4/3 in Lafayette for what we sold our 2/1 in Rockridge for. Not in the downtown neighborhood of Lafayette, though, which has the draw of walkability. We are on the west side and can not walk to anything but other houses - it's a 2 1/2 miles bike ride into town.

    Good luck - it's a hard decision. Check out redfin for houses (I used that a ton in our research) and spend time in the cities that are options; will help you get a feel for what is a good fit. nowalafayettemom

    I know the PERFECT spot for you. The San Lorenzo Valley USD in the Santa Cruz Mountains (Felton, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek) is FABULOUS!! My daughter and I lived there for a number of years and it just can't be beat. I'm a credentialed teacher and have taught in Santa Clara County as well as in Santa Cruz County and SLV beats any of the districts I've known by many miles.

    The truly excellent MS and HS are on the same campus (Outstanding Elementary adjacent). The community is tight, the sports program super strong, and the people are mellow, kind and good mountain folk. PLUS you are surrounded by state parks and redwoods, while just 10-20 mins from the beach and downtown Santa Cruz. Definitely check it out!

    You will likely miss the diversity that abounds in these parts, an the winters can be rough, especially if you must commute Hwy 17. And making a living locally is pretty tough. But all so worth the sacrifices if you can make it work. As a bonus, rents are a bit cheaper than in SC proper, but sunlight is a factor. The last place I lived there had mushrooms growing out of the carpet! The right rental may take some hunting, but you just can't beat that special community. Miss Feltontown

    One of the first things I noticed about San Leandro was when we were driving on 580 towards Berkeley, the view of the city was beautiful because it had so many trees. When my husband and I were looking for a new town to live in, we really loved the neighborhoods and trees and the feel of San Leandro. We bought a house here in 2012 and still LOVE it here. The city is great - we took a great city class on how to do a seismic retrofit project on our house, and just dealing with the city to get the permit and pre-inspection and borrowing the tools (a great perk!) has been remarkably easy. Who ever heard of a permit office being friendly and helpful?? But that's how city employees are here. Talking to neighbors about the schools has been very encouraging. We have a lot of diversity in our city, which may be a factor in schools' test scores, but the new city passed bill to fund schools should show some improvement. (I've never thought a test score really told about the quality of education anyway - tests never indicated my intelligence or ability as a kid). It's also got a Great small town feel while being very centrally located in the Bay Area. People are friendly here. We did have neighbors stop by as we moved in, and we've developed great friendships with them and love our neighborhood (Farrelly Pond). And check out the fabulous library - it's got an excellent collection, has great open hours that beat most libraries in the bay area, and has a lot of fun programs for kids and adults. And cost of living is great. The funny thing is that people think San Leandro is so far away - it's just 15 miles from our house to my husband's job in South Berkeley. Happy San Leandro couple

    We (myself and 2 kids) lived in Walnut Creek for several years and loved it. There are many nice neighborhoods, tons of trees and lots of activities geared toward kids and families. It felt more laid back than the Berkeley/Oakland area and it was easier to get around like finding parking, signing up for activities, etc. I expected WC to be mostly white, older, and conservative but I was wrong. There are many liberals, maybe just not as outspoken as the liberals you find in Berkeley and Oakland. WC is mostly made up of professionals and the diversity you will find mostly comes in the form of immigrants; lots from India and Southeast Asia. You will find even more diversity in the Concord area but the schools are not as highly rated there. You didn't mention where you work so you will have to factor in the commute and what your tolerance level can handle. Overall, we enjoyed and miss the area. Best of luck in your search for TREES~ anon


    Where in the Bay Area we can afford?

    June 2013

    I have a 2yo boy and 6mo girl. We moved to SF 3 months ago. We currently live in a condo but need to move out in 2 wks. We nearly got sued because of noise (my son runs, jumps, & hops a LOT). We don't know anything about the Bay Area other than it's expensive. I want to find a place where we can settle in for at least the next 5-10 years. We've been moving way too much -- average twice a year -- not b/c of my son. There are so many factors to consider in finding a permanent home that's suitable for my family and frankly I am overwhelmed. We are looking for a 2-bedroom place around $2000/mo. Their father wants them to go to Murdock Portal and said we have to live in that district. Since it's a lottery school I don't have high hopes that we could get in but he said we have to try. Where in the Bay Area we can afford, is family- friendly, and have good schools? We're also on Medi-Cal right now (their father lost the job he moved us here for). I met a great pediatrician who accepts Medi-Cal from Daly City -- she was very proactive in getting my son help for his delayed development -- we are in the process of getting him ABA. I probably need more advice than on just moving...so I welcome any advice BPN can offer. TYIA Overwhelmed Mom

    I would recommend Alameda as very family friendly. Craig's List has a few 2- bedroom apts for less than $2000/month, but you should definitely drive through as well to look for vacancy signs. loved it when I was there!

    Check out San Leandro ! It's about 15 miles south of Berkeley, just south of Oakland. Cost of housing is 50% that of Berkeley with better safety ratings and adorable neighborhoods. Excellent public library, friendly people, and a great city overall. We've lived here a year and love it. For really good medical care that accepts medi-cal, check out Lifelong Medical Care. They have several locations, Berkeley's location is very good. K M

    Affordable, safe neighborhood with kids?

    March 2013

    We are currently living in a rental house in an East Richmond neighborhood that is very quiet, but there are no other kids here for my kids to play with. Previously we lived in the Marina Bay neighborhood, which had a similar issue. We know that Berkeley has a lot of kids, but it is out of our price range. We also looked at Alameda but had the same issue. We currently pay $1800 per month for a 3/2 house, and would like to spend about the same amount, but be in an area with other children. I looked at the archives and couldn't find much recent information about neighborhoods other than ones that are also quite expensive like Moraga, Rockridge, etc. I am starting to think we will have to leave the Bay Area (again - we did so for 7 years but came back due to the weather and other issues). Are there any neighborhoods with kids that aren't super expensive but also not full of gangs and drugs? Schools aren't really that important since we homeschool, but good libraries would be nice. Is San Leandro still a nice area? seeking a new neighborhood

    You might want to check out the Maxwell Park neighborhood in Oakland. It has lots of kids, a sweet little park, and lots of folks who are active in their community -and desire to improve it. Yes, it's on the edge of some sketchy areas and does get crime. But it's a good place to raise kids and have shops (somewhat) close by. I'm not sure what rents are like, but I imagine it's a bit better than Berkeley/Alameda. Good luck! ~~Wanting the same things for our family, too!

    If you are happy with your house overall I would suggest you try other avenues (homeschool groups, enrichment programs) for finding friends for your kids to play with. The housing market is tight right now and you might find it difficult to do better, rent wise.

    The issue of kid-friendly neighborhoods is complicated. We live very close to East Richmond Heights and are fortunate to have lots of children on our block. However, my kids (6 and 8) only play with some neighbors, mostly younger. The older kids are busy with sports and afterschool programs and free time is spent with friends from private school.

    If you're looking for cul-de-sac culture where kids roam more unattended, perhaps you should look in Pleasant Hill or Martinez. neighbor

    We moved to San Leandro last May and *love* it here. We live in the Farrelly Pond neighborhood and have friendly neighbors and lots of kids from two sets of twin babies on our street to school aged kids who play in the street. I go walking in our neighborhood and people actually smile and say hello and often strike up friendly conversations. There are two great parks within walking distance with great play structures. The public library is great - they have an excellent selection of books and it is open a lot, more than most libraries in the bay area. Plus they have great programs - movies for families, puppet shows, science days where kids can try out experiments, and more. (I helped last summer in Children's Services and I was very impressed with all the library had to offer). Running errands in town is very easy, I'm only hoping for a Trader Joe's store one day, but for now, there are 2 within 7 miles of my home so it's not too far away. I checked Padmapper for rentals in the area and they definitely fit your price range. Cost of living here is excellent (half of Berkeley's). We would come to town and pick up the San Leandro Times to get a feel for the community, as well as walking around different neighborhoods. found our Mayberry

    Yes, San Leandro is a nice area - particularly Estudillo Estates and Broadmoor. Drive over and check it out. I live in Estudillo Estates - fabulous for families with children. It's pretty and friendly. There are some rental houses scattered around. There is a nice libary downtown. SL could be an affordable alternative to Berkeley and Alameda. We do have some crime - home break-ins etc. but that happens all around... SL resident

    Single mom seeking a more affordable neighborhood

    May 2007

    Hi, I am a single mom to a 12 yo son. I have lived in Berkeley for the past 7 years. I am looking to move to the North Bay, as I have been unhappy with the public school system here, also.. the neighborhood I live is not the best, and I can not afford to live in a nicer area, even semi-nicer area. (and by that I mean safe.. I live on the Oakland/Berkeley border) I can't even walk around my block without meeting some kind of 'confrontation' be it small or large. I have individuals knocking on my door at night asking for money... that sort of thing... I don't open the door, but I talk to them through the door. My son has some great friendships from kids he has known from Kindergarten.... and some he has just met. They are a great group of kids... he is getting straight A's (but considering the over all study-ethics of the majority of his classmates, I don't know if this is 'in-spit-of' or his actual grades)and he is an overall happy kid... he does complain on a daily basis about the disruptions he faces in class, he is sometimes harassed after school. There seems to be utter chaos everytime I go to the school... I have talked to the principle, his teachers.... and I get the same answer, ''every student has a right to an education.'' I agree... but at what costs to those that WANT to learn and can't? I could change schools.. but which is the lessor of two evils... and being his friends are at this school.... Also, he started playing baseball for NOLL-SOLL and we LOVE it. I would like to find a compariable league in the North Bay.... and the public school system... what is your opinion?

    I would continue to work in Berkeley, commuting for at least the next 2 years. I was looking at Fairfax, Novato, San Rafael..... would consider other areas... Again, I would love to stay in Berkeley if I could move to a relatively safer neighborhood... but there is no way. The diffrence in price is $500 and up a month. I have found comparible apartments in other areas of the north bay for the same if not less than what I am paying now. I am just tired of always being on edge.... and I am hoping that a 'smaller' community will benefit my needs more.

    Please be nice with your answers, but brutal honesty about how I am looking at things is appreciated also.... I am confused and just want the best for my child. Confused

    Friends of ours just bought a home in Lagunitas, Marin Co. They moved there from the East Bay, because they also were disgusted by the public school system. Lagunitas apparently still has fairly affordable housing (for Marin) and incredible (public) school choices. Here is a link to the Lagunitas School District's website: http://lagunitas.marin.k12.ca.us/ You are able to choose from a public Montessori school, Open School or a Waldorf Inspired school. Our friends almost cried when they went to their first informational meeting and learned of all these wonderful school choices for their children. And they will both also commute to UC Berkeley. Good luck in your search! Hope this helps. JOJ

    Have you considered Alameda? Generally rent is lower there than Berkeley for nice apartments, and there is a lot of new housing there and move in specials.Your son would be close enough to stay in touch with his friends and your commute would be shorter. I am not familiar with their schools but haven't heard negatives. Remember to calculate bridge toll and gas if you move to the North Bay but work in Berkeley. Good Luck anon

    Hi, I feel your plight and I would like to give a shout out to my new neighborhood in Green Valley. I moved here for the schools which are all top ranked, very diverse and almost new. The community is small and there are a lot of East and North Bay transplants like us. It is a lot more convenient and affordable plus the commute is OK if you drive or carpool. There are a lot of fun and safe sports and activities for kids and the parents are very involved in the schools. All places have problems but we can fly kites in the park, buy ice cream from the Ice Cream Man, jog by horses and beavers after dinner, leave our windows open all night long, jump to Napa for pizza, and sit on the front porch afterschool. Little mundane things like that make the rural suburbs heaven to us. The major drawback is the lack of diversity amongst the teaching staff and a lack of large regional parks. Those are the things we miss most about Berkeley. Urban Single Mom in the Burbs