Which Neighborhood for Affordable Family Rentals?
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Moving from Oakland to somewhere with good schools & lots of trees
- Where in the Bay Area we can afford?
- Affordable, safe neighborhood with kids?
- Single mom seeking a more affordable neighborhood
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
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
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
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