Living in Albany
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Re: Looking for a good neighborhood for my family
Hi I recommend you look hard at Albany. The houses are small and pricey for the size because the schools are good. Plus the community has a lot available. The Albany YMCA runs a headstart program and after school care for school age kids. They also run a full summer camp schedule, a youth in government program and model UN for high school aged kids. The community is civic minded, the school district is good and well run. Albany is safer than many other areas close by. No one is truly 'safe' from crime in the Eastbay. We are too close to areas of high unemployment. It's common to have your car stolen. your bicycles stolen, and your house broken into. Join a neighborhood association when you move. Your neighbors can help you figure things out. You are safe on the street, walking to school or the library. Its a wonderful place to live - it's just an urban area with all the good (theater, diversity, restaurants, culture) and the bad that implies. long time resident
Relocate to Albany or Marin County?May 2013
We are thinking about moving to Albany or somewhere in Marin county. We are in search of good public schools and want a neighboorhood that is walkable and kid friendly. We love the diveristy of the east bay, and are also drawn to the outdoors of Marin county. Can anyone offer any insight or suggestions on specific areas/neighboorhoods? Thanks! Thinking about relocating
I live with my family in Albany, and my brother lives in Fairfax. They adore their town. It is so different. I'll try to list out pros cons that I see to both.
- Great Schools
- Proximity to restaurants, bay trail, tilden, movie theaters, etc.
- Close to major thoroughfares - has BART access to SF, etc.
- Friendly neighborhoods with very little elitism/classism
- Very diverse (I have a mixed race family)
- Small lots, neighbors are close and noisy
- Can be close to BART noise or trains
- Not as clean, higher theft
- Nicer weather, warmer and less fog but not too hot
- Beautiful trees around lots
- Close to beaches, Mt. Tam, bike trails
- artsy culture
- Great schools
- Relaxed and casual environment
- not diverse ethnically or politically
- definite classism/elitism
- expensive to buy and to live
- hard to get to SF - no BART options
- drug use at high school age is high and accepted culturally
- see both sides
I live in Albany and work in San Rafael. You will find walkable, kid-friendly neighborhoods with good schools in both places. The East Bay is certainly more diverse in general, but Albany itself is probably just as homogenous as most areas in Marin.
Marin is wealthier, by and large, and may have more 'rich kid' problems (teen drug use, for example) and my impression is that there's less social integration of economic levels and ethnic and other identity groups. Marin feels much more isolated from other regions; there's no BART, there's only one main freeway (101) which isn't even an Interstate, and it's bounded on three sides by ocean. Individual neighborhoods and towns are more often separated by hills and/or water and many have a secluded feel. So people in Marin seem to do more driving than people in Berkeley/Albany, although they do have easier access to mountain biking and other outdoorsy activities.
Albany is much more connected with the surrounding metropolis, and has easier/faster access to, say, Tahoe or Los Angeles, but still retains its own 'small town' feel. As far as specific neighborhoods, there aren't any bad ones in Albany. In general, the farther east you go (away from the freeway) the 'nicer' but there are no huge differences from one corner of town to another, and the entire town is one school district with all very good schools.
In Marin, for more pedestrian-friendly 'hoods, consider from Gerstle Park in San Rafael west to San Anselmo and Fairfax; the flatter areas of Corte Madera and Mill Valley; Terra Linda; Sausalito and Tiburon; maybe Peacock Gap (it's more hilly) and parts of Marinwood/Lucas Valley (more sprawly). There are highly-rated schools in all of these areas, but I'm less familiar with specifics. I've known a number of happy Fairfax and San Anselmo residents, including parents of young kids. My Kids Walk to School
Re: Affordable area (low $300k's) with good school district
I live in Albany. The school district has a good reputation. Other school districts with good reputations and without risk of a lottery system (for elementary, middle and high school) include (but are not limited to) Piedmont and Orinda. One of my neighbors rented a house and said the only reason he was renting was so that his children could attend schools in Albany. I have a colleague that rents in Piedmont, so his children can attend Piedmont schools. If it's possible, look into renting. It may open up possibilities of expensive (to buy) school districts and take the pressure off of needing to buy into a desirable school district. There is also flexibility in renting. You could rent in a great elementary school district in one town and move when middle school comes along, if needed. Best wishes! anon
Living in Albany vs. MoragaFeb 2011
I'm currently living at UC Village in Albany. My husband is a PhD student at UC Berkeley. I'm working at SF. We're now thinking of buying a condo. We have a 2-year-old daughter. I personally love Moraga for the top schools, the space and environment. However, Albany is really convenient, walkable to shops and close to Bart. Does anyone have the same experience and know the difference between the two? Maria
I don't know Moraga, but my family loves Albany: great community involvement, wonderful schools, safe parks. We're raising 2 kids here and feel very lucky to be a part of Albany. Albanian
I have lived in Moraga for about 13 years. I haven't spent much time in Albany. However, it seemed to have more local commerce and public transportation options than Moraga. We have to travel to either Orinda or Lafayette to get to BART (there is a bus). The schools are great here and it is very quiet and has low-crime. However, if you want the easy walkability of a city with more retail shops, you may want to think about Lafayette, which also has great schools. Love Lamorinda
One thing to think about is the amount of time that Moraga will add to your commutes. Because there is really only one road in and out of town, Moraga Way gets very backed up. Although you may think only about the distance to the freeway exit, that drive through Orinda adds a lot of time. Other than that, I think the choice has lots to do with how much you like urban living. The schools are good in Moraga, and it's beautiful and quite, but it is also very suburban, homogeneous in terms of population, and I found it surprisingly provincial in feel. Living in Berkeley now
Moraga is safe and clean with excellent schools, a family- friendly attitude and nice, quiet neighbors. You get a good sized house and lot for the price and great weather for growing vegetables, riding bikes and walking. Mom who likes Safe and Clean
I live in Albany and I love it with all of my heart. I love my neighbors, I love the schools, I love my neighborhood, I love being walking distance to stores, parks and public transportation, I love the diversity of the community. I also spend time in Moraga and it is is quieter, less urban, less crowded (dense), definitely bucolic compared to Albany. Comparing these communities is like comparing apples and oranges. They are both great towns with great people and wonderful schools. If you read the stats at cita-data.com, you can compare median household incomes, demographics, crime statistics, education levels, median age of the populations and so on. I would chose Albany over Moraga for several reasons that may not be important to you, but every time I go to Moraga I wish I could live there, too! Noel
I don't know much about Moraga, but Albany is a lovely community composed of families who are extremely unjudgmental and accepting. It seems to me the greatest difference between the two locations is location. Albany is closer to SF and Berkeley, whereas Moraga is more suburban and probably more rural in feel. Obviously, there are benefits to both. Good luck in your search. Albany Resident
Editor Note: this discussion also appears on the page about Moraga
Where to take my baby in the afternoon in AlbanyNov 2010
I've been taking my 9 months daughter to albany park in the afternoon, she loves watching the other kids. With the change of day light saving, it is getting dark pretty early and the park is getting really cold, the park doesn't seem to be a good place to go anymore, does anyone have suggestion to where to go between 3pm-5pm time slot, hopefully it is warm and some kids playing around. lucy
Depending on what you're looking for, you might try the Albany library sing-a-long on Wednesday afternoons from 4:30 - 5 pm. (You could go a little early and look at books, etc.) I haven't gone for a while, but I used to take my son when he was around that age.
Kensington or Albany?Oct 2009
We are trying to decide between a move to Kensington or Albany. We are a one-child family getting ready to start elementary school. I've heard great things about the community that surrounds Kensington Hilltop. However, we like being able to walk to things and bike ride along flatter streets. I'd like to hear some opinions of people who have chosen between these two districts for their homes. Are we guaranteed a spot at Hilltop if we are Kensington residents? How does the school selection process work in Albany. How do the elementary schools and the communities differ? What questions do you think we should consider when looking at these two neighborhoods? We appreciate hearing your experience. house hunt
The obvious difference between these two areas is middle school and high school. Yes, Hilltop is a great school, however Portola Middle School and El Cerrito High School both have mediocre test scores, and those would be the schools where Hilltop kids go to. Albany Middle School and High School both have fantastic scores straight through. Another difference with the schools is diversity - Kensington isn't nearly as diverse as the Albany schools. My kids will go to Hilltop, and I'm pretty happy about that, but I would trade for Albany schools anyday. I have been told that if you live in the zoning area for Hilltop and register in time, you will get in.
Albany is a really great place to raise kids. You can walk everywhere,and as the kids get older, so can they. Marin is a great elementary school, stellar teachers and great community. The middle school is not quite as wonderful, but as far as middle schools go, it's pretty good-and way better than Portola, which is where your kids would go if you live in Kensington. Also Albany High is much better than El Cerrito High. So, my vote is Albany. albany parent
Both Albany & Kensington are lovely places. In Albany, you have great schools k-12. In Kensington, many people opt out of public after elementary. We live in Albany and are thrilled with the sense of neighborhood and community. Loves Albany
I have been renting on Stannage Avenue between Marin and Solano for about 2 years. I love it here, but want to buy a house when I find the right one. I recently found a great house on Madison Street (500 block) on Albany Hill and wonder about the neighborhood. If you live there, can you share with me your thoughts on the neighborhood? Is it safe? How is it being below San Pablo Ave? Are there lots of teens around the area? Do you worry about earthquake and possible hill movement from above? It seems very quiet-I wonder how the neighbors and neighborhoods are? My current neighborhood is full of families that hang out on the front porch and visit. I like this aspect of where I am now... Anything would be helpful for me in making my decision. Thanks want to make the right choice
I actually live on Madison St. myself! I love where I live. I like walking to places, and BART. I'm not worried about earthquakes and the hill shifting--but that's probably a function of my personality and not any scientific information. I feel very safe, and walk all over. However, there are many bars and the bowling alley near where you propose living, no? Those areas are the places that tend to have problems at night with rowdy people leaving, etc. However, if your proposed house is not on a major thoroughfare, which I don't think it would be--this would not be an issue for you. I live on the 700 block of Madison, and never have problems with noise or rowdy behavior. However, some friends who live on Washington hear it when the Mallard lets out at night. And, I thought I'd hate the noise from San Pablo, but I really don't notice anything. I suggest you come visit at night and see what you think. love living on Albany Hill.
We are a family of four who are very happy living on the Albany Hill for the last 7 years (Jackson, near Castro). We weren't looking for a view of the Berkeley Hills, but it would be hard to live in the flatlands now. As far as earthquakes, a friend with a Phd in Geology lives on the Albany Hill largely because it is more secure being on rock. We enjoy walking to Solano for movie dates and cafes. And San Pablo Ave is gentrifying (eg, a spa, Butter Creme cafe, Cafe St. Honore, a furniture store that used to be on upper Solano...), You will be very close to a little hike with blackberrys, the creek and the Olone Indian grinding stones and to the farmer's market in El Cerrito on Tues, & Sat. As far as teen polulation, they live in households all over Albany. People seem to be a touch more private on the hill, but there are many families who are friendly too. There are a lot of people who walk and jog in the morning and after dinner (we do the latter on summer evenings) Safety is fine. Our elementary children scooter on our block all the time. Hope this info is helpful! Happy on Albany Hill
Re: Cheaper but safe enough neighborhoods
In 2000 we sold our Elmwood area one bedroom and bought a 4 bedroom, 2000 sq. ft. home on Albany hill for less than we sold our Berkeley house for. The neighborhood is definitely not as great in a lot of respects (mainly in respect to the architecture), but the schools are much better, and it seems to be much more of a community here, almost small town-ish. In 8 years we've gotten to know so many of the locals and can call some business owners by first names, and they in turn know us and our kids. There aren't a lot of wealthy stay at home moms here, but there are tons of moms who are willing to help out with car pooling, etc. I would definitely check out Albany. I think it is safer than Berkeley. There are something like 26 cops in the APD for only a mile and a half square little town. Glad I left Berkeley for Albany
My husband and I are thinking of moving to Albany. We are interested in feedback from those who live there. Is it safe? Are the schools good through high school? Is there a strong community of parents/kids? Are there houses there that are big enough for a family of 5? We love Solano and the idea of moving somewhere where our kids can stay in the public school system through high school, but in the past when we looked the housing was really expensive and mostly we saw small bungalows (we would be pretty cramped there as a family of 5). Any advice? Anon
Hi! We live in Albany, moved here for the schools like almost everyone else around town. Yes, there is a strong sense of community among families! Turn outs at school events is phenomenal, parent involvement is awesome. The schools are not perfect, but if you have realistic expectations, they are quite good. We have been involved at the elementary level and are just starting at the middle school level. The transition process has been very smooth. At the upper grades there is some concern about alcohol and drugs (that's probably true everywhere?). For high school, certainly one smaller high school cannot offer as large a variety of electives as a school like Berkeley High. Now, in terms of affording a house here, certainly the market is in your favor. But I know a lot of families who have given up trying to buy and just rent. Rents here are pretty reasonable, houses are definitely not. We have a 4 bedroom home, but there are not very many large homes at all. When! you do find a large home, it means it was a small home that was added on to. That means you have a tiny yard in exchange. I miss having a real size yard (which I had in Berkeley). I miss having some sun (there is more fog in Albany then in Berkeley if you can believe that). But it is totally worth it. The environment feels safe enough for my kids to walk to school, get some milk for us at the store, that kind of thing. Street traffic moves slowly because there are a lot of stop signs, and lots of routes for kids where there are stop signs all the way to keep it safe. Good luck deciding! Albany mom for 6+ years
Albany works really well for our family of four. Schools have been great (up through 8th grade so far), though I know the high school is overcrowded. It also feels safe (considering it's in an urban area near Richmond). Because it's a small town, the police are never more than 2-3 minutes away. Very neighborly, with people looking out for each other. We really love that it's walkable (my kids walk to school and stop for ice cream on Solano, walk to friend's houses, etc.). Home prices are high, though. I don't think I know anyone who could afford to buy their house for current market value (I sure couldn't) but if the market softens, it might be a chance to get in. Happy Albanian
I have lived in Albany for 6 yrs and absolutely love it. I don't know the market right now to comment on how big a house you will get for your money but it seems to me that it's come down a bit over the past few years, so perhaps you should look again? And, the amount you would likely save versus paying for private schools somewhere else would certainly be a worthy trade-off.
We live just off Solano. The area, particularly relative to Berkeley, Oakland, El Cerrito, Richmond, etc, is very safe. Just watch our police blotter - the worst things we see are petty theft/car theft and the majority of that is west of San Pablo.
The community is tight and there's this great feeling of small town comradery. We have block parties, the town sponsors things like Music in the Park and National Night out which have great showings and have been wonderful for getting to know the people we live by.
Wherever you are, you can walk to schools and parks and shopping. You can't go wrong. Who needs a huge house when there are so many easily assessible places?
One thing to consider - I've noticed many homes in the neighborhood where the owners seem to buy a smaller house and then remodel to expand it. Our house, for instance, had a lower-level garage and basement that have been converted to finished living space. Our neighbors also had a bungelow that had a 2 stall garage below it and they remodeled that to be 3 more bedrooms. Others nearby have added a second floor onto a 1-story house. From what I understand it's a valuable investment.
We have been a residents since 85. We live near Solano Ave. Both daughters educated k-12 in Public Schools. They both had a successful emotional, social, and academic experience. Both in top ranking Grad schools after completing a top ranking College. Albany schools are to be credited for their part in this academic success. Is it safe? Seems that way to me. My children have made friends that they have maintained to this day. We have made friends in the neighborhood.Are there houses there that are big enough for a family of 5? Most homes are not. There are 3 and 4 bedrooms. Get an agent or two to work for you. Tell them of the minimum requirements. And yes, it is expensive. We love Solano Ave and the annual stroll is a time when both my children and I look forward to bumping into old friends and acquaintances. I also can walk to two movie theatres, several grocery stores,bakeries, coffee shops,speciality shops, restaurants, chiropractors, therapists, lawyers, etc. Jim
We love Albany! Yes, it's safe, it's walkable, and there is an awesome sense of community -- especially among families connected to the public schools. (And we like the schools so far, but we're only up to first grade.) And yes, the housing stock is mostly old and small -- and expensive. But there are some larger homes, mostly little bungalows that have been added onto, so if you don't have a deadline you may want to just watch the market until something big enough for you comes up. Or you can buy a small bungalow and add onto it yourself. Albany parent
Hi, we are also a family of five, and I understand your concerns. We moved to Albany attracted by the schools and the great community, and bought one of those charming cozy houses--a typical 3/1 Albany 1940s cottage--and built a large shed in the backyard to use as an extra space (3,000, doing some of the work ourselves). Still we found ourselves busting out of the house and endlessly surrounded by our stuff because of the lack of storage space (and also our lack of tidiness). We found ourselves putting off having kids' parties and never inviting friends over because there was nowhere for guests to sit apart from the floor. Our children fought a lot. Finally, after two years we moved to a cheaper area where we bought a house twice the size for less money--with lots of storage. We find it less stressful and easier to manage our household on a daily basis when our space is well-organized. The kids argue half as much and family life is way more mellow. The trade-off is that we might be considering private schools after sixth grade for our youngest. Having said that, just because the Albany schools are considered ''good'' (i.e. they are safe, and offer programs in art, music, etc. which some other school districts consider luxuries), it doesn't mean all your children will find the schools a good fit.
In all other ways, though, we are glad we moved. It all depends on your priorities--after our two-year ''experiment'' in living small in Albany we found we valued a bigger house more than the schools and proximity to Solano. By moving to a cheaper area we could afford private school (with some financial aid) for two of our kids, and the third is now in college. Yes, Albany is generally safe (most crime incidents are concentrated in the bar and entertainment areas on San Pablo), Solano shops and cafes are quirky and fun, it's all walkable and you have great access to Berkeley, the shops and BART at El Cerrito Plaza, etc. etc. BUT if you have three kids with differing interests and want space to spread out a bit, remember that you can find homes in areas only ten-fifteen minutes' drive away from Albany that are a lot more affordable, with a bedroom for each kid! Areas we liked when we were looking were W. Berkeley, Richmond Annex, Richmond View, El Sobrante, and the San Pablo ! hills--all have quiet, safe, family-oriented neighborhoods, though they don't have the schools or Solano.
If you manage to find a well-designed roomy house for an affordable price in Albany (rare, but possible), or if you are good at managing your family's stuff or finding creative ways to deal with lack of built-in storage, or if you just don't mind living on top of each other you will probably love living there. When house-hunting, remember to look out for good closet space, garage or basement space, and more than one bathroom (in Albany, having a second bathroom is like gold!).
Also, something people don't always mention, but be sure to ask about--esp. if you have a sensitive sense of smell or anyone in the family has asthma or respiratory problems: parts of Albany, like parts of W. Berkeley, suffer from pollution from the Pacific Steel factory near Gilman and Second Street--the community is actively trying to do something about it, and the factory has agreed to take some measures, but so far it sounds like the ''burning pot handle'' smells are still wafting over some residential areas. Be sure to ask your potential neighbors about this if you are concerned. ex-Albany parent
Hi, I'd like to hear from people who live in Albany about crime in the town. We've been looking at buying and have been kind of alarmed that in ''desirable'' neighborhoods like Rockridge and near Piedmont Ave. there is a good deal of crime, particularly purse-snatchings and minor assaults. What's Albany like? I've read in the archives that there is a bit of petty theft in the schools, but what about out on the streets? Thanks for your input. Anon
I'll be blunt. Purse snatchings and assaults happen all over Albany as they do in every community in the East Bay. Even in the nicest parts of the city. The part of Albany that seems to have more cars stolen is near the waterfront. There also seem to be more assaults there because it's right by the freeway. Another hotspot is Albany Bowl. There are a lot of arrests there as well. However, to be truthful, if you read the police log for Albany in West County Times, you'll notice lots of stolen cars all over. And robberies even in the areas closest to the hills. For the most part, Albany is a pretty safe place. The police have a very visible presence. Compared to other cities, there is less crime. But we don't walk around at 2 am as we wouldn't in any East Bay city. Overall, we feel pretty safe living here.
No Place is Crime Free Anymore
I live in Albany just off Solano. As a runner and a mom, I am incredibly aware of safety in the area around us. I am so proud to say that Albany is the safest neighborhood you can choose right now.
First, I watch the police blotter weekly and the crimes are things like car theft and thefts at stores like Safeway and Target. As far as home robberies and car theft, these are rather infrequent and seems like 80% are west of San Pablo.
Second, just being out and about I think Albany police are very good about patrols and, being a small town force, are willing to hear your comments and you can tell them if you'll be out of town and they'll keep an eye on your house!
The ''hitch'' is that Albany is only one square mile, so to some extent it depends where in Albany you are because you'll always be just a block or two from Berkeley or El Cerrito, etc where crime stats of course are higher (although areas ajacent to Albany are generally safe with the exception, maybe of the San Pablo corridor). Even per capita, crime rates are low in Albany and violent crimes are even lower (next to none in the past few years although I'm aware of one assault on the BART trail a year or so ago and a few purse snatchings on Solano).
Of course Albany has other huge advantages - great schools, great small town feel (we have block parties even), lots of festivities (Solano Stroll, Taste of Albany, Fourth of July Festival, etc), and tons of great parks and cafes all walkable. Albany Lover
Judging from my 18 years of reading the weekly Albany police summary, there is plenty of property crime in Albany, all over town. It seems like eight cars a week get stolen or broken into. Less frequently, banks are robbed, stores have shoplifters, houses and garages are burgled. There are one or two DUI arrests every week, and in June there was a daylight pedestrian fatality (drunk driver) at a crosswalk at Marin and Talbot. (Not to be confused with the nighttime pedestrian fatality at Solano and Fresno, a week or two earlier.)
There is also plenty of crime against people. I personally know of an old lady who last month was robbed of her purse at gunpoint in the middle of the day near Safeway. I've heard of another person robbed in front of her house in the evening. We warn our kids to watch out for cruising cars on Solano and side streets, or gangs of kids on the BART path; it's become common for bikes and iPods to get grabbed from students. There's usually a domestic violence call every week or two. But I do let my teens walk around town, including up Solano during the day, and to friends' houses or from school at night.
I feel personally safer in Albany than I did my 4 years living in southwest Berkeley years ago (when my house was burgled 3 times, there was a crack house around the corner, and gunshots were heard monthly). My neighbors there were great; it was the people who drove through the neighborhood who scared me. Crime will come to you no matter where you are in the Bay Area. Albany Resident
I moved to Albany 1985. My two children are now in their twenties. My home is in the North East Corner of the City. My neighbor is in his late 60's and has lived on this block his whole life. One home burglary in all those years and numerous car burglaries. The community feels safe and I guess that the stats will prove that to be true. http://www.idcide.com/citydata/ca/albany.htm More questions feel free to write. Jim
I have lived in Albany for 20 years, before and after having children. For an urban area, it's very safe. The crime that exists is mostly auto thefts, bicycle thefts. Very little violent crime. I walk alone at night (I'm female) and feel safe. My kids walk all around the neighborhood, to school, etc. The police are very responsive-much more so than Berkeley or Oakland. I think it's as safe as you can get in the east bay. And neighbors know each other, so if they see someone unfamiliar or suspicious hanging around they are aware of it. The Journal (a weekely paper) has a weekly crime blotter for Albany and El Cerrito-you'll see the crimes in El Cerrito are more violent and extensive, while Albany is almost exclusively car and property crime, shoplifting from Safeway.
Check out the local weekly paper, the El Cerrito/Albany Journal crime blotter. It gives a good sense of what's going on in Albany, which, in my experience (and looking at the weekly crime summary), is mostly car crime - break-ins, car theft. For the most part, Albany is truly one of the last sleepy Bay Area towns, with almost zero violent crime. Not too many people know where Albany is and I think that must include criminals. I'd also just check with the local police for crime statistics. Their office is easy to get to, at San Pablo and Marin, right next door to City Hall. Jenny
I've been living in Albany for about 8 years now and think it's a very safe place to live. Every 2 weeks there is this local paper called The Journal that's delivered free to Albany, El Cerrito and Kensington residents, or you can buy it from the local street newspaper dispensers. In it is a police blotter that we always read - it gives a highlight of police activity for Albany. After reading it for years, I can pretty much sum up the main activity as follows: 1) DUIs on Buchanan or San Pablo (because of the bars) 2) Shoplifting at Target 3) car thefts or break ins (mainly along Pierce or several streets over on each side of San Pablo) 4) Store break-ins on San Palbo and sometimes Solano
Other than that there is the occasional assault (like on the Ohlone Greenway), disturbing the peace, domestic disturbance, etc. But nothing to the degree I've heard about in Grand Ave or Rockridge (where an aquaintance was held up by gun point after work at 5pm).
I like to go for walks and often don't get the chance until after dark, sometimes around 9pm. I'll go up and down the length of Solano and have always felt safe. The police patrol around the city and are very responsive. Any time I or my neighbors have called the police, they've arrived in minutes (and this was for such things as no one had seen an elderly neighbor for over a week and she wasn't answering her door, because teenagers were speeding up and down our street, or we saw someone climb over a neighbor's fence). You are just not going to see that kind of response in Oakland where the police are stretched to the max.
I love Albany!
When we moved here from SF last year I called the Albany Police Dept. and asked them basically the same thing -- ''What's the story here?'' They were really great and took the time to talk to me, very friendly. Their take on it is: the only real crime is an occasional burglary when folks are away for the day, and stuff involving cars (taking stuff out of the car, or taking *the car* for a joyride). The officer I talked to says his impression is that it's mostly kids (bored, looking for PlayStation stuff or things they can hawk to *get* PlayStation stuff). I read the little ''police beat'' section of our free paper avidly every week -- there is *very* little (if any) violent crime. There have been a very few muggings over near the BART station, and they hope to address that with better lighting, etc. The officer said Albany is small, and there's not much crime, so if you *do* call ''we can be there in about two minutes.'' Sold me! When we moved, a police car pulled up (! we thought they were going to complain about our big truck blocking traffic) -- the officer got out to introduce himself, give us his card, and welcome us to the neighborhood!!! We haven't had a lick of trouble since we've been here -- neighborhood kids are always zooming around on their bikes and scooters, we go for walks at night, and I feel pretty comfortable walking around the area by myself at night. You can call the Albany Police and see if things have changed at all and what their take on it is now (they said it does differ a bit by area -- there's often stuff going on over by Albany Bowl, and other parts of San Pablo).
Feelin' safe n' snug in Albany
Based on what I've read in the police report in the local weekly paper, The Journal, the most commom crime seems to be stolen cars or car break-ins. And it usually happens to late model Honda's, which are easy to break into. Keep in mind that the first medical marijuana dispensary will open some time soon, and who knows what kind of new crime that will introduce to Albany. Other than that, I consider Albany very safe relative to the surrounding communities. Anon
Albany, like any town or neighborhood in a major metropolitan area, has its share of crime. But I've lived here for eight years and have never been a victim of even the most minor. If you read the police log in the Daily Journal you can see that car break-ins, shoplifting, drunks creating disturbances and the like are fairly common; purse snatchings and assaults do occur but not often. I consider it a ''safe'' place to live. Loves Living in Albany
Hello there, We're thinking of moving to Albany for the good high school. A couple of weeks ago, we heard comments about how difficult it is to buy a house in Albany, and how expensive. Is this true? We know that houses in Albany tend to be tiny. Is it worth it to pay so much for tiny living space and good school? Do you know of good realtors who can help us once we decide to move ahead? Thank you very much. Anonymous
We moved to Albany last fall and perhaps our experiences were an anomaly but after getting crushed in the SF real estate market it seemed much simpler and more straight forward out here. We got the first house we bid on and we weren't even the highest bidders (take that, SF!). Our little local paper seems to only list one or two houses in Albany for sale each week, they average $650K -- slim pickins for sure. Most of them are small 2 BD but there are exceptions. If you can find a place near the El Cerrito Plaza BART station then you don't have to fight bridge traffic every time you want to go into the city (plus you'll be close to Trader Joe's). Can't really recommend a realtor as we just stumbled on this place but Red Oak Realty up on Solano seems to have most of the local listings. Feel free to email me off list if you have questions, tho' I haven't been here too long myself! izzycat
Alas, you are not the only ones trying to move into Albany for the schools--in fact, that is the number one reason people move there, and it keeps home prices very high, particularly given the small size of most of the houses and lots. Only you can say whether it is worth it. It may depend in part on what school system you are in now. Personally, I have always suspected that Albany schools are considered ''good'' because there are fewer students of color and from low-income families than in neighboring districts, not because they are of such outstanding academic quality, but I could be wrong. Berkeley High has a lot going for it too, but it is more ''urban'' (code for diverse). Homes in Berkeley are expensive too, but at least they are a little larger, and there are more of them. I'd encourage you to check the schools out yourself, and talk to lots of parents.
Houses in Albany tend to be small, and yes, they are also expensive. One of the main reasons they are expensive is because the public schools are decent. They are as good as it gets in the East Bay, unless you consider Piedmont (even higher housing prices) or beyond the tunnel (bigger houses, great schools). There are other things that are great about Albany - primarily that it is a walking town, and you can walk to grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants, dentists, hair salons, clothing and shoe stores, banks, florists, etc. Whether or not it is ''worth it'' depends on your individual circumstances. If you do not buy in Albany, will you send your child to private high school? How much would that cost? If you are just looking at putting one kid through high school for four years, maybe you could rent out your current place and rent in Albany for four years. I think you need to figure out what your priorities are and crunch the numbers. Good luck with your decision. Albany resident
We live in nearby Thousand Oaks, and yes, Albany houses are small and expensive. Some folks are working around that by adding second stories or additions, or converting garages, etc. Figure adding $150K to price. Overall, a great place to live. A realtor I trust completely: Kathryn Stein of Thornwall Properties on Shattuck. She lives in the area and knows it well. Good luck. Settled In Nearby
Don't just move to Albany for the schools! There are so many other reasons. We have lived here for two years and couldn't be happier. We can walk to Solano/El Cerrito Plaza/Monterey Market for just about anything we need. And a quick drive up to Tilden, or over to Marin. City services like parks and libraries are wonderful. It is a truly diverse community. And it has the best of a small town feel, with community celebrations and involvements for all ages. Housing prices here are maybe a little more than they would be in Berkeley, but it is so worth it. Yes, many houses are in the small bungalow mode, but bigger ones do come along. Ours is about 1300 square feet, cozy but livable. I almost hate to say anything, but I think Albany is by far the best place to live for parents in the East Bay.
Happy Albany Mom
You can tell by looking at the paper that the houses are incredibly expensive, you can tell when you look at the houses that the lots are narrow and the un-renovated houses are tiny, it's obviously fun to be near Solano Avenue, but you should be aware that there is a lot of crime in the schools, at least at the Middle school level. My child's locker has been broken into at least 6 times this year alone. And I assume you've heard about the party this year in the Berkeley Hills of an Albany HS student where a kid was killed...? Oh and the spirit day that the kids turned into ''pimps and ho's day'' where they dressed the part? It sure ain't the perfect place I was sold when I moved there! It's still beautiful in the spring. Lots of fog in the summer. The teachers at AMS have been mostly good, and the education seems solid. We haven't yet experienced High School - we're hoping for a vast improvement in security. It sounds like they have a good assortment of AP classes that they offer. I think you can probably check out the classes offered on their website.
Tired of Albany
We moved to Albany a year and a half ago and we spent way too much money for a way too small house. But, we'd do it again in a heartbeat. Think about it this way - who in their right mind would buy a teeny house for a ton of money? Someone who really cares about schools for their kids! We have a marvelous neighborhood and have made wonderful friends with many families on our block. In fact, on our block - on our side of the street - our daughter has four other kids her age! Plus, we're close to Solano, to Westbrae, to Target, to tons of great restaurants and shops...Plus, Albany is what I picture 50s neighborhoods to be like - people help watch each others kids - there are lots of lovely town festivals (Solano Stroll, etc.) There is even a town newsletter! Very sweet - especially being so close to SF. Finally, if you buy in Albany, while your house may cost a lot more money per sq. ft. - it's unlikely to lose value because the schools are so terrific and it's in a great location.
Have I convinced you yet?
If you want a terrific realtor - call Marni Fischer or her partner Jean Shrem at 510-882-9992. They specialize in El Cerrito, Albany, and Berkeley and really know what they're doing - plus they're super nice.
Welcome to Albany! Very Happy Albanian
When we moved out to California from the Midwest we had a choice between bigger houses in the hills in Oakland and a tiny little house in Albany. We chose Albany not only because we wanted to feel confident and at ease about the public schools, but also for the size and feel of the community. Everything is basically within walking distance in Albany. Even if my son had been assigned to the most remote elementary school of the three, we would be able to bike. All services, including movie theaters and restaurants and you name it are within walking distance (the town is a mile square). There's a tiny but very friendly YMCA where I know most everybody. The library is a big community gathering place and very accommodating for readers, writers, kids, people studying, etc. There are community pancake feeds and concerts. We go to the high school plays -- it's kind of like growing up in the rural Midwest, for Pete's sake! Except I couldn't get a decent serving of sushi back there and, despite what people sometimes like to say, the town is diverse culturally. My son's class of twenty-one students has seven of European ancestry.
This is a small town with a Bay Area attitude neighboring Berkeley and straight across the Bay from Marin and San Francisco. It doesn't really get much better than this IMHO. Our house is tiny and it sometimes drives me nuts. It is expensive to move into Albany and if you have two or more kids, it will be especially expensive; you might not find a big enough house. But the town is more than just good school scores. I say check it out. happy in Albany
We've been living in Albany for many years, since before we had kids, and we love it. It is a wonderful, engaged, diverse community. You can walk everywhere, the library and community center are great, and we are very happy with the public schools. Our kids are learning a lot, and thriving socially as well. The parents here are very committed to the schools, and it shows. Yes, the houses are tiny, but it is a great place and it is very easy to get out of the house w/ itchy kids -- plenty of parks, etc. In response to one poster, I'd like to dispel the notion that Albany is not diverse. It is a very diverse place; the Albany school district is a majority-minority district. About 41% of the students are non-hispanic whites; the remainder (so almost 60%) are students of color. Despite the expensive houses, there is also socio-economic diversity here. You can look at the percentage of students qualifying for free lunch to get an idea of this. Also, there are many apartments and rental homes here that make Albany affordable for those who can't afford to purchase the homes (we rented for many years ourselves). In fact, that is one of the other wonderful things about Albany -- on our block alone, there are small apartment buildings, single family homes, rental duplexes, etc. We have seniors, families with children and empty nesters. There are people from numerous countries, and from many ethnic groups. Albany is a great place! As for a realtor, consider Bill McDowell at Berkeley Hills. He's great, and specializes in Albany. Happy in Albany
I have to agree with Berkeley booster that the perception that Albany schools are the best has more to do with their demographics--the majority of students are white or Asian and from middle class homes--than anything else.
We looked at houses in Albany and decided on El Cerrito because you get more for your money.
Just as in Berkeley and Albany, most of the elementary schools in EC and Kensington have a good amount of parent involvement and offer music/arts/science. The academics are similar because all classrooms in CA are supposed to be following the CA content standards which are very rigorous. El Cerrito's middle school, Portola, has advanced classes in every subject that are more challenging than what some of the private schools offer and they have a strong music and arts program. It is also in line for a complete re-build and ECHS will have a brand new campus in a few years.
The high school has a lot of AP classes and a handful of students get early admission to schools like Yale, Stanford, Harvard, and Brown every year. The mayor of El Cerrito sent five kids through El Cerrito schools and a few of her kids went on to Harvard.
Albany Middle School is so overcrowded that classes are being held in portables across the street and the high school has nearly 1,200 students in a building built for 800. That's not my idea of an outstanding school district.
My kids are now at AMS and AHS. IMHO, the main reason why the schools in Albany get good test scores is that Albany has a very high percentage of parents with college educations, regardless of income level. (About 1/3 of the Albany school-age kids live at University Village, while their often foreign-born parents attend Cal Ph.D. programs.) This means many Albany parents value education, understand how to comply with the system, expect their kids to work hard, and send their kids to school each morning rested and fed and ready to learn. Although Albany teachers traditionally grumble about their salaries (''I can't afford to buy here''), you'll notice there's low turnover.
Despite international diversity in ethnicity and culture in Albany, there's a preponderance of middle-class, college- educated, land-poor Asians and Caucasians. Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in Albany schools, particularly in advanced classes. There are no African-American students this year in the award-winning AHS jazz band or the AHS rhythm and blues group! And hardly any in the advanced bands and orchestras. (Better representation in the choirs, though). I'm just guessing that's related to who's had years of private instrumental music lessons.
Local parents spend thousands of unpaid hours running the PTAs and booster groups, and helping out. In addition to high parcel taxes, local groups raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to support art, music, sports, counselors, librarians, foreign languages, tutoring, etc. If you move here for the schools, I hope you contribute.
The Albany schools are terribly overcrowded, and seem to have a high proportion of English language learners. Alcohol and drug use becomes too common starting in 7th or 8th grade. (FYI, I've heard that Piedmont has a much worse problem with unsupervised teen drinking parties!) We've looked around for a smaller, cheaper retirement community but keep coming back to all the things we love about Albany: it's walkable, it's liveable, it's convenient to big city amenities and nature, and for us it's near extended family. It has urban crime and urban problems too.
Albany resident for years
We are a multiracial lesbian family thinking of moving from Berkeley to Albany. We wanted to know what people thought of living in Albany in terms of raising kids in a progressive environment. We know it is close to Berkeley but sometimes, a few blocks can even make a difference, so we thought we would check it out with folks to be sure. Specifically, we want to know about the positive or negative experiences of families of color or lesbian/gay parents raising kids in Albany both in terms of the schools and the neighborhoods. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks!
thinking of moving
Living in Albany is great! We are a lesbian couple expecting our first child in June -- I am black and jewish and my partner is white and jewish. My adopted little sister (who, by the way, is from Liberia) lived with me and my former partner for two years when she was seven to nine years old, and attended Cornell School on Talbot. I don't believe any of us ever experienced any kind of problem related to our race(s), religion(s) or our ''family configuration,'' shall we say. My sister had friends from all kinds of family backgrounds -- straight, gay, all ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, religions and political affiliations -- there were no problems that I recall. We were just like any other family. Oh, and we moved to Albany from Berkeley, too. Is Albany as progressive as Berkeley? Is any city as progressive as Berkeley? Feel free to email if you want to discuss it further.
Albany is less diverse than Berkeley, that's for sure. But it isn't any less tolerant of all kinds of families, as far as I (a straight white married mom) can tell having lived both places. Albany is a fantastic town for raising kids no matter what kind of parent(s) they have. My own block (on Santa Fe) seems to be mostly white married couples but there is one lesbian couple with a preschooler (both parents look white, daughter looks Asian), and I have friends who used to live on Evelyn and they told us that nearly every house on their block was occupied by either a lesbian couple or an interracial couple (the latter of which they were one)!
For what it's worth, I know of *at least* three same-sex couples (two with small children) on Evelyn St. in Albany. (I don't know them personally, but since my daycare lady is on Evelyn we wave hello a lot) Albany in general is a tolerant, friendly, walkable, community-oriented place with great public schools. Come on over!
mom of two in Albany
There are many multi-ethnic families. I don't know any families heades by gay/lesbian parents. This is not to say there aren't any; I just don't know of them. However, I think Berkeley is more ''diverse'' in this respect. A good thing about AUSD ( http://www.albany.k12.ca.us/ ) is very good community support, an important thing considering the CA budget crisis. Albany's SchoolCare ( http://www.albanyschoolcare.org ) asks that parents donate $480 per child per year to preserve school classes and programs (I bet Berkeley is similar?) AMS just got a distinguished school designation.
good luck in your decision
We're lesbian moms who have lived in Albany with our two kids for the past three years and love it! We know two other lesbian families in the immediate neighborhood, and our experiences with neighbors, schools, etc. have been great. Feel free to email us if you want more info. Kristin
Re: I work in Richmond, husband works in Sunnyvale
It sounds like Albany could be a good fit for you. It fits most of your criteria:
- Very close to Richmond (far from Sunnyvale, though) - Safe area, family and kid-friendly, great public schools - Plenty of Asian families (and mixed families, too) - Plenty of houses for $800,000 or under (nothing huge, but plenty of room for a family of 3)
The only thing that would be tough to find in Albany is a newer house... many of the houses are older, but many of them have also been partially or totally remodeled in recent decades. Good luck with your search! Happy Albany Resident
Re: Neighborhoods for car-free life with a toddler?
We moved from the Mission to Albany last year -- it's not strictly Berkeley but it's right ''next door'' and so far it's working out great for us. My husband BARTs to work (El Cerrito Plaza station is a couple blocks away). I don't even have a driver's license so I walk to everything. Great schools are just blocks away, and most everything you need is also close by -- either on Solano Ave, which is crammed with cafes, two movies theaters, shops, restaurants, bookstores, bakeries, etc., or at El Cerrito Plaza, a new-ish mall with a Barnes n' Noble, Trader Joe's, Pier One, Petco, Albertsons, more restaurants, video rentals, etc. Other nearby stuff: Starbucks and Pete's coffee, parks, tons of afterschool programs for kids at the rec center (everything from karate to carpentry to dance, music and more), a nice library, and the new El Cerrito Speakeasy -- a pizza n' movies theater opened by the same folks who own the Parkway. I'm not sure how ''low budget'' the housing is -- we bought a major fixer at a great price and have been noodling away on it ever since and we know other families here who are *far* from wealthy. It's a really swell place to be -- quiet, super friendly, diverse. Might be worth checking out!
Re: East Bay neighborhood that's commutable, progressive & kid-friendly
Hi Courtney, We've been really happy in Albany, and it has all the things you're looking for:
1) A small-town atmosphere with lots of families, walkable neighborhoods and easy access to natural groceries & pharmacies.
2) Several nice local parks, quick access to large parks like Tilden, easy access to a bayside beach and a quick hop across the bay to Marin County and Point Reyes
3) A great school system with motivated kids, good teachers and lots of parent involvement
4) Walking (or easy biking) access to BART
Yes, it's expensive. And the school budgets are getting slashed, just like most in California. But it works pretty well for us. Good luck! Jeff
Re: Seeking a friendly neighborhood w/kids
You can't beat Albany for what you're looking for -- the good schools mean there are a lot of families with kids here. Our neighborhood (the area behind the Mallard bar) is full of kids. On our block there are 11 kids on our side of the street, and 6 on the other. Granted there are neighbors I've never met, but those with kids all know each other, our kids play together, when someone needs a hand we take care of each others kids, and when I'm short an egg when baking a cake I can always run over to my neighbor. When we were interested in buying our house we talked to the neighbors and asked about the ages of kids in the neighborhood, and we drove by at different times of day and saw all the kids in the area. Good luck in your search. anon