Living in the Richmond Annex

Parent Q&A

  • Hello,

    We moved from Brooklyn 2 months ago and need to figure out where to live after our short term rental is over January 1.  Our 4 year old will be registering for public kindergarden from our new address so we really want to find the right fit.  She is a smart and sensitive kid - and we are looking for a friendly environment where being a good, caring member of the group is emphasized.  It would be great to have a progressive curriculum and high test scores are not too important to us.  Richmond Annex seems like a nice spot that is still relatively affordable.  If you live there I'd love to hear your thoughts on the neighborhood and schools.  I am an artist and my husband works at a museum - I also work remotely for my old job in NYC so afternoon kindergarden would not work with my work hours, or match with our younger daughters preschool hours.  If you have any advice on that as well I'd love to hear it.  Also on the table for us is renting a super small place in South Berkeley to be in BUSD. What do you think?  If you have experience with both BUSD and Fairmont that would be amazing.

    Thank you!

    WCCUSD holds K registration the first full week of January, so this may all be moot; if you don't have your paperwork in order showing an in-boundary residence you will not be allowed to register (until you do, and then you're on the wait list). Fairmont is a nice school. Very diverse, both economically, culturally, & racially. I am not sure what a "progressive" curriculum means; all public schools in CA follow the Common Core and they do a great job with it. The learn-to-read program in K is amazing. Kindy is now what is called full-time, 8:30-1:45, with an option for paid onsite childcare until 6. (Beginning in first grade, there is a free afterschool program also onsite.) We are a Fairmont family but live in El Cerrito so will leave it to others to speak to the Annex neighborhood vibe.

Parent Reviews

I can recommend the Richmond Annex, although the prices here have gone through the roof recently.  You may be able to do a two bedroom but the three bedroom houses are going for between 725-$800k.  I have an almost three year old who is at a great preschool in a berkeley, although we may consider sending him to EC public schools. We walk regularly to our three neighborhood parks in the annex and El Cerrito and also to the prepared food annex at EC natural grocery. Today as we walked up the hill on the way home, I thought as I do every time how lucky I feel to live here. There are incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I just love the neighbors and feel of community. We are also a few blocks from city hall where a 24 hour fitness will be opening soon.  We also walk to the EC library and pool. I grew up here and it has changed quite a bit. There are so many more kids now then when I was my sons age.  I really can’t say enough good things about it. 

I may be in a rut, but regularly when people talk about going north to find housing, I mention the Richmond Annex. Right across the street from El Cerrito, literally. Our daughter and son in law moved there a couple of years ago, and are happy they didn't get a place in Albany or Berkeley. As our son in law says, "El Cerrito living at Richmond prices". Actually more removed from environmental hazards than most of El Cerrito, which is further north and closer to the refinery. Richmond Annex has even rather quaint family values, like stork flag embroidered with names of local children born in the neighborhood, almost a throwback to a kinder gentler past.

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!

 The neighborhood public school, Fairmont, is just fine. We go there; it is zoned for Richmond Annex and part of El Cerrito, very diverse demographics (and some gay families, since you note you are looking for gay-friendly). Fairmont is in fact the most racially diverse school in the West Contra Costa school district. And as other posters noted, Richmond Annex is a nice little neighborhood with some very cute houses.

I'm reading the responses and seeing the one that says that you'll have to pay for private school if you buy in the Richmond Annex. That's not true. The Annex is zoned for WCCUSD schools, exactly the same schools as the kids in Kensington and the El Cerrito Hills go. Fairmont has a very strong parent community and the kids really like going there. Then all kids in the district go to Korematsu middle school and El Cerrito high school. I love the Annex. It's really walkable and friendly. I would definitely choose the part of the Annex that's on the east side of highway 80 though. The other side is much more sketchy with parking issues. Plus it's a lot harder to walk anywhere. My friend who lives in the Annex walks her kids to Fairmont in the morning and then walks to BART to go to work. She really likes it.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Considering buying a house in the Annex

April 2016

We are considering putting an offer on a house in Richmond Annex. We are a couple in our 30's with a one year old son and are wondering if it will be a good long term place to put down roots. The house is on Huntington very close to the freeway. It's coded to Fairmont Elementary, but I hear there is a lottery for schools? How does this work? Is the neighborhood safe? Are there lots of kids? We previously owned a house in Maxwell Park in Oakland and moved becuase of safety concerns. Want to make sure we don't make a similar mistake again. Thanks in advance for your advice! jennifer


Richmond Annex is a fine neighborhood. Many of us wish we could afford to live there! Richmond is on the up and up and our values are skyrocketing in all of our neighborhoods, for that matter. And the Annex is going nowhere but up. The Annex Neighborhood Council is very strong and on the watch for changes with the City. The WCCUSD does not have a lottery and never has had one. While your neighborhood school is quite fine, in order to put in a transfer you have to meet certain qualifications. The District changes this from year to year, depending on space, but the main standard is usually racial equality. Sometimes curriculum issues are taken into consideration (special ed, reading programs, etc.) Many Richmond neighborhoods have a true 'old-fashioned' neighborhood feel to them, and the Annex is definitely one of them. Love the Richmond Annex


The previous respondent was completely wrong about the WCCUSD intra-district transfer standards. 'Racial equality' has nothing to do with anything, or 'special programs'. Totally misinformed, although perhaps they were speaking about INTER-district transfers which is a totally different process and requires coordination from the receiving district as well as WCCUSD. I have been through the INTRA-district transfer application process for the past 3 years and received a midyear transfer one year so I speak from that recent experience. The transfer applications' priority system is clear on the Transfer Office's website, and the categories have not changed in past 3 years. If a school is in Program Improvement (a few are, but not the local Richmond Annex school, Fairmont), its students have transfer priority. Homeless children also have priority. Next is sibling transfer, and students who are in danger at their current school. (?) If you don't fit any of those priority categories you can submit a statement with your reasons, although that is not required under law and I don't think they even read those. When we did get the transfer, it was under sibling preference. At least the previous poster was right that Fairmont is just fine, so really you don't need to worry about transfers at this time. EC mom


We have lived in Richmond Annex for 11 years and we really like it. I'm not concerned about crime here, although we do have a burglar alarm and try not to leave visible items in our cars overnight. It's generally friendly and neighborly - I agree with the other responder who said it feels like an old-fashioned neighborhood. Joan Underwood, realtor at Marvin Gardens who specializes in Richmond Annex, puts out a newsletter to all residents of the Annex that includes crime statistics in the Annex, including the locations - you may be able to obtain copies from her. Fairmont and Korematsu have worked out well for my child - if I could do it again, I would make the same decision to stay at Fairmont. There are a lot of kids in the neighborhood, some of whom go to Fairmont and some of whom go to other public or private schools. And I have been seeing more and more couples with babies and toddlers lately. Annex resident


March 2014

Re: Looking for family-friendly areas, max $2500/month

We stumbled upon the Richmond Annex a few years ago when we moved here from so cal and we were quite happy. With some determination you might be able to find a 2 bd house for $2500 there. The rec center has a great pool and splash park and there is a nice library and health food store nearby. You would also have access to the schools in El Cerrito which I hear are good. We have since moved to the Richmond Heights section, also known as the Richmond View. We have noticed an influx of young families here in the last year as it is one of the last affordable places to buy a home in the Bay Area. You could definitely find a single family home to rent for less than $2500. Our rental on Arlington Blvd was $1800 for a 2 bd with a backyard. It was right next to Alvarado park which has a nice playground and you can hike throughout the hills into Berkeley. Stay East of San Pablo avenue in Richmond to look for rentals in The View. The downside, the schools are not considered exceptional but there is Crestmont (private co-op) nearby. Good luck! Shannon


Sept 2012

Re: What are the Good Neighborhoods in Richmond?
I moved to Richmond Annex from S. Berkeley a year ago and I love this neighborhood. I was a little weary of being in Richmond but the Annex is a hidden gem! I live in the hilly area (Burlingame/Mendocino 94804) and from every street corner is a gorgeous view of the golden gate bridge, some of the homes have beautiful views as well depending on which side of the street you live on and the slope. There are lots of families w/ young children, a good mix of renters & homeowners. I am a renter myself am paying $1650 for a small 3 bedroom home so you can find some good deals in this neighborhood. I have 2 youngsters who are not in school yet so I can't speak to the quality of the school district but from the other parents I've spoken to, they prefer to send their kids to private schools?

The weird thing about the Annex is that though it is closer to El Cerrito schools, fire dept's, etc- because you have a Richmond zip code technically you have to be served by the Richmond services. I do feel very safe here (as opposed to S. Berkeely where I was subject to several bike & car thefts, etc) but the area right past the 80 E/W freeway overpass becomes more suspect. I can walk to the El Cerrito library, there is the El Cerrito Community Center/swimming pool off of Moeser Lane which is also about 10 min away walking distance. You can also walk to the El Cerrito Natural Grocery Store off of San Pablo but I did most of my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, Safeway, or Richmond Costco(5 min drive.) Lots of places to walk to eat right off of San Pablo(Jack in the Box, burrito places, chinese food, thai food, etc.) In terms of parks, there are several w/in walking distance (Mendocino, Cerrito Vista, Huntington.) I have a close friend who lives in Richmond Marina, I think the housing there is more expensive but the proximity to the Marina Parkway is gorgeous for walking around. Not that many grocery stores or places to eat though. Good luck! Loving the Annex


June 2012

Re: Possibly moving to El Cerrito
Hello there! I read your post and realized I was in the exact OPPOSITE position, I have 2 young children and would love to be able to afford a move to Albany for the schools. I live in Richmond Annex and LOVE the neighborhood (the side between Carlson & San Pablo.) Some parts are a little hilly, but from almost every street corner you see gorgeous views of the golden gate bridge! Housing prices are very reasonable (cause it is Richmond) but I love how walkable you are to everything, as compared to having to drive if you live in El Cerrito Hills. I've only lived here for a year (currently renting) but feel very safe here, and I know my neighbors. There is a diverse mix of families with children and elderly folks, etc. I think the houses are on the small side, but some of them have gorgeous views of bay and bridges. If it weren't for the school district, I'd buy here in a heartbeat! El Cerrito housing prices seem a bit inflated, but I think the Annex is a great deal. Wish I were in your shoes


Sept 2011

Hello bay area residents. We have found some really lovely homes in the Richmond Annex, however we are a bit concerned for the safety. One is very near to Fairmont elementary, just on the other side. Do you have any news on this area? Do you feel safe if you live here? I am a stay at home mom and want to feel comfortable being home for most of the day. Thank you so much. curious mom


Safety... there are problems here sometimes. Bad Story Alert!... Our next door neighbors had their front door broken into and various valuables carried out a few months ago. Broad daylight - no one at home - around noontime - various people about, like the contractor working across the street, no one noticed it in time. But what people more often talk about is the skunks. Had a skunk problem for a few months.

Theft-neighbors put in a stronger door and an 'electric dog' - the house goes woof now if anyone comes too close. We put an $8 alarm on our own front door.

Pluses: There are no rowdy neighbors, there are no hopped-up cars, the nights and days are peaceful. This neighborhood is more social and better-cared-for than any other I've ever lived in in the Bay Area. (Alsmost) everybody takes their gardening seriously: greenery and flowers everywhere. After a year, I'm on regular speaking terms with maybe eight sets of neighbors. People greet on the street. etc.

Fairmont school? 'Not much good' is the reputation. Suggest that you sit in on a class or three there and decide for yourself. Transfers to Albany school district are theoretically possible but none have actually been permitted for years (we were very high on the list for this school year, I think.) It is also true that public schools are pretty thoroughly bad many many places in California. So 'Fairmont' might not be any different than your other choices. Garry


Hi there, We bought a house in the Richmond Annex last summer, and really couldn't possibly be more thrilled. The El Cerrito Natural Grocery is walkable, as is BART, and the whole El Cerrito Plaza with farmer's markets twice a week. You're on the main San Pablo Ave bus lines, neighborhood movie theater (the Cerrito), walk to public library, about a half-mile jog to run or bike on the bay trail at Pt. Isabelle, and just a quick jaunt down Central Ave to get on 80/580. We had NO IDEA how great it would be to live here--and honestly I still am amazed that we live somewhere so modestly central to everything while still feeling so safe and quiet. I don't think there's another neighborhood so close to BART that feels so quiet. We love it. My 20 month old plays in the front yard without me feeling like I have to watch like a hawk, I know almost everyone on my street and count them friends, neighbors and I trade babysitting...It rocks here. ONLY--be advised that it seems to be in the 'fog belt'--it's always colder here than down in Berkeley or even up in Richmond proper. That is my one disappointment (although I tell myself that we're getting all that clean fresh air blowing right off the ocean through the Gate). And I know several families who send their kids to Fairmount Elementary and are happy with it--we plan to send our daughter there. Loving the Annex


Hi! My husband & I just moved to the area a couple of months ago and are renting in the Richmond Annex. Our house is probably about a half mile or so from Fairmont Elementary (just off the other side of San Pablo a little further toward Richmond). Despite my initial skepticism regarding the area, I actually really feel that it's worked out well! The Richmond address makes our place significantly more affordable than would be the same house in many of the surrounding areas, and it's a very quiet, friendly neighborhood. I'm also a stay at home mom right now (I have a 4-month old). I run by myself in the dark early morning and haven't encountered any situations that have made me feel uneasy. I wish there were more fun, pretty places to take the baby walking from our house, but that's really my main complaint. In terms of safety, I think you'd feel very comfortable here and I think it's a pretty good value. Anne at


I have lived in Richmond Annex since 1993 and feel very safe here. Most of my neighbors are transplants from Berkeley or SF and many of them have lived here even longer than we have.My children did not go to Fairmont but they did go to El Cerrito High which we were very happy with. Ellen


Jan 2010

Re: Schools, commutable,urban under $500k?
Richmond Annex, more like N. Berkeley/Albany with cute 1930s+ houses(good El Cerrito schools K-12), walk to El Cerrito Bart, EC Natural Foods, etc. 500K. Diverse, friendly, safe. Lots of tiny little playlots--short drive to Bay Trail, Pt. Isabel, etc.


2005 - 2009 Recommendations


Sept 2008

Re: Cheaper but safe enough neighborhoods
I have lived in Richmond Annex for 15 years now. Re Safety, I feel safe in my home, I have good neighbors, it is very quiet here. Over the years, I do hear of a few more burglaries, but I believe that is everywhere. Violent crime is rare here. anon


You don't say how much cheaper you need to go, but we love our neighborhood- the Richmond Annex. It's a tentacle of Richmond that extends alongside El Cerrito all the way to the Albany border. Homes here sell for considerably less than in North Berkeley, but we are within walking distance of El Cerrito Plaza BART, Trader Joes, Peets, the Cerrito theater, and the El Cerrito Natural Grocery. It takes about 5 minutes to drive to Solano Avenue. Our public schools are all located in El Cerrito. We also have a strong neighborhood association and a very modest crime rate. Before we lived here, we lived in Albany where we experienced a home break-in and the neighbors were not as friendly. We would, of course, prefer to live in North Berkeley, but we are very pleased with our choice. Happy in the Annex


Sept 2005

Do any bpn subscribers have information on what it is like to live in Richmond Annex? I am new to the area and would like to hear other peope's impressions. Anon


I have two sets of friends who own homes in the Annex and would be glad to ask if they would chat with you if you like. They are very happy with their homes and location.
Pamela


My partner's mother lives in Richmond Annex, and really likes it. Her block is very neighborly (most of her neighbors do things like help in her yard, come by with cookies, call to see how she's doing, and basically treat her like family). It's pretty close to lots of things - right next to El Cerrito Plaza with lots of shopping, the BART, and close to a natural foods store as well. Parts of it are really nice to walk around in. She got a great house for a relatively low price, for the Bay Area. The only thing I'm not sure of is what school district it is in, and what that's like - so check around about that if you have school-aged kids.
Jen


We have lived in the Annex since the end of 2001. It has quite a few families as it has been one of the last affordable neighborhoods to buy a house in (we're essentially a one-income family). It has two parks, Huntington and Mendocino (a ''pocket'' park). It is in walking distance to the EC Plaza and the shops at the bottom of Moeser Lane. The Annex has a dedicated Neighborhood Council that meets monthly. If you are thinking about buying a house here, you might check out the parks and the Council meeting to get more of a feeling for the people in the neighborhood.
Happy in the Annex


the annex is a lovely, tree-lined neighborhood, in my opinion very family friendly and many families live there. The parks/ playgrounds are modest but safe and clean. Very nearby is a great health food store El Cerrito Grocer and also El Cerrito Plaza with Trader Joe's. We don't live there (waited too long and got priced out) but know many families there. However, the families I know there (say 5-6) have all chosen private school but the local ones may be improving and have good parent involvement.
anon


We recently moved to the Richmond Annex and have been really pleased with the neighborhood. Our neighbors are really friendly and there is an active neighborhood association. Housing prices, while still ridiculous, are lower than just across the El Cerrito border a few blocks away. All of our assigned neighborhood public schools are located in El Cerrito.
Richmond Annex neighbor


We really like living in the Richmond Annex. Because it is so easily accessible from Highways 80 and 580, it is a great location to commute from. The downfall of the area is a lack of a walking neighborhood with shops, etc. While there are many stores nearby (Target, CostCo, Home Depot) there is no cute downtown to stroll through and stop at a cafe, windowshop, etc.
Mary


I would seriously consider living in Albany or (North) Berkeley before purchasing in the Richmond Annex area, especially if you have children you hope to send to public schools. That is largely why property values there are on the lower end. I have one friend who lives in that area whose car was repeatedly broken into because they did not have a garage. They speculated that the ''robbers'' likely came from nearby Richmond, just down the street. Look around a bit and consider more than just the face value of the home you are looking at. The neighborhood, the schools, resale potential, the residents' educational level... Good luck!


We have lived in Richmond Annex for 12 years. It is a quiet neighborhood and we have not wanted to move despite outgrowing our house. It is not too far from Berkeley, and is easily accessible to Pinole shopping, as well as shopping and dining across the San Rafael bridge. There is a Neighborhood Council that works towards maintaining the quality of life here and has worked towards installing new stop signs, redesigning Carlson Blvd with a median strip, beginning adult ed classes at Alvarado School,etc. It's a fairly walkable area; we can walk to Longs, Safeway, Target, El Cerrito Natural Foods, Huntington park. My son went to Castro School for a few years and that introduced us to many of our neighbors. The crime on our street has been mostly limited to a few stolen cars, tho in the last couple of months, one of our neighbors had an attempted robbery, which is quite rare. So we have been pretty happy living here.
jen


This is a post from a friend of mine that lives in the Annex. i told her about the post and she was wanting to post and tell you her 2 cents. I do hope that it isn't against the rules.... Hello I am Bobbie, I live in the Annex. I grew up here. Depending on the location of the house you really need to look around at night. on the hill closest to the EC Border is VERY nice great park and close to the stores. Same with close to Huntington Park. On the areas just beyond the freeway over pass near the foodmarket and gas station is a bit rundown. BUT if you are on the hill above Carlson on that side it is a hidden treasure. Thats where I live. As you know the schools leave a LOT to be desired. Most are EC Schools though. on the other side of the freeway nearest Costco is getting better. Here in the Annex there are middle class working families very ethnically mixed and for the most part very friendly. My neighbors are very nice and very diverse. You have many people like myself that have grown up here and looked to stay when we bought our house. There are problems like every other neighborhood whether in a 'rich'or 'poor' part of town. I just can't get over the fact that the houses are so expensive now. just look around at night and see for yourself. I hope that you do pick the Annex we really need great families here.
b3rkl33m0m


My child attends an El Cerrito public school with a mix of families from El Cerrito, the Annex, and nearby communities. El Cerrito schools are working hard to offer rigorous academics, improve their music programs, provide more arts instruction, and some have very high levels of parent involvement. Test scores are improving too. They aren't perfect but what school district is? Even the most affluent ones tend to have their share of problems.

The annex is one of the few affordable neighborhoods left in the East Bay and the schools are fine. Go check them out for yourself, take tours, talk with parents who are actually enrolled. Much of the negative stuff I read about the schools is posted by parents who don't attend or went many years ago. You may be surprised at what you find. El Cerrito Public school mom