Living in South Berkeley

Parent Q&A

  • Hi - I current live in San Francisco and am considering moving to Berkeley. I am specifically looking at the area surrounded by the following streets: Ward, San Pablo, Ashby, and Sacramento. I wanted to get an idea from this community on how safe this area is. I appreciate your feedback!

    Hi, we live one block outside the area you described (on Mathews between Ward and Derby) and we are very comfortable in this neighborhood.  We have two kids under 5 who play out on the block and in San Pablo park regularly, we ride our bikes everywhere and we feel safe doing so.  There are a ton a families with young kids in the neighborhood and it feels like a pretty cohesive community.  Having said that, there there are some property crimes in the neighborhood and the two murders that occurred in Berkeley this year happened in this part of the city--San Pablo park seems to be a magnet for these incidents.  We love living here, get together regularly with our neighbors, and do not feel unsafe in any way in our daily lives.  But your feelings of safety will depend on your personal comfort level living in and dealing with a gentrifying neighborhood.  


    We also moved from SF to South Berkeley (66th and Sacramento).  So many of these streets have such strong communities. I was blown away how friendly my new neighbors were. After years of exchanging nods with people above and below my apartment in SF, suddenly people were dropping lemon bars at my door. What is different than SF is that the streets are empty at night. That said, people are so friendly you don't feel unsafe, especially after a few months. Yes, there has been some violence around San Pablo Park recently, but I wouldn't let that detract from this strong and tight-knit area.

    I don't think that this area is very safe. i would suggest going there at night and taking a walk around. There's a lot of crime in south Berkeley. If you're planning on walking to BART, it's a lot farther than it seems. I would do the walk to BART from the location that you're considering in the dark and see how it feels. We looked to buy there and decided not to. There are several notorious drug houses in that neighborhood as well. The most famous one has been sold and remodeled but it took the neighbors years to get to that point. You can read about it here:

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Moving to Berkeley - San Pablo/Ashby

Sept 2015

I'm considering moving to an apt complex on san pablo avenue/ashby. I haven't lived in berkeley. Can anyone tell me if this area is safe. lucia

No, that area is not safe. I would never want to live on Ashby or on San Pablo. And while it seems like that intersection is close to BART, if you're walking it's really not. You would probably end up biking or taking the bus to BART. I wouldn't do it

Not a great area. Lots of cars (Ashby is a major artery.) Not really walking distance to anything except the Walgreen's. Fairly high crime compared to other parts of Berkeley.

Living on Ashby Ave. near Sacramento?

June 2014

I'd like to hear experiences of families living on Ashby, specifically around Sacramento street. We are considering a move to a house on Ashby near there, and my husband is hesitant. I tend to think it wouldn't be so bad, besides the inconvenience of living on a busy street (noise and traffic). But is there crime? Do you feel safe living there? What has your experience been like living on this specific stretch of Ashby? Ashby bound

Cannot recommend. Ashby is not just a busy street, it is a state highway. Street parking is prohibited during rush hour on weekdays to allow an additional lane to become available in the rush direction. There have been multiple shootings at the intersection of Ashby & Sacramento in recent years. Much of the criminal activity is actually along Sacramento, rather than Ashby, so if you are talking Ashby closer to MLK (and BART), or closer to San Pablo (and Berkeley Bowl), other factors would mitigate the traffic aspect.

I'm speaking as someone who lives in and loves the neighborhood. If you can find a place that is not directly on Ashby (even just off it on a side street), you will find lots of things to love about the area. neighbor

I used to live close by to this intersection and drive Alcatraz quite a bit. I would not say that this is the safest place to live, in fact it is the only place where I have ever seen a police officer with shotguns drawn. I moved there from a sketchy area of Philadelphia where murders and stabbings happened in front of my house and still say that this area of Berkeley is worse, in the way that you will be watched and a target, compared to the violence in Philly being targeted to those involved in nefarious pursuits. Just my two cents. AA

We used to live right by there and did not like it much.

We really disliked being on such a busy street not for the noise (we aren't bothered by noise) but because we couldn't let the kids play in the front yard because of the traffic and there is zero sense of community on a busy street.

The foot traffic that goes by there is mixed- quite a bit of homeless people and some drug addicts esp on Fridays who go to the drug and alcohol clinic on Sac close to Ashby on Fridays. But this isn't too much different than a lot of Berkeley but I think it's more since it is a busy street. The new quiet street we live on does not get the same degree of shady foot traffic.

Our house was never broken into but the house beside ours was. That happens everywhere in Berkeley though. Our yard was broken into 3 times so we eventually started locking it. We saw the person breaking in once- looked like someone homeless or a drug addict. Despite all this I didn't feel unsafe there really.

But I will say I am so glad not to live there anymore though! Best of luck. -Happy to be on a quiet street

2008 - 2012 Reviews

April 2012

Re: Thinking of moving from the Peninsula to Berkeley
I own a home in South Berkeley, South of Ashby. It's interesting to read the pretentious comments about our neighborhood. I have a lot of great neighbors that have lived in their home for decades, even thirty years. There are many different kinds of people, young families, singles, senior citizens and everything in between. We are all colors of the rainbow. On my street in particular, two homes have been renovated by developers and have really improved the neighborhood character. It's getting better. I'm not in denial about the crime in Berkeley, and it's certainly not isolated to our neighborhood- but I live here happily, by choice, and have never found a syringe in my yard.

Love your street/neighborhood in S or W Berkeley?

Jan 2012

We are a family with 3 children and want to buy a small house in Berkeley but can only afford in the south, southwest, or west areas. I'd love to hear from people who love their specific street (ie- the 2500 block of X street). We've recently realized how much difference good neighbors can make in our quality of life, and don't want to buy a house before hearing where the good streets/neighborhoods are in the south and west areas of berkeley. We will likely buy west of MLK, north of Alcatraz, east of 4th, and south of university....a big area, so tell me why you love your block or neighborhood and help narrow our search! Future Berkeley homeowner???

We have lived in South Berkeley 19 years. We moved to the 1600 block of Derby @ McGee when our children were 3 and 5 years. They went through the BUSD system just fine and both have graduated from college.

I used to get angry at the sad, sympathetic looks I got from people when I told them where I lived. I know now they are the ones missing out! We have a great neighborhood, mixed in age, gender, and ethnicity. Most of our neighbors have lived here longer than we have. Over the years I had a chance to get to know many neighbors who came here during WWII to work in the shipyards. They had great stories to tell, both happy and thoughtful. We can walk to downtown Berkeley in under 15 minutes. We have the Derby St. Farmer's Market every Tuesday. We are w/in walking distance of two Bart stations, two libraries and a firehouse. We will be easy to get to should there be a catastrophic event. I feel fortunate to call this area my home. Happy in South Berkeley

Six years ago, before we moved into our current neighborhood (Grant/Parker/Carleton in South Berkeley), our real estate agent called it a 'transitional neighborhood'. But we loved the house, the street and curb appeal, talked to the police about crime reports, drove through the neighborhood at night and finally decided that there will always be a small risk left.

Today we couldn't be happier. In the past years, many new families have moved into the block/neighborhood, they all take very good care of their houses, they spend time in their front yards, kids meet to sell lemonade and cookies in front of houses, at the weekends the streets are used to play basketball, to bike, to run remote controlled cars or to just chat with neighbors.

However, just a few blocks down South - around Ashby - it's a totally different story. I still feel it's a little unsafe to walk the dog there at night, I see more police cars patrolling and cannot believe how different the climate is compared to the street we live in. In Berkeley you will probably find many streets that you find beautiful, safe and child-friendly - just a stone's throw away from less desirable streets.

Good luck finding the right neighborhood for YOU! Happy in South Berkeley

I live in sw berkeley one block south of ashby and 2 blocks west of sacramento. When we were looking to buy a house, I was pleasantly surprised! Since we bought our house two years ago, several more families have moved in on my street. And I'm continuing meeting other families that live within a few blocks from us. This neighborhood is a mix and that's why I love it. Every year, families get together in the neighborhood and throw a big Halloween block party. It's close to berkeley bowl west, ashby bart, San Pablo park, and freeway and oh yeah, Biodiesel station. I think the houses here are fairly priced since it's not a gentrified area, well not yet.

I'd recommend driving by the areas you are interested in at various times and days to get a feel of the neighborhood. We walked around with our kid and dog in tow many times to get a feel for the neighborhood. I particularly look at cars to see there were carseats attached to them. LOL

Good Luck! You can email me if you have specific questions or want specific street names.

Living in South Berkeley, near Ashby BART, Safe?

Feb 2011

Hello, I was hoping to get some feedback from other families on how they like living in South Berkeley, particularly near the Ashby BART and Malcolm X school. We've heard great things about the school, but when I look at the crime maps, it's clear that more crime occurs in this area then others in Berkeley. We are looking to buy, and are considering a home in this area - do you live there? And, do you feel safe having your young children there? We have a 6 month old son and two dogs that we walk regularly. Thanks for your thoughts. Heather

We've lived in our South Berkeley home since the mid- 1990's and we've found the area to be very safe. Our home is on the north side of Ashby, however; and some say that things can get dicey south of Ashby -- as far as home- ownership goes. Nevertheless, I walk south of Ashby frequently and have never had problems. We have a 4 year old toddler boy, and living in South Berkeley has been great for our family. We're 3 blocks from Ashby BART and 3 blocks from Berkeley Bowl -- we walk practically everywhere! Also, we love living so close to Grove Park: we play baseball/tee-ball with our baby out there; we hit tennis balls on the courts with him and catch basketball games at the rec center. In the afternoon, the socccer/baseball field becomes an impromptu 'dog park'. We have a small dog and have met great folks there; people are really good about cleaning up after their pets & having the dogs 'play nice'. Our particular neighborhood also has a Block Party about 3 times a year: we block off the street, share food, get the kids a jumpy house. Good folks in South Berkeley. Anon

We've lived a few blocks north of the Ashby BART station for almost four years now. Safety is relative, but we definitely feel safe in our home and have not been victims of any crime while we've lived here. We love our neighborhood, and there are lots of families around here that make it a great place to raise kids. I would caution you not to move here on the basis of getting into Malcolm X, though - it is currently divided between the southeast and central school zones, and you would probably be more likely to get into one of the other schools in the southeast. Not that there's anything wrong with those schools, but you should know what you're getting into. South Berkeley dad

I'm not sure about below MLK, but I lived above MLK in the same area (Emerson St) and liked the neighborhood very much. I walked my dog everywhere and never felt unsafe.

Sept 2010

Re: New job in SF - where's a sunny place to live?

I only have a few mins so I can't get into the whole where to live but I can tell you we live near Ashby Bart - and it is not a student area at all - the students mostly live near campus. I work in the financial district and my door to door commute (walk, bart, walk) is 32 mins total so very manageable. We love Berkeley -it is the burbs but still lots of access to SF, theater etc if you still want that. So I'd say its fairly urban as suburbs go, particularly for the bay area. good luck with the move! Berkeley fan

I would not live near Ashby BART with little kids. When I lived there a few years ago, there were muggings outside my window, and people would go to the door or tap on the window asking for handouts, etc. Plus, the walkable shops are not that close or that great. Some people will surely disagree, but it would not be my choice. If I were you, I would look near Rockridge in Oakland instead. It's a fun area, very kid-friendly, sounds like a good match to your self-description, and it is on the Pittsburgh/Bay Point BART line rather than the RIchmond line. There are more trains, and you never have to transfer, whereas on the Richmond line, you sometimes have to transfer (direct service from SF is intermittent), which would add time to your husband's trip. I found that my commute from downtown to Rockridge took half the time, or less, than it took me when I was in the avenues in the City itself. anon

Sept 2009

Re: Moving to Berkeley -- which neighborhood?
I lived in South Berkeley all through my daughter's elementary and middle schools years. For the most part I was very happy there, though there are some rough parts that I would avoid.

Due to the economics of buying a house in the Bay Area, one of the parts of Berkeley with a very high concentration of new families is South Berkeley. As recent as 10 years ago it wasn't considered an option for many people but most of it has transformed and there are a lot of benefits.

It's relatively affordable, it shaves off 20 to 30 minutes a day on commutes heading to most of the job centers nearby, kids can bike, plenty of parks, Berkeley Bowl West recently opened and is great, there are walking shops and restaurants (Dwight and San Pablo or Dwight and Sacramento are of note) Two of the nicest shopping areas are close (4th street and Emerybay) There are multiple high quality child care options in the neighborhood and nearby. Alex

Alcatraz between MLK & Sacramento safe?

August 2009

We are moving to Berkeley later this year from Toronto, Canada. I heard that there were some dangerous areas in South Berkeley. I was wondering which part of South Berkeley we should avoid and more precisely if Alcatraz between MLK and Sacramento was safe. JM

Define safe... and your habits, and who you are...

We have a couple of friends who live in the Malcolm X neighborhood, both between Malcolm X School and Sacramento, between Ashby and Alcatraz. In one household, the daughter walks home from the bus stop after middle school, so far with no problems. The kids also play in the backyard, and with other children on the block. However, when we were over there for a daytime bday party, a young African-American woman had been shot (luckily a minor graze) on their block.

With the other friend, we walk with our kids from her house to the stores -- we've never been bothered, and she walks around with her kids often (though they are too young to walk around the neighborhood themselves); she also walks from BART home including in the evening; and she bikes in the neighborhood. I've felt a bit uneasy when we walk around because I see a number of unemployed young men hanging out.

I realized that I've been assuming you are white, with small children. If you are African-American, or Latino, or your children are teens, the question is more complex. I've known several Af-Am or Latino teens (I work with teens) who have been mugged, beat up and/or shot in that neighborhood. sort-of-local

Alcatraz between MLK and Sacramento is not the safest neighborhood. If you want safe, aim north - North Berkeley, Monterey Market area, Albany, Kensington. Or maybe Rockridge area if you want to stay south. Of course the safer neighborhoods are also the most expensive. Happy house hunting!

I think you can check out crime stats for that area on the Berkeley Police website, however I would not recommend moving in to that neighborhood with kids. I know there are pockets (specific blocks) that are great, safe with well connected neighbors that keep tabs on what's going on, but there have also been shootings in the last 6 months. It kind of depends on what your tolerance for risk is. I would not live there personally, particularly coming in from another city.

My wife and I moved to Emeryville which borders South berkeley from downtown Philadelphia a few years ago. Where we lived in Philly crime happened all the time, stabbings, muggings and worse. With that thick skin, South Berkely still looks bad. No doubt coming from Toronto, you will be in for a shock if you move to this area.

Actually, the first time I ever saw a policeman with a shotgun drawn was on this stretch of Alcatraz-drug dealing is common. We looked at an apartment on Alcatraz by MLK and the person moving out was just mugged coming home from BART.

Not to scare you off, but North berkeley or Alameda may be your better bet. AA

Not an area of South Berkeley that I'd recommend. I do highly recommend the San Pablo Park area and the nearby so-called Left Bank. If you aren't used to inner urban issues, generally south of Ashby, west of MLK and the area south of Dwight Way around Sacramento/California are neighborhoods that might be of concern (these neighborhoods really vary block by block). South Berkeley is technically south of Dwight Way to the Oakland border, bounded by Fulton to the east and San Pablo to the west. That's a very large area and there are quite a few distinct neighborhoods with varying degrees of homeownership/stable renters - working class/middle class values (which isn't necessarily linked to actual family income)-ethnic mix - safety concerns. You really need to know the area/talk to those that do/check out yourself. Look for nice yards, folks out working on yards/washing cars on the weekend, a variety of kids of different ages playing outside, folks walking their dogs, and of course - quiet night scene. Large rather run-down apartment complexes, corner stores that sell alcohol, no sense that neighbors are out and about being ''neighborly'' is a sign that there may be issues that are of concern. Love my South Berkeley neighborhood

I wouldn't move to Alcatraz between MLK and Sacramento. Absolutely not a safe neighborhood as far as I'm concerned. Would definitely not feel safe even walking from my house to my car . . . anon

hi there, my husband and our now 3 1/2 yo daughter moved onto alcatraz avenue between sacramento and idaho more than three years ago. we love our house and love our neighbors and have never had a problem. i'm disappointed to read so many responses from people encouraging you to move to north berkeley. we do not want our daughter growing up in north berkeley surrounded by people who look just like she does. here in south berkeley we live in a very diverse neighborhood and i'm happy to say that we know and like our neighbors and hang out with them on a regular basis. please feel free to contact me if you would like more info. rachel rachel

I just wanted to chime in about Rockridge being safe. It is most definitely not ''safe'' if safe means lack of violent crime. We thought it was safe because it is expensive. It has a high rate of violent crime and the Oakland police are terribly understaffed. For example, it takes them 30 minutes to respond to a violent mugging with injuries and they don't take photos for evidence unless you are murdered or raped. I would say go for N Berkeley, Albany, Alameda, or El Cerrito. Been mugged at gunpoint in Rockridge

2004 - 2007 Reviews

How safe is South Berkeley?

Oct 2007

My husband and I are hoping to move to the East Bay soon from the city. We have a 6 month old baby. One area we're looking at is South Berkeley, but we've heard mixed things about how safe it is. Can anyone tell us what their experiences have been in this neighborhood? Ideally, we'd like to find a neighborhood where we feel safe walking with our baby during the day and taking him to the park (Grove Park). If anyone can share their advice about South Berkeley, we'd appreciate it! Thank you. MLM

I have a toddler and a new baby, and I've lived in South Berkeley for two years now (four blocks northwest of Grove Park). I'd say that safety and how comfortable one feels on the streets here varies from block to block and over time. In general I feel very safe in my neighborhood and areas north, east, and west, and I love being in such close walking distance to Berkeley Bowl (and decent walking distance to Shattuck businesses, the central library, numerous tot parks, etc.). That said, I do head north whenever I'm just out for a walk, to get to nicer neighborhoods, rather than head south. Twice since we've moved in, drug dealers have set up for a few weeks on our block. Then something happens (an arrest or a drive-by shooting), and they move their activities elsewhere. There have been two drive-by shootings on/near our block that I know of, including in the daytime. Luckily no one was hit in these instances. I guess it should freak me out more than it does; maybe I just feel unjustly safe. One time I came home around noon, and the police had blockaded my block, and wouldn't let me go home. When I came back a few hours later, they were gone. I never did find out what that instance was about. Our front and back yards are fenced in, and I'm comfortable letting my toddler play in either, with monitoring through an open door/window. In terms of parks, I'm often put off by the vibes and grunginess at Grove Park, but there are other great tot parks in walking distance: San Pablo Park, Acton Park, and further away but still walkable when I'm in the mood: Totland, Hearst Park, Willard Park. I would certainly have loved to find a nice house we could afford in a neighborhood further north, even by just a few blocks, but in general, I don't regret our choice to buy our house here in South Berkeley. Mostly content on the south side

We live 3 blocks north of Grove Park and think that this is a great neighborhood. Somebody broke our car window back in May, but we have not seen any ''threatening'' crime and feel safe at all hours. Of course, our reference point is West Philadelphia, where we lived for 7 years previously, but the truth is that crime is just not very common. happy in South Berkeley

We bought a house in South Berkeley 2 1/2 years ago. There are things I love and things I'd like to improve. I love my neighbors and there's a lot of kids. In fact, my husband and I are expecting in February, as are two other families on our block. It's not the quietest neighborhood but not the most dangerous either. I don't go for walks at night but I feel safe being home. If you'd like to talk more feel free to email me.

In addition to whatever advice you get here, and checking crime stats on the police department's web page, you should also consider driving or walking around the parts of Berkeley tha you are interested in and seeing if you feel comfortable there. You can park your car and stroll to a park or the library. Go to a grocery store or the pharmacy. Check it out on weekdays and weekends. At mid-day, commute time and in evenings. If you walk around with your child in a stroller and go to local playgorunds, I'm sure you can meet folks and ask them what they like about their neighborhood. Hope you like it! Mom

Hi! We live on Grant St, a few blocks north of Grove Park. I am not sure where exactly ''South Berkeley'' begins but some people refer to Dwight Street as the border line. Before we moved to this part of town (from the city) we did an extensive research about the living quality and safety in this neighborhood, called police for their opinion about gang activities and checked crime rates online. The fact is that crimes happen everywhere (if in North Berkeley, Hills or South Berkeley) but that the number of crimes are a little higher the closer you get to Oakland (it can also change from block to block - just like it does in some parts of San Francisco). When we looked at houses we always tried to talk to neighbors, looked at surrounding houses and what condition they were in (taken care of, neglected, etc.). This gave us a pretty good idea about the people living there. While house hunting we even drove through the neighborhood at night to see what was going on after dark. Th! e street we live in is quiet and with mostly older residents who warmly welcomed us and our two little kids who I take to the Grove Park on a regular basis. I have never met unfriendly people or had safety concerns since we moved here. However, I think it depends on ''how far south'' you are looking to live and I'd recommend you to do your own research about the street you are planning on living (check out for crime statistic but make sure you compare that other parts of the town show similar incidents). Hope this helps! South Berkeley resident

South Berkeley isn't just one neighborhood but many. South Berkeley includes the area south of Dwight Way to the Oakland border between Fulton and San Pablo. In that area, there are alot of differences in density, home ownership, income/education, access to amenities such as parks and schools, crime (including prostitution), etc. I will say that very few neighborhoods, if any, are actually dangerous, but have varying degrees of quality of life issues, perhaps some blocks or individual houses with drug problems, sometimes but rarely violence along corridors usually well known by natives. I live in the San Pablo Park Neighborhood and feel VERY safe. The City takes amazing care of the park that has tennis and basketball courts, ball fields, playground/tot lot, BBQ/picnic areas, grassy areas, and a recreation center. There's a small produce stand on Tuesdays/Wednesdays as well. The park is well used by diverse groups - white yuppies with toddlers at the tot lot, mostly Lati! no soccer players, mostly black large birthday BBQ's complete with jump houses, athletic leagues including being the practice field for the high school baseball team, and lots of dog walkers and joggers of all ethnicities/classes. Housing is virtually all single family housing - mostly ownership. I feel safe coming home late at night, going to the park during the day (and letting my kids go with friends at age 8 and up), and never lock my door during the day. The park's head gardener and our postman live in the neighbhorhood. Downside? Some prostitution on San Pablo Avenue that creeps into the neighborhood (used condoms in the gutters on occasion)and on some blocks (no more on ours thankfully) a house that has problemmatic residents. Nowhere enough to impact the entire neighborhood but maybe makes that particular block less than ideal (noisy weekends, maybe some fairly low key drug dealing, rudeness). Actually most of South Berkeley is like this, though common wisdom! is that South Berkeley south of Ashby as well as along the California Street corridor around Ward/Russell has the most problems.

To be within your comfort zone, get a sense of how well taken care front yards are (and do you see neighbors working on their yards on the weekends?), see if kids are playing outside, visit a night (especially on weekends) and TALK to your future neighbors. Also, door/window grills aren't necessary a sign of problems (unless EVERY HOUSE is barricaded to the the hilt with security alarms!!) And a certain amount of hanging out is to be expected when houses/apartments are small and possibly shared with multi-generations. Love South Berkeley

I live in the flatlands of Deep East Oakland and have NEVER seen drug dealing, drive-bys or police cordons on our block or on the surrounding blocks. General neighborhood reputations are not entirely accurate, you really have to do a bunch of research about a place to best determine what it would really be like for you to live there. And, of course, places can change with time. Happy Avenues Dweller

You can easily find out how safe various areas in Berkeley are. Simply go to the Berkeley City website, Community Crime View page. Follow the directions, that include typing in an address or just the street & cross street. You'll learn exactly what the crime is in an area. Good luck with your move. Debbie

Late last winter, friends of mine who live in North Oakland very close to the South Berkeley border were babysitting for other friends' two young kids (1.5 and 5 at the time)on a weekday afternoon. They took them to a park right on the Berkeley border (Bushrod?) and were robbed at gunpoint. It was a terrifying experience: the man with the gun even threatened outright to ''Smoke'' the ''whole family.'' Luckily, they were able to get away relatively unscathed. I believe they were later told that there is considerable rivalry among South Berkeley and North Oakland gangs, and that the perpetrators had perhaps come from Berkeley, scoping out the park. KAW

I wanted to reply to the question as to whether South Berkeley is safe. Last winter, a couple babysitting two kids were held up at gunpoint in S. Berkeley/N. Oakland at Dover St Park on 57th and Dover in North Oakland and, being a part of that community, shocked us all. Things like that do not happen very often around here, but I will say that what it did do was to organize our community into action. That incident prompted the neighborhood to begin having monthly meetings at the park, lobbying for more police interaction and protection, and started a connection between neighbors that has had a huge impact on our neighborhood and the issues we are addressing. We live here with our two kids, and love our house, our neighbors, the location and feel safe. But stuff happens everywhere and that is why we are working hard to make sure our neighborhood stays safe and friendly. Email me if you have questions. Samantha