Living in the Berkeley Flats

Archived Q&A and Reviews


General Reviews of the Berkeley Flats

June 2012

RE: Feeling isolated in the Berkeley Hills - walkable parks in other areas?

While I don't have specific playgrounds to try (except Totland--always a favorite of ours), I'd recommend the flats of Berkeley, too! Especially north Berkeley. The schools in Berkeley are really good, all the way from K to 12th. We, too, live in the hills, and often lament that despite losing the deer and having to deal with a bit more crime & traffic...we wish we lived down the hill. In Albany, the houses are smaller, closer together, and expensive, and the schools are good, if you have 'average' kids. Exceptional and underachieving kids do better in Berkeley, I've heard. Alameda is awesome, and does have some great parks... Piedmont has excellent schools but is very expensive. Ditto with Marin. Give Berkeley a chance!

Sept 2009

Re: Moving to Berkeley -- which neighborhood?
There are lots of great neighborhoods in Berkeley. If I could pick a house in the flatlands I'd go near Monterey market (easy to walk to totland, Hopkins track and pool and tennis courts). Not far from the gourmet ghetto, solano, downtown. I lived off university ave for ten years and loved the accessibility. Some neighborhoods have fewer drifters and appear to be cleaner than others. I lived south of university avenue and it was safe, but just seemed dirtier due to more pedestrian and car traffic. However, I'm now a hill mom and it's not bad. Lots of parks up here (codornices is huge) and we take the bus and walk a lot. Don't write off the hills, but stick to lower neighborhoods unless you want strong legs! Strong leg mo

.... we moved to Central Berkeley around high school (there's only one, so it doesn't really matter at that point as far as schools go). I'm really happy in central Berkeley, about 4 blocks west of downtown. Lots of stuff is accessible on foot and the streets are pretty and quiet.

Central Berkeley, Car-Free

January 2007

Re: Neighborhoods for car-free life with a toddler?
Check out Central Berkeley slightly east or west of MLK Ave, perhaps between Rose and Allston. Also check out Albany and El Cerrito, the area along Key Route/Ashbury/Central. Both of these areas have reasonablly priced rentals and you can walk to BART, shopping, parks, libraries.
-- Berkeley native living in El Cerrito for cleaner streets and lower rent

I think as long as you are north of Dwight, you are OK. I live near the Sacramento St./University Ave. intersection and we can walk to Andronico's, the stores all along University down to San Pablo (post office, library, Mexican market, etc.) and up to Cal, downtown (with post office, restaurants, shops, YMCA, etc.), several parks (Ohlone, Charlie Dorr, totland, etc.), the north Berkeley BART station, etc. I really like it here. I know people who live south of Dwight and it's more dangerous (drive-by shootings, etc.).
My two cents

We used to live in Central Berkeley (nr. Allston and McGee) and found it very walkable and toddler-friendly. Downtown is 10 minutes away, also Andronico's, and the Berkeley Bowl perhaps 20 mins. There is a nice little tot-lot on Roosevelt, one in the UC Development at Allston & California, Ohlone park on Hearst, and of course, Totland on McGee. We found the neighborhood safe, although there are high school students traveling Allston and the occasional homeless. Good luck, Anne

Living between Shattuck and Sacramento, University and Dwight December 2006

We are planning to move to Berkeley and are interested in the central Berkeley neighborhood (McKinley, Grant, etc., the area between Shattuck and Sacramento, University and Dwight). Is this a good neighborhood for kids? Is it too student orientated with the large apartment buildings? What neighborhoods in Berkeley do people recommend for kids? Elmwood? North Berkeley? Any information greatly appreciated .
Berkeley bound

Any place near a kids park in Berkeley is good, in my opinion. Steeper neighborhoods are way more difficult for kids learning how to ride bikes and scooters, also they are further away from stores and restaurants. The part of Berkeley you are talking about is (in my friends' opinions) great. Apparently it is gentrifying - which has resulting pluses and minuses. You are very near the big Saturday farmers' market that has an orgainc focus. There are some students there but the biggest undergrad concentration is around the College ave and Telegraph ave corridor. If one of you will work int he City you are near downtown berkley BART or the Sacramento Street busline for commutes to SF. Berkeley does not have neighborhood schools, but rather 3 zones with 3 to 4 elementary schools in each zone (Washington is in the neighborhood you are considering). Berkeley has 2 middle school zones (not same as elementary zones) with Longfellow as a non-zoned magnet school. Berkeley has one high school and it is in the neighborhood you are considering. For more specific info on zones and school assignment policies, call Francisco at the Parent Access Off ice at the Berkeley Unified School District and/or look on the web. I recommend that you get yourself to Berkeley on a weekday (without a kid in tow) and (preferably) get out and walk around a few neighborhoods in the morning, in mid day, at school dismissal time, and in the evening to get a feel for the neighborhoods. Try to be there on a typical day when both Cal and the public schools are in session. Stop by the police dept or check on line to get a feel for crime stats form neighborhood to neighborhood. Stop by playgorunds in differnt neighborhoods and chat up the parents (on weekends you'll get more representation form the full-time working parents). Welcome to Berkeley - it's a great town!
Berkeley Mom

I live in that area and love it! It's so close to everything. I hardly use my car, we walk everywhere! My daughter walks to Berkeley High, I walk to work in downtown Berkeley. There are parks and playgrounds nearby for the tots. I think it's a mixture of students and families, maybe more families or non-student households. It doesn't feel like southside for instance, where it's much more student-populated. It's a fairly ethnically diverse neighborhood. Washington and Arts Magent Elementary schools are nearby, and King or Longfellow aren't that far either. The Farmer's Market is close on Saturdays. The catholic church, synagogue, and police station are close, so you are safe on all fronts! Not sure what you are looking for in a neighborhood, but you couldn't get better than this!
happy where I'm at!

You would be most welcome to raise your kids in central Berkeley. Please join us! Moving to central Berkeley (bounded by Dwight, University, Sacramento, MLK) has been great for our family. Reasons? 1) Many great families with young children. 2) Level sidewalks with 'curb cuts' means easy stroller-walking, tricycle riding, jogging, etc. Channing is an established bike avenue. 3)Easy access to the 'J' and 'FS' transbay bus lines and BART. 4) 'Central zone' schools in BUSD are all good: Washington, Oxford, Cragmont, and Arts Magnet; plus Malcom X is great and nearby. 5) Easy weekend walks to the public library, farmer's markets, YMCA. 6) Many houses in this area have small front yards and big backyards, which means you have many chances to meet and greet your neighbors coming and going. 7) Walking distance to coffee at Trieste, breakfast at the Homemade Cafe, brunch at Venus, dinner at several good places, services on Shattuck. 8)A mix of ages, outlooks, and professions. 9) Relatively easy street parking. 10)Many excellent houses of worship are within walking distance. 11)If you contact BANANAS, you'll find many home daycare providers in this area (esp. in the streets immediately south of Dwight). The negatives are few, but some worth mentioning: 1)street parking on weekdays is overrun by Berkeley High School. Few houses here have garages, so this can be an issue. 2)Dwight and MLK are busy streets and can be hazardous. 3)As in any neighborhood, there are a few eccentrics who might cause you some problems. Before you purchase, chat with your prospective neighbors about any ongoing neighbor-to-neighbor conflicts on your street. Actually, I would advise that you have those conversations regardless of where you purchase. Caveat emptor....Hope to see you on my street someday soon!
Happy in Central Berkeley

We live in, and like the neighborhood around N. Berkeley BART -- San Pablo to Sacto; University to Cedar. Lots of families with kids are moving in; and we have easy access to the rest of Berkeley and to San Francisco. Great cafes at Acton and University, too.

We just bought a house in Central Berkeley on Grant St and are looking forward to raising our two sons (3.5 and 9 months) in the neighborhood we have decided for. We have two playgrounds in walking distance and were told that many families with kids live in the same/next block. Although we haven't moved and made new friends yet, we like the quiet street we will live in. I can see the kids playing in the front yard or on the side walk without worrying.
Mother in Central Berkeley

My husband and I moved to Central Berkeley in 1998. Since then we've had two children and plan to raise our kids in the house we bought there. I am a transplant from the East Coast, moving here in 1987, and I've lived in many Berkeley and near-Berkeley neighborhoods, Albany, Berkeley Hills, North Oakland, Elmwood. I really love Central Berkeley. It has an excellent public school, Washington, within walking distance and because it is so accessible there is a real community feeling there (see postings on Washington School in the archives). We easily walk to BART and commute to work that way. We walk to the YMCA, the Central Library, Habitot, and there is a tot lot on Roosevelt near Dwight Way. Teaching our kids to ride bikes is a no-brainer since it is flat where we live, and Washington has a big flat playground to practice on.

Our closest grocery store is the Berkeley Bowl, and although I do not ride my bike there many of my neighbors do (I need to do such a big shop I wouldn't ride anyway). We love bumping into neighbors and friends just walking in the street, there is a level of activity here that makes it feel very alive.

Downsides? Kids learn street smarts early around here, which you may see as a little sad, depending on how you look at it. This means to be aware of safety at night, being careful where you park your car, not allowing your kids to go to the neighbors unaccompanied. I am more of an urban person, and I value walkable public transit and neighborhood diversity, so I'm willing to give some of this up.
Happy near Downtown