Living in the Berkeley Hills
We had a hard time finding coverage for our Berkeley Hills home when we bought in 2019. I scoured a bunch of websites and found Geico and State Farm were the only majors willing to cover our address. I ended up working with Frank Bliss's office in Albany to get the whole kit-and-caboodle (Home, Earthquake, Car & Umbrella) including Fire insurance. My understanding is insurers manage their risk on a block-by-block basis so I think you'll either need an independent agent who can shop for you OR do what I did, and spend 1/2 a day calling around different insurers. Good luck!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Feeling isolated in the Berkeley Hills - walkable parks in other areas?
- General Reviews of the Berkeley Hills
- Park Hills area near Grizzly Peak and Tilden Park
- Berkeley Hills vs. Oakland Hills
We live in the Berkeley hills with two young boys (not yet in school) but feel kind of isolated. We see friends at the park, but are missing a more walkable community and a closer connection with our neighbors - many outings require we hop in the car first. Our neighbors seem the same way. There are a couple other young kids on our block, but they are mainly friends with their schoolmates. Starting a preliminary house-hunt, with a strong interest in good schools and wanted to get a feeling for other neighborhoods. Visiting parks and playgrounds seems like a good start. Can anyone recommend good parks or outings for pre-K kids in - Piedmont - Albany - Alameda - Marin
Thanks! wanting to be walking!
Dracena Park in Piedmont is fantastic - sand, water play, climbing, swings, slide, big grassy area to run around in. It seems to be a big neighborhood hangout - we don't live near it, but there are always families picnicking, playdates happening, nannies hanging out, etc. Park Hopper
Memorial Park in Albany is wonderful. There is a bigger play structure for older kids and a fenced-in tot lot for younger kids. There are always other kids to play with, but not so many that it is crowded or overrun. In addition to the play structures, there is a great lawn for picnicking and the brand new Albany Aquatic Center is right next door. Albany is a great place to raise school-aged kids and you can guarantee that elementary school, middle school, and high school are all within walking distance from anywhere in the city because it's so small. The Albany Bulb is a nice short hike along the water with interesting art pieces, right next to the horse track, which kids may enjoy as well. Crown Beach/Crab Cove in Alameda makes for a great family outing on a warm day, and we love Miller Knox Park as well (in Richmond just past Albany, an underutilized gem). Maya
I'm an Albany mom who loves walking to our neighborhood parks. They're more simple than spectacular, but they're definitely an important part of Albany's strong community feel and friendly neighborhoods. The playgrounds at Memorial Park and Terrace Park are favorites for young kids, plus the Tot Lot for the really little ones. There's a list of all of Albany's parks, with location/directions and a blurb about each, on the city's website, here: http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=473 Also, many Albany residents frequent Thousand Oaks Park and Adventure Playground in Berkeley. The former is within walking distance of much of Albany, and the latter, while a bit farther away (and best for grade school age kids), is special enough to be well worth the trip. Happy househunting! Holly
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!
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
I have a toddler and I think living in the hills is amazing! We go to so many beautiful parks up here (Cordonices, Glendale LaLoma, Dorothy Bolte)and you can't beat being so close to Tilden and all that it offers (Little Farm, Lake Anza, the carousel, the steam trains)as well as great hiking and picnic spots. We frequently meet friendly parents of young kids who are hoping to connect ''way up here''. There are a lot of young families moving into the hills, and this becomes very obvious once you go to the parks. I've never felt isolated. Sure, it takes me ten minutes to get down the hill -- doesn't seem like much when the drive is so lovely. anon
My husband and I are expecting our first baby and trying to decide whether to buy a house in the Berkeley Hills, specifically the Park Hills area near Grizzly Peak and Tilden Park. We want to know whether there are many other families with young children up in that area, and how isolated we might feel living there. For example, how limiting will it be to have to drive down the hill to get to most toddler parks and to shop? Will our child have potential playmates nearby or feel alone? On the positive side, we can have a larger yard and more interior space in the hills than we find in houses nearer to commercial areas. Thank you for any feedback or advice! Rachel
My husband and I purchased a home in the Berkeley Hills about a year and a half ago, a unique fixer with a nice large yard with a view which was important to us. We are SF transplants so we were unsure how the ''quiet life'' would affect us. We are also expecting our first child in the next two weeks. The population is a bit older in the hills but there are still plenty of kids around, so I'm not worried about finding playmates. Driving down to shop hasn't been an issue since everything you need is at the foot of the hill, there is also a great organic farmer's market on Thursday afternoons in N Berkeley, great for homemade baby food! Driving back up to the solitude of the hills is very rewarding.
soon to be Berkeley Hills mom
We live in the Berkeley Hills in the area you mention, and have a toddler, as well. The advantages and disadvantages are exactly as you describe. I'll elaborate.
There's a great deal of natural beauty we've partaken of: hikes you can backpack a baby on, and the Little Farm, Steam Train and Merry-go-round for when your baby is a little older. On the other hand, there's no cafe or grocery store within walking distance though the row of shops on Monterey has a butcher, a grocery store, a cafe, a liquor store, a gourmet deli, the best pizza parlor ever (Gioia's), a bakery and more.
Dorothy Boalt park on Spruce Street is walking distance from the entrance to Tilden Park, and I have met other families there, though no one we've kept in touch with steadily.
There is another park at the top of Cedar (not really walking distance but close) that's usually fairly sparsely populated. Totland at Virginia and McGee, 3 blocks north of Sacramento, is a 10 1 drive. I find in general the distance is more psychological/energetic than actual.
The culture up here is a whole other ball game. There are some friendly folks to be sure, and there are also folks who are surprisingly uptight, circumspect and not so friendly. I say surprisingly because I had this stereotype that living in Berkeley folks would generally be more laid-back and open.
It's a mostly-white, pretty darn wealthy area, and MNSHO is that once folks sink this kind of money into a house, they want to protect their boundaries, privacy, etc., and focus on the nest is much higher priority than making connections with neighbors. Though when I lost my cat and posted flyers, I was heartwarmed at the outpouring of caring, so I know it's out there!
Also, I have noticed that parents of older kids who are around the same age tend to connect by default because their kids play together on their own initiative.
I think it wouldn't take much (posting a few signs, announcing it here, for example) to get together families in the area at Dorothy Boalt some weekend morning, I'll bet others are hungry for it just like we are.
Re: Living in Sequoyah Hills/Heights
I think that if you are considering moving to Sequoyah Hills/Heights, but fear you won't have anything enriching nearby (restaurants, cultural opportunities, parks, etc.), and you're worried about the schools, why don't you consider moving to the Berkeley Hills? I'm near Grizzly Peak and Marin Ave. and I love it! I'm minutes away from Tilden Park, fabulous Fourth Street, the wonderful shops and restaurants on Solano Avenue, and the public schools aren't bad. There are several private schools in Berkeley that may suit your needs if you don't care for the public ones. The closest elementary school to me is Cragmont, near the top of Marin Ave. The North Berkeley BART station is just an 8-minute drive down the hill from me. If you can afford to move to Sequoyah Hills, you can afford to move to the Berkeley Hills. 3-bedroom homes in this area range from $850,000 to $1.5 million. We have spectacular views of the bay. Something to consider. (Oh, and Sequoyah is spelled that way possibly because of a Native American tribe, not the tree.)
Happy Berkeley Hills resident