Advice about Living in Castro Valley

Parent Q&A

  • Kid-friendly suburbs - moving from San Francisco

    (9 replies)

    We live in San Francisco but are thinking of moving to the suburbs as our son gets older. We are really looking for a suburb where kids play on the streets and bike to each others houses. Does that still exist? Where are we most likely to find it? Money isn't really and issue. We are thinking perhaps Orinda in the east or Hillsborough on the peninsula. Either would work for our commute. We would love some advice. Thanks. 

    Albany is another good one, kids are pretty much free-range around Albany Memorial Park from the age of 9 or 10.

    My son goes to school in Danville, and the kids there have a ton of freedom (in a good way). Several of my friends have moved to Castro Valley recently, and have encountered the awesome environment you described, but if money is no object, you may not like it (it's cheaper and less charming than the areas you mentioned). Living on a cul-de-sac is key, wherever you choose.

    Orinda is a great community with wonderful schools and lots of families but I wouldn't describe it as somewhere kids bike and play in the streets.   Frankly the lots are too large and spaced out and the roads are not pedestrian or child friendly.  It is a very car-centric community.  In the LaMorinda area your best bets for that are in Lafayette (the ranch homes near downtown and perhaps Upper Happy Valley).  

    I have friends in Hillsborough and it is another great community with great schools and lots of families.  That's said the families are typically very wealthy and the community politics can get a little too Desperate Housewives for some.  Whether kids play in the streets or not likely depends on the specifics of your neighborhood but the few families I know there tend to stick to themselves and their yards.   

    Two neighborhoods you haven't mentioned:

    Piedmont - some parts, particularly near the parks, can give you this old time, family friendly vibe.  Also good public schools. 

    Alameda - people overlook this one.  I know we did when considering where to buy.  But the East End and Gold Coast fit this description to a tee.  Kids run in packs, roam free at the local parks, parents practice "free range" parenting without the worry someone will call CPS If your kid walks to the corner market alone, families bike together on the streets, to the beach, to the local wineries, etc.   Alameda is home to many ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds which is good for kids and was an important factor in our decision. The homes are more affordable, you can commute by ferry to SF and you are minutes from Oakland and Berkeley's great restaurant scene (also true of Piedmont).  

    Best of luck in your decision!


    We moved from San Francisco to Berkeley nine years ago when our children were 11 and 6. Maybe it's less of a suburb than you're thinking of, but my son shoots baskets on the street in front of our house and has been walking around the city and traveling by public bus since he started middle school. I was a reluctant transplant - loved the city - but life here is much more family oriented. Parents are very involved in the schools and there are lots of things for kids to do. 

    We don't have school-aged kids yet (first child due to arrive any day now :)), but we can speak quite highly of West Contra Costa County; we moved to Pinole almost 3 years ago and there seems to be quite a strong community of families here. We frequently see kids playing in each others' yards, and there are also a lot of public play spaces like parks and sports fields that are always well-used without being too crowded. For older kids, the city's pretty bikable although a bit hilly. The city's also very clearly putting in an effort to make itself more "community-friendly"; there is a winter holiday festival, a 4th of July parade and other activities that are increasingly well-attended. And both the houses and general cost of living are cheaper than you'd find in the eastern part of the county, and the temperature swings are not nearly as crazy either :)

    I know what you mean.  I grew up in Oakland hills and Berkeley and we played in the streets, rode bikes everywhere.  One of the "kids" I grew up with years ago just sent me a letter saying how much fun she had in those days.  In Oakland there would be 5  to 10 kids all playing together in the street.   I think times have changed and that's defiantly something that's rare in Orinda.  The streets are narrow, cars drive fast, lots of hills and few sidewalks.  Downtown is only 2 blocks long and it's filled with real estate offices.  Kids are too busy with organized sports, hanging out at the country club or  involved in  other activities.  There is an occasional lemonade stand on the corner.

    You might want to take a look in Santa Cruz.  I've been taking my daughters there for basketball and volleyball games for a couple of years and I see kids riding bikes and playing together in the yards and in the street. 

    Good luck finding a Disneyland Main Street USA in the US.

    We love living in Lafayette, and my kids play out front all the time. We live on a flat street with the cul-de-sac, and my son spends hours outside kicking a ball, shooting baskets, playing with the neighbors, riding bikes etc. I love this old-fashion childhood in the safe town. 

     When we were looking, we were considering both Orinda and Lafayette (Moraga is another good option, but my husband thought the commute was too far ). I found that Orinda didn't have many flat streets, as it has more hills. There are hilly part of Lafayette as well, but there are also many areas with flat streets and plenty of kids outside! We also live near the trail, which is very convenient. We can walk to school and to town. 

    I have friends who live all around the bay area, and many are envious of our neighborhood. I pinch myself every day and feel grateful to live in such a wonderful spot. 

    Good luck with your search, and moving to the suburbs can be a great decision. 

    I have friends in all types of neighborhoods. I see kids playing outside in Alameda and Pleasanton. Once you get into the more exclusive neighborhoods, you don't see the same freedom of movement.

    Orinda particularly the Ivy Drive and Glorietta neighborhoods.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

2008 - 2014 Recommendations

Moving to Castro Valley

April 2014

My husband and I are considering a move to Castro Valley after I was recently assualted, 6.5 year old in tow, in El Cerrito (Carlson and Central). We would I have read the recent reviews and noticed that one poster mentioned that only some areas of CV are served by the CV school district. Does anyone know which neighborhoods are in the CV school district? We have 3 kids and the higher quality of CV schools is important to us. Also, does anyone have information about kids' sports in that area. One of my sons is seriously involved in baseball, and my 6.5 year old daughter has done local rec. soccer and softball. Finally, are there opportunities for kids' arts activities and other free family activities? We often take my other son to kids' art workshops at the Albany library and other venues like the Richmond Art Center. anon

Castro Valley is not as dynamic or diverse as Berkeley/Albany, but people are very happy with the schools and sports there. Castro Valley Blvd. is the general dividing line between the Hayward and Castro Valley school districts. You want to live on the Lake Chabot side, not the Trader Joe's side (I think that's the North side, but I'm not sure). If you are dead set on sending your kids to CV schools, don't even look at houses on the other side (they will be cheaper) and call the CV school district to ask about the address before putting an offer on a place. They should also be able to explain how to enroll new students (never too early to find out), because some neighborhood schools are impacted which complicates things. It's ridiculous how many people buy a home in CV and claim not to know that they are actually in the Hayward school district until it is too late, so to be safe, double check whatever the realtor says with the school district. For what it's worth, the Hayward schools are not nearly as bad as what people say, but that's neither here nor there.

Castro Valley Soccer Club has a rec program and a competitive program and there are two strong baseball leagues in CV; CVI (Castro Valley Independent Sports League) and Little League. CVI also offers flag football and maybe Pop Warner, too - I'm not sure. We know several CV kids who run track and I'm sure there is a swim team somewhere if you want more variety. Happy hunting

A Move to Castro Valley?

Aug 2013

We are looking to move next year to a house that is close to desirable schools, and have heard good things about Castro Valley. Having only ever lived in Oakland and Berkeley, and having never travelled into Castro Valley, I'd like to hear from current/past residents (or people who considered living there but decided not to) about the pros and cons of the city. While the schools are important to us, i also want to make sure that my husband and i will find our groove there, too. We are city slickers, but also really like the smallish-town feel of places like alameda for raising kids (unfortunately, we are priced out of that area right now). To castro valley or not?

My family moved to Castro Valley a year ago, for many reasons: schools, affordability, location. And we like it. It's relatively diverse for a suburb, people are friendly, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of the competitive parenting that I see in Berkeley. However, there are definitely downsides. The restaurant situation is pretty dire. There are good casual places, including decent mainstream ethnic food (Thai, Chinese, Indian, Mexican), but there is no upscale dining. The retail situation isn't much better, and we usually find ourselves going to Bayfair or Hayward if we have a lot of errands to run.

That said, there are some very pretty areas. It's worth going to Lake Chabot and spending some time driving around CV to get a feel for it. Mostly Happy in Castro Valley

We just moved to Castro Valley from Richmond after considering a number of different communities in the area. We chose Castro Valley because we thought it offers the best compromise between the different factors we find important.

Pros: excellent public schools with smaller class sizes than our previous WestCoCo school, decent social and economic diversity (not as good as Berkeley, but much better than lamorinda), larger houses, larger yards, good access to recreation at parks and through HARD, no refineries or industrial pollution, warm weather (but not too hot), some ethnic restaurants, one small health food store, easy BART and freeway access

Cons: downtown has less character/ awesomeness than you find in Berkeley/Oakland neighborhoods. And while there is a OK diversity here, the different groups seem more cliquey than in Berkeley. But the absence of random street performers/ hipsters/ street vendors makes me feel like I am the most liberal person around instead of just the relatively moderate person I felt like before. like my new hood

Moving to Castro Valley from Oakland

Oct 2012

Hi everyone, We are considering buying a house in Castro Valley, and would love some opinions from anyone who lives there. I work there, so I know the area pretty well, but I have the feeling it is not as progressive as I'd like. Does is feel too suburban to you? The schools are reportedly good, but obviously test scores don't mean everything... Does anyone have experience with the GATE program in the CVUSD? Any thoughts are appreciated... Possible suburbanite

I am an Oakland to CV transplant, over 6 years ago now. We knew very little about this place when we moved; it was geographically convenient for our jobs and childcare at the time. Now it's home. Here's my take:

Castro Valley is a nice town, as in cookies and lemonade on the day we moved in kind of nice. My husband and I have lived on all sides of the Bay Area, from SF to SJ, and we've never experienced genuine neighborliness as we have here. This extends to the schools as well, and, besides quality teachers, is one of the reasons the schools are so excellent. Parents are supportive, active, and generally very welcoming.

Yes, you will find more diversity of thought here than you have in Oakland. (Local lore says that there are kids at the high school who wear cowboy boots not because it is cool, but because their parents own ranches and they are, for lack of a better term, actual cowboys. We are talking about real differences here, not ideological ones.) Having loved Berkeley and Oakland and left, I appreciate now just how uniform a place Berkeley is....We like to think that a liberal mindset is a tolerant mindset, but it's awfully easy to be tolerant when everyone thinks the same way you do. Tolerance means nothing until it meets difference. That said, I have found more like-minded people than not here, and I have never felt threatened or isolated because of my (very liberal) beliefs.

Castro Valley does have a population of more conservative people, however. They are primarily older, primarily out of the school system. My experience has been that libertarianism is more prominent than republicanism, if you need a term for it. If I had to guess, I'd say that it is a declining group rather than a growing one. I have met more Oakland/Berkeley transplants in my time here than any other group of people.

If I have any complaints, they are these two. One: We are unincorporated, so we have no mayor, no police (CHP and the Alameda County Sheriff police us), no city in the formal sense. No one to complain to except county officials who are busy with the entire Alameda County as well as us. So we have parts of town without sidewalks and some crazy building configurations thanks to (as far as I can tell) lack of oversight. More importantly, though, this means that there is no one out there advocating for us, encouraging businesses to move in and thinking about the future of the community. (Yes, there is a municipal council who works on this but the difference between that and an actual elected council is clear.) Compounding this problems is #2: Oakland and Berkeley are so close that all of us transplants can commute to the great restaurants, bookstores, and shops we used to live near. My husband and I can get to a great indie flick on Shattuck in less than half an hour, and I have friends who drive all the way to Oakland for Chinese food on a regular week night. We don't advocate for our town because it is still so convenient to get great things close by--just not here. I think it is a bigger barrier to positive growth than many people imagine. We are going through a major overhaul of our downtown district, and it remains to be seen whether this brings improvement on the business front.

In the end, I'm happy I'm here. I don't regret this move. I do sometimes miss being in a more urban center, but many are very close when a trip to the theater or a nice dinner is in order. Overall, Castro Valley is a very nice place to live, nicer than a lot of people give it credit for. Don't come for the food.

Editor: a review was also received for San Ramon

Sept 2012

Re: Pleasant Hill - should we move to the burbs?
I don't know much about Pleasant Hill, or why you are considering this particular town, but if you are looking for a suburban town in the east bay with excellent schools and liberal, vegetarian open- minded families, you should consider Castro Valley. We moved here several years ago with the same reservations. I'm originally from San Francisco and didn't know a thing about Castro Valley except that the public schools were highly rated. Surprisingly, I have met many other families who share the same liberal views. Most of them have moved here for the schools and the reasonably priced homes. My child attends a wonderful public school and we have been very pleased with the level of his education and overall experience. Castro Valley is currently undergoing a big renovation of their downtown and main boulevard. I think the town is trying to be more pedestrian friendly and encourage new business to come. The only negative I have about this town is that they need more restaurants. But Oakland isn't too far away. And we do have a Trader Joes and nice little Farmers Market in the BART parking lot on Saturday mornings. CV mom

August 2012

Re: Affordable area (low $300k's) with good school district
I'm sorry I didn't see your original question, so I don't know what your other criteria were - such as commute distance, or diversity of various types. Also, what's affordable to one family may be out of reach for another. That said, I will mention that when browsing around, Castro Valley seems to have highly rated schools and is much cheaper for what you get than Berkeley.

Moving to Castro valley or San leandro

July 2012

I've been in Oakland (in the middle of the lake, piedmont and temescal area) for 3 years and we are looking to move and purchase a home in a nearby city. Prior to Oakland, I lived in SF for twelve years. I'm feeling sad to leave Oakland and move to the burbs, but we have a child now and its important to be in a safer area than we are now. It would also be dreamy for our child to attend her school of residence rather than have to win the lotto to get into a decent school. Does anyone live or know someone who lives in nearby cities? I'm hoping to hang out in these places more and get a feel for them-thinking lunch, coffee, visit parks... I was wondering if anyone has any hints of areas to hang in. Also our budget is tight so we are looking for houses around 300,000. Fancy, dreamy, hillside neighborhoods are out. 8( Sad to leave!

I lived in San Leandro for 12 years and now live in Castro Valley. I would recommend Castro Valley over San Leandro simply because of the schools. But be aware that some parts of Castro Valley is in the Hayward School District. Great places to hang in Castro Valley: Chabot Park, Cull Canyon, Castro Valley Community Center Park (with a splash pad), Pee Wee Golf, the new library, Peets, Trader Joe's, the Village Shopping Center (Starbucks, Llord's Ice Cream, Lime Leaf Thai, bowling), and the Farmers Market. Unfortunately, Castro Valley Blvd. (the main strip) is being renovated, so it is a mess. It should be better soon. Happy in CV

May 2009

My husband and I are seriously considering moving to Castro Valley. We currently live in Oakland and he works in CV, and it seems that you get 'more for your money' out there, as well as better schools. I'd like to hear your opinion of CV and what areas are good/nice/better than others. If you are an Oakland/Berkeley transplant, what do you miss? Mom of three

Here is a good overview: Anon

Hi! We just moved from North Berkeley where we walked EVERYWHERE to Castro Valley about a month ago and love it. We chose a location about 8 blocks from downtown, and have been surprised how much walking we are still able to do.

What I love about Castro Valley
1. Good schools & Very kids friendly (lots of activities). With all the budget cuts it appears the community is really pulling together to keep the quality of schools strong.
2. Friendly people. Within the 3 weeks we've lived here, people seem so willing to help you, Say Hi and get to know you.
3. Safety. We walk a lot, and never once have I felt my safety compromised, even at 9-10 PM. A lot of people leave their front doors open, kids play in the front yard, etc.
4. House prices are much more afordable than Berkeley.
5. Depending on where you live you can keep part of the Berkeley walking lifestyle.
6. Really nice parks/rec activities, even beyond Lake Chabot
7. Location: You are close to BART, and have easy access to most of the bay area. When we lived in Berkeley we spent almost all our time in Berkeley/SF. We aren't a long drive from Oakland/Berkeley, but find ourselves beginning to explore other areas of the bay.
8. Farmers Market (though not the same as Berkeley), they have one at the CV Bart station.

What I miss about Berkeley
1. Quality of the sidewalks. Castro Valley is walkable, but it will take you a little bit to figure out which streets have the best sidewalks (if you still have kids in strollers). Sometimes the sidewalk pavement will slope, other times there will be a house with just dirt/gravel instead of a sidewalk. Not a big deal if you have kids that walk, but with a little one it takes a little longer to figure out the system. Definitely walkable, you just need to figure out the system.
2. All the great eats at great prices. I've heard this from most people who move out of the Oakland/Berkeley area, regardless of city. There's a bunch of restaurants with decent food, but I miss the great food at a great price that you can find in Berkeley.
3. Plethora of organic produce & stores. (i.e. Produce Center/Berkeley Bowl/Monterrey Market). You can find organic produce in the Safeway's/PW's etc., but it's not the same quality or the same consistency/variety. I haven't fully explored the area, but the only place that sells organic within walking distance of us is Safeway
4. Uniqueness of Berkeley. There's nothing like walking through the streets of Berkeley, with all the different houses, beautiful landscapes, people watching, can take a walk into the hills to see views of SF/Bay, or a walk onto campus. It's what makes Berkeley Bekeley. CV is nice, but not the same. Regardless, we are very happy we chose CV. Loving Castro Valley

April 2008

We live on the Berkeley/Emeryville border & love it. We are looking to buy a home and can't afford this area. We could afford Oakland, Richmond or Castro Valley. Our question is, has anyone moved from the Berkeley area (who loved it) and liked Castro Valley? We have one child and one on the way, so schools matter. We're just afraid that we won't like or fit in in Castro Valley. Is it progressive, are there good restaurants, organic food, etc??? We know the schools are better there than Oakland & Richmond. Thanks! looking for our home

Prior to getting married, my husband lived in Berkeley for many years, and my husband and I owned a home in Oakland for three years. We loved it there. A baby, our south bay and bridge commutes, and our mortgage drove us out, and we moved to Castro Valley two years ago.

The harsh realities of life in Castro Valley: There are very few restaurants (some would say none). There is little cultural life. The whole town is only 14 square miles, and it is a ''town''--it is unincorporated, which means services are county-wide (we are policed by Alameda County Sheriffs and the CA Highway Patrol, for example), not city-run, and therefore are sometimes stretched past local needs. The downtown strip is just a few blocks long, and while there is promise of renovation, very little progress has been made. The empty, dilapidated grocery center down the street from our house has stayed that way since we arrived, despite the apparent appeal of the location for an organic or other small grocery. Yes, you will miss the vibrant diversity of life in a large urban city.

The surprises: There are lots of us here! I have met more Oakland/Berkeley transplants than locals or transplants from any other place. There are progressive politics. The mother's club is wonderful, especially for new arrivals--they set up playgroups, babysitting co-ops, mom's nights out, welcoming events, kids' events, and have guest speakers at monthly meetings, including a recent one on green living. (If you do decide to move here, I highly recommend contacting them, They are a mini-BPN.

We have a Trader Joe's. We have a locally owned grocery that is not exclusively organic but carries many organic products. We have a local farmer's market in the summer. We walk to Lake Chabot almost every day for a walk or a hike or a bike ride. People fish and barbecue and socialize together. There is a certain gravity to the place.

Before and after we married, my husband and I, between us, lived in the South Bay, the East Bay, the North Bay, and the Peninsula. One thing that we agree on is that Castro Valley has been one of the friendliest places we have ever moved to. Within a month of moving in, we had met our closest neighbors and had a barbecue thrown for us so we could meet some of the other families with young kids who live nearby. No one asked us if we were Democrats or Republicans or Jews or Christians before they accepted us as neighbors. That in itself has gone a long way to making this more of a home than we imagined it would be.

Also love Berkeley, and learning to like Castro Valley

2004 - 2007 Recommendations

2003 & Earlier

May 2003

Hi. I am looking ito relocating from Berkeley to Castro Valley and hopingto connect with some people who ar familiar with the neighborhoods and schools. My son will be entering middle school this fall. Anyone out there familiar with the middle and high school? I have read the other information on line, this is a re- post. Thanks, Carol

I live in Castro Valley and have two boys currently enrolled at Proctor Elementary. My oldest will be attending Creekside Middle School next year. In Castro Valley you can choose between two middle schools, Creekside or Canyon. We choose Creekside because it is the smaller school. I went to both orientations and was very impressed by Creekside. My boys have been in CVUSD since K, I think CV does a great job of running their schools. kmilo

April 2003

Re: East Bay neighborhood that's commutable, progressive & kid-friendly
We live in and really like Castro Valley. It's family friendly, there are community groups, I hear (my child is only 2 1/2) that the schools are good, it's small-ish but with all the essentials, well situated for either a BART or car commute to SF, also well situated for access to other cities such as Hayward/Union City, Oakland and Dublin/Pleasanton (I work in Oakland and my husband works in Dublin). Lake Chabot, which has hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicing and fishing, is just minutes from downtown. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions I might be able to answer. We're also relocating this coming June, but it has nothing to do with Castro Valley! Jennifer

I second the recommendation that Castro Valley is a nice place to live. I've lived in the Bay Area all my life, and as an adult bought my 1st and 2nd house in Castro Valley. CV is a smaller community and has a small town feel which is something I like. I understand public schools here are excellent. (Our CV renter tells us the CV public schools aren't affected by the budget cuts as much as other schools because CV is considered a Distinguished school. Someone correct me if this is wrong). Also, I've been told there is afterschool daycare/activities at the CV schools. There is a BART station in CV, and also close by in San Leandro where parking isn't a problem until about 9am (?). There are many hiking + bike trails and parks, such as at Lake Chabot. Horse stables are nearby too, and campsites at Lake Chabot. CV is centrally located to the freeways. If you are considering buying a house, you get more for your money in CV than say Albany or Berkeley. Same with renting. Feel free to email me if you have questions. hana

Jan 2003

My family is considering moving from Oakland to Castro Valley. We would like as much information as we can about quality of life there, the public school system, recreational activities, and the Bart commute to San Francisco. Thank you for whatever information you can provide.

I use to research test scores and class size of public schools. Good luck. Anon

We love Castro Valley. Have been living here for 3 1/2 years now.

My daughter is only 2 1/2 so I can't comment on the public schools personally, although I have heard good things about them (including talking to another mom who was wanting a way for her son to attend CV High even though they live in Hayward).

For outdoor recreation there are many parks in the area (Hayward Area Recreation District - HARD) and Lake Chabot is just minutes from the Boulevard (Castro Valley Blvd is the main drag through town). Lake Chabot has fishing, hicking, biking horseback riding and picnic areas.

Castro Valley has a little of almost everything IN TOWN, and then more stuff like shopping, dining and entertainment are just minutes away either up and down 880 or out in Dublin and Pleasanton. My husband works in Dublin so we personally prefer to go that direction.

Local Stuff includes: FAST FOOD - McDonalds, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Burger King, Togos, Subway, Chipotle, Carree Outee Chinese Food (actually really good), Rigatoni's, KFC and others. GROCERIES - Albertsons, Safeway, PW, Trader Joe's. SHOPPING - Castro Village has a Ross Dress for Less, Hallmark store a Walreens and many other shops. Next to Safeway is a Clothestime and Payless Shoe Source. Across Redwood Rd from there is a Radio Shack. Castro Valley also has a Longs and Rite Aide. DINING - there's family style such as Carrows, Bakers Square, El Rancho Steak House, Dino's Italian and Fong's Dang How. There are pizza places, delis and taquerias. There are also a few nice restaurants that I can't remember the names of except for The Crow's Tavern at the east end of the Boulevard. Have eaten there and it was good. MOVIES - There's Blockbuster and Hollywood and a 1 screen theater.
The BART station is very nice with lots of parking. I don't personally commute to/from SF, but have gone to SF on BART and I'd say it's fine. Getting on the train in CV will probably let you have a seat!

Other things to note: Castro Valley is really ideally located with other cities and their stuff just a short distance away. I think CV is safer than other Bay Area cities, definitely safer than Oakland. And I think it's actually pretty and even a little quant. There is also Eden Medical Center here which is Alameda County's trauma center, and we've found good doctors for all of us here. I don't drive and live at the west end of the Boulevard, yet everything I really need is within a mile to a mile and a half. That may not be the case for everyone, but most other people drive.

Honestly, I wish I could transplant Castro Valley to a location outside the Bay Area! Jennifer