Advice about Living in El Cerrito

Questions & Responses:
El Cerrito or San Leandro?(4 responses)
Next great *affordable* city/town/neighborhood? (9 responses)
Moving to Potrero ave El Cerrito from Berkeley ?(11 responses)
El Cerrito to St Helena Hospital (1 response)
Safety in El Cerrito(5 responses)
Archived Responses: 

June 2014

Re: Looking for a good neighborhood for my family
You should check out El Cerrito. Much closer to UC than Walnut Creek and San Leandro, and safer and cheaper than Emeryville. Don't know much about the schools in those areas but I think El Cerrito schools are pretty good- some better than others, of course (Madera is considered to be a great school, Harding and Fairmont both have good reputations, and parts of El Cerrito go to the adjacent town of Kensington, which I hear is excellent). We rent a 3 bdrm house with a great yard for less than $1800 (this is probably a little lower than the norm but I know of several others who also rent great houses for less than $2k). It's about 20min to UC driving through town. It's safe and very family friendly and has a small town feeling, which is cool. Main drawback is there are very few good restaurants around here! (It's the only thing I miss from our old neighborhood in N. Oakland.) anon

June 2014

Re: Looking for a good neighborhood for my family
I work on campus and live in El Cerrito, and it's a very family-friendly community (good schools*, great community center/pool) and a 20-25 minute surface street commute (plus there are two BART stations and buses) to campus, and you could probably rent a house for your budget. It can get a little boring here, but it's not too far from Berkeley and San Francisco. We have a few good restaurants, a farmer's market, an off- the-grid night, a movie theater that serves pizza and beer and first-run movies, and the best damn hardware store (Pastime).

(*All the k-6 schools are good, and your kid will be assigned to your neighborhood school; whatever Bay Area community you decide on, visit the school district website to check out the boundary maps. You can also check all California school statistics here: Good luck on your move

April 2014

Re: Moving from Marin to Where?

Hello, Sorry you haven't found your people in Marin. My husband and I felt similarly 10 years ago, except funnily the community we felt an urgent need to escape was Berkeley. We found the attitudes of people there ranged from hostile (like in the Berkeley Bowl parking lot) to unfriendly to indifferent. We also considered leaving the Bay Area, but work kept us here and we ended up in El Cerrito.

What a difference a few miles made. We always joke that EC isn't nice enough for people to be smug or pretentious. But for some reason, we found lots of friends in the EC/Richmond/San Pablo area. It's easy enough to commute from, and I never feel stressed out while shopping like I did in Berkeley. There is no traffic to speak of (except on the freeway, of course). There are parks galore and good hiking up in wildcat canyon.

The downside of El Cerrito is that many people do not find the schools up to snuff, so kids tend to go all over--to privates, parochial and charters, which reduces the sense of community with your neighbors.

Good luck! EC mom

What is it like to live in El Cerrito?

March 2013

We currently live in Oakland and really want to move since we've outgrown our tiny house and want to move to a safer neighborhood. We are considering El Cerrito, but I don't really know that much about it. It appears that the houses on the market are much more spacious and reasonably priced compared to the surrounding areas (Albany, Berkeley). I would love to hear from people that live in EC about your experiences - specifically in the following areas:

Crime - Are there any areas to avoid? Generally, do you feel safe living in EC? We are moving from Oakland, where armed robberies seem like a daily occurrence so really want to feel safe again.

Livability - since many of the homes in EC are up in the hills so do you have to get in your car to go everywhere? We really enjoy walking through our neighborhood to go to the store, parks, coffee shops, etc. and am not sure if this is possible in EC.

We do want our kids to go to public schools, so any input on neighborhoods and schools would be helpful too. Thank you!!!! Kelly

I have lived in El Cerrito near Moeser, below the Community Center for about 4 years. I previously lived in Thousand Oaks in Berkeley and Westbrae in Albany. In general I enjoy it. I walk around a lot, including in the evenings. I stay off the Ohlone Bikeway after dark or if walking alone. It has been unsafe for years. There are lots of tennis courts. I enjoy walking to the Contra Costa Community Theater and the El Cerrito Pool. I have kids and they especially like the pool. My three bedroom, one bath house has a driveway, and a large back garden, for $1550 a month (not including any utilities). I have been worrying more lately about crime in the area. We have been having what seems like lots of house break ins while people are at work. If we actually checked the stats, there is probably more crime in Oakland or Berkeley. The police are very on top of it here. The only public middle school is Portola and the El Cerrito High School which is fine (I formerly taught there). I think that the farther north you go, the more iffy the neighborhoods. I like neighborhoods up above Fat Apples and the cemetary. Also, from Moeser to Stockton above Pomona is nice.

We were also priced out of Berkeley and moved to El Cerrito instead. Our house, while not artsy or crafty or beautiful and charming like many Berkeley homes, is still very livable and much bigger than we could ever afford in Berkeley. We have a huge yard on a giant lot with fruit trees, and cannot see into any of our neighbor's houses. We basically live in our own little park. We would NEVER have been able to afford anything like it in Berkeley.

It is very safe here. We have accidentally left both our front door and our garage door open all day (more than once!) and nothing was stolen. We used to not lock our cars until one night when someone went through them and took a few things, but they have never been actively broken into. We walk around at night and feel totally safe. My kids walk to and from EC Plaza and BART all the time.

There are not any cute little shopping districts like in Berkeley or Oakland (Solano, Gourmet Ghetto, Rockridge, Montclair, etc). There is the EC Plaza and San Pablo Ave., but neither of those are particularly relaxing or strolling-friendly. We do most of our shopping, living and hanging out in Berkeley since it is so close by, but the El Cerrito Natural Food Store and Trader Joe's are great substitutes for Berkeley Bowl in a pinch. My kids travel very easily on BART now that they are teenagers, but I had to drive them most places when they were younger.

El Cerrito may still be in search of an identity, but it is a great value, very safe, and super accessible. --Come check us out!

We have lived in El Cerrito for ten years and have no plans to move any time soon. Words that come to mind to describe El Cerrito are 'serviceable' and 'unpretentious.' It's not glamorous, but it's friendly and low-stress as East Bay cities go.

Crime: I read on El Cerrito Patch about burglaries but in general I find it a safe place to live. The ECPD is very responsive and neighbors tend to look out for each other. I exercise caution when using the Ohlone Greenway under the BART tracks because parts of it are isolated, but I don't think there are any 'bad' neighborhoods here.

Liveability: Again, it's not glamorous. Retail experiences are largely charm-free (except the cute coffee shop on Stockton) but what they lack in charm they make up for in friendliness compared to Berkeley. Case in point, El Cerrito Natural Grocery... an easy, friendly, low-stress alternative to Whole Foods.

From my 'hood in the northern part of El Cerrito we can walk to the Del Norte Bart station, the new Planet Fitness gym, a number of restaurants on San Pablo. And parks... lots of parks. The abundance of nice, well-maintained parks is one of El Cerrito's strong points. I also appreciate the many enrichment activities my kids have access to very close by--no schlepping. Music lessons, martial arts, drama at CCCT, baseball and soccer are huge here. All close by. The pool is nice and the EC Rec. dept. offers many affordable summer camps and afterschool programs.

Schools: WCCUSD has a bad reputation, partially deserved, partially not. Schools here are underfunded compared to Berkeley and Albany but they all have strong PTAs. Most are either new buildings or soon to be rebuilt (Fairmont and Portola MS). Many families in my neighborhood avoid the local public school (Mira Vista, which is actually in East Richmond Heights) but our children go there and we have been mostly very happy, especially with the outstanding, caring teachers we've had so far.

Hope this helps, and good luck with your move. amy

I have owned a home in EC since 2009. Your questions are a little strange in that they would vary by neighborhood, obviously. Most of EC feels very safe; a couple parts I use extra caution in (around the Plaza, and DN BART). The police respond to every call (if you are from Oakland, you might appreciate that!) Most of EC is very walkable, except obviously, the hills. Before buying, just consider the access to parks, shops, etc. I walk daily to my kid's preschool, Trader Joe's, the library, BART, etc., but not everyone does as much as I do. There are some great preschools, and on the whole I suppose I like hte city's rec program offerings. I am not crazy about the local govt in general, but again, compared to Oakland...! The public schools vary; check the scores and GreatSchools. K info sessions are generally in Dec & Jan. I will say a lot of people go with private schools because the district overall does not have a great reputation evne though some dedicated parents are working very hard to change individual schools. Local Mom

HI Kelly, I think you would find places in El Cerrito where you will feel safe, get more space in a house and find some walkable neighborhoods. We have lived in El Cerrito and Kensington and like both and not had any encounters with crime-- only time my car was broken into was living in Albany near the BART tracks. A general rule of thumb in terms of safety is the more you move away from San Pablo Ave, the less likely you will encounter crime- but considering that your bar is set at 'daily armed robberies' then I think all of El Cerrito will feel safe to you. Pluses and minuses to consider-- some people like living near the Ohlone Greenway/bike path under the raised BART tracks because it is a great trail to ride bikes and run on- but there are sometimes undesirable activities encountered on that same trail (mostly teenager stuff). There are a lot of great parks within EC, so walking in your neighborhood will invariably get you to a park-- if you want to walk to stores & cafes, there are a few options like El Cerrito Plaza (has farmer's market), Kensington center (some of El Cerrito is close to Kensington border), Colusa Circle, FatApple's string of stores above EC PLaza on Fairmont Ave, etc.. If you don't want to be too high in the hills, then the St. Jerome's neighborhood of EC might be a good place to look.

We send our kids to the public schools- which are great, but like most places in the Bay Area, you will find a range of opinions as to what schools are 'good' or not and West COntra COsta Unified School District (school district for EC) gets a bad rap. My kids are high achievers and we've been happy to see the schools and teachers support them. Good luck in your search. anon

Honestly, I had never heard of El Cerrito until I moved into my house over 6 years ago. My husband and I were expecting our son and were constantly being priced out of Albany & Berkeley. We had been targeting neighborhoods that offered, parks, restaurants, cultural activities and most importantly, close proximity to BART. Only until our realtor, Bill Fletcher of Red Oak Realty, pointed out that we could have allof those things if we just moved our search over one block to El Cerrito, these 'must haves' would be met. Here is what I've come to love about El Cerrito. We live in the Fat Apples/St. Jerome Neighborhood. A relatively flat and walkable neighborhood just a few blocks from North Berkeley, Albany and Kensington circle. It is a small enclave of newer families breathing life into older homes and retired homeowners who are the pillars of the community. I spent the first 3 years of my son's life, walking up and down Solano Avenue, logging hundreds of hours at Memorial Park, shopping at EC Plaza and strolling to restaurants and coffee shops less than 10 minutes from my home. I have come to know every neighbor on my street/s. At almost every corner there is a view of the bay, Golden Gate Bridge or downtown San Francisco. It is less than 40 minutes via BART to the city and a little over 2 hours to Tahoe thanks to easy I-80 access. We finally broke down and bought a second car a few years ago to travel outside of the bay area. Our house in Albany or Berkeley would easily be a few hundred thousand more. I have a large front and back yard according to East Bay Standards. My neighbors are not so close and the houses are nicely appointed. Parking is never a problem. The schools are getting there. Madera is the best, Harding a close second. Both schools have a very strong PTA and a highly coveted afterschool program. We are sending our son to St. Jerome's Catholic School. Both my husband and I attended Jesuit Schools and this was important to us. There is crime and this may primarily be due to proximity to the freeway, BART, etc. The few times I have called EC Police, a token scrape on the car, a package opened upon delivery, they have arrived in less than 5 minutes. They are genuinely grateful to be of service, no matter how insignificant the issue. Living in El Cerrito comes down to a lot of factors and I would say location is paramount. It has been the best decision my husband and I could have made for our family. So it is worth a look. EC Enthusiast

I have been living in El Cerrito with my husband and my daughter for over 10 years. We are south of Moser and find the neighborhood where we live to be friendly, safe, and quiet. It's a 5 minute drive to the El Cerrito Plaza BART Station from our house, which makes it convenient for commuting to San Francisco everyday for work. Unlike Rockridge and some areas in Berkeley, you're not within walking distance to any commercial area, but it's easy enough to get in your car and drive to Solano Avenue or North Berkeley. We are in the West Contra Costa Unified School District which includes Kensington Hilltop Elementary where my daughter attends. I'm not as familiar with the other elementary schools in the district, but there are 3 others in El Cerrito: Fairmont, Harding, and Madera. The Middle School is Portola which is now 7-8 grade only. It's going through some positive transitions spearheaded by a great principal . There is also a plan to have a new middle school building completed in 2015. All in all, I feel that it's a great community, and it's more affordable than some of the surrounding areas. It's also convenient to San Francisco, Berkeley, and even Marin via the Richmond Bridge. I am happy to be living here! Tracy from El Cerrito

We live in El Cerrito near Arlington Park in the hills, and we used to live down near the recycling center. We love it.

We bought a 3 bedroom, 3 bath house on nearly 1/2 an acre for under $700,000. That would be impossible in Berkeley or even a resonably safe part of Oakland. We see beautiful wildlife in our front yard on a regular basis - the birds especially are amazing. We can walk to two parks and the local elementary school is close enough for my son to walk to when he is ready. We are lucky to be in the Madera district, which does suffer from class size issues, but no more than any other California public school and which has excellent, excellent academics. The middle school is in trailers right now and a new campus will open in 2016, I believe. The high school is not as good as Berkeley High in that it doesn't have an IB program, but it is still a good school. My neighbors sons both went there - one is now at Berkeley and the other is at Cal Poly. Our other neighbor's daughter also went there and is at UCSD. These are kids from normal families without insane overachiever (or crazily rich) parents, so clearly the kids are getting acceptances from good schools.

From our house now, we can walk to the little shops in Kensington but it is a bit of a hike. From our old house, I could walk to Well Grounded - the fantastic local coffee shop on Stockton, and the shops near it, as well as Marshall's and the El Cerrito Natural Grocery and Safeway, although the Safeway has now moved a bit further away. Our current neighborhood has more character than our former one as well, but is significantly more expensive. In just about any neighborhood in EC, you can walk to at least one lovely, safe park.

As for crime, there seems to be a current spike in house break-ins, but the local police are AMAZING. They are very clear - if you have an alarm, you are unlikely to be broken into. We did have a break-in down the street on an unalarmed house, and FIVE police cars showed up within minutes. The police are working very hard to cut crime in El Cerrito and it shows. They are friendly and approachable as well and have regular community meetings. They also offer a program where, for free, they will come do an assessment and tell you how to make your home safer, and you can let the department know when you will be out of town and they will step up patrols near your house. As others have noted, don't walk alone on the Ohlone Greenway and stay off San Pablo on foot at night. As for violent crime, it is much, much safer than Oakland and even Berkeley.

Our neighbors are engaged in civic life and truly care about the City and our quality of life. Of course, many complain, but people do care, and do try to change what's wrong. Our neighborhood has a local newsletter that tells of any important happenings and I think others in El Cerrito subscribe to it as well.

In short, we love EC and bought our 'forever home' here. It's a great alternative to Oakland and Berkeley. Happy in El Cerrito

Places to go for a new Mom in El Cerrito

Feb 2013

Hello, I am a new mom of a 6 weeks old. We live in El Cerrito close to Del Norte Bart station, moved here almost 2 years ago. Before I had a baby I spent most of my time in SF. I am wondering where do Moms go with their babies around here? I am looking for some recommendations please! So far we have been taking short walks around the neighborhood, but it gets boring after a while. I am starting to believe there in nowhere to go in walking distance, but hopefully other moms have some ideas:)Do you need to drive everywhere? If so where do you go? Any parks, playgrounds, Mom's secret meeting spots? Thank you ! Sofia

There is an active Meetup group for moms in El Cerrito (and surrounding areas). There are a lot of moms of toddlers in the group, but a handful of us have babies under one. Moms/

The El Cerrito library has story time for babies and toddlers. It's mostly toddlers who go, but I've gone with my baby and he enjoyed it (and it was a good excuse for me to get out).

This probably isn't within walking distance for you, but it has been a lifesaver for us! If you haven't checked out the Bringing Up Baby movie nights at the El Cerrito theater, I highly recommend it! It's totally baby friendly and they have good food. Katie

Unfortunately the Del Norte area is not very walkable and 6 weeks is not a very sociable age for babies. I would recommend joining a Gymboree session at EC Plaza in a couple months just to meet other local moms and babies the same age. (Expensive, but may be worth the investment) Also, make a point of going to the same storytime at the EC Library and being friendly to other parents there, and after a few weeks, you'll have acquaintances. In general, try to do the same things at the same time each week (Trader Joe's, walking routes), both to give yourself a routine and to start to meet people on the same routine. Arlington Park is the only park in EC with multiple baby swings, so soon you'll be able to head up there - again, go a few different times until you find the time with hte most other babies of similar age, and then go religiously then! EC Mom

Moving from Albany to El Cerrito

July 2012

I have been living in Albany for the past several years--wanted my kids to be in the Albany schools. However...they have both graduated from high school and I am contemplating a move as I would like to lower my payments. I want to stay in the general area and am thinking of moving to El Cerrito. My question is this: if you live in El Cerrito (esp the hills) please tell me what you think about it. Do you like it? Do you mind having to drive everywhere? do you feel safe? any other thoughts about El Cerrito as it might compare to Albany? thanks... possibly moving

We (family with 2 kids under 5) moved here from SF in 2007 and love it. We looked in Berkeley and Albany, but honestly, we got more house for the buck in El Cerrito. We live in the hills and were sold by the views. We miss walking to coffee shops and commerce, but we do walk around the hills to parks (there are 3 walkable from our house) and just around for general exercise. We do drive but not very far because so much of what we need is close by (El Cerrito Natural, TJs, etc). We also feel like we can go to SF via BART and elsewhere very easily. Good luck! scoles

Dear possibly moving - We live in El Cerrito and are considering a move to Albany for the next 5 years so that our children can go to Albany High School. Our house is about half way up the hill. If you are at all interested in considering a 'trade' we should talk. We will need a fairly large house (minimum 3 bedrooms) with a fenced yard. A tall order in Albany!

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

I wanted to put in a yes vote for El Cerrito. When we first started house-shopping we looked in Berkeley and quickly realized we were out of our price range. We got a big house with a HUGE yard in EC and we love it here. Our house lacks the old style charm of many Berkeley homes but dollar for dollar we got much more house. We live close to BART and do most of our shopping, eating and hanging out in Berkeley. El Cerrito is very safe, quiet and accessible. Check it out! El Cerrito family

El Cerrito vs. Oakland home values & schools

July 2012

My husband and I hope to buy our first home in the 650-700K range--a three bedroom 2 bath with yard. We have a one year old and hope to land in a good school district, at least through elementary. We have bid on five properties focusing on North/Central Berkeley and Albany and we're now realizing we prob can't afford these primo neighborhoods in what is quickly becoming a very competitive market.

My question is how to extend our home search to other neighborhoods, specifically comparing North Oakland vs. El Cerrito, focusing on home values and school quality. We want to live in a walkable neighborhood, ideally close to Bart or easy public transportation to SF, so the El Cerrito hills are not an option (this also rules out Kensington). Which school districts in North Oakland are worth considering? How are the El Cerrito elementary schools? (All the reviews on BPN are older). How do these districts compare? We're both public school grads and hope to use public schools, but we've heard terrible things about the middle and high schools in both El C and Oakland, so we'd want to preserve our exit strategy and be able to sell our house in 10 years and move to a better district by the time our son is middle school age if need be. Comparing El C and Oakland, which neighborhoods would be most likely to retain their value?

Our final concern is safety. We hate the idea of spending so much on our home and ending up in a dicey neighborhood. Any and all advice is appreciated. Discouraged by Bay Area home prices

I can't comment on the schools in Oakland but both our kids attend EC public schools and we have been pretty happy overall. We are college-educated parents who decided to do public schooling instead of paying for private or parochial schools. This has worked for our family. At the elementary school (Harding), the middle school and the high school, there are a few ineffective teachers but most are dedicated and very good at their jobs. The high school has a gorgeous facility and the middle school is slated for a re-build so the kids are at a smaller temporary site during construction.

At Portola, there are strong electives (drama and band are popular), opportunities to participate in after school sports through the after school program, a good leadership program (the advisor is a popular teacher), and lots of parent involvement.

At El Cerrito High School, the sports program is thriving, the electives are plentiful, there are a variety of activity groups and student-run clubs, and the selection of AP classes is impressive. I have met with the school counselor to discuss the required academic classes for college admission and found this individual to be very helpful. I particularly like the brand new gym and cardio/weight room that students use for P.E.

Neither school is perfect and given the budget challenges all CA schools are facing, you can expect some classes to be pretty large and a few cuts to electives but both schools have good parent support which really helps. Our kids are socially confident and have never indicated they felt unsafe at school. We are grateful they can take advantage of a free K-12 public education in a community as diverse as El Cerrito. It allows us to save more for college. public school mom

Moderator note: reviews were also received for Oakland

Moving to El Cerrito from Albany

June 2012

I have been living in Albany for the past several years--wanted my kids to be in the Albany schools. However...they have both graduated from high school and I am contemplating a move as I would like to lower my payments. I want to stay in the general area and am thinking of moving to El Cerrito. My question is this: if you live in El Cerrito (esp the hills) please tell me what you think about it. Do you like it? Do you mind having to drive everywhere? do you feel safe? any other thoughts about El Cerrito as it might compare to Albany? thanks... possibly moving

Dear possibly moving - We live in El Cerrito and are considering a move to Albany for the next 5 years so that our children can go to Albany High School. Our house is about half way up the hill. If you are at all interested in considering a 'trade' we should talk. We will need a fairly large house (minimum 3 bedrooms) with a fenced yard. A tall order in Albany! caroline

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

We (family with 2 kids under 5) moved here from SF in 2007 and love it. We looked in Berkeley and Albany, but honestly, we got more house for the buck in El Cerrito. We live in the hills and were sold by the views. We miss walking to coffee shops and commerce, but we do walk around the hills to parks (there are 3 walkable from our house) and just around for general exercise. We do drive but not very far because so much of what we need is close by (El Cerrito Natural, TJs, etc). We also feel like we can go to SF via BART and elsewhere very easily. Good luck! scoles

Thinking about selling Berkeley home and moving to El Cerrito

July 2011

My husband and I are thinking about selling our home in N. Berkeley flats and then renting for awhile while we look for a less expensive home in the area. We really love Berkeley, but we find the costs are too high, we have been frustrated with work we have done on our home in terms of dealing with the permit process in Berkeley, and so on. We have never been able to finish the updates our home needs due to not having enough money to do it. We are considering looking at El Cerrito near the Colusa Circle. We don't need the Berkeley school system anymore due to ages of our kids. Our needs are: be close to a grocery store i.e walking distance, be able to walk safely in the area, be near public transit (buses are fine). Right now we live near Monterey Market etc. and it is really convenient.

Has anyone made this kind of transition, and any regrets? Is El Cerrito any better? Is this just a silly idea? Housing costs in our zip seem to have remained pretty stable, surprisingly, though I have not spoken to a real estate agent. Time for a change?

I don't think this is a silly idea at all! My family just did this exact thing, moving from Albany Hill to the El Cerrito hills a couple weeks ago and we are very excited about our decision. We wanted to be in your current neighborhood because that is where I grew up and my Dad is still there but we couldn't afford anything big enough for our family and I was also turned off by the permitting process in Berkeley (so I couldn't buy something with the plans of fixing it up). As I thought about it more and spoke to our agent, Berkeley just didn't seem like a good value. We have been here less than a month but I feel it is way better here and I dont have even a twinge of remorse. We could afford a huge, newly renovated home here vs a run down tiny place in Westbrae. We were not in a multi-bid situation which made the purchase process smooth as can be. Its quiet and the neighbors are neighborly. I am still close to grocery, restaurants, etc. Regarding your plans, I think Colusa Circle area is technically Kensigton which would not be as cheap as El Cerrito proper but I could be mistaken or maybe that will be the price range you are looking for. Its probably still better than Berkeley. Make the move!!!

We moved to El Cerrito from Albany a few months ago and are very very pleased. We found the neighborhood to be friendly, unpretentious, very organized and welcoming. We lived a block away from Solano so were quite worried about moving to what seemed to be far away from civilization, we found out that it wasn't the case at all! we are as far from BART as we were in Albany, walking distance from a park, a pool and a cafe' and a short 2 minute drive (or a longer bike ride) from the Natural Grocery on San Pablo. We have an amazing view and a much quieter neighborhood to stroll around in. I work in downtown Berkeley so by car it takes me 15 minutes to get to my office and by BART- a 10 minute walk + 7 minutes train ride. Property tax much lower, grass greener, fog thicker.. I would say you should seriously consider it! New In El Cerrito

Hi. I didn't see your previous post, but I thought I would respond anyway. I've lived in El Cerrito for 16 years and feel it's been a great place to raise my kid. He went to Madera Elementary (very diverse and highest test scores in West Contra Costa) and has gone to City of El Cerrito Rec camps every summer (Swim Camp Rocks!). We've enjoyed the Recycling Center, getting pizza and a movie at the Cerrito Theater, Down Home Music, Fat Apples, Ichiban Kan, the Exclusive Button store, the El Cerrito pool and rec sports, the Natural Grocery Store, being close to Point Isabel (for the dog) and hiking in the hills. BUT, we just moved to Berkeley in the spring so my son can go to a better middle school. Now we're really grooving on being in a bigger city! We're renting out our EC home and living in a very small Berkeley apartment that costs more than we were paying for a 3 bedroom house! I love being closer to cafes, good restaurants, a great public library, parks and shopping. I hope we'll still want to move back when he's done with middle school! Just left EC

Jan 2010

Re: Schools, commutable,urban under $500k?
El Cerrito near EC Plaza BART. Occasionally you get 3/2 houses in the 400K-500K range. Berkeley expat happily settled north of Berkeley

2005 - 2009 Recommendations

Dec 2008

HI I'm looking to purchase a house in Albany but it's really out of our price range. I was wondering if anyone has more detailed info on the different neighborhoods in El Cerrito. I've looked up info on the different elementary schools already. But am not sure what the neighborhood itself is like in terms of crime, diversity, vicinity to shops, transportation, safe to walk around at night, etc.

I know about St Jerome. BUt we can't quite afford places too close to Albany. So we've been looking north of Fairmont. The houses west of San Pablo, especially between the two freeways have really dropped in price, and I wonder if there is a reason for that. What are the neighborhoods south of Moeser, Manila, Potrero like? Are there any difference the more north you go? thanks anon

I love El Cerrito. We ended up because we too couldn't afford Albany and I now that I know about El Cerrito I am so happy we moved here. I live at Potrero and Elm and absolutely love it. We can walk everywhere (BART, Safeway, great corner market) and have a nice park two blocks away. And the nearby Ohlone trail is great for bike riding, walking (the plaza is a 20 minute walk from my house)Our neighborhood is very friendly and I feel like its that kind of place that many of us are looking for where there are plenty of kids around, and you know your neighbors. I feel very safe here - I never had a qualm walking the dog or baby very late at night. Our house is small but I don't want to move just because I love the neighborhood so much! anon

Hi, I've been living on the El Cerrito/Richmond border for about eight years, just off of Barrett Street, several blocks east of San Pablo. My home, and others in the neighborhood, were built in the 30's and 40s, and have a lot of architectural interest; mine was built in a Tudor style. There are others that are larger and resemble what you might see in the Elmwood district, built for Chevron execs way back when. If you drive up Barrett(from San Pablo) or down Barrett from the Arlington, and zig-zag back and forth, you'll see what I mean. I grew up in Berkeley, and I think this is a great neighborhood! Much cheaper than Albany. (I can't speak to the public schools, sorry.) Christie

Sept 2008

Re: Cheaper but safe enough neighborhoods
What about El Cerrito? Some of the houses there (esp in the hills) are just as expensive. But the ones on the flatlands aren't as bad as Berkeley. You didn't mention just how low you'd go. It's still pricy, but not as pricy as Berkeley. anon

June 2008

Re: Living in El Sobrante or El Cerrito
We used to live on the east side of the hills, and moved back because we spent ALL our time driving back to do social things. We wound up in El Cerrito, which wasn't our first choice, but we were able to get an ''affordable'' house. We are so happy here!!! More than I even expected! I worry about the schools-they have a mixed record but ours has a very active PTA. I know people everywhere I go, and while the Cerrito Theater may be the coolest thing here, I have found that almost everyone is here because it was affordable and on the west side of the east bay. We are much closer to all the kid things we do. It is diverse and our neighbors are interesting and not ridiculously wealthy.

I can't speak to El Sobrante--we really wanted something on Bart--but we really like it and would encourage you to check it out. I grew up with ''regular people'' and didn't want my kids pressured to feel entitled to things I think they are lucky to have. People thought we were nuts to move here, but it just fits us better! Happy in El Cerrito

We live in EC and love it! You mention EC in the title, but nothing about it, so thinking you may lean more towards ES...not sure. I moved here from Oakland approx. 3 yrs ago to move in w/my now husband and love it's sort of small town feel(I haven't really missed Oakland's vibe at all). I worked in your part of the county for 3 yrs (the 24/680 Corridor) and could never live there for some of the very reasons you mention. We live near the EC Bart station, the plaza and a 20 min. walk to Solano Ave among other easy to get to destinations. I am a SAHM and the ability to be w/in walking from all sorts of things is something I love. The houses in our neighborhood are smaller than in the hills, but the convenience & more sustainable approach to living makes it worth it to us. Some other things I love about EC: the new EC Theater (like the Parkway in Oakland), a pretty diverse population who lean towards progressive minded politics, & the temperate weather. The one big downside to EC is living in the West CCC school system. It is in no way like Central Co (Lafayette, Danville, Alamo, etc), but as the population shifts to more younger families moving in, this may improve. Personally, I wouldn't want to live in ES because I like living near public transpo. and you are much more removed from it up there, but the open space may be the draw for you. Whichever you choose, good luck in your venture. anon

We live in El Cerrito and love it. Admittedly our neighborhood is mostly older folks who've lived in their homes their entire life but the new folks are also younger families with young kids, so the demographics is slowly starting to change. We love that everyone knows everybody and they are not snoopy. We do semi annual neighborhood parties and keep watch of each other's houses. In El Cerrito, you have a wide selection of schools, private and public. Our children attend in El Sobrante, though, where you can still get a house and feel like you're in the country. My kids attend East Bay Waldorf School and we all love it. You should schedule a tour there in the Fall and get to meet parents and teachers. Then drive around El Sobrante (make sure you visit the hills) and El Cerrito to see if you like it. Where we live, we are close to BART and bus but do have to drive to places like Trader Joe's and El Cerrito Natural. El Sobrante is the same. Our neighborhoods are pretty diverse, too. el cerrito family

I can't comment on El Sobrante but we have lived in El Cerrito for over fifteen years and there are some great things and not so great things.
The good: -close to everything: there are 2 BART stations and some neighborhoods are very walkable with flat, kid-oriented streets. Solano Ave. is 5 minutes away from where I live with more restaurants than you could possibly sample in a lifetime -urban amenities but a small-town feel: a beautiful movie theater with a good mix of first-run movies, grocery stores, restaurants (especially if you love Asian food), and a fantastic hardware store. -good public schools: our kids are in one of the brand new elementary schools with a long waiting list to get in. The new high school should be finished by 2009. A new middle school is slated for construction to replace the current facility which is badly in need of a re-build. -the people: most folks are progressive, care about the environment, and there is a lot of diversity in the community--especially in the public schools -recreation: a gorgeous public pool, nice parks, tennis courts, lots of kid-oriented summer day camps and activities while school is in session--tennis lessons, swim team, EC Soccer team, etc. The challenges: -the weather: the fog rolls in and it can be brutally cold during the summers--especially at the pool. -lack of affordable housing: prices are dropping but buying a house is still a very expensive proposition. Rents are high too compared with El Sobrante, Hercules, and some of the communities further up I 80. -the schools: while some of the schools are good, the district faces significant budget challenges because several decades ago they promised very generous benefits to retirees so a huge chunk of the budget is going toward this. Per union rules, hiring teachers is based on seniority and it's hard to fire ineffective teachers. Salaries are low compared to other districts so it's sometimes difficult to retain highly effective teachers and talented principals. Also, if the parcel tax isn't renewed in November, the schools will be hurting. Having said that, we love the diversity and are huge supporters of public schools so have found ways to work around these deficits by being involved and supplementing--music lessons, after school enrichment, team sports. However, parents looking for a more sheltered environment who don't want to worry about the ups and downs of public school financing should opt for private instead.
EC mom

May 2007

Re: Safe, family--oriented neighborhood?
We live in El Cerrito and both of our elementary school age children attend the local public school.

It's not perfect because we are a resource-poor district but it's worked out great for our kids. The parents are very involved (volunteering in the school) and they raise funds to provide the students with a good education. The PTA provides art, music, and science programs to supplement what the district provides.

At last count, there were at least 8 elementary school children on our block--all living within 5 houses of each other. At night they run in and out of each others' back yards and play in the front yards. Some parents in El Cerrito opt to go to private schools but I think the local elementary school is just fine. We are also planning to go to the local public middle school when my son is ready. Most of El Cerrito is very safe and family-friendly. There are great parks and a terrific public pool.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's that affordable for first-time home buyers but houses are slightly less expensive than Albany, Lafayette or Orinda. Consequently, there is more diversity in the local public schools.

El Cerrito! It has become my favorite east bay city. Close enough to freeways so you can get anywhere. Easy shopping at the E.C. plaza and E.C. Natural Grocery. There are lots of new families moving here, it is relatively safe and has good schools. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually more diverse than our old neighborhood in SF. Our block has lots of different kinds of families - different ethnicities and family structures. There is crime everywhere and E.C. is no exception but we have not experienced anywhere near what we did in SF or what some of our friends in Oakland have. I think it is in part because even though El Cerrito is a part of the larger bay area community it still has a small town feel. Our neighbors here have been friendlier than anywhere I have lived and about 1/3 of the houses in our immediate neighborhood has kids. anon

Feb 2003

Re: Seeking a friendly neighborhood w/kids
Hi. In response to your message about finding a friendly neighborhood with children - we live near Poinsette Park, off Barnett in El Cerrito. Our block on Mono Ave. in particular is very close knit - most of the neighbors know each other and we have holiday parties (Halloween, Christmas, and progressive dinner parties). It's a true gift. I've never lived anywhere like it, and it easily is one of the best things about our home (which we love). There are several families with small children on our block, and I see lots of children when I drive through the neighborhood, and when we go to Poinsett Park (on Poinsette St. or Dr. - up the hill from Home Depot and the San Pablo Safeway). Hope you find something comparable. Best wishes. debora

Feb 2007

As a young family, we are planning to buy our first house and we have been looking at the Albany/El Cerrito area. We currently rent and have lived in SF for 10 years but have decided it is time to move across the bridge. We have looked around Albany and really liked it but it seems like it can be hard to find a house for the price range we want to spend. We have also looked in the El Cerrito Hills and seen some really nice houses. Is there anywhere in these areas where you wouldnt recommend to buy? Is there any ''shady'' neighborhoods? We have a 17mth old child. Melanie

St. Jerome's neighborhood in El Cerrito is a good one. St. Jerome's is on Albany's north border, and it also borders Kensington and Berkeley. It's close to Solano Ave.(with lots of good eateries), the El Cerrito shopping center (where Trader Joe's is), BART, and bus lines. The character of the neighborhood is family friendly, modest, safe, and quiet. My family lived there for years and loved it. Current real estate prices may be down, at least that's the buzz. One caveat: the public schools being what they are, we opted out for our kids, and that was a big deal, financially.

Hi - There are no bad neighborhoods in Albany, although the streets a block off San Pablo Ave. are a bit noisier and the farther east you go the better. El Cerrito has generally good neighborhoods, bad ones are maybe near San Pablo Ave. again or it's obvious. The farther south and east you go, the better. There's also the Richmond Annex, west of S.Pab., nice older homes some with views, near EC and Albany but not really pedestrian. Lots of families live there. Better deals in the last 2, but you don't get the Albany school district then, which has a good reputation. You didn't give a price range, but I'm not sure what you can get under $500K barring busier streets or condos, even with the softening market. Hope that helps. Anon

Previous to moving to El Cerrito, we lived in a high crime neighborhood in Oakland for many years so, by contrast, almost everywhere in El Cerrito feels very safe to me. Both of our children attend the local public schools which are not as highly rated as Albany but have worked just fine for us.

I'm not a big fan of the hills because my kids like level streets where they can ride their scooters or their bikes to the park or the pool. However, there are many lovely hillside homes with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of the homes near Colusa are still within walking distance of things you might want to walk to (FatApples Bakery) but anything South of Stockton gets very steep and not every block has sidewalks.

The most desirable neighborhoods are those near St. Jerome's (on Fairmount) because they are close to Solano Ave. plus you can walk to the El Cerrito Plaza which has a Farmer's Market, Trader Joe's, and Starbucks. In general, if you want something that feels like a really quiet safe neighorhood near urban amenities, I would recommend the neighborhoods South of Moeser and East of Elm Street.

I know a great local realtor, Mykah Larkins, who sells homes in El Cerrito and Albany. I'm sure she could give you more details on both of these communities. To give you some idea of what home prices are going for, check out the most recently sold homes on her web page:

Best of luck with your housing search!

April 2006

Our family is considering moving to Kensington or El Cerrito. Can anyone tell us more about these cities? Are they LGBT friendly? Good places for children? How are the schools? Thanks in advance. (Also, can you recommend any realtors?) -- Need advice

Re Living in Kensington or El Cerrito --- looking for realtor -- Let me highly recommend Rayne Palmer, of Keller Williams --- she's an EXCELLENT realtor, for buyers OR sellers. Rayne Palmer 510-502-2063 -- feel free to tell her Christie sent you. Christie

Since you asked about whether El Cerrito/Kensington is LGBT friendly, I will share my experience living here and raising kids. We are a 2-mom family and have lived here for over ten years and attend the neighborhood public school (Harding) which is within walking distance of our home. So far, I have been impressed with the quality of education there. There is an active parent community and the teachers we have had are top notch.

I have also had good experiences on the local soccer team and both my partner and I have been encouraged to take an active role in the school. The families we have met at school and in our neighborhood seem to be unfazed by the fact that our kids have 2 moms. I have noticed rainbow flags on several of the curches in the area so I know there are some welcoming/inclusive church communities here too.

It seems like many folks are reluctant to move to El Cerrito because of the schools but most of our babysitters attend Portola or El Cerrito High School and are college-bound so I think it is entirely possible to get a good education in the local public schools, particularly if you are willing to get involved and support your child.

If you can overcome ''Albany envy'' and manage to afford a home here, it's a great place to raise kids.

I love El Cerrito. I have lived in berkeley, Kensington and El Cerrito and prefer EC the best. I am also a Realtor with Marvin Gardens on Fairmount. We have 5 gay and lesbian realtors in our office so EC is pretty open minded. I have helped several lesbian couples and for me it does not make a difference. Good luck, Catherine

Please come live in Kensington-- we need some diversity! I gotta say I love living in Kensington--moved here three years ago from El Cerrito because we wanted to feel comfortable sending our kids to public schools without the stress of lotteries like in Berkeley and didn't feel El Cerrito elementary schools were up to the standards we wanted. Parts of El Cerrito are okay (personally I don't like the ''no tree'' look of El Cerrito) but there is more of a community feel to Kensington, I think. But like I alluded to in the beginning, boy, is it white up here! As far as realtors go, friends of mine have bought in El Cerrito using Ann Plant and were happy with her. Good luck in your search. anon

I've lived in El Cerrito for almost six years and really enjoy it. My neighbors are just friendly enough. The neighborhood where I live has been changing on the surface as the homes turn over from in some cases their original owners but we are the newest arrivals on my block. When I go for a walk the folks we meet on the street say hello, and sometimes if we're working in our yards a neighbor will stop to introduce themselves. I have two young children and all of the local parks have been upgraded in the past couple of years. Crime is higher than some east bay locals, and seems to me to be concentrated in certain areas in the evenings or early mornings. I can't imagine any discrimation of LGBTs but I have to admit I've never met a LGBT couple here. Schools are mixed, with a couple of good elementary schools, and I've had long discussions with friends and people I've met at the park about whether the middle school and high school are ok. gives test scores but you'll notice the connection between parents' education levels and scores. While El Cerrito residents have generally high education levels according to census data, it has been an aging community until recently and I don't think there are a lot of kids from El Cerrito in those schools. Not sure whether the next generation of parents will send their kids there or not.

We worked with a great real estate agent Melissa Eizenberg. She was really enjoyable to spend time with, knows the area well, and was able to give us a few referrals for the work we had done on our house.
Happy in El Cerrito

August 2005

We're moving to the Bay Area in a few months, and have been checking out real estate in the Oakland area. Unfortunately, we want what everyone else wants - good schools, access to transportation, and some green space for less than a fortune. For obvious reasons, we're starting to consider areas outside of Oakland. Can anyone tell me about El Cerrito? Is it socially/culturally similar to Oakland, or is it much more suburban? (We're from Boston, so if these references make sense to you, I'm asking is it more like Brookline or Newton?) Thanks so much for any input! Nerissa

El Cerrito is a great place to live - lots of people go there for the same reasons you are. It doesn't feel suburban to me - well, maybe parts of it are, but most of it feels a lot like Oakland or Berkeley. It's definitely socially/culturally similar and diverse. anon

It will be interesting to see what others say about this--perceptions sort of depend on how long you've lived in El Cerrito and where you work. I've lived here for six years and love it. El Cerrito isn't really like Brookline or Newton (I used to live in Somerville), but it's hard to compare the east bay with the Boston area. El Cerrito is a city in transition, with lots of new people moving into town, particularly on the southern end of town. There are differences between different parts of town, even though it's very small, with the southern half being more urban and the northern half more suburban in its orientation. People who live near the Plaza shopping center tend to be more ''urban,'' and many of them are trying to live close to Berkeley and San Francisco, and public transit. People who live in the north tend to be more oriented to Contra Costa County and Richmond. There's also a hills-flats difference. The cost of housing is much higher on the hills and there's more crime in the flats, as you get closer to San Pablo Avenue. Access to public transit is great throughout town, though you may have to drive to a BART station if you're in the hills. There is an effort to revitalize the commercial areas. Hope this helps. Happy in El Cerrito

We rented in Oakland for 8 years and bought in El Cerrito because we knew we wanted to start a family one day and were attracted to the affordable housing (at least more so than Berkeley and Albany). Sadly, many of our friends who rent are being priced out of El Cerrito so ''afffordable'' is very relative. If you want to get a feel for the community, I would suggest a visit to the El Cerrito Pool on a weekend or shopping at the Trader Joe's in the Plaza. El Cerrito is not quite as urban as Oakland but it is socially/culturally similar in many ways. My older child attends the local public elementary school (Harding) which is within walking distance of our home. This was very important to me as I wanted him to have local playmates. I have found it to be astoundingly diverse. One of his friends is spending part of the summer in Spain, another will be in Mexico, and another in Asia. At last count, we had students from almost every continent at the school. Most of our friends are choosing to send their kids through the public schools and so far, I'm hearing that students who graduate from ECHS, at least a good portion of them, go on to four-year universities. If you want a mellow, laid back, down to earth, family-friendly community with a lot of diversity and you can afford to buy here, I think you'll enjoy El Cerrito.

I haven't lived in Boston, but I lived in the heart of the gourmet ghetto in Berkeley before buying a house in El Cerrito in the mid-nineties. I thought I would hate living in El Cerrito, it seemed far and ugly to me then, but I realized the ''pros'' right after we moved in:
- It's much quieter here; we can hear birds singing.
- We have had to call the police only twice in nine years, whereas in Berkeley we called an average of once monthly (lots of petty theft, car break-ins, even in our ''nice'' area).
- It's slower here and the local politics (and politicians) are more accessible.
- The local pool is fabulous, never crowded, and the parks are very nice.
- You can park your car easily and for free pretty much anywhere you need to go.
- Highway access is easy. Of course, we live near Kensington in an area with more trees and distance from the BART track than most of El Cerrito, so that probably colors my perspective. We are also within the Kensington Hilltop elementary school zone. On the ''con'' side:
- Most of El Cerrito is pretty ugly. A lot of the housing stock is 50s and 70s yuck and there are far fewer trees than in Berkeley and Kensington (and a lot of local hostility toward them).
- I can no longer walk to a wide variety of shops and restaurants. However, we are only 3 miles from where we lived before and I don't at all feel as if I'm out in the boonies. Berkeley is an easy bike ride and I still shop there (another con:)
- Except for Costco, Trader Joe's and the Natural Grocer, shopping here is distinctly LOW END.
- There is probably more cronism in the local politics and people seem somewhat less progressive. Hope this helps. El Cerrito resident

Hi Nerissa, good luck on your move here. I grew up in MA, went to college in Boston and worked in the area for a couple of years before moving here, so though I was not raising kids in MA, I can assure you El Cerrito is no Newton. It could possibly be seen as a bit more like Brookline, but really I'd say it's like neither. We bought our first house in El Cerrito, but then because of the schools ended up moving ''up the hill'' to Kensington which is more like Newton (the good things like schools, the bad like no diversity). But living in Berkeley, ALbany, Kensington, El Cerrito-- all these place are a mile away from each other so it's easy to reach out and find diversity quickly. My impression of El Cerrito is that there are still a lot of aging baby boomers that live in 50's era houses and as they pass on, young families are moving in, but it's not exactly a vibrant community (they just redid a great public pool though!). The only real warning I'd have, is coming from MA where public schools are in the top five in the country, it is more than a shock to see what parents and kids have to put up with in CA as far as school standards/offerings, etc..-- we (CA) are in the bottom five in the country for what we spend per kid in public schools, so looking for a good public school is a heartbreaking experience. Good luck again. Luisa

2004 & Earlier

Sept 2004

hi, we (husband, toddler son and I) are going to move from atlanta to the berkeley area, and are thinking of renting a house in el cerrito. it is on elm, close to the bart line. I was just wondering if it is a safe neighborhood and a good place for children. many thanks, Shobhana

hi shobhana - i currently live in north oakland, but grew up in el cerrito. my parents still live there and i would say it's pretty safe. elm street is a fairly long street that runs close to bart, so it really depends on what the cross street is. but i'd still say most of el cerrito is pretty safe. granted any place nowadays has it's fair share of crime, no matter how ''safe'' it is...good luck! anonymous

I'm not sure what section of Elm Street you're considering (closer to Solano Avenue or Potrero Avenue?), but I live on Elm Street in El Cerrito near Potrero Avenue with my husband and two year old. It's a relatively safe neighborhood. Our house and cars have never been burglarized or vandalized in the 4.5 years of living here. However, there have been some incidences along the Ohlone Greenbelt/path that runs beneath the BART tracks (these occured near the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station.)

While the schools in the area are sub-par, it's a great place with plenty to do if you have toddlers. Just recently, the city completed significant rennovations and upgrades to Castro Park (on Norvell and Gladys) and the El Cerrito community pool. Castro Park has three modern playgrounds (one with a state-of-the-art climbing wall), a nice grassy ball field, and two tennis courts. Also, there's a Gymboree play center in the new El Cerrito Shopping Plaza. Target is in walking distance, as is Giovanni's, the small, neighborhood grocery store on Potrero and Liberty.

As a bonus, there are four convenient modes of public transportation to take you into San Francisco (in 30-40 minutes travel time): two AC transit bus lines (the L and G lines), the BART train, and casual carpool, the informal car pool system that forms when drivers and passengers meet at designated locations. (read here for more info on this free, safe, and convenient commuting alternative:

I would definitely recommend El Cerrito as a place to live with children. There are plenty of young families and it's relatively safe. swalter

There are many families with young childen moving into El Cerrito these days, and it can be a great place for kids. The swim center has just been renovated, and all the parks are being modernized. There are some very good public schools here, and most of them are undergoing re-construction, so facilities will be much improved. There are several excellent private schools here, too. There are also a number of interesting civic projects in the works (e.g., the renovation of the 1937 art deco Cerrito Theater, and creek restoration efforts) which will add to our charms. Let me know where on Elm your rental house is, and I'll tell you more about that specific neighborhood, and answer any other questions you might have about El Cerrito. Good luck with your decision. Lori

Yes, it is. I had a friend who lived on Elm just south of Moeser, and it was a great neighborhood for kids. Not much traffic, not much crime, pretty area, schools nearby seem nice. Jen

I lived for two years in a rented house at 1440 Elm Street in El Cerrito, and my brother rented the house for four years after that. The walk from BART and the neighborhood always felt safe to us. Elm Street is a few blocks up from San Pablo Avenue, so it doesn't have a lot of ''flatland'' problems (generally in the East Bay the closer you get to the Bay, the worse the neighborhood). We had no kids ourselves, but the nearby parks and schools were welcoming and safe. Our house was broken into one time (by middle schoolers!), but that was just random. El Cerrito is a nice place, slightly shabby but lovable, and a lot more affordable than Berkeley. Feel free to ask if you'd like to know more. Nicole