Advice about Living in El Cerrito

Parent Q&A

  • Moving back to Bay Area: West CC or Solano County?

    (7 replies)

    We are planning on returning to the Bay area this summer 2018 after we finish out our year here in Portland, OR. We used to live in Alameda which we loved but feel like we are priced out of there now. Plus from what I have heard, it is not really the "best kept secret" that it used to be. We bring in over 200K in family income, and we have a 3 year old daughter with special needs (primarily speech). We want to rent for at least a year as we will probably need to locate somewhere further out due to current housing prices. We would like to eventually buy after a year or so (so probably around summer/fall 2019). We are considering El Cerrito, Richmond Annex, Pinole, Hercules, and Benicia. We would like to stay below $700K range for housing.

    We want good schools, of course, but also to be near schools/preschools which would serve my daughter well in regards to her speech delay. Has anyone had experience in dealing with special education services for their kid/kids in West Contra Costa County or Solano County? I am familiar with services in Alameda County but not so much with with WCCC or Solano's.

    Also, how are the neighborhoods in the above towns mentioned? Safe, family-friendly, walkable, diverse? Alameda really spoiled us. Is $700K realistic for El Cerrito/Richmond Annex (which is our 1st preference due to proximity to Oakland which is where we will both be working).

    I can recommend the Richmond Annex, although the prices here have gone through the roof recently.  You may be able to do a two bedroom but the three bedroom houses are going for between 725-$800k.  I have an almost three year old who is at a great preschool in a berkeley, although we may consider sending him to EC public schools. We walk regularly to our three neighborhood parks in the annex and El Cerrito and also to the prepared food annex at EC natural grocery. Today as we walked up the hill on the way home, I thought as I do every time how lucky I feel to live here. There are incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I just love the neighbors and feel of community. We are also a few blocks from city hall where a 24 hour fitness will be opening soon.  We also walk to the EC library and pool. I grew up here and it has changed quite a bit. There are so many more kids now then when I was my sons age.  I really can’t say enough good things about it. 

    I think you could easily rent for a year in Marina Bay (Richmond), which puts you in the zone for services at Cameron (as recommended by other posters), and gives you time to look around the area. We are in EC which does seem like it's exploded in price lately. I'd look in the Annex to buy, although who knows if $700K will get you in there in a year's time. Pinole has a tougher commute to Oakland/SF (although is a nice town overall), those extra exits on 80 cost you lots of time on the road.

    I can highly recommend Pinole.  I have heard very good things about the Cameron School, in El Cerrito, which offers speech therapy and preschool style classes for students who qualify in WCCUSD.  If you choose the back part of Pinole Valley, you get to send your daughter to Ellerhorst, which is a very good school.  I think you are priced out of El Cerrito if you want to keep it under $700k, but should be able to get something nice in Pinole if you move quickly when you see a house you like.  Pinole Valley is safe, family-friendly, and diverse.  You can walk to the local park, but everything else is about 1.5 miles away.  We have a Trader Joe's, Sprouts, Peet's etc. plus a bunch of chains and a handful of mom and pops.  

    I know some folks who live in Benicia and have spent a good bit of time there.  I like it a lot and it is definitely walkable and has a lot of charming small businesses on 1st street.  It doesn't feel very diverse and it doesn't really feel like it's part of the Bay Area proper.  Most of the people we know here in Pinole go into the city or Oakland/Berkeley pretty regularly, whereas most of the people we know in Benicia don't really seem to like to cross the bridge.  

    I really feel like Pinole is one of the "best kept secrets" here in the Bay, and my husband and I joke that it must have a cloaking device on it or something.  We feel close to everything but also far away, if that makes any sense.  It also feels much less crowded here than it does everywhere else.  Good luck with your search!  

    I live in El Cerrito and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.  My kids are in public schools and are doing great.  My daughter had speech issues as well and was diagnosed and entered into a program at Cameron School, which is in El Cerrito (NOTE: public schools take everyone...you do not need to be of school age....wish I'd known that with my son).  I think it would be hard to get something here for $700K, but could be possible. I also lived in Benicia, which is rather idyllic, but the commute drove us to El Cerrito. I think you could get something for $700K in Benicia.    I think it would also be hard to get something for $700 in Richmond Heights, but could be possible.  Mira Vista school is extremely diverse and the school and staff are dedicated.  I would choose Pinole over Hercules, personally, and you could get something for $700.  

    I think you can buy a two bedroom townhouse in Bayfarm within your budget. If you are willing to stretch a bit more three bedroom town homes are possible.

    Having looked for a long, long time (and eventually giving up) in El Cerrito on a higher budget, I'd say under $700k is unrealistic unless you can do a very small 2 bedroom in Richmond Annex or Richmond Hills. Prices have increased a lot over the past two years, especially in the El Cerrito area. The neighborhoods there are fine--thus the crazy increase in prices. Pinole, Hercules, or Benicia might be a better bet. You might also consider San Leandro or Pleasant Hill/Concord/Martinez. Can't speak to special education services, but you might start there and then pick a neighborhood after. 

    Hi, welcome back to the area. I can't speak to the education issue since we're still at preschool age but I can recommend living in El Cerrito. We squeaked in at just under $700k last year (don't know about rental prices) and really like it. We're on the "flats" so there's more foot traffic, litter and property crime than in the hills, but it is also extremely walkable with excellent proximity to public transportation, shopping and parks. We couldn't afford Kensington or Albany but are close enough to enjoy the farmers market and restaurants. There's a big mix of income levels, ethnicity, social views, etc. so no one need feel out of place (I hope). The schools are decently rated and seem to be improving in terms of "scores" and the people I know who have kids in EC schools have all said they're happy at the grade school level (mixed reviews of the junior high and high schools). I've heard great things from people living in the Annex though that is definitely less walkable. If you end up in EC you are very welcome to message me with questions. Good luck!

  • El Cerrito or San Leandro?

    (4 replies)

    We are looking to buy our first house and are hoping to find a 3 bedroom/2 bath with some yard space. With our budget, that means we're looking mainly at San Leandro or El Cerrito. In San Leandro we would like to be in Estudillo Estates or Broadmoor, and in El Cerrito we've found some nice options near the Richmond border (zoned for Mira Vista Elementary). We are leaning towards San Leandro - we love how flat it is, and the strong sense of community there - but the market is limited - there are so few places for sale, especially in the neighborhoods we are considering. I would love to hear thoughts on how El Cerrito measures up in terms of sense of community - especially in the hillier areas. We are concerned that the hills make it harder for people to be out and about with their kids. We have a 2.5 year old who loves to ride his bike and run around. We really want to let him play outside and get to know our neighbors. Thoughts on how likely this is in the hills?

    Commute is less important to us than neighborhood, sense of community, and outdoor space, but it's not irrelevant. We commute to the Cal campus, and Jack London Sq - so any thoughts on the commute to/from each of these options would also be appreciated.

    I'd also love to hear thoughts about whether there are other neighborhoods/areas we should be exploring, considering our priorities. 

    Thanks for your advice and tips!

    RE: El Cerrito or San Leandro? ()

    I'm just going to throw out a 3rd option: Pinole! It's farther from Berkeley than El Cerrito, but closer than San Leandro.  We walk around and ride bikes around our neighborhood all the time with our 5 and 3 year old, and we are always running into other families out doing the same thing.  It's a really family friendly town, our local school has an extremely active PTA and we've made more friends living here than we ever did after living a decade in Oakland.  This summer they're doing live music and movie nights in the park, and families bring picnics and chill.  My husband commutes to Berkeley during normal commute times and it takes him about half an hour.  If you look at the back part of Pinole Valley, the part that gets Ellerhorst Elementary, you should be able to get a house in your size with a great backyard for between $600-650.  We live there and are able to walk to the local park, which has playgrounds, soccer fields, and a baseball diamond.  Pinole has excellent nature, a handful of decent restaurants, a great Farmer's Market etc.  Take a look!      

    RE: El Cerrito or San Leandro? ()

    If I were to do it all again, I would definitely consider Richmond Heights (zoned for Mira Vista) or Richmond Annex (zoned for Fairmont) - El Cerrito lifestyle at Richmond prices, ha ha. EC has higher property taxes, and it's aggravating to me that people paying less in property taxes get essentially all the benefits of well-maintained roads and good schools that I, as an EC homeowner, am paying for. Oh well, that's California and its wacky tax revenue structure for ya. I also like San Leandro and the house styles of Estudillo Estates, we looked there too when we were home shopping (2009). I am not familiar with the current state of the schools or local politics there although it may tilt a bit more conservative. I have a friend near me in the Plaza area commuting to Jack London Square and I hear it can be tough, but he drives alone; maybe it's better if you take transit. The commute to Cal is a snap from EC via BART, bus, or I even know some folks who ride their bikes.

    RE: El Cerrito or San Leandro? ()

    We've been in the hilly part of El Cerrito del Norte for about 2 months now. My wife and I have a 6 month old. Yes, it’s probably a bit harder to ride a bike around, but that’s the only drawback I can see about it. In the short time we’ve been here, we’ve met a ton of parents in the neighborhood; sometimes in person, but also through Next Door. We’ve already had our nearby neighbors and their baby over to our house, we’ve met up with many parents and their babies in the park multiple times, and we’ve met some of the long time families that have been here for decades. I did not expect such openness and community, but it is very much here. The parks are fantastic and seem to be a big part of the community, perhaps in part because the streets are hilly. We go to the park near us multiple times a week. Another reason we moved here is to know which schools our child will go to, instead of having a lottery system (although there is still a lottery for the charters), and we like the clean 1960s architecture in the area. It's also very diverse (middle school is 6th most diverse in the country), lower crime, and family oriented. I personally think that not being in Alameda County is a plus as well. Inventory in El Cerrito is limited too, but I don’t know how it compares to San Leandro, maybe it's not as limited.

    RE: El Cerrito or San Leandro? ()

    We are in the Mira Vista area and have two young children. It's a nice sense of community---- El Cerrito is not a big town and we feel like we have gotten to know a lot of families. Everybody goes to the city recreational activities (pool, gymnastics, summer camps) or the local sports program so my kids are always running into friends. We are walking distance or a very short drive to many nice parks and outdoor areas. The public schools all have really active PTAs and parent communities, and many young families have been moving into the area and the demographics are tilting younger.

    I will say that it is not a great area for bike riding due to both the hills and the rather rugged sidewalks, I think that to really bike you would have to go down to the flats. Most of the houses don't have huge flat yards either, so you may have to compromise there. However we like the community, it is very friendly and quite diverse, and the commute options to many parts of the Bay Area are great! For the Berkeley campus it is maybe a ten minutes to Bart ride from Del Norte Bart to Downtown Berkeley, or the AC Transit 7 bus runs up Barrett and goes through the hills straight to campus. I'm not sure about the commute to Jack London as the 80 can be a real mess. 

  • Next great *affordable* city/town/neighborhood?

    (9 replies)

    Hello BPN Community,

    I'm in a situation that I'm guessing many of us are finding ourselves in.  I and my 4-year old son currently live in Oakland but the cost of living/housing in the area is so daunting that I am thinking of moving in the next year to be able to put down some roots in a more economically feasible area and avoid changing schools down the road. I'm wistful for the days when Oakland was the hidden gem of the Bay Area. Does anyone know of any up-and-coming places to live? I would love to find a place where rent isn't so insane that I could eventually save enough to purchase a house in the same area, but I'm not sure that place exists. Off the top of my head I'm wondering about San Leandro and El Cerrito (rents there seem a little less than what I'm seeing in Alameda/Berkeley/Oakland right now).  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

     

    I wanted to chime in and give my vote for Hercules too. We moved here from Albany and have been extremely happy. We have a five year old and have met other young families. We've done lots of classes at the Park and Rec and there are wonderful programs at the library. It is peaceful and pretty. Having grown up in the inner Bay Area it was hard for us to accept being priced out of everything from Oakland to Richmond Annex but now I'm glad: Hercules has turned it to be a real gem. Pinole is lovely too.

    West Contra Costa County! We moved to Pinole in 2013 and are now very happily settled in with our 8-month-old daughter, planning to stay here for a long while. We feel like it's perfectly situated on the line between semi-rural (we have hiking trails in the hills behind our development, and neighbors with horses) and semi-urban (there's an independent coffeeshop downtown, a commuter bus that runs to Del Norte BART, a Saturday farmer's market, and very talented community theater). My husband commutes to Berkeley for work, which has good days and bad days, but is generally manageable. And when we are craving more culture, Berkeley and San Francisco are easy to get to. I can definitely feel the place shifting as more young professionals get priced out of Berkeley/Oakland -- the elementary schools are OK, middle and high school are by report not-so-great, but I would not be surprised if they look very different in 10 years.

    Hope this helps. Happy to answer any more questions if you've got them!

    We love El Cerrito and there are definitely many young families moving here from Berkeley and Oakland in order to get larger homes and access to the public schools. However housing inventory is low and prices have gone up as a result so affordable is relative. Our neighbors across the street just sold their home for $140k over list price! If you get the right location you have access to some great public schools and the town is small enough that it has a community feel - my kids are always running into kids they know at classes and summer camps. 

    One hidden gem if you are willing to go further North is Hercules. We just bought a relatively affordable condo out there for my mother-in-law and they are adjacent to   a highly ranked elementary school (both her neighbors have young children and moved out there for affordable housing and decent schools). They feel very safe and find the area beautiful and friendly. Our next door neighbors in El Cerrito who had been renting their home but just had a baby also elected to leave and buy a place in Hercules, and I have heard of others doing the same. So I think that is a city that is up and coming for families. 

    We live in Pinole after ten years in Oakland and are very happy here.  It was a big culture shock at first, we accidentally called the police on the paper boy because a decade in Oakland told us that a man going slowly from house to house at 4 am was up to no good.  I don't know about your price point, but I think you can rent a nice 3 bedroom house around here for $2600 and a 2 bedroom apartment for around $1900.  Small houses like ours seem to be selling for around $500-550k.  It's cheaper because the commute to the city is awful, but my husband commutes to Berkeley and it's not bad.  I have a reverse commute to Solano County and that is smooth as butter.  Pinole is a great place for kids.  There are awesome parks and a lot of nature and in general it's just very chill and safe.  We have a newly built Sprouts, a Trader Joe's, a third wave coffee place, a weekly farmer's market, and a bunch of mom and pop restaurants.  There are not a lot of cultural opportunities though, and we still head into Berkeley/Oakland at least once a week.  As far as schools, I toured Ellerhorst Elementary (a 7 on Great Schools) and talked to a lot of people in the neighborhood and people raved about it.  I have no idea what we'll do for middle/high school since their reputations aren't great, but they are both newly rebuilt and who knows what they will be like by then.  In general, I think that Pinole is a "hidden gem" in the Bay Area because driving through on the freeway makes it look like just a bunch of big-box stores, but it's so much more. When we wanted to buy we just kept driving up 80 until we could afford something, but now that we're here I've turned into a Pinole booster! Good luck with your search!    

    Dear JC5,

    My husband and I were in the same boat as you about a year ago. We had been living in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Oakland's Lake Merritt and loved it, but was not affordable for us to grow our family there. We ended up moving to San Leandro's Old Downtown neighborhood which is definitely more affordable than our old Oakland neighborhood and still has a lot of charm.  I really feel like this is the next hidden spot that is still affordable. We live walking distance to the downtown shops, restaurants and a weekly farmers market.  We have met several of our neighbors that have moved into this area from Oakland in the past 5 years on average. So, I get the feeling that it is slowly becoming discovered.  By writing this post I risk making it more discoverable, but at the same time we are always excited to meet new neighbors here that are like minded. One word of caution would be to avoid the Bayfair District of San Leandro which tends to be the sketchier part of town. Good luck!

    I would check out San Ramon.  The community is diverse, the public schools are fantastic, it is safe and a family oriented community.  San Ramon has apartments but they also have very affordable townhouses and free standing homes.  The town houses are much less expensive than the free standing homes.  El Cerrito and San Leandro do not have as good public schools and are not as safe as San Ramon.  San Ramon is only 25 minutes from Oakland.

    I am a homeowner in El Cerrito, and what I hear from my local renter friends is that it is not affordable (any more). I'd suggest looking to Richmond (maybe Marina Bay), Pinole, or Hercules. Also investigate if you qualify for affordable housing developments in the various cities you're considering (income limits vary by county). Some of them are very nice and well situated.

    The answer is Richmond! 

    We've lived in the Richmond Annex for almost ten years, and own a house there that is much more affordable than similar places in the East Bay.  And we love it.  Richmond has a reputation of being dangerous, but crime has gone way down in the last decade -- I personally had more problems when we lived in Temescal.  Our neighborhood is very friendly, progressive, and truly diverse (including economically diverse).  The shopping isn't great, and there's not much fine-dining (amazing casual Latin American and Asian places though), but as long as you have a car or live close to one of the three Bart stations in the area (EC Plaza, EC Del Norte, Richmond), you'll be fine.  Richmond is also amazingly progressive: we're a sanctuary city, elected a Green mayor, had the first openly gay police chief, pioneered community policing programs, and so on. 

    Check out Point Richmond (though that part is quite expensive), the Annex, the North and East neighborhood, and the Marina (lots of rental housing there).  Message me if you have questions!

    El Cerrito for sure in my mind. Much more affordable but still close to all the great things in the area. Also check out the Richmond Annex area-it is pretty small but because of the Richmond address the prices are lower but very little crime and still close to all that is great about the Bay Area. Also the Richmond Annex area goes to El Cerrito schools which are rated middle of the road but I have friends that have kids in the schools there and love it. 

  • Moving to Potrero ave El Cerrito from Berkeley ?

    (11 replies)

    Hi,

    We are thinking of moving to Potrero ave El Cerrito  from Berkeley, due to high rents and congestion in Berkeley.I work near UC Berkely. We have a 4 year old son who needs pre-school.But we are little concerned about the safety in El Cerrito.Can you please suggest if Potrero ave, el Cerrito is safer enough? Are any issues with that neighbor hood? (Due to our income we will have to pay in full fee for pre-schools either in Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito)

    OR do you think it's better  to stay back in Berkeley instead of moving to El Cerrito. Is 500$ rent difference worth it?

    Do you recommend pre-schools in Berkeley or El Cerrito which are more better for a 4 year old.

    Appreciate your thoughts on this.

    I live in El Cerrito north of Portrero with a preschooler and first-grader and we love It here! It's a great community, small but diverse, and more and more young families are moving in because you get a lot more for your money housing-wise than in Berkeley. Safety wise I don't think it is any more dangerous than Berkeley. The majority of crime seems to take place near San Pablo Ave and the flat areas near the Bart stations, if you are further up the hill it drops off quite a bit.

    One thing to consider since you have a preschooler is that if you are on Portrero above San Pablo Ave you are likely zoned for an excellent public elementary school - Madera. It's one of the best schools in WCCUSD and also has a really convenient city-run aftercare program which I really appreciated as a working parent when my son was in Kindergarten! You also have a lot of commute options to UC Berkeley area. Besides Bart and driving the AC Transit 7 stops right next to Madera. 

    There are a lot of great preschools in El Cerrito and neighboring Kensington, ranging from small home based ones to parent co-ops to larger Montessori schools. My children have gone to Keystone Montessori which is right by Potrero near Bart.

    The only thing we don't really like about El Cerrito is that it is not super walkable (especially in hills) so we end up driving to Albany or Berkeley for a lot of weekend stuff. But otherwise we have been happy here and would urge anyone to give the city a chance.

    I agree that Potrero below San Pablo is a lot different than Potrero above San Pablo. But there's just as much variation in Berkeley. If you're comparing Potrero by the freeway to Elmwood, I don't think that you'll be happy. But Berkeley is filled with super dangerous areas. I've never seen anything in EC half as sketchy as the area around University and San Pablo. I lived in EC for years and never felt unsafe, even walking home from Bart at night. I think that it's a nice place.

    We love El Cerrito!  I'm currently a student at UCB, my boys are 4 & 6 years old.  We live on Kearney St, down the street from Fairmont Elementary, and LOVE it.  Lots of walkable parks, restaurants, and shops - we do everything on foot.  I have always felt very safe in my neighborhood - I even left the keys in the door once for several hours (it was one of those days...) and everything was fine.

    My 4 year old goes to Casa Cerrito (the city-run preschool) - it looks a bit run-down compared to more expensive private preschools, but the content and teachers are FANTASTIC.  They do special classes in on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons - right now its tumbling, in the summer it will be swim lessons.  

    Portrero right on/near San Pablo Ave is a pretty busy area - lots of shopping centers (Safeway, Dollar Tree, Walgreens, which is the only pharmacy in town that takes a certain kind of Medi-Cal and is often really crowded), so with little ones might want to live further uphill from San Pablo.

    I'm happy to talk more if you want!

    ~Alison

    Please don't worry: El Cerrito is a very safe place, filled with lots and lots of families (as well as older people). I suspect Berkeley actually has a higher crime rate, but what crime there is in El Cerrito tends toward theft/burglary rather than violent crimes. We have lived here for 17 years, and were drawn here by lower-cost housing and a less-congested way of life. It is easy to commute thanks to two BART stations (El Cerrito Plaza and Del Norte), and there is a wide variety of grocery stores, restaurants, parks, etc. There is a nice community pool at the Community Center. The Community Center also offers affordable week-long summer camps throughout the summer (many of which are geared to 4-year olds).

    There are fine preschools all over the place. My own children have been out of preschool for many years, so others will have to weigh in with recommendations. The local schools are quite fine for elementary, middle, and high school (the middle school is brand new, and the high school is also fairly new).

    You do not want to be below San Pablo Avenue.Higher up the hill is quite nice.Go online to Great Schools.Madera is quite nice

    We moved to El Cerrito from Berkeley four years ago and live on Potrero near Richmond. Honestly, it's much quieter than Berkeley (we lived near North Berkeley BART) and the people are friendlier and streets are quieter. Traffic can be somewhat heavy but mostly only during the commute hours, I would say between ~7:45-8:30am and maybe 4:30-~6pm (except that day when 80E was closed! THAT was crazy!). We have kids in preschool and there are TONS of kids in the area--four preschoolers and at least three babies on our block alone. I wasn't thrilled when we moved to the area but it's been really good for us, especially with so many kids and new friends nearby. Plus we live near Giovanni's, which is a fantastic small grocery store. As for safety, we've had a couple things stolen off of our front porch but other than that it's been fine. There are also a number of preschools around Potrero--Keystone Montessori, Pride and Joy, Stepping Stone Schoolhouse, and probably others I don't know about. It takes some adjusting to living in a very residential area (it has for me, anyway) but I appreciate El Cerrito and what it offers.

    It's not that bad. I find that there are more dangerous places in Berkeley than in el cerrito.

    It's a great area, especially on the less busy streets. Hug a bug preschool is up by Arlington park and probably one of the best and most reasonable around. Nancy Kelleher is a genius with kids. My daughter just turned 15 and still considers going to hug a bug as one of the best things in her life. Lots of our friends live in that area and love it. Sometimes people don't like shopping at the big new Safeway but that's the only negative I've heard. We live in Albany and almost moved over there since it's so much more reasonable. More suburban but still very close to everything.

    Agree with the other post: Above San Pablo is OK, below is not so great but much cheaper.  The apartments are ticky-tacky and the school is borderline.  On the other hand, the neighborhood just to the north seems to be quiet.  

    I think the neighborhood is safe.  Many families live in the area.  You might want to check out Pine Crest School for your preschooler - it's an awesome program: http://www.thepinecrestschool.com/.  There is also Oceanview Montessori on Clayton Av. in El Cerrito.

    Where on Potrero Ave make a difference. Above San Pablo Ave is probably safer than below San Pablo Ave. There are many preschools in El Cerrito that will be just fine. Google it and start calling/visiting. Thinking ahead to public schools, Madera elementary, Korematsu middle school, and El Cerrito High School are really wonderful, academically and socially. I have recently met several families new to El Cerrito from Berkeley and Oakland who are surprised at how much they like El Cerrito.

  • Advice on communities for job in SF, family with a teen

    (1 reply)

    Hi everyone!  My husband recently took a new job in the San Francisco financial district.  We live in CT and he currently commutes to NYC.  His commute is about 2 hours (on mass transit).  We are looking to cut his commute to about an hour (on mass transit).  We are looking for decent schools (they don't have to be top notch super competitive).  We want a community that is down to earth and chill. Diversity would be nice as would a downtown area and walkability.  I understand our house will be smaller with less land there.  We would like to keep the home price under $1m.  My older two daughters are in college so it is just my 13 year old who will be in high school next year.  She is a softball player so a good travel team would be nice or a community that is easy to commute to fields from would be nice.  She also plays trumpet so a school with a strong music program would be a good selling point. 

    We like the sound of Alameda but my concern is getting off the island for practices, dr appointments etc.  Also not sure about the housing inventory there. 

    I like the sound of Balboa school in Southwest SF but the school system and policies in CA confuse me.  Here in CT you go to the school in your town no option other than private school but in CA it seems like there is some sort of choice.  Not sure how much choice we would have moving in August though. 

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.     

    El Cerrito would definitely fit all your criteria! BART or bus to San Francisco is 30 minutes each way. It is a walkable city. El Cerrito High School has an excellent music program and a softball team. The local travel softball team is called the Crossfire and a few ECHS players are also on Crossfire. El Cerrito High School is so diverse that there is no majority ethnicity. Plenty of down to earth community events though the city and the community center. Homes will be under 1M. By BART or driving it is easy to get to Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco for more variety.

  • AA Peninsula Mom of 2 looking to move to the East Bay for cultural diversity

    (4 replies)

    Hello!

    My husband and I are an affluent African-american couple (Pharmacist and Googler) who currently own a home in the peninsula. We have a 1 and 2 year old toddler and do not wish to raise them here in the peninsula due to the lack of other affluent African- Americans in our community (and along the peninsula overall). We plan on staying here for the next 2 years before Kindergarten. Can anyone recommend any great neighborhoods for purchasing a home near or in Berkeley where my kids can walk to attend great public schools, and have a more diverse experience growing up and us not worry about crime, race, or meeting others like themselves? We are also looking for areas accessible to stores, shopping, and a great social scene if desired.

    I'm a white mom in Berkeley.  As noted by a previous poster, BUSD assign schools very differently than other districts.  The city is divided into 3 diagonal zones. You are assigned to a zone based on your address.  Within the zone, you declare a preference of elementary schools.  And 2/3's of families get their 1st or 2nd pick, which means 1/3 gets their 3rd pick or not even!  This does result in a bit of schlepping around town, but the upside is... all of the schools are good, and all of the schools are diverse!  And pretty darned similar.  If you visit some of the schools, they will start to all look alike to you. Middle schools are assigned based on address.  Apart from one "magnet" middle school, although so far I haven't figured out what it's a magnet for?  Technology maybe? There's only one HS, so everybody goes there.  The affluent African American families that I know mostly live in the hills (a typically somewhat affluent area), although I can think of one family that lives near San Pablo Park (a typically middle class area.)  Of course, you own a house on the peninsula, so you can probably afford to buy or rent a house in Berk, and you know that a middle class house in Berk would buy you a mansion in most of the rest of the country.  If I had to guess, the most diverse area of Berkeley including affluent and not-so affluent folks of all colors would be around Berkeley Bowl.  But no matter what elementary school you attend, I think you will find a community including some affluent black and brown folks.  I would guess a better sense of community here than on the Peninsula.  School tours are starting soon if you want to come take a look.  Some schools require you to sign up for the tour, but many allow you to just show up.  ps I would guess Albany is a little whiter in general than Berkeley, and El Cerrito less affluent in general.  Also, you can search for the city of Berkeley crime map.  Crime is predictably centered around commercial streets like University, Shattuck, San Pablo & College, and also near UCB.  A little more in South Berk, a little less in the north.  Probably more than on the peninsula in general.  Hope this helps!

    Hi there.  I would recommend El Cerrito and a few neighborhoods in Richmond.  Fairmont and Harding are both good schools and their cachement areas are very walkable and diverse. If you're worried about the test scores you can move to the hills and send your kids to Madera, but it's mostly white and Asian up there, also you'll need to drive.  Richmond Hills families go to Mira Vista, which is a sweet little K-8 school in the hills, incredibly diverse in every way, with a strong parent community.  Depending on where you live your kids can walk there.  They have a good library, computer lab, band and glee club, and teachers from Richmond Art Center. The numbers aren't as good as Madera but families in the district still transfer their kids to MV because it's a good school. My kid has friends from the neighborhood and I feel safe letting them tear around on their bikes together.  I have friends who live up in Hilltop in some of the developments.  There are a lot of professional class AA families there, although I don't think they send their kids to the local school.  If you want more info you could contact Mocha Moms of West Contra Costa.  They're online and a great group.

    Parts of South Berkeley are considered "historically" African-American and now have are quite a mixture. However, as the Save Black Berkeley (http://www.saveblackberkeley.org/) movement can surely attest to, many in these communities are selling their homes and leaving. That said, there are definitely upper middle class African Americans in Berkeley neighborhoods from all points west of Sacramento and Alcatraz to University. 

    Before you make the move, you should research how Berkeley assigns public schools, because this may mean that walking to school is not possible. I know people that are not able to attend the schools closest to them, but love how diverse in a socioeconomic way this makes them. If Oakland is also on your radar, Crocker Highlands is a great neighborhood with a great elementary school, not as diverse as we would like, but still lovely in other ways. There certainly are families of all colors in the same ish tax bracket. Piedmont might also be more inclusive than certain Peninsula cities, but still very white. It is also a very small city, so there is a real sense of neighborly connection there for better or worse. I agree it's not for everyone. People who live there do walk to school and it is very child/family focused.

  • Moving to Berkeley from LA - Interracial Family Friendly?

    (14 replies)

    Greetings!

    There's a good chance my family and I will be moving to Berkeley (or surrounding places) for a dream job in Berkeley. My husband is African American and I am light-skinned Latina. We have a beautiful daughter, preschool age. I have three questions:

    1. What are some of the safest and friendliest places for us to consider moving to as an interracial family?

    2. What are some of the best, most diverse and affordable preschools around?

    3. We want to our girl to be bilingual in Spanish and English. Are there any dual immersion preschools (and elementary schools) that we should know about?

    Thank you in advance for your help. I went to UC Berkeley for my undergrad 20 years ago and LOVED it. I'm very fond of Berkeley and would happily move back. Since it's been so long, I wanted to hear what current parents have to say in respect to the above questions (and anything else!). 

    Sincerely Grateful,

    LS

    There are a lot of interracial families here in the East Bay.  We live in the incredibly diverse North and East neighborhood of Richmond.  There are bilingual preschools in some of the public schools, El Nuevo Mundo, a beautiful little state run preschool, a few home based ones and La Casita, a Montessori preschool up in Pinole.  There is a dual immersion program at Washington elementary (1-6) that continues into middle school. Richmond/San Pablo has a big AA and Latino community.  It's very friendly and the vibe has never been better. My kid rides his bike all over and plays at the local basketball court with a bunch of neighborhood boys. 

    (ps. just to clarify as far as school district areas, Rockridge is Oakland at border of South Berkeley (which for preschool is not an issue but maybe down the way...)

    Hi, 

    Jealously happy for you.  :)  I'm a single mom of one Black/biracial teen daughter living the other side of the bay in an very homogenized, wealthy area. She has really hated the culture here since middle school. Berkeley High is such an inspiring contrast to our high schools, I would still like to move. When she was little we used to drive across the bay just to attend interracial family networks/play groups i-Pride and Our Colors... not sure where they went but neither seem to have an online presence anymore. 

    Our favorite neighborhood: Rockridge is really wonderful <3 with interracial families everywhere.

    Very best to you and hope you get some informative feedback from BPN local parents!

     

    Welcome back! If it's not too far for you, you should consider Hayward. It was recently ranked the third most diverse city in the US, and my son went to school with lots of biracial kids (he is half Latino, half white-Jewish). We have many public schools with bilingual programs that run TK-6th grade and I believe there is one dual immersion middle school. It's been a long time since I thought about preschool, but you should at least be able to find one with bilingual teachers. Hayward lacks many of the amenities and much of the charm that Berkeley and other parts of the Bay Area offer, but it's super real, very welcoming, and much more affordable. 

    When my kids were at Malcolm X in Berkeley I was always impressed by how many interracial families there were among their classmates.  I think the Berkeley public schools would be a great place to feel at home.  Berkeley is expensive and difficult to find housing in, but it might be a good fit for what you are seeking.  While safety varies block to block in the SW corner where homes are more affordable, I felt very comfortable there with small kids.  Berkeley schools also have a two way immersion program, but it can be hard to get into.

    Hi.

    As for housing for an interracial family, I suggest Berkeley. The North Berkeley neighborhood is nice. So is Kensington, just north of Berkeley. The problem is the houses are very expensive. There are burgalaries but its rare to hear about violent crime. The city of Albany is okay, the public schools are highly rated and there are rentals (unlike Kensington which doesn't have a lot of apartments). Albany has diversity but not so much African American diversity. I have found that for my kids to get the best support, that diverse schools with underrepresented minorities work best for me. You may have a different experience.

    Parts of Oakland are safe and many are multicultural-friendly, like the Oakland hills (off of highway 13). Oakland is a hot real estate market and is gentrifying. The cost of good apartments are going up. On the other hand, I have friends buy a home when they previously could't afford one.

    I am African American and my husband is biracial. I grew up in the north Berkeley Kensington area.

    I don't know whether you are buying a home or looking to rent. The rental market is terrible. Many people are moving within the East Bay to Antioch, Pittsburg, Vallejo and Richmond. People from SF are moving to the East Bay because there is a housing shortage in SF. It is driving up the rent prices. So people from the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville,etc) are moving away because they can't find affordable apartments or rental properties. 

    In north Berkeley there is a dual emersion school called Thousand Oaks. I've heard its good but you probably want to look it up in the Berkeley school system.I know there are others. Sometimes I see ads for them in the "Parents Press", a free monthly newspaper with info for parents on schools, pediatricians, summer camps, etc.  I am sure it is online as well.

    Good luck. Hope that helps.

    Also you might want to look at El Cerrito or "Richmond Annex". 

     

     

     

    We have been a black-white interracial family in El Cerrito since 2000 and it has never been an issue. About half (seriously!) of our daughter's public elementary class was interracial of some form or another. Our daughter, now 16, has always felt that being black-white is a double bonus, rather than a double detriment, and identifies as an El Cerrito person, rather than a specific ethnicity. The only time she has mentioned feeling out of place in the Bay Area was at a boutique in Walnut Creek, and not for being black-white, but for clearly not being a Walnut Creek person. I do not know of a bilingual preschool in El Cerrito but the West Contra Costa dual immersion elementary school is Washington in Pt. Richmond, about which I have heard good things. My daughter has several really nice friends who went to Washington for elementary.

    Hello,

    I also did my undergrad at Berkeley, just before you did, although I never left the area. My daughter is also African American and just started kindergarten. I have lived in North Oakland since 1994. It is no longer very affordable, but it is a wonderful place for interracial families.

    Our daughter went to Monteverde Preschool, which is both affordable and diverse. We couldn't be happier. Although they have no formal language program, a number of the teachers are fluent in multiple languages and they do use them, both in group settings and directly with individual kids that know Spanish, Portuguese or Japanese.

    I also know folks that have been very happy with Mi Mundo preschool. And I've heard great things about Melrose Leadership Acadamy for Elementary.

    Good luck and welcome back.

    Sorry, I mistakenly did not include my username in case you need to respond " Heavenly" 

    I am the parent in an inter-racial family and have lived in Berkeley since before my first child was born. There is no place in Berkeley (or Albany or Oakland for that matter) that has ever made me or my family feel foreign, unwelcome, odd, etc.) It is only when we travel outside of Berkeley that I am confronted with the sort of unpleasant encounters that are the norm in much of the rest of the country. Even a drive up to Napa or through the tunnel to Walnut Creek reminds me what an oasis Berkeley is. If you haven't been here in 20 years you will see that it is much less diverse than it used to be but you still see every possible mix of family so frequently that it's just not a thing.

    Having said that—there are some places that are less safe than others. Living up in the hills is beautiful and very safe, but also very very white. For more diversity and marginally less safety, look in the flats in North Berkeley. 

    Congrats on your dream job!

    Albany is an excellent school district and many Wonderful preschools ( my personal fav is Albany Preschool but I have heard Dust Nest is also awesome). Albany is pretty safe, well    Diversified, and very family oriented. 

    For the most part,  with the only real crime lately is car break-ins and occasionally house breakins. Many of us keep  aware of crime or social events through a site known as "Nextdoor" ( I can send you a invite by your email if you like as it will connect you to your current location and when you move you just adjust your address). 

    In September Albany/ Berkely have "The Solono Stroll" which is a event that closes off Main Street (Solono Av)  is awesome and slot of fun. 

    Albany is very centrally located in the Bay Area so everything is within reach, shopping & BART. 

    You email me back if you have other questions.  Best of luck . Tammy

    I don't have specific answers for #2 and #3, but I think pretty much anywhere in Berkeley will be fine for an interracial family. I say this as a member of an interracial family who has friends who are also interracial families.

    I think some people might inadvertently try to steer you towards more "diverse" (i.e. less-white) areas, but I would ignore them (such steering is highly problematic and I think people may be oblivious to that at times). Instead I would just prioritize things you want out of a neighborhood (e.g. public transit, noise levels, nearby commercial streets, whatever) and focus on finding areas that match that instead. If you have general concerns about crime, my general sense is that south of campus you'll get more petty crime, and south/southwest areas closer to Oakland are a bit more touchy (unfortunately). Living in Berkeley I think the main problem to worry about, crime-wise, is property crime (e.g. car getting broken into) than personal/violent crime. Berkeley is also much, much, much safer than it was 20 years ago, so if you had no problems then than you'll have no problems now.

    I haven't looked into it specifically, but as a partial answer to #3 I believe Berkeley Unified's LeConte provides a district-wide dual-language (Spanish/English) immersion and is in the central school zone. I'm not sure if living in the central zone would help your kids get in since it's a district-wide program. Hopefully others will chime in with helpful info.

    Hi, we live in Albany and love it. It is a hidden gem between El Cerrito, Kensington and Berkeley with a great school system with easy access to the highway and proximity to Bart. We are an interracial couple with a 20 month old daughter and relocated from Los Angeles approximately four years ago. If you have an interest in getting coffee when you are up here, please don't hesitate to contact us. I can be reached at angel.cruzado [at] gmail.com

     

    You should check out Escuela Bilingue Internacional.  It has preschool, elementary and middle school.

  • El Cerrito to St Helena Hospital

    (1 reply)

    Which areas of El Cerrito are near the Bart for my daughter to go to Berkeley. I also want  to know  if commute from Elcerrito to StHelena Hospital is doable as I will start work at St. Helena Hospital . Also can you recommend good rental apartments in ElCerrito.

    Del Norte and El Cerrito Plaza are the 2 BART stations in El Cerrito. Finding a good rental at a reasonable price is very difficult these days, you might consider expanding your search to Richmond as well. Some areas are very nice and are within walking/biking  distance to BART. El Cerrito to Napa is a pretty long commute but it might not be too bad if you're working the morning shift since you'd be going in the non-commute direction. But if you're working PM's (leaving El Cerrito after 3pm)  you'll hit some traffic on 80-W.Try driving the route before you start work to see what you think.

  • Safety in El Cerrito

    (5 replies)

    Hello,

    We are moving to El Cerrito, east of Del Norte BART station and I wanted to get some advice from other parents about safety in this neighborhood. What about parks; are there any favorite parks for a 9 month old? And what is it like living closer to Richmond? All advice for safety is welcomed.

    Thanks,

    New Mom in El Cerrito

    RE: Safety in El Cerrito ()

    We have lived in the area for 6 years. Oldest was 2 when we moved in and had another since. Crimes against people are fortunately pretty rare. Never, ever leave car or home unlocked as theft is pretty common universally. There was a serious rash of home break ins in El Cerrito 2or 3 years ago, but the police department changed their day patrols and the problem seems to be resolved. It's a kid friendly area, with lots of neighborhood parks. More or less walkable depending on how many hills you have. I have always felt safe at night walkng the hills well above and north of the Del Norte BART station. Ohlone greenway walking after dark I would steer clear.El Cerrito police are responsive, and by and large, I would consider safety on par with Albany. Is it Mayberry? No. Join Nextdoor and keep an eye on the posts. Yes, cars get broken into and packages do get stolen from time to time. With basic common sense, though, we have felt completely safe and quickly formed ties with a really nice community of people. Welcome to the neighborhood!

    RE: Safety in El Cerrito ()

    The only baby swings in the whole of El Cerrito are at Arlington & Huber Parks. I would guess Arlington will be your new home away from home. Go buy that restroom key now! :)

    Re. safety, I live on the other end of town from you but have always found the PD very responsive. Luckily I have never needed them for anything serious (never had to dial 911, knock on wood) in my 6 years living here.

    RE: Safety in El Cerrito ()

    I've lived in EC for 22 years. Our first house was on Mira Vista Dr east of the Del Norte station. Walking distance to the Prospect Sierra elementary school. I always felt safe in that neighborhood. We use to walk the kids to the school playground and to Canyon Trail Park. I'm no longer in that house but still in El Cerrito. There are many nice parks in EC. It's been years since I've had a 9 month old child, so I can't remember where all the small swings are. Plus, EC redid most of the parks after my kids grew up. I've been to most of them and always find them safe. The one on Barrett below the Arlington is nice too. I believe Arlington Park has swings for toddlers. Check them all out.

    RE: Safety in El Cerrito ()

    We've lived in Richmond (gasp) west of  Del Norte BART for 12 years and have never once had an issue with safety. Richmond has such a bad rap, most people don't understand there are many wonderful neighborhoods in Richmond, it's not all like the Iron Triangle. We've left cars accidentally unlocked overnight numerous times(once with my purse on the seat), left bikes & toys outside, UPS packages on our porch all day and never a problem.  When my son was younger the neighborhood kids would play outside and ride bikes unsupervised. We know most of our neighbors and we all keep an eye out for each other. That being said I don't go walking alone at night and don't let my teen son walk home from BART alone at night either. There have been muggings in the past near the Ohlone Greenway,Safeway & BART. We installed a security screen door which I highly recommend if you like having your front door open without worrying about getting robbed;)  Get to know your neighbors! , Join Nextdoor, the EC community is very active and I'm sure you'll find many members living in your neighborhood. Parks: Arlington Park is my favorite , has swings, toddler area, large grassy field, duck pond  and location is beautiful. Canyon Trail Park is nice too. Huntington Park is small but has a toddler area w/swings. Cameron School has a great tot lot for younger toddlers that's open to the public 3-6pm and weekends. A short drive away is Albany Memorial Park, always full of kids & probably the best place for mom's to socialize. Also check out EC library storytime and don't forget swimming at the EC Pool! Welcome to the hood, this is a great place to live.

    RE: Safety in El Cerrito ()

    We live off of Potrero and feel plenty safe! We have a 7 month old!

    Jessica

Archived Q&A and Reviews


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: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap/.) 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. http://www.meetup.com/El-Cerrito- 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: http://marvingardens.mlsb.com/idx/agentbio.cfm?cid=34=8145

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. http://www.el-cerrito.org/police/weekly_060417.html. 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. http://www.greatschools.net/ 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. http://marvingardens.mlsb.com/mls/agent.cfm
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: http://www.ridenow.org/carpool/what.htm)

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