Advice about Living in Kensington

Parent Q&A

Kensington and water treatment plant Mar 23, 2017 (1 responses below)
  • We live in a house on a steep hill and with young children and we're desiring a flatter house with some yard space. We love being close to Gourmet Ghetto and Downtown Berkeley, but its pricey to find a less vertical house that we can afford, let alone with some yard space. We are considering Kensington, but don't know much about the village/community. Does it feel more remote and hard to access freeways?  Also Hilltop K-6 school seems to have great reviews, but I've read families then go to private middle or high school as they feel El Cerrito schools aren't up to par. What schools are those and what are the costs? We bought our current house so we could be in the Berkeley school district so we are concerned to leave. What are the other things we'd be leaving or gaining if we moved from Berkeley to Kensington? Thank you for your thoughts! 

    Most of Kensington is just as hilly as Berkeley, if not more, and the streets seem more narrow. I grew up in the hilly part of Berkeley near Kensington and so disliked the remoteness and lack of places to walk/bike, that as an adult I moved to the flat part of El Cerrito. El Cerrito has been great, and the schools, elementary, middle, and high school, have been totally fine.

  • Kensington and water treatment plant

    (1 reply)

    One of the areas we're looking to buy a home is in the Kensington neighborhood. We saw a nice home a few blocks from the water treatment plant. I'm wondering what people have experienced living near the treatment plant (e.g. are there odors? chemicals to worry about?) or if there's nothing to be concerned about. 

    I didn't realize that there was a water treatment plant in Kensington. Are you talking about the reservoir on Grizzly Peak? If so, I live right by there and have never had an issue with it. It would be nice if they'd finish the construction project but that's a different issue!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Kensington or Albany?

Oct 2009

We are trying to decide between a move to Kensington or Albany. We are a one-child family getting ready to start elementary school. I've heard great things about the community that surrounds Kensington Hilltop. However, we like being able to walk to things and bike ride along flatter streets. I'd like to hear some opinions of people who have chosen between these two districts for their homes. Are we guaranteed a spot at Hilltop if we are Kensington residents? How does the school selection process work in Albany. How do the elementary schools and the communities differ? What questions do you think we should consider when looking at these two neighborhoods? We appreciate hearing your experience. house hunt

The obvious difference between these two areas is middle school and high school. Yes, Hilltop is a great school, however Portola Middle School and El Cerrito High School both have mediocre test scores, and those would be the schools where Hilltop kids go to. Albany Middle School and High School both have fantastic scores straight through. Another difference with the schools is diversity - Kensington isn't nearly as diverse as the Albany schools. My kids will go to Hilltop, and I'm pretty happy about that, but I would trade for Albany schools anyday. I have been told that if you live in the zoning area for Hilltop and register in time, you will get in.

Albany is a really great place to raise kids. You can walk everywhere,and as the kids get older, so can they. Marin is a great elementary school, stellar teachers and great community. The middle school is not quite as wonderful, but as far as middle schools go, it's pretty good-and way better than Portola, which is where your kids would go if you live in Kensington. Also Albany High is much better than El Cerrito High. So, my vote is Albany. albany parent

Both Albany & Kensington are lovely places. In Albany, you have great schools k-12. In Kensington, many people opt out of public after elementary. We live in Albany and are thrilled with the sense of neighborhood and community. Loves Albany

Is Kensington family-friendly?

Jan 2009

We're thinking of buying a house in Kensington and know almost nothing about the community. Is it family-friendly? Do kids play together on the streets? Are there sports? We have 3 active boys so want to be sure there is something for them to do. Anonymous

Kensington is very family friendly - the Kensington Hilltop School organizations get a lot of the community involved: PTA, Dad's Club, KCC...lots to do for kids and lots of playmates. Michael

Or son is only 7 mos old so I don't know much about organized activities. I do know there are tons of kids here. Also there is Tilden Park with miles of trails, a farm, a carousel, and the steam trains. anon

I have lived in Kensington for 5 years with two daughters, and would say it is generally family friendly although hilly so not a lot of bike riding and playing in the streets! Both daughters attended the local Kensington Hilltop elementary school and took enrichment programs at KASEP just down the hill from the school. The local library is small but very family friendly and lots of activities scheduled. There are no local sports programs as far as I know. My daughters play soccer in the El Cerrito league, which is basically the sister town for Kensington since that's where Kensington kids go to middle school and high school. Now that my daughters are older, they appreciate things like the Arlington shops, which they can walk to, and the no. 7 bus which can take them to Berkeley easily. Kensingtonian