Living in Lafayette
I also just want to add that if you are coming from anywhere except Boston or New York, you will likely be surprised by the sheer number of LGBT people in the Bay Area. We are everywhere. My partner and I live with our two kids in Lafayette, which is an East Bay suburb. It's not very ethnically diverse or socioeconomically diverse, but we wanted a safe place for our kids and we wanted to be close to my aging parents. We moved in expecting to perhaps encounter some homophobia, but instead discovered two other LGBT couples live within a handful of houses. Our kids attend a preschool here that is extremely LGBT-positive and there are many kids there who have two moms or two dads (or other out-of-the-norm arrangements). All of which is to say, the Bay Area is really a unique place in the sense of the sheer number of LGBT folks. Of course, some areas are more liberal than others, and some areas have more LGBT people than others, but overall, I would say, look for the place you want to live for other reasons (location, traffic, finances, public transportation, etc) and you can generally expect that it will at least be reasonably LGBT-family-friendly.
We love living in Lafayette, and my kids play out front all the time. We live on a flat street with the cul-de-sac, and my son spends hours outside kicking a ball, shooting baskets, playing with the neighbors, riding bikes etc. I love this old-fashion childhood in the safe town.
When we were looking, we were considering both Orinda and Lafayette (Moraga is another good option, but my husband thought the commute was too far ). I found that Orinda didn't have many flat streets, as it has more hills. There are hilly part of Lafayette as well, but there are also many areas with flat streets and plenty of kids outside! We also live near the trail, which is very convenient. We can walk to school and to town.
I have friends who live all around the bay area, and many are envious of our neighborhood. I pinch myself every day and feel grateful to live in such a wonderful spot.
Good luck with your search, and moving to the suburbs can be a great decision.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
We live in Lafayette on a cul de sac. Each afternoon and on weekends the neighborhood kids are out playing, laughing, riding bikes, scooters, and skateboards, or exploring the creek nearby. Many kids walk, ride their bikes, or scooter to school. After school they walk to the library or hang out downtown. It is very safe and feels like a place where I can feel comfortable letting my son begin to spread his wings and experience some freedom and independence. Happy and relaxed Mama
After living in New York for 11 years, I returned to the East Bay with my husband and young daughter. We are living in Lafayette. I couldn't be happier with our choice. We knew that no new urban experience would compare to our New York years, so we went the complete opposite direction and settled in charming suburbia. Lafayette is fairly small but offers everything on your list. I live within a 5-10 minute walk of restaurants, a major grocery store, the library, playgrounds, jogging/biking trails, public schools, and several preschools. The town is very safe and family-friendly. Although I don't know about availability (the housing market is very competitive here!), there are many homes within close proximity to BART and the main street, Mt. Diablo Blvd. There are many excellent preschools offering a range of scheduling options. Although there are waiting lists at many schools, the process is much more low-key than in New York. I find the people of Lafayette to be friendly, educated, and down-to-earth. My daughter is only in preschool, but the public schools here are very well regarded. Lafayette has extensive trails and parks, and it is also within easy driving distance to Tilden Park in Berkeley, where I often take my daughter for a variety of activities. I would say that the one thing Lafayette lacks is diversity. On all other accounts, it is lovely. Unfortunately, I can't provide much insight on the topic of real estate, because we chose to rent an apartment to start. I'd be happy to share more information about my experience here if you wish to email me. Good luck with your move! Heather
Re: Looking for a good neighborhood for my family
I live in Lafayette and I love it here! It's only
a short drive through the caldacot tunnel to Berkeley and we have some of the best schools in California! For $2500 you could rent a small two bedroom home, it's more like $3000 for a three bedroom. It's very safe here and friendly and is well worth the expense.
Re: Looking for a good neighborhood for my family
People commented on the commute to Berkeley from various towns in the east bay. I have been commuting from Lafayette to Berkeley for work for 15+ years. Here's what I want to add that I didn't see in any comments: the commute from Lafayette to Berkeley is 22 minutes door to door for me and is an absolutely breath-taking drive and one that I look forward to. On more than one occasion I have pulled over to take a photo of the views with my iPhone. I have a very short drive via highway from Lafayette to Fish Ranch Road. Then I either go Grizzly Peak or Fish Ranch road over the hill into Berkeley. Driving from El Cerrito to Berkeley through stop lights and traffic may take the same amount of time, but wouldn't be the same type of commute. The commute rarely takes me more than 25 minutes, no matter what the time of day. barbara
Re: Good schools and lots of trees and nature
I was in a similar situation and picked Lafayette as our new city. We lived in Rockridge and I loooved it - diversity, could walk to anything, blocks from BART for commuting into the city. The downsides for me were crime, cost (our 1200 sqft house was big when it was 2 of us, 2 kids later it was tight and we couldn't afford a bigger place in Rockridge) and schools (elementary was good but that's where it ended).
Lafayette is suburban - no way around that. And no where near as diverse as Oakland of course. It is super green - we ended up on the far west side of Lafayette and are surrounded by trees (I'm getting in shape with all the leaf raking I'm doing). We frequently have deer in the yard and love the easy access to Briones and Tilden for hikes. The schools are amazing - I truly could not be any happier and feel very lucky. Crime does exist in Lafayette but it's mostly property crime. Lafayette is not cheap but we were able to buy a 4/3 in Lafayette for what we sold our 2/1 in Rockridge for. Not in the downtown neighborhood of Lafayette, though, which has the draw of walkability. We are on the west side and can not walk to anything but other houses - it's a 2 1/2 miles bike ride into town.
Good luck - it's a hard decision. Check out redfin for houses (I used that a ton in our research) and spend time in the cities that are options; will help you get a feel for what is a good fit. nowalafayettemom
Lafayette: Would we fit in?
Hi. My husband and I are thinking of buying a house and settling down. One of our choices is Lafayette but I am not sure we would fit in. We are both working parents of a 15 mo boy. I work part-time and we are not financially super rich. We are also very conservative when it comes to spending money. We think twice before spending every dollar. We DONT wear designer clothes, drive very modest cars, clean our house ourself etc. If we buy a house in Lafayette we wont have much $ left to spend anyways. Will we fit in ? We dont want our son to be the poorest kid on the block but at the same time want great education. We dont mind contributing to schools / programs but will he be under peer pressure to have fancy clothes / toys / gadgets ? Will other parents look down upon us ? Will I be struggling to keep up with other stay-at-home moms who can spend lot of time at school ? Racially we are a minority so that worries my husband as well that Lafayette may not be culturally diverse or that people / kids will not understand and respect our culture. We currently live in Berkeley. All the reviews are from 2008 -09 so current residents please please tell us your experience. confused parents
We are moving from Berkeley to Lafayette in a few weeks, and the questions you raised in your post resonated with me. My partner and I both work full-time for non-profits. We pinch pennies (I never shop without coupons) and have no interest in ever buying a Mercedes over a Toyota, even if we could. We're moving to Lafayette for the schools, for safety, and to be close to family. I expect we will be one of the poorer families, but I'm okay with that. I know my kids will always have a roof over their heads, food on the table, and lots of love, and if they can't have the newest and greatest gadgets that their friends have, they'll live. I assume the friends they find (and the friends we find) will be people who for the most part share our values. I spent most of my teenage years in Lafayette, and I managed to find people who were okay without trendy expensive gadgets and clothes. I think if that's what you are looking for, that's what you'll find. I can't speak to your question about racial diversity, because I don't know. However, I can say that I share your sense of concern about diversity, in that my partner and I are both women, and we wonder how our children will fare in Lafayette schools with two moms. We'll see... Off to Lafayette
We are moving to Lamorinda. It looks to me like the elementary schools have more racial mix than the high schools, and I hope this means more minorities with young families (and older families too) are moving to Lamorinda. I think it is helpful to hang out here to see how it feels to you. We liked the Storyteller bookstore, a place where some kids go. Maybe the library would be a good place too, storytime for kids your kid's age. anon
Hello, In response your questions regarding Lafayette. I too had similar concerns before moving to this area(we are in Moraga which is SUPER close to Lafayette). We lived in Oakland and Berkeley with our three children before moving here. Though I can't speak directly about what it's like living in Lafayette, I will admit that a lot of my assumptions about living here were not completely accurate. First of all, while there is money here, there are a lot of people that are lower-middle class. A lot of my sons classmates live in apartments close to the 'great' schools. Yes, the schools really are GREAT. Although I know I miss Oakland much more than my husband does, I will never deny how good the schools are here, or how nice it is to have space. There are very nice cars, but there are just as many that are older 90's..The car I drive is a 10 year old Honda, and I in no way have the oldest car, or feel out of place. The same is true for gadgets. I'm sure some of the kids play on Ipads, and have all of the latest technology, but mine don't and no one feels uncomfortable about it. The same goes for having a housekeeper etc. Some people have it, some people don't. Honestly it's a lot like Oakland or Berkeley in that way. Some people have a ton of extra help, financial resources, and some don't, but I don't feel anyone makes you feel bad about it.
The one thing that is definitely true is that it is not as culturally diverse as Berkeley or Oakland. You didn't specify your ethnicity, but if you are African American you will definitely not be the only one, but there aren't a ton of others. That being said, there are quite a few Hispanic, Chinese, Korean, even Samoan. I am caucasion, but miss the cultural diversity from across the tunnel. However, it isn't so far away, that we can't stay in touch and feel connected to all of those friends.
Soo..Long story short, hopefully someone from Lafayette will reply to you. If you are at all interested in exploring Moraga though, I would encourage you to do so. It's only another 10 minutes or less to the freeway from Lafayette, and I've heard that it's got the most financial variety which may make you most comfortable. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck! Anne
You and your family would probably fit in fine in Lafayette, but I'd suggest checking out Moraga. We've lived here 9 years and love it. There are definitely some people are wealthier, but most people are more middle class, drive older cars and don't wear flashy clothes. Our kids don't have their own ipads or itouches, don't watch tv during the week and love to go thrift shopping. As far as diversity, Lamorinda is mostly white but in my daughter's class, there are kids from many ethnicities including African American, Hispanic, Asian, Middle eastern. There are also several 2 Mom families in Moraga (don't know of any 2 Dad families but there may be...).
Personally I didn't make many friends in Moraga until my daughter went to school and started having play dates. I also joined a philanthropic group, the Moraga Juniors (Lafayette also has a great Juniors group). I was worried that I wouldn't fit in (work full time, at the time was divorced, don't drive a fancy car or wear expensive jewelry) but it was fine and I made good friends while raising money for great causes.
Lamorinda is more conservative than Berkeley, but we found that we made friends with people with similar views (more liberal) and lifestyles (making it but don't have much left over at the end of the month).
Maybe you should spend a few days walking around in Lafayette or Moraga...go shopping at Trader Joes, spend a morning at the Lafayette Community Park with your son, go to a Toddler reading hour at one of the libraries, eat at one of the local restaurants and see if you like the vibe, the people, etc. Best of luck!!
Lafayette is a great area! There are quite a few transplants from Berkeley just like you so no you will not be alone. Some people have money but many others must be very careful with their budgets. There are stay at home mothers who have time to volunteer and do more stuff (ie quite elaborate cupcakes for birthday parties etc) and others like yourself who work and don't have the time or desire to do all that. Naturally the moms who spend more time volunteering hang out and the moms who don't, don't hang out with them so much. But I don't think you need to see this as bad or threatening, it's just like if you like to talk about books you may chat with this group at a party while those who are marathon runners chat about that interest.
Of course it is not Berkeley or Oakland! If diversity and funkiness are most important to you then you may feel stiffed in a place like Lafayette, not that the people aren't open, they are but lets face it, it is a quiet orderly suburb and it just doesn't have the huge diversity Berkeley has altho there are a lot of ethnicities what is missing more is the economic and mental health diversity - not many people who are homeless or acutely poor etc.
I have a feeling that you may feel a little out of place for about 6 months as you adjust but after that you'll feel at home and a few years down the road you'll wonder what the heck you were worried about.
I have to say as I read your post I wondered if you want to feel looked down upon - and I don't mean to be mean when I write that but the way you wrote your question seems like you pre-judge people - just because you see a family that drives a nice car or a family that is non-minority doesn't mean that they look down on you or can't understand you.
Trust me, Lafayette is not made up with trust fund babies, people who are there are like you - hard working and careful and even if they have made it and have more material stuff, they still remember when they struggled to get where they are and in no way think they are superior. Before you move there, you may want to ask yourself if other people really truly treat you as an outsider or if you just assume that they think that because they live a different life than yours.
If you don't want others to make negative assumptions about you, then you should also give them a chance too. anon
Hi, I read your post awhile ago and wanted to respond- so going on my memory. We moved to Lafayette 4 years ago. I had the same concerns as you. Yes, there are some women who dress in designer clothes but there are also just as many who do not. You also mentioned that you would be in competition with the stay at home moms to volunteer in the classroom. It was more of an issue in K but in 1 st, not so much. You could talk to the teacher and she/he would probably work with your schedule so you can get in the classroom. I am a stay at home mom but there are also lots of working moms.
I have found the elementary school to be ok- I now have a 2nd grader at Burton Valley. But, I am afraid I have gotten the worst teachers for K and 1st. I constantly hear of the amazing teachers hoping we get one for 2nd. However, I did go to the Campolindo High School open house and was so impressed with the variety of clubs and nice kids.
We moved out here for the beauty and a bigger yard. If you are just moving out here for the schools you might be disappointed. Hope I remembered correctly. Linda
Super late, but I feel compelled to say this: We're in unincorporated Contra Costa County, and our kids were supposed to go to Burton Valley (a Lafayette school). It was full, so we got chucked to Happy Valley, which is in one of the wealthiest parts of Lafayette. My husband and I are Oakland/Berkeley transplants, and we both work fulltime (and more!), live in a small house (one bathroom, 3 kids in one bedroom), and do our own housework (when that even happens). It was kind of funny when we figured out that our oldest kid's BFF lives in a total mansion, but you know what? Kids are kids. They hang out because they like each other, not because one of them has 23 iPads or something (and my son's friend does not have that anyway). Also: the kid's parents are lovely, generous, and kind people. We feel so lucky that our kid has found such a fabulous companion. Parenting is a minefield of really tough choices, but I figure that my children are not going to become deadened suburbanites just because they live in the 925. So what if some (okay, a lot) of the mothers wear Lulus to drop their kids at school and drive fancy SUVs? They're still moms and they still love their kids with all of their hearts. I am not giving my kid an iPhone for his 7th birthday just because we live here (and because--maybe--a kid in his class will have one). Wealth vs. not-so-much-wealth does not make the world a place of high contrast. We're all still people. And there are really nice people here. We swim on hot summer days and pick apricots from the neighbor's tree. We watch the red light blink on the top of Mt. Diablo. We watch our kids ride bikes up and down the street. We fret about our children and hope for the best. I hope you join us and see for yourself. Emelie
Hi, I am also late to reply, but will take my cue on what you are looking for from the reply in the last newsletter. I have lived in Lafayette for about 15 years, and grew up in one of the other 'Lamorinda' towns, so feel I know the area well. Yes, there will be some people who seem snobby and have more money than you do. However, that is true everywhere. Having gone into Berkeley yesterday to go to Berkeley Bowl, I found there were as many people there that annoyed me for different reasons as I run into on a typical day in Lafayette. Overall, people are welcoming and friendly. The schools are very good, although as a previous poster said, your experience will only be as good as your child's teacher, and that can vary widely (again, like anywhere). You will be asked to donate to both the parent's club and to LPIE (the education foundation for arts and science). Most give something or the amount requested; many do not. Most volunteer in the classrooms, behind the scenes, etc.; many do not. Lots of the kids do sports like swim team, club soccer or volleyball, etc.; mine did not. The weather is great, the scenery is beautiful. the parks for your kids are wonderful, the hiking trails in Briones are fabulous and the Reservoir is a gem. We have an amazing variety of grocery stores and restaurants, with more opening all the time. There is a Peet's coffee, so I am happy (and now a See's Candy right next door!). So please come check it out, spend a day at a park, go to Diablo Foods and Trader Joe's, take a picnic to the reservoir, enjoy the play area and feed the ducks and see what you think! Love Lafayette
Moving to Lafayette?
I am from the Bay Area, went to Cal, and after 15 years away (NYC, LA) am looking to move back to the East Bay to raise my family. I have a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old. My wife and I (both professionals) are looking to move somewhere with great schools (preferably public), and are strongly considering Lafayette. I have a brother with kids in Berkeley, which I love as a city. I would be working in either Oakland or Walnut Creek. I have always loved the diversity and lifestyle/political bent of the East Bay, but are considering a more suburban environment for raising my children. My children are bi-racial (half Korean), and ethnic diversity is an imporant component of where we live. We have lots of questions, and am looking for advise/feedback based on anyone's experience to any or all of the following:
- Any other recommendations for areas besides Lafayette?
- Which schools and school districts are the best in the East Bay?
- How is the community in Lafayette (neighbors, making friends, support, safety)
- We are socially liberal, generally casual, and trying to avoid keeping up with the Jones'. Will we fit in?
- Any good recommendations for preschools (we are happy with our current Reggio school and would like something similar)
- How is the lifestyle (access for kid-friendly activities, culture, etc). How hard is it to hop over to Berkeley or SF for dinner/night out, etc?
- How are the schools (elementary, middle, high school) in terms of competition, nurturing, support, teachers, activities, and how do the Acalanes Grads do matching with colleges?
- Any major downsides of being there?
-Is commuting to Oakland or Richmond painful? I work odd hours so may avoid some traffic.
My husband and I moved to Lafayette from San Francisco about three years ago when our son was born, drawn in large part by the reputation of the school district. Our son is only three, so we haven't had any experience with the public schools yet. But, you asked about preschools and we've had a good experience on that front - our son goes to the Old Firehouse School (in downtown Lafayette on Moraga Road). It's a Reggio Emilia-inspired program; the director, Alex, is wonderful; his teachers are warm and engaging; and the families we've met have been great and really engaged in the program. Our son enjoys school and looks forward to the days he goes. My husband and I were initially somewhat 'on the fence' about making the move from San Francisco out to the East Bay - primarily concerned about the commute, giving up the benefits of life in the City, etc. We've found the commute to be manageable - when we drive (which is usually during what I would describe as peak hours) it takes about an hour to get into the City barring an accident, but at least half of the time we take BART and the train ride is only about 30 minutes. We certainly miss some of the perks of living in San Francisco, like having so many great restaurants so close, but all in all we love Lafayette and are glad we made the move! Fan of Lafayette
Consider Albany -- it hits a lot of the points you raised in your letter. Schools are considered some of the best in the East Bay. It's right next door to your brother and his kids in Berkeley. It would be an easy commute to Oakland and Richmond -- no tunnel to deal with, unlike LaMorInda. It's has a small-town feel, but also has lots of walkable neighborhoods and the conveniences of a more urban location. On the Solano Avenue side of Albany, you're really close to lots of great restaurants, stores, and conveniences. I think Albany feels liberal and diverse, much like Berkeley, and the people are extremely friendly and neighborly; I don't get a 'keeping up with the Joneses' feel here. It's not cheap, and many of the homes are on the small side, but you might find it's the perfect fit for your family. Albany mom
Hi! Sorry I didn't answer your post sooner. I'm a realtor whose office is in Lafayette and I live in Orinda, so I'm very familiar with this area. I came from the East Coast in 1995 (NY,FL,Atlanta) so I can relate to your move! To answer some of your questions: You may also be interested in looking at Moraga with same excellent schools as Orinda and Lafayette, and some of Walnut Creek schools are very good and feed into the Acalanes HS system. My children attended schools in Laf. and Orinda so I can tell you about them. We were very happy with their education and they (and friends) went on to top universities(mine went to USC and UCSB.)I can also familiarize you with the neighborhoods and how they differ. If you work in Oakland or Walnut Creek, you should have an easy commute using BART or car. Hopefully, the fourth bore of the Caldecott tunnel should help! I'd be glad to meet with you and help you to find a home in 'Lamorinda' as we call our area! Holly
Moving from Berkeley to Lafayette
My husband and I are thinking of moving from Berkeley to Pleasanton or to Lafayette because we would like to be in an area with stronger public schools and because I am changing jobs and want to shorten my commute. I will be working in Pleasanton. Has anyone moved from Berkeley/Oakland/SF to Pleasanton? What did you like/dislike about the change? We also are considering Lafayette. Has anyone commuted between Lafayette and Pleasanton? How was it? Also, how would you compare living in Pleasanton to living in Lafayette? Thanks very much for your help! anon
I moved from Rockridge to Lafayette two years ago. While I love Rockridge, I wanted better public schools, more space (was in a 1300 sqft house in Rockridge and couldn't afford a bigger place) and safety.
It was def an adjustment but I'm happy, feel like I made the right decision. My oldest is in 1st grade and I am thrilled with his school - small class sizes (20), lots of extras (paid for by LPIE), high parent participation. It took us a while to get a house but happy with the one we got. I do miss the walk- ability of Rockridge and the amazing restaurants. Lafayette has a few good places, but not the plethora of Oakland. That said, Oakland is not that far away.
I was worried that Lafayette would be super conservative and my hippy-dippy values would stand out. But what I have found is that it is very common to do the SF to Berkeley/Oakland to Lamorinda journey, so lots of folks with very similiar values/politics. good luck.
We are looking at moving from Alameda over and thru the hills and I have spent alot of time looking at schools, comparing etc. Lafayette schools are excellent - teachers aids, pe, music, etc. walnut creek school district has a solid reputation but is not as good as Lafayette or San Ramon. I have not researched Pleasanton as much. San Ramon has newer school facilities, but some very large schools as well. Make sure you look past Elementry - many great Elementry schools out there but thing fall apart at middle and high....if you plan on staying. Walnut creek, Danville and Lafayette all have cute downtown areas. San Ramon & pleseanton newer housing stock, more development feel but also great bike trail and nearby open space....big bike lanes and wide side walks...it will depend on what you can afford/want. Start spending time out there - check out parks, grab lunch...etc. Good luck!
Hi. I have some experience in living in both Pleasanton and now, Lafayette. Pleasanton is a nice, safe suburb, but for my family (I'm from San Francisco, and we've lived in Sacramento and Europe as well) it was far too conservative for my taste. I suppose I may have been in a bit of a culture shock after living abroad but I didn't feel like I was part of the Bay Area anymore. There was a lot of overt wealth (like Hummer drivers, giant new mansions popping up in some areas, and moms that seemed to spend a lot of time getting manicures, shopping for designer clothes etc.) I've heard people describe it as being like Orange County..and I suppose that's how I felt about it. The schools were pretty good on paper but sometimes my middle school son would tell me about some kids bragging about getting 20$ a day allowance and this sort of thing. Seems that there were more cliques. The downtown is cute though--nice to hang out at some of the restaurants and stroll the farmer's market on Saturdays. The weather was hotter during the summer than Lafayette.
Now I'm living in Lafayette and absolutely LOVE it here. I think the schools are some of the best I've experienced and although it's a fairly wealthy area, there's not a lot of overt show off attitude from my experience. It's been pretty easy to make friends overall and there seems to be more varied socioeconomic and political diversity, and attitudes. I adore the semi-rural aspect with deer,wild turkey, the occasional coyote, and raccoons passing through our property. It's great to so close to the City, Oakland, Berkeley and Walnut Creek depending on what my family wants to do. As for the drive to Pleasanton---don't know what it's like at rush hour, but it's 20 minutes without traffic. Weather here is perfect for me...we sometimes get the cooler mornings/a little fog that always burns off by 10am, then heat in the afternoon. Good luck with your decision. fionoodle
Seeking great school and great community
Moving east and seeking a friendly neighborhood and a great elementry school. We are looking near Parkmead (walnut creek), Walnut Heights and Lafayette Elementry. I would love to hear from families with young children in those areas. I want more space to have chickens and bees (if allowed) - I am a serious gardener. I worry about fitting in (we will be buying a small house). We are also worried about future school budget cuts - and parcel taxes passing if needed. Also our son is having learning issues (possibly dyslexia) - he will be going into 2nd grade - he is very outgoing but this will be a huge change for him and he will definately need extra support - even without the possible dyslexia. And if anyone has experience with both WC and Lafayette districts - can you compare? It will definately cost more to be in Lafayette - is it worth it? Can you tell I am worried?! It is such a huge decision for our family. Thank you
I would recommend Lafayette. My son has learning difficulties and he was given help the first week he started back in first grade. He's going in to fourth now and everyone from his teachers, the admin and all of the specialists (psychologist, reading specialist, etc) are doing an excellent job working with him to help him reach his fullest potential, including keeping in contact with me about his progress and needs. Our state gov't as it sounds like you know, has decreased school funding by billions in the last few years (so many people I talk to don't know this...) Anyway, Measure B just passed last year, or the year b4 I believe, which added much needed revenue and Lafayette no longer has furlough days that were added in at the last minute the year before. (I'm a teacher in another district, and I have 9 furlough days for 2012/2013!) So that's really great for this community, but you should know, its the taxpayers and the parents who are funding these schools. If you move here you will be asked to pay $1000 per student to the local arts foundation (LPIE) and the PTA. Both of which do great work. Just be prepared for that pressure, and put in what amount you can. I love living in a district where education is a top priority, but also, make no mistake, people are concerned about housing values and they have a lot to do with this as well. anon
Lafayette....What's it like to live there?
I have a fantasy of moving from Oakland to Lafayette for safety and good schools. (We have a 5 year old son.) However I do not know anyone who lives there. How can I figure out if we would like it? We are very liberal and not very materialistic. We are involved in the Buddhist community. Do you have any ideas of places to go or things to do to figure this out? k
In regards to 'what's it like to live in Lafayette' I can offer the following comments. Lafayette is great community that offers great schools (but be prepared to pony up to $1000+ per child for the district's education fund) I have to add the 'hype' is true the school district is amazing and your kids will receive a great education due largely to its fund. I hope you are really into team sports for the kids - if you are not, you'll be considered an outsider and rather odd. The crime rate is lower than other cities but does exist! The weather can be very hot in the summer. Which my husband loves but I don't. There are many, many like-minded individuals like yourself who have moved over the hill from the easy bay and the city so you and your family will find friends here. The community offers a lot of very nice family-related activities, walk & bike trails, parks, outdoor movies and fairs, and there is a small town feeling within an urban environment. Most families stay on and that makes for a nice tight knit community. With all that said, Lafayette can also be a bit too conservative for my taste, and there is a great deal of keeping up with the Joneses - which can be very tiresome if you are not that type of person. For me, the good has definitely outweighed the bad, and with an open mind I would definitely recommend living here. anon
I didn't see the original question but can provide my perspective. I lived in Rockridge for 10+years and love it - could walk to anything, BART was close for my commute into SF, great neighbors (some who had lived on my block for 30+years). What I didn't love was crime and the improving but not great schools. So when my oldest was about 3, I researched my options and decided on Lamorinda. I've been in Lafayette for almost 2 years now and I can say it is an adjustment but I'm happy and would do the same thing again.
1) Great schools and a very family-focused community.
2) Low crime and very green. We have deer and wild turkeys in the yard on a weekly basis; my kids can wander in the yard and I have no worries about safety.
3) Commute is not bad - get a permit for BART parking (which does take a while - put your name on the list now if you're even considering it) and you're set.
1) Expensive (which I know can be said for Bay Area overall). I did end up spending $50K more for our house in Lafayette than the house in Rockridge but I got more room and a yard.
2) More car-centric though how much depends on what part you end up living in. I wanted to be in downtown Lafayette and then my kids would have been able to walk to school and myself to coffee. But we ended up on the west side and so we can bike into town but no walking.
I am happy I made the choice to move to Lafayette; it's a great place to raise kids. But I do fantasize about moving back to the city once the kids are out of school and I can downsize.
Best of luck with your decision - it's a tough one. happy in lafayette
I highly recommend that you check out Lafayette. I am also a single mom with one child...it is lovely here...the public schools are excellent, there are apartments/rentals within walking distance of the school and downtown area which includes a Trader Joe's, Safeway, cafes, restaurants, parks, playgrounds, community activities, and the Lafayette Reservoir...BART is also centrally located in the downtown area. Good luck! fellow single mom
I highly recommend Lafayette. It has great public schools, a cute little downtown area with BART right there, lots of restaurants and some little shops, a Safeway, Whole Foods, Trader Joes AND another specialty market with stellar service (Diablo Foods), Plenty of very nice people (many of them are 'rich' and many of them are not, including me). The community is very welcoming, there's a new library, and a community center with lots of classes for preschoolers through senior adults (they share this with Moraga). Plus the weather is great. Not alot of fog, very hot in summer. love lafayette
Looking to move from Berkeley to the suburbs
We're currently in Berkeley but are looking to move to an area that is more suburban in feel. We have 4 small children and life in a semi-urban environment has grown too hectic for us. We're looking for the following: 1) Excellent public schools (elementary, middle, and high school... a tall order, I know!) 2) A great sense of community 3) Good amount of cheap/free kids' activities (robust rec center and public library programs, well-cared-for public parks and pools, kid-friendly biking trails, etc.) 4) Proximity to BART (husband works in SF) Based on this criteria, the towns we're currently considering are Pleasanton and Walnut Creek. Pleasanton seems to have the edge on schools and community feel, as well as proximity to a lot of newer playgrounds and parks. Walnut Creek is a little closer to San Francisco and Berkeley and the fun urban parts of the Bay (which we would still love to visit). Do you live in Pleasanton or Walnut Creek? I'd love to hear any info you might have. Also, if you live in another city that meets the criteria above, that's great, too. Thanks so much, in advance! Mom to 4
We recently moved to the East Bay from San Diego and I did a lot of research on places to live as well. Good schools were high on our list since we have a daughter in 1st grade who we moved mid-school year. We decided on Lafayette, and we LOVE it.
Lafayette has excellent schools. All 4 elementary schools are fantastic, and I've not only done the research but heard from multiple sources that the teachers and parent involvement make the schools top-notch. I don't know much about the junior high, but I know that Acalanes High is also excellent.
There is definitely a sense of community here. I've only been here 2 months, but I love the small-town feel, the 'Love Lafayette' bumper stickers, and the reminders to 'Try Lafayette First', which is Lafayette's campaign to shop local. I have met several moms and families so far while at my daughter's school, and everyone has been very welcoming and friendly.
There are a bunch of parks around here, and tons of walking and hiking trails. The Lafayette Reservoir is beautiful, with 2 different trails that loop around it, a playground, boat rentals, and picnic tables. We can't wait to spend more time there in the summer--we are always looking for cheap/free activities, so we hike and picnic a lot.
There is also the Regional Trail which is a flat, paved trail that runs all the way through Lafayette, Moraga, and beyond. We've taken our 6 year old biking on it and I frequently jog with our little one. We've also explored Briones Regional Park, a huge open space with trails and picnic areas, as well as nearby Mt. Diablo State Park and a few local community parks.
The Lafayette Library is beautiful and was just built a couple years ago with tons of community support. We love spending time there.
And, there is a BART station right in downtown Lafayette.
Only drawback is housing prices. It's expensive to live here, and we are by no means wealthy or in a position to buy a home, so we are renting a nice apartment. But we have felt welcomed by the people we've met and have found that it seems like a wonderful community to raise a family in, no matter what your income is.
So, I didn't answer your Pleasanton vs. Walnut Creek question, but I think Lafayette fits the criterion you are looking for nicely!
Good luck with your move, no matter where you end up! SoCal to Lafayette and loving it
Re: Sense of Community in Lafayette vs. Orinda/Moraga
I can't compare the sense of community between the cities. But I can speak for Lafayette (where we live) and say that we love it here. Lafayette definitely has a strong sense of community. Between school activities, sports teams, our wonderful new library and learning center, our downtown park with its music/farmer's market, or annual reservoir run. Great restaurants, BART access. I'm also constantly amazed how many people here grew up here and decided to come back and raise their families here. Many teachers in our school actually went to our schools! We're very happy here.
Moraga and Orinda are lovely communities, too. We avoided Moraga because it's a schlep to get out there, but that makes it a special place too because it's off the beaten path. We looked mostly in Orinda & Lafayette and ended up finding a house we loved in Lafayette. I don't think you would go wrong with any of the towns, and I'm sure you'd be satisfied with the sense of community in any of them. It's amazing how having kids connects you to the community in a multitude of ways. Christina
My husband and I are thinking of moving to Orinda or Lafayette for the schools but we're worried we won't fit in. We live in Berkeley now and fit in fine -- we wear jeans and T-shirts, have solar panels, shop at farmers markets, grow some of our own food, etc. From visiting Orinda and Lafayette it seems like people are more country-clubby. Is this true? Would we fit in? Are there areas in one town or the other where we would meet other people like us? Where? Need a new home
I would venture to state that there are plenty of ''country clubby'' people that live in Berkeley as well as in Lamorinda. That being said, I would estimate that during this election season, I have seen at least 20 Obama signs/bumperstickers for every McCain in my travels around town. I have lived in Lafayette for 10 years and grew up in Moraga, and just like anywhere else, you can find people that you agree with and people that you don't. I am frequently amused by the negative attitude people on this list have about the Lamorinda area, except they always want to move here ''for the schools.'' I would suggest you spend some time out here on a weekend, go to the markets and Peet's Coffee, visit sporting events at the schools, hang out at the Reservoir or one of our parks, etc. before jumping to conclusions about life on this side of the tunnel. Love Lafayette
I can relate to your post. We moved to Lafayette from SF for the same reasons. Lamorinda is no Berkeley, I can assure you, but it's becoming more diverse, I think, than it may outwardly appear. Certainly, there are more conservative-minded country clubbers, but I have been happily impressed w/ how many Berkeley or SF transplants I've met, certainly the minority but still refreshing. From my experience, Lafayette is the most ''diverse'', as there are more people and more lower-end housing options. Lafayette Elementary school is probably the most diverse of the schools. We go to the farmers market, walk to downtown and generally love it, but I have found less like minded folks, though, we have a handful of close friends that we've met since moving, so it's important to keep an open mind. Lafayette has a great Community Center, and the new library is opening...Frankly, it's kept us on our political toes too, especially with the election; we have learned to be better debaters against the conservative point of view, which we didn't have to practice much in SF! Come on over! lafayetter
I appreciate your question about whether you'll fit in Lafayette or Orinda. We've lived in Lafayette for 15 years and my answer is a resounding ''yes.'' When we first moved here, we had the same concerns. Were people here mostly Republicans? Conformers? Country-clubbers? Would we fit in? Here's what happens: you move into a beautiful neighborhood and settle into your cute house. Your kids go to the great public school down the street and take part in parks & rec sports programs. Soon, you're finding like-minded folks who moved here for the same reasons you did and share your beliefs. My friends are all very liberal, we all have organic backyard gardens, we don't go to mainstream media to get our news, we are crazy about reducing our carbon footprint (see http://www.sustainablelafayette.net), we love our liberal city manager, we're happy to have found each other. Are there country-clubbers in Lafayette and Orinda? Of course. Are there people who express themselves through the fancy vacations they take and the big ol' cars they drive? Absolutely. But you'll find a preponderance of normal folks here who smile at pretension and live their own lives, comfortable in themselves and happy to have found their friends. Love Lafayette
We are seriously considering moving to Lafayette and would like to visit sometime that local folks are out in force. Any festivals or special events at the schools (or elsewhere)? We have a 2 year old and 4 year old and another one on the way, so something kid oriented would probably be best. And not too much walking. Looking to move
Hi! There is a Lafayette Art & Wine Festival along Mt. Diablo Blvd. in September. Also, come and try a free Family Gymboree class - that will also give you an idea of who is in the community with young children. Judy
The Art & Wine Festival is held in mid-September and is very popular with local folks and those from the surrounding towns. There is a whole kid section along with the usual food and wine festival thing. Proceeds benefit the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and the Lafayette Art & Science Foundation (LASF). The elementary schools each put on a fall festival in October as well. Martha
We have lived in Lafayette for 10 years now. This is a very exciting time to be a resident, with many new shops opening now and in the near future (including a Whole Foods), and our wonderful new library due to open in 2009. Depending on your time frame, the biggest event I can think of is the Lafayette Art and Wine Festival (which is kind of like the Solano Stroll) in September, but of course, that brings in people from all over the area. If I were you, I would spend some time hanging out downtown in the tables between Peets and Noahs, check out the wonderful playground at the Lafayette reservoir or the little tot park on Brook Street, take a tour of the schools, check out the offerings at the Lafayette Community Center, go to a town council meeting, etc. I think you will be very impressed with what you find! The official town web site with lots of information can be found at www.lovelafayette.org. Good luck with your decision! Claire
We live in Orinda, but spend a lot of time in Lafayette. I am pretty sure Lafayette has a 4th of July parade down Mt. Diablo Blvd. (If it doesn't, come to Orinda's parade, which is hokey small town, and lots of fun.) The Lafayette Art and Wine Festival is September 20-21. The Lafayette Reservoir Run/Walk (lots of fun) is October 26. Lamorinda resident
We are considering a move from Berkeley to the Burton Valley neighborhood in Lafayette. It would be hard for us to leave Berkeley, but we\x92re also drawn to the idea of having great schools for our kids, a large garden, and sunnier weather so that we can spend more time outdoors. We have a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old. We know it would be quite a cultural shift from Berkeley to Lafayette. We have a great sense of community here and we feel like we can connect easily with most other people/parents around us. We wonder if we\x92d feel the same way in Lafayette. We\x92re liberal, not wealthy by any means, we watch little to no television, we drive older cars, we can walk to a lot in our neighborhood. We\x92ve read all that\x92s been posted about Lamorinda on BPN and have been concerned about some comments concerning the \x93culture of wealth\x94 in the area. I worry about what the high school experience would be like if these comments are valid? Our other main concern is the lack of racial diversity in the area. We know that more and more people are moving from Oakland/Berkeley/SF to Lamorinda, so is this shifting? Pondering.....
We recently moved from Albany to Lafayette.We were worried about the same things you are...and... it IS a trade off. It's much different out here. There is not much diversity at all, everyone looks just like us, we blend right in. I feel terribly out of place. We miss our neighbors, our streets, our little hangouts, the parks we can walk to, etc... we don't have alot of money, we rent, we both work full time.that adds to our feeling different. There are alot of stay at home moms here ( I wish I could be one!) and alot of dad's commute to the city or wherever, this makes child care hard to come by. Our first birthday party we attended had pony rides, and I thought - ''crap, am I going to have save up all year to do this kind of stuff''? I mean, I just want to have cake and recycled presents.
You will have to actually drive to the store or the park. Our kids are preschool age and younger, so we don't have them in public school yet, but my friends send their kids to the local schools and the parents are expected to ''donate'' I think it's $300 at the beginning of the year to the class. My friends cannot afford this and after being harrassed by the office staff for 2 weeks my friend finally told them off, reminding them that it's a public school, and ''donations'' aren't mandatory. (this is how the schools can afford extra curricular things and such, they don't spend much on the schools, many voters are old and have grown children or no kids at all so they don't pass bond measures for schools or the roads. Laf. cannot afford to fix it's own roads. they also don't pay a competetive wage for the teachers, but I digress) ANYWAY, after being here for a while we've realized that just cuz it's different doesn't make it bad. The people we have met have all been very kind. I am the one who's been tying myself in knots about parties and ''fitting in'', and really, that's my problem. I haven't met any people who've mad me feel inferior.
there are actually lots of working families and mom's who put their kids in daycare, etc. When you drive to the store, at least there's no traffic (I'll take Mt. Diablo B. over San Pablo any day), when you go out to eat, know that you will most likely have to go to a chain restaurant, when you miss Berkeley, drive throught the tunnel. When you come home you will have your nice big yard with all the trees to hang out in! anon
Well, there are people like me in Lafayette who drive a 13 year old Japanese compact, who recycle madly, who work full time in San Francisco.
Water finds its own level, you will search out and find families with the same values. It just took longer than if I lived in Rockridge or Albany (we have been here 5 years now). There are some very, very wealthy people here but I personally can say that they will still welcome your children into their homes regardless of your financial standing.
To be brutally honest, people would be surprised if you do not contribute anything financially to the schools. There is a reason why Lamorinda _always_ has the 2nd highest APIs (high school) in the state. The $400 a family we give every year pays for the 2 art teachers, the extra library staff, the choir director's salary, the band director's salary, the 30 brand new iMacs we got this year, to name a few things. The $400 is voluntary - you can give what you feel you can afford. Some families give $100. But I look at it this way - $100 is $8.33 a month. I translate that into one less Safeway sandwich a month in exchange for a wealth of educational benefits.
So while lack of diversity is a glaring issue, the benefits of a deeply involved community, fabulous school enrichment programs a reasonly safe area to live and raise children and generally nice people outweigh the negatives. anon
We moved from the El Cerrito (hills) to Lafayette 5 years ago, and can't imagine moving back. Yes, it is not diverse (the major drawback), but the people are very friendly. Husband and I both work, our kid has been in full time care for the last 5 years, and through that care we have met many great families -- many of whom both work as well. We have found great food (not chain restaurants) in the city proper, Indian, Pizza, Mexican being our top faves. We actually don't drive that much but we live in the trail neighborhood and so are about a mile from the main business area. We use the library alot, and the new library will be fabulous. There are lots of outdoor concerts and the like to take take advantage of the weather. Every kind of service you could want is local (right here in town): Car repair, dry cleaners, glass shop, Trader Joe's, High End Markets, regular drug stores, a downtown-old-school department store (perfect for those last minute nylon's or a pair o! f dressy shoes for your kids on short notice). I also love the space between the houses and the often rural feel. I curse the deer and the turkey's regularly for eating all our plants, but have been coming to terms with them as well. I like the fact that public school system is reliable, and am willing to pay the ''donation'' if that is what I have to do. I also think there are opportunities for donating in other ways that can be managed--i.e. time if money is tight. I wouldn't move back through the tunnel because I am so enjoying all the benefits, and I add some color to the landscape, so maybe others will join me soon! sk
Hi, We moved to Lafayette after having lived previously in Oakland. Yes, it is not as diverse--and partly because it is so expensive to buy homes here--that's just the socio-economic reality. The people are for the most part great, although you will run into status conscious individuals and much more over-the-top lifestyles. The $300 (actually it is now $400 per student) the schools ask for are in fact a voluntary contribution to Lafayette Arts and Science Foundation (LASF) which is a non-profit foundation that allows ALL Lafayette students in elementary, middle and high school to participate in science, social studies, and arts programs that state funding will not support. These are NOT ''extra-curricular'' activities as all the students participate during school hours during LASF instruction whether their parents donate or not. It is the quality of schooling that draws many families here from the Oakland side, and it is not a mandatory contribution nor is the amount set--LASF gives a ''suggested'' dollar amount but welcomes whatever the resident may offer, with payment plans to boot.
It also asks for this money from residents without children in the schools, and part of the reason is that the schools' reputation is a direct factor in real estate value--hopefully everyone wins if LASF does it job well. Some people misinterpret the calls as bullying for money, but LASF relies so much on community funding and gives back a tremendous benefit to the schools and therefore, back to the community. I have worked those phonathons asking for money, and I am not school staff--I am a school parent volunteering for LASF.
We miss diversity, yes. We embrace the slower, less urban environment here, though, too. I enjoy going to the store and recognizing faces. Everything we still love about Berkeley and Oakland are just 15 minutes away by car, 20 or so by BART. We get more sunshine, fantastic gardening weather and space, bike trails abound for runner, skaters, bikers and walkers.
There are plenty of non-chain restaurants--Chow, Pizza Antica, Bo's Barbeque, and even more in Walnut Creek, just 5 miles away. Lafayette has plenty to offer, and the road issue is definitely being worked on through ballot initiatives. Good luck! Carolyn
My husband and I and two young boys (ages 3yrs. & 18 months) will be relocating to Orinda or Lafayette California in June of this year, after having lived 20 years in Southern California. Although I have plans on becoming integrated (mom's group, community classes) into the community I'm nervous about how quickly I'll be able to make friends and therefore feel at home. This will be my first move since moving away from my parents home to go to college in the late 80's (thats how i landed in S. Cal). Does anyone out there have any advice for me? Also, do the two areas have a lot of mom's in there late 30's with young kids? mj
You will have no problem meeting people in Lafayette or Orinda. I suggest that you join the Lamorinda Moms Club www.lamorindamomsclub.org and then join a playgroup. They have playgroups that meet during the week as well as on weekends for people that work. The LMC also has various sub clubs that might be of interest to you as a way to meet people (scrapbooking, knitting, book club, etc.). You will also meet people through the kids preschools, classes, at all the wonderful parks, etc. I would say that most parents with small children are in their 30s and older. We moved to Lafayette from San Francisco 3 years ago. We now have a 2 year old and a new baby. We have met so many wonderful friends and absolutely love living here. Love Lafayette
Dear Folks: My family is moving from Boston to Berkeley in January. We are looking for some apartment to rent. I have found an apartment at Lafayette Commons Apartments located at 3255 Mt. Diablo Ct. I know it's always recommended to see the place before you rent it, but since I am unable to make it there for a visit soon, I am wondering if anyone on this list would know about this apartment complex and its neighborhood schools etc. I have two kids (7 and 11). I would REALLY appreciate it if you could help me with this.
Many thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving! Sarah
Lafayette - a great choice. There are quite a few apartment complexes along Mt. Diablo Rd. Many people move into them to be able to attend the schools as home owning has sky rocketed in the area. The Lafayette schools rank amoung the highest in the state academically. It's a majority white community with not a lot of diversity, some, but not as much as Berkeley or Oakland. Lafayette is pretty much crime free (petty stuff like people leaving a lap-top on the front seat of an unlocked car!)and has a great community with involved parents and business in the schools. There is great shopping with 4 major grocery stores (Trader Joes is 1) a department store, individual boutiques, many coffee shops, bakery's, a cool Recreation center with many classes for kids and adults and great access to SF, with no traffic I can be in the city within 25 mins. There's also a wonderful resevoir(fishing) with playground and almost a 3mile trail around it just off Mt. Diablo. Most of the people we have met since moving here ourselves (from NY) are transplants from Berkeley and Oakland. We are a lesbian couple with 2 children in the schools and have experienced no hassle, or discrimination. The mind-set of people where this once was quite a conservative area is changing fast, and for the positive. We love it here and hope you do too. Don't worry, you will find everyone very welcoming.
Lesbian family loving Lafayette!
We're considering a move to Lafayette from Berkeley for a variety of reasons. We particularly like the idea of living near the bike path, giving our kids a safe way to get to school and friends' houses. It seems like the ideal place for younger kids and preteens (we have one of each). After reading the archives about living in Lamorinda, however, one issue that worries me is the pressure on teens living in an affluent area. Can anyone with firsthand experience with a teen in Lafayette shed some light on the issues and how their teen has coped? I also wonder about the general flavor of Lafayette compared to other East Bay suburban towns. We were in Danville over the weekend and we amazed (disgusted, really) at the outward show of wealth in terms of cars, clothing, etc. Stopping in Lafayette on the way home for a Jamba Juice and at the elementary school park nearby where a kids' soccer game was happening, we found the environs more subdued. We saw more minivans and Ford Explorers than Jags and BMWs. Was the snapshot accurate or are we just fooling ourselves?
Considering a move
We live in Lafayette and have two young children, so I can't speak to the pressure teenagers might face living in an affluent town. BUT We moved here 4 years ago and have found by- and-large the families we have met have been friendly and low- key about whatever money they have, and Lafayette really does have a small-town feel to it. We have friends and family in Alamo and Danville and I find those towns to be more socially conservative and more showy in terms of wealth than Lafayette. One example: four of our friends in Alamo and Danville have preschool-aged children, and they've all had to be potty trained before entering preschool. *Not* the case with Lafayette preschools. Do a little more exploring to be sure you're making the right decision for yourselves. OH! Just thought of this: Sept. 20-21 is the Lafayette Art & Wine Festival. You might like to come check that out to get more impressions about Lafayette. I know a number of parents' & civic groups have booths at this event. They close down part of Mt. Diablo Blvd. and have a street fair w/art booths & wine tasting if you're interested, otherwise it's free. Christina
You are correct in your assessment of the area in Lafayette that you were in---it is more subdued than Danville. I had noticed the same when we were looking for our own home. The ''Trail'' and ''Downtown'' neighborhoods of Lafayette are the most wholesome. The others have quite a bit of wealth. Moraga is the most laid back and a lot of families choose to live there for the safety and non-flashy lifestyle.
I had to answer this post in defense of Danville. I have 2 small kids(3 and 4)and moved to Danville from Upper Rockridge about a year ago. I have found Danville to be a wonderful, ''kid centered'' town. I'm not sure what part of Danville you were in, but my block is chock full of vans (not luxury vehicles). There are alot of stay at home moms on a limited budget. My block has a close community of moms that give each other help & advice (when asked for!). The emphasis is definetly not on ''keeping up with the Joneses'' but trying to raise kids as part of a loving community.
I would guess that Danville is a lot like Lafayette...there are areas of extreme wealth and areas of more moderate incomes. I had concerns before I moved to Danville (''older'' parents, adopted kids, mid-level income)but I have found a friendly & welcoming community and we love it here!!
Re: Family-friendly and more liberal Lamorinda 'hoods
Hi, I grew up in Lamorinda. For what you are looking for, Lafayette is much better. Burton Valley is a really nice neigborhood. To be honest, you are probably not going to find that much difference is neighborhoods as far as liberal vs. conservative, etc. A good rule of thumb in Lamorinda, is the more money, the more likely the family is conservative, even if they claim to be liberal. Of course this isn't always the case! But like I said, it's a general rule of thumb. For example, Happy Valley was generally considered more elitist when I was growing up. (By the way, I'm 32, just to give you a point of reference.) As far as commuting, if you are taking BART, there really isn't much difference between Lafayette and Orinda, except that parking may be a little easier in Orinda.
We live in and raised our 2 kids in the Reliez Valley area of Lafayette. We love it and the rural atmosphere, and it's somewhat diverse--for this area. But we are totally dependent on our (hybrid) car, and our kids could never walk to friends' houses. We have very ''liberal'' friends who live in all the neighborhoods you mention (all part of a women's peace group here). I particularly like Central Lafayette, especially around the Trails. It's great for families and has good transportation/walking possibilities. Good luck
My family and I moved out to Lafayette 3 years ago and we are very happy. There is a great sense of community out here which you definitely feel once your children start nursery school and even more so once they start kindergarten. As a native San Francisco and ethnic minority, it took a lot to get me out of the city, but I have always felt welcome and am so glad, we made the move. Also, many people who grew up here have moved back with their own families (when they can afford it) which I think is a good sign of what a good place it is to live.
Hello, we moved to Lafayette 6/7 years ago after spending a year taking in all the neighborhoods including, Berkeley, Oakland, Orinda etc. Like yourself we wanted a community and small city feel. We found that in downtown Lafayette, we live right off the trail and our children can walk, bike, scooter or on those rare occasions, drive to school. The boys are now able to just jump on their bikes and head to the trail to see you is out to play! When we first moved here our neighbors were wonderful bringing home-made jams, brownies etc. and we continually look out for each others homes taking in the mail and newspapers without even having to ask. Our family and boys have been very welcomed to the area, we are a Lesbian family, and by no means the only ones! There are about 10 famillies that we know of in Lafayette alone, some in Orinda and Moraga.
You will find that the downtown school has more cultural/economic diversity. The Happy Valley area is known to be wealthier, Burton Valley the largest school, and Springhill small but further from the mail drag in town! We have found that the area has changed tremendously even since we moved here with many, many people from Oakland, Berkeley, SF, choosing Lafayette for their new homes, hence the political/cultural thinking is much more liberal/progressive. Families here live a very outdoorsy life with kids involved in many sports throughout the year. There is a local community center offering numerous classes both for adults and kids. Many coffee shops, restaurants, a couple of grocery stores including a Trader Joes, auto repair, department, drug stores and yes even thrift stores that we all love either shopping or donating to! A bit of everything. There are buses taking in the main roads to the Bart Station and if I've had to use the bart have not had a problem parking even at 11 in the morning. Good luck with your search and feel free to email me if you want more info. runnerz
My husband and I moved from SF to Burton Valley in Lafayette several years ago. We, too, were afraid to leave the city and its diversity, politics, energy, urban feel. The truth is, I still miss the walking. The rest can be found here... First of all, Burton Valley Elementary is an excellent school. Devoted teachers who are given the room to teach in their own style. Very involved parents who make the place work. Kids who feel celebrated for who they are. A school community with high expectations and a lot of love.
The neighborhood is, in its own way, a walking/biking neighborhood. Almost all of our kids' friends are in the neighborhood so they walk, bike or scooter to their playdates, sports practices, etc. We have two swim/tennis clubs right here so kids find each other at the pool all summer. I can't tell you the last time I got in the car to go to a party - we just walk! Politics are no worry. All of our friends are left-leaning ex- SF residents - you'll find plenty of kindred spirits.
I have all kinds of friends in Burton Valley, more than I can handle. And I've noticed that the ones who aren't happy here brought their unhappiness with them. Eventually, they blame the neighborhood for their unhappiness. Just something to think about. Finally, about diversity. We have gay parents, people of color, and the other usual markers of ''diversity''. But we don't have much economic diversity. Everyone is here for one reason: excellent public schools. And they've all paid to live here. There's not much diversity in that. When I look back on what I've written here, I'm not sure much of it is unique to Burton Valley. I do think many of these thoughts apply to Glorietta, Del Rey, etc. By the way, don't choose a neighborhood based on proximity to BART. You'll get over the small differences in proximity in just a few short months
- Burton Valley Neighbor
Re: What neighborhoods do young families tend to move to? As a native San Franciscan, I was reluctant to leave the city for the suburbs but our family's experience in Lafayette has been great. The idea of it being all empty nesters/conservative folks is outdated. No doubt it may seem 'conversative' compared to other parts of the Bay Area but it really isn't. I have met some pretty liberal people if that is truly a concern for you, much more so than the other end of the spectrum. There are plenty of families with young children, school age, and older and all have come for the great schools. I have joined the local mother's club (www.lamorindamomsclub.orgO which provides a great resource for connecting with other parents of young children. There are many other organizations you can join at the broaded community level. I doubt anyone would consider me hip but I have met all of kinds interesting people.
Left the City and am over it
Re: Worried about exclusivity if I move to Lamorinda
We also made the move through the tunnel to Lafayette, although we still spend a lot of time in Oakland we have met wonderful neighbors and other friends who also made ''the move''. I recomend that you join Lamorinda Moms Club, good way to meet others, and join playgroups.
We moved to Lafayette from Albany about 7 years ago, although our situation may be a bit different due to the fact that I grew up in Moraga and my parents still live there, so this seemed a natural area for us to move to when we outgrew our little Albany bungalow. However, I can certainly understand your concerns, as I have many of the same ones. We live in the Happy Valley section of Lafayette, and believe me, we live modestly compared to most of our neighbors. Our children go to the wonderful Happy Valley school, but every day to get them there, we drive past homes that would cost a mimimum of $2 million. I am a stay at home parent as well, and it is definitely a bit of a stretch for us to live here, and sometimes I do wonder if it is worth it. However, as you will hear, the area schools are wonderful and Lafayette itself is lovely (and we have a Peets!). There are plenty of what I consider to be superficial, snobbish people that you will meet here (of course, they exist in Berkeley and Oakland too!) but there are also lots of wonderful, down to earth people as well. I think you would do fine if you had not gone to pre-school here. There were only two families from our pre-school that went to the same elementary school as my children, and most of the friendships were formed with other kindergarten families and as the kids made friends of their own.
I think Lafayette offers the widest range of incomes of the three communities, and hopefully, a good realtor could steer you in the direction of the neighboorhood that would be the best fit. Good luck with your decision! Claire
I appreciate where you are coming from. We moved from the ''other side'' of the tunnel five years ago, to Lafayette and couldn't be happier with our decision. We too missed the pre- school experience here in Lafayette and it made no difference. Starting kids anytime in a new school environment poses challenges. My kids made numerous friends in kindergarten, I worked in their classroom, volunteered at the school, and worked a full time job. My husband and I tried to integrate ourselves into the community to make it the best experience possible for all of us. I found people to be very welcoming. Of course you will always have those few people that you or your child will not mesh with, but again, that happens anywhere.
As for your concern about the ''country club'' lifestyle in LaMorinda,I know of few country clubs. Many pools and clubs to join, but most are fairly down to earth. Yes, there are many people who were born and raised here in LaMorinda and have now chosen to move back and raise their own families (and you'll see a ton of Cal bumper stickers and license plates!). But I believe that speaks well for the community. My husband and I try very hard to make sure our kids are grounded, have culture, go into SF, experience diversity, modest travel, and have exposure to those less fortunate by doing charitable work. I always believe it starts from the home. When we encounter snooty behavior, we simply ignore it, as I would with anyone. As a result, I'm proud to say my kids are leaders and well liked (and no they are not on the traveling soccer team, they don't play baseball and as a result, we have free time to hang out and enjoy our family time outside of a moving vehicle).
Lastly I want to say this...I have siblings who live in Oakland and Piedmont-two wonderful places. They all have children. The Oakland sibling has had all the children in private school and will now be looking at a very expensive private high school (all while trying to save for their college educations). My childrens education is paid for through my property taxes (which I get to write off, private school you do not). And for all the volunteering and fundraising my husband and I do for our Lafayette schools, my sister does 10x more.
Your biggest challenge of course will be trying to find a home as nice as the one you're in. Don't let that get you down. There are many homes on the market right now. If you need a few names of real estate agents, I know some great one's...not pushy! Check out the Reliez Valley area and the Burton Valley area in Lafayette. Moraga's nice too but far out. Best of Luck to you. You sound like a very nice, thorough person.
This maybe a little late, I just saw your posting. We moved to Lafayette 9 years ago from Berkeley and I can honestly say that if my husband would move back to the ''other side'' I would do so in a heart beat.
I am a SAHM and have found that unless you are from the ''white gal'' culture it is VERY hard to find truly good friends. There is a ton of superficial politeness, but it is clear that some people don't want to have anything to do with me because I am just not like them. Money, money, more money and a big house and fancy car that let's everyone know I have money would buy me entry into some of the cliques. Cliques are established and tough to break in to. It can be a VERY lonely place.
The ''great'' school reputation is deserved because of the parent involvement both in the classroom and financially. The rate and amount of ''donations'' expected is voluminous. At our elem. school there is a handful of ''great'' teachers the rest are mediocre to woeful. One the first grade teachers wrote up a sentence for the children to copy that ended in ''at''. Schools are for the most part white. High stakes testing means there is no time (and in reality little interest) in teaching cultural diversity. This maybe true of public school in the Berkeley area but at least your children are experiencing cultural diversity by just going to school with children of color and different nations. I know very few children who are NOT enrolled in intense enrichment including private tutoring, Kuman and Sylvan. The pressure on the children and the parents to succeed academically is frightening.
Save your children and yourselves and your money - stay where you are and go to a private school!
Can't wait to bust out of here.
Re: African-American in Lamorinda
I grew up in Moraga, and presently live in Lafayette. Being white, I am not sure I can really answer your question as to how you might feel here, as you are correct in that there are not many African-American families here (I believe there are two families at our elementary school). However, I just wanted to write to say that I sincerely hope you will consider moving here, and that I am sure you would be warmly welcomed in this community. Most of the people I talk to who live around here name the lack of diversity as one of the few drawbacks, so slowly, I hope that will change!
My wife and I are the same racial make-up as you and your husband. We have lived and raised our two children in Lafayette for the past 11 years. Our children are thriving, have many friends, participate in sports, and other community based activities.
We have debates about whether our biracial children are best served in the Lamorinda community. I do not know what the right answer is, but will give you my thoughts. There are many families that we know that have other racial backgrounds other than European. Most of these families are interracial or asian. Here are some of the families that we know in our community: Chinese-Chinese, African American- European American, European American-Phillipines, Hispanic- Jewish and more. We are here and I hope you join us. The main reason I stay here as many other parents in this community, is for the education. My biracial children deserve the same high level of education and expectations of them as the blond child sitting in the next seat. So far, my children have been doing well academically. I do not look to the Lamorinda community to provide diversity or cultural education. We try to do that in other ways.
As a balance, we also do participate in other activities in Berkeley. We attend the City of Berkeley family camp at Tuolumne. We have other biracial family friends that live in Berkeley. David
Re: Gay dads considering a move to Orinda/Layfayette Hi Gay Dads!
Yes, come on out. We are a lesbian couple who have lived in Lafayette for 3 years now. We have 2 boys, one almost 9 years (next week) the other almost 5 years. We moved from NYC, rented in Richmond for a year and toured the East Bay. Found Lafayette and fell in love. Our neighbors are great, we are always trading off children, pets and helping each other out as any other neighbor would. The schools have been great. Not the diversity of Berkeley/Oakland but for us that wasn't our #1 piority. You will find more ethnic/family/economic diversity in the downtown school then any other and also the one middle school in Lafayette. The teachers have been great (not perfect, but who is?). We speak to them at the beginning of the school year. We have spoken with our Principal about the forms from the district not being gender neutral and they are working on that. There have been no negative incidents at the school or anywhere else where people know us. I work at the local community center (coaching gymnastics) and certainly don't advertise my sexuality but when asked about my children and spouse I tell them and everyone is cool about it.
We live near the trail so the children get to bike, walk, scooter etc. to school. We love running so it's the perfect location for us and also walking to downtown. It's great. There are pools all over you can belong to. Our boys play on the soccer, baseball, hockey, and swim teams (yes we drive a minivan!) and no one bats an eyelid to our family make-up.
There are another couple of Lesbian families here and in Moraga and tons in Walnut Creek/Concord/Pleasant Hill. Actually there is a fairly new group (for us families thru the tunnel) called Rainbow Families that meet once or twice a month with the kids in different areas for pizza etc. Last month everyone came to Freddies in Lafayette. The group has many two Dad/single families from 'thru the tunnel' as well.
I can't speak for Orinda but we did also look there and found it quite a bit hillier and all we could think about was ''Gee, how do these people make it up their driveways when it snows''??
Phew, I went on a bit but we really do love Lafayette and would just love more gay and lesbian families to come out here. We actually found it cheaper then living in Berkeley/Oakland and got more for our money. feel free to e-mail us if you want any more info or would like to come out to visit and we can show you the neighborhood! We can also recommend a great real estate broker who's a Gay Dad from Alamo. Good Luck.
lesbians loving Lafayette
Re: Should I move to the suburbs for the schools?
I don't know if it's the solution for you, but moving to Lafayette was the best thing we did. We were living in the N. Oakland Hills and were in the Kaiser district. I don't know anything about that school but wasn't thrilled with the prospect of Oakland schools in general (not an educated opinion I admit) or Oakland Tech. We ended up in Lafayette for it's schools, for their arts and science foundation and the community. Our son is now in 2nd grade at the downtown school, Lafayette elementary and started there with kindergarten. Our second son is in preschool still. The teachers, principal and support staff are amazing, very hands-on and concerned and knows every family by face and name. The foundation LASF is funded by contributions from families and community to the tune of $750k - 1mm a year. It supplies additional music, art and science programs to the 4 elementary, 1 middle and 1 high schools. There is a meeting tonight about the school budgets and what we can do to lessen the impact. Most parents I've spoken with are going. Finally the community is totally family oriented. You can go anywhere with your kids without people looking funny at you and can get whatever services and activities you can dream of. We were ones that said we never would go over the hill, but are very happy about it now. Life is much easier where we are. Linda