Living in Marin County
You could consider Mill Valley on that budget - 9 miles to SF and the drive to Financial District takes about 25 minutes, or 40 minutes on the bus. You can also take the ferry from Sausalito which takes 20 minutes. We lived overseas in London and Paris for 10+ years, then spent 10 years in SF proper with kids in private school, and just moved to Mill Valley. We've met people from all over and lots of Europeans. It's an expensive and not particularly economically or racially diverse town, but for your rent budget you could get a nice 4-bedroom house. It's super close to SF, making it easy to eat out there and do other activities without suffering the horrendous Bay Bridge traffic to the East Bay. The public schools are excellent - better than we expected after 10 years in a private French Lycee - and the kids walk everywhere, making life far less stressful than in SF where we had to drive them all about. Good luck!
Northern Marin (Novato, San Rafael, Santa Venetia) have good schools, lots of greenery, and lots of transit options to San Francisco. I don't know of a huge LGBT community, but people here are pretty tolerant of all kinds of diversity, very live-and-let-live.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Moving to Marin - Neighborhood and K-8 School Reco
I'm looking for strong neighborhood recommendations for my family to consider for a move to Marin with the following criteria: 1) Reasonable commute into SF (near Ferry building so taking ferry or driving are options). 2) Access to progressive/alternative elementary school (current research is leaning us towards the pending Ross Valley Charter). Any elementary-age school recommendations are appreciated as well. 3) Community-minded neighborhoods raising families. Many thanks. Jennifer
I moved to Marin from SF 10 years ago before kids (now 7 and 2) and love love love Marinwood, it's unincorporated, right off of 101 b/w San Rafael & Novato and full of families and community events. www.marinwood.org. My husband's office is right by the ferry building, so he takes that into the city most days - it's a 10-15 minute drive from our house. We moved into a bigger house in our neighborhood 2 years ago when baby #2 was born and also looked in Ross at the time. The same house was $1,000,000 more in Ross and in worse condition (I am not kidding) than the one we ended up buying in Marinwood. The westbound morning traffic on Sir Francis Drake to get to 101 is horrific, though it is fun to count how many Tesla's are around.
Depends on your family and personalities, but Southern Marin has a very very different and shall I say pretentious vibe than central and northern Marin. The schools are amazing everywhere. My oldest went to a public school in Kentfield for K-1 and while an 'amazing' school, it was way way too rich and fancy for our family. I was the only mom not driving a luxury SUV for class field trips and the annual PTA ask from families was $1350 PER KID! Now she's in the Dixie school district for 2nd grade, which is much more our speed and they only ask $500 per kid my youngest is starting pre-school at Montessori de Terra Linda and it's an amazing school. Best of luck in your search and feel free to ask the moderator for my contact info if you have any questions. Marin mom
We love the Fairfax/San Anselmo area. It's super family/community oriented and has a small town feel. Our kids are in MAP (which if approved would become Ross Valley charter) and we have been incredibly impressed with the program. The teachers are outstanding and we have a fantastic principal at Manor school. It's creative, differentiated and engaging. I am often wishing I could go back to kindergarten just to do this program. The commute is not the easiest but not unusual for the bay area. Mill Valley would be closer. The ferry is a good option. anon
Marin Co -- San Anselmo/Fairfax
I am moving to the Bay Area from New York with three children this summer. My husband will be working in Marin Co. We are considering living in Fairfax/San Anselmo as we have heard there are good schools. I have two children in elementary and one in middle school. Does anyone have any advice or reviews of White Hill middle, the elementary schools in the area, or Sir Francis Drake high school? Any know anything about these school's music programs or any community music programs for kids in Marin? Any advice about moving to San Anselmo or Fairfax in general would be appreciated - such as, are there more kid friendly neighborhoods to look out for, art and music summer camps? We visited recently and liked what seemed to be Fairfax's laid back vibe. Any thoughts about this? Any advice is greatly appreciated! Jeanette
Fairfax and San Anselmo are lovely. I grew up in Fairfax and have fond memories. If you and your husband are working in Marin, that is ideal. The only reason I wouldn't live in San Anselmo or Fairfax now is the commute to SF is pretty brutal; Sir Francis Drake gets backed up during commute times. Drake was a great high school when I went there and I'm sure it's still very good - check the reviews on GreatSchools. It has an excellent theater program, though I'm less sure about music. The Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra is well regarded, and you're close enough to SF to take advantage of music and art camps in the city, though I'm sure there are some in Marin, too. In general, Fairfax and San Anselmo schools seem to have a good balance of sport-arty kids. Overall, I would recommend living in the walkable parts of Fairfax or San Anselmo if possible. As a teenager, it was nice to have the autonomy to walk or ride my bike to school and my job at a cafe. People on BPN bag on Marin as snooty, but that was not my experience growing up in Fairfax. It's laid back and friendly. I think housing in Fairfax is more affordable these days than in Berkeley! Fairfax native
Moving to Fairfax or San Anselmo
Hi, We're thinking about moving to Fairfax or San Anselmo and would love some advice. How are the public schools? Are there certain schools to avoid or are they all good? Are the after-school programs good? Are some neighborhoods better than others? How is the commute into the financial district for work?
How are the people? We don't want to move to Mill Valley because we know that we won't fit in. I'm not a skinny, yoga-attending, stay at home mom and I worry about being shut out by the other mothers. We are highly educated but are not into the country club scene. Instead we are tattooed burners who love to have a good time. Our son is in the middle of his class academically and has a hard time sitting still. He is doing okay at his current east bay public school.
Do you think that we will be happy if we move across the bay? I've heard such awful stories about how cliquey people can be in Marin and want to avoid that. Thanks for your feedback
I speak from experience. Marin county is mostly full of rich, privileged, skinny white people. I grew up there and then lived there BRIEFLY with two kids in middle school.....
If you choose Fairfax or San Anselmo, be prepared for a nightmare commute. Sir Francis Drake is the only way to SF. (unless you go the back way through San Rafael.)
The towns that still have some semblance of reality in my opinion are the two you mentioned plus San Rafael and Novato.
The schools in San Rafael are not as high performing than in the other towns mentioned but I know people who have found them fine enough for their kids.
Of course, you will certainly find friends who value what you do. It might just be harder than in other places
Plus sides....Marin is gorgeous, great weahter, clean, great shopping, access to healthy foods, wonderful bike paths and access to Mt Tam, Stinson Beach, Phoenix Lake etc. The schools are all good really and it is very safe. former marinite
Speaking as someone who moved to Marin (Kentfield) from Berkeley relatively recently, I would say be very careful! We experienced culture shock moving here and are still reeling. As a previous responder mentioned, most of the people who live here are affluent skinny white people. And many of them are just not very nice. There is a competitive mindset throughout much of Marin and people can be downright unfriendly and rude. It seems to be the roosting spot for overgrown fraternity/sorority types. We are in the process of trying to figure out whether or not to move further west in Marin to Fairfax or the San Geronimo Valley or to just leave Marin period. Our experience having our daughter in preschool here has been sadly negative- a lot of plastic parents who care more about keeping up with the Joneses than parenting their children. That is a sweeping generalization obviously, and we have met some very thoughtful and nice people here, too. Unfortunately, in our experience they have been in the minority. That said, Marin is full of so much natural beauty (one of the main reasons we moved) and if you can find a community that feels like the right fit, I think it would be a good quality of life. I would spend time checking out Fairfax or further West as these places still feel pretty down-to-earth and filled with authentic people. San Anselmo seems to have been filling up with more of the Stepfordy Southern Marin types. I think most of the public schools in both San Anselmo and Fairfax are pretty good though I've heard crowding is becoming an issue. Definitely spend as much time as you can really getting a feel for it! Wishing you the best of luck. Anonymous
Dear BPN, I am hoping that the collective wisdom of this community can help me in my search for place for my family. Neither my partner nor I are originally from the area though we have lived here for many years. We have two young children and are finding it increasingly difficult to live where we are (Marin co.) for various reasons including density, commute, and a general feeling that we are surrounded by a competitive mindset and lack of friendliness. We have lived in our current town for almost 2 years and have struggled to find 'our people,' but not for lack of trying from our perspective. We have certainly connected with and made friends with some nice people, but not as many as we'd like. We moved here to be closer to the woods and ocean, but are now questioning our decision to leave Berkeley. We really don't want to uproot our older child again, but feel that so many of our daily encounters here involve a lack of kindness and even civility. We thought that enrolling our daughter in a Montessori preschool that seemed great would put her and us into contact with kinder, gentler people who are seeking community but this just has not proven to be the case. Does anyone have experience with Marin that corroborates ours? I like to think that we are generally good, kind, and friendly people and when we have asked others we know they say that they think our issue is likely where we live and not with us. Marin was never ideal in many ways because of the lack of diversity, including the overwhelming affluence but we wanted to give it a try. We have found there to be more entitlement than expected. We do not want to uproot our daughter again but also don't want to keep trying to fit in a place that ultimately is not for us. Is this lack of friendliness, kindness, entitlement etc. happening in the Bay Area in general? Does anyone have experience with a community in the Bay Area where there is a warm, friendly community mindset, or is this just wishful thinking in this day and age? I realize this may sound terribly naive and I know some of what we are experiencing is due to the density, high cost of living, and stress many have in living in the B.A.. We are starting to consider moving out of state as well as back to Berkeley for that reason. We just want to find a down-to-earth community of (mostly) kind people to raise our kids with. Are people in the BPN finding that warmth and friendliness where they are or am I dreaming? Thank you so much in advance! Anonymous
I'm sorry to hear you're going through this. I've also noticed that people, lately, are behaving less civil and more grumpy and unfriendly. The Bay Area is going through a drastic transition with affluence (And people) just pouring into the area. It is affecting EVERYONE and changing the make-up of communities right before our eyes. We live in N. Oakland and I'm suddenly noticing a hostility when I cross into Berkeley, depending upon which neighborhood/niche I've happened upon. With that said, friendliness is still quite bountiful in the east bay. From what I can gather, there is more of a diversity of income levels in the Berkeley/Oakland area and we co-exist pretty well. Not to say that the e.b. is not being impacted by the changing make-up of the Bay Area with the tech boom and all, but perhaps not as bad as Marin, which has been known for its affluence for quite some time. So my vote is for Oakland (or south berkeley) if you want to find people who are more down to earth. I've also heard good things about San Leandro and Alameda. Also, when checking out schools, try to feel for what the attitude of teAchers and staff are - pretentious schools will lead to being around a pretentious community. Best of luck as you navigate this decision! Good for you for considering the empowerment of change. Friendly over here
I moved to Marin after being away from the Bay Area for over 20 years. I'd never lived in Marin, always lived in the East Bay, and all my friends lived in the East Bay or SF when I moved here.
I lived in Terra Linda (a neighborhood in San Rafael) and now live in Santa Venetia. Neither are denizens of the 'super-rich.' I expected little from Marin. However, the people I've met are as kind and down-to-earth as people I've met anywhere else, and I've been lucky to make some friends.
So my personal experience in Marin has been positive, but I have lived places where I felt horribly isolated, lonely, and alien. It's awful. Some places are just not the right fit no matter how hard you try. But I want to point out some things to consider in making your decision.
I've read complaints of isolation and exclusion from many parents on BPN: cliques, being excluded, how hard it is to meet people. I've heard similar complaints from friends in Seattle, Petaluma, Hawaii, North Dakota, Los Angeles, Napa, and elsewhere -- 'it's really hard to meet nice people and make new friends.' Sometimes that complaint goes away and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it takes much longer than 2 years to find your niche.
It's hard to make new friends past your mid-20s, post-college. When you have kids, you spend time with other parents just because your kids are the same age, not because you have much in common. And when you move somewhere, many people already have their social lives set, and there's no way to make new, solid connections.
I'd suggest expanding your social network. That might mean going to church, or community college, or Spirit Rock or joining the Sierra Club, or ... something else. Usually I make new friends through old friends or through common activities. It's really lonely if you move someplace where you don't know anyone. It's SO MUCH easier to make connections if you already have friends where you move. --Good Luck in finding your 'people'
Other suggestions received:
- El Cerrito
- San Leandro
Hey everyone, Just curious what people's experience has been with Marin co. I am originally from Novato and Fairfax, but haven't lived there consistently since I was 18, and I feel that these towns have changed. They have become even less affordable than they were in the 90's, as has the entire bay area. But, being Marin, there is another layer of geographic isolation and lack of diversity to deal with. My wife and I are likely moving back to Fairfax with our 2 year old (a below-market rate family deal that's too good to pass up), but I've been having some misgivings. We have lived here in Richmond for about 6 years, and, frankly, I'm worried about culture shock moving back to Marin. We don't have a lot of money (hence living in Richmond), but we are open-minded and not hardcore leftist, like many of the people I meet who bag on Marin county. Thanks!
We moved to Marin several years ago now for our jobs. Before that we lived in Los Angeles in a wonderfully diverse and nuanced neighborhood. We knew so many different types of people in L.A.--ethnically, professionally, economically--I loved that about our former home and I worried about not finding that in Marin (note that I'm a person of color and my spouse is of mixed ethnicity). Sure, Marin is pretty 'white' compared to someplace like L.A. or else what I've observed in the East Bay, but it's not like this is the Midwest (where we've also lived and trust me, you'd much rather live in 'white Marin' than in the 'white Midwest'). We've met and become friends with plenty of diverse and down-to-earth people here. Like any other place Marin has it's stereotypes but those things are all surface level; my guess is you'll have to dig deeper and keep a more open mind to find what you're looking for. And just think, for all those times you miss the vibe of the East Bay, it's just short drive away. moya
We moved 'temporarily' to Marin 8 years ago (San Rafael/Terra Linda/Santa Venetia) and are surprised at how much we enjoy it.
It is rather cloistered and white, very quiet, but our lives are hectic enough already. Hiking is WONDERFUL. My husband's not white, and he feels comfortable here.
We appreciate the bountiful outdoors; how much people in Marin LOVE animals; a well-funded library system, polite and responsive police, and people in Marin do put their money where their mouth is when it comes to paying taxes to support services. Public transit's not wonderful but it's an easy ferry ride to SF. Decent shopping available at the mall in Novato (Costco, etc.) and Corte Madera (more high-end).
Downsides: fewer cultural destinations, no BART, racially and financially rather segregated, lack of decent cheap ethnic restaurants, pricey.
Our cousins who just moved her are much happier with their school (but we are talking Terra Linda, not Fairfax).
Fairfax is a lovely town IMHO. My only concern would be the lengthy drive between Fairfax and the 101; with all the traffic, it can be brutal. Fairfax is kind of a small town, so your happiness will depend a lot on how well you like the people there. On the positive side, you can take backroads to Novato and Petaluma.
If you keep harking back to how it used to be, the transition will be more difficult for you emotionally. It's moved and changed like the rest of the world. Lola
We moved to San Rafael from Richmond for the schools a couple of years ago. My experience is that people make assumptions on BOTH sides of the bridge; we've gotten a little tired of it. I think you will find your kind of people in Fairfax, as you describe yourselves as open-minded. Yes there is the problem of 'affluenza,' but not everyone here is stinkin' rich! Lots of folks making choices just like we did when we lived in the East Bay. No more stereotypes
Family Friendly neighborhoods in San RafaelNov 2013
My husband, 4 year old and I are looking to relocate to San Rafael. Can you recommend family friendly neighborhoods with good schools in San Rafael. Looking for a ''kids can ride their bike around the neighborhood'' feel, where neighbors welcome you as you move in. I will be commuting to SF for work via the Larkspur ferry, so closer to the Ferry the better. But we would sacrifice a longer commute for better school district and a more community feel. Moving to San Rafael
Marinwood and Lucas Valley are great family friendly neighborhoods with good schools all the way through high school. There are other family friendly neighborhoods in SR but the 'good' schools end at either 5th or 8th grades so a lot of people then have to pay for private. If paying for private is not an issue for you, Marin Academy is a great choice for high school and it is in SR. Your local realtor should be able to give you much more info on schools, test scores, etc. former marinite
I grew up in the Sun Valley area of San Rafael. It is very family oriented and Sun Valley Elementary is an excellent school. The homes are generally smaller and older, but many have been added onto and upgraded. It is on the far western side of San Rafael, so it will take a little longer getting to the freeway, but I love it. Dominican is also a good, older neighborhood with a great school (can't remember the name) and is closer to the freeway and bus depot. The houses here tend to be bigger, and a bit pricier. Good luck in your search! Anon
There are so many great neighborhoods in San Rafael! I think the best ones for developing a nice sense of community is where there is a neighborhood park. A great place to meet families with children. Tour the neighborhood parks on a Saturday afternoon, and see which have families. Use that as a guide for your housing search. Kk
Relocate to Albany or Marin County?May 2013
We are thinking about moving to Albany or somewhere in Marin county. We are in search of good public schools and want a neighboorhood that is walkable and kid friendly. We love the diveristy of the east bay, and are also drawn to the outdoors of Marin county. Can anyone offer any insight or suggestions on specific areas/neighboorhoods? Thanks! Thinking about relocating
I live with my family in Albany, and my brother lives in Fairfax. They adore their town. It is so different. I'll try to list out pros cons that I see to both.
- Great Schools
- Proximity to restaurants, bay trail, tilden, movie theaters, etc.
- Close to major thoroughfares - has BART access to SF, etc.
- Friendly neighborhoods with very little elitism/classism
- Very diverse (I have a mixed race family)
- Small lots, neighbors are close and noisy
- Can be close to BART noise or trains
- Not as clean, higher theft
- Nicer weather, warmer and less fog but not too hot
- Beautiful trees around lots
- Close to beaches, Mt. Tam, bike trails
- artsy culture
- Great schools
- Relaxed and casual environment
- not diverse ethnically or politically
- definite classism/elitism
- expensive to buy and to live
- hard to get to SF - no BART options
- drug use at high school age is high and accepted culturally
- see both sides
I live in Albany and work in San Rafael. You will find walkable, kid-friendly neighborhoods with good schools in both places. The East Bay is certainly more diverse in general, but Albany itself is probably just as homogenous as most areas in Marin.
Marin is wealthier, by and large, and may have more 'rich kid' problems (teen drug use, for example) and my impression is that there's less social integration of economic levels and ethnic and other identity groups. Marin feels much more isolated from other regions; there's no BART, there's only one main freeway (101) which isn't even an Interstate, and it's bounded on three sides by ocean. Individual neighborhoods and towns are more often separated by hills and/or water and many have a secluded feel. So people in Marin seem to do more driving than people in Berkeley/Albany, although they do have easier access to mountain biking and other outdoorsy activities.
Albany is much more connected with the surrounding metropolis, and has easier/faster access to, say, Tahoe or Los Angeles, but still retains its own 'small town' feel. As far as specific neighborhoods, there aren't any bad ones in Albany. In general, the farther east you go (away from the freeway) the 'nicer' but there are no huge differences from one corner of town to another, and the entire town is one school district with all very good schools.
In Marin, for more pedestrian-friendly 'hoods, consider from Gerstle Park in San Rafael west to San Anselmo and Fairfax; the flatter areas of Corte Madera and Mill Valley; Terra Linda; Sausalito and Tiburon; maybe Peacock Gap (it's more hilly) and parts of Marinwood/Lucas Valley (more sprawly). There are highly-rated schools in all of these areas, but I'm less familiar with specifics. I've known a number of happy Fairfax and San Anselmo residents, including parents of young kids. My Kids Walk to School
Hi everyone, Thanks for all the insight and advice you have to offer. We are in turmoil since moving to Berkely from a great public school system on the East Coast. We love the diversity, the vibrant atmosphere, and the progressive attitude but we want to live in an old fashion neighborhood where kids go to public school and play in the neighborhood together.
We have been looking at areas of Marin and wonder if anyone has up to date information on which neighborhoods are warm and welcoming with excellent public schools and smaller class sizes. We really want a school that has a more progressive approach to education, provides differentiated learning and does not teach to the test. Places we are considering include: Dixie School district, Mill Valley, Tiburon, and Ross. Any input is very much appreciated. Seeking a wonderful place to call home
We love Marin, as well, and may move there over the summer if we can sell our house in Berkeley for the right price. The neighborhood we like best is Terra Linda in San Rafael (Dixie School district). We love the homes there (we're partial to Eichlers and Eichler-knock-offs - not everyone's cup of tea, though!), but more importantly the neighborhood itself seems friendly and family-oriented. We also like how close we would be to open space, and the weather is warmer during the summer, which we appreciate.
Re: Mill Valley - it's funny, Mill Valley was my dream town for many years (so incredibly beautiful!) until a friend moved there. The more I visited, the less I liked it. A sizeable portion of the population seemed (to me) to be pretty snobby and not very friendly.
I do not know much about Tiburon or Ross except that they are very expensive, but also extremely pretty areas. Tiburon is closer to SF, if that matters to you or your husband... Ross is further away so I assume it would be a much longer commute.
Another place to check out would be Fairfax, especially if you appreciate the progressive vibe of Berkeley. It's boho and beautiful and has a really cute downtown. Also, the people there are friendly, and the town itself has a real sense of community. And the schools (as far as I know) are excellent. Fairfax is also on our list, though Terra Linda is a bit more our style.
Anyway, I've lived in the Bay Area my whole life and the general stereotype about Marin County is that it's very snobby and homogeneous. Some of this is true: it is certainly less diverse than the East Bay, and in some areas people have a ton of money which can lead to snottiness.
However, we've spent the better part of a year hanging out in San Rafael, Fairfax, San Anselmo (another choice for you), and Novato (cheaper and still in beautiful Marin but the town itself is not as pretty) - going to parks with our kids, patronizing shops and restaurants, etc, and we've had nothing but good experiences. (By the way, I am Latina and my husband is 'white'.) People have been friendly and I actually enjoy the playground experience more in Marin than in Berkeley.
That said, the big reason why we're thinking of staying (and it would be a sacrifice - our home in Berkeley is small and a bigger house in our same neighborhood is out of our price range) is *because* of the schools! So I was surprised when you cited the public school system as a reason for moving.
BUSD is actually highly rated (check out greatschools.org for individual school scores), but more importantly, my husband and I see the work our son is doing in 1st grade and what he is learning and we have been beyond pleased. We also love the school itself (Berkeley Arts Magnet, or BAM) - it has a great sense of community and our sensitive boy is thriving there.
I should also say here that we were kind of skeptical of the school system in Berkeley at first - we are practicing Catholics and don't really fit the Berkeley mold in some ways, so we originally thought we'd send our children to Catholic schools - but we have been incredibly happy with our experience. One of the reasons we chose BUSD is because we have 4 kids and Catholic school would have been too pricey (ironic, eh?), but I have to say, at this point even if our parish offered us a full scholarship, we would still stick with the Berkeley public schools. That's how much we love BAM.
Also, if you are concerned about teaching to the test (I share that concern, as well), I don't see that happening. The kids do all sorts of creative-type learning... nothing seems dry or 'rote' at all.
And I do totally hear you on the neighborhood schools thing, although we are lucky in that BAM does happen to be the school closest to our house. I love being able to walk our son to school, I have to say. Believe it or not, I'd be giving this up if we moved to Terra Linda, as the neighborhood elementary school in that particular 'hood is actually too far a walk.
Anyway, hope this helps you with your decision. If you'd like to chat more, please feel free to email me, and best wishes! monica
Relocating to Berkeley from Marin (Mill Valley)Sept 2012
Hi, I'm hoping you can weigh in on a big family decision.
We are a 2-mom family of sweet little 5 & 6 yr olds. We've lived in Mill Valley for the last 10+ years, now considering a move..Berkeley or somewhere other than here. I never thought we would move, but, as parents we now feel very disillusioned with Southern Marin...the money spoils everything. We worry about the attitudes, values and behaviors of many of the wealthy or worse the trying-to-be- wealthy parents rubbing off on their kids, and ours. We absolutely love the natural beauty of Marin and proximity to SF. But, we are looking for:
1. Strong private schools with more than token diversity (we are the only same sex couple in either of our kids' schools; one private one public) a general level of inclusivity...and a wide range of grounded, respectful kids. This is the biggie.
2. A neighborhood, or at least a few neighbors who are friendly, would be nice.
3. Something relatively safe and quiet.
Am I over-glorifying Berkeley and some of the areas around Berkeley, and as importantly the private schools in the area (HR, Bentley, ProspectSierra) as friendly, one-vote- for-everyone, sans-snobby-mommy-in-$100K SUV territory, or am I just not seeing it? Has anyone made a similar move and how is it working out for you? Any neighborhoods, schools you would recommend or avoid? thanks! Sue
Hi there, I think Berkeley would be a great place for your family. I had a kid in school in Corte Madera and some friends in Mill valley so I can see where you are coming from. Money does change people. I would recommend, however, forgetting about private schools. If what you are truly looking for is inclusive diversity, then go public. The private schools will never give you more than token diversity. The kids in private schools come mostly from very wealthy families. By the time they hit 3rd grade, it gets really bad. Not a Benjamin lover
We moved from Mill Valley to Berkeley several years ago for some of the same reasons mentioned in your post. I can't speak for the private schools here as our daughter is in public school, but there are plenty of diverse families here in the public schools. For us, Marin was just too rural, and getting in the car to go everywhere got old fast. Add to that the lack of good restaurants, very limited public transportation, and just a general feeling that we didn't fit in. As far as neighborhoods, you would need to sort that out based on priorities. North Berkeley is a nice mix of nature and city and a lot of nice families live here. I do miss the easy access to the beaches in Marin, and still regularly make the trek over to Stinson (1 hour drive - not so bad), but that's about all I miss. That said, I do know families that do just fine in Marin because they find their own tribe and just ignore the negative aspects. Good luck with whatever you decide! Like the East Bay Better
Based on your observations and concerns about southern Marin, and your preferred environment, I'd say you would find many places in the East Bay to your liking.
If you're going the private school route you don't have the issue of school boundaries complicating the search either. Being a two mom family really is a non-issue, the East Bay seems very accepting of things that would be called 'alternative lifestyle choices' elsewhere.
I would start by looking at North Berkeley, Elmwood/Claremont in South Berkeley and Rockridge in North Oakland. The Oakland / Berkeley hills are nice, but you need to be prepared to spend time in your car - not everyone's idea of fun.
You won't entirely escape the tyranny of uber-moms in prestige SUV's, but from my experience of Mill Valley I'd say you'll find things a whole lot more amenable on the 'Right Side of the Bay'. Other things we have over here are lots of excellent restaurants, mild weather, culture (Cal Performances, Berkeley Rep etc.) and far, far fewer horribly bratty and entitled kids. There's wealth and affluence in the East Bay, but it's tempered by the much wider overall socio-economic spread than you'll find in southern Marin.
If you do find yourself missing the thrill of interacting with over-entitled sociopaths I can recommend a shopping trip to Berkeley Bowl - make sure it's busy for the full experience.
The pleasures of wild West Marin are a still available to you here, it's just a quick drive over the Richmond bridge.
Come on over - you'll like it here. Happy in the East Bay
Sorry to hear you are not happy with your area in Marin. Have you looked at other areas? We moved from N Oak/Berk to W Marin and LOVE it! We moved for schools and though the restaurants and local flavor does not compete even remotely to E Bay; our new 'family friends' are pretty wonderful, open, and accepting of all persuasions. I honestly didn't think there could be such an incredibly enlightened and fulfilling (on so many levels) place. Best of luck in you search!
My first thought when I read your post was 'Don't move!!!' I lived in Berkeley for 10+ years and love the diversity, energy, great parks, fun things to do and intelligence of this wonderful city (I love Berkeley, period), but will be moving to Mill Valley within the next year for the safety, environment (it smells so damn good there!) and schools. As a progressive woman of color, I've always felt a bit out of place there, but I know that open-minded people exist in Marin - just gotta find them somehow. And now that I know you're there, you're thinking of moving!! I don't know if you can ask the moderator for my details so that you can send me a PM, but if so I'll tell you more about our situation and what I think about life in Berkeley vs Mill Valley. Never thought I'd live in MV
My first response was... don't gooooo. We moved to Southern Marin 2 years ago after over 20 years in SF specifically for the schools. We are struggling with the exact same issues you spoke about. I never in my life imagined this many skinny, well-off, mani-pedi'ed, so nice but so un-interesting people, could congregate in one place. All that said, it's so beautiful. I have gotten used to that and can't imagine giving it up - they don't get to occupy Marin and push everyone not like them out! trying to hold our ground
I'm sure there are others who have struggled with this choice but am hoping for some fresh advice from those who know Fairfax. We are trying to make a choice between Berkeley (easier commute, established friends/community, bigger homes on average, personal history) and Fairfax, Marin Co (closer to nature, public schools, maybe closer-knit community?, less 'urban stress'). Boy, we can't do it! We are primarily thinking of the school system for our kids, one of whom gets easily overwhelmed and we have taken out of the local public and put in an independent school. The tuition is too much and we want to get our own house, hence the conundrum.
Anyone else out there make the choice to leave the East Bay for the schools in Fairfax? Was it the right choice for you? What did you miss? We have already thought about the diversity issue and all the great urban perks like food, movies, art shows, etc. However, the stress that can come with 'diversity' (I went to BHS) can also be an issue, particularly for a sensitive kid. What about the intellectual community in F? I'm attached to Cal and also love being close to the people I work with there. What about the high school in Fairfax (Drake)? BHS has some issues, but a lot of opportunity too. Is it safe but also 'vanilla'? Do they teach things akin to Howard Zinn in the HS?
Just trying to get a feel for what it is 'really' like before we make the mortgage-commitment. east bay folks
I grew up in Marin. Fairfax and most of West Marin had the reputation of being the 'Berkeley' of Marin. That being said....Marin County is very white and very rich. I lived there recently (not Fairfax) with my kids for one academic year and I was shocked at the money and attitudes. I think that Berkeley is much more diverse-and the schools you are comparing will reflect that. I have heard Drake High is a very good school and if you check test scores I imagine Drake will score higher due to the affluent population and all that it brings. Of course Marin is beautiful, clean, and safe. Good luck with your choice. anon
I moved to Marin (San Anselmo) almost 2 years ago, and my daughter started public kindergarten last fall. I am looking for some way to connect with other moms who have careers, and moms and dads who are interested in things like comtemporary art, books, politics, design, etc. People who like to get together and talk about ideas and images and culture, not just about what they are doing with all their money. It might be a bit early to be complaining, it takes time to get to know people, but I feel like a fish out of water there. I work full- time in a high pressure career (both because I enjoy it AND ALSO because we need my income to survive), so I am not able to be a room parent, organize all the class parties and field trips, etc. I do volunteer once a month (as does my husband) to be the class parent helper. Usually my husband drops off /picks up my daughter, so he sees all the other parents (mostly mothers) more than I do. But when I'm around, I make efforts to be friendly. Regardless, the mom clique usually just nods hello and then goes on talking amongst itself, not leaving much room for entree. It would be nice to have some kind of relationship with the parents of the kids my daughter spends her days with (hell, it would be nice to have a single name to put down for''emergency contact!''), but I get the feeling that I have little in common with these people. Judging by the talk I hear (and I'm sure there are some exceptions to be found), the mothers seem to do yoga and remodel their houses, and the fathers work ''in finance.'' On occasions when I have been around these moms in more social situations (always school- related), the conversations, when not about kids, are usually weighted toward how good someone already looks after just giving birth, who's wearing the cutest work-out clothes, and how frustrating contractors are. I find it hard to believe that these educated, successful people have nothing else going on, so I'd like to think that they just fall to the least common conversation denominator - stuff they feel they can all relate to, because it's easy an unlikely to offend. But how do I find out if there is more ''There'' there? How do I find a meaningful social life here? There is no BPN for Marin, which is such a drag! (If I had the time, I'd think about starting one!) I tried Craig's List, but the ''Women for women - looking for friendship'' posts seemed a bit creepy, and most were young girls looking for''new friends to party with!!'' I'm actually considering posting signs on bulletin boards - but where? I thought by now I'd have naturally created a group of friends. I've never had any trouble in the past. Any thoughts or advice much appreciated! anon
What if you started a book group and posted for members on a local bulletin board, perhaps at a book store? It could be a mom's book group so maybe you'd get some mothers with children around the age of your daughter. Or, what about a working moms mom's group?
I have found that getting to know other moms one on one works MUCH better than trying to break into a group. What if you scheduled a play date with a child that your daughter likes and then invited the mom to have tea/coffee when she dropped off or picked up?
You might want to try to figure out which moms work, whether part time or full time, and see if you feel more of a connection with them. Of course they won't be chatting in front of the school, they will be rushing off, or they have someone else bringing the kids to school.
I think it takes a long time to get settled into a new community. That being said, I think Marin would be a VERY hard place to settle into. I went to high school there (a long time ago) but whenever I'm there now I can feel how different it is than the East Bay. Your might have to work hard to find people with whom you can connect. anon.
Have you heard of Southern Marin Moms? -- I'm not a member but I've heard good things about it. Might be a good way to connect with other like-minded parents. Start a Marin moms' salon....
Speaking of Marin moms' salons, Book Passage in Corte Madera offers a class every Sunday for moms who write. Even if you're not a writer, it might be a fun, inspiring place to be, share ideas, meet people, etc.
Another thought: have a party, invite the school parents over? Maybe over a glass of wine, it'll be easier to connect with a few....
I find I meet people when I least expect it: in a cafe, at the dog park or playground. In fact, Coffee Roasters in San Anselmo on a Saturday morning is bustling with parents. It's our favorite cafe in Marin. My husband and I met a really nice father there the other day, someone we felt we connected with. good luck! amy
Hi, We live in Marin. We moved to Mill Valley from Berkeley about three years ago. I love living here but at first, like you, I was anxious about ''fitting in'' or finding like minded people. I think we all go through this when we move. I enjoyed Berkeley but there were reasons why we left. I needed to remind myself of those reasons during the first six months after our move.
ItUs true that the people here can be annoying but, frankly, I thought a lot of people in SF and Berkeley were annoying too while I was living there. ThereUs no doubt a lot of people in Marin have money but that doesnUt mean everyone here is superficial. I would tend to ignore those types people anyway. However, your post seemed to over generalize and continue that stereotype of the people who live in Marin. The majority of the people IUve met are incredibly nice, very smart, and hard working people who do not spend their days pondering how to burn through their money.
You asked about groups. There is a group that I joined called Southern Marin Mother's Club (SMMC). I believe there is a group for residents in your area called Ross Valley Mother's Club. Through the SMMC, I was able to make friends, find a job, and learn more about schools, businesses, and the community.
Almost every day I look around and feel so happy and fortunate that I could move here. Marin is an incredible place. Anon
I understand where you are coming from. I didn't grow up in Marin, but I've lived here for 10 years. I have found it to be a pretty tough place to make friends, and I finally feel like I have a group of people who I can relate to. Have you tried the San Rafael Mother's Club? I'm sure you could find a playgroup with down-to-earth people. http://www.srmoms.org/ they also have an email group: http://lists.topica.com/lists/srmc/read I'm not sure if your kids go to Wade Thomas or Brookside... I know 2 moms at Brookside who are down-to-earth and great, but both work! So they will drop their kids off, and pick them up, but not be the ones hanging around talking about remodeling! PS I'm always amazed when the IJ comes out with the average annual income for families in Marin. It's somewhere around $90,000 which means that not everyone has a bunch of extra money! regular marinite
Now that both of his parents have passed away, my husband (along with a sibling, who lives out of the area) has inherited his childhood home in Marin, and we find ourselves faced with a huge life decision: Whether to leave our beloved East Bay neighborhood and move across the Bay.
On the plus side: The Marin house and yard are much bigger than our current, relatively small home, and we could conceivably stay there for the long haul. We could also send our two elementary-aged children to public middle- and high school in Marin (which I really don't think is an option for us in our current locale; though we've been happy with their public elementary school here, I've done my research and do not feel good about the public-school options beyond fifth grade).
On the minus side: We'd be heartbroken to leave our very tight community here, the Marin house needs a TON of work, and we'd be stretching ourselves to our absolute financial limit to move into it (we're both chronically underemployed creative types).
I'm also worried about ''starting over'' socially there. We know a few people in Marin (mostly my husband's childhood friends who stayed -- none of whom I feel particularly close to, plus a few of my friends and acquaintances who don't live terribly near the area we'd be moving to). The neighborhood seems much quieter and more private (and thus more isolating?) than the kids-running-in-and-out-of-each-others'-houses, can't-walk-a-block-without-bumping-into-five-people-you-know, totally down-to-earth vibe we LOVE here. Also, Marin seems so changed to us now -- compared to the much more liberal and funky-seeming place where my husband grew up. Finally, I'm wary about all the expensive SUVs, perfect trophy wives, and general chichi vibe I sense there.
Of course, we've talked about selling the house and using the money to either move into a bigger home in a ''better'' school district on this side of the Bay (but with the way prices have gone up, I'm not sure we'd get something all that much different from our current abode), or staying put and using the money to help offset the cost of private schools (an option my mate isn't keen on -- he feels like it would be a better investment to put the cash into something that will appreciate in value; plus, our house is a tight squeeze now, so we can't quite see having teenagers here -- and if we were to expand, our only option would be to go ''up,'' which wouldn't increase the value of our home as much as it would cost). We've even talked about selling both houses and moving out of state, though both of us were raised in the Bay Area and can't quite imagine life anywhere else.
Does anyone out there have advice or insights to share? Anyone with personal knowledge of Marin who can tell us whether there's a real sense of community there? Or how much of an issue the whole ''status and money'' thing is, really -- both for kids and adults? Would a family of somewhat liberal, pretty laid-back, fairly disheveled, and relatively broke folks even begin to fit in there? (I realize, of course, that we're incredibly fortunate to be faced with such a dilemma at all.) Any advice, food for thought, etc. would be most appreciated! Thanks so much, East Bay mama
Hi there. I was raised in the California foothills by a wannabe hippie mom and my husband was raised by socialists in the Bronx. Regardless, we're of the silicon valley and we like money. We like freedom, we like stuff (although I'm very happy in junk shops, etc.), and we like to travel. When we sold our company in 1998, we looked and looked for a place to live. We ended up in Atherton, which is fairly ''chi chi'' -- just like you mention Marin feels.
Well, it pretty much sucks. It took about two years for anybody to talk with me (I was 8 months pregnant when we moved in) and, 4.5 years later, we have two friends in our neighborhood. One is a nice family from Fremont (Indian) in a McMansion across the street, and the other is a persian/russian islamic mix down the street. In short: NOT the little helmet- haired blonde women with the huge houses and no books. (sigh).
My caution to you? BE VERY CAREFUL. Your neighborhood sounds utterly wonderful. We are dealing with socialization issues with my poor kid, who is growing up not really having many people around. If we meet someone we like, it's hard to get their nanny to have time to bring the kid to play. sigh.
There is one child that we know who lives in our entire neighborhood and he's busy. In my opinion, the upper middle class people who live in the 3 mil - up houses have got to be some of the most unfriendly folks I've ever met in my life. ICK ICK ICK.
I hear that there is a nice sense of community in parts of Marin, and you might want to go over and hang out. On the other hand, we were at the Children's Discovery Museum in Sausalito yesterday where a young hippie-looking Marin mom was standing with a friend, talking. ''It has to be a great party,'' she said. ''I think I'll have the Counting Crows do it. What do you think?''
Seriously, vibes like that are toxic to kids. Good luck! ''from where the children have ''Princeton'' tattood on their foreheads at birth...'' bummed mom
That's a tough one and I don't have an answer for you but could you possibly live in the house in Marin and rent out your house in Oakland for a trial period and see if you like it? Then if the community really didn't work for your family you could come back. I think there are many of us experiencing variations of your dilemma I know my husband and I constantly discuss how we afford to stay in the East Bay with the expense of moving to a bigger home and the expense of school or lack of good schools....we haven't found a solution yet maybe someone else who answers will have one! good luck
Hello, We moved to Marin (Mill Valley) a little over a year ago from Montclair and absolutely love it. We are a two mommy family with a 3 year old and have found marin to be much more open and liberal and welcoming than the east bay. We love being close to the beaches and Mt. Tam. The schools are great (my sister is a teacher here) and there are great pockets of little ''main streets'' if you don't like to do mall type shopping. When we go back to the East Bay it feels stressful and very concrete to us now. Marin is so family friendly - great parks every where. We were on the fence but we decided to move for schools, safety and easier commute - now we wonder why we hadn't moved sooner. You can email me with any specific questions and I can tell you more about the specific area you are moving to - but for us it was a great move.
Before you pack up your bags and move to Marin, remember the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. If you have 2 school aged kids and you love that ''kids-running-in-and-out-of- each-others'-houses, can't-walk-a-block-without-bumping-into- five-people-you-know'' atmosphere, remember that you can't create that in a new neighborhood if it ain't there. I am so tired of having to be my kids' social secretary and drive across town for play dates, and honestly, if I needed to pop out a minute on an errand, I can't think of a single neighbor I'd feel okay to impose upon to ask if they could keep an eye on our kids. Don't take a good happy neighborhood for granted - it's worth a million! Wish we had that!
We are thinking of moving to Marin to use the public schools ) and of course it is quite pricey. We are interested in finding out what the best school districts are and what neighborhoods would be appropriate. Yes, Kentfield and Tiburon are beautiful, but we are looking at affordable areas of San Rafael and Novato. Maybe affordable wasn't the word, but you see where I am heading. If someone from Marin was moving to the East bay I could give them quite an earful about neighborhoods, schools, etc...I need a marin counterpart! I am familiar with the test score sites, and marinschools.org, I need an editorial opinion of the situation over there: Like if we moved to Novato, would we always find ourselves driving south for kids stuff, restaurants, etc.. like how we drive to Berkeley, or Rockridge? I am looking for the real skinny! Thanks
My experience is limited, since I don't live in Marin, but I work there. My office is in downtown San Rafael, and there is a really nice neighborhood known as ''Gerstle Park'' just south of downtown. Moderately priced homes - for Marin, anyway! - nice parks, and easy access to the 4th Street restaurants, downtown branch library, etc. Lots of families with young kids. A walkable neighborhood kind of like Rockridge or Albany.
I have co-workers who are parents and live in San Anselmo and Fairfax, and they like it; there seems to be a lot available for kids and a lot of support of various kinds in the community for the schools. But the neighborhoods are a little more...remote. Traffic is an issue because of the hilly little roads in and out, and you have to drive more because there are fewer walkable areas. It's more like being in the Berkeley hills or Montclair.
Novato, as far as I can tell, is more like being in Antioch or Fremont. Newer, and therefore larger, houses in car-oriented tract developments. Big box shopping. But I don't really know anything about the schools or other kid-oriented activities and resources there.
The one person I know in Kentfield, by the way, sent his kids to private (Catholic) school! :-) Commutes over the Richmond bridge
I am wondering how people compare living in Marin County versus the east bay in terms of kid-friendly activities and diversity. We are a mixed race (asian/caucasian) family with a 2.5 year old. We like to do all kinds of activites(classes, museums,etc.) and meet friendly people at playgrounds who we can turn into friends. We find it pretty easy to do that in the east bay (mostly Berkeley and Oakland). We are thinking of moving to somewhere in Marin County, and are wondering what will change and what we might miss in terms of lifestyle. anon
I think the lack of racial/ethnic diversity is a problem in Marin. Although, the Asian community is the most represented in its under-representation. m
I'm not sure what the answer is to your question but thought I'd give you my view of the elephant on where to raise a child. We have lived in the east bay for 12 years with kids and moved about a year ago to Novato. My kids are older so the activities I know about are for older kids, but one contrast is that the kids have more freedom to walk or ride bikes to their friends' houses or to go to the park or downtown with friends. Something that never happened in Oakland. We drove the kids to playdates. There are lots of kids here and the schools are great. The parents are very active in the schools...almost intensely so compared to the public school in Oakland that my children went to. There is diversity here...it's still California after all, but it tends to be a little more conservative on the face of things. The access to nature is wonderful and we still travel to SF and the East Bay for many things. It's not that far away. Also we are exploring Petaluma, which is a fun and funky town. I don't know much about living in other Marin towns and was initially interested in San Rafael since it is very similar to Berkeley, but it was more affordable to live in Novato. Also in the year that we have lived here we have met many families in the neighborhood and since it is a pretty small town we run into people we know at the farmer's market or the grocery store or the park all the time. Martha