Advice about Living in Martinez

Parent Q&A

Looking at home in Martinez, need some input. Feb 22, 2021 (1 responses below)
Living in Martinez and commuting to San Rafael- Crazy??? Aug 24, 2020 (2 responses below)
Living in Martinez Aug 26, 2016 (1 responses below)
  • My family is looking to buy a home, and are trying to figure out which areas would be ideal to look at, re: price, schools/school districts, and demographics. I currently WFH (my husband works from home full time, but I began during the pandemic) and while I would love to remain WFH, I have no idea if that will be a possibility when things improve. So I may have to commute to downtown Oakland at least 2 days a week (though I don't suspect this will happen until at least 2022).

    On that note, is Martinez just too far a commute? (We currently rent in Moraga.) We're wondering what people think of Martinez overall as well. Checking out the demographics section of some of the elementary schools (our son is 3 right now), it's not very diverse, which I expected, but I'm wondering if local folks can tell me if there's any Asian/south Asian presence in the neighborhoods (We have looked at a few homes so far,  in... Shannon Hills? And below the 4, around Beechwood) and what the vibe is toward POC generally. 


    Martinez is about 66% white and about 9% Asian according to this . Please look at the other demographics on this page as well. My brother in law lives in Martinez and the schools are not that great and there is more violent crime than San Ramon, CA. I would recommend looking at San Ramon, CA.  We have lived there for nine years and love it because it has good schools, low crime and wonderful parks, restaurants and shops.  San Ramon is 46% Asian and 39% white and all the public schools are good and the crime rate is low.  Here are the demographics for San Ramon   If you decide to live on the west side you can drive up Crow Canyon and be in Oakland in 30 minutes.  There is a San Ramon cricket association which has a list of San Ramon Adult and Youth cricket teams. Here is the website to the San Ramon cricket association.

  • Hi there, 

    My hubby and I are on the hunt for a house and try as we might we can't make it happen in the areas we want! We have started to consider Martinez because of its affordable houses and very highly rated schools. Here is the kicker, I work in San Rafael, is the commute really just downright awful? I'm sure that's a dumb question, because isn't it all terrible, but I just don't know anything about commuting that direction! My current commute from Oakland to San Rafael is 40-60 minutes each way, is this commute similar?

    We have considered every town in that direction between Richmond and Martinez, but schools are the most important thing on our list so it seems like Martinez is the best option. We also would like to be semi near BART for when my hubby needs to commute to the city. 

    Right now I am 100& work from home because of the pandemic and hope it stays that way but alas I don't know if it will. 

    Any advice is appreciated. 

    I work in Martinez and commute from El Cerrito, which is counter commute and takes me about 25 minutes. Martinez to SR is in the commute direction and I would estimate 60 minutes one way, if there is not an accident on the bridge. Personally that is too much commute for me but YMMV. I also wanted to note that many of my coworkers have kids in the public schools in Martinez Unified and it sounds like a mixed bag (honestly, just like every other public school system). My family considered moving to Martinez in the last year so I could be closer to work but decided that based on the things we look for in a school, MUSD wasn't particularly different (better or worse) than WCCUSD, our home district (again, a mixed bag, I am not trying to denigrate it). High school football is a very big deal at Alhambra High School (the main high school in Martinez), so maybe that's a draw or a detraction for you.

    Part of Martinez feeds to Mount Diablo Unified School District, which was of more interest to us because the specific schools that Martinez residents attend are relatively higher rated, but my partner ending up squashing that because that district is close to insolvent. (I would have done it, though, just goes to show you that different criteria in schools are important to different people.) Also that part of town is even further from the freeway, thus making an even longer commute for you.

    Commute will be similar if not slightly worse.  You still have to cross the same bridge.  But then you'll have to deal with getting from Hwy 4 to 80 and then over to 580.  It's Richmond Parkway or Carlson. You'll either have lots of signals and some traffic or some traffic and lots of signals.  You might want to take a look at what the Martinez to El Cerrito BART trip would be like.  IDK, but I suspect it's not that great.  Or would he go to Concord?  That part of Hwy 4 gets really bad.  

    Martinez is a nice town with nice parks/open spaces.  But it also has the court house, jail and refineries.

    Hope this helps - Good luck

  • Living in Martinez

    (1 reply)

    Anyone out there who's living, or has lived, in Martinez? Or have friends there? We are thinking about moving there with our two kids, and our daughter will be in kindergarten next year. We'd love to hear from parents with recent experience at John Muir, Morello, and John Swett elementary schools. Beyond their ratings, what are the characters of the schools? How much testing is done, and how much is creativity and learning for learning's sake encouraged? What kinds of extracurriculars are offered? And more basically: what's it like living in the town? We love the all-around diversity and progressiveness of Oakland. We know the vibe is very different in Martinez, but are hoping it might be a place where we'd meet like-minded friends. Thanks for any and all thoughts!

    RE: Living in Martinez ()

    My husband and I moved from Oakland to Martinez 10 months ago. And while we do miss Oakland, we love Martinez. We have an infant and a 2 year old so I do not have any first hand experience with the schools. Ours will attend John Muir when the time comes. 

    I did, however, join a mom's group when I got to town and have made lots of friends for playdates, moms night out, etc. There are a lot of young families and that is a big plus. We chose Martinez primarily because we could not afford to be in a desirable area of Oakland (we lived near Piedmont Avenue and Grand Lake for 5 years) and it had more affordable housing, really good schools and lots of open space. We bought a home within walking distance of downtown and love the area. Farmers Market every Sunday, Kite, BBQ, Beer, Jazz etc. Festivals in the Marina. I love that it has a small town feel to it. Really the single negative thing we have found so far in Martinez is the lack of a BART station. It is about 15 minute drive to one. 

    Feel free to email me with any questions. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Living in Martinez, Benicia, Concord

Aug 2013

My family is hoping to buy a home soon. We have two children under 2. It seems we can afford Benicia, Martinez and parts of Concord. We really like the look of homes in downtown Martinez and our commute to Richmond on the 4. Our main worries are the refinery, convicts and sound from the Amtrak/freight trains. Does anyone have any negative or positive experiences with the above, especially the refinery. Thank you! Kelly

Hi - The part of Martinez next to Pleasant Hill is very nice. I have a good friend who has lived there for over 20 years and loves it. It's away from the refineries, on the south side of Highway 4, and you can get into the better schools. I am a Realtor and also manage rental properties there. Audi

Sept 2012

Re: Affordable East Bay community for retired mom?
How nice to have your Mom nearby! Martinez is a delightful town as well as the county seat for Contra Costa County. It has a charming old town, is quite historic (John Muir's home and orchard are there), is a very walkable community, nice people. The County Hospital is quite good. Rental prices are lower than in Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito. It's on the Amtrak route--can go to Sacramento, Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville using the Capitol Corridor train. I know all this because my daughter's godmother moved there after coming back from the Northwest, and another friend recently bought a house there. We enjoy visiting. - All the best in the big move. Barbara

August 2008

My husband and I are considering buying a house, and Martinez is definitely in our price range. It seems like a cute place, especially the downtown area, but I would love to hear from people who know the area. What do you like/dislike about it? Is it a good place to raise kids? What are the schools like? Do you think the refinery is safe (healthwise)? Any opinions you have would be much appreciated! Sara

I lived in Martinez for 6 years, and I have mixed feelings about it. I liked our house and our neighborhood (Westaire), but we didn't feel like Martinez had much to offer. Yes, the downtown is kind of cute, but it's pretty much dead during non-working hours. There are also very few (good) restaurants in Martinez. We always seemed to have to go to Concord, Pleasant Hill, or Walnut Creek to eat out.

I don't know much about the schools, but I don't think they are all that great (not as good as Walnut Creek, anyway). I also don't know about the safety of the refinery, but it's an eyesore. Actually, every once in awhile, there would be a ''shelter in place'' alert. A horn would blow or you'd get a phone call to shut your windows and stay inside. I think this was due to soot being spewed out. I guess I didn't worry much about it, but maybe I should have.

Some people love Martinez, but I just didn't. We lived in Walnut Creek before moving there, so maybe I'm biased, but I wish we had stayed there, or moved to Pleasant Hill instead. That said, Martinez is more affordable than the other nearby cities, which is exactly why we moved there in the first place. We ended up leaving the area about a year and a half ago for job reasons, but while I lived there I never really got over the feeling that we should've bought a smaller house in Walnut Creek instead. Hope this helps

August 2008

Re: Progressive/Alternative in Pleasant Hill,Martinez
I've been living in Martinez (near PH border)for 10 years with my husband and bi-racial son, who attends a PH elementary school. We grew up in the East Bay and lived in El Cerrito for a long time...moved to Martinez for the less expensive housing. Conract me and I'll be glad to chat about the living experiences! kathy

2004 & Earlier

July 2001

Re: affordable housing
My husband & I bought a house in Martinez exactly 1 year ago and, for the most part, we love it. We had previously lived much further out & had been commuting up to 3 hours per day. Martinez suits almost all our needs and wants -- a smallish town closer to where we work & closer to his elderly parents & his son who live in Richmond. My commute via BART to Oakland takes about 40 minutes each way & my husband commutes to Pinole which is about 20 minutes each way.

We looked at a lot of different areas in both Concord & Martinez -- Clayton was a little too expensive for us and not as accessible for commute purposes. We were drawn to sections of downtown Martinez area but nothing came available during the time we were looking that we liked -- a lot of the places were either too expensive, too much fixing-up, or too small. We like the downtown area very much &, if the right thing would have come available, I know we would have been happy there.

We ended up with a house about 7 minutes from the N. Concord/Martinez BART station in a small rural pocket off Highway 4 & 680. The only real downside is we do have to drive to the nearest stores & it is not a great walking area. The prices are remaining pretty stable as far as I can tell. Two houses in our area, 3 bed./2 bath with a little bit of acreage, are being listed for $310,000 & $389,000. The one for $389,000 has a pool/spa but isn't anything spectacular. It has been available for about 3-4 months so we think it is priced too high. I have been inside the one available at $310,000 but it isn't anything fancy nor does it appear to be a dump. It does have a huge fenced in yard, double garage & several fruit trees but low maintenance landscaping. There seem to be a lot of townhouses/condos. going for $230,000 or so.

One area we liked in Martinez was off Alhambra Avenue, by Alhambra High School (which is supposed to be a really good school). But again, the houses we looked at there tended to be too small, too much or need lots of work. Another friend of mine bought a townhouse off Morello Avenue & Highway 4 and just loves it. She is a single mother who just moved to the area & found a lot of support & activities for her two kids. She is very pleased with the Martinez elementary school her children attend. Both the high school & junior high school have been recently redone.

I think Martinez & some parts of Concord & or Pleasant Hill are definitely worth investigating. You're probably not going to find the same level of neighborhood services available in N. Berkeley but there is a revitalization going on in downtown Martinez. We frequent a great pastry shop & a small new/used bookstore as well as a few okay restaurants (nothing spectacular), a wonderful waterfront park, tons of antique stores & a very active Amtrack station. Good luck. Vanessa