Moving to Moraga, hopefullyOct 2011
I am planning a move for the new year, 2012, and am hoping for Moraga. I need insight about elementary and middle schools? And if possible neighborhoods as well. I have two brown boys and the demographics I've seen praise the schools but not necessarily the diversity. Moving Mom
We moved to Moraga about 6 years ago (from Oakland). It has been a great decision for our family. All three elementary schools are fantastic. There is only the one middle school (Joaquin Moraga Intermediate), and it is great as well. As far as neighborhoods go, it depends on what you want. Where I live (off Camino Pablo, sort of near the middle school, closer to Canyon), my kids could walk to school all the way through middle school, which we loved. And we are close enough to walk or bike to the Safeway shopping center, which has restaurants and shops, plus the big farmer's market on Sundays. So, I can recommend our area highly. There are a lot of homes for sale right now, and you might even be able to get a deal, as some have been on the market for a while.
As far as diversity goes, I understand your concern. I do think Moraga is getting more diverse. It certainly is more diverse than it was when I moved here. And just about everyone I know has moved from Oakland, Berkeley, or SF. I know many others who are from other countries (India, China, France, Germany, etc.) So, we have a fairly well traveled/unsheltered population. My son just joined the Gay-Straight Alliance at Campolindo High School. They had one years ago that went defunct, and now a core of kids is resurrecting it.
As far as activities, there are plenty of options for all kinds of kids: swimming and every other sport you could think of; drama; academic organizations (Odyssey of the Mind; Academic Decathlon; etc.). Moraga Mom
Re: Moving/staying - Lamorinda vs Alameda
We moved from Oakland to Moraga about 6 years ago and were in your exact situation (kid ages, house size, walking distance to shops, wanting more space w/o remodel, etc.). I was very nervous at the time, but it was one of the best decisions we ever made. We absolutely love it here. Now, having said that, you sound like you really don't want to move. You gave many reasons for staying in Alameda and mostly downsides to moving to Lamorinda. If you love Alameda that much, you should just buy a house there.
But, if you do decide to move to Lamorinda, your kids will adjust very easily. Lots of kids move through the tunnel all the time. My kids were 6 and 10 when we moved, and they made friends the first day of school...and one of my kids is ridiculously shy. So, the kids will be fine. I'm not totally up on what real estate costs in Alameda, but it might be pricey to move up from what you have in Alameda, and the local/parcel taxes really add up. Our three towns are always having some kind of school-funding parcel tax pop up on the ballots. (I'm not complaining, but you mentioned the issue in your post.)
Lafayette sounds like a good community for you, in that it isn't as remote as Moraga and has lots of walkable areas.
You might want to sit down and write up pro & con lists for staying vs. moving. Then take a few Sundays and cruise some open houses. Stay and have dinner or come early and have lunch in the area. Check out the awesome farmers' markets (Moraga's is big. it is on Sunday; Orinda's is on Saturday; Lafayette has a Thursday evening one, but it might be seasonal.) Take your kids to the local parks before open houses. You know, just get a feel for the area. The good thing is, you probably won't make a wrong decision, but that is what makes it difficult.
Living in Albany vs. MoragaFeb 2011
I'm currently living at UC Village in Albany. My husband is a PhD student at UC Berkeley. I'm working at SF. We're now thinking of buying a condo. We have a 2-year-old daughter. I personally love Moraga for the top schools, the space and environment. However, Albany is really convenient, walkable to shops and close to Bart. Does anyone have the same experience and know the difference between the two? Maria
I don't know Moraga, but my family loves Albany: great community involvement, wonderful schools, safe parks. We're raising 2 kids here and feel very lucky to be a part of Albany. Albanian
I have lived in Moraga for about 13 years. I haven't spent much time in Albany. However, it seemed to have more local commerce and public transportation options than Moraga. We have to travel to either Orinda or Lafayette to get to BART (there is a bus). The schools are great here and it is very quiet and has low-crime. However, if you want the easy walkability of a city with more retail shops, you may want to think about Lafayette, which also has great schools. Love Lamorinda
One thing to think about is the amount of time that Moraga will add to your commutes. Because there is really only one road in and out of town, Moraga Way gets very backed up. Although you may think only about the distance to the freeway exit, that drive through Orinda adds a lot of time. Other than that, I think the choice has lots to do with how much you like urban living. The schools are good in Moraga, and it's beautiful and quite, but it is also very suburban, homogeneous in terms of population, and I found it surprisingly provincial in feel. Living in Berkeley now
Moraga is safe and clean with excellent schools, a family- friendly attitude and nice, quiet neighbors. You get a good sized house and lot for the price and great weather for growing vegetables, riding bikes and walking. Mom who likes Safe and Clean
I live in Albany and I love it with all of my heart. I love my neighbors, I love the schools, I love my neighborhood, I love being walking distance to stores, parks and public transportation, I love the diversity of the community. I also spend time in Moraga and it is is quieter, less urban, less crowded (dense), definitely bucolic compared to Albany. Comparing these communities is like comparing apples and oranges. They are both great towns with great people and wonderful schools. If you read the stats at cita-data.com, you can compare median household incomes, demographics, crime statistics, education levels, median age of the populations and so on. I would chose Albany over Moraga for several reasons that may not be important to you, but every time I go to Moraga I wish I could live there, too! Noel
I don't know much about Moraga, but Albany is a lovely community composed of families who are extremely unjudgmental and accepting. It seems to me the greatest difference between the two locations is location. Albany is closer to SF and Berkeley, whereas Moraga is more suburban and probably more rural in feel. Obviously, there are benefits to both. Good luck in your search. Albany Resident
Editor Note: this discussion also appears on the page about Albany
Hi Carrie, We moved to Moraga two years ago and while I love our neighbors, and the schools are off-the-charts great, I miss having a city center like Lafayette where there's always something going on, for kids and adults. And the new library is fabulous. Diane Diane
I live in Moraga and feel a lovely sense of community here. It is a small town and you get to know people pretty quickly. We moved here almost 6 years ago. We don't do swim team or too many sports, but I still feel like I've been able to meet some really great people though the schools, drama, and other activities. If you do join a swim club, you will meet TONS of people. If you volunteer even a little bit in the schools, you'll meet people that way, too. There are lots of other organizations around town. As far as Lafayette goes, it is a bigger town, but you're right in that it has more going on. My kids are involved in the drama programs at Town Hall Theater and we go to the new (and gorgeous) library in Lafayette more than we go to our own. Not sure how that all translates into 'community,' though.
As far the towns go, I think Lafayette is more 'happening' because it is larger and has more commerce, but the downside is more crime (obviously relatively speaking...not a ton, but more than in Moraga and Orinda if the police blotters are to be believed); Orinda is very quiet, has hillier terrain, and is a bit wealthier overall (has a reputation for snootiness, although I know a few down-to-earth folks there); Moraga is probably the most traditionally suburban of the three towns, further from BART and freeways, less commerce, but the upside is that it is quiet, pretty, and safe. Great schools in all three cities.
We moved to Moraga from San Francisco last year not knowing many people in the immediate vicinity, so I have some thoughts on your question. Lafayette was initially my first choice when we were looking for houses because of the downtown area, but ultimately we ended up in Moraga for other reasons. I would say that before we moved, I would have also thought that having a vibrant downtown means there might be a stronger sense of community, but I think that isn't necessarily true. That said, I think you'll find a nice sense of community in all three places.
Since I can only speak for Moraga (but I think this is the case for all three towns), I would say that there is actually a tremendous sense of community here. Moraga is a very small town, so you end up seeing the same people everywhere you go which adds to that sense of community. Where I live, you can walk to the elementary and middle schools, so there are kids everywhere. The neighbors and everyone we've met is beyond nice and generous (it's actually been an adjustment for me!). Everyone is here for the same reason: the schools so that adds to the sense of community and purpose.
The first thing I did is get involved in playgroups with Lamorinda moms club which is a great way to meet people. All the moms are from the three towns and some from Walnut Creek, so there doesn't feel like a divide between the three communities in that you would be isolated in one or the other. It's actually my feeling that people are frequently going between all three towns, especially if you have small kids, because you are going to all the different parks (Moraga Commons, etc.). That may change as the kids get older and go to the local schools. Good Luck! Anon
We moved to Moraga about a year ago from San Francisco. I would agree that out of the 3 communities, Lafayette definitely has the best downtown. Lafayette might be easier to meet people because it seems like there are more young families there. That said, I've had no trouble making new friends and my new friends are in all three communities. My next door neighbor has kids in highschool, but immediately introduced herself as someone we could come to if we needed favors (like taking in the trash when we are out of town). My neighbor across the street is the age of my parents and offered to watch my toddler if I suddenly needed to go to the doctor and couldn't get a hold of my husband/parents (I'm pregnant). Even though I wouldn't necessarily hang out with these people, they are been very friendly and welcoming. I highly recommend joining Lamorinda Mother's group if you have kids. I met some of my new friends through a baby-mother group through them. They also have other events and groups. You didn't mention if you have kids, but it seems to me that much of the socializing and meeting people in Lamorinda is through the kids (baby groups, swim clubs, etc.) Abby
Moraga has a wonderful sense of community! It has a very small town feel to it because it is so off the beaten track. Families in the area all get to know each other thru the schools (most go to the amazing public schools of which there are only 3 Elementarys that all feed into one Middle school), sports (LMYA soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball, etc. as well - competitive swim teams are HUGE here), and several strong church organizations. Friends and families are always running into each other at the amazing Farmer's Market every Sunday morning and in the summer there is the wonderful Concert in the Park series, with free live music every week at the Moraga Commons park. Joining and volunteering with the Moraga Juniors is also a terrific way to get to know many families in the community. Terri
Kid Friendly NeighborhoodsJuly 2010
Hi, My husband and I recently moved to the Bay Area. We are currently living in Lafayette, which we're fond of, but we are now in the buying market and don't think we can afford to stay put. We have an 8-month old and are looking for an affordable kid-friendly neighborhood with some character, relatively low crime, solid schools, and access to BART.
You mentioned living in Lafayette; have you checked out Moraga? It is only 10 minutes up the hill but has all the elements you're looking for. Might be more affordable than Lafayette because it is a little further from the freeway and BART, but not by much. Also, Moraga has many townhomes, which could be a good first step since you child is still so young.
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
Here's the deal with Lamorinda: You're going to get a mix of liberal and conservative wherever you settle. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. We live in Moraga. We ride our bikes to the farmer's market; our neighbors have solar panels, crops, and chickens; everyone dresses pretty casually; no one I know voted for prop 8, etc., BUT I saw a lot of conservative political signs during the election. It was all sprinkled among the more liberal signs--so there is your balance. And yes, there are done up ladies of leisure with huge diamonds, driving around in their $200 yoga clothes in their SUVs, but that is only a portion of the population. I know many families that go to peace marches, drive really old cars, commute by bike and so on.
To avoid the more conservative areas, stay away from the country clubs and gated communities. I think the area of Lafayette close in to town is ideal. It is the area just off Mt. Diablo Blvd and Moraga Road. From there you can walk to elementary and middle school, Town Hall Theater, the library, and all manner of shopping and dining (Whole Foods should be opening before too long). There are apartments there, too, so you would get a better mix demographically.
I have friends in Orinda, and I think the area that serves Glorietta school is probably the most mellow. I hear more stories of elitism and snootiness coming out of Orinda than Lafayette. Don't rule out Moraga either. It is a little further up the hill, but that is one of the great things about it: it is more rural, very quiet, and has great streets for biking, walking, and playing. You see kids out and about all the time going to and from activities and each others' houses. Plus, we are right up against the hills, so there are a lot of hiking trails nearby. It does add to the commute if you work in SF, though.It also has (for a suburb) a fair number of condos, townhouses, and apartments, so it has a better mix than Orinda, which is almost all single-family homes.
When we first moved here, I was suprised at how many parties I went to that were either no-present parties, bring a book to donate to a charity party, or book-swap parties. There are many religious types, but they are just about all very into charity work, feeding the homeless, collecting for Darfur, Books for the Barrio, and so on.
Also, on my small street, a full half of us moved from Oakland, Berkeley, or San Francisco. Many of the parents I meet at our middle and elementary schools are transplants from those places. So, you'll find many families that went through the same decision process you did.
My partner and I are the parents of 2 toddlers and live in Oakland. We are sick of the increase in crime, poor-performing schools, and our lack of a cohesive, safe neighborhood where kids can play together outside. I was raised in a more rural setting and long for that, but for many reasons, we need to stay in the East Bay. Is there a neighborhood or area that has a more rural feel to it, with kid-friendly neighborhoods? I want our kids to be able to run around outside and play with other kids in a place that does not seem so urban. We also want a decent public school near us. Is there anything in Oakland that meets these criteria? Anywhere else in the East Bay that is not prohibitively expensive (we are middle class). Thanks! Looking for a better place
We moved to Moraga a few years ago, after spending the previous couple of decades in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco. We enjoy it here very much. Many areas have a rural vibe, especially the neighborhoods that back up onto cow pastures! In our area (off of Camino Pablo) we are surrounded by hills on three sides. When we sleep with our window open, we often hear owls at night and cows in the morning. The schools are good and not all the houses are totally expensive. I found the prices to be in line with Oakland's Montclair and Rockridge districts, but with better schools and lots of open space, trails, and such.
My kids play in the street, ride their bikes to their friends' houses, walk to and from school, etc. I ride my bike to the farmer's market and pilates (AWESOME pilates studio in Moraga...a real hidden gem).
No, it isn't Berkeley or Oakland hip. But it has a lot to offer, especially if you are looking for a something rural and close in. Moraga Momma
We're looking to move out of East Oakland to a safer area, and one closer to my work (in Danville). We can afford a condo in Moraga, and love the feel of the town. We have two young sons ( five and three), and are worried about the following: feeling too confined by neighbors and not having a big yard for for the kids. If you have any expereince with having kids and living in Moraga condos, we would really appreciate hearing your perspective/ experience. (We like most Miramonte Gardens.) ss
I can't speak specifically to the Moraga condos, but I did spend a year living in an 800 square foot condo with my husband and children. It was tough. We knew there would be an end to it, so that made it bearable, but the day-to-day was tough. We were on the third floor, so no yard and minimal balcony. Every time the kids went to common areas to play, I had to be down with them, which I don't think fosters much independence. I also, because of space constraints, always found myself taking the girls somewhere every day -- kids museum, parks, McDonald's playland -- just because I couldn't stand the tiny space. We moved from 2600 square feet to 800 and now are in 3500. I am soooooo much happier now that we are in a house and out of our condo. -anon
I live in Moraga, but in a house. We do have friends who live in apartments, townhouses and condos in Moraga. Miramonte Gardens, which you mentioned, is a great solution. Plenty of other families live there and they have a nice community area with a large pool. Many, many families move to Moraga for the same reasons you are considering it, and many of them choose the condo/apartment option. There are great bike lanes, parks and trails everywhere in this town, so even if you don't have much of a yard, you won't be hurting for outdoor activity options.
Re: Safe, family--oriented neighborhood?
We lived in Oakland for a long time and now live in Moraga. It is ridiculously family friendly. All the kids in the neighborhood are in and out of each others houses after school and on weekends. The other parents in the neighborhood are extremely kind and helpful. Yes, my kids can walk or bike to school, walk or bike to the farmer's market, and play outside after dark. When I moved here, I was braced for feeling like a fish out of water, but I have been surprised and humbled at my generalization that all people out here would be conservative and narrow minded. I was wrong.
It is very white, but that is changing, slowly but surely. I have seen a slight demographic shift in the couple of years that I've been here.
When you compare a place like Moraga to the safer neighborhoods of Oakland (Rockridge, Montclair, Redwood Heights), I think you get a little more for your money out here. The lots are bigger, the streets are conducive to kids playing in them, and the schools are among the best in the state. The property taxes are expensive though, which is the downside. You'll have to do your math and decide the best solution for you based on your income, number of children, commute, and so on.
For us, it has been one of the best changes we ever made. There is so little stress now: no serious crime, no worries over school quality and safety, no constant scheduling of and driving to/from playdates. My kids are happier than they've ever been.
Re: Family-friendly and more liberal Lamorinda 'hoods
I know I'm a little late to this discussion, but after reading the other responses, I had to weigh in. Don't be frightened off by the long post from the Orinda resident who hates it there. Yes, there are the blonde, SUV-lovin' Stepford moms out this way. But there are PLENTY of other parents who are not like that at all. And I have made the mistake of assuming I won't like any of the bottle-blonde look-alikes, but in fact, I was merely being judgemental about an entire group of people based on their looks and what they drive--and how narrow minded is that? I have grown up and realized that I can have republican aquaintances and like them. Wow, what a concept You don't have to surround yourself with people exactly like you to enjoy where you live.
Having said that, I have found that most of the people on our block are just like us: transplants from Oakland, Berkeley, and SF, looking for a family-friendly, safe place to raise a family. I know families that drive beater cars, go on peace marches, and have anti-Bush and anti-war bumperstickers. Also, I have never met so many families that do volunteer work with the poor and homeless. Way more than I ever knew in Oakland.
Here's the rundown on Lamorinda (specifically Moraga) from my point of view.
Plusses: Safe, lots of kids to play with your kids, decent family-sized houses with family sized yards, great access to outdoor activities, amazing schools, lots of opportunities for extra-curricular activities (sports, art, dance, etc.)
Minuses: Pretty white (but not exclusively), more wealth and displays of wealth, not as much shopping/dining within walking distance, further out from cultural activities in SF, Berkeley,etc
Don't Get Scared Off
Re: Worried about exclusivity if I move to Lamorinda
We just moved to Moraga in May after spending all of our adult lives in Berkeley, Oakland, and SF. We moved for a bigger house, yard, and schools. We could not be happier. Granted, our kids have not started the schools here yet as it is summer (and we let them finish the year at their old Oakland school), but so far the experience has been great. Our kids have aready made some friends on our block. (The kids can play in the street because it is quiet and safe...what a concept!) All of our neighbors have stopped by to welcome us. All have offered help with anything we need (and have even come through for us). Most of all, nearly all of them are Berkeley, Oakland, and SF transplants who are here for the same reasons we are. They are not all right-wing, exclusive country clubbers. Sure, there are people who have second homes, belong to country clubs and the like, but big deal. they don't seem to lord it over anyone, and if they do...forget them. You know the saying: People can only make you feel bad if you let them.
The only thing I've noticed is that everyone goes to church. I've been invited to people's churches and I've just politely thanked them and said we're not church-goers. That seems to end it with no hard feelings. I found the biggest detractors to life on this side of the tunnel are the ones who have never done it and are just making crass generalizations about people they've met. We labored our decision forever for ALL of the reasons you mention in your post. Now that we're here, I can't believe I didn't do this sooner.
We have a few farmer's markets, a Trader Joe's and Whole Foods close by, good restaurants in Lafayette and Walnut Creek, BART in Orinda and Lafayette, excellent libraries, parks, and schools, wonderful walking and bike trails...there is a lot to recommend this area. Don't let people freak you out about it. It's not like you're moving to another planet.
Happy in the Burbs