About Moving to the Bay Area

Parent Q&A

Family of 4 relocating from Midwest to East Bay.... Sep 4, 2017 (4 responses below)
Moving to Oakland at 34 WEEKS PREGNANT + 2 KIDS: HEEELP! May 17, 2017 (8 responses below)
Preschool and Housing Advice for family from Brooklyn May 12, 2017 (3 responses below)
Housing under $1700 near Brisbane and French Program Mar 24, 2017 (17 responses below)
  • Hello,

    We had originally been living in Chicago, moved to the Philippines for nearly seven years and are moving to SF area for a job offer.

    We are relocating in September 2018, a bit late to enroll them anywhere. In Chicago, you can automatically enroll your kids if you live within the boundary. It seems this is not the case here. What can we do? We plan to sign a lease as soon as we find a house walking distance from a good school (at least 8 rating in GreatSchools.org). Of course budget is also to be considered.

    Areas we are considering are Berkeley, Oakland, Orinda. We need proximity to a BART station to allow commuting to SF.

    My kids are also musically gifted. Any music enrichment programs will also be helpful.

    Thank you very much.

    Hi, there - best wishes for your move. Because you are enrolling so late, if you move to Berkeley your child/ren will be enrolled where there is room. If the school is over 1.25 miles, they get a school bus to take them there for grades K-5. The good news is: all of the Berkeley public schools are terrific, and an excellent music curriculum is built into the education. K-2, kids get visits from the Berkeley Symphony and get to play rhythm instruments. In 3rd grade they get a recorder and music class. In 4th grade they choose an instrument, and music is built into the day 2-3 days a week for grades 4-5. For grades 6-8, it's optional - your kid has to come to school early, or stay in the afternoon, but it goes to daily instruction. But you get a good quality instrument for $20 a year. (Yay - Berkeley voters! We pay an optional parcel tax to cover this program.) Some schools also have dance, drama, and other programs. My child stuck with her instrument all the way through 12th grade, and it's been a tremendous experience.

    Berkeley has 3 BART stations, as well as express buses to downtown SF. There are parking lots at two of the stations, but they do fill up quickly. (There are also casual carpools - you line up to get a free ride into the city with someone who wants to use the carpool lane. Some folks take $1 for the toll.) As long as you don't move really far up in the hills, getting to BART or the buses is not too onerous.

    Now the bad news: there's a hideous housing shortage here. Be prepared for scarcity and brutal pricing.

    Check out the Crowden Music school in Berkeley!!!!

    Have a look at The Berkeley School. www.theberkeleyschool.org

  • We are moving to the Oakland Berkeley area in the Summer 2019 with our now 13 year old daughter. We are an interracial (white, Asian and African American) family and so diversity is important both racially and economically. Our daughter is interested in the arts (singing, dancing) as well as sports (Lacrosse). Can anyone recommend areas, neighborhoods and schools we should consider in these cities? Thank you.

    If you're considering private schools, the sky is the limit. You can live in either Berkeley or Oakland. For girls, Julia Morgan School for Girls is an exceptional private school. If you're considering public schools, there is no "bad" school in Berkeley. Many people agree that the Berkeley schools are all in the spectrum of good to great. Also, Berkeley schools are more integrated which means kids get mixed up, leading to diversity but you may not be going to the school that is a block away from you! Oakland public school system has a wider gap because you get neighborhood preference. A handful of Oakland schools are excellent and many schools struggle. Also, OUSD budget cut is something to consider. OSA is an amazing arts magnet public school, but I'm not sure if you can get in mid-year. If you can swing the budget, Piedmont has excellent school system but there isn't much racial or economic diversity. For high school, Oakland Tech is highly regarded and diverse.  I'm not sure where you're moving from, but walkable neighborhoods are incredibly expensive. Hills are not as hotly in demand as flats. If you're ok with Condo/Townhome living or rental but do have means to send your kid to private school and like the suburdan amenities like big box store (Target, Home Depot) and chain restaurants (Chevy's), living in Emeryville is pretty convenient. In Oakland, there are many wonderful neighborhoods. Our favorites in Oakland are Rockdridge, Piedmont Ave. Grand Lake, Lakeshore, Glenview, Dimond, Montclair Village, Lincoln Heights which are all very family friendly and relatively safe. Alameda is another neighborhood that is safe and has good schools. It's not culturally and artistically as exciting as Berkeley or Oakland though. 

    Berkeley High has diversity, a super strong girls Lacrosse team and incredible dance and music programs.

    Berkeley High is still a fantastic school.  It's hard to recommend Oakland public schools, although some of their charter schools are doing well.  School districts in Piedmont, Alameda, Albany, Danville, and Orinda are very strong (and not very diverse).

  • Hi Everyone, We are a family of 4 moving from southwest Michigan to East Bay Area, we have money saved and still waiting to hear back from jobs. We will be permanently moving in June 2018 and looking for a rental house for around 1600 to 2500. We like to live in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Moraga, El Cerritos,San Leandro area, with nice areas for our kids to grow up around( ages 2 years old and 1 years old). Looking for a diverse, long term community for our family to join. Thanks to all in advance! 

    Please don't move here unless the job situation is settled. I know that you've heard about how expensive it is here, and about how horrible driving is here, but you really have no idea just how difficult it is. You need to know where your jobs are going to be before you consider where to live. Your quality of life is going to change moving out here, and you don't want to worsen it even further by choosing a place to live that requires a 3-4 hour commute (it may not look so far on a map, but that's the reality of the drive). Your budget may not be realistic, depending upon what you want. I'm assuming a house with at least 3 bedrooms and a yard in a safe, nice neighborhood? You are going to need to spend a lot more than 1600-2500. 

     To see what rentals cost in the markets you are interested in, you should peruse Craigslist. Single family homes in Moraga rent for $3500 and up.  A 2 Bedroom condo (850 sq ft) in Moraga is available right now on Craigslist for $2500.  El Cerrito, Castro Valley, San Leandro may have options for larger single family homes in your price range.   Good luck with your move!

    You'll be lucky to find a studio apartment in most of those areas at the top of your price range. San Leandro is probably your best bet of those areas, but you can also look into Hayward to the south, Hercules, El Sobrante, and Pinole to the north. Clayton maybe to the east. Craigslist tends to have most of the available options, so check on there. I live in Fairview (unincorporated Hayward), our rent is near the top of your range with enough bedrooms for your family to be comfortable, we like our elementary school (even though the ratings/test scores are low), it's definitely diverse, and there's lots of kid-friendly and often free places to go. BUT, if we were to try to move now, I'm not sure we'd find an available house in your price range- though our rent increases each year, the market rates are sky high and increasing. Prepare for the price of living shock- it's a different world than West Michigan!

  • hello BPN!  I am new to this network because we JUST found out we (myself, husband, five year old, and two year old) will be moving to the Bay area because of my husband's job.  I am currently 32 weeks pregnant but by the time we get there in early June I will be 34 weeks, in need of a doctor, housing, and sanity :)  We are currently living in North Carolina and so this is a huuuuge move for us in many ways.  I was hoping to get some advice. 

    We are trying to figure out where the best place for us to live will be.  My husband's job will be in downtown Oakland and because I will be on my own most of the day with 3 kids (one starting kindergarten in the fall-- any advice on schools would be helpful as well) I am hoping for the easiest transition.  I don't want to live too far away because I would like to keep his commute to a minimum but I also want to be comfortable.  We've looked at Alameda, Berkeley/Albany area, and Walnut Creek as options.  Any other places I should look at?  My son will be starting kindergarten so a really good school is high priority.  I am worried though with what I've researched in that enrollment might be full for a good school a house we would buy/rent would be zoned to... Also, I would love a yard to be able to send my two outside without having to take a newborn every time they need outside time... but not sure if I can get that in the city so that's why we're looking at Walnut Creek but worried about the commute and some of the schools don't seem as good?  

    Maybe I am just desperate at this point for some guidance.  Feeling overwhelmed, worried, anxious, excited, and just feeling a little lost!! I'm sorry if I sound super scatterbrained.  Just the state of things currently!  Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much in advance!! 

    I'm not sure how much useful advice I can offer, but just wanted to say I moved from NC (Greensboro) to North Berkeley (Albany border) two summers ago with a 4- and 2-year-old. It's not an easy transition by any means, but no move with little kids is. We've found this corner of the Bay to be very family-friendly, and the commute to Oakland is not bad at all. We have a yard and lots of kid neighbors. And the schools here are great. I'm not sure what you mean about full enrollment in areas where you're zoned to--it's my understanding that the public schools have to serve all kids who are in their city. You might not get your first choice, since the lottery has already happened, but you'll get into one of the schools in your zone. And they're all good. 

    Look at San Leandro's Broadmoor Neighborhood. Roosevelt Elementary is pretty highly rated. 

    Here's a list of cities that you might like with good schools and are easily commutable to Oakland:  Piedmont, Alameda, Moraga, Orinda, Lafayette, and Walnut Creek.  Piedmont and Alameda are drivable, and the other cities would commute via BART.  Each of the communities are different, so it gives you a range of prices and "feel".  Good luck!

  • We are considering a move from Bushwick, Brooklyn to Berkeley or Oakland. My husband has been offered a museum job in SF and we are looking for advice about schools and housing. Our children will turn 2 & 4 over the summer and we will need to find spots for them for September - here in NYC that would be impossible this late in the game. I saw the list of schools with available spots on BPN - can anyone recommend any additional programs that might have openings or we can get on the wait list for? We would love to find Montessori or similar, not much more than $1000 per month per child. Ideally 9-3, but 9-1 could work too. We are also looking for a walkable neighborhood close to BART where we can afford a 3 bedroom (or two bedroom plus office/basement/other workspace) with a yard for about $3000/month starting in July or August. And we will need a decent public school for the following fall.  Huge bonus if the area has other artists and non-profit workers.  We would really appreciate any advice about neighborhoods. It is a great opportunity but we don't know if we can make it work

    Thank you in advance for your help! 

    Move to Alameda. The school district is having a bit of an issue with school placement now (long story but Lum school might have to close right away due to earthquake hazards!) but in general the public schools here are awesome and AUSD will figure it out ...  You can take the ferry to SF which beats BART hands down, and the community is walkable, fun, and super family friendly. Like anywhere in the Bay Area, though, rents are super high and $3000 won't go as far as you'd like. It should be enough for a nice apartment or townhome but a single family home might be out of reach with that budget (see the other posts that appear very week about moving out of the area because it is expensive!) Harbor Bay Realty has a lot of rental listings posted at their website for an idea of the market. (In Alameda lots of landlords use property managers which is a bit quirky in the bay area). Good luck!

    You probably need to find a neighborhood first before looking for preschools. You can find a good one, even this late in the game, and $1k per month for each child part time sounds reasonable. But your rental budget may be harder. I live where Rockridge (in Oakland) meets Claremont/Elmwood (in Berkeley) and a 2 bedroom apartment nearby is for rent right now for $3200. The 3 bedroom house next door rents for $5000 (its big). I think you'll need to budget at least $3500 for a nice 2 bedroom. In the East Bay, Berkeley and Albany have good publicity schools. In Oakland, it depends on the neighborhood. If your are willing to go farther away, Walnut Creek had pretty good schools and will be cheaper. But it is really the burbs. You might also look at El Cerriyo.

    North Bay is pretty but the commute to sf would kill me. South of SF is either super expensive or really industrial.

    we don't have the same rental broker system here-rentals mostly will be listed on Craig's List and what you see there should be pretty accurate in terms of pricing.

    good luck!

    If you only need part-time childcare, you could try a pre-school co-op (but substantial parent participation is required). ECPC in El Cerrito is an awesome preschool, and way under $1000/month for half days. Pine Crest is another good option (not a co-op), but it's a bit more than $1000/mo for part time.  They just opened last year, and may still have space for next year. We have sent our kids to both and love them both. In general, El Cerrito has most what you're looking for. It's not as charming and walkable as many parts of Berkeley and Oakland, but its very functional, and has good public schools, although they are filling up early because so many families are moving here.

  • Hello,

    My husband is being transferred to the Bay Area in July. Moving from Brooklyn. I've been reading about the unaffordable housing market in San Francisco and am slightly worried... Our rental budget is max $1700 (ideally less). Anyone moving to Brooklyn? Maybe we can swap apartments? Or can anyone recommend an area or neighborhood that's affordable with low crime? How far out should we be looking? 

    If we can't find a public school we may homeschool. My son is in a French language program and really likes it, are there any French programs in the Bay Area (free, public or charter)?

    Thank you very much!


    Hi and welcome!

    The Berkeley-based ecole bilingue goes k-8 but is pricey. There is a charter French school (free!) that opened last year in Oakland.

    I can't speak to your apartment search but there is a French charter school in Oakland called Francophone Charter School of Oakland. If your son speaks French he should have a good chance to get in. There's also a private school called Ecole Bilingue but it's pretty pricey.

    I think that you're going to have a difficult time finding a decent rental with that budget. Where is your husband's job going to be? There's definitely more affordable housing the farther away you go but you should be choosing areas to look at based upon where his job will be. Certain commutes are much harder than others. For example, the commute from Berkeley to Silicon Valley is hideous and not something that you'd want to voluntarily sign up for. But the commute from Berkeley to a job that's close to BART isn't bad at all (most days!).