Moving to the Bay Area

Parent Q&A

  • Moving for a job in the Financial District - need 45 min. commute or less

    (18 replies)

    Hi - firstly thank you for this forum.  Secondly - apologies for the long post but it's a bit of a brain dump after googling and website stalking for about a month.

    I am a full time working mom to a 9 and a 6 year old and most likely going to accept a new position in SF.  I'm originally from the Midwest and spent quite a bit of time on the East Coast but moved to London in 2001 and to the Middle East (where I am now) in 2008 - so it's been almost 17 years since I lived in the US and never on the West Coast.

    My husband is British and a stay at home dad and our daughters are in a private British curriculum school with about 30 different nationalities - the 6 year old is a complete ham but the 9 year old is excruciatingly shy.  My current commute is about a 15 minute drive and our school run is less than 5 minutes.  Spoiled I know.  

    I'm really struggling to figure how about to go about deciding where to live.  I've only been to SF a handful of times and only to the City itself so have no direct knowledge of the surrounding areas  

    The most important factors are school, commute time and comfort for my husband. If I accept the job the office will be in the Financial District.  I will be working a lot. I'd like the girls to go to public school if possible.  I'd also like the option of driving as well as public transport for my commute to work.  I'd like my husband to not stick out like a sore thumb, as both a Brit and as a non-working dad (something very very uncommon in our current home).

    i don't think I want to live in SF proper.  I think I want to live in the East Bay - somewhere between Alameda and Walnut Creek?  But should I also look at the Peninsula?  If I want the commute to be 45 mins or less door to door how far out in the East Bay should I be looking - is Walnut Creek too far?  Are there places like San Carlos or Hillingdon that I should also look at?  Is public school realistic?  Is public school starting in January possible?  We are thinking we will initially rent given we know so little about anything - our budget is around $6500/7000 a month and we'd like at least 4 bedrooms. And I have a dog and 2 cats. 

    Any and all thoughts on any of the above would be greatly appreciated - but particularly ideas about how to narrow down our options of where to look for houses.  Thank you in advance. 

    Pleasanton/Dublin are very suburban. It would be hard to walk to daily activities. In terms of activities for children as they get older you would be better off in Oakland/Berkeley/Albany or San Mateo. I think your original idea of renting for a year was a good one, so you could check out towns before making a commitment. I don't know what your purchasing budget is, but there is a trade-off between the size of the house, good infra-structure, walkability and other amenities.

    Just a note that if you discounted Rockridge/Berkeley due to pricing then Orinda/Lafayette and Mill Valley will likely also be out of reach. For affordability and BART you are better off looking at Pleasanton/Dublin. Good luck!

    I just wanted to say a quick thanks to all who have responded - I'm overwhelmed by the suggestions!!  

    Since my original post we've shifted our thinking to trying to buy rather than rent and with our budget I don't think we can afford Rockridge/Berkeley.  We had discounted Orinda/Lafayette because google earth makes everything seem so spread out but I am now having another look based on the posts.  Will definitely add Mill Valley to the (getting shorter but still quite long) list although there seems to be a wide wide wide range of house prices which I need to understand better.

    I've also started looking at Pleasanton/Dublin if there any views on that?

    I think I will need to adjust my commute expectations and I've all but given up on the idea of driving so now have the Bart map permanently open but slowly slowly we're narrowing things down. Thank you all again!

    Honestly I think living in Berkeley sounds like a good bet for your family. You could probably take the transbay bus or BART to the financial district without too much hassle. Our family has found the Berkeley public schools to be mostly excellent (we did try a highly acclaimed private school for a year for one child and concluded it wasn't worth it). Both the schools and the community are full of diversity of various kinds, partly because of the university (visiting profs/students bring their families who go to public schools -- my kids had classmates who enrolled just for a year from China, Turkey,etc) and also just because Berkeley tends to attract lots of quirky, typically liberal folks. A British stay-at-home dad would not raise any eyebrows in Berkeley (or probably most of the East Bay). It's definitely a good idea to rent first so you get a better sense of the neighborhoods. That budget should be ample to rent a 4 bedroom house in most of the East Bay.  I imagine most public schools could accommodate students starting in January. 

    Different parts of the East Bay really have a very different feel to them, so it may be worthwhile if it's possible to stay in an extended stay apt or Air Bnb for a month or so and drive around yourselves, talk to people, etc.  Good luck!

    I live in Alameda and totally love it. There are people of many different colors and nationalities here, and I've met many stay at home dads too. Alameda is very family friendly, pretty safe, and has a small town feel (people get around on bikes, etc.) Most of the public schools are great, and they are zoned by neighborhood. Do your homework to find out which schools are good, if they are full, before renting in the vicinity. My husband works in the financial district and he takes a convenient door to door public bus--the ride ranges from 50 min to 1 hr 15 min, but he doesn't mind as he sleeps or reads a book. You can also take the ferry, or BART, which is more complicated but can be faster. $5-7K for a 4 bedroom rental will get you a very nice house in a great neighborhood, but you might have to look hard to find someone who will take a dog and 2 cats. Good luck!

    I think Berkeley might be a good place to look. The public schools are good and a British stay at home dad doesn't seem much different than a lot of alternative families. The commute on The BART train is about a half hour or less. You could drive, but you would have to leave early in the morning to get in by 45 minutes and night time I couldn't say. It isn't a pretty commute by car. However, the Bart is relatively painless. The amt. you are planning will get you a big house, but the rental market is tight. I like the diversity of Berkeley. My daughter has had kids in her classes from, France, Spain, Turkey, etc. Good luck.

    Move to Alameda! Take the ferry to work! Great schools, great community here. We love it. Join the local pool association! I know 2 stay at home dads and a single dad here, plus lots of other families that don't look like the stereotypical nuclear family. I don't think you'd stick out too much. That budget should get you a very nice house here. Public schools here are very good, and in my opinion people are a bit more down to earth than the folks on the peninsula. ...


    I commute to the Financial District from Lafayette which is the town you pass by before getting to Walnut Creek.  A 45 minute commute is possible only by using public transit (BART).  Driving to San Francisco from anywhere during standard rush hour times is painful and I don't recommend it at all.  Keep in mind that unless you live within a reasonable walking distance of BART, you'll have to factor in driving time to BART and parking.  I'm not sure about your rental ranges. You can certainly get a house in that range but it may not be a 4-bedroom or allow pets. 

    With respect to the public schools, Lafayette and the town before it, Orinda, have excellent schools.  Walnut Creek is a little more challenging because there are three different school districts in play there and you'll want to know which one your address will be tied to.  Something more to research.  I will say that Orinda will be on the pricier side than Lafayette and that Walnut Creek has a larger housing stock, the pricing will likely vary on its proximity to schools and/or freeway access.

    As for your concerns about your husband being a stay-at-home father.  While they don't constitute a majority in this area, they're not unheard of.  Only the most ignorant people make comments about stay at home parents doing nothing and who has time for them.  There are also enough people around here who are from different countries, that his being British should be a non-issue.

    The Peninsula communities you mention (San Carlos and Hillsborough) along with Burlingame, San Mateo and Belmont all have good public schools but if I'm not wrong are all very expensive to live in particularly Hillsborough which is one of the most expensive places to live in the Bay Area.  Driving to San Francisco might be less problematic because there's no bridge to cross but it's hardly a fun thing to do every day.  Cal Train or SamTrans are the public transit options.

    I hope this helps.

    Good luck!

    Wow -- big step for you all. You will hear many opinions, but everyone will agree that living in SF proper with your family and pets will be incredibly expensive, with lousy public schools. You underestimate how cosmopolitan it is here -- stay -at -home dads are commonplace (many telecommute from home, are single parents, or take a turn at childcare) in the East Bay with multicultural families everywhere. Pick a place on the Bart line -- driving is getting exponentially worse by the month. Cut yourselves some slack, rent a random house in a commutable area for 6 months, and take a good look around. See what fits your family. There's a fairly large expat Brit crowd in Berkeley if he is into that, with a lot of free events, get togethers and good public schools.  Oakland could be a great fit for you too.  The peninsula is more expensive than the East Bay.People, especially parent people, around here are nice. They will advise you, and honestly. And yes -- you can show up at any time in the school year for public school and your child will be placed in the school assigned  to your neighborhood. Your kids are young enough to adjust quickly and tell hubbie there is cricket, rugby, shakespeare, some great pubs and a good take-away curry in many neighborhoods. ;-)

    Welcome to the Bay Area! When I moved here more than a decade ago, it was also my first time living in the USA in several years (and I also grew up abroad, so it was a significant change). Based on what you are looking for, I think that parts of Oakland could work. I'd look in Montclair, Rockridge or Crocker Highlands neighborhoods where hopefully you'd have at least a good elementary school. You've got a relatively large rental budget, but I guess it will come down to what is available. Piedmont, Orinda, and Lafayette are also nice options with excellent public schools through high school. I wouldn't look anything further than Lafayette as that's already 30 minutes on BART and you'd still need commute time either side (so it would be at least 45 minutes in total). I've lived on the Peninsula, but it's much more expensive, and I think the East Bay is a better option. Kids can start school anytime of the year, but space could be an option. They will have to find a place for your children somewhere, but it might not be the best or closest school. Finding a place that will accept pets will likely be one of your biggest challenges, unfortunately. But it can be done. We moved a couple of times with one large dog, and our choices were fewer, but she's family, and she had to come with us! Good luck.

    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!

    Your husband will not feel out of place in the East Bay!  Men are still a distinct minority on the playgrounds during the weekdays, but SAHDs and WAHDs are not rare in my Albany neighborhood, and anywhere near UC Berkeley there are plenty of people from outside the US. And yes, there are many great public school districts here and your kids can start whenever you move into the district (though there's no guarantee that they'll be assigned to the specific school closest to home, especially when enrolling midyear). But a 4 bedroom house with good public schools and a short commute into SF is a challenging combination. You might find everything you want in Berkeley, in a house within short walking distance of the Ashby or North Berkeley BART stations.  (Driving into SF is miserable and parking costs a fortune; taking BART or a transbay bus, or CalTrain from the Peninsula, is a far more practical option - so my first "narrowing down" suggestion is to focus on neighborhoods close to a BART or CalTrain station!)  My commute from Albany to SF on BART is, door to door, just under an hour, which includes 10+ minutes for driving to/from the El Cerrito Plaza BART station; Albany has good public schools but homes with more than 3 bedrooms are rare.  The time frame from Alameda, where you can find larger houses, would be similar (drive to Fruitvale BART), but traffic is a larger factor when you have to cross a bridge. For the commute and the large home, the Rockridge neighborhood is perfect (I used to commute from Rockridge to Embarcadero and it was 30 minutes door to door), but the Oakland public schools have a poorer reputation than most in the area. Yes, Walnut Creek is too far to get to the SF Financial District in under 45 minutes, although you can find good schools and larger houses out there; however, you can probably get close to 45 minutes in Orinda or Lafayette. I'm not as familiar with the neighborhoods on the Peninsula, but I'd think it worth investigating in your situation.  Another possibility you might consider is commuting by ferry from Larkspur; the trip itself is 30 minutes, so you'd be looking for housing close to the terminal, but most of Marin County has larger homes and good schools, with an upper-income suburban feel more similar to Orinda or Hillsborough.  Berkeley, Albany, and Alameda are denser and a little more diverse.  Oakland offers a lot of diversity of income level, race/ethnicity, and culture as well as a wide range of housing size and type depending on the specific neighborhood.  Welcome to the West Coast, and good luck!

    Check out Piedmont. Easy commute, great schools. 

    I live in Alameda.  There are many kinds of families here.  Same gender parents, stay at home dads, single parents, etc. There also are multiple nationalities and accents.  I know of three families with British parents without even thinking hard about it.   My kids would say that it's  exciting when a kid from another countryside  comes to school but it is never weird. I don't think your husband would feel like he stands out here.  Public schools are good.  If you may move again, however, you might consider private school so that you kids can stay in the same school. There also are IB schools and schools that tend to have more international families.  For folks who work in the financial district and live in alameda, many take the commuter bus or ferry. You certainly can drive but bus and ferry are so easy and quick that driving is usually last resort.  Good luck!

    Hello! For context: I grew up in Walnut Creek/Lafayette, lived in Europe for 7 years (Hungary, France), got my MBA in North Carolina, and brought my stay-at-home dad/ French husband back to the Bay Area with me. My thoughts:

    - stay- at-home dads stand out everywhere, but there is certainly a community for them here that you don't find elsewhere. At least here, involved dads are very common.

    - we just bought a house in Oakland and love it. Walking distance to Rockridge Bart and a 15 min drive to Soma (after the financial district) at 6am. Drive home is much longer, but I usually BART (45 min door to door).

    - Oakland is very international. We bring our kids to Colby park and every time we meet families from different parts of the world (German dad, Japanese mom, Cuban mom, etc). Northern Oakland (Rockridge already very chic, Temescal/Bushrod upcoming- we are in Bushrod). 

    - i would not recommend WC. Commute is too far and less internationally diverse, though it is getting better. It was 1hr 15 min door to door for me when I lived in lafayette (one Bart stop quicker than WC).

    - peninsula is also very internationally diverse. I don't think it has as much character. Much more tech-focused, whereas you get a lot of people successful in different industries in oakland/ Berkeley. 

    - your rent should be sufficient. Check out Craigslist or redfin

    - public schools will be better in Lafayette, Orinda (quieter communities) and the peninsula. Oakland is a lottery, so we have potential to get into the top school (rated #1), but are prepared to go private and try the lottery the next year. Not sure about Berkeley. 

    Good luck! Let us know if you make it over. We would be happy to welcome you/ meet at the park.


    If you like the suburbs try Walnut Creek.

    I would go with Rockridge or Montclair in Oakland. Great communities,good schools, lots of fun activities, close to BART or carpool or busses to SF downtown

    Sounds like you have a good budget for the area. Enjoy coming to the West Coast!

    I would recommend the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland.  It's got some diversity (not as much as other parts of Oakland, unfortunately), it has a semi-urban feel due to its lively retail corridor of College Avenue, and it's relatively cosmopolitan for a bedroom community.  The commute is probably the best from the east bay - it has BART, casual carpool, and easy freeway access to SF.  You're looking at about 25 minutes from the BART station to the financial district, maybe a tad more for casual carpool, not sure about driving alone during commute hours as I never do that (but I'd guess it's around 45 minutes).  No driving commute from the east bay is fun, but it's better from Rockridge than Berkeley or most anywhere else since you don't have to deal with Hwy. 80.  I don't think your husband would feel at all out of place - we live across from a park and there are as many dads there during the day as moms or nannies.  Our kids have gone to all the Rockridge neighborhood public schools and we've been very happy with all 3 (elementary, middle & high school).  Finally, the houses in this neighborhood are generally really nice, and your budget sounds realistic for Rockridge.  Check it out, and good luck!

    Definitely Orinda! It has the best school system in the state, is an easy bart ride to down town and also a fairly easy commute. There are old, beautiful houses and neighborhoods, weather is perfect - check it out :)

  • Family of 4 relocating from Midwest to East Bay....

    (4 replies)

    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! 

    Hi there, if you're looking for ethnic and income diversity, El Cerrito or San Leandro is your best bet. Moraga, Orinda, and Walnut Creek are very white and affluent. I've lived in both El Cerrito and Moraga as a child and an adult, and while Moraga is a safer place (less serious crime), I much prefer El Cerrito. My neighbors are friendlier and genuine,and I feel much more of a sense of community than I ever did in Moraga. As for rent, you will have a very hard time finding a house in your price range in Moraga, Orinda, Walnut Creek, or El Cerrito. I don't know much about the San Leandro market. A 2 bedroom 2.5 bath 1800 sq ft townhome in my old neighborhood in Moraga rented for $3,500/month. A 2 bedroom 1.5 bath house on my street in El Cerrito is renting for $4,100/month. You may be able to find a 2 bedroom apartment in your price range in El Cerrito, but it will be pretty minimal and won't be in a great neighborhood. I hope other people have more helpiful advice for you, good luck!

    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!

     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!

    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. 

  • Moving to Oakland at 34 WEEKS PREGNANT + 2 KIDS: HEEELP!

    (8 replies)

    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!! 

    Maybe consider El Cerrito? I'm not sure what your budget is, but El Cerrito is just adjacent to Albany and there are some larger houses that aren't quiiiiiite as expensive. I would consider somewhere near the BART train, as it might make for an easier to commute to downtown Oakland than driving. Good luck!

    That does sound stressful! We recently moved to Bay Farm Island, which is in Alameda, we love living here, the schools here are great, and there are a lot of town homes on BayFarm island so I imagine that it wouldn't be too difficult to find one to rent initially while you get settled, many of them have small yards, and there are also a lot of parks nearby. I only have a baby, but know a couple who moved here from NYC last October and were able to still enroll their daughter in Bay Farm Elementary, which has great ratings, so it may be worth it to check out this part of Alameda! Also, the commute to downtown Oakland isn't bad either, it takes me about twenty to twenty-five minutes. Best of luck! 

    For work in downtown Oakland, you can live anywhere near a Bart station. Try looking at San Leandro and El Cerrito too. The schools "rate" sort of average, but that is because they are diverse, not because they are bad. You can find a doctor by just checking your insurance vs. your zip code, so don't worry too much about that. Housing may be had to find remotely, you may need to stay in some type of corporate apartments until you can find a home. Good luck!

    This is a lot to do with two bigger kids and a little one on the way!  As a mama of three that did the move with just 2 at the time, I just want to say that while it's a tough transition getting to know a whole new area while being pregnant and then with a newborn, you'll make it through.  :-)

    My midwife was at Alta Bates in Berkeley, Lindy Johnson.  She's super experienced and a good fit for many, though I also liked Ellie Griffinger and Gwen Haynes.  If you need great hospital based birth providers, all three of those ladies are solid.

    I also really found an excellent community through Then Comes Baby, a pregnancy and new parent community center in Oakland.  I took an excellent prenatal yoga class with Torrey and since it was a series I got to know several women and really connected well.  Then, I did the 2nd/ 3rd Time Moms Group with Sabrina and it was very well ran, the teacher was a true pro and really actually helped me out a lot since I was struggling to figure out how to manage three and still stay sane.  And, my baby had some breastfeeding issues and she helped me tremendously, seeing things that some others didn't.   I met two women in that group who I now meet up with and our husband's are also meeting up for beers and poker!  That community connection was so important for us.

    We settled into a neighborhood called Montclair, which is up in the hills and helped me a bit since I am actually not a big fan of large cities and I like the little "Village" they have.  My middle child is at Smiles Preschool in Montclair (in the hills) and we love it.  The oldest is at Thornhill, though Montclair elementary was a great option, too.  

    Best wishes as you get used to the area!  I hope this helps a little!


    Great start for your relocation process, this Network is great!

    Sounds like a big project that you want to solve too quickly. 

    I think the first thing you should do, is find a place to stay temporarily, like a Airbnb. I know you want to "nest" but it is better to take your time and not to rush a decision. Also that can give you a better way to get to know an area...

    You also need people to help you navigate the area, maybe you have family, friends. In the past, I had help people, that did not know me, to look for rental homes ( no charge) or help family and friends ( of course clients as well) navigating the area, looking for venues, giving referrals,etc.  I just like helping people, like solving problems. I know the area well since I'm a Realtor, and I'm a Mom ( although the kids are young adults now). I have flexible time and I like to be a promoter for the Bay Area

    If you feel stuck and need a hand, call me. I'm out and about, you can text, email, whatever you need.

    I can help you find the answers .

    Good luck!


    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!

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

    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. 

  • Preschool and Housing Advice for family from Brooklyn

    (3 replies)

    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! 

    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.

    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!

    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!