Living in North Berkeley
Hi there--I lived in North Berkeley (just south of Westbrae village) until about 3 years ago. There is much that is quite lovely about it--it's a leafy residential neighborhood with not very busy streets and lots of families, yet there's lots of shopping and dining within walking distance, between Westbrae, Northbrae, University Ave and the 4th Street district. One particularly lovely feature is the off-street bike path that runs for miles along the BART route, starting around University Ave and going all the way up to Richmond. Plus of course proximity to BART is very convenient and Berkeley schools are pretty good across the board.
The one thing I would caution you of, especially if you are light sleepers: There is a train track that runs all along the length of Berkeley, Albany and well beyond in both directions, just West of 4th Street. Trains are required by law to honk their horns at 90+ decibels for several seconds before they come to a street-level crossings, of which there are 5 in Berkeley (the North Berkeley ones are at Virginia St. and Gillman St.). Trains are frequent (>20/day, lots of freight from the Port of Oakland) and they run all night. It really depends on you, but for light sleepers, I would think hard about moving West of San Pablo Ave. (I even lived a few blocks East and had trouble sleeping, but I'll admit I am a very light sleeper.)There's been a lot of debate about it, the city of Berkeley did an engineering study some years ago to research alternative crossing types but plans were shelved. (Google it to find out more.) Hope that's helpful, and hope you have a safe trip State-side!
We're in North Berkeley and it has all those attributes. Great community and neighborhood with families, individuals, older folks, single family homes and apartments. You can walk to some stores, restaurants, and playgrounds. Sidewalks are usable and traffic is low, when your kid gets old enough to ride a scooter then you can take them straight down the sidewalk.
Another personal view in case it helps: We moved from E2 to North Berkeley with a then 2 year old three years ago. We live in North Berkeley, off Solano Avenue, which is a lovely main street lined with cafes, two supermarkets, as others have described, so a very similar way of life to London, doing your grocery shop on foot etc. I commute twice a week to Daly City. It takes me just over an hour (walk, BART, bus) but I haven't had any serious issues so far. It has felt like a breeze in comparison to trying to get yourself on a Central Line train at 8.30 am. I wouldn't want to move to SF after living in London. We enjoy having our own house (although on the pricey side as in Rockridge) surrounded by trees, walking up to the view of the hills, our front and back yard, our drive way, the park across the street: there is no comparison to city life. Tilden Park and the outdoors is a 10 minute drive. I wouldn't want to go back to living in a city flat. Another difference with living in bustling hipstery East London is also that you are a part of a community of all ages here. Temescal seemed to me more like Broadway Market road on Saturdays but I love seeing the same gang of retired people enjoying their morning coffee at the local cafe. I have been touring elementary schools these days in the northwestern zone and I have to say that I found them are all very impressive. It doesn't really make a difference which one you end up to. It would be worth if you have the resources to spend some time in the East Bay area too or as others have done, rent in the beginning until you find the right place for you and your family. We airbnbed all around Berkeley when we first arrived.
Neighborhoods within easy walking distance to BART will make commuting to SF doable and even sane. We live in North Berkeley and the weekday commute to downtown SF is about 40 mins door to door. There are good preschools, playgrounds (Totland!), tennis courts, swimming pool, markets, restaurants/cafes/coffee shops, museums, theaters all within walking distance in our neighborhood. There's even a farm and great hiking trails within a 10 min drive. The hitch? Finding affordable housing. Welcome to the Bay Area! It's really a wonderful place to raise a family if you can find a suitable home. Best of luck!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
North Berkeley vs. (Lower) Rockridge
We can't seem to decide where to buy a house - between Lower Rockridge and North Berkeley. We are a professional couple with a baby on the way, so schools are not forefront but we do want to invest in a neighborhood. Our budget is around 800K. Both of them seem walkable, near the BART which is very important, close to groceries, good schools, parks etc. How are they different? Rockridge does seem to have a more yuppie feel something which we are not. Being 1st gen immigrants we are generally savers and cautious about splurging even we can afford something. How do they both fare diversity wise? I see mostly caucasian families with kids in both areas. Will we fit in being a family of color? undecided
Well, we live in North Berkeley and it was a great place to have a small child and a great place to have an older child as well. Our child attended Jefferson for elementary which was very diverse in terms of a fairly even representation of white, asian and african-american families, with a somewhat smaller proportion of Latino families. I don't know about house prices, though I think you should do pretty well for that amount in the neighborhood south of Jefferson, and should be able to find a reasonable house in the neighborhood around between Rose and Solano. My husband and I lived on the edge of Rockridge in a couple of different places when we were young and liked it -- it was a good place to live before children because we could take advantage of all the places to go out and were less interested in things like produce markets and parks near our house (though we have relatives there, and the farmer's market/park behind the DMV is very nice and child-friendly.) I think either place would be great, but if you are planning on the public school route, I'd go with Berkeley over Rockridge because the funding is better so the schools have smaller class sizes and also more art and science enrichment programs as part of the regular curriculum. Also, as your child gets older it is easier for them to walk or bike to lessons and classes on their own (like classes through Berkeley Rep or the Jazz School).
Since you're expecting, I'd suggest Berkeley since I'd rather have my child in the Berkeley rather than Oakland school system and unless i'm mistaken, Rockridge is in Oakland.
(reviews also received for Rockridge )
Looking at a house near Monterey Market
We are moving to Berkeley this summer and are looking at a house on Hopkins Street close to Monterey Market. We have three young children (5, 3 and a baby) and my one hesitation is that it is a very busy street. Does anyone have advice on living ON Hopkins? I imagine it's very busy during the day but perhaps at night the traffic is quieter? I'm also a bit nervous for my kids (i.e., learning to ride bikes, etc), and also for guests (finding parking). Otherwise, I love the neighborhood (and the house). Any thoughts/advice would be appreciated!
I lived on Hopkins near Monterey market for 5 years and it is moderately busy during the day, but quiet at night. Also the bedrooms in these houses tend to be in back of the house, away from the street. I highly recommend this neighborhood, even with little kids, because there are so many perks. Parking North-East of Carlotta on Hopkins is plentiful --one of the easiest places to find extra parking for guests! (near the market is more difficult). In terms of riding bikes -- anywhere you live in Berkeley, you will have to teach your kids to stay off the streets and even be careful on the sidewalks (cars backing out of blind driveways). But, this location is excellent because it is relatively flat (compared to some of Berkeley) and Hopkins is a very wide street (used to have a trolly car). There is a big park with play equipment on Hopkins which is perfect for 2- 5 year olds, you are walking distance to markets, pizza, cafe, bakery, tennis courts, pool, and even large paved area (right behind the MLK middle school). This is where I take my 3 year old to ride her bike. There are so many bonuses to living in this location that you will not regret it. You don't have to get in the car all the time to go places. I don't know from where you are coming, so you may find Berkeley dense and busy by comparison, but I have lived in this area for many years and it's by far my favorite location in Berkeley. dp
Re: Seeking safe area with diversity, culture, quality food
Try the neighborhood around north berkeley BART or between there and downtown berkeley BART. Farmers markets on on stuarydays downtown, on thursdays near shattuck and Rose and on Tuesdays on MLKing at Derby. The area is flat with bike routes on streets and along the Ohlone greenway. The public elementary, middle and high schools are good (although elementary schools are not by neighborhood). Many other neighborhoods are good, too. this is the one I know best, although I live in a less accessible area, myself. Berkeley Parent
Re: Moving to Berkeley -- which neighborhood?
You are going to get a lot of responses to this question, and probably most of the suggestions will be great. We moved to Berkeley when my son was a newborn, and it is a wonderful place to live with kids. We live in North Berkeley, and it's a terrific area. There are a lot of playgrounds, lots of families, and for the most part people are very kid-friendly here. I would suggest that you avoid the hills, since (you're right) you won't be able to walk anywhere. The streets along Hopkins Street and Solano Ave are wonderful and have all the resources you could want - shopping, parks, things to do, all walkable. See if you can find a place there. Also, west Berkeley is underrated but constantly improving - there is a beautiful new Berkeley Bowl down there, and there are also great playgrounds. It's much less expensive, too. Albany is also worth a look. It's very walkable and very kid-centric. Good luck! Mom in Berkeley
You'll have a lot of opinions on this one, I'm sure! But first of all, welcome to Berkeley. A great place to raise a family.
We moved to North Berkeley when I was pregnant with my first child. I didn't want to be too far into the hills, wanted to be able to walk to a park and to grocery shopping, so I set my eastern limit at Euclid Avenue and my northern limit as Eunice. It was a great decision for us - wonderful having Codornices Park and the Rose Garden to explore with young children and meet other families. However, my northern limit was really out of ignorance - I only knew the campus area from my days in college here, and wasn't aware of other great neighborhoods within walking distance of Solano Avenue, or close to the Monterey Market area. We were equally fortunate in finding a small, neighborly street, and know all of our neighbors! There are many great neighborhoods in north, central, west, south Berkeley - So I'd say, get out a compass and draw walking distance from good parks, grocery shopping (including farmer's markets) and transportation, and for bonus points, find yourself one of the smaller, shorter streets and you'll be as happy as we! Berkeley Mama
Re: East Bay neighborhoods like DC Metro
I used to live in DC (Adam's Morgan area), and we now live in Berkeley with our 22 month old and love it. We live in North Berkeley, in the Westbrae neighborhood, and love the fact that we are a 10 minute drive from the city (with no traffic, 30 with traffic), less than 10 min. walk from BART, have several local bus lines that stop within a block of our house, and plenty of great shopping within walking distance (Monterey/Hopkins shopping district, as well as Solano Ave), and can walk to several really nice playgrounds and parks. We rarely need to use our car. I think this is an ideal neighborhood for someone used to diversity and convenience of urban living, but looking for a bit more quiet, child-friendly living environment with plenty of parking. You should definitely consider Berkeley for your relocation. Hillary
Sounds like you would really like North Berkeley - specifically the neighborhood near the Monterey Market, because it has a wonderful urban community feel complete with daily farmer's market, deli, cheese shop, fish shop, pizza, wine store. And, a public pool, tennis, parks, library. Plus Bart for public transportation into the city (SF) close by. Also, decent public schools. Especially look into MLK middle school because it is famous for its Edible Schoolyard program started by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. Your house budget will serve you well in almost any neighborhood in Berkeley. The nice thing about this one is it is between the hills and the flats and it has great housing stock with lots of character abound, and it's a very walkable part of town. You really don't need a car. Check out specific neighborhoods' walk score on several web sites. Love North Berkeley
Re: Neighborhoods for car-free life with a toddler?
It's not as easy to get around as SF but I'd say anywhere in Berkeley besides the hills is do-able without a car. I live in N. berkeley off Gilman and was thrilled to discover the number 9 bus runs along Gilman right into downtown berkeley. I'm also 10 mins from BART. I can walk to do all my grocery shopping (Monterey Market) and to our local library. About the only time I ''need'' the car is to get up to Tilden. Even then there is a bus, but I haven't figured it out yet. When I lived in south berkeley near the Berkeley Bowl it was not quite so easy (not so many parks to walk to, felt less safe walking around alone) but still very do-able. If you manage to find somewhere in Central Berkeley, the Ohlone Park/Totland area seems ideal to me; completely walkable, tons of families and very safe. If you ride a bike and have a seat/trailer for your little one I think you will find berkeley without a car very manageable.
walking in berkeley
i would highly recommend our neighborhood...north berkeley flats. we live on cedar st. (a little too busy for me, but we are buying our home :)) just by the park on the corner of chestnut and cedar. i can walk to several different shopping places (berkeley natural grocery, monterey market, gourmet ghetto and fourth st) we can also walk to over 6 different parks, two different libraries and the ohlone bike path runs through the park by our house. in addition, the bart station is only about three blocks away. we love living here, and using our car minimally. my husband even walks to work, on university which is about 7 blocks away. good luck with your search!!! anon
Re: Kid friendly neighborhoods in the East Bay I live in the ''Totland district'' of North Berkeley, it runs between Sacramento and MLK; University and up to Hopkins, I think. I'm 2 blocks from North Berkeley BART, 2 blocks from Totland, about a mile from the ''gourmet ghetto'' on Shattuck. There are kids and dogs and families everywhere you look, I absolutely love this neighborhood and highly recommend it for what you're wanting!! Jill