Living in the Oakland Hills

Parent Q&A

  • Oakland Hills: Climate & Traffic workarounds

    (1 reply)

    We are considering a move to the Eastmont or "Melrose Highlands" neighborhoods of Oakland. We are used to the flats in Oakland and Berkeley, and have found the warmer weather there much to our liking. I am wondering what the microclimate is in the Oakland hills below the 580. In addition, we are wondering whether there are surface streets that function as 580 "workarounds" during rush hour (most of the day!), akin to Sacramento Street, Arlington Ave, et al. Doesn't seem like Oakland has the same sort of non-freeway options that Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito does, but maybe we are just missing something....

    Thank you.

    Weather depends in part on where in the hills you are, but as flats-dwellers we have been surprised/impressed that the East Oakland hills in particular (Sequoyah/Golf Links/Keller area) is actually extremely warm--more like Contra Costa weather than central Oakland/Berkeley weather. Friends who live there can grow summer vegetables in their gardens that we can only dream of. So assuming you're worried about it being cooler, you might be fine. And no, unfortunately there are no good surface streets that are workarounds for 580. MacArthur doubles 580 for much of that stretch, but it's not continuous and in my experience it doesn't save much time unless the freeway is literally at a standstill. The best workaround is generally to cut up to 13 or down to 880, but both of those roads are at capacity during rush hour these days too. On days when I have to do that drive I generally just check Waze or Google Maps for any big issues. Usually it recommends 580 even when it's slow, though. If you are coming from the Oak/Berk flats, it will definitely be a shift to a more driving-oriented life, for better or worse.

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


Where in the Oakland Hills?

March 2015

I am considering moving my family (hubby and baby) to the Oakland Hills but am having trouble figuring out where would be a good fit. Considering Maxwell Park, Dimond District, Lincoln Highlands and Redwood Heights. Where we are living right now is near the BART and is completely walkable to the grocery store, interesting shops, bookstores, three libraries, a gym and a giant park. We rarely drive and like it that way.

We are looking for something equivalent (if it exists) - is there an area in the Oakland hills that is walkable (sidewalks, not too many hills, not walking over busy roads and highways), near a school, close to interesting shops and good restaurants, accessible to a library and bookstore? BART obviously isn't an option, but regular and easy buses would work for us.

If I were to get an AirBnB for the weekend to see what one of those areas were like, where would be the top places to visit/walk to? It'd be great to be able to sell this to the hubby with a weekend stay. Moving?

Unfortunately, nowhere on your short list would really be considered walkable--which isn't to say there's nowhere you can walk, but if you live there you will absolutely be driving regularly. (We have friends in all of those neighborhoods and that is the reality.) The closest to walkable you'll likely find in the hills would be either Montclair near the village, which would also be walkable to the elementary school, or the Dimond closer to MacArthur--there, you can walk to the library, Dimond Park, the grocery store, and Sequoia, along with a few restaurants and shops. Transit is a bit better in the Dimond than in Montclair, but neither will compare to the flatland areas near BART. Lincoln Highlands, Redwood Heights, and Maxwell Park all absolutely require a car--you might be able to end up close enough to school to walk in Redwood Heights or at the edge of Lincoln Highlands, but your nearest library would be in the Dimond. There's shopping in the Laurel District along MacArthur and in the Redwood Road Safeway plaza but it's pretty minimal; the area was developed with a pretty suburban housing pattern that assumed residents would drive. Wish there were more options!

Glenview has it all! oakland mom

You didn't say you're considering Montclair, but I'll share anyway. We moved here 3 years ago from near the Ashby BART. We have a 2 year old. I have to say, I'm so surprised at how much we love it. We live in a part of Montclair you can walk to the village from (there are stairs going up from Mountain and Colton Blvd). We do a Berkeley Bowl grocery trip once every week or so, but everything else we find in the village. We love the nature, we love our neighbors, we love our mail lady, who comes in to check on our toddler and drink some iced tea (seriously). Highway access is really good, and it's not far from other great places in Oakland by car (I regularly go to Berkeley, Rockridge, Emeryville, Jack London squre/Lake Merritt/Chinatown, and hop onto 13 south to San Leandro, and find it all convenient). We walk to the post office, grocery store, retail shops, library, playground, walking trail, and coffee shop in the village, though there are no sidewalks. It only works for us because we don't live far from the top of the stairs, though there's also great quiet streets to walk up from different parts of the Montclair railroad trail (walking trail).

- Grateful to have bought a home here when the market was a bit cheaper

Moving into the Oakland hills area

Feb 2011

My family is moving into the Oakland hills area (off keller) and I would like some advise on what to do in the area with my 6 year old. What schools are the best? I was thinking Joaquin Miller or Thornhill? Are there any play dates in the area? Thank you! newoaklandparent steph

We live off Keller too and love to hike the trails up along Skyline. The kids enjoy visiting the horses at the top of Keller. King Estates Open Space is great for kite flying, watching planes take off and land, and for fireworks. In the late spring the goat herds come to graze; we visit every day and even get to feed the baby goats sometimes.

Oakland Hills - Safety for Children

Feb 2007

We are thinking of moving to the Oakland Hills from Fremont. We lived in North Berkeley for 10 years before our 8 years in Fremont and loved it, but now we have three small children. Zip Realty says that the Oakland Hills have almost twice the national average of personal crimes and 1.4 times the national average of crime in general. For those of you who live in the Oakland Hills, what has your experience with crime been? Do you feel safe in your neighborhood? We are looking in the area near Thornhill and Snake. If you have young children what do you like and dislike about the area?

Hi, I grew up in the Oakland Hills (top of Broadway Terrace off of Thornill). At that time, uh 25 years ago or so, it was totally safe feeling (and I'm sure it still is). The only thing I would consider in moving to the area is: 1) do you mind driving up and down the hill everyday, and 2) It can be kind of dark around that area (not a whole lot of sun because of trees...very rustic though). Sure it's still as safe as any neighborhood

We live in Oakland Hills with our young daughter. Yes, there's crime here, but there is everywhere in the Bay Area. We love it here as Montclair has a nice friendly small-town feel that is hard to find in the Bay Area, and of course the school, Hillcrest, is the best in Oakland. The crime rate would not keep me away from living here. It's that nice. If you really want low crime, you'd have to go through the tunnel to Lamorinda/Walnut Creek area. And that's a whole different world over there! :) Leslie

What's it like living in the hills?

June 2006

what's it like living in the hills?
pros and cons
especially interested in hearing from those who have lived in our local flatter, denser, grid-layout cities (oakland, berkeley, alameda) before moving to the hills we're considering moving there. We're not really considering the higher elevation areas, even though the views would be fabulous, because we want some room for gardening. Seems like flatter land would be at a premium up there. Premium isn't in the cards. any thoughts? recommendations? warnings? considerations?
looking before i leap

-No sidewalk, not even a shoulder for walks
-Deer, skunks, & rats are a nuisance
-Brush abatement is definitely enforced
-Can't walk to any shops or restaurants

+Lots less traffic than down below
+Sit on porch and say hi to neighbors, not strangers or tourists
+Close to higher-elevation attractions such as Sibley Volcanic, horseback riding, the Hills pool, Roberts Park
+We were robbed once in the flats; zero times in the hills
+Private enough to walk outside in p.j.s
+Amazing, ethereal fog

--Happy with Our Hills Home

We moved from Temescal to Upper Rockridge last summer so far here are the things I've noticed.

I miss seeing and knowing my immediate neighbors. Up here even though I have met a number of people on the street I don't see them and chat with them going in and out of their houses the way I did. I miss being close to Bart and walking distance to more cafes and restaurants. feels a bit suburban and I miss the artsy/urban funky mix. have to drive on the freeway more

good things up here:
my son goes to the neighborhood school and can safely walk to school and friends houses.
met some great neighbors (even if I don't see them on the street) and am becoming friends with some of them
nice walks for exercise
feels safer in terms of crime
I actually can bike to work and my husband does too even though we are in a much hillier area there is less traffic so it seem to work out.
Can walk or bike to Montclair Farmer;s Market and Lake Temescal.

Good luck with your decision
enjoying the hills

We love living in the Oakland Hills- mid hill location, near the Zoo. Birds, foxes, the fire abatement goats, a fantastic micro-climate and an easy commute make us happy for our choice. The downside to our location is not being able to walk to any shops, and not having a sidewalk in our neighborhood. But our huge yard (almost an acre) and proximity to open space make up for having to drive to get milk. (We love our interesting and diverse neighbors too.) Good luck Hilary

To the person who is considering moving to the hills: we have lived on top of Monclair for 11 years. Where we live there are no sidewalks, and flat yards are very hard to find. However, we do walk on less trafficked streets, and I grow veggies in containers. The views could be great (we have a canyon view), and the regional parks are within walking distance. Sometimes though, I wish my 3 boys had more room to roam, and more access to independence later on (I am not even sure if the bus that used to run on Snake is still in operation - public transportation is scarce, so I will have to drive my kids everywhere for a few more years). Feel free to contact me.


We live in the Oakland hills--here is my short list of pros & cons:

--it's less congested and urban, feels more like a retreat or living in the wilderness sometimes (less so w/ some of these ridiculously large houses they are building in some areas now!)
--the view is wonderful, and the air is fresh
--proximity to Redwood/Joaquin Miller/Huckleberry/Tilden/Sibley
--easy to get to Rockridge, montclair, Piedmont, and Elmwood for shopping, eating out, movies
--people tend to be friendly up here and willing to help out their neighbors, I think the fire created a stick-together kind of feeling in the community.

--hard to meet neighbors sometimes since people aren't out strolling as much as in the flats, have to make more effort
--can't run out for late night food runs
--hard to get dinners delivered except Rustica
--people often get lost coming here, but your friends will get used to it
--no tot parks w/in walking distance so we always have to ride in our car to get to toddler parks
--not as many families w/ young kids, but more moving up here all the time.
--some houses have NO outside space...which would drive me crazy. Our house has a huge yard, hilly, but lots of room to create flat lawns and garden, have dogs, and let kids run around.

That's my first run, feel free to contact me directly to chat. Julie

This is a good question, I wish I had asked it before moving to the hills so we would have known better what to expect! We lived in Berkeley below the Claremont hotel before moving to the Montclair hills.

What is better up here? I definitely feel much safer and more private. There used to be lots of random people kind of passing by, picking bottles out of the garbage cans, hanging out at the school playground which was near our house, etc. Now I leave our front door wide open when we're home (our house is set back a bit from the street). We can't see or hear our neighbors and it just feels like we have a ton more privacy and space. And best of all is the beautiful view and sense of serenety gazing out at the Bay gives me.

What is worse? Driving everywhere. I seriously underestimated how much less exercise I would get living up here and have gained weight. I think I didn't notice how I'd just walk out of the house to do an errand, pick up lunch, or take my (then) baby for a stroll. Here even the tiniest little excursion means getting in the car. I would seriously give this consideration especially if you have more than one kid because you know what a hassle it is getting everybody in and out of the car seats. Also, the downside of having more privacy is that you don't interact with your neighbors. I'm sure it differs street by street but we happen to live on a street with mostly older neighbors and almost no kids. It was more fun having neighbors with kids, especially as they get older and would have fun playing together informally.

So pros and cons. But for me, without the view, the hassles of living in the hills wouldn't be worth it. Best to you
High on the hill

More reviews of Oakland Hills

May 2007

Re: Safe, family--oriented neighborhood?
We LOVE living in what has recently been dubbed ''Piedmont Pines'' - the hills in Oakland just above Joaquin Miller Elementary School. Our backyard is the trailhead to Joaquin Miller & Redwood Regional Parks, we have great neighbors, many with children, and living on a cul-de-sac allows us to let our children (with supervision) to run around in a safe environment, where we all look out for each other. Cost is an issue. When we moved in, things were not so bad, but we've been looking at housing prices skyrocket since. If you own your home though, I'm sure you'll get a good price when you sell and could find a place in our neighborhood to make it work for you. Hope we meet your family soon