Advice about Living in Oakland

Parent Q&A

Looking for Oakland school advice? Moving from SF Mar 12, 2019 (7 responses below)
Oakland neighborhoods with good schools and transit options Aug 8, 2018 (6 responses below)
Moving from NYC for a job in Oakland Nov 16, 2017 (6 responses below)
Where in Oakland is most stable in an earthquake? Dec 11, 2016 (5 responses below)
  • Hello! We are looking to make a move from SF to Oakland or Berkeley and have a 7 and 9 year old, so elementary and almost middle school. We don't know many people in the east bay so would love some advice on schools both public and private. For Upper Rockridge, I know Hillcrest is small and crowded with no guarantee. What other private schools for both elementary and middle would be an option for that neighborhood if public is full? Would love any and all advice! Much appreciated. 

    We moved from SF to Upper Rockridge about 3 years ago. Our kids are much younger (4 & 6). We are currently enrolled in a public K-5 (not Hillcrest) but I have toured almost all the surrounding private schools. There are a few private school options in or around Upper Rockridge. Aurora K-5 mixed age classes, Park Day, K-8 progressive, St. Theresa's Catholic School, K-8. Then there are many more private schools outside the UR area. Tours usually happen in Nov-Jan and acceptance in March.  Hope this helps. 

    If I could go back in time to give myself advice about schools in Oakland, I would tell myself to NEVER move to Oakland.  We are very involved parents, but after 6 years of trying very hard to make the schools work for our kids, we finally decided to move.  It was the best decision we ever made.  My kids went from being stressed & suicidal to being happy and engaged at school in another district.  Our experiences came from top-rated elementary schools in OUSD, so I don’t think that a top rating means much.  If you enroll in one of the “good” elementary schools, you will be asked to contribute about $1000 per child per year otherwise the school can’t pay for anything beyond the basic classroom teachers (no PE, art, computer, library or music programs without parents funding).  Some schools aren’t even allocated enough money to pay the class teachers, so parents have to pay just to cover the basic teacher salaries.  It’s bad!

    I would love to recommend Berkwood Hedge, a small private school near Downtown Berkeley. Our 5 year old entered halfway through the year and has been met with such care by his teachers Hanan and Silver. He is thriving there and we love the emphasis on social-emotional learning and creativity, and a lot of opportunity to be outside, which is wonderful for my son. The school is a warm indoor/outdoor space and there seems to be a lot of fun school-wide events all the time. There is a real positivity to the school that you feel upon entering and when you see the children's comfortable and contented faces. I would highly recommend this hidden gem!

  • Dear Parents, 

    We are in the midst of the impossible task of trying to buy house in East Bay. We primarily have 2 considerations - public transport feasibility & good public schools (K-12). Other than looking at different websites and scores -- I wanted to get a more personal sense regarding public schools in the area, specially Oakland district. I know Lamorinda, Albany and Berkeley - there is a general consensus of having "good schools"  -- we are unfortunately more or less priced out most of the houses there. 

    From what I could gather,  Montclair and Upper Rockridge has good elementary schools -- are they hard to get in even if you live in the assigned district? Do people usually end up sending their kids to private schools after elementary school? 

    Thank you!! 

    In Oakland, most of the hill schools have high Great School scores but it also means they have low walkability not close to public transportation. There are some buses that run in the Oakland hills. Unfortunately, if you are priced out of Berkeley, you are probably priced out of Upper Rockridge too. Montclair is more "affordable" and the elementary school is pretty big so you'll probably get in if you live in the neighborhood. 

    I find this constant question regarding schools and neighborhoods infuriating. Until we decide as a community to make all schools “good schools” by sending our kids (mostly of some privilege- either of race or income or both) to our local neighborhood school, no matter the score, we will have segregated “bad schools.” We as a society need to have the courage to do this, even if it’s just one family at a time.  All of Oakland’s schools, especially considering rampant gentrification, have the potential to be good schools.  Find a house you love and can afford, in a neighborhood you feel good about, and send your kid to a school in the district that works for your family. Scores are BS at best.


    an OUSD parent in East Oakland who’s kid has made it through OUSD through middle school as well prepared as his friends who went to Park Day

    Hi, Was in the same position as you and after looking all over the bay area, decided to buy in Oakland a couple of months ago due to the walkability and community - I didn't want to live in a ginormous house far away from people. We plan to enroll her in OUSD when she's 5. Oakland public schools get a bad rap so its easily overlooked, but after researching deeper in the school issue we're excited about the learning opportunities with her neighborhood public school. The diversity of the community provides a wealth of experience you can't replicate at segregated schools. I wouldn't rely on or any other site that uses standardized testing results as a measure of a "good" school - it doesn't provide a comprehensive picture. Good luck with your search!

  • Moving from NYC for a job in Oakland

    (6 replies)

    Hi there,

    I'll be moving to the Bay Area from NYC at the end of the year. I am hoping there is someone else out there who had to make the same move. I have an almost 4 year old who will need a preschool because he is currently in a 6.5 hour a day pre-k program and is learning a lot. I don't want too much disruption for him. The other decision is where to live. My husband's job will be in Oakland so we would like to be within a 30 min commute from there. I'm used to living in an area with a lot of people and walking/taking public transport everywhere. I don't want to live in a very suburban area and feel totally isolated because I don't know anyone in the Bay Area. Am hoping for some advice about starting at a preschool mid-year, if that's even possible, and finding the best place to live that is not too suburban but still feels very safe to walk around.

    Thanks in advance!

    I am corresponding with another BPN person doing the same move as you right now, and this is the move my family and I did five years ago (from Brooklyn, but I had lived in Manhattan for many years before that). Oakland is quite big, and there are several walkable neighborhoods throughout Oakland and Berkeley. I can't really speak for other areas in the East Bay as far as walkability goes. I moved here with two children, and while part of our reason for moving was to achieve a simpler and easier life (and having a car was a big part of that), I do miss walking to everything. Much of Oakland and Berkeley feel like the small cities they are; other areas such as the hills in both towns are strictly residential and isolated from commerce and services (and offer lush nature in many areas). Unfortunately for most of us, so many choices about school and whether we walk or drive are based on the lack of affordable housing in the area. Our craigslist rental on the Oakland/Emeryville border dictated so much about how we live; we have a yard and nice neighbors, but we drive to most things that we do. Good luck finding a nice place to live and the other things will unfold when you know where you will live. Walkable neighborhoods that come to mind are Elmwood in Berkeley, and the Laurel District and Dimond District in Oakland, but of course, housing near those areas can be pricey. 

    It would definitely help to know your budget as neighborhoods in Oakland/East Bay vary widely based on what you are willing to pay.

    Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland!  Right by a BART station, great public schools, grocery stores, markets, shops etc. all within walking distance.  Rockridge is mostly single family homes, but a few apartments are in the mix.  I feel safe walking around; lots of families with young children in this neighborhood.  We even have our own newsletter that comes monthly.  It's a wonderful place to live and raise a family. 

  • I understand that earthquake safety has much (or more) to do with the structure itself, but can anyone give any insight into what areas or neighborhoods might do better in a major quake?

    If I had to say something I would say any area not near a major fault (the Hayward fault and the San Andreas fault are the big ones in the Bay Area). With that said there are a lot of variables that determine how strongly an earthquake is felt in certain areas so there really is no catch-all answer. If safety is a concern, generally speaking most 1-2 story wood structures fare really well in earthquakes. The California Professional Engineer's Act actually allows those structures to be designed by anybody whether or not they are a registered Engineer because of how well they perform. The Bay Area is awash in houses built before Engineers were licensed (circa 1929 if memory serves) and they're still standing. For example my house in Oakland was built in 1924 and has gone through multiple earthquakes. - Structural Engineer

    As I recall one of the fault lines follow highway 13. and right through memorial stadium in Berkeley.  IF you look at Strawberry creek you will see it once flowed straight to the bay and now full of bends from quakes.  If you go to the top of the Oakland hills you can see clearly see the fault line going through the hills.  Best place to see it is at Sibley or along Skyline.  Ask a park ranger or someone to point it out.  It's obvious once you see and is easy to trace through the hills.  If I'm not mistaken I think one or more of the faults cuts through Skyline and/or Merritt college and Cal State Hayward.

    Not sure if its' better to be on the fault line or away from it.  When the hill fires occurred it was amazing to see every house burned down on a street except for one maybe two.  Why all of the housed burned except for one or two?  Don't have a clue.  Same thing happened with the earthquakes..  One house may have no damage yet the house next door or on either side would have major damage.  Having lived in the Oakland Hills all of my life the other thing I would be concerned about are mud slides.  I can remember several winters where many houses were lost to mud slides.  I can remember houses in the Montclair hills (Ascott), I think 15-30 homes around the Mormon Temple, Diamond, upper and lower Liemert,  Redwood road and just off 35th Ave  all being lost to mud slides.  It just happed on Moraga side of the Oakland hills less than a year ago.  And Orinda has several vacant lots because homes there were lost to mud slides.   As we just learned from the people in Moraga (homeowners insurance doesn't cover mud slides.  There house it totaled and the now literarily worthless.  I think if you look you will find more homes in Oakland have been lost/destroyed by mud sidles than earthquake damage.

    Best protection against earthquake damage is to have your house (it it's not already) bolted to the foundation and add shear waling.  Have a soils and structural engineer (not a contractor) evaluate the soil and foundation, and to see if the house is secured to the foundation.  (Most of the homes when they were originally built were not bolted and some don't even have a foundation.)   When I was home shopping in Oakland I found quite a few homes with foundation damage due to either earthquake or mudslide/shirting soil yet the house looks perfect.

    Hopes this helps.

Parent Reviews

RE: Best Area to Raise Children ()

What does “best” mean to you because it means different things to different people. People saying Oakland is not safe or not the best area to raise a kid haven’t experienced all of Oakland. There is a lot of crime of course because it’s a major urban city. Obviously there is less crime in suburbs but you lose a tremendous amount in regard to diversity and culture. It’s about what you’re looking for. While I’m certainly weary of the crime in Oakland, I love living here because my kid is exposed to many races, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomics, you name it. My kid is surrounded by working class kids and not a bunch of privileged wealthy kids who will make her feel bad. I love going to parks and finding a multicultural group of kids to play with rather than the all white kids you’ll find in these “safe” suburbs. I’ll take the diversity over a perceived perception of safety any day. 

I agree with the first response- a lot of it will depend on your finances and on what areas feel good to you. Plus, there's always the weather to consider, too. For example, I love the North Berkeley/Albany area (can't afford it but LOVE it there!), but my spouse gives it a big NO due to the fog. (It’s true that it’s cooler & breezier there, and the fog does tend to roll in… But come on! Those gorgeous neighborhoods? Strolling on Solano Ave?! The cafes & restaurants in the gourmet ghetto!? It’s FABULOUS there!) Besides, anyone who can handle east coast weather will be totally fine. (haha)

We live halfway between the Fruitvale and the Dimond neighborhoods in central Oakland- I don't recommend that area, actually. It’s sunny and warmer than other parts of Oakland (as well as most of Berkeley and Alameda), which allows us to grow a lot of our food and enjoy our garden, but... The crime and blight is still pretty intense here- more the Fruitvale side than the Dimond. The Dimond's actually changed a lot in the last decade. The Dimond/Glenview/Oakmore areas sort of merge together a bit and are attractive and walkable (so, of course = much pricier).

The Laurel and Maxwell Park neighborhoods are much cheaper than Rockridge, Piedmont Ave. and Lakeshore -but those are neighborhoods are super expensive for a reason: they are fantastic, sunny neighborhoods with unparalleled beauty and walkability. And you pay dearly for it.

Personally, I'd love to live by the lake (my spouse says no to that, too- thinks it's too breezy!) because the Grandlake/Lakeshore area is such a vibrant place to be- so diverse and interesting! LOVE it there. I could go on and on about the lake and all the fun that goes on there- esp on sunny weekend days. The Saturday farmer's market there is a good one and there are endless shops to walk to as well. 

Piedmont Ave. is wonderful, too -definitely one of my favorite neighborhoods! Great shops & restaurants & yoga studios, etc. Love that area. And The Temescal is one that has been completely transformed over the two decades that I’ve been here. Oh, how I wish we would’ve bought an investment property over there… It’s a great little neighborhood that’s cute and close to everything. (Still a little edgy on the outskirts a bit, but worth it for a fried chicken sandwich at Bakesale Betty’s!)

Rockridge is great as well, but it's a monocultural (in terms of both race and socioeconomic class), which can oftentimes = a less interesting vibe. That's how a lot of my friends feel about it, anyway. I still love it though, because… It’s one of the best neighborhoods (if not, THE BEST) in Oakland. Rockridge has a great library, an easy-access BART station, great shops, restaurants, cafes, bookstores- “the whole shebang,” as my kid would say. I would say that Rockridge is still my absolute favorite neighborhood in Oakland, because of all that it brings to the table- even though I will never, ever be able to afford to own a home there in this lifetime.    


I totally forgot to mention the amazingly AWESOME Montclair Village!! (an area up in the hills that likes to pretend it’s in the Swiss Alps- just go along with it.) Great place! And wonderful trails to hike nearby.


You generally get assigned to your neighborhood school in Oakland, so the lottery is more for people who don't want to go to their neighborhood school and thus are in a lottery for their out-of-neighborhood desired school. We live in Rockridge and love it because it has BART, easy access to the freeway (and no need to battle Hwy. 80 to Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, etc), and is just a lovely walkable neighborhood with shopping, restaurants etc nearby. It's true that housing is more expensive than some areas. Temescal is a bit cheaper and is also awesome. Lake Merritt has a slightly more urban feel because there are more apartment buildings; it also has the lake and great shopping districts, and in some ways feels like the "heart" of Oakland because it's so diverse and draws people from all over town, so it's a great choice too. Our neighborhood elementary school is Peralta, which is much sought after and beloved; Chabot is the other elementary school in Rockridge and is bigger but much the same. Good luck!

We live in Grand Lake/Lakeshore neighborhood in Oakland and commute to SF everyday.  First, I'd like to give a shout out to our neighborhood which has a landmark historic theater, little cafes, restaurants, shops, parks for kids, library, the oldest bookstore in Oakland, and one of the most vibrant farmers' markets around and of course, Lake Merritt. It's also quite a bit more affordable than Rockridge and I feel a bit safer than Temescal. 

Oakland does have an options process for schools but you get preference for your catchment (the neighborhood zone for your area school). Rockridge area has some of the more popular schools (Chabot/Peralta/Hilcrest) and the area middle school and high school are also well regarded. The neighborhood school for Temescal is Emerson which is not ranked high but is well regarded and beloved by families who attend the school. Chabot is a larger school and out of catchment kids do get into Chabot. We like our neighborhood school (Cleveland), which is a hidden gem. In addition to BART, there are transbay buses that get you to downtown SF as well as casual carpool. I have lived in different neighborhoods in Oakland and have commuted to different parts of SF. You don't have to limit yourself to being able to walk to BART to have a pretty easy commute. If being able to walk to BART is really important and you want to stay on the west side of the Caldecott Tunnel, the "safetest" family friendly neighborhoods with BART within walking distance and commercial amenities would be Rockridge BART, North Berkeley BART, El Cerrito BART areas (El Cerrito BART area feels more suburban than hip urban neighborhood). Parts of residential areas near downtown Berkeley BART can also be nice. Piedmont Ave. neighorhood is also very nice and it's one of my favorite places we have lived. Commute to SF is quite easy from Piedmont Ave. area. The neighborhood school is not highly ranked and many famlies in that area send their kids to Chabot or Cleveland which are close or private schools. Berkeley and SF both have blind lottery system, so you could end up in a school that is not close to your house. Oakland gives preference to neighbhood kids and siblings of current students and if there is any room left, they run a lottery for the rest. 

Hello, and welcome to the area! We bought in Oakland in December 2017 for 750K (I still feel my heart rate jump when I say that) and we are really happy with our neighborhood. My daughter is finishing up the school year in Berkeley and will be starting at a public school in Oakland in the fall. It's not our neighborhood school but it is a diverse public school not too far and we're hopeful about it. I would echo the words of other parents that test scores reflect little more than the socioeconomic status of the families, not the dedication and strength of the teachers. BPN is actually a great forum for parent feedback about specific schools, so you can search old posts when it comes time to make your school selections. So I wouldn't write off Oakland just yet. We live in Fairfax, close to Maxwell Park, and I think you can still buy for under $800K there. Happy to talk more - and recommend a great realtor! - if you want to message me :)

Oakland has many lesbian and gay families--I think it's where San Francisco couples move when they start a family (I don't know if it's because they find SF not kid friendly or if it is just a matter of rental prices). The Lakeshore Area, in particular seems to have many LGBT families (we knew a half dozen or more at my daughter's preschool on Lakeshore). The areas zoned for Crocker Highlands or Glenview elementary schools and Edna Brewer middle school would be good choices. The commute to SF isn't bad by Bay Area standards, and there's also casual carpool available from the Grand-Lake area (drivers commuting to SF pick up passengers so that they can avail themselves of carpool lanes). I believe there's also a trans-bay bus that serves the area.


I also did my undergrad at Berkeley, just before you did, although I never left the area. My daughter is also African American and just started kindergarten. I have lived in North Oakland since 1994. It is no longer very affordable, but it is a wonderful place for interracial families.

Our daughter went to Monteverde Preschool, which is both affordable and diverse. We couldn't be happier. Although they have no formal language program, a number of the teachers are fluent in multiple languages and they do use them, both in group settings and directly with individual kids that know Spanish, Portuguese or Japanese.

I also know folks that have been very happy with Mi Mundo preschool. And I've heard great things about Melrose Leadership Acadamy for Elementary.

Good luck and welcome back.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

General Questions about Living in Oakland  


Buy/move to Oakland??

Oct 2013

We (myself, husband, and 3 kids ages 3, 5.5, and 8) moved to Livermore in January from Boston. I'm a CA native and grew up in the Berkeley area. We picked Livermore because we had 2 days to pick a town and a house to rent in it when we moved back here - so not much time to think about it. I've put a lot of effort into making Livermore my new home. But so far it's felt fairly unwelcoming. We're out here in serious suburbistan. Not much variety in culture or ethnicity. Or as I like to say, 'seriously lacking funk'. I LOVE the upper East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, etc) and very much want to move back that way, and we're at a point where we'd like to by a house. But I cant decide if moving is the right thing to do for my family.

The Pros: -better commute for the paterfamilias (25 min. instead of an hour)
-more variety in landscape and personalities of community members
-closer access to the arts and cultural activities that the inner bay area has to offer
-some really cool looking charter schools
-decent homes in our price range that are in safe and pretty locations in the hills -closer to my husband's family

The Cons:
-New school for my older 2 kids. Particularly difficult for my 8 year old who doesn't deal well with new things and has already been to 3 schools in the past 2.5 years do to our 2 moves.
-Lots of robberies in Oakland, even in the 'safer' parts of town -public schools are seriously hit or miss, and there seems to be a game that one must play in order to get into the better ones or into the charter schools, or at least a lot of effort to put in. Then Jr. High and High School are pretty sub-par
-having to readjust yet again to a different place. But at least in Oakland it would be a fairly familiar one for me and one in which I'm more likely to mesh with.

The Questions:
-Have people had problems getting into the charter schools? What obstacles lay it wait?
-Have people been happy with their non-charter public schools?
-How safe or unsafe have people found living in Oakland? We're looking mainly in the area East of Warren/MacArthur and probably South of Joaquin Miller
-Have people found that area to have a sense of community?
-How much weight should I put on my 8 year old's aversion to another move?
-What do people do for Jr. High and High School? We can't afford private school but I know the options when I was growing up in that area (class of '00) were not so great to put it mildly.
-If we decide to go ahead with the move... what steps can I take to start proactively developing a community for my kids and myself.

Any input would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Oakland is vast and varied and the experience in south Oakland is probably different from north Oakland. We live in Rockridge and are thinking of moving to the suburbs, mostly because of crime. Yes, we've been mugged, yes, our car has been stolen, yes, there was an armed burglary on our block. That's definitely something to consider when pondering Oakland. As you say, the schools are hit or miss. Our elementary experience has been and continues to be almost perfect (Peralta). Middle school needs some work (and we are working on it!). High school I've heard good things about (Tech). As far as charter schools go, there is a HUGE range in Oakland, so your query needs to be fine-tuned. NOCCS? Couldn't even get a TOUR, because it is so popular. If you are considering south Oakland, you probably aren't thinking about NOCCS though. I'm less familiar with other charters in Oakland, but if you do make the move, I would strongly urge you to look into your neighborhood public schools--you may find the ideal school right in your own backyard. My advice is probably not helping you decide, but the very high crime of Oakland, and your poor 8-year-old's reticence about moving because he's been in three schools already would probably keep me in Livermore. Oakland mom

Oakland neighborhoods and safety concerns

March 2013

I'm considering moving to Oakland, but get such mixed responses when I tell people (mainly about safety and the quality of the public schools). I'm a single mom with a school age child, and a dog (so early morning and evening walks will be necessary). We'll be going the public school route. I'm moving from another city, so am not overly paranoid, in spite of how this question probably sounds! How do I figure out where to look in Oakland? I want a safe neighborhood and a good school for my son. A place where we can build a community is important, since we have no family nearby. Preferably a neighborhood where we won't be totally dependent on a car to get places. Can look other areas in the east bay and san francisco as well. My income level is on the low end of moderate, and we're looking to rent, not buy. Any suggestions/tips on how to find a place and where exactly to look are so appreciated! confused about oakland

My husband and I tried to find an Oakland neighborhood that we liked, but it just wasn't a good fit for us. Fortunately, we discovered San Leandro which is just south of Oakland and we love it here.

We have a great neighborhood for walks and meet plenty of friendly neighbors walking their dogs. There are also some great dog parks in the area, Oyster Bay and at the Marina are popular, locals will certainly tell you about more dog parks. Parking is easy, and we have a lot of major shops so that running errands in town is a breeze.

We also live close to downtown and the BART station, so it's very easy to walk anywhere we want to: cafes, library, etc. It's a great town for affordability and safety. Our police force is amazing - they come out right away and are tough on crime. They encourage residents to call if something looks fishy and educate the public about what to do to keep yourself safe and aware. And they are friendly and nice, as well. On top of that, the town is quite beautiful with many tree lined streets. K M

Have you considered Redwood Heights? This is a slightly under the radar neighborhood that is a great place to live in Oakland. It has a great elementary school with very progressive and involved parents. Many families walk to school. Home prices here are not sky high and some homes have huge back yards that get lots of sun. There is a fun park that my kids, now older, still go to to throw the frisbee with friends. There is a great block sale in the blocks near the park during the first weekend in June, where people sell their stuff but there are also people selling tamales, home made sausage, kids selling lemonade and cookies, etc. Everyone's out walking around, saying hello, etc. It's very neighborhood-y. For Halloween, Redwood Heights is awesome. The flat streets make it easy to walk around and many houses really go all out with front yard decorations, treats and drinks for the grownups, etc. People actually drive in to take their kids trick or treating. There is a strong neighborhood feeling and community here. There are loads of families with young children under 5. We have a nice Rec Center where you go to vote during elections and that offers yoga, ballroom dancing, ballet classes for kids, and so on.

Montclair farmer's market is 5 minutes away and it's a great one to go to. Transportation is convenient - we have hwy 13 and 580 and I can take a 10 minute bus that goes directly to Fruitvale Bart for commuting to SF. Also, the Oak airport is only 20 minutes away. I have done downtown SF in 15 minutes (no traffic). Not to mention, that Redwood Regional Park is really close by for great hiking and fun for kids. We also get wild turkeys, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers in the neighborhood. It's pretty neat!

As for crime, I would be lying if I didn't say there was crime here. I have not experienced it personally during the 10 years I've been here, but it is a concern for people living here, not to mention the hills in general. I have been lucky - left my keys in my front door overnight (oops) and driven off without closing the garage door, and thankfully nothing has happened. Although, we do take precautions - have an alarm, don't leave windows open when we go out, etc. I don't know what you can do about it living here other than that. I look at it like earthquakes - prepare the best you can, cross your fingers, and then stop thinking about it. I feel safe in the neighborhood, and i've had friends in the very nice parts of town have their homes broken into, so unfortunately I think it's a fact of life.

But I love the weather, the diversity of food and people, the proximity to culture and nature. Best of luck. Happy to be here

Living in Oakland and thinking of packing it in

Jan 2013

Anyone else thinking of moving to escape the outrageous crime in Oakland? I am not one to be faint of heart, having grown up in New York, taught in Harlem, lived in Washington, D.C. yet I have never felt so completely unsafe as I do right now living in this beautiful city. If your thinking of bailing where to? If your sticking it out how are you coping? I love our neighborhoods and the sense of community and the list serve has been such a wonderful way to connect, but as of late it has be a repository of depressing accounts of crime. Onestressedmama

We moved from Oakland to Livermore. Couldn't be happier. I let go of labels and cliches about cities and chose what matters more to me: better schools, better quality of life and safety. I have to say, everytime we visit Oakland now (and we lived in the nice part of Oakland) I feel like saying 'let's get out of here asap'. Suburbia is not really suburbia when you are 40 minutes away from SF. I don't know if I should let go of this very well kept secret about Livermore: beautiful vineyard scenery, a theater with tons of performances, all the classes that you want for your kids right in the city, a downtown that is always lively, golf (if you are into that), great wineries, awesome bike routes within the city, warm weather for summer pool, flat surfaces for your kid to learn how to bike... I am sure that there are many other great places around the bay area. What did we get from living all concentrated in the larger area of Oakland? I am not sure. Suburbia can be cool. AV

Yes. I live in the North Oakland area. It's a small chunk of streets called Longfellow. We've lived there for 7 years and have been through a lot of ups and downs. Definitely shooting on the streets (years ago), to our home being broken into, to people held at gunpoint coming home from Bart (in recent months all through temescal and north oakland). I still feel safe. We have an 18month old and have a park (by Noccs Elementary) which is only a couple blocks away (which I hear, is about to be redone with landscaping), great neighbors and lots of new families. It feels like our area is slowing turning around for the better. we have new trees planted on some streets, the cops are fast to respond, etc. I would just make sure that you have a security system before you move in or shortly after, because people look for those who don't. Catherine

El Cerrito vs. Oakland home values & schools

July 2012

My husband and I hope to buy our first home in the 650-700K range--a three bedroom 2 bath with yard. We have a one year old and hope to land in a good school district, at least through elementary. We have bid on five properties focusing on North/Central Berkeley and Albany and we're now realizing we prob can't afford these primo neighborhoods in what is quickly becoming a very competitive market.

My question is how to extend our home search to other neighborhoods, specifically comparing North Oakland vs. El Cerrito, focusing on home values and school quality. We want to live in a walkable neighborhood, ideally close to Bart or easy public transportation to SF, so the El Cerrito hills are not an option (this also rules out Kensington). Which school districts in North Oakland are worth considering? How are the El Cerrito elementary schools? (All the reviews on BPN are older). How do these districts compare? We're both public school grads and hope to use public schools, but we've heard terrible things about the middle and high schools in both El C and Oakland, so we'd want to preserve our exit strategy and be able to sell our house in 10 years and move to a better district by the time our son is middle school age if need be. Comparing El C and Oakland, which neighborhoods would be most likely to retain their value?

Our final concern is safety. We hate the idea of spending so much on our home and ending up in a dicey neighborhood. Any and all advice is appreciated. Discouraged by Bay Area home prices

To MSG from ''El Cerrito vs Oakland'' for home buying and schools - I don't know good schools of No. Oakland personally (tho have heard Peralta is quite good - but our son went TI Cleveland Elementary in East Lake neighborhood (also called Cleveland Heights). It's a great school, and so is the surrounding 'hood, and lots more affordable than Berkeley. Nance

Moderator note: reviews were also received for El Cerrito

Moving to Oakland with small children

April 2012

We are a family of four (two children under two) currently living in Wellington, New Zealand. However, I am originally from the East Coast and lived in NYC and Brooklyn for 10 years. My husband is a Kiwi and we are beginning to think of moving back to the US. California is the natural choice as it's half way, reminds my husband of home with the climate and topography, but I still get my culture and a break from 24 hour journeys with children to see my folks!

My question is what are the good neighborhoods in Oakland for young families. We are very pro-public school, but also would like a pedestrian, urban-feel, where community is important and it will be easy to meet people. I've heard a bit about Rockridge. Any other suggestions? And any good sites for real estate browsing, even just for fun? Thanks!

Rockridge is definitely one of the most walkable parts of Oakland, and also has a good elementary school (Chabot). You'll find a lot of shops, an excellent public library, easy access to BART/public transportation and lots to do with kids.

I live in Montclair myself - it has a slightly more rural feel than Rockridge and the 2 public elementary schools here are excellent (middle school is improving steadily); because of the hills some parts are more walkable than others, but you have easy access to large and beautiful regional parks for hiking, etc.

Crocker Highlands has a good elementary school, very cute houses, seems to have an active family/community vibe (we go play on their school playground sometimes and it's always full of families hanging out together on weekends); not necessarily easy to walk to things from there.

The Trestle Glen and Piedmont Avenue areas are walkable to shops; I don't know much about their schools. Have fun exploring neighborhoods! Oaklander

You may want to consider Alameda , which borders Oakland. We know MANY Kiwis here on the island and it's a great life - right on the water, fantastic for walking, wonderful parks, decent schools and more. alamedamama

You should have several options open to you in Oakland! Rockridge is definitely a great neighborhood for families (for anyone for that matter!) and the local schools are good too.

The area around Piedmont Avenue (both in the cities of Oakland and Piedmont) are also very walkable and family friendly. In many ways I prefer Piedmont Ave over Rockridge as it feels more like a real neighborhood with a larger variety of businesses along the avenue rather than just restaurants, cafes and boutiques.

If you stay in the areas of Montclair that are close to the business district, it is also very walkable, but not so much in the hills. All three are well established, good neighborhoods.

I also like the areas along Grand or Lakeshore , particularly north of the 580 Freeway.

Temescal (near Telegraph and 51st) is a bit more 'up and coming' but it has some great shops and restaurants. Just a little grittier than Piedmont Ave or Rockridge.

There are probably a few other spots, but these are the ones I have lived in or spent time in over the years. Oakland has a lot to offer families and I hope you find the area that works best for you! Maria

Welcome to California Erin! I have two recommendations for you. My friend, Eddie Moran, is a local realtor and New Yorker who has fallen in love with Oakland. I'm sure that he would be willing to direct you as much or as little as you like. My second recommendation is to look the area above MacArthur Avenue around Sequoia Elementary School. We are currently living out of the area, but were happy with the neighborhood and the school when we were there. Susan

Affordable Tot-friendly Oakland Neighborhoods

April 2011

I am searching for a 1-2 bedroom rental in the $1200/month or less price range for me and my toddler. I have been living in the South Berkeley area for the last several years and am familiar with Berkeley, Emeryville, and North Oakland/Temescal, but not much else. All of the archived info on the forums is for home owners rather than renters and seems to assume ownership of a car.

I walk and take public transportation and would like to hear from others about the neighborhoods around Lake Merritt, especially on the north side, and up near Piedmont Avenue. Of particular interest to me are:

(1) how safe and family friendly they are for walking and busing and if there are particular portions of each neighborhood to be wary of

(2) good parks, libraries with story time, and related (cafes, play spaces) for toddlers in the area

(3) easy of walking and busing for grocery shopping and getting to BART and other parts of the east bay.

If you have another neighborhood that you think is worth considering that is north of Lake Merritt and fits the above criteria, I'd love to hear about it as well. exploring outside my comfort zone


  • Adams Point
  • Grand Lake (2)

    Affordable Neighborhoods in Oakland

    March 2010

    Can anyone recommend a good but not too expensive neighborhood to buy a house in Oakland? We are looking for an area with homes in the 300-400k range with good schools and parks. I realize this may be a fantasy but if anyone has a recommendation, we would appreciate it!

    Having just looked in Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda for our first house I'm afraid what you're looking for may indeed be a fantasy. Of course part of that depends on how good is good enough for schools and parks. Try looking at one of the websites like Ziprealty or Redfin that has searchable maps of houses for sale -- you can specify price range, number of bedrooms, minimum square feet and see what there is. If you're not familiar with the schools, you can look at to get data about test scores, student composition, etc. In general the stronger-scoring schools are those between I580 and Hwy 13 and those above Hwy 13. almost a homeowner
    The trick is not so much affording a decent neighborhood, but that neighborhood having good schools. The good news, in my opinion, is that Oakland has a few really great charter schools (and in case you are unfamiliar with these, they are free). Millsmont is our neighborhood - a little known gem, on the wooded side of Mills College near the top of Seminary, by hwy 13 and 580. This area is affordable and very attractive.

    My son's charter school is quite close by - about 12 minutes away by car (on the streets - no freeway driving). This is K-12, Lighthouse Community Charter School . They've just had their charter renewed - and they have a beautiful new facility at 444 hegenberger, next to the Marriot. I can't praise the school enough - a truly wonderful education - my sons has been there for nearly 4 years. S

    Pros and Cons of different Oakland neighborhoods

    November 2006

    We are thinking about purchasing a single family house in Oakland. Can someone give us some recommendations on some neighborhoods where we might want to look and the advantages and disadvantages of living in some of the different neighborhoods?

    Also, can someone recommend a realtor to help us in our housing search? To those of you who have purchased recently in Oakland, what's the market like? Thanks Bev

    We are thinking of moving to Oakland as well, so I am interested to see the answers. Meanwhile, Zip Realty is fantatic for searching. Why? You can search by map, and look only in the areas you are really interested in. And then you can look at recently sold homes and what they went for.

    yOu have to sign up, but it is free

    Once you've gotten to SF Bay Area Real Estate click on Search for Homes and then look for the tab that says Interactive Map. This is the best invention ever. You zero in on an area you are interested in and it will show up to 100 homes in that area. They are all in a list on the left, or you can mouse over the map and get some details and then click for the full listing. Once you are in a full listing you can click on SOLD HOMES at the top. That will give you info on nearby homes and how much they sold for. They are not super up-to-date the most recent ones listed are in July, but still the info is useful. It tells you sq footage, number of BD/BA, sale price, and price/sq foot. Good luck! Susan

    I highly recommend Stan and Sharon Hammond of Wells & Bennett in Oakland. Stan used to be a contractor so was really great at helping us determine what kind of work each house we looked at needed and how much the work would cost. Sharon was always on top of what was going on the market, so we could jump on a property before or just as it was going on the market. They are both very honest and execeedingly responsive, even now over a year after buying our house and selling our old one. Our current home is in Berkeley, though the Hammonds know Oakland the best. We used to live in the Dimond area, near Dimond Park. Other Oakland neighborhoods to look into are: Maxwell Park, Crocker Highlands, Tresle Glen, Glen Park/Glenview, Rockridge.

    Good Luck! Cindy

    I worked with the most spectacular realtor based out of Montclair/Oakland. Her name is Carla Buffington and she works with PacUnion. She was wonderful I can't sing her enough praise. We used her to purchase and sell our home. She was patient, well informed, a GREAT negotiator (she got us a brand new roof for free!!!), She sold our house in a slumped market in 2 weeks and got us a great price, she did all of our staging, and paid to get our house cleaned and gardened. She was a pleasure to work with and we have remained friends with her even after it was all over. I HIGHLY recommend Carla. I plan on using her again if we ever decide to move. Her website is:
    Hi Bev,

    We bought our house about a year and a half ago in Oakland. Some of the more sought after neighborhoods are these:

    Rockridge - very family oriented, 2nd best elementary school in the Bay Area (Chabot), mostly craftsmen style homes, centrally located, lots of shops and restaurants to walk to, (mainly College Ave)

    Elmwood - actually in Berkeley, but right next to Rockridge, going down College Ave. With the exception of the school district, as I'm not familiar with theirs, all of the above listed under Rockridge.

    Claremont - also in Berkeley, but Rockridge and Claremont areas are often lumped together. Homes tend to be in larger and higher price ranges. A little more walking necessary to get to restaurants and shops.

    Montclair - originally a place for vacation homes, the houses are a very eclectic mix, varying in size, age and prices. Most homes are on hills. Has it's own nice shopping district.

    Glenview - an up and coming, transitional area. Most conviently located to freeway, borders Piedmont, small shopping district, charming homes. Need knowledgeable realtor to show you more prosperous/promising streets.

    Trestle Glen - one of the most attractive streets in Oakland, in my opinion - lovely homes, very pricy.

    Lakeshore and Lake Merritt - have some nice homes, but I am less familiar with the market there.

    Piedmont - actually not part of Oakland, (or at least anymore), but overall the most prosperous area, currently the only area with a very good academic highschool, homes cost substantially more.

    In general, the market has softened. But in Rockridge and Piedmont, it's been pretty steady due to school districts, etc. The other areas, I'm simply not familiar enough with recent sales.

    We were really happy with our realtor, Hope Broderick.

    Hope this helps!! cemekeller

    Hi Bev, Some of the best neighborhoods in Oakland include the Montclair district, the Glenview District, the Lake Merritt District, & the Rockridge & Temescal districts. These areas are great for their beautiful homes (where prices have remained relatively stable in comparison to other Oakland areas), & friendly neighbors, they each have lots of parks & great schools (national test scores are comparatively high); great shopping & restaurants, & all are short commute distances to pretty much anywhere in the East Bay (20-30 minutes to most locations).

    There is also ample public transportation (train stations, & buses). When you're ready to start looking you should call Shaun Martin. She was recommended to me, & I've had the pleasure of recently working with her. She's a Realtor who specializes in Oakland neighborhoods. She's very knowledgeable & extremely accessable. Her office # is 510 531-7000 ext. 240 Good luck!
    Welcome to Oakland!

    I highly recommend Ruth Goldstone as a realtor who really knows her stuff. Her number at Marvin Gardens is: 510-527-2700 x41 In my experience, Ruth is responsive to individual tastes and needs and has a good sense of neighborhood, including what neighborhoods are affordable given what a client can/wants to spend. She also has a great grip on the many details associated with buying houses (is also a great explainer of what things mean) and generally has a great bedside manner. At the same time she knows the market on a business level and is a great advocate. She is at Marvin Gardens on Solano (but has much Oakland experience). Again, 510-527-2700 x41
    Well, the obvious neighborhoods are the ''nice'' ones such as Rockridge and anything with ''Heights'' or similar in the name. The advantages of these are decent to good public schools due to family involvement and donations. The downside is that these are expensive. Slightly less expensive than lower Rockridge (but probably not for long) is Temescal. I lived in Temescal 5 years ago and it has changed/improved quite a bit. Downside to that is most of the houses are smallish bungalows. I would thus like to recommend West Oakland, where I live now. Disadvantages: Schools not so hot, drug and crime activity. But actually it is not so bad. Advantages: houses cheaper, big houses, big yards. It's really block by block so do your due diligence.

    ''Dogtown'' west of Adeline and north of West Grand is close to Emeryville and pretty nice. There are also some really nice old Victorians in ''Lower Bottoms'' west of Mandela Parkway. Just come drive around--there are lots of houses for sale.
    West Oakland Mama

    Call Dave Higgins at 510-595-7699. He is an amazing realtor who works with his business partner and wife, Carla. They have two young children and live in Oakland. They are very knowledgeable about all of the neighborhoods in Oakland, about the housing market, and real estate in general. We have bought and sold a couple of houses with them and the process has been so smooth. I recommend Dave and Carla VERY highly. Do not hesitate to call. They have a very comprehensive website-
    The Montclair area is wonderful, often described as a Tahoe-like setting. Lots of trees in the hills. However, there's not a really easy way for kids to meet and play, unless you drive them. There's a small ''downtown'' or ''village'' where people go to meet. It's very safe and has a low crime rate. Schools are the best in Oakland.

    I recommend Linda Andersen as a real estate agent. Her number is 292-8704, with Keller & Williams
    Signed: Linda F.

    we moved to a neighborhood right off of piedmont avenue and love it. we worked with maison nouveau, it's the only way to go, they don't require the full 3% and give 1% back to you to up your offer or apply towards closing costs. really helpful!
    Without knowing a price range and other criteria, your question is difficult to answer. Of course the most ''desirable'' areas are the most expensive. Though there are many ''hidden gems'', too. We live in Rockridge - ''upper'' as the part above Broadway is typically called (though that is really where the Rockridge subdivision is if anyone cares about the accuracy of the designation). Anyway, we LOVE it here and couldn't imagine any other location. The proximity to freeways, shopping, weather, the demographic, everything. The other neighborhoods with similar charateristics (and, thus, similar prices), are Montclair and Crocker Highlands. We never really considered Montclair as we liked the more ''neighborhoody'' feel of Rockridge and Crocker Highlands. We ultimately decided on Rockridge as we decided we wanted a new (aka fire re-build) house. If any of these three neighborhoods appeal to you, we loved our agent - Dee Knowland at Pacific Union. She knows EVERYONE and therefore knows what the ''word'' is on the houses and market. She is also practical and honest - if we walked into a house and it was awful, she'd say it before we did. Not that she wouldn't help to visualize what ''could be'', but, if it had irrepairable issues - like road noise, busy street, etc., she acknowledged it and wouldn't try to gloss it over. She is definitely an ''up-market'' agent - not a ''I won't touch anything-but-Piedmont'' person (like a couple of agents we talked to before meeting Dee), but, I wouldn't recommend her for anything below College Avenue or south of Park Blvd.

    As far as the market goes, from what we can see in our neighborhood, things have slowed considerably. But, high-quality, well-designed houses that are decently priced still move in a couple of weeks (versus days a year ago). Houses that are odd floor plans/designs and/or overpriced are just sitting there. And, even well-priced houses on the high-end (over $2 million in upper-Rockridge) seem to be sitting for some time (still selling - though below asking). So, from the perspective of a year or two ago, it is a buyers market now.
    Love Rockridge

    My friend Jodi Nishimura is a trustworthy, friendly and honest agent that will help you to buy or sell your property as if it were hers. She is a former teacher and a North Oakland resident, and she knows the market: she is very familiar with Oakland and Berkeley neighborhoods and schools. In addition, she is a great listener and she really cares about doing good work. Jodi works at Marvin Gardens on Solano Ave. and you can contact her at jodi[at] or 510.459.0471. Cristina
    I highly recommend Maison Nouveau in Berkeley in College Ave. Although we were looking and bought a place in Berkeley, they are also very familiar with Oakland. We used their services over 3 years ago, I think we were one of their first clients. We couldn't have been happier with them. We worked mainly with Heather Sittig, but her entire staff is great. She helped us find and make an appropriate offer on the type of house we always wanted, and didn't waste our time with anything above our max price. We bought an entry-level 2br/1ba and we were treated as well as I would expect someone who was buying a $1MM home at full commission would be treated. To this day, I think that the extra 1% boost to our offer won us the house against multiple other bidders (Maison Nouvea offers to charge only 2% instead of the typical 3% commission, as a buyer you can apply the extra 1% to your offer to give it a little boost- see their website for a full explanation) Their website is and their phone number is 510-849 -9900
    Happy house hunting - Susie
    I was fascinated to read the recommendations about the best places to live with kids in Oakland -- but I didn't notice anyone recommending Oakmore. When we were looking for a house 15 years ago we looked at Rockridge, Montclair, Redwood Heights... but wound up in Oakmore, and it's been a great place to have our children grow up. Oakmore is below hwy 13 off Park Blvd., above the Glenview neighborhood (which is also good for kids, with really active parents in Glenview Elementary).

    Oakmore has better access to freeways and AC transit than most parts of Montclair, but uses Montclair schools (Joaquin Miller, Montera, Skyline) and especially on the ''bay side'' of the hill is a quiet neighborhood with great walks, stunning views, easy access to the trails in Dimond Park, good neighborhood store, friendly feeling.

    And though the state of Oakland public schools is uncertain under state control, Skyline High is a great educational experience for many, many kids, has high-profile programs in arts, sports, and AP, and sends many well-scholarshipped students to prestigious colleges every year.


    Feb 2014

    Has anyone here lived in Jingletown? We already live in East Oakland but closer to the 580 instead of the 880. We have two kids but are in a charter school so we're not so worried about OUSD zoning. More concerned about how the neighborhood is - is it walkable? How is the air quality? Would you walk your dog after dark? thanks! x

    I have lived in Jingletown for 17 years and love it. There are a lot of dog walkers and it is safe. There is a feeling of family & community. A lot of long time residents. The only negative I would say is that they have street cleaning on Saturdays and Sundays but not an issue if you have a driveway or garage. It has been a very good experience for my family. JT Resident

    Leona Heights

    Sept 2008

    Re: Cheaper but safe enough neighborhoods
    We live in Oakland, in Leona Heights, between Edwards and Semanary - Houses are much less expensive here then in Berkeley, Rockridge, etc. The upside is that it is quiet, sunny and not much happening on the streets -on the downside we don't have many services - no stores, only one bus line that's very infrequent so it's not an area where people hang out - anon


    Sept 2012

    Re: Buying in the East Bay -- need advice!
    We bought about a year ago in the Longfellow neighborhood of Oakland with similar desires. Longfellow is on the other side of MLK from Temescal. I love it! We can walk to Emeryville and to the Temescal district, to MacArthur BART and Mosswood Park. Admittedly the neighborhood has some crime, and a few of our neighbors have random loud parties, but the price was right and for better or worse the neighborhood is definitely gentrifying. I'm quite certain with your price range you can find what you're looking for. Longfellow fan