Living in Orinda, CA
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Considering a move to OrindaFeb 2014
We are Berkeleyans, looking to buy a house. I read through the archives on what people had to say about Orinda and was concerned about the comments about the competitive, snobbish nature of the high school, and also about the feeling there is a significant segment of the population that is focused on materialism, manicures, test-scores, etc. and a bit oblivious about the rest of humanity. Still, we keep coming back to it because, man, they do seem to have roomy houses with pleasant, tree-lined back yards! There have been no comments since 2011. Does anyone want to try to convince me moving to Orinda isn't too scary? Any thoughts would be appreciated, good or bad. Befuddled in Berkeley
I grew up in Orinda and now live in Berkeley and have very mixed feelings about growing up there. I think I received a pretty good education but it was an extremely competitive and as you said, materialistic place to grow up. It's beautiful and safe but so wealthy and the high school is very sports-focused. If your kids are very academic and sports stars, it could be an amazing place. Feel free to reach out to the moderator for my contact info if you'd like to talk more.. Loving life in Berkeley
We moved to Orinda in 2011 from the other side of the tunnel. It was the right choice for us because of exactly what you described - we have a 2500 square foot, 4 bedroom house, on an acre of land, giant backyard for the kids, lots of sun, and the schools are wonderful. Absolutely there are times we feel like we don't fit in - yes materialism, yes stay at home parents who also have nannies, yes families with second homes in Tahoe or Hawaii, yes kids who already know 3 languages and play an instrument by age 8. But for us, and what our family needed, we are very happy. Our kids are in a wonderful public school with music, art, PE, technology, small class sizes, a teacher's aide in every class, on site after school care and on site after school enrichment. Kids have found friends at all different income levels and backgrounds who get along and have fun. Easy commute to Berkeley for work. Did I mention the abundant sunshine? Happy Lamorindan
We lived in Berkeley for 15 years before moving to Orinda last August. We love it and I am sorry we waited so long. Our kids are 9 and 12 and they love it too. There is so much space here, it is quiet, it is safe, and the people we've met have been so, so nice. We have a large yard with lots of birds, lots of neighbors with kids, a creek in the back, and my kids can wander on their own down to the school to play. I am so glad to be free of the constant traffic, crowding, and Berkeley attitude, which I found at times to be rather self- important, self-righteous, and sometimes anti-family. There is a grain of truth to the stereotype about shallowness and materialism and those kind of people and values are more noticeable in Orinda than they are in Berkeley. You will have to deal with them sometimes, but they definitely are the minority. anon
Anyplace you live is going to have all types of people and will ultimately be what you make of it. We moved through the tunnel to Orinda 2 years ago and are very happy here, but we were also very happy in Montclair before that. There are wealthy, competitive folks here, but there are similar people in every Bay Area community. There are also a lot of 2-parent working families who spend a lot of money on not-really-nice, but expensive, houses to be in this community.
My kids are in middle and elementary school, I cannot speak to the situation in high school. I imagine there is a lot of focus on grades, but that seems to be the situation everywhere. As to the materialism, there are kids here with a lot and other with not so much. Some kids work and those we have met and used as babysitters have a great work ethic and are eager to earn money. Other kids either do not have to or do not want to work. A lot depends on your kids, their group of friends, and the extent to which they notice and are affected by others having greater academic achievement or more money than them.
As to the issue of caring about others and the world, the kids here are no more or less absorbed in themselves than kids are anywhere else. Volunteering is encouraged through school, scouts, churches, and synagogues, and many kids participate. A fan of Orinda
Re: Moving/staying - Lamorinda vs Alameda
We moved from 'the other side of the tunnel' to Orinda this summer. We have a 2 year old and a 5 year old just starting Kindergarten, so we didn't have experiences with the schools in our old neighborhood. We moved in July, and until you get your first PG bill, you can't register for school. So at first we were redirected to a non-neighborhood school. We did get a space in our neighborhood school 3 days before school started, but I have met other families who have not been as fortunate or have split kids. I would say the best chance to avoid that is the timing of your move and when you register - if you can move before school ends here (1st week of June) you're more likely to get an assignment in your neighborhood. *Lots* of families move over the summer and spaces fill up quick.
As far as the move, we *love* it here. We have a bigger house, giant front/back yard, kids can run/play in the yard after school and on weekends w/o direct supervision. Before we lived on a street that had a nice sidewalk for running and biking but no way for the kids to play on their own. Very friendly families and many families with young kids. And it is sunny and warm when it is cool and foggy in Alameda. Happy with our move
I thought I'd share my perspective since you didn't get any replies from Orinda residents. Short answer is I don't think it matters which town you move to, they are very much integrated and most people living in the area travel between all three (maybe to Moraga less) regularly.
I am in Lafayette several times a week, getting groceries at Diablo Foods & for misc. other errands. I bump into preschool parents regularly and I've gotten to know shop keepers. I feel very much a part of the community in Lafayette and Orinda.
I live in the hills above the Orinda Country Club (moved here 5 years ago). With small children I went to the park a lot and got to know neighbors on our walks. I've found my neighbors (though sometimes hard to spot because of the hilly nature of the neighborhood) are friendly and open. I've had four tell me independently that we should feel free to stop by any time to use their yard (play structures, waterfalls) even if they're not home.
My kids go to TOPS (The Orinda Preschool) and because it's a coop I very quickly got to know other parents and felt a part of the community. We also joined a local swim club and we bump into neighbors and preschool families there all the time.
I'd consider what you want from a house long term - hills with a view - or flat with access to walkable shopping? No matter where you live, if you're open and friendly, you will quickly feel welcome and a part of things. This area is a lovely place to live and I feel so lucky to live here. Happy in Orinda
Hi, We live in Orinda, we have young kids, one in the early school years, and while we've felt so lucky to be in one of the 'best school districts in the country' we are starting to wonder if it is really the best for us. The schools do seem great, but there seems to be such a focus on competitive sports, holding kids back for kindergarten so they'll have an 'edge', overscheduling kids, and mostly white families with stay at home parents in some kind of business or finance. We are very liberal and feel somewhat out of step here. We do have some friends and love the safety and landscape, but we just don't feel connected to community. We are thinking about moving elsewhere, but wonder if the competitive sport/overscheduled kid is everywhere, and maybe we are just lucky to be here. We are thinking about Walnut Creek, Martinez, or Pleasant Hill with the hopes of finding a bit more diverse community in the area, but not sure if we will really notice a difference. Would appreciate any advice. anonymous
We raised our 3 kids in Orinda and I hear you about the competitiveness and over-scheduled kids. We used to joke that we were going to get run out of town because our kids were under-achievers. We stayed with our own values, resisted the temptation to do what everyone else was doing, and raised our kids to our standards. My advice is not to move away to escape that attitude, but rather use it as a way to teach your kids that not everyone has to be the same. As far as the lack of diversity, there's not much you can do about that. Orinda is pretty white-bread. So if you really feel your kids will benefit from a more diverse community, then perhaps a move is in order. BTW - all 3 of our kids have turned out fine, perhaps more successful than some of their over-achieving classmates. Been There
Communities are different. I lived in Russian Hill in SF, they hated kids there. I know people in Palo Alto and lived there several years-- they want the best for their kids, but there is a destructive side to that as well. We live in Oakland, and as a commenter posted on sfgate, there are not many snobs in Oakland. And not as many resources as one would like, either. But look before you leap, our friend lives in Walnut Creek and laments that her unruly 5th grader is about to enter an unruly middle school. You are lucky to be able to choose, so please take your time. Maybe you should visit your destination cities and spend a lot of time shopping, eating out, going to the park and neighborhoods, visiting the schools (if possible) and see if you really do like them better. anon
If you want diversity, a mild climate, good schools, and friendly neighborhoods, take a good look at Alameda. I think it's a little less expensive than Orinda - and you will be much less dependent on a car since most neighborhoods are walkable with access to public transportation if you want it. Some people are more down-to-earth than others, of course, and old-school Alamedans can be very conservative - but there are a lot of young families here now. The schools are challenged for funding - but despite a very low per-pupil expenditure, AUSD turns out a lot of excellent, accomplished students.
I grew up in the Tri-Valley corridor and when I left, it was like a weight came off my shoulders. Not to bash it, because it's beautiful and everyone is so damn good-looking, but not a lot of depth there. ...happy on the flats
I would probably feel the same as you - also not a fan of overscheduling, crazy sports, etc. We've lived in Albany for a few years now and just love it. It's not like that at all, and a wonderful community with great public schools - walking everywhere as well! If you want the big house you can get in other areas it may not be for you, but just wanted to voice that it doesn't have to be like that! Good luck with your decision!
Hi fellow Orindian~ We, too, are living in Orinda mostly because of the fantastic schools, parent and community involvement in the schools and opportunities. Moved here from San Pablo/Pinole and Berkeley and consider ourselves on the liberal side of the fence as well. We have a 1st grader in one of the 4 great elementary schools here. Well, I just let all the 'yummy mummies' get on with their shopping, lunch dates at the country club, expensive pool memberships, expensive cars and on-going kid schedules and I try to stay focused on myself and my family. Yes, not very diverse of a town, but we create diversity in our lives by the people we hang with, the places we go and the things we discuss. My child seems grounded and well-aware of who he is. I mostly work from home, but make lots of sacrifices to do so--for sure, it ain't easy. And I would love to meet with another lib mom in white Orinda. Let's get together and chat . . . s
While I don't think you're wrong for your own feelings, I don't think that moving will necessarily make anything better. You need to do what's best for your own family and and not be so concerned with what other parents are doing. I also live in the Lamorinda area but I guess I don't view it the same. I can tell you as someone that's lived in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Europe it's not any different anywhere else. Kids being overscheduled, kids being held back from Kindergarten, etc. It's just the times we live in and my guess is that most parents are just trying to do their best. I can't comment on the the race of the people surrounding you or what career paths they've taken, or whether the moms choose to stay at home or not (frankly, it sounds terribly judgmental), but that's just what you'll generally find in wealthy, educated towns with good, well funded schools. It's a little strange to me that you feel 'out of step' in terms of the political landscape since Orinda is one of the more liberal leaning towns so I doubt you'd find it more so in Walnut Creek, or even Pleasant Hill.
Hopefully you can find peace wherever you land (or whether you feel you must move)..but you should also try to be more open minded and less critical of others and consider how other people's life choices impact your own beliefs. lisa
No, you are not crazy. If you can, try to see the film 'Race to Nowhere' -- made by a Lafayette mom. It is an excellent documentary about the detrimental effects of our achievement oriented society and how this is hurting children. You can google the film title and see where it is showing next. It is an amazing film, and I think all parents should see it. Besides the heartbreak I felt for the children profiled in the film, my primary feeling after seeing it was relief . . . relief that my children are still young enough for me to do things differently for them. It is great that you are questioning the ultra competitive, never-ending, quest to 'get ahead.' Your children will thank you!
I share in your feelings. We lived in Berkeley/Oakland before moving to Orinda (for the schools) and I to say I hate it here. (I'm really embarrassed and reluctant to say I'm from Orinda.) Parents here are very competitive and what I hate the most is many of the moms are completely fake to me they are like grown-up cheerleaders. (I can't wait to get out of here.) My kids have had a hard time too. Many of the families who move here only stay a few years, either the parents get transferred, take a new job out of the area or they find they can't afford to live here. This has been really hard on our kids too. Just as they are getting close and becoming good friends the family moves away.
On the plus side our house value has quadrupled in price over the past 10 years, the schools and teachers for the most part are outstanding, and the amount of money the parents raise for the schools to good but it's an obscene amount of money. And then there's the amount of money spent on the seniors for grad night. (The amount of money spent on Grad night is enough to put 1 or 2 students through 4 years of college. Another plus for Orinda is there's very little petty crime here, but the crimes that are committed which are few tend to be quite serious.
Our family is also quite liberal, environmentally friendly and do volunteer work in Oakland/Richmond and Berkeley. While we feel good about the things we do, it is frowned upon by our peers. And then there's the issue of race and religion. If you've lived here I'm sure you have experienced it, it's dreadful.
They only reason I'm tolerating Orinda is because I want my kids to receive the best education they can receive. I don't think Oakland, Berkeley, Lafayette or Walnut Creek schools can compete with Orinda's schools.
We thought about moving to Lafayette, and it's almost the same as Orinda, but they know they are not Orinda so they are the Want-to-bes as is Walnut Creek. To me there is something more genuine and honest about the people who live in Berkeley and Oakland. The competitiveness just doesn't seem to exist there. We still have a house there and as soon as our youngest graduates, we're selling and moving back. SO no, I don't think you are crazy at all. It's the people who live in Orinda who are obsessed and fake who are the crazy ones. anonymous
I understand all of the points you mentioned. I'd like to suggest that you look for a home in the San Ramon Unified School District. My 3 grandsons go to school there. It is Very different from Orinda - very ethnically mixed; sports are not the ultimate, responsible, well-rounded kids are; the schools teach the kids, not send it home for you to do with them. High accountability for grades - which are posted for each kid/parent to view (their own) within 48 hours of turning in any assignment/test. Kids are encouraged to find and pursue their passions - I have a tennis player, a sax player, and a scientist!! Very few stay- at-home parents, the schools are geared towards working parents, lots of diversity all around. anonymous
Short answer... yes.
I realize this is a very personal question so the answer will be different for different people. But when I think about the reasons I moved here and how lucky I feel to be here, I can't imagine choosing to leave - despite the downsides of Orinda (which aren't many).
You mention parents who hold their kids back to gain an edge. I wonder if you're reading into things too much. Personally, I kept my September birthday child out of school to give her an extra year of childhood and an extra year of being home with me. I think a good education is great, but am not hell bent on my kids getting into Ivy Leagues because of the many I know who did attend Ivy Leagues, most are still in debt and few seem to be living happy lives.
Sport obsessed: maybe. But there are plenty who are not. Personally we love swimming because it feels good, but are not interested in competing. We love hiking, and we love biking. Orinda is great for all of these things. We also love gardening, and with the acre lots here, Orinda is perfect for that, especially native plant lovers like myself, with so many native species thriving here, plants and animals.
I can not imagine giving up my valley oaks, my views of hills, the fresh air, and the space and quiet.
You said you don't feel a part of the community. I wonder if maybe you could become more involved by finding activities you enjoy. For me it helped to go to the library often, get involved with gardening, meeting people at the nursery, taking walks & getting to know neighbors, joining a local club, and being friendly.
It took awhile to make friends, and we have friends with different values than we do, which surprised me at first. When we lived in Oakland & Berkeley all our friends were the same as us. Now we have friends who are much more 'mainstream' and are far more 'overachieving' than we have any interest in being. We find their company stimulating & challenging - something we enjoy. We still have our liberal friends, but we've branched out a bit.
Finally you complain that people here are either stay at home parents or in some sort of business. There you have me stumped, I'm not sure what you want people to be doing with their time if those to things are not cool with you. I'm a part time stay at home parent as well as a business owner. I guess you'd be doubly troubled by me.
It sounds to me like maybe something is missing your own life and you're aiming blame in the wrong place. Maybe taking a look at what you can do in your own life to make yourself happier: make new friends? take up a new hobby? get a new job? visit neighboring towns (shop, buy groceries, check out the parks & libraries in the prospective towns you mentioned) see if some of the shine wears off once you're spending more time in these places.
I find it hard to believe you won't have other issues pop up soon enough where ever you move. Make the community you want where you are, and be happy with what you have. That's my advice. Orinda Isn't the Problem!
First of all, if you're not happy in a place other people are happy that doesn't mean you're crazy. It just means it isn't a good fit.
I will say, not in a critical way, that what you are looking for sounds like the holy grail of cities that doesn't totally exist in the Bay Area. You want excellent schools, safety , diversity, a liberal environment. I think you need to decide what tradeoffs you're going to make.
I live in Moraga after having lived in most of my life in Berkeley, SF, and Oakland. We don't do the competitive sports, don't belong to a swim club, etc. We are liberal. Sounds like your kids are pretty young, so it might be a matter of giving it time to find your groove. As we have moved through the years here, I have found more and more people like me. It just takes a little time. Also, I keep in close contact with my other friends through the tunnel. I realize my entire life doesn't have to center on my zipcode.
Regarding Orinda itself, we avoided it when looking for a home out here. I have friends in Orinda and a good friend who has worked at both Miramonte and Campolindo high schools. What I have noticed, experienced, and heard pretty much matches what you said about the town. When we moved out this way, Orinda was at the bottom of our list. Lafayette was at the top, Moraga in the middle. I do find Moraga to be a little more down-home that Orinda, but we certainly have our share of uptight, helicopter parents, that's for sure. I just avoid them and in doing so, I've found a nice group of moms--some working, some stay at home--to keep me sane.
So, I can't advise to move or not move. I'm just not sure what you're looking for exists.
Moving may not help--I think that the issues you've listed (competition, overscheduling, wealth, lack of diversity) are endemic to top-notch school districts, and I presume that's what you would be looking for in a move. We have been in Orinda for three years now: before that we lived in San Diego, and before that in western New York.
We left NY when our son had just started kindergarten, but I know at least one child from his small preschool who was held back a year to mature more. We signed our son up for various sports so he could try them out, and quickly discovered that he was already behind at the age of four, since he didn't have parents that had been throwing balls to him in the back yard since he could stand up.
When we arrived in SD, I was shocked to see the moms in my son's kindergarten class arriving to pick up their children: expensively dressed, fully made up, and sitting around discussing the merits of the various spas in town. (They have been known around our house ever since as the 'spa chicks.')
Here in Orinda, some of my kids' friends do live in gated mansions with stay-at-home moms. Others have two working parents and live in modest houses (like us). You don't see as much of the working moms, because we're at work and not constantly volunteering at the school, but we do exist! It may vary from one part of Orinda to another, but I've found the parents at our school to be very warm and welcoming. I don't usually discuss politics, but based on the yard signs I've seen during elections, there are a lot more liberals here than conservatives.
What's more important is what you make of your situation. You don't have to overschedule your kids, or sign them up for ultra-competitive sports. We belong to a swim club, but our kids are not on the swim team--we just like to hang out there on hot summer evenings and use the barbecue and pool. Our son is involved in one sport, which practices twice a week, and he's not on the competitive team. Our daughter is probably bordering on overscheduled, but she likes it that way and wouldn't dream of dropping anything. Edna
I read all the responses to your question with great interest (some were a little extreme and judgmental) because I have similar feelings about South Walnut Creek. I wish you had said how long you've lived in Orinda. We moved here last summer because our oldest was starting kindergarten. My husband and I had lived in SF for over 10 years (and NYC before that). I am having some major adjustment issues. I will say that WC is a bit more diverse in terms of socioeconomics and possibly a tiny bit less white than Orinda, but not enough to uproot your family for. We couldn't afford Orinda, so we never looked there, but in hindsight, I'm glad we're here and not in so called 'lamorinda' area. It's still hard: the giant SUVs, the insular thinking, the cultural vacuum. Believe me, I could go on here, but bottom line for me is that my kids were better off here day one. If I do not buy in to the competitive sports and the materialism etc., my kids are not likely to either. I have faith that I'll find real friends out here that appreciate more of the things I do, and that I'll adjust to and enjoy what is here for us. Lots and lots of very nice people and kids and open space and good schools. So, no, you aren't crazy, but I say stay put and make it work for you. The grass is always greener
We're considering moving to Orinda for the schools. Can anyone give me some input on the different neighborhoods in Orinda? I hear about Sleepy Hollow, Glorietta, Del Rey, Country Club, and all the others but have no idea about the ''personalities'' of these areas or of the different elementary schools. We like wooded areas with trees and deer, and don't like housing developments or planned community types of areas. Thanks! Lisa
If you haven't already, be sure to read the replies to similar questions. About a year ago I wrote a long one you can find if you search ''Liberal areas of Orinda or Lafayette?''
I can only really speak for my neighborhood. I live near St Stephens Church (north of 24) but realtors still call this ''country club'' - we are about a mile from OCC. We are in the Sleepy Hollow Elementary district, but up in the hills, with lots of deer, oaks, and views. FYI - lots of rats too! No one warned us about that part of living in the hills!
We've lived here for just over 4 years now and I know quite a few neighbors by now. Almost everyone is very friendly and warm. Having two little talkative kids helps I'm sure. We get invited into their homes and gardens frequently when we take walks, and I've learned we have a professor of botany and a master quilt maker on our street as well as two CFOs. Because of the hills it can be a little hard to meet people, but there are many devoted walkers and you will slowly get to know people if you spend time out on your land (weeding, most likely) or walking around yourself. Most of our neighbors are in their late 40's through age 70+ as well as a few teens, and many children 12 and under.
Our neighborhood has a somewhat funky mix of old ranch homes (built in the 50s) and older cottages- some updated, some not, as well as many with recent major renovations. Most people seem very down to earth, intelligent, friendly, but also generally private and respectful of others time/privacy.
It would be hard to put a personality on this neighborhood, but I see lots of creativity in landscaping (natives/drought tolerant), tasteful renovations, solar power, as well as a tendency to be understated. Subtle rather than flashy about home improvements, etc. Most people seem to be very family oriented, coming home to have dinner together (we get the most traffic on our street around 5:30PM) and helpful: neighbors offering tools, tips on plants, offers to help with childcare in an emergency, etc.
I've also noticed that the children and young adults I meet who attend the local schools are all very polite, thoughtful, confident, comfortable speaking with adults, and intelligent. When I take walks in the neighborhood, often I won't notice a kids or teens in their yards, but very often they will call out ''hello'' as I walk by - I used to be surprised by this, my prior experience being that kids always sulked away and ignored adults.
I feel very at home here in Orinda and I love where I live. It did take me awhile to feel part of the community here because of the large lots and hills and trees making it harder to see and meet neighbors, but this is a beautiful, peaceful place to live and I feel very lucky to be here. Happy in Orinda
Hi, My husband and I have always lived on the west side of the Caldecott Tunnel. We have always enjoyed the great restaurants, shopping, and a sense of community, whether this is taking a stroll on College Ave or checking out the Gourmet Ghetto in North Berkeley. Now that we have a baby, we started thinking about schools and yard--hence moving to the lamorinda area. Since both of us work on the west side of the tunnel, Orinda would be our best choice. There are quite a few neighborhoods in Orinda--Ivy Drive, Del Rey, Orindawoods, OCC, Glorietta, etc. I am familiar with the general population demographics of Orinda. Our goal is to try to raise our child to be as down to earth and self sufficient as possible. I would really appreciate any advice you could give about the neighborhoods, of course, recognizing these are generalizations. Also, we are Asian Americans--how diverse are the schools (k-12)? Thanks so much! potential lamorinda resident
We moved to Orinda last summer with seven and three year old boys. I'm a Japanese and my husband is a Caucasian. Our older son goes to Wagner Ranch and we've been happy there. We wanted to avoid Sleepy Hollow Elementary area(not that we had a choice since that neighborhood is the most expensive area)as we heard those are the neighborhood that fits the stereotypical rich family neighborhood. Orinda is a very small community (pop 17,000) and doesn't seem like many things have changed since the 50s. When we moved in to our house, a neighbor across the street brought us a home baked cake and welcomed us. How quaint is that?? Unfortunately, it also manifests in a way such as there is only one preschool for toddlers that are available 5 days a week. The other schools are open only two days for three year olds and three days for four year olds. Very few mothers work, I suppose. Our younger one goes to a preschool in Lafayette. 85% of Orinda is white and that ratio is pretty much same in schools. However, I think that is going to be same in any good neighborhood school and that is the realty of California. We don't feel like we are an abnormal breed and feel totally assimilated. The families in the school seem to be quite down to earth at Wagner Ranch. Overall, we feel we made a good choice and are happy to be able to raise our kids in this community. shiho
Editor Note: an additional response about Lamorinda in general can be found here .
My husband and I are thinking of moving to Orinda or Lafayette for the schools but we're worried we won't fit in. We live in Berkeley now and fit in fine -- we wear jeans and T-shirts, have solar panels, shop at farmers markets, grow some of our own food, etc. From visiting Orinda and Lafayette it seems like people are more country-clubby. Is this true? Would we fit in? Are there areas in one town or the other where we would meet other people like us? Where? Need a new home
I live in the ''Country Club'' neighborhood of Orinda. I'm 35, my husband is 36. We mostly wear jeans and t-shirts, but I'm not sure what that tells you except we're sort of slobs (kidding). We sometimes shop at Temescal Farmer's Market ( a 10 min drive) although there are local farmers markets - we prefer the scene in Oakland. We get a weekly CSA box with a drop in downtown Orinda (TerrafirmaFarms). I didn't grow any food this year because having two kids under 3 makes it hard to get much done. We just had a consultation with a solar firm to install panels. To sum us up in a totally stereotypical way, we're former punk rock/grunge/skater/artists who happen to make a lot of money doing creative work. Both bay area natives, as adults we lived in Berkeley and Oakland (before we met) and then bought our first house in Alameda. We moved to Orinda for the space, the quiet, and the schools for the children we knew we'd have. We have a funky/artsy ranch house on 1/2 an acre with killer views of oak studded hills. We can't see our neighbors from our property and the loudest sound at night is the crickets. I really like that Rockridge/Temescal is just 10-15 minutes away, and I really like that I get to go home to a beautiful and peaceful place. daily say to myself: ''I am SO lucky to live in such a beautiful place.'' I sometimes miss the diversity (and restaurants of Berkeley/Oakland but the peace/beauty and school districts of Orinda sold us. Having a BART station where we can get parking and be in SF within 20 min is great too (no transfer needed!).
When I walk in my neighborhood I see solar panels on several of the homes I can see from the road. Most of my neighbors are older than us (ranging from mid 40's to their 70's+). They are friendly, and mostly dress quite casual. Several are retired professors, a few are artists and there are a few gay/lesbian families. There are also several CEO types (who I've found to be quite friendly) and there are many others I've never met. Most of our friends still live in Oakland, Alameda, and SF. I haven't met many women my age around here that I socialize with... but I haven't made a huge effort. I have met a couple neighbors I like a lot and one I now call a friend. I figure building a local social network will happen naturally over time, as my kids enter preschool. It hasn't been an urgent issue for me. I find people are mostly friendly when I smile and am friendly myself. I do run into a certain stereotype that irritate me: the self centered, overly manicured, rushed and rude types, male and female, who drive gas guzzlers and move so fast they might knock you or your toddler over (or run you down) if you're not careful. I take a deep breath & usually at least one other person in the crowd is rolling their eyes along with me.
I have no idea if some parts of town are more liberal than others. Mine seems pretty liberal (lots of Obama signs), but I don't hang out with my neighbors often. We're spread far apart from each other and we're a quiet hood. I mostly see the Lamorinda masses when I get my groceries at Trader Joe's or Diablo Foods in Lafayette, run an errand in Walnut Creek, or go to the library & park in Orinda. Most people here dress more conservatively than I do but that doesn't mean they don't shop at farmers markets, own solar panels, and grow their own food. It also doesn't mean they aren't liberal, friendly, kind, smart, and interesting, and it doesn't mean I won't like them. Do I feel like I ''fit in'' here? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. But I can't say I 100% fit in in Berkeley, Oakland, or Alameda. Have I ever felt the need to ''fit in?'' Not really. Good luck. Orinda isn't Berkeley. But for me that's a good thing. Happy in Orinda
I don't really have an answer to your question, but am interested in the answers you'll get, since we sound just like you and we just moved to Orinda. We're in the upper El Toyonal area, which we like to think of as practically being in Berkeley (the easiest way to get there is through Tilden Park). Apparently the El Toyonal hill is also referred to as ''hippie hill'' - so if you're considering Orinda, you might want to start there. Nearly all of the people we've met so far seem to be families that moved from Berkeley or Oakland almost exclusively for the schools. So far, I haven't met the country-clubby types, but when I do, I'm going to do my best not to make assumptions or unfair judgments about them (fair ones allowed, of course!). Good luck! happy in the hills
The archives are really strong on this question, I think. Several of the archived responses are from me, so I won't duplicate myself except to say: you'll fit in fine here, too.
No, Orinda isn't Berkeley -- Orinda is a small town, for one, and it's a lot less diverse in just about every way. But Orinda isn't Danville either -- Orinda is way more liberal and casual. So country club (or swim club) membership isn't required! Nicole R.
Single parent of 3 under 4 will be moving to Orinda in the next month or so (just a few blocks from Glorietta Elementary).
Kids are b/w mixed. Tell me everything there is to know about the area. I drove through it and it seems kid-friendly with parks (only one grocery store that I saw) but not very diverse from what I saw.
If we end up staying there, how tough will it be - will they be the ''different ones'' in their classes? I wanted the school district since I cannot afford private schools.
So, now that we will be going, I need to know from the people who know. What is it like to live in Orinda, both for me and for my angels? Where do I start to get them into some play activities and meeting other little ones? Anything you can share is so greatly appreciated. New to the area
Hi! I live in Orinda and I would say that it's not a very diverse community, though it can be open-minded. Glorietta is a good school and I think you'd find the people there more welcoming compared to a school like Sleepy Hollow. The park is nice and so is the Moraga Commons. Another way to meet people would be to come and try a Gymboree class - that would give you a good feel for the whole LaMorinda community. You can see the schedule and sign up for a free preview class at www.gymboreeclasses.com. Judy
We have lived in Orinda for 12 years. Both our kids attended Glorietta School. The good news: Glorietta has committed teachers, lots of parent support, a healthy school lunch program, music, art, a terrific musical (full length, costume and set changes), you name it. There is a great public library, near a nice park, and some good (but not great) local restaurants. Nearby Moraga has a wonderful park too (Moraga Commons). The Orinda Community Center has good classes for kids and adults, and runs a good sports program (soccer, baseball, basketball). It is very safe for kids to walk to school, ride their bikes in the neighborhood and so on. Tilden and Briones Parks are close by, with great hiking. So is the Lafayette Reservoir (which has great trails, paddleboats and a beautiful playground). The weather is perfect. The not-so-good-news: Orinda is not very diverse, racially or economically. There are lots of Asian families, and some Southeast Asian and Middle Easte! rn families, but very few Latino or African American families. And the wealth of the community, while a boon to the schools, also can make less well-off kids hyper-aware of that difference. There also are a lot of wealthy SAH Moms who have sublimated all their professional aspirations into raising the perfect child. The competitive parenting gets old, and working moms (like me) can be made to feel like pariahs. It can be difficult in Orinda to be different, especially for adolescents; the kids can be pretty cruel to the not-so-pretty-and-popular girls, or the geeky/non-athletic boys. In fact, we took both our boys out of the Orinda schools in middle school, and sent them to Oakland, where the mix of kids is different and more tolerant. No place is perfect, and Orinda has a lot to recommend it. Your kids will be fine at Glorietta. As time goes on, you will find a community of like-minded families. But don't be surprised if you feel out of the mainstream if you work, aren't rich, and have kids who are different. An Orindan
There is pretty good information (including some of my previous remarks) in the archives at: http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/housing/orinda.html
We've been living here since 2000, and with a son since 2005, and although we were initially scared that it would be conservative and snobby, it turns out that it's not -- and we love it. My friend who also lives here, with a son who is half Filipino, told me just yesterday how ''blessed'' she feels to be living in such a beautiful, friendly, positive environment. My neighbor, a Cal chemistry professor, just told me that he while he wouldn't want to visit Orinda, he loves living here. So don't judge it until you've lived here for a while -- there are so many benefits.
Orinda isn't lily-white, exactly, but there are few African-Americans -- so welcome; we're glad to have you! The town is politically pretty liberal (lots of former Berkeleyites). If you're interested in the specific ethnic composition of Glorietta Elementary, you can look at their Web site.
With preschool-age kids, you'll want to check out the great activities offered at the community center, which is by the main park and the excellent library. Orinda is VERY kid-centered and I have found it easy to make friends that way.
Welcome to the neighborhood! Nicole R.
I am curious why you have identified Orinda. Orinda is largely a 2 parent family unit community. A healthy percentage (probably over 50) are SAHMs who are deeply, minutely involved in their kids' lives. This is both good and bad. There is alot that is wonderful about Orinda, such as its safety, its amazing schools, the public library that wants for nothing, the astounding array of activities available to children. But being brutally frank, your kids are going to be a-typical and stick out in a sea of blonde and Asian heads. If both you and your kids are strong enough to maintain your individuality and self esteem, life will be very, very good. If not, you probably will be miserable, a la the other poster who now lives in Lafayette and is looking at El Sobrante. Being a-typical myself, I have found my niche and am enjoying life in Lamorinda and have found people who think like me and share my values. But it took some time and I am an admittedly tough cookie. Former Berkeley resident anon
I moved to Orinda 4 years ago after 9 years in Berkeley. It took me some time to find my way, but now I like it and have a great group of friends. Orinda has both very wealthy people living a country club/black tie gala type of life, and middle class people living a fairly standard-issue suburban kind of life. The Glorietta neighborhood is mostly the latter.
Recent transplants from Berkeley/Oakland seem to make up a larger and larger part of the population. The people I've connected with well have mostly been from that group, as I am, or, interestingly, people who grew up here and moved back to raise their kids -- there are quite a few. When they were growing up, Orinda was quiet suburb with no pretentions.
For me, the key to finding people I connected with well was finding the community at Orinda Community Church, an open-minded, progressive church. For those like yourself with younger kids, the swim clubs are probably the main place to find other kids in the summer. Meadow is the one near Glorietta. It's pretty much all about swim team for many families in the summer. There are a couple of highly regarded preschools, (as I've heard, anyway -- I have teenagers.) TOPS is one, there are also a couple in the churches clustered on Moraga Way just south of Glorietta.
Orinda is not a racially diverse community, but I hope it will be welcoming to you and your angels. Drop me a note if you'd like to grab a cup of coffee, or need a teenage babysitter. Anne chillytoes
My husband, daughter aged 6, and I just spent one year in Orinda. We knew it would be temporary (long story). We are glad to be out of there. We have the added perspective that comes from my husband having grown up in the community.
Upside: geographical beauty, resource rich schools, safety. Nice rural feel, with deer and wild turkeys roaming through the backyard. Quiet. Nice park downtown. Small town feel in that you run into people you know at the movie theatre or coffee shop.
But we found some serious downsides. Some have to do with lifestyle (for example, you have to get in a car for everything, as very few areas are within walking distance to services, and neighbors are often spread out and have little opportunity to know each other). But those kinds of issues don't bother many people. What we found problematic was the incredible homogeneity (ethnicity and socioeconomic class), privilege, and absolute lack of awareness of same. I really disliked the sense of entitlement in the community, which was especially apparent in the school. The school had lots of good qualities (again, resource rich). But I don't know that the downsides in the schools really make up for those high API scores. The parents, as others have suggested, are over-the-top. A lot of academic pressure (in kindergarden!?!) and my daughter felt it. A pretty narrow idea of ''normal'' in terms of behavior and experience. And no awareness of how idiosyncratic these ideas are. Doesn't everybody go skiing in Tahoe? Spring break in Hawaii?. I felt quite alienated from the concerns and interests of most other parents, though I did run into a number of people who were dissatisfied with the narrowness of experience provided by the schools and sent their kids elsewhere, esp around the time of high school.
My husband's experience as a kid reflects all this: some things idyllic in terms of safety etc. but lots of social pressure around income, lots of competitiveness, and very limited range of experience and exposure to people who are different from you and your neighborhood. Stephanie
We have lived in Orinda for the past 7+ years, having moved here from San Francisco. Racially diverse? No. Open-minded? Yes. We moved here before my kids entered school and it took us awhile to meet people. Although there are many that live the 'country club lifestyle' there are just as many who do not. There are many positive things about living in this community. The schools are excellent -- Glorietta and Wagner Ranch were just named 'Distinguished Schools'. The parents support the schools through volunteering and fundraising. The downside is that many parents feel that they're getting 'a deal' in regards to sending their children to public school vs. private school. There is considerable pressure to contribute financially. Glorietta typically raises over 200K at their annual auction. So, the bottom line is that the community is likely to embrace you (whether black, white, green or purple), but you will be expected to 'pay your fair share' for your children's education. Incidentally, there used to be an Orinda Newcomer's Club. Not sure if it exists any more, but probably worth looking into. One last thought, the proximity to Berkeley and Oakland is a plus -- it's nice to be able to get out of Orinda every once in awhile. Finally Loving It
Orinda is not very diverse, but the few African-American kids we've met (one in each kids' grade) at Glorietta seem to be well-liked and involved in school activities. Glorietta in general is a very friendly, welcoming school. We moved here a year and a half ago, and people really went out of their way to introduce themselves and invite us to things.
As others have said, it is difficult to be a working mom at Glorietta--I feel much less involved with the school than I did at the kids' previous school (when I only worked part-time). They do have good before- and after-school care at Glorietta, which is available on a drop-in basis (no reservation required).
There is only one grocery store, as you noted, but Lafayette is a short drive away. Lafayette has Trader Joe's, Diablo Foods, and a bigger Safeway. And Berkeley really isn't that far, although the tunnel seems to be a psychological barrier for some :-) (we go to Berkeley Bowl once a week).
Social life (especially in the summers) revolves around the private swim clubs. Meadow is the closest to Glorietta, but we have not joined, due to the cost of annual dues. It's a little awkward when well-meaning friends keep asking if we're planning to join.
In short, I think you and your angels will be welcomed here. You won't find many people that look like you, but you will find many with the same values (education, education, education). New to Glorietta
With a bit of sadness we are leaving Berkeley for sunny Orinda (near the Ivy Drive neighborhood). I've looked through the UCBP web-site and wanted more specific information/thoughts than what was provided:
1) For those who have made the Berkeley to Orinda move was it difficult to adjust to a suburban environment? I am moving from a fairly busy neighborhood within walking distance of shops, library etc. to a somewhat remote looking area(from my perspective). Will I get lonely out there? I'm an active stay at home mom.
2) Is it a very conservative town or moderate (compared to Berkeley)? We are quite liberal.
3) My children don't watch a lot of television, will that be an issue in Orinda esp. as they get older(will we be out of the norm)?
4) I am Asian American, will I feel uncomforable there?
5) Are the public schools in Orinda as good as they say they are? Any specific thoughts on Glorrieta and Del Ray Elementary?
6) In general, are people friendly and accepting? Is it easy to make friends with neighbors or do people keep to themselves?
7) How hot does it really get? We are moving into a ranch house fixer with no a/c...are we crazy? Does any of that wonderful, cool fog creep over the hills into Orinda?
We move in a month and I'm scared about this huge transition from all the things I love about Berkeley. Mainly, I'm concerned about the urban to suburban transition. Thank you! Suburban living here I come!
Although I did not make the move from Berkeley to Orinda, I did make the move from SF several years ago (as my husband already lived in Orinda). Here's my two bits on your various questions:
1) I was a bit lonely for awhile, as I had no friends and no kids. I now have 2 kids and find it quite easy to meet people through kids' activities, at the park, etc.
2) I think there's a wide variety of political views here. Definitely more conservative than Berkeley, but frankly where isn't?
3) We don't have TV so my kids watch no television (they're quite young, though, so I'm not sure how this will play out). My personal feeling is that people, regardless of where they live, think anyone who does not have TV is almost nuts.
4) I do not think you'll feel uncomfortable here as an Asian American. In fact, that's probably the most represented ethnic group in this area (more so than African Americans or hispanics).
5) My kids are not yet in school, so I cannot give my personal experience, but I read the California state ratings every year and this past year every Orinda elementary schools scored in the 90's and each school (I believe there are 4) increased their score from a year ago.
6) My experience has been that people are very friendly and accepting. Orinda is not the monolith (I thought) of snobby people with money. There are elderly people, young families, older families, etc. I like the mix in my neighborhood and have found that my paranoia about the suburbs is mostly unfounded: people give each other privacy, but we do speak to each other (unlike my apt. building in the city).
7) We have A/C, but rarely use it. It does get about 10 degrees hotter on average than Berkeley and yes, we do get fog, although the further you are towards Moraga the less you get (I think).
Hope this helps. All in all, I still miss SF, the culture, the diversity, the restaurants, etc. but I am happy I am raising my kids here. Julie
I live in Moraga, but just in case you don't get much feedback on Orinda, I thought I would respond. Moraga and the Ivy Drive area of Orinda are quite similar.
Yes, this is the suburbs, so you will drive to most locations (shops, grocery stores). The schools you mention are excellent, and there is lots of parent support. There are many Asian families, and many, many stay-at-home moms.
Many people who move to Lamorinda are from Berkeley, Oakland, or SF, but many move here from other parts of the country as well, so I think it is fair to say that the politics are all over the place. I think most people are pretty moderate. I do notice that politics rarely comes up in conversation, probably because most people figure there are a wide variety of opinions. In Berkeley you can make some general assumptions about people's political views, but not in Lamorinda.
As far as meeting people, there is the Lamorinda Mom's Club if you have pre-schoolers, otherwise you will hopefully find some like-minded people through your child's school, joining a pool club or church, etc. Your neighbors may have kids your age, or they may be in their 70's.
And, of course, the most important question - do you need AC?!?! Most houses were built without it, and we lived here for 4 years before we put it in. Many realtors say ''you don't need AC in Lamorinda'', but it seems most people end up putting it in at some point. There will probably be between 10-20 days/year where your house might feel pretty warm, depending on how much shade you have. So, if you can stick it out for those days, you will be fine!
There is no question - the ''pros'' for Berkeley are the ''cons'' for Lamorinda, and vice versa. Luckily you will be close enough to hopefully be able to go back and forth quite frequently! SherryH
1) We moved from Rockridge (near 63rd and College) to Orinda 6 years ago. Some things about suburbia are less than optimal. You do need a car to go to the market, you can't walk up the street to pick up some milk or a latte. There's a great library in Orinda, but it's a drive, not a walk away. There are many active SAHMs around, so you're unlikely to be lonely.
2) Anyplace in the US is going to seem moderate if not conservative compared to Berkeley. You can find ultra-conservatives as well as liberals here. People may not be as outspoken about their politics here as they are in Berkeley, but I'm fairly liberal and have found many others who share my views. In addition I'm quite friendly with some very conservative foks. We have many other things in common and just don't discuss politics. It's not that big a deal.
3) I know several households who disallow television. We disconnected our cable for the summer (and there's no reception out here in suburbia, so our kids can't find anything to watch even if they try). Like anywhere, there are some people who have the tv on all the time and others who don't watch it at all. I don't think there's a huge difference on this one between Berkeley and Orinda.
4) There are many Asian Americans here, but many more Caucasians. I don't know if you'd feel uncomfortable. There certainly aren't many other ethnic groups out here, which is a negative.
5) My kids go to Del Rey. They love it. I love it. I think it's a great school with a great staff and very involved parents. I have a few friends who send their kids to private schools west of the tunnel. Their views differ from ours.
6) In general people are friendly. In the hillier neighborhoods people aren't on the street as much and may keep to themselves more. The Ivy Drive neighborhood has tons of kids and families and has a nice friendly feel.
7) It can get way hot. Look into joining the Moraga Valley Pool (on Risa Rd. near OIS), Meadow pool (Heather Lane closer to Glorietta), or another pool. You can always cool off there. The parks in Orinda and Moraga have water play areas. Sprinklers in the back yard can entertain the kids for hours Even when it bakes in the summer it usually cools off at night (the fog does come in frequently), though there have been some nights in summers past when we've all gone outside to sleep because the house is still baking. Overall, content in Orinda
I grew up in Orinda from the age of 10 until I left around the age of 18 (which wasn't soon enough in my opinion! so note I am already slightly biased!). I will try and answer your questions that you asked, the ones I can answer anyway.
1) Orinda is a very conservative town. Mostly Republican. But my mom was pretty liberal, as were many of her friends. So there definitely cool people there. In particular, there is ''hippie hill'' which is the hill that El Toyanol runs through on the north side of town I think. A larger number of Democratic types live there. But overall, pretty conservative. In fact a neighbor of mine and her family moved there and lasted six months. They hated it. Too conservative, not friendly enough, etc. They moved to Mill Valley!
2) Not so sure about the TV thing. I grew up watching a fair bit of TV. Maybe the issue here is conformity? You are concerned your kids will not fit in because they can't converse in TV language? Well, conformity is a big issue there. I felt it more in terms of having designer clothing, a brand new car at 16, and other ''stuff''. I grew up in the ''rich'' part of town and remember (with much embarassment) looking down at the kids from the ''wrong side of the tracks'' (the Ivy Drive side). So dumb. I tried for years to fit in and be popular, and finally gave up. Lots of social pressure to conform for sure.
3)When I lived there in the 1970s, there were maybe three African American kids at my high school, and a few more Asian Americans. I think there are a lot more now (Asian Americans that is; don't know about the former) so that probably won't be an issue.
4) My parents moved there ''for the schools''. I guess they test well. But I can tell you that I got good/decent grades fairly effortlessly, and when I went to UC Berkeley, I was totally slammed. I was not prepared at all for that level of learning and to this day resent it. My husband on the other hand went to some prep school back east and found Berkeley ''easy''. HMM. And again, the social pressures are pretty harsh. I really did not have a good high school experience, but all in all I got a fine education and if you an involved parent, I'm sure your kids will too.
5)We lived on a block where all the kids knew each other. The parents knew each other too but didn't really socialize like they do where I live now. The houses/lots are bigger so its hard to get to know people that way (versus where I live in Oakland with teeny lots, and so we are in the front a lot and know everyone). We belonged to a swim/tennis club so my parents at least got to know a lot of people that way (and my mom is very social so it was easy for her). The Community Center wasnt' there when I lived there, and there were a lot less offereings (Orinda wasn't a city yet). There are some cool groups that I remember my mom joined, and if you are interested in what they were, I could find out for you (just email me).
6) It can get hot there, but the fog does creep over and it is probably the coolest of the burb towns. To be honest, I can't even remember if the house I grew up in had AC. But it is definitely hotter there than here.
I'd be glad to chat with you more about it if you like or if you have any questions. Hilary
Regarding your move to orinda. I moved here from Oakland. You will probably find it more conservative in some aspects. It is a small bedroom community and the people are very friendly. As far as the temp. You'll find it warmer, but it does not get nearly as bad as lafayette or Walnut Creek. There are lots of other Asian Americans that live here and in Moraga. You won't be within walking distance from shops, but the up side is that there is plenty of parking and once in the Village area you can walk anywhere to do your erands. There is a nice little park for kids, and a great community center and library. I've been here a year, and am now a new mom, and worried about being isolated as well. I am trying to find a mom's group or meet other stay at home mom's at the park. Good Luck. I'd be happy to show you around if you want. Ricki
Though I do not live in Orinda, I am an Asian living in Lafayette I thought I would add my 2 cents about living in the area. We moved from Berkeley simply because we could not afford a house there and we found one in Lafayette that we could! We do not have A/c, and for the most part it is just fine. There are days that we wish we had it but that would add up to about 1 week/10 days a year (if that). We have small children and no TV. Most people think it's wonderful and wish they had the will power. My kids keep up with the Disney/Blues Clues/Sesame Street and whatever is the ''in'' thing via books from the library. It helps that we go to a pre- school that tends to attract a diverse range of families, many of whom are liberal and involved in community and politics. As for the Asian American issue - there's tons of us in Lamorinda! Culturally Asians tend to be more conservative politically so no surprise that many Asians I have met are rich conservative, Republicans who have their children signed up for math enrichment! anon
Re: Family-friendly and more liberal Lamorinda 'hoods
We've lived in the neighborhood around Del Rey Elementary school in Orinda since 2000 -- first renting for two years to see how we liked it, and then buying a home. We were afraid it would be too country-clubby and elitist, but at least out here in south Orinda folks are mostly unpretentious and tolerant. I get a definite sense of the ''community'' and ''neighborly'' environment you say you're looking for -- along with a big yard, a medium-sized house, strictly limited development, and some of the best schools in California.
Here in the Donna Maria Way area we have an annual block party where we meet everyone, and so nearly every time we walk the dog or stroll down the street to the school playground we get greetings from friendly neighbors. We've been to dinner and children's birthday parties with our neighbors; when our son was born, three neighbors stopped by with gifts. As far as ethnic diversity, our neighborhood has families of Latino, Asian, and Indian descent, but sadly it isn't as diverse as the Bay Area's more urban areas. (You can look at the school's Web site to see the ethnic breakdown for students.) However, we do have families with kids of all ages, from infant to teen, as well as many retired people, so there's age diversity.
Politially Orinda is the most liberal of all the ''over-the-hill'' communities of Contra Costa County, consistently voting Democrat -- you can look up voting maps online to see! On our street sometimes you'll pass five hybrid cars parked (if you count ours), and there's only one Hummer and one Escalade. Another point people forget is that Orinda is much closer to the East Bay than to Walnut Creek. When traffic is agreeable, we can drive to Rockridge in ten minutes, which is also only one BART stop away.
Good luck in your search for a home! Nicole R.
Re: What neighborhoods do young families tend to move to? We moved to Orinda from a great East Bay neighborhood. Sad at first we quickly realized that yes, it is warmer(nice), the yards are huge(houses smaller), lots of young liberal families and the schools are great. Luckily, the neighborhoods, friends and shopping I love in Berkeley and Oakland are NOT far from Orinda (maybe 10 minutes). I get my urban fill and then drive back to peaceful, safe(we often forget to lock our doors) and quiet Orinda.
The schools here are nothing less than great. You quickly realize that buying a house here pays off in the end (compared to mortgage + private school tuition). Also, the schools are much more diverse than I originally thought.
The families are cool, like I said, MANY have moved from Oakland, Berkeley or SF to be here. Yes, there are quite a few older more conservative people, but many of them are selling and moving into retirement homes making way for younger families.
We live in the Ivy drive neighborhood, which is close to all three schools my children will attend all the way to high school. It's a lot ''easier'' going than some other parts of Orinda (Downs, Sleepy Hollow). Join your neighborhood pool club and meet even more families in your area and or Elem. school.
Lafayette is also a great town, but I don't know enough about the neighborhoods to tell you anything
Happy I moved
Re: Worried about exclusivity if I move to Lamorinda
I could have written your post last year when we were still house-hunting. We moved to Orinda exactly one year ago, and we're very happy here, despite the fact that I literally cried when we left our beloved Rockridge. I understand your fears (they were mine, too!) but they are largely myths. Let me debunk a few - or at least give my perspective. Orinda (or Lamorinda in general) is not the moneyed country club scene you fear. Yes, there's a country club in town. I'm sure some people belong to it, or it wouldn't still be in business. But I don't know any of them. The folks I have met are interesting, down-to-earth, outgoing, kind-hearted and generous. When we told friends in Oakland/Berkeley that we were thinking of moving here, we heard again and again that Orinda was insufferably snobby and conservative. I can't tell you how far that is from the truth, in my experience. I've just saw some recent demographic info and learned that registered democrats now outnumber registered republicans in Orinda.
At home in Orinda
We lived in Berkeley for ten years, then moved to Orinda in 1996, when our oldest son (then 4, now 13) was starting kidergarten. Our nine years in Orinda have been a mixed experience, but mostly good. Yes, there is a lot of money in Orinda, and the affluence affects a lot of things. The schools have great resources, and committed parents who spare nothing (and I mean nothing) to provide the best for their kids. The constant fund-raising gets old, and the over-the-top auctions are case studies of conspicuous ego-driven spending. But you can't quarrel with the resulting flush budgets, and what that allows the schools to do. And the elementary schools are really great places to learn and grow. On the other hand, the affluence and privilege make for a pretty brutal middle school experience; girls compete to out-dress each other, and the pressure to perform (academically, athletically, socially) makes for a pretty intolerant culture that is intolerable for unusual kids.
Re the social scene: Don't worry that you didn't do preschool in Orinda; the elementary schools are where most Orinda family relationships are built. The SAH moms bond well and strongly. Groups of women drop their kids off at school and then walk together for exercise. There are endless opportunities to work in the school (lunch program, musical productions, field trips, working in the classroom) and connect with the parents in the school community. But if you ever opt to be a working mom (as I am), prepare to feel marginalized. School activities/events tend to involve mid-day meetings or contributions that working parents cannot make. And I don't think I am imagining the subtle judgment I feel from some of the SAH moms in Orinda for my choice to work.
Re neighborhoods: North of 24 is more affluent; south of 24 is more mixed (mixed in Orinda, of course, being a relative term). The school with the craziest Get-Your-Kid-Into-Harvard-at-10 parents is Sleepy Hollow. The most relaxed and creative schools are Glorietta and Del Rey. We are at Glorietta, which was pretty good for our oldest and with more recent innovations has been wonderful for our youngest (now 9). Other neighborhood considerations: The hills largely dictate how much neighbors see each other, how much kids ride bikes, and so on. The areas around Del Rey school tend to be flatter and lend themselves to riding bikes to school and in-the-street playing, though there are some great neighborhood-y streets (Park Lane Drive, Martha Road, Darryl Road, Meadow Lane) around Glorietta too.
Good luck. An Orinda mom
Maybe I'm not a good judge of other Orindans, since I don't know that many, but in the five years I've lived in Orinda I haven't found it to be snobbish. But then my husband and I literally have no friends who live here (since we are happily self-contained, this is by choice). I'm 35 and am expecting our first child in September; he's 41. I do know that people here are friendly, much more so than when I lived in a rental neighborhood in El Cerrito, but we don't socialize beyond brief chats while walking our dogs.
So I don't find it to be ''exclusive,'' if by that you mean, ''Do you feel excluded?'' I don't feel we stand out, despite being former punk rockers, anti-conspicuous consumption (my husband drives a 1994 Honda Civic), and politically liberal--we are white and relatively wealthy, however. We live in south Orinda (which is not the Country Club side of town) in the Moraga del Rey area (surrounding Del Rey School), and there's no sign of snobbishness on our street, despite the million-dollar ranch houses. We did wonder about bringing our son into a perceived culture of wealthy entitlement, but figured all parents have to teach their values at home. Orinda's Not Blackhawk
I made the move from Montclair to Orinda myself just last year, and for the same reason: schools and a yard. So many of our neighbors made the move at the same time we did with the same goals in mind. We are very pleased with our new town. However, I am biased as I am one of those you mentioned that grew up in the area and have returned. There is a reason, what a fabulous place to have a family and, most importantly, to be a kid. Virtually all events & activities in the Lamorinda area are centered around families. One more thing about returning to the area, I hardly see anyone I grew up with so I've made all new friends through getting to know our neighbors.
My neighbor & friend Molly Smith (who introduced us to practically everyone) is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Orinda. She grew up in Orinda and knows the area very well. She specializes in working with families and people buying in the Lamorinda area for the first time. Molly's children are in preschool and 1st grade so she is a great person to talk with regarding the schools, neighborhoods, activites and getting to know people. Her contact information is:
Molly Smith Coldwell Banker molly[at]mollyslist.com
Hope this is helpful! Julie
I moved to Orinda from Southern CA in March of this year. I have mixed feelings about the area and some common sense advice to offer from my own experience. Please email me directly if you are interested in following up. bune
Re: African-American in Lamorinda
My family moved to Orinda from Berkeley last May. We are all white, so I can't comment directly on the experience of people of color here. But I'm sorry to say I can confirm the lack of diversity. When my daughter started at the middle school here, she complained that all the girls were tall and thin and blond. She has since made good friends, and they seem to be really nice girls, but I confess that I sometimes have a hard time telling them apart.
The area has some great qualities, though. From what we have seen with kids in elementary and middle school, the schools are quite good. There is a great small town feel, and you often see middle school kids out on their own at the movies and at restaurants like Nations hamburgers, and at the pool in the summer. I think it is a good place for teens because they can have some early freedom here (like I had when I was growing up) and then, when they are older, can get into Oakland and Berkeley and SF via BART to participate in a more urban scene. One thing that has struck me is how many people I have met here that recently moved from Berkely or Albany or elsewhere on the Bay side of the hills. I assume they don't suddenly become more conservative when the moving van enters the tunnel; instead I like to think that they/we will make this area more like Berkeley and its neighbors. More diverse families would be a welcome part of this transformation. Good luck with your decision! anne
Re: Gay dads considering a move to Orinda/Layfayette I live in Orinda and still struggle to find my place in this land of conservative wealth. However, my neighbors are a lesbian couple with 3 boys 9, 13 and 14. They moved from Oakland to here about 10 years ago and are very happy and at home. The kids seem like nice well adjusted kids who have told me nice things about the schools. My general feeling is that any discrimination would not be overt (if thats of comfort?) and plenty of perfectly accepting folks too. Nowhere else is going to have the level of diversity and acceptance that Berkely has. But one can't just hole up in Berkely forever. Christina
We recently made the move to Orinda and are really happy with our decision. Most our neighbors introduced themselves and didn't seem too phased that we are a household of two moms and a kid. There are many Cal alums in the area, so I think its not as conservative as one thinks..especially as there is turnover (the saying is people leave their houses feet first) and a younger crowd moves in. We find ourselves spending more time outside because the weather is nicer, which is good for our son. We also don't worry as much, if at all, about crime, so if we forget to close the garage door or lock the car, its not a big deal. Also, the level of customer service in the stores is great, maybe because they are use to dealing with the senior set, but still, its refreshing. There are great parks in both Orinda and Moraga for the kids and free concerts in the parks over the summer. Feel free to email me if you want more info!