Advice about Living in Piedmont

Parent Q&A

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

    (18 replies)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hi:

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

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

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

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

    I hope this helps.

    Good luck!

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

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

    You could consider Mill Valley on that budget - 9 miles to SF and the drive to Financial District takes about 25 minutes, or 40 minutes on the bus. You can also take the ferry from Sausalito which takes 20 minutes. We lived overseas in London and Paris for 10+ years, then spent 10 years in SF proper with kids in private school, and just moved to Mill Valley. We've met people from all over and lots of Europeans. It's an expensive and not particularly economically or racially diverse town, but for your rent budget you could get a nice 4-bedroom house. It's super close to SF, making it easy to eat out there and do other activities without suffering the horrendous Bay Bridge traffic to the East Bay. The public schools are excellent - better than we expected after 10 years in a private French Lycee - and the kids walk everywhere, making life far less stressful than in SF where we had to drive them all about. Good luck!

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

    Check out Piedmont. Easy commute, great schools. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    cherise

    If you like the suburbs try Walnut Creek.

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

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

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

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

  • Piedmont hills neighbourhood

    (4 replies)

    Hi everyone! We are consodering a move to the east bay and today we saw a lovely house in Piedmont hills. I don't know much about this neighbourhood and would love to hear if there are other parents out there? I'm gonna be looking for preschools soon and i don't know what is around..also I'm a stay at home mom and would have to drive to kid areas like playgrounds etc..do you think there are some nearby? Im worried i will be too isolated. Any information about that area (also Montclair ) is much appreciated!! Is it family friendly or would it be hard for us to manage with 1 year old twins.TIA

    Based on your desire for walkability *and* family-friendliness, I strongly recommend you look in the part of Piedmont that is walkable to the shops/cafes of Piedmont Ave and Grand Ave. (also walkable to several parks and playgrounds). The neighborhood is known affectionately as "Baja Piedmont." It's rare and lovely in the Bay Area to be able to walk a few blocks to tons of amenities, but also have access to super-responsive fire/police and great K-12 public schools. 

    If you like it you buy it now.  House next to us went for $400k over asking.  Some pluses the weather in the Piedmont Hills has to be some of the best in the Bay Area.  If you like hiking and nature you are close to several parks.  Depending where in Piedmont hills you are looking you are either close or not close to stores and shopping.  The hills have not sidewalks so walking on the roads can be dangerous.  There is some crime usually burglaries and car beak-ins.

    In general it's a vary nice and desirable area. 

    We moved to Montclair (Piedmont side) a few years ago while pregnant with our second child. It is a great area for young families! There is lots to do in the area, including Montclair Park (there is a Rec Center there that offers classes when your kids get bigger), farmers market on Sunday mornings, a cute library a short walk from the Village that offers Baby Bounce and also Storytime for kids, as well as Montclair Village which has nice shops and places for coffee or tea as well as a toy store and multiple book stores. Great places to meet other moms and kids are the local Montclair Park, Music Together classes which are not too far from Thornhill Elementary (teacher Ryk is great with kids!), as well as a bunch of places not too far away around Lake Merritt like Gymboree. When the kids are older, Chabot Space and Science Museum is very close, as is the Lawrence Hall of Science. We do playdates at the Oakland Zoo and Fairyland at least once a month. There are a couple parks in Piedmont that are also great for little kids, we particularly love Dracena Park and it is a great place to meet new friends in the area as lots of moms and kids from Montclair hang out there. As far as preschools, Smiles Preschool and a couple co-ops, MPCC and Sequoia are very close to the Village. There are a couple more in Montclair, tons more in Piedmont, farther up the Oakland Hills and around Lake Merritt. Also, Berkeley preschools might be an option, there are quite a few just a short drive off highway 13. For elementary schools, we have 3 very good ones. Some people move to other areas or go private once their kids are junior high age, but with the number of young families that are moving into the area, I'm willing to bet the junior and high schools in the areas will benefit and improve by the time our kids are ready. I'd say the only major drawback is the lack of sidewalks in the residential areas, so strolling might be a bit hairy depending on how narrow your local streets are. Otherwise, we love the area!

    We've lived in Montclair for 3+ years now, have 3 kids (ages 4,9,12) and it's a great place for families. There are so many parks with playgrounds in Piedmont and Montclair and nearby Rockridge- you should visit Lake Temescal, Montclair Park, Dracena Park, Frog Park, Jordan Park, etc. -parking is easy at all those. In Montclair there's the "village" with shops and restaurants. We can walk from our house. Within less than 10 minutes I can be in Piedmont, Rockridge, Temescal, Berkeley - all with restaurants and shopping areas. You'll have plenty of options to get around with your kids. My kids go to 3 different schools - co-op preschool just down the street (there are many preschools within a few miles), Montclair Elementary (OUSD and this plus neighboring schools in Montclair and Piedmont are some of the best public in N.CA) and a private middle school. Whatever your prfeference in schools you will have many from which to choose. You should come to the farmers market in Montclair village on Sunday's (free parking in the garage) to get a feel. I can't speak to Piedmont Hills specifically but can highly recommend Montclair - I'm surrounded by neighbors with babies, toddlers, preschoolers and grade school kids. If your kids are 18 months+ you should check out Montclair Community Play Center's toddler playtime program (my daughter loved that and now attends preschool there). Good luck :)

  • Kid-friendly suburbs - moving from San Francisco

    (9 replies)

    We live in San Francisco but are thinking of moving to the suburbs as our son gets older. We are really looking for a suburb where kids play on the streets and bike to each others houses. Does that still exist? Where are we most likely to find it? Money isn't really and issue. We are thinking perhaps Orinda in the east or Hillsborough on the peninsula. Either would work for our commute. We would love some advice. Thanks. 

    Albany is another good one, kids are pretty much free-range around Albany Memorial Park from the age of 9 or 10.

    My son goes to school in Danville, and the kids there have a ton of freedom (in a good way). Several of my friends have moved to Castro Valley recently, and have encountered the awesome environment you described, but if money is no object, you may not like it (it's cheaper and less charming than the areas you mentioned). Living on a cul-de-sac is key, wherever you choose.

    Orinda is a great community with wonderful schools and lots of families but I wouldn't describe it as somewhere kids bike and play in the streets.   Frankly the lots are too large and spaced out and the roads are not pedestrian or child friendly.  It is a very car-centric community.  In the LaMorinda area your best bets for that are in Lafayette (the ranch homes near downtown and perhaps Upper Happy Valley).  

    I have friends in Hillsborough and it is another great community with great schools and lots of families.  That's said the families are typically very wealthy and the community politics can get a little too Desperate Housewives for some.  Whether kids play in the streets or not likely depends on the specifics of your neighborhood but the few families I know there tend to stick to themselves and their yards.   

    Two neighborhoods you haven't mentioned:

    Piedmont - some parts, particularly near the parks, can give you this old time, family friendly vibe.  Also good public schools. 

    Alameda - people overlook this one.  I know we did when considering where to buy.  But the East End and Gold Coast fit this description to a tee.  Kids run in packs, roam free at the local parks, parents practice "free range" parenting without the worry someone will call CPS If your kid walks to the corner market alone, families bike together on the streets, to the beach, to the local wineries, etc.   Alameda is home to many ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds which is good for kids and was an important factor in our decision. The homes are more affordable, you can commute by ferry to SF and you are minutes from Oakland and Berkeley's great restaurant scene (also true of Piedmont).  

    Best of luck in your decision!

     

    We moved from San Francisco to Berkeley nine years ago when our children were 11 and 6. Maybe it's less of a suburb than you're thinking of, but my son shoots baskets on the street in front of our house and has been walking around the city and traveling by public bus since he started middle school. I was a reluctant transplant - loved the city - but life here is much more family oriented. Parents are very involved in the schools and there are lots of things for kids to do. 

    We don't have school-aged kids yet (first child due to arrive any day now :)), but we can speak quite highly of West Contra Costa County; we moved to Pinole almost 3 years ago and there seems to be quite a strong community of families here. We frequently see kids playing in each others' yards, and there are also a lot of public play spaces like parks and sports fields that are always well-used without being too crowded. For older kids, the city's pretty bikable although a bit hilly. The city's also very clearly putting in an effort to make itself more "community-friendly"; there is a winter holiday festival, a 4th of July parade and other activities that are increasingly well-attended. And both the houses and general cost of living are cheaper than you'd find in the eastern part of the county, and the temperature swings are not nearly as crazy either :)

    I know what you mean.  I grew up in Oakland hills and Berkeley and we played in the streets, rode bikes everywhere.  One of the "kids" I grew up with years ago just sent me a letter saying how much fun she had in those days.  In Oakland there would be 5  to 10 kids all playing together in the street.   I think times have changed and that's defiantly something that's rare in Orinda.  The streets are narrow, cars drive fast, lots of hills and few sidewalks.  Downtown is only 2 blocks long and it's filled with real estate offices.  Kids are too busy with organized sports, hanging out at the country club or  involved in  other activities.  There is an occasional lemonade stand on the corner.

    You might want to take a look in Santa Cruz.  I've been taking my daughters there for basketball and volleyball games for a couple of years and I see kids riding bikes and playing together in the yards and in the street. 

    Good luck finding a Disneyland Main Street USA in the US.

    We love living in Lafayette, and my kids play out front all the time. We live on a flat street with the cul-de-sac, and my son spends hours outside kicking a ball, shooting baskets, playing with the neighbors, riding bikes etc. I love this old-fashion childhood in the safe town. 

     When we were looking, we were considering both Orinda and Lafayette (Moraga is another good option, but my husband thought the commute was too far ). I found that Orinda didn't have many flat streets, as it has more hills. There are hilly part of Lafayette as well, but there are also many areas with flat streets and plenty of kids outside! We also live near the trail, which is very convenient. We can walk to school and to town. 

    I have friends who live all around the bay area, and many are envious of our neighborhood. I pinch myself every day and feel grateful to live in such a wonderful spot. 

    Good luck with your search, and moving to the suburbs can be a great decision. 

    I have friends in all types of neighborhoods. I see kids playing outside in Alameda and Pleasanton. Once you get into the more exclusive neighborhoods, you don't see the same freedom of movement.

    Orinda particularly the Ivy Drive and Glorietta neighborhoods.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Nov 2014

RE: Moving to the Bay Area from Chicago for a job in Oakland

From your posting, I think Piedmont sounds like an excellent fit for your needs. Much easier commute to downtown Oakland and SF than the towns you mentioned and outstanding schools all the way from K to 12. Feels much less suburban than the communities in Contra Costa (I grew up in one of the towns you mentioned, so I know both areas really well). Piedmont is really close to all the shops, restaurants and cultural events that Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco have to offer. There are not a lot of rental houses in town, but there are some. You might try calling the Grubb Company, Pacific Union and Highland Partners - those are the 3 dominant real estate companies in Piedmont and they do handle some rental properties. Good luck with your move and welcome to the Bay Area! longtime Piedmont mom


Welcome to the Bay Area! I think you would like Piedmont from what you are saying. Its a safe small city in the Oakland hills with an excellent school district and a few preschools, your commute time would be shorter than from Lafayette or Orinda, and its not as suburban as you fear Lafayette or Orinda to be.

Adam Betta would be great at helping you. He is a realtor in Piedmont, and raised their kids there. He and his wife Debbi (they work as a team), are relocation experts. Adam helped us buy our house in Rockridge, and the experience was fantastic. Adam's cell phone is 510-414-1250.

Best of luck! Julia


Moving away from Oakland - Danville or Piedmont?

March 2014

We know all the pros/cons about most things when comparing these two areas - cost difference, culture, commute, weather, lifestyle, etc. What we can't get a handle on is the difference between the public school sports programs at the middle and high school level. Piedmont seems to support nearly all levels of budding athletes and as a result almost all the kids who want to play for a school team have a fairly good chance of doing so. Conversely we hear that in Danville only the true elite get to play on school and/or club level teams and there's not much in the way of recreational leagues after 5th grade. Our 2 boys love sports(soccer, basketball, flag football, tennis and lacrosse) and can't imagine not being about to play therefore our decision will be more heavily weighted by those opportunities than API scores for the public high schools. Who lives in Danville and/or Piedmont, loves kids/teen sports and can set us straight? MS


Hi - I live in Piedmont and have two sports crazed boys. You are correct that Piedmont is very inclusive with respect to sports through middle school. There is a strong rec soccer league and everyone who wants to be on a team is. We also field more competitive highlanders teams that kids must try out for. There is also a very strong baseball program and everyone who wants to play can - through 8th grade. Rec basketball goes through 6th grade and everyone who wants to plays does - if you want to try out for the more competitive team - MVP you can.

The Piedmont Rec department runs the middle school sports program (basketball, track, cross country, flag football and girls volleyball) there are no cuts.

Things do change when you get to high school - there are definitely cuts in baseball, soccer, tennis and basketball. Depending on whether your boys happen to be in a class with a lot of good athletes or not will depend on their chances of making the team. My older son LOVES sports, especially baseball, but is in a really competitive class with amazing athletes. Despite 8 years of baseball including off season training he did not make the JV team. 20 boys went out for 11 spots and more would have certainly gone out, but the casual players were scared off by the talent. He did make the JV tennis team so he has a sport this season, but being cut from the baseball team was tough.

While I think Danville may be even more competitive than Piedmont, I wouldn't move to Piedmont with the assumption that your boys will make the high school team - that being said they can play just about any sport they want through middle school. Hope this helps sporty mom


Is Piedmont notably safer than Oakland?

April 2013

My husband, kids, and I live in Upper Rockridge/Montclair and have become increasingly concerned by the rising crime level in our neighborhood. We love most everything about the area -- friendly and diverse community, proximity to amazing restaurants and things to do in Oakland & Berkeley, ease of commute to SF -- but are worried about the burglaries, car thefts, muggings and more that have plagued our area of late. We are considering a move to Piedmont but are curious about how different the situation is there. Obviously, Piedmont is not geographically far from where we are now, but does the better-funded police force make a difference? I'd love any input from Piedmont residents on the crime situation. Thanks! Sarah


We've lived in Piedmont for about five years. We moved from SF and I still find SF feels safer at night than anywhere in the East Bay if I'm out alone and using transit. But I do think much of Piedmont is probably safer than Berkeley or Rockridge as far as being out alone at night in general goes.

Here's a link to crime stats in Piedmont from PPD: http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/police/crime.shtml

I don't know crime stats for Rockridge, but we're obviously not immune to frequent car break-ins and burglaries here. I imagine there is much less street crime, simply because Piedmont's more of a suburb (and maybe its many twisty streets don't make it a good thoroughfare for anyone wanting to make a quick grab-and-snatch). However, there certainly are occasional muggings and, as you may know, there were two violent home invasions recently. Piedmont has a better-funded and more responsive police force, but it's not an island and we definitely experience the spillover effect of Oakland's poor police funding and staffing. And don't forget that you'd also obviously still be dependent on the transit and commercial infrastructure in Oakland, as Piedmont has only a handful of stores and a couple of banks and doctors' offices.

On the upside, the police respond very, very quickly to any call, as does the fire department. We have a new police chief who is by all accounts the real deal -- she was most recently asst chief with San Jose PD so has experience with the crime issues a big metro area faces. And if you're serious about considering Piedmont, you probably already know that basically every family that moves here does so for the schools. I'm guessing you might be in private school, given that you don't mention PUSD, but FWIW the public schools here -- and the parent community that supports them -- is pretty amazing. Unlike Oakland, the vast majority of families here send their kids to PUSD. I heard it's something like 90%, with the rest going to local(ish) private schools like Corpus Christi or Head Royce.

Good luck with your decision! Piedmonter


I grew up in Piedmont and my parents still live there. I used to think it was safer, but there have been a lot of pretty scary robberies in the area near the Annerly/Harvard/Ranleigh area. Change the date ranges to see more incidents. http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/police/crime.shtml

The biggest differences between Oakland and Piedmont?:

1. The schools can be physically safer than many of the Oakland schools. There is no gang violence, very little fighting, and very little weapon possession.

2. The police can come to you quickly, and they do.

3. You won't have people looking through your recycling or trash in Piedmont.

The parcel taxes that make these things happen are expensive, though. What you're really paying for in Piedmont is the schools... - Former Piedmonter


Buying in Piedmont on a Budget?

March 2013

We're trying to move to Piedmont. We would likely be able to make a 20-40% downpayment for a $1 million home. We cannot afford a more expensive house. We're hoping to find at least a 2 bedroom, 2 bath (though we'd love a 3 bedroom).

Is such a situation even possible with Piedmont listings these days? We've heard people are paying over asking, all in cash, upfront for properties in Piedmont. If that's truly the case, we'll consider other cities also known for better public schools and safety than our current Oakland residence.

Ideally we'd not stray too far geographically from Oakland (near work and grandparents). If you have cities/areas to recommend other than Piedmont, we'd happily take that advice too. anon


The market has been overheated as of late but it is definitely possible you could find a home in your budget if you are patient and keep trying. Steel yourself; it may be smaller than you like and need some work, and the process will be infuriating. We went through this a couple of years ago and managed to find one and it has worked out well for us. The market was different then but our budget was also 20% lower than yours.

If you want to see the details of what is happening on the market, you can look on Redfin and search for the recent sales. They won't show you the terms but they will show the prices.

Besides Berkeley and Oakland, the other areas we looked at, and that I would suggest you look at, would be Albany and Alameda. In Alameda the schools vary significantly but (at least when we were looking) school assignments were neighborhood-based so you would know the school assignment based on where you bought. Best of Luck


We moved to Piedmont a few years ago and did not buy a seven-figure home. It is definitely doable, even now. There are plenty of smaller homes in Piedmont -- the majority, in fact -- but because demand is high and Piedmont is small, buying a home can, as you know, be competitive. Don't let the rumors put you off. I know several families who are looking to buy a home in Piedmont and am pretty certain none of them is paying cash and all of them have the same concerns you do.

I'd recommend finding an agent who knows Piedmont well and going from there. Local agents hear about listings well before they go on the market and generally have their ears to the ground in a way a non-local (i.e. Oakland/Berkeley/Lamorinda, etc.) specialist can't. Grubb is great (grubbco.com) but there are others, too. Go to Mulberry's Market on Highland Ave in Piedmont and pick up a Piedmont Post (it comes out Wednesday). There are always plenty of listings there, which will give you a sense of the market, agents, and the typical price ranges for different parts of the city.

Based on our experience, it can take time to find something in Piedmont. Even in the waning market we bought into, we purchased after looking casually for more than 18 months and then seriously for a good 10-12 months.

FWIW, many families new to Piedmont decide to rent so they can secure a spot in the school district, and then buy a home when/if they can. If you're determined to stay close to Oakland but need better schools soon, renting is a good immediate option. Ask your agent for rental listings too. There are a good number of 'off-market' one-year-plus rentals here but I suspect most of them don't even make it to Craiglist.

One more thing -- the smaller homes aren't going anywhere. Piedmont has a city building code that in effect preserves the supply of smaller properties across the city because renovations that push a house's footprint to 50% of the total property square footage are generally not permitted. Another upside of this restriction is that the code preserves green space in the city as well. Did Piedmont under $1MM


You need to speak with Debbi DiMaggio and Adam Betta at Highland Partners in Piedmont. They are geniuses at home buying, and we could not have been more pleased with the process they led us through. Debbi's cell: 510-414-6777, Adam's cell: 510-414-1250. Julia


Since the beginning of Oct 2012, there have been 11 home sales in Piedmont below the one million mark. Six of them were 2 bedroom homes; some had one bath, fewer had 2. Yes, there are many all-cash offers in the present market, sometimes several on the same property; however, that is not to say that an non-cash offer will not be the winning bid - it can be. Depends on a host of other variables too. The bigger question is how long can you wait for a house that meets your needs to come on the market in Piedmont, and then will your offer be the accepted one?

Inventory is very low currently (everywhere), and so prices are being driven up with multiple offers. If you can consider other good public school areas, and broaden your search parameters, you may find something sooner elsewhere. Some places to consider are: Albany, Orinda, Berkeley, and Moraga - assuming you need schools that go all the way through high-school. Depending on where the grand-parents are in Oakland, these cities may not be too far. (Pursuing a home in Berkeley presently is not for the faint-of-heart; inventory is very low, multiple offers are commonplace, and homes are passing hands for prices we would not have conceived of a year ago.)

Being a parent with kids who attend/attended public schools in Piedmont, Albany, Kensington, and Berkeley, I have quite a bit of experience with the various school districts - and being a homeowner and real estate broker, I have had to consider the same questions as you do - a number of times.


Would we feel comfortable in Piedmont??

April 2012

We are an Indian couple currently living in the city and work in technology/software. We are looking for places to relocate to and the suburbia seems a lil bit too much of a change at this point in time...so that leaves us with Oakland (Berkeley/Albany was off the list cause I work in Foster City and the commute will be terrible..and you get less space for your money (if we are moving from the city, I would like to get more space and better weather :))

Oakland has great Elem schools but not so great Middle schools and we cannot afford private. That brings us to Piedmont..but from just seeing the house and the people who live there..it just seems too wealthy..we make decent money( 250,000 combined)..but I am guessing in Piedmont we will be pretty much the poorest..and we can only afford only a 750,000$ house (we find a few that come in the market..although very small)..but the bigger question is how comfortable will we feel there..how will our kids fit in there??..We would love to have good schools for our kids but dont want them feeling like they are the poorest or get picked on for that same reason..I am worried about it more so in Middle school..any advise will be appreciated. Piedmont will solve 3 out of our 4 problems 1) Schools 2) Weather 3) Still close to the City/Oakland/Berkeley..we can compromise on space for all these 3 benefits.


You raise good questions about living in Piedmont. We have lived here for over 20 years with our 3 children, 2 of whom are still in the school system. Like any place it has good and bad aspects. We make much less than you do but have had our house for a long time. We know families much wealthier and many similar to us. You will find more of the latter if you live in lower Piedmont and in the Beach Elementary School zone. There is lots of great community interaction around the elementary schools and I think your family would fit in fine. We know families of many ethnic backgrounds including Indian. I think your biggest challenge is going to be finding a house in your budget. You might consider looking at Fremont. Based on some research I have done about different school districts, I have found that they have good schools. Many of their schools are very highly regarded. If I were doing it over, I would certainly look there. It doesn't have the proximity to the city, but will have better housing choices and a decent commute to Foster City. It is a much bigger city than Piedmont with many more schools. Good luck!


I highly recommend a move to Piedmont. With your income, I am certain that you could qualify for a house more than $750K. I would recommend looking into that, because it will be difficult to find decent housing in that price range. Piedmont is a hot market, and there are few homes that come on the market in that price range.

Others may question my perceptions which have been formed after two years in Piedmont, but I feel there is a lot more economic diversity than people realize in this community. There are a lot of people like me who don't make a lot (relative to the cost of living in the Bay Area) and who spend every last dime to be able to live in a community where their kids can still get a decent education.

We have had the most amazing experience with the Piedmont school system. I have kids in elementary school (Havens), Piedmont Middle School and Piedmont High School, so I feel fairly knowledgeable on the various experiences. While my income may not be in the same range as many of the other families, we share similar values (e.g. good education for kids) and that is a strong tie that binds. There are many 'snobs' in Piedmont, but I feel that mostly from the parents and not the children. As you would find anywhere, the kids know which families are very wealthy and which of those are not.

I'm keeping my post brief, but I definitely can share more of my family's experiences in a phone conversation. Feel free to call me directly if you have more questions.


Oct 2011

Re: Moving from Spain - which neighborhood for city people?
I haven't lived in Barcelona or Buenos Aires, but grew up in Sydney and England -- and when I moved to the Bay Area it took some time to adjust to the sometimes 'pokey' feel of this region. You won't replicate the feeling of a major metropolis here (no matter what any native will say :)) and while many Bay Area communities are wonderfully walkable, there is nothing here like New York or the big European cities. [...]

We ended up moving to Piedmont, a small town nested in Oakland. We are 15-20 minutes by foot from two BART stations and close to two major shopping/strolling streets. There is incredible family involvement in the public schools, which are excellent. Still, it's also not particularly urban here, e.g., we have a backyard; people have chickens, gardens, etc. Contrary to what you may hear, Piedmont is actually ethnically quite diverse; it is also for the most part a middle to upper middle class community.

I hope this helps! Miss the big, big city!


Sept 2010

Re: New job in SF - where's a sunny place to live?

I recommend Piedmont. Your husband can catch casual carpool and be on the highway in 1-2 quick minutes. Or go to nearby Rockridge or Oakland BART stations. Berkeley is much bigger with much more stop n go traffic. Piedmont is like a small town where you know your neighbors and can walk around the whole town. Berkeley is larger, more urban, and your neighbors kids go to different schools. Piedmont is surrounded by farmers markets and groceries as well as restaurants and other such things. The absolute best thing is being able to sign your kids up for recreation dept classes and a FREE van drives the kids around! Don't believe the image of Piedmont. There are so many great and caring families here! And of course the weather is great, less fog than the Berkeley hills (where I work.) K12


Moving from Israel - considering Piedmont

May 2010

We are an Israeli family with 3 kids coming for a one year sabbatical in Berkeley University, we consider living in Piedmont as we hear it's a nice area and a friendly community. We have a 14 year old boy who is planned to go to Piedmont high school, a 12 year old girl who will go to the middle school and a 6 year old boy who will go to one of the elementary schools. Our older son is a basketball player and really wants to find a team to play at and my daughter plays guitar and sing and she would love to continue to do that. If anyone can share in information about the Piedmont schools as well as their hobbies that would be great. Thanks in advance


Piedmont is a lovely area, and the schools are great. Your kids will be able to find basketball and other sports (in season), music, art, etc. But before you commit to the schools or activities, you should probably confirm your housing. Piedmont is a small town with a low vacancy rate, and there are not many rentals available within the Piedmont school district boundaries. Rentals that are available can be very expensive, up to 50% higher than the surrounding area. If you are looking on Craigslist, understand that Piedmont Ave and Piedmont Pines are actually in Oakland. Good luck! Elizabeth


2004 - 2007 Reviews


Considering a move to Piedmont

June 2006

We are considering moving to Piedmont instead of staying in Oakland and sending our son to private school. We would love to hear some experiences of those living in Piedmont (schools, neighborhoods-mid priced for area, activities for kids) Thanks! Annie


We have lived in Piedmont for nearly 20 years and moved here before we had kids because we happened to find a house we loved here. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of the voters are registed Democrats. We have made many good friends through our children's schools. As my children are progressing in the schools I am finding out that althought the schools seem to be very good for the low and middle ends of the academic spectrum, they are not so good for the upper end. I think that this is almost unavoidable in a small public school district . There are no GATE pull-out programs and little chance for ability grouping until high school. Based on conversations I have had with Piedmont educators and teachers, this is based at least in part on a philosophical committment to keep bright students in the mainstream classrooms as a way of raising the bar for others.

As you can imagine based on housing costs, there is limited ethnic and economic diversity. We have tried to counter this to some degree by having our kids participate in Oakland league sports.

There is also a element of keeping up the Joneses - but it can be ignored - and many people do ignore it! It really is a small town - with both the positives and negatives of that. People know everyone and that can be quite friendly. My personal experience in dealing with the city departments has been quite positive and helpful On the other hand there are families who have lived here for generations and some of them don't like seeing any change in the status quo.

On the whole, we like it very much. We are walking distance of Grand and Piedmont Avenues with access to lots of great reasonable restaurants, movie theaters, etc. The parks are good and the Piedmont Rec dept has good offerings of summer and school year classes for kids. The commute to SF is great with lots of casual carpooling and good bus transit


We moved to Piedmont two years ago, and we have been happy with our decision, even though we miss our home in Berkeley. We live in a lower-to-mid-priced neighborhood in Piedmont, and we have found the people here very welcoming. Within two blocks, there are 17 children aged 5 years and younger, and we are thrilled that our kids will all go to the same school together. We have block parties 3 times a year, and we meet often as a group to discuss earthquake preparedness, etc. Neighbors help with spontaneous play dates, babysitting my babies while I pick up preschooler from class, unexpected trips to the emergency room.

The Piedmont Park & Rec Department is excellent, and they offer a wide range of activities and classes for all ages. There are several good preschools in this town, and that is how we are meeting people from ''up the hill'', i.e. ones that are more economically advantaged. About half the kids in the classes are from Oakland, so there is a great mix. We live close to Piedmont Avenue, so we can walk to kinder-gym classes, grocery shopping, post office, library, coffee lucky to be here


Renting in Piedmont

March 2005

Can anyone advise me on renting a home in Piedmont? Is there an agency to call for listings or one specific company one would use? Or am I basically on my own using craigslist? I am looking for a home for my family so we can send our kids to public school there, we can't afford to buy in. Thanks.
moving for good schools


Hi - We were renters in Piedmont for 6 mos after selling our home in Oakland and before buying our current home in Piedmont. I have also had several friends that have been in the same situation. Two of the best places are the classifieds in The Piedmonter (part of the Hills Newspaper chain, you can also look in the Montclarian as it is basically the same paper) There are usually several rentals listed there. You can also go to the Grubb Company web site or call the Grubb Company in Montclair. They usually have several rental listings as well, though they are sometime more expensive. Good luck! kristi


try looking on the last page of the Piedmont Post newspaper; there are often rentals listed there... the paper comes out weekly, on Wednesday afternoons, and can be purchased at the convenience store in the center of Piedmont (on Highland Ave, across the street from the gas station) good luck! piedmont resident


Try the Piedmont Post (a local paper distributed on Tuesdays) or the Real Estate section of the Hills Newspaper Group (Montclarion, Berkeley Voice, Piedmonter). Pacific Union and Grubb real estate sometimes have places for lease. A Piedmont parent


Try calling the Grubb Company (they're on Mountain Blvd. in Oakland). While they mostly handle real estate purchases and sales, their agents do sometimes handle houses that are available for lease - I see houses around town occasionally with a Grubb company ''For Lease'' sign in front. Piedmont resident


2003 & Earlier


Is Piedmont culturally and politically diverse?

Nov. 2002

we are seriously considering relocating to piedmont. things i love about berkeley are 1) it's cultural diversity and tolerance, 2) there are fun educational things to do for all ages, 3) berkely is a beautiful city, 4) berkeley is on the water/close to sf, 5) people here are friendly, educated and liberal, 6) excessive materialism doesn't exist. in light of what i like about my community, i'm interested in insights into the ''community feel'' of piedmont. do you feel that the financial wealth of the community negatively impacts the children in any way, especially the high school aged children? do you think that stay-at-home parents are in the minority or majority? do you feel that piedmont is culturally diverse? do you feel that piedmont is politically diverse? are children's extracurricular activities fairly accessible in the city of piedmont? looking forward to your insights.


I live 1/2 block from Piedmont, I take walks there a lot because the gardens are beautiful, and have considered sharing a nanny with a couple of Piedmont families. However, the wealth of people living in Piedmont is difficult for me to be around on a day-to-day basis. I would not send my child to a Piedmont school, because I don't think my child would benefit from the lack of economic diversity. But I'm not you. I would suggest that the best way to find out is to spend a little time in Piedmont. Sit outside the elementary school in the morning and observe the parents, teachers and kids. You will know right away whether it's right for you.
Oakland Mom


Advantages of Piedmont:

1) It is culturally diverse and tolerant. It's boy scout troop is reputed to be the only one in the nation that has clearly rejected the anti-gay policy, and the Piedmont choir has made a point of acting as ambassadors to countries such as Slovenia and Cuba.

2) As a small town, it's cultural options are limited, but it is accessible to all of the things accessible to Berkeley, and the recreation department and schools have many enrichment opportunities.

3) It has beautiful neighborhoods, many where kids play along the sidewalks and streets with their neighbors.

4) It doesn't have it's own waterfront, but it's not that far from Berkeley's, and it's very close to Lake Merritt. 5) There are many friendly people. It is especially easy to meet others if you are active in the schools or attend kids activities (soccer, music). There are people of all political persuasions--plenty of '60's graduates.

Disadvantages:

1) While there is plenty of cultural diversity, it is definitely an upper income community, although there are also families that have moved to the city for the schools and don't have lots of disposable income for luxuries. My kids have learned that they are not the richest by a long shot, but neither are they the poorest. However, they think the city has an image as being snobbish.

2) Education and academic success is such a concern that it can be counterproductive for some kids. Homework requirements are tough in many elementary school classrooms and at the middle school, and there is lots of stress over the college search process. If your kid is not naturally a high achiever academically, the pressure can turn them off to school. One of my children is finishing high school at a private school. A second one went to private school in 3rd and 4th grade and is now in the district's alternative highschool. On the other hand, the alternative high school is very good, and the district also has a strong special ed program. The school also gives lots of support in the college search process and has no problems with getting records to schools on time.

3) Materialism is definitely a concern, especially at the high school level, where some kids have access to cars and to enough money to support any substance abuse problem they choose (but Berkeley is hardly immune from substance abuse problems, either). Kids who are not into clothes, cars or social groups can feel pretty alienated. (On the other hand, there are many kids with many different interests, so most kids find a group of like-minded friends; my daughter is very happy with the group of students she has met at the alternative high school, after hating the middle school scene. My older son just ignored most of the social pressures and hung out with his own group of friends who had similar interests and income levels to his own.)

There are also reputed to be real differences in the three elementary schools in the area, if you have kids in that age group. Havens draws from the highest income parts of the community (and from other parts as well), and many of the social complaints I've heard at the K-5 level came from parents with kids at that school. However, our school (Beach) wasn't immune from such things as 4th and 5th grade girls talking about dating, 5th grade dance parties, catty gossip sheets etc., to all of which my children seemed to be oblivious, for the most part.

One refreshing thing about Piedmont compared to Berkeley is that the local politics are generally much lower key and more concrete. No attempts to force ''politically correct'' stances regarding our very limited retail sector, but lots of community input on resources such as soccer fields, tot lots, etc. Of course politics in the city have an irritating side as well, such as the recurring efforts to ''free'' the city from the Oakland and BAYLIS library system (I love having access to the Oakland and Berkeley libraries), the hours spent at the planning commission over remodeling issues, and controversy over the ''swim club'' facilities. A Piedmont Parent