Advice about Living in Piedmont
Archived Q&A and Reviews
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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