Living in Rockridge

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. ...


    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.


    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 :)

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Nov 2014

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

Hi there, I would recommend Rockridge, especially if you can afford up to 6K/month rental which would hopefully be able to get you a decent 2-3 bedroom bungalow (I think, though the rental market is insanely competitive right now). Rockridge is a very walkable neighborhood with several great preschools/daycares/nanny shares around and the public elementary schools are very good for K-5 (Peralta or Chabot). The area would be close to downtown Oakland for your spouse by bus or a short drive and the Rockridge Bart or casual carpool are right there for your commute into SF. Lots of restaurants, cafes, nail shops, dry cleaning, parks, etc within a walk or very short drive. Many folks either moving from San Francisco or quite a few from Chicago, NYC, etc. I think you will love your first winter out here! cs

Safety in Rockridge - recent crime

Sept 2013

My family lives in the Rockridge area and there seems to have been an increase in crime recently. I have joined our neighborhood watch group and may just be getting more updates on crime, so I wanted to ask the community how you feel safety wise living in this area and how you remain aware and safe, while also not letting it inhibit how you live. We do really like this area and all it has to offer, but also don't want to feel like we are putting our family or ourselves at unnecessary risk. Any advice or input would be much appreciated. Anonymous

I just moved to the lower Rockridge area wth my young (read: toddler twins and dog) family 2 months ago. I know that the crime, especially armed robberies, is frighteningly frequent right now. Whie we have not been personally affected yet, I am scared for my husband--who always does the nighttime dog walk--and for us generally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, we still have to live our lives and be smart about it. No walking with our iPhones out, and always paying attention to our surroundings when we're out and about. Also, because I walk through the neighborhood with my kids and dog at least twice daily, I feel comfortable and secure and familiar. I make eye contact with everyone and say hello to all of my neighbors. I make sure our windows and doors are locked when we are not home and before we go to bed. And finally, I know that things are just things - I don't care about losing valuables at the end of the day, and if the crime patterns in this area were such that I felt our children were vulnerable to danger, I would definitely move elsewhere. Take my iPhone, just leave me my Cole Coffee

We lived in 'lower Rockridge' (a block from Telegraph) for five years. Loved many aspects, but always felt a little nervous. The day we moved in there was a warning of local buglaries under our door. We signed up for neighborhood watch e/mails and in retrospct I think that was a mistake. In truth, other than opportunistic car thefts when we forgot to lock it, nothing bad ever happened. Prior to Rockridge, we had lived in suburbs, and we simply weren't used to the diversity and feel of a city. We moved back to the burbs, but we miss Rockridge a lot. Why not poll your neighbors to see who has actually been a victim of crime, and if that is reassuring, drop the neighborhood watch activity. (Ours was run by a one man - a loser in camo...) And, be honest with your own comfort level. If you feel unsafe, you should move, regardless of the stats. Good Neighbors

Did you move from Berkeley to Oakland?

May 2013

Did you move from Albany or Berkeley to Oakland? Did you find Oakland is worth it or not what you expected? OaklandCalling

Yes, we did move from North Berkeley to North Oakland, six years ago. Your question is a little vague, because you don't say why you are moving, but I will summarize the pros and cons as best I can. I prefer our neighborhood in Oakland to our neighborhood in Berkeley (though both are fantastic). I find Rockridge to be more walkable than the Gourmet Ghetto area. The weather is better (yes, it is!). Our elementary school is truly amazing, as close to perfect as you can get. But beyond elementary school, public education gets a little less good in Oakland. We're not quite there yet, so get back to me in a year! But in Berkeley, I understand the schools are solid all the way through, so if you have young children, that is definitely something to consider. In Oakland I feel like crime is happening all around us, and I don't remember feeling that very strongly in Berkeley. But sometimes Berkeley just feels a little too Berkeley, if you know what I mean. My husband agrees, though ultimately, he prefers Berkeley and I prefer Oakland. So, did that help you at all? Oakland mama

Feb 2013

Re: Family-friendly neighborhood with easy access to airports
Welcome to the bay area! I would suggest that you look into moving to the area right around the Rockridge BART station. We love it here! Very family friendly with cute parks and other activities for kids, lots of families with children around your children's age, cute little shops and great restaurants on College Avenue near the BART station, good preschools, great public elementary and junior high school (high school not so great - most go private at that point or move). Only an 18-minute BART ride to downtown San Francisco, 18-minute ride to the Oakland Coliseum/airport station (where you hop onto a shuttle that takes you to the airport), and a longer (50 minutes) but straight-shot ride to SFO. I've heard great things about Lamorinda, as I have several friends with kids who live there, but they do complain about how horrible the traffic gets once you try to go further east than Oakland (on highway 24, past the caldecott tunnel). It is pretty far from San Francisco too, if that matters to you. My husband has lived in the east bay (Berkeley and Oakland) for 40+ years and thinks Rockridge is the best, family-friendly place too! Love Rockridge!

North Berkeley vs. (Lower) Rockridge

Feb 2012

We can't seem to decide where to buy a house - between Lower Rockridge and North Berkeley. We are a professional couple with a baby on the way, so schools are not forefront but we do want to invest in a neighborhood. Our budget is around 800K. Both of them seem walkable, near the BART which is very important, close to groceries, good schools, parks etc. How are they different? Rockridge does seem to have a more yuppie feel something which we are not. Being 1st gen immigrants we are generally savers and cautious about splurging even we can afford something. How do they both fare diversity wise? I see mostly caucasian families with kids in both areas. Will we fit in being a family of color? undecided

Since you're expecting, I'd suggest Berkeley since I'd rather have my child in the Berkeley rather than Oakland school system and unless i'm mistaken, Rockridge is in Oakland.

I lived in N. Berkeley for 5 years, then I lived in Lower Rockridge for 5 years (still living here in fact). Both areas are wonderful and you are lucky to have the choice! Overall, I prefer Rockridge. It's more walkable and the weather is better (believe it or not, there is a difference). The only reason I would consider moving back to Berkeley is the schools. But let me add that our experience at our Oakland public elementary has been excellent and we get to walk to school, which may not be the case in Berkeley. I am more concerned about middle school, though I think it is likely that our children will be at Claremont. The families we know in Berkeley have no qualms about their middle school choices, whereas Oakland families are crossing their fingers. Not sure if I helped you or not, but really, you think you have years to go before making choices about school, but those years fly by. I'd buy a house in the neighborhood that I wanted my children to grow up in. Happy in Oakland

(reviews also received for N. Berkeley )

Where to live - Elmwood or Rockridge?

April 2012

We are moving from SF to the East Bay and trying to determine whether Elmwood, Berkeley or Rockridge, Oakland will be better for for our family. We have two kids -- 2 and 1 -- and we are planning on having one or maybe two more. We are 30ish professionals, but I am currently a SAHM while I reconsider my career options. We are Middle Eastern, and we value diversity quite a bit. Other priorities include great neighborhood, strong community feel, walkability, good schools, and a hip but not too hip vibe. We are NYC transplants, and though we LOVE the Bay Area, we definitely miss that NYC/Brooklyn edge at times. The key thing for us is that we want a home and a neighborhood in which we can raise our children and grow old. Therefore, we are looking for a stable community that offers us a mix of cultures and age groups while maintaining a bit of an edge. Also, cost isn't a huge factor, as our income can support a home in either places. Any suggestions and insights are welcome! Thank!! Soon to be new in town

One factor to consider, since you have kids, is the schools. I know it's hard to think so far down the road, but it is another factor that will sooner, rather than later become an issue in your life. In the Elmwood you have access to Berkeley Public Schools, in Rockridge you have Oakland schools. So, you might want to do some research on the California Department of Education website about API scores etc...and on BPN about school experiences, as you begin house hunting.

I live in Oakland in a fantastic house, in an up and coming area, but we weren't thinking about these things when we bought, didn't even have a kid then So currently we're homeschooling and looking at private schools for the future... Food for Thought and Grounds for Further Research

I'd go with Elmwood. Rockridge is the Oakland school system, and while the local elementary is fine, my understanding is that the high school that Rockridge kids go to is not so great. While Berkeley schools can be frustrating, overall they're pretty good all the way through high school. Piedmont is supposed to be the best for schools, though, if you can afford it.

I've lived in both Elmwood and Rockridge for 20+ years - I now live in Berkeley in the Claremont district just a few blocks from Elmwood. Elmwood and Rockridge are very similar, and so close to each other that, depending on where you live, you can easily live in one and walk to places in the other. It's about a 15 minute walk from my house to either Elmwood or Rockridge, so I shop on foot in both neighborhoods.

One obvious difference is they are in two different school districts. In Oakland, you will know ahead of time which school your kids will be assigned to - it depends on where your house is. In Berkeley, you will be assigned to one of four schools, very possibly to one that is too far to walk to. There are Rockridge schools that have better 'numbers' than Berkeley schools, again depending on where you live in Oakland, and which school you are assigned to in Berkeley. So I wouldn't necessarily let the school district be your determining factor. I think that houses are cheaper in Rockridge because of the perceived school district difference.

I actually enjoyed life in Rockridge better in terms of getting to work and shopping for food. There's a BART station in Rockridge, more restaurants, more markets. Elmwood has a selection of restaurants, but not as many. Elmwood does have a movie theater and a nice library (as does Rockridge) but if you live in Elmwood you can't really run out on foot for a piece of fish and fresh veggies for dinner. In the Elmwood, for a last minute dinner, you are looking at either a restaurant or high end takeout like Summer Kitchen. In Rockridge you have Safeway, Ver Brugge, and Yasai Market all clustered together, and of course Market Hall a little further down. This is so convenient, on the way home from work, or while you're out for a stroll with the baby.

I would say that Elmwood is more upscale than Rockridge, and with an older demographic than Rockridge. I do see plenty of people pushing strollers in both places, but more in Rockridge. If you really want a more hip neighborhood, though, you want Temescal! a mom

I would definitely stick to Berkeley if your intention is to send your kids to public schools. Berkeley has good schools K-12, and in Oakland the middle and high schools can be rougher and sketchier... I prefer North Berkeley, as it is safe, clean, yet still has cool and funky shopping and dining areas. I'd look north of University and east of San Pablo. The hills are nice, but not walkable to most places in town. Happy mom of 3 in N. Berkeley

Both Rockridge and Elmwood are beautiful, safe, fun and hip neighborhoods with gorgeous houses. Both neighborhoods are VERY predominantly white. We would choose Elmwood for these reasons: Berkeley schools are much better and Rockridge is closer to the freeway (we would not want our family breathing CO all the time). To us, Elmwood also just has this amazing charm. In Elmwood, I would be careful to check about neighbors, if there are houses rented to college students nearby (noise). But there really is no edge in Elmwood (I'm a New Yorker, so I know what you mean) as far as I can tell. I recommend walking around these neighborhoods and see how they feel to you. The stores on College are overpriced and esp in Rockridge, overly quaint. You can look up ethnic or racial make-up on the web (not sure where) for different neighborhoods. Berkeley west of Telegraph or the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland will give you more diversity and more edge. There are some gorgeous craftsman houses in those areas too. Good luck.

I'm a Brooklyn transplant too, and we moved from SF to the Elmwood nine years ago. Elmwood's proximity to Cal gives this neighborhood the real feel of a college town, with all its pluses and minuses. You can't beat the diversity of wandering toward campus with your kid like we did this morning, and stumbling upon the Indian Student Association's Holi festival and getting pelted with fragrant colored powder. There's great theater downtown; undeveloped hills with owls and coyotes are just a few blocks east; a nice park or two for the little ones, and decent eats are all nearby (better eats farther afield); a variety of churches, synagogues, and Berkeley's only mosque are right in the neighborhood.

Rockridge is a fun shopping and dining district, with proximity to Temescal and Uptown which of course are hipster neighborhoods par excellence. Oakland is pretty much the Brooklyn of the Bay Area, very diverse, past its golden era of working-class pride but bubbling with artisan/locavore/indie energy. With BART and the highway right there, it's also faster getting to other parts of town than from the Elmwood, which gets clogged at rush hours.

The public schools are where you'll find the biggest difference. Berkeley has very high taxes to offset California's lousy school funding, and also buses its students, so all of its elementary schools are similarly (very) diverse racially and economically. There's really not a bad school in town. Oakland schools are zoned by neighborhood for the most part. In the Rockridge area, there are some excellent public schools with mostly affluent families whose PTAs raise $250K or more a year--but of all the white families in Oakland I know, not a single one has stayed in OUSD all the way through high school. glad 2 B in Elmwood

Editor Note: this discussion also appears on the page about Elmwood

April 2012

Re: Moving to Oakland with small children

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

North Oakland below MLK?

Dec 2011

We are considering moving from South Berkeley (near Ashby Bart) to North Oakland (below Martin Luther King). It seems that safety has improved in the area in the last few years. I would love to hear from people living in the neighborhood about your thoughts. Does it feel safe for families with children? Thank you! Thx for the help!

We've lived in what is recently being called The Longfellow (apparently, a historical name long lost, now found) since fall of 2003. Since 03, the neighborhood got a little worse (circa 2007) and now, since the housing bubble imploded, is getting much, much better. Many of these over-leveraged homes are being scooped up for a song by young couples moving out from SF. We see lots more dog walking taking place (including a fair number of single women walking dogs) and, in what I see as the greatest indication of change - many more little children. Couples walking with babies in Bjorn carriers. Strollers.

There are still, certainly, rough spots and flares of violence (45th and Market was an issue, less so recently; 52nd and Genoa seems to be the new hot spot). But you can see the changes - the 40th Street median was just replanted again - with irrigation this time. There is a Longfellow association that meets monthly, has committees (blight, beautification, grants) and is working hard to make the neighborhood better each day. West and Market have bike lanes, and the Telegraph Avenue love is starting to seep over to the 'other side' of Hwy. 24.

In short, I don't think it's *that* much different from your current location. Different housing stock, different problems, but similar. And there are kids for sure. We have 2 (5 & 7) and there are 7 more on our block alone. Longfellow Resident

Sept 2011

Re: Relocating to the Bay Area, looking for a walkable neighborhood
We live in and love the Rockridge area of Oakland It's highly walkable and close to BART, good restaurants, etc. though as not as comprehensively useful as Piedmont Avenue. Admittedly it's not the cheapest place to buy a house.

We also adore our pre-school, Room to Grow. It's a reggio inspired program with really caring adults, who go the extra mile for the kids. You'd be amazed what kids can accomplish given adults who are open to seeing what they can do. The outdoor space is small, but they make the most of every inch. You get yoga, lots of art, great science exploration, cooking, and a gentle place that really understands kids.

It currently has openings. Our older child who is now in elementary went there for 2 years, and our youngest has been for six month. Happy Parent

Living near Shattuck & 58th St

July 2011

I am currently in the process of downsizing and moving to a smaller house since my children are grown and living on their own. I have lived in North Berkeley for twenty years and know the area well but haven't found a house I like in the area. I have found a lovely small house in North Oakland on the west side of Shattuck at 58th street but don't know anything about the neighborhood. The streets in the area seem quiet and safe and most seem attractive and well tended. Is the area safe, friendly and stable? moving on

My boyfriend and I bought a house in North Oakland, west of Market street. We've been living here almost a year now and haven't encountered any major problems. Our hubcaps were stolen so now we park our car in the garage. There are the illegal dumpings on our street and cars blasting their music. The neighborhood is usually pretty quiet and neighbors are friendly. There are some sketchy elements but I think the area is improving with the recent influx of new homeowners. North Oaklander

I live in Berkeley at the North Oakland Border (Woolsey and Shattuck), so about 8 blocks north of where you are looking. I like the neighbor hood a lot - very convenient - close to Berkeley bowl, Elmwood, Temescal and Rockridge. But I think crime is pretty high here. Not sure how N. Berkeley compares. While I feel safe during the day I do not walk around on my own at night and car break ins are very common - house break ins are not as high but still prevalent (we've had both in our 1.5 years here). It is going to be a lot more racially and socio-economically diverse that N. Berkeley. These neighborhoods can really vary block by block too - I'd definitely try visiting at all different times of the day and also knock on doors an ask neighbors how they like the neighborhood. good luck.

If you want to see the crime stats for your new neighborhood you might want to look at the website

You can search back in time to see what was happening in the area for the last few months.

You also might want to read about the city of Oakland and its financial problems; the financial situation is causing difficulties for citizens to get the services they need. You might want to compare the governments of Berkeley to Oakland. The city police force is definitely understaffed; street maintenance is suffering; parks and rec are being defunded; etc. is a good blog to give you some insight into the city.

When you look at crimespotting's website you can find out what Neighboorhood Crime Prevention Group (NCPC) you would be in ; you might want to contact them for some neighborhood advice. Sue

New to Elmwood/Rockridge - activities with baby & toddler?

April 2011

We are from England and next week we are moving to Elmwood/Rockridge for a year with our 2 year old and 3 month old girls. I'll be at home with the kids no car, and my husband will be commuting to Livermore so working long days so i'm in need of advice as quite scared about being so far from friends and family!!! I'm looking for things to do with my toddler, ideally I would like to get her into some kind of childcare (pre-school/nanny-share) 2 or 3 mornings per week but would also like to know about any singing groups, parks, music, libraries, drop ins or other activities which i can walk or bus to and hopefully meet other parents. Also are there any toy libraries? It seems silly to bring lots of toys and baby kit out or buy them all again! Finally any advice on how/ where to buy a second hand car? thanks and sorry for all the questions!! cathy

Welcome to the area! I live in Rockridge and have a daughter who is just turning two. There are tons of things to do - we almost never use our car. Here's a list of places we go and things we do together...

1. Rockridge Library. They have story time on Wednesdays and Saturdays. But we also go at other times. They have a great kids area with toys, crayons/coloring sheets and (of course) books. The childrens' librarians are also wonderful.

2. PARKS. In the area, we frequent...
--Colby Park on 61st near Colby
--Bateman Park, right next to Alta Bates Hospital
--Willard Park (Hillegass and Stuart-ish)
--FROG Park, down where Claremont Ave crosses the 24 freeway
--On weekends, we use some of the local elementary school parks, including Chabot School (on Chabot Ave) and John Muir (on Claremont up by Ashby).

3. We take Music Together classes at Rockridge Danspace. (Andy Fullington is a GREAT teacher.)

4. There are great toddler/baby swim ''classes'' at the Berkeley Warm Pool on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. This isn't in rockridge/elmwood but is near downtown Berkeley and easily accessible by BART.

5. In warm weather, the beach at Temescal Lake is great.

6. Kid-friendly coffee shops in the area are...
--Cafe Zoe on College and Harwood. The chairs and big and sturdy and won't fall over if your toddler likes to climb. The staff there is super friendly to kids.
--The Beanery, on College Ave in Elmwood. The coffee there is wretched, but they have an awesome enclosed patio in the back - great for letting your toddler roam and relatively private if you need to nurse.

7. Check out Habitot in downtown Berkeley - right near BART.

8. Also check out MOCHA (the museum of children's art) in downtown Oakland. It's also right near BART and offers hands-on art projects for kids. My daughter loves it.

There are tons of used toys/baby gear to be had if you don't want to bring your own. Check out BPN's Marketplace newsletter. And there's tons of stuff on craigslist. We have also found some great stuff at Child's Play on College and Chabot (sells used kids' clothing as well as baby gear, toys, even some books). Best of luck to you - hope you like it here as much as we do... A Rockridge Mom

Note: suggestions were also received for Elmwood

April 2011

Re: Where's the 'Park Slope' of Berkeley/Oakland?
From everything you said, Rockridge sounds like the best match to what you are looking for. I think it resembles Park Slope the closest, although you will never get a perfect match. Walkable shopping areas, close proximity to BART, good public elementary schools, tree lined streets, and nice weather. M

We moved to Rockridge from Park Slope 8 years ago -- in fact, we call Rockridge 'Park Slope West.' We LOVE it here. Though not nearly as dense as Brooklyn, this part of Oakland has a similar feel with highly-educated, interesting people, nice housing, and an easy walk to shops, school, and transit, plus it's only 20 minutes to downtown SF on the train.

Coming from New York, you will find the pace slower, but it is also much easier to cope with daily life. You'll never have to haul a stroller up subway steps again. As in the slope, public schools are less certain after elementary, but our neighborhood middle school is getting better all the time and more neighborhood families are choosing it each year. Lastly, although the bay area is expensive compared to most of the country, we've got nothing on the most desirable parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan so you should be spared some sticker shock. Good luck in your choice!

Moving to Rockridge neighborhood with small kids

Jan 2011

Greetings! My husband and I are seriously considering moving to the Rockridge neighborhood from Danville with our 2 year-old son and new baby. We are looking to live in a more urban, culturally diverse neighborhood but want to make sure that this is a good neighborhood for raising small kids as well. In particular, we want to know what families in Rockridge do with their small children, is it easy to meet other families, how are the parks and other kid facilities, are you happy with your decision to raise your small kiddos there? Thanks so much! Mama hoping to move to Rockridge area

We have a 20 month old son and live in Upper Rockridge. During my teenage years, I grew up in Alamo and can tell you I definitely prefer living in Oakland with my family because of the variety of things to do here, the cultural diversity, and the easy access to San Francisco. I feel like we have yet to discover all of the kid-friendly things we can do here, but here's a list of what we've found and enjoyed so far:
-Plenty of parks with playgrounds. Near us are Temescal, Dracena, Montclair, and Frog Park but there are lots more throughout Oakland and Berkeley. - Lawrence Hall of Science - Oakland Zoo - Tilden Park, especially Little Farm and the Steam Trains - Farmer's markets - Storytime at the Rockridge and Montclair libraries - Lots of classes: music, kindergym, yoga, swimming, toddler playtime
I am sure there is more I am forgetting, but suffice it to say that Rockridge is very kid-friendly, we meet other families in the area all the time, and we are very happy to be raising our son here. Good luck with your decision! Carrie

Rockridge is an excellent neighborhood for small children. It's a very walkable neighborhood, for one thing. We walk to parks, library, grocery store, toy store, friends' houses, just about everywhere. The local elementary schools are top-notch (Peralta and Chabot). The middle school, not sure yet, but I hear it's improving year by year. There are plenty of preschools in the neighborhood. The only downside is the high cost of houses, but if you're coming from Danville the sticker shock won't be too much. You will love Rockridge! Rockridge Mom of 3

Sept 2010

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

If I were you, I would look near Rockridge in Oakland instead. It's a fun area, very kid-friendly, sounds like a good match to your self-description, and it is on the Pittsburgh/Bay Point BART line rather than the RIchmond line. There are more trains, and you never have to transfer, whereas on the Richmond line, you sometimes have to transfer (direct service from SF is intermittent), which would add time to your husband's trip. I found that my commute from downtown to Rockridge took half the time, or less, than it took me when I was in the avenues in the City itself. anon

Consider living in Rockridge! It has many attributes...

--It's a wonderful walking neighborhood full of shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. (OK, Rockridge is oversupplied with places to get your brows waxed, but where else can you walk to the bay area's best butcher shop?) I walk EVERYWHERE - to get groceries, to the post office, to the playground with my kid, etc. I routinely park my car and then don't look at it for a week.

--There is access to GREAT food here - both restaurants and groceries and a great farmer's market on Sundays.

--It is so easy to commute from here. The BART gets you from Rockridge to SF in 20 minutes. And it's right on the freeway too.

--Rockridge is FULL of families w/ small children, and it feels like a village. I routinely see the same people when I am out with my daughter, and I have made friends at the park, the coffee shop, etc. Although it has all the fun and interesting stuff of an urban neighborhood, it *feels* small, and you see the same faces regularly.

--There are about six trillion preschools in Rockridge (maybe even more preschools than waxing salons). Take your pick.

--Rockridge is home to two of Oakland's best public elementary schools, Chabot and Peralta.

--Downside: Rockridge is an expensive place to buy a house (see above if you wonder why). But renting here is not that different than other nice neighborhoods in Berkeley/Oakland. I have been both a renter and a homeowner here, and, in my opinion, the location is so special and wonderful that it's worth maybe squeezing into a smaller space.

Best of luck on your move! Rockridge Mom

2007 - 2008 Reviews

Dec 2007

Re: Living in Rockridge vs. San Francisco
We made the move from SF to Rockridge 2 years ago. We LOVE the neighborhood but miss the city. It is so much easier getting around out in Rockridge and is more kid friendly than the city. It's also a lot more fun and lively than through the tunnel. That being said, the jr. high and highschools need a lot of work (there are some great elementary schools). Hopefully by the time your kids are in jr high, the schools will be as good as the elementaries but, in case they are not, you may still have to pay for private schools out here. Hope that helps -- Anonymous

Moving to Rockridge with little ones

July 2007

My husband and I are moving to Rockridge (from Cambridge, MA) this August with our 2 and 4 year old girls. We're very excited! I'm a SAHM and would love some initial pointers on the area - yummy child-friendly restaurants & hang out spots, best places for groceries, and, most of all, best places/ways to meet other families in the neighborhood with preschoolers. It seems playgroups and such tend to be mostly for infants/younger children -- any advice on good ways to connect with other parents of similarly-aged kids? Any parents interested in meeting up - please feel free to email me! Jen

Welcome to the Bay Area! I'm sure you'll get a million responses on this one, but here are some things we love to do in Rockridge: dinner at Cactus Taqueria (fresh, yummy, kid-friendly); cookies and coffee (and fresh pasta, interesting cheeses, etc.) at Market Hall; FROG Park; Rockridge Library (read the bulletin board -- they often have fun free activities for kids); Pasta Pomodoro (not a foodie place, but heated outdoor seating and good for kids); Rockridge Kids toy store (train table and good birthday gift source). A new Trader Joe's grocery store is opening near Rockridge BART this fall (I think) -- they're hands-down my favorite grocery store. As for meeting other kids, preschool has been a good resource for us, if you're going that route; also music classes (eg, Music Together) and other classes, library events and meeting people through BPN. You're on the right track! JP

Not to worry, you will be in heaven. Just cruise down College Avenue and you will see all the other parents and kids and all there is to see. Practically all the restaurants are child-friendly--the fancier ones are easy to spot. Hang out at the Frog park and you will meet lots of people. Rockridge is easily accessible to Berkeley and the rest of Oakland so everything you see on the gold old BPN applies to you! See you around!

2005 - 2006 Reviews

Playgrounds & parent groups in North Oakland?

Feb 2006

We will soon be moving to North Oakland (Rockridge adjacent -- 61st and Shattuck) -- I'm wondering if there are any active local parent groups, or even a local playground where kids (and parents) congregate and can get to know each other (I'm new to the Bay Area)? I have a 10-month-old daughter. Kim

Dear Kim, Welcome to the neighborhood! We've been in North Oakland (just a few blocks from you) for a couple of years and like it very much. We are pretty new parents and still figuring out the scene so I look forward to reading the other responses you get. I can tell you that there is a relatively new playground on Dover St (I think between 59th & 58th, between Shattuck & MLK). There seem to be a mix of little kids with parents and bigger, unsupervised kids. Each time I've been there I've run into someone else pushing a stroller, so I encourage you to give it a shot. I understand that the playground was created with a lot of community support, and so far it is very well-maintained. Bushrod Park has had an iffy reputation in the past, but it seems to be undergoing a revitalization, and if we all turned out and used the playground I'm sure it would help. Then there's the Frog Park up in Rockridge, which is just too damn charming and I would guess a hotspot for parent networking. happy in Noakland

Welcome to the neighborhood! You can subscribe to the Lower Rockridge Parents newsgroup at Heather

2004 and Earlier

April 2003

Re: East Bay neighborhood that's commutable, progressive & kid-friendly
If you are looking for a great East Bay neighborhood, I would pick our neighborhood -- Upper Rockridge between Broadway Terrace and Moraga Avenue. This is a very diverse neighborhood and is close to everything (nature and modern conveniences). It also has a terrific K-8 public elementary school, Hillcrest. (You may need to send your kids to private high school though.) We really love it here -- there are tons of kids on our street that are the same age as yours (my twins and baby are separated by the same time as yours are but are about a year older). As far as commuting to the city, my husband takes the bus from about a block away. It is an express bus and he is at his desk 35 minutes after walking out the door. Of course, BART is always an option but the bus is generally faster for him given the location of his office. The commute is a huge benefit to being here. Also, the weather is not nearly as hot as the cities further east. Shannon