Living in San Rafael

Questions & Responses:
Move to San Rafael for GATE Academy ?(3 responses)
Archived Responses: 

Activities for 12-year-old in San Rafael

May 2005

Hi, I work with an emotionally disturbed boy who lives in San Rafael. He is 12 years old, but is emotionally about 7yrs old. I live in San Francisco and don't know San Rafael at all. I want to take him out to do things, but don't know where to go/what to do. He loves sports and bike riding, but with all the rain, most of our time must be spent in-doors. He really likes going shopping, but I really prefer activities that don't require spending money. Any ideas about places and activities in the area would be greatly appreciated.

indoors: 1.Bay Area Discovery Museum is great, in Saualito. 2. quasi-educational, but a store: Dollhouses, Trains, and More in Novato. model trains and the entire material world in dollhouse scale. my daughter's class went with miniature notebooks, wrote down what they liked, and left and made miniature stuff for free (recycled materials) 3. since he likes shopping could you make up a treasure hunt game and goto the San Rafael Goodwill?

OUTDOORS: gear up and go outside for a rain walk if raining? 1. google directions to Madrone Larkspur/ Corte Madera. amazing residential street lined with amazing madrone redwood trees. sweet playground with small creek at bottom of street and drive up to top (more than a mile) where there's an enchanting trail 2. walk across Golden Gate Bridge and take bus back or bike across (from Sausalito) and maybe down to Crissy Field (bus back) 3. Olompali State Park in Novato-ish (south-bound side of highway only so u-turn on highway 101 few miles past)has a small Miwok Indian Village and a small creek. fun to check out the various Miwok structures. tourist in Marin

Moving to San Rafael vs. Berkeley

May 2005

My husband, two year old and I are relatively new arrivals to the Bay area and looking for a place to rent - a place to call home: Berkeley/Albany or San Rafael (esp. Gerstler Park area) are candidates. We need to be within walking distance to the following: organic food stores (e.g. Berkeley Bowl, Whole Foods, Farmer's Markets, Trader Joe's, etc.), mass transit and parks. Quality of public schools matters. The parks we've seen in San Rafael are really beautiful (even considering Live Oak Park in Berkeley), and I have some vague impression that the schools are better than in Berkeley/Albany (is that true?). The rents are lower in San Rafael, which matters to us. But Berkeley seems more bike friendly. Which is better for raising a kid? Any thoughts or other suggestions would be welcome. (We consider Rockridge from time to time, but it seems kind of yuppy, and without many playgrounds: Colby Park is kind of tiny and Froggy Park is under a freeway.)
still looking for a place to call home

I live in Albany and work in San Rafael, near the Gerstle Park neighborhood. My husband and I considered moving to San Rafael when my employer did, but pretty quickly decided that we belonged in the Berkeley area.

San Rafael does boast some wonderful parks, and a nice farmer's market on Thursday evenings from May to October. But its Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are not really within walking distance of Gerstle Park. Biking, yes, perhaps, but I'd hate to walk it regularly. And its access to mass transit is significantly inferior because it lacks BART. (Though I must admit that Golden Gate Transit busses are a lot nicer than AC Transit busses!) It's also a lot harder to get out of Marin and go anywhere else than it is from the East Bay.

The rep of Albany's schools is just as good as Marin's. Berkeley's are typically considered not quite as good. However, of course the individual student's experience depends on a lot of things other than API scores and I would send my children to any of them.

Your experience in Berkeley or Albany would depend a lot on exactly where you lived; North Albany, within walking distance of Trader Joe's, is significantly different from South Berkeley near Berkeley Bowl. But in general I think you're correct that Berkeley and Albany are more bike friendly, if only because you can go a lot farther without having to deal with hills. And we certainly have plenty of nice parks and good farmers' markets!

One of the main differences, I think, is sort of...cultural. San Rafael is more affluent, with a sharper divide between the wealthier white families and the poorer Hispanic families. Berkeley and Albany are home to a wider mix of socioeconomic/ethnic patterns, partly because there are so many foreign students at UC Berkeley. There is certainly a different ''feel'' to the population of the two areas which relates to that difference in diversity. I often feel a bit ''frumpy'' in San Rafael, where it often seems as if every other woman I see on the street or in the stores is blonde, manicured, thin, and fashionably dressed! Of course this is an overgeneralization -- but I think it may be a more significant factor for your comparison than the relative accessibility of Whole Foods. :-) anon

In terms of transportation (public, biking, walking) Berkeley is a much more reasonable place than San Rafael. San Rafael is about the only place in Marin with semi-decent public transit but the buses have to travel on a usually-congested highway. The service to San Francisco is once every half-hour (BART runs every 7-1/2 min during commute hours). Some neighborhoods would be ok to bike in, particularly the one on the ''wrong'' side of the freeway which is fairly close to Trader Joes. Depend where in San Rafael you rented, you could probably walk to shopping and a bus, but not to work. Many streets, particularly the ones near Trader Joes, are pretty unpleasant to walk on.

In terms of a balance of transit and good stores, I'd suggest Berkeley near Ashby BART(Berk Bowl), or N.Berkeley BART (Monteray Market, Berkeley Natural Foods).

N Berkeley has the Ohlone Greenway bike trail, which takes you to campus and most of the way to downtown. Berkeley has BART (to SF, downtown Oakland) and buses (local destination). Many people in Berkeley also walk to work.

We've been having a good experience with the Berkeley schools, but I don't know anything about the San Rafael schools. Carol