Advice about Living in San Ramon

Parent Q&A

  • Next great *affordable* city/town/neighborhood?

    (9 replies)

    Hello BPN Community,

    I'm in a situation that I'm guessing many of us are finding ourselves in.  I and my 4-year old son currently live in Oakland but the cost of living/housing in the area is so daunting that I am thinking of moving in the next year to be able to put down some roots in a more economically feasible area and avoid changing schools down the road. I'm wistful for the days when Oakland was the hidden gem of the Bay Area. Does anyone know of any up-and-coming places to live? I would love to find a place where rent isn't so insane that I could eventually save enough to purchase a house in the same area, but I'm not sure that place exists. Off the top of my head I'm wondering about San Leandro and El Cerrito (rents there seem a little less than what I'm seeing in Alameda/Berkeley/Oakland right now).  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!


    I wanted to chime in and give my vote for Hercules too. We moved here from Albany and have been extremely happy. We have a five year old and have met other young families. We've done lots of classes at the Park and Rec and there are wonderful programs at the library. It is peaceful and pretty. Having grown up in the inner Bay Area it was hard for us to accept being priced out of everything from Oakland to Richmond Annex but now I'm glad: Hercules has turned it to be a real gem. Pinole is lovely too.

    West Contra Costa County! We moved to Pinole in 2013 and are now very happily settled in with our 8-month-old daughter, planning to stay here for a long while. We feel like it's perfectly situated on the line between semi-rural (we have hiking trails in the hills behind our development, and neighbors with horses) and semi-urban (there's an independent coffeeshop downtown, a commuter bus that runs to Del Norte BART, a Saturday farmer's market, and very talented community theater). My husband commutes to Berkeley for work, which has good days and bad days, but is generally manageable. And when we are craving more culture, Berkeley and San Francisco are easy to get to. I can definitely feel the place shifting as more young professionals get priced out of Berkeley/Oakland -- the elementary schools are OK, middle and high school are by report not-so-great, but I would not be surprised if they look very different in 10 years.

    Hope this helps. Happy to answer any more questions if you've got them!

    We love El Cerrito and there are definitely many young families moving here from Berkeley and Oakland in order to get larger homes and access to the public schools. However housing inventory is low and prices have gone up as a result so affordable is relative. Our neighbors across the street just sold their home for $140k over list price! If you get the right location you have access to some great public schools and the town is small enough that it has a community feel - my kids are always running into kids they know at classes and summer camps. 

    One hidden gem if you are willing to go further North is Hercules. We just bought a relatively affordable condo out there for my mother-in-law and they are adjacent to   a highly ranked elementary school (both her neighbors have young children and moved out there for affordable housing and decent schools). They feel very safe and find the area beautiful and friendly. Our next door neighbors in El Cerrito who had been renting their home but just had a baby also elected to leave and buy a place in Hercules, and I have heard of others doing the same. So I think that is a city that is up and coming for families. 

    We live in Pinole after ten years in Oakland and are very happy here.  It was a big culture shock at first, we accidentally called the police on the paper boy because a decade in Oakland told us that a man going slowly from house to house at 4 am was up to no good.  I don't know about your price point, but I think you can rent a nice 3 bedroom house around here for $2600 and a 2 bedroom apartment for around $1900.  Small houses like ours seem to be selling for around $500-550k.  It's cheaper because the commute to the city is awful, but my husband commutes to Berkeley and it's not bad.  I have a reverse commute to Solano County and that is smooth as butter.  Pinole is a great place for kids.  There are awesome parks and a lot of nature and in general it's just very chill and safe.  We have a newly built Sprouts, a Trader Joe's, a third wave coffee place, a weekly farmer's market, and a bunch of mom and pop restaurants.  There are not a lot of cultural opportunities though, and we still head into Berkeley/Oakland at least once a week.  As far as schools, I toured Ellerhorst Elementary (a 7 on Great Schools) and talked to a lot of people in the neighborhood and people raved about it.  I have no idea what we'll do for middle/high school since their reputations aren't great, but they are both newly rebuilt and who knows what they will be like by then.  In general, I think that Pinole is a "hidden gem" in the Bay Area because driving through on the freeway makes it look like just a bunch of big-box stores, but it's so much more. When we wanted to buy we just kept driving up 80 until we could afford something, but now that we're here I've turned into a Pinole booster! Good luck with your search!    

    Dear JC5,

    My husband and I were in the same boat as you about a year ago. We had been living in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Oakland's Lake Merritt and loved it, but was not affordable for us to grow our family there. We ended up moving to San Leandro's Old Downtown neighborhood which is definitely more affordable than our old Oakland neighborhood and still has a lot of charm.  I really feel like this is the next hidden spot that is still affordable. We live walking distance to the downtown shops, restaurants and a weekly farmers market.  We have met several of our neighbors that have moved into this area from Oakland in the past 5 years on average. So, I get the feeling that it is slowly becoming discovered.  By writing this post I risk making it more discoverable, but at the same time we are always excited to meet new neighbors here that are like minded. One word of caution would be to avoid the Bayfair District of San Leandro which tends to be the sketchier part of town. Good luck!

    I would check out San Ramon.  The community is diverse, the public schools are fantastic, it is safe and a family oriented community.  San Ramon has apartments but they also have very affordable townhouses and free standing homes.  The town houses are much less expensive than the free standing homes.  El Cerrito and San Leandro do not have as good public schools and are not as safe as San Ramon.  San Ramon is only 25 minutes from Oakland.

    I am a homeowner in El Cerrito, and what I hear from my local renter friends is that it is not affordable (any more). I'd suggest looking to Richmond (maybe Marina Bay), Pinole, or Hercules. Also investigate if you qualify for affordable housing developments in the various cities you're considering (income limits vary by county). Some of them are very nice and well situated.

    The answer is Richmond! 

    We've lived in the Richmond Annex for almost ten years, and own a house there that is much more affordable than similar places in the East Bay.  And we love it.  Richmond has a reputation of being dangerous, but crime has gone way down in the last decade -- I personally had more problems when we lived in Temescal.  Our neighborhood is very friendly, progressive, and truly diverse (including economically diverse).  The shopping isn't great, and there's not much fine-dining (amazing casual Latin American and Asian places though), but as long as you have a car or live close to one of the three Bart stations in the area (EC Plaza, EC Del Norte, Richmond), you'll be fine.  Richmond is also amazingly progressive: we're a sanctuary city, elected a Green mayor, had the first openly gay police chief, pioneered community policing programs, and so on. 

    Check out Point Richmond (though that part is quite expensive), the Annex, the North and East neighborhood, and the Marina (lots of rental housing there).  Message me if you have questions!

    El Cerrito for sure in my mind. Much more affordable but still close to all the great things in the area. Also check out the Richmond Annex area-it is pretty small but because of the Richmond address the prices are lower but very little crime and still close to all that is great about the Bay Area. Also the Richmond Annex area goes to El Cerrito schools which are rated middle of the road but I have friends that have kids in the schools there and love it. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Moving To Dublin, Pleasanton or San Ramon?

Oct 2014

We're relocating from Oakland (Grand Lake) to the Dublin/Pleasanton/San Ramon area, having outgrown our rent-controlled apartment (sadly), looking for a 3BR house with a yard for less than $3,000 a month, which thankfully, doesn't seem to be a big challenge. We're looking for insight into a neighborhood that is a good fit for our family. We've driven over there a few times, and hung out in stores, restaurants, etc. but can't seem to get a pulse on the striations of neighborhoods. Someone said East Dublin was where a lot of families were moving because of new construction, but we liked west dublin more. We also like Pleasanton and San Ramon, but aren't too sure of neighborhoods. We're progressive and grounded and slightly nervous finding our peeps over there. H

Dublin and San Ramon are both non-towns, as far as I can tell. My in-laws live in SR so I know that place is a serious YUCK! I'd advise against it. (I've heard that Dublin is similar, but I've never checked it out.) My experience with SR is that the folks are super-conservative, there is no real 'town' to speak of, just strip malls/shopping centers and subdivisions, and the weather isn't great. Maybe it's just the spot where my in-laws live (near where Bollinger Canyon & Crow Canyon meet, so the west side) but it's always super cold in the winter, super hot in the summer, and the fog rolls in all year long in the evening, which totally ruins the positive aspect of living somewhere warm enough to have dinner in your garden throughout the summer!

However, Pleasanton seems like a great place to me. First off, it's an actual town -and seems pretty cute. It even has a fair grounds! The weather seems nice (if you like it HOT in the summer) and the schools are great. Apparently it's quite wealthy, so maybe you get the conservatives out there as well, but... I get the feeling that it's more progressive than the other places you're looking at. /San Ramon Sucks!

I had to post after the person posted that San Ramon 'sucks'. We almost moved there so I spoke with many different families with kids in Elementry and middle schools - west side - Twin peaks, Bollinger Hills (don't recall exact name). Schools are amazing. If you like to hike or mountain bike you can almost go out your back door. And the bike paths in town are fabulous. There are great after school classes, a fabulous public pool (San ramon high) that was like a water park to my kids. We went there in the fall and heard about 4 languages spoken while waiting for it to open. The parents I spoke to were happy with the schools, teachers, responsiveness etc. There is a farmers market at least 2 days a week. And an outpost of Zachary's pizza! We also considered Pleasanton which has the bonus of Bart. Schools great there as well. Dubin schools have an iffy-er reputation but I never looked very closely. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the Elementry schools seems to really focus on test scores. That seemed to be the case more in Danville but its the same district. When I posted looking for info about that area I did receive some seriously negative responses - I highly recommend a few hours in one of the parks at the pools or go for a hike in Bollinger Hills. We enjoyed all of our visits. Good luck

As a mother of two, Bay Area native and local pediatrician, I have to write in to say how much we love living in the tri valley area. We live in San Ramon, relocated here about a year and a half ago from the peninsula. We bought in San Ramon because we fell in love with our house but also strongly considered Pleasanton. In San Ramon, the school district is amazing, it's a very green town with lots of park space and city amenities, very safe and neighbors are friendly. We could not be happier with our decision to move here. San Ramon doesn't have a town center per se, but we use Danville and Pleasanton resources easily and the towns are closely situated to each other. It is warm in the summer and winters are comparable to other places in the bay, so we don't feel A big difference from other places we have lived in the Bay Area. In summary, we love it and it is wonderful suburb living for families. San Ramon happy resident

Living in San Ramon in the older neighborhoods

Nov 2012

Looking to hear from families with children who live in San Ramon in the older neighborhoods - west side of 680, near california high, Inverness park - or Greenbrook area of Danville...what do you like, love, not like about your community? The schools score very high but I worry they are test driven - because their scores are so good - what's your take on that? Creative and engaging teachers? Are parents involved in schools? Many sahm's? Easy or hard to connect and form friendships? Glad you moved there? This is a more advice-y query but has anyone figured out a way to evaluate schools beyond the API/great schools information and data? We have a 2nd grader and incoming kinder for next fall. We live in Alameda but want more space inside and out - and would love to be near open space.

We made the move 3 years ago - the summer before my son entered kindergarten. We are within walking distance to Bollinger Canyon Elementary (the west side off 680) I do not have any major regrets about moving from our Oakland neighborhood (which I enjoyed as well). I grew up in Pleasant Hill and so I was used to suburb life before marrying my Oakland native husband and living in Oakland for 7 years. Yes, we moved for the schools and I work in Pleasanton and my husband works in Dublin so it was a good fit. The school has been a great experience, we've had amazing teachers and the parents have been great as well.

The school doesn't feel test driven, but, this is the only elementary that I've experienced as a parent so I'm probably not the best resource for this question. I do feel my son is where he should be developmentally and academically. And the 4 teachers we've experienced have been great. My son tends to like the warm fuzzy, caring type and for second grade his teacher was a bit strict in his mind. My mind she was fine and he just took awhile to adapt. The school has an art teacher, music program, computer teacher and librarian that is parent funded. I do feel like a lot of parents are really involved with the school.

No, not everyone is a sahm, I'm thankful for those that are as they tend to step it up in the classroom when I can only make one or two parties a year. They tend to plan out everything and may just need a donation of baked cookies from me. My son has a wonderful time, and that's all that really matters. We have a lot of Dad's that jump in as well. To be honest, it seems to me that most folks here are two parent incomes or at least the same ratio I experienced in Oakland. The population is diverse, I was skeptical at first, but there is a wide variety of folks in the neighborhood and the school. It wasn't as easy for me to form the friendships that we had made with our Oakland preschool families, but, once school started and the play dates started then the kids had stuff in common the friendships came; for me and my son.

Likes - walk to school, park is down the street, and we can bike in the neighborhood. We have a back yard. In Oakland we lived on the side of a hill. Our car hasn't been stolen (like it was in our Oakland neighborhood) although we did leave our doors unlocked in San Ramon and someone took the change in the ashtray and went through the car. Crime is everywhere.

Dislikes - It's hot in the summer time, restaurants (but, they are getting better), Farmers Market isn't nearly as good as Montclair or JL Square, and no downtown area like Montclair exits in San Ramon. Hope you make the best decision for you and your family! Debbie

Oct 2012

Re: Moving to Castro Valley from Oakland
Hello - If you have a GATE child then I would move to San Ramon and not Castro Valley. San Ramon is about 15-20 minutes away from Castro Valley. The San Ramon school district is light years ahead of Castro Valley and has a strong GATE program. There are two types of programs available Cluster Gate and ATP. You would need to apply for ATP if your child is a third grade GATE student living in San Ramon. If you need more detailed information please feel free to email me. Castro Valley schools are good but San Ramon schools are great. Yes, San Ramon is the land of the beige houses but you have 3 Peets Coffee houses, Whole Foods, Zachery's pizza, etc. San Ramon also has a great deal of open space very close for hiking and biking. Joy

Living in Windemere/San Ramon

June 2006

I would've thought you were crazy if you told me two years ago that we'd be considering a move to San Ramon. We love our Oakland neighborhood, charming old house and friendly neighbors with same-age kids. BUT. We might be ready to trade in ''walk to shopping'' for ''walk to huge park,'' easy freeway access for kid- friendly bike paths and great/varied restaurants for the ability to dine in our own backyard and watch the kids run around on the lawn.

Does anyone have any information about the new Windemere community, specifically the people who live there? The few times we've been out there, we've seen NOBODY walking around, in the parks or hanging out in the neighborhood. It could be because we were in the areas where few people have actually moved in. Or, it could be that once you move out there, you find that people keep to themselves and stay inside! (Yikes). A friendly, inviting community is really important to us, with 2 small children.

Any information/suggestions would be helpful!
-Maybe we're the ones who are crazy?

Have you considered Dublin or Pleasanton? We moved to Dublin last summer and really love it. We have a nice home in the Summerglen area just .5 mile from the 580/680 interchange and near BART. I see kids of every age in our neighborhood playing in their yards or the street. Although my daughter is too young now to run outside and play with friends, I'm hopeful that she will enjoy such pleasures in just a few years. Our neighbors on both sides have kids only slightly older than her. Plus we have access to a pool (thru our homeowners assoc.), only 1.5 blocks away, and there are always families hanging out there. Dublin's Emerald Glen Park is just a few blocks away, and it is HUGE, with a great playground for kids, lots of baseball and soccer fields, and a new area that includes a cricket pitch (my husband is from India, so that is a bonus that may pay off down the road). We've discovered some great restaurants in downtown Pleasanton that keep us from missing the Berkeley restaurant scene too much. I joined the Pleasanton Mom's Club and have met some moms that way.

We also looked at Windemere and other new developments in San Ramon. We found too many negatives vis-a-vis Dublin/Pleasanton: no BART access, the drive from the Windemere development back to the freeway seemed REALLY long (lots of stoplights to wait for) and would probably only get longer as the houses keep going up out there, and no nearby shopping.

From our residential area in Dublin, I can drive to the mall (10 min), grocery stores (3 min), freeway (3 min), BART (3-5 min), or even to some shops in San Ramon (Whole Foods is about 10 min). We are just blocks from a grade school that our daughter can attend, and there is a new middle school in Dublin Ranch. I found a grocery store in Pleasanton that offers better meat/seafood and fruits/veggies than Safeway for those times when we want to splurge a bit. And the farmers' market is a good option. One last benefit to our place in Dublin - we get nice winds in the evening so that the temperatures (when they get really hot) are more bearable. We can often leave the windows open and turn off the A/C.

If you are thinking of making the move to the East Bay, Dublin/Pleasanton is worth considering.
Happy in Dublin

To the couple thinking about moving to San Ramon from Oakland. If you enjoy a close knit community where neighbors hang out outside and socialize, and kids romp through the streets, you won't like San Ramon.

I used to frequent San Ramon alot and had friends who lived there. I found that these developments did not foster that close knit community you seek. Most people come home, drive their cars straight into the garage and you never see them again. Everyone has automatic irrigation systems, so they don't need to come out front to water. The developers install developer front yard landscaping so that you don't get to landscape your own yard. The HOA's while a good idea initially, are very stringent and stipulate what you can and cannot do with your house, landscape, and everything else.

Think of it this way, you're not just buying a house, you're buying into a different way of life. It gets so hot out there, that most people come home, turn on the AC and stay inside. It gets so cold that people come home, turn on the heat and stay inside.

The major advantage of San Ramon though? Great schools, and very little crime. There won't be much in terms of diversity. There is alot of money there, and the old cliche of ''Keeping up with the Jones''' is true. Also, 680 during peak travel times is really busy.

However, living in San Ramon is pretty easy. You can just hop in your car, and you've got the big boxes along 680, Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, or that new Hacienda Complex in Dublin.

So, as far as Windemere is concerned, it's an upscale developement, with large homes, wide streets, pools in the backyard, with most folks keeping to themselves. Unfortunately, that is the trend with these developments.

HOWEVER, I think that if you can find a subdevelopement there, with narrow streets(similiar to streets in Oakland), you might have a better chance of interacting with your neighbors. I found a developement in Danville (small, only about 20 homes or so), that actually fostered community. And, also, don't forget to pay the HOA fees. ;P

BTW, even though my post sounds a little negative, I'm not bashing San Ramon. It's just a different lifestyle, and if I had kids, I'd consider moving there.

One thing to note though...and this was mentioned by someone else who commented on the Lamorinda area...If you love your Oakland neighborhood, neighbors, and are happy, then one thought is to stay put, spend the money you would otherwise spent on mortgage on the new house in San Ramon, and send your kids to private school. New house in Windemere is upwards of $700-800k.

Good luck