Living in West Berkeley

Parent Q&A

  • Living Just South of University

    (4 replies)

    Hi families,

    We are looking at homes in West Berkeley just south of University.

    Can anyone help us with you general impressions of this area: mainly--do you feel this is a family friendly area (safe to walk around, parks, etc)? Any impressions about noise from the train and highway? I'd appreciate if there are any other concerns you might flag for us. Thanks so much!

    The noise from the trains is a real thing - the first few nights we lived here I thought we'd have to move, and then they never woke me up again. You really get used to it. My son was born here, and it's never bothered him. (Actually it's fun for him to go see them.) I never hear the highway. 

    There are a lot of families here, which is nice. It feels safe to me, for the most part, but there have been a handful of shootings this year and I once found a syringe in the playground. The marina and aquatic park are fun places for kids, and we see lots of families at both. When there's not covid, there are a lot of family-friendly restaurants too (Tacubaya, Viks, Lanesplitter, etc).

    We live in West Berkeley just north of University. I find it to be a very walkable neighborhood and appreciate that as a mother of a young toddler. We can spend a whole morning just walking along and near Fourth Street, as my daughter loves people watching and watching the train go by (and it is a relief for me to be able to do some shopping, or go out for a lunch or coffee without having to get her in and out of a car). There are a number of parks in the area, most notably César Chávez which we either bike to or drive (5 min). They’re also redoing the playground at James Kenney park and it looks like it will be great. 

    The two downsides are a) the train, as you point out and b) the proximity to homeless encampments. Re: the train—this bothered my husband for a few weeks but since then we have completely adjusted and don’t even notice it. Re: the homeless encampments, this is the sad reality of living in the Bay Area. We have had a few encounters with folks who seemed to be homeless and/or mentally ill and I’m sure we would have had few of those experiences had we lived somewhere more isolated, like the Hills. This certainly bothers us, but we are city people and the trade off has been worth it.


    I just moved to West Berkeley just north of University and I love it so far! The proximity to 4th street, easy access to the freeway, and generally easy access to Berkeley is great. That said, I don't really feel safe walking around at night. I also end up driving my 2 yo to more family friendly parks because there aren't many options within walking distance in my area.

    We hear the train all day and night (I think there are 70 something trains per day?) but it's not actually that different compared to when we lived a couple miles away in central Berkeley. It would be really important to have double-paned windows and solid construction in order to limit the noise. We never hear noise from the freeway. I find it's very quiet at night aside from the trains.

    There is a very stark contrast between those with privilege and those without in this part of Berkeley. The stores on 4th street are expensive and luxurious; within blocks of it, there are homeless encampments bursting at the seams. It's disheartening to see such opulence juxtaposed with this extreme desperation. I know the city of Berkeley is working hard to address these issues, but I think West Berkeley represents the harshest contrast in our city's disparity.           

Archived Q&A and Reviews


San Pablo Park area of Berkeley

Feb 2012

Hi folks. What do you know of the neighborhood around San Pablo park in terms of safety and friendliness? I'm looking to buy and it's the only nice looking neighborhood I can afford in Berkeley. I'm single with a 5 year old so safety is a priority but we are used to city living so don't expect perfection either. Thanks! House hunting

We've lived in the San Pablo park area for over three years and love it. It's very diverse, both ethnically and economically, which does lead to more police activity - we personally haven't had any problems, but there have been a recent rash of burglaries in the area, and crime from San Pablo or Sacramento sometimes finds its way into the neighborhood. We still love it. Within a mile there's everything you can imagine - playgrounds, markets, Bart, library, great restaurants and cafes, nurseries, even a post office. It's a quick walk to the 4th street area, and of course Berkeley Bowl is very close and wonderful. When it's time for us to get a bigger house we hope to find something in this same neighborhood.

Make sure to take a close look at your neighbors when looking at a specific house. There are some 'problem homes', so to speak (mostly the kids or grandkids of folks who have lived here for 20+ years causing the problems) and it sure would be annoying to be right next door to one of those, and there are some apartment buildings tucked here and there that I wouldn't want to be right next to, but as a whole neighborhood it's really great! l.

Interested in a home in West Berkeley

May 2011

We will be relocating to Berkeley this summer and are interested in a home in West Berkeley. What insight can you share about this neighborhood? Is it a good place to raise a family? My husband and I have two boys ages 5 and 7. It seems like there are a lot of family-friendly amenities within walking distance. On the other hand, some blocks and homes seem a bit run down and it is right along the freeway and the train tracks. Any thoughts would be very appreciated! living in West Berkeley?

'West Berkeley' is a large demographic area and you don't say whether you would be in southwest or northwest Berkeley. We've lived in southwest Berkeley, the San Pablo Park neighborhood, since 2003. We really like it here. More and more families with young children are moving here because it's one of the more affordable areas in Berkeley. We're a few blocks away from Berkeley Bowl West, a few blocks from San Pablo Park, the largest park in Berkeley (I think), close to freeway access, and close to the shops along San Pablo Ave near Dwight Way.

That said, we do have crime here but from what I understand, crime is not only found in the flats -- we get burglaries and car break-ins just like anywhere else in Berkeley. We have young dudes smoking pot and/or drinking at the park and prostitutes on San Pablo. It's not Lafayette. It is definitely gritty and sometimes it bums me out, to be honest. But it is affordable and we love our neighbors.

Our street has a disaster cache, an active neighborhood email list, block parties twice a year, and lots of kids. Everyone here looks out for each other. I love going to the grocery store and bumping into a neighbor -- I feel like a definite part of the community! SW Berkeley Fan

Kid-Friendly Neighborhoods

Feb 2003

Re: Seeking a friendly neighborhood w/kids
Hi, We live in the San Pablo Park area of Berkeley on Carleton Street (the 1200 block). We find the neighborhood to be very kid friendly and in the 3 years that we have lived here we have gotten to know pretty much all the families with kids around the ages of ours (2 and 4). The neighborhood is no paradise mind you, but it has a lot of very nice qualities. There is a very nice and active park near by (San Pablo Park). The area is pretty diverse ethnically (primarily a mix of African-American and Caucasion families). And it is very centrally located (perhaps too much so) close to freeways and major streets. There are a number of rentals in the area, though our street (which I am most familiar with) is mostly owner occupied. One more note, neighborhoods in this area are really different, street by street, so check them out pretty thoroughly. Good luck, Cherene