Moving from LA to the Bay Area

Parent Q&A

  • Greetings!

    There's a good chance my family and I will be moving to Berkeley (or surrounding places) for a dream job in Berkeley. My husband is African American and I am light-skinned Latina. We have a beautiful daughter, preschool age. I have three questions:

    1. What are some of the safest and friendliest places for us to consider moving to as an interracial family?

    2. What are some of the best, most diverse and affordable preschools around?

    3. We want to our girl to be bilingual in Spanish and English. Are there any dual immersion preschools (and elementary schools) that we should know about?

    Thank you in advance for your help. I went to UC Berkeley for my undergrad 20 years ago and LOVED it. I'm very fond of Berkeley and would happily move back. Since it's been so long, I wanted to hear what current parents have to say in respect to the above questions (and anything else!). 

    Sincerely Grateful,


    You should check out Escuela Bilingue Internacional.  It has preschool, elementary and middle school.

    Hi, we live in Albany and love it. It is a hidden gem between El Cerrito, Kensington and Berkeley with a great school system with easy access to the highway and proximity to Bart. We are an interracial couple with a 20 month old daughter and relocated from Los Angeles approximately four years ago. If you have an interest in getting coffee when you are up here, please don't hesitate to contact us. I can be reached at angel.cruzado [at]

    I don't have specific answers for #2 and #3, but I think pretty much anywhere in Berkeley will be fine for an interracial family. I say this as a member of an interracial family who has friends who are also interracial families.

    I think some people might inadvertently try to steer you towards more "diverse" (i.e. less-white) areas, but I would ignore them (such steering is highly problematic and I think people may be oblivious to that at times). Instead I would just prioritize things you want out of a neighborhood (e.g. public transit, noise levels, nearby commercial streets, whatever) and focus on finding areas that match that instead. If you have general concerns about crime, my general sense is that south of campus you'll get more petty crime, and south/southwest areas closer to Oakland are a bit more touchy (unfortunately). Living in Berkeley I think the main problem to worry about, crime-wise, is property crime (e.g. car getting broken into) than personal/violent crime. Berkeley is also much, much, much safer than it was 20 years ago, so if you had no problems then than you'll have no problems now.

    I haven't looked into it specifically, but as a partial answer to #3 I believe Berkeley Unified's LeConte provides a district-wide dual-language (Spanish/English) immersion and is in the central school zone. I'm not sure if living in the central zone would help your kids get in since it's a district-wide program. Hopefully others will chime in with helpful info.

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Moving to the Bay Area: West LA compared to Berkeley/Oakland

Feb 2013

Have any of you moved up from West Los Angeles to the east bay near UCB? Can you share your thoughts? We are 99% sure we are going to move up with our two young kids for career reasons, but want to get any feedback possible.

Some very random comments we have gotten on our recent visit included people saying that they felt the lifestyle in/around Berkeley/Oakland was more hectic/difficult/unpleasant than west LA. That the school situation can be very hard. That there is a lot more violent crime. We love the vibe/culture of the east bay over west LA, but we are tolerant people who can look past LAs tendency towards materialism and gaudy celeb obsession if we are about to expose our kids to muggings, highly competitive school angst, etc.

THANK YOU! moving mom

I moved from West LA to Rockridge and am very happy to be here. I actually think that life in LA is much more stressful than life in the Bay Area. Traffic is worse, private schools are very competitive (and pricier) and there is a higher percentage of people with more consumer-oriented values. I'm not an LA hater and have many friends there still, but I like my life in the East Bay much more. One thing that makes a huge difference is that I can take BART into San Francisco to go to cultural events or a Giants game. LA has a lot on offer, but getting from the West Side to the Hollywood Bowl or Disney Hall is a nightmare. If you limit yourself to the West Side, then you're okay, but one of the main reasons to live in a city is to access all that it has to offer. People in LA tend to hunker down in their neighborhoods. If you like getting out in nature, there is so much to do in the East Bay Regional Parks right here. Marin is close enough for wonderful day trips that make you feel as though you are on vacation. Other than the beach, there isn't as much easy access to nature in West LA. No one in my family (my kids are now teens) has had any interaction with violent crime here, nor have our friends. Good luck! I love the East Bay

Hmm... Where in West LA do you live? I lived in LA for 9 years (and loved it -still miss it), including 3 years near Santa Monica and Sepulveda, a year in SM north of Wilshire, and a number of years in West Hollywood. I worked in Mar Vista for a while and attended UCLA for grad school. So I know west LA well. I now live in Oakland and have been here since 2008. My take on it is that it all depends on which specific neighborhoods you're talking about. Sure, there is crime here. But some areas are worse than others. LA is not so different. Santa Monica was idyllic and lovely, but I had a bunch of friends in LA who got mugged in Palms, Venice, Marina del Rey... I could go on. I guess what I'm saying is that they're both major urban areas, and they both have their attributes as well as their unsavory aspects. My advice would be to come north and look around and then solicit feedback about specific neighborhoods or schools/districts. Best of luck sorting it all out. Former west sider

Oh, good heavens. We spent the first year of our daughter's life in Berkeley and then followed work down to LA, and I have strong feelings on this question. Pardon the frankness, but...

The people you spoke to must be nuts. I can think of few more stressful, unpleasant places to raise a family than LA. East Bay may be no Portland, but it's prelapsarian in comparison.

To check off some points:

-Let's start with incredible resource that provides constant, well- thought-out, caring advice on life, SCHOOLS, childcare references, etc. What do we have in LA? anarchic unmoderated collection of semi-literate, hasty responses, ads, and spam, where I've had a hard time getting any basic assistance with stuff like locating childcare and feedback on schools. I don't think the contrast is a coincidence.

-Schools: if you live in Oakland, you're looking at an LAUSD can buy into some good elementary schools, and by middle and high school you're probably going to need to move or go private. Berkeley, on the other hand, is more like Santa Monica and Culver City, with a school district many people would be willing to work with the whole way through. Because of the university (some profs do send their kids to Berkeley High) and grad students and generally more progressive community, my suspicion is that Berkeley beats out either of those two districts because the highs for academically advanced kids will be higher.

As far as highly competitive school angst goes, is that missing in West LA? I have found the private school admissions scene here (we haven't had to do it yet, but I've done plenty of research) to be highly stressful, crass, and connections-based...and we don't have the benefit of BPN for incredible, in- depth anonymous (and so honest) commentary on the various school options.

-Crime: it's true that muggings are more of a possibility in Berkeley/Oakland than in West LA. The density and demographics in those communities are more akin to the eastside than West LA...people walk more, and there's much more ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. You can live in fancy hill neighborhoods, but, as in Los Feliz or Silverlake, there's a good chance that you will encounter diversity when you go down into the flats. But I think that if you are spending the kind of money on housing you'd spend in westside LA, you can locate yourself personally in a nicer area...I think of housing costs as mostly similar.

-Traffic and related stress: it's bad in East Bay; it's notably worse in West LA; and East Bay has pleasant public transit options.

I like to make comparisons between the various areas of the different cities I've lived in, and I will note that if you are a 'west LA person,' I would not necessarily think Berkeley/Oakland is the most obvious choice in the Bay Area. If you want a similar demographic and culture and can live with a LOT less space, neighborhoods like the Marina or Pacific/Presidio Heights in San Francisco would be a closer analogue...maybe something to think about. On the other end of the density spectrum, but also demographically closer, are East Bay areas like Lamorinda...though these are more suburban, akin to something like Encino or Woodland Hills down here. Parts of Marin could fit the bill with the same caveat.

We'd never move back to East Bay because at this point if we're going to venture a move, it would probably be to somewhere notably cheaper and less stressful...but I would greatly prefer to raise a family there than in LA. -Reluctant Angeleno

This is the original poster who wants to say THANK YOU THANK YOU for the responses! I'm very relieved by your responses!!!

Reluctant Angelena - i was laughing and crying at reading your post. You're a fabulous writer. If you do end up staying in LA and are close enough to the UCLA Lab School when your daughter reaches pre-k, i want to pop in an enthusiastic push to apply. It's the one thing we'd miss terribly leaving. It has a community of wonderful people, most of whom are very down to earth. The extended day care is so incredibly brilliant...And, going to that campus in the woods everyday...ahh. I hope that we can replicate the warmth and community in Berkeley and Oakland schools thankful

Moving from LA, In search of the perfect walkable East Bay neighborhood

Sept 2012

Young family with toddler and infant moving from LA to Bay Area for work (in SF/SOMA). Looking for an upwardly mobile, safe and clean, ethnically diverse, family friendly neighborhood in the East Bay with convenient proximity to good restaurants and nice shops. Nearby walkable downtown area would be nice. Thinking about Albany/Northbrae/North Berkeley or Upper Rockridge/Piedmont/Crocker Highlands. Am I on the right track? What are the differences between those neighborhoods? Is there an equivalent of Santa Monica or Culver City up there? Alternatively friom the East Bay should Palo Alto be a consideration or is it too far a commute (would like to keep in under an hour. 30 minutes ideally)? Is there a Palo Alto of the East Bay? Any advice welcome. Thanks. LA parent

I love Palo Alto but the commute to the city can be a total PITA. If your office is close to CalTrain then that is an option. CalTrain is a very clean, comfortable, fast way to commute. However, it is expensive, the trains don't run all that often and most skip stops so you are limited in what times you can go home at night. Also, I've had issues getting parking in the CalTrain lots (but I never got there too early).

There can also be issues with parking at BART stations in the east bay so I guess you pick your poison. The nice thing about BART is that it runs frequently and doesn't skip stops unless there is an emergency. There is a lot more flexibility commuting on BART. Now I ride the transbay bus from the east bay most of the time and it is fantastic. But the times that you can use it are limited to commute hours and some of the lines don't run very frequently. The nice thing about the east bay is that I can BART to work in the morning and the bus home at night. If I miss the bus, I can always take BART. Peninsula to East Bay Transplant

Your list of neighborhoods sounds about right. Piedmont is the Palo Alto of the East Bay, just know that some areas of Piedmont are less walkable than others.

If you're looking to buy, and use public schools, then I would avoid Rockridge. My understanding is that the local elementary school is good, but then you're in the larger Oakland High School, which has some real problems. The best schools in the East Bay (in general, of course) are Piedmont, Albany, Berkeley, in that order. L.

When our family was in a similar position, we chose Elmwood in Berkeley. It was a great place -- close to BART, restaurants, parks, etc. The reason I'm writing though, is to let you know that we found that my husband's commute from the East Bay to SF was much worse than what we had to deal with in LA. He did the casual carpool in the morning (which he enjoyed) and took BART home, but his location in the city was not particularly close to BART so that added some extra time. Door to door, he spent an hour each way. In retrospect, I really wish we had considered what ten hours per week of commuting would do to our family (I'd have to say that it's probably a large part of why we ended up moving). I'm sure that living in the city would have some big trade-offs, but the reality of the East Bay/SF commute is worth some consideration. Traffic weary in the Bay Area

Hi- Welcome to the Bay Area! I grew up in LA so I can tell you a bit about what I've learned. I've lived in the city and now in Kensington (which is adjacent to Berkeley). I'm not sure why you're looking in the East Bay as opposed to SF. If you want real walkability you'll find the best chances for that in SF, but areas of Albany that are off Solano Ave are super walkable too. I think Rockridge in Oakland is also, but I don't know that area well. North Berekely is also walkable off of Solano Ave. I don't think there is a real equivalent to Santa Monica or Culver City here. Perhaps Alameda reminds me a bit of SM, but not as upscale or trendy. Hope that helps! Former Angelino

Baja Piedmont is within walking distance of Piedmont Ave and Grand Ave (nice Farmer's market on Saturdays), and is a 20 minute bus ride into the Financial District. Schools are decent too! Anon

Moving from LA, seeking safe area with diversity, culture, quality food

Jan 2011

My family and I want to move to the East Bay or Sonoma County. There is such a diversity of cities in that area that we're overwhelmed by the choices. We're actually just trying to figure out if any cities/towns/neighborhoods fit our wish list. We'll be moving from Los Angeles and would like to live in a safe area with diversity, culture, access to quality food and farmer's markets and restaurants and a good school system but we're ready to live without pollution and traffic and would love a city or town where we could walk or bike in order to run our daily errands. I just want a safe place for our son to grow up, thrive and be a part of his community. We'll both be working from home so commute is not a major factor but we'd love to be able to get to SF relatively easily. Any suggestions? Thank you for your time and Happy Holidays! Jen

Try the neighborhood around North Berkeley BART or between there and downtown berkeley BART. Farmers markets on on stuarydays downtown, on thursdays near shattuck and Rose and on Tuesdays on MLKing at Derby. The area is flat with bike routes on streets and along the Ohlone greenway. The public elementary, middle and high schools are good (although elementary schools are not by neighborhood). Many other neighborhoods are good, too. this is the one I know best, although I live in a less accessible area, myself. Berkeley Parent

I highly recommend Alameda . Alameda is a small island off Oakland, and many parts of it still have a small town, Leave it to Beaver vibe. I can ride my bike everywhere--to the supermarket, to the shopping district on Park Street, and since the speed limit on the whole island is 25mph, it's pretty safe. We see kids riding their bikes or walking by themselves to go home from school all the time. The food on the island is good but not great but San Francisco and Oakland are short drives away. The weather is also great--not as cold and foggy as San Francisco, but not as hot as the areas on the other side of the hills, like Walnut Creek or Dublin. There is a small community feel in Alameda that we like a lot.

When we moved to the Bay Area we drove through many of the neighborhoods to get a feel for all of them. I recommend that as it was educational to actually be on the streets, instead of just looking at real estate postings. --Loving Alameda

We recently moved and had the same list of criteria as you did and felt overwhelmed knowing the bay area really well! From your wish list it doesn't sound like sonata would be a good fit because it lacks diversity and is somewhat of a far drive to sf, especially in the type of traffic we have in the bay area although much more tolerable than la!

We found the east bay to really be a good fit in terms of diversity, being entrenched in good eats and local farming, and being close to sf. Oakland , Berkeley , and Albany were our top choices but ultimately we narrowed it down to Berkeley and Albany because of the good public schools in addition to all the other things we wanted and are very happy with our choice. We can walk to shops, hop on Bart and go to sf, and live in a community that is very diverse and feels like a good place to raise a chikd without going out to the suburbs! Good luck. Been there