Moving from New York to the Bay Area
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Moving to the East Bay from Brooklyn - which neighborhood?
- Moving from NYC with 13yo - need affordable and safe
- New Yorkers relocating to the Bay Area, looking for a walkable neighborhood
- Moving into Bay Area from Brooklyn with 4-year-old
- Where's the 'Park Slope' of Berkeley/Oakland?
My family of 4 (myself and my husband with our two sons, aged 2 and 4) is moving to the Bay area this winter, and I'm hoping this forum might help me with some questions! I have extensively read through old posts all over BPN, but could use some more specific advice on choosing a neighborhood. We are pretty sure we want to move to the East Bay, and are looking specifically at: North Berkeley; Albany/Kensington; Rockridge in Oakland, and perhaps Lafayette a bit farther afield. Our ideal community would include: the ability to walk to amenities (a few cafes/restaurants, groceries, etc.); walking distance to a BART station, and a commute of under 40 minutes to Embarcadero area; some proximity to nature; good local public schools and preschools for young children; some parks/playgrounds nearby; a safe, family-friendly neighborhood where we could rent a single-family house (our budget is pretty high, so that's not a major obstacle right now). I would love to hear from locals about how these neighborhoods compare, pros and cons of each in relation to the others and in terms of these criteria. I would also really love some tips on how to house hunt. So far, I'm looking at Craigslist and Sabbaticalhomes.com, as well as Trulia, but I'm not seeing much! Can people recommend good real estate agents who deal with rentals, or other sites we should look at? We want to rent for a year or so until we determine if/where we want to buy. Thank you so very much for any help you can give!
Relocating from Brooklyn
Congratulations! This is a wonderful place to live. Our favorite neighborhoods are: Elmwood (not so close to BART, but we think the very best neighborhood), North Berkeley/Gourmet Ghetto, and Rockridge. The area around upper Solano Avenue is also very nice. THE best realtor I've ever met is David Anton, WPM Properties, (510) 508-1313. Mind-blowingly good service. EastBayAPhile
One word: Alameda island mom
We live in Lafayette on a cul de sac. Each afternoon and on weekends the neighborhood kids are out playing, laughing, riding bikes, scooters, and skateboards, or exploring the creek nearby. Many kids walk, ride their bikes, or scooter to school. After school they walk to the library or hang out downtown. It is very safe and feels like a place where I can feel comfortable letting my son begin to spread his wings and experience some freedom and independence. Happy and relaxed Mama
House hunting for rent is almost impossible for people who already live in the area. You are already using the few resources that are out there.
Since your budget seems to be sufficient for high rents and you only need a rental for about a year, how about looking at airbnb and vrbo. There may be people willing to rent out for multiple months or even a year and long term rentals are not as expensive as real vacation rentals that are short term. Good luck with the search.
After living in New York for 11 years, I returned to the East Bay with my husband and young daughter. We are living in Lafayette. I couldn't be happier with our choice. We knew that no new urban experience would compare to our New York years, so we went the complete opposite direction and settled in charming suburbia. Lafayette is fairly small but offers everything on your list. I live within a 5-10 minute walk of restaurants, a major grocery store, the library, playgrounds, jogging/biking trails, public schools, and several preschools. The town is very safe and family-friendly. Although I don't know about availability (the housing market is very competitive here!), there are many homes within close proximity to BART and the main street, Mt. Diablo Blvd. There are many excellent preschools offering a range of scheduling options. Although there are waiting lists at many schools, the process is much more low-key than in New York. I find the people of Lafayette to be friendly, educated, and down-to-earth. My daughter is only in preschool, but the public schools here are very well regarded. Lafayette has extensive trails and parks, and it is also within easy driving distance to Tilden Park in Berkeley, where I often take my daughter for a variety of activities. I would say that the one thing Lafayette lacks is diversity. On all other accounts, it is lovely. Unfortunately, I can't provide much insight on the topic of real estate, because we chose to rent an apartment to start. I'd be happy to share more information about my experience here if you wish to email me. Good luck with your move! Heather
Hello! I realize this question has been posted many times, in one way or another, but most of the posts I could find were outdated and I figured it couldn't hurt to request some advice specific to my situation. I grew up in the Bay Area but moved to NY City in 91' when I was 13. I am now moving back to the Bay Area with my 13 year old son, our 2 cats and one dog. My husband will be coming out to join us in the near future. I have been researching towns, counties, neighborhoods and I am more confused now then when I began. I want to find an area that is 'safe' but I feel that what is considered safe varies greatly from person to person. For example, I feel perfectly safe in NY but many people do not. My main concern is gang presence, since I have a teenage son. 'Affordable' is another word that means different things to everyone. Basically, around $1500 for a 2 bedroom is the max for me. More for a 3 bedroom obviously, because I could get a roommate in that case. Good schools are very important to me as well. I don't mind communting to SF but I would love a town with a vibrant downtown so that mayve I can find a decent job. I work in Food and Bev, which is decent money in NY and SF, but not necessarily everywhere else. I've read some negative things about the schools in the East Bay and that snobby attitude of Marin. Any advice about these things would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance!!! going back to Cali
Have you considered Santa Rosa ? Lots of food and beverage jobs around here since it's the Sonoma wine country and you can find decent housing in your price range especially in one of the historic neighborhoods near downtown. School quality varies so you should definitely examine that closely but there are some excellent public charter schools in addition to neighborhood schools. Santa Rosa's population is greater than 160K so while it's certainly much smaller than many cities, it's not a teeny tiny town either. Santa Rosan
Hi: I've also lived in NYC as a child and young adult, Marin as a teen, and more recently I've been in the Bay Area for 20+ years, in Oakland for 13 and Albany for 3 (whew!) I always felt safe in Manhattan, not as much in Brooklyn, but that was in the late 80's. So I get where you're coming from! I also have a 13 year old, who has begun to walk around with her friends and alone. (We now live in Albany). I think that if you want the urban amenities such as great food, great grocery stores, some degree of diversity and safety for kids who are out and about, Albany and North Berkeley are by far your best bets. Albany and Berkeley public schools are used by many people and are good (other than the Prop 13 issue but that's the case all over CA) IMHO, Elmwood and Rockridge are very pricy and do not offer as much for kids to do alone. Solano Ave and anywhere within walking distance is safe, there's lots of low cost food options for kids (pizza, burritos, coffee shops) and there's tons of kids out and about. If it were me, and you want urban life, I'd avoid the hills, but you're not going to find a rental there in your price range anyway. I have a friend who is raising her 13 year old girl twins in the Mission area of SF and she has a very similar life style, but her girls are more street smart than mine. Good luck with your decision! anonymous fellow traveler
Hi All! My husband, two and a half year old daughter and I are relocating to the Bay Area this December, for my husband's job. We're New Yorkers who've spent the last two years in LA, and are really, really excited to move to such a seemingly wonderful, diverse, and WALKABLE place. Our biggest issue though, is getting our daughter into a preschool/ nursery school or even activity centered part time daycare, where she could begin in January.
We understand the process is long, as it would be in NY, and so far have scheduled tours, etc., for places where she would begin the following September. She's already beginning part time preschool here. I'd hate for her to miss out on nine months of school, friends, interaction, just because we need to move on such short notice. Does anyone know of any great places that might consider or be able to accommodate a new child mid-year?
We have a lot of freedom in what neighborhood we choose...although it can't be outrageous. For now what draws us most is the inner sunset/Richmond areas, bernal heights, Berkeley, and the safer but more citified parts of Oakland...we definitely don't want to be driving a lot. Other than that, we may very well plan where we live around where we can get her in school! thanks ahead of time for any suggestions! Sam
If you're relocating to the Bay Area, I hope you'll consider Alameda . It's less expensive than San Francisco, has a few destination restaurants, some nice shopping areas, a mall with a future despite past struggles. Alameda has a great climate, has an up-and-coming art scene, and the schools - despite admitted funding issues - are decent to excellent (as far as I'm concerned, the distance from ''decent'' to ''excellent'' is as wide as these three letters: ''P-T-A''.
Alameda was formerly a base town and has been something of a hidden treasure (some might say a backwater) but more and more young, progressive families are moving in. Most neighborhoods are walkable. There's a rather sparse but decent network of buses connected to AC Transit and BART, and on the West End there is now a bike commute shuttle through the ''Posey Tube'' connecting Alameda to Oakland, BART, etc.
In terms of preschools, talk to Fuzzy Caterpillar, Little Lions, Rising Star, KinderHuis, KinderCare and Child Unique Montessori - among many others.
Drawbacks (or benefits, depending on your POV)
- no big-box stores
- occasionally if a drawbridge is up over the estuary, it can be hard to leave town
- 25 MPH speed limit even when I'm in a hurry
- public beach isn't great for swimming, and public pool arrangement is lame
- very limited range of seasons: we get spring, we get something sort of like fall, no real winter, and summer has cool nights
Hi- You didn't say where your husband will be working but you did express some interest in the Sunset or Richmond area of San Francisco . If you are looking for a family friendly and walkable area in SF I highly recommend the Laurel Heights nieghborhood. It is flat and very walkable to everything you'll need and I do mean everything! The only issue is the public school situation. If you're kids are going to be in elementary school soon that is something to consider. Definitely research the SFUSD process to see if you can stomach dealing with the lottery. We just moved to the East Bay from Laurel Heights in SF because we didn't want to deal with the public school situation there. Other than that, it is heaven! Good luck with your move. Former city girl
We were in a similar situation last year at this time, when we moved to Berkeley too late to apply to preschools. We were lucky enough to find a very good preschool, The Model School , that does not have a college-like application process. They operate on a first-come, first-serve basis and new kids can enter when space becomes available. It is on Prince at Telegraph, in a very walkable neighborhood close to Elmwood, Whole Foods, Berkeley Bowl, Ashby BART. themodelschool.org Happy Model School Parent
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
If you are still looking for a preschool you should definitely be in touch with Betsy at Griffin Nursery School . I just saw on the website that she's still looking for girls in the morning program. We've been delighted by Griffin in the year that we've been there. The teachers at Griffin are warm and deeply experienced. I feel like I learn from them all the time (and I've spent a good chunk of my adulthood studying how kids learn!) When I share a behavior that I am trying to resolve with my son, their answers often surprise me (in a good way!), and help me think about the issue from his perspective in ways I could not have otherwise. It's such a safe and sweet setting, really very charming. We found it easily, since our close friends had sent their kids there and were very happy with it, but some of the parents of our son's Griffin-friends checked out many other preschools and at least two of them have emphasized to me how lucky we were to find our way to this special place. The big trick is that kids only go for half a day the first year, and in the second year you can add extra hours, but I think it's worth it to figure out other childcare for the rest of the time you need. And yes it's not the co-op I'd always hoped we'd join once we had kids (we're in South Berkeley and I didn't want to spend so much time commuting to preschool, but I can understand your interest!), and I don't know what being in a co-op is like, but I think this is as close as you are going to get outside of a co-op. Maminka
Help! I just got a dream job with a wonderful SF company after having lived for over 25 years in NYC, 21 of them in Brooklyn. And while I'm definitely counting my blessings, I'm also grappling with my sense of loss (I developed an amazing network of friends during my 25 years and I love Brooklyn) as well as panic--we have about five weeks to find a place and get settled before I start my job. I'd like to get some recommendations from members about the best places to live--that are family friendly, ethnically diverse, have strong public schools and interesting communities (by which I mean, not exclusively the hedge-fund type). And the names of some good realtors as well (we'll be renting at first). Thank you! G.
I hope you'll check out Alameda . Buying is less expensive than San Francisco or Berkeley, although rents are probably higher than Berkeley's because Alameda doesn't have rent control.
We have at least 29 languages spoken in the public school district, which like all districts in California, struggles for funding and does a decent job considering everything.
There's a reasonable diversity of restaurants and small businesses. There are a couple of shopping districts with cute boutiques; there are several independent bookstores that kept a toehold while Borders came and went. We have a mall called 'Towne Centre' which unfortunately is nowhere near the center, often referred to by its old name, 'South Shore'. Towne Centre was recently purchased by a major developer and there are improvements in shopping choices in the works. Currently the mall is kind of low-rent. But there is a Trader Joe's with the best parking lot of any Trader Joe's I've ever shopped (usually they're a nightmare for some reason).
Alameda's flat (great for riding bikes and trikes), has many well-kept parks. Alameda has a low crime rate, 25-per-hour city-wide speed limit, and most neighborhoods have high walking index scores. There are many lovely views of San Francisco Bay. Housing options are diverse, all the way from hideous 70s era apartments to adorable bungalows to Victorian mansions and storybook cottages and beachfront condos, the occasional art deco or midcentury modern and... ok, no mud huts.
Note, I'm not a real estate agent or professional booster or anything, I just love this town - have lived here 10+ years and while it can be a little on the sedate side, it's getting more interesting every day. I hope you'll check it out. +++ happy in Alameda
What a great problem: dream job *and* in a great part of the country
I'm tooting my own horn here - my husband and I are great real estate agents! I hope you'll give us a call when you're sorting out whom to work with. I can honestly say my clients are a very satisfied bunch, and we can give references.
So: you have budget, schools, commute and community to sort out in your decision. You didn't say if your budget would allow you to live in San Francisco , closer to where you'll work. If budget and schools bring you across either the Bay Bridge or the Golden Gate, there are many communities to choose from. I know you'll get many great opinions from the members here, and I'll add my vote for you to consider Albany , Berkeley and Montclair (in Oakland). I'm leaving out El Cerrito because you're coming from Brooklyn and my opinion is that you'll feel more at home in these areas, and many neighborhoods in SF.
Whichever neighborhood you choose, I'm sure you'll build another great network and community out here - welcome! Jessica
My main advice is to rent for a year or two before buying a house so you can spend time visiting neighborhoods. Berkeley is reasonably diverse, has decent public transit, good schools. Albany has most of the above advantages but is not as racially or economically as diverse as Berkeley. There are some towns on the Peninsula to consider as well -- San Mateo is less diverse, but has a nice downtown, ok transit to San Francisco (though not anywhere else) and good schools. I wasn't clear from your note how much money you have -- San Mateo is pricier than Berkeley, as is San Francisco. In San Francisco you might want to consider Noe Valley, Bernal Heights or the Inner Sunset or the Richmond. The school assignment process in San Francisco is complicated, so be sure to research that before choosing a long-term unit there. Noe Valley looks more like Brooklyn, but I think Berkeley is more like Brooklyn demographically -- depending on where in Brooklyn you were living before. Luckily with a four-year-old changing schools on your way to finding the best community is less of a problem than with an older child. anon
Congrats on the dream job and your move! You'll soon see, the Bay Area trumps NYC for raising kids- really! I have a 4 and 2 yr old. Having lived in NY for many years, as well as many other places around the world, here is the place we want to settle.
The East Bay, particularly Berkeley and Oakland , is the most like Brooklyn you will get. It's very diverse, a lot of stuff is walkable, more bike friendly here and there is TONS of stuff to do with kids. We live in Berkeley (we also love Rockridge in Oakland). Both have great elementary schools. For middle/high school you would probably have to move out of Oakland though or go to private as I understand it. (We only moved here in May so are still learning). Berkeley has great high schools. You could also consider Albany , just North of Berkeley. Same vibe, great elementaries, cute main street and accessible to everything as well. If you are commuting daily into SF (I do as well), all 3 are great options. My commute door to door is 35 min including a 10 min walk to the Bart in the morning. My commuting time far beats what I used to do in NY.
We're also a multicultural family so feel very at home here- we last lived in a place where we were one of the few intercultural couples we knew and it has been so refreshing to be around so many others families like us.
Starting over anywhere isn't easy and it takes a while to form the same awesome community you are leaving (we are in the process of that now) but I bet you will love it here. I would never want to live in NY again after life here!
Feel free to get in touch with any questions via the moderator (don't think it lists my email here but not sure). Also, I'm not sure what you meant by interesting community being not hedge-fund like. Are hedge funds ever interesting (I worked at one)? Stephanie
Montclair Village , Lafayette or Berkeley , unless you are unGodly wealthy, then Piedmont or Orinda . If you opt to live IN San Francisco , near Golden Gate park. Julie Gardner is your realtor http://juliegardner.com/ . If she's too busy, Aaron Brown, same office. You'll LOVE IT HERE!!!! Welcome! Now you can get a puppy! Reenie
Welcome to the west coast! I feel your pain about moving, but know that you are moving to a WONDERFUL and vibrant place - I HIGHLY recommend you look at living in Alameda , it has everything on your list and more! Alameda is a small island directly across the Bay from San Francsico, great commute, great weather, tons of families and great schools. You can rent through one of the many agencies in town. For sales I highly recommend Valerie Ruma with Alain Pinel Real Estate, (510. 579-3614 or vruma [at] apr.com) she's lived in ALameda for 20+ years and knows the town and the East Bay like the back of her hand - good luck! island mama
I highly recommend Alameda as a place to live with young children. Alameda is a small island off Oakland, and it has a small community feel. The public schools are generally considered good (although with widespread budget cuts all schools are suffering right now), the area is safe, and it is VERY child friendly. Kids still walk or bike home from school in Alameda, and there are lots of trails around the lagoons and the water for biking or walking. Alameda won't be as 'city' as Brooklyn, as it is a suburb, but it's more of a 'small town' suburb rather than a sprawling mega-suburb.
What might affect your decision will be where your office is. The Bay Area is a lot bigger than East Coasters imagine (I used to live on the East Coast), and you might want to figure out where your work is before you choose a neighborhood, to save yourself a 2 hour commute each way. Alameda is pretty close to San Francisco downtown btw. You can take the ferry there, or else get dropped off at the BART (commuter rail). Lots of people drive into the city but the traffic often gets bad. For realtors, I recommend the one who helped us buy our house: Catherine Bierwith, longtime Alameda resident who is very knowledgeable. (http://www.alamedafinehomes.com/) --Alameda Resident
It really depends on your budget, since housing it very expensive in the Bay Area and in certain communities in particular, but you're probably used to that from New York. I live in Alameda , and think it would meet your criteria very well. It's got good schools, is diverse, safe, and has a small-town, neighborhood feel that you're probably looking for. It's actually an island, right next to Oakland, so it's off of a lot of people's radars. The one drawback is that since it's an island, the best way to access it is by ferry, car, or bus. BART doesn't reach it, although you can take a bus to a BART station pretty easily.
Another good neighborhood is Piedmont , although it's pretty upper-crust and expensive. The schools are amazing, though. And Berkeley and Albany are both really great cities with great restaurants, good schools, and lots of little neighborhoods within them. I lived in Berkeley and Albany for a decade, and finally moved to Alameda because I was sick of fighting with all of the people who crowd those two towns for a parking space, restaurant reservation, daycare spot, etc. I find Alameda to be much more relaxed when it comes to those kinds of little things that make life so much easier, and I've been happy that I moved ever since. If you need specific Alameda location recommendations, feel free to email me. Cassie
In the East Bay, Berkeley and Albany have good public schools, and Oakland has some good elementary schools. Linda Elkin is a great Realtor (and also my sister). I recommended her to another family that is moving from Brooklyn (I used to live in Park Slope) to the East Bay and she is currently working with them. She helped them find a rental, and has been introducing them to different neighborhoods that fit their needs. She is a great resource for school information and life in the Bay Area. Linda Elkin Red Oak Realty 510-282-5666 linda [at] redoakrealty.com Loved Brooklyn and happy here too
Congratulations on your new job and move! I too moved from the east coast, and have really grown to love the bay area. I highly recommend checking out Alameda . It's close to the city (takes me 15 minutes to get to the financial district from my home in the west end; would be a little longer from the east end), it has great schools, restaurants, beaches, toy stores, book stores, yoga studios, and farmer's markets. Is crazy diverse (in the five houses that surround mine I have one black family, two gay couples, one Chinese woman, and one white couple) and it's a real biking/walking town. Everyone is always walking or biking to restaurants/beach/parks etc. And it is the strongest community I've ever lived (neighbors really get to know each other) in the east bay so far (having lived in Montclair, Elmwood, and Rockridge prior--which are all very nice, too). Last but definitely not least, it is kid heaven here. I honestly had no idea until I moved here how much freedom the kids can have and how much they really thrive in an environment like Alameda. If you're into some of the concepts of free-range kids, Alameda is the place. The schools are great and very neighborhood oriented so the kids develop a really strong network of friends from an early time. They all walk/bike to school together. Once they get old enough (usually 8 but depending on the maturity of each kid) they walk/bike to school on their own and go to friends house for playdates. Then later they start to bike everywhere around town (it's an island so they can't go too far) to the beach/parks, to the shops/restaurants on Park Street (main shopping district), to the movie theater/plays/etc. It's amazing--the kids just blossom here. They can have that sort of freedom because Alameda is really safe (both with crime and with having a speed limit that is 25mph on most of the island), and people really look out for each other. If needing advice and guidance, I would highly recommend checking out Gallagher & Lindsey. I used them to buy our house in Alameda and was really impressed with their knowledge and professionalism. They've been around a long time and they really know the neighborhoods and current market. Best of luck with your move! Alameda Mama
We live in SF now but I would love to get recommendations on which Berkeley-area neighborhoods to check out in case we decide on an East Bay move with our 2 year old for more space, better weather and more affordable private schools. I'm originally from NY and miss the density, buzz and foot traffic so ideally, I'd love to live in a neighborhood that has the best of both worlds in terms of being near a BART station with a walkable, urban shopping area and yet still have a yard, leafy streets and block parties.
I've only done a few drive bys but the area near the Rockridge BART and the North Berkeley area near that Totland Playground seem nice. My husband lived in Berkeley long long ago for grad school and seems to like the Hills area but I feel like we'd always be bound to have to drive then.
On schooling, I'm particularly interested in Mandarin immersion and know there is AIM, GMIS and Shu Ren in addition to the new Charter School.
In NYC, I'd probably be inclined to live in or near Park Slope, Brooklyn. In SF, my favorite area is probably the neighborhoods near Dolores Park. Considering all this, which neighborhood do you think would have the best vibe for me?
Thanks for any thoughts! Ponzu2
I am totally unfamiliar with Park Slope, but your description of what you're looking for is *exactly* what Rockridge is like.
I've also lived near the North Berkeley BART station, and it's a great neighborhood -- compared to Rockridge it's a little less affluent and a little more crunchy-hippie, with somewhat smaller homes on average and not quite so leafy, but the two areas are not wholly dissimilar, especially if you go a bit more east and north than the area right around the N Berk BART station. My husband and I moved from Rockridge to Albany because, among other reasons, we wanted to send our kids to public school -- but for you, planning on private school, probably Rockridge is better located for commuting too. The area has plenty of great private schools although I don't know anything about Mandarin immersion options specifically. We love Albany, and Solano Ave has a sort of similar vibe to College Ave in Rockridge, but I do sometimes miss being *so* close to a BART station! Holly
I suggest our area - the LeConte (sometimes called Lower Elmwood) area of Berkeley. Our borders are Telegraph & Shattuck, Ashby & Dwight. We are seriously in walking distance to everything - we haven't had a car in years. We walk to bart, our choice of well-stocked grocery store, Telegraph, Shattuck and Elmwood shopping districts, schools and parks on tree-lined streets with yards. Families, college students, aging hippies, a great mixture of friendly neighbors. We love the neighborhood! It's just the right mixture of urban and suburban. Love our spot
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!