Moving from New York to the Bay Area

Parent Q&A

Moving from Brooklyn with 2 young kids - walkable neighborhoods? Mar 19, 2021 (17 responses below)
How to find Short term furnished rentals for newcomers who WFH Nov 24, 2020 (9 responses below)
Relocating to SF from New York - worried about school assignment Feb 16, 2018 (14 responses below)
Moving from NYC for a job in Oakland Nov 16, 2017 (6 responses below)
Preschool and Housing Advice for family from Brooklyn May 12, 2017 (3 responses below)
Moving from Brooklyn - seeking housing under $1700 Mar 24, 2017 (17 responses below)
Advice on communities for job in SF, family with a teen Jan 22, 2017 (1 responses below)
  • Hi! Thank you in advance for any help and advice from this community! I am writing seeking some advice as my family and I are preparing to move to the Bay Area this summer in a rather stunningly unprepared fashion! My husband and I have been living and working in Brooklyn, NY for 12 years, we have a three year old son and are expecting a daughter in July. Last week my husband was offered a career opportunity that we can't turn down, but it has really turned us on our heels. I have been trying to read a lot (quickly) about the different cities, neighborhoods, in the bay area, and would love anyone's thoughts on where would be a wise place for us to try to narrow our focus as we look for a new home. We will be renting, we have a limited budget, and I have hopes (though maybe it will be impossible) of finding a spot at preschool for my son. We have been thinking about Oakland and would love advice on neighborhoods, but have also considered San Fransisco, and Palo Alto (as my husband will need to be at Stanford once a week). We are used to a high level of walkability living in Brooklyn, and would love to know about even vaguely walkable neighborhoods, but also are open to really any suggestions. I would love a place where I might be able to connect with other parents, build a community, and meet new friends. Feeling very lost adrift! With many thanks. 

    It will be helpful to know what your “limited” budget is. What is limited in the Bay Area may be luxury in other places.  I see many 2 or 3 bedroom rentals go anywhere from around $3000-$5000/ month. The 4 bedroom/2 bathroom house with a nice backyard that we rented in one of the listed premium walkable neighborhoods now rents for a little over $4000.

    Some of the best walkable areas in my opinion include:

    — lower Piedmont / Oakland (Piedmont Ave.) near Beach Elementary School. This was and is our dream neighborhood. We can’t afford a house in Piedmont and rentals are hard to come by. Piedmont has a fantastic school system and you can walk to Piedmont Ave. We used in this area and miss it very much. 

    — Rockridge 

    — Alameda (don’t turn up your nose at this little place. We regret not buying in Alameda as it is very family friendly and schools are great)

    — If you want more urban feel, grand lake and lakeshore area (this is our current neighborhood and there are many young families and excellent preschools. 

    — Berkeley is so family friendly, has a lot of great rentals and schools and very walkable near downtown bart station and north Berkeley Bart station 

    — San Leandro is more affordable and surprisingly walkable. 

    All of these areas have great preschool options. 

    Hi!! We moved here from Brooklyn 3.5 years ago and miss it sooooo much, the walkability being the main thing! We at first lived in SW Berkeley, right on San Pablo Ave and assumed we would love it because you can walk to a lot of things. We ended up not really liking it, because, while it was possible to walk to a lot of things, almost no one did, so the streets felt kind of “empty,” especially coming from Brooklyn!!

    we now live In Oakland, between Broadway Ave and piedmont ave, and just south of college Ave. WE LOVE IT!!!! I think the neighborhood is called “piedmont ave neighborhood,” and is just south of rockridge and just west of piedmont. You can easily walk to piedmont ave and college Ave, and importantly- people actually do! So you get that nice foot traffic that makes walking to errands and stuff more pleasant and less desolate.

    good luck with your move!!! California is growing on me now that we found the right neighborhood for us :)

    Hi! We moved to Oakland from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn 5 years ago. We opted to move to Montclair hills, which is not walkable, and that is the biggest thing I miss, but that was a conscious choice. You pay a premium to get house with a yard in a walkable area, and we decided to fully embrace Cali living and rely on our cars. I'd be happy to discuss in more detail, just send me a message.

  • Hi everyone, 

    My husband, daughter and I arrived from NYC recently and are looking to buy a home in Berkeley. All our stuff is in storage. As it might take a few months to find the right place, we need a short term furnished rental that works as an office for me an my husband and is big enough to accommodate a nanny for our 21-month old and us coexisting. Airbnb has limited stuff and is expensive. Corporate housing websites are not geared towards families with children. I hear everyone talk about how people are leaving town for a few months and subletting their homes. Where can I access those listings? I checked Craigslist but there weren’t too many listings there either. Thank you for your help.

    Hi! I always check sabbatical homes website, most, if not all, are furnished. 

    we had the same situation recently and have found the current place through that site. When were you planning to move? 

    Hi there,

    We moved my in-laws here to care for my son and needed a similar arrangement for 9 months. Most airbnb prices are set up for short-term rentals. However, I had success by contacting the airbnb hosts directly and asking if they were willing to negotiate a longer-term rate. Most of them jumped at the opportunity. What was listed on airbnb for $3700 a month became $3000 a month when we arranged it directly with the hosts.

    Note that you need to be quite savvy in your contact as airbnb will not allow you to share your email address or phone number. However, if you're in the area you can set up a time to meet at the cross streets near the home or if you send three subsequent messages with pieces of the phone number it will get through.

    Good luck! We had lots of offers for long term furnished rentals since there are not as many tourists anymore, and most hosts prefer the lower-risk tenants who will stay for a while.

    Our family used Sabbatical Homes when we first moved to Berkeley while looking to buy a house. We had a really good experience. - Academic Home Rental Exchange Sitting - est 2000

  • I am relocating from NY to SF for work. I have 3 children going to 2nd, 6th and 8th grade for next school year 18/19. I want to move to a neighborhood that is 30 mins from work by public transport (Bart, bus or ferry) because I don't drive. And a public or charter school that will preferably offer K-8 grade so all three can be dropped off  and picked up at the same location or walking distance.  Does such a school exist or am I asking for the impossible?

    I spoke with SFUSD counselor and was told that we will be assigned leftover schools when the kids move to SF and it's almost impossible to have all three of them in the same school or even in the same district. So, I decided to look at East Bay which seems like there's a higher chance of getting into a school in the area you live in.

    I am open to any neighborhood that meets these criteria; however, I was told that the enrollment process can only start if I am already living in the area, not the other way round.  I am moving to SF in May and my children in July after they finish school in NY, but, by then we would have passed all enrollment deadline and my children may or may not get into a school of choice depending if the school has any spots left.

    How do I ensure they get into the school then find housing in the area so that the home will be walking distance to the school? I plan to rent so I am flexible in terms of location.

    Any advice?

    Move to Albany, where there are only five schools (three elementary, one middle, one high) and all are strong, so you will wind up at one not too far away. Your commute will be farther than 30 minutes, but not by much. Look for housing close to El Cerrito Plaza BART station (but on the Albany side). This also assumes you have a relatively large budget for rent, but hopefully you are already aware of and prepared for the high housing cost here. Good luck and welcome!

    I live in Albany (East Bay, between Berkeley and El Cerrito) and the town is small enough that all the schools are walking distance from wherever you live. There's 3 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 1 high school. It's an easy commute to downtown SF via the AC transit transbay bus (coach buses that only run during commute hours) or BART. It's truly a great place to live because it's a great mix of urban/suburban with great walkability. The only catch, is that it's really expensive and the homes are small. Good luck!

    Similar to what the previous poster said about Albany - also applies to Piedmont. Piedmont has only 3 elementary schools, one middle, and one high, and they are all excellent. So even if you  move in the summer, there is zero stress about your kids getting into school. The largest elementary school is also the one that is closest to the middle school (there is no K-8). From Piedmont you can either do the Trans-Bay bus straight to SF or the casual carpool in the mornings. Housing costs will be high but you get great K-12 walkable schools.

  • Moving from NYC for a job in Oakland

    (6 replies)

    Hi there,

    I'll be moving to the Bay Area from NYC at the end of the year. I am hoping there is someone else out there who had to make the same move. I have an almost 4 year old who will need a preschool because he is currently in a 6.5 hour a day pre-k program and is learning a lot. I don't want too much disruption for him. The other decision is where to live. My husband's job will be in Oakland so we would like to be within a 30 min commute from there. I'm used to living in an area with a lot of people and walking/taking public transport everywhere. I don't want to live in a very suburban area and feel totally isolated because I don't know anyone in the Bay Area. Am hoping for some advice about starting at a preschool mid-year, if that's even possible, and finding the best place to live that is not too suburban but still feels very safe to walk around.

    Thanks in advance!

    I am corresponding with another BPN person doing the same move as you right now, and this is the move my family and I did five years ago (from Brooklyn, but I had lived in Manhattan for many years before that). Oakland is quite big, and there are several walkable neighborhoods throughout Oakland and Berkeley. I can't really speak for other areas in the East Bay as far as walkability goes. I moved here with two children, and while part of our reason for moving was to achieve a simpler and easier life (and having a car was a big part of that), I do miss walking to everything. Much of Oakland and Berkeley feel like the small cities they are; other areas such as the hills in both towns are strictly residential and isolated from commerce and services (and offer lush nature in many areas). Unfortunately for most of us, so many choices about school and whether we walk or drive are based on the lack of affordable housing in the area. Our craigslist rental on the Oakland/Emeryville border dictated so much about how we live; we have a yard and nice neighbors, but we drive to most things that we do. Good luck finding a nice place to live and the other things will unfold when you know where you will live. Walkable neighborhoods that come to mind are Elmwood in Berkeley, and the Laurel District and Dimond District in Oakland, but of course, housing near those areas can be pricey. 

    It would definitely help to know your budget as neighborhoods in Oakland/East Bay vary widely based on what you are willing to pay.

    Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland!  Right by a BART station, great public schools, grocery stores, markets, shops etc. all within walking distance.  Rockridge is mostly single family homes, but a few apartments are in the mix.  I feel safe walking around; lots of families with young children in this neighborhood.  We even have our own newsletter that comes monthly.  It's a wonderful place to live and raise a family. 

  • We are considering a move from Bushwick, Brooklyn to Berkeley or Oakland. My husband has been offered a museum job in SF and we are looking for advice about schools and housing. Our children will turn 2 & 4 over the summer and we will need to find spots for them for September - here in NYC that would be impossible this late in the game. I saw the list of schools with available spots on BPN - can anyone recommend any additional programs that might have openings or we can get on the wait list for? We would love to find Montessori or similar, not much more than $1000 per month per child. Ideally 9-3, but 9-1 could work too. We are also looking for a walkable neighborhood close to BART where we can afford a 3 bedroom (or two bedroom plus office/basement/other workspace) with a yard for about $3000/month starting in July or August. And we will need a decent public school for the following fall.  Huge bonus if the area has other artists and non-profit workers.  We would really appreciate any advice about neighborhoods. It is a great opportunity but we don't know if we can make it work

    Thank you in advance for your help! 

    Move to Alameda. The school district is having a bit of an issue with school placement now (long story but Lum school might have to close right away due to earthquake hazards!) but in general the public schools here are awesome and AUSD will figure it out ...  You can take the ferry to SF which beats BART hands down, and the community is walkable, fun, and super family friendly. Like anywhere in the Bay Area, though, rents are super high and $3000 won't go as far as you'd like. It should be enough for a nice apartment or townhome but a single family home might be out of reach with that budget (see the other posts that appear very week about moving out of the area because it is expensive!) Harbor Bay Realty has a lot of rental listings posted at their website for an idea of the market. (In Alameda lots of landlords use property managers which is a bit quirky in the bay area). Good luck!

    You probably need to find a neighborhood first before looking for preschools. You can find a good one, even this late in the game, and $1k per month for each child part time sounds reasonable. But your rental budget may be harder. I live where Rockridge (in Oakland) meets Claremont/Elmwood (in Berkeley) and a 2 bedroom apartment nearby is for rent right now for $3200. The 3 bedroom house next door rents for $5000 (its big). I think you'll need to budget at least $3500 for a nice 2 bedroom. In the East Bay, Berkeley and Albany have good publicity schools. In Oakland, it depends on the neighborhood. If your are willing to go farther away, Walnut Creek had pretty good schools and will be cheaper. But it is really the burbs. You might also look at El Cerriyo.

    North Bay is pretty but the commute to sf would kill me. South of SF is either super expensive or really industrial.

    we don't have the same rental broker system here-rentals mostly will be listed on Craig's List and what you see there should be pretty accurate in terms of pricing.

    good luck!

    If you only need part-time childcare, you could try a pre-school co-op (but substantial parent participation is required). ECPC in El Cerrito is an awesome preschool, and way under $1000/month for half days. Pine Crest is another good option (not a co-op), but it's a bit more than $1000/mo for part time.  They just opened last year, and may still have space for next year. We have sent our kids to both and love them both. In general, El Cerrito has most what you're looking for. It's not as charming and walkable as many parts of Berkeley and Oakland, but its very functional, and has good public schools, although they are filling up early because so many families are moving here.

  • Hello,

    My husband is being transferred to the Bay Area in July. Moving from Brooklyn. I've been reading about the unaffordable housing market in San Francisco and am slightly worried... Our rental budget is max $1700 (ideally less). Anyone moving to Brooklyn? Maybe we can swap apartments? Or can anyone recommend an area or neighborhood that's affordable with low crime? How far out should we be looking? 

    If we can't find a public school we may homeschool. My son is in a French language program and really likes it, are there any French programs in the Bay Area (free, public or charter)?

    Thank you very much!


    Hi and welcome!

    The Berkeley-based ecole bilingue goes k-8 but is pricey. There is a charter French school (free!) that opened last year in Oakland.

    I can't speak to your apartment search but there is a French charter school in Oakland called Francophone Charter School of Oakland. If your son speaks French he should have a good chance to get in. There's also a private school called Ecole Bilingue but it's pretty pricey.

    I think that you're going to have a difficult time finding a decent rental with that budget. Where is your husband's job going to be? There's definitely more affordable housing the farther away you go but you should be choosing areas to look at based upon where his job will be. Certain commutes are much harder than others. For example, the commute from Berkeley to Silicon Valley is hideous and not something that you'd want to voluntarily sign up for. But the commute from Berkeley to a job that's close to BART isn't bad at all (most days!).

  • Hi everyone!  My husband recently took a new job in the San Francisco financial district.  We live in CT and he currently commutes to NYC.  His commute is about 2 hours (on mass transit).  We are looking to cut his commute to about an hour (on mass transit).  We are looking for decent schools (they don't have to be top notch super competitive).  We want a community that is down to earth and chill. Diversity would be nice as would a downtown area and walkability.  I understand our house will be smaller with less land there.  We would like to keep the home price under $1m.  My older two daughters are in college so it is just my 13 year old who will be in high school next year.  She is a softball player so a good travel team would be nice or a community that is easy to commute to fields from would be nice.  She also plays trumpet so a school with a strong music program would be a good selling point. 

    We like the sound of Alameda but my concern is getting off the island for practices, dr appointments etc.  Also not sure about the housing inventory there. 

    I like the sound of Balboa school in Southwest SF but the school system and policies in CA confuse me.  Here in CT you go to the school in your town no option other than private school but in CA it seems like there is some sort of choice.  Not sure how much choice we would have moving in August though. 

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.     

    El Cerrito would definitely fit all your criteria! BART or bus to San Francisco is 30 minutes each way. It is a walkable city. El Cerrito High School has an excellent music program and a softball team. The local travel softball team is called the Crossfire and a few ECHS players are also on Crossfire. El Cerrito High School is so diverse that there is no majority ethnicity. Plenty of down to earth community events though the city and the community center. Homes will be under 1M. By BART or driving it is easy to get to Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco for more variety.

Parent Reviews

Look up the group "NYC Expats in the East Bay" on Facebook there are a lot of us! And, welcome :-)

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Moving to the East Bay from Brooklyn - which neighborhood?

Oct 2014

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, 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

Moving from NYC with 13yo - need affordable and safe

April 2012

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

New Yorkers relocating to the Bay Area, looking for a walkable neighborhood

Sept 2011

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. 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

Moving into Bay Area from Brooklyn with 4-year-old

March 2011

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 . 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] 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. ( --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] 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

Where's the 'Park Slope' of Berkeley/Oakland?

March 2011

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!