Where to Live for a Job at UC Berkeley
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Looking for a good neighborhood for a job at UC Berkeley
I am planning to accept a position at UC Berkeley and trying to sort out where I should be looking to live with my wife and 9 year old daughter. We will be moving long distance to the bay area. I have some must haves, and some nice to haves and I'm hoping someone can help me understand the tradeoffs for different areas and which I should not consider at all.
Must Haves: Safe neighborhood Good School Less than 45 minute commute to campus via car At least 2 bedrooms Sub $2500 rent
Nice to Haves: Less than 30 minute commute to campus via car 3+ bedrooms Sub $2000 rent Townhouse or Single Family Home
I know I can't have all the nice to haves, but is it possible to have any of them given my must haves? I have been reading the other recommendations, some appear to be a little older. But I am thinking that Walnut Creek, Emeryville or San Leandro might be good places to look, but I'm not entirely sure about commute times. Thanks very much for having us in this community and for any advice you can offer.
I live in Lafayette and I love it here! It's only a short drive through the caldacot tunnel to Berkeley and we have some of the best schools in California! For $2500 you could rent a small two bedroom home, it's more like $3000 for a three bedroom. It's very safe here and friendly and is well worth the expense.
If you're looking in Walnut Creek it's a little further out from Berkeley, maybe 30-40 minutes commute with traffic. Only 15 minute commute without. Make sure you look at the Walnut Creek school district area, not Mt Diablo school district which is also in walnut creek but is a much larger school district. There are a few elementary schools in Walnut Creek school district that are great such as Buena Vista Elementary and Parkmead Elem. You should look at greatschools.com to read the reviews on the school that your considering putting your child in before renting a home there. Best of luck! Alicia
A lot of my answer to your question will depend on how you define 'safe.' Do you mean generally safe, but with a fair amount of crime (most of Emeryville) or downright safe, like you can walk around at night without a concern (most of Walnut Creek)? A commute from Walnut Creek to UCB (depending of course, on how far you are from the freeway in WCR) will take about 30 minutes without traffic. Good luck with your search
You could consider Moraga or Lafayette. Moraga is semi-rural. Lafayette is more happening. If you are willing to do a 2BR townhouse you might be able to get one for $2500 or less and the best place to see if that is true at this point in time is to check craigslist. The schools are very good, and closer commute to Berkeley than Walnut Creek. anon
Hi I recommend you look hard at Albany. The houses are small and pricey for the size because the schools are good. Plus the community has a lot available. The Albany YMCA runs a headstart program and after school care for school age kids. They also run a full summer camp schedule, a youth in government program and model UN for high school aged kids. The community is civic minded, the school district is good and well run. Albany is safer than many other areas close by. No one is truly 'safe' from crime in the Eastbay. We are too close to areas of high unemployment. It's common to have your car stolen. your bicycles stolen, and your house broken into. Join a neighborhood association when you move. Your neighbors can help you figure things out. You are safe on the street, walking to school or the library. Its a wonderful place to live - it's just an urban area with all the good (theater, diversity, restaurants, culture) and the bad that implies. long time resident
Try Lamorinda . The small towns of Lafayette, Orinda, and Moraga (Lamorinda) are beautiful, safe and have excellent schools. Walnut Creek is also safe and has great schools. WC is larger and is a little farther from Berkeley. You can check school ratings on the greatschools website.
Depending on the time of day, the commute can be long or short. Commuters have to drive though a tunnel which is stop-and-go traffic at peak times. Alternately, you can take BART from these towns to UC Berkeley.
Moraga has many rentals, and it is definitely possible to find a 2+ bedroom rental between $2k - $2.5k per month. Craigslist is a great way to find a rental. Good luck!
You should check out El Cerrito . Much closer to UC than Walnut Creek and San Leandro, and safer and cheaper than Emeryville. Don't know much about the schools in those areas but I think El Cerrito schools are pretty good- some better than others, of course (Madera is considered to be a great school, Harding and Fairmont both have good reputations, and parts of El Cerrito go to the adjacent town of Kensington, which I hear is excellent). We rent a 3 bdrm house with a great yard for less than $1800 (this is probably a little lower than the norm but I know of several others who also rent great houses for less than $2k). It's about 20min to UC driving through town. It's safe and very family friendly and has a small town feeling, which is cool. Main drawback is there are very few good restaurants around here! (It's the only thing I miss from our old neighborhood in N. Oakland.) anon
Definitely look into Alameda. It's a nice, safe, family-oriented city. Rentals are hard to come by, but it wouldn't hurt to look.
Since you'll be working at Berkeley, you should check out Cal Rentals. They actually have people you can talk to about finding places/communities to live: http://calrentals.housing.berkeley.edu
I work on campus and live in El Cerrito , and it's a very family-friendly community (good schools*, great community center/pool) and a 20-25 minute surface street commute (plus there are two BART stations and buses) to campus, and you could probably rent a house for your budget. It can get a little boring here, but it's not too far from Berkeley and San Francisco. We have a few good restaurants, a farmer's market, an off- the-grid night, a movie theater that serves pizza and beer and first-run movies, and the best damn hardware store (Pastime).
(*All the k-6 schools are good, and your kid will be assigned to your neighborhood school; whatever Bay Area community you decide on, visit the school district website to check out the boundary maps. You can also check all California school statistics here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap/.) Good luck on your move
I read all the responses about areas with good neighborhoods and a reasonable commute to Berkeley. Lots of people commented on the safety and nice neighborhoods in Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga. I can't add anything to that-- they are all excellent areas, have absolutely beautiful hillsides, hiking only minutes away, top schools, safe neighborhoods, etc. Both my kids got excellent educations and got into elite universities coming from the local public school system.
People commented on the commute to Berkeley from various towns in the east bay. I have been commuting from Lafayette to Berkeley for work for 15+ years. Here's what I want to add that I didn't see in any comments: the commute from Lafayette to Berkeley is 22 minutes door to door for me and is an absolutely breath-taking drive and one that I look forward to. On more than one occasion I have pulled over to take a photo of the views with my iPhone. I have a very short drive via highway from Lafayette to Fish Ranch Road. Then I either go Grizzly Peak or Fish Ranch road over the hill into Berkeley. Driving from El Cerrito to Berkeley through stop lights and traffic may take the same amount of time, but wouldn't be the same type of commute. The commute rarely takes me more than 25 minutes, no matter what the time of day. barbara