Where to Live for a Job in Marin

Parent Q&A

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  • Good evening,

    We are moving from NC to the Bay Area and are hoping to find a great neighborhood to raise our multiracial daughter.  We particularly are interested in an area that has Black, Latinx and Asian diversity.  We fell in love with Trsetle Glen/Crocker Highlands, Upper Rockridge and the Piedmont side of Montclair but my husband’s commute will be to Sausalito, so we need to be north of Oakland.  

    Any recommendations on neighborhoods with bay views that are diverse and inclusive?  Also, what schools are recommended (public or private) that would also be options for us?  We want to be connected to the community and the culture of Oakland without putting a heavy burden on my husband each day.  

    I look forward to hearing from everyone,  

    A few houses on Albany Hill have great bay views and access to the reputable Albany public schools (and on the market right now).

    Further north, many, many houses in El Cerrito have amazing views. The public schools are more mixed in reputation, but there are very good private school options with Montessori Family School and Prospect Sierra in El Cerrito. Similarly, Point Richmond has great views.

    I think all communities offer the diversity of the Bay Area in general and easy access to the Richmond Bridge/North Bay.

    Ah, if only there were such a place.  Since the houses with Bay views, in the hills, are very expensive -- usually $1.5M or more in Oak/Berk, and very white neighborhoods.  Berkeley is very diverse as a city but the hills are mostly white.  For what it's worth, we find the people of Berkeley, including the white wealthy ones, to be very progressive and politically left, nice people. Further north, you get El Cerrito, which is mostly white with Asians (25%) and much fewer Latinx and Black people, and more of a mix politically (still leaning liberal).  Further north, there are other towns, such as Vallejo, which is more diverse racially, and also more diverse politically.  As you go into those northern suburbs, you're just more suburban, so visiting there you'll see what you like.  

    To stay on the East Bay, the closer you can get to the 580 stretch that heads straight across the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, the better. That means to make the commute at all do able, you’ll need to be looking at probably El Cerrito hills to get the view. It’s a totally different vibe than the areas of Oakland you were referring to, but the views are gorgeous, and the commute would be at least theoretically possible. There are reasonably good public schools up in the hills north of Berkeley (elementary schools Madera and Kensington Hilltop) and private schools that are good.  

    But the area is different in terms of the culture and pace from the areas of Oakland you mentioned. The further up the hill, the less diverse. El Cerrito is not at all urban. Alot of the architecture is post WW II in the flats and partway up the hill, with more variety of arcjitecture evident in the hills. 

    Marina Bay is actually on 580 and has houses right on the water, Point Richmond has homes with views,and is one of the last exits before the bridge.  Point Richmond is a cute small town with a Spanish immersion elementary. Marina Bay has the water front aspect, but is a bedroom community and the public schools are not rated well at all. That area has some limited offerings,no high end restaurants,no  full size grocery stores- it’s a bit off the beaten parh.

    I would suggest you rent a house for a year to get a better grasp of the neighborhoods, of the commute and what your priorities are. Marin is not as diverse as the East Bay but you may end up considering it given challenges with commuting.

    Best of luck and welcome to the Bay Area!

    Congrats on the job & move.  Truthfully, Oakland to Sausalito is 38 miles and likely to be a brutal commute if he's driving conventional commute hours.  If you are set on that area of Oakland, start looking at carpools. 

    The unhappy reality of real estate in the Bay Area means that little tiny homes in quaint neighborhoods have become phenomenally expensive, and those neighborhoods are dominated by hip, well-educated people who all consider themselves open-minded and un-prejudiced.  Income dictates location, which means generally the "nicer" areas are whiter, better educated, and quite pricey.  Don't know if you are looking to rent or buy but either way, be prepared for sticker shock. 

    Of course there are exceptions.  The northwestern section of SF (not far from Sausalito) is mostly Asian, but there are Russians, Irish, etc.  I don't know about price, but it's a lot closer to Sausalito than Oakland is. 

    People who could not afford to be close to SF or Berkeley in times past moved to satellite regions that were less expensive, and small neighborhood enclaves developed over time that might be more ethnically diverse.  But the pressure for housing is starting to change that.  Anyway, consider that "ethnically diverse" might mean Phillipino, southern Indian, Portuguese, Venezuelan--something less easily defined than the simple black/Latino/Asian categories we tend to talk about.

    There are neighborhoods in El Cerrito, Pinole, El Sobrante, Hercules, a few parts of Richmond, etc., that are closer and more racially diverse but they are nowhere near as hip and chic as the areas you mention and may lack other amenities.  But you might get a bay view.  You could also look at some of the less costly parts of Marin like San Rafael and Novato; the blue-collar roots of these areas can mean more diversity than in the affluent areas.  Our cousins are fine raising their bi-racial children in the Terra Linda neighborhood of San Rafael.  You might have a better idea of the actual racial make-up of areas if you look at the populations for neighborhood schools.

    You might want to come out before the whole family moves here to scout out options, finding a place that suits can be challenging. 

    If you are looking to buy, you need an agent who REALLY knows the area; we worked with 2 to cover both the East Bay and North Bay.  You can contact me off-line if you want a referral.

    I think you're probably looking for the El Cerrito hills or perhaps Point Richmond--but the Black and Latino communities in those areas aren't going to be anywhere near what you'll find in parts of Oakland. (Notably, though, you won't find a huge amount of racial diversity in the Oakland neighborhoods you especially liked either; they are still predominantly white, although that's slowly changing.) For schools, the public elementary schools serving the El Cerrito hills and Point Richmond are generally well regarded, although overcrowded, so may not have space if you're moving this summer. Prospect-Sierra is a great private option in that area. Good luck, and welcome to the Bay Area!

    I did the commute from Sausalito to Berkeley for two years. It is brutal. Going to work is tolerable but returning home can be as bad as an hour and a half. My suggestion is to look in San Rafael or elsewhere in Marin County before your husband hates his life. 

    Thank you all for your very thoughtful responses.  If it helps, I am Black (Louisiana Creole) and my husband is half Eastern European/half Argentinian.  We want to bring our "flavor" to the party and be welcomed.  We very much enjoy meeting and socializing with everyone, as long as they are genuinely kind/friendly people.  Easy access to culture (art/food/music) is VERY important to us, given the strong cultures that we come from.  We have spent our entire adult lives in the suburbs raising our older kids and want a different experience raising the little one, for certain.  We have 4 college students and a toddler, so that makes life super interesting, too.  Our budget is $1.5Mish but we will need space (4/3?) for the two older kids when they are on break from school/holidays.  The oldest two have their own apartments here on the East coast and will only visit twice a year or so.  We do have a short term corporate rental so we can take our time to find the right place where we fit well.

    This is all very helpful, so thank you again!