7.0 out of 10

Albany

Ranked 51st best city in California
37.8900154833484 -122.298471486309
Great for
  • Neighborly Spirit
  • Schools
  • Shopping Options
  • Internet Access
  • Nightlife
Not great for
  • Lack of Traffic
  •  
  •  
  •  
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Who lives here?
  • Families with kids
  • Professionals
  • Students
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian

Reviews

4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
2yrs+

"Plenty to Do on Solano Ave."

Home prices in the East Bay city of Albany are near their two-year highs, and it’s easy to understand why: Albany offers an ultraconvenient location for commuters, top-notch schools, sweeping waterfront vistas, and an abundance of shopping and restaurants. albany-hill-sunset-golden-gate-bridge

Located in the northwestern corner of Alameda County and adjacent to San Francisco Bay, Albany is sandwiched between Berkeley to the south, Kensington to the east, and El Cerrito to the north.

Interstate 80 stands less than a mile west of the city limits, offering commuters easy access to both the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Those who prefer to take public transportation are less than two miles away from either the North Berkeley or El Cerrito Plaza BART stations.

The mile-long stretch of Solano Avenue between San Pablo Avenue and The Alameda — parts of which are actually in Berkeley — packs more than 65 restaurants and 30 stores into a compact, pedestrian-friendly promenade. Popular delicacies with the locals include deep-dish pies at Little Star Pizza, Mexican food at Cactus Taqueria, and Nepalese cuisine at Kathmandu Restaurant. Two grocery stores – Andronico’s Market and Safeway – are also located on Solano. On the second Sunday of each September, Albany hosts the Solano Avenue Stroll, a 26-block long outdoor festival and party.

For a city of 18,000, Albany’s entertainment options are nearly as varied as its restaurants. The Landmark Albany Twin movie theater screens independent and foreign flicks, while the Ivy Room hosts live music several nights per week. Farther north on San Pablo is local institution Albany Bowl, where patrons can knock down pins on 36 lanes or catch a game at the sports bar. And those who want to try their luck with the ponies can do so at nearby Golden Gate Fields, which runs live horse races several times per week most months of the year.

Albany is home to seven public schools, including four elementary schools. In 2012, the Albany Unified School District notched an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 892 out of 1,000.

The architectural style of Albany homes includes bungalows, cottages, and Mediterranean-style houses. According to MLS data, June median home prices in the city hit $778,000, a year-over-year spike of 21 percent and slightly higher than the current $756,000 median price in Pacific Union’s East Bay region.

Inventory in Albany was just as scarce as it was in other areas of the East Bay, with 82 percent of listings either closed or under contract at the end of June.
Pros
  • Golden Gate Fields
  • Nice Shopping Area
  • Affordable Rents
Cons
  • Ugly 70's Style Apartments
  • Noisy Freeway
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
2yrs+

"Bones, Dive Bars, Bowling and Hand Made Crafts"

Albany is yet another one of these California cities named after an East Coast counterpart (think Concord and Pittsburg). This East Bay city, just to the west of Berkeley, is one of those places that often gets overlooked and that many from outside the East Bay are likely to not even recognize as being in the area. Albany’s rolling hills at the edge of bay, are home to a strong middle class community an immensely diverse shopping and culinary experiences, every bit the rival of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto.

Rents drop precipitously from the Berkeley highs in this area, where you can still actually find apartments under $1,000. Of course, you will still find homes for over $2,000, but overall you can expect to find some real deals here.

Solano’s main avenue going east-west is Solano avenue, and you can find the usual wide range of International foods from Chinese and Thai to American (a few even offer combinations of both as with one the Thai joints that also serves Southern style ribs (the owner is Thai, her husband Southern). Solano however, is also the home to two movie theaters, one, the Albany Twin, an independent movie house that shows artistic and foreign films.

Where Solano really outdoes itself is when it comes to eclectic stores however. For example, Solano offers not one, but two stores that specialize in items from the Himalayas. At Gathering of the Tribes you can buy authentic, hand made Native American jewelry, while at the Bone Room you can find, surprise, surprise, bones of various kinds of animals. You can also find handmade clothing, individually crafted, at By Hand. This is also a big family neighborhood, as the adjacent neighborhoods of Berkeley are and you can find various unusual toy and children’s clothing stores as well, such as Five Little Monkeys.

Along San Pablo Avenue—the major north-south thoroughfare—the environment is a lot seedier and gives the city of bit of spice. You have a series of wonderfully eccentric neighborhood dive bars here. For example, San Pablo is The Mallard Club, the Office the Ivy Room, and the Hotsy Totsy Club. You can also find live music at Club Montero.

In case you would rather bowl or take in a hot tub, you have the Albany Bowl and the Albany Sauna and Hot Tubs.

Along the waterfront you have what is left of Golden Gate fields, and an area where much of the detritus of the city remains, with occasional grooves of guerilla art projects, and lots of shore birds.

Overall, this is a great place to live inexpensively so that you can save your money for eating out and buying unusual party gifts.
Pros
  • Nice Shopping Area
  • Good Transportation
  • Affordable Rents
Cons
  • Run Down Streets
  • Ugly 70's Style Apartments
  • Noisy Freeway
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students

Unranked Neighborhoods in Albany

Albany Hill

1.5/5
"A Perfectly Awful Little Cul-de-Sac"
37.8920870232713 -122.304071025993
"Very Nice but Not Million Dollar Territory"
37.8898046570604 -122.287318631659
"A Pleasant Street with Eclectic Shops"
37.8909914075489 -122.29572170428

The Bulb

2.5/5
"Great Neighborhood with a great elementary school"
37.8898029022953 -122.309536677695

UC Village

2.5/5
"For UC Students with Families"
37.8851794322383 -122.303332373506

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