NightOwlnOrinda

  • Local Expert 28,278 points
  • Reviews 355
  • Question 1
  • Answers 587
  • Discussions 27

Reviews

3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 1/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
May 17, 2013

"For Fly Boys and Road Warriors"

Kansas Street in Fairfield is one of the several residential streets in this section of Fairfield where the streets are all named after states. The homes here are mostly fairly beaten up looking Ranch Style homes dating from the mid-1950’s.

Kansas runs parallel and just to the south of the Linear Park Pathway and is also just a bit to the south of the Solano Town Center Mall--one of those traditional Fast Times at Ridgemont High style malls. But it is far enough away so that it doesn’t really get any collateral traffic.

I came here to take a look at a 3-bedroom that was listed at just over $1000, about as cheap as it gets in the Bay Area. The average home here sells for around $100K, which is also about as low as it gets.

Other than its distance from the Bay Area, another drawback to this part of Fairfield is the poor schools that serve it. Both Fairview Elementary and Sullivan Middle schools have below average APIs of 3, while Amijo High gets a slightly better average score of 5.

As to crime, the other worry one might have in a neighborhood with such a low cost of living, it is basically about even with the national average. Some years it is a bit higher, others it is below. You do get about a half dozen murders every year, which is not terrible given the 100,000 residents who live here, but nowhere near as bad as Vallejo’s murder rate which is about 3 times higher and has a crime rate twice as high as the national average.

Overall, this might be an okay alternative for someone who either has a job out here (perhaps working at Travis Air Force Base) or who doesn’t mind trading long commutes for lower rents--something which I am definitely considering.
Pros
  • Very Affordable
  • Close to Mall
  • Close to Air Force Base
Cons
  • Bad Schools
  • Old Beat Up Homes
  • Far From Bay Area
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
May 16, 2013

"Busy Street But Good"

Muir Road in Martinez runs parallel to Highway 4 so most homes face south offering their back fences to Muir. It also means that you get a bit of traffic noise along parts of Muir. It runs all the way practically from Pacheco Blvd. on the eastern end of Martinez to Center Ave. towards the western end.

Condos just off Muir Road tend to sell in the $200Ks while houses (mostly late 60’s Ranch Style homes) are going for $350K to $499K.

Martinez however is relatively safe and has very good schools with APIs of 8 and up virtually across the board.

Muir Road is also close to both the movie theater on Center and to several stores and some restaurants as well. None of these are spectacular but they will definitely cover your needs from groceries to other items.

Another benefit of living here is the Contra Costa Canal Trail that you can find on the eastern end of Muir Lane. The trail comes off Muir Lane and heads south. It is a great place to go biking or hiking.

Overall, I think Muir Road and especially those streets just off of Muir Lane are good places to live.
Pros
  • Affordable Condos
  • Close to Freeway
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • Lots of Cars Zooming By
  • Freeway Rumble
  • Houses Face Away from Muir
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
May 16, 2013

"Mohr Apartments Than You Can Imagine"

Mohr Lane in Treehaven, Concord is basically apartment row. It is filled with apartments and condominium complexes which get increasingly nice the farther you get from Monument Blvd.

I came here to look at a 3-bedroom condo that was listed for $1350, which is about the same price that many of the 2-bedrooms are listed for along Mohr Lane. Now the area is not ideal--especially near Monument where it feels dense and noisy. Most of the apartment complexes here are gated, and the cast iron screens on the front doors suggest crime is an issue in this part of Concord.

The other problem here are the schools. They are unfortunately pretty lousy. Both Fair Oaks Elementary and Oak Grove Middle School have bottom skirting APIs of 2. Ygnacio Valley High is a little better with an API of 5--making it solidly middle of the road--but overall this is not a good combination if you will be sending your kids to schools here.

However, the lower prices and the relatively nice facilities offered in some of these complexes make these viable options for someone like me--a divorced dad with kids.
Pros
  • Affordable Rents
  • Close to Freeway and BART
  • Some Nice Apartments
Cons
  • Bad Schools
  • Some Crime
  • Dense
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
May 15, 2013

"Nice But Busy Street"

Oak Grove Road in this section of Concord is a well-trafficked north-south artery that stretches from Ygnacio Valley Road to Ygnacio Valley Park. Most of the eastern half of Oak Grove is made up of single-family homes and apartments. Although Oak Grove Road is a busy lane, the houses and especially the apartments are very nice.

The homes are for the most part late 50’s era Ranch Style homes. The median price for one of these homes during the last year or so is about $500K, with sell prices running from $350K to $650K.

As to the apartments and condos along Oak Grove, they sell for between $125K and $300K and rent for between $1600 to $1800 per month for a two bedroom. I actually came here to take a look at a 3-bedroom listed for $1600, about as low as you get in a good neighborhood like this.

The schools here and especially to the south of here in Walnut Creek, are actually pretty strong. Bancroft Elementary and Valle Verde Elementary (which both serve the southern end of Oak Grove Road) both have APIs of 9. But things are more divergent when you compare them to southern end of Oak Grove as compared to the northern end. Northgate High in Walnut Creek, for example, has an API of 10 while Ygnacio Valley High, which is just off Oak Grove near the intersection of Treat Blvd., has a solid but unimpressive API of 5. The middle schools serving the southern and northern ends of Oak Grove are even more divergent, with Foothill Middle School have a perfect API of 10, while Oak Grove Middle Schools scratches bottom with a 2 API.

The other nice thing about this section of Oak Grove is that you are far enough away from the more commercial sections of Concord and Walnut Creek that you get a certain level of peace (except for the fairly constant traffic along Oak Grove of course)--but you are not so far away that you add significantly to your job, wherever that may be.

I actually really like this area and would one day like to live here perhaps.
Pros
  • Nice Apartments
  • Affordable Homes and Condos
  • Not as Far Away as Pittsburg or Antioch
Cons
  • Busy Street
  • Bad Schools on Northern End
  • Not Great For Resale
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
May 15, 2013

"Okay Houses--Very Affordable"

William Way is a horseshoe shaped street in Concord. It is fairly typical of Concord really, in that it is made up of Ranch Style homes from the late 50’s. The typical home here sells for about $250K to $300K and I recently saw a home put up for rent for $2000/month, which although not exactly low for this area is a pretty great steal for a 4-bedroom, which this home was.

William Way is one of those streets that looks like it used to have sidewalks but no longer does. The asphalt has been pulled up and left dirt where the sidewalks are. The lawns sometimes have white picket fences but more often than not are just slightly unkept with brown patches or overgrown edges. It is not awful, just a sign that the occupants simply do not have the time or motivation to work on their homes.

Cars along William Way are generally older model and doors tend to have iron gated doors--a sign perhaps of the crime worry in the area.

The schools here are about average: Ygnacio Valley High has an API of 5 and Cambridge Elementary has a 4--which is not too bad for Concord.

With such low rents and property prices, however, this definitely has to be a consideration for anyone going through dire straits.
Pros
  • Very Affordable
  • Close to Freeway and BART
  • Close to Pleasant Hill Fun
Cons
  • Some Crime
  • Average Schools
  • A Little Worn Out
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
May 14, 2013

"Great But Beyond Reach for Most"

What would it cost to have a 4-bedroom in Orinda?

I was wondering that recently as I was thinking about what would be the ideal for me and my kids after the divorce. So I took a look and here on Dalewood is the only 4-bedroom I found in Orinda for rent. Dalewood is one of those long gently curving lanes with no sidewalks. The homes here are invariably large and long with big front lawns and walkways. Even the ones that don’t look particularly luxurious still have a certain air of affluence about them. (Perhaps it is the luxury cars in the driveways.) This is definitely the country club set--CEO’s and others who are part of the governing boards of their businesses.

This area is all that you could ask for when it comes to raising kids. Great schools (Sleepy Hollow Elementary all the Orinda schools are well-supported and achieve excellent results), virtually no crime (1 murder in Orinda in 10 years), and a nice secluded area far away from the worries of the world. It is all you can ask for if you can afford it, of course.

A home here on Dalewood will run you $4200/month ($50K per year in case you are wondering). So using the standard of 3 times rent to determine viability, a person would have to make around $150K to afford living here. Thus the reason why I--and most people--can’t really afford to live here.
Pros
  • Beautiful Homes
  • Great Schools
  • No Crime
Cons
  • Very, Very Expensive
  • A Little Out of the Way
  • A Bit Dull
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
May 14, 2013

"Mr. Brady Would Like it Here"

Devon Ave. in Pleasant Hill is a mostly residential street. Near Pleasant Hill Road there are condominium complexes on both sides of Pleasant Hill Road. I recently looked at a 2-bedroom unit here whose rent was around $1450/month--about what you would expect for a 2-bedroom in this part of Pleasant Hill.

Along the other end of Devon most of the homes dates from the 1980s and have those high roofs that stretch down from the second to the first floor all in one line (rather than have separate roofs for the separate levels). It was sort of a status symbol in the 80’s that denoted a fairly affluent neighborhood. It is fairly dated now, though it still is usually a sign of a neighborhood that is doing fairly well.

Devon’s location is particularly suburban and has a sort of Brady Bunch feel to it. The schools are strong and crime is low. The supermarket is right at the end of the road and from here you are about 10 minutes from the best parts of Concord and maybe 15 from Walnut Creek.

In other words, this is the sort of place that you want to come live when you have a family and kids. And compared to the Lamorinda area this is much, much more affordable.
Pros
  • Nice Reagan Era Homes
  • Good Schools
  • Quiet and Safe
Cons
  • A Little Dull
  • Okay, Not Great Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
May 13, 2013

"By Freeway Rumble"

Oakland Blvd runs parallel to Highway 680 just off the Mt. Diablo Exit. On its southern block (it is basically two blocks long), Oakland Blvd. is mostly made up of older smaller Ranch Style homes. There are also, however, some apartment buildings mixed in for variety and some office buildings across the street. The office buildings are always looking for new lessees--which suggests to me this isn’t a great place to have a business.

The apartments are of the fairly boxy, ugly variety and rent for about the average amount that many similar kinds of apartments rent for in the area--about $1500. These place are pretty close to Downtown Walnut Creek and all the entertainment and restaurants that you will find there.

On the northern end Oakland Blvd. mostly empties out, with just empty fields on one side and the constant rumble of Highway 680 below.

Overall this is a pretty good spot to live. You have good schools, low crime, are close to BART so you can easily commute to work and you also have lots of local places to go as well.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartments
  • Close to Freeway and BART
  • Good Schools and Safe
Cons
  • A Little Drab Looking
  • Freeway Rumble
  • A Little Empty
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • 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 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
May 13, 2013

"Typical Martinez Pleasantness"

Fig Tree Lane in Martinez is a pleasant residential street that slips right off Arnold Drive and heads up to Midhill Road. It is a bit off from the main part of Martinez and has a very secluded feel to it. You get lots of apartments and condos on the southern half of Fig Tree. I came here to see a 2-bedroom that was going for $1325/month. It was very nice if still a bit beyond my limit at this point.

As I have said elsewhere, I consider Martinez to be underrated as a place to live. Martinez offers low crime, good schools while still having affordable homes.

This area is an example of what I like about Martinez. The street is clean, green and relatively quiet. Other nearby 2-bedrooms run about $1575, which is closer to what you expect for a place like this but still on the relatively affordable side. As to buying, condos here sell for between $200K and $250K

On the northern end of Fig Tree Lane you will find Ranch Homes. Nicely kept but mostly unremarkable. A 5-bedroom here recently sold for half a million dollars--so you can have a sense of the cost.

There is a movie theater in Martinez and all the usual suburban amenities you would want. You also have the Amtrak station on the northern end.

Overall, I would be more than happy to live here, if I could manage.
Pros
  • Nice Condos
  • Good Schools
  • Quiet and Safe
Cons
  • A Little Out of the Way
  • A Little Boring
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 1/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
May 09, 2013

"Being Close to Pleasant Hill is its Best Asset"

Carey Drive is just off the Monument Exit on Highway 680 in Concord. Carey Drive is actually not very long, curving from Monument to Victory Lane. Most of Carey is made up of pretty average looking 1950’s style Ranch homes. The street looks relatively quiet and seems to be home for a lot of harding working middle class type blokes.

What brought me here was the apartments on Monument side end of Carey. These are pretty much the shoe box style apartments, with only slight variations (like being in a “V” shape rather than parallel). These are great apartments but they do offer some of the most affordable rents you will find. There was a 2-bedroom here listed for $1025--about as low as it gets. There was also a studio listed here for just $725/month.

The nice thing about this area is that you are just on the other side of the freeway from some of the nicest spots in Pleasant Hill. Crescent Plaza Shopping Center is right across the way so if you have a hankering for a movie or want to grab a bite to eat at a place like Daphne’s (a Greek place) or Pasta Pomodoro--you are practically within walking distance. They have also been renovating Crossroads Shopping Center on the eastern side of the freeway and it has a ton of new businesses around there, such Kohl’s and Gamestop to name just a couple. (Unfortunately, a casualty of this renovation is that they have knocked down the dome theater that used to be there. I drove by yesterday and was sad to see a pile of rubble where that old movie house used to be. I saw a lot of good movies there--they had a penchant for playing independent and more unusual movies.)

Overall, an okay place to live affordably.
Pros
  • Close to Pleasant Hill
  • Very Affordable
  • Relatively Quiet
Cons
  • Overcrowded and Noisy
  • Kind of Rundown
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Apr 21, 2013

"Relatively Affordable and Not Too Out of the Way"

Came here to Olivera Road to see about a three bedroom apartment that was listed at $1500. That is still out of my current budget range but it is about as inexpensive as it gets in Contra Costa without sacrificing safety.

Buchanan Airport is just to the west of this section of Olivera, though what actually forms the western end of this section is the Solano Drive-In Theater, a classic outdoor movie theater. I think they still show movies though I have never been to one here. This kind of a theater is more of a curiosity than anything else.

Most of Olivera Road however, is made up of the apartments that are part of the apartment complex that I came to see. These are a nice mix of one and two-story units with covered parking spaces. They are nicely set up for families since they are spaced in a way that the noise levels are less likely to bother neighbors.

In the past year, these condos have also sold for between $65K and $125K.

On the southern end of Olivera there is also a nice big park, Hillcrest Park which has a big play area and baseball fields. And on the southeastern end there is also a set of churches, Calvary Baptist and New Hope International.

In terms of commuting, although you are on the upper end of Concord, the commute is much easier than from Pittsburg or Antioch. The schools here are about average with Sun Terrace Elementary and Mount Diablo High getting APIs of 4 and 6 respectively.

I don’t know what crime is like around here, but from the density in this area, I would guess that crime is lower than in the more crowded areas of Concord.

I think this would definitely be a good place for families to live.
Pros
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Okay Schools
  • Close to Park, Church and Movie Theater
Cons
  • Airport Noise
  • Traffic for Commute
  • Apartment Living
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Apr 20, 2013

"Nice 70's Looking Neighborhood"

Came here to Viewpoint Blvd. to take a look at a four bedroom that was only sort of outside of my price range at about $1800. I am actually not there yet in terms of my income, but a 4 bedroom would be ideal for my situation allowing me to have a room, and my younger boys and girls to have their own rooms while my oldest--being at the age where privacy is more of thing--could have his.
This is a nice older home. Looks like it dates maybe to the 50’s but is perfectly fine and I have always liked Rodeo as a sensible alternative to the sky high prices of other places. The big drawback, of course, of a place like Rodeo is that it is way out of the way. People regularly complain about how difficult the commute is from here. Though I think that the commute from Pittsburg is worse and probably the worst of all commutes is from Tracy.

Overall Viewpoint Blvd has a very 1970s feel to it, probably because it is a wide lane with lots of well maintained Ranch homes on it. It actually reminds me a lot of Woodland Hills where I grew up. You can tell from how well-kept the homes are here that it has a lot of residents who take pride in their homes and take the time to maintain them.

Overall this is a fairly safe place to live, with okay schools and relatively affordable rents. If you don’t work too far away, or if you do a sort of reverse commute this could definitely be a good option.
Pros
  • Nice Affordable Ranch Homes
  • Okay Schools
  • Relatively Safe
Cons
  • Kind of Bland
  • Terrible City Commute
  • No Real Nightlife
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • 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 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Apr 20, 2013

"Great Location for Commuters and Fun"

If you know Lacassie Street in Walnut Creek, you probably know it as the connector street just to the south of Target. This basically covers one block of Lacassie. However, Lacassie also has a second block that continues on the opposite end of North Main Street. On this western end, Lacassie is a mix of boxy apartment buildings, duplexes and duplexes converted into offices. It has a bit of a worn out look to it and feels a bit overcrowded--especially where the apartment buildings are. Lacassie dead ends right at the 680 Ygnacio Valley off-ramp.

Although this is not the most pleasant and appealing of streets in terms of feeling homey, you are quite close to the BART and the Downtown Walnut Creek area. That is the great advantage of living even in a fairly unpleasant apartment building here.

I came to take a look at a $1200/month apartment here, which the owners were advertising as a reduced price apartment for someone who was willing to be a part-time manager. It was a good deal at $1200 given the location but was not really worth it when you added in the hassles of being a part-time manager into the mix.
Pros
  • Close to BART
  • Close to Downtown WC
  • Some Nice Apartments
Cons
  • Overpriced
  • Noisy
  • Overcrowded
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Apr 20, 2013

"A Tale of Two Streets"

Willow Street is a bit of an unusual street, located as it is just outside of the Downtown Martinez. It is unusual in that it is one of those streets that dead ends and then picks up again a block or two later. The two parts of Willow Street could not be more different, however.

Willow Street on its upper end is a fairly typical residential lane right by Downtown Martinez. It is made up of homes dating from before WWII (Martinez dates back to before California was a state and was once the capital of California). I came here to take a look at a tiny duplex which was very cute but very small.

Cute is actually a pretty good word to describe this upper part of Willow Street, which is just far enough uphill from the courthouse and the downtown area that you might not realize you are within walking distance of that area.

On the lower end, you are much more aware of being right by Downtown. Willow is wider here and is mostly filled with old, slightly rundown looking pre-WWII homes. As you get close to Jones Street, however, you get some apartments, one which is actually very new looking with red-tiled roofs and pastel colored adobe walls.

The drawback of being so close to Downtown Martinez is that you are, of course, close to the homeless types that seem to be constantly hanging around down there. It is not the most hospitable of places and being within walking distance of it wouldn’t make me feel too safe.

The other drawback of being up the hill on this side of Downtown is that you right by the hilltop chemical tanks which are also within walking distance. Many people--me included--might be a little worried about what kind of undetected toxins might affect you and your children over time from living in such close proximity to these.

The positives of living so close, of course, are that you are right by the restaurants and coffee shops and that you are also right by the Amtrak station, so commuting is a lot easier.

Overall, it seems like the negatives somewhat outweigh the positives in terms of living here.
Pros
  • Cute Houses on Upper End; Newer Apartments on Lower
  • Close to Amtrak Station
  • Close to Downtown Coffee Shops, Etc
Cons
  • Close to Downtown Bums
  • Close to Refinery Tanks
  • Old Home Problems
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Apr 20, 2013

"Hidden Away Residential Street"

Soule Avenue is a pretty residential street that breaks south and then east off of Boyd in Pleasant Hill. Soule is basically made up of single families homes dating to the late 40’s (most seem to have been originally built in 1947). These are mostly Ranch style homes, but they are so nicely kept and the street is so leafy and idyllic that it doesn’t at all take on the typical look of a neighborhood of this kind. In fact, the typical home here has a white picket fence, a biggy shady tree and nicely kept topiary on immaculately green lawns.

Basically this is a hidden away little residential street, quiet and perfect for raising a family. I came here to take a look at detached studio, that was really little more than just a room in someone’s house--no way it would meet my needs though I can imagine a college student taking the room and making something of it.

The typical home here sells for between $550K and $750K. The neighborhood is safe and the schools are strong. Overall a pretty nice place to live.
Pros
  • Quiet and Safe
  • Good Schools
  • Nice Well-Homes
Cons
  • A Little Dull
  • High Maintenance Homes
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Apr 20, 2013

"The West is the Best"

Sunnyvale Avenue is on the northwestern end of Walnut Creek. Its eastern end is right across the street from the Treat/Geary onramp/offramp--right by the car wash, Wendy’s and the strip mall where Pasta Primavera is located.

Near Main Street there are a bunch of apartment buildings along Sunnyvale Avenue, which is what brought me here the other day. There was a Studio here listed at $900/month which is about as low as it ever gets in Walnut Creek. Now this was just studio, basically a room with kitchen and bathroom--maybe 600 sq. feet.

These are those boxy, cramped looking apartment complexes where it feels like they have done all they can to get people as packed together as possible. In fact, it feels a bit more like a motel than an apartment building where you can live.

As you go farther west along Sunnyvale, however, the housing gets nicer. You start to get modern looking townhomes and nicer looking apartment complexes. The rents go up as well with a 2-bedroom just past the Presbyterian Church going for nearly $1400/month.

Past Sunnyvale Drive, Sunnyvale Avenue becomes virtually 100% single family homes, with a mix of types but predominantly Contemporary style model homes as far as I can tell. Rents here for a three bedroom rise to nearly $3000/month. They are very nice and about what you would expect to pay given the neighborhood and good schools.

The home sale prices follow a similar pattern to the rent prices, with condos going from between $180K to $400K, while home prices hover more typically around $600K.

The other great thing about living here is that you are within walking distance of the BART station, which makes commuting much easier since you will technically not even have to get into your car to make it to work. You are also close to all the shopping and entertainment of Walnut Creek without actually being at the heart of the action.

At the very eastern end of Sunnyvale Avenue, this lane takes on a very rural feel with lots of trees and half century year old homes. You get the occasional picket fence and broken down old car here as well. There is a certain charm to this.

Overall, I like the area and if I could find a nice place affordable enough to rent but not overly cramped I would love to live here.
Pros
  • Nice Homes on the Western End
  • Affordable Apartments on the East
  • Close to BART and Fun
Cons
  • Boxy East End Apartments
  • Expensive West End Houses
  • Some Traffic Along Main
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Trendy & Stylish
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 1/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Apr 13, 2013

"Very Inexpensive, But Crowded and Noisy"

California Street in Concord is only one block long. It is basically apartment city. You have about a dozen apartment complexes heres, mostly three story boxy monstrosities. The kinds of apartments where you feel as if you have been piled one on top of another. But the apartments here are almost dirt cheap compared to what you might pay for similar places in Contra Costa County. I saw a studio here listed for $750/month.

California is actually in a pretty good spot. It is north of the most dense spots in Concord, but still within walking distance of Todos Santos Park and the Brendan Movie Theater and what shopping there is in Downtown Concord. You are, however perfectly positioned to hit the freeway or to head over to the Pleasant Hill BART station. You are also pretty close to Diablo Valley College, so it would not be too bad a place for students either.

It is not however a very attractive street--too many straight lines, flat and not very natural. There is also a fair amount of traffic noise from Concord Blvd. and the overcrowding of the area. I imagine that when everyone is home at night it must be very active. Not a good spot for insomniacs.

You can’t beat the price though.
Pros
  • Very Inexpensive
  • Close to Freeway and BART
  • Close to Downtown
Cons
  • Overcrowded and Noisy
  • Possible Crime Worries
  • Poor Schools
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Apr 13, 2013

"Very Affordable, But Far Away From Bay Area"

Fairfield is a mid-sized town about 20 miles north of Contra Costa County and just a bit of ways north of Benicia. It is one of the first truly affordable satellite communities of the Bay Area where crime is not a dissuading factor.

How affordable is it? Two-bedroom apartments run between $850 and $1600 per month; one-bedrooms between $625 and $1250. Those prices are just light years from most Bay Area locations that are not plagued by high crime (in fact, even those with high crime will often have way higher rates than this--yeah, I’m looking at you Mission District).

Homes are similarly inexpensive, with the median price being around $250,000 and less than 10% breaking the half million mark. (Only about half dozen homes sold for more than a million dollars here in the last year.)

Homes here are mostly 50’s style Ranch homes and boxy 60’s style apartments. There are some newer condos and constructions however which are still fairly reasonably priced for the most part.

Fairfield is mostly a middle class city--the 10th largest in California you might be surprised to find out. It is dominated by Travis Air Force Base on its eastern end. It is the biggest employer. You can often see B-52s and other military planes in the area running missions.

Another big employer is Solano Community College where I taught for a while. A good school with a good mix of students from the various backgrounds in the area.

And, of course, you cannot mention Fairfield without mentioning the Jelly Bean Factory, which my family has often visited. If you are into jelly beans, you will definitely be interested in finding out how jelly beans are made here.

The crime rate is right around the national average or at least has been for the last two or three years after a good decade of being slightly above. In a population of 100,000 there are about 5 murders per year, which is not non-existent but not too bad either.

Schools are similarly average with API’s ranging from 3 to 7. (10 is the highest.)

There is a shopping center and there are businesses who take advantage of the relatively low cost of the living to place their offices in Fairfield, so you may be able to find employment and live here as well. It is much nicer than Vallejo, bigger than Dixon, and almost comparable to Vacaville.

This is also a pretty good spot for couples who are divided between Davis and Contra Costa--sort of an intermediate location in between. Purely for the economics I am considering it. Unfortunately the commute is pretty gruesome once you hit the Benicia Bridge. And the wind can be pretty bad along Highway 80 south of here as well.

You could, however, take the Amtrak train down to Richmond and take the BART from there and work along the way. (Amtrak is also a great way of getting to Davis and Sac, which I also used to enjoy.)
Pros
  • Very Inexpensive
  • Good Midpoint btw Davis and Contra Costa County
  • Good Community College and Air Force Base
Cons
  • Long Commute to Bay Area
  • Some Crime
  • Average Schools
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Apr 05, 2013

"Nice Suburban Neighborhood, Relatively Affordable"

This Concord neighborhood is best known for being the home of Ygnacio Valley High and Carondelet High, a private all girls school. Ygnacio Valley High is gets an average rating in terms of API, but Carondelet is widely considered to be a very strong school that teaches from a Catholic perspective.

The Oak Gravel Treat neighborhood--I have never heard of it referred this way, btw--is a mostly suburban neighborhood, one of the better ones in Concord. (It, in fact, feels a bit more like a Walnut Creek neighborhood than a Concord neighborhood.)

You can roughly divide this neighborhood into two parts when it comes to the homes you will find here. North of Treat Blvd., the median home price is around $375K with prices running between $250K to $450K. (No home north of Treat breaks the $500K mark.)

Meanwhile south of Treat, the lowest priced home sale in the last year was for $375K. Prices on this south side, however rise to as much as $665K. The median is around $500K. Homes seem to date from roughly the same period, though they may be slightly better kept on the southern end than on the northern end.

Overall this is a nice suburban neighborhood with solid schools, low crime and relatively affordable home prices. You are not too far away from Downtown Walnut Creek and the commute is not too bad in the area. (Unless you are going into the city, in which case you might want to consider taking BART.)

I would certainly not mind living here if I could afford it.
Pros
  • Good Private School
  • Nice Suburban Feel
  • Relatively Affordable
Cons
  • Average Public Schools
  • A Bit Out of the Way
  • A Bit of Traffic
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Apr 05, 2013

"Affordable But Out of the Way"

Came here to Clayton Way, just off Willow Pass to check out a 3-bedroom that was amazingly cheap for a 3-Bedroom; just $1200, which is what some 2-bedrooms cost on the low end at a lot of nearby places. It was about a 1000 sq. ft. and clean and seemed to be okay. It was unfortunately on the 2nd floor, which would probably be a problem with whoever lived underneath me, given my noisy kids.

This apartment was on the northern end of Clayton Way, where it dead ends onto Willow Pass and empty fields. There are several apartments around here, all with that sort of boxy feel to them that gives them a sort of hotel feel.

As you head away from Willow Pass farther south along Clayton, you get a lot more Ranch style homes dating from around 1960. They are not particularly well-kept and most of them look like they are a half century old (which, of course they are). Homes here sell for between $240K and $400K.

From here you are about 10 miles from Downtown Walnut Creek, but the this commute requires you to hit traffic coming in from Pittsburg and Antioch, much of which uses Willow Pass as a “short cut.” Also, it is just as bad if you use 680 south, traffic all the way, which means the 18 mile stretch to the Caldecott Tunnel is likely to take twice as long as the same trip coming from the south.

The area also looks a bit on the downtrodden side. Not that that really matters for me at this point. I don’t really have my finances in order enough to even manage this expense at this point. It does however, beat living in Pittsburg or Antioch in all senses.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartments
  • Not Too Crowded Feeling
  • Not as Far Away as Pittsburg or Antioch
Cons
  • Out of the Way
  • A Bit Rundown Looking
  • Possible Crime Worries
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 1/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Apr 01, 2013

"Old and Out of the Way"

Crockett is a really charming little town up by the Carquinez Bridge. It is built around the C&H Sugar plant which in part accounts for all the nearly hundred year old buildings that grace the sloping town of Crockett.

I came here to take a look at just such a studio in one of these older buildings. Old is definitely the word to describe it. You do feel as if you are in a Depression era costume drama here. From the cold tiles to faded paint to some kind of old musty smell, this place definitely reminded me of my grandpa.But with rent for this studio as low as $650, it is very tempting.

West Street is a fairly typical Crockett street. It ends at the C&H plant on its bottom end where the old building is that I went to see. As it climbs its steep 3 blocks there are some nicer, though still old, homes. It is really a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the homes have old faded wooden boards and just look like they would be a nightmare in terms of upkeep. Other homes have beautiful French style windows and terraces that probably have great views of the brick factory and rusty old bridge as backdrop. West has no sidewalks and lots of very leafy trees that partly droop onto the roadside--a bit of charmingly unkept look in spots.

You are fairly close to the freeway here, but the commute from this area is pretty awful from what I hear from those in Rodeo and Hercules. That is the main problem with this location. Whatever savings you might get in terms of rent, you would lose due to the high costs of the commute.

Overall, it is an okay spot and you definitely can’t beat the price, but with the need to commute it would probably not be worth it.
Pros
  • Charming Views of the Factory and Bridge
  • Very Affordable
  • Charming Older Buildings
Cons
  • Terrible Commute
  • No Public Transportation
  • Old Home Problems
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Apr 01, 2013

"Duplex Lane"

Roxie Lane in Walnut Creek is a shortish cul-de-sac with about a dozen homes. It is filled with unusual looking duplexes which give this lane a bit of an overcrowded, slightly cramped feel.

I came here to look at one of these rentals that fit within my price range, a studio going for less than $1000. It had a bit of a yard but was quite small otherwise--probably would have caused problems in terms of noise with the next door neighbors.

The duplexes and condos which you find around this area have recently sold for between $350 and $550K, which sounds a touch high to me.

Roxie Lane is between Geary and Oak Park, just off Sunnyvale Ave. This is a pretty quiet spot, far enough away from the downtown areas where you don’t get any traffic that is not specific to the residences here. You are still however close enough that you can make it the restaurants and movie theater and stores of Walnut Creek and to the BART station.

Overall this is a pretty good spot and I would not mind living around here if I could manage it.
Pros
  • Quiet Suburban Area
  • Somewhat Close to Walnut Creek Entertainment
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • A Bit Overcrowded
  • Awkward Duplexes
  • A Bit Out of the Way
Recommended for
  • Professionals
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Apr 01, 2013

"Quiet Suburban Street"

I came to see about a place here on Ardith Drive which would have been perfectly situated for my purposes, being a block away from the Orinda Intermediate School and within my very limited budget. Unfortunately, someone snapped it up before I even had a chance to look at it.

I know Ardith relatively well however because of the proximity of the middle school. Ardith is quiet suburban street, only slightly hilly, which is pretty typical of this part of Orinda. Ardith is most made up of nice, big Ranch homes of the kind that are typical of early 1960s. (Most homes here date from 1959 to 60.) This is more of a homeowner location, than a renter area.

Most homes along Ardith typically sell for between $740K to $950K these days. (Though one recently sold for $550K--I assume due to foreclosure or some similar circumstance.)

Ardith skirts the western end of OIS (Orinda Intermediate School) though there is no access to the school from this end, Ardith being on a hill that overlooks the school. It functions as a bit as a connector between Ivy and Coral which encircle the school.

The location of Ardith makes it ideal for families who like a nice quiet area with relatively low levels of traffic (though both Ivy and Coral fill up at school arrival and dismissal times).

For commuters, Ardith is far enough where you will probably have to drive to the BART station or brave the 10 minutes of traffic to the freeways.

Orinda schools however are superb and crime is virtually non-existent in the Lamorinda area, with basically one murder in 10 years. It is basically everything you could ask for in suburban living. And you are right next to Berkeley if you want to drop down to attend the theater, see a movie, go hiking or whatever else you might want to do.

Of course, you have to be able to afford it, otherwise you will be working all the time and never have any opportunity to do any of those things, which has unfortunately been my experience of Orinda.
Pros
  • Nice Ranch Homes
  • Quiet Suburban Street
  • Great Schools No Crime
Cons
  • Car Culture
  • Very Expensive
  • A Bit Dull
Recommended for
  • Professionals
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Mar 28, 2013

"A Bit of Traffic But Very Homey"

Came here to Homestead to take a look at 3-bedroom condo that was the cheapest I could find in Walnut Creek even though at $1900 that is still way out of my current price range. At 950 ft. it is still pretty small, but it had a nice kitchen and was in a nice apartment--well-situated for kids.

As to the rest of Homestead, it is pretty typical of this eastern part of Walnut Creek, situated off Ygnacio Valley Road in between the downtown area and Muir Hospital where my kids were born. It is a suburban street with not just apartments but homes as well. In fact, this is the same street that you take off Ygnacio to head back to an elementary school that my kid attended one summer, Indian Valley. (It is a nice little school nestled up against the hills in quiet spot.)

Homestead itself is mostly made up of nice big Ranch style homes--the kind of homes Mr. Brady would have been happy to have designed. Homestead is unfortunately a bit of a connector between different parts of Walnut Creek for those people who don’t want to use Ygnacio, which means that you get a lot of traffic at certain times of day. It is nowhere near as bad as Ygnacio, but it is not the kind of street where your kids can run out into the street to grab a ball or anything like that.

That said, I certainly wouldn’t mind living. Nice apartments and houses, close but not too close to Downtown Walnut Creek and not too far from BART. Not too bad for commuting to anywhere in the East Bay or the City and rents which though higher than I can currently afford, are worlds lower than the Lamorinda Area where I currently am staying.
Pros
  • Nice Suburban Street
  • Good Schools
  • Close to Downtown and Transportation
Cons
  • Some Traffic
  • A Touch Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Mar 28, 2013

"Not a Nice Part of Concord"

Eureka Lane is little more than an alleyway that stretches north off Monument Blvd. for about a block. This is at the part of Monument Blvd. which is packed with apartment dwellers. I came by here to check out some apartments--about the cheapest that you can find for a 3-bedroom to the east of the Contra Costas. On our way over we were greated by a gentleman urinating on the side of a building, which was not altogether surprising given the rundown feel of this part of Monument.

We were not so happy to have found Eureka Lane itself. The apartments here also had the same rundown feel which is part and parcel with this part of the neighborhood. The apartment itself on the inside was not too bad, fairly big and clean but frankly I just don’t feel comfortable having kids in this part of Concord. If I were by myself, I might chance it for the low rent, but then again, I wouldn’t need a 3-bedroom without kids.

I can’t get crime stats mapped in Concord, but I assume this is probably one of the higher crime areas. I also know that the schools around here are not that good--at least in terms of test scores. I guess I would simply steer people away from this section of Monument and the streets that come just off of it.

In addition, even the apartment I looked at, coming in at $1500 was bit over what I would like to pay when I am ready to relocate.
Pros
  • Affordable Rents
  • Close to Freeway
  • Some Larger Townhomes
Cons
  • Rundown
  • Possible Crime Worries
  • Traffic
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 1/5
  • Parking 1/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Mar 28, 2013

"For Cal Undergrads"

Ahhh! The memories of college life. I used to know this Southside Street well back when I was a Golden Bear myself. It has been a long time but when I came by here to take a look at this studio, it brought back the memories.

Ellsworth, despite getting some foot traffic from Cal students heading to and from campus is relatively quiet for a Southside Street. It has St. Mark’s Episcopal Church right on the corner with Bancroft and a parking garage right next to it.

Most of the rest of Ellsworth is made up of older apartments filled with Cal student who love being less than 10 minutes from class.

The other upside is that you are right by Telegraph and pretty close to Shattuck as well, so there is no limit to stores, restaurants and cultural events that you can take part in if you have the time. It is an outstanding spot for UC students--especially undergrads. Graduate students or those not involved with the campus might not quite enjoy the this busy spot quite as much.

Rents here tend to be fairly affordable (around $1000 for studios and one-bedrooms) but there are a lot of drawbacks, including higher crime and all of the spill over from weekend revelers. If you like being in the middle of or very close to the action all the time, you will probably like living here--but if you want to get away from it every so often, this may be too close for comfort.

Oh yeah, parking is pretty awful around here as well. You need to either pay for monthly parking to park for any extended period on the streets and even then you will have a hard time finding a parking place.

Overall I would not have minded living here 20 years ago. But given the size of the apartments and the fact that I have kids, I don’t think it works anymore for my purposes.
Pros
  • Close to Campus
  • Good Nightlife and Fun
  • Lots of College Students
Cons
  • Terrible Parking
  • Overcrowded
  • Some Crime Worries
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Mar 10, 2013

"Nice, Quiet and Relatively Affordable"

Kenwal Road in the Mid-Clayton Valley neighborhood of Concord is a nice residential street filled with the kind of 1970’s style Ranch homes that I remember from my youth in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles. Kenwal Road, which runs parallel to Ygnacio Valley Road just after it comes over the hill by Cal State East Bay, is filled mostly with Ranch style homes.

On its western end, Kenwal runs up right against the green hills and makes you feel like you are at the edge of a populated area (though this is only an illusion since you have the really high density areas of Concord just on the other side of the hill). The Ranch homes that you will find here date from the early 60’s and the most recent ones that have sold have gone for around $325,000.

Along the eastern end of Kenwall there are a number of condos. Like most condos they are fairly small, but are nicely kept and have their own covered parking, which is always nice for rainy days when you don’t necessarily want to get soaked walking from your car. These condos run about $150,000.

Many of these are also up for rent. I came here to look at one of them. It was a one-bedroom for about $1150/month, which is not too bad.

The schools around here are mostly above average, such as Silverwood Elementary and Clayton Valley High which both have APIs of 7--solidly above average. The only school that brings things down a bit is Pine Hollow Middle School, whose API is only 5--dead average.

There are shops and supermarkets here as well so you don’t have to drive anywhere to get to those. Most people, however commute west along Ygnacio Valley Road and that can be a pretty hectic commute since you pick up a lot of the Kirker Pass commuters coming in from Pittsburg.

Overall though, this is a pretty good street--quiet enough to raise kids but not so expensive that you won’t be able to afford to send them to college if you work hard.
Pros
  • Nice Homes
  • Affordable Condos
  • Suburban Feeling
Cons
  • Ygnacio Valley Traffic
  • A Bit Boring
  • Older Homes that May Require Lots of Upkeep
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Mar 10, 2013

"Nice Apartments, Not Much of a Street"

J Street in Martinez is barely a street at all. It is little more than a stub of a street--a glorified cul-de-sac, the kind of street you are likely to pass (as we did) thinking it is just the parking lot of one of the strip malls on Alhambra Avenue.

Hidden at the end of this little drive is an apartment complex with a very woody feel to it. I came here to look at it and the facilities a few days ago. It is actually fairly nice. This is a relatively big complex with 3 stories and balconies and a pool.

The location is pretty nice, just a little ways to the north of Highway 4. It is not the prettiest of spots with some fairly drab looking strip malls right by this section of Alhambra but it is perfectly situated for those who need to jump on the 4 for the commute to work or to head down to the Lamorinda area.

With relatively low crime and good schools this is not too bad of spot to live.
Pros
  • Nice Apartments
  • Close to Highway
  • Relatively Affordable
Cons
  • Ugly Strip Malls
  • Traffic
  • Not Much of Street
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Mar 10, 2013

"The Nicer Part of Concord"

It is no doubt that Concord mostly gets a bad wrap. It is overcrowded and somewhat dirty and poorly kept in spots and often doesn’t feel like the best of cities. There are certainly parts of Concord where most people would not feel safe living. But Concord is a big sprawling city and it is not uniformly one way. Let’s not paint with too broad a brush.

If you follow Ygnacio Valley Blvd. east, for example, into the Mid-Clayton Valley neighborhood, you get a very different sense of Concord. This eastern neighborhood feels pretty much like one those typical 1970’s kind of neighborhoods that many of us Gen-Xers remember from our formative years.

The Mid-Clayton Valley neighborhood is a nice mix of apartments and Ranch styles homes (of the late 50’s and 60’s variety, not the older, smaller kind that are rather dreary). The streets with Ranch homes are actually fairly well-maintained and aren’t showing the signs of age that other similar Concord neighborhoods have been showing.

Along the main roads that border Ygnacio Valley Blvd. (Treat, Clayton and Ygnacio Valley) you get most of the apartments. These are pretty average places though well-run and clean. There are some newer ones just being built. Prices run between $900 and $1250 for one-bedrooms and $1250 to $1600 for 2-bedrooms.

Clayton Road is the main drag in terms of supermarkets and strip malls. These are nice spacious shopping areas with plenty of parking and that wide-open suburban feel that you don’t always get in Concord. (Nothing gets the blood pressure up quite like hunting for a parking spot in a crowded, overrun supermarket parking lot just after work.)

As to the homes here, as I mentioned they are mostly Ranch homes on fairly quiet streets of the kind I associate with my childhood in the San Fernando Valley down south. (Not like it is now, but as it was in the 1970’s.) The median price for a single-family home is around $400,000. In the last year homes have sold from between $200 and $750 thousand, though most go from between $300,000 and $550,000.

What about crime and schools--the usual drawbacks of Concord?

Crime, as I have stated before, is about average for most of Concord and though I don’t have any hard stats to go on (Concord doesn’t get picked up by the crime reporting databases I have found), I would be willing to bet that this is one of the lower crime areas in Concord.

As to schools, they are a bit of a mixed bag. The northwestern end of Mid-Clayton Valley is served by El Dorado Middle School, for example, which has an API of 3--solidly below average. On the other hand the southern end of the neighborhood is served by Sherwood Elementary and Clayton Valley both with API’s of 7--solidly above average. There are also some middling schools that serve the neighborhood overall. Put simply, however, I would say that if you have kids, try to stick to the southern end for the better school experience.

As to commuting, it will take you a bit longer than from areas farther to the west. That said, it is nowhere near as bad as Antioch or Pittsburg.

Overall, I would say this is one of the better neighborhoods in Concord.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartments
  • Nicely Kept Ranch Style Homes
  • Good Schools on Southern End
Cons
  • A Bit of Traffic
  • A Bit Out of the Way
  • Some Not So Good Schools on Northwestern End
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Mar 10, 2013

"Older Spot with Schools for All Ages"

I’ve recently developed an even greater appreciation for Martinez. Perhaps it is because of my imminent divorce and the new financially strapped situation in which I find myself. Finding a place to live in the Bay Area where you still feel relatively safe while not paying a gazillion dollars in rent is actually fairly difficult. I actually have no idea how people manage it.

Martinez is one possibility. I came to see an apartment here on F street the other day. This was not a huge apartment but it was well kept, newer, and in very nicely kept facility. In addition, it was right at the end of F Street, where it runs up against the hills.

Now this is in the part of Martinez that is north of Highway 4, which is generally considered the less desirable area of Martinez. It is right by Alhambra High School which is not the north end of the street (you can see the pool right from the sidewalk.)

The homes in this location are usually pretty old. This is certainly the case on the rest of F Street. You get a ton of homes dating from the pre-WWII period. They do look their age. These are homes with wooden panels and walk-up steps and tiny front yards. You get your share of white picket fences as well.

By Alhambra Avenue, there is a lot of traffic (Alhambra is the main artery north-south in this part of Martinez). This is also where you find a Safeway supermarket and the other sort of amenities that you would expect along the main drag of a location.

That is also where you will find the Martinez Adult School facility. Martinez Adult Education has been around for almost a century, having been created by workers at the local Chevron plant way back when. It offers mostly vocational training for adults including subjects like Microsoft Office, BIM and career counseling. There are also GED classes and some personal enrichment classes like photography.

Although homes get a little ramshackle in spots, this is actually not too bad of a place to live.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartments
  • Close to Supermarket and Schools
  • Good Public Transportation
Cons
  • Old Homes
  • Busy Main Drag Nearby
  • Lots of High School Students Around
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Mar 03, 2013

"Crowded But Inexpensive"

Came here to Adelaide Street to look at an apartment. This is just a one block street running from Clayton to Laguna in the Ellis Lake neighborhood. If you know this area, you know that it is pretty much all apartment buildings right around here.

The apartment that I looked at was for less than $900 for a one-bedroom, which is pretty good for this area where most one-bedrooms are slightly higher (around $1000 mostly).

Why the lower price?

These are much older apartments--very worn looking and with a very stacked up feel. You just feel squeezed together with your neighbors.

The other drawbacks of Adelaide Street are the poor schools and the fear of crime. As to the schools Meadow Homes Elementary with an API of 3 is pretty typical. Though not bottom basement, it is definitely on the weaker side in terms of education.

The upside of this area is that you are right by the downtown area of Concord where you can go to the movieplex or grab a nice bite to eat at the Spaghetti Factory. There are also a ton of shops, Water World and lots of those kinds of places all around.

Overall, I would recommend this area for singles just getting going with their lives.
Pros
  • Cheap Rents
  • Close to Downtown Fun
Cons
  • Crowded
  • Old Looking Buildings
  • Poor Schools
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Mar 03, 2013

"An Okay Launching Point for Your Life"

Walters Way is one of those apartment packed streets that you can find throughout much of the Detroit Ave. vicinity of Concord. The apartments here are mostly of the boxy, flat kind which offer little more than a carport and a roof over your head as draws. You can however find some pretty good deals here. That is definitely what drew me here. I came across a listing for a 2-bedroom apartment for under $1000/month.

Other than what I have mentioned already, why is it so inexpensive?

Probably because it is just off Monument Blvd. close to the spot where it is pretty unappealing. A lot of it may also have to do with there just being too many of these ugly apartments all pushed up against each other. It does make you feel a little bit sardine-like.

There is also the problem of the poor local schools and the perception that crime is high in Concord. (In fact, it is just even with the national average, which though higher than most surrounding areas like Walnut Creek, is nowhere near as high as Pittsburg or Richmond.)

Overall, however, if you are just looking for a cheap place to live while you working on building your career or work through a difficult spot in your life, you could call Walters Way home.
Pros
  • Low Rents
  • Not Too Bad for Commuting
  • Safer than Pittsburg and Richmond
Cons
  • Poor Schools
  • Too Many Apartments
  • Traffic
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 26, 2013

"Nice Wine Country Lane"

Came to Pope Street in St. Helena over the weekend to celebrate my birthday. My sister-in-law’s family has a mobile home in the park here. This is a senior mobile home park where retirees come to enjoy the beauty of Wine Country in their golden years. The mobile homes are quite big and have nicely sized backyards.

Pope Street comes right off of Main Street in St. Helena, which many tourists mistakenly believe is Napa’s cute little downtown. From Pope Street you are within walking distance of all the shops and restaurants of this location.

Pope Street is mostly, however, not made up of mobile home parks but of attractive older homes, apartments and duplexes. Most of these are clearly half a century old. You will even find a dark red barn with a rusty old sheet metal roof as you round the bend over the stone bridge that fords the Napa River.

The nicest homes on Pope are on the eastern side of the bridge. This is also where you will find Napa Valley College, one of the local community colleges in the Napa Valley.

Pope dead ends over another bridge at Silverado Trail Rd., a popular backcountry shortcut that locals take to avoid the weekend and summer tourist traffic. (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone.)

Homes on and around Pope sell for around 3 quarters of a million dollars while condos going for under half.

As to schools and crime, it is about what you would expect: low crime and strong schools. (Most schools have API’s of 8 around here--solidly above average.)

Of course, if you are not retired, I’m not sure the commute from here would work for most people unless they happen to live in the area.
Pros
  • Cute Older Homes
  • Close to Main Street
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • A Bit of Connecting Traffic
  • Too Far for Commute
  • Older Feel
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Feb 25, 2013

"Right at Border Between Good and Bad"

Robinson Street is right past the point where Alhambra turns and makes its final straight away towards the Downtown Martinez area. If you are familiar with Martinez you know that you don’t really want to live downtown by the courthouse unless you like the hassles of city living. (Homeless folks and crime.)

So Robinson is in a sort of middle ground between those sections of Martinez. It is a relatively quiet street with lots of older homes. It is in itself pretty peaceful though some of its cross streets do carry traffic up and back to the Amtrak station and courthouse so you get some speedsters on those avenues.

On the far eastern end of Robinson there is a cluster of boxy apartment buildings which are fairly unappealing. The nicest spot on Robinson is on the western end however, where Robinson curves north and climbs a bit. The homes here, though older, are very nice.

Rents around here can be as low as $1000 for a 2-bedroom.

The schools are pretty good in Martinez as well, most solidly above average and though there is a bit of crime it is mostly contained in the downtown area.

The drawback, of course, is the proximity of Robinson to the downtown area.
Overall though a pretty good spot to take a chance on.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Good Schools
  • Some Nice Older Homes
Cons
  • Ugly Apartments
  • Busy Cross Streets
  • Too Close to Downtown
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 25, 2013

"Great for Vikings"

Tempe Court is a short cul-de-sac right across the street from the Diablo Valley College. I came here the other day to take a look at one of the apartments that make up this location. I used to live in this neighborhood back when I was a student at Diablo Valley College. The apartments here are very similar.

These apartments are in that faux Mission style that is so popular in California. They have tan colored walls and dark red roofs, trimmings and balconies. The street is pretty quiet though there is a lot of student foot traffic--especially during weekdays; afternoons and weekends it is very peaceful.

You can get a one-bedroom here for about $1000/month, which is somewhat on the low end for this location.

If you are a DVC student this is, of course, the ideal location. You can literally be on campus in 5 minutes. You are also very close to the Sun Valley Mall and all the entertainment options that an 80’s style mall of that kind has to offer.

This is actually a pretty good spot to live if you are single or a student, though not perhaps as ideal for a soon-to-be divorced geezer like myself.
Pros
  • Close to DVC and Mall
  • Nice Leafy Street
  • Safe with Good Schools
Cons
  • Student Traffic
  • Apartment Living
  • Too Many Students for Families and Older Folks
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 25, 2013

"Nice Apartments, Good for Commuters"

Oak Road in Walnut Creek runs parallel to Highway 680. It is mostly made up of apartment buildings and condominium complexes, although on its northern end it smacks up against a bunch of office buildings that take advantage of the nearby Pleasant Hill BART station. Central Garden Pet is one of the companies that has its headquarters here.

On its southern end, Oak Road becomes N. Civic Drive, one of the main arteries that drops into Downtown Walnut Creek.

The condos and apartments here are of the newer variety--probably from the 80’s and up to the present I would guess--and do not have that ugly boxy look that many apartments from earlier on do. In fact this is an attractive, though fairly busy, street with trees lining it--nice for a Sunday walk or for an early morning run. Because of the proximity of BART, you are perfectly situated for commuting to and from work without even having to have a vehicle.

Crime is low and the schools are strong, so it is just about what you want in a place like this.

What’s the price-tag for living here?

A typical one-bedroom runs around $1500. (A 3-bedroom around $2000) So perhaps on the slightly more expensive side as far as Walnut Creek goes.
Pros
  • Close To PH BART
  • Good Apartments and Condos
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • A Little Expensive
  • Busy Street
  • Maybe Too Many Apartments
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 24, 2013

"More Clayton Valley Than Concord"

Clayton Valley Highland is the neighborhood that crops up just to the east of the Cal State East Bay Concord campus. Although like much of Concord, it is filled with 50’s era Ranch Style homes, this neighborhood feels a lot more like Clayton than Concord, which basically means that this neighborhood just seems to be more nicely maintained than a lot of neighborhood to the west which have a bit of rundown look to them.

Here the lawns are green and bushes well-trimmed. You just sense that people own their homes here and are here to stay. Which is not to say that the entire neighborhood is like that. Down by Ygnacio Valley Road, you will find some apartment complexes. These apartments are not of the ugly boxy variety but of the kind where there are little hut-like buildings attached to one another and with the covered parking right behind the homes so that you never have to walk too far.

The median home price here in Clayton Valley Highland is $350,000 with prices ranging from around $200,000 to $600,000 on the high end (rarely breaking $600K). Condos here are, of course, much cheaper averaging around $130,000 and never selling for more than $200,000.

Schools here are strong, crime is low and you are far enough away from the metropolitan places that it feels relatively tranquil without seeming like you are in the boonies. For commuting purposes it is much better than the auto commute from Pittsburg though BART is fairly far so if you have to go into the city it will take a bit more doing.

Overall this is pretty great neighborhood, especially if you consider it relative to the rest of Concord.
Pros
  • Good Homes
  • Quiet Streets
  • Relatively Safe
Cons
  • A Bit Out of the Way
  • Mostly Ranch Homes
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Feb 20, 2013

"Busy Street with Good Condo Living"

Clayton Road is a major artery bisecting Concord from the Downtown area to the southeast where the city of Clayton itself is located. Clayton Road is the kind of three lane road that is almost a freeway and that gets packed bumper to bumper during rush hour as people flow into the more affluent sections of Contra Costa County.

You are pretty far out here on the far eastern portion of Concord, which of course means you will get your share of traffic when departing from here. It is also far enough out however where you do get some newer construction. I came here to see an apartment the other day that was brand new, and because the complex is still under construction it was going for under a $1000 for a one-bedroom, pretty nice even if it was only about 600 ft.

This section of Clayton Road is actually packed with condos and apartments. Recently condos around here have sold for less than $100K.

There are also a couple of churches and a funeral parlor along this stretch.

Unfortunately the schools around here tend to still be on the weaker side as they are throughout most of Concord. I can’t tell what crime is like around here but it does not have the look of a high crime area.

Overall it is an okay spot.
Pros
  • Fairly Affordable Condos
  • Nice Clean Looking Area
  • Not As Far Away As Pittsburg and Antioch
Cons
  • Busy Road
  • Poor Schools
  • Maybe Farther than Most Would Like
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Gay & Lesbian
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 19, 2013

"Older Residential Street"

Pomona Avenue is a curving suburban street in the Mountain View neighborhood of Martinez. The Mountain View neighborhood is in the northern section of Martinez, but it along the elevated section before you get near the courthouse.

Along Pomona Avenue, you find mainly older homes and duplexes dating to before WWII I believe. It seems like a fairly quiet street. I came here to see about a duplex this weekend. It was fairly inexpensive--less than $900--perhaps because it is not too far from the Chevron Refinery or to the Downtown area. It may also be because it was fairly small and old like most houses in this neighborhood. It didn’t seem like a bad neighborhood however.

Homes in this neighborhood sell for around $200K. These prices seem low to me compared to other places in the Bay Area where similar homes could sell for nearly twice as much. I would especially say this when you take into consideration that the schools here are fairly strong and crime is relatively low. If I were single with only one kid, I could definitely see myself taking one of these places. It is only the size that holds me back now.

The only other issue might be the commute and the boredom. Martinez is not too far out of the way so long as you are headed into the rest of Contra Costa County and the East Bay but any farther than SF and it might take a bit of a toll--no pun intended.

Overall it is not too bad a street.
Pros
  • Affordable Living
  • Good Schools
  • Relatively Safe
Cons
  • Older, Smaller Homes
  • Nearby Refinery Fears
  • Possible Commute Problems
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 16, 2013

"A Nice Hidden Spot for Apartment Dwellers"

Laguna Street in the Ellis Lake neighborhood of Concord is one of those streets you would never expect to find there and would never find unless you happened to have some business on this street. Ellis Lake--which is little more than a swamp really--is right on the southern end of Laguna Street.

Laguna is filled with apartments, some nice some a bit on the boxy side. Because they are in Concord, these pads are actually fairly affordable. You can actually find one for under $1000 here where the same apartment might go for 2 or 3 hundred dollars more just a few miles south in Walnut Creek.

The location is also nice because you are fairly close to the nicest part of Concord where you can go to stores and catch a movie. If the schools were stronger around here, this might actually be an okay spot for single parents as well.

It is definitely a good spot for commuters who go to work in Walnut Creek and not too bad for those that work in the city and take BART there.

II will definitely have to keep an eye out for the right unit for me.
Pros
  • Nice Looking Street
  • Good Apartments
  • Close to Downtown Concord
Cons
  • Bad Schools
  • Possibly Some Crime
  • High Density
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 1/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Feb 16, 2013

"Just Four Walls and a Roof"

Riley Court is a short lane just off of Meadow Lane in the Meadow Home neighborhood in Concord. It is close to Monument Blvd. The apartments that crowd Riley Court are not very appealing. They are very boxy and have a heavy concrete look to them that is more than a little oppressive. It feels like a place where you go just to have four walls and a roof over your head rather than anywhere most people would call home.

Rents here are fairly inexpensive to match the subpar conditions. You can get a one-bedroom here for $1000, which still seems sort of high to me for what you are getting.

This is also not a very attractive part of Concord--has a very urban sort of rundown look to it.

Schools around here are not very good either, so although this place might be okay for singles just getting by, it would not be an ideal place for kids.

The upside of the location is that you will have less time in traffic than if you lived over in Pittsburg or Antioch. It is also probably a little safer around here than in those locations which are somewhat notorious at this point for their gang and crime problems.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Better For Commuter's Than Pittsburg
Cons
  • Ugly, Boxy Apartments
  • Poor Schools
  • Rundown Concord Neighborhood
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 5/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 16, 2013

"Less of a Court Than a Parking Lot"

Came to see a one bedroom here on Village Ct. Village Court is little more than a parking lot just off Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Walnut Creek. It is basically a driveway filled with parking spaces on both sides.

On the south side, there are a couple of office buildings. On the north side are some very boxy looking apartment-buildings. Inside of one is the apartment that I looked over. The apartment here was very small but under $1000, which is on the lower side for Walnut Creek.

This a great single’s pad however, being located within walking distance of Walnut Creek’s main shopping and entertainment. You can literally be on Main Street in five minutes without ever getting in your car. In addition, you have the supermarket within walking distance as well. The BART is also within walking distance though it is a little bit more of trek.

The Ironhorse Trail--a popular place for joggers and bikers--also winds by right next door, the wash its constant companion.

The main drawback is that the apartments and the parking lot feel of Village Court do not make for the most attractive of looks. They are not very inspiring.

But if you are just starting out, with you first job and ready to get going in the world, that is probably inspiration enough.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartments
  • Close to Restaurants and Entertainment
  • Strong Schools
Cons
  • Looks Like a Parking Lot
  • A Little Noisy Perhaps
  • Ugly, Boxy Apartments
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 11, 2013

"Apartment City Concord"

Detroit Avenue in the Ellis Lake neighborhood of Concord is basically apartment city, with just one complex after another squeezed in between Monument and Willow Pass. The apartments get progressively nicer and more expensive as you get away from Monument Blvd. It is possible however to find a one-bedroom here for about $1000/month.

This actually a pretty good location. Close enough to downtown Concord to go to a movie or get a bite to eat and also pretty close to public transportation.

The usual problems keep this a relatively low rent area--namely the average crime rates and poor schools. In addition, there is also the problem of high density. This is simply an overcrowded area with tons of occupants living stacked on top of each other.

Overall, however the affordability of Detroit Avenue makes this a good spot for singles and those just embarking on their life path.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartments
  • Good for Commuters
  • Close to Movies and Shopping
Cons
  • Poor Schools
  • High Density
  • Traffic
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Students
3/5
Feb 11, 2013

"Apartments, Trailer Park, Ranch Houses"

Meadow Lane is what Oak Grove Road turns into north of Monument Blvd. Meadow Lane is made up of a mix of apartment buildings and older Ranch style homes. The apartments are mostly of the shoebox variety though there are also some in the 1980’s bungalow style. Because these are so close to Monument Blvd. Rents here are fairly low and it is possible to find a one-bedroom for $950/month.

You will also find a small trailer park here as well.

The farther you get from Monument Blvd., the more Ranch Style homes you find on Meadow Lane. These homes sell for between $200k to $300k.

Unfortunately you still do get the usual problems with this section of Concord--namely bad schools and a touch of crime. I believe the crime worry is probably overrated but the schools do have low test scores, which suggests that there may be a lot of time spent on discipline and other sorts of issues that impede learning.

On the other hand, the low cost of housing and the location do have its advantages. It is definitely easier to commute from here than from Pittsburg or Antioch.

Overall, a bit of a mixed bag as far as a place to live.
Pros
  • Affordable Homes and Rents
  • Good For Commuters
Cons
  • Poor Schools
  • Low Property Values
  • Busy Street
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Feb 10, 2013

"Nice Ranch Style Homes Along with Industrial Center"

The Ygnacio Valley neighborhood of Concord stretches in a L curve formed by the railroad tracks on its southern and eastern end. It covers much of Oak Grove and some of Monument Blvd. It goes from 4-Corners to Bancroft.

The neighborhood is mostly residential though it has an industrial section on its north eastern end. The residential section of Ygnacio Valley--especially on the southwestern end--is mostly made up Ranch Style homes on straight leafy streets. These are nicely kept middle class homes of the kind that you can find throughout California. They are the homes that once made up the middle class dream before uniform Contemporary style homes took over those dreams.

The median home price here is $350,000 for a single family home, with prices rising to about $500,000 on the southern end but no further.

On the northeastern end, closer to Monument Blvd., there are a number of boxy apartment complexes on relatively leafy streets. They are sort of middle of road: neither particularly inspiring nor particularly depressing.

Most of the northeastern end is made up of warehouses and businesses. Companies who have addresses here are Ale Industries (a beer maker), Techrestore (a Mac repair shop), Moose Metal (a metals welding place) and East Bay Machine (a sheet metal welder). There is also a Costco and a home supply shop up by Monument.

One of the organizations that calls Ygnacio Valley home is Books for Barrios, a non-profit that gathers English language books and sends them to schools in remote areas of the Philippines.
As you can tell by the businesses that reside here, these are mostly mid-level businesses that provide the necessary infrastructure for other businesses to thrive. These businesses however are the economic life force of this area.

This section of Ygnacio Valley is not particularly attractive but it is important for the economy.

As to crime and schools? Crime is average and schools are mostly poor--at least in terms of public schools. There are some private school options like nearby Carondolet, but these are, of course, more expensive.

Overall, Ygnacio Valley is one of the nicer neighborhoods in Concord.
Pros
  • Nice Ranch Style Homes
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Good for Commuters
Cons
  • Poor Schools
  • Ugly Industrial Area
  • Depressed Home Prices
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 10, 2013

"A Bit of Steal for the Value Offered"

Sierra Court in Concord is a short S-curved lane to the south of Monument Blvd., the main artery that cuts through Concord. On its western end, Sierra Drive is mostly made up of apartment buildings of the shoebox shaped variety. Sierra is fairly leafy however, which keeps these from seeming rather oppressive like they sometimes do in other locations.

On the eastern end of Sierra Drive as it curves to the south for a block, the street is mostly made up of single family homes--Contemporary style homes for the most part. Just to the east past a hedge is an industrial section of Concord filled with warehouses and businesses.

If this were a lane in another city, such as just to the south in Walnut Creek you could add a good $300 to rent just because of the change in zip code. Because, however, it is in Concord--which has a negative reputation--you can rent a one-bedroom apartment here for around $1000.

Homes around here also sell for far less. A 4-bedroom here recently sold for $330,000 and a condo went for $95,000.

What do you give up for the cheaper rents and lower home prices?

Crime could be a factor, but it is hard to say since I can’t find crime data that is neighborhood specific for Concord. I do know however that overall crime in Concord is about even with the national average.

Schools are the other factor. Schools here have API’s on the lower end of the spectrum with the local elementary having an API of 4 and the Oak Grove Middle School having one of 2. (That is out of 10.) So that is a big drawback if you are going to send you kids to public school here.

There are several upsides to living here however. One has to do with commute times. As compared with Pittsburg and Antioch, commutes from Concord to Walnut Creek, Oakland and San Francisco are far shorter and much more manageable.

That proximity also means that it is much easier to go out to relatively nice places and to live at a higher standard of living than you might otherwise be able to. Overall, this is a pretty nice spot--a bit of a steal perhaps.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Good Spot for East Bay Commuters
  • Close to Walnut Creek Fun
Cons
  • Poor Schools
  • Close to Industrial Location
  • Boxy Apartments
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 2/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Feb 03, 2013

"Country Living Close to City Fun"

Reliez Valley Road is basically a country road that stretches up from the Lafayette Hills around Briones Park into Martinez. The section of it that is in Martinez is very rural in feel with empty rolling Contra Costa hills on both sides and horse ranches. In fact, the Briones Horse Center is located here.

If you like feeling like you are way out into the country or being close to nature, while still being just a 15 minute drive away from the comforts and conveniences of an urban center, then you will definitely like it here.

I recently came up here to check out a bit of shack that was up for rent for a thousand bucks per month. It wasn’t much of a place but I kind of liked the idea of living up here in the boondocks.

Overall, it is kind of a nice place to get away from it all, but not too far away.
Pros
  • Peaceful Feeling
  • Close to Town and Parks
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • Kind of Remote
  • Country Living
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Country Lovers
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Feb 03, 2013

"Great Apartment Living"

Geary Road is one of the main arteries that runs west-east up in Walnut Creek. It is a good way to head up to Taylor Road which is a back road up into Lafayette, the route locals use when Highway 680 is backed up. It also meets up with Pleasant Hill Road which takes you north into Martinez and is also an alternate route for those who don’t want to brave the 4-680-24 highway traffic.

Geary goes from North Main Street to Pleasant Hill Road and is mostly a suburban street with lots of residences on it. There are also, as throughout the outskirts of Walnut Creek, a number of apartments along Geary. There is a also one church and 4 or 5 day care centers.

The newest apartments are by North Main Street, as you might expect. They are of the boxy, multi-colored variety that have become so popular recently. As you go farther to the west you get more residences mostly along cul-de-sacs and spin-off streets but you also get a number of slightly older apartment complexes of various kinds.

There is a also a little shopping strip with a Starbucks and a Lunardi’s Supermarket right where Geary meets up with Pleasant Hill Road.

This is actually a great location for apartment living because you get the nice Walnut Creek schools attended by the children of the affluent residents in the suburban outskirts of W.C. (thus increasing support for the school) but still have fairly affordable apartments. I checked out a couple of 1-bedrooms here recently that were going for below $1200--a very nice price for this location.

It is also safe, close to BART, the entertainment locales of Walnut Creek and back roads into Lafayette, Martinez and the rest of Contra Costa County. Briones Park with its trails is nearby and the Lafayette Reservoir is not that far, so you definitely have a lot of recreational options.

In a nutshell, I would love to live here.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartments
  • Close to Everything
  • Great Schools
Cons
  • Traffic Noise
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Trendy & Stylish
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 22, 2013

"Between the High School and the Football Field"

C Street is a short 4 block street located just north of Alhambra High School (by the football field) and just to the south of the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. That, of course, makes it the perfect street for nurses with high school age kids, if they want to be within walking distance of their whole lives.

My interest in C Street has to do with a recent listing for a one-bedroom here. The street is not at all typical of the kind street you would expect to find a little apartment building. It actually looks like there are just a few houses and it ends, but actually most of these homes appear to be duplexes and in few spots they are actually small apartment with maybe a half dozen units. They look a bit rundown and shabby, but overall seem serviceable. A unit has just come on the market for $950, for a relatively spacious one-bedroom so prices seem more than affordable.

C Street also stretches a little ways to the east of Alhambra.

Overall, Martinez has relatively good schools and mostly low crime. What crime there is here is mostly small time stuff, domestic violence, stolen radios from cars--the kind of thing that happens virtually everywhere.

This isn’t a bad spot for starting a commute either. You have the Amtrak Station in the downtown area and Highway 4 just to the south. I don’t know if I would recommend it, but it seems passable.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Close to the Hospital
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • Shabby Looking
  • Some Crime
  • Kind of Out of the Way
Recommended for
  • Singles
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 22, 2013

"A Steal"

Shell Avenue in Martinez leads, as you might expect given the name, right into one of the many chemical plants that make up much of Martinez. These plants look like a tangle of pipes and domes to the uneducated eye--like mine. At night the towers spit out flames and white smokey emissions.

It is because of these plants that people hesitate to live in Martinez, fearing a chemical spill like the one that happened in Richmond last year. The spills, however, are not very common and rarely cause people feel sick.

As you head south of the chemical plant/refinery along Shell Avenue, you find a number of homes dating from around WWII. These are smaller wood paneled homes with stoops and small front yards. They are in various states of repair--it is the kind of place you could use to film an Eisenhower Era period piece.

As you get farther from the plant, however, the homes get slightly newer and more uniformly well-kept. As you get past Pine Street (which takes you down to Highway 4 and away either back towards Concord or in the direction of Richmond) there is a mostly undeveloped hill that separates this section of Shell Avenue from the final section made up of older pre-War homes before it dead ends on Alhambra right by the High School. On the mostly undeveloped hill there is an apartment building, where--no doubt because of the proximity of the chemical plant--you can get a 2-bedroom apartment for $1150.

As to the homes along Shell, they range from $150k to about $400k roughly corresponding to the distance of the home from the plant. The benefits of living on Shell is that you are relatively close to Highway 4 and so you are commute ready. Also because Martinez is generally overlooked when people are looking for a place to live, it is relatively more affordable--especially north of Highway 4 where there are greater chemical worries.

Martinez also has strong schools with Alhambra holding an API of 8, Martinez Junior High a 7, and John Muir Elementary a solid 6. Crime is relatively low and the area has a definite middle class feel throughout.

Overall, I think that a home here, especially a rental, is probably a steal.
Pros
  • Affordable Rents and Home Prices
  • Good Schools
  • Close for Commutes
Cons
  • Close to Chemical Plant
  • Older Home Problems
  • Some Crime
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 21, 2013

"Cool Apartment Living Close to Shopping and Restaurants"

Cleaveland Road runs north south parallel to Contra Costa Blvd. from Woodsworth to Astrid, which curve into Cleaveland and look, from an aerial point of view like a “C” with monument slipping into the middle. Just to the east of Cleaveland are the stores and restaurants of Crescent Plaza in Pleasant Hill. (This is where the Century 16 Pleasant Hill and the Borders Books among other things are located.)

Cleaveland is largely made up of apartment buildings. Some are actually quite nice like at the corner with Astrid where there is large, brand new complex in a Mediterranean style. More typically however, the apartments here are of the more boxy variety though with grassy tree shades interstitial walkways in-between buildings. (They most likely date from the 80’s or 90’s.)

These apartments are about as affordable as it gets in a location like this. You can get a one bedroom here for under $1200 (that is with garbage and water included). A pretty good deal.

Cleaveland also has an assisted living community on its southern end. This is a very attractive facility which actively helps seniors with dementia and other challenges live out the rest of their lives in relative comfort and peace.

Cleaveland itself is a wide lane with room for sidewalk parking on both sides.

There is also a good, old fashioned park at the northern end of the Cleaveland.

And, of course, you have all the stores and restaurants of Crescent Plaza within walking distance of most of what you need.
Pros
  • Nice Apartments
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Close to Shops and Restaurants
Cons
  • Some Apartments Not as Attractive as Others
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Jan 21, 2013

"Apartments and Homes Close to Walnut Creek Fun"

Boulevard Way is the major artery that you can take right when you get off Highway 24 when you get off at Mt. Diablo Blvd. It heads south in the direction of the small area known was Rossmoor. The neighborhood Boulevard Way bisects is technically known as Saranap, though not even people who live there will know what you are talking about unless they live on the street with that name.

This area is basically packed--like much of the edges around Walnut Creek’s commercial district--with a mix of apartment complexes and nice homes. The apartments around here are relatively affordable for the area. You can get one and two bedroom apartments for around $1500.

The homes, of course, are a completely different matter. Homes around here sell for around $700K. (Condos however go for under $200k--so there is a big difference.)

The benefit of living here is that you get the great Walnut Creek Schools and safety at a relatively affordable rent. You are also very close to the BART station and well-positioned most commutes. And, on top of all that, all of the restaurants, stores, movie theaters and nightspots of Walnut Creek are just a short walk away. So you absolutely have the best all worlds in one spot.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartments
  • Nice Homes
  • Great Schools and Safe
Cons
  • Expensive Homes
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 21, 2013

"Ranchers, Condos, Apartments and Great Schools"

Donald Drive in Moraga is a leafy residential street that first came to my notice when one of my kids started attending Rheem Elementary. (To get to it you have to turn down Donald Drive.) Donald Drive is mostly made up of unusual looking duplex style homes as you near Rheem Elementary. These are mostly identified as condos and seem to largely date from the 1960’s--though they don’t look like what I traditionally think of as condos, as I’ve already described.

Donald Drive is unusual in that it takes a sharp turn at this point and heads up into the hills. Laird takes up the final block before the school.

On the eastern side of Donald, homes are much more typical, being mostly Ranch style home, probably dating from the 1950’s, though very well kept for homes that are more than half a century old at this point.

As you might expected estimated home prices vary greatly depending on which side of Donald the home is located. The Ranch style standalone home on the eastern end run in the $750k to $1 mil range, while the attached condos on the west run about $250k.

What has brought Donald Drive back into my attention recently, however are neither its eastern or western half but the apartments that huddle just off Moraga Road at its central dividing point. In my quest to find an apartment that will keep me near my kids’ current home, I recently took a look at one of the apartments located here. It was outside of my price range at $1850/month, but given that it is for a 2-bedroom, it is not excessively priced for the area. (It also offered close to 1200 ft. of space which is unusual for apartments.) It is definitely a good set-up for a single parent.

The proximity of Saint Mary’s also probably means a fair number of off-campus students live here. (Unless Saint Mary’s is an on-campus housing campus only, which may be the case.)

One of the benefits of living here is the great Moraga schools such as Rheem and Campolindo, both of which have the highest possible API’s.

Moraga’s somewhat isolated location, makes it not the ideal location for a commute even though there is a BART station in Orinda. Getting out of Moraga itself can be a bit of pain since these are long one lane roads on the way out.

The other great benefit of this area, is that you are within walking distance of the supermarket, park and shops located in Moraga--meaning that you won’t have to get in your car to do everything. (There is even a nearby movie theater, gym and a couple of decent restaurants.)
Pros
  • Great Schools
  • Close to Shops, Theater and Gym
  • Pretty Good Homes, Condos and Apartments
Cons
  • Bad for Commute
  • Overpriced
  • Somewhat Remote
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 21, 2013

"Shops, Flicks and Eats Just a Skip Away"

Boyd Road is a relatively quiet Pleasant Hill street to the west of Highway 680, where everything is fairly residential. It is close to the Monument Exit, is relatively leafy and has moderate traffic.

I came here over the weekend to take a look at apartments.

Boyd is only about 10 blocks long, connecting Contra Costa Blvd to Pleasant Hill Road. On the eastern end near Contra Costa Blvd. is where the apartments are located.(There is also a Hyatt Hotel there and Monsoon Masala restaurant.) There was actually a one bedroom in one of these complexes priced below $1000. This is in an okay complex with a fitness room and laundry.

The rest of Boyd is made up of single family homes. These are mostly Ranch styles homes but they date from the late 40’s to 80’s as far as I can tell. (The ones from the 80’s are Contemporary style, of course.) The median home price is estimated at around $500K, though most homes on and around Boyd seem to sell for closer to $600K. A 1900 ft. 1960 Rancher on a 10,000 ft. lot sold for $550 K at the end of last year, for example.

One of the benefits of living on this side of 680 is the strong schools. Sequoia Elementary and Sequoia Middle School which are both on Boyd, have API’s of 10 and 8 respectively. And Strandwood Elementary which also serves Boyd Road has an API of 10. College Park High School is also above average with an API of 7. (This is a world of difference from some of the weaker schools you find to the east of 680.)

As far as commuting goes, you can get as far south as Pleasanton, north as Fairfield, east as Brentwood, and all important west as West Oakland. But you are also only a mile from BART, so in combination you should be able to get most anywhere in the Central Bay. (Silicon Valley would be more of a reach however.)

As to crime, it is fairly contained to the nearby commercial areas. Along the quiet residential streets like Boyd, assaults are mostly of the domestic variety. Near the movie theater there are the occasional reported fights and robberies, but nothing that should worry Boyd residents.

The big draw for Boyd residents is the proximity of all the shopping and eateries that are within walking distance. As far as shopping goes, you have everything from a Ross, Bed Bath & Beyond, Tub World and a Michael’s to a Verizon, Staples and Pet Food Express and a Staples. You also have you choice of supermarkets (there is both a Luckys and a Safeway in walking distance). You also have a ton of restaurants around here: from a Boston Market and Chipotle to a Jack’s Grill and Daphne’s Californian Greek restaurant.

You also have a plethora of movie going options. For mainstream movies, you have the Century 16 just a block north. (They are currently showing Lincoln, The Hobbit, Les Miserables, Jack Reacher and This is 40, among others.) If you have more eclectic tastes in film, you might check out the Cinearts dome theater on the other side of 680. (They are currently showing Zero Dark Thirty on the big theater, but also the Michael Haneke movie about aging, Amour; a movie about a love affair between boxer and woman that has recently lost her legs, Rust and Bone; and the FDR period piece, Hyde Park on the Hudson.) Both theaters are owned by the same company, so you can be assured of fairly different fair to avoid cannibalizing each others’ audiences.

Put simply, if you like shopping, eating and seeing movies, you will not have to get into your car to do it if you live on Boyd.
Pros
  • Close to Shopping and Restaurants
  • Close to Wide Movie Selection
  • Affordable Apartments; Nice Homes
Cons
  • Not Great for South Bay Commutes
  • Traffic
  • Some Minor Crime Nearby
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 20, 2013

"Affordable Shoebox Apartments"

Balhan Court is a cul-de-sac in Clayton. I recently came here to check out an apartment that is within my price range--which this definitely is at $1000/month for a 2-bedroom. It is close to where Ygnacio Valley Blvd. hits Clayton Road which, for those coming from Walnut Creek is past the Cal State East Bay campus.

Balhan Court is basically an apartment row filled with boxy 60’s era apartments. It is a bit run down looking on the end, with peeling paint on the outside of buildings and leftover ez chairs sitting outside of some buildings. From the look of most of the cars--older model econo cars, you can tell that the residents around here are mostly working class paycheck to paycheck, so given the current state of things for me, I should fit right in.

Many of the apartments however are fairly nice, though old.

Of course, when the rent is this low you worry a bit about crime. Crime in Clayton is amazingly low--one of the safest area around. Balhan is right on the border between Clayton and Concord, where crime is comparable to the national average. You get less than 10 murders per year in a population of more than 100,000. That is not too bad.

Of course, commuting from here is a bit of a pain since you hit all the other commuters heading in this direction. But overall, this is a really affordable spot. As affordable as it gets without heading into Antioch and Pittsburg.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartmetns
  • Good Walnut Creek Commute
  • Relatively Safe
Cons
  • Some Rundown Looking Apartments
  • Not Good for Other Commutes
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 12, 2013

"Close to Fun But Not Too Close"

Sierra Drive in Walnut Creek is a residential lane just outside the epicenter of Walnut Creek’s most trafficked areas. But just a couple of blocks away on Sierra Drive, it is possible to forget that nearby you have one of the biggest commercial centers in Northern California.

Sierra Drive is basically a residential street with apartments on one side and houses on the other. The apartments here are mostly of boxy 1960’s and 70’s kind as far as I can tell, but it is a pretty leafy area so it doesn’t feel quite as oppressive as similar apartments in a less attractive locations might seem. You can find a one-bedroom around here for less than $1250, which is pretty good for Walnut Creek.

On the eastern side of Sierra Drive, the homes are mostly variations on Eichler homes in moderate states of upkeep.

The big benefit of living on Sierra, of course, is that you get to be close to the action of Downtown Walnut Creek while enjoying the benefits of living in the suburbs. You are within walking distance of the supermarket, the posh outdoor mall, the big movie plex, and restaurants like Il Fornaio, China Bistro and Tomatina. At the same time, you have the great nearby schools and the safety of Walnut Creek. Really, one of best locations in Northern California.
Pros
  • Close To Downtown Fun
  • Great Local Schools and Safe
  • Relatively Affordable
Cons
  • Apartments a Bit Boxy
  • A Bit of Local Traffic
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 11, 2013

"Great Spots for Singles and Single Parents"

Trinity Avenue in Walnut Creek is the street that Civic turns into when you cross over Mt. Diablo Blvd. (the main drag going north south in Contra Costa County). It is basically just one long block that extends all the way to Highway 680, where it turns into a bridge over the freeway. It is unusual in that it is on a fairly steep slope so that it can duck under the BART tracks while still clearing the speeding traffic below. On the other side of the causeway Trinity turns into Terrace Road that feeds the snaking streets of the hilly Overlook neighborhood.

As to the actual street, Trinity Avenue is basically a long row of apartment buildings--one of many such streets in Walnut Creek. As I have started to price out apartments, it is actually one of the more affordable locations in Walnut Creek. You can actually find a one-bedroom for $1500, which is relatively reasonable for Walnut Creek--especially since you are within walking distance of Downtown Walnut Creek.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is on Trinity well, which I assume is why it is called Trinity. There is a big parking lot right across from it that I assume to be for the church?

The other benefit of living in Walnut Creek whether you live in one of the houses or one of the apartments as a single or divorced parent is that the Walnut Creek schools are some of the best around, with high API’s across the board. Trinity Avenue also has a pre-K Spanish immersion school, which looks pretty cool if you want to give your kid a head start on their foreign languages.

This is also great spot for commuters with the BART station basically within walking distance.

So you basically get the benefits of the suburbans in terms of safety and schools with apartment living, a thriving downtown and good job prospects. A pretty good deal for someone like me.
Pros
  • Relatively Affordable Apartments
  • Close to Walnut Creek Fun and BART
  • Great Schools and Safe
Cons
  • Some Traffic
  • Smallish Apartments Only
  • Maybe a Bit Dull
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 02, 2013

"Kind of Dingy But Close Downtown Walnut Creek"

Near Court is just a little cul-de-sac just off Creekside Blvd.--which you may know from my other review is basically just a long apartment row. Near Court is pretty much the same thing. Basically for 360 degrees all you see is boxy apartment buildings. The only difference from the apartments on Creekside is that these apartments are a little bit taller--maybe 4 or 5 stories high.

Overall they still retain that same dingy sort of feel that the apartments on Creekside do. Apartments here run about the same as well with a one-bedroom running between $1150 and $1250.

The schools nearby are great and crime is relatively low and you are in walking distance of Downtown Walnut Creek, so this is definitely a nice spot in terms of its proximity to some high benefit areas. But the apartments don’t really match the location. You really don’t feel like you are in a nice area on Near Court.

Despite this negative aspect, Near Court is still a pretty good spot if you are okay with that trade off.
Pros
  • Close to Downtown Walnut Creek
  • Affordable Rent
  • Great Schools
Cons
  • Dingy, Boxy Apartments
  • Parking Issue
  • Lots of Traffic Nearby
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 02, 2013

"Nice Street for Apartments"

Walker Avenue is what Mt. Diablo Blvd. turns into when it comes to an end. It picks up right at the Safeway and slopes briefly up into the hills for a few block before it T’s into Walnut Blvd. Most of this area of Walnut Creek is made up of really nice, slightly older homes. But along Walker Avenue, it is mostly apartment complexes.

This is a very walkable area, and many people that live around here walk to the market and carry their groceries home with them. You will often see people walking home from the local schools or from visiting Downtown Walnut Creek which is very nearby.

Unfortunately, Walker is a very busy street because people use it as a shortcut and you get fairly constant traffic around here. The apartments, however, though small, are actually relatively nice in the way that these kinds of 1980’s style apartment complexes can be.

As I mentioned already, the other great advantage of this area is the location. You can walk into Downtown Walnut Creek and bike over to BART, so you definitely save a lot of money on transportation and parking costs.

The schools around are really great too, so this is definitely a good spot for single parents. Las Lomas High School for example, has an API of 8 and Parkmead Elementary of 9. There is also not a lot of crime in this area.

This might lead you think that renting an apartment here would be really expensive, but, in fact they are relatively affordable for Walnut Creek. You can get a one bedroom around here for about $1200 and a two for about $1300.

Overall this is a pretty nice spot to live.
Pros
  • Nice Apartments
  • Close to Downtown
  • Great Schools
Cons
  • Busy Street
  • Too Many Apartments
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 01, 2013

"Nice Quiet Suburban Street"

Douglas Lane in Pleasant HIll is one of those large sidewalk-less suburban streets largely populated by large Ranch style homes dating from the 1950’s and 60’s. These are the kind of big Ranch homes with expansive front yards and a long, flat arrangement.

This is a nice section of Pleasant Hill located right by the library and close to both the best shopping areas of Concord and Walnut Creek. It is also very close to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transfer) which makes it a pretty good place for commuters.

The area is relatively safe with most of the crime occurring along Contra Costa Blvd. There have been about a half dozen assaults in the residential area, but they were all reports of domestic violence rather than the kind of battery that you get in the city. (2 such incidents, btw, were right on Douglas Lane.)

Most of the burglaries in the area were close to the commercial areas along Contra Costa Blvd.

Schools here are also quite strong, making this a pretty good place to live overall. Homes in the immediate vicinity run less than $500K and there are relatively affordable apartments for rent.
Pros
  • Nice Big Ranch Homes
  • Close to BART and Shopping
  • Great Schools
Cons
  • Some Crime Near Contra Costa
  • A Bit Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 01, 2013

"Nice Apartments Close to Everything"

Montego Avenue in Walnut Creek is short, well-kept street just to the Southwest of John Muir Hospital where two of my children were born. It is, for that reason, perfectly located for nurses and other healthcare professionals who work at John Muir or in the satellite labs that are nearby.

This is basically an apartment row with only apartments on one side of the streets and offices (mostly hospital related) on the other. These however are some of the nicer, best placed apartments in Walnut Creek. The street is first of all really well kept with green lawns and well-trimmed hedges.

Despite these nice looks the apartments here are only moderately prices at around $1200 to $1400 for a 1 bedroom.

The apartments here nice in that 80’s sort of fashion. Enough space is allowed between rows of apartments that you do not feel quite so claustrophobic for the most part. Unlike other apartment areas, this location is very quiet and well-kept.

This is also close to both Downtown Walnut Creek with all of its attractions and entertainments and to the Walnut Creek BART. So this is perfect area for singles and young couples and divorced guys looking to start over.

This is not a bad place to live as a single parent either. The schools here are outstanding and Walnut Creek is a very safe location overall.
Pros
  • Moderately Priced Apartments
  • Clean and Quiet
  • Great Schools
Cons
  • Some Traffic
  • Mostly Just Small Apartments
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 01, 2013

"View of the Golf Course"

Tamarisk Lane in Moraga is a quiet little street with maybe 20 homes that rises up above the golf course (a great spot for watching 4th of July fireworks). I came up here yesterday to take a look at a nice house that just went up for rent yesterday. They are only listing it at $1400 for 3 bedroom. Now this house is not a mansion by any means, but it looks relatively new maybe dating from the 80’s or 90’s and its in Moraga.

It could easily be listed for twice that amount like most nearby homes are, so I am wondering what is up with it. Especially given that there are smaller, much dingier 1 to 2 bedroom apartments in Moraga right now that are going for the same amount. (The listing does say that pets are okay, which leads me to maybe surmise that there are still some pet odors from the last occupants? Don’t know.)

Just to give you an idea of what the prices are like in this neighborhood, usually, just down the street, similar homes are going for around $750K.

Whatever the case may be, I suspect that this will not be on the market for very long. This is a great area. The street is clean and you have a little bit of view of Moraga below. Schools here are great and it is as safe as it gets.

As far as commuting goes, to get to SF, you will have to drive to the Orinda BART and then commute into that city and this could take you maybe an hour or so in combination. But it is otherwise not a bad spot to head east into Walnut Creek or down into the Pleasanton area (which will also take you an hour).

Overall this is a great little spot. Can’t figure out why the price is so low.
Pros
  • Very Clean
  • Great Schools
  • Great Spot for Watching the Fireworks
Cons
  • A Bit of a Commute
  • Usually Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 1/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Dec 26, 2012

"Cheap but Unappealing"

Lacey Court in specific and this part of Concord in general is one of the least expensive places to live. You can get a 1-bedroom here for around $800/month and a 2-bedroom for $1000. So this is about as bottom basement as it gets when it comes to renting.

So why is it so cheap? As always it has to do with location. This section of Concord right along Monument has a sort of run-down unpleasant look to it that people find unpleasant and that many people associate with crime.

The schools around here are also not that great and these apartments have a run down, dingy, overcrowded look to them that also make people think twice and shell out extra couple of thousand per year in rent to live somewhere else.

Not really a very desirable spot.
Pros
  • Very Affordable
  • Okay Commute
  • Close to Walnut Creet
Cons
  • Possible Crime
  • Bad Schools
  • Ugly, Scary Looking Apartments
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Dec 26, 2012

"Cool Spot, Close to the Action"

Hough Avenue is a bit of a strange street because it is on a roadway that changes names 3 times in that many blocks. People know it first as Oak Hill Road (the spot where you exit Highway 24 when you are coming from the Caldecott Tunnel. But when you get to Mt. Diablo Blvd., the other side of the street with Starbucks and all the rest of those restaurants and places--that street is called Lafayette Circle.

But once Lafayette Circle goes around the bend it turns into, you guessed it, Hough Street. By this point the area has become residential as it backs away from Mt. Diablo. Hough is a mix boxy 70’s style apartment buildings and really nicely kept 50’s style Ranch homes with really nice yards.

I checked out the apartment on the end of Hough Street the other day and found it to be relatively affordable, although a bit on the dingy side. It was however more than passable as a place to live if you were not looking for a place that is particularly aesthetically pleasing. For someone in my current situation it would more than do the job. Meaning that is was clean and met my basic needs--all I can currently ask for.

The area is a great area--within walking distance of the best part of Lafayette, with all the new restaurants, the new library and the groceries stores, etc. Really a pretty good spot to live. The BART is also there, so you would not need a car to get around in the East Bay.
Pros
  • Cute Little Street
  • Close to Downtown
  • Close to BART
Cons
  • Traffic
  • Expensive for Homeowners
  • Too Much Going On
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Dec 26, 2012

"Apartments and Condos All the Way Up"

Ascot Drive in Moraga is basically all apartments from Moraga Way, way up into the hills. There are variations in the styles of apartments. So down at the bottom you get those sorts of boxier apartments, the ones where even the balconies barely stick out, from the squares.

I took a look at some of the apartments here the other day; they are basically the kind of apartments you think of when you think of 1970’s style apartments. A little dark and somewhat dingy looking, but very serviceable. Unfortunately the price wasn’t right. They wanted $1100 for a studio and $1500 for a one bedroom. That was just not going to work out for me. I can see someone paying that because of the safety and convenience of being in Moraga, but it is just not quite within my means.

Farther up Ascot as you get to the upper reaches of the street the apartments get nicer as well. They become more individualized get better views and have cooler entrances. Usually along walkways. These are still pretty small but they are still pretty nice.

This is a pretty quiet residential area with a grammar school nearby and within walking distance of Downtown Moraga and the local park. There are probably a fair number of St. Mary’s students here as well given its proximity to that college. It think this is probably one of the closest off-campus areas where they could find housing.

It seems like a pretty good spot to have an apartment.
Pros
  • Nice Apartments at the Top
  • Close to Downtown
  • Great Local Schools
Cons
  • Somewhat Expensive
  • Some Ugly Boxy Apartments at the Bottom
  • So So Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Dec 26, 2012

"Supermarket and a Somewhat Ordinary Neighborhood"

The Napa Meadows neighborhood of American Canyon is best known for its strip mall where you can find the supermarket, UPS store, and other stores useful for any little city so that you don’t have jump on the highway and go somewhere else to get your everyday business done.

Highway 29 which takes you up into Napa forms the eastern border of this neighborhood, so you will also get a lot of tourists up here year round but especially in the summer season.

To the west of the American Canyon Marketplace is a large residential neighborhood. The homes here are mostly Contemporary style homes dating from the 1980’s. They are not the most attractive homes but they are unusual enough that some people may find them attractive.

Schools are strong, crime is low. There is a local sports bar but otherwise other than heading up into Napa there really isn’t much to do here.
Pros
  • Affordable Homes
  • Good Schools
  • Close to Supermarket
Cons
  • Far from Employment Centers
  • Little Nightlife
  • Kind of Bland in Appearance
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Dec 26, 2012

"Pretty Typical American Canyon Neighborhood"

Napa Glen is one of the neighborhoods on the western end of American Canyon, just to the south and east of American Canyon Middle School. Most of the houses in this neighborhood date to the 1980s and 1990s. Basically, this means a lot of big Contemporary Style homes and wide streets.

The median price of one of these homes is around $250K--a good $100k less than in the newer neighborhoods just to the north of here. I suppose this mainly has to do with the fact that these homes are a little older and that this is a little farther towards the southern end of American Canyon which is generally considered less desirable than the northern end nearer to Napa.

The schools here are still really strong: Donaldson Elementary, American Canyon Middle School, and American Canyon High School all being above average.

As to crime, it is mostly of the kind the average resident doesn’t have to worry about--that is there seems to be a fair amount of domestic violence reports in this part of town but not a lot of the random violence we fear in urban areas.

Overall this is a pretty typical American Canyon neighborhood with all its positives and drawbacks.
Pros
  • Affordable Homes
  • Relatively Safe
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • Far From Major Employment Centers
  • Kind of Bland
  • No Nightlife
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Dec 26, 2012

"Cool Back Artery Into Downtown Moraga"

I am currently preparing for a change of situation, so I have been looking for possible solutions to my situation. Basically I need an affordable place where I can have my kids around. At first I thought the only possibility would be to have a house with at least 3 bedrooms, but that would simply not work for me on my limited finances.

What does the rent on a 3-bedroom home run in Lamorinda (that is Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda for those of you who are not familiar with that geographical designation). A 3-bedroom plus house in Orinda, however, starts at $3200. (Most are more along the lines $6500.) So that quickly becomes out of the question.

So here I am looking at apartments. Specifically at a couple of apartments here on Rheem Blvd. right by the movie theater. There is a 2-bedroom here for $1300--right at about my limit probably; and a studio for $700.

The two bedroom is on the first floor which is nice because with kids you want to avoid driving people crazy. This area is also nice because it is right by downtown Moraga, which has all the conveniences you might want including supermarkets, a good park, a 24-hour coin operated laundry (though this building I understand has its own laundry) and of course the already mentioned movie theater.

I assume that this is the kind of place where St. Mary’s students would normally live and that is why there are so many apartments here in Moraga. I have never really thought of Moraga as kind of a cool place for singles or students to live, but under reconsideration, I can see how this might actually be kind of a nice place to live if you were a student at Saint Mary’s or someone in my current situation.

I will definitely have to keep this place in mind when considering possible places to live as I search for a new home.
Pros
  • Affordable Apartments
  • Close to Downtown Moraga
  • Nice Back Route in and Out of Moroga
Cons
  • Expensive Area
  • A Little Boring Maybe
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Dec 25, 2012

"Affordable but Boring"

Preserve is the neighborhood at the edge of marsh on the western end of American Canyon. This is pretty much a brand new neighborhood, made up of homes built this millenium. These are mostly those kinds of homes that have adobe walls and red-tiled roofs They are pretty large--mostly over 3000 sq. ft.

The median home price is around $400K. With only a few homes rising far above this mark.

This area is also great for its schools. The elementary school here, Donaldson, and the middle school, American Canyon Middle School are both above average, very solid schools. I know that American Canyon High School is the high school here and I hear that it is okay but have not been able to find the numbers to back up those assertions.

Crime is relatively low in the area with mostly domestic batteries reported as far as assaults are concerned. There have been a few regular sorts of assaults, some peeping toms and more than 100 burglaries in the area in general but crime here is not too bad.

As far as nightlife and that kind of thing, you will definitely have to get into your car go find it. American Canyon is one of those cities that is about as boring as it gets on those terms.

Overall, a pretty affordable area with good schools and not much else.
Pros
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Good Schools
  • Nice Homes
Cons
  • Bad For Commuting
  • Some Crime Worries
  • No Nightlife
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Dec 18, 2012

"Prototypical Suburban Neighborhood"

This is the neighborhood that is on the far northwestern corner of American Canyon. Rancho del Mar is what I would consider a prototypical 21st Century suburban neighborhood. The kind of place that you can find reiterated one million times over across the country: a neighborhood built as a satellite to a major metropolitan city, whose residents are those workers who are basically middle class, can’t afford to live closer and are just trying to find a place that is relatively safe where they can have average relatively uneventful lives. (“Uneventful” at least in the sense of not having to deal with life in the city: basically, easy parking, parks, okay schools, etc.)

You can roughly divide up the neighborhood into two parts, a western half and an eastern half. The eastern half, closer to the highway is the older section, dating back to the 1950’s, which as you no doubt know means lots of Ranch style homes--the prototypical suburban home of the Post War period.

On the western half of Rancho del Mar, the homes are distinctly newer, dating mostly from the 1990s. The homes here are basically Contemporary versions of Mediterranean style homes. One look and you know exactly what I mean: large two story homes with adobe walls, high door stoops and red-tiled roofs.

The homes of Rancho del Mar run around $300 K, with those prices that fall below that amount tending to be on the eastern, older half of the neighborhood, and the bigger newer homes of the western half rising as high as $450K.

So does this neighborhood fulfill the other promises of suburban life: low crime and good schools?

In terms of schools it largely does. On the elementary and middle school level, scores and other indicators like API are really strong. American Canyon High School, however, is a middling school.

If schools are average to slightly above average, crimes is similarly below average. Specifically, in the last 6 months there have only been a half dozen assaults and about the same number of burglaries. Most of the assaults have been reports of domestic violence, sadly. (These are not the kind of assaults however that we mostly worry about.)

As far as nightlife and that sort of thing go, there is not much around this area. You do have the usual kind of fast food sort of joints along Lincoln which heads up to Napa County. There is a Caffino and Subway and a Walmart around that area for example. Your best bet around here is either to head up into Napa or to make the long trek into the city for excitement.

As far as commuting goes, you are more than an hour away from SF and Walnut Creek. The only somewhat large city you are close to is Fairfield--which is not exactly an economic powerhouse.

Overall this is a very middle of the road sort of location, but one which you might do if you are just looking for a middle of the road sort of existence.
Pros
  • Relatively Affordable Homes
  • Relatively Safe
  • Close To Napa
Cons
  • Long Commute
  • Kind of Bland
  • Not Much By Way of Nightlife
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Dec 11, 2012

"Well Named Neighborhood"

Ocean View is the small neighborhood at the far northern end of American Canyon. It is made up of newer contemporary style homes. They date from the mid-90s and sell for around $250K. Ocean View is definitely aptly named--you do get some views of the water from the elevated areas of this neighborhood.

Schools here as throughout American Canyon are above average and crime is below average.

This is a pretty great neighborhood actually, offering you one of the best values in American Canyon. The only problem could be the terrible commute if you do not work in the area. Your commute from here is about an hour to Oakland during Rush Hour traffic.
Pros
  • Good Views
  • Affordable Homes
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • Far From the City
  • Kind of Boring
  • Poor Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Nov 27, 2012

"Too Dangerous and Too Far Away"

Vallejo has a bad reputation. There is just no getting around that. Its reputation is as being a gangland on the order of Richmond or Oakland.

Is that an exaggerated perspective? Yes. Let us start with the issue that people consider first when they are considering a place like Vallejo: crime. Vallejo does have a high crime rate. It is twice the rate of the national average, which is very high. But it is not Oakland, whose crime rate is almost 3 times the national average.

In fact, Vallejo’s crime rate is closer to San Francisco’s crime rate which is also about double the national average.

What does this kind of crime rate translate into on the ground? Vallejo has a population of about 115,000. Since about 2010, Vallejo has had about a dozen murders every year, with the peak being 17 in 2010. That basically means one murder for every 10,000 residents. Oakland has around 400,000 residents nearly 4 times that of Vallejo. How many murders do they get in an average year? About 100 per year. So in Oakland, it is closer to 1 in 4000 residents get murdered every year. Neither is number to be too happy with, but Oakland’s is far more depressing. Just think about what that means over the course of 10 years: 1 in 400 residents?

I know that there are other factors that increase you chances--especially being in a gang. But still.

I should also add, that most crime happens west of I-80 in the older part of Vallejo and not in the newer communities on the east of I-80.

The other big problem is the schools. They are basically subpar across the board. This is reflected in the API test scores for these schools which rate these schools at 3’s, 4’s and the better ones at 5. Vallejo High is a 4. Again, this is nowhere near the problems of Oakland’s school system, but it is also nothing to write home about.

Now, the big draw of Vallejo, are the very affordable homes. Many people are willing to live up in the newer communities on the eastern end of Vallejo so that they can get beautiful new homes at cut rate prices. If you don’t have kids this may even be a place you might consider. (Even with kids, perhaps you can get your kids into Benicia schools.)

The other problem then becomes the commute. In an hour during the rush, you can get as far as North Oakland (not really across the Bay Bridge to SF) or as far as Alamo, the edge of Antioch or as far as Dixon to the northeast. Okay, but kind of a limited area in terms of job prospects. (And don’t forget the toll bridges.)

So, given what I have said so far, except with maybe the exception of the eastern hills I couldn’t really see recommending Vallejo, except maybe for going to Sea World or Six Flags which I think are both here.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The city also went bankrupt back in 2008, which by all accounts that have still not recovered from.
Pros
  • Inexpensive Homes
  • Six Flags and Marine World
  • Nice Weather
Cons
  • Very High Crime
  • Subpar Schools
  • Terrible Bay Area Commute
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Nov 27, 2012

"Nice, Quiet and Affordable"

I have always found Benicia to be an appealing location. The attraction of Benicia is this: it has lower property prices but a bayside feel that many would be willing to pay far more for. The drawback is that it is a bit outside of the Bay Area and there is a toll bridge you would have to cross every time you went into Contra Costa County.

I remember that one of my instructors at Diablo Valley College lived in Benicia and had nothing bad to report about it. A friend of mine house sat for him once and I was rather impressed that he could afford this kind of place on an instructor’s salary.

The oldest part of Benicia is down on the southern end by the Carquinez Strait (which is the waterway that connects San Pablo Bay to Suisun Bay). This is where you will find the oldest homes in Benicia--Victorians that actually date back to the late 19th Century. Homes from before WWII seem to only make up about 10% of the overall number of homes in the area. As a general rule the farther north you head away from this part of Benicia, the more newer homes you come across. Just to north of Military, for example, you get a number of 1950’s era homes and just north of that you will find lots of 60’s and 70’s Era homes.

It is not just single family homes here, of course. There are a fair number of apartments, condos and even a trailer park or two.

The median home price in Benicia is around $375K--very low by Bay Area standards for a location with good homes, okay schools and low crime.

The crime rate in Benicia, though not non-existent is lower than the national average. They get only about 1 murder per year and only a few dozen assaults. The murder this past year was a domestic battery of a local girl by her boyfriend. The year before it was a murder suicide. In other words, these are not gang related or the kind of murders that have to do with the location. (By the way, Lake Herman Road on the northern end of Benicia is one of the locations where the Zodiac killer struck back in the 1960’s.)

Schools are more than solid here, as well, if the API’s are any indication. Benicia High School, for example, actually has a 9 out of 10. Even the schools on the low end of the spectrum don’t fall below a 6--still on the high end of average.

The Benicia-Martinez Bridge has recently seen the inauguration of two one-way bridges with the UP tracks in between. I watched it go up as I commuted to my graduate school classes over the course of a couple of years and actually drove across it on it very first day after having opened.

The western end of Benicia is a commercial area where you will find fast food places, gas stations and some fairly non-descript businesses in the office park that is located there. I worked briefly as temp for one these businesses some twenty years ago and have driven and taken the Amtrak through this area on Highway 680 on my way out to UC Davis hundreds of times.

My familiarity with it has given me an appreciation for what is attractive about it. When you are on one of the bridges for example, to the east you can often see one of the tankers docking to unload crude on the eastern end of the bridge (it goes to the refineries in Martinez). On the Suisun Bay side of the Benicia Bridge you can see the ship graveyard where you can see all the ships tied together in the bay--kind of an amazing sight to see millions and millions of dollars in workmanship just sitting out there on the bay like so much rusting junk.

To the north you get vast expanses of open space--a sort of marshland where from the tracks you can see little farm houses out in the middle of nowhere, seemingly, and shooting grounds and waterways. You will see egrets and other birds, and you get just a taste of what the majority of the Bay Area must have been like some 250 years ago. Except that, from the descriptions you read from the first explorers and European settlers there were not small flocks of birds like you see now, but thousands of birds blanketing the sky when they took flight from marshes like these.

On days when I made my commute via train (a great way of getting from the East Bay to Davis), I often thought about these things when I was staring out my window instead of finishing some very important reading.

In terms of the commute, depending where you are going, Benicia might make a good starting point. Basically, within an hour you can drive as far as Emeryville, San Ramon and Brentwood to the south and as far as Vacaville and the edge of Napa on the north. The Amtrak station in Solano is up in Fairfield, which means you might actually be close to the Martinez station than the one in Benicia’s own county.

In terms of nightlife and eating out Benicia is usually not the first place that comes to mind. There are some okay restaurants like Sailor Jack’s, a couple of Italian places, a Thai place, and an Indian place enticingly named Aroma.

There are couple of bars as well--pretty laid back places as far as I can tell. The Rellick has been voted the “Best Bar in Solano County” though I’m not sure by whom.

Overall, I would say that if you live within a reasonable commuting distance and are looking for a nice quiet place where you can raise kids, Benicia might just be the place to go.
Pros
  • Quiet Bayside Community
  • Nice Affordable Homes
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • Outside the Central Bay Area
  • Not Much to Do
  • A Bit Unappealing on Commercial End
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Nov 26, 2012

"Underrated"

Rollingwood, CA is an unincorporated section of Contra Costa County which is what drew me to it. I had never heard of this place, but I looked it up and realized that I had been by there a couple of times back when I lived in that section of the East Bay.

Rollingwood is basically just a residential neighborhood just to the south of the Hilltop Mall, pretty much a part of San Pablo. I am sure it is for all intents and purposes just another neighborhood in San Pablo.

In this area, that means a lot of those really old looking Ranch style homes built just after WWII for GI’s returning from the war. The kind of homes they slowly left as they made their lives, found success and bought bigger homes in the suburbs.

Though you will still find some white picket fences here, there are just as many chain link fences and untrimmed front yards. Mainly what you notice is how crowded the neighborhood is, with cars packing driveways and sidewalks. The 3000 people that live in this less than a quarter of a square mile are pretty well squezed in.

More than 95% of the homes for sale here are on the market due to foreclosure, which in part accounts for the rock bottom $150 K home prices around here. (No homes have sold recently for more than around $250K.)

You might think that reasons for this are the schools and crime, but a careful look shows that it is more complicated than that.

Though Middle College High is a very good school in terms high test scores and Highland Middle School to the north is also a very good school, the schools to the south of here are very, very bad with API’s near rock bottom.(Middle College High is also a schools specially designated for at risk students who have been identified as high potential but who were underperforming at other schools--so I don’t think you attend it according to geographical proximity.) I am not sure which schools serve this neighborhood, so that is definitely something potential residents would want to check out before moving here if they have kids.

Crime is actually not that much of a concern in this area though its proximity to high crime areas may not be enough to convince people. In the last 6 months, however, there have not been any violent crimes outside of robberies (maybe a half dozen) and domestic assaults. That is really pretty low and suggests to me a fairly stable, relatively safe neighborhood. Especially when you consider the population density around here (17K per sq.mile).

This is also not a bad place to have as a launching point for your daily commute. Within an hour’s drive during Rush Hour you can get to Hayward to the south, Concord to the east, Fairfield and Novato to the north, and Daly City to the southwest. That is a pretty good radius from this area.

Overall, I actually think that despite not being paradise, this might actually be a fairly underrated neighborhood. Definitely worth checking out if you are on a budget.
Pros
  • Very Affordable
  • Good For SF and North Bay Commuters
  • Relatively Safe
Cons
  • Smaller, Older Homes
  • Crowded
  • Poor Schools
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Nov 13, 2012

"Toxic But Very Affordable"

For a long time, I thought that this neighborhood was just part of Martinez. It was only recently that I realized it was considered as partly separate from Martinez. Vine Hill is one of the last stops on the northern end of Contra Costa County before you cross the George Miller Bridge (still called the Carquinez Bridge by anyone who has been here more than 5 minutes) and go over to Benecia.

If you have driven it you probably are more familiar with the refineries that make up the area than anything else, and Vine Hill certainly does have its share of these (which means you should always be ready to shelter in place when the refinery has one of its periodic spills).

This neighborhood is actually fairly typical of a lot of older California suburban neighborhoods, filled with smaller 1950’s style Ranch homes for the most part. About half the homes here are from that period, the rest offering a fairly even range of offerings across several periods.

The median home price here is $225K, with home prices ranging from $100 K to $350k.

The other benefit of living here is that the Martinez school system (which I think is what serves the area) is actually pretty strong.

Crime, although not non-existent in the area, is fairly low with only the occasional assault or robbery--mostly small time stuff in this area along the lines of disturbing the peace.

Overall, this is is a pretty good place in terms of being affordable without making too many sacrifices in terms of quality of life.
Pros
  • Nice Affordable Homes
  • Very Good Schools
  • Not Too Out of the Way
Cons
  • Nearby Refineries
  • Some Older Homes
  • Traffic
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Nov 12, 2012

"A Bit of Everything"

San Miguel is basically a neighborhood in Concord. For some reason which I do not know, it is instead listed as a “Census Designated Place”. I don’t know what that means, but apparently it is not technically a part of Concord or Walnut Creek to the south.

It is a total hodgepodge of a neighborhood as well, with a mix of single family homes, planned communities, mobile homes, apartments, business offices and work yards used by BART and for a mini storage facility. It also has a hill to its east with a pretty good trail, perfect for a walk or maybe even for biking.

BART’s Concord Station is just to the north though probably not close enough for most people to make it there on foot, but definitely close enough to ease the commute if you get there early enough to find a parking space.

On the far northern end of the neighborhood, near BART is a modeled community. It is one of those nicer communities with newer buildings in a fairly traditional California style with adobe walls and red-tiled roofs. If you like that kind of community setting for living, this could be an option for you. Condos here go for about $275 K or so--these condos/homes are pretty new having been built in 2008.

You will also find a couple of industrial areas here where some companies have their HQ’s, I think. Systron Donner--some kind of defense contractor that makes sensors and GPS systems has an office which I think is their headquarters here. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) who makes the SAT and other similar tests, also has an office here.

Much of the middle section of San Miguel is made up of two large mobile home parks with some apartments sandwiched in between them. Prices run at less than $100 K.

On the southern end of the neighborhood there is the BART repair yard and the mini-storage yard. And south of that is a nicely kept set of homes that could almost be a neighborhood onto itself. the homes are large Ranch homes and they are on quiet streets where kids can play basketball without worrying too much about traffic.

Unfortunately the schools here are not too great and crime is sort of so so as well.

Overall a pretty good neighborhood that I would not recommend it for families especially because of the mediocre schools.
Pros
  • Nice Homes
  • Close to BART
  • Relatively Affordable
Cons
  • Mediocre Schools
  • Some Trailer Park Stigma
  • Ugly Repair Yards in the Middle
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Nov 12, 2012

"Country Club Living"

With median home prices hovering around $1.5 million, this unincorporated place to the east of the Diablo Country Club obviously doesn’t have to be a part of the surrounding municipalities in order to take care of its needs. This is definitely the stomping grounds of the 1%.

Homes here tend to sell from between $850 K on the low end to around $2 million on the high--although the asking price is often much higher. There is currently a large home here whose asking price is $12.8 million. It has 5000 ft, a pool and an extensive garden, very gaudy on the interior, but super luxurious--it will definitely go for more than $2 million, if it goes, but I don’t see it getting its asking price even if it is here in Diablo.

There is, of course, virtually no crime in this area and schools are the best that money can buy (the renowned Athenian School is this area, for example).

One big drawback of the area however has to do with the commute. Neither San Francisco or San Jose is within an hour’s commute and there really are no easy public transportation alternatives with the nearest BART being in Walnut Creek.

And, of course, there is the astronomical cost of living here.
Pros
  • Great Schools
  • Beautiful, Immaculately Kept Homes
  • Safe as It Gets
Cons
  • Very, Very Expensive
  • Terrible SJ and SF Commute
  • No Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Trendy & Stylish
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Nov 12, 2012

"Hidden Pocket Neighborhood"

My wife had a friend who lived out here for a while so my direct knowledge of Bethel Island comes from our two visits to see him. Bethel Island is, first of all, not a typical island in the way that the Hawaiian Islands are islands. If Gilligan and the Skipper got trapped here, all they would have to do to save themselves is swim the little Dutch Slough or the Sand Mound Slough that separates Bethel Island from the “mainland”--which is kind of a funny thing to call it given we are some 40 miles or so east of the Pacific. So Bethel Island is technically an island but not by much.

As to living here? Only about a thousand people live on Bethel Island. Most homes on Bethel Island are along the sloughs and have backyards with docks. Boating is obviously a big recreational activity.

There is not much else here other than the open land. The main drag has a few of the basic amenities that you might expect, such as a U.S. Post Office and a couple of Mexican restaurants: Jalisco’s and La Villa. But for groceries or anything like that you will have to go over the bridge into town--which basically means Oakley.

The median home here sells for around $200K maybe. What is a little bit strange about Bethel Island is that it is one of the few places I have looked at that has a lot more homes for sale than have actually sold in the last year. You might think this is a strange statement given the Mortgage Crisis, but most places will still have more homes that have sold than homes that are on the market at any given time. (About three quarters of the homes on the market here are on the market due to foreclosure.)

Overall, I would definitely recommend it for those who are really into boating and work out here, but if you have to make the commute into the rest of Contra Costa County or the East Bay, I would not want to hit that horror show every morning.
Pros
  • Unusual Look
  • Relatively Good Spot for East Bay Commute
  • Very Stable Neighborhood
Cons
  • Narrow Streets
  • Out of the Way
  • No Nightlife
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 1/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Nov 12, 2012

"A 3-Minute Tour! A 3-Minute Tour!"

My wife had a friend who lived out here for a while so my direct knowledge of Bethel Island comes from our two visits to see him. Bethel Island is, first of all, not a typical island in the way that the Hawaiian Islands are islands. If Gilligan and the Skipper got trapped here, all they would have to do to save themselves is swim the little Dutch Slough or the Sand Mound Slough that separates Bethel Island from the “mainland”--which is kind of a funny thing to call it given we are some 40 miles or so east of the Pacific. So Bethel Island is technically an island but not by much.

As to living here? Only about a thousand people live on Bethel Island. Most homes on Bethel Island are along the sloughs and have backyards with docks. Boating is obviously a big recreational activity.

There is not much else here other than the open land. The main drag has a few of the basic amenities that you might expect, such as a U.S. Post Office and a couple of Mexican restaurants: Jalisco’s and La Villa. But for groceries or anything like that you will have to go over the bridge into town--which basically means Oakley.

The median home here sells for around $200K maybe. What is a little bit strange about Bethel Island is that it is one of the few places I have looked at that has a lot more homes for sale than have actually sold in the last year. You might think this is a strange statement given the Mortgage Crisis, but most places will still have more homes that have sold than homes that are on the market at any given time. (About three quarters of the homes on the market here are on the market due to foreclosure.)

Overall, I would definitely recommend it for those who are really into boating and work out here, but if you have to make the commute into the rest of Contra Costa County or the East Bay, I would not want to hit that horror show every morning.
Pros
  • Great For Boating
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Quiet
Cons
  • Remote
  • No Public Transportation
  • Terrible for East Bay Commuters
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Nov 12, 2012

"East Brentwood"

You might think of Knightsen as East Brentwood. In a lot of ways this feel like Iowa--lots of open farmland and not much else. But if you look at Census figures, you will see that in the last decade Knightsen has almost doubled in population--driven no doubt by the explosive growth of Brentwood and Oakley. This is a trend that I suspect will continue as developers look for new places where they can build more homes and apartments.

So far however, Knightsen remains pretty much a farming community with pretty good schools and not much else. You are close enough to Brentwood, however, that you can take advantage of their shopping and amenities so, at this point, it is a little bit like getting the best of both worlds: a quiet rural area but with the shopping and entertainment options of the ‘burbs.
Pros
  • Affrodable
  • Quiet and Safe
  • Close to Brentwood Amenities
Cons
  • Poor Public Transportation
  • Terrible For Commuting
  • Kind of Boring
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Nov 12, 2012

"The Boonies"

Tiny Byron with barely one thousand in population is at the far southeastern reaches of Contra Costa County. It is really more closely associated with Livermore and that area than with places like Concord or Pittsburg.

This is mostly a farming community, and pretty much looks the part. You might miss that it is even a town as you drive through it--though few people who don’t already live around here would have any reason to do that.

But given the growth of both Livermore and Brentwood, it is not hard to imagine that soon you will be getting a lot of development out here in Byron as well, and that they too will see the same kind of explosive growth.

Property prices here, as you might expect, are relatively low, with a median non-farm home going for around $250K as far as I can tell.

One thing that will probably slow things down for them (and this might be a good thing if you don’t like to see property prices soar) is the transportation situation. From Byron it will currently take you an hour to make it barely past Pittsburg on the north and Livermore on the south. Some people might be willing to do that to live on the water on Discovery Bay, but I can’t think of anyone who wants to live in Byron and make that kind of commute.

So, for now Byron is safe from that kind of growth. But who knows, what will happen as nearby public transportation improves.
Pros
  • Affordable Homes
  • Close to Discovery Bay
  • Very Quiet
Cons
  • Terrible Commute
  • No Public Transportation
  • No Nightlife or Entertainment
Recommended for
  • Country Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 1/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Nov 04, 2012

"Nice But Very Remote"

Have you ever dreamed of living in a place where you could walk out to your yacht or motor boat right in your backyard and hit the water when you feel like it? Well, like Foster City, parts of Alameda, and a few other spots in the Bay Area, this is a location where you can do that. A significant portion of Discovery Bay is on the water, offering residents the opportunity to hit the water whenever they feel like it.

Along with nearby Brentwood, Discovery Bay has seen significant growth over the last decade. The homes here are modern and beautiful--having been created in 1960 as a planned community, Discovery Bay just feels ultra modern and well kept. This goes to the homes as well that vary in architecture but which are always interesting and different from what you may expect in most of California. There actually are some homes that look Modernist in style, mixed in with a variety of Contemporary styles homes.

Streets are super clean and everything is very well kept.

The big drawback for Discovery Bay, as it is for next door Brentwood, is the horrendous commute for anyone who hopes to make it to San Jose, the Walnut Creek area or, God forbid, the East Bay and SF. This is a two hour commute most weekdays. To get to San Jose, it is an hour to the train in Livermore. (Worse if you actually try to drive.) For the East Bay or SF it is even worse. The two-laner that takes you there is Highway 4 and even from Antioch is considered one of the worst commutes in all of the Bay Area--which is famous for its horrible commutes.) So unless you are commuting to Stockton (which is still a pretty long commute) I would not plan on living here year round.

It is also very expensive out here if you want to live in the more desirable area of Discovery Bay--here you are looking at $500K on average, even with all the foreclosures. And these prices are sure to continue rising.

Prices are a lot lower on the other parts of Discovery Bay where the modular homes, with the typical adobe walls and red tiled roofs, are a lot lower priced (and less interesting overall). Here prices are closer to $350K.

Even with Brentwood nearby, this is a pretty remote spot that requires a lot of driving no matter what. This is a place ideally suited to those who work from home and love boating. Schools are good and crime is low, I think, but if you are going to be commuting a solid 2 hours (or more) every day will you enjoy it?
Pros
  • Great for Boaters
  • Beautiful Newer Homes
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • Terrible Commute
  • No Real Nightlife
  • A Bit Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 1/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Nov 04, 2012

"Growing Fast But Still Isolated"

Brentwood, CA--not to be confused with the posh SoCal neighborhood famous for being home to the stars (and notorious for being OJ Simpson’s home)--is one of the farthest eastern regions of Contra Costa County, one of the final stops for those who truly want to get away from the rest of the county or who work in Stockton but want to live close to the Bay Area..

A generation ago Brentwood was still pretty much a podunk farming community that no one had ever heard of beyond the surrounding communities. As Pittsburg and Antioch have grown, however, Brentwood has become the alternative to those communities. In fact, Brentwood has grown even faster than its neighbors in the last decade--more than doubling in size since 2000. In the process, Brentwood has become less white (used to be ¾ white, now it is about ⅔) and has become far more suburban.

One of the great benefits of Brentwood is its lower cost of living and positioning in between Livermore and East Contra Costa. Most residents, however, move here to get away from what they see as the increasing urbanization of the rest of Contra Costa County. There is definitely an element of White Flight involved here (even though, as the census reports Brentwood is slowly becoming less white--as all of California is).

Part of what is driving this explosive growth is the commercialization of Brentwood and Antioch. They both now have all the same stores that you would expect to find in any suburban area. In the last 20 years they have seen the arrival of everything from JCPenny’s to Victoria’s Secret. Now you can basically find all the same amenities that you can anywhere else in Contra Costa County.

The other big draw here are the schools, which are mostly above average, with a few exceptions on the northern end of Brentwood. Both Heritage High and Liberty High are well above average in terms of academics.

There is still a bit of a farming town feel in Brentwood--they have a corn festival and you see a ton of pick-up trucks and that sort of thing. (Brentwood is known for its cherries and corn.) But many of the newer residents know as much about farming as they do about Mongolia. The closest they come to it is the farmer’s market.

The biggest problem with Brentwood from a growth perspective is that it is simply a terror for commuters heading west. Highway 4 that leads out to the rest of Contra Costa County is already a nightmare commute from Antioch. From Brentwood it is even worse. It is slightly better if you are headed into Pleasanton--but overall, the remoteness makes this a horror show for commuters. There are plans to extend rail service and widen Highway 4 in the next two years. This is sure to cause its own nightmares in the meantime. It also means that the explosive growth is likely to continue into the next decade. (Brentwood also seems to a favorite spot for those commuting to Stockton or for those who work in the Stockton area but want to be close enough to drop into SF or San Jose relatively easily on weekends. This is a much more doable commute, from what I hear.)

The median home price here is $325K--much lower than you can find virtually anywhere else in the Bay Area. I suspect that this price will only rise in coming years as transportation issues improve and as Brentwood continues to grow. (You see this same trend in the median income: in 2000 it was around $50K now it is around $85K.) We have not yet seen any million dollar homes here--the ceiling seems to be $600K at this point--but it is probably only a matter of time.

The prices here are partly depressed by the Foreclosure Crisis. Fully 85% of homes currently for sale here are on the market due to foreclosure. When you take out the homes that are in foreclosure, the median asking price for the ones left over is about $375K, which suggests it is actually much higher when not flooded by foreclosures.

Another consideration for Brentwood, is the question of its being on a floodplain. I wonder if the issues that we will have with Global Warming may not make living here a bit of a problem.

Overall though, I think once they get the transportation issues fixed and if Pleasanton continues to become an extension of Silicon Valley, Brentwood will only become more and more desirable. For those interested, now may be the perfect time to get in.
Pros
  • Good Schools
  • Very Affordable
  • Nice Newer Homes
Cons
  • Terrible Bay Area Commute
  • Growing Too Fast?
  • Floodplain Issues?
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 1/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Oct 25, 2012

"The Boonies but Okay"

It is possible to live in Contra Costa County and never go to Oakley or even know that it exists. It is basically “the boonies” as the saying goes. It is way down the Highway 4 corridor. I might probably never have even known where it is if my wife had not worked out here her first year out of college.

Oakley is basically an upper middle class, mostly residential bedroom community. (It would be considered just middle class if it were closer to the rest of San Francisco, but out here $75 K just goes a lot farther.) Schools here are a little bit better than in Antioch, its neighbor to the west. Here schools tend to range from slightly below average to above average, like at Freedom High one of the local high schools.

Despite this being a more affluent city than its somewhat crime ridden neighbor Antioch, homes here sell for only slightly higher than in Antioch. The median selling price for homes here in Oakley is only around $225 K, just $25K or so higher than in Antioch.

The reason for these only slightly higher home prices probably has a lot to do with the terrible commutes for anyone who doesn’t work here. And the commutes are bad indeed. It will take you an hour just to get into the Concord area on most weekdays. You could try BART, but you would probably have to get there pretty early to find a parking space, since so many people from this area also are trying to escape the bumper to bumper traffic.

Overall, if you work out here, then it might be okay to live out here. Although I don’t find it particularly appealing in terms of appearance or exciting in terms of things to do, it is a perfectly serviceable location. But if you work in the rest of Contra Costa County, I would not want to have to face that commute every day.
Pros
  • Nice Affordable Homes
  • Okay Schools
  • Fairly Safe
Cons
  • Terrible Contra Costa/East Bay Commute
  • Kind of Bland Looking
  • Kind of Boring and Remote
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Country Lovers
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Oct 25, 2012

"OK Except for Crime and Commute"

Antioch is the city just to the east of Pittsburg. The two are usually thought of together, with most people not making much of a distinction between the two of them unless they live there. Both cities have a reputation for high crime and cheap housing and are basically bedroom communities for the East Bay and Contra Costa.

In terms of crime, the perception is closer to true for Antioch than it is for Pittsburg. Where Pittsburg is about average, Antioch has a much higher crime, about 150% above the national average. Not as bad as Richmond or Oakland, but starkly higher than Pittsburg and other places in Contra Costa County.

Locals will tell you that most of the crime is located north of the freeway. I don’t know if this is true.

It is the case however that the schools are better south of the freeway. If you simply look at API scores, south of the freeway you get a fair number of average schools, including Deer Valley High which has an API of 5. (Technically Antioch high which is just north of the Freeway has a 6 but that is not true of most of the other schools to the north of Highway 4.)

So do home prices here really make up for these drawbacks?

The median home price in Antioch is $200 K with 90% of homes for sale due to the foreclosure. And there are literally a thousand homes for sale here. High, even when you consider that Antioch’s population is 100,000.

One of the big drawbacks of this area in addition to the crime problem is the terrible commute. BART does not extend this far, so unless you are taking AMTRAK, you end up hitting one of the worst commutes in all of the Bay Area—a narrow highway most of the way.

There is more night life and entertainment possibilities in Antioch than there is in Pittsburg, however. Up by the Amtrak Station (which can also take you as far as Jack London Square) is where you find establishments such as the venerable Campanil Theater where they play foreign movies, have live plays and occasional musical groups as well. You can also find sports bars like Bases Loaded Restaurant and Bar, and Riverview Lodge—right at the edge of the delta waters.

You can also find City Hall, a bail bond place and a gun shop called the Antioch Armory. If you are familiar with the area around the Amtrak station in Martinez, you will recognize this place as being in a very similar vein.

Closer to the highway, you will find a lot more generic sort of stores and restaurants such as fast food places and home furnishings and improvement sorts of stores.

Overall, I would say that you could probably raise a family in Antioch if you mostly stuck to south of the freeway and made the most out of the school system.

I don’t think Antioch would be anyone’s first choice in terms of places to live however.
Pros
  • Very Affordable
  • Cool Area Around Amtrak
  • Some Okay Schools
Cons
  • Terrible Commute
  • Higher than Average Crime
  • Tons of Foreclosures
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 1/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Oct 24, 2012

"Affordable But Far From Ideal"

Pittsburg, California—not to be confused with the similarly named city in Pennsylvania which has an “h” in it—is on the eastern half of Contra Costa County along the Highway 4 corridor. Pittsburg is known as the place you go to live if you can’t afford to live farther west in the “nicer” parts of the triple C.

Buying a home here is a lot cheaper than in virtually anywhere in Central Contra County (though Richmond and that area are less expensive). The median home price here is around $200 K and because so many residents got in here at the height of Bubble, there are currently a ton of homes for sale. (Sad as that is.)

As to renting, the median here seems to be around $1800/month for home, a fair amount less for apartments.

As to what these homes and apartments look like—you find a great deal of variation in terms of homes styles and just the general feel of neighborhoods throughout Pittsburg from older neighborhoods with the occasional quaint Tudor house and leafy streets with sidewalks perfect for kids to bike and evening walks to newer neighborhoods where every home looks pretty much alike: adobe walls and red tiled roofs.

The usual reason why home prices and rents are so low involve two factors. First, is crime. If you look at the crime rate in Pittsburg, it is currently lower than the national average, and even a few years ago when it Pittsburg was getting the reputation of being a bit of a crime haven, the crime rate was only slightly higher than the national average. Crime is down now, though you do get about a half dozen murders every year. Given that there are 60,000 residents this is not anything compared to Richmond or Oakland or even San Francisco proper, whose crime rate is pretty steep.

Unfortunately, the schools are not very strong here, with high school getting especially bad scores (an API of 2 out of 10). At the elementary school level there is a lot of variation but it seems as if the further students progress the worse the school scores become. This is not, however, so unusual when you have such a diverse city like this, due in large part to the different language levels for a lot of students and the limited resources of a lot of families in the area—just makes it a lot harder for students to focus on studies and to overcome language and cultural barriers. (The kind of thing that will especially show up on the standardized tests on which such assessments are made.)

The big drawback of living so far east is the terrible inbound traffic which will just suck your life up into it. Driving into Walnut Creek is terrible enough, but those heading into the East Bay, or even worse SF, have it worse of all.

The best solution to this commute problem is BART which works even better for the East Bay and SF than it does for Contra Costa which tends to be more spread out and not have as much public transportation options as the more urban East Bay and SF. The Bay Point/Pittsburg station is currently the last BART station out this way, but there is work being done towards having an eBART extension put in to go out as far as Byron/Discovery Bay, which should apparently open in 2015 (though given the economic state of things who knows).

Pittsburg is actually working hard towards making themselves more than just a bedroom community where people live but leave to get entertainment and recreation. Pittsburg already has a ton of stores of the kind you can find in virtually every suburb, but now they are working on building up Old Town and creating a Marina walkway apparently. Basically they want to give people something to do when they are not commuting into the East Bay for work.

So what is in Pittsburg in terms of entertainment?

In terms of restaurants you will find a ton of options, from Olive Garden to an Indian place like Mehran or a Latin food place like the oddly named New Mecca Café (not sure why it is called this). Now very few places here in Pittsburg will draw people to trek out here for them (though I must admit me and the family have made the trek just to go to The Olive Garden) but if you live here you will have no shortage of types of food.

There is also a movie theater and some bars up here as well, though nothing too fancy. And all the usual suspects in terms of stores as well: Target, Wallmart, Big O Tires, etc.

It is basically just suburban living at its most average in that sense.
Pros
  • Very Affordable
  • Okay Restaurants
  • Diverse
Cons
  • Terrible Commute
  • Below Average Schools
  • Kind of Bland in Appearance
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Oct 02, 2012

"Shhh! Don't Tell Anybody How Great This Place Is"

Want to feel like you are living in a Steinbeck novel? Always wanted to pretend to be James Dean in East of Eden? Have an affection for rust and wood planking?

Well Crockett may be just the place for you. For those of you who have never heard of it, Crockett is the town that you pass just before the Carquinez Bridge if you take Highway 80 from the East Bay towards Sacramento. Instead of a cannery however, you have the C&H Sugar refinery which has been in Crockett since 1906. (C&H stands for California and Hawaii.)
The refinery unloads sugar cane that comes straight from Hawaii, refining 700 tons of sugar per year into over 70 types of sugar. (I didn’t even know there were that many types of sugar.)

What is it like living in Crockett?

The town is actually fairly quaint, packed with older Victorians on a hill that slides down towards the refinery—very reminiscent of Cannery Row and Salinas.

One of the best spots in Crockett is up along the ridge on Duperu Drive where you get great views of the waterway. The homes here are newer, but you still get the feeling of originality up here—you don’t have the kind of Contemporary style homes that all look alike.

The median home price in Crockett is $175K, the ceiling seeming to be around $250K. This seems like a steal to me for this community.

These are the kind of prices that you see in some of the most run down areas in the East Bay. But Crockett has a lot more going on than that. Take the schools, for example. Both Carquinez Middle School and John Swett High though not stellar, are solid, maybe slightly above average schools.

As to crime, it is also relatively low with only about 3 dozen incidents of any kind over the last 6 months. (Only a handful were assaults.)

Crockett also has a small but interesting nightlife scene, at least if you are into dive bars—there are two pretty good ones in the “downtown” area: Toots and Club Tac. The first has live music on the weekends and both have the air of authenticity that you would expect in town like this. (It’s the kind of authenticity that makes you feel like you are on a movie set. )

There are also some okay restaurants too: the Dead Fish and Judy’s (a Latin place) that are worth the stop if you happen to be driving through at the right time.

Overall, I think this is a hidden gem: affordable homes, cool night scene and good schools.
Pros
  • Affordable Older Homes
  • Solid Schools
  • Cool Dive Bars
Cons
  • Some Crime
  • A Bit Out of the Way
  • No Supermarket or Gym
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Hipsters
  • Country Lovers
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 1/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 1/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Oct 01, 2012

"Okay for Commuting But Not Much Else"

Bay Point is located just to the north of Concord, sitting right against the waters of Suisun and Honker Bays. You won’t find any bay front properties here however, as there is an extensive undeveloped area on the northern end that provides a sort of no-man’s land between the bay waters and the residential streets.

There is also an unusual looking boat dock where corridors have been cut away from the marsh to allow the vessels access to the bays. You will find the usual set of sail boats and such here, but there are also tug boats and other boats meant for work rather than play.

Homes here date from after WWII, getting progressively newer as you head farther south. By far the biggest home-building boom here came in the 1980’s and 90’s, so you will find, in addition to the usual set of Ranch homes, quite a few of those prototypical Contemporary style homes that were so loved during the Reagan era.

Bay Point has really been hammered by the Foreclosure Crisis with only about 5% of homes currently for sale here not being in foreclosure. This definitely shows in the home prices. The median home sells for about $150K, with only about 5% of homes breaking the $300K ceiling. (These are mostly south of Highway 4.)

Renting is also fairly affordable here, with single families homes going for less than $2000/month for the most part.

One of the advantages of Bay Point versus Pittsburg and Antioch to the east, is that Bay Point’s location makes it much easier for commuting purposes since Highway 4 is not the only way of heading into the rest of Contra Costa County and the East Bay. There is also a BART station in Bay Point, so that makes commuting a little better if you are headed into the city.
Unfortunately, the schools here really do not hold up with bottom dwelling API’s. That makes this not such an attractive neighborhood for perspective families and gives you a sense of the reason why property values are so low.

As to crime, which is rarely far behind when schools are terrible and property values low, that is a problem too. In the last 6 months there have been 2 attempted homicides and over a hundred assaults. For a population of just over 22,000 that is pretty bad.

Overall Bay Point makes for an okay back plan, but is rarely the first choice for most people.
Pros
  • BART Station
  • Very Affordable Homes
  • Closer than Pittsburg and Antioch
Cons
  • High Crime
  • Terrible Schools
  • Lot's of Morning Traffic
Recommended for
  • Singles
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Sep 19, 2012

"Nice Bedroom Community"

Alamo is one of the super affluent neighborhoods, with leafy, immaculate streets of the kind that you usually find in the Peninsula, but which are a little less common here.

It is easiest to think of Alamo by dividing it into two sections: the section of Alamo west of the freeway and section to east.
The western half of Alamo is where you will find the shopping district of Alamo where you have everything from the supermarket to the local eateries. This western section is relatively flat—especially near the freeway, though less so as you start heading up into the hills of Las Trampas Regional Wilderness.

The streets here are relatively straight and grid-like, and shaded by tall redwoods and evergreens. The homes tend to be Ranch homes with wood thatched roofs (though they give way to more Contemporary style homes as you head up into the hills). These are the larger Ranch homes we associated with the early 60’s rather than the older smaller variety that are so common in so many older neighborhoods.

East of the freeway, it is much hillier and newer, and homes tend to have better views though they mostly tend to only be views of the western Alamo area. Home styles on this end of Alamo tend to vary a lot more (although in some areas you do get those kinds of homogenous homes that are so common in modern home architecture these days). Although these streets up here in this hilly eastern portion of Alamo are still green, they are not quite as shady or wild as they are on the western end.

Alamo is definitely million dollar home territory. Although you will find some condos in the under $500 K range down near the center of town, single family homes start at $525 K (usually due to foreclosure), and rise up into the multi-million dollar range territory as they climb up into the hills. About a third of homes sell for below $1 million, and about a tenth sell for $1.8 million or higher. The top is around $3.25 million, for which you get 5600 feet and 5 bedrooms, in a quiet 2.5 acre lot.

(There are also currently some $5 million, 3000 ft. on 20 acre properties for sale, but it is unclear whether the market here can sustain this level of pricing yet. )

As you might expect in an affluent neighborhood like this, there is a country club right in the middle of the eastern part of Alamo—Round Hill Country Club. Round Hill has basically everything you expect from a country club: a swimming pool, a sprawling golf course, tennis courts and the rest of it (even live web cam so you can watch matches going on the tennis courts).

Downtown Alamo has a sort of faux small bucolic town feel to it. It’s also has all that you could ask for such a town from banks to a vet hospital and a supermarket. When I was just out of college, I temped at an accounting office down here for a couple of weeks.

There are a dozen or so restaurants in the downtown area—nothing too impressive but enough so that you can eat in town if you don’t feel like cooking but don’t want to trek up to nearby Walnut Creek.

It goes without saying, of course, in a city like this that the schools are great and crime is virtually non-existent.

Overall it is one of those slightly boring bedroom communities that is great for families if you can afford it. Not unlike Orinda, where I live actually.
Pros
  • Great Schools
  • Shady Redwood Lined Streets
  • Nice Big Ranch Homes and Contemporaries
Cons
  • Very Expensive
  • A Bit Dull
  • No Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Sep 14, 2012

"Good for Lower Income Walnut Creek Commuters"

Pacheco is the town just to the west of the Buchanan Airfield in Concord. It doesn’t quite have 4000 residents as of the last census, so really, there are neighborhoods in Concord that have more people than Pacheco does.
On the far eastern end, Pacheco is basically a couple of giant mobile home parks. Diablo Mobile Home Park and Concord Cascade Mobile Home Park stretch all along Highway 680. They are nicely kept with good mobile homes that pretty much are exactly as you would expect them to be when you imagine a mobile home park in your mind. They have swimming pools as well. With prices below $50 K, there is definitely no beating the price either.

Just to the west of the freeway you mostly find squat one story buildings and yards that house things like the Allied Waste garbage trucks, and businesses like auto body shops, flooring installers, rental equipment, an irrigation company and a head gasket factory. In other words, it is the kind of place where people who actually know how to alter physical matter to make it conform to their desires go to work—people otherwise known as “real men.”

There is a however a real residential area in Pacheco as well. This is the rest of the neighborhood that stretches out to the west. Homes in this section sell for about $200K and $300K with few exceptions that slip higher than this. These home are largely a mix between relatively nicely kept Ranch homes of the kind common in the mid 1950’s—medium sized homes for middle class people—and some newer homes from the 90’s.

This is pretty typical middle class living, with relatively quiet streets with nice yards and even the occasional white picket fence. Residents here average about $50 K per year (average for California but low for the Bay Area) and they tend to be a little bit on the older side.

Schools seem to be pretty good here (if I have my school districts right), with test scores being way above average through the schools in the area.

As to crime there have been about 2 dozen assaults in the last six months and a handful of robberies. Overall, a relatively safe neighborhood.

Put simply, Pacheco is good spot for those who work or have lives in Walnut Creek or the Lamorinda area but don’t have the sort of income that allows them to actually live in those areas.
Pros
  • Affordable Homes
  • Good Schools
  • Good for Commuters
Cons
  • Ugly Industral Area
  • Kind of Out of the Way
  • Some Crime
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Sep 08, 2012

"Seeno Reason to Put it Down"

Clayton is a little hideaway neighborhood to the east of Concord. It skirts the northern edge of Mt. Diablo—for those who are not familiar with Contra Costa County, this is the large mountain that you see to the east when you coming into Contra Costa County on Highway 24. You can actually see if from as far away as Stockton, I’m told and if you care to you can hike up to its summit and see over the Contra Costas to the Golden Gate Bridge. (On a clear day, anyway.)

People—those who live in the area and know about it—generally like Clayton, because of its slightly off the beaten track location, nice views of Mount Diablo and nice neighborhoods.

Clayton is actually made up of multiple neighborhoods: Seeno Hill area on the northern end (mixed in with the Oakhurst Golf Course and Country Club); Peacock Creek, to the hilly east, made up of nice, 80’s style Contemporary homes; Briarwood, Dana Ridge, and Bridlewood with there really nice variations on the Ranch home neighborhood that is a staple of Cali; Easely Estates’s 70’s version of Contemporary homes; Regency Woods with its very nice red tiled roofs and Contemporaries.

Seeno Hill, btw, is named after Albert Seeno of the Seeno family whose many real estate development and construction firms have made his family fortunes by putting up many such neighborhoods. (Seeno himself lives on Seeno Hill in a giant mansion in the old William Randal Hearst style—though, of course, nowhere near as lavish.)

Seeno is a bit of a controversial figure, having been accused of destroying frog habitat and that sort of thing. He is definitely one of those old style, hardnosed businessman who knows how to build homes and make his money, no denying that.
(There is also a famous “creepy oak tree” up on one side of his property that has its own Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/creepytree. Okay, not that creepy, but nice photos if you like that sort of thing.)

The median home price is just over $500 K. With prices ranging from around $350 K to $765 K, roughly.)

To the south of this is the center of Clayton, where you will find the Post Office and the usual things that you would expect, including a couple of restaurants, La Veranda and Ed’s Mudville Grill and a Skipolini’s Pizza. There really isn’t much to it.

As to schools and crime, it is exactly what you expect in an affluent neighborhood like this: great schools and virtually no violence.

It is a pretty nice spot, and will no doubt continue to expand once the real estate market picks up again.
Pros
  • Great Homes
  • Great Schools
  • Very Quiet
Cons
  • A Bit Out of the Way
  • Expensive
  • A Little on the Snooty Side
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Aug 29, 2012

"The Hills Have Homes"

I just discovered Crystal Ranch. I must admit I had never ventured this far to the eastern portion of Concord. As a matter of fact I didn’t even realize this was still Concord. I thought this was already Clayton. Actually it is one of the newest, best-kept neighborhoods in Concord. These are large, often 3000 ft. homes with Mediterranean style adobe walls and red-tiled roofs.
They are lined on quiet streets out in the middle of rolling Contra Costa hills where there is still plenty of space for this neighborhood to expand in the future. It is quiet and somewhat isolated in a way that makes you feel as if you are away from it all, but not alone, because of the nearby neighbors.

The median home price here is around $600 K, which is on the high end for Concord but which seems just right for this neighborhood.

This is really a neighborhood geared towards families. The schools here are solid though mostly not spectacular. The local elementary serving this area, however, Highlands Elementary is above average and the Clayton Valley High School is as well. (Pine Hollow Middle School is very mediocre, however.)

Overall, a really good residential neighborhood—one of the best in Concord.
Pros
  • Nice Houses
  • Quiet
  • Safe
Cons
  • Out of the Way
  • Mediocre Middle School
  • Poor Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Aug 25, 2012

"Great For Working Adults"

This is actually the East Bay Campus of CSU Hayward. Although it offers fewer courses than the mother campus to the west, CSU Hayward East Bay is a fully functioning campus which serves the needs especially of working adults.

The campus is just a few office style buildings on top of a hill surrounded by rolling grassy hills, but the instruction is solid. I took a lit course there 15 years ago and found the instruction quite solid. Contra Costa County has a few educational options—including a UC Extension and a couple of community colleges: Diablo Valley College and the community college in Richmond.

You probably wouldn’t be able to make it through an entire 4-year program at this facility without ever venturing to the main campus, but you could probably do a good portion of it if you positioned yourself correctly.

Overall, a definite benefit to the Concord/Walnut Creek community.
Pros
  • Good Classes
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Good Parking
Cons
  • Limited Class Choices
  • A Touch Pricy
  • A Bit Out of the Way
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Aug 25, 2012

"Kind of a Pleasantville"

The eastern part of southern Concord offers some of the best choices when it comes to neighborhoods. Cowell Ranch is one such neighborhood. It is a neighborhood made up of straight lanes ending in cul-de-sacs, somewhat reminiscent of a backgammon board.

The lanes are wide and the front yards narrow but well decorated with stone steps, bushes and attractive trees. It is just far enough up Ygnacio Valley that you are away from the “less desirable” parts of Concord that most people don’t really like. It is less dense here and more residential in feel. The homes date from the 70’s and 80’s.

Homes here sell for between $315 K and $500 K, with the median being around $400 K. As the housing crisis abates these prices may start to rise since 85% of homes for sale in Cowell Ranch are on the market due to foreclosure.

There is a Cowell Community Homeowner’s Association which regulates maintenance and architectural choices in the neighborhood in order to maintain consistency that you find in this neighborhood. If you are a bit of free spirit, who say wants to paint a mural on your garage door, you will likely find these rules oppressive. If you don’t mind having some rules to maintain housing prices, you may find this comforting.

At the center of the neighborhood is the Walnut Country Clubhouse. It offers tennis courts and pools to the Walnut Country community—which basically means the local homes here. So it is sort of like a tennis club. They also have a pre-school here and a building where community meetings can take place. (This month, for example, local candidates are coming into woo potential voters.)

If I understand my school zones correctly (which I am not at all sure that I do) the local schools for this neighborhood are the ones in Concord, which are just okay in this area.

This is also a great spot for those going to the CSU Hayward extension which is just over the hill a little bit farther. (The campus is little more than a half dozen office buildings spread around atop an empty hill, but there is plenty of room for expansion and the classes are as solid as those on the main campus—with the same teachers, etc. It is a great resource for working adults.)

A pretty good place to have a house.
Pros
  • Nice Homes
  • Nice Spot
  • Good Home Values
Cons
  • Nosy Homeowner's Council
  • Average Schools
  • Poor Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Aug 19, 2012

"Where Beaver Cleaver Would Live, If He Lived in Concord"

Last week I wrote a review saying that Inner Lime Ridge was Concord’s best neighborhood. That is true enough, but I would say this neighborhood is tied right up there with it in its own way. As always when it comes to neighborhoods it is about location, and Middle Lime Ridge definitely is well situated being located as it is around the Lime Ridge Open Space, has definitely situated itself perfectly.
This is just far enough east that you are no longer in the more populated areas of Concord.
Middle Lime Ridge is one of those newer neighborhoods with nice wide streets and a super clean, classic suburban look to it.
Basically this is where Leave to Beaver would be set if it were filmed today instead of during the Eisenhower Era.

You can actually divide this neighborhood up into three different sections. There is western section along Treat Blvd. that
faces west and whose inclined streets give you views of the valley.

There are two eastern sections to Middle Lime Ridge, the northern residential section by Treat Blvd. and the southern section by Ygnacio Valley Road. The northern section by Treat has a little bit more a of “rural” feel in that it doesn’t have side walks and the front lawn stretch right out to road. It gives a particular feel.

The southern section by Ygnacio Valley gives you eastern views and is loaded with those larger 80’s style Ranch homes that were bigger and denoted then and still denote now, a certain amount of affluence.

So what does it cost to live here?

The median home price overall is $450 K. But it makes a big difference whether you are on the western end versus the eastern end. In the eastern sections, the median home price is closer to $500 K.

Partly this is because you farther away from the rest of Concord and it problems and partly this is because the homes here are simply newer (most dating from after the Reagan Era).

The schools here are also stronger than in the rest of Concord.

Overall this is definitely one of the best neighborhoods for families to live.
Pros
  • Nice Homes
  • Nice Views
  • Good Elementary Schools
Cons
  • Too Many Foreclosures
  • Not Very Goo Night Life
  • High School Not Very Good
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Aug 12, 2012

"Like a Stroll in the Library"

Canterbury Village is another one of those Concord neighborhoods with older Ranch style homes. They are not spectacular, but you are far enough away from the overly crowded sections of Concord that this section’s quiet is sort of appealing.

Also, if you happen to have been an English major in college like me, you have to like the names not only of the neighborhood, Canterbury, but also themed streets on the eastern end: Huckleberry, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Lancelot, Pickwick, Joan, and Sherwood. Though, of course, I would have preferred a little bit more consistency in the names: say Knight’s Lane, Wife of Bath Ct., Summoner’s Ave. rather than jumping all over the place in English from Chaucer to Dickens. (Also clear up the confusion as to which Joan the are referring to: Shaw’s or French one that pops in Shakespeare’s Henry VI). But, alas, you can’t have everything.

What does it cost to live in this highly allusive neighborhood?

Well, you can rent a 2 bedroom up by Treat for around $1300.

If you prefer to own, the median price here is $275K with prices ranging from as low as $150 K to as only as high as $500K.

Of course, the problem when you are in Concord is the low quality of the public education system here. The schools are just not on a par with other parts of the Bay Area, so if you are going to live here, you will definitely need to consider sending your kids to private school.

Overall an okay neighborhood, maybe slightly better than average for Concord.
Pros
  • Cool Themed Street Names
  • Affordable Homes
  • Somwhat Quiet
Cons
  • Poor Schools
  • A Little Shabby
Recommended for
  • Retirees
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Aug 12, 2012

"Concord's Best Residential Neighborhood"

I just came across this neighborhood the other day. It was quite a discovery for me—I think Inner Lime Ridge may be the best neighborhood in Concord.

Lime Ridge and the Canal Trail form the western border of this neighborhood. This is a really nice place to go for a morning jog or for a weekend bike ride.

The populated part of the neighborhood stretches out to north and east of the ridge to Cowell Road. There are really nice homes along woody, or at least bushy straight lanes. You get a fair number of redwoods here. You are still in Concord, as is reflected by home prices whose median is only $350 K here. (They would be close to a million in a similar neighborhood in the Peninsula.) Prices range from lows of $200 K to a handful that break the $500 K mark—it is rare for a home here to sell for more than $600 K.

This is still probably the best residential neighborhood in Concord, if you are strictly speaking in terms of home quality and neighborhood aesthetics. No other neighborhood that I know of in Concord comes even close.
Pros
  • Beautiful Streets
  • Really Nice Homes
  • Cool Trails
Cons
  • Bad Schools
  • Low Property Values
  • Poor Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Trendy & Stylish
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Aug 12, 2012

"Mostly Ranch Homes, The Canal, Some Eichlers"

The El Monte neighborhood to the southeast of the Concord BART is another one of these large sprawling Concord suburban neighborhoods. The central features that mark the neighborhood are:

--The Loma Vista Adult Center on the neighborhood’s western end.
--The Canal Trail that bisects the neighborhood north-south. (A great place to go for a jog.)
--The Concord Community Park on the eastern end of neighborhood. (It has a community pool and tennis courts—it is a fairly large park.)

This is a typical Ranch home neighborhood that seems to mostly date from the 1950’s from the appearance of the homes. These are not the larger kind of Ranch homes that remain stylish perennially. These are the smaller kind of Ranch homes you often come across in the west—kind of worn out looking.

My favorite part of this neighborhood though is the little Eichler house mini-neighborhood on the far eastern end of El Monte.
These are the really nicely kept kind of Eichler homes that those who live in Palo Alto may be familiar with—the kind of home in which Steve Jobs grew-up. (I don’t think this is wholly incidental—if ever there was a kind of home that makes you self-conscious about design it is the flat roofed, open spaced Eichler home built with a sort of minimalist aesthetic that makes it stand out rather than blend in.)

This neighborhood has really been slammed by the foreclosure crisis, with more than 90% of the homes here for sale due to foreclosure. This fact, no doubt, has a big drag on home prices for El Monte. The median home price here is only $275 K with prices ranging from as low as $85 K to only about $400 K on the high end.

One of the other problems with this neighborhood for families with kids is that the schools are just not very good. From El
Monte Elementary to Olympic High these are average and below average schools.

You are fairly close to the Downtown area and the BART station so you are well-situated for commuting or for getting yourself to a movie or shopping.

I am not sure what crime is like for this area, but I assume that like most of Concord it is about average.
Pros
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Close to BART
  • Nice Eichlers
Cons
  • Below Average Schools
  • Too Many Forecloures
  • Run Down Looking in Spots
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jul 30, 2012

"Not Many Cows or Chickens Here"

Farm Bureau is one of the stranger names that I have ever come across for a neighborhood—especially since it is at the heart of a city of 600,000. Far from being a bunch of country roads, Farm Bureau is a relatively densely packed residential neighborhood characterized by older Ranch homes.

On the western end, where the neighborhood narrows, however, you will find one of those newer planned neighborhoods.
That is also right by the Concord BART station, making the western end of this neighborhood perfect for commuters. There are also a fair number of boxy older apartments on this side of the neighborhood.

Although most of Farm Bureau has rather dingier looking older homes, there are some really nice pockets where the homes have been really well kept. Davis Avenue is one such spot. There you can find some really inspiring topiary and beautifully designed Contemporary style homes along quietly curving streets—perfect for kids to play on without danger of being run down by harried drivers.

Homes here range from around $100 K to about $500 K, with the median being around $250 K. 4 of 5 homes are on the market due to foreclosure.

Schools here are unfortunately not very strong, being slightly below average to worse.

One of the nice features of Farm Bureau is the Canal Trail that runs north-south across it. This is a great place to walk, job or bike.

Overall an okay neighborhood, though not spectacular.
Pros
  • Some Nice Pockets
  • Fairly Affordable
  • Close to Transportation Hubs
Cons
  • Sub Par Public Schools
  • A Bit Crowded
  • Some Really Dingy Spots
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jul 30, 2012

"Not So Cool But Okay"

Located on the far eastern end of Concord, the Landana neighborhood is another one of those classic 70’s style Ranch home neighborhoods. It is actually pretty nice for what it is: wide streets and well-kept Ranch homes with more of an Arizona feeling than a San Fernando Valley feeling, if that makes any sense. Basically what I mean is that you have a lot sky in this neighborhood; it is not one of those neighborhoods where you get so much tree cover that you feel enclosed in a tree tunnel.

The median price for a home here is around $300 K—about average for Concord, but low for Contra Costa County and the East Bay in general. Prices range from $80 K to $600 K, though less than 10% break the $500K barrier and fewer than 10% drop below $125 K.

On the southern edge of the neighborhood is Dave Brubeck Park, named after the renowned West Coast Cool Jazz musician famous for Take Five, who was actually born in Concord.

As to schools, they are a little bit of a mixed bag. Monte Gardens Elementary shows outstanding test scores, but El Dorado Middle School is really quite bad. Concord High School is solid (actually better than Diablo High School, people are sometimes surprised to find out) but not spectacularly so.

Overall it is not too bad a spot, with the usual conveniences of the suburbs: supermarkets, a fitness center and a Starbucks.
The whole shebang.
Pros
  • Nice Ranch Homes
  • Okay Schools
  • Fairly Affordable
Cons
  • A Bit Bland
  • Not Much Nightlife
  • Poor Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jul 30, 2012

"BART, Pixieland and Ranch Homes"

For me and my family, Holbrook is the home of Pixieland, the amusement park for very young kids. There really isn’t much to it—it’s just a little train and few other rides that very small children might enjoy but which anyone over the age of 5 will find a snoozer. Nevertheless, if you live close by it is a good option for a boring weekend.

The other major feature of this neighborhood is the North Concord BART, which connects this area up with the rest of the Bay Area.

In terms of homes here, the neighborhood is actually fairly pleasant with nice wide streets and well maintained older Ranch style homes. The residents here do a good job of individualizing their front yards, choosing an eclectic blend of stone decorations, trimmed topiary and even occasional rose bushes that come gloriously into full bloom.

This is basically a classic middle class neighborhood of the kind that many of remember from the 1970’s and 80’s. This is pretty typical suburban living in terms of the amenities as well: fast food and nice well-stocked grocery stores. Nothing fantastic but very comfortable.

The median home price here is around $250 K, as affordable for the Bay Area. (Though many people do not consider this area to be the Bay Area because it is beyond the Contra Costas.)

The schools unfortunately are pretty awful, making this no better than a starter neighborhood for young couples, unless you can afford private schools.

Overall, an okay place to live for couples with very young children unless you are fairly well off, in which case you probably will go with a better neighborhood any way.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Nice 70's Neighborhood Feel
  • Good for Commuters
Cons
  • Terrible Schools
  • Kind of Bland
  • Too Many Foreclosures
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jul 30, 2012

"Good Starter Neighborhood"

Located just to the west of the junction of Highway 4 and 242, and to the northeast of Buchanan Airport, the Hillcrest neighborhood can roughly be divided into two sections: a northern section where you will find car lots and businesses and a larger southern wedge which is mostly residential.

On the northern end of Hillcrest, the neighborhood is largely made up of macho man type businesses like plumbers and mechanics. It is home to Haws Auto Body, AJ Bono Plumbing, the Dodge and Fiat dealerships, a solar panel installation place and Watersavers Irrigation, for example. It is also home to the only operating drive-in in Contra Costa County (to my knowledge anyway; I can’t really think of another one). The Solano Drive-In is a great place to take your family so they can experience the full 1970’s style drive-in experience. (The movies are fairly run of the mill modern movies. They are playing Black Knight and The Amazing Spiderman right now, for example.)

The northern end of Hillcrest also has a residential section which is made up of a mix of trailer parks and ugly 1970’s style apartment buildings. There are at least 2 trailer parks there, one a sprawling flat facility set up on the usual trailer park residential plan of having a bunch of courts sprawled around the main office.

The apartment buildings are boxy tan buildings with car ports in the parking lots to provide shelter from the worst of the elements. These apartments are relatively well-kept and even somewhat leafy. Apartments here run about $1000 for a one-bedroom and $1400 for a two-bedroom, so it is relatively affordable and much better than dealing with the horrible traffic out of Antioch or Pittsburgh.

To the south of Oliveira, the neighborhood is pretty much all residential. (The area is sometimes subdivided even more with Hillcrest being the middle section surrounding Hillcrest Park and the very southern triangle being the Estates neighborhood.)
The homes here are somewhat shabby, dating from the 1960’s or so with lots of run down looking Eichler homes being the standard. It is a fairly leafy neighborhood with a lot of yards left un-mowed and bushy.

Buying a home here in the Hillcrest neighborhood can run you anywhere from $30 K to $500 K depending on where you buy a mobile home in the northern end or an Eichler in the southern. One of those mobile homes on the northern end of the neighborhood will run you less than $100 K. If you are looking for a more traditional home, like one of the Eichlers that make up the southern portion of the neighborhood, then you are looking at around $200 K as the median price, with the range going from around $50 K to $450 K. Foreclosures make up as much as 90% of the homes for sale here.

As to schools, they are nothing to write home about. Local schools go from terrible to mediocre.

Overall, this is a good starter neighborhood for those just starting out making their climb up the work ladder. You are just far enough away from the centers of Walnut Creek and other Contra Costa areas that you don’t pay the high rents, but close enough that you don’t have to tackle the terrible, soul killing traffic that is Highway 4 during rush hour.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Close to Commercial Hubs
  • Good Spot For "Macho" Businesses
Cons
  • Kind of Run Down
  • Trailer Park Culture
  • Sub-Par Schools
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jul 25, 2012

"Good For Commuters"

Crawford Village is the neighborhood just to the east of the Concord BART station, whose most prominent feature is the Loma Vista Adult Center at its southern most edge. The Adult Center offers classes in parenting and very basic career training—that kind of thing. It is a good resource for those needing to brush up on their basic skills. (For more advanced training, the best bet is probably Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill to the west.)

Crawford Village is largely made up of older style, smaller Ranch homes (90% seem to date for the 1940’s). These homes look their age and are not helped out by the overgrown front yards and lack of sidewalks. It has almost a semi-rural feel, like neighborhoods at the edges of suburbs often do. Crawford Village, however, is not really at the edge of the suburbs.

Prices here range from around $100 K to around $500 K, with the median being around $225 K, and less than 10% breaking the $50O K .

One of the great advantages of this neighborhood is its proximity to the BART station, which means you basically do not have to rely on a car to get to work. You can be in SF in less than an hour from here. Once the BART extends to San Jose, this will make things even better.

You are also really close to the main shopping and recreation areas in Concord—so you will definitely not lack for places to eat and things to do, at least not in terms of suburban expectations.

Unfortunately the schools are not very strong here, which makes this not a very good place for raising kids.
Pros
  • Close to BART
  • Affordable
  • Close to Downtown Concord
Cons
  • Ugly, Older Homes
  • Unkept Look
  • Poor Schools
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jul 25, 2012

"Good Apartment Living"

If you don’t live in Concord, you might not even be aware that there is a lake here. Concord, being sort of flat and packed, just doesn’t seem like the kind of place that would have a lake. Yet right by the heart of Concord and right by the hear