NightOwlnOrinda

  • Local Expert 28,278 points
  • Reviews 104
  • Question 1
  • Answers 502
  • Discussions 22

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 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 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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • 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 2/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jul 21, 2012

"A Colony for the Rich"

Colony Park is a quietly tucked away neighborhood just to the south of Fair Oaks Elementary. It’s best attributes are perhaps its quiet streets and pleasant homes. Despite being in a city with more than 600,000 plus (SF only has 700,000), you do not feel like you are surrounded by masses of people. You are also at the edge of Pleasant and Walnut Creek and all the entertainments you can find there. You could actually say that Colony Park has more in common with these other cities than with Concord.

Part of what gives Colony Park this sheltered feel is that it has an elementary school on the north, a park on the west and a wash (a canal, sort of) on the east.

Homes here are of the nicer, slightly larger 1960’s Ranch homes built along wider streets with fewer trees giving them a very sunny, pleasant look to them.

Although homes are valued for higher prices in this neighborhood, in the last 9 months homes here have sold for a median price of around $400 K with prices ranging from a ridiculously low price of $100 K (for a home estimated at 3 times that value) to about $700 K.

It is the kind of place where people have luxury vehicles and motor boats parked along the street, a clear sign that the neighborhood is solidly upper middle class. (According to the recent census, the median income here is $90,000 a good $30 K above the average income of the rest of Concord. ) In that sense too, the residents of Colony Park have more in common with residents of Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill than Concord.

There are some real drawbacks to this neighborhood, however. One is the local Concord schools which get some pretty terrible ratings. Fair Oaks Elementary is close to bottom of the barrel. I am also not sure about crime, the Concord police don’t make crime reports readily available, though overall Concord is slightly below the national average. This neighborhood actually seems safer than that.

On the western end of this neighborhood, you have an office park where you can find a fitness place and some fairly non-descript businesses such as a printing place, a storage place, and a feed store where you can buy things such as horse food and bird feed. (This used to be a far more rural area.)

Overall, this is a pretty good place to live, although because the schools are not very good, you might want to consider one of the private schools, if that is within your means.
Pros
  • Nice Homes
  • Quiet
  • Very Affordable Right Now
Cons
  • Depressed Housing Market
  • Bad Schools
  • Poor Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Trendy & Stylish
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
Jul 15, 2012

"A Private Airport"

Buchanan Field is a private airport on the northern end of Concord. It is mainly for private executive jets and for amateur pilots. The nearest full scale airport is in Oakland, some 30 miles to the west.

There is also a golf course next door, a Crowne Plaza hotel and sporting good store.

But that is pretty much it. If you are not working on your pilot’s license or flying in for a high level business meeting, you probably have no business here. (They also have a few flight clubs, btw, such as the 184 Club that owns its own Sesna. )
Pros
  • Okay Private Air Field
Cons
  • Airplane Noise
  • Small
  • Ugly Golf Course
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • 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 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Apr 27, 2011

"Aquirium City"

Most people don’t realize this, but Monterey is one of the oldest cities in all of California. It was actually founded before San Francisco, and the presidio (fortified town) in Monterey was for a long period better kept than the one up at San Francisco. Monterey was the first capital of Alta California as well and, you might be surprised to know, Monterey was even sacked by pirates back in 1818 during the Latin American Independence period.

These days, of course, Monterey is a tourist destination. Not to be confused with Monterey, Mexico (which it often is—about once a decade there is a news story about a group of unlucky convention goers who ended up in one instead of the other), Monterey California is known for its amazing aquarium. We go here about once every other year and even though it is a pretty good trip—about 2 hours from where we live—it is well worth it. The diversity of fish life and the opportunities to get up close and personal with the marine life are a big hit with most of my kids. (Petting star fish is definitely the main attraction for them. For me, it is the moon jellies—since discovering them some two decades ago, I have been fascinated by them, so graceful and soothing.)

The city has really cashed in on the Cannery Row area that stretches out from the aquarium, playing up the connection to Steinbeck with a bit of historical reference to the great California writer but also allowing the area to become glutted with restaurants and stores. (The embracing of Steinbeck is highly ironic, since the citizens of the area hated Steinbeck back in the day—considering him a Commie and an agitator.) The area really has no resemblance to the Cannery Row of Steinbeck’s day, when it was exactly what it sounds like, a big sardine canning area. These days, you can go to Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company or get Thai food, and the majority of the people on the streets are either convention goers taking in the sights or locals just enjoying themselves. It feels a lot like Fisherman’s Wharf up in SF.

Monterey also has a handful of higher education centers. The army runs its central foreign language center out of the Monterey Presidio, for example and Cal State has a small but growing campus in Monterey. The renown Monterey Institute of International Relations is also here.

As far as living here in Monterey proper, it is mostly apartments and condos, though the surrounding areas have luxurious beach side homes. People who live in Monterey proper tend to be middle class for the most part. The average salary is actually fairly low for a beach side community.

Crime in Monterey is also average overall, though it is more about property crime than violent crime for the most part. In the last ten years there have only been a pair of murders in Monterey proper.

Overall, this is a pretty affordable place to live as far as beachside communities go.
Pros
  • The Aquirium
  • Beautiful Scnery
  • Affordable Living
Cons
  • Apartment Living
  • Tourist Packed
  • Property Crime is High
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
  • Beach Lovers
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 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Apr 18, 2011

"The Heart of Lamorinda"

The Alice neighborhood hangs off Rheem Blvd. along Orinda’s border with Moraga and Lafayette. Affluent like most every neighborhood in Orinda, Alice sits atop a leafy elevated hill that makes you feel as if you are hours away from the stresses of city of living even though you could be in San Francisco in 45 minutes on most days.

There are lots of pine trees and homes that look like they could fit in equally well near Lake Tahoe. Homes here have large porches that look out over what seems largely like forest but is actually the other Lafayette homes cloaked by the tree tops. The homes here are fairly big, the majority having pools and averaging close to a million dollars each. This is one of the newer areas in Orinda with a substantial portion of the structures having been built after 1960.

One really nice thing about the location is that you are centrally located. If you want to catch a movie, for example, you can drop south down Rheem Blvd. to the Rheem Theatre in Moraga. Or, if you don’t like your selection there you can go north, hang a left at Glorietta and be at the Orinda Theatre in about 10 minutes. Or you can hit the Park Theatre in Lafayette in 15 minutes (though I think the Park Theatre may be closed). The point, however is that the Alice neighborhood is the heart of the Lamorinda area, just about equidistant from all areas in these three sister cities, while remaining itself nicely tucked away deep in residential area—few neighborhoods make you feel so sheltered from worries of big city.

There are also some unusual features in the area beyond the pleasant alpine feel. There is, for example, a kind of European style traffic circle at the corner of Donald and Hall. Just to the east of the neighborhood are the hills leading down to the Lafayette Reservoir, which Lamorinda Residents enjoy as a pleasant recreation area. The circling trail to the reservoir is a popular place for strolls and jogging (markers along the trail help you keep track of how far you have gone and how far you have to go). One of the reservoir trails, Rim Trail, comes not too far from the homes of Alice.

If you want to find out more about Rim Trail, here is a good article from Bay Area Hiker:

http://www.bahiker.com/eastbayhikes/lafres.html

There are also some unusual homes here.
Pros
  • Beautiful Homes
  • Centrally Located
  • Great Schools
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Hillside Problems
  • Fire Fears
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Apr 11, 2011

"A Neighborhood in Embryo"

The Castlegate neighborhood is the site of what might one day be another Orinda neighborhood. As far as I can tell, at the moment it is nothing but empty lots awaiting the go ahead to start building. Nestled up in the hills near where Highway 24 feeds into the Caldecott Tunnel, all I can see is tracks and cleared away land. If you search for it on real estate sites, you will see that they are offering to build multi-million dollar homes up in this area, but you will only find actual pictures of one historic building dating back to 1894. (It is for sale by the way for about $300,000 though the Orinda Historical Society will most likely try to keep it from being torn down and redeveloped given its age.)

You can also find some statistical information on the supposed near 800 residents that live here, but a careful look reveals they are actually including the Knickerbocker neighborhood as part of Castlegate. I really don’t think anyone has actually finished building a home up on these empty streets with parceled land spaces.

When and if this neighborhood is actually born, it will probably be quite successful so long as Orinda continues to grow. The location is really wonderful, having its own freeway exit and staring out over the green woody hill where the California Shakespeare company puts on its summer programs, the area could not be more secluded. If the weather is anything like that of Cal Shakes, you will get a cold fog that cools you in the summer and the usual hillside problems—although it looks like they have flattened out the area for the neighborhood.

Developers are looking to name the area Wilder, after the main street that runs up the Cal Shakes gates. Of course, as theater fans know, this is a reference to Thornton Wilder, the Our Town author. For now however, the due date for this neighborhood, given the current real estate market uncertainties, remains vague. We will have to wait and see.
Pros
  • Brand New
  • Great Views and Weather
  • Good Freeway Access
Cons
  • Not Yet a Reality
  • Expensive
  • Hillside Problems
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Apr 10, 2011

"Orinda Apartments and Hill With a View"

The Knickerbocker neighborhood continues the tradition begun up in the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood north of the freeway. Knickerbocker is also an allusion to the author of the Legends of Sleepy Hollow.

The Knickerbocker neighborhood is just to the south of Highway 24. One of the features of the neighborhood that is unusual for Orinda is the presence of boxy, 1960’s style apartment buildings and condos hugging the tree line of the freeway. These apartments are really quite unpleasant looking and probably overpriced because of their location. It is however, a pretty great location. From these apartments, it is only a short walk to Downtown Orinda, where you can get a latte, go to one of the handful or restaurants or catch a movie at the Orinda Theater. In addition, you can make it to the Orinda BART in about the same time or catch the carpool into the city from the traffic circle behind the theater. Basically, you could give up your car and save on maintenance and insurance—a pretty good deal, overall and you’d be doing your part for the environment.

Of course, the neighborhood is not just the apartment buildings along the freeway. It is also made up of a web of streets covering the north facing hill. Most of these homes date back to the 50’s and 60’s but they are not just the typical ranch homes. Opposite the apartment complexes, for example, you can find some attractive woody Craftsman style homes in the Maybeck style and something like two story prairie homes. The houses here take advantage of the hillside topography to create an attractive appearance, placing garages down at street level and having winding steps leading up through the branchy yards to the front doors.

The farther you make your way up into the hills the larger the homes become and the better the views north towards the St. Stephens area. Most angles obscure the freeway, making it seem as if you are in a much woodier and less populated area.

This is, like most of Orinda, a highly affluent area, where front drives are usually occupied by Mercedes and where there is almost always someone along the street doing some remodeling, placing new stonework out front or remodeling their decks. On the other hand, there is a bit of a rural feel here (kind of a faux-rural feel, really, because of all the perfectly landscaped yards and giant homes) but enough of one that you can occasionally see a rope ladder leading up to an observation coop atop a tree and even the occasional makeshift tree house itself.

Of course, with leafy hillside living come the usual drawbacks. Narrow drives make it difficult for delivery trucks for example. Often it takes a special smaller truck, or residents have to go to pick up their own items. You will also get a fair amount of wild life, mostly of the cute variety, but also not quite so cute when they eat your roses or knock over your trashcan on trash day. If you live here, expect field mice, deer, raccoons and skunks.

You also have to watch out for mudslides and erosion during the rainy season when heavy rains can make the idea of hillside living seem like a bad idea. Homes must be maintained and decks periodically checked. In the summer, fire fears take over as the hills seem to pick the smell of burning wood from miles and miles away.

The lack of sidewalks is also a consideration when trying to raise kids here, as it means that they will not be able to play outside or walk down into town from most of these homes.

That said this is a nice little nook of neighborhood that is centrally located and contains a variety of options for residents. If I had to commute into work every day, I would definitely want to live right about here.
Pros
  • Nice Views
  • Very Leafy
  • Big Homes
Cons
  • No Side Walks
  • Hillside Worries
  • Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 1/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 1/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 2/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 1/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 1/5
  • Childcare 1/5
Apr 10, 2011

"Raiders and Metalworkers"

As the name indicates, this is the “neighborhood” near the Coliseum made up of warehouses for the most part. Metal works and storage facilities call this place home but not many people. This has to be the least populated area of Oakland, with barely 500 people per square mile. Actually, given the look of this place you will probably be surprised that even that many live there. It really does look like one of those classic run-down sort of industrial areas.

The neighborhood centers around the 880 Freeway and the railroad tracks that carry so much cargo to and fro. You will also find a lot of spots where there are lots filled with the rusting odds and ends of the difficult to identify machinery. Most of the neighborhood, especially north of 66th is made up of square, non-descript warehouses.

The Coliseum itself is a bit of a landmark for the Oakland. It is the storied stadium where the Oakland Raiders have long played (except for that little relocation to Los Angeles during the 80’s and 90’s). It is a good old fashioned field, but Al Davis is on the look out for better facilities and rumors of an impending move are a yearly feature in the newspapers. I would say more, but I have to admit that the only time I have seen the Raiders play was down in LA Coliseum. Raiders’ games are infamous for their drunken brawls in the stands.

The Athletics also play at the Coliseum, and the indoor facility next door—Oracle arena—features basketball games. (Oracle is a Bay Area software company.)

You don’t get too much violence in this area other than at the Raiders’ games—largely because there is little here to attract anyone to just hang around. Overall, it is pretty ugly here, but every city needs an area where the dirty work of industry gets done.
Pros
  • The Stadium
  • The Indoor Stadium
  • Good Transportation
Cons
  • Ugly
  • Dirty
  • Dangerous
1/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 1/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 1/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 1/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Apr 04, 2011

"Oakland's Most Dangerous Neighborhood?"

Unfortunately Eastmont’s claim to fame is nothing that you would want for a neighborhood you are looking to move into. On March 21, 2009, four Oakland officers were killed by Lovelle Mixon here. Two, Sgt. Mark Dunakin and Sgt. John Hege were killed when they stopped Mixon for a traffic violation and two others, SWAT Sgts. Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai when they forced their way into the home where Mixon was barricaded. Mixon was killed at the site as well. The event made news as it was the worse loss of life in a single day for the Oakland police. A large funeral service was held for the fallen officers.

Although the murder of officers is thankfully not a common occurrence, Eastmont is no stranger to violence of this kind. Tiny, densely packed Eastmont averages about 4 murders per year. Given that the population is less than 4,000, that is one murder per 1,000 residents—the worst ratio I am aware of in all of Oakland. Thus, you might say that this is the most dangerous neighborhood in the whole of the East Bay. I would be surprised to find a neighborhood that had it much worse than this.

Driving through the neighborhood, you might not at first notice that it is a particularly dangerous area. The small, old style Ranch homes and California bungalows don’t, at first sight, seem as if they are particularly run-down or fearfully shut off. But then you turn down a particular street and you start to see more ominous signs—bars on windows, high gates around small yards, cars parked on uncared for front lawns as if they were meant to get the occupants as close to the shelter of the home as possible.

Then some worse signs: a vandalized car with broken windows and smashed headlights with no tires—a boarded up home with garbage and furniture piled up by the curb—cars with faded paint and mismatching panes parked behind the added impediment of fences or deep into the side driveway of a gated home. None of these are proof positive of the violence but they all point to an oppressed neighborhood where violence is at the forefront of people’s thought on an hourly basis.

Put simply, this feels more like a war zone than a neighborhood, more like Bosnia of twenty years ago than the United States of today.
Pros
  • Public Transportation
  • Affordable Housing
Cons
  • Murder Rate
  • Dirty
  • Dangerous
1/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 1/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 1/5
Mar 11, 2011

"An Itsy Bitsy Gang Neighborhood"

Like many of the neighborhoods in this area of Oakland just to the west of MacArthur Freeway, tiny Bartlett (barely seven city blocks total) is a densely packed residential neighborhood. And as in the other adjacent neighborhoods, the most common kind of housing here are California bungalows dating from before 1939. These home vary in quality. Some have been very well maintained while others look their ages, as if they have been around for more than three quarters of a century. The nicer homes in Bartlett have nice bushy front lawns, often with decorative topiary.

On the western end of the neighborhood along Humboldt Street, the bungalows give way to uninviting apartment buildings and leafier homes with backs to the creek that forms Bartlett’s western border. The high number of these boxy apartment rows account in part for the high population density of area—about twice as high as that of the rest of Oakland.

On the occasions when I have driven by the area, I have found it a little depressing with garbage strewn about the sidewalks, broken beer bottles and clutches of seemingly aimless young men with nothing better to do then congregate outside. In 2009, a man was murdered right along this stretch, so the impression that this a gang area is definitely not an illusion.

Put simply, I would not feel safe living in or near these apartment buildings.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Diverse
  • Good Transportation
Cons
  • Dangerous
  • Dirty
  • Crowded
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 16, 2011

"A Dilapadated Neighborhood"

This is another one of those Oakland residential areas that could easily be used to film a movie set in the 1950’s since many of the streets in this neighborhood don’t have any fixed structure from after 1960 on them. Though most of the structures in the area are the typical California bungalows, there are also a fair number of 1950’s style Ranch Homes and also a pretty good number of 1960’s style shoe box shaped apartment complexes.

The whole neighborhood, unfortunately has a run down, worn out look to it which is reflected in the peeling paint jobs and generally dilapidated feel of the area. Lawns are overgrown, lots look unkept, homes which have been there ages feel in some cases plopped down and out of place. There are even some homes that have clearly been abandoned—often wooden shells left to rot on dirt lots.

Put simply, this is not really the sort of place most people want to live.
Pros
  • Affordable Rents
  • Unusual Old Homes
  • Quiet
Cons
  • Crime
  • Unkept Homes and Yards
  • Dirty
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Feb 16, 2011

"Forgettable Except for the Hospital"

Stretching out just to the west of 580, the Lynn/Highland park neighborhood is most famous for being home to Highland Hospital, which is at its eastern edge. Highland Park Hospital is not only the leading trauma center in Alameda County, it is also an excellent teaching hospital.

The neighborhood surrounding the hospital is a largely working class neighborhood with lots of California bungalows and a few other structures. The neighborhood is on a slight incline, though not quite enough to offer much of a view.

There are some businesses here like a taquarria and a handful of auto repair places, but they are largely forgettable.

This, like many Oakland neighborhoods, is a relatively dangerous neighborhood, with a crime rate that is three times higher than the national average.
Pros
  • Quiet
  • Inexpensive
  • Good Hospital
Cons
  • Crime
  • Pretty Forgettable
  • Old House Problems
Recommended for
  • Students
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Feb 11, 2011

"A Great School for a Second Shot"

This is where Laney College is located. Laney is one of the community colleges in the Peralta College District which serves the Oakland/Berkeley area. The two main colleges in the Peralta District are Laney and Merritt which is up in the Oakland Hills. The colleges are meant to help educate the populace in the area. You gets a variety of students at Laney, from the kids that are just hanging around after high school because they don’t know what else to do, to working adults looking to improve their careers. The campus has a nice clean look to it, a pleasant oasis from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.

Community colleges like Laney often get a bad rap because they accept any one who has a pulse, but I personally think such places are part of what make this country great. Unlike other countries where everything is based on an exam at the end of high school that determines your future, this country believes that you can always turn things around and continue to better yourself. Although I didn’t go to Laney, I did go to a community college that gave me the time and space to help turn me around. Given the poverty of much of the surrounding community, I think that Laney is the sort of place that helps to change lives in a way that few other places do.
Pros
  • Good Classes
  • Low Pressure Environment
  • Good Teachers
Cons
  • Poor Class Selection
  • Scary at Night
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 5/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Feb 11, 2011

"More Than Just the Squares in Jack London"

When talking about this area of Oakland, you must begin, of course, by mentioning Jack London Square, Oakland’s number one tourist attraction. I should begin by saying that I have always found Jack London Square to be more than a little bit over-rated—kind of a B grade Fisherman’s Wharf. The restaurants (notably Scott’s Seafood) there and the Barnes and Noble are okay, but I’ve never found them to be worth all the hub-bub. In fact, if all there was to this area was the waterfront Square, I doubt anyone from other areas of Oakland would spend too much time here.

It is actually the area slightly inland that makes this area really attractive.

There are, first of all, a number of different fish markets and produce centers here. When I used to work in the area I would sometimes come here early, when the area fills with wafting fishy smells, schools and schools of fishy smells. This is where Oakland restaurants come to get their fresh produce for their healthy menus. You can really hear the sounds of bustling city here, from the traffic on the freeway, to the fairly regular rumblings of the freight trains rumbling in to deliver exports and rumbling out to distribute imports. (Jack London Square also sits across from the Amtrak station where you can travel all the way to the East Coast should you desire to get out of town and a great way to commute to Sac as I used to do.)

This waterfront neighborhood, just across the isthmus from Alameda (this is the spots where the Webster and Harrison Street tubes are located), is also home to one of Oakland’s most renowned live jazz venues, Yoshi’s. It not only has great headlining jazz and blues groups, but it also has great sushi; now, that is what I call a great date spot.

If you love a good saloon style dive bar, you could do worse than Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, a place designed to make you feel as if you jumped back 150 years to when Oakland was just a little western backwater—or at least you would be transported there if weren’t for the fact that Heinhold’s sits under the shadow of the freeway and one of Oakland’s Downtown skyscrapers on one side and the towering harbor cranes on the other. Other similar local establishments include Beer Revolution, Warehouse, and Merchant’s Saloon, both worth a stop if you are bar hopping with a drinking buddy. Encuentra, a vegetarian winebar, is especially worth mention.

There are also great eateries here, as you would expect given its convenient location. Notable are Kincaids and Miss Pearl’s (a barbecue place).

In other words, this is a great place to come for movies, comedy clubs, bars and restaurants, even if you will have to brave the flocks of tourists.
Pros
  • Great Restaurants
  • Great Entertainment
  • Great Transportation
Cons
  • Crime
  • Too Touristy
  • Traffic and Parking
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Feb 04, 2011

"Deer, Raccoons and Skunk!"

Monte Vista Ridge is the neighborhood on the far northern end of Orinda. It is right across the road from Wagner Ranch Elementary (Old man Wagner was the rancher who first settled the area—well, if you disregard the Miwok who were here for ages before that gathering the acorns off the trees and living relatively peacefully while Old man Wagner’s ancestors were still in the Old Country).

This neighborhood is poorly populated even by Orinda standards. Only about six hundred people live in this neighborhood, and most of them off Monte Vista Road and Camino Pablo Roads. In fact, even six hundred seems like a stretch to me. If I would have guessed, I would say there were at most 100 people living here. The whole area is mostly hilly Contra Costas climbing up to Tilden Park. In fact, Wild Cat Canyon Road, the last signal light before you leave Orinda in your back mirror, is a great place to drive up to get a great view over the whole valley and the reservoir to the north.

What few homes I do know about are either really nice looking Ranch homes or newer style homes that look like modernized Craftsman homes in the Maybeck style. In otherwords, lots of terraces looking out over the valley, lots of exposed beams and the dark shingled look that has come to characterize that style. Put simply, some nice homes close to completely unpopulated areas—enjoy the deer, raccoons and skunks!
Pros
  • Secluded
  • Quiet
  • Nice Homes
Cons
  • A Little Desolate
  • Erosion
  • Wildlife
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
1/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Jan 21, 2011

"Another Old Rundown Neighborhood"

Southwest of the junction between the Grover-Shafter and the MacArthur Freeways, Hoover is yet another poor neighborhood in West Oakland—an area that is uniformly made up of poor neighborhoods despite attempts to help improve the area. As with other neighborhoods in West Oakland, Hoover also has a series of rundown old homes. The vast majority of the homes here were built before 1950.

Put simply, it is too dangerous and rundown to move here.
Pros
  • Affordable Housing
  • Clos to Transportation
Cons
  • Ugly
  • Gangs
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 1/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 1/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • 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 1/5
Jan 21, 2011

"A Touch of South Africa"

Clawson is a poor neighborhood to the southeast of the junction of the MacArthur and the Nimitz Freeway. The average household income in Clawson is only $30K.

The area on the eastern edge of the neighborhood is filled with worn out looking walk-up bungalows, many, obviously in need of repairs. It is not unsual to see debris scattered about the street in this area and barbed wire atop fences. Front lawns are generally sectioned off with metal fencing and it is not unusual to come across empty cement covered lots on residential streets. The streets themselves often feature cracked asphalt, while blue tarps are scene throughout the neighborhood on roofs where leaks have developed (even sometimes over the tops of campers and cars). Everywhere one has a sense of homes and businesses being fortified against possible invasion or theft.

On the western edge of the neighborhood you come across waste disposal companies, quarries, the detritus of the ports, and some of the round houses of intermodal companies that switch cargo from rail and ship and train. This has long been one of the major stops of the Union-Pacific (Oakland is actually the end of the line for that historic rail and you can still see the remains of it here) along with the towering cranes that pick the stacked containers off ships from Asia and South American.

Running right through the middle of this ugly industrial area where only tractors and forklifts really look at home, is Mandela Parkway, which at this point has a beautifully manicured green space in its meridian. The odd juxtaposition of the memorial to the great political activist and this most unwelcoming environment is either a terrible joke, or oddly appropriate given the stark realities that the man went through on Robin Island just off the coast of South Africa. Either way, if makes for a compelling visual space.

I suppose someone with an artistic eye also might find it ironic that just across the street from the monument on this southerly facing parkway should be one of the new fangled gentrified condominium complexes that were part of Jerry Brown’s plans to transform Oakland. This complex is particularly interesting because the dark shaded pastel buildings are designed in a post-modern form of architecture that employs cubic projections from the upper floors and stark metallic balconies to look out over Mandela Pkwy towards the bay.

Of course, like everything else around here, the complex is guarded by high metal walls and heavily reinforced doors of the kind that look like they could take a good half-hour beating from a battering ram without giving.

So we have a new apartheid right in northwest Oakland, where the well off can separate themselves from the poor that surround them in a walled city of their own. This is a very strange space indeed.
Pros
  • Affordable Rents
  • Close to Emeryville and Freeway
Cons
  • Gang Problems
  • Dangerous
  • Delapadated Homes
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 1/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 1/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Childcare 1/5
Jan 21, 2011

"Another Housing Project"

Peralta Villa is a housing project in West Oakland, just to the west of Acorn and east of Campbell Villa. It is a series of row houses all closely connected.

In the middle of the area is Cole Elementary and at the edge is the Oakland Housing Authority. I really don’t know much about this specific housing project other than this however.
Pros
  • Affordable Housing
  • Close to Public Transportation
Cons
  • Gang Problems
  • Ugly Housing
1/5 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 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Jan 21, 2011

"Not a Great Neighborhood"

Like many of the neighborhoods in this area, it is mostly a poor neighborhood. Residents live below the poverty line. This is especially true of the area to the east of Adeline and south of 14th street. The homes in this area are mostly made up of run down Victorians.

The effects of gentrification are beginning to make their mark to the area to the northwest of the neighborhood. This is only barely noticeable however, as the Victorians in this area are barely more well-kept than those in the other areas. The autos outside of the homes tend to be newer models, which I suppose is the telling sign.

Overall, however, I don’t think that I would feel safe moving into this neighborhood at this point. There is just too much gang-activity in the area.

One of the highlights of the neighborhood is KIPP Charter school. Unlike the nearby West Oakland Middle School that receives terrible evaluations when test scores and objective criteria are applied, KIPP has proven results educating its students. It is really a credit to the community.
Pros
  • Inexpensive Housing
  • Close to BART
Cons
  • Gang Problems
  • Worn Out Looking Neighborhood
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 2/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 13, 2011

"Where MacArthur and Warren Meet"

Redwood Heights is an upper middle-class to wealthy neighborhood located right by where Highway 13 and Highway 580 meet. It is just across the way from Crestmont and Leona Heights on its eastern side.

The streets of the neighborhood wind gently through the hills and are lined by 50’s style Prairie homes, with overhanging roofs over wood columned front porches, and walk up steps. This is hillside living, so you get lots of homes that have terraced garages and starewells that curl down to homes below, or walkways up to homes perched up to survey the valley to the south. There are also the kinds of Prairie homes that start as single story structures but then as they move along the incline slide up over the garage.

Although many parents enroll their kids in private school in this area, the local elementary school, Redwood Heights Elementary, is an exceptional public school which is not only well-loved by the community but also gets great test results.

The neighborhood’s two parks, McCrea Park and Avenue Terrace park are solid as well—the second of which is good for letting the kids go for a run or kill some time.

A section of the neighborhood near Avenue Terrace Park is worthy of special note. It beautifully quaint Mission Revival style homes, really well kept with great southwestern looking gardens in the front. There is one home in specific among these that stands out, looking like a peasant’s hut (though not really—kind of a faux peasant’s house) with red clay tiles along the roof, adobe walls and French windows and what looks like a mud chimney atop. Really attractive.

Overall, a very good neighborhood where to raise young kids.
Pros
  • Nice Views
  • Good 50's Style Homes
  • Great Elementary School
Cons
  • Hillside Problems
  • Expensive
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Country Lovers
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • 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 3/5
Jan 09, 2011

"Just So So"

Upper Dimond in Oakland is a firmly middle class neighborhood just to the south of Dimond Park and straddling Oakmore (one of the nicest areas in the Oakland Hills). Upper Dimond looks, for the most part, like a lot of other East Bay neighborhoods—about half the homes date from before World War II and most are California Bungalow type homes with a good portion of smallish Mission Revivals as well. The neighborhood is on a slight incline as it begins climbing up into the hills, but this is not really the kind of hillside living that you get in places like Oakmore—these are mostly gentle grades without any real views to speak of. It is enough of a hill though that many homes take advantage to create walk up steps over garages that you have to drive down into. Its not a bad look for the neighborhood overall, but nothing spectacular.

As you get a bit farther up into the hills the homes, though still on small lots, become just slightly nicer and better kept, but only in barely noticeably ways—slight better kept lawns, nicer stone paving for the walk-ups, slightly newer paint jobs—nothing major, and only barely noticeable.

Sequoia Elementary is the local grammar school which is not only well-loved by local parents but also gets the job done when it comes to test scores. Especially when you compare it to some of the other nearby elementary schools that can’t seem to keep up these standards, Sequoia stands out for its excellence. Unfortunately nearby Bret Harte Middle School does not keep up this standard. Just outside of Upper Dimond, Bret Harte, though well liked by parents and teachers, hasn’t managed to translate this into positive test scores. In fact, it has some of the worst test scores in this area.

There is a little bit of a crime problem here as well—especially as you near the area by the freeway. In the last month, for example, there have been three assaults and a half dozen robberies (all within a block of MacArthur Blvd. on the western end of the neighborhood). This doesn’t make it the most dangerous neighborhood in Oakland, but it is worth noting.

Overall, this is a relatively affordable middle class neighborhood that doesn’t overly impress you either positively or negatively.
Pros
  • Affordable Houses
  • Pleasant Streets
  • Good Elementary School
Cons
  • A Bit of Crime
  • Old Home Problems
  • Bad Middle School
Recommended for
  • Retirees
  • Students
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 08, 2011

"The Tudors in the Oakland Hills"

Crocker Highland is the smallish hillside neighborhood sandwiched between Piedmont (the Crocker Park neighborhood) and Trestle Glen in Oakland. As you might guess from its location, it’s an enclave for the very wealthy. A walk through the neighborhood quickly reveals why this neighborhood would be such a draw for those who can afford to live anywhere. The high percentage of uniquely styled Tudors—4/5 of which date from before WWII--are so beautiful you could charge admission for the viewing (in fact, in 2004 the Berkeley Historical society lead a tour here 8 selected homes charging $30 to participants). It is not just the usual tall pointy roofs and beautiful windows—it is also all the extra touches like the addition of curving stairwells leading to the front doors, quaint little towers (like miniature mission bell rises) and ivy covered walls--that make you want to just sit and admire the aesthetic details of this neighborhood.

Here is a good website that gives you a brief summary of Crocker Heights and Trestle Glen with accompanying pictures. Its made by a local real estate guy who I have never met:

http://homesinoaklandhills.com/2010/02/real-estate-in-trestle-glen-crocker-highlands-oakland-ca/

The location too is a draw—just far enough away from the bustle of Oakland, though not so far that you can’t be there in minutes, makes this a perfect place to live. In addition, something about the hills make you feel as if you are very far away from it all, as if you are living in Swiss Chalet near Lake Geneva, instead of being right at the edge of a huge metropolis. With the rolling evening fogs, and hilly coolness, it really does make you feel as if you are living in a storybook.
Pros
  • Magnificently Beautiful Homes
  • Active Neighborhood Groups
  • Great Schools
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Old Home Preservation Problems
  • Hillside Problems
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jan 02, 2011

"Piedmont Cash and Gas"

These two blocks are not really much of a downtown. It’s just a few businesses—a gas station and a bank. There’s really nothing here worthy of giving it the moniker “downtown,” except that it is the only place with businesses in most of the Piedmont neighborhoods. Really, Piedmont Avenue should be and probably is considered Piedmont’s de facto downtown.
Pros
  • Cash
  • Gas
  • Park
Cons
  • No Supermarket
  • No Quiant Coffee Shop
  • No Restaurants
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
PiedmntREBroker
PiedmntREBroker The writer clearly doesn't live in Piedmont. Yep, downtown is small. It DOES include a grocery and the grocery also has great Peets coffee and a seating bar for informal chas--I even meet clients there!

But yes, it's not as downtown-y as Piedmont Avenue; for many Piedmonters, Montclair, or Lakeshore would be the "downtown" closest to the house--each with plenty of groceries, coffee shops/restaurants, offices and shops.
Jan 03, 2011
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4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 2/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 1/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 1/5
Dec 22, 2010

"Manors, Pond, and Looping Road"

Barely two dozen homes, Tyson Lake is another pocket neighborhood that barely deserves to be called a neighborhood at all. It is little more than a looping road surrounding a tiny lake (oversized pond really). If it has one claim to being its own neighborhood however, it is the prevalence of Colonial style homes on this looping road. Very underrepresented in the Bay Area, these extremely symmetrical manor like houses really compliment the woodsy loop well. They are also interspersed with a smattering of Tudors and Prairie style homes which are far more common.

Another great little area to live, but hardly worth the designation of being its own neighborhood.
Pros
  • Great Big Homes
  • Nice Lake
  • Very Woodsy
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Remote
  • Wildfires and Erosion
Recommended for
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 2/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 1/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 1/5
Dec 22, 2010

"A Little Echo...Echo...Echo"

Echo Canyon can barely be called a neighborhood. Rather, it is just a handful of streets stretching out over the edge of canyon. These narrow streets trickle down towards Mountain View Cemetery hiding beautiful homes whose styles are barely discernable from behind their woody, hilly fronts. This is definitely a beautiful secluded area but it really should just be thought of as a pocket of Central Piedmont.

That said, one of the distinctions of the neighborhood is the presence of beautiful metal street lamps, with glass birdcage like heads—a very satisfying effect, especially in this affluent, woody neighborhood.
Pros
  • Very, Very Woodsy
  • Cool Lamp Posts
  • Beautiful Homes
Cons
  • Narrow, Winding Streets
  • Expensive
  • Wildfires and Erosion
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 1/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Dec 22, 2010

"Woody Views of the Bay"

Much like its neighbor, the Upper Highland neighborhood, Central Piedmont too is an affluent neighborhood with a variety of homes styles. Unlike its neighbor, however, Central Piedmont’s stately Tudors, sprawling Mission style homes and Prairie homes, are built along sloping streets with great views of Oakland and the Bay. This neighborhood is a little less cozy than its neighbor, but well worth it, nevertheless.

Up near Scenic Drive where the grade becomes more precarious, Central Piedmont makes the best use of its space by narrowing the streets to little better than alleyways, and stacks home into multiple stories so that they can give the best views and use of space. For those who love architecture, they will enjoy seeing how the architects manipulate the constructions to overcomes limits in space and tricky slopes.

The streets are very clean, often windy, and very woody. If you like that kind of woodsy living, you will love this piney neighborhood.
Pros
  • Beautiful Architecture
  • Secluded
  • Great Views
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Wildfires and Erosion
  • Out of the Way
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Tourists
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Dec 21, 2010

"Not the Prettiest Neighborhood"

Mosswood is a poor neighborhood just to the northeast of the junction between Highway 24 and 580. Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland branch hospital is on the eastern end of the neighborhood and some of the satellites of the hospital are within the Mosswood neighborhood. (The Surgery Center, for example, is just off Telegraph next to the BART Station.)

This is basically Little Korea, so you will find a number of great Korean joints (including BBQ’s) up and down Telegraph in this area. One that is actually in the Mosswood neighborhood and not in Temescal to the north, is Seoul Gomtang. Of course, you will also find your share of Carls Jr.’s and such in this neighborhood.

The buildings here are also very, very old, most having been built before WWII. These structures are typical of the kinds of structures common to the East Bay—lots of bay windows and red shingled roofs. Some streets are largely bereft of tree cover, and what few trees there are are slim and sickly. This makes the stone surfaces of sidewalk and building seem all the more stark and inhuman. Luckily, many of the homes on inner streets provide lots of green bushes and shady trees to make up for the lack of shading from the sidewalk.

Several organizations and government entities take advantage of the low rents and place their offices here, including the Highway Patrol, the Cal State Auto Association, the Red Cross and the Alameda County Offices. For similar reasons, you will also find several law offices, laundries and repair shops. (Manifesto Bicycles has their shop at the northern end of the neighborhood as well.)

Overall this is not a particularly attractive neighborhood, but the rents are inexpensive and you are close to Temescal.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Close to Temescal
  • Good Public Transportation
Cons
  • Run Down Looking
  • Some Crime
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Dec 21, 2010

"Still Up and Coming"

For the last few years there has been a lot of buzz around this neighborhood—everyone raving about how great it is. I must admit that I am a late-comer to seeing what is so great about Temescal. In fact, until last year I had never even heard of it. I know Telegraph pretty well, and love it down by the Berkeley area, but I must admit that I had never noticed anything particularly special about it between 52nd Street and 40th Street.

All this is only to point out what a blockhead I can sometimes be. Recently, I have finally begun to come around to a fuller understanding of what a really great neighborhood this has become. I am sure that if I were in college now, this would probably be the neighborhood that I would move to. So what is so great about Temescal?

A lot of it has to do with Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood. Many of the chefs that came to cut their teeth on the culinary worldview of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse decided to stick around and open their own places. They did not, however, want to stay so close to Waters and they did not want to pay the kind of rents that restaurants need to in order to stay in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. Instead, they looked for a neighborhood which was both inexpensive and would give them a clientele. Temescal fit the bill.

Temescal now has a number of appealing attractions. To begin, there are, of course, the restaurants. First of all, there is Bake Sale Betty’s on the northern end of the neighborhood—a great place for sandwiches. But you can also find a number of cuisines from around the world. There are a clutch of Korean restaurants, Burma Superstar, Café Eritrea D’Afrique and Asmara (an Ethiopian restaurant).

Although the financial crisis hit the arts community particularly hard, you will still find some remaining gallery and quite a few artists that moved into the area.

Put simply, this is still a pretty hip and trendy neighborhood that continues to evolve.
Pros
  • Great Restaurants
  • Strong Arts Community
  • Affordable Rents
Cons
  • Crime
  • Old Buildings
  • Becoming Gentrified
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 1/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • 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 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Dec 19, 2010

"Good Hillside Neighborhood and Golf Course"

As you might expect given the name of this area, much of this neighborhood is Chabot Park and its Golf Course. The southern border of the neighborhood is with Chabot Lake and you will find a lot of trees and green spaces here. Country lovers are sure to be drawn to it.

That said, there are two residential area in Chabot Park. The first is to the north of the golf course, in an area that could easily have been included with the Sequoyah neighborhood if there were not a natural border formed by Knowland State Park. Ranch homes characterize this area. As you go up the hill farther and farther, you find that the homes which start off as a bit shabby and worn seem to get spruced up and better kept, with the wide lanes near the top being pocked by palms and manicured lawns. The elementary school up by the crest, Grass Valley Elementary is a good school with great parent involvement.

You can also find pockets of streets here that are extremely narrow and curvy and much leafier, but for the most part there is a wide open feel to the neighborhood—the sort of use of space we associate with the large living fifties.

Down near the freeway, there is a bit of the neighborhood that could easily have been included with Sheffield Village across the freeway. The homes here are mostly prairie style homes and Craftsman styles. They are nice and give the neighborhood a very placid, old-fashioned feel. It is the sort of area you grandparents might live.
Pros
  • Nice 50's Style Houses
  • Good Views
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • Out of the Way
  • Wildfires and Erosion
  • Poor Public Transportation
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Dec 18, 2010

"Oakland Style Country Living"

Leona Heights is an upscale neighborhood sandwiched between Merritt College and the Warren freeway. The large million dollar homes of this extremely woodsy neighborhood are nestled away along narrow winding roads. When driving through this neighborhood one feels as if one is out in the country. There are no sidewalks here and at many points the roads narrow to just one lane. Yet as one stares down or up at the huge manor-like homes one has a distinct sense of the wealth of the residents here.

Other than this seclusion, there is not much else to this neighborhood. One senses that residents like their privacy and this out of the way feel.
Pros
  • Secluded
  • Quiet
  • Large Homes
Cons
  • Narrow Roads
  • Wildfires and Erosion
  • Expensive
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Country Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • 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 2/5
Dec 18, 2010

"Merritt College and McMansions"

Just above Mills College in the lower half of the Oakland Hills, you will find Caballo Hills, home to Merritt College. Merritt College is one of the fine community colleges in the Bay Area. They offer a broad range of classes to an eclectic student body.

The neighborhood is also book-ended by two good parks, Leona Park in the southeast and Leona Heights Park in the northwest. These parks are good for hiking offering pleasant views of the Bay (as much of the neighborhood does) but many of the trails are poorly maintained.

The residential areas of the neighborhood are fairly heterogeneous. You get lots of newer McMansions up on the crest of the hill. These are sprawling newer structures resembling many of the condominium complexes that have become a fixture in the gentrification of Oakland. They are at once large, imposing structures while remaining somehow flimsy looking.

Down near the freeway on the southern end of the neighborhood, the streets feel more like a rural area with no sidewalks and dirt driveways. The streets slope along the natural contours of the hill and the homes are similar to those you find in the country—functional and worn.

In the center of the neighborhood, you have tightly packed condos—now exact replicas of the kind of gentrified apartments you see in the city. They stare across at each other like soldiers at attention, blocking out much of the view of the Bay with their perfect and unvarying symmetry. Up the hill from these structures are empty streets, clearly where the developers planned to erect more such structures just as the financial crisis hit.

Overall, this is a great diverse neighborhood in which to live and offers various choices depending on your preference.
Pros
  • Good College
  • Good Views
  • Nice Streets
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Too Much Gentrification
  • No Nightlife
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
4/5
Nov 29, 2010

"A Great Urban Park!"

Joaquin Miller Park, named after the local poet and stretching out to the east of the Warren Freeway just to the south of Piedmont Pines, is a magnificent urban park. Its trails sprawl out over the hillside offering great views of the bay and a good dose of wildlife as well. Though local teens often use it for their impromptu nature parties at night time it is still well worth the visit. In the early morning, its jogging trails get quite a bit of use, and after a good rainfall the cascades drench the park in watery beauty. Lizards scramble across trails, deer stop to stare, and hawks float above. Just go and listen to the wind bending the trees, or watch the foggy curling in for the night.

Unfortunately, as with any urban park, garbage is a bit of a problem and you will find some spots where beer bottles and other signs of urban detritus have been left behind.

At the eastern edge of the park is the Chabot Science center with its exhibitions, planetarium, giant telescope and great science films. In the summer, Chabot is a great place to take that little scientist in the household to help support her fascinations or to try to spark some scientific interests in those little guys and gals who have not yet caught the science bug.
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • 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 2/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Nov 18, 2010
Editors Choice

"Pixar, Poker, Puppets and Pilates"

This is the home of Pixar Studios—that you probably know for their animated films: Toy Story, Wall-E, Bug’s Life and Up. It is definitely the most famous company in Emeryville and one of the most famous of the Bay Area. Many people may be surprised actually to find out that this company is in Northern California and not by Hollywood. But the Bay Area does have a tradition for mixing high-tech and film making—you need only think of George Lucas and Skywalker Ranch on the other side of the Bay.

This is, however, only one part of the bustling commercial neighborhood. It is an area jam-packed with stores and restaurants. If you are into unusual Fifties Diners, I recommend Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café—very good for burgers and fries and for unusual décor. If you like a good gourmet pizza, try Arizmendi Bakery and Pizzeria on San Pablo—its just outstanding stuff.

As far as night spots go, one of the more unusual places is the Oaks Card Club where you can go to have some card sharks take you for all you’re worth. (Actually, there are limits on how much you can bet because of a city ordinance—but they’ll take you up to that limit.) The Oaks Club is actually a real throw back to the early 20th Century when Emeryville, believe it or not—was called by the then governor and future Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren the “dirtiest city in California” and he didn’t mean because of the slaughterhouses that used to inhabit Gaskill. The security guards keep things kosher here, so no need to worry about things getting out of hand.

There are also a handful of gyms in this neighborhood—Alameda Athletic Club, East Bay Badminton Association and East Bay Pilates.

One of the more idiosyncratic stores in the neighborhood is Folkmanis Inc., a toy store featuring hand-crafted puppets.

And if you are looking for someone to cater your wedding and you got the dough, try Paula Leduc—she has her store in the neighborhood as well.

Oh yeah, and the Emeryville city offices are here too—but with so many creative distractions you are unlikely to even notice them as you fork over your taxable legal tender—just the way they like it.
Pros
  • Strong Business Center
  • Good Work Out Areas
  • Lots to Do
Cons
  • Busy
  • On the Ugly Side
  • Some Crime
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • 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 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Childcare 1/5
Nov 18, 2010

"Views of the Bay and the Marina"

Way out in the middle of the bay on the stretch of land that makes up Marina Park, you have a wonderfully lush green space where you can play with kids for fly kites. The sailboats floating on the water make for an enjoyable backdrop for playing with the kids or have a picnic—although it is a bit breezy and chilly at times.

On the stretch of land that connect this park to land, you will find some very nice apartment buildings with great views of the bay. There is also a big 20+ story hotel here is great for those who have business both in San Francisco and in the east by since the area is right by the Bay Bridge. In addition, there is a Chevy’s restaurant that looks out over the greenish lapping waters on the pebble strewn beach. Another great meeting placing for those going into the city.

Another great restaurant is the Hong Kong Villa whose location out by the park simply can’t be beat.
Pros
  • Nice Yachts
  • Good Green Space
  • Good Restaurants
Cons
  • Chilly
  • Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
  • Beach Lovers
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 1/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 1/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Nov 12, 2010

"Unsafe Feeling"

In college, I came to check out a room for rent in this tiny neighborhood. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I never actually got out of my car to check it out. I just did not feel safe in this neighborhood. It has a very run down look to it and the fenced in yards, barred windows and strangely curtained windows just make one feel a bit uncomfortable. It just feels like a high-crime neighborhood. I am sure that this does not reveal good things about by middle-class prejudices.

Looking at the objective data of crime statistics for the area I see that I am half right and half wrong. There have not been any recent murders in this tiny nook of a neighborhood, but assaults and burglaries are apparently a daily occurrence. So, even though I find the architecture in this area really interesting—it is not unlike many of the Berkeley neighborhoods that I love—I simply can’t recommend it.

That said, I am sure there are some brave, good hearted souls who will take advantage of the very attractive rents and have no real hassles. It is a bit too urban for my tastes however.
Pros
  • Affordable Rents
  • Close to Commercial Emeryville
  • Close to Public Transportation
Cons
  • Crime
  • Rundown Houses
  • Dirty Streets
SylviaY
SylviaY This particular "review" is outdated, however I lived in the neighborhood during the time the "review" was written/posted.

From reading several "reviews" by NightOwlnOrinda, on SEVERAL North Oakland neighborhoods, it seems that this poster is on a one-man/woman, negativity smear campaign.

Golden Gate/Gaskill is a WONDERFUL, diverse neighborhood with friendly neighbors who are involved with the community/neighborhood and each other.
Aug 15, 2014
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4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 2/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 1/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Oct 29, 2010

"Watching Over Oakland"

High up the hills east of Merriwood and Montclair, is Forestland, the neighborhood that hugs Grizzly Peak Blvd. and stares down on the East Bay from a-high. The 1991 Oakland Firestorm destroyed much of this area as it did the neighborhoods to the north, but, as always, disaster is also an opportunity for rebuilding. The roads just off Grizzly Peak Road reflect this opportunity. Many large homes with unusual contemporary architecture have risen up at the summits of Forestland. They are nice beautiful homes and have great views, but the snaking road that pass their garage decks are very tight. In addition, the chances of fire in the area are always strong so that is definitely something to consider when deciding on the area.

One of the great things of living in Forestland, however, is that you are always close to nature. Often, in fact, your home will face out towards an area that is wholly undeveloped, where there are wind blown trees cresting the mountain range’s top and boulders cropping up here and there. For those that are outdoorsy types, they will love the many opportunities to take hikes in the area. One such place is the Robert Sibley Volcanic Nature Preserve just to the east. Residents can take to this to trail to get their exercise and look at the unusual rock formations that exist here.

A handful of businesses also make their homes up in this area, though some of them are work from home type deals. In many places construction is underway, so parts of the neighborhood always look like they are not yet complete. With construction you will also get a certain amount of noise. One business that is worth noting is Hill Swim and Tennis Club in the far southeastern corner of the neighborhood.

Anyone planning to live in this area, however, should be aware that with hillside living like this, comes extra work and extra worries. Rock slides, mud slides, flooding and erosion are particular concerns for residents as hillside homes are much more prone to shifting than home on flatter spots. Fire is also a concern of any one living in the Oakland Hills as well, as such types of fire tend to have a cyclical component. Wildlife can also add to the hassles. Living up in this area you should expect a certain amount of deer and rodents, and even the more than occasional visits from raccoons and skunks—especially to make a mess of trash day. In addition, be aware that this will add quite a bit of wear and tear to your automobile, as constantly forcing it to go up and down grades wears on the machinery as well. Not to mention that every time you need to go to the store, you will not only spend extra time getting there and be taking up extra gas as well That said the relative seclusion and great views make for a wonderful spot if you can hand the hassles.

Rents vary a great deal, getting progressively higher as you head farther south where many of the larger rental homes are. So, in the northern section it is possible to find a studio for less than $1,000 while farther south you are likely to need more than $3,000 for a three bedroom.
Pros
  • Woody, Hillside Neighborhood
  • Great Views
  • Hiking Nearby
Cons
  • Wildfires and Erosion
  • Narrow, Windy Roads
  • Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • 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 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 1/5
  • 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
Aug 28, 2010

"A View from the Hill"

Panoramic Hill is a favorite area for those who love 20th century architecture, history and hiking. This beautiful little neighborhood was designed by an editor of the Californian in 1904, but has remained largely under the radar for those who do not know the area well. On the neighborhoods western edge you have Berkeley’s International House and the traffic circles of Piedmont Avenue. But as you get away from the frat houses that rise up in the shadow of Memorial Stadium, you come across one of the most compelling neighborhoods in Berkeley.

Panorama Hill is a collection of the dozen streets that web the hillside just east of campus. In itself, this might not seem that amazing, but, as Berkeley’s architecture students will tell you, the majority of these homes were designed by architecture greats like Frank Lloyd Wright, Julia Morgan (of William Randolph Hearst Fame) and Bernard Maybeck (Bay Area Favorite and master builder of craftsman style homes). In fact, the architecture building which many non-architects think is the ugliest building on the Berkeley campus—Wurster Hall—is named after an architect that designed houses here. Even if you are not an architecture student, the houses are interesting enough in themselves to be worth a tour—as many people do.

The streets on Panorama Hill are also terribly narrow, making them a fire hazard and difficult to negotiate when garbage trucks or fire-engines come across each other. Fire is, in fact, one of the greatest dangers to this neighborhood. Residents are responsible for keeping their properties clear of brush and other fire hazards.

There are also a series of steps that connect the neighborhood and make for a great hiking area. You can actually go all the way into Tilden Park if you are willing to take the hike.

The view from these homes is usually quite amazing, giving you a true panorama of the entire SF Bay. Also the cool sea breezes keep the area cool year round.
Pros
  • Beautiful Views
  • Historic Homes
  • Very Woodsy
Cons
  • Wildfires and Mudslides
  • Erosion Problems
  • Narrow Roads
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Aug 08, 2010

"Barbary Lane, Maupin Fans!"

Armistead Maupin, the author of Tales from the City, made Macondray Lane when he based Barbary Street on it. This is a great little spot to visit if you are a fan of that book or the city that was based on it. It’s a little walk behind the homes in the area that gives you a sense of the many backyards and gardens that are common to many parts of the city. If you can’t afford to live in one of these swanky SF spots—which most of us aren’t, of course—then this give you a sense of what you are missing out on.

Its very short, with no cars, and it is really quaint and beautiful. It is nice that they keep it open to the public and you will find some nice views around but it shouldn’t be a destination in itself. I don’t think I would like having people traipsing about in my backyard. However, I suppose if I had the chance of living here, I wouldn’t be complaining too much about that.
Pros
  • Lovely Trail Gardens
  • Literary Fame
Cons
  • Too Short
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Aug 08, 2010

"Ina Coolbrith and the Ramps"

Talyor Street is a long largely residential street but for me it is almost all about the Ina Coolbrith Park and the Vallejo Ramps. Both are on Russian Hill by the corner with Vallejo. You can hike up them admire the great architecture get a bit of green in the middle of you city living. Ina Coolbrith is a small park but the stonework of the steps makes them well worth the visit.

Farther south along Taylor in the Nob HIll area you also get some pretty good eateries like the Nob Hill Cafe, the Rue St. Jacques and the Vetticello Cafe all great places to go for a bite. The Nob Hill and the Vetticello are great for pasta and wine, with Nob Hill being the better value and the V being more of a higher end place.

I'm not as big of a fan of the Huntington Park as I am of the Huntington Hotel, but that could be a good place to go as well.
Pros
  • Great Views
  • Beautiful Park
  • Lovely Homes
Cons
  • Tourists
  • Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 1/5
Aug 08, 2010

"Alice Marble, Tennis Courts and a Great View"

For me, Greenwich Street is all about the tennis courts and the great view. I don't know if this street picks up in another spot in SF--I'm sure it does. But the stretch of it that is on Russian Hill where Alice Marble park is and the tennis courts is just fantastic both for living and for playing tennis. Of course it is hard keeping your eye on the ball when you have such a gorgeous view to distract you. (It's not really the sort of park that you would go to for anything other than tennis though. There are not a lot of great trails or anything like that.)

This would also be a great place to live. Just a little bit secluded from the rest of the city while still being pretty much right in the middle of things.
Pros
  • Great Views
  • Nice Tennis Courts
  • Pretty Older Buildings
Cons
  • Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Trendy & Stylish
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 1/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 1/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 1/5
Aug 01, 2010

"Fun Even Fully Clothed"

Most people from outside of the city know O’Farrell Street in the Tenderloin for O’Farrell’s, the strip club. But there is much more to the dressed up part of the street. It is, first of all, one of those streets like Geary, that feels more like a street in an east coast city than a windy, hilly SF street—at least near Market which is where I know it best. You have lots of hotels and four to five story buildings with fire-escapes right along the façade. I’m sure you must have some people who live up in these old apartments and from my time in apartment living of this kind, I bet they have noisy plumbing and limited privacy because of thin walls.

You do find some pretty good eateries here. I can think of two that deserve special mention—a vegetarian place and strange lounge called Bourbon and Branch. It is modeled as postmodern speak-easy, complete with a secret password you must utter to get a seat at the booth you reserved. It’s more than a little pretentious, but in a really kind of intriguing way. It is a little like that snobby friend or roommate you had in college that at first rubbed you the wrong way but that later really grew on you—the one that was fun for parties because you never knew exactly what he or she was going to say. Well that is what a trip to Bourbon and Branch is like.

There is also a good music venue here--in kind of a western cowboy opera sort of a style.

As to living on this street? Most of it is well inside of the Tenderloin, which means its like OZ—fun to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there permanently.
Pros
  • The Strip Club?
  • Dive Bars
  • The Wild Side
Cons
  • Crime
  • Dirty
  • Old Buildings
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Hipsters
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jul 11, 2010

"Better as a Short Cut than a Place to Live"

Taylor Boulevard is the major artery that will take you from Contra Costa Blvd. up and over the hill in Pleasant Hill and deliver you to Lafayette at Acalanes High School. It is a major artery that many people use to avoid the 680 and save time on their commutes into SF. Taylor picks up where Willow Pass leaves off at Contra Costa Blvd. In this early section you are taken behind Diablo Valley College. You will find several nice office buildings here housing things like auto-insurance companies and adoption agencies. There are also some really nice middle-class homes. As Taylor gets beyond this point, the borders become increasingly the fences of homes with no outlet directly onto the highway. Homes no longer tend to have yards facing out onto Taylor and this is a good thing, since commuters are speeding along this highway at all speeds. You should be careful however, because police officers like to set up speed traps along Taylor. I have personally been caught once.

As Taylor heads up into the hills you get fewer and fewer houses right next to the road and you even get a scenic view spot where people sometimes park—probably to hike in the daytime, but it might be a make-out spot for all I know. There are lots of good neighborhoods off from Taylor Road, but I don’t think it would be a good spot to live in since it is so busy.
Pros
  • Good Short Cut
  • Leafy
Cons
  • Crazy Drivers
  • Traffic Noise
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • 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 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 5/5
Jul 11, 2010

"Good Neigbhorhood South of Highway 4"

Alhambra Avenue is the main thoroughfare that runs along the western edge of Martinez mostly in a south to north direction. North of the John Moor Parkway (Highway 4) Alhambra is mostly a commercial street with supermarkets, laundries, restaurants, gas stations and the like. After you pass Alhambra High School heading north, you get a smattering of working class houses as you head into Old Martinez. These tend to be rather small and old and some have been converted to apartment buildings. Alhambra ends near the Amtrack station near the courthouses. The neighborhood gets a little dicey around here although there is a heavy police presence.

Alhambra High School is a touch on the mediocre side having few major problems but few outstanding achievements. This northern part of the avenue is a bit run down and has a bit of an urban, worn out feeling to it. I haven’t actually checked but I would assume that rents at the local apartments are reasonable and that it would be a good place to live if you are looking for an inexpensive dwelling located near the Amtrack station.

South of the highway, Alhambra has a much more open suburban feeling. You get a fair number of open hills, and there is a hiking trail just north of the freeway where some people go to jog. The houses in this section are nice middle to upper-middle class homes laid out in little neighborhoods on the edges of the hills. Just as Alhambra comes to an end, you have a pleasant strip mall with a supermarket, drugstore, Starbucks, Burger King, gas stations, weight loss center, and some nice though unspectacular local restaurants. On the other side of Taylor Blvd. Alhambra becomes Pleasant Hill Road as the avenue enters Pleasant Hill.

This southern section of Alhambra is a very nice place to live, just far enough off the beaten path to offer a person a bit of peace and calm, but just close enough to Pleasant Hill to offer all the conveniences of a suburban city life.
Pros
  • Good Short Cut
  • Nice South of Highway 4
  • Lots of Stores
Cons
  • Ugly Strip Malls
  • Busy Traffic
  • Mediocre School
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Country Lovers
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 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • 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 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jul 07, 2010

"A Bit Dangerous Around the Train Station"

Marina Vista Ave. runs parallel to the Amtrack trrain tracks, taking you from Old Martinez to the Benicia Freeway. In old Old Martinez, Marina Vista begins with three blocks of very run down looking homes and apartments. These give way to a park right by the Martinez Amtrack station. Despite the nearby courthouse and the heavy police presence in the area, one does not feel safe in this area. When you use the Amtrack stations here, you are often watched carefully by vagrants who seem an ever present part of the area. I would not want to be alone here at night.

As Marina Vista leaves the city ,it passes the many chemical processing plants of the Shell Refinery. Unless you enjoy examining machinery, you are likely to find this are very run-down and unpleasant. It is certainly nowhere you want to find your self after dark..
Pros
  • The Amtrak Station
Cons
  • Rundown Look by Station
  • Terrible for Parking
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • 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 3/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jul 07, 2010

"The Court House"

Court Street in Martinez is exactly what it sounds like. It is the four block stretch where the courthouse and the county jail are located. There are no actual houses on court street. Only office buildings and the old storefronts that look out onto the court. Court Street is filled with lawyers and police throughout the day, with the police remaining into the night. You also have the parking lot for the people who work at the city offices. Pretty much that is it.
Pros
  • City Offices
  • The Amtrak Station
  • A Stopped in Time Feel
Cons
  • Sketchy Types
  • A Bit Ugly
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • 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 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jul 03, 2010

"Omellets, Chainsaws and a Big Refinery"

Howe Road has a few apartment buildings on its southern portion, but it is mostly a good place to go to get home improvement supplies. Howe Road runs north parallel to railroad tracks (on the eastern side). On the western side, there are a series of two to three story office buildings with nice newly paved parking lots and young trees. On its northern end, you will find places to buy carpets, lawn mowers, power saws, mechanical tools and lumber. You can also find auto repair shops, sporting goods and specialized work shoes. In short, this is a big destination for beefy pick-up driving guys who know how to make caste iron bend to their will.

At the end of Howe Road you will find Pegg’s Western Grill. If you love eating your morning omelet while staring out a refinery, this is definitely the place for you. Beware though, every so often you may have to shelter in place while one of the many local chemical plants blows a cloud of toxic fumes over the area. I guess that’s why property values are so reasonable in Martinez.
Pros
  • Good Hardware/Construction Equipment
Cons
  • The Refinery
  • Rough Looking Area
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Jun 30, 2010

"Back Way to DVC"

Viking Drive is only about a mile long. It is named after the mascot of Diablo Valley College, the community college that Viking Drive passes by on its way up to Morello Avenue. Viking Blvd starts right across from the entrance to the Sun Valley Mall near to Macy’s. For the first too blocks, Viking is your average middle class residential street with a fair number of trees lining the very walkable sidewalks.

As you get passed this early residential section, however, you come upon two schools. On the northern side you will see Diablo Valley College, the very good community college that serves as the main feeder school for the University of California, Berkeley. It has a wide range of classes and is considered a good inexpensive way of getting your AA or transferring to a local four year (it also transfers a large section of its student body to Davis and Cal State Hayward as well as Cal). On the southern side of the street, you will see College Park High School, which supplies many of the students that go to Diablo Valley College.

These two schools create a lot of traffic for Viking Drive, which is one of the drawbacks of this street. This is especially the case on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings which seem to be the peek times for DVC’s classes. Although the front of the school is technically on the other side of DVC by Golf Club Road, this side still gets a lot of traffic.

Once you get passed the school, you will find even nicer, upper middle class homes but within two blocks Viking Drive comes to an end at Morello Way. If it were not for the school traffic these would make for really nice place to live, but all the cars going by every weekday morning could really get old fast. On the other hand, you would have access to the tennis courts and tracks of the schools, and could be close enough to walk to either one of these, or even to the Sun Valley Mall any time you wanted.
Pros
  • Leafy
  • Nice Homes
  • Clean Street
Cons
  • Bland
  • Slightly Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Jun 24, 2010

"A Little Connector"

This is not much of a street. It’s main reason for being is just to connect Golf Club Road where we find Diablo Valley College to Chilpancingo Parkway, one of the major arteries in Pleasant Hill. On the east side of the road you have the back of K-Mart and an entrances to the shopping area that faces in the opposite directions. On the west side you have Camelback Road the many apartment complexes that characterize this area.
Pros
  • Good Supermarket Area
Cons
  • Not Much There
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 1/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jun 24, 2010

"Solid Though Predictable Chain Store Strip"

Fitzgerald Drive in Pinole has all of the chain restaurants and stores you could want outside of an actual mall (for that you have to cross over the freeway to the nearby Hilltop Mall). You won’t find Sears here, but you will find Best Buy, PetFood Express, Michaels and a good place to buy Bridal Dresses. You will also find an assortment of chain restaurants like Taco Bell, Burger King and a Panda Express.

The highlight for me is the In-N-Out Burger. Its location just off I-80 makes it a great stop if you are coming back into town from the Sacramento Area—it’s a good place to get a bite to eat and gas and keep on going. There is also a Motel 6, so it’s a cheap place to stay if you are visiting Alameda county and want to avoid staying in an urban area. Pinole, overall, is a solid working class neighborhood that is a lot like the shopping area on this street, its okay, but doesn’t really offer any terribly interesting surprises.
Pros
  • Lots of Stores
  • Good Fast Food Restaurants
  • Easy Freeway Access
Cons
  • Predictable Chain Stores
  • Crowded
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • 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
Jun 24, 2010

"A Good Residential Street, but a Bit Too Busy"

Marin enters Albany at Tulare. Overall this is a very nice though overly busy residential street with nice, well kept middle class houses. Its got lots of trees and wide sidewalks, perfect for bicyclists or walking. There is a Montessori school at Carmel, which is easy to miss because it just looks like a regular house from the outside. The Albany Library and the Solano Community Church are just past the BART overpass at Masonic. There is another church at the corner of Stannage. There’s an ARCO and a Shell station at the corner with San Pablo.

Past San Pablo, Marin takes on a different character having on a Meridian and more of a barren, automobile heavy feel. Just past San Pablo there are offices and a fire station on the northern side and a long empty lot on the southern side. Just after this Marin merges into and becomes Buchanon.
Pros
  • Pleasant Middle Class Homes
  • Nice Weather
Cons
  • Boring
  • Busy Traffic
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • 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 2/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jun 19, 2010

"A Good Short Cut"

Appian Way in El Sobrante is mostly a pretty average residential road. It is largely used by commuters trying to avoid going through Berkeley to get down into the Lamorinda or Walnut Creek area. Appian drops right down the 80 so it is very convenient. Right by the Freeway you find an extensive shopping and dine area (although this is technically in Pinole and not El Sobrante). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend living here, but it is a good short cut.
Pros
  • Good Short Cut
  • Nice Shopping Area
  • Good Fast Food Restaurants
Cons
  • Remote
  • A Little Bland
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Country Lovers
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • 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 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jun 18, 2010

"A Great Short Cut To Highway 80"

Valley View Road is the first major artery you can take from San Pablo Dam Road to the 80 Freeway. If you are one of the many that use San Pablo Dam road to commute into the Walnut Creek area and to avoid the traffic in Alameda County, then you probably already know that you can take Valley View until it changes into Appian Way and then take it down until your reach the 80 in Pinole.

Although the traffic on this road makes it a bit undesirable as a residential street, there are some okay houses here and on the streets that come off Valley View. El Sobrante is a pretty overlooked area (many people in the Bay Area either don’t know it exists or if they do couldn’t point it out to you on a map), but this is part of its charm.

Valley View also has lots of other attractions for those who live near it (although very few that would bring anyone here from outside El Sobrante). De Anza High School is located here (it is a bit run down looking from the outside but seems to have a good sports program from what I read in the paper). In addition, there are also gas stations, a tattoo parlor, a Starbucks, a florist, and a funeral home—although I must admit that I’ve never actually stopped here to check any of these out. (The place to go if you are driving through is Fitzgerald Blvd off of Appian Way just before the freeway. There are far better choices in terms of food and atmosphere there. Although you will also run into a much bigger crowd.)
Pros
  • Nice Short Cut
  • Close to the Freeway
Cons
  • Weak School
  • No Night Life
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Country Lovers
3/5 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 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 2/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jun 18, 2010

"More Like Alameda County than Contra Costa"

Although Richmond is technically a part of Contra Costa County, it really feels much more like an Alameda County city. It is far more urban than suburban, it tends to be more working class than middle class, and it tends to have higher crime stats than most places in Contra Costa. It also has a view of the Bay whereas most of the rest of Contra Costa is inland. The 580 runs through it, whereas the 680 runs through all the rest of Contra Costa. It tends to stay cooler than most of inland Contra Costa. The cost of living is lower than in Contra Costa as well. Richmond is also the final stop on the end of the line that runs up through Alameda county, where as most of the BART stops in Contra Costa come on a different line.

Put simply, Contra Costa County should cede Richmond to Alameda County and Alameda County should cede Dublin to Contra Costa County. That would make both counties more consistent. Of course, the same argument could be made in reverse, I guess—maybe we don’t want to have a county that is too much alike.
Pros
  • Affordable Houses
  • Close to the City
  • Good Transportation System
Cons
  • Dangerous
  • Drab Looking
  • Weak School
Recommended for
  • Singles
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Jun 16, 2010

"Good Shortcut"

San Pablo Dam Road is a way that locals take when they want to go from the Lamorinda or Walnut Creek area over to the Richmond or North Bay area without running into the traffic in the Berkeley/Bay Bridge area. Its really little more than a country road as you head over into Orinda. The San Pablo Dam Reservoir is a good place to go if you want to boat or have some outdoor fun.
Pros
  • Good Short Cut
  • Nice Articifial Lake Area
  • Very Leafy
Cons
  • Crazy Drivers
  • Isolated
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Country Lovers
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
Jun 16, 2010

"Great for Recreation by the Bay"

Marina Boulevard has a special place in my heart because it is where I got married. We had our guests stay at the Double Tree Hotel right there on the bay and we got married in their court yard right outside. It was a nice little ceremony with just about 30 close friends. Instead of a priest we had a Captain from the Hornblower’s Cruises marry us and then afterwards we all went aboard the one of their ships for the reception and cruised the Bay for the ceremony. It was the highlight of the year for people at my wife’s work.

Even if you’re not planning on getting married, you should try going on one of these Hornblowers cruises around the bay.

Caesar Chavez Park is right there as well. It is a great place to take kids on the weekends to fly kites. You get that strong shore breeze there and you can hang out and have fun. If you are a fan of the writer Dave Eggers, you will remember that this is where he takes his brother Toph in a Heartbreaking Work… Check it out!
Pros
  • The Park
  • Bay Views
  • Nearby Restaurants
Cons
  • Chilly
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
2/5 rating details
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
Jun 08, 2010

"Nothing Much Here Except for a Ground Level View from the East Bay"

The I-80 Frontage Road in Emeryville is the road that runs along the shore of SF Bay. Right where it starts at Powell Street, you will find a really tall Hilton that must have a great view of the bay. Right next to the hotel is a really well located Chevy’s Restaurant that has a really great view of the green lapping waters of the Bay. You can see seagulls out the windows while you eat. Its location right on the other side of the Bay Bridge and right at the junction of several freeways makes it an ideal meeting place.

The rest of the Frontage Road takes you east into Berkeley following the curvature of the coast. If there is a crash on the I-80 that stops everything up it is a good way of getting into Berkeley, but is otherwise unremarkable.
Pros
  • Nice View of Bay
Cons
  • Nothing Around
  • Freeway Noise
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Jun 06, 2010

"Best City Just to the East of the Contra Costas"

Marchbanks Drive is a big horseshoe that starts and ends at Ygnacio Valley Road. At its eastern inlet you find all of the more interesting stuff when it comes to outdoor activity. (This eastern inlet is also where my own personal veterinarian is—Valley Vet. They are really great.) You will find a great skate park here—an actual place skateboarders can go to skate and not get kicked out because that is the very purpose of it. After this, there is the edge of Heather Farms Park right where the community pool is. If you live in the area and haven’t been there, this is definitely the park to go to. On the western side of the street you will find the Diablo Golf Course with their very mediocre restaurant, the Greenery. It’s a nice sprawling golf course that cuts through the nearby condos.

As Marchbanks Drive curls around you will find various very nice relatively new homes (maybe built in the early 90’s) with large pools. As you start to come back around to Ygnacio Valley you will find lots and lots of well kept and probably overpriced apartment buildings. (It is generally pretty expensive to rent in Walnut Creek.) These apartments would be especially great for anyone who works at Muir Hospital, since that is right across the street. So if you’re a nurse there, you could hardly find a better commute.
Pros
  • Great for Shopping
  • Relatively Affordable Homes
  • Nice Apartments
Cons
  • A Little Noisy
  • A Bit Bland
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
3/5 rating details
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
Jun 01, 2010

"Major Freeway into the Caldecutt"

Highway 24 is the main freeway people from the Lamorinda and Contra Costa areas use to get into the East Bay and into the city. For this reason and because of there are only three tunnels in the Caldecott. You always have one heading in each direction with the middle tunnel opening to aid rush hour traffic in which ever direction needs it most. However, this means that between the hours of 7 and 10 am and 3 to 7 pm, the traffic on this section of freeway is horrendous. It is so bad that many people try to use the off ramp at Gateway Blvd. to skip ahead. Although this is often successful, you will have to incur the wrath of your fellow commuters. If you are going into northwest Orinda, you might get off at Fishranch Road and the take the back way up, but beware of the fog in late afternoons and early morning that make Wildcat Canyon a deadly road at those times.

At least when you are stuck heading towards the Caldecott, you will have the green Orinda Hills to stare at. Often late in the day, the fog rolls down over them in wonderful display of nature’s serenity. Just what you need after a long day at work.
Pros
  • Quickest Way Into Berkeley
  • Pretty Scenery
Cons
  • Backed up During Rush Hour
  • Tricky Off Ramp
3/5 rating details
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 5/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 1/5
May 31, 2010

"It's Only a Sign on the Freeway"

Gateway Boulevard in Orinda exists only as an exit from Highway 24. When you actually get off there, however, what you find is Wilder Road—or at least the part of Wilder Road that is on the northern half of the freeway. There are no houses here. It is basically a frontage road with lots of trees on the side of a hill. What you will find, however, is the Cal Shakespeare festival. If you have never been here to see a Shakespeare play, it is well worth the experience. Be sure, however, to bring a blanket—this is an outdoor amphitheatre with the Orinda hills as a back drop. Although it only opens in the summer, the plays are held at dusk and as the afternoon wears on, the fog and cold rolls down onto you. The wind will chill your bones, so get some hot cocoa at intermission and be sure to come with someone you’d like to cuddle with.
Pros
  • Woody
  • The Shakespeare Festival
Cons
  • Nothing But Trees
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • 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 1/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 1/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
May 30, 2010

"The Place to Shop for Cars or Get Home Improvement Supplies"

Concard Avenue starts at Contra Costa Blvd. right at the onramp and offramp to the 680 freeway. Just past the freeway, on the northern side is the Buchanan Field Golf Course and Airport. On the southern side auto dealerships followed by stores such as a Trader Joe’s and a Starbucks. On the other side of the bridge you have a Honda and Saturn dealership followed by public storage, a Big O tires and the Floor Store. On the northern side is a home improvement center. After the 242, there are a Chili’s restaurant, an hotel, an auto dealership and a dentist’s offices on the northern side. On the southern side there is Cal State extension, a recycling store, an auto repair shop. Then Concord Ave. ends at Adobe Street.
Pros
  • Good for Buying a Car
  • Freeway Access
  • Close Mall
Cons
  • Ugly Commercial Road
  • Noisy
  • Always Busy/Traffic
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 1/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
May 26, 2010

"A Touch of Continent Street Planning in the East Bay"

The Circle is one of the coolest spots in Berkeley. It is a European style traffic circle right at the spot where all the streets in this northern part of town take a 45 degree turn to the Northwest. The major artery that marks this geographical shift, Marin avenue comes right down out of the Berkeley hills in a southwesterly direction right into the Circle and then turns just past the Circle in a westerly direction. A handful of other streets feed off of this knot in the Berkeley map and head out from it like the spokes of a wheel.

Just to complicate matters even further, the Circle is on an elevated mound. Below it, heading in a northerly direction is another major Berkeley artery, Solano avenue. It passes in a tunnel beneath the Circle and then turns and heads in a north westerly direction towards Albany.

At the center of the Circle is a trickling fountain and donut of green grass both of which are very tempting in the summer though I’ve only seen someone succumb to it once in years of passing it.
Pros
  • Very Green and Grassy
  • Berkeley Atmosphere
Cons
  • Its Just a Circle
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
May 23, 2010

"Good Alternate to Moraga Way"

Glorietta Blvd. is a major artery that takes you from Moraga Way a little ways before Miramonte HS all the way into Lafayette. The local residents use it but it is also a good short cut or alternate root if you want to avoid Moraga Way, like around 3 pm when the High School lets out and you get a lot of traffic. Its also a good back way up to the Rheem Theatre or the area around Campolindo HS. After the Rheem turn off Glorietta head up and starts to wind and turn before heading down into Lafayette, where it turns into Acalenes Road.

Its got a little bit too much traffic for my taste but the houses are all nicely kept and it is a typically clean neighborhood for this area.
Pros
  • Nice Shortcut
  • Nice Homes
  • Leafy
Cons
  • Crazy Speeders
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 1/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
May 23, 2010

"The "Posh" Area of Berkeley"

The Berkeley Hills area of Berkeley is as close as you get to a “posh” area in Berkeley. This is where you find the superstar professors from Cal and the very well off. The streets are narrow and the houses have deceiving entrances often stretching down over the hill or up away from the street. They are not quite mansions but many are really beautiful works of architecture. The view of the Bay is great and the cooling coastal climate ensures that you will never get the scorching temperatures from just over the Contra Costas.

This was the area that was hit hard by the Berkeley fire of the early 90’s where several people lost their houses (along with some novels and other scholarly research as well). So many of he houses are new. Fire remains a fairly constant fear on these narrow tree packed streets.

You are just in reach of Berkeley if you want culture and nightlife. SF is only twenty minutes away or so. Tilden Park is just outside of the borders of the neighborhood if you want hiking and nature. In other words, its got just about everything you could want in the East Bay. One of the best neighborhoods around, if you can afford it. (You won’t find too many rentals here and when you do they will be distinctly beyond the reach of the student type Victorians in other parts of Berkeley.)
Pros
  • Great Bay Views
  • Woody
  • Nice Homes
Cons
  • Wildfires
  • Expensive
  • Narrow Roads
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 1/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
May 23, 2010

"A Cute Litte Devil of a Street"

Camino del Diablo is way up El Toyonal in what used to be called Red Hill. Ironically, it is past the little tiny street, Camino del Cielo although I think that technically Camino del Cielo might be at a higher elevation whereas Camino del Diablo drops (appropriately down) from El Toyonal. It is a cute curving street with great views of the valley just north of Orinda. At nights its gets foggy and all that. There are some unusual houses and its very curvy. It meets up with El Toyonal right where El Toyonal breaks into the open plain.
Pros
  • Great Views
  • Pretty Houses
  • Woody
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Hillside Problems
  • Lots of Wildlife
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
May 22, 2010

"The Best Area for Students in all of Berkeley"

This was the area that me and my friends wanted to live when we were students at Cal. The leafy though somewhat flat streets are perfectly located just far enough away from campus where you can make it there quickly but not feel like you are constanly in the Berkeley madness at every second. The cafes in the neighborhood and the unique restaurants make it a great place to go to study and hang out on the weekends and, because you are so close to campus you can hop down to Telegraph for a book for music or for the street fair. If you want to go hiking you just follow Ashby up to Tilden park. If you want to go into the City you just follow College down to the Rockridge BART.

Furthermore, rent-control has kept this area relatively affordable for students and the large Victorians make it ideal for students to live with three or four housemates.
Pros
  • Leafy Streets
  • Nice Houses
  • Good Restaurants
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Competitive Market
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students
NightOwlnOrinda
NightOwlnOrinda I love Elmwood as my review shows, but the photo of Sather Gate above is not in the Elmwood neighborhood. It is right at the edge of Campus which is actually South Berkeley. Just wanted to make sure people dont' expect that Elmwood is right next to campus. It is a good 15 to 30 minutes walk from campus, but not not right next door.
Nov 04, 2012
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4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
May 22, 2010

"Main Drag in Moraga"

This is the main drag in Moraga, which takes you from the Moraga Shopping Center all the way past Moraga's outstanding high school, Campolindo, all the way to central Lafayette. Because this is one of the two main connections leading to and from Moraga it is always busy. At rush hour it is near packed an since it is only one lane in each direction it can get pretty solidly backed up if there is construction or an accident.

Just about every non-residential feature in Moraga is either on this road or just off of it, from Saint Mary's College to the Rheem Theatre. There are all theusual subjects when it comes to supermarkets, restaurants and hardwarestores. Besides the Taco Bell, Burger King and Jack in the Box, the local restaurants are fairly forgettable and one of the pizza places is so bad you are better off getting pizza from the supermarket.

Moraga Commons Park, however is the best park in the Lamorinda area (with the exception of the Lafayetter Reservoir, which I don't count as a park since it is so much more). Its got great play areas for little kids and some nice running trails for people of all ages.
Pros
  • Great Stores
  • Good High School
  • Main Drag Out and In
Cons
  • Bad During Rush Hours
  • Windy
  • Noisy
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 1/5
May 22, 2010

"Major Residential Artery Leading to Sleepy Hollow and Charles Hill"

This is the major resdiential artery in this section of Orinda. It takes you up from Camino Pablo to the Sleepy Hollow and Charles Hill area. Because so many people live off of this road it gets a little busy during rush hour as people race to work and from work. People also tend to drive pretty quickly on this road which can be a bit dangerous and a touch noisier than most residents of Orinda are used to. As with other places in Orinda the houses are beautiful and well kept.

You get a good view of the Orinda Golf Course in the early sections of this road. Eventually as you get into the upper reaches of this long road, it turns into Diablo View Road--although by this time you are well into the Charles Hill area.
Pros
  • Leafy
  • Beautiful Homes
  • Main Residential Artery
Cons
  • Speeding Cars
  • Stray Deer
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 1/5
May 03, 2010

"Short Cut to Richmond"

Many commuters use this route to and from Richmond to avoid the traffic one comes across if one goes through the Berkeley area and tries to go through the Caldecutt. This road goes by one of Orinda's grammer schools, Wagner Ranch and also goes by the reservoir where there is boating etc. but it is mostly a relatively unpopulated road.

It moves along at nice clip most days but is more functional than beautiful.
Pros
  • Nice Shortcut
Cons
  • Traffic
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 1/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
May 01, 2010

"The Very Average Sun Valley Mall"

This is a very long boulevard that parallels the 680 in a north south direction. It is very ugly, busy and noisy in most spots but has lots and lots of stores, making it a necassary evil when it comes to living in the valley east of the 680. It is not pleasant to drive on so you should only get off at your appropriate exit. But if you're looking for clothes or for hardware or just about anything else you will probably find it here.

In Pleasant Hill this is the location of the Sun Valley Mall. A pretty run of the mill 1980's style mall with all the usual amenities you would expect--chain restaurants, a Sears, a JCPenny etc. Nothing particulalary interesting about being here but it is definitely functional. You can buy clothes, eat do all the sorts of typical suburban things that you can anywhere else in the US suburbans.
Pros
  • Good Hillside Homes
  • Good Schools
  • Relatively Affordable
Cons
  • Ugly Around the Mall
  • Fast Food Culture
  • Very Busy
Recommended for
  • Students
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
May 01, 2010

"Best Residential View in Orinda"

This is the highest residential street, practically, in all of Orinda, and as such gives you one of the best views east of the Caldecut Tunnel. It is a very small street, but the neigbors are friendly and the most of the houses are very nice.

The view is spectacular! The only problems have to do with mountain living. You will definitely get more clouds and fog than those who live farther down the hill. Also, a lot of houses up here are not connected to the city sewer system so you need to maintain your own sump system. In addition, you have to clear brush and trim trees in order to maintain fire ordinances.

Because so many houses have driveways on steep inclines you will need to be fit enough to either push your trash cans up to the street, or to carry bags up individually. Don't be surprised to wake up in the middle of the night to find a large antlered elk in your back yard or to here raccoons on your porch. You are pretty close to Tilden park and large forrested area including the steam trains, so it is pretty wild and undeveloped nearby.
Pros
  • The Views
  • Nice Houses
  • Quiet Street
Cons
  • Hillside Living
  • Narrow Driveways
  • Expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Country Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Apr 26, 2010

"Main Connection Between Orinda and Moraga"

Moraga way is the main artery that connects downtown Orinda to downtown Moraga. For people living in Moraga and working in San Francisco, this is the road they exit onto to get home. By the freeway in Orinda Moraga Ways ends in the main commercial district for Orinda south. In this little swath of town you will find the Orinda Movie Theatre, several restaurants in a little mall like area, some stores and some banks and misc. businesses like accountants' offices and the Orinda Hardware store.

Moraga way goes all the way into Moraga. The break between Orinda and Moraga happens at Miramonte--Orinda's Highschool.

Along the way you will also find the Orinda Nursery.

Moraga Way, because it is the main artery, gets a heavy dose of traffic, especially when the high school lets out and when people are heading off in the morning or coming home in the evening.It is a single lane in each direction, so any construction or accident can really back things up. Crossing traffic can be difficult.
Pros
  • movie theater
  • good food joints
  • quaint
Cons
  • lots of traffic
  • no sidewalks out of downtown
  • parking can be painful
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish

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