6.9 out of 10

Central Berkeley

37.8663478537258 -122.282525874527
Great for
  • Internet Access
  • Pest Free
  • Public Transport
  • Clean & Green
  • Eating Out
Not great for
  • Parking
  • Neighborly Spirit
Who lives here?
  • Singles
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students


4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5

"Berkeley's Ugly Duckling"

I recently heard that of all the cities in the entire country, the SF Bay Area has the second highest number of old houses (defined as being built before WWII) of any city other than Boston. When you look at Central Berkeley, you can definitely see an example of this. The neighborhood south of University and west of Martin Luther King (where the city offices are) is filled with older bungalows from the pre-war period. These are fairly nicely kept though the lots back then are smaller than we would prefer them to be these days. In themselves, the homes are quite attractive.

In terms of renting, the proximity to Berkeley campus makes it a big students’ market—especially east of Sacramento. Many houses are broken up into separate apartments to take advantage of the student market, so you will find older bungalows and Victorians divided into sections according to entrances or floors. Sometimes these housing situations will require residents to share a communal kitchen with other occupants (sometimes even a bathroom) so you should be aware of this when looking here. East of Sacramento the average per room price is about $700 with the typical one to two bedroom house going for about $1,100. The farther you get from campus and the better timed your search, the better your chances of finding a place. Rentals tend to come free in May and June as students head home for the holidays—you will find lots of furnished sublets for students who need to finish out their lease or hope to return after summer. The craziest period is in August as students and faculty scramble to snatch up the best locations—you will literally find yourself in competition with dozens of other would be renters—though that tends to be more in Elmwood than in Central Berkeley.

Part of the reason for this is the flat, grid-like configuration of this part of Berkeley undermines what might otherwise be a beautiful neighborhood.

The other problem with the area is that there is a bit of gang activity here. I remember having a friend during college who lived here and claimed that he could watch drug deals going down right outside his window. I, myself, have lived at the edge of this neighborhood on Martin Luther King and never had much of problem with crime. Other than a bit of harassment by overly aggressive homeless folk, I’ve rarely felt much more than inconvenienced—even during my late night walks through the area back in my college days (though I don’t know if I would recommend walking late at night in any major city).

The major streets in terms of food and stores are University and San Pablo. University definitely has its share of Seven-Eleven’s and flea bag motor inns, but it also has a bit of the spill over from the Gourmet Ghetto and Downtown Berkeley. So you can have a really nice sit down Italian meal with a nicely chosen Port Wine at Café Venezia, whose faux murals give you a taste of Italy right in Berkeley (a personal favorite from my college days). There is also Bangkok Thai and Fellini, a bit farther down the street. If your taste is a little more pedestrian, West Coast Pizza or North Beach Pizza also have outlets here—as does Nation’s Burgers—all favorite student hangs for those with cars. This is also the lane for sit down breakfasts.

Among San Pablo’s auto repair shops, you can also find a couple of dive bars and some more unusual sorts of what would in other locations be called boutique stores. San Pablo is definitely an underappreciated lane in Berkeley because of it distance from the Campus. It is definitely worth checking out, however.

Overall, Central Berkeley does offer those who want to be close to campus a slightly less competitive alternative to other surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Affordable Rents
  • Close to Campus
  • Good Restuarants
  • Property Crime
  • Flat, Ugly Streets
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Students

Travelling to Central Berkeley?

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Unranked Streets in Central Berkeley

Channing Way

"A bicycle shortcut from east to west"
37.8639129968395 -122.282203050542

McGee Ave

"I love my street"
37.867994045753 -122.277223599479

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