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Old 01-28-2013, 09:45 AM
 
340 posts, read 279,865 times
Reputation: 353

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Quote:
Originally Posted by staceylynn1 View Post
Thanks again to everyone who offered their advice.

I've been meaning to update this thread for awhile now. For the sake of others who may be skimming these threads for information (as I was not too long ago), I wanted to talk a bit about my housing search and my impressions of the area.

I spent about four days in Berkeley looking at apartments back in December, and was really disappointed. While several areas of Berkeley were lovely (Elmwood especially), overall it just felt way more suburban than I was expecting. The housing was also really run down, I'm guessing because the constant influx of students provides landlords with a steady stream of tenants and little incentive to maintain their properties. I am really glad I made that trip, even though I didn't find anything. It helped me realize Berkeley wasn't the place for me, at least not at this stage of my life (seems great for families).
Uh oh. Your post is setting off alarm bells in my head. I am very seriously considering a move from Chicago to Berkeley but am now a bit concerned about the suburban vs. urban aspect of Berkeley.

I certainly wouldn't expect the place to be as densely populated as where I live in Chicago (Lake View neighborhood on Northside), but I was thinking it would be a fairly walkable town with lots of options in terms of bars and restaurants. Is this not the case?

I've been thinking that Berkeley's commercial density would be somewhere along the lines of Boulder, CO or Cambridge, MA - small cities that are still pedestrian-friendly with lots of commercial activity. These are both places I've lived or spent a lot of time.

I'm going out to visit in a few weeks, but I'm wondering whether there are specific areas of Berkeley that I should target to visit because others would be ruled out fairly quickly due to my desire to have a fairly urban living environment. Any tips?

Berkeley is high on my list because the job that might take me to the area is based in Novato. Berkeley seemed like the best balance of urban living and less awful commute.
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Old 01-28-2013, 10:01 AM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
17,332 posts, read 12,275,285 times
Reputation: 12864
Quote:
Originally Posted by rca215 View Post
Uh oh. Your post is setting off alarm bells in my head. I am very seriously considering a move from Chicago to Berkeley but am now a bit concerned about the suburban vs. urban aspect of Berkeley.

I certainly wouldn't expect the place to be as densely populated as where I live in Chicago (Lake View neighborhood on Northside), but I was thinking it would be a fairly walkable town with lots of options in terms of bars and restaurants. Is this not the case?

I've been thinking that Berkeley's commercial density would be somewhere along the lines of Boulder, CO or Cambridge, MA - small cities that are still pedestrian-friendly with lots of commercial activity. These are both places I've lived or spent a lot of time.

I'm going out to visit in a few weeks, but I'm wondering whether there are specific areas of Berkeley that I should target to visit because others would be ruled out fairly quickly due to my desire to have a fairly urban living environment. Any tips?

Berkeley is high on my list because the job that might take me to the area is based in Novato. Berkeley seemed like the best balance of urban living and less awful commute.
Berkeley isn't super dense. Most neighborhoods are a mix of single family homes and smaller apartment buildings 5-20 units. But it is pretty walkable, as long as you don't live in the hills. Keep in mind, it is only about 4 miles east to west, and 4 miles north to south. You can easily walk across the entire city.

There are several walkable commercial areas. My favorites are Elmwood and Solano Ave. There are tons of restaurants in Berkeley, not much shopping of other kinds. Boutiques and drugstores.

You will find that the apartments are generally extremely low quality in Berkeley though. I would propose Oakland, but just getting to Berkeley during commute hours would easily be 15 minutes longer, or maybe even 20. It might be longer than your desired commute time.

Places North of Berkeley are less urban than Berkeley.

I only spent a tiny bit of time in Cambridge, and it did feel similar to Berkeley to me, so probably have the right expectations.

We used to say, Berkeley has all of the urban problems without enough of the urban amenities. (It is dirty, things close early, there are lots of homeless people.)

Even though it isn't my favorite, it would be pretty high on my list of places to live in the Bay Area, because it is one of the few places it is feasible to live without a car.
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Old 01-28-2013, 01:13 PM
 
Location: San Francisco
622 posts, read 435,088 times
Reputation: 392
Quote:
Originally Posted by rca215 View Post
Uh oh. Your post is setting off alarm bells in my head. I am very seriously considering a move from Chicago to Berkeley but am now a bit concerned about the suburban vs. urban aspect of Berkeley.

I certainly wouldn't expect the place to be as densely populated as where I live in Chicago (Lake View neighborhood on Northside), but I was thinking it would be a fairly walkable town with lots of options in terms of bars and restaurants. Is this not the case?

I've been thinking that Berkeley's commercial density would be somewhere along the lines of Boulder, CO or Cambridge, MA - small cities that are still pedestrian-friendly with lots of commercial activity. These are both places I've lived or spent a lot of time.

I'm going out to visit in a few weeks, but I'm wondering whether there are specific areas of Berkeley that I should target to visit because others would be ruled out fairly quickly due to my desire to have a fairly urban living environment. Any tips?

Berkeley is high on my list because the job that might take me to the area is based in Novato. Berkeley seemed like the best balance of urban living and less awful commute.
Eeek. I'm not helping with my city kid b.s. too. Sorry. Berkeley is walkable, but it's not a dense urban environment.

I don't live there anymore but go back frequently because my boyfriend lives there. He hates mass transit and walks to most of the places he goes around Berkeley. He lives near the north side of the Cal campus but will walk and meet me at Berkeley Bowl near Ashby Station to shop when I come to visit. He'd also walk to come visit me when I lived in Elmwood. (You can plot that all on Google Maps to get a sense of the distances.)

If you live in an area like Elmwood, downtown Berkeley, Gourmet Ghetto, etc. you'll be in an area that has a commercial strip or two with restaurants and cafes. There are also usually a couple of grocery stores on those strips. When I lived in Elmwood I'd usually shop at the Trader Joe's in Rockridge and there is a Safeway on that strip too. There is a Whole Foods nearby too. In the Gourmet Ghetto there is Safeway and Andronico's. You can also walk down University to Trader Joe's.

Don't freak out. It's not scary suburban, but you'll have to get used to it if you're coming to it from a dense urban setting. It's quite pleasant. I'd probably still be there if the urge to move back to the city hadn't overtaken me.
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Old 01-28-2013, 08:19 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
14,141 posts, read 16,516,079 times
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Berkeley is typical of an older close in suburb. If you're familiar with Washington DC at all it's sort of like the older neighborhoods of Arlington or Alexandria. Low-rise eclectic urban you might call it. I guess some people think of places like the financial district of San Francisco or Manhattan as urban but there are mixed residential/commercial areas of many big cities that aren't a lot different than many parts of Berkeley.
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Old 01-28-2013, 08:52 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
3,138 posts, read 2,551,916 times
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I'd say more like Falls Church.

Arlington/Alexandria would be more like Oakland- but even that's not a great comparison
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Old 01-29-2013, 02:15 AM
 
282 posts, read 168,746 times
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Not at all like Falls Church.

Much like Alexandria (not so much Arlington -- it's more charming), or even some of upper-caucasian DC (Cleveland Park, Chevy Chase, etc).
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:26 AM
 
340 posts, read 279,865 times
Reputation: 353
Any non-DC area comparisons?
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:51 AM
 
Location: San Francisco
622 posts, read 435,088 times
Reputation: 392
Quote:
Originally Posted by rca215 View Post
Any non-DC area comparisons?
I'd say the feel of Berkeley compared to other California towns is distinct.

I remember my first drive through Elmwood en route to Boalt Hall when I was a law student in the city. I'd never really seen a neighborhood quite like that as I'd grown up in L.A. The houses are lovely. It looks safe (as I lived there for a year and I can confirm that, overall, it is safe.) Great commercial areas yet it's also quite easy to get into San Francisco because you've got BART running right through it.

Elmwood is just one area, but the city of Berkeley is an interesting place. I think because of the university, its proximity to a major city, and it's political and social history that there are probably few areas that you can compare.
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:39 AM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
14,141 posts, read 16,516,079 times
Reputation: 6483
Quote:
Originally Posted by 04kL4nD View Post
I'd say more like Falls Church.

Arlington/Alexandria would be more like Oakland- but even that's not a great comparison
Definitely not Falls Church. At least what that looks like today. The Mount Vernon Avenue of Alexandria that stretches into Arlington has a Berkeley feel to it. Fells Point in Baltimore could be another possible East Coast comparison. There are some neighborhoods I've been through in Seattle that are similar but can't tell you where those are. However, none of those places has a university, which really makes Berkeley unique and gives it much of its vibrancy. If I lived there, I'd definitely want to be in close proximity to the campus.
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:09 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
3,138 posts, read 2,551,916 times
Reputation: 2475
Again, not a great comparison. I just meant size/proximity.

Arlington/Alexandria aren't much like Oakland other than being right across the river like Oakland is across the Bay from SF.

Berkeley is DEFINITELY similar to Seattle though. Terrible drivers and all!
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