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Old 12-08-2012, 04:56 PM
 
11 posts, read 10,811 times
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Default Moving from DC to Berkeley

I recently accepted a new job/promotion with my organization's San Francisco office, and will be moving to the San Francisco area next month. Don't worry, this is not another "where should I live?" thread, as I've already decided to concentrate my apartment search in Berkeley. I will be spending several days in Berkeley later this week to try to secure a place.

I know competition for apartments in San Francisco is pretty fierce. How is the competition in Berkeley? I just want to be prepared so I know what I'm up against. Apartment prices in Berkeley seem to be all over the place. I've seen two bedrooms that are cheaper than the studio I rent in DC, and one bedrooms that are more than double my current rent. I'm hoping to rent a one bedroom for $1500 or less, and based on what I've seen on Craigslist, that seems to be feasible.

Does anyone have experience taking the casual carpool from Berkeley to San Francisco? Roughly how long does it take? One of my coworkers recommended it to me. She lives in Oakland, and says it takes her about 15-20 minutes to get to work.

Also, does anyone have any recommendations for pilates studios in Berkeley? I go to a great studio here in DC, and am hoping to find a suitable replacement. I'm mostly interested in mat classes, as those tend to be the cheapest options.

Sorry to ask so many questions, but I really appreciate any help or advice you can give!
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Old 12-08-2012, 05:54 PM
 
Location: South Korea
5,245 posts, read 6,342,826 times
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I've never looked for a place in Berkeley so I don't know firsthand how competitive it is, but I imagine it's more competitive than it used to be. Also due to UC, you'll be competiting against a lot of college students and grad students. Might be a bit competitive in January with people still moving into town to start attending the Spring semester, though the summer market would be way more affected by incoming UC students. In Berkeley I would avoid the SW corner of Berkeley if you can, basically the areas south and west of the Ashby BART station. It's the one "bad" part of Berkeley, it's not as bad as bad parts of SF or Oakland, and rents are cheaper there than other parts of Berkeley, but you're still paying a pretty penny to be living in a fairly grubby neighborhood. Areas near downtown Berkeley would be ideal for you, since there's so much going on there and there's BART. North Berkeley is nice but can be expensive and it's not as walkable. Northwest Berkeley is in transition from industrial stuff to condos and retail, it's not a bad neighborhood but it's just a bit isolated feeling compared to the areas with BART stations. Elmwood is in SE Berkeley and is really nice but can be really expensive. The Berkeley Hills are probably too inconvenient for you.

If you can't find a place in Berkeley, I'd open up your search a bit, and look in nearby areas. Albany is just north of Berkeley and feels very Berkeley-ish, though it's a little more spread out. You could walk or drive to North Berkeley or El Cerrito BART depending on where you lived there. Oakland has some great neighborhoods like Rockridge and Grand Lake that you'd probably like--Grand Lake is really affordable even compared to other neighborhoods in Oakland.

I used to live in Rockridge and I would do the casual carpool. The drive itself would take about 20 to 35 minutes, depending on how heavy traffic was--usually I'd say it took about 25, compared to a 20 minute BART ride. The main advantage is that it's cheaper than BART, which is $3.50. You can offer to pay the driver $1 for the toll but I found a lot of them didn't want any money, so I'd ride for free. There's no feasible carpool back to the East Bay at night (some people do one but there's not much of a point since traffic is heavier and there's no tolls or carpool lanes in that direction) so most people just ride BART back home in the evening. That meant instead of paying a ridiculous $140 a month to ride BART to work, I'd be paying more like $70 to $90 a month. The negatives are that it's unpredictable how long it will take, if there's a bad accident or a lot of rain it can take a REALLY long time to get over the bridge, and nearly every morning there'd be a motorcycle accident on the bridge. Sometimes BART has a mechanical meltdown but it's pretty rare. Aaaand another thing is that when the carpool cars come over the bridge, they drop you off around Fremont and Folsom. If you work near there then it's great, but I worked at Market and 2nd so it would be another 15 minute walk from the dropoff point to work.
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Old 12-08-2012, 05:55 PM
 
1,015 posts, read 657,011 times
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I haven't looked for an apartment here for a long time. I think the problem is that the apartments in Berkeley are often pretty low quality. They're mostly aimed at college students or poor people. In the East Bay in the last 10 years a fair number of apartments have been built in Oakland, mostly in Downtown Oakland, but many fewer in Berkeley. See what you can find, but you may want to think about looking in Oakland as well.

15-20 minutes sounds pretty optimistic for a casual carpool to San Francisco. That's only possible on a trip that hits absolutely no traffic, and there aren't HOV lanes everywhere there are casual carpool pickup points. It's a perfectly fine way to go to the Financial District, you can then take BART or an AC Transit Transbay bus back in the evening.
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Old 12-08-2012, 06:07 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
16,584 posts, read 10,518,878 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlite View Post

15-20 minutes sounds pretty optimistic for a casual carpool to San Francisco. That's only possible on a trip that hits absolutely no traffic, and there aren't HOV lanes everywhere there are casual carpool pickup points. It's a perfectly fine way to go to the Financial District, you can then take BART or an AC Transit Transbay bus back in the evening.
Optimistic from Berkeley. Definitely true for most points in north Oakland up to the LAke.
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:02 PM
 
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Thank you everyone for your input. I am not sure where in Oakland my colleague lives, but she says it takes her roughly 15 minutes to get into San Francisco using casual carpool. I realize it would take longer from Berkeley. I was estimating about 30-35 minutes, which doesn't sound too far off. BART is indeed expensive, even more so than DC's expensive metro system, so saving a little bit of money with casual carpool sounds great.
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Old 12-09-2012, 11:33 AM
 
Location: San Francisco
622 posts, read 366,251 times
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It's pretty easy to find a place in Berkeley. If you're coming now, you're good. Cal is letting out and there will be more vacancies. I'm actually moving back to the city. I'd recommend that you live near a BART station. I'm in Elmwood now and I can get to Downtown Berkeley, Ashby or Rockridge pretty fast. I can also bike to all three. They all have places where you can safely lock up your bike too. Downtown Berkeley has a bike valet too. That service is free.

Carpools could work but I'd not bother with it. Good luck.
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Old 01-28-2013, 12:33 AM
 
11 posts, read 10,811 times
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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).

I decided to branch out into Oakland and got a temporary room there while looking for my own apartment. I've been staying near Piedmont Ave since January 1st. I know the mention of Oakland can spark off some fierce debates on this board, but I will just say that I never once felt unsafe in the areas of Oakland where I have spent the most time (Piedmont Ave, Rockridge, Grand Lake, Temescal, Adams Point, Uptown). My biggest issue with Oakland is that it feels too spread out and too car centric for me. The apartments I saw though were much nicer for the money than the apartments in Berkeley. I decided that if I found a place I really loved in Rockridge or Piedmont Ave area I would be OK living there.

However, during my search I never stopped thinking how much I would prefer to live in the city. I checked apartment listings in the city every day, just on the off chance something would pop up in my price range that wasn't in the Tenderloin. Well, one day something did. I called the landlord immediately and scheduled an appointment to see the apartment that afternoon. I applied on the spot and was approved a few days later. I am very, very happy that I can now call San Francisco home.

For everyone out there looking my best advice is to be persistent. It took me about three solid weeks of looking to find my place, and from what I've heard it takes many people much longer than that. Go to viewings prepared, and if you like the place, apply immediately. Be polite to the landlord. Then cross your fingers and hope that you'll get lucky. I would say that finding a nice place in the city (for those of us on a budget) is about 70% perseverance, 30% luck.
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Old 01-28-2013, 01:05 AM
 
Location: San Francisco
622 posts, read 366,251 times
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Berkeley is very suburban. It's not a big city. Like I said, I lived in Elmwood at the time and loved it there because of the big houses and cute commercial strips.

The only place in the Bay Area where you'll get away from the car centric feeling is San Francisco itself. Even in Berkeley, I got frustrated because BART runs its last trains at midnight and AC transit shifts to its night service at the same time. Basically, if you're out past midnight, f.u.! Zipcar made a ton of money off of me my first year back because of that.

Glad you're in the city or will be moving soon. It's a wonderful place. I'm glad to be back too.
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Old 01-28-2013, 02:14 AM
 
242 posts, read 122,158 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rkwalton View Post
Berkeley is very suburban.
Eh. Kinda. It's not really suburban in that most of the US is. No endless soulless strip malls and big box stores and plastic tract homes with no sense of place.

It's street-car suburban, which makes it more urban than most of the country (including a lot of major cities).
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Old 01-28-2013, 06:13 AM
 
Location: San Francisco
622 posts, read 366,251 times
Reputation: 392
Quote:
Originally Posted by CirclingLogan View Post
Eh. Kinda. It's not really suburban in that most of the US is. No endless soulless strip malls and big box stores and plastic tract homes with no sense of place.

It's street-car suburban, which makes it more urban than most of the country (including a lot of major cities).
For me.

I grew up in an urban environment and have always lived in urban environments except for a handful of times when I lived abroad (it was an adventure) and when I lived in Berkeley.

I've never lived in a place with strip malls and plastic tract homes, so for me, it's about as suburban as I'm ever going to get.

It's all about perspective.

Carry on.
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