Moving to the East Bay? Read Our Relocation Guide.
Updated: Mar 14, 2021
The Bay Area's settlement patterns are shifting dramatically in 2020. San Francisco's surrounding cities and suburbs are becoming more desirable as one-time city folk look to the suburbs for more outdoor space and an extra room to work from home. These East Bay cities are gems in their own right, but there's no time like the present to consider trading city life for a bit more space and comfort.
From the lively and vibrant downtowns of Berkeley and Oakland to the tree-lined suburbs set along the rolling hills and gorgeous open spaces, the East Bay has a wide variety of neighborhoods to offer anyone considering a move to the Bay Area. My own memories of growing up in the East Bay include exploring the oak-shaded trails, swimming in backyard pools, and biking downtown with friends in our friendly little town just 20 miles east of San Francisco. And while most people who relocate to the Bay will likely tour San Francisco first, they may end up falling in love with East Bay’s more laid back vibe, exceptional international cuisine, outdoor space at home, and warmer weather - all within easy reach of SF but without the higher housing cost. This region appeals to anyone looking for a (more) affordable place to settle down and raise a family within a decent commute distance to The City. Read on to learn more about some of East Bay’s most desirable places to live and see which community might fit your budget, commute, and lifestyle.
What is the East Bay?
In addition to the Peninsula, South Bay, Marin (and the greater North Bay), the East Bay is one of the subregions that surround San Francisco and make up the Bay Area.
As its name suggests, the East Bay includes cities that border the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay from the water’s edge to the nearly 40 miles inland. With over 2.5 million people, the East Bay is the most populous subregion in the Bay Area. It is anchored by Oakland - a city beaming with local pride - and reaches as far north as Concord and as south as Fremont.
Why move to the East Bay? More living space, weather, maybe a backyard pool, and proximity to San Francisco.
When thinking about raising a family and when outdoor space, a larger home, and predictably high-quality public schools begin to take precedence over nightlife, San Francisco residents often start to look to the east. The “Urban-Suburban” centers of Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley offer proximity to the City, high walk scores as well as diverse dining and entertainment options. The suburbs “through the tunnel” further East offer more space for the dollar, renowned schools, backyard pools, and warmer weather. The East Bay has a thriving international food scene that rivals the big city as San Francisco chefs have migrated east to set up their own restaurants in these more affordable East Bay cities. Art, music, seasonal festivals, and cultural celebrations weave into the fabric of the daily life of east bay residents who enjoy life within a 30-minute commute of San Francisco.
One big appeal of East Bay life is that most communities are within reach of BART’s rail system. Living near one of the East Bay’s 34 stations means you can generally reach SF’s Financial District within 30 minutes to an hour during commute hours. BART serves most cities here with 120 miles of track, 48 stations, and 5 major lines that take riders throughout the East Bay and into San Francisco daily (and just recently opened their first San Jose station). Train service begins at 6:00 am and the last train operates until shortly after midnight and offers riders a frequency of trains that other Bay Area agencies such as CalTrain don’t offer so it’s easy to understand why the chance to live in close proximity to a BART station makes east bay housing more and more desirable each year. If you miss your BART train, you’ll wait 15 minutes. In comparison, if you miss your CalTrain, you have to wait nearly an hour.
Aside from the everyday commute, the East Bay is considered to be very centrally located to most weekend outings in and around the Bay; whether it’s the coastal towns of Marin County, the wineries in Napa Valley, the beach vibes of Santa Cruz, or the beauty of Lake Tahoe, the East Bay is usually only an hour to two away from these popular weekend getaways.
If you love the outdoors and moderate predictable weather, the East Bay is for you! Biking and hiking trails, water recreation, jogging, mountains, grasslands…it’s all here. East Bay Regional Park District operates and maintains a network of regional parks with over 120,000 acres, 65 parks, and over 1,200 miles of trails. The Bay Trail is a picturesque “500-mile walking and cycling path around the entire San Francisco Bay”, easily accessible to East Bay residents. A favorite local hike even takes you through a large grove of redwoods right in Oakland’s backyard.
The Bay Area is famous for widely varying climates from city to city and the East Bay has at least three distinct microclimates so the weather is as Bay Area as you can get! Alameda County surrounds the San Francisco Bay so the temperature is relatively mild and consistent, with low to mid-’60s almost year-round. The climate shifts as you pass through the Caldecott Tunnel, east of the Oakland Hills and into the suburban communities of “LaMorinda” (Lafayette Orinda and Moraga combined) and Walnut Creek. In these eastern suburbs, it is generally 15-20 degrees warmer in the summer and 10-15 degrees colder in the winter.
Within a 20-minute drive of the quieter East Bay suburbs with tree-lined streets and backyard decks, you can be in the heart of Oakland, a city smaller than SF that still has an active nightlife and cosmopolitan feel. The new suburbia that towns across the country are trying to emulate has been a part of the East Bay’s vibe for decades. Unlike the Peninsula and Marin, the East Bay has always distinguished itself through extremely diverse options on the food scene, huge cultural events like First Fridays in downtown Oakland, annual art, music, wine, and food festivals, museums, and architecturally amazing music venues that attract the nation’s best touring musicians.
Now that you’ve got the gist of the general East Bay area, here’s a look at a few of the cities, including average monthly rents.
Oakland is one of the most desirable cities in the entire Bay Area, and professionals with careers based in San Francisco are flocking here for more than just cheaper rent. “The Town” is full of local art, culturally diverse cuisine, and has the perfect mix of that urban city-life and calm suburbia. As Oakland Museums curator Drew John said, "it is a classic story of the second city”, (or Oakland is the classic second city) which has been overshadowed for years by San Francisco's fame and glamour. This second city has welcomed growth with open arms over the past fifteen years and now offers an appealing mix of brand new housing options and charming single family homes in walkable neighborhoods with access to BART and rents at double-digit discounts to San Francisco prices. The burgeoning restaurant scene, numerous BART stations, annual cultural festivals, music venues, and local pride just add to Oakland’s growing appeal. Below are some recommended neighborhoods if Oakland is on your list of East Bay cities of interest. Each neighborhood has its own local restaurant scene, demographics and vibe, much like San Francisco neighborhoods but with a lower price point.
Oakland > Lake Merritt/Adams Point
Adams Point is situated just East of Uptown Oakland and North of Lake Merritt. This neighborhood offers all of the conveniences and walkability of living in Downtown but is more family-friendly with great access to locally-owned cafes, restaurants, Oakland's parks playgrounds, and BART. The area is convenient and just trendy enough to make working parents still feel like they have a bit of an edge. Despite its reputation as a hipster neighborhood, there are lots of young families here meeting up with their kids at parks and community events and parks in the area. Three playgrounds, including the newly renovated Snow Park, are within a 20 minute walk; and Lake Merritt, the “crown jewel” of Oakland, provides Adams Point residents with three-plus miles of continuous waterfront access.
Other amenities in the area include the Lakeview Library, the Junior Center for Art and Science with drop-in hours throughout the week, the newly renovated Rotary Nature Center, the beautiful, serene and free botanical garden and Lake Merritt’s landmark, Fairyland. The nearby YMCA offers swim lessons and childcare while parents work out and just a 7-minute drive away is the amazing Oakland Museum of California, enjoyed by locals for the food trucks and half-off admission on Friday nights. Rents are generally lower than Downtown Oakland but are a little higher than residential neighborhoods further east due to its walkability and proximity to Downtown. This area appeals to most urban dwelling walks of life and offers a mix of tall Art Deco apartments, Craftsman and Edwardian houses, and Mission-style buildings. The school situation in Oakland requires care and attention no matter what the neighborhood. Part of Adams Point is assigned to Lincoln Elementary in Chinatown, which is highly-rated with great parental reviews. The other part of Adams Point is assigned to Piedmont Elementary and, while not as highly-rated, it tends to get good reports from parents. The assigned high s