Westbrae

One of Berkeley’s oldest neighborhoods, Westbrae offers the perfect blend of cultural diversity, tranquil gardens and parks, and affordability.  Tree-lined streets are filled with Craftsman bungalows, Spanish-Revival cottages, and post-war modern homes plus a few remaining Victorians and farm houses. Wonderful Cedar-Rose Park boasts three acres comprising of a huge grassy area for picnicking, two enclosed playgrounds, and tennis courts. Ohlone Greenway slices through Westbrae offering a pleasant walking or biking shortcut to BART, plus Gilman Street offers easy freeway access. Local shops and restaurants include Berkeley Natural Grocery, Lalimes, Coffee Conscious, and my family’s very own, Reliance Antiques. If ever you need your Wedgewood or O’Keefe & Merritt stove repaired, or are searching for beautiful antique pine furniture, please pay my family’s business a visit! Located on the corner of Gilman and Sixth Streets, kitty corner from Lalimes’ sister restaurant, popular Jimmy Beans.

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Temescal

Craftsman bungalows and early 20th century architecture are abundant in the quaint community of Temescal. Primarily a single family neighborhood, many homes boast large flat backyards and beautiful gardens. The population here frequents the establishments of Telegraph Avenue, a hot spot during its annual street fair.  Bakesale Bettys is all the rage for the best homemade pastries in town and the cultural diversity in the restaurant scene includes Burmese, Moroccan, Spanish, and Mexican dining. In high school, I’d go off campus for lunch and frequent the Giovanni’s authentic Italian deli. One of Oakland’s oldest neighborhoods, Temescal is a stone’s throw to the MacArthur BART station as well as bus lines and freeways.

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Rockridge

Arguably the most coveted Oakland neighborhood, the Rockridge district offers residents a social atmosphere, ease of transportation, and a mix of mansions, cottages, and bungalows. College Avenue presents a mix of elegant dining with everyday eateries, quaint boutiques, and popular pubs. The nightlife on College Ave. buzzes with locals enjoying the amenities. My parents spoiled us with Zachary’s Pizza on most Sunday afternoons for the best stuffed deep dish pizza anywhere! BART and bus lines stream through the community with freeway access nearby. Vintage Arts and Crafts bungalows on established leafy streets are found throughout the flats; in upper Rockridge you’ll find modern mansions with premiere bay views.  These fine ingredients make Rockridge an ideal locale.

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El Cerrito

Neighborhoods in El Cerrito feature a mix of charming older bungalows with modern mid-century gems, many on large parcels with fabulous outdoor yard space. Variations in neighborhoods showcase tree lines streets in the flats to winding roads in the hills, of which the latter exudes some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge in all of the East Bay. The natural hillside area offers amazing hiking trails and incredible vistas. Recently renovated community center and swimming pool, El Cerrito Plaza, new “green” City Hall, and new high school and Harding elementary buildings have drastically increased the city’s appeal. As a kid I learned to swim at the El Cerrito pool, and enjoyed many summers swimming with family and friends. Love fresh, organic produce? Stop by the Plaza’s bi-weekly farmers market or acclaimed Natural Grocery. Grab a cup of Peet’s coffee with an olaliberry scone from popular Fat Apple’s Bakery. Enjoy a night out at the retro, 1930’s era Cerrito Movie Theater complete with a restaurant and bar, and sofas and tables inside the theater, or catch a live show at the Contra Costa Civic Theater. Parks and recreation are abundant, and transportation is a cinch with two BART stations, several bus lines across the bay, and nearby freeway access.

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Crocker Highlands

On the lower border of Piedmont and east of Lake Merritt is a most charming neighborhood known as Crocker Highlands, sometimes also referred to as Trestle Glen. Boasting one of Oakland’s best elementary schools and incredibly convenient to the Lakeshore Avenue and Grand Lake shopping districts, many of the homes were built between the 1920’s – 1940’s by renowned local architects Julia Morgan and Bernard Maybeck. Curving, tree lined streets with wonderful natural beauty frame the community, much of which is a part of the Lakeshore Homeowners’ Association. Rich with history, the notable Grand Lake Theater still features a live organist before some Saturday night movies!  Convenient to all public transportation.

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Thousand Oaks

The original town developers of the Thousand Oaks neighborhood sought to keep with nature and work harmoniously with the existing environment. Large granite boulders in the hillside are common and lovely groves of oak trees line the windy streets throughout. Architecture is a mix of Craftsman bungalows, Tudors, and Spanish style homes. Pedestrian walking paths offer pleasant walks and clever shortcuts, plus some of the best bay views are enjoyed in Thousand Oaks. Popular Solano Avenue shopping district serves the neighbors and visitors alike, offering locally owned boutiques and a culturally diverse array of restaurants. Growing up, I walked to the annual street fair known as the Solano Stroll every year, and continue the tradition with my children.

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Gourmet Ghetto/North Campus

One of Berkeley’s most coveted neighborhoods, it’s located just North of the UC Berkeley campus. Beautiful residential streets are lined with mature trees and feature Craftsman era homes. Those blocks of Shattuck bordered by Rose and Hearst are lush with epicurean eateries that make the Gourmet Ghetto such a hot spot. Frequented by such events as the Arts & Crafts Cooperative, Spice of Life street festival, wine tastings and art exhibits, not to mention the weekly farmer’s market, this slice of Shattuck brings the community together. In the late 1960’s when my dad attended Boalt Law School, he rented an apartment on the corner of Walnut and Vine, and lived down the hall from coffee prodigy Alfred Peet. Not long thereafter, Alfred opened up his first Peet’s Coffee downstairs, at Walnut Square. Whatever your coffee fondness, there are plenty of places to grab a latte in the Gourmet Ghetto. Located near both Berkeley BART stations and close to Downtown, it’s no wonder this location is so highly sought after.

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Elmwood

The Elmwood District is one of the most coveted neighborhoods in the East Bay. Beautiful streets with mature trees are lined with a mix of two story brown shingled salt-box Edwardians and charming California Arts and Crafts homes. Its close proximity to the boutiques, restaurants, and vibrant life on College Avenue offer a tempting allure difficult to resist. My parents would take me to Sweet Dreams on Sundays for fun and sugary treats, a favorite memory my brother and I share. Located just south of the University and near easy traveling options to San Francisco, it’s a terrific commuter neighborhood as well.

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Berekely Hills

If you are seeking gorgeous bay views, highly regarded public schools, and a quiet and established leafy neighborhood, then the Berkeley Hills is the place for you. Stunning period architecture includes the masterpieces of famous local architects, including Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck, and John Hudson Thomas.  Craftsman and Tudor style homes are abundant, showcasing the vintage elements and details so highly sought after. My best friend growing up lived in a beautiful Tudor in the Berkeley Hills. After years of visiting and sleepovers I had the privilege of selling her family home a few years ago.  Amidst hilly parks and beautiful walking paths, some landmark favorites in the Berkeley Hills include the Rose Garden, adjacent to Codornices Park, the exciting Lawrence Hall of Science, and the various recreation activities offered by Tilden Park.

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Albany

Offering a small town feel with top notch public schools and popular Solano Avenue gourmet shopping, Albany has solidly been a highly coveted area in which to live. Charming, older housing stock features celebrated architect MacGregor having left his signature Spanish style throughout the town, coupled with traditional California bungalows. Terrific play grounds are plentiful and the Plaza BART station is nearby. My hometown, I loved growing up in Albany and have countless childhood memories here, including the annual street fair known as The Solano Stroll in which every resident in Albany can walk or stroll to. With freeways,  bus lines, and the Plaza BART station all nearby, it’s no wonder homes here sell for top dollar.

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