I'm yet another LAMORINDA agent and I so far concur with everyone else's posts. The elementary and high schools in the area are ranked top in the Nation. If you go to the new 2010 US News report http://www.usnews.com/listings/directories/high-schools you will see that 2 of the 3 high schools are ranked as Gold Medal schools and the third school is a Silver Medal school.
You should also note that there are other areas outside of LAMORINDA with some great schools. The one that is real closest to Alameda is Piedmont however I'm not sure if you'll get much for 1 million there.
I grew up in the area, moved away to the for college, after college lived throughout the Bay Area included SF and came back to LAMORINDA when I had kids. Many of my neighbors and friends have the same story. It's just a comfortable place to grow up.
If you have any questions about Lamorinda or any of the surrounding areas with great schools send me an email or give me a call. I didn't list the other great areas because of the focus of Alameda.
San Francisco is only about 20 minutes from Lafayette. Orinda and Moraga may add a few minutes to your commute as they are more mountainous and can take you quite a ways off the freeway. Many people love the feel of the mountains and the small town atmosphere that rural Lamorinda offers. But don't let the rural appearance fool you: the schools are very competetive and enriched by an active Arts and Science Foundation that funds theatre programs in the school as well as music instruction for all children from fourth grade up. It is a really unique setting and for this reason, the housing values have stayed pretty high even with the downturn of the market. You can not go wrong in Lamoreinda!
I currently have a listing at $699,000 in Orinda (a shortsale) and it is in move in condition!! It is a great price for a great home. Let me know if you area interested in hearing more about it! You can contact me at 510-847-1450 or go to my website, noted below! Good luck with your move and let me know if I can help you in any way!
Bob kind of alluded to it, but Lamorinda (Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda) are great areas to look. Depending on the size of the home, you can find some great homes located within great neighborhoods. The public schools are ranked top within the state. Based on your million dollar range, I would suggest checking out neighborhoods in Lafayette like Burton Valley, Lafayette Valley Estates, Lafayette Trails, and Silver Springs. Moraga neighborhoods, I would look at Camino Woods, Sanders Ranch, and Campolindo. And in Orinda, I would look at Ivy, Del Rey, and Glorietta. Most of those neighborhoods have housing priced in the $1,000,000 range. As far as commute goes, I think it would take you no more than 20 to 30 minutes to drive to Alameda (during normal rush hour traffic).
If you look in Walnut Creek, I would recommend neighborhoods such as Saranap, Northgate, and Rudgear Estates. The public schools in these neighborhoods are still pretty good. Saranap feeds into the Lafayette school system, even though they have WC address. Northgate HS has some pretty strong scores and Rudgear Estates falls on the line between Alamo and Walnut Creek. So depending on which area you live will dictate where your kids would go to school. However, I know the High school is Las Lomas which is part of the Acalanes High School District which is ranked top in the state.
Well, I hope this helps you out. If you want further insight on any of these neighborhoods, feel free to drop me a line. I grew up in Lafayette (parents still live there), graduated from Campolindo HS in Moraga, and now live in Walnut Creek. So I am happy to give you a local's opinion.
Good luck in your explorations!
Feel free to call anytime.