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G.B., Home Seller in South Carolina

walnut creek, ca vs Lafayette, ca: quality of life; school districts; cost of living; commute to Alameda

Asked by G.B., South Carolina Fri Nov 21, 2008

walnut creek, ca vs Lafayette, ca: quality of life; school districts; cost of living; commute to Alameda
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We have an opportunity to move to the San Fran area and are trying to narrow down the communities to visit in order to get a better perspective on the quality of life there vs. here in South Carolina. Any recommendations regarding which communities are best suited for a family with small children? We would prefer to buy in an area with good public schools to avoid private school and would like a town vs. city atmosphere. After reviewing home cost, we will be in the one million range but would love it if we could find something less expensive. Also, what would the commute be to Alameda? On the web, Walnut Creek and Lafayette look nice....any comments or other ideas? Thanks!
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Hi G.B.,

Your original question was asked in Nov of 2008. Are you still interested in the area?

I lived in Alameda for many years before moving to CC County and much prefer the Walnut Creek area. Primary reasons are; weather is consistantly nicer and you can enjoy outdoor living throughout the year. Alameda has similar weather to San Francisco where the fog rolls in most days even in the summer. Winters tend to be gray.
Schools are great in Contra Costa County also, which even if you don't have children, helps to keep values higher with better resale value.

A commute to Alameda can be as long as 1 hr 15 minutes in commute traffic, or 45 min non commute time. The tunnel that separates Alameda county and Contra Costa county is the big traffic stopper during prime times.
Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga, referred to as Lamorinda, has incredible schools and a wonderful style of living. A little different from Walnut Creek and closer to the tunnel to get to SF or Alameda. All of those areas have advantages, so it's best to see them for yourself.

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact me or go to my website for more information. I can also send you information on demographics of each city/area.

Regards,
Suzanne Looker
http://www.suzannelooker.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 7, 2012
The schools in the area you mention all enjoy excellent ratings from independent sources and you would find the "town" atmosphere that you are looking for. There are several opportunities in the "Lamorinda" (Lafayette/Moraga/Orinda) area in your target price range.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 7, 2012
It depends on the price range and what you want. I live right on the Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Pleasant hill border. And Walnut Creek has a neighborhood for everyone. While it has parts that are more rural and even with some farm land.

I recommend Walnut Creek as far as the children are concerned because there is more for them to do, Lafayette is a beautiful community (where I grew up) but it is more rural and it is difficult for kids to find regular places to play. You usually have to drive to the park a good 10 minutes or so.

The schools are great (admittedly Lafayette's schools are better) but I find Walnut Creek has more variety in neigborhoods and range of houses.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 26, 2010
Lafayette (I've lived here for 17 years) has much more of a town/village feel than Walnut Creek, which is bigger and more of a city. The Lafayette schools are among the best in Northern California. I think it's a great place to live. Do come check it out!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Dec 14, 2008
Agb,
Just checking to see if you got your questions answered to your satifaction or is there more information that I can provide to you?
Suzanne Looker
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 9, 2008
Hello,
I would highly suggest you stay on the penninsula if you are commuting to Burlingame daily. If not, you would have to deal with a bridge and they can get tricky during high commute times or if accidents occur. If you are only commuting occassionally, then you should be ok with either side of hwy 101. If you purchase in Dublin, San Ramon or Danville, you will have at least an hour commute during high traffic times.
Suzanne
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Nov 30, 2008
Burlingame is a challenge from Contra Costa. However, it is workable if you have a flexible schedule and can travel during non-commute hours. I had a listing in Burlingame last year and found I could make the trip from Walnut Creek in less than an hour but all bets are off during commute. If the office is near central Burlingame you can take BART and generally make it in about the same amount of time even during commute times. The other major challenge with the Peninsula is what you get in a home. Burlingame has suffered some in prices like everywhere, but it's still very high relative to Contra Costa (My listing was a 1930's 2 bedroom cottage that sold for $950k in 2007). I do have clients opting for the 680 corridor in Contra Costa and commuting to the Peninsula but they all have flexible schedules.
Steve
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Nov 29, 2008
In a word, "Yes!"

People do commute from these areas to Burlingame but it's not a good one. In my opinion, the only Contra Costa / East Bay location to consider for commuting to Buringame is San Ramon and even then it would probably be 45 minutes or more most days/times. The "approved" method is to go via the San Mateo Bridge and traffic can be a real pain!

If I was commuting to Burlingame and I wanted to live in a safe, family-friendly neighborhood with good schools, I would be focusing on the Peninsula.

Bernard Gibbons

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Nov 29, 2008
ok, one more question....If the office was located in Burlingame would that make a big, if any difference, in commute time or preferred home location?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Nov 29, 2008
agb ... I obviously don't know where in Alameda you will be commuting to, but assuming it's around High St the time from the center of Piedmont will be about 20 minutes (all on city streets), the time from downtown Orinda is 20 to 25 minutes (all freeway). The time to downtown Walnut Creek will be about 30 minutes. Once in a given community, you can add anywhere from just a couple of minutes to over 15 minutes depending on the location of home. All of these times assume smooth sailing at the speed limit. Nasty traffic can double these times. With midday travel and no traffic I get from Ygnacio Valley in Walnut Creek to the Oakland Airport in under 35 minutes.

The bottom line is that you need to be comfortable with the trade-off between the home and neighborhood and climate you want, with the length of commute and amount you want to pay for a home... You can check out all of these communities on my website at: http://www.SteveCurtisHomes.com

Let me know when I can be of some help.

Steve Curtis
Broker / Owner
Windermere
925-408-0037
Steve@SteveCurtisHomes.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Nov 29, 2008
Commute time from Orinda from 25 to 45 minutes depending on traffic. Add 10 minutes for Lafayette or Moraga. Add at least another 20 for Walnut Creek.

Bear in mind that these figures could be higher if you were far distant from the freeways. In Walnut Creek, for example, if you had to travel doen Ygnacio Valley Road at a busy time that could add 15 minutes or so.

Bernard Gibbons

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Nov 29, 2008
What is the real time commute by car from WC, Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga into Alameda?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Nov 29, 2008
Hi Agb,

I grew up in Piedmont and consider it the hidden jewel of the East Bay Area. The properties are expensive, but the community is second to none in the value it gives for the schools, convenience to San Francisco, Alameda and other Bay Area cities and the beauty of the homes and surrounding geography. It has it's own police and fire departments.

I would be happy to set you up on an automatic email MLS search for all the towns you have mentioned. Of course seeing them in person is always preferred and I am available for that as well.

You can't go wrong with; Piedmont, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, and South Walnut Creek down to San Ramon for the schools and general amenities of life.

Hope this helps!
Suzanne
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Nov 29, 2008
Agb ... Piedmont is a marvelous community, generally very upscale, with a great reputation for their schools ... price range is from $600k to over $5 million. There are currently 20 properties on the market, with 5 or 6 under $1 million. Most of these are 1920's cottage style. There are some very large and gracious homes in Piedmont which helps account for the average list price of about $2 million and an average sales price in the last 90 days of a little over $1.5 million. The downtown area is quite small and charming.

It is closer to Alameda but you would be on city streets so don't know about the amount of time saved. You will also find that the weather is considerably different. While virtually none of Northern CA will get rain from June to October, Piedmont will have significant Marine Influence ... that translates that there is often a lot of high fog from May to September ... and daytime temperatures will often be in the 60's. If you are anticipating warm balmy days and evenings you may be disappointed.

If I can be of further help I'd be happy to do so.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 28, 2008
Thanks for all the input. We have also been urged to look in Piedmont as it is closer to Alameda where my husband will be working. Any thoughts?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 28, 2008
Agb ... Your concern for the quality of life for your family is obviously a top priority as it should be. All of the communities you are considering will provide a great sense of community and each offers numerous opportunities for sports and club activities. With small children you may still be involved in pre-school. In California these are for the most part private organizations and include everything from Montessori to parent participatory pre-schools.

All of the public schools in the communities you are considering (or have been mentioned by others) have excellent academic programs and credentials. The higher end communities consistently have slightly higher average test scores but that appears to be as much a socio-economic issue as anything else... and all that is great if your children are also achieving at the 99th percentile.

As to communities and what you will get in each for your money here are the October 08 averages: Alamo ($1,630,000), Danville ($949,000), San Ramon ($841,000, Walnut Creek ($853,000), Lafayette ($1,128,000), Orinda ($1,032,000). Obviously, you will on average get more for your $1,000,000 in Walnut Creek or San Ramon than you will in Lafayette, Orinda or Alamo. but the actual product is also different. Orinda and Lafayette were built up in the 50's and 60's and are now known for their large mature trees and rolling hills (though when I was growing up in Orinda most of those trees hadn't been planted yet). Much of Walnut Creek was built in the 70's and most of Danville and San Ramon blossomed in the late 70's and on into this century. From a commute standpoint the distance of your home from the freeway is often significant and so is proximity to the schools. Since most children are driven to school these days the time frame between 7:45 and 8:15 can be a challenge if you are late for an appointment.

In terms of quality of life, the Central Contra Costa area can't be beat. Both my wife and I were raised between here and Berkeley, we raised our 4 sons here and have been delighted with the entire experience. In my opinion you couldn't make a better choice. And if you haven't found your perfect Realtor I would like to apply for the job and put my 30+ years to work for you.

In any event, get your family out here and we will turn you into California natives in just a few years.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 24, 2008
Hello,

I sell in the Lamorinda (Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga) and Walnut Creek areas and can give you a very specific recommendation on the best schools for your children. In general, the Lamorinda area is rated very high, however, Las Lomas High School, in the Acalanes (Walnut Creek area), won an award this year for it's high student scoring.

You really can't go wrong with either area as long as you are careful about the address and school district assigned to it. As far as quality of life, both areas offer a high level of activities, culture, however, Walnut Creek is larger and has a major shopping influence that rivals the best...

I lived in Alameda for over 10 years and traveled to the Oakland Airport weekly, (in a prior life). I gave myself an hour at high commute times and 30 minutes other times of the day.

I hope this is helpful. Please give me a call or send me an email if you would like to discuss this further. I can also set you up on a MLS email search, that will enable you to monitor the market, see details of listings and mark those of interest.

I can be reached by cell, (925) 917-9070, slooker@rockcliff.com, http://www.suzannelooker.com. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Suzanne Looker, 'Your Pet Friendly Realtor'
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Nov 23, 2008
Hello Agb,

I wholeheartedly agree with Jerry, you will get far more bank for the buck in San Ramon...and it has a town vs. a city atmosphere.

I am a prolific blogger and have posted many articles on home values, neighborhoods, places to go and things to do in the San Ramon area at http://VickieSellsHomes.com. You will find many posts on Walnut Creek here as well. I currently live in San Ramon and have offices in Danville and Walnut Creek and work all the way out to Lafayette, so I am familiar with the full gamut. As you know, each family has their own priorities and really needs to review their options prior to moving.

Please call me at (925) 407-7987 with any real estate questions. Given the opportunity, I will work very hard to help you meet your real estate objectives. I’d love to earn the opportunity to be your realtor of choice.

Kindest Regards,
Vickie Nagy
Realtor® - ABR, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, SRES
Specializing in "GETTING YOU WHERE YOU NEED TO BE"
(925) 407-7987 cell
http://www.VickieSellsHomes.com
http://www.BestTriValleyHomes.com
Empire Realty Associates, 380 Diablo Rd, Danville, CA 94526
Web Reference: http://VickieSellsHomes.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 21, 2008
Agb,

Walnut Creek and Lafayette are Very nice areas. A little more Pricey than the San Ramon Community. The San Ramon Valley School District has one of the Top Rated School Districts in California, and you can get more for you Dollar. San Ramon is just 10 minutes south of Walnut Creek and Lafayette on HWY 680, and is a Very Nice Area to Live also. San Ramon has two New Communities, that are very Desirable. They are Gale Ranch and Windermere. The New Homes are still being Built.

The Commute to Alameda would be Approximately 30 to 40 Minutes, depending on the Traffic.

If you would like to check out some of the homes in San Ramon, go to my Web Site, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Have a Nice Day Agb.

Jerry Flynn
Old West Realty Inc.
Danville, Ca.
925-820-6550
oldwestinc@yahoo.com
http://housebiz.ca
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 21, 2008
Sorry, I forgot to mention Walnut Creek. This is really the major city of central Contra Costa County. If you prefer a town, rather than city, feel, you will probably prefer to live in Lafayette, Alamo or Orinda. Walnut Creek is great for serious shopping and a wider variety of restaurants etc.

If you do want to consider Walnut Creek, be aware that there is more than one school district here. You may want to check out the schools on http://www.greatschools.net.

Good luck in your quest.

Bernard Gibbons

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 21, 2008
It sounds like Lafayette would be just about perfect for you. Great schools, medium size attractive downtown with quality shops, restaurants and a new library coming soon. 20-40 minute commute to Alameda depending on time of day.

Other posssibilities are Alamo and Orinda. Both are smaller than Lafayette but the other comments still apply. Orinda is closer to Alameda for commuting, Alamo a little further away. You will probably prefer Alamo better if you want a more recently built home. All three have lots of older style properties.

If you are planning a visit, I would be happy to show you around the various neighborhoods.

Bernard Gibbons

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 21, 2008
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