I know all three of these towns well and have lived in Berkeley and Hercules. If you don't mind a suburban community you might just want to live in Hercules. It will probably be the most affordable and offer zero commute. But you are more focused on quality of life issues. Each is a different culture. Berkeley is still a counter-culture type community with a large campus on it. Walnut Creek in an upscale suburb with a good business center. Each is not a bad commute to Hercules. Berkeley is probably closer, But WNC is probably a less stressful drive if you head out Highway 4.