Alameda or Dublin

Asked by Jami, Columbus, OH Sat Jan 26, 2008

My husband will be working in Palo Alto. We are trying to find a SAFE community that isnt run down and has good public schools. We thought Discovery Bay was it until we found out the commute time could take up to 2 1/2 hours! Now we are backing away and looking at homes closer to work. However we are back where we started seeing homes that we like hitting the 800K range. We live in a 3 bed 2 1/2 bath almost 2000 sq foot now and we are busting out of it with the 3 kids. Help! Where can we live? Hubby's salary is 200K per year. Everyone says we can afford a ton but we dont want to strap ourselves. We have no debt and a nice savings. We want it to stay that way. We know Dublin is nice but expensive. Alameda seems a little better price wise, but is it safe and does it have good schools? I think we are about ready to turn down the job offer because we are so scared to move to CAlifornia and get into financial trouble.

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14
Fred Kohler, , Palo Alto, CA
Sat Feb 2, 2008
Graham is right. You should rent near Palo Alto for at least a year while you check out the various communities and the commutes. If you buy in an area you don't know well with a LONG commute, you could be forced to sell in a difficult market and pay another set of commissions to boot, when you find out you don't like the community and can't handle the commute.

Use your 2-year window to your advantage and let the difficult market play out while you are looking. You can use your savings from renting to save up a larger down payment.
2 votes
Jean Powers, Agent, Castro Valley, CA
Sat Jan 26, 2008
Hi Jami,
I have lived in Alameda all my life and a broker here for 23 years. I also worked in the schools until my children were in high school. Our community have a lot to offer children such as swim teams, good schools, soccer, baseball, Boys and Girls clubs, beach, lagoon paths for walking and biking and much more. I feel you can find a great home in your price range. We are renovating our prestigious Alameda Theater and the people who grew up here are finally waiting eagerly to view movies again as we did when we were young. We have a great community and I think you and your family would love it here too!
Web Reference:  http://JeanSellsDreams.com
1 vote
Mon Feb 4, 2008
Here's a home in Daly City that you may be interested in. Zoned to the best schools in Daly City, which are not perfect-scorers, but nor are they under-achieving or average. In fact, the elementary and high school in this home's zone are very good. Great views of the ocean, all within a 40-minute commute by car to Palo Alto via I-280, which is said to be less congested than the 101.

http://www.realtor.com/search/listingdetail.aspx?zp=94015&am…
0 votes
Mon Feb 4, 2008
Other cities and regions you may want to consider:

The Peninsula - Close, but good neighborhoods can easily run you up into the millions. Though I am not sure, the housing market may have cooled enough for some deals on the Peninsula. You could check http://www.city-data.com/ more information from the locals.

Mountain House (But not Tracy, unless in the Jefferson School District in southern Tracy) - Good K-8 schools in a master-planned community directly east of the Altamont Pass. Though driving is not the best choice over the Altamont Pass, you could take the ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) train at the Tracy Station to San Jose, then transfer to Caltrain at the San Jose Station to Palo Alto. OR, you could get off at Great America Station on the ACE and take a shuttle bus to Palo Alto. Homes costs half as much as the outer East Bay. This community is different from, say, Discovery Bay, as it actually near commutable public transportation that takes you into the Bay Area. Go to http://www.mhvillages.com/ to find out more.
0 votes
Mon Feb 4, 2008
Also, you could take the Harbor Bay Ferry from Bay Farm Island (Harbor Bay Island) to the San Francisco Ferry Building, then take a MUNI bus OR light rail to Caltrain in San Francisco, from which you can go directly to Palo Alto. It will take one hour and a half, though, but at least your husband will not have to deal with the stress of driving on Bay Area freeways.
0 votes
Mon Feb 4, 2008
0 votes
Mon Feb 4, 2008
If your children still have to attend elementary and/or middle school, purchase a home EAST of Park STREET to be within the attendance boundary of Lincoln Middle School and the elementary schools that feed into it. This will also allow your children to attend Alameda High School as well.

However, if you ONLY have high school-age children, then anywhere EAST of Union Street and EAST of the SOUTHERN PORTION OF GRAND STREET SOUTH OF OTIS DRIVE will place your children into Alameda High School.

Anywhere else in Alameda, you should consider public charter schools like Alameda Community Learning Center, which serves grades 6-12, or Alameda Science and Technology Institute, which serves grades 9-12. Those schools require an admissions process and possibly a lottery. Private schools are also another option living on the "West End" within the Encinal High School attendance boundaries.

I have referenced the state's 2006 test rankings at: http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/AcntRpt2007/2006Base_Dst.aspx…

I have also referenced the state's 2007 Academic Performance Index (API) for Alameda Unified School District:
http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/AcntRpt2007/2007GrthAPIdst.as…

I have referenced the school district's attendance boundary map, linked below.
0 votes
Trulia Roger, Home Buyer, Alameda, CA
Sat Feb 2, 2008
Fred: great answer! Although I predict someone will chime in about how you only throw money away when you rent, rather than save... (Not me--I'm a former homeowner happily renting my way to a good down payment).
0 votes
Graham M. Lo…, Agent, Franklin, TN
Thu Jan 31, 2008
Jami-my 2 cents worth on all the negative publicity is that it is the flip side of all the overly, and in many cases inaccurate info put out by the NAR last year. On a consistant basis, especially during the first half of 2007, the NAR devalued the incoming statistics regarding the economy and the purported housing bubble. Just like one should never buy into the gloom-and-doomers, one should not buy into the propaganda coming from a trade group whose primary function is to expouse the benifits of owning a home no matter what else is going on around them in relation to the market. Real Estate is local to a certain degree, but National events effect us all and should not be discounted. Again, I urge you to study the entire Bay Area, visit the towns you seem most interested in and check out the commute during the times you or your husband would be driving. You may be better served to find a short term rental/lease, and get a feel for the Bay Area before buying. Alameda weather being closer to the Bay compared with say Castro Valley/Dublin/Pleasanton, you'll experience more cooler, drizzly ,foggy days. On the flip side is that during those brief hot spells, you can almost always count on the Bay breezes to come in and cool you off. You'll have more opportunities for lazy summer evening BBQ's the more East you go, especially if your on the East side of the East Bay Hills. Again good luck!
0 votes
Jean Powers, Agent, Castro Valley, CA
Wed Jan 30, 2008
Last week, 3 homes in Alameda had multiple offers. As I had said to Jami, not all cities in California have dropped drastically. In fact Palo Alto, S.F. and most of the Peninsula have not dropped much at all, Oakland Hills, Berkeley and Alameda have come down to where buyers are able to negotiate prices and that is how it should be. In Alameda condos and townhomes have taken a hit but the single family homes for the most part are holding their prices fairly well. Also, if a buyer is relocating to the bay area and cannot afford a home in Palo Alto and receiving a good relo package, they can find a home in Dublin or San Ramon for a reasonable price and the commute to Palo Alto is not too bad. Buyers will also get more for their money in Dublin or San Ramon than they would in Alameda. Buyers need to realize that they will have to stay in their homes for at least 5 years or longer if they buy in Tracy, Modesto, Stockton or Sacramento then they will probably have to wait at least 8 to 10 years before they acquire equity in their properties. Interest rates are at a fantastic low right now so I am not sure why buyers are waiting to purchase a home if they have a decent down payment! The media is never accurate as they always show the negative side instead of telling the public all sides of the situation. Unfortunately the public for the most part believes what they see or read in the news!
Web Reference:  http://JeanSellsDreams.com
0 votes
Trulia Roger, Home Buyer, Alameda, CA
Wed Jan 30, 2008
I'd suggest Alameda, except I have a vested interest in houses NOT selling here, so prices drop faster :)

Seriously--Alameda is a gorgeous little town with perfect weather. I wouldn't want to commute to Palo Alto, though. Public transportation is not very good--there is no BART access in Alameda itself, so you have to take the bus or drive to public transportation across the bridge or tunnel in Oakland, which defeats the purpose a bit.

I don't know Dublin at all, so I can't really say anything about it, other than the distance from Palo Alto is comparable to Alameda-Palo Alto (about 35 miles). I suspect the temperatures are probably more pleasant in Alameda due to the proximity to the bay and the breeze.

Good luck!
0 votes
Sponnie, Both Buyer And Seller, 94607
Wed Jan 30, 2008
Hi Jami,

I've lived in the Bay Area for the past 9 years, having moved here for work 9 years ago. I lived in Fremont for 5 years when I first moved up here, and it was definitely a nice, family friendly community with an excellent location for commuting to Palo Alto and the South Bay. However, the schools aren't universally great in Fremont, but if you're shopping in the higher price ranges (over $800k) you'll most likely be close to the good schools.

But anyway, to speak to your question - Alameda or Dublin, I'd have to throw my vote behind Alameda. My husband and I currently live in an area of Oakland that is very close to Alameda, and we spend A LOT of time in Alameda. We recently started a family and started shopping for a new home, and Alameda was absolutely our first choice for our next home for the a number of reasons:
The good schools throughout the city, the wonderful character of the older homes on the main island,
the great variety of shops and restaurants, and Alameda's relatively central location in the Bay Area - good for commuting to San Francisco, the Peninsula or the South Bay.

Dublin is a bit more suburban, and like a previous poster mentioned, I would also consider Pleasanton if you are serious about looking in the Dublin area. Downtown Pleasanton is a really nice area, and the schools are good all over Pleasanton.

Either way, good luck with your decision & potential relocation!
0 votes
Pam Winterba…, Agent, Danville, VA
Sun Jan 27, 2008
Jami.....

I think you commute may be a bit easier from Alameda. Having family in both in both communities they entirely different.

Dublin has more newer housing and Alameda is divided into Harbor Bay, a newer community with modern homes and Alameda proper which notes more traditional, victorians, spanish style and bungalow's. I think your money may go farther in Alameda and your school scores are higher there. Here is the website to check on schools.....http://greatschools.net. By the way Jean is a fabulous agent and always watches out for her buyers needs.
Web Reference:  http://pamwinterbauer.com
0 votes
Graham M. Lo…, Agent, Franklin, TN
Sun Jan 27, 2008
Jami-check out Pleasanton,(you already know about Castro Valley), Dublin is nice too. The only downside to Alameda from my perspective, and this was two years ago, and I can't imagine it getting any better, is the congestion getting in and out of the city. I hated it. You can find nice older homes...somewhat Victorian in nature. Alameda DOES have a good school system. One thing to keep in mind is that Alameda is on the BAY, so you'll have the moderating influences of the ocean effect your weather...that can be good or bad depending on what your used to. Dublin on the other hand is seperated by the East Bay hills and you'll tend to have not so much fog and hotter summers. Living in the Dublin area will also get you within a short drive of Old Downtown Pleasanton and Danville, which have some great restaurants, Vintage car rallies, and the Pleasanton Fair. There are also some great Medical centers and Biking roads. I would advise visiting the areas, and do a test drive to your(husbands) proposed new work opportunity during commute, before settling on any one area. Also, depending on your kids ages, you will have UCB and Stanford within a short drive. The Bay Area in general is definitely much more expensive. At 200K/year, you definitely could find something nice, wherever you choose. There are also nice areas of North San Jose which you might look into. Again, nothing against Alameda, but my preference would be more towards Dublin and that area...and that's from somebody who lived, worked and grew up in the East Bay for a good 50 years. Good Luck!
0 votes
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