The commute to SF can be via Rockridge BART, express bus or car, with informal car pools available on the Piedmont/Oakland Borders. One could also take the Ferry from Jack London Square.
There are many Asian American and Eur-Asian Families living in Piedmont. Asian are the largest "minority" in Piedmont.
I'd be happy to provide more detailed information if you'd like. I have lived in Piedmont and sent my (Eur-Asian) children to Piedmont schools.
That said, while I haven't seen many Asians in Mill Valley, there is probably less racism here generally here and would imagine you're highly unlikely to feel not accepted or uncomfortable in any way (or even different). Piedmont has a more suburban mentality whereas MV feels more like an extension of SF, in terms of culture and mindset. Piedmont also has "sororities" and "fraternities" in high school and can be a snobby place to grow up, especially for those kids who don't fit the mold. The commute to the City would probably be a little better if you're driving since the GG Bridge is much easier than the Bay Bridge which can be a disaster for traffic.
Now that I am raising a family, we are looking at Larkspur and Kentfield, which I understand have better high schools than Mill Valley. Larkspur is only one exit further than MV.
I wouldn't quite call Piedmont "the burbs" although it may feel that way after living in S.F. There are definately some wonderful schools in Piedmont School District. You might also try going a little farther east through the tunnel to Lafayette or Orinda, depending on your budget. Both of those communities are also known for their wonderful schools. Depending on traffic they are only about 20 minutes from Oakland, where I live. The weather is a bit warmer, maybe 10-15 degrees on a hot day. There are lots of great outdoor activities to do with your family. The Lafayette reservoir is a great one to check out if you want to get a feel for the community on a weekend outing with the family. I always like to drive around a community at differnt times of the day to find out about the "flow" of things.
If you are able to BART to your office in S.F. you will have no trouble commuting from either of these cities. (well, you may have to stand up in the morning if you travel during high times).
Best of luck to you! I am a Bay Area native and have spent time all over so if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email!
I also advise my clients, when they are moving to a new community they have not lived in before, to call local community groups, like neighborhood associations and parents groups, can be very helpful for identifying the strengths of individual education environments. These groups can be identifed through the school board, and through the poiice department community liason program. They usually have the names of the emergency preparedness groups, which plug you in to the specific neighborhood very quickly.
To the question of diversity, the East Bay definitely has a stronger Asian American presence, in Berkeley, Albany, Piedmont, Orinda, and Lafayette, as well as many other racial and cultural groups. I loved Mill Valley when I \lived there, but often felt hungry for greater diversity...in the East Bay, you have the entire world community at your fingertips. It's a rich and wonderful tapestry, with strong cultural groups combined with a high level of integration. Marin, overall, is considered tonier, and more prestigious, but also much more homogeneous. Marin will generally feel more small town, though it offers less commute options and is more of a car culture, where the East Bay has a more urban flavor, and offers a multitude of easy commute options. San Anselmo is an area you may want to explore, more than Mill Valley. SA is a very kid friendly area, with lots of young families having moved there for the schools. Piedmont is a city within a city. Orinda feels entirely upscale rural suburban. Big lots, lots of trees, few sidewalks, very kid oriented. Housing stock is \very pretty different in terms of age and architecture from community to community.
I would also want to hear what climate you hope to find, as the Bay area has a multitude of microclimates. Do you you like the cooler, occasional fog belts where things are more temperate, or do you want a hot, tomato growing climate?
So, it comes down to what specific educational programs you want to have access to, and what your personal aesthetic is for what will feel most like home. The agents you interview should be asking you many more questions, before offering advise. Good luck in your search!
Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Mason-McDuffie
51 Moraga Way, Suite 1
Orinda CA 94563
Maureen Kennedy, Pacific Union
Great schools, wonderful environment, safe town, artist heaven, gorgeous outdoors, next to national seashore, national forest, etc, etc., Ride horses? Sailing on the bay? Hiking? Biking? Walking? all there.
Commute to the city? A breeze - you totally passed a couple of potential heavy traffic areas - San Rafael, and Sir Francis Drake (under construction), so just hop onto 101, enjoy the view and cruise into town - people actually go around the world just to see the Golden Gate Bridge and you get to see it everyday, there is no better commute than this.
Schools? Forbes just rated Marin Schools the Best for the money http://www.sylviasellsmarin.com/Forbes+Rates+Marin+Schools+B
and here is the API score - look for Mill Valley Schools - they are the first ones with an endowment fund so the support is very strong
Marin Parks and Recs are outstanding for kids also http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/PK/main/
And don't forget the summer activities for kids (alright, it is not summer anymore, but you get the picture)
We also have farmers market, mothers support groups, etc, etc. As we always, there is much more!!!
Diversity? Not our strong point, but we are getting there. I did tell Ruth once that I am Chinese - had to explain why she sometimes could not understand me, and I am having a great time - look at my volunteer list
If Mill Valley seems to be pricey, keep going North; all of the Marin is great for family.
O.K. is everybody moving to Marin now?
I know you are all angry by my total To make Patrick and Ruth happy, and Deborah too, Chicago would have been another city I'd settled down in (I lived in Lincoln Park apartments when I first started working), and living in Manhasset, NY was one of the best experience I had.
Have you looked into the SF Peninsula? Great public schools, great location (no bridge traffic). I am very active with the San Mateo High School District and would be happy to fill up on local schools. There are several great locations on the Peninsula, such as Burlingame and Hillsborough, Millbrae and San Mateo. For your information, the San Mateo High School started translation of all district mailing to parents in Millbrae to Chinese this year. Reason: the Chinese speaking population in Millbrae is over 20% limit required to trigger mailings in a specific language. Burlingame is more caucasian, but it also has changed dramatically over last few years, as older generation retires and there is an influx of new Asian buyers. Check the following link: http://activerain.com/blogsview/134685/Is-Hillsborough-CA-Better. You will find more links inside. Why is it happening? The answer is very simple: schools.