Quality of Life in Piedmont>Question Details

Iwcgst, Home Buyer in San Francisco, CA

My wife and I work in SF, have three kids aged 5, 8 and 10, and want to move to the burbs for the schools

Asked by Iwcgst, San Francisco, CA Mon Jul 23, 2007

and lifestyle (weather, outdoors,etc). We're looking at Piedmont and Mill Valley. Can someone tell us about: (i) commutes into the City; (ii) schools; and (iii) community/culture. One other thing, we're an Asian American family, would we feel "comfortable" (as we're pretty used to the diversity of SF)?

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The City of Piedmont has some of the finest schools in the state. Test scores are available online. The community takes an extraordinary interest in the schools and adds to school coffers with various fund raising activities to enhance an already well funded program.
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.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 23, 2007
I came from San Francisco kicking and screaming about 10 years ago. Today, I am a partner in the only real estate office located in Piedmont - I can relate to how you may be feeling. Feel free to call our office any time at 510-428-0900 and any of us will be happy to talk with you.
Heidi Marchesotti
(510) 387-7865
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 17, 2010
I grew up in Piedmont (middle & high school) and have been living in Mill Valley for 10 months. Given your priorities, I'd probably move to Piedmont. Top-rated schools (better than MV, as far as I know), a sizable Asian contingent, and not a bad commute (there's also BART and carpool as an option in Piedmont as well which allow you to use carpool lanes).

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.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Oct 5, 2009

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!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 4, 2007
I work in both the East Bay and Marin, and they are very different. All of these communities have real strengths, and weaknesses, of sorts. I would say that you might be better served to analyze what types of educational programs you feel like your children will be best served by, and look for the school that serves those specific needs, and then search for the house within the school system that you want. Start with the stats on the websites of the local boards of education for each city. I find that if I ask 10 different parents for an opinion, they will all give me a different answer based on their specific slant.

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!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 18, 2012
As a caucasian who grew up and currently lives in Piedmont, I would have to say Piedmont over Mill Valley, hands down. As far as diversity goes, all I can say is that 90% of my friends growing up were Asian and my younger brother's group of friends was comprised of probably 99% Asians. If Asians are still considered a minority in Piedmont, I would have to say that it is not by much. As far as schools go, Piedmont schools are among the top performing public schools in the state if not the country. They actually rival most private schools. Commutes to S.F. are not bad by way of BART, but the Bay Bridge can get congested at the toll booths during morning rush hour. The weather cannot be beaten by any family-friendly neighborhood in the Bay Area. It seems like it is almost always around 72 degrees fahrenheit in Piedmont. And the views of SF cannot be beaten either. The best thing for you to do, though is take a tour of both cities including the schools. I'd be happy to show you around Piedmont and introduce you to the school superintendant who can give you a tour of the schools. I can also recommend an agent who knows more about Mill Valley than I do, if you like. Please contact me any time with any questions or requests. Thanks. Good luck.

Kyle Quesnoy
Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Mason-McDuffie
51 Moraga Way, Suite 1
Orinda CA 94563
DRE 01905746
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Nov 6, 2011
Many of my clients in Piedmont considered either Mill Valley or the "Lamorinda" area before deciding to move to Piedmont. As a result, I pulled together a factsheet comparing Piedmont to each of these areas--let me know if you'd like my mini-website URL where this info is located. Bottom line, Piedmont is more diverse, has shorter commutes, has better schools (API and US News and World Report), has higher education levels/income levels than either Mill Valley or Lamorinda--and my spouse grew up in Mill Valley!

Maureen Kennedy, Pacific Union
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 20, 2011
I just read some realtors' suggestions about Lamorinda and I just want to add words of caution. A friend of mine who is Jewish said she is raising her children in SF instead of Lafayette, where she grew up, because she likes the diversity of the City and felt Lafayette was by contrast less accepting of diversity and she did not feel "comfortable" growing up there. Going through the tunnel would also make for a terrible commute. The schools are also not as good as Piedmont. Don't do it!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Oct 5, 2009
You should also consider Kensington and Albany. Albany's got more diversity and good schools through high school. Kensington's elementary schools are among the best - comparing favorably even to the much-heralded mill valley schools.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Aug 2, 2008
wow, i totally missed this question. Mill Valley, Marin! Hands Down, although I can't say that I am not biased - I live here, so, agents, don't get angry with me! (as we say, no TDs just because I like my place)

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.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 4, 2007
Sylvia Barry,…, Real Estate Pro in Marin, CA
As Jessica mentioned, Lamorinda (Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda) has an excellent school system, always ranked at or near the top for the entire state. Many of the people who move there from other areas are doing so for the schools. The weather is generally sunny and warm, and BART is very convenient, stopping in both Orinda and Lafayette and taking approximately half an hour to get to SF. Swim clubs are very big in Orinda and Moraga; children compete and adults socialize. Lafayette in particular has many good restaurants and a little nightlife. Nearby in Walnut Creek there is excellent shopping and more great restaurants and nightlife. As former San Franciscans ourselves, we are very happy here!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 4, 2007
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.
Web Reference: http://www.cimpler.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 23, 2007
Artur Urbans…, Real Estate Pro in Burlingame, CA
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