Back in 1866–or so the story goes–a trustee of the College of California stood on one of the precipices overlooking the Bay in the small village of Ocean View, and recited a few lines of poetry from George Berkeley, “Westward, the course of the empire takes its way.”
And so, this site of inspiration once known as Ocean View became Berkeley. Essentially, it’s a one-industry town where all roads lead to “UC.” In fact, of Berkeley’s slightly over 120,000 population, about 1/3 are estimated to be students at UC.
Some have called it a collective of “fascist liberals,” yet this never-ending social experiment is as charming as it is scenic–a living dichotomy. So it’s no wonder that Berkeley is the birthplace of the free speech movement, Alice Water’s California Cuisine, Bernard Maybeck’s renaissance of American architecture, and, yes, even Oppenheimer’s and Lawrence’s first radiation lab In fact, Berkeley is known to be one of the highest priced cities in the East Bay, with an average price of over $1.2 million for a 3-bedroom home. It essentially has four main neighborhoods: North Berkeley and Berkeley Hills, Central and South Berkeley, West Berkeley and the Claremont/Elmwood.
North Berkeley and the Berkeley Hills
Sometimes known as Maybeck/Julia Morgan country, these neighborhoods are on the north side of campus. Prices are generally higher on this side of campus than the South side. Besides the wonders of these architectural pioneers, you’ll find quintessential Berkeley brown shingles, 1920’s Mediterranean’s and bungalows real estate dotting the small tree-lined streets through the hills. In the “flats,” neighborhoods like the Gourmet Ghetto, Northbrae and Westbrae attract lots of young families. A little further over from north campus, and centered around Solano Avenue, you’ll find the Thousand Oaks neighborhood. Here you’ll find medium size bungalows mixed with grand homes of the twenties and thirties. Heading into the hills, you’ll find a sprinkling of older homes mixed in with houses from the fifties and sixties. At the crest of the hills runs Grizzly Peak and Tilden Park, a great natural reserve, great for hiking, biking, horse back riding, golf and merry go rounds. East of that is the other world of Orinda and Contra Costa County.
West Berkeley is actually the former city of “Ocean View”–or everything between San Pablo Avenue and the Bay. This former industrial area of Berkeley is now home to the well known 4th Street shops, full of artistic furnishings, urban chic and great real estate. Small bungalows and a smattering of lofts are found throughout this popular neighborhood.
These side by side neighborhoods of stately homes line the blocks either side of College Avenue up into the lower hills. They’re anchored by the Grande Dame of them all–the Claremont Hotel. The Claremont and Elmwood neighborhoods are Berkeley’s most expensive neighborhoods, with an average price of over $1.5 million for a 3-bedroom home.