Coming on the end of my first year in Berkeley, and I have to say that I love it here. This town is a paradise. Lots of trees. Flowers in the spring and summer. Sunny, cloudless skies from March to November. Seventy-five degree temps all summer. Falling leaves in the winter. Relatively temperate all year round. Friendly people. Good restaurants. Lots of parks. Very walkable. Plenty of parking. Seven big-box grocery stories within a mile and a half (Safeway, Whole Foods, Grocery Outlet, Berkeley Natural, Monterey Market, Trader Joe’s, and another Safeway). Really fantastically weird people. Houses that’ve been occupied so long that they’ve started to take on the personality of their owners (I’m thinking of all the ones with blue paint and golden trim and weird overgrown trees that have jangly stuff hanging from them). A fantastic library whose budget is growing every year. Dozens of bookstores. A relatively humane city government (insofar as city governments go).
When I lived in the Bay Area before, I lived in Oakland, which was also a very cool place–one that is, according to prevailing opinion, much more desirable than Berkeley. And that was great. But I lived downtown, and it felt a bit…urban. Here in the North Berkeley flats, the density is perfect. There’s lots of people around: at least a third of the buildings around are multiple-unit buildings, including a few motel-style apartment buildings. But there’s something very rustic about it. Everything is slow to the ground. Nothing is designed to keep people clustered together.
Oh, and I have very little trouble getting to my friends. Within the East Bay, there’s little traffic, and I can get to most places in Oakland/Berkeley within 20 minutes. San Francisco is a hassle, of course, but it’s doable. I always thought I’d resent the extra ten or fifteen minutes that’re imposed on me by living further north, but I guess I’ve forgotten about how much easier it could be. I mean, I know intellectually that if I lived in West Oakland, then I’d only ever be about 35 minutes from the Mission District (in SF), but I’ve forgotten what that means. As it is, I go to and from SF about 4-5 times a week, and it’s perfectly fine.
But most of my social life remains within about four miles from me. I like the people of the East Bay. There’s still surprisingly few tech people out here. When I go to a gathering, it’s still the usual mix of teachers and other service-people. It feels like exactly what it is: an inner suburb.
Circumstances being what they are, I don’t think I’ll live here forever. In fact, I’d be surprised if I was living here at this time next year, but I’ll always have a place in my heart for it.