For Anne and I, we're constantly finding new reasons why we love living on Alameda, California, but we know this tiny island of ours isn't for everyone. Here are a couple of points one should consider before relocating, including the downsides, of living in Alameda.
1. Alameda is a Large Suburb, Not an Exciting City or Quite Suburb
While Alameda has some big city problems, rent control being the biggest issue for our island, Alameda is considered a large suburban city. For a year, we had a recent college graduate living upstairs, but she found that Alameda was far from the city life she imagined when she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. After her lease was up, she was on her way to the city of San Francisco.
The summer before Anne and I moved to Alameda, we actually lived in the Sunset District of San Francisco. What we couldn't get over was how convenient it was. We lived incredibly close to restaurants, grocery stores, and parks. We also loved how just a few blocks away, there would be another neighborhood with its own pocket of restaurants and stores. It almost feels like one could spend their whole lives in San Francisco and never visit every little neighborhood.
Alameda, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward. There are two main streets, Park St. and Webster Ave., with restaurants and bars and four main shopping plazas with supermarkets, restaurants, and general shopping. There will be more in the future with the expansion of the old Naval base, but the city planning of Alameda is fairly straight forward.
At the same time, Alameda is not a quaint little suburb like cities further east, such as Danville or Alamo. For the most part, we don't have beautiful manicured front yards and sprawling backyards. Probably the biggest distinction is that we have some real crime on Alameda.
I was surprised to read a police report about prostitution on the island. I believe in 2016 we had two or three bank robberies. Within a week, DUIs, vandalism, assault, and break-ins are extremely common on the Alameda Police Blotter. Unfortunately, this is the reality of Alameda, California, despite how safe it generally feels, but maybe that's just relative. Compared to Oakland and most of San Francisco, Alameda is a safe haven, but is far from being a safe little town.
A new and very concerning trend is pedestrians being hit by vehicles. From September to November 2019, 7 children were hit by vehicles. At the beginning of 2020, Alameda had 2 fatalities from pedestrians being hit by vehicles. It has resulted in more visible police presence around Alameda, but it's hard to say how long that will last.
According to NeighborhoodScout.com, Alameda has a crime index of 24 out of 100, 100 being the safest. In comparison, Oakland has a crime index of 1, San Francisco a 2, and Danville a 57.
3. Commute Time
If you work near Downtown San Francisco, especially along The Embarcadero, then Alameda is a fairly good location because of the San Francisco Ferry, though a round-trip will cost $10.80 with a Clipper Card, which is twice the cost of taking BART from stations around Oakland. The SF Ferry ride is a 20 minute ride, but when considering driving to the ferry terminal, finding parking, waiting and walking, I'm sure the door-to-door is 45 minutes to 1 hour if you work in Downtown.
For those relocating outside of the Bay Area and not familiar with the geography, if you're working in the Silicon Valley, then commuting from Alameda is probably not advisable. We host an Airbnb space and we've literally had guests who live in San Jose who simply stayed because they didn't want to drive back at night.
If you're working out towards Walnut Creek or Pleasanton, then the benefit of Alameda is the reverse commute, except for the 880 freeway which has traffic in both directions during commuting hours. Oddly enough, I've met several Kaiser Permanente doctors working in Walnut Creek or Pleasanton who commute from Alameda or are looking for houses here. The commute time, by car, is probably similar to Downtown San Francisco, which I estimate to be around 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Public schools on Alameda are truly a hit and miss. For example, according to US New & Report High School Ranking, Alameda High is ranked #151 in California, #35 in the San Francisco Bay Area Metro, and #998 in the USA. With just about 26,000 Public Secondary Schools in the USA, Alameda High is in the top 5% of all public high schools, which is statistically outstanding.
Unfortunately for Anne and I, if we ever have kids, then they would end up in Encinal High School. Encinal High is ranked #750 in California, #87 in the San Francisco Bay Area Metro, and #5327 in the USA. Encinal's College Readiness Rank is 4,286 vs Alameda High's 783, which is truly the story of Alameda as a city; A Tale of Two Cities.
If you have or plan on having children, then you have the potential to being in a great school system, average school school, or below average school system. The only place on Alameda, which almost isn't Alameda, that have both great elementary to high school is Bay Farm Island. Otherwise, if you're on the actual island, then you have the potential of your kids going to a great elementary, average middle school, and then below average high school or vice versa.
One of the nicest areas on the island with some of the most expensive houses, The Gold Coast, is a prime example of this. Houses in the neighborhood start at a little over $1mm, but regularly reach nearly $3mm, but is still allocated to Encinal High. So, while the neighborhood has one of the best elementary schools on the island, the high school is still Encinal. For that reason, if you talk to parents in the neighborhood, then they will say they send their children to private school. After all, they generally can afford it.
If you hate diversity, then stay away from Alameda, California. Just like the City of San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, the majority of citizens on Alameda will speak out against discrimination of any kind.
For example, some people may believe that being "gay friendly" means simply means supporting same sex marriage, but when it comes to showing public displays of affection, it should be kept in private. Meanwhile, in the San Francisco and Alameda, being LBGTQ Friendly means that they should have all the same rights as any heterosexual couple, which means being able to have public displays of affection and not having to behave like they are some kind of second-class citizen.
In more quantitative terms, in the 2016 General Election, 83% of Alameda voter's were for Clinton, 11% for Donald Trump, and 3.2% for Jill Stein representing the Green Party. We've had cases of anti-islam and racist events, especially after Trump's election win, but the City of Alameda and its citizens have always stood behind the victims of such events.
6. Local Politics
Alameda local politics is "something else." I will not say much about it, but a quick google search of the city counsel members, as well as the former Mayor, will probably cause some emotional response if you care about local politics.
I like to to think that one of the best parts of Alameda is Anne Wesley. We craft made-to-order, handmade, personalized leather gifts right in our workshop on Alameda. While we ship worldwide, we always welcome San Francisco Bay Area Locals to come pick-up their gifts from our lovely 1881 Italianate Victorian Home.