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Chris Ryan | Photo: Stian Rasmussen | January 3, 2013
For...the no-strings-attached white picket fence
San Jose to Tehama; 80 to San Pablo
What can you get for $260,000 in the Bay Area—a shoebox studio in the Tenderloin? How about a two-story stucco bungalow with a cedar-shaded porch, a fireplace, and a lavender-fringed patio? There’s no picket fence (yet), but a classic white one fronts the house next door, owned by a neighbor who works nights pouring Negronis in the Mission. For a cocktail of your own, there’s the classic Hotsy Totsy Club (601 San Pablo Ave.), a stroll south of the hood, which serves a mean Sazerac.
This fantasy abode isn’t in a zombie subdivision in Tracy but the thriving East Bay microhood known as Richmond Annex. A few years ago, the station wagons of blue-collar empty nesters sat idle in the driveways, but today flocks of young families are tending their gardens, converting old garages into art studios, and stocking up on sidewalk chalk. “There are no true starter homes in the Bay Area,” says Katie Flynn, a married and expecting law student new to the neighborhood, “except for here!”
Three blocks away on San Pablo Avenue, the pawn shops and thrift stores are making way for businesses like El Cerrito Natural Grocery Store’s extension (10387 San Pablo Ave.), a Rockridge-style market hall with a juice bar, and the new Elevation 66 brewpub (10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito), which makes a killer East Bay IPA. True, it’s a small and spotty commercial district, but if you don’t mind traffic and a little grit, it has potential. As for crime, “We walk home from the Rialto theater (10070 San Pablo Ave.) all the time,” says Flynn of the film house that serves zin by the glass and shows first runs and classics. One last thing to consider: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley are planning a new joint campus just north of the Annex, and real estate speculators are already circling.
Affordability: A+ (Rent for a two-bedroom house, $1,350; cost of a two-bedroom, $260,000)
Walkability to amenities: B- (No house in the Annex is more than four blocks from San Pablo Avenue, but keep in mind that the area is still developing)
Public transportation: B (A BART station is four blocks east; an AC express bus stop is one block south; a casual carpool is nearby)
Weather: A- (Summer forecast: 72 degrees, with a chance of fog)
Safety: B+ (relatively low and nonviolent crime)
The bummer: Aside from the Point Isabel dog park, there is no nearby green space
Read More: The Bay Area's top 10 neighborhoods
Ocean Beach: For a reminder that this is a beach town
Polk Gulch: For bustling nightlife (just don't call it the next Valencia)
NoPa: Because it's the Mission 10 years ago
Uptown Oakland: For a nonstop art orgy
North Beach East: For Little Italy charm without the tourist kitsch
Mission Creek: Because it's the new locavore mecca
Hayes Valley: For a livable MoMA
Dogpatch: Because it's an urban laboratory
Burlingame Terrace: Because maybe Pleasantville isn't lame after all
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of San Francisco.