mosquito0016

Berkeley, CA

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Hello, I was recently admitted for Fall 2010. I was idly browsing websites trying to get a sense for the cost of housing when I noticed that most contained warnings similar to the following: "Register soon to guarantee availability for fall 2010. All apartments will fill up soon." This warning was even on UC sponsored apartments for grad students.

What should I do in this case? It's certainly too early to commit to anything, but should I mput my name in the mix if I'm relatively sure I will attend? I don't want to end up next year with no good housing options. Or will they reserve spots for incoming students?

Also, does anyone have tips on cheap housing in the area (and I mean very cheap)? I'm not going to have much money. Willing to commute.

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I attended UCB as an undergraduate, and I live there still. I currently work in Oakland. As far as filling up for fall goes, I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure the department you applied to will have a prospective weekend where you get to stay out here with a current grad student and get a feel for the place. It's not going to be cheap. I have a good studio apartment reasonably close to campus, BART (trains), and Bus (AC Transit) that I nabbed in November 2006 for $800/mo. There is rent control in Berkeley, so I now pay $840/mo. When I got the place, the manager said he had another studio vacant below mine, and he would list it for more. I also lucked out in having to pay only first month's rent and deposit. A lot of places wanted first, last, and deposit.

When I first moved here I didn't go the apartment route. Berkeley has a large Co-op association. I believe that's by far the cheapest option, but it's like staying in a youth hostel in Europe. I believe the organization is (oh they changed the name), here's a link:

http://berkeleystudentcooperative.org/

They have a graduate only house, which is nicer than a lot of the others. I lived in Cloyne for one semester. I was very thankful to have a community to belong to while in a new place (I had transferred from southern California), but frustrated over the lack of control over the bathroom.

Another thing Berkeley grad students often do is rent houses together. You can end up living in a very beautiful space this way (typically on north side). A lot of students live on south side, and the further south you go the more you are in Oakland, with cheaper rent, but not so safe. Also, bear in mind that Berkely PD does not round up homeless people. They as much define Berkeley as the university does, and you have to be aware of walking by certain parks at night.

Personally, I love Berkeley and I am going to miss it! I didn't apply anywhere in California. The weather just oscillates around 65 all year. I don't own a car, and I don't miss it. The place is so rich in quality. I love that you can get Indian or Thai food at 20 different places in a two mile radius, and go to a farmar's market 3 days out of the week. Also, everyone in Berkeley will agree, THERE IS NOTHING IN THE WORLD LIKE BERKELEY BOWL. Whole Foods, eat your heart out. And you have this great access to theater, San Francisco, and camping. It's just a beautiful place.

If you have any other specific questions I would be happy to answer them as best I can.

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I attended UCB as an undergraduate, and I live there still. I currently work in Oakland. As far as filling up for fall goes, I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure the department you applied to will have a prospective weekend where you get to stay out here with a current grad student and get a feel for the place. It's not going to be cheap. I have a good studio apartment reasonably close to campus, BART (trains), and Bus (AC Transit) that I nabbed in November 2006 for $800/mo. There is rent control in Berkeley, so I now pay $840/mo. When I got the place, the manager said he had another studio vacant below mine, and he would list it for more. I also lucked out in having to pay only first month's rent and deposit. A lot of places wanted first, last, and deposit.

When I first moved here I didn't go the apartment route. Berkeley has a large Co-op association. I believe that's by far the cheapest option, but it's like staying in a youth hostel in Europe. I believe the organization is (oh they changed the name), here's a link:

http://berkeleystudentcooperative.org/

They have a graduate only house, which is nicer than a lot of the others. I lived in Cloyne for one semester. I was very thankful to have a community to belong to while in a new place (I had transferred from southern California), but frustrated over the lack of control over the bathroom.

Another thing Berkeley grad students often do is rent houses together. You can end up living in a very beautiful space this way (typically on north side). A lot of students live on south side, and the further south you go the more you are in Oakland, with cheaper rent, but not so safe. Also, bear in mind that Berkely PD does not round up homeless people. They as much define Berkeley as the university does, and you have to be aware of walking by certain parks at night.

Personally, I love Berkeley and I am going to miss it! I didn't apply anywhere in California. The weather just oscillates around 65 all year. I don't own a car, and I don't miss it. The place is so rich in quality. I love that you can get Indian or Thai food at 20 different places in a two mile radius, and go to a farmar's market 3 days out of the week. Also, everyone in Berkeley will agree, THERE IS NOTHING IN THE WORLD LIKE BERKELEY BOWL. Whole Foods, eat your heart out. And you have this great access to theater, San Francisco, and camping. It's just a beautiful place.

If you have any other specific questions I would be happy to answer them as best I can.

Wow thanks for the really great reply! Good tip about the Co-ops.

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I may have been quick to say "don't worry about housing filling up". If there is something you like you should investigate the situation and contact people about availability. I will bet that the undergrads haven't found out about their admission status yet, so you don't have to worry for the time being. There will be housing whenever you decided to show up, but it might not be exactly what you're looking for. There will be chances to move, as I did. You can also check craigslist.org, which is very active in the bay area.

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Hi there,

My partner and I are considering the Bay Area next year for grad school. She's been admitted to Berkeley and I have an offer from Stanford, but I'm from the east coast and neither of us has lived there before, so we're unsure of what to expect regarding housing. We've heard conflicting accounts of what it would mean to live together such that one of us has to commute, since the two campuses are on either end of the bay.

From what I've learned doing some preliminary research, CalTrain is a fairly easy way to reach Stanford from San Francisco proper, and if we lived relatively near a BART & Caltrain stop we'd both be able to commute via public transportation. As graduate students on stipends, though, I doubt we could afford much more than $1,600/month, which is already pushing the upper limit, and I'm not sure if that's a realistic budget for San Francisco. What about Oakland? Is it possible to commute to Palo Alto nearly every day without extreme hair loss? Berkeley proper? We do have a dependable car that gets good gas mileage, but I hear that can also be a nightmare in SF.

Would love to hear any thoughts.

Thanks.

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ursprache -- Living in Oakland is a great option for Berkeley (it's what I do), but accordingly to Google Maps it's going to be roughly a 50 minute drive to Stanford each way (without traffic). I can't see the commute situation being much better from SF, although at least then you have public transit. Honestly, I would consider getting separate living situations near school and seeing each other on weekends.

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You would likely get the most sleep by living in two places, but you might loose out on rent what you gained in transit fair. Still, I think Berkeley and Stanford are defiantly a do-able distance apart for a couple. It just might take a few tries to land on a situation that will be comfortable.

BART and CalTrain are both very easy systems to use, and are for the most part reliable. Amtrak is not nearly as reliable. Millbrae is the actual official transfer point from the BART system to the CalTrain. That might be more affordable than living in the 7x7 grid of SF. You might also look into Daily City, but I have only ever seen that town from the BART trains, so I can't tell you much about it.

I used to commute from Berkeley to Mountain View, which was on the order of 2 hours (2/3 on BART), and lots of good reading time. CalTrain gets REALLY slow on the weekends! During the week they have different trains making different sets of stops, but on the weekend it's every stop for every train. BART doesn't do much of a rider discount, but you can get month passes for CalTrain that will start to save you money. I would suggest your getting some earplugs of some sort if you are going to ride the BART for extended distances. They make the trains light, so they don't hold out the sound as well, and it will tire you out quicker than you think. Oh, and both systems are bike friendly.

I don't think living in Oakland would be that much different, in terms of commute, than living in Berkeley, but it's a location that should stay on your radar. East Oakland is generally nicer than west Oakland.

Useful web pages:

http://www.511.org/ Great info on all transit agencies in the Bay Area.

http://bart.gov/

http://www.sfmta.com.../home/sfmta.php SF public transit

http://www.caltrain.com/

And of course, check out craigslist.

P.S. You might also look into Translink. It's a method of payment that prevents you from having to carry around cash. AC Transit (Berkeley and Oakland) use it, as well as MUNI (SF). I know they have equipment installed at the CalTrain stations, but I don't know if it's operational yet. BART still uses their own type of payment card.

Edited by hydrangea

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Hello, I was recently admitted for Fall 2010. I was idly browsing websites trying to get a sense for the cost of housing when I noticed that most contained warnings similar to the following: "Register soon to guarantee availability for fall 2010. All apartments will fill up soon." This warning was even on UC sponsored apartments for grad students.

What should I do in this case? It's certainly too early to commit to anything, but should I mput my name in the mix if I'm relatively sure I will attend? I don't want to end up next year with no good housing options. Or will they reserve spots for incoming students?

Also, does anyone have tips on cheap housing in the area (and I mean very cheap)? I'm not going to have much money. Willing to commute.

I did my masters at Berkeley, and have since moved to the peninsula for work.

It can be pretty hard to find a nice apartment in Berkeley, but there are usually tons of people looking for roommates. I showed up two weeks before classes without anywhere to live, but after an hour on craigslist and a few phone calls, I'd found a room on the south side and moved in that day.

On the subject of public transit, one perk at Cal is you can get a free AC Transit bus pass sticker for your student ID; it even works on the transbay buses. Some students never use it, some live by it. Also, nextbus.com has a live tracker that works on cell phones.

ursprache: If one of you is driving, parking is a bit easier at Stanford, for whatever that's worth. OTOH, the bridges can be traffic bottlenecks.

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i'm considering Berkeley too. Co-op housing looks promising, but it appears that dogs are not allowed. Any co-opers have advice on this? Are Berkeley landlords generally dog friendly?

I don't recall any sanctioned pets within the co-op system, likely for health and safety reasons. Each house gets to set most of their own rules on how to organize and run things. I would imagine that most co-opers would be willing to consider a house pet, but I don't know how much control each house has over that particular item, and if someone is allergic you might have to kiss that one goodbye. I had a friend who had a cat, and I don't know if that was officially allowed or not, but the cat didn't bother anyone so it never became a problem.

When searching for an apartment, I found many listings that said no pets. I didn't have one, so I wasn't keeping an eye out for how many actually did say pets allowed.

FYI this dog park is a cool place with lots of friendly company. There is also a coffee shop that sells dog treats and keeps you warm on cold days.

http://www.ebparks.org/parks/pt_isabel

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I just received my admission to Berkeley. I'd love to go there, but we, in particular my girlfriend, are a bit worried about earthquakes. How do you Californians deal with the possibility of earthquakes? Would anyone consider attending an equally good east-coast school instead of Berkeley to avoid the danger of earthquakes?

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I just received my admission to Berkeley. I'd love to go there, but we, in particular my girlfriend, are a bit worried about earthquakes. How do you Californians deal with the possibility of earthquakes? Would anyone consider attending an equally good east-coast school instead of Berkeley to avoid the danger of earthquakes?

I've lived near Berkeley my entire life, and through many earthquakes -- and all but one were no big deal. Here are some points on our earthquakes:

  1. Most quakes are so soft, many people don't realize they've happened. Don't even notice, or aren't sure if it was a quake or a big truck driving by outside. :P
  2. Quakes you can feel usually only make the furniture sway a little. A good reason not to put breakables near the edges of tables and such. But little more cause for worry than that. A few seconds + any aftershocks.
  3. Major quakes are rare, and you can be prepared for if they happen. Here's our local disaster preparedness page for earthquakes: http://72hours.org/earthquake.html
The last major earthquake in the Berkeley / San Francisco Bay Area was the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, when I was a tot. It was a magnitude 7.1. There were tragedies (such as the collapse of part of Interstate 880 in Oakland) and damage to some buildings. I lived 20 miles from the UC Berkeley campus at the time, and it knocked over some furniture in our apartment. So you might want to think about how you arrange your things.

The good news is our buildings are retrofitted to endure earthquakes. After every major earthquake, we're a bit better prepared for the next.

If you are really worried, my best advice is to find a newer building to live in. A little difficult in Berkeley close to campus, but if you can't, hey, it's been standing this long....

Also, none of those tall, skinny bookcases (or similar furniture pieces, pains to move anyway). Those can cause some damage if they fall; opt for shorter, wider bookcases instead.

I hope you choose to come to Berkeley! It's an absolutely wonderful place to be, and I'd never think of earthquakes as a reason to choose someplace else!

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Thanks a lot!smile.gif

Do you know, by any chance: If you look for an apartment to rent, how can you know whether the building has been built well? Is it just the date it has been built, or are there other methods? (Being an economist, I'd rather not rely on asking the owner...)

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Thanks a lot!smile.gif

Do you know, by any chance: If you look for an apartment to rent, how can you know whether the building has been built well? Is it just the date it has been built, or are there other methods? (Being an economist, I'd rather not rely on asking the owner...)

Maybe web sites like this one, http://www.seismic.ca.gov/pub.html can help give you an idea of California's building regulations and when they came into effect, to compare to the years properties were built.

I am no expert by any means. But I would probably figure by year, since evidence of retrofitting seems to be in how the building is bolted and strapped the foundation, and the foundation's health. Might be hard to tell, just looking.

There are some pictures in this pdf of stuff to look for (e.g. beware of old un-reinforced masonry): http://www.seismic.c...2005-01_HOG.pdf

From my own experience, definitely eyeball the exterior and interior for cracks in walls and corners, and certainly the exterior visible part of the foundation. Not the best sign, though wall ones are usually not a big deal. A few are okay, but if I saw a lot, I wouldn't move in.

I'd guess the safest buildings were (or should have been) built in the 1990s forward, after the Loma Prieta. But I'd also vouch for not-old-but-not-new buildings that survived the quake.

Plenty of earthquake conscious homes were built in the 1980s. My 1985 wooden home is bolted and strapped to a foundation with rods running deep into the ground below street-level.

I hope this helps. Don't forget about looking at fire safety -- a much more common issue. And at least in Berkeley, I haven't seen anyone have to worry about flooding; a nice change from my hometown area!

Edited by Jae B.

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hi,

thanks for the advice...reading this forum is very helpful!

if I wanted to find some off campus housing with other grad students, is the best way to do this craigslist? i'm from the east coast and don't know anyone from the area so I would ideally like to live with other grad students in a house/apt...

also...when should i start looking? i have a trip planned to wine country in May and was wondering if its feasible to swing by berkeley for a few days and figure out housing...think may is too early?

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hi,

thanks for the advice...reading this forum is very helpful!

if I wanted to find some off campus housing with other grad students, is the best way to do this craigslist? i'm from the east coast and don't know anyone from the area so I would ideally like to live with other grad students in a house/apt...

also...when should i start looking? i have a trip planned to wine country in May and was wondering if its feasible to swing by berkeley for a few days and figure out housing...think may is too early?

I think Craigslist is okay. I've seen some of my friends use it successfully.

Check out the Berkeley Co-ops -- they have some graduate student housing: http://berkeleystudentcooperative.org/

May is probably way too early to figure out housing. Generally, most housing comes available late summer for Fall semester. Otherwise, you'd be expected to pay in advance.

During my admissions info session, an administrator said some people "just show up" with their stuff right before classes start! They find a place that day...or someone's couch to crash on.

Someone in my program said, if people don't find a place to stay the first day, they just sleep in the grad school!

Just to give you an idea of how late people secure their housing. I didn't believe it at first, either, but late summer is usually the earliest time.

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How is the crappy student job market in Berkeley? I'd be pretty set with my fellowship, but my boyfriend will most likely be moving with me, and he's taking a break from studying for a while. He'll really take any job he can get (lots of previous experience with childcare, medical records, heavy lifting stuff...whatever makes the $$$), but I know in the college town I'm in now, it can be hard to even get "shitty" jobs because of the economy and the huge student population. Another possible issue is that his English isn't 100% fluent (he's Northern European). We can survive for a month or two on my fellowship and savings, but if he can't get some kind of work by then he'll go stir crazy and money will be tight.

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How is the crappy student job market in Berkeley? I'd be pretty set with my fellowship, but my boyfriend will most likely be moving with me, and he's taking a break from studying for a while. He'll really take any job he can get (lots of previous experience with childcare, medical records, heavy lifting stuff...whatever makes the $$), but I know in the college town I'm in now, it can be hard to even get "shitty" jobs because of the economy and the huge student population. Another possible issue is that his English isn't 100% fluent (he's Northern European). We can survive for a month or two on my fellowship and savings, but if he can't get some kind of work by then he'll go stir crazy and money will be tight.

Ditto for this--exact same situation except I'm attending and my girlfriend will be the stir-crazy job hunter.

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How is the crappy student job market in Berkeley? I'd be pretty set with my fellowship, but my boyfriend will most likely be moving with me, and he's taking a break from studying for a while. He'll really take any job he can get (lots of previous experience with childcare, medical records, heavy lifting stuff...whatever makes the $$), but I know in the college town I'm in now, it can be hard to even get "shitty" jobs because of the economy and the huge student population. Another possible issue is that his English isn't 100% fluent (he's Northern European). We can survive for a month or two on my fellowship and savings, but if he can't get some kind of work by then he'll go stir crazy and money will be tight.

Ditto for this--exact same situation except I'm attending and my girlfriend will be the stir-crazy job hunter.

From what I've observed, it's pretty competitive in the Berkeley area (including those medical records jobs!), but there are always odd babysitting jobs around Albany. There are some slimy part-time marketing jobs — and a few okay ones. It gets easier to find work if you don't mind commuting towards San Francisco.

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Possible to survive here on a 19,000/yr stipend? Ten years ago, I totally would have been fine renting someones living room or sharing a bedroom with 2 other people. Im old now though, 30, this sounds horrible to me. 19k/yr...that is a 12 mo stipend not for 9mos, that is just terrible. Thoughts?

Do i need my car here?

Edited by enginerd

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Possible to survive here on a 19,000/yr stipend? Ten years ago, I totally would have been fine renting someones living room or sharing a bedroom with 2 other people. Im old now though, 30, this sounds horrible to me. 19k/yr...that is a 12 mo stipend not for 9mos, that is just terrible. Thoughts?

Do i need my car here?

I make it on 15k, sharing. It's definitely possible to live on 19k if you rent a studio between 700 - 1,000 / mo., so you get a space to yourself. Tons of grad students, myself included, haven't needed a car around here — you get an AC Transit bus pass that'll get you around and there's BART for when you're in a hurry.

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If you're only in Las Vegas, I would say bring the car. Berkeley isn't too tough to find parking...at least in comparison to San Francisco. But the person above me is right, the bay area has a lot of public transportation programs that are usually sufficient to get around

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Possible to survive here on a 19,000/yr stipend? Ten years ago, I totally would have been fine renting someones living room or sharing a bedroom with 2 other people. Im old now though, 30, this sounds horrible to me. 19k/yr...that is a 12 mo stipend not for 9mos, that is just terrible. Thoughts?

Do i need my car here?

As an undergraduate, I did not feel I needed a car for most of my time in Berkeley. However, in my last year I did think that having a car would have broadened my experiences a bit. There are lots of interesting things to do and places to visit in the Bay Area, and having a car makes it that much easier for you to experience those things. For example, if you're an outdoorsy kind of person, it would be difficult to reach the great hiking areas in NorCal without a car. If you enjoy exploring different restaurants, having a car will reduce the headache of constantly planning for the pitfalls of public transit (frequency and transfers, mostly) when going to a new place. You may also feel safer if you drive and can avoid longer walks to/from BART stations and bus stops at night.

Though it is *much* more feasible to get around with just public transit in Berkeley than in other places, the convenience of a car is still something to consider. However, you should keep in mind that:

-it will cost you extra (can go up to ~$100/mo for covered spaces, though it can also be as low as ~$60; another option is to get a parking permit for your neighborhood and park on the streets...I want to say it's $30/yr, but don't hold me on that)

-parking will be difficult and/or expensive at times

-bridges = fees

-gas is expensive-ish there

-there is a risk your car will get broken into (it happens more than I'd like to admit, but it's just a risk you learn to live with)

Also, though I can't say for sure because I never tried to rent a studio, I'm a bit doubtful that you will be able to find a decent studio in the area for $700 - and if you do, you would most likely have to pay for water, heat, electricity, and trash! Just based on other friends' experiences, I would imagine $900-1100 is a good working range. Though at $1100, you better be blown away by the place!

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Also, though I can't say for sure because I never tried to rent a studio, I'm a bit doubtful that you will be able to find a decent studio in the area for $700 - and if you do, you would most likely have to pay for water, heat, electricity, and trash! Just based on other friends' experiences, I would imagine $900-1100 is a good working range. Though at $1100, you better be blown away by the place!

Although it is possible to find a studio for $700-800 not that far (~20 min walking distance) from campus, (1) the competition for these places is fierce, especially because most undergrads don't stay in the dorms for more than a year or two, and (2) most will likely be snapped up in the spring, because their student tenants will leave at the end of May. I am currently in a very decent studio (separate bathroom and kitchen, water, garbage, and heat included, ~5 min walk from campus) for $1000 a month, so yes, I would agree that the $900-1100 range is a more realistic expectation (you might even be able to get a very small 1 bedroom), although with the caveat that if you are looking to move in in the fall rather than the summer I do not know what will be available. Also, as I type this, I realize that this is only applicable to south side. I am not familiar with north side housing, but I think the general trend is that you can get better places for less, but the living environments are pretty different. Hopefully that is helpful!

Edited by chaussettes

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