Sitting on a gently rolling plain that rises slowly from the ocean, Berkeley is an iconic California fixture. Billing itself as a city with a small population and a big reputation, Berkeley is a city with a rich history of creative freedom and support of the arts. Additionally, it is often known both nationally and internationally as a center for scientific research and academic achievement. Despite a constantly shifting population, Berkeley is a city that still manages to adhere to a consistent set of values.
Lay of the Land
Even with a population of approximately 112,580 residents, Berkeley is still only the fourth largest city in Alameda County. Its most significant neighbors include Oakland and Emeryville to the south and Albany to the north. The eastern edge of the city is occupied by the Berkeley Hills, a small range that runs along the border between Berkeley and Contra Costa County. Based on its proximity to the San Francisco Bay, numerous small creeks run from the Hills through the city before emptying into the Bay. With a median household income of $61,960 the city falls right into the average range for the state of California, while the median home value of $698,400 is well above state averages.
Berkeley has one of the highest rates of bicycle and pedestrian commuting in the nation. As such, the city has instituted several policies designed to divert traffic and create a safer operational grid for both cyclists and pedestrians. This has resulted in extremely low accident rates among both populations, making the city one of the safest for pedestrians and cyclists in the country. Many neighborhoods in Berkeley are blocked to thru traffic, often with barriers and barricades, leaving tree-lined streets with low traffic and a comfortable neighborhood feel.
Additionally, Berkeley has numerous options when it comes to public transportation. These include Amtrak services, Bay Area Rapid Transit stations, and Alameda-Contra Costa County Transit services. These provide bus and shuttle services all over the Bay area and the greater Alameda-Contra Costa County area. Many local employers also provide shuttle services within the city for employees. Finally, the Eastshore Freeway, which runs along the local shoreline, provides car access to the city for numerous commuters.
It is impossible for most people to think about the city of Berkeley without also immediately thinking about the University of California, Berkeley. Established in 1868, UC Berkeley is the oldest school in the University of California system. It is also home to the President of the University and the Board of Regents of a world class university. By almost any metric it is the highest ranked public university in the nation and possibly even the world.
On a functional level, UC Berkeley offers over 350 graduate and undergraduate degree programs across a wide range of educational disciplines. However, the university is most well-known on an international level for its work as a research university. Faculty members, alumni, and researchers working directly at UC Berkeley have won a combined 72 Nobel prizes and are responsible for a wide range of scientific discoveries over numerous fields. Cal, as it is fondly referred to, has more Nobel Laurates on faculty than any other university in the world.
The city of Berkeley is also focused on the maintenance and development of an extensive park system. The primary focus of the environmental development within the city is the restoration of existing natural features for public usage. Berkeley has been at the forefront of the national movement to re-tree urban areas and also has several programs designed to restore many of the natural creeks and wetlands habitats within the city.
As befits a city of its size, especially one with a thriving university population, Berkeley has numerous retail centers scattered around the city in order to provide professional services and entertainment to a diverse population. Major streets and neighborhoods include Shattuck Avenue, University Avenue, Ashby Avenue, San Pablo Avenue and Telegraph Avenue with ends at the main entrance to the University. Each neighborhood is unique in its makeup and warrants extensive exploration to capture its diverse and colorful style. 4th street has become a destination for its many well received restaurants as well, and the Berkeley Marina is an active and thriving home yielding unprecedented access to central San Francisco Bay for boaters.