Downtown Berkeley most walkable Bay Area neighborhood

Downtown Berkeley: ranked number one for walkability in new survey. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin
Downtown Berkeley: ranked number one for walkability in Redfin-Walk Score survey. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin

Downtown Berkeley is the most walkable neighborhood in the Bay Area, and two other Berkeley areas also make the Top 10, according to a new survey published by real-estate brokerage Redfin and Walk Score, which calculates areas’ walkability.

The report analyzed the most walkable neighborhoods of mid-size cities in the Bay Area. Downtown Berkeley placed highest with a Walk Score of 96 out of a possible 100; Southside Berkeley ranked fourth with a score of 93; and Northside Berkeley came in at number six with a score of 89.

Redfin agent Tom Hendershot puts downtown Berkeley’s winning spot down to the fact that it is a “fully functioning downtown with a large university just one block off the main strip.”

“Having the University of California, Berkeley so close to downtown offers many amenities for people there,” he said in a prepared statement, pointing in particular to “the culture, the access to everything within walking distance, and the combination of housing offered; from student housing through the university, to apartments, to traditional single family homes.”


The Cheese Board on xxx during xxx. Photo: Ted Friedman
Northside Berkeley, which includes the Gourmet Ghetto and the popular Cheese Board restaurant, ranked sixth for walkability. Photo: Ted Friedman

The median home price in downtown Berkeley is $610,000, according to Redfin. The area is undergoing a construction boom, and is due to see an influx of thousands of new housing units over the next few years. New restaurants and bars, and a soon-to-be revamped BART plaza, will likely make the center of Berkeley even more desirable for those who favor walkability.

The median home price in Southside Berkeley, whose walkability score was enhanced by the area’s easy access to transportation, is $1.02 million. While in Northside, which boasts the Gourmet Ghetto, chock full of sidewalk cafés and popular destinations like the Cheese Board, the median home price is currently $1 million.

Walk Score’s methodology involves analyzing hundreds of walking routes to nearby amenities. Those within a five-minute walk (.25 miles) are given maximum points. Walk Score also measures pedestrian friendliness by analyzing population density and road metrics such as block length and intersection density. For this particular list, Walk Score and Redfin analyzed the most highly ranked neighborhoods in cities in the Bay Area with populations under 300,000.

Recent studies show that walkability is an increasingly important factor for those looking to buy or rent a home, and the preference applies across demographics. According to report from the Regional Plan Association, 56% of millennials and 46% of baby boomers prefer to live in more walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods.

“A lot of my clients want to live in a place where they don’t have to rely on a car,” Redfin agent Hendershot told Berkeleyside. “This means being able to walk to the grocery store or the dry cleaners, but what’s especially important to my buyers is proximity to recreational activities. Berkeley has a lot to offer in that realm, like hiking, biking, sailing, the arts and, of course, great restaurants.” Hendershot added that many people who move to Berkeley are commuting to San Francisco, so being able to walk to public transit is also high on the priority list.

As for whether walkability adds value to a home in terms of its list price, Hendershot said: “Homes with high Walk Scores do seem to fetch a premium, as walkable neighborhoods tend to also be the most desirable neighborhoods. There’s a definite correlation between walkability and price. We also see price-per-square foot increase significantly near public transportation hubs, like within several blocks of BART stations. That said, opting to live in a place with a high Walk Score and access to public transportation also means that you can save money in the long run on gas and car payments.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, other downtown areas of smaller Bay Area cities fared well too in the survey: San Rafael ranked second with a 93 score; San Mateo came in third with 93; and Burlingame placed fifth with a 90 walkability score.

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