Northbrae, Berkeley, California

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Northbrae, Berkeley, California is a functional neighborhood that made the American Planning Association's list of Great Places in America in 2011.[1] This may have been due to views of the San Francisco Bay, mixed land uses, and Eco-conscious design. Its borders include Solano Avenue to the North, Eunice and Hopkins Streets to the South, Spruce Street to the East, and the Albany city limits to the West. It has a shopping and business district, as well as hilly terrain made up of volcanic rock, rhyolite, and 136 stairways carved into the landscape.


After a 1906 earthquake along the western coast, about 15,000 residents from San Francisco decided to move East. Commuter rail had made it possible to now inhabit the countryside and Duncan McDuffie and Joseph Mason took full advantage of this. Under Mason-McDuffie Co., they purchased 700 acres for a subdivision that would eventually be known as Berkeley. Garden suburbs and the Beaux Arts style were prominent influences for this new area. At one point, the local Chamber of Commerce even proposed that Berkeley be named the state capital. This idea influenced lots of the design, bringing lots of stone and classical elements to the town.

Natural and physical features[edit]

The Northbrae neighborhood is known for its hilly terrain. The built environment follows along the natural topography which includes trees and existing outcropping of volcanic rock. The volcanic rock in the area, rhyolite, is primarily composed of quartz and is a significant feature of the area. The streets are arranged predominantly N-S in order to emphasize the views of the San Francisco bay and the hills. Most of the homes are bungalows and are tucked into the hills, connected by stairways that have been carved into the landscape.

Notable places and public amenities[edit]

Northbrae is home to many great places in Berkeley. The North Branch Berkeley Library,[2] the Martin Luther King Middle School, and Solano Avenue shopping district are all integral parts of Berkeley. Northbrae is also home to a northern business district and many great parks. The MLK Middle School runs a program called the Edible Schoolyard that attracts many people every year.[3] Northbrae also houses a public center called the Fountain Circle. There are also many paths in the neighborhood for walking.[4]


The neighborhood was originally designed with the intention of each single family home having direct access to the train under the 1916 zoning law. Today, however, the North Berkeley BART station is just 0.5 mile away and is accessible by 2 local bus routes. There are 2 bicycle boulevards that promote alternative transportation.

Active associations[edit]

Works Cited[edit]