With a population of 23,549 according to the 2010 census, El Cerrito takes up just 3.7 square miles. Located on San Francisco Bay's eastern shore, the area is popular for relocaters due to its glorious views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Fran that can be spotted from the town's higher elevations. Because of its popularity, begin your moving plans at least six months ahead of time. A lot of pre-move preparation will be needed for you to rent an apartment in El Cerrito. Make sure you move with plenty of extra money in an emergency fund to cover any unforeseen circumstances that may pop up during your move and subsequent house rental search. If you're looking to rent a studio apartment, hold off on adopting a four-legged friend if you haven't already. Many apartments don't allow pets in small apartments, so you'll save yourself a fruitless search.
Another way to save yourself stress is to contact local realtors and apartment locator services before your move so they can start the search for you before you even get to town. When you start your search for an apartment rental, be prepared to sign a lease since most places won't want you to go month to month.
The city is divided up into 10 different neighborhoods. Some of the notable areas include:
Mira Vista: Anchored by the Mira Vista Country Club, this northern El Cerrito 'burb is known for its high rent. In California, no less. This is mainly due to the fact that most of the homes in this area are older ones owned by their residents, so rentals are few and far between.
Potrero Av/ Roger C.: Just below Mira Vista, this nabe doesn't even have its own name, just the cross streets that form its borders. While this area is still dominated by owner-occupied older homes, a few townhouses are rented here.
Hillside: The Hillside Natural Area within this community and the Playland-Not-At-The-Beach museum just below it makes this a natural fit for the fun-loving type. You're also right beside the Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.
Downtown: Not that El Cerrito can really claim to have a downtown area, but this is the closest it gets. With the Eisenhower Freeway (I-80) going through it, this neighborhood is ideal for commuters or those who like to go way for weekends.
Fairmont: Fairmont Park is a central spot in this nabe that's known for its small apartment buildings and smaller, rentable homes. Rents here won't break the bank, but won't have you rolling in extra dough at the end of the month either.
Navigating the city isn't difficult with the numerous BART stations in town. There are also a few bus lines that operate just within city limits and to a few of the neighboring cities like Berkeley, Richmond and Albany. Interstates 580 and 80 help with navigation through, around and past the city as well. Keep in mind that this is "Earthquake Country," and El Cerrito is on the Hayward Fault line. You'll be surprised by how easy it is to get accustomed to the earthquake updates you see on the local news.
Most of El Cerrito's retail and dining options are found along the main thoroughfare of San Pablo Avenue, which transverses the city. A popular spot for retail therapy is the sprawling El Cerrito Plaza. Watch a movie at Cerrito Theater, where you can also order dinner, beer and wine without leaving your seat. Even more beer can be found at the Elevation 66 Brewing Company on San Pablo Avenue.
For those times when you want to be outside and active, head to one of the city's many parks. The Hillside Natural Area has plenty of open spaces perfect for a picnic or for an intense game of Frisbee golf. Join the other joggers, bicyclists and walkers enjoying the 2.6-mile Ohlone Greenway. The trail runs the length of the city and was named after the local Native American tribe. While Playland-Not-At-The-Beach is a funny name, it's also an awesome way to spend the afternoon. The museum's goal is to celebrate the great amusement park experiences most of us had growing up. More than 20 exhibits include artifacts from defunct amusement parks, original signage, rare photographs and carnival skill games. This is just one of the ways that El Cerrito is a wholly unique treasure in the San Fran Bay area.