Kensington: Small East Bay Community With East Coast Feel

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A street scene on Kensington’s Colusa Avenue.

Tucked away on the western slopes of the East Bay hills, the community of Kensington sits minutes from an array of urban perks while retaining a small-town vibe reminiscent of a quaint East Coast village.

Bordering portions of Berkeley and Albany to the south and El Cerrito to the north and west, Kensington is very small in both population and size. Just over 5,000 residents call the 0.95-square-mile community home, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

Although Kensington is primarily residential, a strip near the intersection of Colusa and Santa Fe avenues is home to the popular Kensington Circus pub, a Semifreddi’s bakery, Benchmark Pizzeria, and a Sunday farmers’ market. The Kensington Village business district on Arlington Avenue offers residents access to a supermarket and several restaurants.

Those who want to expand their shopping and dining options are a short drive from several bustling neighborhoods, including Solano Avenue and legendary Berkeley foodie destination the Gourmet Ghetto.

Most residents who commute via public transportation do so by taking AC Transit bus line 7 or 25 to the Downtown Berkeley BART station, which offers service to San Francisco. AC Transit lines G and H provide an alternative way to cross San Francisco Bay on weekdays.

The community lies just west of several popular outdoor spots, including Wildcat Canyon Regional Park and Tilden Regional Park. Family attractions at the latter include Lake Anza, a carousel, and the Little Farm petting zoo.

Residents also enjoy relaxing in Blake Garden, a 10.6-acre outdoor space operated by the University of California, Berkeley. Blake Garden boasts more than 1,200 species of local plants and offers landscape-architecture and environmental-planning classes.

Some neighborhood children attend the well-regarded Kensington Hilltop Elementary School, which scored a 953 of a possible 1,000 on the state’s 2013 Academic Performance Index.

While there is no guarantee that residents can send their children to Kensington Hilltop, the lucky ones who gain access will enjoy a school with “strong family involvement,” one of Pacific Union’s top East Bay professionals notes.

Kensington homes – almost all of which are in the hills — include those built in ranch and traditional styles, as well as one designed by noted Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck. Some homes situated in the community’s higher elevations offer unbeatable views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais.

According to MLS data, the January median sales price for a single-family home in Kensington was $812,000, a year-over-year increase of 25 percent. The months’ supply of inventory has been tight since the beginning of the fourth quarter, ranging from 1.6 to 0.5.

(Photo: Pinterest/Ira Serkes)

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