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Settling the debate: Why Southside is better than Northside

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MARCH 13, 2020

If you are thinking of moving next semester or are coming to UC Berkeley as a new student in the upcoming school year, you are probably already thinking about where you should live. I remember all too well the confusion of moving here from out of town without being able to check out potential housing options in person. After accidentally renting a place far from campus (so far, it wasn’t even in Berkeley) instead of taking it easy and living in the residence halls my first year, I started my journey of moving almost every season. Out of all the Berkeley neighborhoods that I’ve lived in, Southside holds a special place in my heart. Here’s why.

Trekking to class

On Northside, the air may not be a delicately cultivated balance of marijuana and garbage as it is on Telegraph Avenue, but you won’t have to walk up a huge hill to get to campus if you live on Southside. And that is the crux of Northside’s problem: If you live on its west end, you have to walk up a steep hill to get to campus; if you live deep in Northside, you have to face that hill up Euclid Avenue when you walk home from class. Meanwhile, a walk from campus to Southside and back is more level. If you live on Frat Row and have to walk up Bancroft Way then you may disagree with me, but that hill is not nearly as steep as it is on the other side of campus.


Let’s not pretend that housing everywhere in Berkeley isn’t expensive. If you don’t live in a student cooperative or residence hall, you will most likely have to either lease a place with multiple people or sublet if you’re on a budget. The prices on Northside generally reflect that of Southside (more than $1,000 plus utilities for a single room), so how much you pay to live in each area depends on how lucky you get when finding a place, as there are some cheap spots on both sides.

Not-so-pro tip: If you manage to snag a room with a landlord late enough, sometimes they will lower the price for you. It’s wise to keep in mind that this technique is pretty risky, though. You’re really trying your luck and could end up with no room at all.


You could save money on Northside when it comes to groceries because Trader Joe’s is close by, and there is a Safeway and Andronico’s, which have (sort of) low prices, on Shattuck Avenue. But, these are arguably in North Berkeley and Downtown.

Likewise, Southside has multiple shops to buy groceries at (CVS Pharmacy, Whole Foods, Berkeley Bowl, Safeway and Trader Joe’s), and they are also technically a little outside of Southside. Whether or not this is still considered Southside is up for debate, but AP argues that Southside ends with Parker Street, and all of these places are a little south of Parker.

It seems the grocery scenes on both sides of campus are a little lacking. Perhaps, Downtown Berkeley residents are the true winners here.

Dining out, recreation

A good example of the Northside versus Southside food war is La Val’s Pizza against Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiana. No matter which you choose, you can’t deny that Southside has more food places — offering hefty slices from Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, late-night snacks from Taco Bell on Durant Avenue and cheap hot dogs from Top Dog. Northside just can’t compete, especially considering that the former “Gourmet Ghetto” is technically in North Berkeley, not on Northside.

While Northside may have great bars, generally, undergraduate students are too young to head to them anyway. Besides, Raleigh’s Pub and Pappy’s Grill & Sports Bar are on Southside.

Overall atmosphere

When it comes down to the question of college town vibes, Southside seems to be the best place to live for students because of how big the student population is there and how much there is to do. With so many food options, Games of Berkeley, Jaguar Karaoke, Caffè Strada, a multitude of boba shops, residence halls, frat houses and campus resources, such as the Tang Center, UC Berkeley Career Center and Recreational Sports Facility, all finding their homes on Southside, it seems like the best option for someone new to campus.

Lastly, if you live on Northside, you miss out on all of the protests happening on Upper Sproul Plaza, an integral part of the UC Berkeley experience. I don’t think I’ll ever forget seeing the Kiwibot memorial, the “strike” against media studies and the genuine strikes in support of UC Santa Cruz’s graduate students.

So, North Gate may be far less crowded than Sather Gate, but at what cost?

Contact Jasmin Staffer at [email protected] .

MARCH 13, 2020