Second, can anyone help me figure out where to look? I am a homebody, "hip" and "urban" sound like the exact opposite of where I would want to live, and I am used to urban sprawl more than dense city living. I prefer quiet living to bustling areas and want to avoid undergrad/fratty areas like the plague. I have a car and I would rather have a longer commute and more space and/or better prices than the alternative. Because I plan to live alone, I need it to be safe enough for that. Finally, and I know this is a big one, I want to get a larger dog (50-60 lb). Even if I don't/can't or have to go with a smaller breed, I have two guinea pigs that most landlords historically have been fine with because they're caged, but it's a consideration. Usually a picture of their accomodations calms landlord nerves. If I found a great place now I'd love to stay there all three years. I feel more comfortable going with a management company based on past experiences with private owners.
Any location suggestions or complex names would be very much appreciated. If anyone can recommend their current or past apartment complex but doesn't feel comfortable posting it here, I'd really appreciate a PM.
MB: thanks for the opportunity to procrastinate from finals studying.
You have a few countervailing elements here. Many complexes (at least those close by) limit the size of pets to ~40 lbs. I have a 100lb dog and it pretty much narrowed my options to homes rented by individuals. (Not to say there aren't any; I just don't know of any) Our landlord has been great--too bad I'm not out until 1 Oct. For the unurban/quiet you are looking for, you need only look outside of the area immediately south of campus or along the major thoroughfares University/Shattuck/MLK etc. Once you get off those, it gets neighborhoody pretty quick. I live in North Berkeley and would recommend it. The most quiet/homebody areas will be up in the Berkeley hills (but again, no complexes). On a map, it's the eastern bit where the roads get twisty.
A bit of housing advice to all--just breathe. It'll be alright. Every year this goes on and every year people find places to live. The search may not be all rainbows and unicorns, but you will be OK in the end. You are coming to a great place.
Edit to add: sorry I have no experience with the appeals process, so can't comment there.