I also attended the admitted students day!
My feeling is that the reputation accurately describes the school. They have a strong alumni base and all the benefits associated with a big student body; however, there is also the downside manifested in huge faculty to student ratios, less personal environment, etc.
The competitiveness issue was mentioned several times, but the sales pitch seemed to be that they have "good competition" that will help you succeed. They never went so far as to deny that the school was competitive or demanding. I asked several current students about this issue and they conceded that it was indeed a factor, but also stressed that most students still help each other. The administrators seemed to look down on Berkeley and Stanford because they don't use a traditional grading system. One argument was that your grades "mean something" at Hastings....
One admitted student asked about the downward ranking trend, and the faculty responded by dismissing the rankings as unscientific. On the other hand, they conceded that the perception of a school depends largely on the rankings, so they have formed a panel to address the issue. Beyond the rankings, I am somewhat concerned that the school is in danger of being a has-been sort of institution. They went a little overboard when emphasizing their history and pointing out how they are the oldest school in California. My line of thinking was: "It's great that you had the best faculty in the 70s, but what about today?" Keep in mind that this was just a concern, and I'm still seriously considering Hastings.
As a Bay Area resident, I can tell you that the weather was about as bad as it gets. The storms in the last two weeks have almost doubled our total rainfall for the season. San Francisco can be a bit foggy throughout the year, but if you live in the East Bay (15 minutes on BART, and cheaper rent) the fog burns off and you get consistently sunny, ~65-75 degree weather from April-November. Winters are usually mild in the upper 50's with some rainfall and some clear days.
I just have a couple of quick responses to some of the things you mentioned:
-Your class will be 20% smaller next year, so the faculty-student ratio will improve. I'm only a 1L, but I haven't found the ratio to be a problem at all. The professors here seem to try really hard to get to know your name, and seem to be pretty open and friendly.
-No one here seems to care about the rankings, honestly. No one I know has really talked about it at all, both students and faculty alike. One my professors told me that one student transferred from here to Davis last year because Davis is higher ranked. He said this was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. There is a panel whose purpose is to address the rankings though. This is one of the reasons that the school is cutting down the incoming class by 20%.
-I don't find people here to be "competitive." Hard working? Yeah. But this is law school, so you should expect people to be working hard. When people miss class, tons of people send their notes, etc. We all helped each other practice our speeches for oral arguments. I'm in the library right now in a room with some friends hanging out and going over notes.
-Also, a notes on grades meaning something. When I interviewed with a judge where I'll be working this summer, she said my grades were particularly impressive because they come from Hastings, where she knows the grading can be more rigorous than other bay area schools. So while that is a stupid comment from a teacher, that isn't the only time I've heard it.
-The curve can be found online in the academic handbook. You can also look online to see how individual professors have given out grades so you know professors who tend to give out the most As.