Oakland Neighborhoods

Quick, name a place in the Bay Area where an average person making an average income can still afford to buy a home, can still afford to live without mortgaging their entire future, can still afford to send the kids to college. Stumped? The anwer is Oakland. Yes, that's right Oakland. We know the reputation that Oakland sometimes is appropriated, we know the rumors flying around about Oaktown, and we also know what the misrepresented quote by Gertrude Stein ("There's no there there") says about our fair city and we're here to tell you that contrary to those rumors, Oakland is a great place to live. Heck, we even have a statue now in the city center that reads simply "there" (take that Gertie). So here's a little homage to Oakland and some of our neighborhoods so that you, and the rest of the world, can put some of those rumors to bed.

Downtown Oakland

Like any major city, Oakland has seen its ups and downs, however, now due to redevelopment efforts, Oakland is on a serious upswing and the reclaimation of our city begins downtown. The epicenter of the downtown resurgence is the glorious Art Deco Paramount Theater which, inside its gilded and bas relief laden archways, one can still catch silent movies. Oh, yeah, the Paramount also plays host to major name acts like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan. The Oakland East Bay Symphony calls this masterpiece home, as well as, groups from gospel to comedy to ballet. The downtown core is truely on the move, many new shops, bars and restaurants have been seen cropping up next to the traditional African American and ethnic shops, there's art galleries showcasing local talent; there's a hipness mixing together with the heritage, one can feel a palpable energy eminating from down here. Also, as part of the redevelopment effort, Mayor Jerry Brown has hatched a plan to add housing for 10,000 residents, prbably lofts, apartments, and condos, but nothing says economic upturn better than new housing. With all of the history, the reclaimed squares and parks, and the people, most importantly, Oakland's city center will continue to look forward while keeping one foot firmly set in it's historical past.

West Oakland

One would believe that with its proximity to mass transit that West Oakland would be getting its piece of the redevelopment pie, maybe even a larger slice. But, alas, the way things work in city politics, with city money aren't always the way things should work. However, West Oakland has become a haven for artists and techies, for anyone seeking a huge live/work space on the cheap. That's right, all of those warehouses are being converted and they're being gobbled up by those who can predict the future because where go the people so follows the business ( is that economics 116 or 140) and with the surge of people flooding West Oakland it won't be long before you can walk out your loft garage door and hang out at the corner coffee shop.

The Temescal

Probably the Oakland neighborhood that is growing the fastest is the Temescal due in a large part to the completion of the 24 freeway. During construction of the 24, the Temescal was severly neglected and many packed up and took flight; well, now those who once left are coming home to roost. The main business corridor of Telegraph Avenue is simply bursting with new shops and new restaurants whose owners decided to park it where rent was cheaper; and I know I said above that where the people go the business follows, well the reverse is also true (econ 141). Long time residents are melding with first time home buyers, employees of Childeren's Hospital and others; forming a solid, ethnically and culturally diverse community that is the essence of what Oakland is all about.

Lakeshore and Lake Merritt

Lakeshore has seen its fair share of ups and downs, trends and fads, but remains a thriving neighborhood that seriously goes from morning to late night. Encompassing Oakland's crown jewel, the urbanly surrounded paradise of Lake Merrittt, lakeshore's economy at a crossroads between local shops and corporate behemoths, sparking the age old debate between commercialism and open space. We too want to see economic growth but not at the expense of the mom and pops that give Oakland its unique character. The Lakeshore district has enough flavor for five neighborhoods, it's a bustling metropolis inside a greater city, there's movie theaters and shops, there's local bars and restaurants, there's the great people of Oakland enjoying a stroll around the lake or hanging at the corner coffee shop chatting about the day; it's a social center that won't lose its character and heritage, it will only blend with the new influences, be they commercial or otherwise, and be stronger for it.

Adam's Point

Adam's Point recently has seen a surge in gay owned businesses and gay residents that have provided the spark for this little jut of land on Lake Merritt. Nothing like the gay mecca across the bay, Adam's Point retains a sleepy little neighborhood quality that can't be found in San Francisco, it's a place where people have decidedly come to settle down and start their lives away from, but still quite close to, the commercialism over there.

Rockridge

Heck, what can be said about Rockridge? A colleague once described it as the greatest neighborhood on the planet and I am at a severe loss to debate him. The Rockridge district is a little slice of heaven in North Oakland where the sun seems to always shine and the trees are always in bloom. Bounded by Telegraph Avenue and Broadway, and stretching down from the Berkeley border to 51st Street, Rockridge with its diverse mix of people, shops and homes is the model of a sustainible neighborhood in Oakland. At the small shops and many, many restaurants, college kids mix with longtime residents, biz pros mix with retirees, and everyone cherishes their personal paradise. People walk home from the Bart station together, people chat in line at the markets, friends meet for breakfast; Rockridge has the down home neighborhood feel that most nearly everyone craves. Because of these qualities, home prices have soared much higher than the rest of Oakland,but in keeping with Oakland's great tradition, Rockridge remains ethnically, economically, and culturally diverse.

Piedmont

The nearby California College of Arts and Crafts provides an ever freshening stream of youth into what some describe as a geriatric neighborhood, but just like the rest of our city, if it wasn't diverse it wouldn't be Oakland. People from all over Oakland take a stroll down the Avenue for shopping or dining or just because Piedmont has so many interesting things to look at. And, despite the encroachment of chain establishments that can't seem to gain a foothold in other neighborhoods (and believe me they didn't build here without a serious fight), Peidmont retains its natural character. Seriously, Piedmont is still the kind of area where people greet each other by name and let their kids run around the parks, where you're just as likely to see an old friend as you are to make new ones.

The Laurel District

Laurel is a diverse old community with some of its families residing there for over four generations, but as with many other neighborhoods in Oakland, this one to is going through a renewal. Situated at the base of the Oakland hills between Coolidge Avenue and High Street, Laurel is affordable and friendly, yet with a huge potential for growth. Mills and Merritt Colleges are close, providing an influx of young people, and Laurel sits next to the East Bay Park District which has some of the best hiking trails in the hills. Laurel has a history, has visible ties to the past with its small shops and cottage homes and, now, has the signs of a bright future because a ton of new businesses have been cropping up there lately from larger chain establishments to local mom and pops.

The Oakland Hills

Some of the most coveted real estate in the entire Bay Area is in the Oakland Hills with its secluded roads, open land and simply phenomenal views of the bay. The hills are decidedly upscale and quite expensive, but that doesn't change the fact that they are still part of Oakland and still add to our glorious melting pot. It's not as if people from the hills avoid the city, quite the contrary, they invest in it, they are an integral part of our revitalization by deciding to live here, to build businesses here, to enjoy all of what Oakland has to offer.
Well, I sincerly hope that this little slice, this inside view has maybe changed your perception of Oakland, our people and our communities, even if just a little. I hope that this has dispelled some of the rumors and reactions to what our city is alll about, (not that we don't enjoy some of the cachet that those rumors bring). Because while we've had our growing pains, nothing worth having comes without a fight and I believe that if one spiritual aspect could be attributed to Oakland, it's a fighting one. Heck, just come on over and see for yourself, take an afternoon, walk by the lake, dine in Rockridge, grab a beer downtown, take in a show at the Paramount, and shop along Piedmont. I personally gaurantee that it'll be interesting. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that one major rumor still rings true—one, in fact, that you can take as gospel—our pro sports teams could kick your pro sports teams collective butts any day of the week. Hey, I couldn't leave this piece without a little Oaktown attitude.