Oakland, founded in 1852, is a major city on the east side (also called East Bay) of San Francisco Bay in Northern California in the United States. To its north lies Berkeley, home to the famous university campus (University of California, Berkeley). To its west stands San Francisco, across the Bay Bridge. To its south lies the city of San Leandro, and on the east Oakland borders five of the East Bay Regional Parks. In the center of Oakland, and completely surrounded by it (prompting the common analogy to a doughnut hole), is the wealthy independent city of Piedmont. Oakland is home of the Port of Oakland, one of three major shipping ports on the American West coast.
Oakland has long been saddled with a public reputation as a high-crime city with a crumbling public education system. Since the 1970s, its per capita levels of carjacking, robbery, assault, drug possession and abuse, and homicide have ranked among the highest of all cities in the State of California.
However, with Oakland's weather, location, hillside neighborhoods with stunning views of San Francisco and the Bay, aggressive policies to reduce crime, and a substantial offering of shopping districts and restaurants representing cuisines both homegrown and worldwide have led real-estate prices to increase markedly in the past decade.
Oakland is the county seat of Alameda County. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the city's population was 399,484, making it the third largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area after San Jose and San Francisco.
Tourist attractions in Oakland include the Oakland Museum of California, the Art Deco Paramount Theater, Chinatown, Jack London Square, Lake Merritt, Children's Fairyland and McAfee Coliseum, home to the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, the Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball, and the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association. The city's commercial and residental structures exhibit a great variety of styles, including Art Deco and Craftsman.
The Oakland Tribune published its first newspaper on February 21, 1874. The Tribune Tower, which sports a clock, is one of Oakland's landmarks.
Oakland hosts Oakland International Airport, which serves much of the low-cost air traveler's market from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Oaklanders are understandably frustrated by the misuse of the most famous quote said about their city. "There's no there there," was uttered by Gertrude Stein upon learning as an adult that her childhood Oakland home had been torn down. Her quote did not have anything to do with the city itself. Modern-day Oakland has turned the quote on its head, with a statue downtown simply titled, "There."
Oakland is located at 37°47'43" North, 122°13'41" West (37.795227, -122.228111).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 202.4 km² (78.2 mi²). 145.2 km² (56.1 mi²) of it is land and 57.2 km² (22.1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 28.28% water.
Oaklanders most broadly refer to their city's terrain as "the flats" and "the hills," which up until very recent waves of gentrication have also been a reference to Oakland's deep economic divide, with "the hills" being more affluent communities. About 2/3 of Oakland lies within the flat plain of the San Francisco Bay, with 1/3 rising into the foothills and hills of the East Bay range.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 399,484 people, 150,790 households, and 86,402 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,751.4/km² (7,126.6/mi²). There are 157,508 housing units at an average density of 1,084.8/km² (2,809.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 35.66% African American, 31.29% White, 0.66% Native American, 15.23% Asian, 0.50% Pacific Islander, 11.66% from other races, and 4.98% from two or more races. 21.89% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 150,790 households out of which 28.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.0% are married couples living together, 17.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 42.7% are non-families. 32.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.60 and the average family size is 3.38.
In the city the population is spread out with 25.0% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 34.0% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 33 years. For every 100 females there are 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 90.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $40,055, and the median income for a family is $44,384. Males have a median income of $37,433 versus $35,088 for females. The per capita income for the city is $21,936. 19.4% of the population and 16.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 27.9% of those under the age of 18 and 13.1% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
See also: Maps of Oakland, California
The city of Oakland stretches from the San Francisco Bay up into the East Bay Hills. The character of these neighborhoods continues to change as waves of immigrants from within the United States and other countries relocate here for a more liberal lifestyle. Also, the changing economy lures more technically skilled workers to Oakland.
The Downtown area is mainly working-class but also includes some upper-class housing:
- Loft District
- The Waterfront
- Old Oakland
Along the way, numerous neighborhoods reach from the "flatlands" (valley) neighborhoods which include the historically working-class areas with primarily Latino and African American populations:
- West Oakland
- North Oakland
- East Oakland
Flatland neighborhoods that are gentrifying rapidly:
High hills communities
The communities in the high hills are mainly upper-class Caucasian neighborhoods:
Oakland's climate has features found in both coastal cities like San Francisco and inland cities like San Jose. While it is not located on the Pacific Ocean, its position directly inland from the Golden Gate means that the city gets a significant amount of cold nighttime fog during the summer. It is far enough inland, though, that the fog usually disappears by the morning allowing the city to have stereotypical warm sunny California days.
Oakland's average temperature of 55°F. (13°C) is slightly lower than many other California cities. Oakland's average high is 62°F. (17°C) and average low is 48°F. (9°C) with the warmest month being September, and the coldest month being January. An average of 23 inches of rain falls each year with almost all rain occurring between October and May.
Rand McNally ranked Oakland's climate as the best in the United States.
Places to see in Oakland include Lake Merritt, Jack London Square, and the Oakland Zoo. The USS Potomac, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential yacht, is berthed in Oakland.
Oakland was founded in 1852 and grew with the railroads, becoming a major rail terminus in the late 1860s and 1870s. Originally comprised of the area west of Lake Merritt (now downtown and Chinatown), it gradually annexed farmlands to the east and north. In 1906 its population grew substantially with refugees made homeless after the San Francisco earthquake and fire. By 1920, Oakland was the home of numerous manufacturing industries, including metals, automobiles, and shipbuilding.
World War II
During WWII, the East Bay Area was home to a massive Naval shipbuilding industry. The industry attracted a huge amount of laborers from around the country. Many of the new workers were African Americans from the western South (Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas), who enjoyed great prosperity during the war years.
Post War Years
Soon after the war, the shipbuilding and automobile industries virtually evaporated, as did the jobs that came with it. Many who came to the city did not leave and decided to settle in their new home of Oakland. Meanwhile, many of the city's more affluent white residents fled the city after the war in order to move into newly developing suburbs to the north and south of Oakland's city borders.
By the late 1960s, Oakland, which had been quite prosperous and affluent before the war, found itself with a population that was dominated by a lower income class than had been typical for the city. Much of Oakland's current reputation as a high-crime city can be traced to the transformation that occurred after World War II, especially to the post-1965 era.
60s and 70s Activism
Oakland was home to many activist groups during the 1960s and 70s. The Black Panther Party, created in 1966 to protect residents against police excesses, is perhaps the most famous of the groups that formed in Oakland.
80s and Beyond
In the late 80s and early 90s Oakland was home to two major natural disasters.
On October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake caused significant damage in Oakland, despite the fact that the epicenter of the quake was more than 70 miles (100 km) away from the city. The Cypress Viaduct, a double decker portion of Interstate 880 that collapsed during the earthquake was in Oakland, and the portion of the San Francisco Bay Bridge that fell down was on the Oakland side of the span.
On October 20, 1991, the city was struck by the Oakland Hills firestorm. Due to an intense Diablo wind a small brush fire in the East Bay hills turned into an out of control wildfire that spread quickly across 1,600 acres (6 km²) of the dense housing of Oakland and Berkeley's hills. 25 people were killed, 2,449 single family houses were burned down, 427 apartment and condo units destroyed and $1.5 billion in damage were accrued. The fire remains one of the most damaging fires in California history.
Jerry Brown, a former governor of California, known to some as "Governor Moonbeam," was elected mayor in 1998 and re-elected with little opposition in 2002. In March 2004, Oakland's voters approved Measure P, an affirmation of the so-called "strong mayor" system, which enshrined permanently changes in the city charter that had given the mayor chief executive power over city government rather than the city manager (as had been historically the case prior to Brown's election as mayor).
Notable natives and residents
- City of Oakland official web page
- Oakland/Berkeley Hills Fire
- The Black Panther Party Research Project
- American Babylon: Race & the Struggle for Postwar Oakland
- Photographic virtual tour of Oakland
- Oaklandhistory.com images and book list
- Oakland Heritage Alliance is a non-profit membership organization which advocates the protection, preservation, and revitalization of Oakland's architectural, historic, cultural and natural resources through publications, education, and direct action. Site includes images of Oakland postcards from 1900-1990,
- Oakland History on the Web from Oakland Public Library
- Oakland Collection Online of the Oakland Museum of California. Over 7000 Oakland objects including historical photographs, paintings, documents, objects, all about Oakland. Explore Oakland’s neighborhoods, walk the shoreline, stand atop city hall and look all around.