Category: Neighborhood Profile

Oakland Hills

Where the city meets the country

Stretching 12 miles from the UC Berkeley Campus to San Leandro, the Oakland Hills are a world unto themselves. The hills rise from the Oakland flatlands to an elevation of about 1,500 feet along Skyline Boulevard. Visible from almost everywhere in Oakland, the hills are noted for their steep and forested terrain, winding narrow streets, and hillside homes with panoramic views. Over 43,000 people—more than 10 percent of Oakland’s population—reside in the hill neighborhoods.

The Hills include the Oakland neighborhoods of Claremont Hills, Montclair, Piedmont Pines, Woodminster, Crestmont, Ridgemont, Hillcrest Estates, Sequoyah, Grass Valley, Chabot Park, and Sheffield Village, among others. These communities have a history as colorful as Oakland itself, from lumber mills and logging camps, to sulfur mines and summer retreats.  Montclair Village is the major commercial center, located along Mountain Boulevard between Moraga Avenue and Park Boulevard.

The Oakland Hills present unique city planning challenges. This was the site of the most catastrophic urban wildfire in US history. Some 3,400 homes in the North Hills burned to the ground in October 1991, and 25 lives were lost. The North Hills neighborhood is worth a visit, if for no other reason than to check out the architectural kaleidoscope that resulted as more than 2,000 owners rebuilt custom homes in the span of 10 years. Love it or hate it, there’s nothing else quite like it.

The hills also contain some of Oakland’s most popular attractions. At the south end of the hills is the Oakland Zoo, ranked among the top visitor destinations in the Bay Area. Other hill area landmarks include the Mormon Temple, Chabot Observatory, the Woodminster Amphitheater, the historic Dunsmuir House and Gardens, and Joaquin Miller Park.

Skyline Boulevard runs along the crest of the hills, separating Oakland’s neighborhoods from an immense network of regional parks that provides a near-wilderness experience within minutes of the city. Sibley, Redwood, and Chabot Parks cover 5,000 acres and offer some of the best hiking in the Bay Area. You can walk through a lush redwood forest, explore a 10 million year old extinct volcano, and enjoy scenic views from ridgeline trails.

How to get to the Oakland Hills:

  • By bicycle:  Tunnel Road is popular with bicyclists and ascends to Grizzly Peak and Skyline.
  • By bus: AC Transit routes 39, 339, and 54 run from Fruitvale BART to Joaquin Miller and Redwood Parks.  Route 18 connects to Montclair from Downtown.
  • By car: It is easiest to travel by car via Highway 24, Highway 13, or Interstate 580.

View from the Oakland Hills

IMG_3652

North Hills homes

northhillshomes

northhillshomes-2

saxophonehouse

Guide and Photos by Barry Miller

Lake Merritt

The Crown Jewel of Oakland

Lake Merritt is the epicenter of Oakland. Affectionately referred to as the city’s “crown jewel,” the Lake is to Oakland what Central Park is to New York, and the National Mall is to Washington DC. It is Oakland’s aesthetic and spiritual heart—a place where residents from all corners of the city come together. Walk around the lake on a warm weekend afternoon and you will “get” what this city is all about.

The Lake was originally a tidal lagoon. In 1868, Mayor Samuel Merritt had a dam built at one end, separating the lagoon from the Oakland Estuary and San Francisco Bay. Two years later, the lake was designated the first official wildlife refuge in the United States. In the 1890s and early 1900s, the wetlands were dredged and the lake took its current form. Inspired by the City Beautiful movement, Oakland leaders created Lakeside Park on the northern Adams Point side of the lake, and created a perimeter greenway along the shoreline. Ornate homes and apartment buildings were built along Lakeshore Avenue on the east side and Lakeside Drive on the west.

The lake itself covers 140 acres, and is 8 to 10 feet deep in most places. During the last few decades, Oakland residents have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to clean the lake, restore its landscaping, and create a more welcoming environment for pedestrians. The 3.2-mile perimeter trail around the lake has never been more popular. It offers panoramic vistas of the city and the hills, great people watching, and plenty of places to soak up the sun and learn about local flora and fauna. In the evening, the historic “Necklace of Lights” illuminates the edges of the lake, creating a sophisticated urban streetscape.

While the major draw at Lake Merritt is the shoreline promenade, Lakeside Park offers experiences for persons of all ages. It includes a vintage theme park called Children’s Fairyland, a boathouse (now under renovation), a botanical garden, and the Rotary Nature Center and bird-watching area. The park also includes a scenic pergola, an fountain, a historic bandstand, an earthen maze, and numerous lawns and seating areas. Bellevue Drive is the main road through the park, with access from Grand Avenue.

The perimeter of the lake includes some of Oakland’s best known attractions, along with some hidden gems. The northwest end of the lake abuts Uptown Oakland. The iconic Kaiser Center, a 28-story tower known for its massive curved façade, is a hallmark of mid-century design. The building’s five-story parking garage features one of the largest rooftop gardens in the country. Its 3.5 acres of lawns, ponds, and pathways are open to the public and a great place for a brown bag lunch or morning coffee. Adjacent to the Kaiser Center is the Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland’s ultra-modern Roman Catholic Cathedral. Step inside and prepare to be inspired.

Further south on Lakeside Drive, a number of prominent buildings face the lake. These include several local historic landmark apartment towers, the Scottish Rite Temple, the Alameda County Courthouse, and the Camron-Stanford House, built in 1876. At the “south” end of the lake, the historic Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, built in 1914, is a beaux arts masterpiece. The renowned Oakland Museum is just adjacent.

But most of all, come to the Lake to walk. Depending on your pace, it takes about an hour to do the loop, and it will be the best hour you spend in Oakland (outside the conference, of course).

How to get to Lake Merritt:

  • On foot or bicycle: Head east along 14th Street. It is an easy 10 minute walk to the “base” of the Lake from the Marriott. If you choose to jog or run, the perimeter trail is almost entirely paved and level for your pleasure.

Lake Merritt skyline

IMG_9507

Pergola and Colonnade

IMG_9041

Cathedral of Christ the Light

???????????????????????????????

Camron-Stanford House

IMG_9328

Lake Chalet

IMG_9332

bird sanctuary

IMG_0110

Guide by Don Bradley and Barry Miller

Photos by Jackie Yang

Piedmont

Beautiful enclave with stunning homes and landscaping

The City of Piedmont is a small community surrounded by Oakland. It is a much sought after address, due to its appealing neighborhoods, excellent schools, and the prestige that comes with living in one of the country’s wealthiest communities. Incorporated in 1907 to avoid a pending annexation by Oakland, most of Piedmont’s 1.7 square miles are composed of single-family neighborhoods developed in the early 20th century. The primary development pattern is large single-family homes on streets with mature street trees. Because landscaping is required for 100% of the street setback, attractive gardens are a significant part of the visual appeal of Piedmont. The commercial district and multi-family units make up just 0.3% each of the total land uses in the city.

The borders of Piedmont follow the city’s sanitary sewer district, making it difficult to describe the city’s boundaries using streets. Generally, the city is located in the north section of Oakland, between State Route 13 and Interstate 580, and bordered by Mountain View Cemetery to the north and Park Boulevard to the south.

Piedmont is a fully developed community, with little potential for change. But when land use battles occur, they are heated and intense. For example, a recent public hearing for a plan to convert several acres of hillside open space into a playing field went until 3 AM.

As of December 2014, the median home price in Piedmont was $1,702,000. The City has developed an innovative solution to meet its affordable housing needs by creating an inventory of rent-restricted in-law apartments. Occupancy of these units is deed restricted to households meeting low, very low, and extremely low income households, and the rents are capped based on HUD standards. About 20 rent-restricted units have been created since 2007.

How to get to Piedmont:

  • By bus: Take AC Transit route 11 from downtown Oakland to Highland Avenue.
  • By bicycle: Travel north on Franklin, turn right on Grand Avenue. Follow Grand Avenue around Lake Merritt and through the Grand Lake shopping district. Take a gentle right onto Wildwood, and veer left onto Magnolia. Turn left on Hillside and take an immediate right onto Vista. When you reach Highland Avenue, you will be in downtown Piedmont.
  • By car: Take Harrison Street until it becomes Oakland Avenue, then continue to Highland.

Piedmont homes

Piedmont housePiedmont houses

 

Piedmont City Hall

Piedmont city hall

Guide by Beth Greene and Barry Miller

Photos by Beth Greene

Piedmont Avenue

Shop Oakland!

Piedmont Avenue is a commercial corridor branching off of Broadway on the south and ending at the Mountain View Cemetery on the north.  Not to be mistaken with the nearby City of Piedmont, Piedmont Avenue is located entirely in Oakland.  The neighborhood is roughly bounded by Broadway on the west and Oakland Avenue on the east.

The Key System once operated a streetcar line along Piedmont Avenue, now commemorated with a small plaza at 41st Street.  While the trolleys are long gone, they helped make the Avenue one of Oakland’s great “walking streets” in the early 1900s.

Piedmont Avenue is a great place for an afternoon stroll to support local and independent stores.  Many small businesses selling a variety of wares (gifts, crafts, books, toys) and restaurants of multiple cuisines (Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, Spanish, Indian) line Piedmont Avenue.

Health and fitness related functions and services are also well represented, starting with Kaiser Permanente on the south end.  The $1.3 billion medical center opened in 2014, replacing the outdated former hospital nearby.  Many small gyms, spas, and salons are located on this street.

Craftsman homes and larger apartment and condominium buildings are located on the side streets between Broadway and Oakland Avenue. The community is represented by the Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League (PANIL), one of Oakland’s most active neighborhood organizations.  PANIL was formed more than 40 years ago due to concerns about high density development that was changing the community’s character. They remain an important voice in neighborhood planning, advocating not only for better development but for creek restoration, public safety, and other improvements.

How to get to Piedmont Avenue:

  • By bus: Take AC Transit route 12.
  • By bicycle or car: Head north on Broadway about 1.5 miles and make a right on Piedmont Avenue.

Key Route Plaza

IMG_0047

Chapel of the Chimes

IMG_0027

Piedmont Avenue storefronts

IMG_0043

Black Swan Books and Fenton’s Creamery

IMG_0044

Gaylord’s with mural

IMG_0008

Guide by Barry Miller and Jackie Yang

Photos by Jackie Yang

San Leandro

Small town feel, active shoreline, strong efforts for business attraction

San Leandro is located directly south of Oakland. Downtown is centered on East 14th Street between Davis Street and Thornton Street.

San Leandro is one of the oldest cities in the East Bay and was the original county seat of Alameda County. Originally part of the land grant given to José Joaquin Estudillo, the city incorporated in 1872 as a 200-acre tract laid out by Estudillo’s son-in-laws.  After the gold rush, the city became a draw for Portuguese immigrants who came to San Leandro to work on small farms in the area; in the early part of the 20th century, two-thirds of the city’s population was Portuguese. The influence of these immigrants is still evident today in the street names and the linguisa sausage factories located in the city.

San Leandro was initially known for its agricultural businesses. Many kinds of fruits and vegetables were grown in the city, and it was especially recognized for its cherry orchards. The completion of the transcontinental railroad through the city encouraged the shipping of agricultural products, and canning businesses developed along the rail line. Agri-business was also an important industry; Caterpillar Tractor Company got its start in San Leandro as Daniel Best Manufacturing Company.

The city is currently known for its well-established residential neighborhoods, such as Estudillo Estates, Washington Manor and Bay-O-Vista. It also has a strong commercial/industrial district, which includes businesses such as OSI Soft, Ghirardelli Chocolate, Bigge Crane, and Kraft General Foods and advanced manufacturers such as TypeA Machines. The area is also home to a burgeoning brew pub scene, with Drake’s Brewing Company, Cleophus Quealy and the 21st Amendment, which is one of the largest breweries in California.

San Leandro is currently pursuing a significant redevelopment of its shoreline and marina. The marina currently operates as a harbor with berths for 462 boats, with just 30% occupied. Continued maintenance of the marina, particularly the dredging necessary to keep it accessible to boats, has become financially infeasible. The Shoreline Project is a public/private partnership which would redesign the 75 acres of shoreline and water area to create a master planned development which takes advantage of the site’s desirable location on the San Francisco Bay. Currently proposed as part of the project are 150,000 sf of Class A office space, a 200-room hotel, a 15,000 sf conference center, 354 housing units and recreational facilities. This project is currently in the environmental review stage.

How to get to San Leandro:

  • By BART: Take the Fremont line to the San Leandro Station (15 minutes).
  • By bus: Take AC Transit route 1 or 1R south from Broadway and 14th, exit East 14th and Estudillo (40 minutes).
  • By bicycle: Oakland and San Leandro’s downtowns are connected by International Boulevard/East 14th For a route that is comprised primarily of bike lanes, ride south on Broadway, turn left on 2nd Street, and turn right at Oak Street (which becomes Embarcadero). After about 2.5 miles, Embarcadero will become East 7th Street, which will dead-end at Fruitvale. Turn left on Fruitvale, then turn right on East 12th, left on High Street, and right on Bancroft. Stay on Bancroft approximately 5 miles, and turn right on Callan. Downtown will be to your left once you reach East 14th Street.

Daniel Best building

Daniel Best building

San Leandro homes

San Leandro homes

San Leandro marina

San Leandro marina

Guide and Photos by Beth Greene

Emeryville

Work Life Balance

Emeryville is located in a corridor between the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, extending to the shore of the San Francisco Bay just north of the Bay Bridge. It is the home of Pixar Animation Studios, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Jamba Juice, and Clif Bar. In addition, several well-known biotech and software companies have made their home in Emeryville such as Leapfrog, MobiTV, Grifols (former Novartis and Chiron). It is unique in that jobs to housing ratio is in favor of the former with day time population increasing by almost three times. Emeryville is converting from an industrial enclave and early 20th century neighborhoods to a midrise mixed-use center with lofts and office towers.  Home of marinas, animation, artists and tech firms, the city is becoming more walkable and bikeable.  Emeryville has a walkscore of 81 out of a possible 100.

How to get to Emeryville:

  • By BART and bus: From downtown Oakland, take BART to MacArthur Station and then catch the Emery-Go-Round, a free shuttle operated by Emeryville businesses.

Amtrak Station

Emeryville_04

office buildings

Emeryville_08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pixar

Emeryville_12

Emeryville City Hall

Emeryville_14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guide by Miroo Desai

Photos by Lorrayne Leong

Berkeley

Biggest Little City in the Bay Area

Although Berkeley shares its border with Oakland, its neighbor to the south, its atmosphere is entirely different. Less rough around the edges, Berkeley is more family-oriented and relaxed. Although it is small in size (population 112,580), it is widely known around the entire nation due to both the intellectual prowess of its prestigious namesake learning institution – University of California, Berkeley; as well as due its influential role in the counterculture and anti-war protests of the late 1960s. Similar to Haight Street in San Francisco, Telegraph Avenue was a focal point of the hippie movement and still retains a nostalgic flair that harkens back to those glory days, evident in the selection of merchandise hawked by its shops and sidewalk vendors as well as in the prevalence of countercultural characters that roam its sidewalks. Meanwhile, in the Berkeley Hills where approximately 24% of the population lives, million dollar homes with panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay are nestled between the remnants of a once vast redwood forest whose trees were used as landmarks by sailors navigating through the Golden Gate in the early 1800s.

Interestingly enough, neither the North Berkeley nor the Ashby BART Stations are located in a primary commercial corridor; the North Berkeley BART Station is actually surrounded by R-1 and R-2 (single family residential and restricted two family residential) zoning districts. Visitors who wish to visit Berkeley’s famous Telegraph, Solano, and Elmwood shopping districts or the Gourmet Ghetto must take a bus or walk.

Among similar-sized cities, Berkeley is distinguished by its thriving downtown. The Downtown Area Plan (DAP), adopted in 2012, envisioned a revitalization effort which would allow for three buildings up to 180 feet tall and a multitude of smaller, mixed-use developments. It won the 2014 APA National Planning Achievement Award for a Best Practice. The DAP also authorizes an ambitious Streets and Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP), which aims to make Downtown more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, livable, and attractive. Berkeley’s yearly Sunday Streets event, which drew around 50,000 participants in 2014, is modeled after similar events in San Francisco and closes a 17-block stretch of Shattuck Avenue between Rose Street and Haste Street to automobiles, allowing visitors to cycle, walk, and roller skate in the streets without having to avoid vehicular traffic.

Berkeley’s dining scene is eclectic and features a mix of long-standing and newer businesses. The Gourmet Ghetto, located on Shattuck Avenue approximately between Rose Street and Hearst Avenue, is widely acknowledged to be the birthplace of ‘California Cuisine’.

Berkeley is also known for its thriving Arts District, which draws 2.02 million projected annual patrons, features the acclaimed Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and is home to the East Bay’s only arthouse multiplex, the ten-screen Landmark Shattuck Cinemas.

How to get to Berkeley:

  • By bus: Take AC Transit route 51.
  • By BART: From downtown Oakland, take the northbound Richmond BART line and get off at any of the three Berkeley BART stations: Ashby, Downtown Berkeley, and North Berkeley.
  • By car: Take the Gilman Street, University Avenue, or Ashby Avenue exits off Interstate 580, or take the Martin Luther King Jr. Way exit from State Route 24.

 Amoeba Music

Amoeba Music

View from Indian Hill

Berkeley view

Guide and Photos by Julian Bobilev

Alameda

Island in the Bay

The City of Alameda is located west of the City of Oakland. Originally connected to Oakland as a peninsula, Alameda became an island in the beginning of the 20th century when a canal was dredged between the two cities.

Alameda has two main streets: Park Street on the south east side of the island and Webster Street on the north west side of the island. Park Street is Alameda’s “Business District”, connecting Oakland’s Fruitvale and East Lake neighborhoods to Alameda’s shoreline and South Shore Center (Alameda’s main community shopping center). Webster Street connects Oakland’s Downtown and Jack London District to Alameda’s shoreline as well and Crab Cove—once home to the famous Neptune Beach, the west coast’s equivalent to the east coast’s Coney Island.

The City of Alameda’s island location lends it to be a quaint community with a small town character that for some is a contrast to its more urban feeling neighbor, Oakland. Most recently the City of Alameda has seen a lot of development in its northwest end, in particular on the site of the former Naval Air Station (NAS) known as Alameda Point. There has been a plan adopted for the future of Alameda Point that will include a town center, main street neighborhood, open spaces, a nature reserve and adaptive reuse area.

How to get to Alameda:

  • By bicycle: From downtown Oakland, take Broadway to Embarcadero. Turn left on Embarcadero and take a right at 23rd Avenue to continue onto 23rd Avenue to cross over the green Park Street Bridge.
  • By bus: AC Transit routes 51A or 851
  • By car: Coming from the north, exit 23rd Avenue or Fruitvale Ave from Interstate 880 and turn left.  Coming from the south, exit High Street from Interstate 880 and turn left.

fun on the shoreline

Alameda shoreline

Alameda marina

Alameda marina

Alameda Cineplex

Alameda theatre

Guide and Photos by Cindy Ma

Coliseum

Let’s go Oakland!

The residential area north of the Coliseum BART Station is the start of recent transit oriented development. The Lion Creek Crossings apartment complex was built in 2006 on the site of the Coliseum Gardens public housing complex.  Single family homes are also located in this area bounded by 66th Avenue, International Boulevard, and Hegenberger Road.

The City of Oakland and BART are planning to develop the area near the BART Station with an expanded transit oriented development, which currently also includes Amtrak Capital Corridor and AC Transit access. Given the availability of land and the presence of the Coliseum Complex, there are plans to develop the area roughly bounded by 66th Avenue, San Leandro Street, Hegenberger Road, and Doolittle Road as “Coliseum City”, including housing, commercial space, entertainment, and open space.

A focus of this plan aims to keep the three professional sports teams in Oakland. The Golden State Warriors are planning an arena in San Francisco in anticipation of the 2018 season. The Oakland Raiders and Oakland Athletics are rare in currently sharing stadium space. The Raiders have been in discussions with officials in other potential home cities, but will extend their lease for 1 year. The Athletics have signed a 10 year lease at the Coliseum.

More industrial and automobile related uses are located south of San Leandro Street. Hegenberger Road, which leads to the Oakland International Airport, is lined with airport uses such as parking, hotels, and motels, along with many gas stations and fast food options.

How to get to Coliseum:

By BART: From downtown Oakland, take the Fremont or Dublin / Pleasanton BART line from 12th Street to Coliseum Station, only 3 stops away.

Lion Creek Crossings apartments

IMG_0321

O.co Coliseum

???????????????????????????????

Walmart complex

IMG_9757

BART to OAK

IMG_0282

Guide and Photos by Jackie Yang

West Oakland

Neighborhood in Transition

The West Oakland neighborhood sits just west of downtown Oakland within the bounds of Interstate 580 to the north and Interstate 980 to the east. It is otherwise surrounded by Interstate 880 and by land owned by the Port of Oakland on the south and west ends.  This residential neighborhood with many historical Victorian homes is surrounded by industrial uses.

West Oakland has been the center of many transportation projects vital to the region, however detrimental to the neighborhood.

The building of the Cypress freeway in the 1950s created a divide to the neighborhood. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, there was an opportunity to rebuild Interstate 880 along a different alignment. The previous Cypress Street freeway location was transformed into a wide landscaped median with a meandering pedestrian thoroughfare that is now known as Mandela Parkway.

BART construction in the 1970s created another division along 7th Street. The former Oakland 16th Street Amtrak station (closed in 1994) site is now being used as a community garden.

Newer apartment and condominium projects have been built recently and there has been greater interest in restoring some of the older housing stock. This predominantly African American neighborhood has been experiencing progressive gentrification and there is fear that longtime residents will be further displaced by higher housing costs. Many newer residents choose this neighborhood for easy access to San Francisco by BART or by car and proximity to downtown Oakland.

How to get to West Oakland:

  • By BART: The West Oakland BART Station is only one stop away on the San Francisco line.

mural commemorating Cypress freeway

IMG_0273

former 16th Street Amtrak Station

IMG_0275

Crucible

IMG_0265

housing along 7th Street

IMG_0267

Guide by Dana Turréy and Jackie Yang

Photos by Jackie Yang