Oakland, California

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Oakland, California
City of Oakland
Oakland skyline, with the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge in background
Oakland skyline, with the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge in background
Flag of Oakland, California
Official seal of Oakland, California
Nickname(s): "Oaktown", "The Town",[1] "Bump City" (uncommon)[2]
Location in Alameda County and the state of California
Location in Alameda County and the state of California
Oakland, California is located in USA
Oakland, California
Oakland, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 37°48′16″N 122°16′15″W / 37.80444°N 122.27083°W / 37.80444; -122.27083Coordinates: 37°48′16″N 122°16′15″W / 37.80444°N 122.27083°W / 37.80444; -122.27083
Country  United States of America
State  California
County Alameda
Incorporated May 4, 1852[4]
 • Type Mayor-Council
 • Mayor Jean Quan (D)
 • State Senate Loni Hancock (D)[5]
 • State Assembly Nancy Skinner (D) and
Rob Bonta (D)[6]
 • U. S. Congress Barbara Lee (D)[7]
 • Total 78.002 sq mi (202.024 km2)
 • Land 55.786 sq mi (144.485 km2)
 • Water 22.216 sq mi (57.54 km2)  28.48%
Elevation[9] 43 ft (13 m)
Population (2012 (estimate))
 • Total 400,740[3]
 • Rank 1st in Alameda County
8th in California
47th in the United States
 • Density 7,004/sq mi (2,704.2/km2)
Demonym Oaklander
Time zone PST (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP code 94601, 94602, 94603, 94605, 94606, 94607, 94610, 94611, 94612, 94618, 94619, 94615, 94621
Area code(s) 510
FIPS code 06-53000
GNIS feature IDs 277566, 2411292
Website www.oaklandnet.com

Oakland /ˈklənd/ is a major West Coast port city in the U.S. state of California. The Port of Oakland is the busiest port for San Francisco Bay and all of Northern California. Oakland is the third largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area, the eighth-largest city in the state, and the 47th-largest city in the U.S. with a population at the 2010 U.S. Census of 390,724.[10] Incorporated in 1852, Oakland is the county seat of Alameda County. It serves as a major transportation hub and trade center for the entire region and is also the principal city of the Bay Area Region known as the East Bay. The city is situated directly across the bay, six miles (9.7 km) east of San Francisco.

Oakland's territory covers what was once a mosaic of coastal terrace prairie, oak woodland, and north coastal scrub. Its land served as a rich resource when its hillside oak and redwood timber were logged to build San Francisco, and Oakland's fertile flatland soils helped it become a prolific agricultural region. In the late 1860s, Oakland was selected as the western terminal of the Transcontinental Railroad. It continued to grow in the 20th century with its busy port, shipyards, and a thriving automobile industry. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, many San Franciscans relocated to Oakland, enlarging the city's population, increasing its housing stock and improving its infrastructure.

A steady influx of immigrants during the 20th century, along with thousands of African-American war-industry workers who relocated from the Deep South during the 1940s, have made Oakland one of the most ethnically diverse major cities in the country. Oakland is known for its history of political activism, as well as its professional sports franchises and major corporations, which include health care, dot-com companies and manufacturers of household products. The city is a transportation hub for the greater Bay Area, and its shipping port is the fifth busiest in the United States.

Oakland has a Mediterranean climate with an average of 260 sunny days per year. Lake Merritt, a large estuary centrally located east of Downtown, was designated the United States' first official wildlife refuge. Jack London Square, named for the author and former resident, is a tourist destination on the Oakland waterfront.

Much progress has been made in reducing the city's high crime rate; violent crime is primarily concentrated in certain neighborhoods, and property crime has declined throughout the city. Oakland is continually listed among the top cities in the United States for sustainability practices, including a No. 1 ranking for usage of electricity from renewable resources. Significant portions of Oakland suffer from severe lead contamination.

In recent years, Oakland has gained national recognition as a travel destination. In 2012, Oakland was named the top North American city to visit, highlighting its growing number of sophisticated restaurants and bars, top music venues, and increasing nightlife appeal.[11] Oakland also took the No. 16 spot in "America's Coolest Cities," ranked by metrics like entertainment options and recreational opportunities per capita, etc.[12] In 2013, Oakland topped the No. 1 spot in "America's Most Exciting Cities," notably having the most movie theaters, theater companies, and museums per square mile.[13] In "America's Most Hipster Cities," Oakland took the No. 5 spot, cited for luring San Francisco "hippies" into the city.[14]


Depiction of Oakland in 1900.

The Ohlone[edit]

The earliest known inhabitants were the Huchiun tribe, who lived there for thousands of years. The Huchiun belonged to a linguistic grouping later called the Ohlone (a Miwok word meaning "western people").[15] In Oakland, they were concentrated around Lake Merritt and Temescal Creek, a stream that enters the San Francisco Bay at Emeryville.

Early history[edit]

Conquistadors from New Spain claimed Oakland, and other Ohlone lands of the East Bay, along with the rest of California, for the king of Spain in 1772. In the early 19th century, the Spanish crown deeded the East Bay area to Luis María Peralta for his Rancho San Antonio. The grant was confirmed by the successor Mexican republic upon its independence from Spain.[16] Upon his death in 1842, Peralta divided his land among his four sons. Most of Oakland fell within the shares given to Antonio Maria and Vicente.[17]

The Peralta ranch included a stand of oak trees that stretched from the land that is today Oakland's downtown area to the adjacent part of Alameda, then a peninsula. The Peraltas called the area encinal, a Spanish word that means "oak grove." This was translated more loosely as "Oakland" in the subsequent naming of the town, as recounted by Horace Carpentier in his first address as mayor: "The chief ornament and attraction of this city consists, doubtless, in the magnificent grove of evergreen oaks which covers its present site and from which it takes both its former name of 'Encinal' and its present one of 'Oakland.'" [18]

As part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the Mexican–American War, the Mexican government ceded 525,000 square miles (1,360,000 km2); 55%[19] of its pre-war territory (excluding Texas) to the US in exchange for $15 million. The Treaty also provided for the safeguarding of the land and property of Mexican citizens. This provision was regularly ignored by squatters and land speculators, some of whom began settling on the Peralta Ranch, particularly during the Gold Rush. Before Congress created a Land Commission in 1851 to pursue a settlement of property claims, a group of three men---Horace Carpentier, Edson Adams, and Andrew Moon---backed at one point by a small army of some 200 men hired from San Francisco, began developing a small settlement on Peralta land initially called "Contra Costa" ("opposite shore", the Spanish name for the lands on the east side of the Bay) in the area that is now downtown Oakland. Carpentier was elected to the California state legislature and got the Town of Oakland incorporated on May 4, 1852. By the time the Land Commission got around to confirming the Peraltas' claims in 1854, Oakland was quickly being further developed. The Peraltas in the meantime had been persuaded to sell various parcels of their vast holdings.[18] In 1853, John Coffee "Jack" Hays, a famous Texas Ranger, was one of the first to establish residence in Oakland while performing his duties as sheriff of San Francisco.[20]

On March 25, 1854, Oakland was re-incorporated as the City of Oakland. Horace Carpentier was elected the first mayor. His tenure did not last, however. He was ousted in 1855 by an angry citizenry when it was discovered that he had acquired exclusive rights to the waterfront from the Town Board of Trustees in 1852. Charles Campbell replaced him as Mayor on March 5, 1855.

The city and its environs quickly grew with the railroads, becoming a major rail terminal in the late 1860s and 1870s. In 1868, the Central Pacific constructed the Oakland Long Wharf at Oakland Point, the site of today's Port of Oakland. The Long Wharf served as the terminus both for the Transcontinental Railroad and for local commuter trains of the Central (later, Southern) Pacific. The Central Pacific also established one of its largest rail yards and servicing facilities in West Oakland, which continued to be a major local employer under the Southern Pacific well into the 20th century. The principal depot of the Southern Pacific in Oakland was the 16th Street Station located at 16th and Wood, which is currently being restored as part of a redevelopment project.[21] In 1871, Cyrus and Susan Mills paid $5,000 for the Young Ladies' Seminary in Benicia, renamed it Mills College, and moved it to its current location in Oakland, adjacent to what is now Seminary Boulevard. In 1872, the town of Brooklyn was incorporated into Oakland. Brooklyn, a large municipality southeast of Lake Merritt, was part of what was then called the Brooklyn Township.

A number of horsecar and cable car lines were constructed in Oakland during the latter half of the 19th century. The first electric streetcar set out from Oakland to Berkeley in 1891, and other lines were converted and added over the course of the 1890s. The various streetcar companies operating in Oakland were acquired by Francis "Borax" Smith and consolidated into what eventually became known as the Key System, the predecessor of today's publicly owned AC Transit. In addition to its system of streetcars in the East Bay, the Key System also operated commuter trains to its own pier and ferry boats to San Francisco, in competition with the Southern Pacific. Upon completion of the Bay Bridge, both companies ran their commuter trains on the south side of the lower deck, directly to San Francisco. The Key System in its earliest years was actually in part a real estate venture, with the transit part serving to help open up new tracts for buyers. The Key System's investors (incorporated as the "Realty Syndicate") also established two large hotels in Oakland, one of which survives as the Claremont Resort. The other, which burned down in the early 1930s, was the Key Route Inn, at what is now West Grand and Broadway. From 1904 to 1929, the Realty Syndicate also operated a major amusement park in north Oakland called Idora Park.

Early 1900s[edit]

One day's output of 1917 Chevrolet automobiles at their major West Coast plant, now the location of Eastmont Town Center
1918 flu pandemic victims are tended by American Red Cross nurses at the Oakland Municipal Auditorium (now the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center)

The original extent of Oakland, upon its incorporation, lay south of today's major intersection of San Pablo Avenue, Broadway, and Fourteenth Street. The city gradually annexed farmlands and settlements to the east and the north. Oakland's rise to industrial prominence, and its subsequent need for a seaport, led to the digging of a shipping and tidal channel in 1902, which created an island of nearby town Alameda. In 1906, its population doubled with refugees made homeless after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Concurrently, a strong City Beautiful movement, promoted by Mayor Frank Kanning Mott, was responsible for creating and preserving parks and monuments in Oakland, including major improvements to Lake Merritt and the construction of Oakland Civic Auditorium, which cost $1M in 1914. The Auditorium briefly served as an emergency ward and quarantine for some of the victims of the 1918 flu pandemic. The three waves of the pandemic killed more than 1,400, out of 216,000, Oakland residents.

By 1920, Oakland was the home of numerous manufacturing industries, including metals, canneries, bakeries, internal combustion engines, automobiles, and shipbuilding.[22]


In 1924, the Tribune Tower was completed; in 1976, it was restored and declared an Oakland landmark.

The 1920s were economic boom years in the United States as a whole, and in California in particular. Economic growth was fueled by the general post–World War I recovery, as well as oil discoveries in Los Angeles and, most notably, the widespread introduction of the automobile. In 1916, General Motors opened a major Chevrolet automobile factory in East Oakland, making cars and then trucks until 1963, when it was moved to Fremont in southern Alameda County.[23] Also in 1916,[24] the Fageol Motor Company chose East Oakland for their first factory, manufacturing farming tractors from 1918 to 1923.[25] In 1921, they introduced an influential low-slung "Safety Bus", followed quickly by the 22-seat "Safety Coach."[26] Durant Motors operated a plant in Oakland from 1921 to 1930,[27] manufacturing sedans, coupes, convertibles, and roadsters.[28] By 1929, when Chrysler expanded with a new plant there, Oakland had become known as the "Detroit of the West."[29]

Dr. William M. Watts, photo from mid-1920s

Oakland expanded during the 1920s, flexing enough to meet the influx of factory workers. Approximately 13,000 homes were built between 1921 and 1924,[30] more than between 1907 and 1920.[31] Many of the large downtown office buildings, apartment buildings, and single-family houses still standing in Oakland were built during the 1920s; and they reflect the architectural styles of the time.

In 1926 Dr. William M. Watts (pictured left) opened a 22-bed hospital facility to provide in-patient care to Oakland's citizens of African descent who were not welcome at other health care institutions. The facility also offered training for African-American nurses.[32]

The Rocky Road ice cream was created in Oakland in 1929, though accounts differ about its first promoter. William Dreyer of Dreyer's is said to have carried the idea of marshmallow and walnut pieces in a chocolate base over from his partner Joseph Edy's similar candy creation.[33]

Aviation firsts[edit]

The first experimental transcontinental airmail through flight lands in Oakland. Left to right: Mayor John L. Davie, unknown, Eddie Rickenbacker, John M. Larsen (aircraft salesman), partially obscured unknown man, Bert Acosta (in cavalry boots), J. J. Rosborough (postmaster), unknown.

Russell Clifford Durant (called "Cliff" by his friends) was a race car driver, speedboat enthusiast, amateur flier, President of Durant Motors in Oakland, and son of General Motors founder William "Billy" Crapo Durant. In 1916, he established Durant Field at 82nd Avenue and East 14th Street.[34] The first experimental transcontinental airmail through-flight finished its journey at Durant Field on August 9, 1920, with Army Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and Navy Lt. Bert Acosta (pictured right) at the controls of the Junkers F 13 re-badged as the model J.L.6.[35] The airfield served only secondary duties after 1927, as its runway was not long enough for heavily loaded aircraft. In April 1930, test pilot Herbert "Hub" Fahy and his wife Claire hit a stump upon landing, flipping their plane and mortally wounding Hub without injuring Claire.[36] Durant Field was often called Oakland Airport, though the current Oakland International Airport was soon established four miles (6.4 km) southwest.[37]

L–R, Paul Mantz, Amelia Earhart, Harry Manning and Fred Noonan, Oakland, California, March 17, 1937

On September 17, 1927, Charles Lindbergh attended the official dedication of the new Oakland Airport. A month earlier, on August 16, participants in the disastrous Dole Air Race had taken off from Oakland's new 7,020-foot (2,140 m) runway headed for Honolulu, Hawaii 2,400 miles (3,900 km) away—three fliers died before getting to the starting line in Oakland; five were lost at sea, attempting to reach Honolulu; and two more died searching for the lost five.[38]

On May 31, 1928, Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew departed Oakland in Southern Cross on their successful bid to cross the Pacific by air, finishing in Australia. In October 1928, Oakland was used as a base for the World War I aircraft involved in the final filming of Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels.[39] In 1928, aviator Louise Thaden took off from Oakland in a Travel Air to set a women's altitude record, as well as endurance and speed records.[40]

On January 11, 1935, Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California.

On St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1937, Earhart and her crew, Paul Mantz, Harry Manning and Fred Noonan, flew the first leg of her attempt to circumnavigate the globe, from Oakland to Honolulu, Hawaii. That attempt ended in Hawaii when her Lockheed Electra 10E was severely damaged. Later in the year, Earhart began her second, ill-fated attempt with the unpublicized first leg of her proposed transcontinental flight mapped from Oakland to Miami, Florida.

World War II[edit]

During World War II, the East Bay Area was home to many war-related industries. Among these were the Kaiser Shipyards in nearby Richmond. The medical system devised for shipyard workers became the basis for the giant Kaiser Permanente HMO, which has a large medical center at MacArthur and Broadway, the first to be established by Kaiser. Oakland's Moore Dry Dock Company expanded its shipbuilding capabilities and built over 100 ships.

Valued at $100 million in 1943, Oakland's canning industry was its second-most-valuable war contribution after shipbuilding. Sited at both a major rail terminus and an important sea port, Oakland was a natural location for food processing plants, whose preserved products fed domestic, foreign, and military consumers. The largest canneries were in the Fruitvale District and included the Josiah Lusk Canning Company, the Oakland Preserving Company (which started the Del Monte brand), and the California Packing Company.[41]

A crowd of young people at the concert of the Benny Goodman Band at a local dance hall. April 1940

Prior to World War II, blacks constituted about 3% of Oakland's population. Aside from restrictive covenants pertaining to some properties in the hill neighborhoods (invalidated after 1948), Jim Crow laws mandating racial segregation did not exist in Oakland, and relations between the races were mostly harmonious. What segregation did exist was voluntary; blacks could, and did, live in all parts of the city.[42]

The war attracted tens of thousands of laborers from around the country, though most were poor whites and blacks from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas—sharecroppers and tenant farmers who had been recruited by Henry J. Kaiser to work in his shipyards. These immigrants from the Jim Crow South brought their racial attitudes with them, and the racial harmony that Oakland blacks had been accustomed to prior to the war evaporated.[42] Southern whites expected deference from their black co-workers, and initially Southern blacks were conditioned to grant it.[43] As Southern blacks became aware of their more equal standing under California law, they began to reject subservient roles; the new immigrants prospered, though they were affected by rising racial discrimination and informal post-war neighborhood redlining.[43]

Many Latinos, especially Mexican Americans from southwestern states like New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, came to Oakland to work in the many war time jobs as did many Mexican workers who came under the Bracero Program 5000 braceros. Many worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, at its major rail yard in West Oakland (see traquero). While some of the rail workers lived near the yard, most of the Mexican community was concentrated as it always had been since the early days of the Peralta ranch in the Fruitvale District. Oakland experienced its own "zoot suit riots" in downtown Oakland in 1943 in the wake of the one in Los Angeles.[44]

The Mai Tai cocktail was first concocted in Oakland in 1944, and it became very popular at Trader Vic's restaurant.[45] Established in 1932, just four years later, Trader Vic's was so successful San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen was inspired to write, "the best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland."[46] Trader Vic's was chosen by the State Department as the official entertainment center for foreign dignitaries attending United Nations meetings in San Francisco.[47] The restaurant continued to grow in popularity and was running out of room when, in 1951, founder Victor Bergeron opened a larger one in San Francisco. In 1972, the flagship Oakland restaurant moved to the nearby Emeryville Marina.[48]

Post-WWII (1940s and 1950s)[edit]

View of Lake Merritt looking southwest from the northeastern tip of the lake

In 1946 National City Lines (NCL), a General Motors holding company, acquired 64% of Key System stock; during the next several years NCL engaged in the conspiratorial dissolution of Oakland's electric streetcar system. NCL converted the Key System's electric streetcar fleet to diesel buses, tracks were removed from Oakland's streets, and the lower deck of the Bay Bridge was converted to automobile traffic, which reduced the passenger carrying capacity of the bridge. Freeways were constructed, which partitioned the social and retail fabric of neighborhoods. In the 1948 federal case "United States v. National City Lines Inc.," the defendants were found guilty on a count of conspiring to monopolize the provision of parts and supplies to their subsidiary companies. The companies were each fined $5,000, and the directors were each fined one dollar. The verdicts were upheld on appeal in 1951.[49] The state Legislature created the Alameda and Contra Costa Transit District in 1955, which still exists today as AC Transit, the third-largest bus-only transit system in the nation.[50]

Soon after the war, with the disappearance of Oakland's shipbuilding industry and the decline of its automobile industry, jobs became scarce. Many of the poor blacks who had come to the city from the South decided to stay in Oakland, and longstanding black residents complained that the new Southern arrivals "tended towards public disorder."[51] The segregationist attitudes that some Southern migrants brought with them disrupted the racial harmony that Oaklanders had been accustomed to before the war.[42] Many of the city's more affluent residents, both black and white, left the city after the war, moving to neighboring Alameda, Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito to the north; to San Leandro, Hayward, Castro Valley and Fremont in Southern Alameda County; and to the newly developing East Bay suburbs in Contra Costa County, Orinda, Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Concord. Between 1950 and 1960, about 100,000 white property owners moved out of Oakland—part of a nationwide phenomenon called white flight.[52]

By the end of World War II, blacks constituted about 12% of Oakland's population, and the years following the war saw this percentage rise. There was also an increase in racial tension.[51] Starting in the late 1940s, the Oakland Police Department began recruiting white officers from the South to deal with the expanding black population and changing racial attitudes; many were openly racist, and their repressive police tactics exacerbated racial tensions.[53]

Oakland was the center of a general strike during the first week of December 1946, one of six cities across the country that experienced such a strike after World War II.[54] It was one of the largest strike movements in American history, as workers were determined not to let management repeat the union busting that followed the first World War.[55] Oakland, which had been racially harmonious and prosperous before the war, by the late 1950s found itself with a population that was becoming progressively more poor and racially divided.[56][57]

Beginning in the mid-1950s, much of West Oakland was destroyed, after then-Highway 17, now I-880 (or Nimitz Freeway) was built. Many homes and businesses were destroyed to build the Cypress Viaduct and the rest of the Nimitz Freeway. Also urban renewal caused the destruction of the area around Market and 7th streets to make way for the Acorn High Rise apartments. This urban renewal of West Oakland continued into the 1960s with the construction of BART and the Main Post Office Building at 1675 7th Street. Many families were displaced from West Oakland by the construction of the Nimitz Freeway and the urban renewal of West Oakland. The majority of these were African-American and Latino. African Americans relocated to East Oakland as well especially the Elmhurst district and surrounding areas. [58]

1960s and 1970s[edit]

In 1960, Kaiser Corporation erected its headquarters at the former site of Holy Names University, at the corner of 20th and Harrison Streets. It was the largest skyscraper in Oakland, as well as "the largest office tower west of Chicago" up to that time.[59] During this era, the oldest section of Oakland at the foot of Broadway, Jack London Square, was redeveloped into a hotel and outdoor retail district.[citation needed] During the 1960s, the city was home to an innovative funk music scene that produced well-known bands like Sly and the Family Stone, Graham Central Station, Tower of Power, Cold Blood, Azteca, and The Headhunters. Larry Graham, the bass player for both Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station, is credited with the creation of the influential slap and pop sound still widely used by bassists in many musical idioms today.[60]

By 1966, only 16 of the city's 661 police officers were black. Tensions between the black community and the largely white police force were high, and police malfeasance against blacks was common.[52][61] The Black Panther Party was founded by students Huey Newton and Bobby Seale at Merritt College.[62]

It was also during the 1960s that the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club began to grow into a formidable motorcycle gang and organized crime syndicate.[63][64] The Hells Angels clubhouse is still located on Oakland's Foothill Boulevard.

During the 1970s, Oakland began to experience serious problems with gang-controlled dealing of heroin and cocaine when drug kingpin Felix Mitchell created the nation's first large-scale operation of this kind.[51] Both violent crime and property crime increased during this period, and Oakland's murder rate rose to twice that of San Francisco or New York City.[51]

In late 1973, the Symbionese Liberation Army assassinated Oakland's superintendent of schools, Dr. Marcus Foster, and badly wounded his deputy, Robert Blackburn. Two months later, two men were arrested and charged with the murder. Both received life sentences, though one was acquitted after an appeal and a retrial seven years later.[citation needed]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Fruitvale District was part of the Chicano Movement. In 1968 the Oakland Police murdered a young Chicano named Charles (Pinky) De Baca on 35th Avenue in East Oakland. A group called Latinos United for Justice organized to combat police brutality after Mr. De Baca's murder. Chicano Radical militants like the Chicano Revolutionary Party and the Brown Berets also organized and began doing work in the Fruitvale District to protect the Chicano and Latino Community from police brutality and had a free breakfast program in the Fruitvale area with the help of the Black Panthers. in July 26, 1970 the Fruitvale District held the Chicano Moratorium against Chicanos going to fight in the Vietnam war. La Clinica de La Raza was also formed on Fruitvale Avenue in 1970, by Chicano students in order to have a free Clinic for the Chicano and Latino Community in East Oakland. La Raza Unida Party also had a chapter in Oakland. The Chicano movement was also part of Oakland's Radical History in the 60s and 70s. [65] [66]

1980s and 1990s[edit]

Starting in the Late 1960s and continuing into the early 1980s, the number of Latinos, mostly of Mexican origin, began to increase in Oakland, especially in the Fruitvale district . This district is one of the oldest in Oakland, growing up around the old Peralta estate (now a city park). It always had a concentration of Latino residents, businesses and institutions, and increased immigration, continuing into the 21st century, has added greater numbers in Fruitvale and throughout East Oakland.

As in many other American cities during the 1980s, crack cocaine became a serious problem in Oakland. Drug dealing in general, and the dealing of crack cocaine in particular, resulted in elevated rates of violent crime, causing Oakland to consistently be listed as one of America's most crime-ridden cities.[67]

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Oakland's black plurality reached its peak at approximately 47% of the overall population. Oakland was the birthplace or home at one time of several rap acts, including MC Hammer, Digital Underground, Hieroglyphics (including Souls of Mischief and Del tha Funkee Homosapien), The Luniz, Tupac Shakur, and Too Short. Outside of the rap genre, artists such as the Pointer Sisters, En Vogue, Tony! Toni! Tone!, and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day also emerged from Oakland.

On May 24, 1990, a pipe bomb placed underneath traveling eco-activist Judi Bari's car seat exploded, tearing through her backside and nearly killing her. The bomb was placed directly under the driver's seat, not in the back seat or luggage area as it presumably would have been if Bari had transported it knowingly. Immediately after the 1990 car bombing, while Bari was in Oakland's Highland Hospital, she and a friend were arrested on suspicion of knowingly transporting the bomb. The Alameda County district attorney later dropped the case for lack of evidence, and in 2004 the FBI and the City of Oakland agreed to a $4 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by Bari's estate, and her friend, over their false arrest.[68]

On October 20, 1991, a massive firestorm (see 1991 Oakland firestorm) swept down from the Berkeley Hills above the Caldecott Tunnel. Twenty-five people were killed, and 150 people were injured, with nearly 4,000 homes destroyed. The economic losses have been estimated at $1.5 billion. The economic losses, in combination with injuries and loss of life, make this the worst urban firestorm in American history. Many of the original homes were rebuilt on a much larger scale.[69][70]

In late 1996, Oakland was the center of a controversy surrounding Ebonics (African American Vernacular English), an ethnolect the outgoing Oakland Unified School District board voted to recognize on December 18.[71][72] This was later dropped.

During the mid-1990s, Oakland experienced an improved economy compared to previous decades,[73] with new downtown land development such as a $140 million state government center project, a $101 million city office building, and a 12-story office building for the University of California, Office of the President. The City Center redevelopment project was bought by Shorenstein Co., a San Francisco real estate firm. Office vacancies dropped to 11 percent from 16 percent in 1996. Officials at the Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport, began multimillion-dollar expansion plans to keep pace with rival shipping ports and airports on the West Coast.

Loma Prieta earthquake[edit]

The Loma Prieta earthquake occurred on October 17, 1989, a rupture of the San Andreas fault that affected the entire San Francisco Bay Area. The quake's surface wave measured 6.9 on the Richter magnitude scale, and many structures in Oakland were badly damaged. The double-decker portion of the freeway (Interstate 880) structure collapsed. The eastern span of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge also sustained damage and was closed to traffic for one month. Oakland became the home of the emerging nonprofit preparedness movement in the aftermath of the earthquake when local agencies formed CARD (Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters) to address the unmet emergency readiness needs of the nonprofit and faith sectors.


A night view of Oakland's downtown skyline and Lakeside Apartments District as seen from East 18th Street Pier

After his 1999 inauguration, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown continued his predecessor Elihu Harris' public policy of supporting downtown housing development in the area defined as the Central Business District in Oakland's 1998 General Plan.[74] Since Brown's stated goal was to add 10,000 residents to downtown Oakland, it became known as the "10K" plan. It resulted in redevelopment projects in the Jack London District, where Brown purchased and later sold an industrial warehouse, which he used as a personal residence, and in the Lakeside Apartments District near Lake Merritt, where two infill projects were approved. The 10K plan touched the historic Old Oakland district, the Chinatown district, the Uptown district, and downtown. The 10K plan and other redevelopment projects were controversial due to potential rent increases and gentrification, which would displace lower-income residents from downtown Oakland into outlying neighborhoods and cities.[75] Additional controversy over development proposals arose from the weakening of the Bay Area and national economy in 2000, 2001, 2007, and the credit crunch and the recession of 2008. These downturns resulted in lowered sales, rentals and occupancy of the new housing and slower growth and economic recovery than expected.

The Oakland Athletics have long sought a site to build a new baseball stadium. A deal announced in 2006 to build a new park in Fremont, to be called Cisco Field was halted three years later as a result of opposition from businesses and local residents.[76] Local efforts have been put forth by both fans and city politicians to retain the A's, including three potential locations near downtown and the Oakland waterfront.[77] The South Bay city of San Jose has shown continuing, strong interest in becoming the team's new home, and is the preferred destination for current team owner Lew Wolff.[78]

Fox Oakland Theatre, August 2002

The Oakland Ballet, performing in the city since 1965, folded temporarily in 2006 due financial problems and the closure of their performance facility, the Calvin Simmons Theater at the Kaiser Convention Center.[79] The following year, founder Ronn Guidi announced the revival of the Ballet under new director Graham Lustig, and the program continues to perform at the Laney College Theater.[80]

In the early morning hours of January 1, 2009, unarmed civilian Oscar Grant was shot and killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on a crowded platform at the Fruitvale BART Station in East Oakland.[81] Officers had subdued and handcuffed an unarmed Grant in a prone position for allegedly resisting arrest, before Mehserle shot Grant in the back with his gun, which he claimed to have mistaken for his stun gun.[82] In the ensuing week, demonstrations and riots took place in Downtown Oakland, with demonstrators citing police brutality and racial injustice as their motivation.[83] Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in July 2010, and sentenced to two years in prison. Both the verdict and sentencing set off further demonstrations in downtown Oakland, which included looting and destruction of property.[84][85]

In February 2009, the Fox Oakland Theatre reopened. The theatre had been closed for most of the previous 42 years, with few events held there. After a thorough restoration, seismic retrofit, and many other improvements following years of severe neglect (including a fire as recently as 2004),[86] the historic landmark theater started drawing patrons from all over the Bay Area.[87]

On March 21, 2009, Oakland parolee Lovelle Mixon, 26, fatally shot four Oakland police officers, and wounded a fifth officer. At approximately 1:00 p.m., Mixon shot and killed two officers during a routine traffic stop. Mixon fled the scene, hiding in his sister's nearby apartment, and shortly after 3:00 p.m., he killed two more officers as they responded. During the ensuing shootout, the police killed Mixon in self-defense and a fifth officer was wounded. Three of the officers killed were ranking sergeants, the first time the Oakland Police Department had lost a sergeant in the line of duty. It was the single deadliest day for sworn personnel in the department's history.[88]


Due to misconduct by the Oakland Police Department, the City of Oakland has paid a total of $57 million during the 2001-2011 timeframe to victims of police abuse—the largest sum of any city in California.[89]

On October 10, 2011, protesters and civic activists began "Occupy Oakland" demonstrations directed against national social and economic inequality at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Downtown Oakland.[90][91] The demonstrators set up an encampment that, at one point, consisted of "a miniature city" of as many as 150 tents.[92][93] At one point, a second encampment was established at Snow Park on Lake Merritt.[94] Oakland Police raided and dismantled the two protest sites at Frank Ogawa Plaza and Snow Park early in the morning on October 25. Later the same day, in efforts to reestablish the encampments, protesters clashed with police. Two officers and three protesters were injured and more than a hundred people were arrested.[95] On November 2, thousands marched upon and shut down the Port of Oakland.[96] At least two Iraqi war veterans were injured in the demonstrations, by police action.[97] By November 14, the encampment at the plaza in front of City Hall had been cleared, and it was announced by city officials the continued protests had cost the city $2.4 million.[98] A January 28, 2012 attempt by Occupy Oakland protesters to overtake the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center resulted in hundreds of arrests by police, and that evening a break-in by vandals to Oakland City Hall resulted in damage to artwork and the building itself.[99]

Throughout the 2010s the city's Oakland Medical Center, the first HMO and first Kaiser Permanente hospital, underwent a $2 billion retrofit including numerous new buildings.

On April 2, 2012, 7 people were killed in a shooting at Oikos University, in East Oakland near the airport and Coliseum Complex. Suspect One L. Goh surrendered an hour later to police in Alameda.[100]

In July 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin Trials, there were protests. A small group of the protesters were organized in cities including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.[101]


Aerial view of center of Oakland

Oakland is on the east side of San Francisco Bay; in 1991 the City Hall tower was at 37°48′19″N 122°16′21″W / 37.805302°N 122.272539°W / 37.805302; -122.272539 (NAD83). (The building still exists, but like the rest of the Bay Area it has shifted northwest perhaps 0.6 meter in the last twenty years.)

The United States Census Bureau says the city's total area is 78.0 square miles (202 km2), including 55.8 square miles (145 km2) of land and 22.2 square miles (57 km2) (28.48 percent) of water.

Oakland's highest point is near Grizzly Peak Blvd, east of Berkeley, just over 1,760 feet (540 m) above sea level at about 37°52′43″N 122°13′27″W / 37.8786°N 122.2241°W / 37.8786; -122.2241. Oakland has 19 miles (31 km) of shoreline,[102] but Radio Beach is the only beach in Oakland.

Oaklanders refer to their city's terrain as "the flatlands" and "the hills", which until recent waves of gentrification have also been a reference to Oakland's deep economic divide, with "the hills" being more affluent communities. About two-thirds of Oakland lies in the flat plain of the East Bay, with one-third rising into the foothills and hills of the East Bay range.


Panorama of Oakland, California, from the top of Mountain View Cemetery
Panorama-downtown-oakland by Daniel Ramirez
Lake Merritt panorama


The north end of the Adams Point district, as seen from Lakeshore Avenue on the east shore of the Lake
Upper Rockridge in Oakland, CA

Oakland has more than 50 distinct neighborhoods. The greater divisions in the city include downtown Oakland and its greater Central Business District, Lake Merritt, East Oakland, North Oakland, West Oakland, and the Oakland Hills. East Oakland, which includes the East Oakland Hills, encompasses more than half of Oakland's land area, stretching from Lakeshore Avenue on the east shore of Lake Merritt southeast to the San Leandro border. North Oakland encompasses the neighborhoods between downtown and Berkeley and Emeryville. West Oakland is the area between downtown and the Bay, partially surrounded by the Oakland Point, and encompassing the Port of Oakland. In 2011, Oakland was ranked the 10th most walkable city in the United States.[103]

Lake Merritt, an urban estuary near downtown, is a mix of fresh and salt water draining in and out from the Oakland Harbor at the San Francisco Bay and one of Oakland's most notable features.[104] It was designated the United States' first official wildlife refuge in 1870.[105] Originally a marsh-lined wildlife haven, Lake Merritt was dredged and bordered with parks from the 1890s to the 1910s. Despite this reduction in habitat, Oakland is home to a number of rare and endangered species, many of which are localized to serpentine soils and bedrock. Lake Merritt is surrounded by residential and business districts, including downtown and Grand Lake.

Lake Merritt
Lake Merritt, towards the southern end

The city of Piedmont, incorporated in Oakland's central foothills after the 1906 earthquake, is a small independent city surrounded by the city of Oakland.

Climate and vegetation[edit]

Based on data gathered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oakland is ranked No. 1 in climate among U.S. cities.[106] Oakland's climate is typified by the temperate and seasonal Mediterranean climate. Summers are usually dry and warm and winters are mild and damp. More specifically, it has features found in both nearby coastal cities such as San Francisco and inland cities such as San Jose, making it warmer than San Francisco and cooler than San Jose. Its position on San Francisco Bay across from the Bay Bridge means that the Northern part of the city can experience cooling maritime fog. It is far enough inland, though, that the fog often burns off by midday, allowing it to have typically sunny California days. The hills tend to have more fog than the flatlands, as the fog drifts down from Berkeley.

The U.S. Weather Bureau kept weather records in downtown Oakland from October 4, 1894, to July 31, 1958. During that time, the record high temperature was 104 °F (40 °C) on June 24, 1957, and the record low temperature was 24 °F (−4 °C) on January 23, 1949. Dry, warm offshore "Diablo" winds (similar to the Santa Ana winds of Southern California) sometimes occur, especially in fall, and raise the fire danger. In 1991, such an episode allowed the catastrophic Oakland Hills fire to spread and consume many homes. The wettest year was 1940 with 38.65 inches (982 mm) and the driest year was 1910 with 12.02 inches (305 mm). The most rainfall in one month was 15.35 inches (390 mm) in January 1911. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 4.27 inches (108 mm) on February 12, 1904.[107] Rainfall near the bayfront is only 23 inches per year, but is higher in the Oakland Hills to the east (up to 30 inches).

The higher rainfall in the hills supports woods of oak, madrone, pine, fir and a few redwood groves in the wetter areas. Before being logged in the 19th century, some of the tallest redwood trees in California (even used for navigation by ships entering the Golden Gate) may have stood in the Oakland Hills. One old stump 30 feet across can still be seen near Redwood Regional Park. Sunny, drier slopes are grassy or covered in scattered oaks and chaparral brush. Australian eucalyptus trees have been extensively planted in many areas.

The National Weather Service today has two official weather stations in Oakland: Oakland International Airport and the Oakland Museum (established 1970).

Climate data for Oakland Museum (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
Average high °F (°C) 58.1
Average low °F (°C) 44.3
Record low °F (°C) 30
Rainfall inches (mm) 4.65
Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.01 in) 10.8 10.7 10.3 5.6 3.4 1.0 0.1 0.4 1.2 3.5 7.9 10.4 65.3
Source: NOAA (extremes 1970–present)[108]

Ruptures along the nearby San Andreas fault caused severe earth movement in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1906 and 1989. San Andreas quakes induces creep (movement occurring on earthquake faults) in the Hayward fault, which runs directly through Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose and other Bay Area cities.[109] In 1991, an urban conflagration, the Oakland Hills Fire, destroyed nearly 4,000 homes and killed twenty five people in the Oakland hills range; it was the worst urban firestorm in American history.[69]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,543
1870 10,500 580.5%
1880 34,555 229.1%
1890 48,682 40.9%
1900 66,960 37.5%
1910 150,174 124.3%
1920 216,261 44.0%
1930 284,063 31.4%
1940 302,163 6.4%
1950 384,575 27.3%
1960 367,548 −4.4%
1970 361,561 −1.6%
1980 339,337 −6.1%
1990 372,242 9.7%
2000 399,484 7.3%
2010 390,724 −2.2%
Est. 2012 400,740 [110] 2.6%
U.S. Decennial Census

Race and Ethnicity[edit]

The 2010 United States Census[112] reported that Oakland had a population of 390,724. The population density was 5,009.2 people per square mile (1,934.0/km²). The racial makeup of Oakland was 134,925 (34.5%) White (non-Hispanic White 25.9%), 109,471 (28.0%) African American, 3,040 (0.8%) Native American, 65,811 (16.8%) Asian (8.7% Chinese, 2.2% Vietnamese, 1.6% Filipino, 0.7% Cambodian, 0.7% Laotian, 0.6% Korean, 0.5% Japanese, 0.5% Indian, 0.1% Mongolian), 2,222 (0.6%) Pacific Islander (0.3% Tongan), 53,378 (13.7%) from other races, and 21,877 (5.6%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 99,068 persons (25.4%). 18.1% of the population were of Mexican descent, 1.9% Salvadoran, 1.3% Guatemalan, and 0.7% Puerto Rican.

Demographic profile[113] 2010
Total Population 390,724 - 100.0%
One Race 368,847 - 94.4%
Not Hispanic or Latino 291,656 - 74.6%
Black or African American alone 106,637 - 27.3%
White 101,308 - 25.9%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone 1,214 - 0.3%
Asian alone 65,127 - 16.7%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone 2,081 - 0.5%
Some other race alone 1,213 - 0.3%
Two or more races alone 14,076 - 3.6%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 99,068 - 25.4%

Educational attainment and income[edit]

Oakland has the fifth largest cluster of "elite zip codes" ranked by the number of households with the highest combination of income and education. Oakland placed between Boston and Bridgeport, and had more than twice the number of households as Long Island and West Manhattan.[114] 37.9% of residents over 25 years of age have bachelors degree or higher.[115] Oakland ranked among the top cities with residents with bachelor degrees and graduate degrees per square mile.[116]

Oakland ranks in the top 20 of American cities in median household income, with a 2012 value of $51,863.[117] In 2012, the median income for a household in the city was $51,863 and the median income for a family was $59,459. The mean income for a household was $77,888 and the mean income for a family was $90,948. Males had a median income of $50,140 versus $50,304 for females.[118] The unemployment rate as of December 2013 is 9.7%.[119]

In 2008 the median income for a household in the city was $48,596 and the median income for a family was $55,949. Males had a median income of $46,383 versus $44,690 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,094. In 2007 approximately 15.3 percent of families and 17.0 percent of the general population were below the poverty line, including 27.9 percent of those under age 18 and 13.1 percent of those age 65 or over. 0.7% of the population is homeless.[120] Home ownership is 41%[120] and 14% of rental units are subsidized.[120] The unemployment rate as of August 2009 is 15.2%.[121]

As of the census[122] of 2000, 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.


The census reported that 382,586 people (97.9% of the population) lived in households, 5,675 (1.5%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 2,463 (0.6%) were institutionalized.

There were 153,791 households, out of which 44,762 (29.1%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 50,797 (33.0%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 24,122 (15.7%) had a female householder with no husband present, 8,799 (5.7%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 11,289 (7.3%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 3,442 (2.2%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 52,103 households (33.9%) were made up of individuals and 13,778 (9.0%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49. There were 83,718 families (54.4% of all households); the average family size was 3.27.

The population was spread out with 83,120 people (21.3%) under the age of 18, 36,272 people (9.3%) aged 18 to 24, 129,139 people (33.1%) aged 25 to 44, 98,634 people (25.2%) aged 45 to 64, and 43,559 people (11.1%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36.2 years. For every 100 females there were 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.8 males.

There were 169,710 housing units at an average density of 2,175.7 per square mile (840.0/km²), of which 63,142 (41.1%) were owner-occupied, and 90,649 (58.9%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 3.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 8.5%. 166,662 people (42.7% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 215,924 people (55.3%) lived in rental housing units.

Shifting of cultures[edit]

Oakland is one of the most ethnically diverse major cities in the country.[123][124] Oakland was ranked the 4th most diverse city in America, with an overall diversity score of 91.4.[125] The city's formerly most populous ethnic group, whites, declined from 95.3% in 1940 to 32.5% by 1990.[126] Since the 1960s, Oakland has been known as a center of Northern California's African-American community. However, between 2000 and 2010 Oakland lost nearly one-fourth of its black population.[127] The city demographics have changed due to a combination of gentrification, along with many blacks relocating to Bay Area suburbs, or moving to the Southern United States.[128][129][130] Blacks formed a strong plurality for many years, peaking in 1980 at about 47% of the population of Oakland.

If Hispanic whites are considered a separate ethnic group from non-Hispanic whites, black residents maintained their status as Oakland's single largest ethnic group as of 2010, forming 27% of the population, followed by non-Hispanic whites at 25.9%, and Hispanics of any race at 25.4%.[131]

Recent trends have resulted in cultural shifts, leading to a decline among some of the city's longstanding black institutions, such as churches, businesses, and nightclubs,[132] which has been a point of contention for some long-time black residents.[127]

In recent years, immigrants and others have marched by the thousands down Oakland's International Boulevard in support of legal reforms benefiting illegal immigrants.[133]

An analysis by the Urban Institute of U.S. Census 2000 numbers showed that Oakland had the third-highest concentration of gays and lesbians among the 50 largest U.S. cities, behind San Francisco and Seattle. Census data showed that, among incorporated places that have at least 500 female couples, Oakland had the nation's largest proportion. In 2000, Oakland counted 2,650 lesbian couples; one in every 41 Oakland couples listed themselves as a same-sex female partnership.[134][135]


Tribune Tower, from 13th and Franklin St. in Downtown Oakland

Oakland is a major West Coast port, and the fifth busiest in the United States by cargo volume.[136] The Port of Oakland handles 99% of all containerized goods moving through Northern California, representing $41 billion worth of international trade.[137][138] There are nearly 200,000 jobs related to marine cargo transport in the Oakland area.[139] These jobs range from minimum wage hourly positions to Transportation Storage and Distribution Managers who earn an annual average salary of $91,520.[140] The Port of Oakland was an early innovator/pioneer in the technologies of Intermodal Containerized Shipping. The city is also home to several major corporations including Kaiser Permanente and Clorox, as well as the corporate headquarters for national brands such as Dreyer's ice cream, and retailer Cost Plus World Markets.[141] Tech companies such as Ask.com and Pandora Radio are located in Oakland,[142] and in recent years many start-up high tech and green energy companies have found a home in the downtown neighborhoods of Uptown, City Center, Jack London Square and Lake Merritt Financial District.[143] In 2014, Oakland was the fifth ranked city for tech entrepreneurs by total venture capital investment.[144]

As of 2013, the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward has a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of $360.4 billion, ranking eighth among metropolitan areas in the United States.[145] In 2014, Oakland was amongst the best cities to start a career, the highest ranked city in California after San Francisco. Additionally, Oakland ranked fourth in cities with professional opportunities.[146] Numerous companies in San Francisco continue to expand in or migrate over to Oakland.[147]

Oakland experienced an increase of both its population and of land values in the early-to-mid first decade of the 21st century. The 10k Plan, which began during former mayor Elihu Harris' administration, and intensified during former mayor Jerry Brown's administration resulted in several thousand units of new multi-family housing and development.

Top employers[edit]

According to the City's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[148] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Alameda County 10,374
2 Wells Fargo 5,862
3 Oakland Unified School District 5,704
4 City of Oakland 4,478
5 Cost Plus World Market 4,125
6 Kaiser Foundation Hospitals 3,105
7 Peralta Community College District 2,759
8 Safeway 2,692
9 Internal Revenue Service 2,500
10 Albertsons 2,209


View from Tribune Tower

In 2013, over 2.5 million people visited Oakland, injecting US$1.3 billion into the economy.[149] Oakland has been experiencing an increase in hotel demand. Occupancy is 74%, while RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) increased by 14%, the highest increase of any big city in the western region of the United States.[150] Both Oakland and San Francisco were forecasted to experience the highest increases in ADR (Average Daily Rate).[151]

Oakland has gained increasing appeal as a travel destination, both nationally[152] and internationally.[153]

Arts and culture[edit]

Oakland has a significant art scene and claims the highest concentration of artists per capita in the United States.[154] In 2013, Oakland was designated as one of America's top twelve art communities, recognizing Downtown (including Uptown), Chinatown, Old Oakland, and Jack London Square as communities "that have most successfully combine art, artists and venues for creativity and expression with independent businesses, retail shops and restaurants, and a walkable lifestyle to make vibrant neighborhoods." [155] Galleries exist in various parts of Oakland, with the newest additions centered mostly in the Uptown area. Oakland ranked 11th in cities for designers and artists.[156] The city offers a wide variety of cuisine in restaurants and markets, often featuring locally grown produce and international foods that reflect the city’s ethnically diverse population. Historically a focal point of the West Coast blues and jazz scenes, Oakland is also home to musicians representing such genres as rhythm and blues, gospel, funk, punk, heavy metal, Rap/Gangsta rap, and hip hop.



Downtown Oakland has an assortment of bars and nightclubs. They include dive bars, dance clubs, modern lounges and jazz bars. The Paramount Theater features headlining musical tours and productions, while Fox Oakland Theatre draws various musical genres including jam bands, rock, punk, blues, jazz, and reggae. The Paramount and Fox theaters often book simultaneous events creating busy nights uptown.[157] In 2012, Oakland was dubbed a "New Sin City," following it's 2010 decision to relax its cabaret laws, which gave a boost to its night club and bar scene.[158]

Recent years have seen the growth of the Oakland Art Murmur event, occurring in the Uptown neighborhood the first Friday evening of every month.[159] The event attracts around 20,000 people along twenty city blocks, featuring live performances, food trucks, and over 30 galleries and venues.[160][161]

"There is no there there"[edit]

The HERETHERE sculpture straddling the Oakland Berkeley border

Oakland was written about by Gertrude Stein in her 1937 book Everybody's Autobiography: "There is no there there." Stein wrote the sentence upon learning that the neighborhood in which she had lived as a child had been torn down to make way for an industrial park; over time, the quote has been misconstrued to refer to Oakland as a whole.[162][163]

Modern-day Oakland has turned the quote on its head, with a statue downtown simply titled "There." Additionally, in 2005 a sculpture called HERETHERE was installed by the City of Berkeley on the Berkeley-Oakland border at Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The sculpture consists of eight-foot-tall letters spelling "HERE" and "THERE" in front of the BART tracks as they descend from their elevated section in Oakland to the subway through Berkeley.[164]

Professional sports[edit]

Oakland has teams in three professional sports: Baseball, basketball, and football. The Oakland Athletics MLB club won three consecutive World Series championships in 1972, 1973, and 1974, and appeared in another three consecutive World Series from 1988 to 1990, winning their fourth championship in 1989. The Golden State Warriors won the 1974–1975 NBA championship. The Oakland Raiders of the NFL won Super Bowl XI in 1977 and Super Bowl XV in 1981, while also appearing in Super Bowl II in 1968 and Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003. The Raiders left Oakland for Los Angeles in 1982, where they won a third Super Bowl championship, and returned to Oakland in 1995.

Club Sport Founded League Venue
Oakland Athletics Baseball 1901 (in Oakland since 1968) Major League Baseball: American League. AL West Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Oakland Raiders Football 1960 (in Los Angeles from 1982–1994) National Football League: American Conference, AFC West Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Golden State Warriors Basketball 1946 (In Oakland since 1971) National Basketball Association: Western Conference, Pacific Division Oracle Arena
The Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics baseball and Oakland Raiders football teams

Oakland's former sports teams include:

Parks and recreation[edit]

J. Mora Moss House in Mosswood Park was built in 1864 by San Francisco businessman Joseph Moravia Moss in the Carpenter Gothic style. The building houses Parks and Recreation offices and storage.


Oakland has many parks and recreation centers totalling 5,937 acres (2,403 ha). In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, reported that Oakland had the 18th best park system among the 50 most populous U.S. cities.[165] In 2013, Oakland ranked 4th among American cities as an urban destination for nature lovers.[166]

Some of the city's most notable parks include:

Additionally, the following seven East Bay Regional Parks are located entirely or partially in the city of Oakland:

French Trail, Redwood Regional Park
The Cascade Waterfall, Joaquin Miller Park

Places of worship[edit]

Some of the most prominent places of worship in Oakland include: First Congregational Church of Oakland, Evangelistic Outreach Center, Green Pastures, the Presbyterian, First Presbyterian Church of Oakland; Greek Orthodox Ascension Cathedral; the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the Light; the United Methodist Chinese Community Church; the Unitarian First Unitarian Church; the Mormon Oakland California Temple; the Muslim, 31st Street Islamic Center, Light-House Mosque; the Reform Jewish Temple Sinai; the Conservative Jewish, Temple Beth Abraham; Allen Temple Baptist Church [Largest predominantly African American church]; and the Orthodox Jewish, Beth Jacob Congregation, American Baptist; Faith Baptist Church of Oakland, St. Paul Lutheran and six Kingdom Halls of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Law and government[edit]

Oakland City Hall and central plaza in 1917. Built of framed steel with unreinforced masonry infill at a cost of $2 million in 1914, the structure was the tallest building in Oakland until the Tribune Tower was built in 1923.

Oakland has a mayor-council government. The mayor is elected for a four-year term. The Oakland City Council has eight council members representing seven districts in Oakland with one member elected at-large; council members serve staggered four-year terms. The mayor appoints a city administrator, subject to the confirmation by the City Council, who is the chief administrative officer of the city. Other city officers include: city attorney (elected), city auditor (elected), and city clerk (appointed by city administrator).[168] Oakland's Mayor is subject to a tenure limited to two terms. There are no term limits for the city council. Council member Larry Reid, also serving as vice-mayor, was elected to a fifth term in November 2012.[169]

Oakland City Hall was evacuated after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake until $80M seismic retrofit and hazard abatement work was complete in 1995.[170]

Jean Quan was elected mayor in November 2010, beating Don Perata and Rebecca Kaplan in the city's first ranked choice balloting.[171]

Oakland is also part of Alameda County, for which the Government of Alameda County is defined and authorized under the California Constitution, California law, and the Charter of the County of Alameda.[172] The County government provides countywide services such as elections and voter registration, law enforcement, jails, vital records, property records, tax collection, public health, and social services. The County government is primarily composed of the elected five-member Board of Supervisors, other elected offices including the Sheriff/Coroner, the District Attorney, Assessor, Auditor-Controller/County Clerk/Recorder, and Treasurer/Tax Collector, and numerous county departments and entities under the supervision of the County Administrator.

In the state legislature, Oakland is in the 9th Senate District, represented by Democrat Loni Hancock,[5] and is split between the 15th and 18th Assembly districts, represented by Nancy Skinner and Rob Bonta, respectively.[6] In the United States House of Representatives, Oakland is in California's 13th congressional district, represented by Democrat Barbara Lee.[7]


Oakland City Hall near City Center

Oakland was politically conservative from the 1860s to the 1950s, led by the Republican-oriented Oakland Tribune newspaper. In the 1950s and '60s, the majority stance shifted to favor liberal policies and the Democratic Party.[173][174] Oakland has by far the highest percentage of registered Democrats of any of the incorporated cities in Alameda County. As of 2009, Oakland has 204,646 registered voters, and 140,858 (68.8%) are registered Democrats, 12,248 (5.9%) are registered Republicans, and 41,109 (20.1%) decline to state a political affiliation.[175] Oakland is widely regarded as being one of the most liberal major cities in the nation. The Cook Partisan Voting Index of Congressional District 13, which includes Oakland and Berkeley, is D+37; among the six most extremely Democratic congressional districts in the US.


Oakland's crime rate began to escalate during the late 1960s, and by the end of the 1970s Oakland's per capita murder rate had risen to twice that of its neighbor city, San Francisco, or that of New York City.[176] The rise in crime may have been an effect of the different method that was used to deal with rebellious youth. Prior to 1960, there were successful government funded social programs, where workers would work in neighborhoods searching for rebellious teens to enter them in youth centers that would be able to teach them proper values and improve their behavior.[177] However, by the late 1960s,the police and Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) used military tactics to manage unwanted behavior, that then led to an increase in crime and imprisonment.[177] During the first decade of the 21st century Oakland has consistently been listed as one of the most dangerous large cities in the United States.[178] Until 2010 the homicide rate dropped four times in a row, and violent crime in general had dropped 27%. Violent crime in general, and homicides in particular, increased during 2011.[179] In 2012 Oakland reported 131 homicides, the highest since 2006 (when there were 148 recorded).[180][181] In 2013, there was a 33% decrease in homicides, allowing Oakland to record its lowest homicide count since 2004. Aggravated assaults were down 10% and rapes declined by 27%, reaching its lowest level in eight years.[182][183] In the first quarter of 2014, homicides, aggravated assaults, and burglaries were down 15% relative to 2013. Additionally, shootings were down 31% and robberies were down 36%.[184]

Oakland's police force has dropped to 612 officers, down from more than 800 in 2009, and far below the 925 recommended by the city's strategic plan, but Oakland recently started to rebuild its force by hiring more often and recently graduating 34 officers.[180] Although the police department’s resources have been diminishing, according to former Police Chief Howard Jordan the Oakland Police Department is committed to improved public safety by increasing police presence during peak crime hours, improving intelligence gathering, and moving more aggressively to arrest violent crime suspects.[185][186]

Among Oakland's 35 police patrol beats, violent crime remains a serious problem in specific East and West Oakland neighborhoods. In 2008, homicides were disproportionately concentrated: 72% occurred in three City Council districts, District 3 in West Oakland and Districts 6 and 7 in East Oakland, even though these districts represent only 44% of Oakland's residents.[187]

In 2012, Oakland implemented a gang violence reduction plan used previously in other cities, Operation Ceasefire, based in part on the research and strategies of author David M. Kennedy.[188][189][190][191]


Primary and secondary education[edit]

Most public schools in Oakland are operated by the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), which covers the entire city of Oakland; due to financial troubles and administrative failures, it has been in receivership by the state of California since 2002. The Oakland Unified School District (2006–2007) includes 59 elementary schools, 23 middle schools, 19 high schools, with 9 alternative education schools and programs, 4 adult education schools and early childhood education centers at most of the elementary schools[192] There are 46,000 K–12 students, 32,000 adult students, and 6,000 plus employees.[193] In the 2005 results of the STAR testing, over 50 percent of students taking the test performed "below basic," while only 20 percent performed at least "proficient" on the English section of the test.[194] Some individual schools have much better performance than the city-wide average, for instance, in 2005 over half the students at Hillcrest Elementary School in the Montclair upper hills neighborhood performed at the "advanced" level in the English portion of the test, and students at Lincoln Elementary School in the Chinatown neighborhood performed at the "advanced" level in the math portion.

Oakland's three largest public high schools are Oakland High School, Oakland Technical High School, and Skyline High School. Oakland Tech has various academies, including its much renowned Engineering Academy, which sent more girls to MIT in 2007 than any other public school west of the Mississippi.[citation needed] There are also numerous small public high schools within Castlemont Community of Small Schools, Fremont Federation of High Schools, and McClymonds Educational Complex, all of which were once single, larger public high schools that were reorganized due to poor performance (Castlemont High School, Fremont High School, and McClymonds High School, respectively).

25 public charter schools with 5,887 students[195] operate outside the domain of OUSD. One, North Oakland Community Charter School (NOCCS), an elementary and middle school, is one of the few public progressive schools in the country. Lionel Wilson College Prep Academy and Oakland Unity High School have been certified by the California Charter Schools Association.[196][197] Other charter schools include the Oakland Military Institute, Oakland School for the Arts, Bay Area Technology School, and Oakland Charter Academy.[198]

There are several private high schools including the secular The College Preparatory School and Head-Royce School, and the Catholic Bishop O'Dowd High School, Holy Names High School and St. Elizabeth High School. Catholic schools in Oakland are operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland also include eight K–8 schools (plus one in Piedmont on the Oakland city border). Northern Light School is a private nonprofit elementary and middle school. Bentley School is an Independent Co-educational K–12, college preparatory school, located on two campuses in Oakland and Lafayette, California.

Colleges and universities[edit]

Accredited colleges and universities include:

  • Oakland is also the home of the headquarters of the University of California system, the University of California Office of the President.

In 2001, the SFSU Oakland Multimedia Center was opened, allowing San Francisco State University to conduct classes near downtown Oakland.[199] The Oakland Higher Education Consortium and the City of Oakland's Community and Economic Development Agency (CEDA) opened the Oakland Higher Education Center downtown in 2002 to provide "access to multiple higher education service providers within a shared urban facility." Member schools include primary user California State University, East Bay as well as Lincoln University, New College of California, Saint Mary's College of California, SFSU Multimedia Studies Program, UC Berkeley Extension, University of Phoenix and Peralta Community College District.[200][201]


Oakland is served by major television stations broadcasting primarily out of San Francisco and San Jose. The region's Fox affiliate, KTVU, is based in (and licensed to) Oakland at Jack London Square along with co-owned independent station KICU-TV (licensed to San Jose). In addition, the city is served by various AM and FM radio stations as well; AM stations KKSF, KMKY, KNEW and KQKE are licensed to Oakland.

Oakland is served by the Oakland Tribune, which published its first newspaper on February 21, 1874. The Tribune Tower, which sports a clock, is one of Oakland's landmarks. At key times throughout the day (8:00 am, noon and 5:00 pm), the clock tower carillon plays a variety of classic melodies, which change on a daily basis. In 2007, the Oakland Tribune moved its offices from the tower to an East Oakland location, before folding in 2011.[202]

The East Bay Express, a locally owned free weekly paper, is based in Jack London Square and distributed throughout the East Bay.

Oaklandwiki is a thriving (mostly) English-language local wiki.



Air and rail[edit]

Oakland residents have access to the three major airports of the San Francisco Bay Area: Oakland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and San Jose International Airport. Oakland International Airport, located within the city limits of Oakland, is 4 mi (6.4 km) south of downtown Oakland and serves domestic and international destinations. AC Transit provides 24-hour service to the airport, and the AirBART shuttle provides frequent service between the airport and BART's Oakland Coliseum Station.

The city has regional and long distance passenger train service provided by Amtrak, with stations located near Jack London Square and the Oakland Coliseum. Amtrak's California Zephyr has its western terminus at the nearby Emeryville station.

Mass transit and bicycling[edit]

The most recent census data compiled in 2007 before gasoline price spikes in 2008, show 24.3 percent of Oaklanders used public transportation, walked or used "other means" to commute to work, not including telecommuting,[203] with 17 percent of Oakland households being "car free" and or statistically categorized as having "no vehicles available."[204]

Bus transit service in Oakland and the inner East Bay is provided by the Alameda and Contra Costa Transit District, AC Transit. The district originated in 1958 after the conspiratorial dissolution of the Key System of streetcars Citation Needed. Many AC Transit lines follow old routes of the Key System.[50]

The metropolitan area is served by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) from eight stations in Oakland. The system has headquarters in Oakland, with major transfer hubs at MacArthur and 19th Street stations. BART's headquarters was located in a building above the Lake Merritt BART station until 2006, when it relocated to the Kaiser Center due to seismic safety concerns.

The Alameda / Oakland Ferry operates ferry service from Jack London Square to Alameda, San Francisco, and Angel Island. Oakland licenses taxi cabs, and has zoned cab stands in its downtown, including a bicycle pedi-cab service.

The Oakland City Council adopted a Bicycle Master Plan in 1999 as a part of the Land Use and Transportation (LUTE) element of Oakland's 1998 General Plan. In addition, the Oakland City Council reaffirmed the bike plan in 2005 and 2007. Several miles of bike lanes were created as a result of the plan, with more awaiting funding.[citation needed] Facilities for parking thousands of bicycles have been installed downtown and in other commercial districts throughout Oakland.[citation needed] According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, Oakland moved into 7th place in the nation by percentage of people that choose to commute by bike in 2011.[205]

Bridges, freeways, and tunnels[edit]

Oakland is served by several major highways: Eastbound Bay Bridge traffic entering Oakland then splits into three freeways at the MacArthur Maze freeway interchange: Interstate 580 (MacArthur Freeway) heads southeast toward Hayward and eventually to the California Central Valley; Interstate 880 (Nimitz Freeway) runs south to San Jose; and the Eastshore Freeway (Interstate 80/I-580) runs north, providing connections to Sacramento and San Rafael, respectively. Interstate 980 (Williams Freeway) begins its eastbound journey at I-880 in Downtown Oakland before turning into State Route 24 (Grove Shafter Freeway) at I-580. State Route 13 begins as the Warren Freeway at I-580, and runs through a scenic valley in the Montclair District before entering Berkeley. A stub of a planned freeway was constructed at the High Street exit from the Nimitz Freeway, but that freeway extension plan was abandoned.

Portion of the collapsed Cypress Viaduct in Oakland.

In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake caused the Cypress Street Viaduct double-deck segment of the Nimitz Freeway to collapse, killing 42 people. The old freeway segment had passed through the middle of West Oakland, forming a barrier between West Oakland neighborhoods. Following the earthquake, this section was rerouted around the perimeter of West Oakland and rebuilt in 1999. The east span of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge also suffered damage from the quake when a 50-foot (15 m) section of the upper deck collapsed onto the lower deck; the damaged section was repaired within a month of the earthquake. As a result of Loma Prieta, a significant seismic retrofit was performed on the western span of the Bay Bridge. The eastern span is currently being replaced, with a projected completion date of 2014.

Two underwater tunnels, the Webster and Posey Tubes, connect the main island of Alameda to downtown Oakland, coming above ground in Chinatown. In addition, the Park Street, Fruitvale, and High Street bridges connect Alameda to East Oakland over the Oakland Estuary.

In the hills, the Leimert Bridge crosses Dimond Canyon, connecting the Oakmore neighborhood to Park Boulevard. The Caldecott Tunnel carries Highway 24 through the Berkeley Hills, connecting central Contra Costa County to Oakland. The Caldecott has four bores.

Freight rail[edit]

Freight service, which consists primarily of moving shipping containers to and from the Port of Oakland, is provided today by Union Pacific Railroad (UP), and to a lesser extent by BNSF Railway (which now shares the tracks of the UP between Richmond and Oakland).

Historically, Oakland was served by several railroads. Besides the transcontinental line of the Southern Pacific, there was also the Santa Fe (whose Oakland terminal was actually in Emeryville), the Western Pacific Railroad (who built a pier adjacent to the SP's), and the Sacramento Northern Railroad (eventually absorbed by the Western Pacific, which in turn was absorbed by UP in 1983).


As one of the three major ports on the West Coast of the United States, the Port of Oakland is the largest seaport on San Francisco Bay and the fifth busiest container port in the United States. It was one of the earliest seaports to switch to containerization and to intermodal container transfer,[206] thereby displacing the Port of San Francisco, which never modernized its waterfront. One of the earlier limitations to growth was the inability to transfer containers to rail lines, all cranes historically operating between ocean vessels and trucks. In the 1980s the Port of Oakland began the evaluation of development of an intermodal container transfer capability, i.e. facilities that now allow trans-loading of containers from vessels to either trucks or rail modes.[citation needed]


Water and sewage treatment are provided by East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). Pacific Gas and Electric Company provides natural gas and electricity service. Municipal garbage collection is franchised to Waste Management, Inc. Telecommunications and subscriber television services are provided by multiple private corporations and other service providers in accordance with the competitive objectives of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Oakland tops the list of the 50 largest US cities using electricity from renewable sources.[207]


Originating in Oakland, Kaiser Permanente, is an HMO started in 1942, during World War II, by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser to provide medical care for Kaiser Shipyards workers. It is the largest managed care organization in the United States and the largest non-governmental health care provider in the world.[208] It is headquartered at 1950 Franklin Street in Downtown Oakland and maintains a large medical center in the Piedmont Avenue neighborhood.

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, an East Bay hospital system, maintains its Summit Campus in the neighborhood known as "Pill Hill" north of downtown. Until 2000, it was the Summit Medical Center before merging with Berkeley-based Alta Bates. All campuses now operate under the Sutter Health network.

Alameda County Medical Center is operated by the county and provides medical services to county residents, including the medically indigent who do not have health insurance. The main campus, Highland Hospital in East Oakland, is the trauma center for the northern area of the East Bay.

Children's Hospital Oakland is the primary medical center specializing in pediatrics in the East Bay. It is a designated Level I pediatric trauma center, and the only independent children's hospital in Northern California.

Notable people[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Oakland has nine sister cities:[209]

Country City Year of Partnership
 Japan Fukuoka 1962
 Russia Nakhodka 1975
 Ghana Sekondi Takoradi 1975
 China Dalian 1982
 Jamaica Ocho Rios 1986
 Portugal Funchal 1999
 Cuba Santiago de Cuba 2000
 Morocco Agadir 2004
 Vietnam Danang 2005
 Mongolia Ulaanbaatar 2006

See also[edit]

Bibliography/further reading[edit]


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