Lower Bottoms, Oakland, California
The Lower Bottoms (also known as The Bottoms) is the colloquial name given to the Prescott/Oakland Point neighborhood in West Oakland in Oakland, California. The neighborhood boundaries are Mandela Parkway to the east, 7th Street to the south, West Grand Avenue to the north, and the former Oakland Army Base to the west. It includes the "central station development" of the former 16th Street Train Station, which served as a film location for the 2005 film Rent and Vallejo rapper E-40's "Tell Me When to Go" video. It is also the hometown of playground basketball legend Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell.
The neighborhood has suffered from high rates of crime, gang activity, and poverty since the decline of Oakland's industrial economy in the late 20th century. The neighborhood earned its nickname after the construction of the Cypress Freeway in the 1950s that split the West Oakland neighborhood in two and isolated Oakland Point from the remainder of West Oakland. The one housing project is Campbell Village Court.
Seventh Street was an African-American cultural center of Oakland from the 1940s to the 1960s, due to nightclubs such as Slim Jenkins' Place, Esther's Orbit Room and the Lincoln Theater, which drew top blues and jazz performers from across the United States. The area was sometimes referred to as "The Harlem of the West." The decline of Seventh Street has been blamed on the construction of the Cypress Freeway, the Oakland Main Post Office—and subsequent BART elevated track lines, which took up much of the street.
The Bottoms is undergoing gentrification, similar to neighboring "Dogtown" area of West Oakland. Once the most devalued neighborhood in Oakland, the Lower Bottoms now has some newly rehabilitated Victorian homes that have recently sold for $700,000. It is now a slightly more sought after area to live in because of its location as a historic center of the Bay Area and its proximity to BART.
The Village Bottoms Cultural District is an emerging neighborhood commercial hub, organized in 2000 by local entrepreneurs, artists, and community organizers. It aims at redevelopment with an emphasis on the area's black cultural roots and works in cooperation with Black Dot Artists Inc, Village Bottoms Neighborhood Association, and Ecocity Builders. The Village Bottoms Community Development Corporation also worked toward redevelopment, but was closed in 2012 when the state of California abolished all redevelopment corporations.
Several community organizations are based in Lower Bottoms, including the Lower Bottoms Neighborhood Association, the Prescott-Joseph Center, UNIA, Alliance for West Oakland Development, Prescott-Oakland Point Neighborhood Association, and the Lower Bottom Playaz theater troupe. Commercial outlets like City Slicker Farms, Revolution Cafe, Bikes 4 Life, and Mo Better Foods serve the community. In 2006, a locally owned full-service cooperative grocery store named Mandela Foods Cooperative (member of the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives) opened in Lower Bottoms, providing residents access to fresh produce, and focusing on nutritional education and affordable foods grown locally.
The entire neighborhood lies within the boundaries of Oakland's Downtown-West Oakland District 3 City Council seat For 16 years the area was represented on the Oakland City Council by West Oakland resident Nancy Nadel. She retired in 2012, and West Oakland resident Lynette Gibson-McElhaney was elected to succeed her.
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