Oakland, California

Diamond In The Rough

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What's it like to live in Oakland?

What is it like to live in Oakland, CA?

It’s different than it used to be. But I’ll get to that in a moment because the question is about now.

That Oakland has the best weather in the Bay Area — certainly in the true (central) Bay Area — is inarguable. And the location is ideal. If someone dropped into the Bay Area from outer space they would require an historical explanation for why San Francisco, and not Oakland, is the leading city. One can head out of Oakland toward the Sierra with an hour’s lead on the San Franciscan, with similar advantages toward the wine country.

The culture of Oakland is honest. The culture of San Francisco is fake. I say this as someone who spent a great deal of my student and working life in San Francisco and who loves and respects that great international city deeply. But if you are here to live, not on vacation, Oakland offers an unaffected — even self-deprecating — tone that works on a daily basis.

Bottom line is that Oakland has never been, and likely will never be, a city with a great and impressive downtown as San Francisco has. It is, above all, a city of great residential neighborhoods with individual character. It’s a city with the most remarkable parks. In fact, nothing more characterizes the contrast with SF than the contrast between Golden Gate Park and the magnificent outdoor experiences of Sibley and Redwood Regional Parks, unparalleled for anything directly adjoining a true city. (The memory of Chief Justice Earl Warren, had he not been responsible for so much that America is proud of, would be honored solely for the incredible insight he showed in getting this land set aside many, many decades ago.)

What do you like most about living in Oakland, California?

The weather here is really great compared to back east. While I do need a parka, mittens and a hat in December and January, there are days in those months where it hits 70 degrees by 3 pm. Conversely, summer days rarely break 85 degrees. Often I need a sweat jacket in the morning and sunblock by 2 pm. But the temperature is between 39° and 90° .

Given patience and driving skills, the freeway will take me where I want to go in a reasonable amount of time. I can go from Oakland to Santa Clara or Marin in an hour if I time the commute correctly. (It also can be 3 hours of bumper to bumper like it was coming back from Kaiser Santa Clara the other day) There is adequate but crowded public transportation to much of the Bay Area.

We have sports teams, music venues, theater, arts, parks, gardens, and recreational facilities at our beck and call. Colleges, access to brilliant scholars of all disciplines are here. There are paths for walking and bike riding, roads for a pleasant drive. We have gourmet dining as well as Taco food trucks. There are churches of every denomination and religion. Old and new architecture are amazing.

Oakland is a multicultural experience. Most of us just want to get along and enjoy the variety of cultures coming together in Oakland. To be sure, there are those that will ruin a good day just to do it. We can choose to protest in the tradition of Gandhi and King. We can celebrate our diversity. Again, there are those who will commit crimes of personal and property because they can.

What do you like/dislike about living in Oakland?

Oakland's bad PR comes from preconceptions people have about the Bay Area in general, I think…

San Francisco is seen as an idyllic architectural, urban, and cultural fairyland.

Berkeley is seen as a hippie paradise with a slow pace of life.

Oakland doesn't fit into the national perception the way SF and Berkeley do, so it doesn't make the news or the movies or the media for its upsides. As a result, it only makes the news for sports, and for crime. Crime is a real problem here but I'd argue it's also exaggerated due to Oakland's proximity to these perceived "paradises" to the West and North.

In reality, all three cities - San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley are urban, cultural, architectural fairylands with a deep-seated leftist culture, a slower pace of life, and issues with violence and trash. Parts of each city play to the strengths, and parts of each city to the weaknesses. All three are more similar to one another than most people who haven't been here realize.

Each has its own flavor, of course, and sure, the best architecture in SF has the other two beat, and the highest concentration of homeless people has the other two beat, too. The hippiest hippies in Berkeley have the other two beat, in the worst ways and the best. The most violent neighborhoods in East Oakland have the other two beat, and the food, arts, and music are starting to break away from the other two as well.

I love living here because I'm in the center of it all, and I've started to treat Oakland as my favorite corner of this megacity of Oakland/Berkeley/SF that I spend time all over when I'm in search of different things. (Because BART, for all its issues, allows you to treat these as a single city.)

Why do you live in Oakland?

I have lived in Oakland now for nearly 20 years. When I moved in a briefly considered SF and ruled it out for 2 reasons: not integrated. Too much visible homelessness.

I live in the Adams Point/Grand Lake/Piedmont Ave grey lane.

Why I live here in Oak, enjoy it, and continue to live here:

it is more integrated (and diverse). And there is a distinction

people are friendlier, you are greeted on the street. Neighbors say hi. Stuff like that. It can feel like a small town in many ways.

it is pretty convenient to get around from where I live via any mode: walk, bike, transit, or drive

excellent weather

good access to cultural amenities, great food, and entertainment (food and cocktail game has increased by a ton since I moved here)

less homelessness than equivalent areas in Berkeley and SF.

city pride

close to lots of things if I want to get out of the town. Even if it is for an afternoon of summer ok the other side of the tunnel

Obviously it’s really expensive. Overall housing quality sucks (regional issue). We have too many homeless people and too few solutions. Infrastructure needs work. We have few retail options.

But as long as I am calling the Bay home, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Pros and Cons of Living in Oakland

Should You Move to Oakland or Berkeley?

Living In San Francisco VS Oakland | Moving To California