"THERE!" Okay, Mark. Enough of my complaining you suggest? Good advice. Revise the article to reflect broader realities about Oakland? Another good bit of advice. So, I did. I added a rather prolix description as to the contrasts and contradictions of the city, which really doesn't give a locale by locale travelogue, but rather the contexts by which one can appreciate such places within the city. The next step requires adding in addresses, phone numbers, and Web sites of these following Oakland institutions and or attractions:
Hillside areas (Skyline, Montclair, etc.): Chabot Space and Science Center (largest observatory opened to the public); Joaquin Miller Park; Westminster Park; Shepard Canyon Park, Chabot Parklands, Oakland Zoo; Montclair Village restaurants of note: Italian Colors and Canvas
Lake Merritt area: Grand lake-grand avenue shopping district restaurants; Mezze's, Spettro
Piedmont Avenue (Restaurant Row): Bay Wolf (foodie fave and venerated contemporary of Berkeley's Chez Panisse); JoJo's (intimate bistro wins rave reviews)
Downtown/Old Oakland: Washington Inn, Verbana's, The Gingerbread House
Rockridge: Oliveto's, A Côté, Le Citron, Grasshopper
Jack London Sq/Loft district: Soizic; Yoshi's (premier Jazz club in the Bay Area, as well)
Oakland Symphony, Oakland Ballet; African-American Museum; Franklin Roosevelt yacht.
Hmm...there's a lot "There"...
I, too, was disappointed by the disparging, condescending, and not a little bit racist undercurrents of the article about Oakland. The writer claims, "I don't like making the point that high black population = high crime," but then goes on to describe a city that is utterly inferior to San Francisco in charm and economically depressed in contrast to San Jose. And, oh, by the way, Oakland has a large Black population. Even the commentary concerning Oakland's affluent areas referred to the beautiful neighborhoods of upper Rockridge and Montclair as but a "tinderbox" ---which begs the question: is San Francisco then but a "faultline?" I found that racial biases tainted the article. I do not charge that the author is openly or consciously racist, by any means, but the glaring condescension, selectivity of references regarding the African-American community, and his/her appallingly biased comparisons of Oakland with San Francisco and San Jose indicate clear, if unacknowledged leanings on the part of the author, of which I believe at least some are rooted in some racially constructed concepts common in American society.
Let me present the evidence: No doubt Oakland has real problems, but the city's Black population is not all marginalized and poor (or party to the city's "staggering" murder rate), not by any means. For example, Wiki Travel readers would have appreciated learning about the late Robert Maynard, the African-American publisher and owner of the Oakland Tribune. During the 1980s and 1990s before his death to cancer, Maynard took a moribound journal and made it a pulitzer-prize winning newspaper, despite its financial struggles. The Oakland Tribune exists to this day as the major journal of record for the entire East Bay. And what of former Yale professor of literature and playright Ismeel Reed? The article's author mentions not a word. The actual case is that Oakland's African-American community has given much more to American culture than just "West Coast Rappers." Of this, the author says nothing.
Might I suggest the original author read very carefully "American Babylon: Race and the Stuggle for Post-War Oakland," or "Suburban Warriors: Origins of the New American Right," both of which give a detailed, social, economic, and historical analysis as to the origins of Oakland's urban problems (and for that matter, "booming" San Jose's "success"). Might this reader also suggest that the author also spend time in the Oakland retail neighborhoods of Piedmont Avenue, Rockridge, and Montclair Village. I suggest the original author visit such noted Oakland restaurants as the Bay Wolf, JoJo's, Le Citron, A Côté,and Canvas, all of which more than hold their own against their San Francisco and Berkeley counterparts; I propose said author take a walk through the residential neighborhoods of Rockridge, upper Rockridge, Montclair, upper Montclair, Oakmore, Redwood Heights, Skyline, Ridgemont, Crocker Highlands, and Haddon Hill. These areas boast gracious old homes, new and stunningly eccentric architectural experiments, many of which reach well over the million-dollar price tag. But what would capture the discerning observer's eye is that these affluent neighborhoods have a more ethnically diverse group of residents than one will find in these neighborhoods' counterparts in Piedmont or "charming" San Francisco and "booming" San Jose, for that matter. One can find considerable charm in the up and coming Laurel, Temescal, and Dimond, as well.
To sum up the affluent and relatively diverse hillside neighborhoods of Oakland as merely an "affluent tinderbox" not only denies the graciousness and diversity of these areas, but also reveals the author's clear bias. Again, I dont see him or her referring to San Francisco's affluent areas as "the affluent faultline," or San Jose's as "affluent souless sprawl." Language has power, but it not only conveys impressions of a place, people, and event, it also invariably reveals something of the author as well.
What is extraordinary to this reader is that Oakland, for all of its real problems, including high crime and poverty, has undergone renewal, population growth, and skyrocketing housing prices, all of which indicate a real Renaissance, a reversal of the "White flight" of the 1950s through the 1970s. The city boasts a rising rate of interracial marriage as well, far ahead of the rest of the nation. That is Oakland's story as well as its "real" urban problems. By contrast, I would note forcefully that San Francisco relegates a large segment of its poor African-American community to the hinterland of Hunter's Point, and San Jose's and Silicon Valley's gleaming "high-tech campuses" mean little to the area's disaffected and disenfranchised Hispanic communities. "Do you know the way to San Jose," indeed. San Francisco and San Jose certainly have their share of "real" problems, but their larger dominant populations can literally afford either to isolate its "problem," on the one hand to the hinterland as San Francisco does, or ignore it altogether, as does San Jose. One suspects that Oakland, that proverbial "Other" of Bay Area cities, serves a useful purpose; it is the place upon which surrounding populations of supposedly "progressive" San Francisco (and Berkeley, for that matter) and "high-tech" San Jose can project their own fears, perceptions, and prejudices, without having to address any of their own issues––and similar problems.
Happily, the offending article has been edited, giving it more nuance and a great deal more accuracy. And I am glad that the edited article addresses the racial component, not only in regards to media and popular perceptions, but in the very article in question. Oakland deserves a more nuanced and factual account. So do Wiki travelers.
For the record, I'm "White," and I live in Manhattan, New York. However, I have lived and worked in both San Francisco and Oakland, California. The updated article about Oakland, California, reflects a more honest appraisal of the city, and certainly seems closer to the Oakland that I know, respect, and truth be told, have grown to love.
I was taken aback by the extremely disparaging tone of this article. It needs some extensive rewriting, which I'll hopefully have time to contribute to in the near future. Aezram 13:55, 21 Jan 2005 (EST)
I had a hard time describing Oakland's African-American culture. I don't like making the point that high black population -> high crime, but the plain fact is that there's a lot of poverty in Oakland, that race has something to do with that, and that there's consequent crime. I don't think it would be fair to travelers to gloss over this. I'd appreciate if someone could clean up my prose, though. -- Evan 15:14, 29 Nov 2003 (PST)
Author, were you a crime victim in Oakland?
While most of the articles in Wiki travel are amusing and informative, this one seems to accentuate the downsides of Oakland. Other far more crime-ridden cities are written about glowingly with crime as a mere afterthought. Check various crime rankings such as by Morgan Quitno and you will see that Oakland is not among the top 20 crime-ridden cities nationwide whereas other California cities are. Articles about problem-plagued cities such as Baltimore do not have their urban ills as the dominant theme.
You do mention the bright spots of Oakland, albeit in apologetic fashion. Why not reduce the San Francisco biased commentary? Otherwise, you should warn readers about the skyrocketing murders in San Francisco (90 and counting this year). Perhaps, the opening line on San Jose should read "Despite the stagnant local economy and high unemployment rate since the tech bust, ..."
You have achieved a good mix of fact and commentary in the vast majority of travel articles. Oakland is an unfortunate exception. Many people such as myself have lived in both San Francisco and Oakland, but choose to live in Oakland because of the superior weather, fantastic views and wonderful neighborhoods. I'm sure you have noticed that since 2001, real estate appreciation in Oakland has far outstripped that of San Francisco and San Jose.
Emphasize the attributes of Oakland in unapologetic fashion with crime discussed in the body of the article as done for every other city. If you were the victim of crime in Oakland, you have my sympathies. Please don't express this in the tone of your article.
Mark and Ryan,
Thanks for your openness. I have given the article a more upbeat tone and updated information throughout. My hope is that on summer days when fog has blanketed the otherwise lovely streets of San Francisco with an arctic chill, visitors may find opportunity to seek the warm and sunny confines of Oakland (I know I do) ...
I'd be happy to update those areas and convert to the Big City form when needed.
The "Understand" section
...needs to be cleaned up! The information ought to be organized and/or summarized. In-depth info of Oakland's history would be better placed in Oakland's Wikipedia article, which could be linked from this site if readers would like more information.
Should I try to begin this task?
Bloody rox 17:37, 28 June 2006 (EDT)
Travel guides to Oakland, by long-standing tradition, often start off with that quote by famous Oakland resident Gertrude Stein, who said of the city, "There is no there there." The quote takes Stein's rumination out of context, as she was describing how upon returning to Oakland after many years away, she found that the house in which she grew up no longer existed. This misappropriation of the quote sums up the concerns of many San Franciscans and suburbanites about Oakland. However, many Oaklanders enjoy putting San Franciscans on their heels with that other famous quote (which some credit to Mark Twain) "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Oakland's attributes are not meant to compete with the commercialism of its much larger neighbor to the west. Rather, they serve as a refreshing complement. As the third largest city in the Bay area, it boasts vibrant neighborhoods, wealthy hillside communities, diverse ethnic cultures, and among the most interesting housing stocks outside of San Francisco. This combined with the most temperate weather in the Bay Area make Oakland a very pleasant place indeed.
The visitor armed with only his or her free time and a city map will in fact find that Oakland is a complex city of striking contrasts. Oakland's African-American community produces and or has played host to a plethora of leading professionals, writers, and intellectuals, including but certainly not limited to playwright, Yale professor, and literary critic Ishmael Reed, as well as Robert Maynard, the late owner and editor of the Pulitzer-prize winning Oakland Tribune, the journal of record for the East Bay. On the one hand, Oakland the down-and-out has been home to the Hell's Angels and the Black Panthers. On the other hand, Oakland the striver has nurtured or been a second home to novelists Jack London, Gertrude Stein, Amy Tan, and Maya Angelou; actors Mark Hamill and Tom Hanks; architect Julia Morgan, classical conductor Calvin Simmons, graphic-novel author Daniel Clowes, and many more notables in the liberal arts and sciences. At once a city for and of the rough and gracious, rundown and elite, hard-pressed and arty, all of these elements, Oakland's essential combinations of hues and colours, constitute the fuller portrait of a city as eclectic and contradictory as its diverse citizenry.
Oakland has recently been recognized by a Harvard study as one of ten urban areas in the nation whose business growth outpaced that of the surrounding suburbs over the past 10 years. Notably, San Francisco and San Jose still reeling from the recent tech bust, were not among the other nine. Corporate headquarters include Kaiser Permanente, Clorox and Dreyer's Ice Cream among others. The relatively low rents and housing costs have attracted young professionals from around the Bay Area, many of whom have evidently spread the word: Oakland is a city that is indeed "There." Indeed, Oakland ranks near the top of any list measuring the percentage of population with college or graduate degrees. This is in no small part due to its proximity to the world famous University of California in adjacent Berkeley.
For the visitor, "There" is most easily found in one of Oakland's beautiful neighborhoods and interesting, if somewhat eccentric, shopping districts. Oakland, like New York, is constituted of a number of very distinct, village-like neighborhoods, all of which play host to a heady mix of cultures and peoples. For example, the popular Rockridge district is a little eccentric town of tree-lined streets, young professionals and their families, breezily going about their way down leafy lanes lined with renovated craftsman bungalows and Victorian homes. The heart of Rockridge is its main street, College Avenue between Claremont and Broadway, which houses any number of charming boutiques, bookstores, and coffee shops, but also boasts some of the Bay Area's most notable restaurants, including the nationally-honoured Oliveto's, and Bay Area favourites, Le Citron, A Côté, and Girabaldi's. This Oakland neighborhood-cum village even has its elite area: Upper Rockridge, a hilly domain of luxury homes and mansions, largely rebuilt after the devastating Oakland-Berkeley Hills fire of 1991. In upper Rockridge, one finds some of Oakland's most beautiful--and most expensive-homes. Styles run from Mediterranean (Spanish, French Provencal, Tuscany) to English Tudor, with a few glaring examples of high modern. The views of Oakland and San Francisco Bay are breathtaking.
Another Oakland village worthy of exploration is Montclair, a heavily wooded hillside neighborhood that recalls Marin County's Mill Valley. Upon the bosky hillsides cling a wide assortment of homes, ranging from small woodsy retreats to monumental statements of wealth and status. Many of Montclair's homes rival those of San Francisco in unique architecture--and high prices. The views are spectacular, and the neighborhood has numerous expansive, parks forested in Eucalyptus, native Redwood, Douglas fir, and of course, Oaks. These wooded preserves offer respite from the urban hurly burly, enabling old and young alike no dearth of opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and even camping and fishing. The winding lanes, wooded slopes, and unique hilltop homes wind their way down to a charming shopping and restaurant district, Montclair Village, where the self-contained neighborhood congregates over gourmet coffee and down-home conversation. Montclair Village is centered on Mountain Boulevard, between the Park Blvd and Thornhill exits of Highway 13.
To the west of the affluent hillside communities, the city can still offer the adventurous tourist no small array of daytime adventures. Lake Merritt, some fifteen minutes walking distance from downtown, is a salt-lake body of water that connects to the estuary. Walkers and joggers round the lake's 3.5 mile shore daily, and Oaklanders in their canoes, small sail boats, kayaks, and all manner of skiffs and rowboats ply the waters; the park offers boat rentals, from rowboats to small sailing sloops. Children's Fairyland, a whimsical children's playground, draws residents from the entire city, as does the park's bird-wildlife sanctuary. Luxury high-rise apartments, ranging in style from Gothic to Post-Modern, stand as sentinels around the lakeshore, and at least two older, lakeside neighborhoods of larger, older homes––Adams Point and Grand lake––have become newly trendy areas ripe for gentrification.
On the southern shore of Lake Merritt stands the Oakland Museum, the finest regional museum in the Bay Area and perhaps the country. The strikingly beautiful exterior consists of a flowing stair-step structure of gardens and trees, evoking a high modern take on the hanging gardens of Babylon; from the grounds, one has a view of the Lake and the luxury apartments that stand over its shore, as well as the Oakland hills in the background. Inside, the museum dedicates its flowing spaces to the ecology, history, and the high and low art of California. The museum alone provides consolation to Gertrude Stein's lament.
The downtown area continues its rejuvenation to some success, with gleaming high-rises, gourmet restaurants, and the usual suspects, i.e. Starbucks, Barnes and Nobles, et al, staking their claims, particularly in the City Center mini mall and thereabouts. Nevertheless, too few numbers of retailers outside of City Center bespeak of the continuing and daunting task Oakland faces in attaining all of its potential. Much of downtown empties at night, and one should exercise the usual cautions. However, new restaurants such as Luka's Tap Room and Lounge in the uptown area and the nearby Paramount Theater, home to many live performances, have begun to bring nightlife back into the area.
Other pockets of activity have taken hold in and around City Center on Broadway. These include Old Oakland, a quarter of renovated Victorians, housing fledging galleries, non-profit organizations, and arts groups. One finds a number of good restaurants and inns here, too, including Washington Inn and the perennial Oakland favourite, The Gingerbread House, which specializes in Cajun and Louisiana variants soul cuisine. A farmer's market provides Oaklanders a virtual cornucopia of fresh produce and international foodstuffs, and also supplies many of Oakland's excellent restaurants. Oakland's Asia town is booming. Not as touristy as San Francisco's Chinatown, the neighborhood draws immigrants from throughout Asia, and the mix of recent immigrants and well-established, affluent Asian-Americans combine to create an area of restaurants, import-export businesses, food markets, and all manner of economic and cultural activity.
Continuing down the main thoroughfare, Broadway, toward the bay, the visitor will find himself or herself in Jack London Square, which is a bona fide tourist trap as every self-respecting seaport American city will maintain as a matter of principle course, if not imagination. Nevertheless, however clichéd Jack London Square may be, it continues to undergo renovation and expansion, and it does boast a number of interesting restaurants, views of the estuary and S.F Bay, and a number of specialty boutiques that sell everything from high African Art to lowly knick knacks familiar to any thematic seaport market area. A lively loft community of cosmopolitan African-American artists, White bohemians, Asian-American intellectuals, and Hispanic yuppies has colonized the vicinity. One can find card-carrying members of this group of casually cool congregating at Soizic, a loft-like restaurant that offers its patrons, quite appropriately, an arty fusion cuisine, part French, part Asian, with influences from Africa to Central America thrown in for good measure; in short, an upscale restaurant that reflects the upscale tastes and colours of bohemian Oakland.
The city's Fruitvale district in the heart of East Oakland is a bustling area of Latino-owned stores, restaurants and other businesses showcasing the thriving Latino community. The highest concentration of eateries is on International Boulevard near Fruitvale Ave. The city's long problematic school system has also made significant gains in test scores and has been the benficiary of large grants from the Gates Foundation and others.
Above all, Oakland stands out in its diversity; it has a large African-American population which plays an important part of its identity. Oakland was the original home of the Black Panthers -- a political organization and street gang that claimed to fight for the liberation of oppressed peoples while soft peddling its boilerplate shakedown, fund siphoning, and internecine violence. Under Elaine Brown, the organization gave out free breakfast to low income kids. Under Huey Newton, the Panthers summarily marginalized Brown, siphoned government monies to support Newton's lakeside apartment, brutality against women, and growning cocaine addiction. When not being infiltrated and sabatoged by the FBI, the Panthers engaged in a war of violence and intimidation against the Oakland Police, which returned the attention in kind. But the tough breed of White Oaklander could also claim some dubious pride, too, in that the city gave rise to the Hell’s Angels, another ethno-centric enterprise that reveled in violence and hyper macho posturing, sans the Black Panther's Maoist pretensions. The Hell's Angels predated the Panthers by more than a decade, although it is fair to say that it is a toss up as to which retains more of an edge in the popular imagination, given America's strange fascination with outlaw enterprises, be they corporate, political, or criminal. Oakland also was one of the breeding grounds of West Coast hiphop, and many stars such as Too Short and Tupac Shakur have made Oakland their home at one time or another.
In recent years, the demographics have dramatically shifted such that Latinos and Asians now represent more than 40% of the population. Indeed, well-established and relatively affluent peoples (including, naturally, Latino-American and Asian-Americans) from other parts of the Bay Area are moving in ever greater numbers to Oakland for its relatively low rent and property prices. Notably, already gentrified areas, such as Crocker Highlands, Oakmore, and even the long affluent upper Rockridge and Montclair, have witnessed skyrocketing housing prices.
Oakland is above all a sprawling city of contrasts -- from the hard-pressed, working-class neighborhoods of West Oakland, to the affluent hillside retreats the Oakland Hills. In this way, perhaps, Oakland is the most American of cities in the Bay Area.