UPDATE: The update is … I’ve essentially stopped updating the “related news, notes, and updates” section at the end of this post. You get the gist! Change continues to reshape the city. Feels both blink-and-you-miss-it fast and super slow-motion, all at once. The Uber building at Broadway and 19th hasn’t opened yet, but is still slated to this year (as far as I know). And I’m still content. For now. Trying to figure out what’s next before I know it’s time to go. If the time comes. — February 21, 2017
Falling for Oakland before it was hip[ster], and weathering its tech-fueled transformation.
“Where do you stay at?”
Kensington Hilltop Elementary had equipped me with a superb command of textbook-correct, standard American English (to the point that I successfully broke my Louisiana-born father of his native ain’t; god I was such a little asshole), but none of its various bendy, rule-breaking dialects.
My mastery of English by the book and general love of study was rewarded with a liberal arts education from UCLA. After college, I returned home to the Bay Area for a local beau.
Like everyone else I knew who was moving back (or never left), I got a place near Lake Merritt in Oakland.
The year was 1998.
Outside of trips to Oakland as a kid — Fairyland, Fentons, I. Magnin, A’s games, the Oakland Zoo, OMCA, Grand Lake Theater, Festival at the Lake — I’d never given the city much thought. As an adult, it was the new (old) Berkeley and pre-Uber über affordable, plus hella* familiar(ish). It was also where my father ultimately landed over the Great Migration, before meeting my Berkeley born-and-raised mother and heading for the Kensington hills.
I’ve been staying in Oakland happily now for 17 years.
All the while, waiting for it to cease being the reluctant long-term home I’ve been too whatever (comfortable? lazy? scared?) to quit, and generally taking certain facets of the city for granted (e.g., its diversity). Were it not for the short-lived relationship that brought me back to the Bay, I like to think that I would have gone directly from L.A. to New York, or someplace similarly new and not in my great, golden home state of California.
Travels abroad and gentrification back home has a way of putting things in perspective.
Starting around about 2000 I endeavored to [ad]venture outside my familiar. Over time and travels to an array of amazing places, I began to consciously appreciate coming home to certain aspects of Oakland; qualities I regarded as fixed: its politics (liberal), its diversity (very), its size (big) vs. its feel (quaint), its cost of living (affordable).
The city’s DNA is in a full-on state of flux now. It’s wonderful and the worst, all at once (ugh — “Brooklyn by the Bay”). If that makes any sense to those who’ve never been through a similar metropolitan metamorphosis.
Between 2000 and 2010, Oakland’s black population fell by 25 percent … As Oakland’s population changes, so too does the culture that drew so many new residents in the first place … An old Sears department store was recently purchased for renovation into offices for tech companies; sources close to the project say that Google is looking to expand there.
Will Oakland still feel like home in another 5, 10, 20 years? I can’t know.
Home isn’t a fixed feeling. Sure, people change. But so can a place. And then what do you do? Where do you go?
For now, the thing that might ultimately push me to rethink roots here isn’t the city’s ongoing saga with a high rate of crime, the sky-rocketing price of everything as gentrification goes into high gear (holding on tight to my spacious, rent-controlled 1BR apartment) or the onslaught of tech companies, coworkers and culture; it’s the prolonged lack of water as the drought parches on, with the possibility of going Biblically bad (we’re off to a good start, methinks).
Where I’d go? No idea. Just not New York (you get a little older and Gotham becomes that place you like to visit but are always elated to leave, like Vegas). Or anywhere with a *real* winter, or a hot and humid summer.
In case our water supply does prune up completely … I’m beginning to mull my options for a place I think I could stay indefinitely and be happy, and find (or foster) that distinct feeling we all desire and know to be home.
We’ll see what happens. If the H2O keeps flowing and I can weather the deluge of DNA/cultural (rather than climate) changes, Oakland will always be home.
*One of the first things I did after moving home in ’98 in an effort to “grow up” and “be an adult” was to try harder at sounding like one. This meant giving up hella the way I’d made my father abandon ain’t (my love of like had to go, too). A cornerstone of local lingo since my time at Berkeley High School (and long before), it’s still bizarre to me that the word hella has become such a “thing.” While I hella love Oakland like so many other long-time residents and transplants alike, you’ll never hear me utter those words. I cringed even typing them out together just now — the phrase sounds so desperately “authentic,” “local” and hip. For similar reasons, you’ll never hear me call it The Town. </rant>
Related News / Notes / Updates …
- “While the causes and solutions to address the housing crisis are complex, inaction is a prescription for shorter, sicker lives for many of our Alameda County Residents.”
- Oakland is a textbook example of the effects of gentrification. Journalist Susie Cagle writes about these changes in her profile of a specific house, 2523 Martin Luther King Junior Way on the west side of town.
- A major recycling center in West Oakland has been forced to close. What’s the impact on street recyclers?
- Not a fan of Airbnb, for the way it destroys communities around the world? Same. Here’s one such story of Airbnb in Oakland.
- Highly paid employees at San Francisco tech companies could spend close to half of their pay to live close to the office.
- Brooklyn Basin comprises a dozen parcels that, in 10 or 12 years, should hold up to 3,100 residential units, 200,000 square feet of retail space, at least 3,950 parking spaces, four parks and other open space, and two marinas.
- East Oakland homes now going for just under $500,000.
- Meet the third West Oakland home to sell for over one million dollars, “with a reported contract price of $1,025,000 or roughly $457 per square foot.”
- 51st and Broadway will be home to “The Ridge”—a new L.A.-Grove style sprawl (i.e., shopping, dining, retail).
- After 90 years, Genova Delicatessen closes its North Oakland (Temescal) location due to rising rent and other costs, like utilities.
- San Francisco was 13.4 percent African American in 1970, but its population as of 2016 is less than 6 percent black. The story of San Francisco’s declining black population is characterized more by a lack of in-migration than an unusual amount of out-migration. The issue is that unlike other groups, African Americans are not moving to the city.
- Across the country, the growth in home values in some cities, such as Austin and Denver, has been relatively even, from the lowest price tiers to the top. But most of the nation’s most dynamic urban areas have experienced housing recoveries that deliver more benefits to better-off people. In San Francisco, top prices are up 62 percent; everywhere else, it’s 36 percent.
- Developers built no housing specifically for people making a “moderate” income between 2007 and 2014, according to city data. “It is a surprise. I didn’t think it was zero,” says Michele Byrd, Oakland’s housing director.
- “The situation is dire,” said Carroll Fife … A renter working at Oakland’s minimum wage would have to work 185 hours a week to pay for the median priced 2-bedroom apartment. The average Oakland renter can only afford to pay about $700 a month, according to the report.
- Congratulations, “East Bay”: 52 places to go in 2016 from the NYTimes.
- After 37 years on the corner of Market and Valencia in San Francisco, Flax is moving to Oakland. Its new 14,500-square-foot store opens in February at 1501 Martin Luther King Way, a former automotive repair shop and indoor soccer facility on the outskirts of downtown.
- Oakland’s Director of Planning and Building Rachel Flynn reportedly told a conference of real estate developers in San Francisco that Oakland’s residents are not facing an affordable housing crisis.
- According to Zillow, the median rent in Oakland is $2,650 a month, with 70 percent of a resident’s income going toward housing.
- Uber is coming to Oakland in 2017.
- White Oakland residents are increasingly using the popular social networking site nextdoor.com to report “suspicious activity” about their Black neighbors — and families of color fear the consequences could be fatal.
- As the vast majority of San Franciscans have watched their incomes rise amid an explosion of wealth that has reshaped the city, African Americans have seen their earnings decline.
- For a number of community members, the conflict between the drummers and the upset neighbor, with the police siding against the locals, exemplifies the type of interactions longtime residents are loathing as the city is quickly being gentrified by many who are unfamiliar with and unsympathetic to Oakland’s deep, cultural traditions.
- I work in Silicon Valley for a 6-figure household income, but I don’t have nearly as much money as you think.
- To afford to live comfortably in San Francisco, estimates suggest you need to earn at least $200,000 a year.
- The San Francisco Bay Area’s transformation into a sprawling, exclusive and high-income community with less and less room for its low-income residents is just beginning, according to UC Berkeley researchers who literally have it all mapped out.
- I will tell you what Oakland’s heart and soul looks like from my biased perspective as an OUSD-educated white boy whose family has lived in East Oakland for three generations. You can take this with as many grains of salt as you wish.
- San Francisco’s residential market not only remained strong in the second quarter of 2015, but hit an all-time high: the median sale price reached $1,185,000, a 20% increase over Q2 2014. San Francisco home prices even exceed Manhattan numbers, where the median sale price for residential properties hasn’t reached $1M yet.
- 20% down on [a] $998K [house or condo] is $199.6K. So the amount financed then would be $798.4K. Using the jumbo 30 year interest rate of 4.22% and San Francisco’s property tax rate of 1.1640, the monthly payments would be $4873. We’ve left out closing costs since they vary, generally costing the buyer 2–5% of the purchase price.
- Landlord Russell Flynn attempts to raise monthly rent from $1,080 to $3,870 to force tenants out. “Flynn is one of the largest private owners of rental housing stock in the Bay Area (mostly in San Francisco), controlling more than 3,600 rental properties, and is, by his own admission one of California’s leading proponents of both ‘vacancy de-control’ and the Ellis Act (evictions),” according to the lawsuit.
- Oakland is a city facing the loss of its racial, age, economic, cultural and social diversity, driven by the loss of affordable housing and a huge wealth gap, according to a new report produced by the City of Oakland. The racial gap in household income is stark, with whites earning about double that of African Americans and other people of color.
- This Noe Valley (San Francisco) home just sold for $7 million.
- … the [Red Bay Coffee] cafe’s staff will consist of folks who have traditionally had difficulty breaking into the specialty coffee industry — people of color, the formerly incarcerated, women, and people with disabilities. What’s more radical, however, is the profit-sharing model that Konte will use to pay those workers: In addition to receiving tips and an hourly wage, each Red Bay Coffee Bar employee will get a cut of the business’s profits. In fact, 100 percent of retail sale profits will go back to the workers.
- Rents for a one-bedroom in the tower could reach $3,150, making them unaffordable to most residents, according to protesters.
- “We think there’s more growth to come. We like the direction that Oakland is headed.”
- The history of oak trees here runs deep, starting with the acorn harvests of Ohlone Indians. In the 19th century, Spanish and Mexican residents named the place “encinal,” or oak grove. The city’s first mayor, Horace Carpentier, tried to protect the trees, which were disappearing fast even in the 1850s. But as Oakland boomed, its namesake oaks were felled to make way for development and for streets laid out in an orderly grid. Today, only a few survive.
- A young man with a big dream (and a quirky best friend) searches for home in the changing city that seems to have left him behind.
- What is more frustrating, perhaps, for those locals who once looked to the East Bay for relief from the insanity of SF prices, is that now Oakland is the sixth most expensive in the country, with a median 1-br rent of $2,000.
- “This is the center of Uptown Oakland,” said Drew Haydel a principal with Lane Partners of the former Sears store’s location. “It’s needs to be an iconic building and it deserves to be returned to its previous glory.”
- The [Newberry] market — situated on the Telegraph Avenue side of the former Sears building — will feature locally sourced produce, a full-service butcher shop, a hot-and-cold prepared foods section, a cafe, a flower shop, and more.
- In perhaps a sign of the times in North Oakland, two longtime restaurant-bars, Dorsey’s Locker and Art’s Crab Shak are calling it quits. Both spots have historically catered to a primarily African-American clientele. Ongoing gentrification, however, has rapidly changed the neighborhood’s demographics over the last decade …