Community Information

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Oakland is the eighth-largest city in California and a major West Coast port city, located on San Francisco Bay about eight miles east of the city of San Francisco. Oakland is a major hub city for the Bay Area subregion collectively called the East Bay, and it is the county seat of Alameda County. Based on United States Census Bureau estimates for 2008, Oakland is the 44th-largest city in the United States, with a population of 404,155.

The area was inhabited by the Ohlone people for thousands of years before Spanish settlers displaced them in the 18th and 19th centuries. Spain expanded the Viceroyalty of New Spain and colonized Alta California to stop the advancement of Russia from Alaska.

Much of the land that was to become Oakland was held by the Peralta family under the Rancho San Antonio (Peralta) land grant. New Spain became independent in 1821 under the name “Mexico”. In 1846, the Territory of Alta California was conquered by American forces, becoming simply “California”. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, American squatters laid legal claim to the land held by the Peralta family, and in 1852 the California legislature incorporated the town of Oakland.

Oakland grew initially from having its hillside oak and redwood timber resources 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 terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad. It continued to grow into the 20th century with its port, shipyards, and a thriving automobile industry. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, many San Franciscans left that city's destruction, and a great number of Oakland's homes were built during the 1910s and 1920s. An extensive streetcar network connected most of Oakland's neighborhoods to inter-city rail lines and to ferry lines.

During the 1940s, thousands of war-industry workers moved to Oakland from the Deep South, and the late 20th century saw a steady influx of immigrants from around the globe. According to the 2000 U.S. census, Oakland is the second most ethnically diverse city in the United States, with many languages spoken.

Oakland has struggled with significant challenges, including high unemployment, widespread poverty, and an elevated rate of violent crime. Ruptures along the nearby San Andreas Fault caused severe earth movement in 1906 and in 1989. During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Oakland suffered many deaths and injuries, as well as significant property damage. San Andreas quakes cause induced creep in the Hayward fault, which runs directly through Oakland. In 1991 an urban firestorm destroyed nearly 4,000 homes and killed 25 people in the Oakland hills; it was the worst such firestorm in American history.

Oakland is home to several major corporations including Kaiser Permanente and Clorox, as well as corporate headquarters for nationwide businesses like Dreyer's and Cost Plus World Market.

Oakland is also the home of Rocky Road ice cream and the Mai Tai cocktail. Actors Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks grew up in Oakland. It has enjoyed a thriving West Coast blues scene, and can claim numerous prominent homegrown musicians representing genres such as rhythm and blues, funk, punk, heavy metal, and hip hop. Recreational attractions include the Fox Theater, the Paramount Theater, Jack London Square, Lake Merritt, the Oakland Estuary, the Oakland Zoo, the Oakland Museum of California, the Chabot Space and Science Center, Oracle Arena, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the East Bay Regional Park District ridge line parks and preserves, and Chinatown.

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The Ohlone

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"). In Oakland, they were concentrated around Lake Merritt and Temescal Creek, a stream that enters the San Francisco Bay at Emeryville.

Spanish colonialism

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 Luís María Peralta for his Rancho San Antonio. The grant was confirmed by the successor Mexican republic upon its independence from Spain. The 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”.

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, who opened the land to American settlers, loggers, European whalers, and fur-traders.

1840s and 1850s

Continued development occurred after 1848 when the Mexican government ceded 1.36 million km² (525,000 square miles; 55% of its pre-war territory, not including Texas) to the United States in exchange for $15 million (equivalent to $313 million in 2006 dollars) as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the Mexican-American War.

The original settlement in what is now the downtown was initially called "Contra Costa" (Other Coast) and was included in Contra Costa County before Alameda County was established in 1853. The California state legislature incorporated the town of Oakland on May 4, 1852. 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.

1860s and 1870s

The town and its environs quickly grew with the railroads, becoming a major rail terminus 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. In 1871 Cyrus and Susan Mills bought the Young Ladies' Seminary—then located in Benicia, California—for $5,000, renamed it Mills College, and moved it to its current location in Oakland.

In 1872, the town of Brooklyn, a large municipality just southeast of Lake Merritt, was incorporated into Oakland. The town of Brooklyn was part of what was then called the Brooklyn Township.

Streetcar suburbs

A number of horsecar and cable car lines were constructed in Oakland during the latter half of the 1800s. 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 direct 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'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, located 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

One day's output of 1917 Chevrolet trucks at their major West Coast plant, now the location of Eastmont Town Center

The original extent of Oakland upon its incorporation lay south of today's major intersection of San Pablo Avenue, Broadway and 14th Street. The city gradually annexed farmlands and settlements to the east and 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, creating the "island" of nearby town Alameda.

In 1906, its population doubled with refugees made homeless after the San Francisco earthquake and fire that had fled to Oakland. Concurrently, a strong City Beautiful movement, promoted by mayor Frank K. 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 in 1914. The Auditorium briefly served as an emergency ward and quarantine for some of Oakland's Spanish flu victims in 1918 and 1919. The three waves of that pandemic killed more than 1,400 Oaklanders (out of 216,000 residents).

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


The 1920s were economic boom years in the United States as a whole, and in California especially. Economic growth was fueled by the general post-war 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 Oakland at 73rd Avenue and Foothill, which is the current location of Eastmont Town Center, making cars and then trucks there until its closure in 1963.

A large lot in East Oakland, 106th and Foothill Boulevard, which is the current location of Foothill Square, was chosen by the Fageol Motor Company as the site for their first factory in 1916, turning out farming tractors from 1918 to 1923, and introducing an influential low-slung "Safety Bus" in 1921 followed quickly by the 22-seat “Safety Coach”.

Durant Motors operated a plant in Oakland from 1921 to 1930, making sedans, coupes, convertibles and roadsters. By 1929, when Chrysler expanded with a new plant in the city, Oakland had become known as the “Detroit of the West”.

Oakland expanded during the 1920s, flexing enough to meet the influx of factory workers. Approximately 13,000 homes were built between 1921 and 1924, more than between 1907 and 1920. 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.;

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.

World War II

During World War II, the East Bay Area was home to many war-related industries. Among these were the Kaiser Shipyards in nearby Richmond whose medical system 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 the city's 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.

Prior to World War II, blacks constituted about 3% of Oakland's population. Aside from restrictive covenants (now illegal and unenforceable) pertaining to some Oakland hills properties, Jim Crow laws mandating racial segregation did not exist in California, 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.

The war attracted to Oakland large numbers of laborers from around the country, though most were poor whites and blacks from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi—sharecroppers who had been actively 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. Southern whites expected deference from their black co-workers, and initially Southern blacks were conditioned to grant it. 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 postwar neighborhood redlining.

The Mai Tai drink was first concocted in Oakland in 1944, and became very popular with military and civilian customers at Trader Vic's restaurant located at San Pablo Avenue and 65th, very close to Berkeley and Emeryville. Established in 1932, Trader Vic's became successful enough by 1936 that San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen was inspired to write that “the best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland”. Trader Vic's in Oakland was chosen by the State Department as the official entertainment center for foreign dignitaries attending United Nations meetings in San Francisco.

The restaurant continued to grow in popularity but was running out of room until 1951 when founder Victor Bergeron opened a larger one in San Francisco. The Oakland location closed in 1972 when it moved operations to the Emeryville Marina.

Post-WWII (1940s and 1950s)

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 planned and constructed, which partitioned the social and retail fabric of neighborhoods, and increased automobile ownership further reduced demand for mass transit. 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.

Soon after the war, with the disappearance of Oakland's shipbuilding industry and the decline of its automobile industry, jobs became more scarce. Many of the poor blacks who had come to the city from the South decided to stay in Oakland. Longstanding black residents complained that the new Southern arrivals “tended towards public disorder”, and the segregationist attitudes that some Southern migrants brought with them disrupted the racial harmony that Oaklanders had been accustomed to before the war.

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, Orinda, 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.

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, along with an increase in racial tensions. Starting in the 1950s, the Oakland Police Department began recruiting 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.

Oakland was the center of a general strike during the first week of December 1946, one of six cities across the county that experienced a general strike in the first few years after World War II. 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.

Oakland, which had been racially harmonious and quite prosperous before the war, by the late 1950s found itself with a population that was increasingly poor and racially divided.

1960s and 1970s

In 1960, Kaiser Corporation erected its headquarters at the former site of Holy Names University, a parcel 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. Also 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.

During the 1960s, the city was home to an innovative funk music scene that produced well-known bands like Sly & the Family Stone, Graham Central Station, Tower of Power, Cold Blood, and The Headhunters. Larry Graham, the bass player for both Sly & 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.

By 1966, only 16 of the city's 661 police officers were black. Tensions between the poverty-stricken black community and the predominantly white police force were high, and police brutality against blacks was common. Killings of young black men in Harlem and San Francisco added fuel to the fire. In this charged atmosphere, the Black Panther Party was founded by Oakland City College (later Merritt College) students Huey Newton and Bobby Seale as a response to police brutality.

During the 1970s Oakland, along with many other American cities, began to experience serious problems with gang-controlled dealing of heroin and cocaine, with attendant increases in both violent crime and property crime. Drug kingpin Felix Mitchell was responsible for much of this criminal activity, and Oakland's murder rate increased to twice that of San Francisco or New York City.

1980s and 1990s

Starting in 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.

During the late 1980s and 1990s, Oakland featured prominently in rap music, as the hometown for such artists as MC Hammer, Digital Underground, Hieroglyphics (including Souls of Mischief and Del tha Funkee Homosapien), The Luniz, and Too Short. Outside of the rap genre, Grammy-award winning artists such as En Vogue, Tony! Toni! Tone!, and Billie Joe Armstrong of the trio Green Day also emerged from Oakland.

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 7.1 on the Richter magnitude scale, and many structures in Oakland were badly damaged. The double-decker portion of the Cypress Viaduct freeway (Interstate 880) structure collapsed, killing 42. The eastern span of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge also sustained damage and was closed to traffic for one month. Throughout the 1990s, buildings throughout Oakland were retrofitted to better withstand earthquakes.

On October 20, 1991, a massive fire (see 1991 Oakland firestorm) swept down from the Berkeley Hills above the Caldecott Tunnel. 25 people were killed, and 150 people were injured, with nearly 4,000 homes destroyed. The economic loss has been estimated at $1.5 billion. Many of the original homes were rebuilt on a much larger scale.

During the mid-1990s, Oakland experienced somewhat of an economic "renaissance", 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.


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. Since Brown's stated goal was to add 10,000 residents to downtown Oakland, it became known as the “10K” plan. It has 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 has touched the historic Old Oakland district, the Chinatown district, the Uptown district, and downtown.

The century-old Lake Merritt Boat House had a major renovation and restoration completed in August 2009. The opening of the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar and Grill followed shortly afterwards.

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Geography, Biology and Climate

Oaklanders most broadly 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.

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

One of Oakland's most notable features is Lake Merritt near downtown, the largest urban saltwater lake in the United States. (Lake Merritt is technically an estuary of San Francisco Bay, not a lake).

The land that Oakland covers was once a mosaic of coastal terrace prairie, oak woodland, and north coastal scrub. Lake Merritt has only recently become a “lake”, where it once was a productive estuary linked to the Bay. Oakland is home to many rare and endangered species including the Presidio Clarkia, Pallid Manzanita, Tiburon Buckwheat, Oakland Star-Tulip, Most-Beautiful Jewel Flower, Western Leatherwood, and the Alameda Whipsnake. Many rare species are localized to serpentine soils and bedrock.

Oakland's climate is typified by the temperate and seasonal Mediterranean climate. Summers are usually dry and warm and winters are mild and wet. 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 directly across from the Golden Gate means that the Northern part of the city can occasionally 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.

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Aerial view of downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt

Oakland has more than 50 distinct neighborhoods across land running from the San Francisco Bay up into the East Bay hills, many of which are not “official” enough to be named on a map. The common large neighborhood divisions in the city are downtown Oakland and its greater Central Business District, East Oakland, North Oakland, and West Oakland. East Oakland actually encompasses more than half of Oakland's area, stretching from Lakeshore Avenue on the east shore of Lake Merritt southeast to San Leandro. 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.

Another broad geographical distinction is between “the hills” and “the flatlands” (or “flats”). The flatlands are the working-class neighborhoods located relatively closer to San Francisco Bay, and the hills are the upper-class neighborhoods along the northeast side of the city. This hills/flats division is not only a characteristic of the City of Oakland, but extends beyond Oakland's borders into neighboring cities in the East Bay's urban core. Downtown and West Oakland are located entirely in the flatlands, while North and East Oakland incorporate lower hills and flatlands neighborhoods.

The relatively affluent city of Piedmont, incorporated in Oakland's central foothills after the 1906 earthquake, is an island completely surrounded by the city of Oakland.

Central business district

Oakland's "central business district" (CBD), as defined by the 1998 General Plan, contains all or a portion of the following neighborhoods:

City Center
Civic Center
Downtown Oakland (The core of the CBD)
Jack London District
Jack London Square/Waterfront
Lakeside Apartments District

Old Oakland
Laney College
East Oakland
Dimond District
Lower Hills District
Crocker Highlands
Lincoln Highlands
Redwood Heights
Trestle Glen
Grand Lake
Upper Dimond
Middle East Oakland
Lockwood Gardens
Maxwell Park
San Antonio
Reservoir Hill
Cleveland Heights
Bella Vista
Highland Park
Highland Terrace
Meadow Brook
Ivy Hill
Rancho San Antonio
Oak Tree
East Peralta/Eastlake
Brookfield Village
Sobrante Park
Oak Knoll
Lake Merritt (the district)
Adams Point
East Lake (Merritt)
Grand Lake (A portmanteau of Grand and Lakeshore Avenues)
Lake Merritt (the body of water)
Lakeside Apartments District
Cleveland Heights
North Oakland
Broadway Auto Row
Bushrod Park
Golden Gate
Mosswood Park
Piedmont (separate city surrounded by Oakland)
Piedmont Avenue
Pill Hill
West Oakland
Oakland Point
Port of Oakland
Cypress Village
Oakland Hills
Northeast Hills
Piedmont Pines
Panoramic Hill
Hiller Highlands
Glen Highlands
Mountain View Cemetery
Saint Mary's Cemetery
Shepherd Canyon
Upper Rockridge
Montclair Business District
Lake Temescal
Joaquin Miller Park
Southeast Hills
Grass Valley
Sequoyah Heights
Sheffield Village
Skyline-Hillcrest Estates
Caballo Hills
Leona Heights
Chabot Park

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Oakland’s population was estimated in 2008 to be 404,155. According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, the racial composition of the city were 37% White, (Non-Hispanic Whites: 25%), 30% Black or African American, 0.6% Native American, 16% Asian, 0.8% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 13% from some other race and 3.7% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos (of any race): make up 25% of the total population.

The data shows that Oakland is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country. A recent study revealed that the Grand-Lakeshore district has the largest number of languages spoken in the entire world.

Out of 150,790 households, 29 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34 percent were married couples living together, 18 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 43 percent were non-families. 32 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.6 and the average family size was 3.4.

An analysis by the Urban Institute of U.S. Census 2000 numbers showed that Oakland has the third-highest concentration of gays and lesbians among the 50 largest U.S. cities, behind San Francisco and Seattle. Census data show that, among incorporated places that have at least 500 female couples, Oakland has 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.

In 2000, Oakland's population was reported as 25 percent under the age of 18, 9.7 percent from 18 to 24, 34 percent from 25 to 44, 21 percent from 45 to 64, and 10.5 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 93 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90 males.

In 2008 the median income for a household in the city was $48,600 and the median income for a family was $55,900. Males had a median income of $46,400 versus $44,700 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,100. About 15 percent of families and 18 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 28 percent of those under age 18 and 13 percent of those aged 65 or over. The average income for a family was $85,800. 0.7% of the population is homeless. Home ownership is 41% and 14% of rental units are subsidized. The unemployment rate as of August 2009 was 18%.

Shifting of cultures

From the 1960s until the early 21st century, Oakland—along with other Bay Area cities such as Richmond, East Palo Alto, Vallejo, and Marin City--has been known as a center of Northern California's African-American community. The city demographics have changed somewhat during recent years, due to a combination of rapid gentrification along with the fact that many African-Americans have sought opportunities in other Bay Area suburbs, or have followed the national trend of middle-class African-Americans moving to the Southern United States.

As a result, Whites have edged slightly past Blacks as the city's largest racial group. Though African-Americans never constituted a majority of Oakland's population, they formed a strong plurality for many years, peaking during the 1980s at about 47% of the population. From 2000 to 2008, Oakland's Black population, which excludes persons who self-identify as “multi-racial”, dropped from 36% to 32% of the total population. In contrast, Oakland's total White population, in which the U.S. Census Bureau includes Whites of Latino origin, increased from 31% to 37%.

Recent trends have resulted in cultural shifts, leading to a decline among some of the city's longstanding African-American institutions, such as churches, businesses, and nightclubs. This decline in Black institutions has led some to postulate that Black culture in Oakland is being systematically minimized. Although Oakland is the second most diverse city in Alameda County and remains a culturally significant city for African-Americans, many of the city's once historically Black neighborhoods have become more mixed; neighborhoods that once experienced white flight are seeing whites return in increasing numbers, along with residents from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Latino festivals such as the annual “Cinco de Mayo Parade” and “Dia de los Muertos Festival” in Fruitvale, an Oakland neighborhood with a relatively large Latino population, have been canceled due to lack of funding from the city. However, Latino political issues have become more visible in Oakland (though Ignacio De La Fuente lost the 2006 mayoral race to African-American candidate Ron Dellums).

In recent years, immigrants and others have marched by the thousands down Oakland's International Boulevard in support of legal reforms benefitting illegal immigrants. In 2009, Oakland's city council passed a resolution to create municipally-issued “Oakland identification cards” to help residents get easier access to city and business services, improve their civic participation and encourage them to report crimes to police. City officials are considering eventual multipurpose ID cards that would serve as debit cards, bus passes, library cards, and discount cards for Oakland businesses.

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Economic Development

Oakland is a major West Coast port, and there are nearly 200,000 jobs related to marine cargo transport. These jobs range from minimum wage hourly positions to Transportation Storage and Distribution Managers who earn an annual average salary of $91,500. The city is also home to several major corporations including Kaiser Permanente and Clorox, as well as corporate headquarters for national retailers like Dreyer's and Cost Plus World Markets. The first Longs Drugs store opened in Oakland.

Oakland experienced an increase of both its population and of land values in the early to mid 2000s. 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. In addition, Oakland's mild weather, central geographic location, and hillside neighborhoods with views of San Francisco and the Bay provide an attractive alternative to the high rents and home prices in nearby San Francisco. Because of its size, Oakland offers a substantial number of shopping districts and restaurants representing many American and international cuisines.

With increasing interest in a "village community," with the West Oakland BART station as its center, West Oakland has seen an influx of new residents. In response, programs such as the Anti-Displacement Network have attempted to assist in the stabilization of costs for homeowners and renters in West Oakland. Redevelopment proponents believe such projects will provide employment, neighborhood health services, recreational facilities, special placement facilities, and new affordable housing.

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Education and Healthcare

Primary and secondary education

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. There are 46,000 K–12 students, 32,000 adult students, and 6,000 plus employees.

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. 25 public charter schools with 5,887 students 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. Other charter schools include the Oakland Military Institute, Oakland School for the Arts, Bay Area Technology School, and Oakland Charter Academy.

There are several private high schools. Notables include the secular The College Preparatory School and Head-Royce School, both with tuitions around $25,000 per year 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 8 K–8 schools (plus 1 in Piedmont on the Oakland city border).

Julia Morgan School for Girls is a private middle school for girls housed on the campus of Mills College. 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

Accredited colleges and universities include:

Peralta Community College District
Laney College
Merritt College
California College of the Arts (formerly the California College of Arts and Crafts)
Holy Names University (formerly Holy Names College)
Lincoln University
Mills College
Patten University
Samuel Merritt College (a health science college)
The University of California, Berkeley campus is located partially within the Oakland city limits.
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.


Kaiser Permanente, a HMO started during World War II in 1942 by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, to provide medical care for Kaiser Shipyards workers, is based in Oakland and has a large medical center in the Piedmont Avenue neighborhood.

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Oakland (Summit Campus, referred to as "Pill Hill") is a recent merger with the former Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley; it is part of 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.

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Recreation and Transportation


Joaquin Miller Park
Joseph Knowland State Arboretum and Park, home of the Oakland Zoo
Lake Merritt
Morcom Rose Garden best from July through October
Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, headquarters of the Peralta rancho, Rancho San Antonio
William Joseph McInnes Botanic Garden and Campus Arboretum, located on the Mills College campus

Additionally, the following seven East Bay Regional Parks are located entirely or partially in the city of Oakland:
Anthony Chabot Regional Park
Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve
Leona Canyon Regional Open Space Preserve
Redwood Regional Park
Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
Roberts Regional Recreation Area
Temescal Regional Park


Lake Merritt at night, looking toward downtown

Downtown Oakland has an assortment of bars and nightclubs. They range from punk-rock makeovers of dive bars, such as The Stork Club and the Ruby Room, to modern bistros and dance clubs, such as Luka's Taproom and Lounge, @17th, Pat's bar, Roy's 19th Street Station, The Uptown, and The Oasis, to hipster spots such as Radio, Geoffreys, Karribean City, and art and jazz bar Cafe van Kleef. Also, the reopening of the Fox Oakland Theatre draws headline acts to include Jam Bands, rock, punk, blues, jazz, and reggae, among other genres of music.

Shows performed by the Oakland School for the Arts—which is housed within the same complex—will give the theater increased usage. The Paramount and Fox theaters often book simultaneous events creating busy nights uptown.

Oakland is home to a world-class jazz venue, Yoshi's, near Jack London Square. Jack London Square is a nighttime destination because of its movie theaters, restaurants, and clubs.

Recent years have seen the growth of the "Oakland Art Murmur" event, occurring in the Uptown neighborhood the first Friday evening of every month, which features concurrent art openings from many galleries including 21 Grand, Fort, Johansson Project, Boontling Gallery, Ego Park, Mama Buzz, Ghost Town Gallery and Rock Paper Scissors.

Annual Cultural Events

Many annual events celebrate the diverse cultures of Oakland:

Cinco de Mayo Fruitvale Festival & Parade (weekend nearest May 5)
Oakland Greek Festival (mid-May)
Temescal Street Fair (June)
Fire Arts Festival (July)
Laurel Street Fair (early August)
Lakefest (early August)
Chinatown Streetfest (late August)
Art & Soul Festival (mid-August)
Montclair Jazz & Wine Festival (mid-September)
Koreatown/Northgate Culturefest (mid-September)
Germanfest (mid-September)
Black Cowboy Parade (early October)
Oaktoberfest (early October)
Oakland Inspiration Awards (November)
Oakland International Film Festival (September or October)
Fruitvale Dia de los Muertos Festival (Sunday before November 1)
Oakland Holiday Parade (First Saturday in December)


Chabot Space and Science Center
Children's Fairyland
Dunsmuir House
Fox Oakland Theatre, reopened: pending tour information TBA.
Jack London Square
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home of baseball’s Oakland Athletics, and the Oakland Raiders of the NFL.
Lake Merritt, Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Oldest wildlife/bird sanctuary in North America, Lake Merritt Garden Center, Bonsai Garden
Mountain View Cemetery, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and resting place of many famous Californians
Oakland Aviation Museum
Oakland Museum of California
Oakland Public Library
Oracle Arena, directly adjacent to the Oakland Coliseum, home to the Golden State Warriors of the NBA
Paramount Theatre
Pardee Home
Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, Museum of History and Culture
Preservation Park
USS Potomac, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht
Oakland Zoo

Air Transportation

Residents of Oakland utilize three major airports in 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 miles (6 km) south of downtown Oakland and serves domestic and international destinations

Transit, Walking or Biking

The Lake Merritt BART station

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 Oakland City Center/12th Street stations.

The city has regional and long distance passenger train service provided by Amtrak, with a station located blocks from Jack London Square served by the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight and San Joaquin train routes. Capitol Corridor trains also stop at a second, newer Oakland Coliseum station. Amtrak's California Zephyr has its western terminus at Emeryville, CA station.

The Alameda / Oakland Ferry operates ferry service from Jack London Square to Alameda, San Francisco, and Angel Island.

Following years of bicycle advocacy in Oakland by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and others, 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. The bike plan calls for a city “where bicycling is fully integrated into daily life, providing transportation and recreation that are both safe and convenient”. To date, several miles of bike lanes have been striped onto Bancroft Avenue in East Oakland, 14th Street and Market Street in West Oakland, on most of Lakeside Drive, and on Grand Avenue, though hundreds of miles of lanes proposed for arterial streets in the mid 1990s remain on the back burner.

Facilities for parking thousands of bicycles have been installed downtown and in other commercial districts throughout Oakland since, in 2007, the city removed thousands of parking meter heads after installing new parking payment kiosks. The kiosks consist of mid-block, solar-powered machines that accept credit cards and dollar bills.

Water access

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 fourth busiest container port in the United States. It was one of the earliest seaports to switch to containerization and to intermodal container transfer, 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.

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