Rockridge

Rockridge is a residential neighborhood and commercial district in Oakland, California, and is generally defined as the area east of Telegraph Avenue, south of the Berkeley city limits, west of the Oakland hills and north of the intersection of Pleasant Valley Avenue/51st Street and Broadway.

It's also known for being one of the wealthiest parts of Oakland. Some residential portions of the neighborhood consist mainly of relatively large homes built between the 1920s and the 1950s, although some homes date even earlier to 1909-1912. Other portions of the neighborhood consist of small bungalows and cottages. In other sections, multi-family apartment buildings add density which supports nearby transit and retail.

The main thoroughfare in Rockridge is College Avenue. The district is bounded by 51st Street on the southern end and Berkeley's Elmwood district on the northern end. The College Avenue strip running through Rockridge is home to more than 80 restaurants, cafes and upscale retail stores, including several bookstores specializing in used and rare books.

Dreyer's Ice Cream maintains its international corporate headquarters in Rockridge on College Avenue, and operates its only retail ice cream parlor on the premises, where it offers visitors the opportunity to test new flavors and products.

The Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library is one of the most visited establishments in the neighborhood and is home to an extensive collection of children's books and audio/visual materials.

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Transportation

Rockridge has been the subject of several academic and government studies regarding the integration of public transportation and residential neighborhoods. The Rockridge BART station has been cited as the model of weaving retail, commercial and residential interests into a workable neighborhood.

The area around the Rockridge BART provides transportation by train, bus, and casual carpool to all Bay Area airports, downtowns, and entertainment districts, while surrounded by open air markets, cafes, bars, shopping, and homes. The Rockridge BART station is located in the center of Rockridge, where College Avenue passes under the Grove Shafter Freeway (Highway 24). AC Transit bus lines 49, 51A and 51B serve the center of the neighborhood, while line E runs along Claremont Avenue and lines 1, 1R, 12, CB, and V run along its edges.

BART travel times from Rockridge to Montgomery Station near San Francisco's downtown financial district average 22 minutes. Travel times to downtown Oakland average 8 minutes.

Rockridge residents are involved in their neighborhood political, educational and cultural life; Rockridge boasts no fewer than 11 community organizations. The Rockridge News is published monthly and hand delivered to every resident's home.

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Restaurants/Shopping

There are many shops and restaurants in Rockridge. Here is one of each, just to get you started:

Zachary's Chicago Pizza: Whoever decided to combine Chicago-style pizza (read: thick) with quality California ingredients is a genius. Zach's special, the spinach and mushroom pie, is absolutely addicting. 5801 College Avenue, (510) 655-6385.

Market Hall

Market Hall: A Bay Area version of a French marché, Market Hall (5655 College Ave.) is a visually and gastronomically stimulating place to do the grocery shopping. To rev yourself up, start with a latte at Peaberry's Coffee & Tea, (510) 653-0450. Then buy a baguette straight from the oven at Market Hall Bakery; fresh ravioli and artisan cheeses at The Pasta Shop, (510) 547-4005; a terrific bottle of wine at Paul Marcus Wines, where there are no bad choices, (510) 420-1005; superb ahi or steaks at Enzo's Meat & Poultry, (510) 547-5839; and fresh fruits and vegetables at Market Hall Produce, (510) 601-8202. On your way out, stop at Bloomies for an armful of blue hydrangeas, (510) 547-0444.

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Education

The Rockridge neighborhood is served by the Oakland Unified School District.

Chabot Elementary School in Rockridge, founded in 1927, serves grades kindergarten through 5th grade. Chabot consistently scores high in statewide assessments, and the Chabot PTA offers extensive after-school programs including language immersion classes and arts and music classes.

Claremont Middle School (formerly Claremont Junior High School) has occupied its campus on College Avenue in the heart of Rockridge since 1913. The original building was demolished and rebuilt during the 1970s as part of a statewide program of retrofitting schools for earthquake safety. Claremont now serves more than 400 students in grades 6-8.

Rockridge students in grades 9 through 12 attend Oakland Technical High School.

An “alternative” public school, Far West High School, is a visual arts-focused campus for grades 7-12. It occupies the site of the former Rockridge Elementary School on Broadway Terrace, across the street from the California College of the Arts.

Perhaps acknowledging the decline in the local population, the Oakland School Board made the decision in 1979 to close and demolish Rockridge Elementary School because of declining enrollment (less than 150 students) and fears for the earthquake safety of the original school building, a two-story structure built in 1923. The original auditorium was torn down in the 1950s, and the current one (still in use and doubling as the cafeteria) was constructed in 1959.

Post-secondary education is offered by the California College of the Arts, formerly the California College of Arts and Crafts. The school was founded in 1907 and has been located at its present site, at the intersection of College and Broadway, since 1922.

Professional education for Roman Catholic priests and friars is offered at St. Albert’s College, a Dominican institution located on Birch Court near Claremont Middle School.

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History

Rockridge is named for the outcroppings of rock at the northern end of the long shutter ridge formed by the Hayward Fault which encloses the linear valley in which the Montclair district of Oakland is situated.

An example of this rock can be seen at an abandoned quarry adjacent to the Rockridge Shopping Center on Pleasant Valley Road. This quarry was operated well into the 1950s and is now used as a reservoir for the Claremont Country Club.

Prior to the construction of the shopping center in the late 1960s, the Broadway side of the shopping center had a used car lot. Additionally, Pleasant Valley Avenue did not cross over the hill to Piedmont Avenue. Instead, there was a short street called "McAdam". Mather Street, which intersects Broadway near Oakland Technical High School, formed the continuation of what is now the downhill side of Pleasant Valley Avenue.

 

Shops on College Avenue

Like many neighborhoods, Rockridge has had its ups and downs. Prior to the completion of Highway 24 in 1964, Miles Avenue and several other streets were laid out differently. Residents living in the area at the time, once known as "Little Italy" because of a large number of Italian immigrants, saw the decline of the neighborhood's human scale into the 1970s due to the separation of the neighborhood caused by the SR-24 freeway.

 

In the mid to late 1970s, some storefronts on College Avenue were boarded up. However, due to the success of a number of new businesses, who together formed a "critical mass" of commercial attraction, the Rockridge commercial district began to thrive again.

Until the 1950s, electric trolley trains ran along College Avenue on what is now AC Transit bus routes 51A and 51B. Additionally, as late as 1959, the railroad tracks of the Sacramento Northern Railway ran along Shafter Avenue, crossed College Ave. near where the Rockridge BART station is now and ran along the corridor of what is now state Highway 13 (the portion after Ashby Ave.), through Montclair Village and over into Contra Costa County. Film footage of this route has been broadcast over local PBS TV station KQED in a 1990s documentary on the development of the East Bay.

The Oakland Firestorm of 1991 came within 1/2 mile of College Avenue, destroying a large part of the Upper Rockridge area east of Broadway. A memorial wall was created under the Rockridge BART station, located on College Avenue, following the fire.

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