Oakland, the Bay Area Bruise, the crime capital of the U.S., the subject of countless “don’t go there” conversations. For decades, Oakland maintained a bad reputation. However, recently, this has changed dramatically. Oakland is now widely regarded as an artsy, lively place that outshines the city across the bay (San Francisco) in many respects.

Oakland is a major U.S. port and the economic heart of San Francisco’s East Bay.  However, its greatest asset is its homegrown vibe. Oakland is one of the few cities where local establishments, from clothing shops to bars, widely outnumber the corporate. And it’s also quite possibly the most liberal city in the US.

Scroll down to learn about the pros and cons of Oakland

Layout of Oakland and the East Bay

Oakland is located on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay, which is connected to the Pacific Ocean.  Though Oakland is on the other side of the bay from San Francisco, the two cities’ downtowns are only about 10 miles apart and are connected by the Bay Bridge.

Oakland rides up into a short, rolling mountain range that is covered in heavy vegetation and tall grasses.  Its downtown is situated next to a large estuary, named Lake Merritt.

The East Bay metropolitan area also includes the cities of Berkeley (location of the University of California), Richmond, and Hayward.  The above-mentioned mountain range separates these cities from the inland East Bay cities of Walnut Creek and Pleasanton.   All in all, the East Bay is home to over a million people.

Oakland is broken down into a number of neighborhoods, including Downtown (grungy), Jack London Square (urban-chic), (Temescal (artsy), Piedmont (ritzy), Grand Lake (foody), and Rockridge (artsy-ritzy-foody).


Reasons to Move to Oakland

  • Weather – Oakland takes pride in being the “sunny side of the bay.”  Residents can often stand in warm sunshine and look across the bay to see San Francisco covered in a cold fog.  Oakland experiences extremely temperate weather, ranging between 55 and 75 for most of the year, depending mostly on whether the sun is out.  On the other side of the mountains, temperatures get warmer, sitting between 65 and 85 for most of the year and reaching into the 100’s.
  • Art – Oakland doesn’t have the high-end art museums of San Francisco, nor does it have the trend-setting artists of L.A., but it does have many starving artists, and their work is everywhere.  Just about every coffee shop has some local art, and upstart galleries fill the alleyways.  There are more art bars than sports bars in Oakland.
  • Art Murmur – Oakland’s Art Murmur has to be the liveliest art walk in the nation, if it isn’t the largest.  Tens of thousands of people flood downtown Oakland every first Friday to celebrate art and food.  Galleries around the city open up with platters of wine and cheese, food trucks fill Telegraph Avenue, and performers take to the streets.
  • Location – Oakland is centrally located, close to Berkeley, San Francisco and many other places in the bay.  Even better, is a central hub for BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit – train/subway), giving its residents great transportation options.  It takes about 12 minutes to BART from downtown Oakland to downtown SF, 15 to drive (without traffic), and about 20 to ferry.
  • Price – Oakland and the rest of the East Bay are far more affordable on average than San Francisco.  A $2,400-a-month place in SF can be found in, say, Temescal for $1,200.
  • Surroundings – Oakland is covered with trees and vegetation of apparently infinite variety, from palm trees to mammoth oaks.  Ride up into the hills to one of the many parks to enjoy the nature and take a look over the entire bay, with a picturesque view of SF, the bridges and the Pacific Ocean.

Reason to Avoid Oakland

  • Crime – Oakland has an unfair reputation as a dangerous place to live.  Its worst areas are not as bad as people think, and much of it is actually very nice and safe.  That being said, it does have its ghettos, and crime and protests are problems.  The community has a deep distrust for its police force, making severe conflicts common.
  • Driving – BART is awesome in the East Bay.  But what if you don’t live near BART?  Good luck…  The area in inundated with stoplights, and its major highway, the 880, is in need of a triple bypass.
  • Price – How can a positive also be a negative?  When the positive is based on the outrageous rents of San Francisco.   Oakland and Berkeley are affordable bay area options with great amenities, but they are still priced way above the nation’s average.
  • Leftist Extremes – Let me ask you this: how many cities have a May Day celebration of socialism?  How many cities are home to the university of marijuana (Oaksterdam)?  And how many cities have spawned the Black Panthers, countless protests, and a movie theater that posts anti-government slogans on its marquee (Grand Lake Theatre)?  Oakland and its close neighbor, Berkeley, are filled with some of the most liberal people in the nation.  And this isn’t yuppy liberal; this is I-work-at-a-commune-and-believe-in-revolution liberal.  Be prepared.


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