Oakland, California

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Oakland City Center at night, with the Oakland Tribune building in the background.
Oakland City Center at night, with the Oakland Tribune building in the background.

Oakland, California
Official flag of Oakland, California Official seal of Oakland, California
City flag City seal
City nickname: "Oaktown"
Location of Oakland, California
Location of Oakland in
Alameda County and in California
County Alameda
Mayor Jerry Brown
Physical characteristics
78.2 mi² / 202.4 km²
     56.1 mi² / 145.2 km²
     22.1 mi² / 57.2 km²
     Total (2000)
7,150,000 (metropolitan area)
     399,484 (city proper)
Latitude 37°48'
Longitude -122°16'
Time zone
     Summer (DST)
     PDT (UTC-7)
Official website: http://www.oaklandnet.com/

Oakland, founded in 1852, is a major city on the east side (also called East Bay) of San Francisco Bay in Northern California in the United States. To its north lies Berkeley, home to the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. To its west stands San Francisco, across the Bay Bridge. To its south lies the island city of Alameda, and San Leandro lies to the southeast. Along the hills which run from north to east, Oakland borders five of the East Bay Regional Parks. In the center of Oakland, and completely surrounded by it (prompting the common analogy to a doughnut hole), is the wealthy independent city of Piedmont. Oakland is home of the Port of Oakland, one of three major shipping ports on the American West coast.

Oakland has long been saddled with a public reputation as a high-crime city with a crumbling public education system. Since the 1970s, its per capita levels of carjacking, robbery, assault, drug possession and abuse, and homicide have ranked among the highest of all cities in the State of California.

Economic recovery, the gradual decline of crime in the United States along with Oakland's weather, location, hillside neighborhoods with views of San Francisco and the Bay, aggressive policies to reduce crime, astronomically high rents and home prices in nearby San Francisco, and a substantial offering of shopping districts and restaurants representing cuisines both homegrown and worldwide have led to an increase of population and of real-estate prices in the past decade.

Oakland is the county seat of Alameda County. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the city's population was 399,484, making it the third largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area after San Jose and San Francisco.

The Oakland Tribune published its first newspaper on February 21, 1874. The Tribune Tower, which sports a clock, is one of Oakland's landmarks.

Oakland hosts Oakland International Airport, which serves most of the low-cost air traveler's market to and from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Oaklanders are understandably frustrated by the misuse of the most famous quote said about their city. "There's no there there," was uttered by Gertrude Stein upon learning as an adult that her childhood Oakland home had been torn down. Her quote did not have anything to do with the city itself. Modern-day Oakland has turned the quote on its head, with a statue downtown simply titled, "There."



View over Oakland in 1900.
View over Oakland in 1900.

The area was originally inhabited by the Yelamu tribe, belonging to a linguistic grouping later called the Ohlone (a Miwok Indian word meaning "western people"). In Oakland, they were heavily concentrated around Lake Merritt, Emeryville, and Lake Temescal, the later, a small lake in the Oakland Hills. Temescal is an Aztec word for bath-house, brought north by Spanish colonizers.

Oakland, along with the rest of Northern California was claimed for Spain by visiting Spanish explorers in 1772. During its days under the Spanish Empire in the late 18th to early 19th century, and later under an independent Mexico in the early 19th century, Oakland (along with most of the East Bay), was owned by a wealthy landowner Luís María Peralta who named his area Rancho San Antonio. Upon his death in 1842, Peralta divided his land among his four sons as most of Oakland fell within the shares given to Antonio Maria and Vicente. They would open the land to settlement by American settlers, loggers, European whalers and fur-traders.

Full scale settlement and development occurred following California being conquered by the United States during the Mexican American war, and the California Gold Rush in 1848. Oakland was founded and incorporated in 1852 and grew with the railroads, becoming a major rail terminus in the late 1860s and 1870s. Originally comprising the area west of Lake Merritt (now downtown and Chinatown), it 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 who had fled to Oakland. By 1920, Oakland was the home of numerous manufacturing industries, including metals, automobiles, and shipbuilding.

World War II

During WWII, the East Bay Area was home to a massive Naval shipbuilding industry. The industry attracted a huge amount of laborers from around the country. Many of the new workers were African Americans from the western South (Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas), who enjoyed great prosperity during the war years.

Post-war years

Soon after the war, the shipbuilding and automobile industries virtually evaporated, as did the jobs that came with it. Many who came to the city did not leave and decided to settle in their new home of Oakland. Meanwhile, many of the city's more affluent white residents fled the city after the war in order to move into newly developing suburbs to the north and south of Oakland's city borders.

By the late 1960s, Oakland, which had been quite prosperous and affluent before the war, found itself with a population that was dominated by a lower income class than had been typical for the city. Much of Oakland's current reputation as a high-crime city can be traced to the transformation that occurred after World War II, especially to the post-1965 era.

In the late 1980s early 1990's, Oakland suffered from two major natural disasters. First was the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake that destroyed a major section of highway in the west side of the city, killing 43 and severely damaging buildings citywide. Then in 1991, the Oakland Hills firestorm that destroyed a huge swath of homes in the affluent hills in the east section of the city killing 25.

1960s and 1970s activism

Oakland was home to many activist groups during the 1960s and 70s. The Black Panther Party, created in 1966, is perhaps the most famous of the groups that formed in Oakland.


In the 1990s, Oakland featured prominently in rap music, both as the hometown for such artists as MC Hammer, Digital Underground, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, and Too $hort, and for its featuring in the lyrics of several songs, such as Baby Got Back and I Got 5 On It.


Location of Oakland, California

Oakland is located at 37°47'43" North, 122°13'41" West (37.795227, -122.228111)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 202.4 km² (78.2 mi²). 145.2 km² (56.1 mi²) of it is land and 57.2 km² (22.1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 28.28% water.

Oaklanders most broadly refer to their city's terrain as "the flatlands" and "the hills," which up until recent waves of gentrication have also been a reference to Oakland's deep economic divide, with "the hills" being more affluent communities. About 2/3 of Oakland lies within the flat plain of the San Francisco Bay, with 1/3 rising into the foothills and hills of the East Bay range.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 399,484 people, 150,790 households, and 86,402 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,751.4/km² (7,126.6/mi²). There are 157,508 housing units at an average density of 1,084.8/km² (2,809.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 35.66% African American, 31.29% White, 0.66% Native American, 15.23% Asian, 0.50% Pacific Islander, 11.66% from other races, and 4.98% from two or more races. 21.89% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 150,790 households out of which 28.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.0% are married couples living together, 17.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 42.7% are non-families. 32.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.60 and the average family size is 3.38.

In the city the population is spread out with 25.0% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 34.0% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 33 years. For every 100 females there are 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 90.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $40,055, and the median income for a family is $44,384. Males have a median income of $37,433 versus $35,088 for females. The per capita income for the city is $21,936. 19.4% of the population and 16.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 27.9% of those under the age of 18 and 13.1% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

See also: Maps of Oakland, California


The city of Oakland stretches from the San Francisco Bay up into the East Bay Hills. The character of these neighborhoods continues to change as waves of immigrants from within the United States and other countries relocate here. Also, the changing economy lures more technically skilled workers to Oakland.

Oakland is commonly divided into broad regions in two different ways:

  • "The Hills" and "The Flats" (or "The Flatlands"); with the Flatlands being the historically working-class neighborhoods located in the relatively flat areas closer to San Francisco Bay, and the Hills being the mainly upper-class hillside neighborhoods along the east side of the city. This hills/flats division is found throughout much of the western part of the East Bay, especially in Berkeley and El Cerrito.
  • The other common method is to divide the city into "Downtown Oakland," "East Oakland," "North Oakland," and "West Oakland". East Oakland is the largest of these areas, stretching from Lake Merritt southeast to San Leandro. North Oakland encompasses the neighborhoods spread between Downtown and Berkeley. West Oakland is the area between Downtown and the bay, partially surrounded by the Port of Oakland. Both North and East Oakland include neighborhoods in both the Flatlands and hills, while West Oakland and Downtown are entirely within the Flatlands.

There are many neighborhoods which don't fit neatly into one or both of these schemes. The Hills/Flats division ignores the middle-class neighborhoods which run along the base of the hills, as well as the reality that parts of "The Flatlands" can be as hilly as much of "The Hills." The East/North/West division ignores the neighborhoods which are northeast of Lake Merritt, and the areas along Highway 13 in the hills behind Piedmont.

Downtown Oakland

Oakland City Center at night.
Oakland City Center at night.

East Oakland

North Oakland

West Oakland

Other neighborhoods

Near Lake Merritt

In the hills


Oakland's climate has features found in both coastal cities like San Francisco and inland cities like San Jose. While it is not located on the Pacific Ocean, its position directly inland from the Golden Gate means that the city gets a significant amount of cold nighttime fog during the summer. It is far enough inland, though, that the fog usually disappears by the morning allowing the city to have stereotypical warm sunny California days.

Oakland's average temperature of 55°F (13°C) is slightly lower than many other California cities. Oakland's average high is 62°F (17°C) and average low is 48°F (9°C) with the warmest month being September, and the coldest month being January. An average of 23 inches of rain falls each year with almost all rain occurring between October and May.

Rand McNally ranked Oakland's climate as the best in the United States.


Oakland court house
Oakland court house

Tourist attractions in Oakland include the Oakland Museum of California, the Art Deco Paramount Theater, Chinatown, Jack London Square, Lake Merritt, Children's Fairyland and McAfee Coliseum, home to the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, the Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball, and the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association. The city's commercial and residental structures exhibit a great variety of styles, including Art Deco and Craftsman.

Places to see in Oakland include Lake Merritt, Jack London Square, the Dunsmuir House, and Knowland State Park Arboretum, home of the Oakland Zoo. The USS Potomac, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential yacht, is berthed in Oakland. The William Joseph McInnes Botanic Garden and Campus Arboretum is located on the Mills College campus.


Public schools in Oakland are operated by the Oakland Unified School District but due to financial troubles and its poor statistical rates, it has been in receivership by the state of California since 2002. The poor state of Oakland's public schools have made private, most notably: Redwood Day School, Park Day School, and the Archway School. There are several private high schools, most notably: Bishop O'Dowd High School, The College Preparatory School, the Head Royce School, and the Bentley School.

Famous Oakland Public School graduates include Hollywood actors Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood, and NBA basketball player Gary Payton. Hanks, having started acting at Skyline High School, thanked his acting teacher Rawley T. Farnsworth in his speech at the Oscars for winning the Best Actor award.

Colleges and universities

Colleges and universities include:

Oakland is also the home of the headquarters of the University of California system.

Sister cities

Notable natives and residents

See also

External links

Cities and communities of Alameda County, California
Seal of Alameda County
County seat Oakland
Incorporated places Alameda | Albany | Berkeley | Dublin | Emeryville | Fremont | Hayward | Livermore | Newark | Oakland | Piedmont | Pleasanton | San Leandro | Union City
Census-designated places Ashland | Castro Valley | Cherryland | Fairview | San Lorenzo | Sunol

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Capital Sacramento
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