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Patricia Chang

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Oakland Now

Inside one of America’s most rapidly changing cities

In her autobiography, Everybody's Autobiography, Gertrude Stein wrote about returning after decades to the rapidly urbanizing America of the 1930s, and going back to 13th Avenue and Fifth Street in East Oakland to visit her childhood home. It had been razed and new houses had been built on the site.

She's been widely misquoted on the matter, but here's what she really wrote: "What was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there." It's not a sick burn, it's a declaration of transience, and it could easily have been written about the Oakland of 2016.

Priced-out San Franciscans have been crossing the Bay since at least the launch, but in the last few years, that city's hypergentrification has pushed even the relatively rich to Oakland, which is pushing the relatively poor (and often people of color) out of Oakland. Gentrification has sparked a cultural wildfire: housing prices have shot up, policing is more aggressive in some areas, and the city has lost a quarter of its African American population.

Meanwhile, monstrous recent revelations about sex trafficking, sex abuse, and racism within the Oakland PD, and the firing or resignation of three chiefs in the span of about a week, have exposed the level of dysfunction and bias embedded in the city’s institutions.

But while city officials have been extraordinarily accommodating of its new tech workers and tech companies—the city actually has a tech industry specialist in its Economic & Workforce Development Department—they’re also at least making gestures toward softening the blow for longtime residents. In early April, the Oakland City Council passed an emergency moratorium on rent increases, although it only applied to units built before 1983 and it’s about to expire after only 90 days. Later in the month, they made the "long overdue" decision to phase in impact fees on new developments, which can be used to build affordable housing.

This collection of stories is an attempt to capture the "there" of Oakland as it is in this moment, from several views: a hipster flip in hot West Oakland, an unassuming building with a rich past in still-untouched East Oakland, a brand new neighborhood that will appear out of nothing on the city’s waterfront, some of Oakland's most notable landmarks, the homes of residents, and the colossal new Uber headquarters downtown. Take a good look now, while it’s there.

susie cagle oakland leaning flip illustrations

The Incredible Leaning Flip of West Oakland

The bizarrely tilted house at 2523 Martin Luther King Jr. Way has tracked the city’s fast-moving gentrification wave, from squatting artists to opportunistic flippers, with a stop at mortgage fraud on the way. But does it have a future?

Read the story here.

Courtesy Lane Partners

Building a Better Tech Boom

Uber and other tech companies are flooding across the Bay into Oakland. The city is hoping to take advantage of the money, technology, and power arriving on its shores, but the tech industry might take something just as valuable from Oakland.

Read the story here.

Brooklyn Rises on the Oakland Waterfront

Brooklyn Basin will create an entirely new neighborhood from scratch on a formerly barren site along the Oakland waterfront, and that’s sure to send shockwaves out into the surrounding communities.

Read the story here.

Pendarvis Harshaw

Oasis in East Oakland

The Black Panther Party’s Oakland Community School was a beacon for the poor African American and Latino community in East Oakland in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but today its cinder block building remains unacknowledged as the threat of gentrification looms.

Read the story here.

Iconic Oakland: Then and Now

From the country's first themed amusement park (predating both Disneyland and Six Flags) to the cousin of New York's Flatiron Building (affectionately known as "the Wedding Cake"), a map of some of the top structural spots in Oakland, then and now.

Explore the map here.

Joseph Sohm/

Another Warriors Heartbreak For Oakland

Just as the NBA Finals wounds have started to scab over, the city of Oakland faces another blow: the team’s move to San Francisco. When the 2019 season arrives, the Warriors will leave Oakland's Oracle Arena behind for SF's Mission Bay.

Read the story here.

House Calls

Making a Midcentury Time Capsule in Oakland

Julian Goldklang and Desiree Myers, who run the largest midcentury furniture showroom in Northern California, have been stashing away their favorite pieces for years in hopes of finding the perfect midcentury home to decorate. They finally met a match in the Nolan House, created and built in 1967 by Oakland architect Leon Meyer, and created a space that feels lifted straight out of the '60s.

Tour the home here.

A Musician Makes Her Oakland Home Sing

Inside the Oakland home of Zena Carlota, a musician whose powerfully evocative music reflects the meaningful way she has assembled her personal surroundings.

Tour the home here.

47th avenue studios boise house calls

Roommates Share Eclectic Style in an Oakland Live/Work Loft

Ben Lewis, Nicholas Albrecht, and Allie-Brooke Shelby like the sense of community in sharing a live/work loft in Oakland. They've decorated it with a delightful mishmash of midcentury and contemporary furniture.

Tour the home here.

Writers: Susie Cagle, Patrick Sisson, Adrian Glick Kudler, Pendarvis Harshaw, Brock Keeling, Mary Jo Bowling
Editor: Adrian Glick Kudler
Copy Editor: Sara Polsky


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View all stories in Longform