Living in West Oakland

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  • Thoughts about West Oakland?

    Nov 20, 2020

    Hello, my partner and I are wanting to buy a house in Oakland, but it appears that the only area we can afford is either West Oakland or East Oakland. We prefer West Oakland as it is closer to the more interesting neighborhoods of Oakland, but just wanted to hear your thoughts of the area especially any parents who already live there. We are expecting and due in February. The last posts on this topic were several years ago and from what I understand the neighborhood has changed quite a bit.

    I have lived in urban centers before and am used to some level of crime but personally have little experience in West Oakland besides eating at some of the restaurants there in the daytime. Thanks!!!

    I live in south Berkeley and worked the Census this year in north Oakland a few blocks from my home. Around Alcatraz, 64th to 66th area. Amazing, north Oakland reminded me of west Berkeley in the sixties. Some run down homes, others spiffed up with landscaping and new additions. Lots of young families, friendly people, Black Lives Matter signs in the ecofriendly front yards.  Then a month later I worked the polls in east Oakland. Lots of bars on the windows, pit bull dogs, and chain link fences. Nice people! But fear of crime was apparent.

    We bought a house in West Oakland a little over a year ago (moving from Lake Merritt). Our realtor's euphemism was that ours is a very "transitional" neighborhood...

    On the good side:

    • we could afford an amazing beautiful Victorian house with a big yard; just a much nicer place than we could have afforded anywhere else in the bay
    • it doesn't feel isolated, the way the hills do; there's plenty of pedestrian activity and an ever-improving set of local businesses that are easy to get to
    • the neighborhood doesn't feel actively unsafe, and we can walk around without worrying, people go jogging etc

    On the bad side:

    • there's still a lot of urban decay, a weird mix of nice family homes shoulder-to-shoulder with derelict houses, a constant fight against garbage in the streets, and in general city services will be much less responsive about those kinds of issues than they would be in, say, Rockridge
    • a lot of problems with local addicts/mentally ill especially in the vicinity of the neighborhood liquor stores; there's a reason everyone's yards here have iron fences and gates, and we've had two instances where we needed to call the police for attempted break-ins, though nothing successful yet (got an alarm system after the first one too)
    • the local parks are usually completely abandoned or have people camping on the playgrounds; we generally don't take our kid there

    Even during the pandemic, for better or for worse it's felt like the neighborhood has continued its inexorable gentrification march, a bunch of shiny new apartment buildings going up too (like a lot of places in Oakland). But it will still be many years before anywhere in West Oakland feels even as bougie as Temescal or Adams Point.

    Feel free to get in touch if you have other questions!

    My hubby and I also looked there and decided against it after doing some research. There are some very serious air quality concerns in west Oakland and health studies that have been done. I have also heard that it is a complete food dessert with no grocery stores. Hopefully someone who lives there can chime in with their experience. Good luck!

    I have limited experience in West Oakland, but we recently were in a similar place to make this choice too. We went with East Oakland (a house kind of between Maxwell Park, Fairfax and Fruitvale; we mostly look at Maxwell Park and Fruitvale). We had lived for seven years in a higher crime, high poverty neighborhood in Washington, DC and while were willing to do that again we looked at the choice differently now that we have kids, the oldest of which is in public schools now. We've lived that last two years in Jingletown. For us, living near Spanish speakers and Spanish immersion schools for our three young kids was a big draw to the part of town we ended up in. But besides that to us there seemed to be more amenities to the East. We had also had a friend who had lived in West Oakland for a bit and couldn't deal with the amount of crime and a shooting on her block. I don't think that she was someone who was easily scared away but it was too much for her. I think wherever you buy, get to know the area as much as possible first. Go there at all times a day. Think about where you will eat, shop, go play with your kid, send them to school, etc.

    We purchased in West Oakland 6 years ago, pre-kids, and love it; we expect to stay here until our family grows out of our loft space. The neighborhood is kinda block-by-block, I think, as far as walkability/comfort/beauty (is in the eye of the beholder?). For kids, the City Slickers Farm Park is awesome, as is the library, and having Community Foods nearby has been a game-changer; very convenient to have Target nearby, too, especially with a newborn. There's a lot of fireworks especially in the summer, which some folks mistake for gunfire. We do leave the house mostly by car, though, because there's not much around that is commercial. We are sending our child to a non-neighborhood public OUSD elementary school that we got into by lottery -- that was a bit stressful, but Prescott, which is in a different zone than where we live, is awesome! Congratulations on bebé!

    I live in West Oakland (16th/Mandela) with my husband and 20 month old son. We've been here about 6 years and have had a very good experience. The neighborhood can be loud (especially fireworks) but it's generally safe and family-friendly. A homeless encampment moved nearby which I don't love and the city isn't addressing any of them during COVID. As far as getting around, West Oakland can't be beat for its proximity to the rest of the East Bay and San Francisco. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to discuss it further! 

    My husband and I looked in west oakland before kids 11 years ago. The home prices were attractive and it's close to BART but we are glad we didn't buy a home there, we ended up in North Oakland instead. Of course prices in North Oakland have skyrocketed in the 10 years since we've been here. The West Oakland area have been in "transition" for as long as I remembered, it hasn't gotten much better except for the shining new developments. If anything, there are more homeless encampments now than there were a decade ago. I would suggest driving around during different times of the day and night, go on crimemapping dot com to get crime stats. For the same budget, you can get a house in a more family friendly neighborhood in Richmond. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Thinking of buying in West Oakland

May 2014

We are thinking about buying a house in west oakland, around the 8th and Pine area, very close to the Bart station. We wanted to get some feedback from anyone who lives in the neighborhood and any advice about it. We have a toddler and a dog, and of course as parents want to make sure our child is safe. Also would love any advice on appreciation in the value of the home in 2-3 years in that area. We've been hearing lots of change is going to be happening. Any advice is appreciated! Lisa

I'm sorry if I'm bursting your bubble here, but I wouldn't do it. We lived on 7th St. right near the bart station for 3 years. (Granted this was 5 years ago.) We didn't mind the close range gun shots at night, burglary, broken into cars, 3 stolen car batteries, and drug dealers/users too much and found the grit and decay kind of cool. But we moved as fast as we could after I found out I was pregnant. The only way I could see living there with kids is if you have a large private yard/courtyard with a high wall (not just a fence), a very reliable car and a safe place to park the car. Go drive around the area after dark and see if you feel safe. The walk to the bart station from 7th and Pine should not be done after dark. Also, air quality has improved in the past few years, but there is still lots of air pollution from the port. best of luck

I just had to respond after reading the only response you got which was really harsh. I've lived in west Oakland for 12 years and I have kids. In fact, we have many friends in the neighborhood with kids and families have always lived here. So it's not some Wild West ghost town with people shooting off guns and breaking into cars everywhere. I have had my car broken into exactly 1 time in 12 years and I park on the street, I walk to and from BART for my commute and I have never had a problem. Ther are many many lovely families and people in west Oakland and I love this as well as the thriving music and arts communities here. There's also the best worker owned health store ever that we get to walk to. We raise chickens and veggies with our neighbors and people actually hang out on the street and talk to each other. There's also just common sense: don't walk around at night, don't live on a block with a liquor store, plant a big beautiful garden in your yard, get your soil tested for lead (a problem in any neighborhood with old houses). Love west oakland

Buying a house in West Oakland

March 2010

I'd like to hear from families who have lived or are currently living in West Oakland. We have a 16 month old and have been considering owning for some time, but the cost of owning a home is so high. We love Oakland, want to be near a BART station, and yearn for more space. Garden, yard, space to grow with more little ones. Everyone we've talked to thinks we're crazy to consider it, but is it so bad? Would love to hear all of your opinions--crime, neighbors, etc. Thanks! Yearning for a home

Hi, I live in West Oakland with my husband and two children (2 and 9mo). We have owned our home for the last three years. There seems to be certain blocks that are fine, and some that are less than satisfactory. We live near the Emeryville border and have found it to be pretty quiet most of the time. The things that we like about living here: We could afford to own our home for the same or less than renting one. We have our own backyard for the kids, dog, and gardening etc. Commuting is very easy via BART, bus, freeway. My husband commutes to SF daily using his bike and BART. There are a lot of industrial/ urban artists. It's pretty diverse. We have neighbors of a variety of ethnicities. People are generally friendly. Being conveniently located near all that SF and the East Bay have to offer is priceless.

The negatives are what you would expect. I have heard gunshots, have called the police to complain about squaters/ drug dealers in empty houses. I have concerns about the polution in W.Oak. and yes once I gave an addict w/ no clothes on her bottom half a pair of pants.

To give the hood some credit my Honda has not been broken into or stolen in the three years I've been here. I wish I could say the same for Emeryville and Berkeley. All in all I think that West Oakland has a great deal of potential. In the last three years I've seen a gradual improvement and I really feel that it will continue to improve. People told me I was crazy at first, but now most of our friends that visit are jealous that we have a yard! It's not for everyone but it works for us.

If you would like to discuss this any further please ask the moderator for my e-mail. I would be more than happy to correspond via e-mail. West Oakland resident

We just moved from W. Oakland to Pinole with our (now) 10-month old. There are many factors involved, but in short, don'T move to WO for the access to outdoor space - the air quality there is some of the worst in the Bay Area due to being near the ports and surrounded by freeways. Asthma rates for kids are higher there than anywhere in the bay area, and life expectancy is shorter. Also, no grocery stores. We lived on a nice quiet street where we could have a garden, but over the 5 years we were there we heard gunshots too many times to count. The area close to BART is much worse than where we were (a 15 min walk from BART). Marnie

I have a girlfriend who lives in West Oakland...the stories she tells are not pretty...I'm from's a tough call...check out the home prices in the Richmond Annex...see what you think... oaklander living outside oakland

We've been living on the border between Oakland Downtown and West Oakland for almost five years now, and been mostly pretty happy.

Pros - There are indeed some very nice and quiet streets. It is close to freeways and we like walking to Bart. There are many fun places in walking or short driving distance. For example, we go to Fairyland, Jack London Square to eat ice-cream and watch boats, the Harbor Shoreline park for bike riding, the Kinetic Arts Center for circus classes. Not sure what the West Oakland library is like, we go to the Main Library, they have a large kid's book selection. There is a new organic food coop right across from West Oak bart station, which opens early for coffee and breakfast goodies. The Crucible is great place to take art classes or Summer camps.

Cons- The schools are rather low- performing, so be prepared to apply for a transfer or pay for private schools. Playgrounds can be dirty or un-safe. There are some rougher areas, often near housing projects or liquor stores. You can get a crime report from the Police Department. Sonja

Jan 2010

Re: Schools, commutable,urban under $500k?
West Oakland--take Hollis from Emeryville under the freeway and you'll come to some ''gentrifying'' blocks. I have a friend who was going to buy on Hannah and 32nd, that's how I came to know this area. Very ''urban'' with that mix of hipster-ghetto vibe, but nice houses, many fixers, some cool businesses here and there. And walkable/bikable to Emeryville. Some crime here and there but pretty safe.