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Oakland Tales: Part 1

What's it like to live in one of the most quickly changing cities in America?

Patricia Chang

Last week, Curbed explored some of the many facets of a rapidly changing Oakland. In response, many Oaklanders shared their stories of living in the city and watching it transform; here's what they had to say (lightly edited for readability).


I moved to Oakland in 2011, when I purchased a bank owned condo on the Uptown/Pill Hill border. I was blessed with good luck and good timing in that purchase. I love my neighborhood and my property’s value has almost quadrupled since. I couldn’t afford to rent here now, much less own. From my perspective, all of the development and investment in Oakland (and Uptown in particular) has only improved my quality of life, though I understand that "my Oakland" is a very different place from the Oakland of someone who lived there 10 years ago, and the things that I value about my life here might be predicated on the loss of someone else’s history. All of those things were true when I lived in New York City in 2003, and Boston in 2007.


We moved here (a forced location job transfer), never having set foot in Oakland, in 2008 (to Alameda). All we found over there was overpriced under built wrecks of homes standing on stucco covered 2 × 4s. It was unbelievable coming from the Northeast where homes have to withstand weather and be solid and insulated – and these wrecks were $650K and up then with $650K being the max we had no intention of paying.

So we crossed the canal and landed near Lakeshore in a foreclosure which we’d watched for a year funneling down from a high asking of $820K (in early 08) to just over half that (In April 09 when we jumped on it). It was a wreck on the surface but apparently pretty good from the inside out and remarkably, minimal dry rot!

The whole real estate scene was a mystery to us – we left our first home in New England to move here to a rapidly deteriorating real estate market and with dumb luck ended up in a neighborhood which was always decent and is now extremely desirable. I was not opportunistic – just a civil servant in the right place at the right time! We even had two parking spaces on a street which is always clean and not even registered for street sweeping; plus we lucked out and have GREAT neighbors. Go figure.

We have seen the changes in the city in the short time we have lived here since we walk EVERYWHERE. Oakland reminds us of Manhattan in the "old days" with lots of neighborhood shops, buildings of renters only – no condos – and of course crime on the street. We loved it until we had a child and had to leave for literal greener pastures of Western Massachusetts. None of our east coast visitors had any positive knowledge about Oakland before coming here and have been pleasantly surprised with this beautiful and diverse city. SO happy I moved here when I did – certainly could not afford it now (even if I was not retired).


I have lived in Lake Merritt for 5 years or so. We moved here ‘accidentally’ not knowing that Oakland was about to get incredibly popular and expensive. We really struck rich, finding a rent controlled place and staying with it until we leave the Bay. That feels like what is possible here- either you stay where you are if you’re fortunate enough to have compassionate landlords, or you leave the Bay for somewhere cheaper. We pay 2k/month for a quite large 1 bedroom but people in our neighborhood are buying homes for upwards of 800k-1 million dollars. It makes me angry that this is happening, as our neighborhood is close-knit and we take care of one another, while new people come in seemingly unaware of what we’ve got here.

Read more: Oakland Now