Guide to Living in Oakland
Erick Chavarria · November 16, 2015 · Tags: , , ,
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Compared to San Francisco, Oakland is much quieter, less densely populated and, of course, cheaper. This last factor has prompted many of us to flock to this city as prices in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay skyrocket.

Once you move to Oakland, you realize that the story the media tells about the violence here is not the whole truth, and that there’s a lot more to this wonderful city.

For example, did you know that Oakland lies in one of the most diverse counties in the United States? Many of these communities allow you to feel like you’re in a totally different part of the world. You can find one of the largest Mayan communities outside of Central America in Fruitvale, a large Ethiopian community in North Oakland, and Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Salvadorian, Mexican, and African American communities along International Blvd. Sadly, a lot of these communities are at risk of displacement since they can’t afford to live in Oakland due to rising housing costs.

Since the year 2000, Oakland has lost over 25% of its African-American Population. According to a study by The Urban Displacement Project and UC Berkeley, the majority of Oakland is at risk of or currently undergoing displacement and advanced gentrification. Much of the data found in this study points to increasing difficulty of the housing affordability crisis.

This crisis remains an ongoing threat for low-income households as the prices for both renting and owning a home in Oakland keep rising. The racial gap in this income inequality is evident when you see the report by the City of Oakland, which found that median household income of White families between 2008 and 2012 stood at $81,159. African American household income was $35,050 (down from $42,975 in 2000). The median income for Asian Americans between 2008 and 2012 was $45,238, down from $46,323 in 2000. Latino families earned an average of $44,455 (down from $53,341 in 2000). When families of color are forced to spend 60% to 70% percent of their incomes on housing, it becomes unsustainable and, as data shows, it forces them to move to cheaper neighborhoods and cities. As these communities shift to other parts of the Bay, Oakland loses its racial, cultural and social diversity that make it so unique from other cities.

Whether it’s traveling through a new country or moving to a new neighborhood, it is important to research the history of the spaces one moves through out of respect for the people living in the area. I’ve listed below each neighborhood median prices for renting and buying properties in 2000 and in 2013 (data provided graciously by the Urban Displacement project) so the numbers can tell the story of how increasingly difficult it has become for low-income communities and communities of color to continue to live in the city they’ve forged.

Note: because this guide focuses on Oakland neighborhoods, there is no 2000 and 2013 data for Piedmont and Alameda since they are at much lower risks of displacement.

*average current rates are based off November 2015 Craigslist listings*


West Oakland

West Oakland is centrally located as it’s close to the shopping stores of Emeryville as well as the fun scene of downtown Oakland. You can find cheaper rent prices here compared to other parts of Oakland. Another huge plus of living here is that that it hosts the West Oakland BART station, the quickest way to get to the city from the East Bay (7 minutes).

Median 2000 Rent: $690

Median 2013 Rent: $884

Average rent now: $1,500 for a 1bdrm, $2,400 for a 2 bedroom

Median Home Value 2000: $190,080

Median Home Value 2013: $320,650


Oakland Hills/Mills College

The Oakland Hills has some nice houses and incredible views of the Bay and San Francisco. In its vicinity is Mills College, a historically women’s university that has a very beautiful campus. Living in this area you would benefit from having a car as it’s far from BART, but you could do without if you are into biking or like taking the bus.

Median 2000 Rent: $940

Median 2013 Rent: $1242

Average rent now: The houses in this area are pretty large and tend to have two or more bedrooms. Two bedrooms run around $2,500 and 1bdrms are $1,800 on average.

Median Home Value 2000: $329,737

Median Home Value 2013: $418,600


East Oakland

East Oakland is Oakland’s largest and, I would argue, most diverse neighborhood. It’s also one of the cheapest. Travel down International Boulevard and you will find the beauty and diversity of this area. And yes, there’s more to do here than going to sports and music events in the Coliseum. You can comfortably get around here with either a car, bike, public transportation or your own two feet depending on which neighborhood you live in. It’s also a great area to live in if you find yourself going to the Oakland airport a lot.

Median 2000 Rent: $814

Median 2013 Rent: $1038

Average Rent Now: 2 bedrooms are $1,600 on average, 1 bedrooms are $1,300.

Median Home Value 2000: $208,980

Median Home Value 2013: $271,600


Downtown Oakland

Downtown Oakland is hella fun as it’s so near bars, clubs and restaurants. Central location, and great access to BART and AC Transit. The City of Oakland has been investing in this area so more people are attracted to live here, therefore the rents have really increased during the last 15 years.

Median 2000 Rent: $526

Median 2013 Rent: $1025

Average rent now: $2,700 for 1 bedrooms and $3,200 for two bedrooms.

Median Home Value 2000: $257,985

Median Home Value 2013: $385,500



Alameda is a quaint place to live in if you’re too scared to live in Oakland. It’s good to have a car in this island-city if you intend to visit other parts of the Bay but it’s reportedly very easy to never want to leave.

Average average rent: 2 bedrooms are in the the $2400-$2800 range, 1 bedrooms are $2,000-2,200 a month.


Lake Merritt/Grand Lake

Living around the lake is as peaceful as it sounds. All sides of the lake have their own vibe and perks. These days, the neighborhoods around Adam’s Point tend to be the pricier ones while the neighborhoods on the southern part of the lake—Eastlake, Cleveland Heights, and Clinton tend to be cheaper. On the Grand Avenue side, Lake Merritt is close to 12th and 19th BART stations and, of course, the Lake Merritt station on the western side of the lake is easily accessible. Biking in this area is a fun and easy way to access BART. The views of the lake are beautiful at any time, and the biking lanes around it make you feel safe.

Median 2000 Rent: $940

Median 2013 Rent: $1,131

Average rent now: 1 bedrooms average around $1,800-$2,000 while 2 bedrooms are in the $2,500-$3,000 range.

Median Home Value 2000: $257,943

Median Home Value 2013: $342,800



Rockridge has always been and still is the most expensive neighborhood in Oakland. It remains highly desirable since it has its own BART station and its proximity to Berkeley. You can easily live here without a car.

Median 2000 Rent: $1,883

Median 2013 Rent: $2001

Average rent today: $1,800-$2,300 for a 1 bedroom and a $3,552 average for all bedroom apartments.

Median Home Value 2000: $640,575

Median Home Value 2013: $880,200



Piedmont is surrounded by Oakland. It’s mostly filled with single unit family homes and it has some great views since it’s up in the hills. You probably will need a car in order to get over that hill…

Average rent now: $2,919 average for all apartments. A 3 bedroom could cost anywhere between $4,000-$6,000 a month.


Temescal/North Oakland

North Oakland Temescal is one of the arts districts in Oakland, and its proximity to MacArthur BART have helped it flourish into the lively area it is today. The area is easily navigated through public transportation as well as cars, bikes and on foot.

Median 2000 Rent: $880

Median 2013 Rent: $1,204

Average rent now: 1 bedroom for $1,800-$2,200, and 2 bedrooms around $2,500.

Median Home Value 2000: $337,635

Median Home Value 2013: $462,300

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