2010 City Crime Rankings puts Oakland at number 5

So, this year’s CQ Press City Crime Rankings are out, and once again, Oakland finds itself right up at the top of the list.

The rankings are based on 2009 crime stats, available for cities throughout the United States thanks to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.

Oakland moves down a couple spots this year, back to number five, where we sat in 2008, which, I suppose, is a nicer place to be than 2007′s number 4 or last year’s number 3.

City officials, as usual, will remind us that the FBI cautions against ranking cities based on crime statistics, dismiss the report as misleading (PDF), and remind us that crime is mostly concentrated in certain parts of town.

All of this, of course, completely misses the point, which is that crime in Oakland is simply too high. Of course a number ranking based on some formula (PDF) using data that has limitations of its own (PDF) does not paint a complete picture of the relative merits and flaws of every city in the US. I don’t think anyone would pretend it does. Of course a per capita rating for the entire City doesn’t reflect the fact that there are neighborhoods with less crime and neighborhoods with more crime. But I have always failed to see how that matters. I mean, I’ve never been, but I assume that St. Louis has nice parts of town too.

But the fact that since 2005, Oakland has been playing musical chairs at the top of the list every year with St. Louis and Detroit and Camden should be cause for concern. I, for one, welcome the loud annual reminder that when it comes to the amount of violent crime that goes on in Oakland, we are not in the type of company that we want to be keeping. So yes, it is good that reported crime compared to last year is down. And it is good that it is also down from the year before that.

But the fact remains, people are constantly getting killed on our streets, and despite recent progress, we have a really long way to go before we’re we want to be in terms of public safety in this Oakland.

Anyway. Here’s the top 10 from this year’s city crime rankings (PDF):

  1. St. Louis, MO
  2. Camden, NJ
  3. Detroit, MI
  4. Flint, MI
  5. Oakland, CA
  6. Richmond, CA
  7. Cleveland, OH
  8. Compton, CA
  9. Gary, IN
  10. Birmingham, AL

And if you’re wondering how other cities stacked up? Check it out here:

90 thoughts on “2010 City Crime Rankings puts Oakland at number 5

  1. oakie

    Congratulations to Oakland for keeping it real. I will note that New York is listed at 269. That’s safer than Sunrise, Florida which is next up the list. Have you been to Sunrise? Chockablock full of senior citizens incapable of outrunning an armadillo. Not much of a threat in that suburban town. And New York is safer than that!

    New York was more dangerous than Oakland as recently as 1992. How NY did this is not a tightly kept secret. But apparently it is to the good citizens of Oakland, except for the tactic of Compstat, which is now all the rage in town.

    Leave it to the visionaries of Oakland to stumble across a tactic but completely miss the strategy which reduced their murder rate to 80% lower than Oakland on a per capita basis in these few years. Watch as Compstat does nothing to reduce our hideous rating in this crime statistic. Keep on keeping it real.

  2. MarleenLee

    Also worth noting is that for cities over 250,000 residents, the average staffing per 1000 residents in 2009 was 2.8. If Oakland staffed at that ratio, we’d be at 1120 officers. Instead, we are at 670, and plummeting toward 600. http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_71.html
    Yeah, all those other cities were hit by the recession too, so Oakland officials’ excuses for sworn staff reductions seem pretty lame, don’t they?

  3. Navigator

    These studies are irrelevant since this is for 2009 crime and we’re almost in 2011. We should be talking about Oakland’s reduction in crime in 2010. What good is it to have a lower crime rate for the year when the media takes you back to 2009 crime rankings? So, when do we promote the fact that crime is down in 2010 in Oakland? When does THAT get reported? Will the media be talking about Oakland’s lower crime rate of 2010 if crime rises in 2011? I don’t think so. Oakland never gets to distance itself from these insidious “most dangerous” crime rankings. These studies are for last year. In the age of the internet and instant communication why do we place such value on a study with the information urgency of a Flintstone episode.

    Also, for those who directly correlate the number of police officers to the violent crime rate let me remind you that Oakland had 175 homicides in 1992 with a police force with relatively the same number of officers as we have today. Also we had 60 homicides in one of the Jerry Brown years when we had fewer officers than we have today.

  4. len raphael

    Nav, we’d have had to send up the bat signal if you hadn’t posted.

    Some of those rankings don’t make sense. How could SF be much safer than Lafayette?

    Longbeach much safer than Oakland?

    And what did Newark do to improve it’s rating? Has it ranked that low on crime for several years?

  5. Navigator

    Also, how can you say that Oakland is nearly, as “dangerous” as Camden, Flint, Detroit or Gary, Indiana? First of all Oakland is a city with tony neighborhoods filled with vibrant commercial districts and fantastic restaurants. Oakland also has million dollar hillside homes with five bridge views.

    These studies are meaningless because cities have different methods of reporting and classifying crimes. Some cities provide false crime figures. Other cities report accurate and honest figures. For example the Police Chief in San Francisco admitted that SF omitted 1200 assault cases from its yearly crime figures for a number of years.

    How can we take these “most dangerous city” studies seriously. This does nothing but harm cities economically. Oakland and other cities should be suing the publishers of this study. Good luck trying to convince businesses to come to Oakland by telling them that crime is actually down in Oakland when the media constantly tells the World that Oakland is more “dangerous” than Gary, Indiana.

  6. Max Allstadt

    What do all the cities that were rated more dangerous than Oakland have in common?

    Desperate need for wholesale redevelopment.

  7. Max Allstadt


    Oakland IS dangerous. I don’t have time or space here to give you a complete account of all of the violent crimes my friends and I have experienced, but here’s a summary:

    My friends’ experiences in Oakland:
    One was shot and survived. Several were assaulted and pistol-whipped in a home invasion. One was sexually assaulted at random. Several have been assaulted and robbed. One was slashed by an assailant with no apparent motive. I can’t even count the car
    break-ins, and at least four friends (off the top of my head) have had their cars stolen.

    I’ve been here since ’03. The list above is probably incomplete. As for myself, I’ve been lucky, I’ve only had my car broken into three times. I also saw an attempted murder a few years back. Oh, and somebody on the other end of my block raped his aunt with a machete and set her on fire in ’07.

    So yeah, Navigator there are nice neighborhoods in Oakland, with nice views. There are also high crime neighborhoods. Real people live in those neighborhoods. Like me.

    Summary: we have a crime problem. It is real.

  8. len raphael

    Max, maybe we’ll have to bring most of town into the RDA just to capture any incremental taxes. But gotta be careful to leave everything out that we sell to the RDA.

    Seriously, Hercules is mostly one big RDA; and many people who don’t live here think Oakland needs to be overhauled.

  9. Navigator


    I’m not trying to dismiss crime in Oakland. I know that Oakland has a serious crime issue as do most large cities in the United States. And yes certain neighborhoods are more dangerous than others. I lived in Oakland for 28 years from 1969 to 1996. I lived in three different neighborhoods. I never had my home burglarized, my car stolen, never been assaulted, never witnessed a violent crime, etc. And these were the years of higher crime rates and the crack wars of the 80′s.

    Also, I have a relative who lived in a high crime area of North Oakland who moved to central Contra Costa County and within two weeks had two guys kick in his front door and ransack his house. I had a relative shoot at an attempted rapist as he broke into her house in Contra Costa County. I’ve had a teacher at my daughter’s school pistol whipped on Gary Blvd in Walnut Creek. The point is anyone can chronicle crime over the years no matter where you live. Unfortunately, any crime in Oakland gets attributed to Oakland’s reputation. You have to consider that some of that crime would have also occurred somewhere else. It’s not crime in Oakland vs no crime somewhere else.

    I don’t care what these ridiculous studies say, you’ll never convince me that over all Oakland is more “dangerous” than Gary, Indiana, Flint, Camden, Compton, New Haven, New Orleans, Trenton, etc.

    All these studies do is harm Oakland’s economic potential. Who knows which city is more dangerous then another. Cities aren’t dangerous, neighborhoods are dangerous. Are you telling me that you’d feel safer in certain parts of San Francisco than you would in certain parts of Oakland? It depends on the neighborhood. They should do away with these ridiculous and out dated studies.

  10. Mry

    I think we are about to see what it’s like with even fewer officers, and a mayor that is going to social program us to death. Let’s see how that turns out.

  11. ralph

    These studies do not harm Oakland’s economic potential as much as administrators who are dismissive of corporate investment. Contrary to the opn of our ME, businessmen are not bad people but they do seek a fair return for their investment. There investment does better as the city does better. Everyone wins.

    I mention this because cities such as Baltimore, DC, St. Louis, Cleveland and probably other cities continue to attract investment dollars despite crime. Crime is a problem and I think people in the West Bay think it is worst than it is but people in the East Bay continue to enjoy our destination places.

    The sturvey is not ridiculous; it is informative. Crime impacts people in ways not noticed. School kids stressed beyong belief. Shortened lifespans, emergency room usage yada yada yada

  12. Ken O

    Nameless Nav, you are just trying to dismiss reality. If “things” have improved in Oakland it is only because newcomers of means who aren’t criminals continue to move to Oakland, businesses set up shop here in the usual gentry scheme and the dope dealers kill each other off or grow up and “learn how to live.”

    Businesses deal in reality, data, facts. Not theories.

    As a local business owner who’s been assaulted, was 20 feet away from a drive-by shooting in Temescal a few years ago, had multiple friends sent to ER for serious beatings, I have one thing to say to you.

    Grow up.

  13. Ken O

    I’m surprised that V didn’t point out one way residents and businesses can help out with crime reduction.

    Work with the Oakland Police Foundation.


    Sure there are other ways, but the city already sends millions of our taxpayer dollars to them: PUEBLO, Youth UpRising, etc. (And not that the latter aren’t somewhat helpful, but they aren’t keeping public order by any stretch. or by much.)

  14. Navigator

    That’s fine, let’s revel in our “most dangerous city” rankings for 2009 when crime is actually lower in 2010, AND, we’re almost in 2011.

    I’m sure dwelling on and accepting subjective “most dangerous” studies while crime for the current year is actually DOWN, will help businesses in Oakland.

    Let’s always put our worst foot forward when we have positive data to show the World. That’s how Oakland self-hate usually works. I’m sure people aren’t assaulted anywhere else in the Bay Area, but Oakland. And of course we all know how crime free vibrant downtown SF is.

    As long as Oakland sits back and allows others to define it, Oakland will continue to struggle with business growth. Other cities don’t have the low self-esteem seen in many Oaklanders.

    Also, there’s far more crime and assaults in downtown SF then there are in downtown Oakland but downtown SF is vibrant and thriving while being much dirtier, filled with panhandlers, drug dealers and derilics.

    How do we expalin this? It’s perception and media coverage. I remember when Oakland had 175 homicides in 1992, and I remember when Oakland had 60 homicides in one of Jerry Brown’s years as Mayor. The crime rates change but the image stays the same. Oaklanders need to wake up.

  15. Navigator

    It’s not about “boosterism.” It’s about being labeled “5th most dangerous city” for 2009 when we’re almost in 2011 and we may not BE the “5th most dangerous city” any longer.

    What good did all the work that went in reducing the crime rate for 2010 (other than the very important fact that fewer people were victims of crime in Oakland) for Oakland’s business recruiting potential when we are once again being labeled as being the “5th most dangerous city?”

    Do we really think people realize that this is for 2009 and Oakland is no longer as dangerous in 2011? These belated studies serve no purpose whats so ever, because they’re OLD and because different cities have different ways to report and classify crimes (some even cheat). So what’s the point other then retarding ecomic progress in cities which no longer deserve the rankings.

  16. ralph

    Hmm. Baltimore is ranked 11, has a murder rate worse than Oakland and still manages to attract capital. I don’t think it is just the rankings that has impeded the flow of capital.

  17. Ken O

    Nav: It isn’t 2011 yet. It’s called describing reality — not self hate, nor wishful thinking for that matter. So in 2011 we’ll be the safest city? And if we were you wouldn’t want to trumpet that right…

    Is midtown Market Street in SF “thriving and vibrant”? As you say yourself, it’s “neighborhoods.” Why don’t you reference a map of Oakland and label the economically “good” and “bad” neighborhoods.

    Do these annual national crime reports cause you personal embarrassment or business harm?

    Chris: :)

  18. Ken O

    Baltimore is apt comparison – close to a money center (DC, like Oak:SF). They also do “The Wire” there. But City of Oakland rejected “The Gentleman” or whatever the pimp and ho show was supposed to be called. Alright, back to my Aphex Twin viewing…

  19. Livegreen

    I fall somewhere between Nav & Max. The study IS old, & crime in 2010 IS down. On the other hand there’s still too many people getting killed, raped & robbed and Investigations & Community Policing r way understaffed.

    Key indicators to look at would b unsolved incidents.

    Continuing to strengthen neighborhhoods, especially DT, & redevlopment with merchants will b key.

    I have to give it to Batts for targeting probable criminals (those on parole, probation & gang members. At the same time I’m concerned about an end of year surge we seem to b experiencing like last year (at least as far as is being reported). We’ll c whether the stats bare that out or not)…

  20. len raphael

    Seems that all of the higher crime cities have high percentage of poor african americans but so do some of the lower crime cities.

    Max concluding that redevelopment is part of the answer. I’m skeptical that it’s primarily economic and more skeptical that redevelopment = improved job prospects for people most likely to be involved in crime.

    -len raphael, temescal

    Not even sure what the correlation is between poverty, joblessness and the type of crime we have.

  21. livegreen

    This is not about race. Oakland has a lot of poor, period. African American, Lation, Asian, & even some white. The fundamental imbalance we have is building loads of Affordable Housing, & not enough Middle Class housing. + we have been undermining the job base for the poor. Finally the African-American middle class has been leaving Oakland just like the rest of the Middle Class.

    We’re one of the few cities that does not see value in the middle class. The broad #’s of Middle Class is the source of it’s wealth.

    PS. I’m under the impression that Affordable Housing for Seniors is more inclusive of Middle Income Seniors, though I could be wrong. At any rate Affordable Housing for Seniors should be seen as distinct from the balance of Affordable Housing since it doesn’t increase the % of disenfranchised youth on the streets.

    PPS. Jean Quan mentioned that she has argued for Walnut Creek & other Bay Area cities to accept bigger shares of Affordable Housing. I don’t know if that’s true, but if so I hope she continues such an effort.

  22. len raphael

    LG, are you saying we’ve come full circle back to earlier days of this site when hopes were for THE PLAN aka gentrification/dilution of poor residents?

    Probably was occurring before the real estate bust/depression, but for whatever reason it ain’t enough to protect the safety of any resident who doesn’t stay in the hills.

  23. len raphael

    To make oakland a lot more greener, you don’t need to put in more bike lanes, TOD.

    make it safe for people to walk without looking over their shoulders, looking in doorways, evaluating approaching people.

    a big reason people who can afford to, drive everywhere.

  24. SF2OAK

    “All these studies do is harm Oakland’s economic potential.” The most laughable line of the thread. It is not the study that harms OAK economic potential but crime itself. 2nd most laughable line, PPS. Jean Quan mentioned that she has argued for Walnut Creek & other Bay Area cities to accept bigger shares of Affordable Housing. I don’t know if that’s true, but if so I hope she continues such an effort. Jean Quan better focus her efforts her in OAK rather than trying to get other cities to take our problems. Even with the reductions in crime that OAK has had there is simply far too much crime to start with that make the reductions well, reductive.

  25. len raphael

    looking over the demographics for camden and st louis. didnt look at flint or detroit or richmond ca.

    the income or racial distributions etc. don’t explain why we compete with those places for the top 5 spots.

    those city’s are seriously ef’d up in terms of median income and education levels.

    All the usual predictors of high crime fit those other towns.

    But our median incomes make us look like San Francisco compared to Camden or Detroit.

    We should be at least keeping up with Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark. Newark, or Long Beach. We can’t even match Newark, the city that 15 years ago was the car theft capital of the USA.

  26. ralph

    To paraphrase my man Meldrick Lewis, if Chief Batts could just do something about Motor Vehicle theft, we could probably make a huge improvement in our ranking. Alternatively, Jean Quan could follow LG suggestion and the JB plan – build more middle class housing. The 10K plan was too small. I suggest the 200K plan.

  27. len raphael

    figuring this out probably just takes a candid interview with Chief Batts. Which perhaps he would grant after he’s secured a position with another city that staffs their police dept properly before it starts funding anti violence programs.

    But then he’s been perfectly candid saying he needs 960 cops to do what he was hired to do.

  28. Navigator


    Oakland doesn’t play on a level playing field as far as crime reporting in the Bay Area. We have a large city across the Bay which constantly under reports and downplays their crime while at the same time amplifying crime and negative studies in Oakland. There is no doubt in my mind that this study for crime in 2009 and its “5th most dangerous city” rankings will be used by Chip Johnson and the SF electronic media to label Oakland in 2011.

    An example of the slanted reporting which happens in the Bay Area is the covered up and downplayed riot in the Mission after the Giants won the World Series. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGv-_gULDZA Len made a comment that if the A’s had won the World Series a friend had stated that there would have been a riot in Oakland. I’m not sure about that. But I’m sure that if there had been a riot in Fruitvale after an A’s World Series victory like there was in the Mission and other fights during the SF parade, the story in Oakland dictated by the SF media would have been the disturbance in Fruitvale while the parade and ;positive events in Oakland would have taken a backseat to the
    what would have been classified as a full fledged Oakland “riot” Of that, I can guarantee you.

    They did it after the Raiders won the AFC championship. The SF media had helicopters up WAITING for a disturbance. In SF they downplay, it barely makes the news, and it’s labeled “joyful Mayhem.” Other footage on youtube shows people jumping on cars, graffiti being written on cars, buses having their windows broken, fires set in the middle of the streets, people being pulled out of a car and beaten, bottles being thrown at officers,etc. How come in Oakland that’s called a riot and gets played over and over again but in SF there’s hardly any footage and the story is about the wonderful parade.

    This is just one blatant case. I can recite dozens of cases where an identical crime in SF is not reported by the .mainstream SF media while the same crime in Oakland is amplified. If you want to read about crime in San Francisco which doesn’t make it to the Chronicle or the SF electronic media then read the SF Examiner. You’ll be able to read about little girls getting hit by stray bullets in a Chinatown park or a home being shot up in the Glen Park neighborhood while a young child was inside with her parents. Both of these crimes never saw the light of day in the regional media while a story of a child in Oakland shot in her home which occurred between these two SF crimes, got extensive play.

    Whether people want to hear it or not Oakland does get the shaft from slanted SF media reporting and this creates perceptions which then affect the ability to recruit businesses to the city.

    And yes, Oakland shouldn’t be a dumping ground for parolees and for public housing. These other cities which profit from taking Oakland’s retail base need to do their fair share.

  29. CitizenX

    Nav, though i agree with much of what you said re the SF media, I still have the feeling that we’re arguing about who is more pregnant here. Pregnant is pregnant and a crime problem is…

  30. ken o

    Nava; the guys beaten and pulled out of their car SHOULD have been pulled out and beaten — they had JUST RAN THROUGH A CROWD WITH THEIR FUCKING CAR sending many people to the ER/ICU.

    What I will strongly agree with you upon is that Oakland needs to largely divest itself of “public housing” (OHA) or re-do it all following Oscar Newman’s model. Either will help–a lot. Not that our existing private + commercial real estate is already being fully utilitized or anything…

    Google this “defensible space hud” first link

    Media? Eh, embrace it.

  31. Navigator


    Let’s not rationalize a guy being pulled from car and beaten during a riot in San Francisco. We can also speculate that these people were scared to death as the SF mob took over the intersection as they set a fire in the middle of the street. For all we know the people in the car were scared for their lives and panicked as they found themselves in the middle of the riot. I have a feeling that if this happened in Oakland we would be hearing a different story.

  32. Navigator


    You make some good points regarding the demographics of some of these cities which rank just above or just below Oakland. To me this ranking doesn’t make sense. I’ve been to Saint Louis and I can tell you there are no Montclairs, Rockridges, or Piedmont Avenues within Saint Louis city limits. South west Saint Louis has some nice middle class areas but I didn’t see anything which compared to Oakland’s best neighborhoods. North Saint Louis and parts of downtown are really scary.

    Also, I know that places like Trenton, Compton, Gary Indiana, Newark, Detroit etc. don’t have the affluent neighborhoods that we see here in Oakland. The only way these figures would make sense is if “Oakland” was just reduced to the flatland neighborhood zip codes which we see on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakland,_California There is no mention of zip codes 94618, 94611, 94610,94619 etc.

    Maybe if we play the “Oakland” is only below 580 game and pretend that Rockridge is Berkeley, Piedmont Ave. is Piedmont, Grand Lakeshore is Piedmont, and the homes above the Claremont Hotel are really in Berkeley, like some Realtors like to advertise, then maybe being in the company of Detroit, Saint Louis, Camden, Compton,Trenton, or Newark, would make sense. I’m also wondering if this study includes Oakland’s new population estimate of 436,900. I’m just wondering how this study defines what IS Oakland. Hopefully they include all the zip codes unlike Wikipedia.

  33. Navigator

    My mistake, according to Wikipedia Oakland’s population is now 446,901 not 436,900 which I posted above.

  34. SF2OAK


    Well I want what you’re smoking. You are the one who is actually trying to talk statistics and then pulling a couple of random cases plucked by you. Neither SF nor the media are to blame for Oakland’s crime problem (except for not putting up photos of the perps and shaming them and their families- yeah that’s my son the felon I’m so proud.) In 2009 there were 89 pt1 or pt 2 crimes per day,every day for 365 days that is over 32,000 crimes per year and those are reported crimes which are generally acknowledged to be under reported, and will even be reported less with internet reporting these serious crimes:# theft

    * Identity Theft
    * Fraudulent Use of Credit Card
    * Mail Theft
    * Theft of a Dog

    # Vandalism
    # Vehicle Burglary
    # Vehicle Tampering and Attempted Auto Theft
    # Abandoned Vehicles
    # Hit and Run
    # Annoying Phone Calls
    # Residential Burglary
    An officer probably will not come out to make these crime reports- from the OPD website “Most cases are not investigated.”

    And also I noticed you snuck in at the end of your long but pointless examples that you think other cities are stealing retail dollars nefariously- that is another argument altogether and also another false argument put forth by you. Oakland has high tax rates, high crime and high risk for people wanting to start businesses I believe those are key reasons Oakland suffers from retail exodus.

    Really, if it walks like a duck & talks like a duck it probably is one, why are you not seeing things as they are and believing what you see?

  35. ralph

    Nav has a point. For whatever reason, whenever a violent crime in Oakland makes front page news on SFGate, I like to scan the site for violent crimes in SF. You can generally find a violent crime in SF but it does not get near the attn and comments as the Oakland crime.

    Oakland residents and elected officials seem to think that because we like the City others should like the city. Oakland officials have allowed others to define the city. If one wants their city to be seen a cultural leader, one needs to beat the drum. The world does not come to you because you are a city on the map, one needs to make a case for why the world should come to you.

    OaklandSeen is a good concept and starts doen the path of being a voice, but quite frankly, their reach is small. Personally, I like for MEJQ demand that Al Davis rename the Raiders. It is not without precedent. Chris Berman takes every opportunity to play up the theme of a rough and tumble city, outlaws, the Black Hole etc…Oakland’s image is not shaped by Oakland and it should be.

    I am sure everyone here has a reason for why Oakland lacks retail I am pretty sure that some of those other T25 cities have a strong corporate presence and retail.

  36. Navigator


    For some reason anytime anything happens in Oakland it makes National news. The last Oscar Grant protest made CNN. Don Lemon had a clip of a guy jumping on a car and an interview with a resident claiming “they’re tearing up the city.” When a tourist gets hit with a stray bullet in SF somehow that doesn’t make national news. When a riot occurs in the Mission after a World Series victory, that also doesn’t make National news. When a man is falsely accused of throwing a toddler out of a car in Oakland, all of a sudden I’m hearing it on CBS news as I’m driving to work. The SF affiliates feed negative Oakland stories to their parent networks while at the same time using their influence to bury negative SF stories which may harm their tourist industry.

    Of course crime in Oakland is way too high. The SF media isn’t making it up, they just take it out of context by hiding and downplaying THEIR crime. If you constantly show the neighborhood pictures of how dirty your neighbor’s house is and then sweep your dirt under the rug, where do you think the neighbors are going to want to go for Thanksgiving?

  37. Navigator


    What’s San Francisco’s tax rate and how much crime do you think exists within blocks of Union Square or the SF Shopping Center on Market Street? Do you realize how much crime exists just two blocks from Union Square? Have you ever walked through the Tenderloin, 6th Street or Mid Market? Your argument that it’s about high taxes and crime doesn’t hold water when we look at San Francisco. My argument about perceptions and slanted media makes even more sense when we look at the reality of the situation in downtown SF and their abundance of retail.

  38. len raphael

    SF real estate tax on single fam residence is substantially lower than Oakland’s.

    Alameda county web site is up to date, Sf is a a little behind. (but no, the media don’t mention that :)

    Ad valorem rate for Oakland single family residence, 2010/2011fiscal year is 1.4086% plus parcel taxes/fees of an additional $653

    For a house assesses at 823k net of homeowner exemption, ad valorem tax wb 11,593 plus parcel/fees of 653.

    Total $12,246

    In SF, the same valued house would face at most (this was based on Aug 2010 notice) 1.164% ad valorem tax of $9,580 plus parcel/fee tax of approx $238.

    Total $9,818

    A $2,428 difference.

    Oakland has one of the highest ad valorem rates (and transfer tax rates) in the Bay Area. I assume there are other cities with higher parcel taxes.

  39. ralph

    I think the Berkeley assessments and fees pack a wallop. I haven’t checked the Berkeley fees in some time, but I seem to recall the city of Berkeley asking for some $1700 in addition to their manageable 1% ad valorem.

  40. len raphael

    Berkeley and Piedmont do have high parcel taxes but those go specifically to schools and for Berkeley also to libraries.

    Single family residence in Berkeley pays1.2555% ad valorem plus parcel tax/fees of 2,300 after deduction of the Berkeley muni garbage fee of 738/year.

    Berkeley’s library tax is 526/year and school tax is 1,000/year. Subtract all of those and Berkeley’s parcel tax is only 1,000/year. So add a couple of hurndred back for our library and school tax.

    Piedmont parcel taxes are also much higher than ours, but like Berkeley’s the bulk goes to schools. Piedmont’s tax bill also includes the water/sewage fees that EBMUD includes on Oakland utility bills. Total 3,473 less 540 water, less 2,000 schools = 933/year.

    Piedmont AV rate is 1.1931%,

    A better comparison is San Leandro because most individuals who move to Oakland can’t afford Berkeley or Piedmont.

    San Leandro parcel taxes are 500/year. The AV rate is 1.1223%.

  41. mel

    Atlanta and DC are over 60% Black yet have lower crime index than 32% black Oakland; all have many poor residents. New Orleans (post-Katrina), DC, and Newark have brought the crime down significantly from what it was just a while ago without major demographic shifts.

    From an ethnic demographic point, Oakland is more similar to Long Beach, Carson, Moreno Valley, Tampa, New York, and Missouri City – all with much, much lower crime indexes. All those cities are also SAFER than San Francisco, which itself is out of whack compared to cities of similar ethnic composition. Compare San Francisco to San Diego, L.A., Pasadena, Austin, and San Jose:

    rank city wht blk hisp asn
    5 Oakland, CA 25% 32% 25% 17%
    6 Richmond, CA 20% 30% 35% 16%
    44 Inglewood, CA 3% 46% 49% 2%
    111 Berkeley, CA 57% 11% 11% 20%
    125 Hayward, CA 22% 13% 38% 26%
    130 San Francisco, CA 45% 7% 14% 33%
    138 Long Beach, CA 30% 15% 40% 15%
    155 Tampa, FL 48% 27% 22% 4%
    158 Los Angeles, CA 29% 11% 48% 11%
    203 Austin, TX 49% 9% 35% 6%
    206 Carson, CA 8% 27% 37% 27%
    209 Moreno Valley, CA 22% 18% 53% 7%
    221 San Diego, CA 48% 8% 27% 16%
    237 San Jose, CA 31% 4% 32% 33%
    269 New York, NY 35% 26% 28% 12%
    290 Pasadena, CA 41% 13% 34% 13%
    315 Fremont, CA 32% 4% 15% 47%
    365 Missouri City, TX 30% 41% 15% 15%

    So you see the “central” Bay Area cities – San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond – all have much higher crime indexes than similar cities in the South Bay, Southern California, and other states. (These are all based on current Census/ACS data, by the way). I know this is selective (I could include Houston, Miami, Dallas, etc.), yet the point is still evident.

    This isn’t just an Oakland problem; it’s a central Bay Area problem. San Franciscans might want to be smug because their crime rates are lower than Oakland, but they need to realize that a rising tide lifts all boats. Unfortunately the tide in this case is the roots of crime; the boats being different cities’ crime rates.

  42. mel

    Note that San Francisco and Berkeley have the highest percentage of whites on the list (with San Diego) yet amongst the lowest percentages of blacks and Latinos compared to similar cities with lower crime. The “LBC” has lower crime than not just Oakland but San Francisco also. If you really want to get under San Franciscans’ skins, especially if they talk about crime in Oakland, ask them why SF crime is so much higher than San Diego which has similar demographics, and also higher than L.A. which has more poor, Latino, undocumented, and black residents. Tell them that L.A.’s lower crime helps keep its surrounding cities’ rates lower; that’s what a major, alpha city is supposed to do (I kid, but there’s a little truth in that).

  43. len raphael

    Ralph, Berkeley and Oakland both have very high biz tax rates on service business’ compared to Emeryville. My impression is that the SF is in between but haven’t calced that for service business. Most East Bay cities have very low rates for the almost extinct manufacturers.

  44. mel

    The causes of crime make up a complex equation. Something like X/Y = (A + B) x C – (2D+4E)/3 + 3F +G/2 … you get the picture. X/Y equals the crime rate (X is a variable while Y equals the population, which is fixed). A through G are factors. Factors can include measurable things like poverty rates, unemployment rates, educational levels, housing affordability, number of police officers, etc. They can also be more qualitative factors like community cohesiveness and stability, family cohesiveness and stability, level of ethical and/or religious convictions, social and political conventions, opportunity options. Still others might include level of business and retail development, accessibility to jobs and housing.

    The effect of one factor being too high or too low can be offset by other factors. For example, a relatively stable community wouldn’t likely need many police officers because crime is likely low. That might seem roundabout but that’s how equations work. Or, a city with higher (measured) poverty might also be more affordable with more cohesive families; or have more police officers along with greater social cohesiveness.

    The point is that it’s not about just one or two factors. It’s not just because of poor schools because L.A. schools and Inglewood schools are not all that great. I’m sure Long Beach and NYC have their share of bad schools too (and I doubt overall they are better than Berkeley and San Francisco schools). LAUSD and other SoCal districts have horrible drop-out rates.

    It’s not just about poverty as L.A., Inglewood, and Long Beach have high poverty rates. It’s not just about police force size because L.A. crime rates had been dropping for several years in the 90s and 00s while the police force either shrunk, was stable, or barely grew. Besides, it would be great to not have to spend money on police unless absolutely necessary.

    I wouldn’t say it’s just about parenting because I don’t think New York and L.A. have better parents than Oakland and San Francisco. Or less single parents. Or less hip-hop music ’cause the kids are listening to that everywhere.

    I certainly wouldn’t say that Oakland had better parents, less single parents, better schools, more police officers, lower poverty, and less hip-hop in the late ’90s when crime was lower than now. It ain’t for lack of non-profits, NGOs, arts programs, and the like because Oakland, SF, and Berkeley probably have far more of those per capita than all those other cities.

    It seems the issue with central Bay Area cities is that there is a compounding of unfavorable factors at work with insufficient favorable offsets. There are two main factors that I think make Oakland and other central SFBA cities over-index in crime. A lot of what I have to say about this might offend progressive ears (and I consider myself progressive) but I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past one or two years. I’ll come back later to post.

  45. Livegreen

    Crime (both real and perceived) r a primary deterent to business. Re business taxes I am becoming concerned that this is also a contributing factor. That’s because some cities tax not based on revenue but a low rate based on # of employees. It adds up to a lower $ amount even for small businesses. It would b interesting to do a comparison among East Bay cities to know if this is a contributing factor or not…

  46. len raphael

    Mel, thank you.

    New York is an outlier. Maybe they have so many cops per capita and their economy was very strong for about last 20 years. Even now doing better than our area job wise.

    Then we have to add columns for cops/capita; and parolees/capita.

    But just within CA, maybe density is a factor? Why Vallejo and Stockton are not as bad as Oakland and Richmond?

    Raw racial percentages don’t capture economic distributions within groups or across groups.

    Another dimension might be the speed with which the black middle class departed SF, Oakland, and Richmond over the past decade.

    But don’t you think Batts and colleagues have some pretty good theories of their own or do you think they figure that without having at least 900 cops, analysing the factors is just playing with ourselves?

    -len raphael, temescal

  47. Navigator


    Thanks for the in depth and informative posts regarding crime rates and the corresponding factors.

    Even if we agree that this particular study is accurate and done in an equal and fair manner based on crime reporting methods, crime classifications, and fraudulent crime figures from certain cities such as San Francisco leaving 1200 assaults of the books for a number of years, we still are faced with the question of why crime rates and business taxes don’t correlate with the retail vibrancy of a certain area.

    San Francisco for example has the most crime ridden downtown of any city on the west coast. A few years back there were 20 homicides in the various SF downtown neighborhoods, including the Tenderloin, 6th Street, Mid Market, Civic Center, South of Market and Broadway. No other city on the West Coast has such a violent and crime infested downtown including Oakland, San Diego, LA, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, San Jose, Long Beach, etc. San Francisco also has high business taxes, expensive and difficult parking, dirty streets, panhandlers, drug dealers, etc. Yet SF probably has the best and most vibrant downtown retail base of any city on the West Coast. Why?

    We’ve already established that it’s not about taxes and crime. What is it?

    It’s cultivating an image and maintaining that image through a complicit media which acts more as a promoter and cheerleader for San Francisco events while at the same time taking attention away from San Francisco crime by using Oakland crime to keep its viewers and readers entertained.

  48. ralph

    Okay, I was able to google a table of bay area business taxes, but I am unable to include the link her. Relative to neighboring cities, Oakland does have a complicated tax scheme.

    Yes, Oakland needs a cheerleader. Various mayors of Baltimore have wondered about the impact of H:LOTS, The Corner, and The Wire but it has not stopped investment and next year the US Conf of Mayors will be holding their annual mtg in Charm City.

  49. Livegreen

    The challenge of switching tax codes is the impact/loss of revenue would b immediate while the benefits (business retention & attraction) are much more gradual.

    Very difficult to do politically…

  50. ralph

    I need to believe that there is someone in the city that can simplify the tax code, minimize short term loss and provide incentive to accelerate growth.

  51. livegreen

    Another consideration is the cost of Administering Oakland’s business license/tax. The City has a bunch of different categories, each with a different cost structure.

    Additionally businesses that aren’t located in Oakland but operate here are supposed to have a business license, and businesses that are located here but generate a % of their business elsewhere pay less tax for their operations/ sales made outside the City.

    There are a # of circumstances under which questions emerge, & whenever I’ve gone to the City to pay business taxes there are large groups of small businesses trying to figure out how much they owe. With such confusion the City needs more staff and overhead to explain the system & collect the $.

    Additionally I wonder whether many businesses pay their license or in some cases even know they’re supposed to. Or, for that matter, any enforcement by the City for businesses that don’t.

    By comparison, San Leandro taxes are easy to calculate, there’s one cost structure based on the # of employees, and there’s no line to wait in. Even though they have a very small staff, with offices open only part time.

    Ralph, do you have a link to the table of bay area business taxes?

  52. Born in Oakland

    We have rental units attached to our home and we pay $13.95 per gross $1000 annually in Business Tax. We also pay something like $35/unit for rent control.

    I believe there are many many rental units untaxed in our city. We purchased our home many years ago and it was officially listed as an apartment house so we were already on the books. We had shared meters so we were not singled out by number of meters.

  53. len raphael

    The oakland biz tax isn’t as complex as SF’s.
    But it’s complicated enough especially for non english speakers so that Rebecca’s proposal to move most of it online was silly.

    i never heard of a local biz that decided not to move to Oakland or out of Oakland because of it’s business tax.

    -len raphael, temescal

  54. ralph

    Google bay area business taxes. If Google works for you as it did for me, then you should be able to find the link. You may need to play with your inputs a bit to find the correct link.

    And back to the code simplification, I assume that you can minimize administrative costs and increase compliance.

  55. len raphael

    Link to a discussion of crime trends causation.

    Oakland might be the only major usa city where at least half the citizens and their elected officials seriously doubt that more cops effectively managed would significantly reduce crime here.

    Unless you believe that Oakland residents and officials are smarter than average, gotta wonder why we debate something that isn’t even questioned in Berkeley or Santa Monica.

  56. len raphael

    SF’s african american population plummeted over the last 15 years.

    But the significant stat quoted here http://sfbayview.com/2010/black-flight/ is that Bay Area african americans (doesn’t say when) earn 40% of whites; but the nationwide stat is 60% of whites. Is that because more jobs here require more education? just don’t see it as institutional racism but can’t rule that out either.

    Anyone have the income stats for african americans in oakland vs NYC or LA?

    Btw, a friend from Tacoma tells me that crime in the latino sections of town are rising. The middle school she worked at two years ago had a bunch of kids come to school with baseball bats and beat on each other. Young girls with number 13 tatooed on their necks. Black gangs that had drastically declined are rising. Speculation that gang leaders who were imprisoned for 10 to 15 years are coming out and starting them up.

  57. ralph

    Striking sentence from the crime report, “Most astounding was San Francisco, where murders plunged by over 50 percent. Even its crime-plagued, Bay Area sister city, Oakland, saw killings fall from 123 to 109.” Still more or less 1 every 3 days but in absolute terms fewer murders is better.

  58. livegreen

    Len, You never heard of businesses leaving Oakland because of their business tax, but who’s going to advertise it? Did they first go to the papers or to City Hall and say “Hey, if you guys don’t change your business tax structure, we’re going to move!”.

    No. They just moved. Along with the cost of real estate, which for some whacked out reason is often (not always) more expensive in Oakland than surrounding East Bay cities. (Depends on the property, the land lord, & how much it cost them or how much of an attitude they have).

    Businesses just move. & when they do, they’re gone.

    I’d love to know if Pet Food Express got any Business Tax incentives from Oakland, or used the Enterprise Zone state tax credits, when it moved here, or if it was only the combination of moving to a larger space in a down market:


    If there were other incentives it would be nice to know what’s working…

  59. len raphael

    Ralph, that study of african american income cf to white income indirectly weakens the part of my tentative theory that as oakland’s black population declined, the percentage of blacks in poverty has increased. to where Oakland has a very poor black population relative to other large cities. But then the study doesn’t show changes over time.

    Funny that ultra liberal SF historically performed the ethnic cleansing that some Oaklander’s wanted to do but never pulled off.

    Berkeley achieved the same thing via a superior school system and a reputation as a green left wing friendly town that attracted white’s and asians willing to outbid african americans in the few black neighborhoods.

    Would be useful to compare the crime rates of Hunter’s Point to that of comparable race and income sections of East Oakland to see if police staffing makes a difference.

    Had a 28 year old male asian friend over this evening. He grew up in East and North Oakland. Graduated UC Santa Cruz. Lives and works in SF the last 6 years. Has a sales territory of restaurants and bars all over the city except Hunters Point.

    Yes there are lots of muggings, purses snatching. But it’s the lack of violent crime in most parts of SF that he says is dramatically different than many parts of Oakland. But again, he never goes to Montclair or Upper Rockridge..

  60. len raphael

    Lg, sure when the decision to move hq of a large company is made, local business taxes are factored in. and when very small businesses decide where to locate, they should do the same but usuallydon’t.

    it’s just that Oakland’s business tax is just not that much higher than SF or Berkeley or Walnut Creek or Pleasanton to make or break the decision whether to move here.

    Quality of space, cost of space, proximity and commuting costs to where the execs and the workers will live, availability of space to expand, amenities of surroundings, and of course prestige of the area are the biggees.

    Other than proximity to SF, downtown Concord has Oakland beat on most of the above counts, without even getting into comparing biz taxes.

    I might be wrong, but don’t the main owners of Pet Food Express live in Oakland?

  61. ralph

    I had a few beefs with the study. Doesn’t account for education, only a point in time, no sense of employment distribution

    I suspect a couple of things are throwing a wrench into your hypothesis. It is possible that 1) natives, who were in a position to leave, left and 2) the influx of dual degreed professional blacks have distorted the mix.

  62. mel

    “New York is an outlier.”
    To an extent. I think because NYC is such a force of commerce – Wall Street, Financial Capital of the World, Fashion Capital, Publishing Capital, #3 TV/Film Capital (after, Bollywood & Hollywood), Fortune 500 headquarters, etc. that it simply helps offset other negative factors. That and its number of police officers. I also think New Yorkers (now) have a better sense of connectedness and cohesiveness than your average city’s citizens (again). Remember in the late 80s, early 90s – “Do The Right Thing”, Crown Heights Riots, Bed-Stuy/Bensonhurst race attacks, Goetz vigilantism, etc. For the past several years it’s more “Empire State of Mind” (a la Jay-Z). L.A. had a similar transform, albeit smaller and more subtle.

    “But just within CA, maybe density is a factor? Why Vallejo and Stockton are not as bad as Oakland and Richmond?”
    I don’t think density is a factor. Inglewood, Long Beach, Carson, and Pasadena are all pretty high-density, and are also smaller cities abutting a larger city (L.A.). How are even Berkeley and Hayward so much more unsafe than Carson, Long Beach, and Pasadena? I’d say Oakland is less dense than Inglewood, which is practically a half-black, half-Latino city and lacks a Rockridge/Claremont/Oakland Hills type area. Inglewood in size, density, and ethnic demographic character is more like East Oakland as a “separate” city. The main difference between the two is the level of business development (one of the main two factors I alluded to earlier). I also think Inglewood is more family-friendly and stable, but that can spur a chicken-and-egg argument.

    “Raw racial percentages don’t capture economic distributions within groups or across groups”
    Very true. A deeper analysis would be very helpful but I wanted to at least focus on the superficial to eliminate certain misconceptions. I think people can often dismiss crime in Oakland, for example, by noting its ethnic make-up as if to so “what else do you expect”.

    I do think though that San Francisco is pretty similar to Austin, TX in both ethnic and economic character. Close to San Diego as well.

    Also we need to keep in mind that though when someone is born black, they will always be black and will die black (unless the Census Bureau changes or abolishes racial categories), yet anyone can theoretically change their class or income level next week, month, or year by gaining or losing a job. We often say “poor blacks” as if that is some static group. The problem has been that the “poor” status has often not changed, not that it can’t be. And really the only thing that can change that directly is jobs. Yes, people need skills and/or education to get jobs, but you can have talent, skill, and education without a job and be poor.

    Granted, “poor” does not equal “criminal” which is another convention we must debunk. Look at Brownsville, TX. This is part of the liberal ideology that I think needs to be tweaked, and also might explain why San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland over-index in crime.

    Regarding Batts, I do think he has some good ideas. Chiefs will always ask for more cops. My main concern with Batts is that he truly understands and learns to navigate Bay Area politics and ideology. Also, that he does realize the interconnectedness of Oakland’s crime problems to that of its surrounding cities. I’m still cautiously hopeful that he’ll bring some solutions up from SoCal. Solutions AND attitudinal change because that’s something that Oakland needs.

  63. mel

    “Granted, “poor” does not equal “criminal” which is another convention we must debunk.”

    To this I’ll add that, on the flip side, people with jobs are far less likely to commit crime.

    Most of us don’t commit crime not because we are superior beings, but because we are empathetic and we know we have much to lose: we could lose are lives, jobs, friends, homes, lifestyle, freedom, reputation, personal wealth, intellectual integrity (ie, “not being stupid”).

    Others, in addition to lacking empathy and respect for laws/authority (which admittedly doesn’t really develop for most of us until solidly into adulthood)* don’t have much to lose: if you have no job, don’t own a home or have a nice place to live, have little wealth, can’t pay for things you want or need, no prospects, live in a community or family where going to jail is no blow your reputation, no father to disappoint, no friends who’d shun you, or not much exercising of freedoms (no voting, starting legal businesses, etc.)

    For people in those positions, the only thing that keeps them from committing crime is often moral/ethical/religious convictions. Those are things that can’t be legislated, but governments can provide an environment that will highly disincentivize crime: jobs, quality affordable housing, quality services (education, social support to “fill in gaps”), quailty leisure (parks/recreation, retail and commercial businesses). As a community, we can have a culture of high expectations, and do our best to promote opportunities.

    Otherwise, the options of either (1) quick riches, revenge, or wrath through robbery/theft, murder, assault, or rape; or (2) the free housing, free meals, free healthcare, free access to gym equipment, and time spent with peers with no work to do or no bills to pay (ie, prison), aren’t so “bad” in the minds of those considering crime. It’s a chance they’ll take.

    *Most teenagers would lie, cheat, fight, or disobey without thought of larger consequences as long as it served their selfish interests at the time

  64. Navigator


    I have to disagree with the notion that the only thing that makes downtown Oakland more desirable than Concord is its proximity to San Francisco. Oaklanders need to start taking some pride in their city and not always assume that the reason that Oakland exists is for those unfortunate souls who can’t afford San Francisco. Oakland does fine on its own merits and qualities. Downtown Oakland has the Lake Merritt Financial District, Jack London Square, Old Oakland, City Center, Uptown, Frank Ogawa PLaza, Chinatown, Preservation Park, great world class theaters, nice restaurants, art galleries, clubs, a great climate, three BART stations, etc., and we’re still suppose to be here to take San Francisco’s hand me downs while no being quite as good as Concord? I’m sorry but I don’t agree with that.

    Also, San Franciscans who claim that crime in downtown SF consists mainly of purse snatchings and petty crime need to read the San Francisco Examiner on a regular basis. Three years ago downtown SF recorded 20 homicides including two near AT&T Park.

  65. mel

    “Even if we agree that this particular study is accurate”

    I think it’s accurate as it can be. Even if Oakland was #20 on the list it would still be too high in my opinion. But the fact that it’s right up there by Richmond, and that San Francisco and Berkeley also over-index, makes me feel it’s a pretty accurate reflection.

    “It’s cultivating an image and maintaining that image through a complicit media which acts more as a promoter and cheerleader for San Francisco events while at the same time taking attention away from San Francisco crime by using Oakland crime to keep its viewers and readers entertained.”

    I agree. Comparing the crime rates of the Los Angeles-Long Beach MA versus the San Francisco-Oakland MA shouldn’t give San Francisco any reason to be complacent. Perhaps psychologically, the separation of SF and Oakland gives them a false sense of security. SF’ns definitely have an attitude of “at least I’m not in Oakland” while their crime rates are off the charts for a city of such wealth and education levels. Deflection and denial can be a crutch and tool. That is until crime hits too close to home, and then they become angry and reactionary. Even with Oakland, the sense of “crime is just in East O and West O” is another dismissive. San Francisco would probably do best to work with Oakland to try to reduce crime in both places, rather than look its nose down at the city.

    “We’ve already established that it’s not about taxes and crime. What is it?”

    For Oakland, I think it’s a lack of political will and resolve.

  66. len raphael

    Mel, not sure what your last sentence meant:

    “Granted, “poor” does not equal “criminal” which is another convention we must debunk. Look at Brownsville, TX. This is part of the liberal ideology that I think needs to be tweaked, and also might explain why San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland over-index in crime.”

    Reading your post made me reconsider my opposition to the change in CA prison rules which (i thought) took away free weights from inmates use. Maybe prison sb made more unpleasant.

    i don’t see why it’s self evident that providing decent affordable housing will discourage criminal behavior. Any proof of that? For all i know providing heavily subsidized housing removes incentive to seeking employment, leave neighborhood bad school for a further away high performing charter school etc.

    If Batts was merely repeating a line about needing more soldiers that is normal for commanders to request, then he’d be asking to staff to 1,200 or more, knowing he’d get 900 at best.

    No, I think he knows he won’t get any increases, ever, and gave the bare ass minimum number he needs.

    Batts gets paid very very well, but his career will go downhill if he sticks around here much longer.

    As for learning the political ropes here:

    Appears that Batts tried to persuade Judge Henderson to lighten up on the NSA monitoring because it resulted in less agressive policing but all it got him was the Judge threatening to take over OPD personally.

    On a cheerier note, chronic unemployment rates of sub sub groups most likely to commit crimes might be more usefull than income levels to see what the correlation is between poverty and types of crime.

  67. mel

    >“I remember when Oakland had 175 homicides in 1992, and I remember when Oakland had 60 homicides in one of Jerry Brown’s years as Mayor”

    I think the year of 60 homicides was 1999. Brown had just taken office so I don’t think he had anything to do with that. Especially since that rate had been dropping since its high in 1992, and I think it was 70 or 80 in 1998, before Brown took office. By the time Brown left office, homicides had shot back up to early/mid-90s levels.

    >“The crime rates change but the image stays the same.”

    I remember being “OK” with Oakland’s image in the mid/late 90s because rentals were easy to find and rents were low. I definitely noticed a change around 1999 as the tech boom was in full swing, rentals started becoming more scare and rents were higher; many new residents had started spilling over from San Francisco. I used to call them the “Oakland’s not so bad after all” crowd because that’s what I’d often hear.

    >“What good did all the work that went in reducing the crime rate for 2010 … when we are once again being labeled as being the “5th most dangerous city”?”

    It’s all relative. If crime is dropping as much or faster elsewhere, Oakland will stay at the top. Oakland has to double-down. Triple- or quadruple-down even.

    >“SF’s african american population plummeted over the last 15 years”

    I recently studied demographic changes in 30 Bay Area cities. One of the interesting things is that of the 30 cities, between 2000 and 2008 only San Francisco, Berkeley and Brentwood had any increase in white population.

    Of the 27 that lost white population, Livermore, Oakland, and Vacaville had the smallest drops (2% or under).

    The largest drops in white population were in San Jose (-38,000, -12%), Fremont (19,000, -23%), Hayward (-11,500, -29%), and Antioch (-11,000, -22%). Others with drops over 10% were Newark, Milpitas, Pittsburg, Daly City, San Leandro, Fairfield, Vallejo, Concord, Foster City, Sunnyvale, Redwood City, Union City, and Santa Clara.

    Of the 30 cities, the black population rose in 17 with the greatest gains (over 10%; largest to smallest gain) in Brentwood, Antioch, Pleasanton, San Leandro, Fairfield, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Livermore, Fremont, Newark, Vacaville, and Alameda. The largest numerical gains were in Antioch, San Leandro, Fairfield, Brentwood, Vacaville, and Fremont.

    The largest drops in black population (over 10%) were in Daly City (-1,500, -29%), Benicia (-400, -26%), Oakland (-35,000, -23%), Berkeley (-3,500, -22%), Richmond (-8,000, -21%), San Francisco (-9,000, -13%), Foster City (-100, -13%) and Vallejo (-3,000, -11%).

    Latino population rose in all except Union City and Milpitas, where the drops were very small. Asian population rose in all except Concord and Daly City – both with small drops, and Oakland which had the only significant drop (-6,000 or -9%).

    I could parse and dissect these movements against income information a bit more, but considering the economic character of these cities, the types of housing stock, and the types of housing development in each over the past ten years, there are some conclusions to draw.

  68. mel

    With that last sentence I was trying to juxtapose two opposing generalizations about crime. One, from the more liberal side, that crime is a result of poverty. The other, from a more conservative side, that crime is a result of immorality. I believe the truth is in the middle, but not necessarily half-way (I lean left). I elaborated more in the post following that sentence. While there are definitely correlations between poverty and crime, just because you have high poverty doesn’t mean you necessarily will have high crime. I pointed out Brownsville as an example (granted, it’s more of a rural-esque small city rather than a larger, urban one). So, the “tweak” is to not become complacent thinking, for example, that as longer as there’s X amount of poverty in Oakland or Bayview or Richmond, that there will be X amount of crime. The other problem is that when these messages filter down to younger people – “you might commit crimes because you are poor” – they might feel justified in committing crime. They aren’t separating academic analysis from truism.

    BTW, I shouldn’t have said “debunked” because that implies the convention is not true. I should’ve said “de-emphasized.” I think in the Bay Area that message is put out there more than perhaps other places, so it might be helpful to tone it down even if there is some truth to it.

    While I’m correcting myself, I meant to say rentals were “scarce” not “scare” in the post above. In an earlier post, using an equation as analogy for roots of crime I said that Y = population and is fixed. Technically it is not fixed as population numbers change. I also refer to a phrase as “roundabout” when “circular” was the more accurate term.

    Regarding the prison rules, I’m not sure about the free weights, but there is still what amounts to regularly scheduled recreational/leisure time. Prison might seem horrible to you and me but to many people, considering what their lives are like right now, it’s not that bad. I find it funny that in a lot of these “scared straight” type lectures, the main way they think to scare young men away from prison life is to bring up the prospect of forcible man-on-man sex. That’s not much of a deterrent for some (and it’s not always forced).

    Re: housing. Affordable housing is not necessarily subsidized housing. I agree with your thoughts on subsidized housing and don’t support increases in such housing. I do support incentivizing private development of affordable family-oriented housing.

    For example, if the city sold Chabot Municipal Golf Course to a developer (which I think they should), I’d allow them to build a good amount of estate-style homes in exchange for also building an equal number or total square footage of townhomes in North, East, or West Oakland geared towards middle-income families. The profits from the larger homes for upper income residents (bringing in more high income residents and taxes for the City) should be enough incentive for the developer to accept the smaller profit margins from the middle class townhomes, or townhomes and condos geared toward those with working class incomes.

    I think Batts knows what he’s doing: http://www.theoakbook.com/MoreDetail.aspx?Aid=4232&CatId=8. And saying he needs more cops is, as always, a good CYA move in case crime doesn’t drop much or at all. I still say that most city police chiefs will do that on a consistent basis. Re: politics, I think the Oscar Grant thing accelerated his learning curve.

  69. mel

    >”Funny that ultra liberal SF historically performed the ethnic cleansing that some Oaklander’s wanted to do but never pulled off”

    Looking at the demo change #s above, I don’t see much difference between Oakland and SF in this regard.

    I had avoided clicking the link to that SFBayview article because I figured I’ve read whatever they had to say 1,000 times already. I decided to read it anyway, and boy was I right.

    These types of articles fall into two categories. (1) The ones from black writers, institutions, or media which are usually hyperbolic, alarmist, portraying blacks as victims of “genocide”, “ethnic cleansing”, racism or unscrupulous sell-out blacks. These articles are usually very sloppy with data to the point of inaccuracy (which ties back to the hyperbole). Example: This article claims that “According to a 2005 demographic study, fewer than 40,000 (San Franciscans) are Black.” No citation of what study or where the data comes from, but it does cite a source article which claims: “According to a 2005 demographic study, there are probably less than 40,000 Black people left in the city.” Keyword being “probably.” A maybe turned into a definitive. Still no mention of what study or data source. Yet anyone can look up Census/ACS data to see that as of 2008 there was an estimated 58,000 blacks in SF (7.3%); in 2005 there were probably about 62,000.

    The other type are (2) the ones from “mainstream” (white) writers, institutions, or media which usually feign an air of objective analysis, yet almost invariably have a typical slant: that blacks can’t survive in the newly white-friendly dynamic urban centers amongst the professionals and the immigrants who serve them, so the blacks must flee to simpler, more comfortable surroundings that they can handle. These reports usually lack broader context (like parallel white flight, for example, or movements that don’t match the claimed trend), and often manipulate some data or ignore other data to serve their predetermined point. Sensing the subtext of such articles, I can’t help but to picture a party host saying to a guest “Ooh, I’m sooo sorry you have to leave us right now,” as the host gently rushes the guest towards the door. IOW, the changes are seen as a passive solution to The Negro Problem.

    Reality is, as usual, somewhere in between. People move all the time. Our cities are in a constant state of transition. Whether people are running away from something, sensing better opportunities elsewhere, or sense that their needs/wants aren’t being met in one place but can in another. I can’t begrudge blacks who decide they’d rather (or need to) live in Brentwood, Fairfield, Vacaville, Fremont, or Tracy versus San Francisco, Richmond, or Oakland.

    This would all be a non-issue if it was a win-win: Families get a better life in the suburbs while cities (re)gentrify and get increased tax revenue and lower crime. But looking at the trends in demographics, city finances, and crime over the last ten years, I can’t say that happened. Cities swapping out middle class families of four with 1 or 2 single, childless yuppie/hipsters won’t do much to improve the lot of a city. Swapping out native-born working class families of any ethnicity with poor immigrant families isn’t going to do much to eradicate poverty and other social problems.

    Now with the last decade in the rearview mirror, Oakland needs to own up its failings and poor focus. Eschewing the type of business and retail development that provides jobs, sales tax revenue, and needed goods and services leaves missed opportunities on many fronts and is ultimately a disservice to citizens, especially the most vulnerable.

    Refashioning city centers as a playground for single straight and gay urbanites is all good and a fun, sexy idea, but does not address the longstanding urban problems that contributed to white flight, black flight, middle class flight and who knows what’s next. How long before the young singles just move when they get bored, get married, get a new job, or get too fearful of persistent crime and disorder? Or they decide that Austin or Portland or Pasadena or San Jose are cheaper and safer with just as good of nightlife?

    How much longer will Oakland politicians be passive on jobs and business development? How much longer will they treat non-profits orgs as viable surrogates for stable families and thriving businesses?

    When will citizen’s stop worrying more about crime’s affect on a city’s image than its affect on people’s lives? How much longer will councils/boards debate Happy Meals, male circumcision, anti-war declarations, and the like while black and brown teenaged boys are literally having their lives ended on a weekly basis? Lives ended. “Perhaps their killers did not paint or dance enough” “They were poor minorities … that just happens” “Were they circumcised?” “Oh whatever … isn’t there a new bar opening down the street, next to the shiny new condos?”

  70. Born in Oakland

    “How much longer will Oakland politicians be passive on jobs and business development? How much longer will they treat non-profit orgs as viable surrogates for stable families and thriving businesses?”

    How much longer indeed?

  71. Navigator

    What really harms Oakland economically is its image. We’ve established that crime doesn’t necesserally affect retail moving into an area as we’ve seen in downtown SF. It so happens that most people don’t associate downtown SF with crime but do associate downtown Oakland with crime.

    I think racism plays a big part in keeping Oakland from attaining its potential as the geographic and transportation center in the Bay Area. Oakland’s “bad” reputation comes from the fact that Oakland is still perceiveced as a “Black” city even though the actual demographics don’t show this. That’s the bottom line. The blacker the city is perceived to be the lousier the reputation regardless of the actual crime rates in certain areas of said city. It maybe that the Bay Area is actually more racist then certain other parts of the country.

  72. Navigator

    Also, when we talk about businesses not investing in Oakland, we are talking about large businesses run by White men. There’s been a great deal of investment in Oakland by Latino and Asian imigrants.

    These newcomers took the discarded White flight areas of Oakland and turned them into vibrant and thriving ethnic neighborhood commercial areas. White busineses will only invest in White or gentrified areas of Oakland. Even in these areas of Oakland there is a stigma attached to being in “Oakland.”

    The Real Estate business is constantly distancing itself from “Oakland” when advertising or promoting properties. It’s always on the “Berkeley border” or “next to Piedmont.’ Even when the property is actually in Oakland, like the Claremont area above the Claremont Hotel, they advertise the home as “Berkeley” becuse of a shared zip code. Yeah, it’s white racism that holds Oakland back.

  73. len raphael

    Come on Nav, the only color of money in real estate is green unless our city mothers and fathers have gotten involved.

    I haven’t checked, but would think a good chunk of the millions of bad RDA real estate loans were to asians.

  74. Navigator


    It bothers me when I see a home in the Claremont hills section of the North Oakland hills advertised as “Berkeley” simply because they have a Berkeley mailing address due to a shared Berkely zip code even though the property is within Oakland city limits and they pay Oakland taxes. Some Realtors with integrity will advertise the homes in the area as Oakland while other more pretentious Realtors will try to deny Oakland this beautiful neighborhood because they perceive a Berkeley address to be more desirable even though this fantastic area is really Oakland. They’re perpetuating anti-Oakland stigma which basically comes from Oakland being perceived as a “Black” city by the snobby judgemental class.

    Also, I’ve seen homes in Oakland near Berkeley advertised as being on the “Berkeley border.” But, I’ve never seen a home in Berkeley next to College Avenue near the Rockridge District being advertised as being “on the Oakland border.”

    It probably has to do with green like you say. These Realtors figure that they can make more green by promoting “White” Berkeley while distancing themselves from “Black” Oakland.

    This is really why a beautiful city with a great climate in the geographic center of one of the wealthiest regions in the Nation struggles economically. We have too many people denying Oakland its own neighborhoods and we have too many people ashamed of admitting that they live in Oakland thereby perpetuating the anti-Oakland stigma. Hell, we even have a basketball team that wont take our name. How much more evidence do we need?

  75. len raphael

    Nav, sounds like a realtor looking for a law suit.
    Years ago when i lived at the top of Panoramic Way directly above Berkeley, had a Berkeley mailing address but all the lousy services were Oakland. Bought my own fire hose. It was good training for living in the flats 30 years later.

  76. len raphael

    Mel, you left off my favorite city council achievement this year: boycotting Arizona.
    The way the council members gave each other high fives you’d have thought they had granted amnesty to all undocumented immigrants.

    I still don’t understand how they exempted the A’s from the boycott.

    Re drop in black population. My understanding is that the biggest drop in SF black population was in the 70′s to 80′s during urban removal.

    Do you have easy access to what the percent drops in black populations for SF vs Oakland vs Berkeley over the last 30 years?

    Would guess that another major reason dinks of all sexual orientation leave oakland is because of the public schools.

  77. ralph

    I am not sure why dinks and sinks would be leaving Oakland unless they are planning on kids. But at the same time, I see a number of DIF moving into and staying in Oakland. I do know that white DIF leave SF all the time and no one makes a fuss about it.

  78. Dax

    ralph, dinks I found. Sinks I can figure out.

    White DIF… ?

    Is that a Caucasian female who works two jobs?

    Or, white double income family?

    Or the former mayor of San Francisco who spends most of her time in Washington DC?

  79. ralph

    Yes, there really should be a good abbreviation for dual income families. I was testing for understanding in context.

  80. Dax

    The Oakland City Council policies and actions regarding private sector employment in Oakland, from 1998 through 2010 and beyond.

    Should the City Of Oakland’s policies be formulated to encourage the private sector employment of citizens and legal residents over that of undocumented workers?

    Or should the city have a policy that encourages private sector employers to treat all applicants equally, regardless of status?

    How about the city’s own hiring practices?

    Do any of the actions of the city in this arena have any impact on population movements to and from Oakland?

  81. mel

    >>My understanding is that the biggest drop in SF black population was in the 70′s to 80′s during urban removal.<>Do you have easy access to what the percent drops in black populations for SF vs Oakland vs Berkeley over the last 30 years<>Mel, you left off my favorite city council achievement this year: boycotting Arizona.<<

    Oh yes. I cringe, I cringe. But I guess CC thinks boycotts keep Oaklanders from getting mugged, raped, and murdered. Low-hanging fruit sure does taste good. Symbolism feels warmer and fuzzier than measured results and outcomes.

  82. mel

    Ugh. I don’t know what happened above. Perhaps unintended coding.

    What I was saying was:

    Re: SF Blk Pop. I think there has been a steady drop since the 70s. I don’t know the exact numbers, but what I’ll say off the top of my head is that in the 70s and 80s there was more of an all-around contraction in population. That is, IIRC, the overall city population dropped for quite a while which included white flight. What’s unique about the past decade is that while black population has continued to drop, other ethnic groups’ population has risen, including whites.

    Re: SF, Oak, Berk trends since ’80. I’d have to research for specific numbers, but again off the top of my head since 1980 I’d say there has been slow-n-steady decline in each city which then accelerated with the suburban housing boom and rise in city housing costs (late 90s to mid 00s). In the 70s cities had become majorly or majority black mainly because of white flight more than black growth. Black flight actually started in the 70s also but was not as sudden and widespread as white flight (income disparity and housing discrimination had to abate over time). Similarly, whites moving back to central cities is occurring more markedly than blacks doing so. The new 2010 numbers should be interesting. Who knows what shifts have occurred in the last few years with the jobs and housing markets such as they are and have been.