A shrinking Oakland?

I was excited yesterday to see the Census Bureau release a whole bunch of numbers for California. I am particularly excited about looking at how Oakland has changed neighborhood by neighborhood, but those figures are going to take a while to go through.

But the large scale numbers are interesting too, so let’s take a look at those today.

Shrinking Oakland

Most of you have probably already seen that unlike most California cities, Oakland’s population went down. The chart below shows the 20 largest cities in California with their 2000 and 2010 population counts, along with how much they changed.

California Cities population change 2000 to 2010

We also got race data in yesterday’s release. The chart below shows how Oakland’s 2010 population breaks down by race.

Oakland 2010 population by race

Compared with 2000, Oakland has fewer African American residents, and more white and Asian residents. The Latino population also increased. The chart below shows how each category changed since the last Census.

Oakland Population by race, 2000 and 2010

This one isn’t really related to Oakland, but the Census Bureau provided this little map showing how California’s counties have changed over the past few decades, and I thought it was nifty enough to be worth sharing.

Is Oakland undercounted?

So. While yesterday was an exciting day for data geeks, it was not such a great day for Oakland. Just like that, the official Census estimate of Oakland’s population dropped nearly 20,000 people, from 409,189 to 390,724. Ouch.

The notion that Oakland is shrinking was especially surprising considering the California State Department of Finance’s estimates, which showed Oakland at over 430,000 people as of January 2010 (PDF). Not that the State can’t be wrong (I’ve been thinking the last two years seemed on the high side). But 40,000 people is a big error.

I have heard some people already that Oakland was obviously undercounted and should challenge the figure. Yeah, odds are Oakland is undercounted. That’s a safe bet to make without even seeing any numbers — after all, Oakland is full of exactly the populations that are notoriously hard to count.

We certainly wouldn’t be the only city to challenge. After all, a low count can deprive the City of millions of dollars in federal funding. I know Houston has already said they intend to challenge their count.

113 thoughts on “A shrinking Oakland?

  1. Robert

    V, aren’t these the actual numbers used for reapportionment, and not the statistically adjusted numbers used for redistribution of wealth?

  2. Art

    I’ve been waiting for these numbers with excitement too. I was particularly interested in the second table the Census released, which peels the Hispanic/Latino numbers off of the race numbers to give overall race/ethnicity percentages (yay Census Bureau! So sick of having to do this manually with old data!)—there, Oakland comes in with roughly 25% Hispanic or Latino, 25% white, 27% Black or African American, 16% Asian, 3.5% two or more races, and under a percent each for the remaining groups. Really intriguing to see the shifts.

    A couple notes on the drop in population, though—look at the housing vacancy rates! Nearly 10% of all housing units—16,000 units—were vacant last spring. In contrast, when the 2000 Census was taken, only 4% (or 6,500ish units) were vacant. There’s been some housing added since 2000—but not *that* much! (In 2000, there were 151K occupied units; in 2010, there were 154K.)

    So even if you knock off 3K for the new occupied units, that still leaves 6,500 extra empty units. If you figure 1.5 people might have been living in each (which is conservative given the city average), that’s nearly 10,000 missing people. (2000 Census was 400K for Oakland, so that fills much of the gap.)

    Now, of course I have no clue whether the vacant units are unsold condos or foreclosed homes or something in between…but I’m willing to bet that the foreclosure crisis is playing a big role in the numbers here relative to cities that have not been hit as badly.

    (I do think there’s an undercount going on too, but arguably no more of an undercount than the 2000 Census had—and hopefully less, although the hard-to-count groups may have grown proportionally—so that’s probably not solely responsible for the drop.)

  3. Becky

    Do you have any thoughts as to why the African-American population dropped in Oakland (and in Alameda County, overall), while it actually increased overall in the state of California? I’ve been curious about that.

    I have heard some people already that Oakland was obviously undercounted and should challenge the figure. Yeah, odds are Oakland is undercounted. That’s a safe bet to make without even seeing any numbers — after all, Oakland is full of exactly the populations that are notoriously hard to count.

    I only just started digging through the census site. What populations are those, exactly? I’m guessing immigrants (due to language issues and concerns about legal status), but I haven’t seen a full discussion of this yet.

    I think you do need all the numbers to argue that Oakland is being undercounted — because if Oakland is undercounted, so are cities with similar demographics. Looking at the list of cities with a population loss, or a growth rate lower than California as a whole, undercounting Latinos and/or immigrants could be a factor in L.A., Long Beach, and Santa Ana. But then what about Chula Vista and Bakersfield, which have huge measured growth and large Latino populations?

    As you said, though, 40,000 people — 10%! — is a huge swing. The error bar on these numbers should be a lot smaller than that.

  4. Becky

    Art, I think Bakersfield and Riverside both were harder hit by the foreclosure crisis than Oakland was, and they both had growth.

    That sounds like staggering growth in vacancy rates, though.

  5. len raphael

    So why was it that just a few months ago when i repeated the city clerk telling us that Oakland’s population had dropped below 400k, that a bunch of people here all confidently stated and gave backup for how our population had grown, not contracted?

    -len raphael, temescal

  6. Dax


    “African-American population dropped in Oakland (and in Alameda County, overall), while it actually increased overall in the state of California? I’ve been curious about that.”

    I think you are mistaken about overall state data for African Americans.
    I think you’ll find that population also decreased statewide, as did the white population.

    From the LA Times
    “The two other major demographic groups were in retreat: Non-Hispanic whites declined more than many demographers had predicted, dropping 5.4% to just under 15 million. The number of blacks declined nearly 1% to nearly 2.2 million residents”

  7. Patrick M. Mitchell

    Although it was expected, the huge decrease in Oakland’s African American population is kind of mindblowing – a loss of 23.4% of that population.

  8. len raphael

    if you’re big on TOD and a smartgrow advocate, you look at the shift of poplulation to the cheap burbs as more reason to plan for the “inevitable” shift back to a denser vibrant Oakland.

    if you’re skeptical that people are going to choose to live in a crowded city with bad services no matter how much it vibrates with night life and great restaurants, then you might consider holding on to the few well to do residents that you have, instead of densifying.

    Any stats in that census to back up Quan’s statement that empty nesters are moving back to Oakland?

    -len raphael, temescal nimby

  9. Dax

    Yes Patrick. A 23% drop is huge.

    And the reasons for such a decline.
    I wonder if the City Council members will offer explanations since most of them were in office during this entire time.

    Might city policies have had some impact?

    Perhaps a good reporter will inquire about such matters. Go to the neighborhoods, see what the people say.

  10. ralph

    Anecdotal evidence indicates that empty-nesters are moving into the urban core. Apparently, the older set wants to go where the people dance; they love the nightlife; they got to boogie!

    I suspect there are any number of reasons that you see a decline in the A-A population. I am more interested in understanding the A-A demographic that Oakland is attracting.

  11. James

    In order to understand why black folks are leaving Oakland, you must first understand the history of why black folks came to Oakland in the first place.

    Oakland did not have much of a black population until World War II. Then black people started to arrive in droves to work in factories and military related positions to support the war effort. After WWII, black folks stayed to support the Cold War. Well, the Cold War is over. The factories gradually shut down and the military abandoned Oakland and the East Bay in the mid 1990s. The jobs that attracted blacks are gone and so the progeny of those intrepid Americans are leaving.

    The future of Oakland will belong to those who can either get white-collar jobs mainly supporting health care, biotech, green tech and a little info tech, or the shrinking number of blue-collar industrial jobs, or skilled workers like plumbers and electricians, or service workers. For blacks folks, that basically means either do something different or go somewhere different.

  12. livegreen

    A lot of gainfully employed white collar and blue collar employed blacks are also leaving. Many have followed white families to safer parts of the east bay.

    It simply takes a lot of hard work to rebuild a community after it’s fallen on hard times. A lot harder than maintaining it to begin. Oakland is shooting itself in the foot. Or, literally, shooting itself to death…

  13. J

    Thats actually kinda sad really. It basically shows that blacks have yet to evolve beyond blue collar jobs despite the better access to college and education to reach higher level jobs. as a black man that actually troubles me.

  14. James

    But lots of blacks did get their education and did find those white-collar jobs. They just found them in places like Washington, DC and Atlanta, GA. In fact, many went to historically black colleges and universities in those areas and pretty much stayed. Of course, that probably accounts for a minority of the 33,000 blacks who left Oakland. Something similar is happening with blue-collar non-Hispanic whites as well.

    Another factor to consider: the real estate bubble. The people who were offered sub-prime and other “funny” mortgages are disproportionately black. Some decided that they might be better off buying a home in Hercules or Antioch than continuing to rent in Oakland.

  15. Becky

    Dax, the chart above shows that the A-A population increased by 1.6% in California. Maybe the LA Times numbers were for LA County? Anyway, it’s clearly a sharper drop in Oakland than elsewhere.

  16. Art

    @Becky, Riverside and Bakersfield do also have high vacancy rates (though neither is near 10%)—but if you look at the total housing units, Bakersfield added an astounding 32,000 new units (hello, housing boom!) to go from 88K in 2000 to 120K in 2010. So even with high foreclosure/vacancy rates, they should still be recording pretty significant population growth. Oakland and Riverside both added 12-13K units, but Riverside’s vacancy rate was a lot lower so they had 10,000 more occupied units in 2010 than in 2000 (versus Oakland with only 3,000 more). I’m also guessing that more of the Bakersfield and Riverside new units were large single-family homes, too (versus Oakland—heavy on condos, apartments and townhomes except for some East Oakland developments) but would have to look at the more detailed data for that.

  17. Dax

    Becky, the LA Times article was speaking specifically about the state. I just read it again.


    I don’t know why they state there is a African American decline while the chart seems to indicate some kind in increase in “total black population”. BTW, that chart is rather confusing if you study it carefully. Is the change in the actual population or are they talking about the change in percent of the state.
    Contra Costa Times reports state AA share at 5.8% while the chart says 6.2%…???

    As to why the African American population in Oakland has declined 23.4%, I would have to think that employment opportunity is the biggest single factor.

    With that in mind, I can’t help but notice a rather significant change in the workers holding the jobs that were once a mainstay for that portion of the African American population who had lower educational levels, and less skills.

    To me, in many lower skilled, less lucrative occupations, the change is apparent.
    Lots of new competition, for the same jobs.

    Some measures of the city council would seem to have encouraged a even greater supply of workers to view Oakland as a attractive location.
    I don’t think many city council members would discuss the impact this change has had on job opportunities for certain communities.

    Yet the exodus is clear.
    Perhaps there should be a article on why?

  18. Livegreen

    Census: Blacks leaving urban core for East Bay suburbs

    “The reason for the flight to the suburbs?
    ‘From what I’ve observed over the past 10 years, I think it’s redevelopment and violence,’ said the Rev. Andre Shumake, the Richmond Improvement Association’s president.”

  19. Art

    @Dax, the difference is that the CoCoTimes is taking the Latino population off. Numbers are 6.2 percent of all races not accounting for Hispanic or Latino, and 5.8 percent once that group is peeled off. Because of the wonkiness of the race/ethnicity questions, you have to identify a race first and then, separately, say whether you are Hispanic or Latino, so some Latino/as mark white or AA or “some other race” for that question. If you have the raw data, you can take those individuals out and the #s you have left are white-non-Latino, or AA-non-Latino, etc. Thankfully the Census folks did this math this time around, so it’s the info in the “Hispanic or Latino and Race” table.

    So based on the raw 2000 numbers, the AA number dropped from 2.26M to 2.16M—BUT some of those 2000 AA identifiers are probably also Hispanic/Latino, since they didn’t split the numbers in the reports for the 2000 Census. (You can do it manually if you have the individual records and I’m sure the numbers are floating around somewhere, but not sure where.)

    I hope that all makes sense, since it makes my head hurt!

  20. Frank T.

    Where do you get the 409,189 total. The chart above lists the 2000 Oakland total as 399,484. With a drop of 8,760 not 20,000.

  21. Navigator

    Many African American families left Oakland during the housing boom. When the housing market was hot homes in the East Oakland flats were going for 350,000 to 400,000. People cashed in and moved to larger homes and better schools in places like Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Tracy, Manteca, Modesto, Turlock, etc. You have to remember that African Americans lived in the roughest neighborhoods in Oakland. For many it was an easy choice.

    Having said that, I think Oakland is becoming a wealthier and younger city. The demographics have changed drastically in the last ten years. Oakland is becoming like San Francisco with many households with young people with no children. That’s the biggest reason for the population drop. We have fewer families in Oakland and smaller households.

    A comparison with SF shows that San Francisco lost 19% of its African American population while its Caucasion population remained flat. By contrast, Oakland’s Caucasian population increased by 8% while losing 24% of its African American population.

  22. Izzy Ort

    Anecdotally, when I was looking to buy in Oakland in 2004, and I spent a long time doing it, as the market then was insane, I spoke with several older African American homeowners in North Oakland whose kids were grown, and they were cashing out and moving to the South.

    In one case all their kids went to college in Georgia and stayed there afterwards.

    With what the parents were clearing on their N. Oakland houses they could get twice the house for half the money in Georgia, in a quieter/safer neighborhood, close to the kids, and, presumably, grandkids eventually, with one or two hundred grand left over. A no brainer.

    It seems that this was part of a broader trend.

    Chicago has also lost a lot of population in the past ten years, which is being attributed in significant part to reverse migration of African Americans to the South.

    From an AP article in February:

    Historically, the South was home to roughly 90 percent of the nation’s blacks from 1790 until 1910, when African-Americans began to migrate northward to escape racism and seek jobs in industrial centers such as Detroit, New York and Chicago during World War I. After the decades-long Great Migration, the share of blacks in the South hit a low of about 53 percent in the 1970s, before civil rights legislation and the passage of time began to improve the social climate in the region.

    The current 57 percent share of blacks living in the South is the highest level since 1960.


  23. James

    So, what does this mean for Oakland’s black middle class? Many working class, especially those with children, moved to Antioch or someplace else where they could have a larger house and yard. The older members sold their homes and moved back to the South. Is there still a black middle class in Oakland?

  24. Navigator

    Years ago there were solid AA middle class neighborhoods around the Sequoia Country Club, the Hansom Avenue area off of Keller and neighborhoods near the Oakland Zoo. Also, Trestle Glen had many middle class African Americans. Right now I’m not sure if there is a large middle class in Oakland. I’m not sure how much the East Oakland hills neighborhoods have changed in the last ten years.

  25. Dax

    I live in the East Oakland hills area and I can assure you, my neighborhood has a very substantial African American middle class.
    Not all that much different than in 2000 although probably a bit older on average with fewer school aged children.
    But the local school is still filled with children of African Americans.
    With open enrollment I can’t say exactly what percentage are from the traditional boundaries for that school.

    Some of you folks should drive around more neighborhoods in East Oakland instead of reading or hearing about them in the paper.
    Anywhere from Maxwell Park to Grass Valley and Elysian Fields.
    Fairly stable neighborhoods, many of them unchanged for the past dozen years.
    Everyone knows their neighbors.
    No one is rushing away.
    Just as likely to die of old age than to move away for some reason.

  26. len raphael

    Dax, isn’t that part of the point, that educated young blacks who grew up here, don’t settle here, and AM newcomers are staying away?

    But then that can be said of most people except the Nav who just can’t wait to move back and enjoy our safe vibrating street life.

  27. Chris Kidd

    I saw in the Trib, that on further number crunching, that the vast majority of population loss in Oakland came from East Oakland, while gains were made in downtown, North Oakland, and the East Oakland Hills. Specifically, over 5,000 more people moved into downtown. I found Joel Kotkin’s naysaying particularly amusing. What, Robert Bruegmann wasn’t available to shill for sprawl?

    We’d need further research for why population went down in East Oakland. Part of it could be economic, part foreclosure, part could be people illegally “doubling up” on homes to bring down the cost of housing and thus get undercounted for fear of reprisal. It could also be something as simple as the size of households decreasing. Most likely, it’s a mix of all of them.

    Considering that East Oakland is our most “suburbanized” neighborhood (tract homes, subdivisions, separated uses, cul-de-sacs, majority post-WWII housing), I can hardly envision the census figures as a repudiation of smart growth or urban infill. Areas of high livability, quality of life, walkability & urbanity (like the temescal, downtown, grand lake) all saw increases in population. Areas most resembling suburbs (from a land-use perspective) saw population loss in Oakland.

    Oakland should continue to encourage the development of attractive urban spaces where appropriate (downtown, transit corridors, etc.) and, where appropriate, maintain and grow “traditional neighborhoods” (which is New Urbanist shorthand for pre-WWII development patterns) in areas like Piedmont Ave, the temescal, the glenview, dimond, laurel, etc. The thread that these two styles of development share is their emphasis on walkability, availability of transit, mixed-use, and varied building typology. The main difference between the two is scale.

  28. James

    I’m one of the odd balls who moved into East Oakland in 2007 while other folks were moving out. It makes it harder for my neighbors to rent out their townhouses to decent tenants. On the other hand, I hope that we will replace quantity with quality of residents.

    I must say I really like the East Oakland Hills area, especially the different Sequoyah neighborhoods. Every time I get frustrated with Oakland (which is often), I go up there and it restores my hope. I’m not a native Oaklander, but I have hope for Oakland.

  29. Patrick M. Mitchell

    Is it me or is the Sfgate.com article “Oakland’s Black Population Falls 25%” littered with mistakes? Among the most egregious, it states that blacks remain the largest single racial group in Oakland…but doesn’t that title now belong to those who identify as white?

  30. Chris Kidd

    @Patrick – “White” includes both latino (who haven’t identified as “other” or “native american”) and non-latino. For non-latino whites, it’s closer to 22-25%.

  31. James

    When did Latinos become white? Can I be white, too? Just kidding, but it seems our government arbitrarily defines race sometimes.

    That being said, I like the balance of ethnicities in Oakland.

  32. Chris Kidd

    @James – the seemingly arbitrary nature of the census split between “hispanic origin” and “ethnicity” goes back to the 50s and 60s. The idea was that you could be hispanic and of European ethnicity, hispanic and of African ethnicity, or hispanic and of Native American ethnicity. Having, say, a Dominican of African ancestry report in the census as being “African American” would then under count those of hispanic origin. So they split it into two categories.
    It has made life very difficult for demographers ever since.

  33. Patrick M. Mitchell

    So, a subset of people are both “White” and “Latino of any race” in the posted graphics? That’s not in the least bit helpful.

  34. ralph

    Chris calls it arbitrary. A cynical black person probably calls it clever ways for non-black Africans to escape the label African-American.

  35. Art

    @Patrick, if you look at the second set of tables the Census offers for any given tract or city (labeled “Hispanic or Latino and Race”) it splits the groups. You have to be working with the original data to do this because you need to know that Person A checked white and also Latino, Person B checked only white, Person C checked “some other race” and also Latino, etc. It would be great to look at graphics based on that, though, since Oakland’s numbers do change quite a bit. It’s roughly a quarter each white, AA, and Latino (but the black or AA group is just a couple of percentage points higher than the other two). I do wish they had a breakdown between African and African-American, though, since in my neighborhood, the Ethiopian community has grown enormously over the past decade. I don’t think this year’s form asked anything about country of origin, though, so no good way to tell.

    Personally I’d love to see all the race and ethnicity categories collapsed and have people free to select those that are most appropriate, but that would probably complicate it even more with inadvertent double-counting and data that are hard to compare across different Census years. Ah, well.

  36. Chris Kidd

    @Art – the ACS has country of origin information, but the data isn’t as useful for extremely small groups because so much of the ACS is based on sample size and imputation. When you use the ACS 5 year summary data you can go as deep as census tract level.

  37. Art

    Thanks—I was more curious about specifically being able to look at the Census numbers in that context to peel off people who identify as black or African-American but are recent African immigrants, since I think that’s not who many people have in mind when they talk about Oakland losing African-American residents. (And the magnitude of that loss might be greater than we realize if it turns out that a significant number of AA respondents are new immigrants—though I doubt that’s the case, since they’re also a “hard-to-count” demographic.)

    The ACS is a tricky beast. It’s such a small sample size (relatively speaking) that it necessarily relies heavily on modeling, so I don’t find that it does a great job at picking up on neighborhood-level shifts like North Oakland’s rapidly growing Ethiopian community. (I’m a big ACS fan since the Census long-form data got pretty useless pretty quickly as it aged, so I’m not knocking it at all—it’s just not a great tool for measuring this specific type of change, because a random sample won’t necessarily pick it up and the model doesn’t know to assume it’s happening.)

  38. James

    It would be nice if we could see the income and educational levels of the black people who left Oakland during the 2000-2010 period. Was it the best and brightest? What it working class folks going to greener pastures? Considering that much of the black population drop was in the flatlands of East Oakland, I guess we could derives some info from that.

  39. Navigator

    I have to agree with Chris. I think that Oakland’s urbanized walkable neighborhoods are becoming some of the most desirable areas in the Bay Area. It’s great that downtown has grown by more than 5,000 residents.

    Neighborhoods like Rockridge, Piedmont Ave., Temescal, and Lake Shore/Grand are also very desirable places to live because of their density, walkability and proximity to shops and restaurants. Last week I took a four mile walk with my wife and we were able to hit Rockridge, Temescal and Piedmont Ave. It was a great walk and it really allows you to enjoy the city. As we came down College and turned on Alcatraz we notived that a brand new small housing development was holding an open house. The six homes were on Alcatraz and Benvenue. My wife wanted to take a look since we dream of moving back to Oakland in the near future. I guessed 650,000 as we were approaching the properties. Boy was I wrong. The smallest home was 990,000 with the largest home going for 1.2 million. The homes were very nice but only about 1700 square feet. These were not large opulent homes but they were very nice and full of charm.

    Len, Oakland is getting very expensive. I hope we can afford something in the walkable neighborhoods when the time comes. It seems that cities are becoming attractive again and the suburbs are where people with less means are moving. That’s the way it is in Europe. People want to live in Paris, London and Lisbon. The suburbs have more poverty and are much less desirable.

    Len you were right and I was wrong about Oakland’s population count.

  40. James

    As downtown/uptown and other parts of Oakland get more expensive, will any of it spill over into East Oakland?

  41. Navigator

    I think Eastlake will benefit because it’s dense and has good walkability. Fruitvale has good weather, great vibrancy along International Blvd, great food and the Fruitvale Bart station. Also, although East Oakland near Hegenberger and the Coliseum Bart station is much more suburban, the area west of 880 is looking very good and is becoming a mini economic power house. There is hope for dense development near the Bart station in the future. I see potential in East Oakland.

  42. James

    I hope new development near the Coliseum BART results in a safer station. Right now, there are some special looking characters there.

  43. livegreen

    I agree with Nav about Eastlake, and I’ll extend that Northeast all the way to 580. It will only be helped when O-High is made a closed campus.

    That whole segment of Oakland, from the Lake and lower Park Blvd. going towards 13th Ave. (with Bella Vista at the top) has been improving, with a very diverse middle class, hard working blue collar, and young artsy crowd.

    Too bad (for that area anyway) the Parkway doesn’t look like it’ll be in the same location…

  44. len raphael

    Nav, there’s a nicely rehabbed repo on 49th near Manilla in Temescal. Looks to be about 1,00 sf. Am told it will go on the market in a couple of weeks for low 500′s. They’ll be lucky to get over 500 because it is across the street from Oakland’s many OHA sites. (one of the better ones).

  45. Steve Lowe

    Art said, re the census, that he’d “love to see all the race and ethnicity categories collapsed and have people free to select those that are most appropriate.” What if we really took it to the extreme where one’s lineage was a whole lot more precisely understood, sort of like the Oprah DNA test where she found out she wasn’t from the Zulu tribe she hoped for but someplace in India instead – at least half of her anyway.

    Think of the money that would be generated from all the research (and the pride in family heritage), as opposed to the completely idiotic way it’s done today where “white” and “black” don’t say anything at about one’s ancestry. Anyone who’s ever known a Campbell or a(n) O’Hara knows that it’s damn near impossible to talk to these people without hearing about the bonny banks of somewhere or other and having to see some bit of ragged tartan that they’re carrying around and are rarely without.

    All those guys have usually paid good money to research their pasts and confirm their individuality, whereas the Census Bureau wants to confirm that black and white are still two separate groups the government can use to illustrate how wonderfully we’re all coming together as one big happy, sloppy family (or something). Meanwhile, blacks live on this side of town and whites on the other – but everybody goes to Chinatown to immerse themselves in the cultural offerings there…

    There’s a tremendous amount of pride to be mined in this country’s myriad lodes of ethnicity, and we ought to be making our origins more – not less – apparent so that every facet of our vaunted multiculturality will garner more respect, and our future as a nation of real individuals thus assured.

  46. Navigator


    That would trully be coming home for me since I grew up at a home in the 5300 block of Manila. I remember the projetcs when we’d cross 51st to get together for baseball at Emerson. They were much more run down back then and some of the kids we played ball with lived there. There were a couple of thugish kids who liked to pick on everyone but for the most part they were OK.

  47. Citypink

    I’m not sure I’d leap to the conclusion that Oakland has been undercounted. Almost all of the cities on the top 20 list have large numbers of “difficult to count” populations but most didn’t show population losses. I think there’s general agreement that the Census did a better job of outreach this time than in 2000.

    If you look at Long Beach, the city among the top 20 which is most similar to Oakland, it showed no growth.

    There are some trends which Oakland followed. The increase is vacancy rates happened all over. The number of vacant units statewide went up by 50%, in Alameda County by more than 100%. The number of vacant units went up several fold in Eastern Contra Costa County.

    The rise in vacancies in Oakland is not primarily a Downtown condo phenomenon. The Downtown census tracts had 408 vacant units in 2000, 794 vacant units in 2010. That’s almost a doubling, but it’s an absolute increase of only 400 vacant units, while citywide the number of vacant units went up by over 9,000. There are some new but unoccupied units outside Downtown, but I think this is more a reflection of the foreclosure crisis. I think it’s also a reflection of households that didn’t get formed–young people that didn’t move out on their own, people that moved in together etc.

    We don’t really have enough information yet to assess why the Black population in Oakland is falling. We do know that the loss seems roughly evenly split between the over 18 and under 18 population. So there are considerably fewer Black children living in Oakland, which is consistent with falling enrollments in OUSD.

    But we don’t know if that’s actually Black families moving out, like everybody speculates. It could be that the number of Black families with children hasn’t fallen as much, but each family simply has fewer children (which is consistent with the long term national trend).

    One thing we do know, regardless of Joel Kotkin’s evangelizing for the suburbs, is that this Census does not show a rush to the suburbs. Berkeley gained almost as much population between 2000 and 2010 as Fremont.Antioch and Pittsburg–historically big suburban destinations–grew only slightly faster than the state or their county as a whole.

    When you pull Latinos out of the other populations, the percentages of (non-Hispanic) Whites, Blacks, and Latinos in Oakland are very similar to each other, and the Asian population isn’t far behind. It’s an unusual demographic situation.

  48. Marie

    The analysis on the census is also interesting to me from the land-lording perspective and a resident. I’ve seen almost every home sold on our block (North Oakland) in the last 7 years go from Black owned to White owned. As the older generation dies, their children are not recognizing the positive changes in the neighborhood and therefore “unload” the properties to any buyer. The White families moving into the neighborhoods don’t want the Mega Mansions their parents had, with their big mortgages and +1 hour commutes. They are choosing to move to easy to commute neighborhoods with homes under 1,200SF — Just what Oakland offers.

    And just as the Italians left N.Oakland when 24 was built, to move to Walnut Creek (etc.), there is an ebb and flow for every generation. What we are seeing is a flow back to “neighborhoods” vs suburbs for all White collar workers who wish for shorter commutes and the financial ability to have a stay at home parent.

    {If you want more info on this generational trend, I highly recommend the book The Fourth Turning. VERY interesting reading.}

    The numbers we are seeing, therefore, are not so much about Black and White, but about generations and priorities. Sometimes one becomes complacent when on our home turf. We don’t recognize the benefits and wish for something greater—hence the movement from Oakland to Sac, Modesto, etc. What one generation covets, the other despises.

  49. livegreen

    At my kids school the breakdown is now very close to 20/20/20/20/20. In that order. Oakland’s diversity continues to evolve…

  50. len raphael

    Marie, given a choice between new nicely done condos in say 6 story building along say Tele or Bway, or 80 year old single fam houses in North Oakland flats, what do you figure the new residents you see would have chosen. Lets say price is comparable per square foot.


  51. Max Allstadt

    Let’s not say that the price is comparable per square foot, because it isn’t. And the more multi unit housing is built, the more diverse housing cost options become available, both with rentals and ownership.

    Also, price per square foot is a poor comparison. A four hundred square foot apartment will offer an affordable option that a house for rent simply cannot offer.

  52. Marie

    Len, it will all depend upon the school and BART location nearby. There are many “pressure waves” in the Oakland market, which includes transportation, schooling, and amenities. And, depending upon if the family is interested in a 10 or a 30 year investment… My gut says homes over condos as the younger generation is more risk adverse, but only time will tell.


  53. Naomi Schiff

    Not just risk averse: condo association fee averse. The thing is, although you can get condos incredibly cheap right now, some associations are in trouble due to foreclosures and short sales. A lot of them have really hefty condo dues, which can’t go down if they are to cover their expenses. So the economic equation isn’t entirely based on sales price. And, many of the buildings have had trouble collecting the dues when units are in foreclosure. (You can imagine dunning Deutsche Bank for a monthly fee.) I live in a mixed condo, small multi-unit, and houses neighborhood, and I don’t think the condos sell as fast. Probably some realtor reading this knows more in detail.

  54. Livegreen

    Not long ago condos weren’t much cheaper than a house. Don’t know if that’s changed.
    Did you see the article in today’s paper about rents? If rents increase dramatically then that’s when owning will start to make sense again. + by then not as many houses will be available…

  55. len raphael

    Max, I wasn’t trying to manipulate the answers, just trying to minimize the number of variables.

    But for sure, the mental model should include rentals adjusted for after tax cost.

    i agree with TB that the world is getting very flat. Was talking with a tech support guy today who works out of Cairo. He works for a very small Chicago tech co.

    I would not give a plug ruppee for those ABAG population growth projections for Oakland.


  56. Naomi Schiff

    Livegreen, Dark small first floor condo in building behind me was for sale for over a year, finally sold. Easy to find small nonluxury units like it in the 2s. But: the condo assn. fees can be 2-400/month.

    Len, I think probably we should come right out and ask the prognosticators at ABAG: a) what’s their schedule for updating their projections and b) whether they have any revised numbers available.

  57. Art

    @Naomi, ABAG is updating projections now—they do this every two years, so the new ones will be out sometime in 2011. It’s worth underscoring that the Bay Area Vision Plan that’s out now for review *isn’t* a forecast of how or where things will grow, but is simply a “vision” for how the region might achieve the 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goals.

  58. Naomi Schiff

    Thank you, Art! Good to know. I crave realism in planning, having come here to a chorus of Macy’s moving into City Center, having stayed here through a chorus of Macy’s moving into Uptown, endured the current Broadway Valdez fantasy of Macy’s moving into OnBeyondUptown. Now I’m hoping that some modest but achievable progress could be made instead of blockbuster plans that peter out.

  59. annoyed

    I read in some business publication years ago that Macy’s will never open in Oakland in order to protect their flagship Union Square store. That explains how Macys bought out I Magnin and Emporium and promptly put them out of business. In fact, just before Macys bought out Emporium, there was a report that the Oakland store was one of their most profitable. I don’t think it’s any accident that there is no Macys in Alameda, Emeryville or Oakland. So forget about Macys.

    So we now have more great places to eat but we still have a major shortage of great places to shop.

  60. len raphael

    Art, so ABAG’s numbers which have been quoted many times in support of why Oakland has to get ready for hefty population growth isn’t an expectation but a goal?

    Countless times smart growth people around here have quoted ABAG numbers like born agains quote the Book of Revelations.

    If enough people repeat something, it must be true.

    Guess I deserve that for not asking for citations.

    Someone should let AC Transit know.

    -len raphael, temescal

  61. Steve Lowe

    Annoyed? If you accept that premise and even assign only a 20% probability, you have to wonder whether the same logic applies to Forest City’s rationale regarding its development of Uptown at the very same time FC was also developing the San Francisco Centre. No Macy’s / Nordy’s-type retail here that could possibly compete with Bloomingdale’s in San Francisco, right? How much of the $1B+ leakage from Oakland was served up to Bloomie’s management to assure them that their bet on the Bay Area would pay off (plus the assurance that, as simultaneous developer of both areas, the revitalization of Oakland’s downtown retail would never happen)?

    Sorry if you think that the item never ever came up in boardroom discussions back in Chicago. TS, Oakland: you’ll always be SF’s lapdog, and Jerry won’t do diddley, even if you drive all the way up to Sacramento to show him your voting receipt.

    – S

  62. James

    Personally, I think there are no Macy’s stores in Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda (yet surprisingly in San Leandro) because the day of the large Macy’s type of department store is ending. They can’t really afford to expand, and I don’t think Oakland should try to pursue them. However, I think Oakland should try to get a Target that is COMPLETELY in Oakland (in addition to the one that is 1/3 in Oakland), a Costco along the 880 corridor, and some of the smaller specialty stores like Victoria’s Secret. And I would LOVE to see an Apple Store in Oakland.

  63. Navigator

    They’re building a huge new Bloomingdale’s in Walnut Creek. Oakland has been surrounded and redlined by the major retailors. Walnut Creek has 65,000 residents and has an incredible amount and variety of retail. That should be Oakland’s retail as the capital of the East Bay and the nexus of our regional transportation center. There’s plenty of disposable income in Oakland and the city is very accessible as the transportation and geographic center of the Bay Area. Oakland has more BART stations than any city in the Bay Area. Oakland has 8 Bart stations, three in downtown alone. It’s also redlining, racism, and economic protection of San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Emeryville, and San Leandro.

    They know that Oaklanders with disposable income will go through the tunnel or over the Bay Bridge to hand over their retail tax dollars to Walnut Creek and San Francisco’s coffers. They’re getting Oakland’s retail tax dollars while perpetuating anti-Oakland fear. There’s no benefit for them locating in Oakland when they get Oakland’s disposable income by appeasing those who don’t like Oakland and woudn’t come to Oakland to shop. On the other hand, it keeps Oakland’s unique and charming districts thriving.

    The Auto Row area would be a good place for large upscale retail for Oakland assuming we can boycott San Francisco and Walnut Creek and force upscale retailers to locate in Oakland in order to get at the disposable income in The Town.

  64. Max Allstadt

    I think the auto-row plan as it stands is fairly worthless.

    However, I think that there are definitely viable opporunties to bring large anchor retailers here. I also believe that some of the naysayers aren’t just skeptical, they’re also ideologically opposed to big retail, and rather than saying so, they’re using skepticism as a tactical talking point.

  65. Oakland Space Academy

    Per Len’s question @ 52, if we allow 6-story buildings along Telegraph and Broadway, we wouldn’t force Marie to guess an answer @ 54, the market would tell us the answer via the relative prices. That is the great thing about markets, they help inform us as to what people value.

  66. len raphael

    OSA, there were no height limits at all along Bway up until last week. None.

    During an era of unprecedented cheap money for development and for buyers.

    At the close of the era we’re told Oakland lost residents.

    If that wasn’t a market signal what is?


  67. James

    Bloomingdales and Nordstroms are high-end niche department stores. Check to see how Macy’s competitors like Sears and JC Penny are doing.

    Why does Walnut Creek have retail that Oakland doesn’t have? Lots of reasons, and I’m sure redlining is part of it. Do you know what another reason is? CRIME. Oakland is perceived as dangerous by most of the Bay Area, if not the country. Also, having a city council that seems more concerned about encouraging large marijuana growing than large retail is another factor. Also, I blame the people of Oakland to some extent. Safeway cannot even modify a store without citizens chiming in about random issues that block the big picture.

    And if you want to about being a lapdog, I don’t think Oakland is SF’s lapdog. Oakland is BERKELEY’s lapdog. It seems to me that the powers that be have close ties to Berkeley (Dellums was on the Berkeley city council, Quan is a UC Berkeley alum). As a result, they seem to have a bit of that Berkeley anti-big business, let’s make capitalism hard mentality. I wish Oakland’s government would step back a little and let developers just develop.

  68. Barry K

    James- Jean Quan was suspended from UC Berkeley. She is NOT listed as an alumni on UCB website directory of alumni. Her bio only states she attended UCB, not graduated.

    Navigator- It’s Neiman~Marcus, not Bloomindales (Federated owns Bloomindales and Macy’s) that is coming into Walnut Creek.

  69. len raphael

    James, less crime and less visible poor people are the only significant factors that make berkeley more attractive to retailers and many kinds of businesses than oakland.

    berkeley is one big rockridge or montclair when it comes to building approvals, so anti or pro business govt policy is not the factor.

    then there’s the little matter of k-12 public schools. while personally i think the superiority of berkeley public schooling is overrated, many young couples think otherwise.

    eg. the young developer who complained so loudly about the bway rezoning last recently, moved to berkeley from Temescal for better schools a few years ago.

    -len raphael, temescal

  70. Navigator

    Berkeley has large retail? Don’t many people in Berkeley also go to Emeryville to shop?

    Barry, Thanks. I stand corrected. It’s Neiman -Marcus. It’s going to be a huge store.

    James, I don’t know if crime is the reason since downtown SF has already seen six homicides within blocks of Union Square. Downtown Oakland has seen zero homicides so far this year. I think it’s prejudiced uninformed people perpetuating stereotypes about Oakland. The department stores just go along. It’s easier to go along with the stereotype than to try to educate potential customers.

    Also, Berkeley is suppossed to be superior to Oakland? In what way? Oakland is bigger, has great restaurants, Lake Merritt, a much larger downtown with skyscrapers, world class theaters, great historic architecture, great residential architecture with world class views, one of the best zoos in the country, a great museum, a 20,000 seat arena, an international airport, great hiking, and a world class port which is a major economic engine in the Bay Area. Can you tell me why Berkeley is superior? I don’t get it. Also, part of UC Berkeley is within Oakland city limits as is the Claremont Hotel. Also, the highest priced homes sold as “Berkeley” in the North Oakland hills are actually in Oakland.

  71. James

    I think Oakland is a lapdog to Berkeley in the sense that Oakland’s leaders seem to want to emulate the way Berkeley goes about things. Berkeley has a reputation for making it difficult for large retail to be established within their borders. The city of Berkeley can have an anti-corporate attitude because the University of California makes them relatively recession resistant. Oakland does not have that luxury. Oakland needs to push forward with economic development. Oakland needs substantially more retail and does not have the luxury of being picky about what stores or how mass-transit friendly it is. Also, Oakland needs to push for more businesses to come, including the expansion of the Lawrence Berkeley labs. Stereotype or not, Oakland has its work cut out for it.

  72. Naomi Schiff

    James, your Berkeley fixation is not really relevant. I see that you have some kind of political distaste for Berkeley. But I don’t think there is factual support for either Dellums or Quan having issues with “big business.” Each understands the need for tax base. The decline of department store retail in Oakland has had other causes, and predates either of them participating in Oakland city govt.

  73. James

    You’re right, Oakland’s intense lack of retail predates Dellums and Quan. So what is city council’s role in all of this? What have they done (or not done) to bring in retail? And why were so many condos and apartments built in downtown, uptown, etc. with any consideration for a supermarket?

  74. Art

    @Len on ABAG numbers—the projections, which are done biennially and used to do the regional housing needs allocation, reflect how much growth is expected based on modeling using data like the Census (among others). Those are the numbers you’re probably hearing people reference, and they do represent a best guess at how many people are expected in the region (and are revised every couple of years so that they can integrate new information). ABAG is also working on numbers for a regional plan to meet the SB 375 targets for emissions reductions assigned to the Bay Area by CARB. Those numbers aren’t projections; rather, they’re targets if the reductions are to be achieved. To get that level of growth, you’d have to shift the status quo through policy or incentives, so they’re not the same as projections, but the state requires that regions have a plan to meet those targets. Hope that makes sense!

  75. Livegreen

    Art et all, couple Q. about ABAG housing allocations:
    -Is Pleasanton still being sued by the State for not building enough housing?
    -Candidate Quan claimed she got Walnut Creek to accept more low income housing, taking some of the pressure off Oakland. True?
    -Will Oakland start planning it’s share of median income housing, or continue to under-plan median income housing while over-planning low income housing?

    Don’t know if there are more recent #s, but am referring to Tom Thurstins 2009 posts and supporting ABAG links:


    PS. I understand the economy has slowed a lot of building down, don’t know how this affects allocations and planning.

  76. len raphael

    Art, i’m still hazy about where the projections end and the goal setting begins. But that could be more a function of my limited brain capacity this time of year. if you have them handy, a link to the projections. Odd that ANG article link was doa.

    Just talking with a business buddy from San Leandro. San Leandro governent seems to have reached the same conclusion that Hercules (and probably a bunch of other cities have):

    They are discouraging all new residential units, including TOD, in favor of businesses that generate tax revenue and jobs.

    They’re going after high tech, not big box.

    We on the other hand would be grateful for just a politically correct big box and low income TOD. Short term thinking.

  77. Naomi Schiff

    James, there have been constant calls for more supermarkets, and few have stepped up. Nancy Nadel has probably been the pushiest person on the council in this regard, and has worked pretty hard to get things going, but it has been very difficult to get companies to commit.
    Livegreen, There are several levels of “affordable” under fed. regs. I’m not sure what you mean by median-income housing, but a lot of what is called “affordable” is in fact median-income housing. Quite a bit of what has been built recently is senior housing. Given that commercial builders are having a hard time getting financing, we are seeing a higher proportion of nonprofit aff. housing projects, but I think that’s more because they have been able to finance, and the commercial folks have slowed down. However, with the Republican congress, the aff. housing funds are likely to become harder to come by. I’d rather see some units get built (of whatever kind) than no units getting built, so I have no problem with things targeted at less wealthy people. Since so many people are less wealthy right now, perhaps it is appropriate.

  78. livegreen

    Naomi, You’re remembering out last conversation on this subject. I didn’t use that term here. I said low-income. & it’s not just about what’s getting built. It’s also what’s been planned per ABAG allocations (whether it gets built or not), which Tom’s article points out Oakland has not been following.

  79. len raphael

    San Leandro version of a BART Transit Villlage is to discourage residential housing around stations and encourage high tax revenue value business’s where the workers BART in and then leave each day.

    The way we’re going about, our residents will all commute rapidly and efficiently to SF, San Leandro, Berekey, WC, and SJ and spend their paychecks on Amazon and in Emeryville and SF. We get stuck with the high costs of a bedroom community and those cities get the tax bucks. Unless ABAG is predicting consolidation of cities on a vast scale, we’ll be digging our own muni finance hole deeper by following the ABAG vision.

    -len raphael, temescal

  80. James

    Could crime be a reason why grocery stores are avoiding Oakland? Could Oakland’s perception as a “union town” have something to do with it?

  81. ralph

    There are no groceries stores downtown because the elite don’t eat-in or at least that was my impression based on the comments of one the mayoral candidates. He seemed to ignore that a downtown grocery store would also benefit West Oakland.

    Maybe Safeway realized that all the downtown elite get their groceries delivered. Still, there really should be a grocery store.

  82. Naomi Schiff

    Safeway has unions, and is cheerfully planning to rebuild to enlarge two Oakland stores–the already huge Pleasant Valley and Broadway, and the College Ave store rebuild. Ralph it is interesting what you say: the salient feature of the pricey Whole Foods on Harrison is that a significant part of the profit must come from the big array of prepared food. It is a store for people who don’t cook much, I think. People may eat in, but do they cook in?
    I don’t know if anyone here is old enough to remember, but the Grocery Outlet at 29th and Broadway was a Safeway for many years. There was another in West Oakland near 27th/San Pablo. As they went to their big store model, they shut the stores that were in less affluent neighborhoods, it seems to me, and helped to create food deserts that we now have to fix. It may not have been a sinister impulse–just trying to boost profit levels in a characteristically low-margin business. But it has had a really terrible effect.

  83. Max Allstadt


    Nancy pushed for grocery stores in West Oakland on her terms, and her terms were out of step with reality.

    She managed to help a small, marginally successful organic grocery store set up at the West Oakland BART, using hundreds of thousands of dollars in redevelopment money. In the end it opened years behind schedule.

    Before that store opened, the 99 cent store next to it opened on its own, without a massive taxpayer subsidy, and announced it’s intent to sell fresh groceries. The planning department was pressed to limit the square footage of fresh produce in the 99 cent store in order to “protect” the nearby organic co-op from fair competition.

    To this day, you see more people shopping for food at the 99 cent store than at Mandela foods, regardless of the attempt to sabotage 99 cents ability to sell groceries. Maybe that’s ’cause due to a lofty and highminded planing process, Mandela foods sells organic hummus at prices many neighbors don’t want to pay.

    And then, last year, a local business man named Ed Hemmat decided to open a grocery store around the corner from my house, using private investment. It opened and it’s been an instant success. It’s the right size and the right price for the neighborhood, it doesn’t sell anything fancy. Just fresh produce, plenty of it, and other foods and household needs at low prices.

    Ed might have gotten some facade improvement funds, but I’m not entirely sure. I know he didn’t get hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    So in short, Nancy’s utopianism managed to open one highly subsidized, lightly used store, impede the progress of another store that is now highly used, and have virtually no affect on Ed Hemmat’s inspiration to open a store and have immediate success.

    Now when Nancy’s right, like on Cannabis Cultivation, I say so. I’ve decided she’s right on the Teen Center too. She scored a huge grant from the state, and steadfastly pushed that project along even when it was really tough going.

    On grocery stores, sorry, she had a negative impact on progress.

  84. annoyed

    There were downtown grocery stores. There was Mi Rancho on Broadway and Seventh, which is now a honking big bail bonds shop. Mi Rancho wanted to stay but the city would not help them, if I remember correctly.

    Housewives was a great all purpose shopping destination. The condos where it once stood are nice but the relocated Housewives was a disaster, too small and only a couple stores remain. A lot of the shops never made the move and just disappeared. Housewives had great produce and a variety of specialty shops. All that opining about how low income/minority neighborhoods don’t have easy access to affordable, quality fresh produce? I guess the Friday Farmer’s market once week during the day was supposed to take its place. Housewives was a huge loss.

    Safeway pulled out of all the working class locations decades ago, long before internet shopping was a glimmer in anyone’s eye. The only one remaining is in the Dimond District because I guess it also serves a market above MacArthur.

    Trader Joes came to Oakland after sniffing some years ago they’d never put their stores here. Don’t know what changed their mind.

    Upscale restaurants are doing just fine in Oakland. Upscale retail wants no part of Oakland.

    Does anyone know why the downtown GAP closed? Location is a toilet? Theft?

    Steve didn’t get your point at all.

    People get crazy and activist over a farking dog park or parking meter fees and fines but limit frustration over violent crime and a lack of tax revenues coming into this town to online commentary. I believe the utter lack of political leadership in these areas reflects the level of concern coming from the electorate. People will turn out to support a vote for a dildo shop but lead the charge for major retail, not so much.

  85. len raphael

    Max, does your critique of the city’s restraints on the 99cent store = you agree with me that walmart sb invited to open a full service store anywhere they want in Oakland, no restrictions on what they sell (except maybe liquor) ?

    -len raphael, temescal

  86. ralph

    I think WF stole the prepared foods from Danny Wegman. He is a grocery god. The man is a guru as it pertains to getting you to spend more dollars in the grocery store. It is the store as community model. This may be why you don’t find Safeway in some neighborhoods. I am shocked that the one on Grand is still open. It is more like a oversized 7-11. I have no scientific proof but the WF on Harrison caters to more than just the residents within 2 miles radius.

    As to The Gap, I think they pulled out due to lack of sales. It was by all accounts a bad location. Not enough foot traffic from workers and residents. Excluding MW, it was the only real retailer for miles. If you need multiple consumer goods are you going to a one off or shopping hub.

  87. len raphael

    How does WF on Harrison cope with shoplifing? Between the attractive displays, high prices, lack of roaming security, it is tempting to take a 5 finger discount.

  88. Max Allstadt


    You wildly extrapolated one statement about a particular incidence of government meddling in business competition to the point of hyperbole.

    99cent is a mid-sized store that is next to transit and required minimal amounts of parking.

    WalMarts are big-box retail that require acres of parking.

    If the Target on the Oakland Emeryville border had been a WalMart, I wouldn’t have objected. Both are big box corporate retail. The fact that one has a better PR department than the other is pretty much irrelevant.

    The notion that stoping a 99cent store from selling groceries in a neighborhood with no grocery store is somehow equivalent to stoping WalMart from setting up anywhere it chooses in a dense urban area? Preposterous.

    But no, If WalMart wanted another store in Oakland (they already have one) I wouldn’t object. It would just have to be somewhere that made sense, like directly off 880, or at the Pleasant Valley Safeway site, or on the Army base. Building one, along with a massive surface parking lot, in an urban neighborhood? No way.

    Apples and Oranges.

  89. Art

    Len, here’s a link to the ABAG 2009 regional projections:


    You can order forecasts for individual cities and neighborhoods. 2011 will presumably be out later this year. I think an easy way to think about it is that the projections are just that—forecasts of the future based on past trends and available info.

    Also, on a side note since I don’t think it’s been mentioned—Safeway is in the process of converting the Pac ‘n’ Save at 40th and San Pablo to a full Safeway (no doubt to compete better with Target’s grocery strategy, but good for the area nonetheless!)

    The other grocery store factor to remember is the delivery trucks—they need access from freeways and wide berths for delivery, which is feasible in some parts of the city but not in others. Grocery Outlet, for instance, is a nightmare, which may be yet another reason that Safeway abandoned that site—GO drives their trucks through the residential streets to the east because their loading dock is on the side street. I can only assume that when Safeway built that dock, they were using smaller trucks. WF had a lot of restrictions placed on their truck routes so that they would stay out of the residential areas, but they still have very tight turns to navigate to get into and out of their loading zone. Bigger trucks may be more efficient for stores, but they present a lot of challenges in building new full-service groceries in established neighborhoods. Not insurmountable, of course, but I can see why it would be discouraging if your alternative was to go build a store with a big wide parking lot in the suburbs where nobody cared.

  90. livegreen

    Big box makes since at the Army Base? In the middle of the Port? I’m sure that will help smooth out operations.

    One Wal-Mart is enough. We need a Costco. As Max says, where it makes sense…

    I note the City has been marketing an empty lot they own (across from the coliseum, just past Zhone) as a potential retail site for years.

  91. Naomi Schiff

    Re: GAP store. Jerry Brown recruited the Gap to put in that store at a time when he was (coincidentally or not) courting a highly paid upper administration employee of Gap. There was rarely anyone in there. It closed about 20 seconds after he left office. The retail is set up badly for clothing display in that location (a remnant of the building plans of redevelopment past), and one wonders if that is the best location for them; mostly an office worker population at lunch hour. But Gap has struggled recently, anyhow, nationally.

  92. Art

    @livegreen, missed your post earlier! Answers are:

    - Pleasanton ultimately had to remove its housing cap to settle the lawsuit (and had to pay legal fees). They weren’t being sued for not *building* enough housing, though—they were being sued for having a cap that limited housing development at levels below what was needed if they were to take their “fair share” of regional growth. That’s an important distinction; there’s nothing in the regional housing needs allocations that say cities must actually build all that housing; they just have to have general plans and a set of policies that theoretically make it possible to meet the need.

    - I don’t know the specifics of the last regional housing needs allocation process, but it is true that cities and counties negotiate with one another, and one of the big factors in assigning numbers is the existing housing stock in a city. So cities like Richmond and Oakland get much lower “assignments” of affordable housing because historically, that’s where affordable housing has been built. Proportionally, they need more market rate housing, whereas cities like Piedmont, Livermore, and Pleasanton have more need in affordable housing. The goal is to create income-diverse communities where people aren’t commuting in because they can’t afford to live there. The last allocations were done in 2007 and Quan might well have been involved in the negotiations on Oakland’s behalf as a CC member (and maybe some need got shifted to WC) but I don’t know any specifics.

    - Oakland actually has high numbers in the market-rate and above market rate need categories—much higher than its numbers for housing in the two below-median-income categories—but the main challenge is that this type of housing is driven by developers and the economy. If no one’s interested, nothing gets built. Affordable housing, in contrast, is typically funded by various local, state, and federal sources that may be available even when housing markets are down (e.g., right now, which is why some affordable projects are moving forward when not much market-rate housing is being built). Market-rate housing developers, in contrast, are pretty much sitting tight to see how the recession plays out. It really comes down to financing (though of course cities can do things like invest strategically in public infrastructure and amenities to try to make areas more desirable to residents, which in turn helps drive demand for market-rate housing and encourage developers to get back in the game). In the past, there haven’t been public funding sources or incentives for middle-income housing (above median income, but not able to afford luxury units), but this occasionally comes up as a discussion point—should there be?

  93. Naomi Schiff

    Right, Art. For example, there was discussion about whether to try to make it easier for entry-level teachers to live in Oakland, at some point (I don’t remember the context).

  94. Livegreen

    That makes sense. But the timeline in the Tom Thurston article was about a time when the market was good, even booming, and even then Oakland wasn’t building it’s allocated middle-income housing. Why?

  95. annoyed

    What have you got against Target? I was giddy on my first trip over. I can settle for driving to Davis St. Costco if I don’t have to drive out to 150th for Target. Also, I will shop more often at Target. My Costco trips are a couple months apart, unless I get a Jones for the rotisserie chicken.

    Thanks for the GAP feedback. I still hate that Sears is only using part of the capacity of that building. The BART entrance is completely wasted. I’d like to see Sears go somewhere else and a larger retail or multiple retails go in the old Emporium building. Yeah, I know. When Donkeys fly.

  96. len raphael

    Art, so cities such as say San Leandro don’t get sanctioned for discouraging any residential development, as long as they “planned” for their share of projected or should i say “envisioned” housing? sort of like Measure Y where Oakland only had to show that it had budgeted for min cop hiring levels?

    are the only planning mandates with teeth the Federal ones for air pollution?

    -len raphael, temescal

  97. Art

    @Len, if by “discouraging” housing you mean actually preventing a developer from building where it’s allowed, the city can be sued, but if it’s just a matter of no development happening and a city not being proactive about attracting any, there aren’t specific consequences right now. The main consequences are for not planning to accommodate the housing—then you can lose some state funding. Otherwise, no teeth to speak of. Just mandating the planning and getting people to agree on the numbers is a feat!

    @livegreen, that’s a really good question (and unfortunately not a problem unique to Oakland). You’d have to talk with local developers to see (might be an interesting question to pose to a group like OBA) but I’d guess some of the reasons might be land, design, and construction costs in the Bay Area, among others. The challenge is that a for-profit developer needs a project to pencil out with a profit at the end of the day, and it’s a lot easier to get there if you’re building luxury homes, assuming there’s a market for them. Affordable housing is often built by non-profit developers, so they just need to break even (and they probably have subsidies or other financing help; this money is often targeted at low and very low income units). No one’s come up with a great solution, but some of the ideas other cities/states have tried are expanding downpayment help to include families who make more than median income or aren’t first-time buyers (here, they’re generally for first-time buyers below median income—$90K for a family of four in 2011); giving incentives to developers to build housing for median income or just-above-median income households, much like we do for affordable housing; and designing special loan programs for middle-income households. Of course, this all costs money—that’s the biggest reason these things don’t happen. What little money there is in affordable housing tends to be focused on the greatest need.

    It’s worth noting that there was some middle-income housing built in Oakland during the boom; some of the new condos and townhomes came in at those price points. If Oak Knoll hadn’t imploded, I seem to recall those homes were also expected to be priced in that range, and maybe also the development out at 98th Ave? A lot of the existing homes in the flatland and lower hills neighborhoods have also dropped down into the affordable range for middle-income families, too. (I know my neighborhood has, and we’ve seen lots of young couples and families buying those homes who were priced out of this area five years ago.) So there may be some other solutions that don’t involve new development. It’s a good conversation to have, though.

  98. Naomi Schiff

    Annoyed, up there with that comment re Sears, you are on the right track. It’s not impossible that things will get better there. Sears owns the building—not just a tenant business. But I’ve heard they’d be willing to listen if someone wants to lease or buy and repurpose the building. It is certainly crazy not to be using the basement BART entrance! It would improve business, and also keep Uptown residents dryer as they head home on rainy days. They’d pass through the store, which if it had anything interesting to sell, might make some money on the deal, for goodness sakes. Not that they seem very motivated to sell stuff, but still. (I loved that period when there was a fabulous bargain basement there, with incredible deals from Neiman Marcus).

  99. ralph

    The SFBT must have had Naomi in mind when it wrote:

    Gap’s timing will surely cause some chatter in political circles. The decision to leave Oakland comes about a year after Brown’s then-fiance and now-wife Anne Gust left her position as chief administrative officer and chief compliance officer at Gap Inc. The departure will also occur after former Rep. Ron Dellums trounced Brown’s hand-picked successor, Ignacio De La Fuente, in a mayoral election.

    The Sears Building should be torndown. Sears is a real estate play. They know that the value of the property is worth more than the store and can wait it out. Those corners along with 20th & Telegraph all terribly depressing.

  100. Naomi Schiff

    Actually there is a cool building under the hideous post-earthquake renovations. Two developers I have spoken with have dreamt of restoring and repurposing the building. Someday. It was explained to me that Sears got big money out of their property when they sold off the huge parking area and their very profitable tire business to CEDA for Forest City’s Uptown. (Too bad only about a third of that property was built upon, the rest being park and space for the hideous socialist-realist sculpture boondoggle to come, plus the much-argued-about not-a-parking lot parcel at 19th and Telegraph.) I thought there had been a deal to reestablish the tire center nearby, but nothing is happening. Basically Sears made their money on the landsale, and are not much motivated to earn dollars by merely selling goods. So, Ralph is right, it’s the real estate business at heart, not a retail business.

  101. len raphael

    Did Nav write that travel piece ?

    the owner chief of the Michelin rated Commis, James Syhabout, is an Oakland Tech grad.

    Go Bull Dogs!

  102. len raphael

    Art, I would guess that the way cities “discourage” is done by ‘letting it be known” that they will look more favorably upon say high tech complexes than housing is all it takes if the city is attractive enough to chose.

    Question: are most affordable housing rental developments set up as non-profits, exempt from property and business tax, as well as income tax? in particular, is MacArthur Transit Villiage a non profit or a joint venture between a non profit and a for profit? i’m trying to get a handle on the net financial cost/benefit to Oakland from typical affordable housing.

  103. Navigator


    Thanks for posting that link from the LA Times. I enjoyed reading that.

    Len, you know if I had written that travel piece it would be twice as long. Heck, they forgot Chinatown, Old Oakland, Preservation Park and the Oakland Zoo just to mention a few more attractions.

    And yes, go Bulldogs.

    Speaking of Tech, I know that’s your neck of the woods Len. Have you noticed all the graffiti on the Morse building at Broadway & Mather? The building futher down Broadway at Ridgeway is also a mess. In fact, that entire area near Tech is a blighted mess.

    Len I’m hoping you have some pull with Jane Bruner so that maybe something will get done in that area. My nephew is going to Tech next year and that is one sorry environment for the kids to be exposed to. They need to clean up Broadway between 49th and Ridgeway.

  104. Navigator

    It looks like there was a recent clean-up on College Ave. The area looks great. They took care of the graffiti on light standards, traffic signs, buildings and maybe even steam cleaned the sidewalks. Great job.

    Unfortunately they stopped at Broadway. Jean Quan and Jane Bruner need to organize a similar clean-up for Broadway. We need to start at College and work our way down to Grand where the guys in the orange and blue shirts do a great job keeping the rest of Broadway clean.

  105. Art

    Len, that’s actually one of the reasons cities are required to plan for housing—they can’t just swap out housing for a high-tech project if the site is designated for housing without amending the plan (a public process that you can only go through a limited number of times each year) and identifying where that housing will go instead. Cities can, and do, try to lure commercial projects, of course, but that’s not generally at the cost of housing sites (and it’s often a different set of developers, too). On the tax questions, many affordable rental housing developers are nonprofits and thus don’t pay taxes; I assume this extends to property taxes, but I don’t know much about the specifics of financing those projects. (It may also be different for nonprofit developers building for-sale affordable housing, too.)

    MacArthur Transit Village is a joint partnership between BRIDGE Housing (nonprofit) and McGrath Properties (for-profit) because it’s a mix of affordable and market-rate units. I think the plan is to have other developers buy parcels and build some of the market-rate units, too, so it would be several private sector partners by the end. Since much of that land is BART-owned now, I imagine that means a net gain for the tax rolls.

    Also, to Navigator’s post, I just have to say that I *heart* the guys (and gals) in the blue and orange shirts! They do a really phenomenal job of keeping Broadway/Grand/Harrison and surrounds clean, and it’s good to let them and the CBD know it. On the way to work the other day, I even passed one of the ambassadors down on his hands and knees carefully weeding around a street tree that desperately needed it. It made me so happy!

  106. Dow Chemical

    I didn’t know Sears had a basement entrance from BART. I use that Sears all the time, It seems to do OK business.

  107. BerkeleyBe

    I’m way late on this thread of the ethnic/racial makeup, but the Census has been offering more choices on heritage, and in Berkeley in 2000 a chunk of folks formerly choosing AA, could chose More than 2 Races.