Susan Gluss has a point, folks.

Last Saturday, for the most part, was a lovely day for me. I took a long walk in the morning, then watched the holiday parade, which is always a great time. In the evening, I attended a really nice event at one of the many new clubs downtown that didn’t exist when I moved here, where I got to watch a performance by a local hip hop artist and a fashion show featuring three small, Oakland-based designers. After the show, the sizable crowd browsed through racks of clothes, admired local art, and danced. It was a great DTO party. Then I came home and, as always, checked my RSS feeds before turning in. What a mistake!

You all, of course, know what I found. I got to read yet another depressing story about the Police Department’s ineptitude in handling the Chauncey Bailey case, Chip Johnson talking about people moving out of Oakland because of the crime, and of course, Susan Gluss’s incredibly sad piece, “Long commute better than living in Oakland.” I went to bed totally depressed.

In the five days since, I’ve been totally shocked by the respone to Gluss’s item. Now, I’m obviously fine with people pushing back when the media steps out of bounds, and I agree that titling the section “Oakland Exodus” might have been a bit much. But the defensive reactions I see everywhere from the neighborhood listservs, comments here, other blogs, letters to the Chronicle, and just random conversations are, frankly, totally befuddling to me.

First, you have people all upset over how the Chronicle is being biased and running a “smear campaign” against Oakland. Which…well, I think Raymond addressed that part pretty well on Oakland Space Academy, and it isn’t what’s bothering the most. So I’ll just point out that many of the Chronicle’s top writers live in Oakland, and I would imagine that their interests lie in making the place they live better, not scaring people away from it, and leave it at that. The aspect of the responses that really upsets me, though, is the way people keep condemning Susan Gluss for leaving, and berating her “self-pity.”

Having your wallet stolen, your car broken into twice, and your house burglarized all in the space of a year is a completely legitimate reason to move! I get dizzy when I hear people say things like “She obviously doesn’t love Oakland enough.” Living in Oakland or loving Oakland shouldn’t be predicated on tolerating a totally intolerable level of crime.

Even worse, condemnations of Gluss’s decision are being widely coupled with suggestions that what happened to her was her fault. I don’t know what evidence people have for their assertions that she must have left her house unlocked for it to be burglarized, or she must have made her purse easily accessible to have her wallet stolen from it, or she must have left her purse in plain sight to have it stolen from her car. There was nothing in the story to suggest that. I know plenty people who have had all those things happen to them when they’ve been doing everything right.

It’s true that people are, to a degree, responsible for protecting themselves. And we all find our own ways of adapting to the risks of living in Oakland and shielding ourselves from them. I’m happy to say that I’ve now gone more than a year without anything bad happening to me, partly, I imagine, because I’ve starting doing things like routinely taking a taxicab to travel five blocks at night. Many people here will tell you that these measures are just a standard part of safe urban life. But the thing is, when I tell my friends who live in New York or DC or Denver of Houston or Chicago or Los Angeles or Seattle about the steps I take to keep myself safe, they’re all shocked. It isn’t unreasonable at all to want to live in a city and not have to be constantly on alert for someone attempting to steal from you. It isn’t unreasonable at all to expect to be able to park your car on the street without losing a window. What Susan Gluss wanted, a minimal expectation of safety, isn’t unreasonable, and I don’t condemn her at all for wanting to leave a city that obviously can’t provide it. I think it’s awful that other people would. (Incidentally, the terrible feeling you get when you’re the recipient of this blame the victim attitude is the reason I stopped filing police reports when something happened to me.)

I understand people have local pride and want to see their home represented in the best possible light. I sympathize with that. Really. But when the response to high profile criticism of Oakland’s crime problems is a chorus of “it really isn’t that bad” and “the paper is being biased” and “this woman is stupid,” we’re sending a loud and clear message to Oakland’s leaders that we think the status quo, with respect to crime, is just fine. And if that’s the case, well, that’s sick. Cause it just isn’t.

121 thoughts on “Susan Gluss has a point, folks.

  1. Andy

    There are many reasons to leave Oakland – the crime, taxes, elected officials, uninformed electorate, the schools, lack of sports fields for youth, etc. etc. I know many people that have left, and I certainly understand. Knowing what I know now, I seriously doubt I would have bought a home in Oakland 12 years ago.

    That being said, I do enjoy many aspects of Oakland – the weather, location (close to so many things), many of the business districts, many of the people I have met, and friends I have made, the open spaces in the hills. I just wish I could stop saying “Oakland has so much potential.” Sometimes, I think I can stop saying this – because maybe Oakland does not.

  2. Mike Spencer

    V. I disagree with some of your points. The media clearly loves to sensationalize all that is bad with Oakland and does not subject other cities, certainly not even SF, to the same degree. I can’t speak for others but calling for fairness or a balanced perspective on Oakland coverage does not necessarily mean that I am knee-jerk or in denial about Oakland’s myriad problems. As for many top Chronicle writers living in Oakland I would reason that A) they live here because it’s cheaper than SF or Marin B) They like to live here while advancing their careers (like most of us). So I think you can still live here and provide unfair coverage. There is a media double standard that applies to Oakland. It would not make for very good copy on “Why I am leaving Newark, CA.” But it is a sad commentary that we tolerate and feel powerless, no matter how many Community Watch groups we join or start, about annoying property crimes. I still say the City can have an effective police department, one with a working and responsive crime lab, without big tax hikes.

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    While crime is an issue everywhere, it makes sense for there to be more media attention on crime in Oakland than in Newark or San Francisco because, well, there’s way more crime here. For 2007, Newark reported 53.61 violent crimes and 411.92 property crimes per 10,000 residents. San Francisco? 87.41 violent crimes and 469.55 property crimes per 10,000 residents. Oakland? 191.84 violent crimes and 596.96 property crimes per 10,000 residents. The difference is staggering.

  4. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    I’m sympathetic to your arguments here V. Certainly Susan Gluss has a point, and obviously we shouldn’t tolerate crime. I don’t think these incidents were her fault, but that doesn’t mean she was smart about living in her surroundings. I admit to accidentally overstating the incident with respect to her wallet and purse being stolen, but she didn’t notice anything amiss until opening her jewelry box? And whether or not it was in plain sight, she just shouldn’t have left her purse in her car. Her trunk, maybe, but not available for only a smashed window.

    What happened to her is terrible, and of course she has every right be frustrated and scared enough to move out of Oakland. But she didn’t just move, she wrote an essay in the opinion section of the Sunday SF Chronicle detailing her move and the reasoning behind it. And, as you know, that does and should open her to a level of criticism unwarranted towards someone who moved away quietly. Which is not to say that is what people should do. I would encourage (yet still be saddened by) her move if it was at all evident she put even the slightest effort into making her neighborhood a better, safer place.

    As you commented on my blog, not everyone should be required to be an activist or a civic superstar to live in a major city, but I think it is reasonable to expect most people to be involved at a basic level, especially those with the time to write an essay about their experiences and the skills to get it published in a local paper. Maybe she did make an effort and just chose not to write about it. But that was her responsibility, and by golly the woman works as a media director.

    She bought her ticket, she knew what she was getting into, I say – let her crash.

  5. Hayden

    Like my brother in the Midwest says, you can’t tell people you’re going to visit Oakland. They ask “why?” On the other hand, you say you’re visiting San Francisco, and people say “have a nice trip.”

    He tells me to move away from West Oakland. After all, in the last year or two my gray recycling bin has been stolen 3 times, my car broken into once (the only thing in the car, about 17 cents in loose change in a closed compartment, was taken), and a rental car was vandalized. A carjacker crashed a block away, then fled on foot, and the police closed down the neighborhood while they searched for him. Once or twice a month, people dump construction debris at the same end of the block where prosititutes bring their johns to park. The City is good about cleaning up the debris, and the police swing by if you call, but given the other news about violent crime in the city, it’s hard to fault Ms. Gluss.

    Oakland isn’t the only place with these problems–the slums of Chicago, big parts of Detroit, parts of DC all come to mind. I’m happy for the people who live in the suburbs–after all, if they didn’t live there, I’d have to compete with them to live in the city. But they’re not for me.

  6. Doug Boxer

    Until we have elected leaders who will think outside of the box to create solutions to these some of these seemingly intractable problems, those problems will persist. I am not saying our elected leaders don’t try, they do. But it seems to me they bring the same old solutions to the table.

    We spend $1 billion a year on the Oakland budget. Is it unreasonable to request, er, demand that the vast majority of those dollars be accounted for and that we, the taxpayers, see some value for our invested dollars? Look, I get that a large majority of the budget is mandated to be spent on certain programs, but that doesn’t mean that we should just sit by and hope those those dollars are spent wisely. The Mayor or Council should review every department and every program’s budget, line by line, to see what’s working and what isn’t. This won’t solve the problem entirely but before asking for ANOTHER parcel tax to solve ANOTHER problem, why don’t we make sure the existing programs actually work.

    Oakland has generational poverty and unfortunately this circumstance breeds violence. Mix poverty with cheap, easy access to firearms and boom, you have a huge problem. While we must insist that bad guys are locked up, we must also figure out how to create wealth in parts of community that heretofore have seen very little. If we can figure out how to give a kid a fighting chance to work his way out of generational poverty, then perhaps that kid won’t turn to the local gang, where he feels like at least he’s getting respect that the rest of community won’t give him (and by that I mean, he looks around at his neighborhood, the dirt, grime, rundown facilities, crime at the parks, etc. and says, “No one in this City respects me.”)

    In my view, the Mayor should pick one of the most depressed areas of this City (pick one) and focus the City’s resources like a laser beam on that very limited area — employment tax relief for businesses who hire locally, police, PG&E, EBMUD, AC Transit, parks, city lighting, libraries, economic development, business development to name a few — and figure out how to give people and businesses in that area a fighting chance. It would be like an empowerment zone but in a much smaller area. Once we see what dollars and programs work well, we can begin to target some of our other areas. Then we can challenge the private sector and foundations to join in with the public sector. Just one idea…

  7. Ken

    I lived and worked near Tokyo, a large-ass city of umpteen millions, and never had a wallet snatched or even a bike stolen.

    I also haven’t had those things happen in Oakland either–but I know plenty of people who’ve been attacked, mugged, been a witness to a brutal driveby in front of my house in Temescal, heard of Oakland Tech kids “rioting” by leaving campus by the hundreds and jumping up and down on subarus down my street denting on the roofs…

    The chief problem, you see, is an incompetent police chief, named Tucker. Tucker Must Go. Secondly, the rot goes down through the ranks, with Black Muslim Bakery “fellow travelers” like Sgt. Longmire who purposely interfered with the Chauncy Bailey murder, which Yusef Bey IV obviously committed himself.

    And all this stems from political glad-handing. Why won’t Nancy Nadel or Jane Brunner tell Dellums to fire Tucker? Only they have the authority to do so.

    The other chief problem is lack of $20/hr jobs for the bulk of Oaklanders with only high school diplomas if that. Too much public housing and not enough affordable housing: welfare rot, grown men (and kids) dressing like clowns and hanging out all day slinging dope. What must be done includes more local job creation and place making. But let’s not kid ourselves that Tucker is doing a heckuva job, cuz he ain’t!

  8. Max Allstadt


    there is a difference in the amount of crime here, but the media exacerbates things. I’ve already ranted about how the local network affiliates make money by holding peoples attention using stories about Oakland. They’d have people believe that it’s like Beirut in the 80s, because that kind of fear attracts eyeballs and ad dollars.

    Personally, I see staying here as an investment. How much worse could it get before it gets better? We’re facing an economic mess that will take a few years to sort itself out, sure. But on the bright side…

    -our next Mayor would be hard pressed to be less effective than the current one.
    -West Oakland is improving slowly but steadily.
    -We have major developments downtown that are on the verge of completion.
    -Adversity breeds solidarity

    and there are plenty of other inevitabilities that I find very encouraging over the long term.

  9. Doug Boxer

    The debate about the level of violence and the media’s exploitation or bias is a waste of everyone’s energy. In either case, the crime problem is real — it’s either severe or really severe. It’s a distinction without a difference. Residents feeling unsafe should be enough to end the debate and we’ll all talked to folks who don’t feel safe.

    The discussion needs to be about how to solve this problem.

  10. das88

    @Doug Boxer, “Until we have elected leaders who will think outside of the box …”

    Cool, does that mean you will run for Mayor?

  11. James H. Robinson

    Part of the reason why some residents “feel unsafe” is because they are constantly bombarded with unbalanced news stories. I read Chip Johnson’s column regularly and generally agree with him. However, I have a problem with the Chronicle’s consistently negative focus on Oakland. They had two articles on Oakland crime problems in the Sunday edition, but where was their coverage of the holiday parade that occurred just the day before? For all the Tribune’s faults, at least they show a side of Oakland that the Chronicle refuses to show. Why won’t the Chronicle do stories on churches and community groups that are trying to address the problem? Why do I have to read the San Francisco Business Times to learn about revitalization of Jack London Square and Uptown?

    I don’t believe that “perception is reality.” However, I do think that people’s perceptions can be manipulated, despite their everyday reality. And that is why it is important to keep a vigil against too much negative reporting.

  12. Navigator

    V, Susan Gluss has every right to leave Oakland. She doesn’t have every right to smear and broad brush Oakland in the Sunday Edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. Do you really believe that the San Francisco Chronicle would allow a disgruntled San Franciscan to air out their long laundry list of personal victimization and in the process indict formerly “safe” areas of San Francisco?

    Also, there is more crime in San Francisco’s 49 square miles than in Oakland’s 57 square miles. There are more robberies in San Francisco than in Oakland. Downtown San Francisco has 7x the aggravated assaults of downtown Oakland. Downtown San Francisco has 3x the number of robberies of downtown Oakland. Downtown San Francisco has experienced at least 18 homicides compared to 2 in downtown Oakland. I could care less about how many more yuppies San Francisco has in order to dilute the crime rate. I care about the personal safety of people in areas of both cities where people congregate for work and for play. You have a much greater chance to be robbed and mugged in downtown SF than you do in downtown Oakland. Those are facts. Yet people go shopping at Union Square and go to the theater while stepping over bums, urine ,trash, feces without a care in the world. There have been homicides in Golden Gate Park, North Beach, the Richmond, etc. San Francisco has already exceeded last years homicide total, while also setting a decade high. Where is CW Nevius writing about disgruntled San Franciscans? I guess there are no disgruntled San Franciscans. Only Oakland has disgruntled residents.

    How can you overlook this? I don’t need a San Francisco paper to tell me that Oakland has crime. I don’t need to hear about every crime that happened to one person while Chip Johnson uses her personal experiences to indite an entire city. That’s BS.

  13. Patrick

    I love the point that whenever crime occurs in Oakland, it is reported as such. Whenever a crime is committed in San Francisco, it is reported as having occured in “the Sunset” or in “Bayview”. We are constantly barraged with crime stories in Oakland. Oakland! OAKLAND! While this type of reporting is truthful, it also creates a negative perception of a whole city, as opposed to a neighborhood in it. SF is only 49 sq. miles while Oakland is 56.1 sq. miles. The use of a neighborhood name in SF has definite connotations…physical, economic, the works. If you’re on the south side of Nob Hill, you’re either in Nob Hill – or you’re in the Tenderloin. My neighborhood in Oakland is called Reservoir Hill, but who the heck has ever heard of that? Huge swaths of land north and south of me are simply “East Oakland” to Oaklanders – but “Oakland” to the rest of the world.

  14. Patrick

    Probably not a good idea to compare crime in downtown Oakland to downtown SF – unless you’re willing to compare crime in DEO, the farthest residential district from downtown Oakland, to crime in Ingleside in SF.

  15. Max Allstadt


    One thing I think is a vastly underused resource in solving crime problems and others is the web. There are hundreds of social websites out there that in the right hands could be leveraged to empower our citizens. Start with setting up a Flickr and YouTube page for every NCPC, and providing OPD with a table of links so investigators can look at citizen’s photos and videos of street crime. There are already cameraphones that date and GPS tag images. The level of information gathering possible through this kind of crowdsourcing is staggering and it’s a shame it isn’t being put to good use.

    There are thousands and thousands of other ways in which free web utilities could be employed to improve our city. They can provide everything from managerial tools to methods of keeping financial data transparent up to the minute. And most of these resources are free. All we need is some young tech-savvy leader to come along and realize this, and we will be able to more with less money.

    Of course the surveillance idea I mentioned is an enforcement measure more than a cultural solution. We have a long way to go on that. For my money, alcoholism is a bigger threat to West Oakland than drug gangs or violence. I see many more drunks than thugs, and I think it contributes to the level of despair and dysfunction on an epidemic scale. Even many of the working poor are functional alcoholics. I fear that because it isn’t as sensational a problem, it may get less attention than it needs.

    Another thing we need is to train NCPC attendees in is methods of soft confrontation. It might not work against drug dealers, but against other quality of life problems, it will. Stand up for your block without being an aggressive jerk, and you’ll see changes.

  16. Navigator

    Patrick, that’s an excellent point. Crime doesn’t happen in “San Francisco.” Crime happens in the “Mission, the Tenderloin, Hunter’s Point, Western Addition, Excelsior, Visitation Valley, Portrero Hill, etc.” In Oakland, crime doesn’t happen in “Elmhurst, Melrose, Eastmont, Fruitvale, Prescot etc.” Crime happens in OAKLAND. No wonder much of the world believes Oaklanders crawl around town on their bellies wearing flack jackets.

    For that, ladies and gentlemen, you have the media headquartered across the Bay in a competing city. And please, I don’t want to hear about ANY studies or rankings. Those are all subjective depending on how different municipalities report crimes. It all so depends on poverty levels and many other variables. Virtually any of the top thirty cities ranked in crime can be interchangeable with the possible exceptions of Detroit, Saint Louis, and New Orleans. These cities have had very high crime rates consistently over the last twenty years.

    I actually think the fairest way to determine how municipalities are doing in addressing the homicide issue, is the study done by Georgia State University which takes demographics into account. In this study San Francisco was ranked number one for three consecutive years. San Francisco was #1 in 2004, 2005, 2006. I’m sure that with 104 homicides so far this year, San Francisco will once again be ranked number one based on its relative wealth and relative poverty. Where is the media outrage? Where is CW Nevius? Where are the personal stories of disgruntled residents inditing the entire City?

    [Edited by V. Smoothe to remove an incredibly long copy and paste job from some other website. Navigator, I'm sorry, but that's just way too long. That's what links are for.]

  17. Navigator

    Patrick, you have got to compare the crime in areas of cities where people work, where people visit, where people come to do civic business, where people go shopping, and where people go to restaurants. These are the areas where average people would be more likely to be affected by the crime rate. Most people don’t visit deep east Oakland or the Ingleside District in San Francisco.

  18. Navigator

    WOW, thanks a lot, V. I guess we need to censor studies which put San Francisco in a bad light. Just like the Chronicle. Your readers deserve to read that study. Not everyone will bother with a link.

  19. V Smoothe Post author

    People keep saying that the media reports crime in Oakland as just in Oakland generally, but not by where it happens, but I don’t understand why. I just went through the Chronicle’s archives for the past 90 days looking at how homicide locations were identified, and this is what I found:

    near Mills College in Oakland/6200 block of Sunnymere Avenue, Oakland’s Millsmont neighborhood/6100 block of Mauritania Avenue, East Oakland/2300 block of 90th Avenue, East Oakland/2200 block of Seminary Avenue, East Oakland/near the corner of 98th Avenue and International, East Oakland/2300 block of 84th Avenue near Dowling Street, an Oakland gas station/MacArthur Boulevard and Seminary Avenue, Oakland/4000 block of Santa Rita Street, Oakland/near 38th and Allendale avenues, East Oakland/8900 block of D Stree/4100 block of Foothill Boulevard/near the intersection of 106th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, East Oakland/near 55th and Wentworth avenues, East Oakland/7500 block of MacArthur Boulevard/2700 block of 75th Avenue

    Oh, and if you want to get really depressed, go read all those stories.

  20. Max Allstadt

    Patrick, I’ll add that I concur about the neighborhoods named in crime reports. Very few newer Oakland residents even know the names of their own neighborhoods.

    I don’t think an extra 7 square miles has much to do with any of our issues. Still, the only existing map that names Oakland neighborhoods that I know of is on the Oakland Museum website, and it’s not all that accurate to what people actually call places. As much as I’m wary of semantic exercises in identity building, we need an update. There are too many neighborhoods on that map, and some of the names are so historic as to ignore modern highway boundaries.

    Part of building a strong identity for this town is to build identities for it’s parts. People in Oakland hear “The Sunset” and instantly have an image of attached houses, grey skies, and Asians. What to people in the Sunset think when they hear “Glenview”? Absolutely nothing. How do we change that?

  21. Navigator

    V, we are talking about neighborhood identification. There is no mention of “Elmhurst, Melrose, or Eastmont” where most of these homicides occurred. That’s the difference in the way crimes are reported in Oakland, as opposed to San Francisco.

  22. Navigator

    Why are we even arguing about an anti-Oakland media bias in the San Francisco dominated media? Is this even a question?

  23. Max Allstadt


    not all of those links name neighborhoods. and I know you posted that while I was typing my last post, but again, the problem to me seems to be that people who aren’t really into Oaklandness have NO CLUE what to associate with many Oakland neighborhood names.

    I mean if some of the small local developers and realtors based in Dogtown and the Bottoms were to invest some effort into branding the neighborhood, we might get somewhere. Somebody oughta go around taking pictures of the prettiest streets full of Victorians and push some puff pieces with “Prescott” repeated ad nauseum.

  24. V Smoothe Post author

    Navigator, the problem with the “study” you keep referencing is that it’s based on a premise that poverty and unemployment excuse crime. I reject this premise.

    In any case, their “adjustments” don’t exactly paint Oakland in a very favorable light. In fact, they’re pretty damning – after adjustment, Oakland fares worse in every year reported. For 2006 (PDF), they put Oakland as #5 unadjusted, but #1 adjusted. For 2005 (PDF), Oakland ranks #10 unadjusted, but #5 adjusted. For 2004 (PDF), Oakland jumps from #9 unadjusted to #7 adjusted. For both 2002 and 2003 (PDF), Oakland ranks #7 unadjusted, but #3 adjusted.

  25. V Smoothe Post author

    I’m not sure how much more specific you can expect people to get than naming the exact blocks things occur, and East Oakland seems like a pretty reasonable way to describe most of them. As Raymond points out, you have to use terms that people will actually understand. I bet most Oaklanders couldn’t tell you were Elmhurst or Melrose are. I remember trying to find out like two years ago, and I had to ask over two dozen people before I got an answer.

  26. Max Allstadt


    “I bet most Oaklanders couldn’t tell you were Elmhurst or Melrose are.”

    exactly. we should try to fix that. but how?

  27. Navigator

    V, and where does San Francisco rank adjusted? Can you put those figures up?

    So, this study based on demographics “excuses” crime? V, you seem much too anxious to subscribe to the studies and articles which indict Oakland but are ready to excuse the studies which indict San Francisco.

    I don’t understand this attitude coming from a site which is titled “a better Oakland.” You don’t think unfair and biased media coverage affects Oakland in a negative manner? You don’t think constant negative press from San Francisco hurts Oakland and diverts customers to San Francisco? Do you think New Orleans or Saint Louis beat themselves over the head because of their crime rates? You see, Saint Louis doesn’t have a larger city across the river pointing fingers at them. Actually, Saint Louis does the finger pointing across the river into Illinois to the small impoverished city of East Saint Louis, Ill. New Orleans doesn’t have a larger city across the river pointing finger at them.

    V, that’s how it works. Denying that Oakland gets unfair press from the San Francisco media is putting your head in the sand and not addressing a very important issue which affects Oakland economically. The San Francisco media bias will not disappear when Oakland’s crime rate comes down. The media bias was there when Oakland ranked 28 just as much as it is when Oakland ranks fifth.

  28. Navigator

    V, which city ranked number one in adjusted homicides for 2004 and 2005? Please answer the question.

  29. V Smoothe Post author

    Well, Navigator, the reason I don’t get upset about unfair media coverage about Oakland’s crime problems is because I don’t think the coverage is unfair. I think it’s more than fair. You and I are coming from a different place. You appear to believe that Oakland has an image problem. I believe Oakland has a crime problem. If the New Orleans and St. Louis papers give less attention to their crime issues than our media does to ours, then they’re doing their communities a disservice.

  30. Patrick

    The article titles kind of prove my point, actually. East Oakland is HUGE…and it stretches all the way from the Lake to the San Leandro border. The area around 8th Ave. and 23rd St. (think Champa Garden, if you’re familiar with it) is completely different from 98th and International. “East Oakland” doesn’t define a neighborhood, it describes a directional relation to DTO (sort of). Perhaps just as importantly, how many people know where 27th St and 23rd Avenue, Oakland, is? I do, but pass through that intersection every day on my way to work. Quick quiz: 1. Can you conjure up an image of Castro and Market St. in SF? 2. In what SF neighborhood is Geary and 14th Avenue? 3. Which side, east or west, of SF has Avenues in it?

    RE: the Oakland Museum’s website, those neighborhood titles were current circa 1908. As is true in most US cities, current neighborhoods are defined by realtors. My house is much more salable in Reservoir Hill than it is in East Oakland. I will say that realtors take into account what actually defines neighborhoods today: demographics, shopping districts and as Max pointed out, freeways.

    How to change that? Dunno. If I tell people I live in East Oakland, they have a vague idea of where I live. (and always look terrified for my safety). If I say Reservoir Hill, the blink rate ups appreciably.

  31. Patrick

    I agree V. I don’t care what the perception of our city’s crime rate is, I just want to know that I can walk to my car without getting shot.

    On yet another tangent, I think Oaklanders are part of the problem, “Oh, you live BELOW 580″. When I was looking to buy a house, I drove up to what is now my home, on a sunny Monday afternoon. I got out of my car and simply walked up to the front porch to peer through the window (vacant, the house was a foreclosure). Within 5 minutes, 6, yes SIX, of my now neighbors came out of their homes to ask me what I was up to. You can’t get that in Montclair, and it is why I chose to live in that neighborhood (not that I could have afforded Montclair, mind you).

  32. Navigator

    Our media? You mean San Francisco’s media. And the fact that I brought up that study by Georgia State University which shows San Francisco ranked #1 in adjusted homicides in three consecutive years shows the media bias which you refuse to acknowledge. V, you went out of you way not to mention that San Francisco was ranked ahead of Oakland in that study. Instead, you bring up the fact that Oakland ranks higher when adjusted for homicides but you leave out the part about Oakland having a lower adjusted homicide rate than San Francisco. Also, I’m sure the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is suffering because the San Francisco media never brought up the fact that San Francisco was ranked number one in adjusted homicides for three consecutive years. “OUR” media indeed!

  33. Patrick

    What is an adjusted homicide? Does it mean that San Francisco, with its wealth and superior police force SHOULD have fewer homicides? And that relatively poor Oakland is getting what it deserves? A homicide is a homicide, and the fact is that the homicide rate per capita in Oakland is more than twice that of our neighbor across the Bay. I don’t care if a list places us at #5 or #30, too many people are getting shot to death in Oakland.

  34. jarichmond

    One of the things I found frustrating about that article is that, with the exception of the horrible and unusual shooting at the Piedmont piano school, everything mentioned in the article was related to -property crime-, not violent crime. I’m absolutely not excusing our outrageous violent crime rate, but what happened to the woman in the article was not violent crime. Our property crime rate is still obviously too high, but it’s not that far out of line compared to surrounding cities. Higher, sure, but not twice as high.

    I also think it’s a bit silly to get too worked up comparing our violent crime rate with S F’s; the simple fact is that it’s shockingly high. It doesn’t matter if theirs is also bad. It would be nice if we had a better image, but the best way to prevent headlines about homicides in Oakland would be for the city to lower the number of them. You can’t report something that doesn’t happen.

  35. jarichmond

    Doh! The iPhone won’t let me edit, but I was going to remove the part about everything being property crime except the Piedmont shooting. I forgot the beginning part about the restaurant robberies, though I would still point out that those were a relatively isolated but very high profile string.I probably should have said “everything that happened to her was property crime” instead.

  36. Patrick

    When I see the word “iPhone” I automatically envision “Gold Card”, “Beemer” “Wannabe” and “Greenest”. I can’t help it…all these awards we present ourselves. Ridiculous.

  37. Eric Fischer

    I’m not sure if it’s any more accurate a reflection of what people really consider their neighborhoods to be than the Oakland Museum map (I’ve certainly never heard any one refer to the Piedmont Avenue area as Broadway Heights!) but here is another map of Oakland neighborhoods, from the Oakland Planning Department in the 1970s.

  38. Patrick

    According to your map-link, I live in no-man’s land; the almost convergence of Highland, 23rd Avenue and Upper Fruitvale. Oh, and 580. From now on, I shall offer my location as “23, Upper Highland Avenue, Penthouse 580″.

  39. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    I want to respond to the discussion between V, Max and a few others about neighborhood naming. That is an interesting link, V, I’m looking forward to checking it out. And Max, the best map of Oakland neighborhood names I’ve seen is the Walk Oakland! Map. I have my arguments on some areas and it might be too fine grained for this purpose, and I’m also not sure how inclusive the process was in identification of neighborhoods. But have a look:

    While I do believe the media needs to use names people are familiar with, it is also incumbent upon them to work at building a finer grain of knowledge. As Patrick points out, East Oakland is just too vague and vast a track to be useful. But naming street intersections is equally unhelpful. I’m just never going to know where the 6100 block of Mauritania Boulevard is, but if it is reported as Millsmont, well now we are getting somewhere.

    And there may be two levels below North, East, and West anyways. A very fine one for Oaklanders in the know, and one less fine (but more so than the directionals) for the general Oakland public and the larger region. I have taken to refer to my neighborhood as East Lorin, which I found from a local message board (and I think the Nomad Cafe uses) and I think is pretty cool.

    But I bet almost everyone, including readers of ABO, doesn’t know where that is.

    I’ve also heard my neighborhood referred to as Baja Rockridge (by someone in real estate, no doubt), and I’m two blocks from Bushrod Park, so that might make sense as a name. And the Walk Oakland! map has me in Idora Park, which is also cool but maybe a little far away.

    But with almost everyone I talk to, I’ll add that I live near Temescal, which I think is reasonable, as I often walk to its commercial district from my home, which to me is about as basic of a definition of a neighborhood as there is. And I actually visit the shops of Temescal much more so than those of Lorin (at Altcatraz and Adeline in Berkeley).

    Max asks how we can fix the fact that most people don’t have more knowledge of Oakland neighborhoods. Certainly forums like this can help (if we start using them), as would requesting their use by more traditional media. But in some ways, this also needs to come from the top, which gives the benefit of sanction.

    The City of Milwaukee was working on a similar process when I lived there several years ago. And it is difficult to overstate how much pride of place there may be gained by this type of excercise. And that pride will also extend beyond neighborhood boundaries and into Oakland as a whole. I am amazed at how many young people just get this intuitively. But even my father is always inquiring about neighborhoods here when he visits or in Chicago with my sister. People like being members of groups: family, circle of friends, neighborhoods, schools, cities, states, regions, countries. It certainly can go overboard into unquestioning patriotism, but overall I think group identity is a healthy thing.

    But right now in Oakland we can’t count on much from the top, so maybe we need to develop this bottom-up to start, in the hopes that, if we ever have a top that gets what cities are about, they can take over the process and add a certain officialness to it. I’ve actually been thinking about this quite a bit of late, and have some further ideas, but I’m interested to hear some others first…

  40. DoubleA

    I was born and raised in Oakland and I love this city. That is why I read this blog along with other local blogs everyday, even though I currently do not live in the Bay. I did not leave Oakland because of crime, but for a music opportunity. I hype up Oakland to everyone I meet who is not from here, and I cannot wait for the day that I move back.

    That said, I think the argument that crime is worse in SF because it is smaller in square mileage is misleading. SF has almost twice the population of Oakland, not to count all of the tourists and commuters that are there every day. So while it may be true that SF has more crime per square mile than Oakland, all that means is that you have a greater chance of being close to a crime in SF than in Oakland.

    When compared per capita, Oakland fares worse. So while in SF, you may be closer to the crimes being committed, in Oakland you have a greater chance of the crime victim being you.

    We can argue about the image of Oakland, and how it is portrayed by the media all we want. I’ll admit that most of how I stay current on Oakland happenings other than violence is through blogs, and not traditional media. But either way, Oakland does have a very real crime problem. It will not go away if the SF Chronicle stops reporting on it, and comparing the problem to other cities, in the Bay or outside the Bay, does not make the problem any less serious.

    Also, I think it helps to remember that this problem has been around for a long time and is deeply entrenched. It’s not like Oakland became a violent city overnight. Crime did drop some in the late 90′s and early 00′s, but lets not forget what the late 80′s and early 90′s were like. I personally feel like the neighborhood in East Oakland where I grew up (55th Ave & Brookdale, I never know whether to call it Maxwell Park or Seminary) is better now than it was 15 years ago. It looks cleaner, and I don’t see nearly as many people loitering on the corners, but I know others who feel the neighborhood is getting worse.

  41. Eric Fischer

    It looks like Yahoo gets their neighborhood names from the same source as the Oakland Museum (the 1982 Fern Tiger street tree plan). ZIllow’s neighborhood maps also seem to come from there, although I’m not sure they are exactly the same.

  42. Michael B.

    I’ve lived in Oakland since early 1987, first near Piedmont Ave and now in the Dimond. Over those two decades, I’ve been the victim of non-violent crime countless times, including attempted burglaries, at least eight car break-ins and random car window smashings. I actually feel fortunate that it hasn’t been worse. For a while, there was a spate of broad daylight holdups in our neighborhood, one just a few doors down from us. And our neighborhood listserv is often dominated by crime reports, many of them worse crimes than I’ve endured. Not long ago, we had a police chase end in our neighborhood with a violent car wreck.

    We like Oakland and are fairly entrenched here with friends and jobs. For years, I was defiantly defensive of Oakland. But I’ve grown weary of constantly having to remind myself to move my car off the street, checking the side gate every night to make sure it’s firmly shut, checking the doors and windows two to three times a night, making sure that absolutely nothing of value is left lying around the backyard and casting suspicious glances at anyone unfamiliar in the neighborhood. For a while I was just going to leave my car unlocked so that the thieves wouldn’t have to break a window to ransack my car. This is all petty crime mostly, but the financial and psychological cost adds up.

    It doesn’t matter if the global Oakland experience is better or worse than elsewhere. What matters is each person’s personal experience. Mine has been tolerable, but just barely so. So I don’t begrudge anyone who leaves Oakland for calmer waters. Everyone sets their own standards for what they are willing to tolerate. And no one has a right to criticize anyone who decides to make a move.

  43. Navigator

    Double A, there is more than one way to compare crime rates. Why is per capita considered the fair and only method to compare crime? Comparing crime per square mile has been done in many areas including neighborhoods in New York, and other cities. Adjusted homicides are another method used to show how well a municipality is dealing with the homicide issue based on demographics, poverty rates, and relative wealth.

    The fact that there are more yuppies living in San Francisco dilutes the crime rate. Does that mean that I’m less likely to be a victim of the criminals who ply their trade in San Francisco because there are more yuppies living there. I’m not worried about the yuppies. I’m worried about the NUMBER of crimes that happen in those square miles. Also, the per capita method favors cities with very large populations. New York for example, has 8 million residents. It’s impossible for New York to ever be ranked anywhere near the top in crime. Same thing for Los Angeles. New York is now viewed as having a very low crime rate. However, if we were to take the 7 million residents of the Bay Area and compare the Bay Area’s crime rate with New York City, the Bay Area still has a much lower crime rate. Small and mid sized cities urban cities will always be at the top of the list. It’s an unfair method.

    My point has always been fairness in reporting crime. It’s never been not to report the crime that happens in Oakland. I want the San Francisco media to report crime in San Francisco in the same manner in which they report crime in Oakland. I want homicide in San Francisco made an “issue” as it is constantly made with respect to Oakland. Especially since the city of San Francisco has already surpassed last years homicide total and has also surpassed a decade high. I want to see a number attached to each San Francisco homicide and the +/- comparison from the previous year like the Chronicle does for Oakland. I want to see CW Nevius write 90% of his columns on crime just like Chip Johnson does for Oakland. After all, this is the San Francisco Chronicle not the Oakland Chronicle. If this was done out of civic duty and caring for Oakland as V insinuates, than they would be covering all of the festivals and parades which happen all over Oakland. They ignore that. The Chronicle saves that type of coverage for San Francisco events.

  44. Mike Spencer

    ‘Gator. Great last paragraph, nail on the head. Both things can be true: Oakland has a rampaging crime problem; Chronicle and other media always looking to slam Oakland.

    It often gets lost in the analysis of modern mass media that it is not just a news forum but that it’s more than ever an entertainment medium. (This beloved site excepted because it engages readers in thoughtful discussion without screaming headlines. and actually has people thinking about solutions) Big papers and commercial broadcast will always play up entertainment, titillatation, sensationalism. It’s sort of like commercial talk radio where reasoned and balanced voices get their butts kicked in ratings by shock jocks. What could be more dramatic than a person so pissed about crime that they are leaving, much more interesting than the 99% of others who stay put and deal with the problems.

  45. Navigator

    Mike, I agree with you. It’s unfortunate that out of a population of 760,000 residents, the San Francisco Chronicle couldn’t come up with one pissed off San Francisco resident to titillate their readers. But that’s OK. Because, I know that they run Oakland through the mud because they care.

  46. Eric Fischer

    They definitely have a different spin on the “leaving San Francisco” stories. People in the paper seem to leave San Francisco because they can’t afford housing, or because they want to raise their kids in the suburbs, or because they can make money by selling their houses that they bought when they were cheap. It’s hard to find one where they left because they hated it.

  47. Patrick

    Sorry, Nav. I’ll trade a viable city government actively working towards a safe, prosperous city for a glib mention in a Forbes article anyday.

    How can anyone suggest that Susan Gluss, Chip Johnson et al are vicious? They are stating their opinions and, in their mind, they’re right. Oakland IS more dangerous than the cities that surround us. It is, in our case, part and parcel of urban living. If anything, you should question Ms. Gluss’ perhaps unreasonable expectations. V., as a current resident (and your blog host, I might add) has every right to state her opinions regarding what she encounters on a daily basis. Actually, it is more than her right. She has more than clearly demonstrated that she feels an obligation to her readers.

    I am somewhat apologetic about the “Where is East Oakland” tangent that I may have inadvertently introduced into this discussion. What I would hope that everyone takes away from this discussion is that I am not embarrassed or ashamed to live in “East Oakland”, but I feel that it is not an adequate descriptor. There are enormous socio-economic, racial and physical divisions within what is often referred to as “East Oakland”. And to lump them all together marginalizes everyone within its boundaries.

  48. Navigator


    The New York Times has recently recognized the economic progress in Oakland. Now, Forbes Magazine has just named Oakland one of ten “Comeback Capitals,” and all we get from Chip Johnson is some sort of imagined and trumped up “exodus?” This speaks volumes about the image that these San Francisco interests want to portray of Oakland to the outside world. Publications from outside the Bay Area are recognizing what’s happening in Oakland, while San Francisco tries its best to keep residents and businesses scared of Oakland. Fortunately, it’s not working. According to the Forbes Magazine article, Oakland gained population at the expense of San Francisco. It looks like Chip had the wrong city when he talked about an exodus.

    Look, this is an economic war being waged against Oakland. San Francisco restaurants are flocking to Oakland in droves. Small San Francisco companies have begun signing leases in Oakland. There are rumors that Levi Strauss will relocate their headquarters to Oakland. Most of the population is in the East Bay. The weather is better in Oakland. The central location is better in Oakland. And Oakland is the very center of the transportation infrastructure in the Bay Area.

    San Francisco interests are fighting for their long-term economic survival. Oakland is a huge threat. They know that Oakland is where San Francisco should be. When I say “San Francisco,” I mean the business center for the Bay Area. San Francisco should be a boutique tourist town, not a central business center. Coronado isn’t the business center in San Diego. The business center for San Diego is on the mainland side of San Diego Bay.

    San Francisco interests have seen a once mighty Port in SF gobbled up by Oakland. They’ve seen a huge loss in market share at SFO in Milbrae, as Oakland International grew by leaps and bounds in recent years.

    Also, despite the per capita numbers for the cities as a whole, Oakland’s downtown is much safer than San Francisco’s downtown. The areas of Oakland where people tend to congregate, go to restaurants, and go shopping, have fewer robberies, fewer aggravated assaults, and fewer auto thefts. Crime per square mile is far less in downtown Oakland and many other areas of the city, than it is in downtown San Francisco.

    When people go to certain areas like Elmhurst or Eastmont they don’t ask “how many people live here and what’s the per capita crime rate.” They are worried about HOW MUCH crime is in the area. Why do we start making excuses for San Francisco when the facts say that there is much more crime in downtown San Francisco than in downtown Oakland?

  49. Patrick

    Copy writers for the New York Times and Forbes do not live in Oakland; Chip Johnson does.

    If the City of Oakland is in such an advantaged position, why are you so concerned about perception? I’m delighted that Levi Strauss considers our city for their future corporate headquarters; I am reminded on a daily basis that our climate is without peer and; it really doesn’t matter what the relative crime rate is in San Francisco, as long as Oakland’s crime rate is unacceptable to those who live and work here. Magazine articles, manipulated census/crime data and gung-ho slogans – “We’re safer than the slums of Rio!” – do not improve our daily lives.

  50. oaklandhappenings

    On a somewhat related note, Oakland’s homicide rate has been much better over the last several weeks then most periods of similar length earlier this year. V, your list of links verifies that somewhat, although it seems that there are about 5 or 6 missing that maybe the Chron didn’t report (that’s a first!). In any case, during the first 3 months of the year, there were close to 34-35 homicides; the next three (after a very quiet April but bad May), about 29-30; the next three months (summertime here, remember), roughly 35. Since October 1st, with the final 90-ish day period coming to a close…keep your fingers x’ed…only 10 (or 11)! All figures, to the best of my memory, include UNjustifiable homicides only.
    So, that is some encouraging news anyway, with the rate decreasing since the start of the year. Too bad we can’t say the same thing about aggravated assaults! Why those are so much higher than last year, it is hard to say.

  51. driver

    The census was wrong for San fran.I bet it was wrong for Oakland as well.So where is the corrected data links.

  52. Patrick

    Perhaps we can attribute the aggravated assault rate increase vs. the homicide rate decrease to the influence of our mayor! Plentiful rhetoric and intention, but absolutely no follow through.

    I expect to go to H.E.-double toothpicks for this.

  53. Navigator

    Patrick, how does Chip Johnson’s rehashing of old crimes in Oakland and referencing two disgruntled former Oakland residents (one from 2006) improve your daily life.? There is nothing constructive about those two columns. Those columns are nothing but a denigration of our city.

    Why don’t we here about the articles which cast Oakland in a positive light? Wouldn’t that be a change from the norm, thereby making it news? Unfortunately, you have to read Forbes or the New York Times in order to get away from the horrible perspective cast by the Chronicle and other San Francisco media entities regarding the city of Oakland. Chip Johnson’s columns are 95% negative. The Chronicle does series about Oakland tittled “OAKLAND: A plague of killing.” They do feature articles about “Oakland War Zones.” Keep in mind that this is the SAN FRANCISCO Chronicle not the Oakland Chronicle. Can you imagine the Chronicle ever running a story titled “San Francisco: A plague of killing?”

    Yes, I think Oakland is in an advantageous geographic position. Why would a business in an earthquake prone region locate their headquarters in a congested city linked to the rest of the region by bridges and an under the Bay tunnel, when the majority of the work force resides across the Bay in the Oakland Metro Area? Why forsake a city which has better weather, a better transportation network, more affordable neighborhoods, a closer proximity to the 7 million residents of the entire Bay Area? You forsake a centrally located city with better weather and a shorter and safer commute in earthquake country, by making the possible alternative seem too scary and dangerous. You do this by highlighting and magnifying Oakland’s imperfections to the World. You do this by pointing fingers across the Bay while sweeping your problems under the rug. You do this by pointing fingers at their crime, while ignoring yours. You trumpet one crime study while ignoring another. You point to one earthquake fault, while ignoring the one which destroyed your city in 1906. You point to your neighbor’s 40 million shortfall, while ignoring a 300 million shortfall in your city. You point to your neighbor’s crime rate with studies which are statistically advantageous to your city, while ignoring the fact that San Francisco County has the highest per capita crime rate of any County in California. You cover your festivities extensively like the Chinese New Year’s Parade, Halloween in the Castro, Golden Gate Park Concerts, North Beach Italian Festivals, etc. but you ignore the festivals in Oakland like the Oakland Holiday Parade, the Oakland Lighted Yacht Parade, the Art & Soul Festival, the Dia De Los Muertos in Fruitvale, the Chinatown Street Fest, the Oakland Art Murmur, etc.

    They’re panicking because they see that the dam is about to crack. If Levi Strauss relocates to Oakland, it will be a huge blow to their business community. It will dispel all the fear and propaganda they hype. It will prove that Oakland is a better, more central, safer, and more environmental responsible area to locate a major corporation. This is where Chip Johnson and Susan Gluss come in. This is where the selective reporting comes in.

  54. Max Allstadt

    If you want to see a well reasoned response to Chip’s column, read Angela Woodall’s piece in the tribune. I think she’s spot on.

  55. Patrick

    Nav, it’s just that I have a hard time embracing the conspiracy theory-grassy knoll aspects of your argument. However, why did Gluss write that article? Why did the Chronicle publish it? Was it a simple submission to the Chronicle – or was it a set-up for Johnson? Perhaps she just had a story she wanted to tell…and the Oakland Tribune wasn’t interested.

    Prior to purchasing my home in Oakland, I lived in an apartment in the Twin Peaks neighborhood of San Francisco for slightly over 3 years. Twin Peaks is quiet. So quiet, that people on the street say hello to each other in hushed tones. And so safe that in all the time I lived there, my bedroom window and my patio door were never closed fully, let alone locked. But, I paid an outrageous sum for 600 sq. ft. of beige carpeting and baby-blue bathroom tile.

    A friend of mine mentioned that there were some good deals on homes in Oakland. I’ve always liked Oakland so I looked and eventually bought. Though not big in sq. ft., I now have two more bedrooms and an extra bath. And a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a basement, a garage, a yard and the ability to paint zebra stripes on the ceiling if I want to because I own it. All of these are things I didn’t have in SF. But it is not perfect, as no place is. As the part of the street I live on is a dead-end, it is a magnet for abandoned stolen cars. It is so commonplace that I know the City’s Abandoned Car Hotline number by heart. But, I’d trade a few abandoned cars for the ability to pick apples off the tree in my front yard anyday.

    On Thursday, November 20th, on my way home from work, I pulled onto my street – and it was chaos. Police cars, an ambulance, neighbors huddled in small groups crying. Details were quickly supplied: an 80 year old woman was savagely beaten and kicked to within an inch of her life, for no apparent reason. The perps laughed over her twitching body before running away. Yes, this incident was on my street, less than 200 feet from the pillow on which I lay my head at night. In talks with neighbors, it was apparent that what made this incident so shocking to us was the age of the victim – not that it happened in Oakland.

    That evening, as I sat in stunned silence in my home (the first time I’d ever turned it on while at home), I would have given anything to be back in my apartment in San Francisco. And if the Chronicle asked me to write a story about it, I would have. I believe the moral of Gluss’ story was that she left Oakland because she felt she had no choice. And Johnson’s article, though somewhat sensational, was a reactionary plea for help from our city’s government (and part of his neverending attack on our Mayor). Both of them, I believe, felt they had a duty to write their stories – because unfortunately, in Oakland, something must be done to increase the safety of innocent 80 year old women who walk down residential streets collecting cans in broad daylight.

  56. Max Allstadt

    No, she’s right. We have crime, but treating it like it’s the whole of our identity is as reckless and slanted as the “rah rah boosterism” you accuse her of. Besides, as far as sycophantry goes, I thought JDAT had the monopoly.

    V, I think you spend an appropriate amount of time on crime vs. many other important issues worth covering. I think Chip Johnson spend a little too much time talking about what a impotent cypher Ron Dellums is: it’s not reporting when everybody already knows. I mean I read his column for little details, but the whole message is one I already know and agree with.

    I also think the fact that he’s goes around talking about leaving is a little too defeatist. If Gluss wanted to leave, that’s her prerogative, I guess, but turning retreat into a screed is offputting to me. If people are taking up the Oakland beat, I want them pondering solutions… Susan’s surrender isn’t a solution for anyone but her.

  57. Patrick

    Oddly, parts of my comment have gone missing…

    The first paragraph is missing more “Why were these stories written” questions.

    The last paragraph should have “with the burglar alarm on” after “silence in my home”

  58. Eric Fischer

    Does that Forbes article actually say anything positive about Oakland? All I can see that it says about Oakland is that there were more people who wanted to live in San Francisco than could afford to, so some of them decided to live in Oakland instead.

    Navigator, the reasons you list for a business to choose Oakland over San Francisco don’t sound like reasons to choose Oakland, they sound like reasons to choose some random suburb. How is Oakland better positioned in these respects than, say, Hayward?

    The reason for a business to locate in a city — any city — is not strict centrality, but concentration. You want to be near other related businesses so you can buy stuff from them, have them buy stuff from you, hire away their employees, go out to lunch with people, and overhear what other people are talking about at lunch, or on the sidewalk, or having a drink at a local bar after work instead of going straight home. You have to have these opportunities available within comfortable, safe, walking distance to compete for business as a city. There’s no point trying to compete on suburban terms because the actual suburbs will win.

  59. Mike Spencer

    The Trib lacks credibility because of that very “boosterish” mentality. The Trib has not had a tough but fair local columnist since Peggy Stinnett, circa 2005. Thoough we all like to bash and spew against Chip Johnson, he is the only media person consistantly trying to shine the light on Oakland leadership, or lack thereof. (V. Smoothe also included, of course.)

  60. Navigator


    What happened to that 80 year old woman is absolutely horrendous and disgusting. Those thugs are less than human.

    What happened to the young bicyclist in the Richmond was equally as disgusting. What happened to that young man shot and killed in Golden Gate Park after only three weeks in San Francisco was disgusting. What happened to three members of the Bologna Family on an Excelsior street in San Francisco, was disgusting. The killing of a father on 280 in front of his two young sons was disgusting. The killing of a father of a star basketball player as he went outside during halftime is disgusting. The killing of a mother of six driving a minivan on a San Francisco off ramp is disgusting. The brutal killing of a young teenager with a sword in the Mission, was disgusting.

    Patrick, I sympathize with that horrible scene which you experienced in your neighborhood. But, to do what Susan Gluss did, and talk about the sail boats in her unattainable “serene” San Francisco, and then go on to indict the entire city of Oakland, shows where she was coming from. To use Christopher Rodriguez as a throw in, and as a pile on tactic to add credibility to her opinion of Oakland, was pathetic and disgusting. Susan Gluss had every right to leave Oakland. I didn’t like the fact that she had to turn around and throw stones as she was leaving. Patrick you know darn well that the Chronicle would never permit a disgruntled San Franciscan to do what Susan Gluss did to Oakland.

    Also, Patrick why do you compare a serene twin peaks neighborhood to a neighborhood in a very urban location in Oakland. That’s like me leaving Montclair and getting a house in the Mission and then telling everyone how much safer and quiet Oakland was than San Francisco.

    Also, for the person who compared Oakland to Hayward. The difference is, that Oakland is a large city with high rise office buildings. Oakland is the absolute geographic center of the Bay Area. Oakland is at the very center of the BART system. Oakland is at the crossroads of the Bay Area’s freeway system. Oakland has a major Port. Oakland has a major Airport. Oakland has over 800 restaurants, a symphony, a ballet, a Zoo, a Museum, three sports franchises, a space & science center, etc.

    I guess I’ve been talking to many San Francisco transplants. I better layoff San Francisco. This is a better Oakland site?

  61. Navigator

    Mike, the Trib is all boosterism? That’s not true. The Tribune actually runs a series with the names and pictures of each homicide victim in Oakland. Does the Chronicle do the same for San Francisco homicide victims? The Tribune doesn’t hide Oakland’s homicide count like the Chronicle does for San Francisco. The Tribune doesn’t cooperate with city officials and report watered down homicide rates by deducting justifiable homicides from the “official” numbers. The Tribune doesn’t go along with turning a blind eye to six missing homicides which once appeared on a San Francisco crime map, and to this day, still appear on the “Crime Report” site for San Francisco, as the San Francisco Chronicle does. The Tribune doesn’t ignore Oakland’s crime ranking like the Chronicle ignored this one for San Francisco. The Tribune doesn’t ignore crimes in it’s own city and instead does feature stories on crime in San Francisco.

    To some people the fact that Oakland has virtually no media, is still not enough. Do you think having Channel 2 in Jack London Square with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in its back drop, and management living in San Francisco, qualifies as “Oakland” media? Oakland has nothing as far as media and you still complain of some sort of “boosterism.” So, the shellacking Oakland gets isn’t enough?

  62. Patrick

    Nav, I am simply saying that I do not believe it was Ms. Gluss’ intention to sully the reputation of our city, though I understand it has that effect. Her article does mention how she loved being able to walk to shopping and restaurants in Oakland, etc.. I still say it was not an indictment, but rather a wistful, backwards glance. In any event, she’s gone. And she is probably bored to tears in Greenbrae.

    I guess I got caught up in the memory of the event. What I should have made clear is that I wouldn’t trade my Oakland home for that apt. in SF…but I thought about it the night of the beating. And, if beatings, or similar violent crimes, became a regular feature on my street, I would certainly sell my home. We all have a tipping point.

  63. Navigator

    Patrick, her entire point was to emphasize how despite Oakland having all of these attributes, it’s just not worth living in that city. Not even in the so called “safe” neighborhoods. It’s as simple as that. It was a perfect setup for Johnson to jump in flailing away with a litany of rehashed crimes.

    But you know what, I’m getting tired of defending Oakland on a “Better Oakland” site. It’s time to move on. Good luck everyone.

  64. Robert

    Can we just get over it? MSM makes money by attracting readers, and American’s taste in news runs to the negative and to sensationalism. And all the commenting here just proves that the Chronicle did just what it wanted, get folks worked up to read the paper or SFGate. Ms. Gluss’ opinion piece is one point of view, and clearly attracted readers. And if that series of events happened to me I would probably leave too, especially if I was living in an area I thought was going to be safe. The only real issue I have with Chip Johnson’s piece is that his opinion is that major reason people are leaving Oakland because of crime, and he doesn’t present any information to back that up other than the high crime rate.

    So just get over it. The opinions did just what the paper would like, get people talking and reading the paper. I seriously doubt that these two opinion pieces are, by themselves, going to make anybody pack up and move. And they could serve to help pressure our city to keep trying to bring down the crime rate.

  65. Robert

    Nav, I don’t find your desire to use ‘adjusted’ crime rates to compare Oakland to SF or other cities to be very helpful. While the demographically adjusted crime rates are useful in understanding the causes of crime, and maybe useful in evaluating efforts to prevent crime, they really aren’t helpful in determining how safe I am in any city. Better geographic information, sure, but not demographic. Am I supposed to fell safer if I live in an area where the crime rate is low for the area’s demographic profile, and less safe in the area with a high crime rate for the profile, even if the measured crime rate is the same in both? This makes no sense. If the measured crime rate is the same, my risk is the same regardless of the neighborhood’s demographics.

  66. Patrick

    No, the point was that it was not worth living in Oakland – to her. Honestly, anyone who thinks Greenbrae is an acceptable substitute didn’t belong here in the first place. What has been stated, but not within the original article, was that her purse was stolen out of her car because it was in plain sight. Provable? No. But highly likely. Besides, any woman dumb enough to put her wallet-containing purse out of sight and on the floor of a crowded music venue is inviting loss. That type of theft is not indicative of a city’s crime rate – it is indicative of the victim’s stupidity, or at least lack of wherewithal.

    I am truly sorry that you feel that we (I?) are/am attempting to quash your Oakland boosterism. That is not the case. We’re all boosters, to some degree, or we wouldn’t be here. But to rail against people’s firmly held opinions, however unfairly they may have been helped by a mass media outlet, is pointless. It may make one feel better, but it doesn’t provide what we really need: solutions.

    Please don’t leave the blog. That was Ms. Gluss’ answer to her situation and look where she ended up.

  67. 94610BizMan

    How about a poll on what is an “acceptable level of crime” to personally tolerate for living in Oakland.? This is a serious question and not a snark.

    Over a 5 year period the crime could be divided by category and then:
    1. You or your immediate family were the victim
    2. Your neighbors or friends were victims or you were a witness.

    • Murder
    • Assault/Armed Robbery/mugging requiring hospitalization
    • Assault/attempted or successful armed Robbery/mugging
    • Burglary or Attempted burglary
    • Auto theft
    • Auto break-in or Auto vandalism
    • Petty theft, vandalism, anti-social behavior

    For example I’ve lived in a “good” Oakland neighborhood for 14 years and have also lived in a “terrible high crime neighborhood” in Chicago during the 70’s as an “urban pioneer” I’ve had way more crime in Oakland from a personal and neighborhood experience.

    Except for murder and just in my immediate neighborhood of about 40 houses, we have had MULTIPLE crimes in each of the categories over the last five years. Assault requiring a trip to the hospital four times. Robbery, burglary, attempted burglary and auto theft each are at a rate of about two or three times per year over the last five years. Auto break-in, Auto vandalism, petty theft, vandalism, anti-social behavior taken together is once or twice a week.

    BTW except for murder and assault requiring hospitalization. I have personally been involved in each of the other serious crimes listed above twice in the last five years.

    I don’t think that most folks would consider this acceptable. All anyone needs to do is look at the Oakland Crime spotting maps for their neighborhood. Oakland has an unacceptable crime problem from a civics perspective. Some of us are more willing to live with it than others. I would suggest that those of us willing to live with it are the unusual folks and not those who choose to leave.

  68. len raphael

    what i don’t understand is why more people who can afford to, don’t leave Oakland because of high crime.

    heck, a year or so ago, a neighbor had a bullet go thru the back of his suburu, thru the empty baby seat, and lodge in the dashboard. that was just from stopping for a quick lunch on San Pablo near Berkeley.

    then my other neighbors on 49th st who as ken related had their block swept by gunfire.

    i love living here, but if any of those things had happened to me, i’d be outa here.

    -len raphael

  69. Coolhand Luke

    I mean my pops has been held up at gun point and I almost got killed out on 106th ave in the Deep East, not to mention jumped a few times, but I love Oakland too much to leave it so more idiots can run it. Oakland has way more positives than negatives in my opinion, but you have to fight for good things. I could move to Pleasanton or Concord (if I cud afford it) and be safer, but I would also be bored out of my damn mind in such a homogeneous parking lot of a city! Clearly there is work to be done, but rather than run away or dodge the negatives I plan to fight the negatives head on.

  70. len raphael

    it isn’t just urban edgy loving youngun’s w/o children who have an amazingly high tolerance for crime levels, but i’ve found old white people who just shrug it off. this one 70 something guy and his wife have lived near the oha project on 49th for decades. he was telling me how much better my part of temescal was now with just minor drug dealing and vandalism cf to 20 years ago with nightly gunfire. he considered that more drive by shooting that scared the sht out me, to be just a freak occurrance.

    when i asked him to join in logging complaints re oha occupant drug dealing, he demurred. ability to cope with high crime levels seems ostrich like to me, just survival to him. he and spouse never been mugged and only had two break in’s in 50 years. (sans mastif).

    -len raphael

  71. Coolhand Luke

    Yeah, it just really depends on what ur used to I guess. If it has always been a norm for you, then you’re less likely to see it as a deal breaker, or even a major problem- it just is. However, if you’ve come from a better environment, it seems outrageous to tolerate it. But it also is true that Oakland is better now than it was in the 80s, so if folks are able to identify a time Oakland was worse (like ur neighbor) then they’re less likely to think the present is bad. Its all relative

  72. Max Allstadt


    Thanks for helping bust that stereotype. Over here at 24th and San Pablo, there are at least 6 young families on the block. White, black and latino, actually. I think it’s a buy low, sell high thing. Sooner or later, barring the collapse of civilization, Oakland will get better.

  73. 94610BizMan

    Crime perception is relative to one’s personal experience. However, without improvement in the crime situation “A Better Oakland” won’t happen. As old residents die off, someone needs to move in.

    Much of our neighborhood had a generational turn over in the last 20 years. But if the younger families move to Pleasanton then Oakland suffers. Crime improved from the 80s through about 1998 and then got worse so there are many recent residents who perceive a worsening situation. Even my acquaintances in the hills are worried due to increased theft, vandalism and robbery.

    Furthermore, if the small businesses that will be necessary to create jobs locate elsewhere, Oakland really suffers. At the beginning of this year about half of the senior people at my small firm lived in Oakland. About one quarter are African American and their attitude toward the crime situation makes me look like a “bleeding heart liberal”. In the last year one moved to Pleasanton. In every case their children moved out of Oakland, with their parent’s encouragement, due to the crime and schools. This is the same situation with the older African American families in my neighborhood. None of their children live in Oakland.As another poster observed, they come back for church on Sunday.

    Even the East Bay Express has noticed that arresting career criminals cuts down on high profile crime. The original title of the post “has a point” needs to sink into City Hall and the boosters.

    If recent residents perceive a worsening crime situation here, the City’s financial situation will really take a hit as productive tax-paying and Oakland-shopping residents leave. If crime doesn’t improve. there is a very good probability that I will be the only Oakland resident at my firm in a few years.

  74. Navigator

    I have to agree with the posters who think Oakland is much better now than it was 30 years ago, and better than it was 20 years ago. I grew up in lower Rockridge, the 5300 block of Manila Avenue to be precise. I still remember the dilapidated Vern’s grocery store at 51st & Telegraph. My mother had the battery of her car stolen in that parking lot. My brother worked as a cashier in the produce department at Vern’s. He tells me that the winos would come in and try to distract him while someone else would attempt to reach in the till. Temescal was a zoo back in the late 70′s and early 80′s. Telegraph was full of vacant storefronts. Genoa’s Delicatessen was one of the few vibrant businesses in the area.

    Another area which has improved tremendously is Old Oakland. I remember the check cashing places around 10th Street. Pimps and prostitutes were also known to frequent the area. There was no Hotel or City Center at the time. The beautiful historic buildings that you see there now, were dilapidated boarded up relics. You had check cashing places, liquor stores, pimps, prostitutes, and, other than City Hall and a few other buildings around 14th & Broadway, downtown Oakland consisted of fenced off holes in the ground. It took a while to develop what is now City Center. Oakland is a FAR better city now.

  75. len raphael

    big test of perceived crime level acceptance occurs with onset of children. one thing for adults accepting risk they understand, but making kids accept it requires mental balancing act of economics, commuting time vs quality time, diversity vs self confidence; urban stimulation vs distraction; and air quality.

    eg. about 12 years ago i was gung ho and taking over a friend’s house near highland hosp, complete with three fireplaces and bay views until my teenage sons (who both went on to play football at Oakland Tech) told me that if i moved there I’d have to drive them everywhere to avoid the normal street challenges that they’d go thru over there (especially without having grown up there).

    -len raphael

  76. Navigator

    Another question that we have to ask about crime in Oakland, is how much are we allowing for crime that would happen anywhere else. I have a relative who confronted a burglar in her house in Benicia. She ended up firing a couple of rounds at him as he was coming at her. Luckily, she missed and was able to scare him off. Another relative in Martinez had his door kicked in and the house burglarized in the middle of the day. Oakland isn’t a black hole for crime. Crime happens in other places with great frequency. People in the suburbs have their cars broken into all the time. Lafayette has had a number of high profile murders in the last few years. I can recall the wife of a prominent attorney being killed in Lafayette. I recall a number of years ago two guys from San Francisco go off a BART train and killed a woman in her home in Lafayette. I recall the wife killing her husband who was a psychiatrist. I recall two elderly people killed near downtown Lafayette. But, nobody ever says “I’m going to get the h-ll out of Lafayette” because of the crime. My relative didn’t hold the City of Martinez responsible for his door being kicked in. He had moved from Oakland. I can tell you that if that had happened to him in Oakland, in his mind , it would of been BECAUSE he lived in Oakland.

    This is the self-hate ingrained on many people who live in Oakland because of the constant drumbeat of the media. Any crime committed in Oakland is perceived to occur strictly because of someone living in “OAKLAND.” or being in Oakland. In reality, anybody, whose lived anywhere for any period of time will be able to provide a list of crimes if they’re being honest with themselves. That’s why, when I hear people reciting their list of Oakland crime, I have to take it with a grain of salt because some of those crimes would have happened somewhere else anyway. Hopefully, in five years, Susan Gluss will write an essay about how many times her car was broken into in Greenbrae. Don’t count on it though. Once people leave Oakland, they seem to put their crime documentation list away. Yes I know, we’re No. 5.

  77. James H. Robinson

    People put their crime documentation lists away when they leave Oakland because the place where they go once they leave Oakland don’t put of the PERCEPTION of crime. In other words, in Lafayette and other places, you don’t see grafitti, trash, blight, and minorities like you see in Oakland, so people feel safe whether they are or not.

  78. Navigator

    James, even though I get on the City’s case about the appearance of certain parts of Broadway, I must say that over all, the city looks much cleaner than it did 20 years ago or even ten years ago. I drove down Park Blvd today from 580 near Oakland High, all the way down to E 18th. The area looks much cleaner and nicer than it did twenty years ago. There’s a nice mural on the retaining walls next to the steps leading to Oakland High. At one time all of those walls were filed with graffiti along with all of the garages set close to the street on Park Blvd. I saw no litter and no graffiti with the exception of a couple of tags near the Parkway Theater.

    Good job, Public Works Department. Also, kudos to who ever was responsible for cleaning the graffiti from the Pediatric Dentistry Building at 2100 Broadway. And, someone finally cleaned up the wall behind Le Cheval restaurant. Great job.

    James, I agree with you that much of it has to do with perception. I happen to think that the perception is mostly media driven. The perceptions are created by what is, and by what isn’t reported. I remember reading a BCN news clip a while back stating that ten people had been shot over the weekend in San Francisco. I turned on the television to hear the local news. Nothing! They didn’t even mention it. ABC 7 pretended like nothing had happened. Now, if ten people are shot over the weekend in Oakland, everybody will know about it, and Chip Johnson would most likely write a column.

  79. 94610BizMan

    Navigator I agree that crime is much better now that was in the 1980s. I moved to Berkeley in 1982 and had lots of friends who lived in all the Oakland neighborhoods that you listed in your post as well as some neighborhoods that were much worse. However when someone chooses to move to or stay in Oakland it’s the Oakland 2008. Looking at the police reports things have gotten worse in Oakland since 1998 irrespective of any kind of boosterism.

    In order to ever get any kind of “A Better Oakland”, we need to make sure that folks want to move to and stay in Oakland. We also need reasons for the businesses to stay on Oakland. I’ve been associated with multiple startups that create good jobs that end up moving those jobs out of Oakland. Now we can argue whether that’s just Oakland’s fault, but Oakland also has a jobs problem.

    The point here is Oakland is in competition with other places for people to live and locate their businesses. Higher crime is a negative and I don’t think that you really believe that the actual real level of crime against law abiding citizens in Lafayette or Walnut Creek is the same as that in Oakland in the neighborhoods below highway 13.

    You can get the crime reports from the various cities if you want to make a quantitative argument but it’s just not true. For example all you need to do is use the Crime Spotting Oakland site maps to compare crime below highway 13 to that of the upper hills.

    BTW, your comment about hatred is hard for me to understand. In your opinion, who is doing the hating and what/who are those people hating?

  80. Navigator

    BizMan, I was trying to make the point that other cities also have crime, but that victims of crime in Oakland, perceive that any and every crime that happens to them within the city limits is strictly because they were in Oakland, they live in Oakland, or they happened to be visiting Oakland. They don’t consider that a certain amount of the crime they’ve experienced living in Oakland over the years, would also have happened somewhere else. I was also trying to make the point that when crime happens in these other cities, the cities are not held directly responsible by the victims or residents. I wasn’t trying to imply that Walnut Creek or Lafayette have the same crime rate as Oakland. That’s not a fare comparison based on demographics or poverty rates.

    The argument that we’re competing with Walnut Creek, Lafayette and other homogeneous, high income areas for businesses and retail based on crime figures will always be a losing proposition for large cities. The difference with Oakland is the level of media denigration which distorts the relative safety in Oakland as compared to San Francisco. If we take your argument to its logical conclusion, San Francisco should be devoid of retail, succumbing to the much safer environs of Marin County and the wealthy cities of the Peninsula. If you ever have a chance go to and click on robberies, aggravated assaults, burglary, and auto theft, for a one mile radius of 4th & Market in downtown San Francisco. Click the 90 days time frame. You will be amazed at how much crime occurs within that one mile radius which includes Union Square, Civic Center, Chinatown, Tenderloin, Financial District, South of Market etc. This one mile radius pretty much encapsulates perfectly every neighborhood which can be considered downtown SF. The epicenter is near the San Francisco Shopping Center.

    Bizman, according to your argument there is no way San Francisco should be able to compete with Marin County, or many of the wealthy cities in the Peninsula because of the disparity in the crime rate. However, San Francisco is a retail magnet. Why? Is it because people don’t know about the level of crime in downtown San Francisco? Is it a perception thing?

    Oakland will NEVER have the crime rate of Walnut Creek. the city of Walnut Creek is full of well-top-do people. Walnut Creek does not do it’s share to accommodate affordable housing. There are no parolees sent to live in Walnut Creek. So, if crime level is the standard for Oakland to compete with the suburbs, we may as well just throw in the towel and head home. You see Bizman, Oakland is held to a different standard then our neighbor across the Bay.

  81. 94610BizMan

    OK I get your point about SF. I certainly agree about parolees since the most serious crimes I was personally involved with in the last year were all committed by parolees.

    I just don’t agree that Oakland is NOT in competition with WC, Pleasanton etc. I don’t throw in the towel because I think Oakland is overall a good place to live with advantages that WC and Pleasanton can’t have. Right now however I think the Risk/Return ratio is much too high for many productive, law-abiding people, especially families who have not previously experienced a high is crime environment.

    It’s hard enough to find really qualified people and Oakland’s reputation makes it tougher.

    I think this is going to be an ugly recession and would hate to see the city regress to the early 80s. I’m not a spry as I was 30 years ago. At least I doubt the Chron will survive the recession. East Bay Conservative’s predictions are more likely to come true if the Oakland City politicos don’t get the crime rate pointing back down.

  82. Navigator

    BizMan, I agree that Oakland’s reputation makes things much tougher. And, I agree that Oakland needs to get the crime rate down. I just don’t think that a lower crime rate, while a very good thing for Oakland residents, will have any tangible affect on Oakland’s image. The image makers work across the Bay.

  83. Patrick

    When Marin, Oakland, etc. have any retail competition to speak of, then they will be competitive. Union Square is a case study in where relatively affluent people (read: people who spend money shopping) want to shop. Grand Avenue has a nail “spa” every 3 storefronts.

    Although I do very much care about our image (who doesn’t), I would much rather be safe than pretty.

  84. Navigator

    Patrick, and why does Grand Avenue have nail saloons and Union Square have world class retail? Is it because there is more crime on Grand Ave than in downtown San Francisco? Let’s do a comparison of robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, and auto theft within a one mile radius of Grand & Lake Park, along with a comparison for the same crimes within a one mile radius of Union Square in San Francisco in the last ninety days. I don’t have the numbers. I’ll leave it to who ever is interested in finding out.

    Patrick, can’t we be both safe AND pretty? No matter how safe we are they will magnify whatever crime we have and sweep theirs under the rug. We’ll never be “pretty.”

  85. James H. Robinson

    Bear in mind that Union Square draws lots of tourists. For example, the first time I ever visited San Francisco (or California, for that matter) was for the 2005 MacWorld Expo at the Moscone Center. Between sessions I visited Union Square and was so impressed with San Francisco, I came back a few months later to see the rest of the city. Eventually, I moved to the Bay Area but being a tourist gave me a first taste.

    Oakland, on the other hand, does not have that tourist business that can support high-end retain like Union Square. In addition, there seems to be resistance in this town to any kind of corporate retail, especially among the affluent. I’m surprised the residents of the Grand Lake area didn’t fight against AT&T and the Gap having stores in that shopping center. There seems to be an unrealistic lust for mom and pop shops in this town.

  86. Max Allstadt


    Comparing Union Square to Grand Ave based on crime alone makes no sense. There’s no commercial building over 3 stories within any reasonable distance of the Grand Lake area. Union Square is way way way more dense. More humans = the ability to support more retail.

  87. Navigator


    The Grand Lake/Lake Shore, Adams Point, Haddon Hill, and Gold Coast neighborhoods are the densest neighborhoods in Oakland and are very similar to many San Francisco neighborhoods. The argument was that the reason Oakland doesn’t have retail is because of the crime rate. Therefore, it’s perfectly reasonable to compare a dense area of Oakland to a shopping mecca in San Francisco to see if it is indeed the crime rate in these areas which have an effect on retail. I can almost guarantee you without doing the comparison that the one mile radius in downtown San Francisco will have much more crime than the one mile radius from Grand Ave and Lake Park. It’s the PERCEPTION of crime. San Francisco has proven that the actual crime rate in a certain area has no correlation to the amount of retail.

    Also, the killing of that poor Greenbrae woman in a San Rafael parking garage should make Susan Gluss think a little harder about impugning Oakland as a livable city. I wonder if Susan and Chip Johnson will use this horrible event to impugn the livability of Marin County? Will Susan include this in her crime documentation list in two years like she did the tragic shooting of Christopher Rodriguez? What Gluss and Johnson did to Oakland was pathetic. Angela Woodall hit the nail on the head in her piece in the Oakland Tribune.

  88. V Smoothe Post author

    Enough is enough, Navigator. We all get by now that you’re obsessed with protecting Oakland’s image, but I have a really hard time believing that anyone could be so incredibly deluded that they would honestly believe the crime rate is higher in San Francisco than in Oakland, despite all evidence to the contrary.

  89. V Smoothe Post author

    That’s my point, Navigator. I did look it up, and there is absolutely zero evidence anywhere that suggests the crime rate in downtown San Francisco is higher than that in downtown Oakland, or in the Grand and Lakeshore area for that matter. You bizarre obsession with defending Oakland from what you see as an unfair media bias has apparently blinded you to the facts and interfered with your ability to reason.

  90. Max Allstadt


    Union Square’s level of density only exists in Downtown Oakland, and even then, only barely. Even the more neighborhoody parts of SF are more dense. Even where there are two story houses, in SF there are many more attached homes. The size of street grids is also tighter in most parts of SF. Plus, in most of the detached parts of SF, the setbacks and yard sizes are smaller.

    I believe Adam’s Point has the highest residential density in the East Bay. How many similarly dense areas do you think there are in SF?

    If you’re comparing based on crime rate, you have to isolate for density or compare to an area of similar density. It’s not even only residential density. Union Square has oodles more office space too. And hotels. People everywhere, all the time, a giant park in the center of it all… We have absolutely nothing like that in Oakland. The comparison is ridiculous.

  91. Navigator

    V, I’ve done the comparisons and you’re wrong. Downtown San Francisco has 7x the aggravated assaults of downtown Oakland, 3x the robberies etc. I’ll give you my numbers from a recent search of the San Francisco Police Map. These are the figures for a one mile radius of Union Square at Powell & Geary for a ninety day period. Aggravated Assaults 739, Robberies 296, Burglary 357. Now for Oakland. In a one mile radius of 14th & Broadway here are the figures for a recent ninety day search. Aggravated Assaults 98, Robberies 107, Burglary 108.

    Also, I don’t appreciate you calling me delusional and a liar. V, I don’t owe anything to anybody, therefore I can tell the truth. The best thing Chip Johnson ever did for Oakland is plug this site.

  92. V Smoothe Post author

    Navigator, do you not understand the concept of a crime rate? There are way, way, way more than seven times as many people in downtown San Francisco than there are in downtown Oakland. Hence, more crime, a lower crime rate. It really isn’t that complicated.

  93. Navigator

    V, First of all, you have no idea how many people actually live in the Financial District, the Tenderloin, and the Civic Center area. Also, you have no idea how many people live in Adams Point, Grand Lake, Lake Shore, Haddon Hill and the Gold Coast neighborhoods. Your assertion that these very dense Oakland neighborhoods have a higher crime rate than downtown San Francisco is only a vague guess on your part based on what you believe to be common knowledge.

    V, you seem much to eager to defend Chip Johnson and Susan Gluss when they trash Oakland, but you call me a liar and delusional, along with dismissing Angela Woodall as an Oakland “booster” when we criticize Chip Johnson and Susan Gluss.

    Also, why did you feel the need to insult me personally?

    Let me give you a little advise. Always tell the truth regardless of who it will implicate. When you defend someone regardless of what they write, because you owe them something, you lose credibility with your readers.

  94. V Smoothe Post author

    I know that with more than 30,000 hotel rooms and roughly seven times as much office space, plus residents, it’s a complete no brainer that there are many times more people in downtown SF than in downtown Oakland, and only someone desperate to see what isn’t there could think otherwise. I’m sorry you feel that I’m insulting you personally, but after a week of your relentless and utterly preposterous tirades on this subject, I’ve had it. Enough is enough.

  95. Eric Fischer

    It’s hard to say what the population is exactly because, well, as the other thread makes clear there is some doubt about where the boundaries of the neighborhoods are!

    But OK, here are the Oakland census tracts that I think correspond to these areas and their populations:

    4034 (Gold Coast): 3697
    4037, 4036 (Adams Point): 4652, 4400
    4038 (Grand Lake): 3453
    4039 (hills above Grand): 3794
    4052 (Haddon Hill): 4991
    4053 (Lakeshore): 5838

    And in San Francisco:

    117 (Financial District): 1747
    122, 123, 124, 125 (Tenderloin): 7035, 6205, 8188, 7727

    So 29822 people in the Tenderloin and Financial District, 30825 in the sum of these Oakland neighborhoods.

    Why these particular areas to compare?

  96. Patrick

    I only chose these two areas to showcase the difference between retail options within each city; there was no attempt to compare the two areas in any other way. San Francisco has shopping destinations for people who are looking to spend big money; Oakland has shopping destinations for people who want to stroll down a street and possibly get a pedicure. We are not San Francisco…but neither is any other place that does not occupy the top 47 square miles of the southern peninsula on the west side of San Francisco Bay.

    Oakland will not – and can not – support a Saks Fifth Avenue or a Barney’s. But, can you imagine the mob scene at a Target, Kohl’s or Lowe’s? Someone’s post mentions something about Oakland’s obsession with Mom’n'Pop. Hear, hear. I love supporting small businesses…but sometimes I just want to buy underwear without having to chat. Oakland’s demographics and incomes would easily support middle income chains such as these…and provide jobs and a tax base to boot. Our enviable road infrastructure was built for big-box retail; San Francisco’s wasn’t. Oh, and neither was Emeryville’s or Berkeley’s. An open air retail “village”, easily accessed off of I-880 just off the bridge, would be a magnet for Oaklanders, and San Franciscans that don’t want to drive through a maze of city streets to go to Daly City when they could hop on the freeway and come to Oakland! To “quote” Sherlock Holmes ” When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. And the truth is that these specific retail outlets are all at least 8 miles distant from either terminus of the Bay Bridge…why not capture them before someone else does?

  97. Navigator


    In your opinion how does crime affect the viability of retail locations? And, is Oakland’s image a deterrent to retail coming to downtown Oakland or uptown Oakland? Also, do you think that if Oakland reduces crime to the level we had under Jerry Brown, that our image will improve and therefore our ability to attract retail will improve?

  98. Patrick

    Businesses exist to make money. So why, in our city of 400,000 people, with 270,000 daily vehicle trips through our city and over the Bay bridge, are we underserved in every business category except liquor stores and nail spas? If a lower crime rate would magically attract these businesses, why didn’t they build during the Brown years?

    If our City Council said “Costco, here are 5 possible sites in Oakland for you. We guarantee that we will expedite necessary permitting and approvals and we will work with you to ensure that the City of Oakland does everything in it’s power to streamline the entire process” that Costco – or Kohl’s or Target or Lowe’s or etc. – would build here in about 2 seconds. These businesses can afford to provide their own security (and routinely do, even in neighborhoods without a “perception” of crime) and in the process increase the safety (and wealth and ‘close to shopping’ desirability) of the neighborhoods they occupy. Unfortunately, our city would rather blather on endlessly, until the businesses tire of it and decide to locate in a city that knows what it wants and is willing to do what it takes to get it. Like Colma. Or Daly City. Or Emeryville.

    Big box retailers have appeal outside of the borders of the cities they occupy. Downtown and uptown must rely on locals (or day workers). And if the locals had jobs at, say, big box retailers, their incomes would support more local stores. And the taxes those stores pay would allow Oakland the luxury of being able to afford a police force that could reduce crime. Reduced crime is the “egg”; we need a chicken to produce it.

    Associated stuff:

    Daly City has a population of 103, 621 and a projected budget deficit next year of $1 million, 1/10, relative to population size, of Oakland’s.

    Emeryville has a population of 8,528 and a projected budget deficit next year of $200,000 (the cost of a studio condo). And at $23.45 per resident, they could pick that up in a one-week parking ticket sweep.

    Colma is the richest per capita city in the state. Their 2007 per-capita income was almost identical to Oakland’s. Why so rich? Business taxes. It has a population of just 1,600 and their budget deficit is a whopping $1.8 million…but of course their budget is $10,000 per citizen, part of which is free cable and sewer for all residents. The primary reason for the deficit is the tax revenue loss related to the temporary drop in car sales. Also, 73% of Colma is cemetaries, which pay very little in taxes.

    What do all of these cities have in common? They went after the businesses that their neighboring cities didn’t want. And so the 1.4 million residents of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley enrich those other cities, while we wring our hands and wail about budget deficits which are far greater than those of our business-savvy neighbors.

  99. Navigator


    Your first paragraph says it all. The 800 pound guerrilla in the room for Oakland is crime. You’re right, retail didn’t come when crime was down under Jerry Brown. The “perception” of crime is what matters, as proven by the success of Union Square and the San Francisco Shopping Center.

    Also, I don’t agree that an Oakland location couldn’t support high end retail. Walnut Creek has the amount and quality of retail you would expect to see on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Walnut Creek has many of the same stores that you find in Union Square and the city has a population of only 65,000 residents. Many of the people supporting that high end retail come from Oakland. That incredible amount of retail should rightfully be in downtown Oakland where it could be accessed by the 2.4 million residents of the Oakland Metro Area via the three BART stations in downtown. Also, let’s not forget that the wealthy city of Piedmont along with many affluent Oakland neighborhoods are a five minute drive from downtown. Orinda, Moraga and Lafayette are ten minutes away. Why has downtown Oakland failed to attract retail? Is it the crime? No, we’ve already established that downtown Oakland is not a high crime area. What is it? It’s the perception of crime. That’s why IMAGE is so important to Oakland’s economy.

    As we’ve seen before, we can reduce crime as much as we want in Oakland, but as long as Oakland’s crime is reported, and San Franciso’s is swept under the rug, nothing will change. That’s why it’s very important for people to challenge the media in order to insure fairness in reporting. Report each city’s crime by neighborhoods, report each city’s ongoing murder count, do in depth articles about each city’s homicide problem, write critical columns about each city’s crime and homicide problems, use the current homicide count for each city in headlines in an equitable manner, make public ALL studies and crime rankings for each city, etc.

    I agree with you regarding big box retail. Although, I’m not so sure that it’s because the city doesn’t recruit them that they aren’t here. Things are built in Oakland all the time. There’s a 23 story skyscraper going up at 12th & Jefferson right now. The big box retailers who have decided to come to Oakland like Walmart are doing tremendous sales. Home Depot also does well. I agree, I think Target, Kohl’s and Costco would do very well in Oakland. Many of the businesses who for years refused to locate in Oakland because of the perception of Oakland, are finding out how successful they can be in Oakland. For example, it took so long to get a damn little Trader Joe’s in Oakland. Now, you can’t find a parking spot at their stores in Rockridge and Lake Shore. In/N/out burgers has their highest grossing restaurant in Northern California in Oakland next to Walmart. Why is Oakland lacking for so many things that other communities take for granted when it has been proven over and over again that Oakland has the location and income levels to support these businesses? Again, the reason is perception of crime.

    V, can say that I’m obsessed with Oakland’s image all she wants. She can call me delusional. It doesn’t matter. Oakland’s image is holding the city back. As long as we pretend that if we hire enough cops, and that Chip Johnson won’t right about whatever sensational crime DOES occur in Oakland on a regular basis, and that CW Nevius will start writing about the crime that occurs in San Francisco, we’re going to be in for a huge disappointment when the perception of Oakland as a scary and violent place continues to be perpetuated in the local media and people continue to bypass Oakland for San Francisco and Walnut Creek.

  100. len raphael

    the reluctance of retailers to do biz here is also a result of high shoplifting rates in oakland. i don’t know if stats exist, but talk to local managers of small to large chains and ask them how their theft levels compare to towns adjacent to oakland.

    an owner of a chain of pet related stores telling me how their oakland branches consistently had the highest theft levels of all their stores. (but also said that sales were high enough in oakland to make it worth keeping the oakland stores)

    considering many stores, won’t try to stop shop lifters, i’m not sure how a bigger better run opd would help reduce shop lifting.

    sort of a chicken or egg situation also. Existing residents don’t shop in existing stores, such as Sears, because it doesn’t offer the selection at higher or lower end that they can find either in WC or San Leandro, not so much because they’re afraid of getting mugged (ok, maybe in the evenings now that you can’t park anywhere near Sears).
    -len raphael

  101. We Fight Blight


    Your line of reasoning is way too logical for our career politicians and bureaucrats to swallow.

    Perception is everything.

    We can argue all day long about the role of the media versus reality. But the reality is that the perception of Oakland as a crime infested, blighted community is rather pervasive within and outside of Oakland. Let’s get real, this perception is fueled by reality and by the media. Oakland has a serious crime and blight problem. This has been ongoing for years and years. Until the local government seriously addresses crime and blight, we will never begin to erase the negative perception of Oakland and we will continue to give the media reasons to report on Oakland as a city filled with crime and blight.

    Why on earth does anyone want to shop in Oakland when the perception of Oakland is a city filled with crime and blight? Residents of Oakland and nearby cities have plenty of opportunities to shop in clean, safe, aesthetically pleasing areas that are devoid of blight, litter, aggressive panhandlers, and marauding teenagers. Corte Madera, San Francisco, and Walnut Creek are easily accessible and Corte Madera and Walnut Creek have plenty of easy parking. One of the reasons Oakland was so upset with Caltrans’ plans to create another bore at the Caldecott Tunnel is that it would make it even easier for East Bay residents to drive out to Walnut Creek/Pleasanton/Concord to shop. Bay Street in Emeryville is a success in large part because it provides the same type of shopping experience you get in Walnut Creek or Corte Madera, albeit on a more limited scale. Perhaps if the City is interested in attracting businesses and shoppers it should address its poor perception by implementing some rather simple measures to get a handle on quality of life issues. These include:

    INCREASING THE NUMBER OF FOOT AND BICYCLE PATROLS. Residents and visitors need to feel safe. Seeing police patrolling the area on foot and bicycle, regardless of the true crime rate, increases ones comfort level about being in Downtown Oakland, especially at night. If people are more comfortable because of a more visible police presence, then they are more likely to spend money in the community. More patrols in the Downtown area would also serve as a true deterrent to those engaging in criminal and anti-social behavior.

    INCREASING GRAFFITI CONTROL. The City should be more pro-active in eliminating graffiti as soon as it appears on public property or within the public right of way and more aggressive in charging private property owners for the cost of graffiti removal on private property if property owners do not immediately remove graffiti. While some may argue that graffiti is art and we need to allow people to express themselves, placing graffiti on public or private property without the property owner’s permission is called a crime–vandalism–and for the average person creates an uncomfortable and unsightly experience. Unchecked graffiti gives the impression that an area is not safe and is not policed.

    CONDUCTING FREQUENT BLIGHT AND CODE ENFORCEMENT SWEEPS IN DOWNTOWN. The City needs to ensure that property owners are aware of the Blight Ordinance and are promptly notified to remedy the problems in a limited amount of time before fines kick in. Not enforcing the blight ordinance costs the City big time and reinforces the perception of an unsafe community.

    INCREASING THE FREQUENCY OF LITTER AND TRASH COLLECTION. This is self-evident–but relates again to the perception of crime and blight.

    INSTITUTING AND ENFORCING A CURFEW FOR TEENAGERS. A curfew for those under 18 would be helpful to prevent marauding teenagers from trashing the Downtown. If the City of Long Beach can do this why not Oakland?

    PLANTING MORE TREES. Trees are needed to soften the harshness of the urban environment. Downtown is so devoid of trees it feels like an urban prison and contributes to the appearance of blight and the perception of the Downtown as unsafe.

    Perception is critical. The City of Oakland invests very little in making our streetscapes clean, attractive and pleasant to stroll. Why would businesses want to invest in the City of Oakland when the City of Oakland doesn’t invest in its streetscapes? Why would residents want to shop in Oakland when there are plenty of other more attractive and pleasant shopping areas? This isn’t rocket science.

  102. James H. Robinson

    The post from “We Fight Blight” was expertly written! I have a simple question though. Do the governmental powers that be in Oakland REALLY want to change the perception? Every time I hear Dellums speak (and I have gotten a chance to witness him at community forums), he seems to be too busy telling poor folks and criminals that it’s not their fault. Also, there seems to be an anti-developer and anti-business mentality in general among elected officials. It seems like it is up to non-government people like Van Jones and Phil Tagami to turn this place around slowly but surely.

  103. Navigator

    We fight blight,

    I agree with what you say the city needs to do. However, you neglected one thing that will negate everything the city can do to improve Oakland’s image. You neglected to mention fairness in the media. You neglected to mention San Francisco covering up its dirt while putting Oakland’s on display. How can you say San Francisco provides a good shopping experience? They may have the stores but the experience of traveling around Market Street, or coming out of Civic Center Plaza is hardly “a pleasant experience.” Traversing Market Street with the untold number of homeless and panhandlers is hardly a pleasant experience. Walking around the garage at 4th & Mission is not pleasant and it isn’t exactly a bucolic tree lined neighborhood. That’s more concrete and shadows than you’ll see anywhere in Oakland. How can you say that a downtown which has recorded at least 18 homicides provides a “pleasant experience.” Downtown San Francisco is by far the most crime infested downtown of any major American city including Detroit. Go look up crime stats for American downtowns. Oakland has recorded 2 homicides in its downtown by comparison.

    We can make Oakland look like the Amazon forest, with the crime rate of the Vatican, and it won’t mean anything as long as Chip Johnson and the Chronicle continue denigrating the city based on whatever crimes do occur. As you can see, CW Nevius never addresses serious crime in San Francisco like the 104 homicides which happen to be a decade high. These homicides include the recent killing of a young man in Golden Gate Park who had been in San Francisco less than three weeks, a man killed in the Richmond as he rode his bike near his home, a man shot in the back in North Beach, three members of the Bologna Family killed in the Excelsior, a man killed in front of his two young sons on 280, a mother of six driving a minivan near Army Street, a young man brutally murdered with a sword in the Mission . How come THIS doesn’t stigmatize that retail paradise?

    Ignoring the media bias and unfairness, and pretending it doesn’t exist, doesn’t do Oakland any good. Oaklander’s need to do everything to bring crime down and improve the city in every way. Oakland will always have to be twice as safe, and twice as clean as San Francisco, to overcome the two tiered crime reporting method.

  104. len raphael

    not often that i find something good to say about local printed media, but over the last 6 months or so the Tribune has greatly de-emphasized the coverage of local homicides and grieving families which dominated its front pages for several years running. (and no, it wasn’t just the Chron that thought readers wanted to read about murders in oakland).

    -len raphael

  105. Navigator


    The only way to change the media bias is to register your complaints and speak up. Let them know that it’s not OK for a San Francisco newspaper, and by extension, the electronic media which obtains much of the news from newspapers, to ignore issues like homicide in their own city and focus all the negative attention on Oakland.

    I know I sound like a broken record, but, this is at the core of Oakland’s horrible image to the outside world. Reducing crime on it’s own will never be enough. I’ve traveled to every major city in the Country, and I can tell you that the image of Oakland is so far removed from the reality of the Oakland I know. Yes, Oakland has crime. There is no denying that. But crime should not define Oakland. San Francisco has crime. A whole lot of it!. We can debate if having 111 non justifiable homicides in Oakland, compared to 104 in San Francisco warrants the San Francisco media to ignore their decade high in homicides and focus there attention only on Oakland, even when Oakland’s homicide total is nowhere near a decade high, and is actually below last years numbers. We can debate if it’s right for a San Francisco paper to run series about a neighboring city, (which by the way, has its own newspaper) such as “OAKLAND: A plague of Killing,” or “Oakland War Zone.” We can debate if its fair for their East Bay Columnist to focus negative attention on Oakland 90% of the time.

    Len, you make a good point about the Tribune. However, the Tribune, is the OAKLAND Tribune, it’s their job to focus attention on Oakland issues. The Tribune doesn’t go to San Francisco and run series like, “San Francisco: A Plague of killing,” Although, I will agree that the Tribune was going over the top for a while with a constant drumbeat on homicides and crime.

    At one point we had both the Oakland Tribune AND the San Francisco Chronicle running series with pictures of OAKLAND homicide victims. You see Len, since San Francisco only had 90 homicides at that time, evidently that wasn’t enough to run an article with the names of all the homicide victims in THEIR city. They had to come to Oakland and do it on Oakland’s homicide victims. Again, that’s obviously because they care more about Oakland’s civic well being than they do for their own city’s well being.

    Len People don’t want to read about homicides “in Oakland,” They want to read about homicides period. Well, maybe the people in San Francisco would rather read about homicides in Oakland. But, generally, the population is just interested in reading about murder and mayhem. It just happens that it makes it much more convenient and profitable for San Francisco media institutions to entertain the masses with Oakland’s mayhem instead of San Francisco’s mayhem.

    It’s all about money. They have a huge tourist industry that they want to protect. It makes much more sense to entertain their readers with Oakland’s violence, while at the same time, using THAT violence, to marginalize Oakland as a viable location for the Bay Area business community, for the hospitality industry, for prospective home buyers, etc.. Marginalizing Oakland with selective and unfair reporting, keeps San Francisco as the only viable option. It keeps home prices higher in San Francisco, it keeps office rents higher in San Francisco, it keeps tourists scared of Oakland, and in San Francisco, etc.

    Another thing Oaklander’s can do to assure fair and balanced reporting is to vote with their wallets. Keep your money in Oakland, or at the very least in the East Bay. Oakland Realtors can stop advertising in a newspaper which undermines their job of selling real estate in Oakland. Why advertise in a paper which runs your city down at every conceivable opportunity? Oakland restaurants can pull their adds from media institutions who were on a selective frenzy reporting takeover robberies in Oakland, while ignoring similar robberies in San Jose, Martinez and other places. Why spend money advertising in San Francisco media institutions who nearly destroyed your businesses with selective sensationalized reporting? This is the only thing they will understand.

  106. jarichmond

    You’re stretching things quite a bit to say that Walnut Creek is comparable to Michigan Ave in Chicago. I know it’s frustrating that people from Oakland drive out there to do their shopping, but lets not lose sight of reality in the process and call Walnut Creek’s retail situation what it is: an upscale suburban mall with a handful of upscale large stores around it, just like in hundreds of other wealthy suburbs around the country. We’re far from being the only city whose suburbs have that sort of thing to draw people out from the center. Michigan Ave is one of the world’s leading retail destinations, and thinking we can re-create that in downtown Oakland is as outlandish as thinking that we’re suddenly going to convince all of Union Square to move across the bay.

    This is not to say that we can’t or shouldn’t have a strong retail base in Downtown Oakland, but we need to maintain a grip on what is realistic. It’d be a big deal for a lot of us in Oakland if we could just pull off the retail strategy that was proposed in a report recently for overhauling the Broadway Auto Row by bringing in a handful of big-box tenants to anchor the development, such as Target. Part of the reason that we’re not going to replace Walnut Creek is that, at least currently, people like to be able to drive and park easily at their retail destinations, unless it offers something particularly special, like the very concentrated and very high end shopping around Union Square in SF. We will never be able to offer the virtually unlimited parking of Walnut Creek (nor should we want to!), and this region is just not big enough to support a second Union Square so close by. By looking to goals that are not practical for us, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

  107. Navigator


    My point was that Walnut Creek has way more retail than should be expected for a city of 65,000 residents. Walnut Creek has a huge amount of retail including Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Tiffany’s Crate & Barrel etc.

    Walnut Creek prospers at Oakland’s expense. There is no reason that Oakland shouldn’t have been the retail capital of the 2.4 million resident Oakland Metro Area. With it’s central location and three BART stations linking it to the region, Oakland should have been the capital for retail in the East Bay. Garages can be built in Oakland just like they were built in Walnut Creek. Jack London Square has a new 1100 space garage. You can build anything anywhere.

    The biggest reason Oakland is a retail waste land is IMAGE. Oakland will always have a certain amount of crime no matter how hard we try to reduce it. Chicago will always have crime. San Francisco will always have crime. What Oakland has is an unfairly horrible image. Oakland has been defined by the Chip Johnsons and Susan Glusses of the world.

    As long as we sit back and pretend Oakland gets a fair shake from the San Francisco media Oakland will always languish. Oakland needs to hire a PR firm to combat the constant negativity emanating from the West Bay.