There’s a pretty interesting, if somewhat off-topic, discussion going on over in the comments of my Susan Gluss post about Oakland neighborhood names. The catalyst was the observation that when the media reports on crime that happens in Oakland, it’s usually referred to simply as “Oakland,” whereas a crime in San Francisco is noted as happening in “the Tenderloin” or “Bayview.” A search of Chronicle archives over the last few months showed that most murders were identified as taking place in “East Oakland,” which I thought was plenty specific, but the consensus among other comments seemed to be that it was too generic.
I’m sympathetic to the frustrations of people who live in nicer parts of East Oakland and don’t like seeing their neighborhood lumped in with more crime-ridden areas, but I’m inclined to side with the Chronicle on this one. What’s the point of saying something happened in Melrose when nobody knows where that is? I call everything past High Street “East Oakland.” Perhaps the answer is to try to promote more awareness of neighborhood identities. Of course, first we have to figure out what those are.
So, I decided last night to close out the week with this, then idiotically spent like three hours trying to build some kind of interactive map that people could mark and share to identify neighborhoods until I realized that what I was trying to do what like, completely beyond my technical abilities. Then, of course, I had wasted all this time on it which meant I didn’t have time to make up a decent looking normal map. Lame, huh?
How do we, as residents, divide this into neighborhoods?
For the purposes of identifying neighborhoods in a regional-serving newspaper, I don’t think I’d get any more specific than downtown, West Oakland, Jack London Square, Center Oakland, North Oakland, East Oakland, and the Oakland Hills. But what about when we talk about Oakland to other Oaklanders?
Eric Fischer pointed us to this map, apparently prepared by the Oakland Planning Department in the 70′s:
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There’s the Oakland Museum’s Neighborhood Search Map, which is pretty detailed, although the neighborhood names are all historic, and most of them are things I’ve never heard anyone use. There’s the Walk Oakland map (PDF), which seems pretty good (if slow loading and kind of hard to read), and includes names I’ve never heard in my life before, like Havenscourt.
I posted a link to the WE Riders blog, which I swear, everyone interested in Oakland mapping and neighborhood names should read, because it’s fascinating. The team (who I believe are also behind the 10,000 Steps project), went bicycling all around Oakland and had people fill out surveys identifying how they mentally divided the city and noting their associations for different areas:
Click to enlarge
So, obviously you identify neighborhoods more specifically based on where you spend your time. For most people, the area bordered by Lake Merritt, 880, 980, and Grand Avenue is just “downtown.” For me, it includes Chinatown, Old Oakland, City Center, Uptown, Financial District, Sobo, the Lakeside Apartment District, Laney, and the West DTO. There might be a few blocks here and there of sort of no man’s land where I wouldn’t be sure which neighborhood to put something in, but for the most part, these all have pretty solid boundaries in my head.
In my mind, West Oakland is the area between 980, 880, and MacArthur. But I rarely refer to anything there as being in “West Oakland”, instead identifying locations as Oak Center, Acorn, Oakland Point, Prescott/Lower Bottoms (depending on who I’m talking to), Dogtown/West Clawson, Ghosttown/Hoover-Foster, and JAMMI. Again, I have pretty well defined boundaries in my head for all these areas, although my mental map has some big holes with areas I don’t have a neighborhood name for, and will refer to instead by intersection or landmark (“sort of near McClymonds” or “out by the train station”).
Outside of downtown and West Oakland, I think I could draw pretty specific lines identifying the borders of what I think of as Koreatown, Jack London Square, HarriOak, Adams Point, Grand Lake, Eastlake, Fruitvale, Mosswood, Pill Hill, Golden Gate, Piedmont Avenue, Rockridge, and Temescal.
Then there’s a fair number of neighborhoods I could point to on a map, identifying the general area or maybe the center, but I wouldn’t know how to stay where it starts or ends: Glenview, Dimond, the Laurel, Crocker Highlands, Trestle Glen, Montclair, Oakmore, Bushrod, Idora Park, Jingletown, and San Antonio.
And last, neighborhoods I have heard of but don’t have a freaking clue where they are and could not even point to generally on a map, even if I’ve ridden through half of them before and had people tell me what they were: Millsmont, Maxwell Park, Elmhurst, Allendale, Melrose, Leona Heights, Sheffield Village, Piedmont Pines, Brookfield, Hiller Highlands, Sobrante Park, Brookdale, and East Lorin.
I think it would be a neat exercise to put together a map sort of like the Oakland Museum’s, with six or seven broad areas that are then broken into more specific neighborhoods on a more detailed level. So, how would you guys mentally organize the city? What do you see as the borders of the neighborhoods I’ve named? What neighborhoods did I leave out?