Oakland: You've heard the rent's cheaper and the weather's better, recent blockbusters like Blindspotting and Sorry to Bother You showcase the city's unique culture, and every week there seems to be a new restaurant opening.
And even though San Francisco is a world class city, has the highest livability rating of any city in the U.S., and is the reigning tech hub of the planet, many of your friends and coworkers are moving across the Bay. What gives? To help explain the attraction, we've addressed some common questions about Oaktown.
Is housing really cheaper in Oakland?
Modern amenities are to be found at rentals around Oakland's Jack London Square. At Fourth Street East, apartments range from $2,775 for a studio to $5,000 for a three-bedroom.
Absolutely, if for no other reason than SF's population density is more than five times higher than Oakland's. The City packs 875,000 people into roughly 47 square miles, while Oakland has 426,000 people living in 125 square miles. This helps explain not only why SF housing is more expensive but why driving and parking are suckier here.
As of October, the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in SF was $3,200. In Oakland, it was $2,300. But neighborhoods vary a lot even in the same city, so it's more accurate to consider comparable neighborhoods. Probably the closest sister neighborhoods, which include new-builds that face the Bay, are SF's South Beach ($3,600 for a one bedroom) and Oakland's Jack London Square ($2,100). Oakland, like San Francisco, does have rent control, but it's generally less favorable to renters.
If you are looking to buy, Oakland is significantly cheaper, with an average home price of $740,000 vs SF's $1,370,000. As with renting, prices depend on neighborhoods, but even so, you can get a lot more for your money on the East side of the Bay, including outdoor space.
How's the transportation?
Oakland is more car-friendly than San Francisco. Whereas SF is nearly surrounded by water, Oakland is ringed with interstate spurs like 580 and 880. For people using car share, not only does Oakland have ZipCar, Turo, and Get Around, the East Bay also has Gig, which differs from other services in that the cars don't have designated parking spaces. Just pick one up wherever it's parked, and drop it off in any legal parking spot when you're done. Most of the residential areas do not require parking permits.
As far as transit on trains, much of Oakland enjoys quicker access to downtown San Francisco than many SF neighborhoods. The 10-mile trip from Center City Oakland to SF's Embarcadero is a 15 minute BART ride, while the five mile trip between UCSF and the Embarcadero takes about 30 minutes on MUNI. Half the distance, twice the time. That said, there is no Oakland equivalent to MUNI's much-maligned but intensely used light rail system. AC Transit is the East Bay's extensive bus system, which includes transbay lines that link to the Salesforce Transit Center. Oakland bicyclists also enjoy wider and flatter streets than their SF counterparts.
How's the bar and restaurant scene?
The mezze platter at Chef Reem's Assil's buzzy new Dyafa.
On fire! Lower real estate prices and business-friendly organizations that are enabling Oakland chefs to kick-off and upgrade their game are making for a growing restaurant scene in Oakland. Chefs from the West Bay (aka San Francisco) are also opening places there. The Town's lower cost of living also means that the labor pool can live closer to work in Oakland.
Fruitvale's hot new Cambodian Restaurant, Nyum Bai, (340 E 12th St.) just landed on Bon Appetit's Hot 10 new restaurant list. Chef Nite Yun also just won GGRAs Rising Star Chef of the year award. // In Jack London Square, chef Reem Assil is making waves with Dyafa, (44 Webster St.) her new Arab food restaurant. In addition to being a celebrated chef, Assil sees herself as an activist using food to help connect her customers to Arab culture. Assil's staff includes members who have been formerly incarcerated, or are from communities of color and other disadvantaged groups. // Assil's success builds on lessons learned at Reem's (3301 E 12th St.), her neighborhood Arab bakery.
Locals flock to the classic Shan Dong Restaurant (328 10th St.) in Oakland's large and untouristed Chinatown for thick hand pulled noodles, signature chicken dishes and dry braised green beans. Daily lunch specials make their already low prices an even better deal. // Nearby Lakeshore residents are discovering Seth and Jenni Bregman's new incarnation, The Bardo Lounge & Supper Club (3343 Lakeshore Ave.), on the former site of their Michel Bistro. The downstairs lounge feels and drinks like a 1960's living room. In the upstairs mezzanine, chefs Anthony Salguero and Brian Starkey, from Michel Bistro, design three-course menus with updated versions of mid-century comfort food.
Uptown Oakland features the the huge outdoor space at Drake's Dealership (2325 Broadway) gastropub, while diners next door at Calavera (2337 Broadway) enjoy authentic Oaxacan cuisine that features fresh-made tortillas made from ancestral corn and smoky mezcal cocktails to pair with the meals. // Also in Uptown, The Gastropig (2123 Franklin St.) recently started a permanent dinner series called Abstract Table. Pop-up chefs and artists Andrew Greene and Duncan Kwitkor, are creating temporary exhibitions that combine art and prix fixe food menus. The current show Fine Dining on Paper will be followed by Blizzards in December.
Temescal's Teni East Kitchen (4015 Broadway) dishes up some of the best Burmese food on any side of the Bay.
Last year, residents in the Piedmont Avenue area welcomed The Wolf (3853 Piedmont Ave.) and its French-inspired California cuisine to the neighborhood. The area's culinary crown jewel is the Michelin star winning Commis (3859 Piedmont Ave.). Chef/Owner James Syhabout and his staff meticulously craft modern American dishes in their open kitchen using locally-sourced ingredients. Enjoy cocktails and appetizers next door at CDP Bar (3861 Piedmont Ave.) while you wait for your table. Finish any meal at Fenton's Creamery (4226 Piedmont Ave.). This family run dessert institution opened in 1894 and has been serving generations of Oaklanders ever since.
Rockridge has arguably the most established restaurant scene in the East Bay. Standouts include Belotti Ristorante e Bottega (4001 B Piedmont Ave.) where chef/owner Michele Belotti and team crank out phenomenal fresh pasta daily. // Now with four locations, Zachary's pizza has been a Chicago pizza institution in the Oakland since the 1980s. // And with an almost cult-like following, Ramen Shop (5812 College Ave.) serves up steaming bowls of springy noodles and crisp seasonal vegetables in a deeply rich broth. They have a great cocktail program too.
For our totally exhaustive and utterly delicious guide on where to eat and drink (and more) in Oakland's many 'hoods, check out our Hella Guide to the East Bay.
How's the weather?
Despite the hype, Oakland is only slightly warmer overall than San Francisco. The biggest differences are in the summer months when Karl, our advection fog avatar, chills the city an average of five degrees more (and earlier) than Oakland. Oakland lacks The City's many microclimates, which means you can travel comfortably across town without bringing extra layers.
How are the employment opportunities?
A respectable number of large companies call Oakland home: Kaiser Permanente, Pixar Media, and Pandora being the most obvious. But hiding in plain sight is the area's largest employer. The Port of Oakland handles 99 percent of all containerized goods moving through Northern California—about $41 billion dollars worth of international trade—making it the nation's fourth busiest port. There are more than 70,000 jobs related to marine cargo transport in the Oakland area, ranging from minimum wage hourly positions to tech jobs to management positions paying six figures. Overall, Oakland's Alameda County has an unemployment rate of 2.8 percent, on par with SF's 2.2 percent, and both well below the U.S. rate of 3.6 percent.
I hate to sound like a douche, but is Oakland dangerous?
It's a fair question. As far as crime goes, Oakland is considered a "high" crime city while San Francisco is considered "moderate." That said, violent crime of all types in the Bay Area, including Oakland, has decreased nearly 24% since 2012.
What else should I know about Oakland?
Redwood Regional Park has all the magic of Mill Valley's more famous park, but without the crowds.
Most transplants from San Francisco report that Oakland feels more like a community. While it's oddly rare to encounter a native San Franciscan in The City, it's quite common in The Town to meet second- and third-generation Oaklanders who still live near family and childhood friends. And Oakland Pride isn't reserved for the festival and parade in September. There's a huge emphasis on celebrating the city and its culture. Locals regularly wear Oakland branded gear, while in San Francisco only tourists wear city-branded clothing.
In San Francisco we like to tout our racial tolerance and diversity, but whites still make up nearly half of the city's population. Contrast that with Oakland, where the breakdown is more equal with whites, blacks, and Hispanics each representing about 25 percent.
Finally, while Oakland projects an urban facade, the city has more than 80 parks. In addition to the well known Lake Merritt, the 155-acre lagoon in the middle of the city, locals also enjoy outdoor havens like the 1,830 acre Redwood Regional Park, which contains a huge forest of coast redwoods and nearly 40 miles of trails. Just down Skyline Drive is the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. The site of an ancient volcano, the park boasts campsites, trails, a rock labyrinth, and great views of the East Bay. Rural trivia nugget: While Cow Hollow hasn't seen dairy cows since the 1880s, cattle still graze in Oakland's Anthony Chabot Regional Park.
So are you ready to move to Oakland? Dig deeper into The Town's most popular neighborhoods—as well as its more desirable neighboring cities—in our Hella Guide to the East Bay.