Gentrification in the Golden Gate and Bushrod neighborhoods in North Oakland sparks opposing viewpoints in its residents.
The Golden Gate and Bushrod Neighborhoods are about one and a half miles from the MacArthur Station Area.
The MacArthur Station Area in North Oakland is a major transit hub for the Bay Area with an average of 8,826 people exiting at the station on a typical weekday, according to UC Berkeley research.Since its construction in 1972, the station has played a defining role in the area’s development. The increased rent prices in San Francisco and the transportation connection between San Francisco and MacArthur Station Area are largely responsible for rising rates of gentrification in the surrounding areas.
UC Berkeley research points out that the MacArthur area’s proximity to retail corridors, historically affluent neighborhoods like Piedmont and Rockridge, and transit-oriented development (TOD) have made its neighborhoods particularly appealing to both homebuyers and renters from outside the vicinity.
As a result, households in the MacArthur area are expected to increase by 40 percent, reaching an estimated 13,410 by 2040, expected to house 1,000 new residents over the next decade, and provide 42,000 square feet of retail space, according to UC Berkeley.
I visited the Oakland History Room in the Oakland Public Library to show the difference in demographics in the North Oakland area. I found photos of different addresses on San Pablo Avenue, which is the main street that runs along the Golden Gate and Bushrod neighborhoods. I also took photos of what these addresses look like today.
One resident of Golden Gate neighborhood raved of the positive changes he has personally seen due to gentrification in North Oakland. The resident also shared his insight on other changes he has seen during his residency.
Jim Smith is first generation from the country in upstate New York to be residing in an urban environment due to career opportunities. He originally lived in San Francisco, but happily moved to the East Bay because he did not want to commute across the bridge. He has resided on 55th Street in North Oakland since July 1977.
In his time, Smith claims to have seen radical changes in the Golden Gate neighborhood, and “The positives far outweigh the negatives.”
In terms of population density Smith has seen “almost a two-fold increase,” and he does not know if that will bring enough negatives in to outweigh the positives.
I had a chance to interview Smith and in our interview he explained what gentrification means to him and told his story of the changes he has seen. He discussed neighborhood efforts to reduce crime. When it comes to new developments and buildings, some may argue that they will push small businesses out, Smith showed otherwise. He strongly advocated for the opening of new businesses, such as Doyle Street Café.
On the contrary, other Oakland residents are viewing the gentrification more negatively.
Prior to the West Street Bart Station and post-office Smith stated, “7th street was a hub of African American culture.”
The Cypress freeway portion of the I-880 “contributed greatly to the destruction of that community,” Smith said.
“It was pretty egregious that you go trash someone’s neighborhood, and even today, you still see one side of Mandela Parkway is fairly developed and the other side, which was cut off completely from the rest of Oakland by the Cypress freeway is still kind of a war zone at night,” he said.
“I know people, mostly through my Facebook community, they see gentrification as just a bad thing. Gentrification is bad bad bad,” he said.
He personally doesn’t know people who have been negatively affected, but “there were renters in [my neighborhood], and the owner at some point decided to get out of the rental market, put the house on the market, and it got sold. Those renters didn’t have the resources to purchase the house themselves and they were forced to go.”
Whether positive or negative, gentrification is clearly making a huge impact economically.
“When my wife and I leased/purchased a new car…it was more money than I paid for this house when I moved in,” Smith said.
There are extreme and fast-moving changes taking place in North Oakland due to gentrification. The changes seem to only be getting more drastic, and there are many different attitudes of current residents.
According to research done at UC Berkeley on gentrification in Oakland, the neighborhood that Smith and his next-door neighbor reside in is an advanced gentrification area. House prices have gone up 63.8% and rent has gone up 22.7 % between 2000-2013. The non-white population went from 51.6 % in 1990 to 60.5 % in 2013. Change in median household income went up 24.7 % between 2000-2013.
One of the residents I spoke with, Claudia Stafinski, is also in an advanced gentrification area. House prices have gone up 69.25% and rent has gone up 50% between 2000-2013. The non-white population went from 82.4% in 1990 to 53.1% in 2013. Change in median household income went up 39.4% between 2000-2013.
Smith’s next-door neighbor’s friend, Cynthia Slater, also resided in an advanced gentrification area. House prices have gone up 63.3% and rent has gone up 45.2% between 2000-2013. The non-white population went from 88.3% in 1990 to 72.2% in 2013. Change in median household income went down 5.9% between 2000-2013.
Smith’s next-door neighbor has lived in her home for 40 years.
She believes the gentrification in North Oakland is because of the increased rent in San Francisco bringing more white young people to the more affordable living here.
She sees gentrification as both positive and negative, but mostly pointed out negatives
A lot of the businesses she once saw on San Pablo have dissipated. For example, an old barbershop that and her siblings and her used to get their hair cut at, which she cannot remember the name of now, is no longer there.
She notices a lot more young white people walking around her neighborhood and an increase in white mothers pushing their babies in strollers at parks. She discussed how the new white folks don’t understand the culture of the neighborhood and seem to be judging or scared.
She has seen a lot more overcrowding and traffic in her neighborhood. They don’t have speed bumps yet, but thinks they will implement some soon because of how fast some of the drivers drive. She believes this is due to the increase in young population rushing off to their jobs.
She said it is sad that a lot of people are being displaced from their homes due to gentrification and has witnessed many black people have to leave their homes.
Smith’s neighbor a couple of streets over also shared some of the neutral and negative experiences she has had due to gentrification in her neighborhood.
Claudia Stafinski moved from Chicago to the Bay Area for graduate school for teaching. She currently resides on 5505 Fremont Street in the Golden Gate neighborhood in a two-bedroom one bathroom 107 year old house. She moved there because she has always loved that neighborhood, and she has lived there for the past 25 years. She was very happy to have finally paid off her home this past July.
Stafinski met Smith because when she first moved into the neighborhood, she locked herself out of her house, and Smith helped her get back in.
When she bought her house it cost her about $130,000, which she said was expensive then, and today she estimates that it would cost about $500,000 before fix-ups.
She told me some stories of the changes she has seen. While most of them are negative, she is happy to own and live in her home.
She believes that the renters are the main problem because they come and go, so they do not care about or respect the community. She also said “why bother [trying to connect with them] because they are just going to get replaced by someone else who owns a Mercedes or a Lexus that parks on my street.”
She plans on staying there because she said, “Once you leave California, there is no way of returning,” because of the high cost of living.
A woman from Bushrod neighborhood in North Oakland takes an opposing stance on gentrification.
Cynthia Slater, a family friend who grew up with Smith’s neighbor, lived on 58th Street in the Bushrod neighborhood for over 20 years and explained what gentrification means to her over email.
To Slater, gentrification means the return to inner cities of mostly white higher income people who left for the suburbs 30-40 years ago. She believes gentrification is occurring because these people don’t like living far away from the city and want to be able to walk to restaurants or use public transit to attend sporting events and cultural events.
Slater said these people have a huge of amount of equity, inherited wealth that is driving up the prices of houses, causing the development of expensive condos in areas near BART stops (Ashby and MacArthur). Also, due to institutionalized racism, they have had an unfair advantage in accumulating multigenerational wealth vs. most AA or Latino families.
She wrote gentrification is due to income inequality between white and Asian households and African-American and Latino households. Because of historic patterns of bias in mortgage lending, employment, incarceration, and education – there is an inherent disadvantage against AA and Latino families staying in the inner city neighborhoods targeted by wealthy whites for gentrification.
She shared that homes on her street in North Oakland are selling for $800,000 and over and the vast majority of AA and Latino families do not have the resources to own a home in North Oakland. As a result, they have to move to far away places like Tracy to be able to afford a home, thereby diminishing the number of AA and Latino families in her neighborhood.
She wrote that she has seen mostly negative changes, but some positive changes, as a result of gentrification.
She has seen more white people walking their dogs who are not social and who place their dog poop bags in garbage cans that are not their own, and that they act like they own the whole neighborhood.
She has seen neighbors being racially profiled for just walking down their street or standing in front of their house.
She has seen an increase in expensive, luxury cars, driven by young white people.
She wrote the new white neighbors complain about loud noise or the presence of three or more Black people as being “suspicious” in the neighborhood and show a lack of respect and cooperation with residents who have lived in the neighborhood for decades and who are not white.
Slater also wrote of some positive changes.
She wrote since housing prices have risen, her net worth is increasing. Also, some decrepit houses are being bought, fixed up and flipped. She wrote so even though this practice aids gentrification, it improves the neighborhood by eliminating run down houses.
She wrote that she wonders where it will all end. She didn’t move to Rockridge or Piedmont because she likes the vibe of a culturally, economically, socially diverse community like Golden Gate and Bushrod neighborhoods in North Oakland. She doesn’t want to live around people who act like her neighborhood should be more like Danville or Orinda.