Nick recently wrote in with the following question: Is it crazy to want to move to Oakland? I love SF, but let's be honest; rents are high, space is limited and the sun never shines in the Sunset. Is moving to Oakland totally crazy? Restaurants? Neighborhoods? Fun shops?
I live in Oakland, and am known amongst my friends as Oakland's biggest cheerleader. For me living in Oakland is not a compromise made for cheaper housing, but instead is truly my first choice of cities to live in...
Oakland is often misunderstood as just a suburb of San Francisco - it's not, and as time goes by it only comes more and more into being a great city in its own right. Here's a breakdown of why Oakland is literally my favorite city in the world.
Urban, walkable neighborhoods: I live within two to three blocks of a grocery store, a farmer's market, a movie theater, about 10 restaurants, five bars, three coffee shops, two bakeries, a handful of cute stores, as well as a shoe repair shop, florist, and drugstore. And that's just off the top of my head. There's a casual carpool pick-up and a transbay bus stop within a five-minute walk.
The weather. It really is almost always nicer here than anywhere else in the Bay Area. In fact, the weather is almost always nice here (note: in the hills, this isn't as true).
There's so much to do here. A great growing gallery scene, amazing restaurants, fun bars, delicious bakeries, fantastic stores, great movie theaters, you name it, we have it. I very rarely feel the need to go into San Francisco for entertainment, with the notable exception of major museums and concerts. Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland pretty much run into each other, to the point where most East Bay residents I know don't even think twice about going between them for errands, eating, entertainment, etc.
Affordable rent for a great place: in the interest of research and disclosure, I'll come out and say that my boyfriend and I pay $1600 a month for a 1200 square foot two bedroom, 1 bath lower unit of a 1920's duplex with hardwood floors, built ins, a formal dining room, a working fireplace, and off street parking.
I read somewhere that Oakland has the highest concentration of artists of any city in the US outside of New York.
Oakland is the second most ethnically diverse city in the country (as of the 2000 US census), with over 150 languages spoken inside city limits.
It's very easy to have a car, and to find parking, which I personally consider a good thing (I know having a car is not a priority for anyone).
It's completely possible to live in a neighborhood where you don't need a car, and get around on foot, bike, and bus.
A short commute: On average it takes me less than 30 minutes door to door between home and Downtown San Francisco. Most people I know who live in San Francisco have longer commutes downtown. I tend to use a mix of public transportation (both bus and BART) and my own car to get between Oakland and San Francisco, depending on the time of day and where I'm going in SF. When driving, with no traffic I can be home from San Francisco in 15 minutes flat.
If you're into nature, there's an abundance of it very nearby - Tilden Park, Lake Merritt, the Oakland and Berkeley Hills, the Berkeley Waterfront, the Alameda beach, just to name a very few.
People are nice. You know your neighbors, the shop owners, the mailman, and the random strangers who walk their dog past your house at midnight (well, that one might just be me) and everyone says hi. It's probably all that aforementioned sunshine.
For lack of a better term: Oakland has moxie. Yes, we've had and are still having problems with crime, blight, underfunded school systems, etc, but when you're in Oakland you really get the sense that people want things to keep getting better (as they have been over the last 20, but especially last 10 years) because people really love this city. It's a hard city not to love if you let it in. Most neighborhoods have very active neighborhood associations - if you move here or live here already I suggest checking yours out.
Great neighborhoods to check out in Oakland (that are more "urban" than "suburban"):
Lakeshore/Grand Avenue neighborhood (which is where I live)
Piedmont Avenue (often misunderstood to be part of the city of Piedmont - it's not)
Jack London Square
Have I convinced you that moving to Oakland doesn't have to be seen as heading out to the 'burbs? Any other Oaklanders want to chime in?