West Oakland Neighborhood Overview

Walk Score: 81

Transit Score: 63

Bike Score: 90

West Oakland has had a storied past, with strong African American roots. Historically, it is Oakland’s oldest established neighborhood that originally rose up around the time of the Gold Rush, as Bay Area urban life began to take shape. Over time, a thriving jazz and business district moved in, along with heavy industry and manufacturing centers and sprawling rows of ornate Victorian and Edwardian homes.

Today, you’ll still find an abundance of industrial warehouses here, though many are either abandoned or have been converted to arts or residential spaces. A prime example of this is American Steel Studios, a huge warehouse that houses hundreds of industrial artists and makers.

Homes in this area include ornate Victorians and Edwardians. There is a noticeable lack of retail in West Oakland at present, though there are a few good spots here and there, including …

Geographically, West Oakland is the closest neighborhood in Oakland to San Francisco. West Oakland BART station is the first BART stop in the East Bay, and every train runs through it, making this a very attractive commute option (it’s just a 7-minute ride to Embarcadero!).

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; crime is high here, and it’s not uncommon to find trash in the streets and graffiti on the walls. This is definitely an up-and-coming area, and a lot of real estate developers have their eye on this area. Google “West Oakland,” and you’ll see some of people’s common concerns about the neighborhood. Topping the autofill list include “is West Oakland safe,” “West Oakland ghetto,” and “West Oakland gentrification.”

However, West Oakland has a ton of potential and is going through a growth spurt of sorts. There’s a lot of new development in the area, and young professionals are finding the homes here attractive, with their close proximity to San Francisco. There’s a strong sense of community among the residents here, both new and old. Neighbors are nurturing beautiful gardens, there’s lots of sunshine, and you really can’t beat the commute. You’ll just need to use a little common sense when walking around at night.

Local Amenities

Green Space

Despite the concentration of industrial warehouses in West Oakland, there’s actually a fair bit of green space, including the well maintained wide median that runs down Mandela Parkway.

Mandela Parkway was previously Cypress Street, an elevated freeway structure running through West Oakland. During the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989, a section of it collapsed, killing and injuring many. In the 16 years following, the West Oakland community and Caltrans came together to revitalize this area, resulting in the beautiful green space running down the middle of Mandela Parkway today, which includes well maintained landscaping, benches throughout, and great walking and jogging paths. Along the way, you’ll also find Cypress Freeway Memorial Park, a touching tribute to the 1989 earthquake and the impact it had on this community.

DeFremery Park is a large park right in the middle of West Oakland and offers a swimming pool, skate park, tennis courts, a basketball court, softball field, and playground. DeFremery Recreation Center, housed in a landmark historic Victorian house, is a hub for arts classes and local events.

Just to the west of DeFremery, you’ll find Raimondi Park, where you’ll find large soccer and baseball fields, as well as a playground. If it’s sports fields you’re after, you’ll also find a multipurpose sports field and basketball courts at nearby Lowell Park.

Vibrant Arts Community

At the heart of the West Oakland arts community is American Steel Studios, a huge warehouse on Mandela Parkway that’s home to gallery spaces, a sculpture park, and artist studios. Check out events and tours on their Facebook page, or stop by during Oakland’s First Friday Art Murmur.

For movement and performance art, be sure to check out the Kinetic Arts Center. Here you’ll find circus and fitness classes for kids and adults alike, a summer camp, and lots of neighborhood shows and events.

Other great art spaces dotted throughout West Oakland that are worth checking out include Abco Artspace and Atelier Le Roux Glass Art Studio.

Great Restaurants

Though there’s not really a centralized commercial strip in West Oakland, that’s not to say you can’t find great food here. In fact, some of the most popular eateries in Oakland can be found in West Oakland.

  • LocoL
    • Great place for a quick burger, pizza or chili!
    • 4.5 stars on Yelp
  • Brown Sugar Kitchen
    • This is perhaps the most well-known soul food place in all of Oakland.
    • Chicken and waffles? Coming right up!
    • 3.5 stars on Yelp
  • Drip Line
    • Awesome little neighborhood cafe with great coffee and food options
    • 5 stars on Yelp
  • Pretty Lady
    • Awesome old diner vibe with yummy food and great people
    • 4 stars on Yelp


Public Schools

  • Preparatory Literary Academy of Cultural Excellence | Grades K-5
    • GreatSchools Rating2/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 2/5 stars
    • Test scores: Far below state average
    • School size: ~225 students


  • Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School | Grades PK-5
    • GreatSchools Rating1/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 5/5 stars
    • Test scores: Far below state average
    • School size: ~320 students


  • West Oakland Middle School | Grades 6-8
    • “West Oakland Middle School is a close-knit, full-service community school. We expect our students to be respectful, responsible, rising scholars. Our school prepares young people for high school and higher education, by focusing on STEAM and literacy in the classroom.”
    • GreatSchools Rating1/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 4/5 stars
    • Test scores: Far below state average
    • School size: ~225 students


  • McClymonds High School | Grades 9-12
    • GreatSchools Rating3/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 4/5 stars
    • Test scores: Below state average
    • School size: ~285 students


  • Ralph J. Bunche High School | Grades 9-12
    • GreatSchools Rating1/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 5/5 stars
    • Test scores: Below state average
    • School size: ~110 students


Public Charter Schools

  • Vincent Academy | Grades PK-6
    • GreatSchools Rating2/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 4/5 stars
    • Test scores: Far below state average
    • School size: ~140 students


  • KIPP Bridge Charter School | Grades TK-8
    • “The mission of KIPP Bridge Academy is to develop the academic knowledge, skills, and character traits necessary for students to achieve success in the finest high schools and colleges, and the competitive world beyond.”
    • GreatSchools Rating: 6/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 4/5 stars
    • Test scores: About the same as state average
    • School size: ~585 students

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