OVER THE PAST TWO OR THREE YEARS, I’ve been suffering an epidemic. This plight has claimed countless friends I spent my college years with, and many I grew up with. Those four simple words…I’ve heard them so often these days that they echo in my mind and keep me awake at night:
“I’m moving to Oakland.”
You’ve probably heard them, too. Right now seems to be the time that everyone and their mother is moving to Oakland. It’s like there’s a huge party there and somehow we didn’t get the invite. But after a little investigation, I’ve discovered 18 reasons (out of many) for why everyone cool and creative is heading to Oakland:
Creatives draw creatives, which means those jobs your friends are getting out there are going to include working with, and living with, like-minded individuals. You can find bars and coffeeshops where the conversation is stimulating, where you can chat about welding techniques, graffiti, the economy, and comic books in one seamless progression (particularly if you’re attending one of Nerd Night East Bay’s events). And while this is probably true of most places, the locals insist it’s just better in Oakland.
2. Cultural events and workshops
With an active community of creative and intelligent individuals comes the opportunity to get together, to teach and share in knowledge and skills, and this is built right into the culture in Oakland. Want to learn industrial art? There are classes going on regularly at places like American Steel and The Crucible. Want to attend an experimental interpretive dance show, perhaps involving nudity and/or uncooked poultry? There’s one going on this weekend, guaranteed.
3. DIY culture
In the modern era, when every skill seems to be just a series of YouTube tutorials away, few cities are as active, their inhabitants as busy working on some project or another, as Oakland. From assembling structures to assembling bands, everyone in Oakland is working on something, and doing so themselves (or of course, in collectives).
4. Proximity to Bay Area hotspots
A huge selling point for many, in Oakland you’re a stone’s throw from both the San Francisco and Berkeley areas, both of which are leaders in arts and creative industries themselves. The majority of the public transit infrastructure around the Bay is designed to make these cities even more interconnected and accessible, so if you can have comparatively cheap access to all three cities, it just seems like a no brainer.
This is one of the big reasons I’m hearing from everyone I asked who moved to Oakland. “It’s affordable to live and work here,” they say, and after cruising the “East Bay” tab of the housing section on Craigslist for a minute (especially after looking at its counterpart on the other side of the Bay), I’m inclined to agree.
6. Short(er) commutes
Believe it or not, especially if you happen to work in downtown San Francisco, your commute to work may just be quicker from Oakland than it would be living in the City. For example: To get from Golden Gate Park to Downtown SF, it’ll take you approximately 27 minutes on the Muni 71 (according to Transit511). To get from downtown Oakland to downtown San Francisco, it’ll take you 16 minutes on the BART.
7. All about the art
There are a lot of artists in the Bay (the most per capita in the country, according to locals). And where you have artists in the community, you have lots of things to look at, ranging from truly next-level graffiti murals and impressive welded sculptures, to ornately decorated mosaic trash cans, to the ever-expanding painted gnome population. Where there are artists, there are also creative solutions to problems, like the repurposing of industrial spaces into combination workshop/living spaces for communes of makers and doers further fostering creative output.
In the Bay, it’s cool to do your own thing and be your own person. It’s okay to be unique, to be firm in your beliefs, and to be loud about it (historically speaking, the proud people of Oakland have never been afraid to speak their minds, and protest to be heard). It’s a place where it’s easy to find your niche and surround yourself with people who will applaud you for doing you.
9. Job opportunities
If you’re a creative professional, you’d probably imagine Oakland is about saturated with talent, but there’s an abundance of jobs in every type of media imaginable in the Bay (from titans like Pixar, to internet all-stars such as Pandora, to smaller, independent book publishers). Coming from a sister city like Portland, which itself is talent-rich but lacking in opportunities, I can certainly see the appeal.
10. The weather
It may not be wholly predictable, but it’s considerably more consistent than across the Bay, and good god is it beautiful (not to mention it’s also routinely reported as one of the best climates in the country). I confess I’m a Cali boy myself, but what’s not to love about sunny weather that hovers in the 60s and 70s year round?
11. Small business support
Oakland has a lot of infrastructure aimed at the success of small businesses, including the work done by the Sustainable Business Alliance, and specifically the nonprofit Oakland Grown. There’s a lot of encouragement to support local, buy local, and work locally, which means it’s a great place to take your next big idea and grow it.
12. A pro-diversity climate
Of the 400,000-some people currently living in the 55.79 square miles pf Oakland, people identifying as Caucasian represent only 34.8% (as of the 2010 census). It’s one of the most diverse cities in the nation, with an international blend of races and cultures (not to mention the incredible diversity of ideas, goals, and passions this mix brings to the city).
13. The landscape
Oakland has it all: massive parks, ancient redwoods, salty sea air from the bay, urban grandeur, suburban quaintness, and of course, that natural landmark the residents are fiercely proud of, Lake Merritt, the 155-acre lagoon in the middle of the city. There’s a special place for everyone to catch those epic Californian sunsets, be it from the top of the 28-story Ordway Building, or having hiked your way up the Claremont Canyon Firetrail.
14. The food
Oakland is one of the best new places to be a budget-conscious foodie. Local favorites include Doc’s of the Bay, Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers, Little Shin Shin Restaurant, and the infamous Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe (home of the deadly Shakin’ Jesse, a chocolate, espresso, and Guinness milkshake).
15. Major league sports teams
The people of Oakland are passionate about their teams, and the city is passionate about helping fans get to the games. Take your pick: Raiders (football), Warriors (basketball), A’s (baseball). Appreciators of underdogs will feel especially at home.
16. The parking
I can identify with the utter fury of circling the same couple blocks for an hour trying to find a place to ditch my car, but in Oakland, the ability to find parking seems to be legendary. I don’t know if I would move to a place solely because parking was allegedly guaranteed, but with one less thing between you and manifesting your next big idea, I can certainly see it being a factor.
17. Environmental consciousness
Oakland has recently become one of the country’s leaders in urban farming, and the city is really excited about it. With the restructuring of agriculture laws in 2011 (for the first time since 1965) and further in 2013, Oakland is now home to numerous grow-ops turning vacant lots into farmland. One group, City Slicker Farms, reports having grown already to “five Community Market Farms (spaces open to the public), over 180 Backyard Gardens, a weekly Farm Stand, a greenhouse, and [numerous] Urban Farming Education programs,” and there are many more just like it.
18. Because all your friends have moved to Oakland
At the end of the day, we can’t rule out the simple fact that once it seems like everyone you know is moving to a place, or has successfully done so, it makes the idea of moving there yourself that much more attractive. And yes, “if everyone jumped off a bridge” I would too — provided it’s off the end of the Bay Bridge and I’d land in Oakland.