What’s An Oakland Neighborhood?

No true shock:  Montclair really isn’t an Oakland neighborhood.  The latest maps reveal our ragged geographic demarcations, in what’s collectively called the Montclair District by its denizens.

Despite the ambiguity, we still share a sense of place as defined by hills and canyons, catastrophic events, historical real estate developments and whomever lives next door.

Recently Our Oakland took a stab at mapping every single extant neighborhood throughout the City of Oakland.  We relish this effort, which combines many different sources.  What’s more, because it’s on Google, you can play around with different overlays and views.

So where are we?

Let’s start with the largest definition of the Oakland Hills, which represent “our claim” on the Berkeley Hills.  Some of the Oakland Hills are called the North Hills, which tries to smooth over the Berkeley divide as well.   These northern reaches include Panoramic Hill, Claremont Hills and Hiller Highlands.

Moving south of the Caldecott Tunnel, the labeled neighborhoods include Merriewood, Glen Highlands and even portions of Upper Rockridge.  We’re not sure anyone says they live in “Glen Highlands” these days.  And while Rockridge isn’t considered Montclair, it shares a tight bond from the devastating Oakland Firestorm of 1991.

Traveling down to the southern reaches, the large Piedmont Pines development is nestled between Shepherd Canyon and Skyline.  And much like Michigan, this neighborhood’s bifurcated:  a small section exists on the far side of Joaquin Miller Park.

Parts of the Hayward Fault, running along Highway 13, also mark our borders successfully.  However the “Montclair core” jumps the line here, with many homes sited between Moraga Avenue and Park Boulevard.  We weren’t around before the highway was built, and it probably felt like a unified area back then.

How else are we defined?

The City of Oakland likes to call us Beats 13Y and 13Z, essentially north and south of Thornhill.  It’s a neat definition based on the original canyon road used by Hiram Thorn for logging operations, and likely divides up the patrolling duties.  But there are no real differences among Montclarions on either side.

We are clearly unified by the 1991 firestorm.  When asked where you live, neighbors residing in the rebuilt zone will often mention that fact in casual conversation.  If your home was destroyed, then you let other people know about it.  Even if you lived in untouched areas back then, you were touched by an experience that brought everyone together.

In the end, the people probably define Montclair District best.  A few of the earliest homeowners or their descendants are still living here, who pass on their stories.  It’s not only about the fire, either.  If you remember the one snowfall in the early 1970s, then you are a true-blue Montclarion too.  On my block, there are some old-timers and their memories help us live here – maps or not.

7 thoughts on “What’s An Oakland Neighborhood?

  1. I see a bunch of issues with this map. First, it appears to have been created primarily based on the Oakland Museum of California’s online map. There are some changes, for instance the addition of “Uptown”. The more controversial “Oaksterdam” is also shown, though very few of the non-marijuana oriented businesses in that area have any interest in using that name.

    The map is a good start, but it is also based on historical neighborhood boundaries that pre-date the construction of freeways throughout the city.

    In my neighborhood, Hoover-Foster, for instance, you can see that the 580 runs through the very north end, creating a boundary that is much more realistic than the boundary that is shown.

    Other issues include shifting populations. “Northgate/Waverly” is currently the location of a heated three-way dispute. The Korean-American business owners want to rename the neighborhood “Koreatown”, the predominantly black long term residents seem to want to stick with “Northgate”, and the folks who created Art Murmur seem interested in moving the border of “Uptown” to 27th street.

    Another seeming oversight: Not all of what is shown as Emeryville on that map is actually Emeryville. Some of it is Oakland! Let’s avoid giving away any of our city! The small area between Mandela parkway and 580, where you can find Best Buy and soon a new Target store… That is technically Oakland.

  2. @Max — as you say, this map is a starting point. I did start with the Oakland Museum map, and added to and modified that based on other maps and data sources. Refining the map is an ongoing project.

    Thanks for the info on the Best Buy area. I didn’t know that was part of Oakland. If you have other corrections and suggestions, please post them over on my original post.

  3. Have enjoyed every post of this blog for months before arriving here permanently in Nov. It has been my Eyes and Ears as I acclimate. (Btw: Is there a way to reach Madame Blogger directly with a wee story notion?) Author Malcolm Gladwell, and people in New York, where I come from, would call you a maven.

  4. Gene, check out this link, regarding Best buy:
    even when typing in the a url search “best buy Oakland”, some loser created it to come up as Best Buy-*EMERYVILLE*, even the the address clearly shows as Oakland. Even local TV stations doing stories on the store in the past (black Friday/other) have said “live from Emeryville”… hogwash! I agree with Max, and will add the following: what is in Oakland…STAYS in Oakland (that goes for the A’s too, but I digress).

  5. @gene

    GhostTown is a gang name, and I’m trying to get in the habit of not using it.

    Nobody here ever splits up Hoover/Foster into one or the other. I’m betting the combined name is older than anyone who lives here.

    As for the 580, There’s an interesting hitch here. The 580 forms a border, but the City Council district line between D1 and D3 is at MacArthur. One name that has come up recently for the area is JAMMI (Just Above the MacArthur Maze Interchange). I don’t know if it’s in wide use, but it’s out there.

  6. @Max – I saw JAMMI referenced one other place, but it didn’t have enough info for me to figure out the boundaries.

    Re: Ghosttown, my understanding was it was either a reference to the neighborhood being made a ghost town when the freeway split the neighborhood, or the multiple casket companies. Gangs may use the name, but I know regular residents who do, too. But different perceptions of names (and boundaries like 580 vs. MacArthur) are part of why this project is so interesting 🙂

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