General Question

tonedef's avatar

Is Oakland as scary as its Wikipedia page makes it look?

Asked by tonedef (3930points) September 22nd, 2008

I’m considering Berkeley for law school, but I’ve just read and heard so much about Oakland. It has quite the reputation. Is crime there largely restricted to one or two small areas, or is it widespread? Do I have anything to worry about?

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27 Answers

robmandu's avatar

Just in case you’re curious, here’s a list of other colleges you might consider avoiding.

tonedef's avatar

@robmandu Haha. Good for a laugh :)

Nimis's avatar

Berkeley and Oakland are very different.
There are parts of Oakland near Berkeley that are actually quite chi-chi.
But, yes, you probably don’t want to wander into West Oakland. Or Richmond for that matter.

basp's avatar

I lived in Oakland for twenty years. Just like any big city, there are good parts and bad parts. But overall, it is a great place to live.
And, actually, in the past ten years or so, the downtown area has been greatly improved all the way down to the water front at JL square.
I never had any problems with crime that I couldn’t handle and when I was younger(in my twenties) I lived in some not so great areas.

St.George's avatar

It’s just like any city. Pay attention, don’t walk around at night by yourself in areas you don’t know well. I wouldn’t do those things around here, and I live urban-lite™. Try living on-campus until you know the area, and then strike out on your own once you find a spot that feels comfortable to you.

JackAdams's avatar

Personally, I wouldn’t (today) consider attending any college that wasn’t on the annual Top 20 List of “Party” Colleges/Universities as compiled by Playboy® Magazine

Also, one must take into consideration exactly how many pizza and submarine sandwich establishments are located near the campus, as well as all-night liquor stores.

One must get one’s priorities straight, when selecting an institution of higher learning, you know…

AstroChuck's avatar

West Oakland is pretty scary. I’d stay out of that part of town. There are many pleasant parts of Oakland, e.g. Piedmont and Lake Merritt are nice.

jca's avatar

Isn’t this the area that Snoop sings about? (“City of Compton”)?

Nimis's avatar

Dude, that’s in L.A.

Michael's avatar

I lived in Oakland while I was attending graduate school at Berkeley. Yes, Oakland has higher crime rates than most cities, but much of that crime is concentrated in a few areas (I wrote my graduate thesis on crime in Oakland).

Some good areas for students in Oakland are Lake Merritt and Temescal. Piedmont is nice (though technically its not in Oakland), and the Oakland hills are also very nice (though probably out of your price range). I lived near the Macarthur bart stop. That’s about as far south as you probably want to go (then Mayor Jerry Brown lived about a dozen blocks further south), but anything north of, say, 35th or 40th, is going to be good.

shilolo's avatar

You are much more likely to be assaulted by Vegans than Bloods or Crips in Berkeley.

Nimis's avatar

Shi: Hahahahaha….

thankgodforbeef's avatar

I go to a school that’s actually IN Oakland (Mills College), and it’s really no different than any other large city: you learn the neighborhoods and find the ones you’re comfortable with. If you’re really that fearful, I suggest you stay in Rockridge or Piedmont (but good luck affording it). The Bay Area is just as famous for being super-gentrified and PC as it is dangerous.

JackAdams's avatar

The comment about the Vegans is accurate.

I’ve been to the Planet Vega, and I’ve never been so rudely and disrespectfully treated, in my entire 300 years of living.

tonedef's avatar

@shilolo more like shiloLOL! My ex roommate and lots of friends are vegans. I’ve built up a tolerance. I can eat chicken in front of them without feeling mortified and guilt-stricken.

Fieryspoon's avatar

Oakland has nice areas, but it doesn’t really have any major attractions. I’ve lived in both Berkeley and Oakland (and I currently live in Oakland), and I have to say that the cons of living in Oakland outweigh the pros. Berkeley is a totally different story, and if I didn’t work in the south bay, I would move back to Berkeley in an instant.

Nimis's avatar

Fiery: Aside from the campus, what do you count as a major attraction in Berkeley?

Fieryspoon's avatar

I don’t know where you live right now, so it’s hard to contrast it to what you’re used to.

Berkeley and Oakland both have a lot of culture, but more often than not, living in Oakland also comes with the price of living in the murder capital of California, and the city with the 6th highest murder rate in the country. That crime does not really spread up to Berkeley, but it does spread somewhat into Emeryville (which is between Oakland and Berkeley, on the west side).

The south bay, in contrast, is more often than not a corporate park, strip mall (with few sidewalks and lots of large shopping centers), or a residential area. There is very little culture down in the south bay.

Oakland’s downtown area is nearly empty at night, and the street lights are too high, too dim, and too sparse, resulting in a very dark and creepy downtown area. It’s the sort of place you look at a few times and think “this is scary, and I want to leave”. The parts of Oakland that aren’t like this (like Jack London Square) feel contrived and corporate (large AMC cinema, lots of parking spaces, etc—it doesn’t feel like it is the natural progression of a city, and doesn’t feel like it has any history to speak of (although, I’m sure it does, knowing Oakland)).

Berkeley’s downtown, in contrast, is well lit, has numerous locations that are open late, is well populated, and is accessible. You will never have a shortage of nightlife and culture, if you want it. It’s all really close to campus as well, so you’ll definitely get to see it. Most importantly, the restaurants and stores are mostly independent, so you can feel good about giving them your business.

basp's avatar

What do you mean Oakland doesn’t have any major attractions!!! You must come from a different Oakland than I know.

And I’m not sure why you think the improvements in the downtown area are contrived! The improvements were well
thought out and changed the cityscape completely from what it was twenty to
twenty five years ago. Now the are down
broadway between the big bookstore and
Chinatown are productive and no longer a
wasteland of questionable activities.
And then there is both Oakland, down College avenue… Plenty of trndy resturants and shops, not to mention the other neigh orhiod pockets that offer the same like the Montclair district.

basp's avatar

gezzzz sorry about my previous post. Don’t think I could have screwed up the spelling/grammar any more if I had tried!!

Fieryspoon's avatar

College Avenue and Rockridge are fine. Broadway is terrifying at night. Jack London Square looks planned—that’s what I meant by contrived. There’s no reason to go anywhere near that area of Oakland except for that. In contrast, Shattuck Avenue, in Berkeley, looks naturally successful.

The only things in Oakland worth seeing, in my opinion, are the areas around Lake Merritt (which have the same feeling as Shattuck in Berkeley, to me). The Grand Lake Theatre, the Lake Merritt Farmer’s Market, and the stores and restaurants in that area are great. If you don’t live in that area (and you wouldn’t, if you’re going to Berkeley Law School), Oakland is not good, in my opinion.

I live near the Dimond District and the people throw trash all over the street, drive exceedingly loud cars down the street until 3am, and there have been three murders that I know about in a 3 block radius, over the past two years. Not to mention the irregular shooting sprees. I never heard anything like that living in the downtown area of Berkeley. I don’t really feel unsafe, but it sucks to wake up to that in the middle of the night. The only reason to live where I’m living now are the relatively low cost and the access to 580 and 880. There’s nothing I’d want to walk to nearby though. I hate my immediate neighborhood.

basp's avatar

Berkley has it’s share of crime,random gun shots, etc. I have lived in both Oakland and berkely and there isn’t that much difference in the way if actual crime overall. The politics in berkley encourage the media to down play the crime there to make the area more appealing.
Shoot! I was living right down the street from patty Hearst when she was kiddnapped from her berkley apartment and that got attention only because it was high profile.

Fieryspoon's avatar

I never felt unsafe walking around Shattuck after dark, where I lived, when I lived there. I feel uneasy where I live in the Dimond District and downtown Oakland/Broadway, for sure. Like I said above, Lake Merritt is still great, and I do feel fine there.

zina's avatar

I also go to Mills (hi thankgodforbeef!), and live in the Lake Merritt (Lakeshore/Grand) area. I love it – as above, the farmer’s market, lots of shops/cafes/restaurants/groceries/banks, obviously the lake and park, the theatre, etc etc. And that’s coming from a San Franciscan who used to really not be into Oakland! Yes, there are still incidents here, but the area has changed a lot (from what I hear), I live right in the busy area, I generally feel very comfortable and safe walking everywhere, I haven’t had any problems yet, and I don’t walk long distances alone at night. No prob.

And as others have said, the East Bay has LOTS of neighborhoods, and they are VERY different from each other. If you want to go to Berkeley, you could live in a ridiculously wide variety of areas within a reasonable commute time, and if you wanted you could never see any of these more dangerous areas (which, like anywhere, doesn’t make you instantly perfectly safe, but it’s just that – just like anywhere). As above, parts of Berkeley, Rockridge, Piedmont, and even LOTS of neighborhoods in SF for that matter, all have more upscale, lower-crime areas.

Every school and every area has its pros and cons, but I LOVE the bay area and really encourage you to come to Berkeley if it’s the school you want to attend! Having this area be a strike against the school in your decision-making, or the reason to not come, would be REALLY silly!

westboundsign45's avatar

no, no, no! listen, i live in Berkeley and I hang out in Oakland with my fellow punk chicks searching for Billie Joe Armstrong, just kidding (although I saw him and I got a picture with him, GO GREEN DAY!!!!) anyway, Oakland is just like any other big city, watch your own back, stay out of other people’s business, and you’ll be fine. Trust me. And if anybody f*cks with you, call Cali’s resident punk b*tch @ 392–5660, i’m serious, that’s my cell #.

markml's avatar

It depends upon where you come from and how you handle yourself.

You can go to school in Berkeley without ever visiting Oakland, but contrary to what everyone is saying, Berkeley is not necessarilly safer than Oakland. Berkeley has its fair share of crime, including burglary, vandalism, muggings, rape, arson and drugs. Also because the politics in Berkeley are so liberal, the city is more concerned with the rights of the homeless than stopping crime. Honestly speaking, I live in Oakland and the only people I know who ever got their car jacked, had it stolen in Berkeley.

But Downtown Berkeley is also more gentrified than Oakland as a whole, and you’re not likely to hear gunshots in the middle of the night as you would in some parts of Oakland. But the police are less vigilant and crime does happen, so you have to be a little street smart. Most people and places in Berkeley are harmless, but there’s less pro-active crime prevention than in other cities. This isn’t New York City!

Other than that, I’d say UCB law school is a very fine place to go to school. Ultimately, I’d say the rewards of going there far outweigh the risks of being the victim of any crime.

pogdor's avatar

I’ve lived in oakland for 30 years and I can definitely say crime is restricted to areas you wouldn’t be living in anyway. The most you can expect is verbal harassment by a homeless person or having your car stereo or bicycle stolen. If you want to live in a peaceful, safe neighborhood, choose Northside or Elmwood or Rockridge. Avoid living within a couple blocks of telegraph avenue.

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