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Downtown Oakland

Aerial view of Downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt
Lionel J. Wilson / Broadway Building
Detail of the Romanesque Revival Tribune Tower. The building serves as a quintessential Oakland landmark, timepiece, and navigation aid, as its unique green roof and massive red neon sign and clock can be seen for miles.

Downtown Oakland is the central business district of Oakland, California; roughly bounded by 6th Street or the Oakland Estuary on the southwest, Interstate 980 on the northwest, Grand Avenue on the northeast, and Lake Merritt on the east.

The Downtown area is sometimes expanded to refer to the industrial and residential Jack London Square and Jack London warehouse district areas, the Lakeside Apartments District a largely residential neighborhood on the west side of Lake Merritt, the Civic Center district, Oakland's Chinatown, and the south end of Oakland's Broadway Auto Row, an area along Broadway which has historically been used by car dealers and other automotive service businesses. While many consider these areas outside of downtown proper, they are generally considered more geographically proximate to Downtown Oakland than to East Oakland, North Oakland or to West Oakland and are thus sometimes associated with Downtown Oakland.

In January 2009, urban rioting occurred downtown and in the Lakeside Apartments District following BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle's shooting of Oscar Grant III on January 1, 2009.

In mid-2009, Oakland's city council revised zoning and building height regulations in downtown and the greater central business district.


  • Culture 1
    • Black Cowboy Parade 1.1
  • Land use and points of interest 2
  • Education 3
    • Higher education 3.1
    • Public primary and secondary education 3.2
  • Transportation 4
    • Motor vehicle limitations 4.1
    • AC Transit 4.2
    • BART 4.3
  • Crime 5
    • January 2009 riots 5.1
    • Aftermath 5.2
  • Community Benefit Districts 6
  • Historic districts 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9


Black Cowboy Parade

Downtown Oakland hosts the only celebration of its kind in the nation in memory of the black cowboys who helped settle the American West. The annual parade typically begins on an early October weekend at DeFremery Park in West Oakland en route to Frank Ogawa Plaza where judging booths are set up. After an awards ceremony, the parade returns to DeFremery Park, for a celebration.

Land use and points of interest

Downtown Oakland is home to apartment and condominium dwellers, numerous retail businesses, tall modern office buildings, shorter mixed-use historic buildings, the hubs of AC Transit and BART, which has three underground stations, the city's official Entertainment District which includes the historic Paramount and Fox Theatres, nightclubs, and restaurants, the headquarters of Clorox, City Center, a portion of Old Oakland, and a portion of Chinatown.

Downtown includes a portion of the oldest part of the city. The area from the Oakland Estuary inland to 14th Street between West Street and the Lake Merritt Channel was the original site of Oakland, and there are several 19th century houses scattered around the edges of downtown and in Chinatown.[1] The Oakland Museum is located on Oak Street near the southeastern edge of Downtown.


Higher education

Laney College, with more than 12,000 students, is located on Fallon Street near the Lake Merritt BART station. Other educational institutions include Lincoln University, a small business school catering mainly to international students, and a downtown office of Cal State East Bay. Oaksterdam University, a business college which prepares students for medical cannabis work, is located on 15th Street in an area referred to as "Oaksterdam".[2][3]

The original campus of UC Berkeley was located between Franklin, Harrison, 12th and 14th streets;[1] and the University of California system is currently headquartered in Downtown.

Public primary and secondary education

Lincoln Elementary School, one of the few public elementary schools in the downtown of a major US city, is on the edge of downtown, near the center of Chinatown. The Oakland School for the Arts, a charter school, is building a new facility surrounding the Fox Oakland Theatre in Oakland's Uptown Oakland.


Motor vehicle limitations

City Hall Plaza is a city park and a "pedestrian plaza" which includes what was once the terminus of San Pablo Avenue where it met Broadway at 14th Street. It also includes 15th Street, which once ran through what is now "Kahn's Alley," past 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza building, across Clay Street, through what is now a glass windowed lobby of the California State office building, connecting with Jefferson Street on the building's west side entrance. Motor vehicle traffic has also been excluded from where former city streets, Washington street and 13th street, were once aligned through what is now the Oakland City Center development. Today the area features an outdoor retail mall with pedestrian streets laid out to replicate the original street grid.

AC Transit

Several routes operated by AC Transit pass by or end at Downtown Oakland. These include:

Daytime Routes

  • 1 - International Blvd./Telegraph Avenue
  • 1R - International Rapid
  • 11 - Piedmont-Lake Merritt BART-Fruitvale
  • 12 - ML King, Jr. Way
  • 14 - Downtown-Fruitvale via East Oakland
  • 18 - Park Blvd./Shattuck Ave.
  • 20 - Downtown-Fruitvale via Alameda
  • 26 - Emeryville-Trestle Glen
  • 31 - MacArthur BART-Downtown-Alameda Point
  • 40 - Foothill Blvd.
  • 51A - Broadway/Santa Clara
  • 58L - MacArthur Limited
  • 72/72M - San Pablo Avenue/MacDonald Avenue
  • 72R - San Pablo Rapid
  • 88 - Market Street

Transbay Route

  • NL - MacArthur Limited (San Francisco-Eastmont)

All-Nighter Routes (all routes meet at Broadway and 14th Street)

  • 800 - Transbay
  • 801 - International Blvd./Mission Blvd.
  • 802 - San Pablo Avenue
  • 805 - MacArthur Blvd.
  • 840 - Foothill Blvd.
  • 851 - Telegraph Avenue/College Avenue

Transit passengers traveling in and out of Downtown are serviced by AC Transit's downtown bus station at 14th and Broadway, and Uptown Regional Transit Center bus mall on nearby Thomas L. Berkeley Way (20th Street) is now in full farebox service, and features multiple bus shelters with seating, NextBus arrival prediction signs, local and Rapid Bus service to Oakland's streetcar suburbs. These stations host local service, Rapid service, Transbay Express, and All Nighter service. A Translink Add Value Machine is located at AC Transit Headquarters on Franklin Street.

The "1" line which connects San Leandro and Berkeley, runs through downtown along 12th Street, and down Broadway. The transformation of the one line into a full scale bus rapid transit corridor is years into the planning process. The most substantial planning alternative proposed for this system would feature articulated buses with five to six doors at boarding platform level, a separated bus-only lane, center median platforms in many areas with proof-of-payment ticket machines to speed boarding, and signalization priority to allow bus drivers to change traffic lights in passengers favor.


Three BART stations are located beneath downtown; 12th Street/Oakland City Center and 19th Street are under Broadway, while Lake Merritt is in the eastern part of Chinatown.


Notable incidents of violent crime have occurred downtown. On Halloween night in 2010, a shooter at Sweets Ballroom at 19th and Broadway shot nine victims.[4][5] A murder-robbery occurred at 19th and Webster in July 2010.[6] On Sunday April 11, 2010 An Oakland man was found at 14th and Jefferson after being shot several times and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.[7] In April 2008 several men staged a firearm takeover robbery of a restaurant and its customers at "Pho 84," 17th and Webster.[8] On the afternoon of December 31, 2003, a man was shot to death in broad daylight in front of the Bank of America branch at 300 Lakeside Drive.[9][10] On the afternoon of Saturday March 2, 2002, a murderer fatally stabbed a man at 14th and Franklin in broad daylight after chasing his victim, a man in his 50s, down the street after an argument.[11] The murderer broke his leg after trying to flee on BART, and was apprehended by police thereafter.

January 2009 riots

The January 2009 riots [12] occurred in Oakland, California's Central Business District, downtown, and Lakeside Apartments District on January 7, 2009 following BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle's shooting of Oscar Grant III on January 1, 2009. The urban riots arose out of a peaceful protest that began earlier in the day at the Fruitvale BART Station, and evolved into a march toward downtown.[13]


Oakland's Community and Economic Development Agency stepped in to provide financial aid to the shop owners whose windows were smashed as a part of the response by the Dellums administration.[14] Its Business Development Services Division is offering small grants from the façade improvement grant program that can be used for deductibles or repairs, publicizing the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit program, and engaging private lenders to match its contributions. The Oakland Business Development Corporation is also making small business loans. The City’s marketing department is going to step up its focus on downtown boutiques and stores. Security ambassador programs are also beginning as a part of the upcoming Downtown and Lake Merritt Community Benefit Districts.[15]

Community Benefit Districts

The Downtown Oakland [16] and Lake Merritt/Uptown District Associations[17] are community benefit districts that were formed in February 2009. Property owners in both Downtown Oakland and the Lake Merritt/Uptown Districts voted by a margin of almost 8 to 1 to support a voluntary property tax to fund services that would improve the quality of life in their respective communities. The associations meet and function jointly. Services funded by these Districts include maintaining cleanliness and order in the public rights of way, improving district identity and advocating on behalf of the area’s property owners, business owners and residents. In June 2013, the districts were recognized by the International Downtown Association (IDA) and named the IDA’s June Downtown of the Month.[18]

The district boards have three organizational committees,[19] including the DISI (District Identity and Street Improvement) Committee, the SOBO (Sidewalk Operations, Beautification & Order) Committee and the Joint ORG (Organization) Committee. The DISI Committee promotes the identity of the districts, encourages economic development and works to createa vibrant downtown through public relations, marketing, and special events. The SOBO Committee oversees cleanliness and order in the public rights of way and manages service providers in keeping with the expectations of our organization and the needs of the community. Through diligent planning and thoughtful allocation of resources, the SOBO committee executes projects that effectively beautify and enhance the safety of the districts for the long term, creating vibrant and celebrated public spaces. And lastly, the Joint Organization Committee oversees the general administration of the corporations, ensures the effective operationsof the board, acts as the coordinating framework through which the other committees function efficiently, and works to increase involvement and supportfor the organizations.

The districts have helped fund several neighborhood beautification/improvement projects & initiatives including: The Latham Square pedestrian plaza,[20] back of BART planter boxes, hanging flower baskets & banners[21] and median landscaping projects, to name a few.

Historic districts

The Downtown Oakland Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The listing included 43 contributing buildings, one contributing site and one contributing object.[22][23]

Other historic districts have been designated in Old Oakland: the Lakeside Apartments district, Preservation Park, and the Waterfront Warehouse district.

See also


  1. ^ a b Bagwell, Beth (1982). Oakland, The Story of a City.  
  2. ^ "News Segment". KTVU Television, Oakland, California. January 2007. 
  3. ^ Lisa Leff (2008-02-26). "Higher education: Oakland class teaches pot growing Weekend trade school course teaching students to grow, cook pot booked through May". The Associated Press; Oakland Tribune. 
  4. ^ "9 people shot at Oakland Halloween party". USA Today. 2010-10-31. 
  5. ^ Harry Harris (2010-10-31). "Nine shot at downtown Oakland Halloween party". Oakland Tribune. 
  6. ^ Lee, Henry K. (2010-08-04). "Job hopeful from Virginia is slain in Oakland". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  7. ^ Henry K. Lee (13 April 2010). "3 men dead in separate Oakland shootings". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  8. ^ Jaxon Van Derbeken,Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writers (2008-04-23). "Man, 23, shot dead outside bar". San Francisco. 
  9. ^ Bay City News Service (2003-12-31). "Oakland surpasses 2002 homicide total". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  10. ^ Henry K. Lee (2003-12-31). "Man, 21, shot dead near Lake Merritt". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  11. ^ Oakland Tribune Staff (3 March 2002). "Bloody suspect caught in BART after daytime city stabbing death". The Oakland Tribune. 
  12. ^ Mike Harvey (2009-01-09). "YouTube video fuels US riots over killing of Oscar Grant". London:  
  13. ^ Oakland protest organizer watched in horror (2009-01-09). "Oakland protest organizer watched in horror". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  14. ^ Oakland Tribune
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  23. ^ Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey (January 23, 1998). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Downtown Oakland Historic District" (PDF). National Park Service.  and accompanying photos

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