History of Oakland
The first Europeans in the area of present-day Oakland came from Spain in 1772, however they did not establish any settlements. In 1820, Don Luis Maria Peralta received a land grant and gave it to his sons, who established ranches in the area. In the 1840s, travelling hunters and lodgers started building smaller settlements in Oakland area, which later became part of the city. Land speculators started selling lots in the area around 1850 and pushed for the foundation of a town that would be named Oakland after many oak trees that grew in the surrounding hills. A charter was granted in 1852 and two years later Oakland was incorporated as a city. Around that time, ferry service to San Francisco was established. This, in addition to the arrival of the railroad in 1869, when the city was selected as the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad, completely transformed Oakland and its economy.
Oakland was originally much smaller that it is today but grew bigger through a series of annexations. Its population grew steadily throughout the first half of the 20th century and at one point the city was a serious rival to San Francisco and its role as the leader in the Bay Area.
The city suffered greatly on two occasions in the late 20th century. In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed a portion of a freeway in West Oakland and killed 41 people, while in 1991 a firestorm struck the city, killing 25 people and causing over $1.5 billion in damage.
At the beginning of the new millennium, problems with crime and various school and housing issues have become more severe in Oakland. The city was also the site of the Occupy Oakland movement, starting from October 2011.
Geography and Climate
Oakland is located in Northern California, in the part of the Bay Area Region called East Bay. Located on the east side of the Bay, it lies exactly across from San Francisco, to which it is connected through the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It occupies an area of 78 square miles, 28.4% of which is water.
Oakland has temperate and seasonal Mediterranean climate. Summers are generally warm and very dry and winters are mild and wet. The city, especially the northern sections, often experience maritime fog, typical for the San Francisco area, but it disappears soon and brings back pleasant Californian sunny weather.
The residents of Oakland often refer to different parts of the city (and its terrain) as “the flatlands” and “the hills.” Until recently, “the hills” used to contain much more affluent communities, but this has changed due to the recent gentrification processes. The city can be divided into Downtown, Lake Merritt, East Oakland, West Oakland and North Oakland.
Population of Oakland
In 2010, Oakland had 390,724 residents and the racial makeup was 27.3% Black or African American, 25.9% non-Hispanic White, 25.4% Hispanic or Latino, 16.7% Asian, 0.5% Pacific Islander, 0.3% Native American, 3.6% two or more races and 0.6% some other race.
Oakland is among the most ethnically diverse cities in the USA. It used to be the center of the African American population in Northern California, however between 2000 and 2010 it lost nearly a quarter of its African American residents.
In 2008, the median household income in Oakland was $48,596 and the per capita income was $30,094.
Oakland is one of the major West Coast ports. Marine cargo transport provides 200,000 jobs to the city. Health care, dot-com companies and home product manufacturing are also major contributors to the economy of the city. Oakland is home to several major companies, most notably Matson, Kaiser Permanente, Clorox, Dreyer’s, Cost Plus World Markets, Ask.com, Pandora Radio and others.
Top ten employers in Oakland are the Alameda County, Wells Fargo, Oakland Unified School District, City of Oakland, Cost Plus World Market, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Peralta Community College District, Safeway, IRS and Albertson’s.
Arts, Culture and Attracions
Oakland is believed to have the highest concentration of artists per capita in the USA. Musically, the city has traditionally been home to the West Coast jazz and blues scene and today it has musicians and bands of almost every genre of popular music. The city was home to many prominent musicians, from MC Hammer, Tupac Shakur, En Vogue and many more.
Major attractions in Oakland include Oakland Aviation Museum, Oakland Museum of California, Chabot Space and Science Center, Lake Merritt, Preservation Park, Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, Oakland Zoo, Children’s Fairyland, Chinatown, Dunsmuir House and Jack London Square.
The Paramount Theatre and Fox Oakland Theatre are among the city’s top performing venues.
Education in Oakland
Institutions of higher education in Oakland include Peralta Community College District with Laney College and Merritt College, California College of the Arts, Lincoln University, Patten University, Samuel Merritt College, Mills College and Holy Names University. The headquarters of the University of California system are also located in Oakland.
Residents of Oakland get to choose from three international airports in the area: Oakland International Airport, San Jose International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.
Amtrak provides passenger rail service and freight trains are operated by Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway. Mass transit in the city area is operated by Bay Area Rapid Transit and there is also ferry service to San Francisco, Alameda and Angel Island.