Oakland's No Joke Anymore

2 min
at 11:43 PM

That lemon-faced look of sympathy would flash across their face whenever I said it.

'I live in Oakland.'

"Oh you poor thing, what have you done to deserve that?" I was once asked.

The artistic, economic and intellectual triumphs bestow San Francisco, Marin and Berkeley residents a reflected cache, whereas we Oaklanders are seemingly tainted by our city's notorious crime statistics and Jean Quan's 100 blocks of murdering mayhem.

When real British blueblood Jessica Mitford, progeny of the 2nd Baron Redesdale, rejected her noble origins, joined the communist party, entered self-imposed exile and became an unlikely Oakland resident alongside Huey Newton's Black Panthers, her resolutely aristocratic sister Nancy Mitford, pleaded "At least you could live in Berkeley."

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The Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia claimed that no man of means would ever live in Oakland - and indeed wealthy San Franciscans are reputed to negotiate the Bay only when their dead bodies make the trip to Oakland's Mountain View cemetery.

We Oakland residents knew the truth though - the 17 miles of parkland running along the hills, the spectacular views, Lake Merritt, cheaper housing, the multicultural lifestyle and the glorious Mediterranean climate made Oakland more livable than, dare I say it, San Francisco.

Times change, of course. Jerry Brown's stimulus rejuvenated downtown living. The restaurants and the night life followed and now you can't open a newspaper without reading of Oakland's desirability and the sky-high rent. The New York Times named Oakland a must-visit destination in 2016.

Jessica Mitford passed years ago, the memories of Huey Newton's murder are fading, crime statistics are down and Oakland's recent desirability, morphed through demographic change, became gentrification.

Exiting the hipster-friendly Adam's Point Whole Foods recently, I passed a woman just as she said into her phone 'you can't buy a house here any more, the white folks bought them all.'

With a Perspective, I'm Luke Pease.

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Luke Pease is a longtime resident of Oakland.

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