Just the facts
Main strip: 7th Street >> Who dwells here: Working-class families, urban homesteaders, activists, artists >> Population: Approx. 32,000 >> Founded: Early 1800s >> Main architecture: Victorians, brick and corrugated warehouses >> Neighborhood giant: Port of Oakland >> Well-known residents: author Novella Carpenter, modern artist Bruce Beasley >> Where to mingle with locals: Linden Street Brewery, The Crucible and Brown Sugar Kitchen
West Oakland has long been the cool-cat neighborhood of Oakland with strong African American roots that earned it the nickname Harlem of the West. Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday and Big Mama Thornton among others had gigs along the 7th Street strip. Later, the Black Panthers set up HQ. Despite this Bluesy activist history, the neighborhood hit hard times. But today it’s undergoing a growth spurt driven by grassroots organizations. Newcomers co-mingle with the old guard to create unique fusions like the po’-mi sandwich at 10th and Wood restaurant (bah-mi + po-boy) and Seoul /Soul izakaya at FuseBox restaurant. Dilapidated Victorian mansions, once the home of sea captains, are being spit shined. Colorful street art decorates businesses. Civic pride runs high.
The inside inside scoop
If you only have three hours
Among a street of shipping containers and brick warehouses is the backyard work-area of folk-artist John Abduljaami who chainsaws figures from wood. Keep an eye out for some of his pieces at the Oakland Museum.
Linden Street Brewery, in a historic brick building on its namesake street, is a complex of beer fun. A restaurant is in the works by Michelin star chef James Syhabout, as is a wine tasting room by Campovida.
Yes, there’s a beach in Oakland and it’s at Middle Harbor Park, built on the site of the Oakland Naval Supply Depot. See the cranes that supposedly inspired the AT-AT Walkers in the Star Wars trilogy.
How to get here
Freeway exit: 7th Street
Bart Stop: West Oakland
Bus lines: 26, 31, 62, 314, 800