West Side Stories

Gentrification in West Oakland

West Side Stories

Gentrification in West Oakland

We tend to talk about gentrification as one story: newcomers displace long-time residents, erasing history and disrupting culture in the process. But living through dramatic neighborhood change always brings up many stories. Those stories--from West Oakland's people and places--are what this interactive is all about.

There's a lot to disagree about, when it comes to gentrification. But one thing seems beyond debate. If you're new to a place, it's good to know a thing or two about its history. So West Oakland's proud past is one of the most important stories you'll learn about in West Side Stories.



22-year old Malik Byers grew up in West Oakland. He reflects on how his old neighborhood has changed over the years.

Hotel California

Built in the 1920s, the California Hotel was once a place that welcomed African American artists and musicians when they were discriminated against elsewhere. In the early 1970s, the construction of the 580 freeway and the "suburbanization" of the neighborhood took a toll on the hotel and it was shut down. Fast forward to 2011: the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation and other supporters pulled together funds for a major renovation. Now, the California Hotel provides 137 units of low-income housing and even has a rooftop garden.


West Oakland Bart Station

Turf dancing is a form of street dance that is said to have originated in Oakland, California. According to locals, credit for the term goes to dancer Jeriel Bey, who created it as an acronym for Taking Up Room on the Floor. Dance elements include popping, locking, and miming. If you ride through the West Oakland BART station, you just might encounter a Turf dancer, making the most of the crowded train as a moving stage.


16th Street Station

Built in 1912 and no longer in active use, the 16th Street station was once among the largest transportation centers in Oakland. It housed the West Coast branch of the very first African American Labor Union in America and was the last stop for many African Americans leaving the South. The station is now managed by an affordable housing non-profit with ambitious plans for restoration. In the meantime, it's occasionally used for events like haunted houses and film shoots. The plaza outside the station is home to three urban agriculture projects including a workforce development program for Oakland teens.


The Port

The Port of Oakland spans 20 miles of waterfront, from the Bay Bridge to Oakland International Airport. The port's global trade is worth $40 billion per year. The port provides 73,000 Bay Area jobs.



Kevin Sosa, 19, lives in West Oakland's Lower Bottoms. While he has seen many of his old neighbors move away, he says his mom's job has allowed his family to stay.

DeFremery Park

DeFremery Park is named after James DeFremery, who was the founder of the Savings Union Bank of San Francisco. DeFremery Park was where the Black Panther Party ran social and political activities, and the park was a distribution site for free food and sickle-cell anemia testing. With its landmark Victorian house, DeFremery Park is now a gathering place for West Oakland residents and families, who get together there for community events and rallies, exercise, fundraisers, classes, and celebrations.


Ericka Huggins is a professor of sociology and women's studies, and the former director of the Black Panther Party's Oakland Community School. She joined the BPP as a teenager in 1967.


The Open House

A rental housing advisor considers buying a fixer-upper in West Oakland.

A couple from San Francisco attend a West Oakland open house, looking for a neighborhood with a little more "flavor."

A housebuyer from a different neighborhood in Oakland looks to the West for a home that will appreciate in value.

A couple that want to stay in the East Bay checks out an open house in West Oakland for an affordable place to raise their future family.

The Mural

U.S. Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medalists in the 200 meter, stood at the medal podium during the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City, bowed their heads and held a black-gloved hand raised as the American National Anthem played during the victory ceremony. This was a mural commemorating this historic Olympic event, with images of the athletes and the phrase, "It only takes a pair of gloves." If you happen to pass by, you'll notice the mural no longer exists. The building had been used as a decontamination station, and once that work was done, the structure was bulldozed, taking the mural with it, according to Oakland Council member Lynette Gibson McElhaney.


McClymonds High School

Opened in 1915, McClymonds is one of the oldest schools in Oakland and the only one in West Oakland that’s operated by the city’s school district. After an experiment with a Small Schools model, in 2010, McClymonds reconstituted as a comprehensive high school once again, with mostly new staff and teachers. The school has been known for its athletic programs. A few famous alumni from McClymonds are Ron Dellums, MC Hammer, and Bill Russell.



21-year-old Joshua Clayton grew up on 12th Street in West Oakland's Lower Bottoms. He says his block's community is so tight, it can feel like both a trap and a safety net.

The Team

West Side Stories is a project of Youth Radio Interactive, a production company in downtown Oakland where young people collaborate with professional developers to create dynamic stories like this one.

The Youth Team

Senay Alkebulan

Maya Escobar

Isabella Ordaz

Donta Jackson

Storm White

Eli Arbreton

Joi Smith

The Staff

Asha Richardson
Project Manager

Lo Benichou
Interactive News Developer

Teresa Chin
Producer and Designer

Lissa Soep
Senior Editor

Clifford Lee

Ike Sriskandarajah
Science Producer

This interactive was inspired by and adapted from Young Hahn's Shelock Holmes map.

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Youth Radio's West Side Stories Agreement

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