downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Where is the DTO 3?

March 11, 2011

On Tuesday, the City Council Community and Economic Development Committee approved a request to apply for a grant to study a downtown transit investment – something that some are calling a “streetcar” study, although it will study all modes of transit. During the discussion, Councilmember Jane Brunner (North Oakland) pointed out that calling the stretch of Broadway above downtown but below 580 “Upper Broadway” was very confusing to people in North Oakland. And while they were on the subject, Councilmember Pat Kernighan (Chinatown – Eastlake – Crocker Highlands) posed a similar question:

She asked, where is Uptown? What is the relationship between Uptown and Downtown? Is there a Mid-Town? These questions are worth exploring.

Downtown Oakland – or as we like to call it around here, the DTO – is becoming a destination because of its cultural attractions, including nightlife, and the US Census reports that downtown is one of the (few) fast-growing parts of the city. With the downtown core becoming a bigger part of Oakland, it is time to dust off the old maps and see if we can update the geography of the heart of Oakland.

Below is a map from 2008, part of a discussion on mapping downtown’s identity. An updated map is a good project, so how can we change it? What do you, as a downtown resident, worker, or enjoyer, think about this map? Is it basically right or way off? What has changed since 2008? And what are the answers to CM Kernighan’s questions – where is Uptown? Is there a Mid-Town? Next week I will upload a map based on our discussion and we’ll see how cultural change can be expressed as geography.


1 Gene { 03.11.11 at 1:50 pm }

Here are a couple of thoughts on it:

1. How I visualize Oakland –
Or did a year ago. It’s a continually evolving map.

A map of all sorts of areas of Oakland, compiled from various sources. Of note with regards to the DTO is what a small area isn’t labeled with something else (e.g., City Center) or overlapped by Oaksterdam.

Not that either map is definitive (esp. the first, which is how visualized Oakland a year ago), but food for thought.

2 Ken O { 03.11.11 at 3:51 pm }

thanks for kicking this off.

I always thought of “sobo” as “soba”

there’s the seashore, then towns: china, old, down, up, broadway. i think of bway/auto row as “mid town” except it’s past up-town. outer-town? former auto row: far-town. then kaiserville.
on the telegraph side there’s korean restaurant-ville satellite extension.

oakland doesn’t have a mid-town. downtown ends around 15th, and uptown starts around 17th, or at the very latest 18th/19th and goes up to West Grand. It almost goes to 25th… depends who answers.

3 Ken O { 03.11.11 at 4:03 pm }

wiki – “Downtown is a term primarily used in North America by English speakers to refer to a city’s core (or center) or central business district (usually in a geographical, commercial, and community sense).

“During the late 19th century, the term was gradually adopted by cities across the United States and Canada to refer to the historical core of the city (which was most often the same as the commercial heart of the city).

“The typical North American downtown has certain unique characteristics. During the postwar economic boom in the 1950s, the residential population of most downtowns crashed. This has been attributed to reasons such as slum clearance, construction of the Interstate Highway System, and white flight from the urban core to the rapidly expanding suburbs.[4] Due to well-intended but ineptly executed urban revitalization projects, downtowns eventually came to be dominated by high-rise office buildings in which commuters from the suburbs filled white-collar jobs, while the remaining residential populations sank further into unemployment, poverty, and homelessness.[5] By the 1990s, even office-oriented businesses began to abandon the tired old downtowns for the suburbs, resulting in what are now known as “edge cities”. ”

- wikipedia

4 Ken O { 03.11.11 at 4:09 pm }

citycenter+soba+northwest chinatown+parts of “lakeside offices”

5 Oakland Space Academy { 03.12.11 at 2:07 pm }

I have to say I hate the name SOBO – I think of Broadway as a north-south street! And I find Lakeside Offices and Apartments kind of clunky, I’d prefer Lakeside refer to the residential area. I agree with Gene and think that Uptown should straddle Broadway (though I’m guessing most would disagree), and so perhaps include Lakeside Offices. Also City Center seems so festival marketplacey, which I guess is kind of what it is, but still.

6 artemis { 03.13.11 at 4:31 pm }

Ooh, this is one of my favorite discussions! ;)

I have to say that I’ve never used West DTO, SOBO, Lakeside Offices, or Laney College in conversation to refer to geographic areas—I’ve seen SOBO used a few places but it always feels rather forced. Maybe that’s Midtown, if there is one? (I’ve seen Midtown used with the Midtown Arts District, but nowhere else—also not sure Oakland needs a Midtown since Downtown and Uptown aren’t that big!)

I’ve also puzzled over what Upper Broadway should be called, since that’s my neighborhood. Upper Broadway seems silly since there’s already an Upper Broadway in Upper Rockridge, so unless people are going to stop using that name, it gets super confusing. I actually don’t think it’s so bad to just call it Auto Row in deference to its history, but nobody seems to be a big fan of that. And Uptown is creeping towards it, which is funny to watch—I’ve started seeing businesses as far north as 27th “claim” Uptown, which is a big change from five years ago. (Similarly, there’s creepage on the other end: the Greater Mosswood neighborhood—bounded roughly by Telegraph, Broadway, West Mac, and 40th—is increasingly called “Lower Temescal,” especially as 40th Street gets going as a little business district.) Both are fine by me, since my personal view is that neighborhoods and their edges change organically over time, but it does complicate the naming of the space in between.

I also think it’s interesting to see how the politics of business factor in. The Uptown CBD, for instance, stretches to 27th in order to pick up Whole Foods (and is technically the Lake Merritt/Uptown CBD), though its focus is clearly the area that most people think of as Uptown between 17th and 24th. That was a pretty wise financial decision, I think, but it adds an interesting twist to the question of where the boundaries of the district are. (Incidentally, the CBD also includes everything east of Broadway to the lake, both in their district and in their area map of Uptown; businesses and apartments in that area also increasingly say they’re in Uptown.)

And in another part of town—it’s interesting that the 2008 map doesn’t actually label JLS as a district. I’d call everything between the water and the 880 Jack London, since people who live there now pretty universally say they live “in Jack London” even if they’re not by JLS proper. Seems like it ought to have a name on the map, too, since it’s so close to DTO.

7 J { 03.14.11 at 5:42 pm }

I consider the entire CBD as “downtown” and the districts like uptown, old oakland and chinatown as districts of downtown.

8 J { 03.14.11 at 5:45 pm }

Also i always though of the lakeside office area as the lakeside financial district. which i suppose is just as confusing, maybe Oakland financial would be a better distinction?

9 Gene { 03.19.11 at 4:46 pm }

Another, vaguer data point is what news gets reported as being in downtown. Check out the map in my recent post on news by neighborhood. Of note for this discussion, the purple pins are ‘downtown’.