Rockridge Reconsidered: A Personal Critique

by James K. Sayre

2 April 2004

Some of us happen to end up living in a certain location, not by any grand design or even by a minor design, but merely by accident or a previous family inclination. The latter is my reason for presently living in the Rockridge district, which is located in the northern part of the City of Oakland in the Bay Area in northern California.

Here are some of the pluses and minuses for living in Rockridge:

Positive (+): 1. it is a central location, 2. the climate is mild, 3. close access to public transportation systems such as AC Transit and BART, 4. close automobile access to freeways going in every direction; thus one can easily escape from cloudy Rockridge to sunny, safe Contra Costa County with a quick drive up Highway 24 and through the Caldecott Tunnel to Orinda, Lafayette and Walnut Creek. 5. a long string of "groovy" shops, restaurants, coffee shops that range along College Avenue starting from just a few blocks down the hill (south) from the edge of the UC Berkeley campus in Berkeley through Rockridge to the intersection with Broadway. At Broadway, there is a steep decline in the ambiance of stores and security guards become an integral part of the store scene as Broadway goes toward downtown Oakland.

Negative (-): 1. the single family housing stock is absurdly overpriced. This is only a problem for new residents or those who aspire to live in Rockridge, This is not a problem for those who are long-time residents or who are otherwise grandfathered into their houses. Ancient shabby decrepit old houses on tiny lots sell for more than a half a million dollars. 2. Some of the world's rudest pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers live in and frequent the Rockridge area. Our two-wheeled buddies are the worst: they sail through both stop signs and red traffic lights, with nary a concern for themselves or anyone else. Pedestrians will definitely walk against the light and directly in the path of oncoming automobile traffic. (At first I thought that this action was that of a militant self-righteous pedestrian, but then I saw the offending woman get into her SUV and drive away! Just a 100% jerk, I guess). The streets are thus dangerous and unpleasant for all concerned. The cause of this extreme rudeness and self-centeredness has not be determined by scientific or academic study. However, the convergence of ubiquitous cell phone use along with the hard-driving youth who believe that they each individually are the center of the known universe may have something to do with it. It is amazing to see how the Rockridege bourgeois fantasize that they are "better" than the poor, when in reality they are just ruder and more self-centered 3. The dismal summer climate with the virtually ever present "fog" which is actually just a thick low stratus cloud system is quite depressing to anyone who is used to enjoying the traditional California summer sunshine. 4. Accompanying the extremely high rents and housing prices is a high crime rate: house burglary, automobile burglary, armed robbery and assault all occur on a regular basis within Rockridge. Perhaps it is the proximity to the poorer and more crime-ridden East (properly, South) Oakland and West Oakland neighborhoods. 5. The truly abysmal Oakland public library system. Rockridge has the largest of the Oakland branch libraries, but it is of very poor quality, when compared to the libraries on the Peninsula or even in Contra Costa County. 6. a real lack of basic shopping facilities for local residents: there is no hardware store at all in the immediate area; the only two local grocery stores are the large and crowded and expensive Albertson's and Safeway: a truly dismal "choice." The Longs Drugs on Pleasant Valley Road is quite large and has an excellent garden nursery. There is no Post Office in Rockridge proper; there is a branch Post Office in the neighboring Temescal district, but it suffers from very long lines and is situated in a crowded unpleasant shopping area.





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