17 Pros and Cons of Living in Oakland, CA

Updated On November 7, 2023

Oakland is a California city that is close to San Francisco.

Despite its closeness to its bigger counterpart, Oakland has its own character.

It’s known for being more family-friendly, but it does have its downsides.

Oakland, CA
Oakland, CA

Pros of Living in Oakland

There’s a lot to love about living in Oakland.

Pros of living in Oakland include:

  • Great Weather
  • Close to San Francisco
  • Thriving art scene
  • Plenty of natural beauty to enjoy
  • Several transportation options
  • It’s a pet-friendly city 
  • Reasonable cost of living
  • Good education
  • Diverse population 

1. Great Weather

Oakland has a mild climate which is pleasant most of the year.

The average temperature is 44 to 75 degrees.

It’s rare for temperatures to go below 37 degrees or above 85 degrees.

The summer season lasts from June to October, with most days being in the 70s. September is typically the hottest month,  with 75 being the average high.

The cool season is 2 months long and lasts through December and January.

Temperatures during this time are usually in the 50s.

January is the coldest month, with an average high of 57 degrees and a low of 45 degrees.

2. Close to San Francisco

Oakland allows you to be close to San Francisco and all that it has to offer, without living there.

San Francisco has a high cost of living, and it can be hard to find housing.

Oakland gives you the benefits of being close to San Fran, without the downsides.

You can get from one sister city to another in 30 minutes or less.

Take the Bay Bridge to cross the San Francisco Bay, or travel underneath the bay with the Bay Area Rapid Transit.

Many people choose to live in Oakland and work in San Francisco.

3. Thriving Art Scene

Oakland is a great place for artists and art lovers.

The city boasts more than 50 art galleries, where you can find modern, contemporary, and industrial art.

There are also more than 1,000 interesting murals throughout the city.

There are frequent tours and Art Mummer walks as well.

You can also find dancing and music from symphonies to jazz.

You can also enjoy visiting the Paramount Theater and the Oakland Metro Opera House for unique experiences.

4. Plenty of Natural Beauty to Enjoy

Oakland has lots of natural attractions you can enjoy.

The city is located on the coast, and has 19 miles of coastline you can enjoy.

You’ll have easy access to beaches.

In fact, you may want to stop by the beach on your lunch break for a little midday relaxation.

The coast isn’t all Oakland has to offer.

You can also visit the mountains.

Hiking and mountain biking are popular in the area.

In the winter, you can ski or snowboard in the mountains.

Residents love the view from Grizzly Peak Vista, which allows you to see San Francisco, Oakland, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Treasure Island.

There are several natural parks in Oakland, including Tilden Nature Area which features a train and a carrousel, and Joaquin Miller Park.

Lake Merritt is also popular with nature lovers. You can swim, fish, canoe, or kayak on the lake.

5. Several Transportation Options

Many cities in California are car-focused, and it’s difficult to get around if you don’t own a vehicle.

Oakland is a bit different. It’s been declared one of the most bike-friendly cities in America.

There are also several public transportation options.

Take the Bay Area Transit, or BART, for electric train service around Oakland, or AC Transit, which can get you around town, to Berkeley, and San Francisco.

If you want to travel to San Francisco or Alameda, you can take the San Francisco Ferry.

 The Free B offers another way to get around town and connects to the San Francisco Ferry and BART.

6. It’s a Pet-Friendly City

If you are a pet lover, particularly a dog lover, this is another reason to love Oakland.

There are many places you can bring your pooch.

It’s important to note that your pooch may not be welcome everywhere in Oakland, but they are allowed at many places around town.

Oakland has several dog-friendly parks, including Joaquin Miller Dog Park, which provides two off-leash areas.

Several pet-friendly hotels, and restaurants that you can enjoy with your furry friend.

There’s even an annual DogFest each year.

7. Reasonable Cost of Living

Oakland’s cost of living is far from inexpensive, but it’s a cheaper option than its sister city San Francisco, and other large cities like Los Angeles.

The cost of living is 46% higher than the national average, and 2% higher than the average for the state.

8. Good Education

If you are planning to raise a family, have school-aged children, or are attending school yourself, this is a big benefit of living in Oakland.

Generally, public schools in Oakland are considered quality schools.

They have a ranking of 7 out of 10, which puts them in the top 50% of California public schools.

The best schools are typically in areas with middle and upper-income residents.

There are also some private schools that your child can attend.

You can also get a great higher education in Oakland. Colleges include the University of California Berkeley, Mills College, and Lincoln University.

9. Diverse Population

Oakland has a very diverse population.

In fact, it has a diversity score of 91% and is the 4th most diverse city in the country.

Only 28% of Oakland residents are white. 22% are African American, and 17% are Hispanic.

16% of the population is Asian.

In addition to racial diversity, Oakland is diverse when it comes to sexual orientation.

The city has the highest concentration of LGBTQ individuals after Seattle and San Francisco.

The diversity of the city makes it easy to learn about other cultures and connect with members of your own.

The city is a great place to learn and experience tolerance for those who are different.

You won’t have to worry about being rejected or discriminated against here.

Cons of Living in Oakland

Despite the benefits of living in Oakland, the city is far from perfect.

There are some issues you should be aware of before you start packing.

The cons of calling Oakland home include:

  • High Crime Rates
  • Lack of Affordable Housing
  • Low livability
  • Crime 
  • Poor air quality
  • High-income tax
  • High sales tax 
  • Lack of job opportunities
  • Risk of natural disasters

1. High Crime Rates

Despite being a family-friendly city, Oakland has a surprisingly high crime rate.

The rate is nearly 3 times higher than the national average.

In fact, its crime rate is higher than 98.8% of cities nationwide.

It even surpasses other similar-sized cities in the state.

Oakland had 1,500 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents, compared to only 636 in San Francisco.

This means Oakland’s violent crime rate is twice that of its sister city.

One reason for this is likely gang activity, which is common in some areas of Oakland.

Poverty and homelessness are also contributing factors.

2. Lack of Affordable Housing

Housing costs in Oakland are nearly 3 times the national average, and significantly higher than the average for California as well.

The median home price is $819,500.

The median price for California is $733,500, and only $338,100 for the nation.

3. Low Livability

Oakland has a livability score of 49, which is significantly lower than average.

The high crime rate, taxes,  and high home prices are likely the driving factors behind this poor score.

4. Poor Air Quality

Air pollution is a concern in Oakland.

Some of this pollution is the result of wildfires, which are difficult to prevent in the dry summer months.

Vehicle emissions and factories also play a role.

Oakland, and California as a whole, is working hard to improve its air quality, but for now, it’s still problematic in some areas of the city.

5. High-Income Tax

Oakland has a higher-than-average income tax rate of 9.3%, compared to the national average of just 4.6%.

California has the highest income tax rate of any state, with the rate being progressive and maxing out at 13.3%.

6. High Sales Tax

The sales tax rate in Oakland is also costly, at 10.25%.

The average for the U.S. is 6,5%, which is a significant difference.

California has the highest state sales tax rate, at 7.25%.

7. Lack of Job Opportunities

Oakland’s unemployment rate is 7.7%, which is higher than the national average of 6%.

However, job growth in the city is expected to be a bit higher than average.

While opportunities are slightly limited in Oakland, you are close to other cities, including San Francisco, which gives you more job options.

8. Risk of Natural Disasters

California is prone to some natural disasters, and this includes Oakland.

In January of 2023, a snowstorm caused a state of emergency.

Oakland residents were affected by this storm.

You won’t have to worry about tornadoes in Oakland.

However, drought is a major risk for the area, followed by storms, flooding, and wildfires.

Oakland, CA
Oakland, CA

Pros and Cons of Living in Oakland, CA – Summary Table

Pros of Living in OaklandCons of Living in Oakland
1. Great Weather1. High Crime Rates
2. Close to San Francisco 2. Lack of Affordable Housing 
3. Thriving Art Scene3. Low Livability 
4. Plenty of Natural Beauty to Enjoy 4. Poor Air Quality 
5. Several Transportation Options 5. High-Income Tax
6. It's a Pet-Friendly City 6. High Sales Tax
7. Reasonable Cost of Living 7. Lack of Job Opportunities
8. Good Education 8. Risk of Natural Disasters 
9. Diverse Population 

Oakland Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: Oakland Safety Review

Safety Index:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Oakland a good place to live?

Oakland is considered a good place to live overall.

There’s natural beauty, culture, and mild weather to enjoy.

However, you will face a high crime rate, high taxes, and a lower-than-average livability score.

What should I know before moving to Oakland?

You should know that Oakland is a friendly and tolerant city.

They celebrate pride and cultural diversity.

The city is also concerned with the environment and sustainability, which is one reason why walking is a popular activity in the city.

Does Oakland have gangs?

Yes, there are gangs in Oakland.

The Nortenos are the largest gang in Oakland.

There are also Cripps, Bloods, and Asian Boyz.

Does Oakland have a housing problem?

Oakland’s homeless population has increased drastically in recent years.

It’s gone up 83% from 2017 to 2022.

African Americans are disproportionately affected.

They make up 60% of the homeless population, but only 25% of the general population.

What areas of Oakland should I avoid?

Generally, West Oakland has the highest crime rate and most dangerous neighborhoods.

You’ll want to avoid Ghost Town and Acorn neighborhoods.

1 Comment on 17 Pros and Cons of Living in Oakland, CA

  1. Oakland has a lot to offer with its great weather, proximity to San Francisco, thriving art scene, natural beauty, transportation options and pet-friendly environment; however, it also faces challenges such as high crime rates, lack of affordable housing, low livability score and poor air quality.

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