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The Oakland Issue

San Francisco Magazine | February 3, 2015 | Lifestyle Story City Life

Editor's note: We are happy to announce that the Oakland issue has received a National Magazine Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors. Here are all the stories.


The irony of a magazine named San Francisco devoting an entire issue to another city—especially one with such a fraught, complex, combustible relationship with our namesake—is not lost on us. Oaklanders have long chafed at being compared to, defined by, or talked at by San Franciscans. And San Franciscans have too often couched any discussion of Oakland in smug, condescending terms: To experience its neighborhoods, culture, or restaurants is to slum; to relocate to its sunnier, less expensive shores is to wave the white flag of surrender.

Clearly, the Bay Area’s urbanites are not gentle-spirited Minnesotans, and these are not “twin cities” like Minneapolis and St. Paul. As Chinaka Hodge writes in her searing essay about gentrification, we are “a little more gritty than that.” In spite of our many similarities and the bridge that umbilically connects us, Oakland and San Francisco are more second cousins than siblings, and often estranged ones at that.

So we did not throw ourselves into “the Oakland Issue” blindly. Do we expect all Oaklanders to embrace this month’s magazine like a long-sought bouquet from a tall, handsome suitor? To misuse a local expression, oh, hell no. But we happen to know a thing or two about the city, many of us having lived there ourselves—and more than a few of us residing there now. The truth: Oakland is more than capable of telling its own story—it has before in the hands of writers like Ishmael Reed, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Gary Soto, and, of course, Jack London. But the stink of that old Gertrude Stein barb hasn’t dissipated—Oakland still has to fight to prove that there’s a there there. Only now, it also has to demonstrate that it’s not a simplistic, tired meme like “Brooklyn by the Bay.” To do both of these things simultaneously, it needs a platform suited to the task.

Well, Oakland, here you have it.

This issue is given over entirely to the other City by the Bay—its limitless potential, its colossal challenges, its incredible doughnuts. We asked Hodge, born and bred in the Town, to pen an open letter to the city’s newest inhabitants. We commissioned a gorgeous, panoramic essay about Oakland’s infinite personalities from local reporter James O’Brien. We tapped the magazine’s longtime food critic Josh Sens, who’s lived in Temescal since before it was four-starred, to explain how the center of the Bay Area culinary scene has shifted east. We made the rounds with Dr. Eric Snoey, who has worked in the trauma ward of Highland General Hospital for 25 years. We sent editor Ellen Cushing and writers Justin Berton, Anna Pulley, and Ben Christopher—Oaklanders all—to report, respectively, on this year’s mayoral race, private security and its discontents, the city’s status as a “modern lesbian dreamscape,” and homegrown solutions to social ills. And we photographed scores of locals in everyday settings, be they attending church in their Easter Sunday best or drunkenly brawling at an underground boxing match.

Some of these stories will draw detractors, undoubtedly, and some wag out there will surely toss the C word—carpetbagger—in our direction. But just know that we’re covering Oakland not out of opportunism or trendiness. We’re covering it because we love the city, flaws and all.

We hope we did it proud.

Check back throughout the month of June as new stories are published online.

A Unified Theory of a Tough Town
What is Oakland? How many are there? A walking meditation on a city’s promise and perils. By James O'Brien

A Week in the Life of an Art Warehouse
Oakland’s live-work lofts as seen through the eyes of their residents, from painters to pole dancers. By Lauren Murrow

Where the Girls Are
The city as modern lesbian dreamscape. By Anna Pulley

The Periodic Table of Oakland-Made Stuff
Fifty-seven items built, sculpted, 3-D printed, and sewn within city limits. By Lauren Murrow

Clashy, Cosmic, Punk
The thrifted, mismatched, nonconformist style of Oakland It girls. By Lauren Murrow

After the Fire Sale
Behold the Town’s last decent real estate deals. By Adam L. Brinklow

Eastbound and Down
Peering inside the city’s quasi-legal underground party scene. By Ellen Cushing

The Oakland 100
An all-inclusive guide to the city’s eating and drinking scene, including Josh Sens on why Oakland’s restaurants trump all (we’re talking to you, San Francisco), the 1 a.m. hoagie guy, the making of a bagel boom, a non-touristy tour of Chinatown, and gluten-free soul food. Edited by Sara Deseran

The Gentrifier’s Guide to Getting Along
A frank history lesson from an Oakland native. By Chinaka Hodge

Our Town
Notable locals on their favorite only-in-Oakland spots.

A Great Day in Oakland
The best of the Sunday best at Allen Temple Baptist Church. By Gary Kamiya, photographs By Aaron Wojack

The Next Great Baller
A 6-foot-10, 17-year-old basketball phenom. By Max Klinger

Pass the Mic
Twenty-five art makers form a mutual admiration society. By Annie Tittiger

So, Who Wants to Be Mayor?
Oakland mayor Jean Quan has an intractable crime problem, a 24-percent approval rating, and a formidable field of rivals. But in this election, that makes her the front-runner. By Ellen Cushing

Homegrown Solutions
Surprising methods of tackling a city’s biggest challenges. By Ben Christopher

Save Me! I’m an Oakland Fan!
Who’s to blame for a quarter-century of sports disappointment? Start with the owners. By Steve Berman

Straight from the Teacher’s Lounge
One hundred twenty-eight educators share the good, the bad, and the really bad about Oakland’s schools. By Scott Lucas

The Thin Blue Privatized Line
When a patrolling rent-a-cop shoots a fleeing suspect, some homeowners begin to question the morality of neighborhood self-defense. By Justin Berton

Waiting for Zuckerberg
If a tech sector booms in the East Bay, will anyone hear it? By Ellen Lee

Network City
How Oakland became a national leader in bridging tech and government—and what that network looks like. By Ian Eck

My State of Emergency
The city’s busiest trauma ward through the eyes of a physician in the trenches. By Eric Snoey, MD

From the Ashes
You can’t keep a good pot district down. By David Downs


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