Health of the Hood: Maxwell Park

Each of our correspondents took roughly a 3 square-block walk around their neighborhood, taking stock of the area’s services, stores, homes, schools, and especially how people in the community were living their lives. The goal is to give real, detailed texture to our understanding of the quality of life in East Oakland’s neighborhoods from the perspectives of people who live there. These pieces were done in conjunction with Oakland Tribune Violence Reporting Fellow Scott Johnson’s Oakland Effect project.


By Ronald Owens

Maxwell Park. By Ronald Owens, Oakland Voices 2012.

The neighborhood is primarily residential, with single family homes on Walnut Street. Walking west on High Street from Walnut Street, the residences are mostly apartment buildings and there are a funeral home and a few retail stores, including a Laundromat, a hair salon, a pizza joint, a couple of auto repair shops, and a used appliance store.

The streets are reasonably clean and the pavement is pretty much intact. Most of the side streets have speed bumps. On the corner of High and Congress Streets, about three blocks west of Walnut Street, there is a liquor store and the street there is usually littered with discarded bags and bottles and plastic utensils.

Heading north on Congress to Monticello, the streets seem a little rougher and there are more speed bumps. Heading back to Walnut Street, the streets on Monticello are clean and smooth, and there are fewer speed bumps.

Walnut Street is lined with trees, about 45 from Renwick, the cross-street of my address, to High Street. High Street is also tree-lined, with trees every 10 yards or so to Congress St. Congress has fewer trees and more concrete. Monticello also has fewer trees and more concrete.

There weren’t many people on the street. There was a guy near the door of the liquor store, another man on Montecito getting something out of his car, an older woman crossing the street on Congress, and a woman getting out of her car on Walnut.

Doors, and The Doors. By Ronald Owens, Oakland Voices 2012.

It usually feels pretty safe to walk in the neighborhood. The neighborhood is usually quiet and kids play ball on the street. It can feel a little dicey around the liquor store, especially when it starts to get dark. Some streets closer to High Street are kind of rough and there have been shootings lately there.

The general location is usually quiet. It seems less tranquil on streets like Congress, especially in the areas nearer to High Street.


  • There are not that many stores. There’s a Laundromat, a pizzeria, a used appliance store, a hair salon, and a liquor store.
  • There are no full-service markets
  • There’s one liquor store. There had be three but one was shut down by the city about five years ago and has been vacant ever since, and the other one eventually reopened a pizza joint. The remaining liquor store does sell meat and chicken, and other light groceries such as cookies and crackers, bread, cereal, and canned foods. And of course liquor, beer, cigarettes, and outdated wine.


  • There is no school in the target area, but there is a public grade school nearby that the city plans to close down in its current downsizing effort. The school appears to be in good condition and kids play on the grounds.


  • There is a park in the target area, Brookdale Park. It has grass, basketball courts, a baseball diamond, and a field house. It appears to be in good condition and it looks welcoming. You don’t see much activity in the park, though. “Word on the street” is that gangbangers frequent the basketball court, making other visitors wary.


  • There are no banks, gas stations, libraries, pharmacies, hospitals, or clinics within the walking area. There is a funeral home and a pizza joint. The pizza place is take out only, and you order through a thick Plexiglas window. There are gas stations nearby outside the walking area, and a fire station and a boys and girls club.


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Ronald Owens is a longtime Oakland resident who has lived in East Oakland’s Maxwell Park neighborhood for nine years.

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