I want to start out by saying that I live in the Dimond District of East Oakland. I’ve been a very fortunate person to live in this neighborhood. It has everything. As a grassroots activist, I sometimes run into my comrades from Black Lives Matter and Causa Justa Just Cause members. Like me, they are shopping, dining, or just walking through the neighborhood. Sometimes I didn’t even know they lived, shopped or dined in the area.
The Dimond District has a lot to offer—great grocery stores, all the major banks, the Southern Café (which I love for its soul food and jazz.) But most importantly, two great grocery stores, Safeway and Farmer Joe’s, have both organic fruit and vegetables plus all the amenities that you find in any upscale grocery store. The staff at both stores are friendly, welcoming, very courteous, and always willing to help with any questions. It feels good to shop in these local businesses, and to feel good despite how high groceries are these days.
But, it hasn’t always been like this. Just three years ago, my neighborhood was under siege by house burglaries, car vandalism, and gun shots (we still hear them from time-to-time, but not like before). Like any metropolitan neighborhood, we have our issues, but the good always supersedes the bad.
So getting back to the good in the Dimond District. We have a large, public park– known as Dimond Park—which is lovingly maintained by the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation Dept. Dimond Park provides a pool, hiking trail, tennis courts, basketball court and plenty of wide open space to walk and exercise your dog.
We are also home to multiple restaurants on Fruitvale Avenue and McArthur Boulevard. The diversity of Oakland is represented in the many restaurants of our neighborhood – Japanese, Indian, Thai, Mexican, a French bakery, Chinese fast-food, burger joints, McDonald’s, and other fine eateries.
For all you coffee drinkers, we don’t have a Starbucks but we have Peet’s. But, my mistake, there is a miniature Starbucks in Safeway which gets a lot of traffic!
Our access to public transportation is excellent—we have multiple AC Transit Routes and great connections to BART, San Francisco, Fremont, Castro Valley, and all points in-between.
But Sunday is my favorite day in the neighborhood. On Sunday afternoons, I put on some sharp gear and stroll down to the Southern Café which is right around the corner from my house for some good jazz and down-home cooking. Some of the great local musicians of the Bay Area come there to perform. While there is a house band, you never know who might show up to sit. But be aware, parking is limited! That’s why I walk, because I want to be in a green and friendly mindset when I sit down to good music.
Aside from the jazz, there is an excellent French bakery, La Farine, which has the greatest pastries for my sweet tooth. Because I am a big salad eater, I love their fresh croutons which I use to top my salads. These croutons are so good that they are always sold out because they are only made twice a week.
As I’ve already said, my neighborhood has everything. In the three- square blocks I surveyed, there is St. Jarlath’s church and school, chiropractor and dentist offices, a Shell gas station, a CVS pharmacy, a Subway sandwich shop, an optometrist, Copy USA, nail salons, a U.S. post office, dry cleaners among so many other small businesses.
In my opinion, the only thing missing in my neighborhood is a movie theater.
Logging the Dimond District: Between Pleasant Street and McArthur Blvd.
• This area is a combination of residential and commercial, centered around the Dimond District’s commercial corridor.
• The residential section is made up of mostly single -family homes with two to three apartment buildings— a duplex, triplex, and a large multi-unit building on McArthur Blvd.
• The streets are mostly clean, with some light litter and trash occasionally. We do have a lot of trash along the Fruitvale exit from 580.
• There are a dozen trees or more lining the streets; there are a lot of trees that block the noise of 580 from the residents.
• Yes, there are plenty of people on the streets. People in cars, on bikes, walking, and entering into the businesses along Fruitvale. There are people waiting for buses and we have regular panhandling at the freeway exits.
• Yes. I feel safe walking in my neighborhood, because it is pretty well-lit, people are friendly, there’s a lot of automobile traffic and a pretty significant police presence. I wouldn’t say it’s totally safe to walk alone at night for anyone.
• Yes, for the most part the neighborhood feels safe, particularly the residential part. It feels safe because I mind my business and I think others will do the same. Like any major city, you have to be careful at night. I wouldn’t allow my daughter to walk alone at night. The commercial end is pretty quiet after midnight, which is a recent change. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone walk along late at night by themselves.
• Is it tranquil? That’s hard to say. It’s still the city, we have our good nights and bad nights.
• There are roughly 30 businesses, such as a bakery, fast food restaurants, coffee shops, and restaurants.
• There are two full-service markets, Farmer Joe’s and Safeway
• There are two liquor stores; they sell snacks, soda, beer and liquor, tobacco, household items, toiletries, hygiene products, newspapers, a lot of processed foods, and very little fruit or produce.
• One Catholic school
• The facilities and grounds are immaculate.
• No children are playing on the grounds because it’s summer vacation.
• Dimond Park and William Wood Park
• Yes there are basketball courts, ball fields, jungle gyms, plenty of swings, slides and multiple play stations for children.
• Dimond Park and Wood Park are well maintained by the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation Dept. There is plenty of lawn space and open green space. The concrete is not free of cracks.
• There are plenty of new play structures, but some are getting older and in need of repair.
• The parks do feel welcoming and are well landscaped.
• There are families with children, people on the tennis courts, young teens on the basketball courts, and Chinese elders walking and doing Tai Chi.
• People are using the picnic tables and grills, swimming, exercising their dogs, and hiking along the trails.
• Bank of America, Citi Bank, Chase, Well Fargo, plenty of small retail outlets -Oaklandish, upholstery shop, two bars, barber shops, nail and beauty salons, dentist and chiropractor offices, a Shell gas station, a martial arts studio, a CVS pharmacy, a pizza parlor, dry cleaners, a Radio Shack, an auto body shop, a Middle Eastern grocery store and an African retail shop.
• There is not a clinic or hospital in the target area. There is an eye-doctor, dentist, and chiropractor.