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12/17/09 Are we there yet?

on December 17, 2009

In describing Oakland, or at least a part of it, the author Gertrude Stein once famously said, “There is no there there.”

The quote has a checkered past. Scholars have pointed out that Stein meant she could not find her childhood home in Oakland when returning to the city in 1930s after decades of living in Paris. Yet it’s often been taken out of context since she said it, to mean Oakland is a place with no character. For the past few weeks on Oakland North, we’ve written about the many neighborhoods and diverse people that put the lie to that claim. Whether it’s the scrumptious food of Temescal, the off-beat stores in Rockridge or the street artists of DeFremery Park, Oakland has an embarrassment of riches. And that’s just in the northern part of the city.

So if we accept “there is a there” here in Oakland, how would we advise visitors to get to it? Should they drive? We learned today that the Bay Area has the country’s second-worst freeways, with only the tangled mess of Los Angeles saving us from the ignominy of last place. The Bay Bridge’s frequent closures this fall hasn’t helped matters, either. Perhaps we should advise them to take the bus. Better have them check their schedules, since AC Transit is having to cut back its routes, as Tom Gorman reports. BART’s still an option, but you’ll have to wait a few more years for the agency’s vaunted Oakland airport monorail is ready. If cycling is your preferred option, there’ll soon be new bike lanes on West MacArthur Boulevard and 40th Avenue.

But if you’re on your way from to Oakland from Hayward, Contra Costa or San Francisco–and whether you get here on hang glider, horseback or hot air balloon–it’ll be worth the trip.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

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