Oakland: A case study

Vacant to vibrant

Decaying structures, abandoned land, and fences can make people feel unsafe in areas like this one along San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, but with shops, homes, and jobs, these areas can be transformed into welcoming streets.


The stretch of San Pablo Avenue north of the 980 freeway in Oakland lacks the attractions and services residents expect close to a metropolitan downtown. Neglected streets, pervasive vacant lots, and dilapidated buildings are the norm. Yet this area, located between Oakland and Emeryville with extensive transit options, could be revitalized to improve residents’ quality of life with nearby jobs, retail, and restaurants.

Grey Kolevson of Oakland rides his bike everywhere and takes transit. He’d love to see the region transformed to benefit residents, with affordable homes and opportunities to start local small businesses. “San Pablo feels like a freeway instead of a neighborhood. Everyone drives quickly through. There’s no place to sit and have coffee, and meet each other and hang out.”

Navina Khanna, who works for the Hope Collaborative, lives near San Pablo. She takes transit and rides her bike a lot, but is concerned about pollution and traffic. “I feel like I’m going to get hit all the time. I wish San Pablo could be more bike-friendly. The neighborhood could be better if everyone who lives here is involved in making decisions about how the area changes.”

At A Glance


Area of focus:
San Pablo Avenue

What it is now:
Vacant buildings and abandoned sites

What it could become:
A vibrant neighborhood

Why here:
Key transit corridor

Infill opportunity sites:


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