Tips On Moving to Oakland, CA: Ultimate Relocation Guide

Moneyball. Sourdough. Tom Hanks.

If you like sports, theater, art, and think San Francisco is way too expensive (it is), check out Oakland.

Moving to Oakland CA

Photo Credit: Jo

Oakland is known for its environmental friendliness and history of political activism. You can go visit the night markets at Jack London Square and then go see the record-setting Golden State Warriors.

golden state warriors

It’s home to Kaiser Permanente, the city that birthed the Moneyball A’s, and despite what you may have heard, there IS a HERETHERE.

If you’re planning a move and want a city that’s truly awesome, check out Oakland.

Learn everything you need to know for moving to Oakland

In this guide we’re going to cover how to:

Quick Oakland Snapshot

  • Oakland is the 45th most populous city in the United States in 2017.
  • With an average 1 bedroom monthly rent price of $2,356, Oakland is the 4th most expensive metropolitan area in the United States. I’m not gonna sugar-coat it, Oakland is crazy expensive. But hey! At least it’s not as expensive as San Francisco! As any good realtor will tell you, the first step in looking for places to live in a new area is to set your target budget and maximum budget. In Oakland, $2,000-$3,000 would be a sweet spot for your target budget.
  • Oakland has 14 neighborhoods. In fact, it’s almost like a big neighborhood itself inside the larger San Francisco Bay Area. Like all cities, each neighborhood has its own vibe and character, along with rental prices. This website does a really great job of describing each neighborhood.

A few things to find that perfect Oakland neighborhood

First thing’s first: set a budget. I’ll give you a minute, so take your time.

Ready? Because things are about to get coo. We overlaid a rental hotspot map of the city with the neighborhoods above to give you a good idea of where the most expensive areas are.

Oakland Neighborhood Map

For example:

    paramount-theatre-oakland-ca

  • In Old Oakland, Downtown, and the Jack London District you’re looking at spending between $2,000 and $3,000 for a one bedroom, or $4,000 to $6,000 for a two bedroom.
  • Montclair and the Dimond District would be less per bedroom, around $1,200-$1,800.
  • Neighborhoods east of 14th Avenue – San Antonio, Oaktree, Allendale, etc. – these are places where you can find an apartment for around $1,000 (or less if you want to do the roommate thing).

So let’s get this out of the way now: if you’re on a tight budget, look east of 14th avenue – the further you go the cheaper it gets. If cost is no object, look to Old Oakland, Downtown, and the Jack London District.

If you’re freaking out about these prices just remember — it’s still not nearly as expensive as San Francisco. Look at all that red on the map across the bay!

Where Are People Like Me Living?

We all want to live near people who are at similar points in their lives. But it’s hard to know which neighborhoods fit your lifestyle before you’ve actually lived somewhere.

The website Esri.com does an amazing job breaking down demographics by zip code with their ziptapestry tool.

For example, if you plug in Fruitvale (94601) into the tool you’ll get a full breakdown on the primary types of people living in that area. Very cool!

fruitvale ca neighborhood demographics

fruitvale ca international marketplace demographic

Next: consider your commute to work

Limiting your commute time is crucial to your overall happiness in a new city. Let’s get one common question out the way.

Can I live in Oakland and commute to San Francisco?

This answer is complicated but we think this reddit user provides one of the best responses we’ve seen.

oakland san francisco california commute reddit answer

Here’s a breakdown of getting around the city:

If you own a car…

Oakland is fairly accessible by car.

Interstates 980, 580, and 880 all run through the city and link up in downtown Oakland. You can use these to navigate your way across the bay to San Francisco, south to San Jose, north to Sacramento, or even all the way down to Los Angeles.

driving-in-oakland-ca

This is a great webpage to simulate your commute depending on where you’re coming from, where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and how you’re traveling.

Street parking can be difficult. In some parts of the city you’re not allowed to park overnight because of street cleaning.

There are, however, plenty of parking lots where you can purchase a monthly parking pass. This page has a ton of information on parking.

Public Transportation

BART is a rapid transit system serving Oakland and the rest of the Bay Area. BART can get you to San Francisco in roughly 15 minutes.

If you plan on living in Oakland and commuting into San Francisco on public transit you’ll want to be sure both your apartment and work are located close to BART stations. If you need to transfer between more than one transit agency your commute time can easily run 10 times as long. Not good!

A map of the BART system is below. Living in Oakland, you’ll mainly be concerned with the area inside the red rectangle. Daily service to Oakland is provided by all 5 lines in the system.

oakland-ca-train-map-bart

In addition to trains, Oakland also has a decent bus system. AC Transit is the primary bus operator within Oakland and the East Bay area. Most routes converge in downtown.

oakland-bart

AC Transit provides extensive peak period bus service to/from San Francisco on weekdays. Most service is to San Francisco in the morning, returning to Oakland in the afternoon and early evening hours.

Bus fares are $2.10 for adults for one ride or $5 for a daily pass. Transbay buses to/from San Francisco cost $4.00 and include one free transfer. Transfers from BART provide a 25¢ discount.

Bottom line: with a public transit score of 55, the public transportation system is a bit above average, but still not great. It can get you almost anywhere inside the city within an hour. If you’re not planning on having a car, you’d better get used to taking the train and bus, because you’ll be taking them a lot.

Downtown Oakland is very walkable

In terms of walkability, Downtown Oakland is great! But the further you move away from downtown, the more you’ll need to rely on public transportation or a car to get around.

With a walk score of 72, if you’re someone who likes to get around by foot Oakland is a solid option compared to other cities.

Below is a walk score map, similar to the rent price heat map we talked about above. The greener the better. If you plan on walking, stay away from the yellow when looking for neighborhoods to live in. Good thing for you Oakland doesn’t have any red!

walk-score-map-oakland

Oakland Nightlife

There are tons—TONS—of music venues in Oakland.

kona club oakland ca

The Fox Theater is a converted old-timey movie theater that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was refurbished in the last decade and reopened as a live music venue just seven years ago. It’s hosted concerts from artists like Paul Simon, the Allman Brothers, Green Day, and President Obama even spoke there during his reelection campaign!

If you’re not so much in the mood for live music, there are lots of smaller bars that might fit your individual tastes. Kona Club is a fun little tiki bar with a smoke-spewing volcano. McNally’s Irish Pub is, well, an Irish pub that allows dogs!

Who doesn’t love Happy Hour deals? This is a list of Oakland’s best Happy Hours. Check out Bar 355 all week during the week from 4-8 for $3 beers.

Other things to do in Oakland

Jack London Square. This place is named after author Jack London, and it’s the home of many stores, restaurants, hotels, and Amtrak station, a ferry dock, an old western saloon, and the former presidential yacht USS Potomac.

Here, check out a video tour of Jack London Square!

Tripadvisor also has an excellent list of the best things to do in Oakland.

Finding a safe neighborhood

Oakland has a notorious reputation for being unsafe.

google-oakland

Neighborhood Scout’s crime index ranks Oakland a 1 out of 100, so yeah, safety is definitely a concern when living in Oakland.

However, times are changing. Oakland is experiencing a spillover effect from it’s rapidly growing neighbor San Francisco.

Much like Brooklyn and the Bronx have changed as Manhattan has grown ever more expensive, Oakland is experiencing similar increases in household income and changing demographics.

Just like any city, knowing your surroundings is crucial. Here’s a crime hotspot map. The bluer the better.

oakland-ca-crime-map

Generally, try to stay around the Jack London District or northeast near Piedmont and Montclair.

Find an apartment in Oakland

Before you jump in and start looking at listings, consider a few things…

Good news! Oakland has some really amazing weather. It’s most comparable to a Mediterranean climate, with summers that are usually dry and warm and winters that are mild and damp.

oakland weather

For instance, the average high in January is 58 degrees while the average low is 44 degrees. The average high in July is 72 degrees while the average low is 56 degrees. It’s preferred to find an apartment with heating and air conditioning, but they aren’t vital.

Laundromats aren’t hard to come by, but if you’re planning on going without a car, a washer/dryer is a must have. You don’t want to be walking around the neighborhood carrying dirty clothes.

Here are a few of our favorite websites to find apartments. Use the sort functionality to drill down on your desired number of bedrooms, budget, etc.

It might surprise you, but Craigslist is actually a very useful site in finding apartments (especially places whose owners/landlords are desperate to rent out).

Note: This DOES NOT mean you should trust Craigslist implicitly. Here’s their own guide on how to recognize potential scammers.

Get familiar with California rental law

These are things you should know before moving so that a landlord can’t hoodwink you.

  • Under California law, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants (usually in the lease or rental agreement), such as the registered sexual offender database and ordinance locations. For a full list, see California Required Landlord Disclosures.
  • California state law limits security deposits to the equivalent of two months’ rent if the residence is unfurnished and three months’ rent if the residence is furnished. It also limits when it has to be returned (within 21 days after you move out) and sets other restrictions on deposits. California Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines
  • Hopefully it doesn’t come to this, but tenants can sue landlords for the return of their deposit, up to $10,000. There is no limit in eviction suits. Filing a Security Deposit Lawsuit in California Small Claims Court.
  • This one can become very important: you may withhold rent if a landlord fails to take care of important repairs, such as a broken heater. California Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent.
  • For all sorts of other good information about lease laws, check out State Landlord-Tenant Laws.

Finding an apartment in Oakland takes work

Oakland’s rental market is just about as competitive as it is throughout the country. Average rent in Oakland increased by a whopping 12% from 2015 to 2016, compared to 3.43% in the United States as a whole.

Oakland’s vacancy rate is 2.9%, compared to 6.32% for the nation as a whole. In other words, rent in Oakland is going up and the number of apartments open to rent is already very low.

What you’ll need in order to rent

There are a couple of things to keep in mind with respect to your timetable in finding an apartment.

Obviously, it helps to start looking as soon as possible. Leases usually begin on the first day of the month, so you should start looking two weeks before the start of the month you want to move in at the very latest.

You’ll absolutely need your Social Security number when applying for apartments. Landlords and realtors will almost always run a credit check on you and any roommates. Many will also ask you for a pay stub as proof of income.

As for deposits, most landlords will require first month, last month, and security deposit (equal to one month’s rent).

For example, if the monthly rent for an apartment is $1,000, you’re probably looking at paying the landlord a deposit of $3,000 upon signing the lease.

This will cover your first month’s and last month’s rent, and you’ll get the security deposit back minus any catastrophic damages you cause to the place.

If you want to buy a house near Oakland

As this Quora answer suggests, the nicer areas to buy a home in Oakland are around the BART stations.

Oakland best neighborhood

And just in case the city life is too much fun for you

The nicest suburb of Oakland (and San Francisco and San Jose) is Portola Valley. In fact, it’s America’s wealthiest community with an average per capita income of $152,000.

It’s about an hour drive across the bay from Oakland, a bit less than that from San Francisco, and much less than to San Jose.

You can look for homes in Portola Valley here.

Actually moving to Oakland

Moving Cost Calculator

Now for the real fun, moving everything!

If you want to get an idea on the cost of different moving services, check out our moving cost estimator.

A few other things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Moving Permits: moving to the city is always difficult because of thin roads, sidewalks, and constricted space. Unfortunately, applying for a moving permit in Oakland is extremely difficult and expensive.

A two-day permit can run up to $240. You can try to call the permit office at (510) 238-3443, but your best bet is to go in person to the Oakland Permit Center.

Before going to the permit center, make sure you know the site address, the number of parking spaces you need, the date/time of your move, the type of parking spaces you’ll be blocking, and whether or not you’ll be blocking traffic.

As we’ve already talked about, the weather in Oakland is extremely temperate, so that need not be a factor in planning your move. A move in the winter will probably be just as manageable as it will be in the summer.

Water Writes Series Mural #2 - Oakland, CA

Everything you need to do post move

Yay! You’re now living in the Bay Area. Now do these things…

  • Voter Registration: you can find the steps to register to vote here.
  • Driver’s Licenses:if you’re from out of state and wish to become a California resident, you must get a California license within 10 days of moving. You can find out how to do that here.
  • Vehicle Registration: find the steps for registering your vehicle here.
  • Trash & Recycling: the city handles trash and recycling. Go here for more information and call (510) 613-8710 to set up your service.
  • Ways to meet people: there’s always tons of ways to meet new people. One great way is to use meetup.com. The /r/Oakland page on Reddit is also a great place to search for upcoming events and find lesser known tidbits and activities.
  • To find great local events and happenings check out VisitOakland.org

Oakland California meetup group

  • sac masta

    The rental prices posted on here are a LIE…even in deep east Oakland its like $15oo for a 1 bedroom

    • Hi sac, thanks for the comment! We agree, Oakland is expensive and getting more expensive by the day.

      The rental price section could be a little clearer, but we were suggesting you could find a bedroom (likely in a 2-3 bedroom apartment roommate situation) where the rent could be around $1000. We agree, even this is still a challenge. Thanks for your comment!