I love “Talking Heads.” I love the song “Once in a Lifetime,” and the lyric, “… And you may tell yourself / This is not my beautiful house / and you may tell yourself / this is not my beautiful wife.” I remember once, I think it was in college, someone showed me the “Stop Making Sense” video, and I was blown away by the whole concert. Even though, I knew most of the songs from the radio, having it all there, and David Byrne, being David Byrne. Wonderful, simply wonderful. …
Anyway, that lyric, about “this is not my beautiful house” it’s lately how I feel about Oakland. I wrote a few weeks ago about being here for 5 years. And while that’s not really THAT long, in the grand scheme of things, it’s long for me, and it seems “hella” long for Oakland, and what’s been happening now. All the rapid-fire change that’s been happening. And I’m not sure I agree with the changes I see.
This past week, I get an email from a local business in Berkeley, the Wooden Duck, a place that I recently bought some furniture. After more than 20 years in business, they are closing up and going out of business. Because I’m on the mailing list, I got an email. Then, the SF Chronicle wrote about it — the landlord raised the rent, and they could not afford to be in business. A brewery is moving in. Another one. (Do we really need another micro-brewery?) I’m sad, because I really admired the place – the quality of the furniture, the fact that it was high-quality and not mass-produced or a chain. I’m sad that it came down to a rent dispute, and that the city of Berkeley is losing a small business, which generates sales tax revenue.
The month before, I heard on Facebook that a winery I used to go in Jack London Square is closing – moving its tasting room to American Canyon. The building it was in has been sold. I also heard of another winery, also in Jack London Square, that moved as well.
There is absolutely no question that rent – for both tenants and businesses – is an issue right now. What saddens me to the core is when long-time businesses are shut out, or restaurants, wineries, or artisans decide to make business decisions that involve leaving the area, cutting back hours, selling the building completely. Those business are closed, and shut down from the community. Or, taken for granted, prices increase, and passed along to the Oakland consumer.
When I moved here 5 years ago, the Oakland that was here is definitely not the Oakland that is here now. And I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. I see condos being built that I won’t be able to buy ever, as a single person, and new restaurants opening that are just as expensive as those in San Francisco.
So, where IS Oakland? What IS Oakland? What is special about Oakland in 2017? And, why am I still here? I don’t work in Oakland – I work in San Francisco. I don’t own a home in Oakland – I rent an apartment. I don’t have children – I don’t use the schools. If I do a tally on why stay, why leave, it kind of evens itself out. I’m here because I moved here. I’m here because my apartment is here. I’m here because it’s the alternative that I have at the moment. I’m frankly not as thrilled about living here as I was just a few years ago. I think city politicians could do a better job of “protecting” our interests, than selling out to developers — they say they’re doing it for the betterment of housing. Puh-leez. Or those Ford bike shares? Whatever.
I stay in Oakland right now, because I can’t really deal with any major life decisions. I DO like Lake Merritt. I DO like hiking in the hills. I like Berkeley Bowl. I have my spots that I enjoy. Maybe I’m just getting older. I don’t want to get older.