11+ Reasons Not To Move to Oakland, California!

Reasons not to move to Oakland, CA

Oakland is a vibrant tapestry of culture, diversity, and unique charm, attracting many who are considering making a move to Oakland.

this image for telling that this blog post about reasons not to move to Oakland, CA

But let’s face it: every city has its drawbacks, and Oakland is no exception.

I am Nargiza, a real estate agent in Oakland, CA. In this post, we’re taking an unfiltered look at why Oakland might not be the paradise everyone expects it to be.


  • Traffic and Parking Challenges: Navigating through congestion and hunting for parking can be a daily hassle.
  • Primarily Small Retailers: Limited options for big-box shopping experiences.
  • Poor Public Transportation: Getting around without a car can be challenging.
  • Schools: Concerns about the quality of the public education system.
  • City Transfer Tax: High costs involved in property transactions.
  • Cost of Housing: Significantly high, even by Bay Area standards.
  • Cost of Living: One of the highest in the nation.
  • Homelessness: A growing and visible issue in the city.
  • Crime: Higher rates in certain areas can be a concern.
  • Poor Infrastructure: Frequent power outages and deteriorating street conditions.
  • Natural Disasters: Earthquake, wildfire, and drought risks.
  • Electric Vehicles and Climate Concerns: Navigating the shift towards sustainable living.

What are the reasons Not to Move to Oakland, CA?

While the Bay Area has much to offer, Oakland’s high cost of living and safety concerns are significant deterrents.

From my time here, I’ve noticed firsthand how the city struggles with challenges such as traffic congestion and a strained education system despite its proximity to cultural hubs like Berkeley. 

Understanding these pitfalls is crucial for anyone considering a move to Oakland.

With this article, you’ll get an honest perspective, helping you decide if this city truly aligns with your lifestyle and needs.

1. Traffic and Parking Challenges

Policemen and traffic

Have you ever driven around the East Bay and faced the crazy traffic near the Bay Bridge?

You know what I mean if you commute between San Francisco and Oakland. 

It’s bustling, especially when everyone travels or comes from work. And I also don’t like people driving really crazy here, and they run red lights too. 

And parking? That’s another story.

Finding a parking spot in both Oakland and San Francisco is super hard. You must be careful even when you think you’ve found a spot. 

The parking rules are strict, and it’s so easy to get a ticket. I’ve gotten lots of parking tickets myself! It’s not just the slow traffic that’s annoying; it’s also keeping an eye out for those tricky parking rules.

2. Lack of Large Retailers

shopping card and retail store

Oakland’s retail scene is unique, with a notable absence of big retailers like Costco, Ikea, Lowes, Walmart, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus.

The city leans towards local businesses, giving it a distinct character and requiring residents to travel for specific shopping needs. For high-end fashion, Walnut Creek is the go-to, boasting stores like Neiman Marcus, known for designer clothing and accessories.

If you’re a cooking enthusiast, Williams-Sonoma in Walnut Creek is a haven with its extensive range of kitchenware and gourmet items.

So, get ready to travel to adjacent cities to do some shopping. 

3. Poor Public transportation

Public Transportation

Oakland’s struggle with public transportation is real, especially in areas like the Oakland Hills.

Services like BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) don’t reach everywhere, and many neighborhoods lack good bus service. This means people often have to use cars, even if they’d prefer not to.

People also worry about safety on public transport, especially at night.

4. Public Education System

Teacher is teaching her class

When planning to move to a place like Oakland, it’s crucial to consider the education system. 

People in Oakland tend to have mixed feelings about the public schools here. While some schools excel, others face challenges that concern parents.

According to data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES),  many parents are considering alternatives, like homeschooling or private education. 

So, it’s worth closely examining Oakland’s public schools and weighing your options. After all, education is a big part of why families choose to live where they do. 

If you want more information to help guide your decision, the Oakland Unified School District’s website, www.ousd.org, is valuable. It offers insights into various schools, programs, and educational services.

5. High City Transfer Tax

bag of money on the hand, indicating why not to move to Oakland, CA

Oakland’s high city transfer tax is a crucial factor to weigh if you’re planning a move to the City of Oakland within the San Francisco Bay area. This tax applies to property purchases and sales and stands out as one of the highest in the region.

Such a substantial added expense can deter potential residents. Understanding this tax is essential when considering moving to Oakland. It’s a significant financial consideration that often influences the decision-making process. 

For more insights into Oakland’s transfer tax and its implications for your move, check out the City of Oakland’s official website at www.oaklandca.gov.

6. Cost of Housing

housing prices are going up

If you’re considering moving to the Oakland area, the housing cost is a critical factor.

It’s not just higher than the national average; it’s skyrocketing each year, making it a significant reason people are moving out of the state. As someone who’s lived in the area, I’ve seen firsthand how homes become increasingly expensive despite fluctuating mortgage rates. 

This trend isn’t just about the numbers; it’s about the impact on people’s decisions to stay or leave. For many, the climbing housing costs in Oakland push the dream of homeownership or affordable renting further out of reach, leading people to rent out other rooms they don’t use.

7. Cost of Living

cost of living

Oakland has a lot to offer, but it’s essential to know that life in Oakland comes with a high cost of living. Everything from gas to groceries carries a higher price than many other states. It’s not just about paying more at the checkout; this cost extends to almost all aspects of daily life.

Supporting oneself in this city can be a substantial challenge for those earning minimum wage. The financial strain isn’t limited to housing; it’s a pervasive issue affecting residents’ budgets and lifestyle choices. 

8. Homelessness 

homeless men, depicting homeless situations why not to move to Oakland, CA

Homelessness in Oakland is a growing and visible crisis. Shockingly, according to homelessness.acgov.org, the city’s homeless population has doubled over the past decade, with a staggering 135% increase from 2019 to 2022.

This translates to about 3,600 more people living without homes today than just three years ago. Encampments are becoming increasingly common, not just in areas like West and East Oakland but also under highway overpasses.

I’ve personally seen the impact of this crisis, with a relative of my husband becoming homeless. It’s a stark reminder of the city’s urgent need to address this growing problem.

9. Crime 

police is arresting burglar

Understanding the city’s crime rates is crucial when thinking about life in Oakland. 

NeighborhoodScout’s analysis of FBI crime data reveals that Oakland has one of the highest crime rates in America for cities of all sizes, with a one in 12 chance of becoming a victim of violent or property crime.

However, it’s important to note that crime rates vary significantly by neighborhood.

Some areas offer a great living environment with relatively low crime, while others can be dangerous, especially in the evenings. This is something I’ve personally experienced. 

10. Poor Infrastructure

If you’re thinking of moving to Oakland, be prepared to navigate its poor infrastructure.

 Driving around the city, I’ve frequently experienced potholes, cracks, and uneven surfaces, common issues in many Oakland streets. These create safety hazards for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

California’s overall pavement quality received a “D” grade in a 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers study, with Oakland likely fitting within this assessment.

Additionally, Oakland’s power grid, aging and outdated, struggles to handle extreme weather events. In 2020 alone, the city experienced over 1,200 power outages, significantly impacting residents.

These infrastructure challenges are an essential consideration for anyone planning to move here.

11. Natural Disasters

Like the rest of California, Oakland is no stranger to natural disasters. Living here, one must be prepared for the realities of earthquakes, wildfires, and droughts, all common occurrences. 

Given the city’s proximity to several significant fault lines, Earthquakes are a constant consideration for residents and city planners alike. 

Wildfires in recent years have also become increasingly prevalent, posing risks to homes and air quality. Additionally, the persistent issue of droughts affects water usage and conservation efforts. 

These natural phenomena are part of life in Oakland and play a significant role in shaping the city’s environmental policies and residents’ daily lives.

12. Electric Vehicles Due to Climate

In Oakland and California, there’s a strong push for electric vehicles (EVs) as part of the climate change response.

But let’s face it, not everyone is thrilled about this shift. Switching to an EV can feel like a giant leap if you’re used to driving a traditional car.

And with the state aiming for 68% zero-emission vehicles by 2030 and phasing out gasoline-powered cars by 2035, this change is coming fast.

The growing EV infrastructure and the high costs of electric cars add to the complexity.

So, if you’re considering moving to Oakland, consider how this move towards EVs aligns with your lifestyle, especially if you’re not quite ready to give up your gas-powered ride.

What do I need to know before moving to Oakland, CA?

While we’ve discussed why you might think twice about moving to Oakland, there are also plenty of compelling things about Oakland that make it a unique and vibrant place to live. 

Oakland is home to a thriving culture rich in history and diversity. From the legacy of the Black Panther Movement to the bustling Temescal Arts District, the city’s cultural tapestry is both dynamic and inspiring.

Food enthusiasts will find Oakland a paradise, offering an eclectic mix of cuisines and flavors, from upscale dining to international street food.

Public transportation in Oakland, including BART and AC Transit, provides convenient access to San Francisco and other Bay Area locations.

For those who love the outdoors, Oakland is surrounded by natural beauty, including Lake Merritt and Redwood Regional Park, offering many activities like hiking and kayaking.

The city’s diverse neighborhoods have unique charm, catering to various lifestyles, whether seeking an urban downtown feel or a tranquil suburban atmosphere.

Before making your move, it’s important to dive deeper into Oakland’s offerings:

  • Explore Neighborhoods: Each area in Oakland has its unique character. Spend time understanding the different vibes and amenities to find your perfect spot.
  • Commute Considerations: If working outside Oakland, factor in your commute. Look into public transportation options and be aware of potential delays.
  • Financial Planning: Oakland’s cost of living is high. Budget carefully and plan your finances to maximize what the city offers.

Oakland is a city of contrasts and opportunities; understanding these facets is critical to making your move successful.

Why do people move to Oakland?

People are attracted to Oakland for its vibrant cultural tapestry and dynamic energy.

The city’s rich history in activism and its role in the Civil Rights Movement give it a depth that resonates with many.

Oakland’s art scene is thriving, and its diverse culinary offerings reflect the city’s melting pot of cultures. Surrounded by natural beauty, including scenic parks and trails, Oakland appeals to those seeking an active outdoor lifestyle.

Its location within the Bay Area is also a draw, offering urban conveniences alongside a distinct community spirit.

Final Thoughts

Having spent over a decade in the Bay Area, I can attest that Oakland is a city of contrasts.

It’s rich in culture and history but faces challenges like high living costs and crime rates. Deciding to move here involves balancing these realities against the city’s charm and vibrant community.

Oakland is more than just a place to live; it’s an opportunity to be part of a diverse and dynamic community with its unique urban flavor.


Why is crime so bad in Oakland?

Oakland’s high crime rates, particularly in terms of violent crime, can be attributed to various factors, including economic disparities and historical and social issues. 

The crime rates are often concentrated in specific neighborhoods and result from complex socio-economic dynamics.

Efforts to address crime in Oakland involve community initiatives and law enforcement strategies to improve safety and quality of life.

Is it worth living in Oakland?

Determining if Oakland is worth living in depends on personal preferences and priorities.

While the city faces challenges like high costs and crime rates, many are drawn to its cultural diversity, vibrant arts scene, and outdoor opportunities.

Those who value these aspects and are willing to navigate the city’s complexities often find living in Oakland rewarding. It’s a decision that requires balancing the pros and cons based on individual lifestyle choices.

So, if you want to move to Oakland, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Talk to you soon.

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