The Westlake District

August 17, 2008

I recently saw a real estate listing describe a home near us as being in “one of Oakland’s most sought after neighborhoods, the Westlake District.” While I’m glad that this particular agent thinks our ‘hood is sought after (it isn’t, exactly, though we think it’s lovely!) I especially love hearing what people call our little slice of the city. Our neighborhood, tucked at the northwestern edge of Lake Merritt, doesn’t officially have a name, though you hear everything from Adams Point (though that neighborhood technically ends at Harrison Street) to Uptown (we’re too far north if you ask me) to Harrioak (some locals came up with this one a few years ago; sounds silly but it does capture the geography, at least) to my personal favorite, “Lower Temescal.” (You guessed it, that one came from a realtor! I should add that we’re over a mile from the southern boundary of Temescal, a newly-trendy part of the city as far as realtors are concerned…)

I actually like Westlake the best, though (minus the “district” part, which is apparently a neighborhood in Daly City). It’s what appears on MLS listings for our neighborhood, though I rarely hear it used in conversation. The middle school down the street is Westlake, too—it was originally Lakeview Junior High School but the district changed the name in the 1920s because the corresponding elementary school had (and still has) the same name, and it got too confusing to have the schools called the same thing. So there may be something to it, historically. A neighbor of ours recently mentioned that she likes to tell people she lives in Westlake, even if it does take some explaining. I think I’m going to start doing this, too, and see if maybe it will catch on.



  1. What do you think of the HarriOak name that most people seem to use? The HarriOak News is one example. Westlake is a nice name. Lower Temescal is proposterous! What’s now called Lower Rockridge (or just Rockridge) used to be Temescal (College Ave and Telegraph sit in the same valley formed by Temescal creek). If that keeps going, your neighborhood will be Rockridge in a few decades!

  2. Thanks DTO! I’m actually not a big fan of the Harrioak name, partly because it sounds a bit silly, but largely because it relates the neighborhood so directly to the Harrison and Oakland Ave corridors, which extend in both directions far beyond this area. I think Harrioak is understood by those who use it to mean between 27th and 580, but it’s not at all clear (especially given that Oakland Ave below 580 is also considered part of Adams Point, and the Harrison/Oakland stretch above 580 doesn’t have a clear neighborhood identity either). To add even more confusion, you have streets like Richmond Avenue and Valdez, which are in the neighborhood too, but are a lot more connected to Upper Broadway than to Harrison/Oakland. So I guess I prefer Westlake in part because it’s a more inclusive, and in part because it just sounds more like a real neighborhood.

    (My understanding is that someone came up with Harrioak when the neighborhood listserv/org needed a name, but I could be wrong on that. It’s certainly gained traction in recent months, though, with one of the City Council candidates even referencing it! So it may be here to stay. This topic came up at a recent block party, and most people had never heard of either Westlake or Harrioak. A couple liked Harrioak, and several preferred Westlake. The rest just thought we lived in the Broadway Auto Row District….)

  3. From the 14 May 1915 addition of the Oakland Tribune newspaper is a “20 years ago today” article stating that “James Hopkirk has been appointed Superintendant of the construction of the Harrison Street School.” Does any know whether that is the former “lakeview junior high school”, now known as the Westlake Middle School? James was my great grandfather.

  4. Hi John–Harrison Street School was apparently in Downtown Oakland at Harrison and 6th Street, according to OaklandWiki. It looks like it was built in the 1880s but expanded in the 1890s, which would make sense with that timeline. (Today Interstate 880 runs over that site.) I believe Westlake Middle/Lakeview Junior High was built sometime in the 1920s, if I’m remembering correctly. So fun to find that information about your great-grandfather!

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