6.8 out of 10

Maxwell Park

37.7794381495813 -122.195632852083
Great for
  • Internet Access
  • Clean & Green
  • Parking
  • Childcare
  • Medical Facilities
Not great for
  • Nightlife
  • Cost of Living
  • Eating Out
  • Shopping Options
  •  
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Students

Reviews

4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Mar 21, 2011

"A Quiant Little Bungalow Village by Mills"

Located just to the west of Mills College, the Maxwell Park neighborhood is a bit of a hidden gem. On the face of it, Maxwell Park may seem like just another Oakland neighborhood filled with California bungalows, but this middle class neighborhood has a bit more to offer I think.

First, although it is indeed yet another bungalow city with homes dating to pre-WWII, there are some streets in this old neighborhood that are just beautifully kept. Many of the hillside streets in Maxwell park feature bungalows painted in various pastel tones—darker purplish blues, lime greens and creams—the kinds of colors that when you first arrive in the East Bay you find ugly, but that have a hidden quaintness and vitality that grows on you over time, like that little blemish on a lover’s cheek that you first dislike but later love. Though the homes are virtually all bungalows, there is a constant variation in the types and arrangements that make them quite captivating for those with a soft spot for architectural aesthetics. Streets will often feature bungalows with walk-ups on the uphill side while street level recessed entryways mark the downhill side. The front lawns also become a space for individual expression with some residents opting for simple mulched front yard fenced in by counter high chain link fencing, while those with more rococo sensibilities go wild with the topiary, mixing bushy hedges with squat tropical palms to beautiful effect.

Things are not perfectly kept here, of course. The bushes are not perfectly cut, the streets not perfectly paved. But the place feels real and authentic in a way that many places no longer do. These are not the bland condos of newer gated communities that have become the standard of modern middle-class living. No one living in Maxwell Park needs a street number to tell where they live—in fact, they don’t even need street addresses for visitors, most homes are individual enough where a simply description would be enough to identify their homes beyond a doubt, “Ours is the pea-colored bungalow with arbor windows and mulched front lawn directly across from the purple walk-up with barn red doors and bushy hedges.” There is definitely a sense of place here.

The area is not, of course, perfect. Though most murders do not occur deep within the heart of Maxwell park (only one was clearly within the neighborhood between 2007 and 2009), the nearby neighborhoods are extremely dangerous. Six murders happened right at the edges of the neighborhood and a good two dozen just beyond in the surrounding area, so this definitely needs to be a consideration for anyone thinking of setting down stakes here.

In terms of education, Maxwell Park Elementary is, unfortunately pretty awful if standardized tests tell us anything about the quality of instruction. (Residents seem to mostly like the school, however.) A good alternative might be nearby Horace Mann elementary, whose scores though not spectacular are much better. There is also a private school within Mills College that could be a good bet.

The strong sense of community is also reflected in the number of churches supported by the community. I know of at least a half dozen ranging from everything from Baptist to Mormon. (There is a also a nearby Muslim school.) So there is not only a strong sense of spirituality here but also a wide range of influences. A good sign overall, I think.

Overall, I well-kept secret within the heart of Oakland.
Pros
  • Modestly Attractive Homes
  • Adjacent to Mills
  • Good Transportation
Cons
  • Crime
  • No Good Nightlife
  • Old Home Problems
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Students
kliang
kliang Hi NightOwl, Just wanted to know... now that it is 2013. Have your feelings changed? is it getting better? I'm looking to buy a house in Maxwell Park and was turned off by the crime in the surrounding neighborhoods. Is that something that most people in the community not worry about? Do they just hop on the freeway and go to the nicer areas for dining, shopping, groceries, etc?
May 02, 2013
NightOwlnOrinda
NightOwlnOrinda Actually it is roughly the same. There have been 4 murders and more than 200 assaults just beyond the borders of the neighborhood. (Within the neighborhood there have been about a dozen assaults and about 5 dozen burglaries. Overall it is relatively safe but still too close for comfort.

If you want to check it out for yourself you might try crimemapping.com--just pick the address of your intended place and adjust for 6 months back. (You can look at anything from a 500 ft. radius to a 2 mile radius.) I have not actually been into the neighborhood for a while so I can't really tell you what current locals are up to. Good luck.
May 03, 2013
JuliaRose
JuliaRose I have lived in Maxwell Park for almost a year, and I love this place. I can attest that the neighborhood is connected and we share suspicious sightings/activity diligently through the nextdoor.com website. The area is improving all the time!
Jun 24, 2013
CarlaMichelini
CarlaMichelini What happened to Maxwell Park Elementary School?
May 13, 2014
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