7.2 out of 10

Upper Laurel

Ranked 5th best neighborhood in Oakland
37.7914885393996 -122.194599571048
Great for
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Not great for
  • Medical Facilities
  • Nightlife
  • Clean & Green
  • Gym & Fitness
  • Peace & Quiet
Who lives here?
  • Singles
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Hipsters

Reviews

4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Aug 19, 2014

"A hidden gem right in the middle of it all"

The Upper Laurel is in the midst of a dynamic transformation from an older neighborhood strip to a modern urban community center. The past couple of years have seen a yoga studio and several interesting new restaurants targeting younger residents and families appear, and lots of sprucing up of both residences and businesses. Diversity, openness, and acceptance are at the heart of the Upper Laurel, making it a true microcosm of what makes Oakland great as a modern American city. Many homes long-occupied by older neighborhood residents and retirees are now turning over to families with young children. People love walking the neighborhood, getting to know neighbors, and supporting local businesses, especially the much-loved Laurel Bookstore and Farmer Joe's. While many other neighborhoods have become somewhat overpriced in recent years, Laurel still offers affordable value for the money, plus great neighbors you can't put a price on.
Pros
  • Easy commute to SF and many parts of the Bay
  • Great walkability
  • Diverse
  • Good Store and Restaurants
Cons
  • Schools are better just outside the neighborhood rather than in it
  • Could use more neighborhood-serving parks
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Oct 02, 2012

"Under rated and unpretentious"

Upper Laurel is not fancy. In other words its still working on being gentrified. The housing is mostly California Bungalows, but most are quite comfortable and they are much more interesting than the 50's boxy raised ranch house a few streets up. There are some homes with chain link fences and concrete front yards. The population is very ethnically mixed, perhaps the most evenly diverse neighborhood in Oakland, which seems to be a very good thing and gives one hope for other areas of the city.

The 580 freeway is a mixed blessing. It protects Upper Laurel from criminal elements crossing over, and it detracts with the noise of traffic. Crime is present in the Upper Laurel but mostly it is property crime....no crime is good of course but thefts and burglary happen almost everywhere. Rockridge has just as much of this theft as Upper Laurel although you may not hear about it as often.

I think people forget how close this neighborhood is to some of the best nature spots in the area. A few minutes brings you to Joaquin Miller, Roberts, and Redwood Parks. the Chabot Space and Science Center is also only about 1.5 miles up the hill. Mills College is also a short walk and they open it all to local residents. I walk my dog at Mills everyday...its a beautiful oasis.

Compared to the housing costs in other similar neighborhoods in Oakland the Upper Laurel looks like a better bargain right now. $400,000 or less buys you a nice home in UL. A similar home even in Maxwell Park can cost more and Millsmont as well. Forget about Temescal now or even Mosswood and West Oakland.

Commuting from the Laurel has been very good. The casual carpool on MacArthur is one of the easiest in Oakland and there are express buses to the city as well.

Its an honest neighborhood that might not impress the out of town guests, but its not hard to live in or afford. We need more areas like the Upper Laurel.
Pros
  • Diverse
Cons
  • A Touch Run Down Looking
Recommended for
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
Jul 08, 2012

"Run down Oakland neighborhood"

Situated between Holy Names University and highway 580, Upper Laurel is a middle to lower-class neighborhood with very little to offer. The area only affords small, single-story shack houses that aren’t worth your time (or mine). For prospective residents, it spans about 0.5 square miles of unsafe, unglamorous terrain. Its racial makeup is a dense melting pot of ethnic residents with asian, black, white and hispanic sharing a sizable portion of the demographic. While some may call the area multicultural with affordable living, I can assure you that they are grossly misleading you.

Upper Laurel’s residential terrain is nothing special at all. It is, for the most part, stocked with California Bungalow style homes, probably built within the mid-20th Century (sometimes having bars on the windows). These homes are small and situated on thin (yet deep) properties with only provide room for a very thin driveway that usually skirts the side of the house. Many of these properties are unattended to and, as a result, gritty and unkempt. Lots are a bit blemished, with cracked cement driveways (sometimes taking up the entire front yard). Most of its mildly attractive residents are concentrated towards the northern tip of the neighborhood, but don’t get your hopes up. As a whole, house values are around $400,000.

There are also a number of apartment complexes that pepper the district. They are aesthetically no different than the homes that they surround. You will see them popping up as gritty, bland, two-story apartment homes (that concentrate towards the center of the neighborhood, especially around Maybelle Avenue). These residences only afford about four to five rooms of living space, and that’s about it. They are, as you might expect, pretty cheap, costing around $1,200 a month. Also, median household incomes are around $60,000/year.

For young families, students usually attend Laurel Elementary, American Indian Public Charter School or St. Lawrence O’Toole’s, all of which are within the neighborhood. The first two schools produce middle-of-the-road reputations with its local community, but O’Toole garners somewhat porous reviews. For their shopping, MacArthur Boulevard acts as the district’s main commercial strip, but doesn’t offer anything than your typical liquor store and varied blemished store fronts.
Pros
  • Diverse
Cons
  • A Touch Run Down Looking
anoynomous
anoynomous A very misleading and uninformed review of this neighborhood, with a touch of arrogance that should be a red flag. No one should or would confuse upper Laurel with Rockridge, but the characterization of it as unsafe and unkempt with no amenities is simply false and predjudicial. Liquor is not all that abundant in Laurel, and there are a number of interesting shops on MacArthur, including Farmer Joe's, acupuncture clinics, a Taoist martial arts studio, a bookstore, several cafes--some very very good, several auto shops, a kid's dance studio, and I could go on and on. No, it doesn't offer a nightlife paradise, but it offers many useful businesses. Furthermore, many businesses here excel at value: what Laurel may lack in glamour it more than makes up for by honest prices from locally owned businesses. Finally, regarding the neighborhood: These "shack houses" are frequently well made bungalows with interesting arts and crafts details, and afford no less space than many houses in much pricier neighborhoods. As for poor maintained rentals: They abound all over Oakland, and do not characterize Laurel anymore than many other neighborhoods adjacent to commercial strips.
Apr 06, 2013
EdwardPFinn
EdwardPFinn Couldn't have said it better Anoynomous, Ive lived all over..San Francisco Nob hill, Sausalito,Hawaii, Japan,Santa Monica,Toluca Lake,Denver,Chicago near north..My wife grew up in what they now call Cole Valley in the upper Haight..We are well educated, my wife a Graduate student from UC San diego, me from UC San Francisco. We bought our home in Upper Laurel 2 years ago...We love it more every month..we have young kids in Public elementary School in our Neighborhood and the staff is great! Oakland is a city..so sure you take City precautions..but our neighborhood is quite, and filled with every type of diversity.
Nov 27, 2013
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4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Jan 13, 2011

"Both Hip and Affordable, Multicultural Neighborhood"

Upper Laurel is a middle-class mostly residential neighborhood just to the north of Mills College.

Upper Laurel is packed with California Bungalow style homes. Half of the homes in the neighborhood were built before 1950—not at all uncommon in this area. There are also a number of apartment buildings in the Upper Laurel area. These complexes sometimes present a false front, looking like a house in front but extending back along alley ways. In addition, there are some newer gated buildings in this neighborhood. Both kinds of apartments contribute to the high population density that this neighborhood has.

There are three schools in the neighborhood: Laurel Elementary, American Indian Public Charter School and St. Lawrence O’Toole’s. Laurel is a strong school that both tests well and has excellent community support. American Indian is also a very good, rigorous school. St. Lawrence O’Toole’s, on the other hand, has gotten mixed reviews from parents. Those that don’t like it claim that they have unrealistic expectations for students and that the staff is older and unresponsive to parents’ concerns. Since it’s a private school, I have no way to judge whether they do well on objective standards.

Upper Laurel’s main drag is MacArthur Blvd. There are several restaurants and stores along MacArthur. Restaurants include places like Louisiana Fried Chicken and Phnom Penh, both quite yummy. There are also an number of what you might call boutique stores. Mizaan, for example, is a really cool women’s clothing store with a similar aesthetic to Urban Outfitters, while Monique’s Clozet is a really sweet thrift store that specializes in women’s clothing as well. The one that I think is really unique, however, is Africa by the Bay, a store that sells everything African from clothing to body care products (such as moisturizers and shampoos). Very cool and very authentic.

There are even a couple of pretty good nightspots here, Laurel Lounge being the one that is on Upper Laurel’s side. Laurel Lounge is great neighborhood bar that has one of the most diverse clienteles you can find anywhere. It’s just a sports bar with a pool table--pretty standard, really--but seems to be right at the nexus where lots of different people from different walks of life congregate.

In the proverbial nutshell, this is a really hip, multicultural neighborhood with affordable homes and a feeling of authenticity.
Pros
  • Diverse
  • Good Store and Restaurants
  • Good Schools
Cons
  • A Touch Run Down Looking
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Hipsters
  • Students