7.8 out of 10

Grand Lake

37.8169581633616 -122.249153898955
Great for
  • Neighborly Spirit
  • Parking
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Lack of Traffic
  • Nightlife
Not great for
  • Clean & Green
  • Cost of Living
  • Resale or Rental Value
  • Safe & Sound
  • Childcare
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
  • Families with kids

Reviews

4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Schools 1/5
2yrs+

"A wide range of middle-class homes"

Grand Lake, which sits atop Highway 580, is a recluse among the more seedy neighborhoods Oakland is so accustomed to. The district itself borders Piedmont, and in many ways, maintains the same characteristics of the residential community. The roads are hilly, the driveways are narrow, the trees are bushy and the homes are a step-above Oakland’s norm.

The neighborhood is organized with housing prices in mind. Many of the hillside homes to the north are considerably more expensive than the residences closer to the freeway. The hilltop houses are typically two-to-three stories in size, with charming front lawns and beautifully landscaped steps climbing to the front porches. If you’re lucky, your home might give way to an impressive view of the Oakland community. In contrast, the older homes that lie to the south are boxy and tightly packed together. Moreover, adequate apartment buildings with small back porches pop up in odd locations. Many of which cluster around Santa Clara Avenue. On side streets, most of the roads are narrow, except for the main drags that edge the district’s perimeter. In most cases, street parking is a bit of an issue.

Grand Lake hosts a farmer’s market on Saturday mornings in the bottom corner of the neighborhood attracting many of the older residents. The event serves plenty of local organic produce, fresh samples and even entertains the crowds with live music. Morcom Ampitheater of Roses is a beautifully serene rose garden stretching two square blocks. It acts as a refuge from the bustling working life. The Grand Lake Theatre is also among the main attractions in the district boasting four large movie palaces.
Pros
  • Good Apartment
  • Great Rose Garden
  • Great Theater
Cons
  • Busy
  • Traffic
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
  • Beach Lovers
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 4/5
2yrs+

"Morcom Roses, Grand Theater, and Rick Starr!"

Grand Lake is a middleclass residential neighborhood bordering Piedmont’s trendy Piedmont Avenue neighborhood. Grand Lake is a mix of older pre-World War II structures (about a quarter fit this description) and apartment buildings developed in the 60’s and 70’s (almost half).

Oakland Avenue is the wide lane that marks the northern border of the neighborhood. The apartment buildings that line this area are larger and nicer than many of those more run down structures deeper within. Oakland Avenue is really an amazing collection of period apartments interspersed with occasional large Victorian and Georgian style homes. The seventies style apartments, despite having that boxy look to them, also were clearly of the nicer variety—with balconies, walk-up steps leading to lobbies and nice decorative details of the kind you usually don’t find in these kinds of apartments. An added aesthetic touch to the street are the palms that line its sidewalks—it’s a little thing, but somehow the curving lane would look much less warm without it, I think.

You can find more homes on the interior streets of the neighborhood—mostly older Victorians, heavy looking Craftsmans and occasionally, Prairie Styles—but even there it is still apartment city with boxy, balconied seventies style apartments being the highlights.

One of the main attractions of this neighborhood is beautiful sprawling Morcom Rose Garden at this northeast corner. The rose garden is a throwback to a time when civic parks were treasured and makes you feel as if you have stepped back into the 19th century (even the keeper’s building is in an attractive Spanish Revival style with cream adobe walls and a tiled roof). The bushes are artfully arranged with walkways and well placed stonework to bring the bushes into full display—and what a display it is with big petalled roses of every shade and variety from pinks, to pales, to reds. So beautifully is the garden arranged that many choose to tie the knot here when the garden is in full bloom.

There are some much needed shops on Grand Avenue, such as a Safeway and an optometrist and similar things. This area is also where you can find a couple of good watering holes—the Tavern and the Alley and some nice restaurants—Mikado and Milano to name a few.

The highlight of the neighborhood, by far, and what brings most outsiders into it—is the Grand Lake Theater, one of those giant movie palaces that made going to movie feel like a real theatrical experience. The play list for this theater is also great and worth checking out. Not so great is the presence of Rick Starr—a tone deaf lounge singer that use to torture UC Berkeley students but now has taken to hanging out by the theater. He is crazy, but except for murdering 1950’s ballads, fairly harmless.
Pros
  • Great Rose Garden
  • Great Theater
  • Good Apartment
Cons
  • Busy
  • Traffic
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students

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