Oakland's Grand Lake Theater. Photo by Thomas Hawk/Flickr.
Oakland's Grand Lake Theater. Photo by Thomas Hawk/Flickr.

Golden Gate Park or Lake Merritt? The Castro or the Grand Lake? First Thursday or First Fridays?

Oakland or San Francisco?

Those are some of the questions many ponder when making a move into the Bay Area. San Francisco is a major metropolis, but it’s also among the most expensive places to live in the country. Oakland is cheaper and has a growing and diverse entertainment scene, yet it continues to struggle with crime.

But the cities also have at least one thing in common: they can instill a fierce sense of pride in their residents. Blogger and filmmaker Sarah Verena Kleinman touched on that pride in “A Beginner’s Guide to Oakland,” a post this week on the blog The Bold Italic. An Oakland resident, Kleinman notes that it can be difficult to convince her San Francisco friends to pay her a visit.

To make her friends and other residents of the City by the Bay more comfortable crossing the Bay Bridge, Kleinman describes several East Bay attractions in terms of what she believes are their San Francisco equivalents. Her post is generating some heated discussion on other local blogs like Mission Misson.

The comparison that might draw the most online hullabaloo? Kleinman likens Lake Merritt to Golden Gate Park.

Yes, I totally understand that Lake Merritt isn’t the sprawling 1,000+ acres of glory that Golden Gate Park is, but the two spots do serve as central community spaces that are used in very much the same ways. Both parks host their share of boot camps, joggers, and other fitness fans. Each spot offers activities including paddleboats, bocce ball, and botanical gardens. While there are no museums within Lake Merritt, there is a bird sanctuary. Most importantly, on a sunny day you’ll see lawns filled with friends and families gathering to enjoy each other’s company and their awesome cities.

This morning we asked our followers on social media to tell us why they’d rather live in Oakland or San Francisco. In about two hours we received more than 100 responses, including many from Oakland residents who said they’re proud of their city’s diversity and accepting atmosphere.

“I’ve lived in both and find Oakland to be more creative, diverse, and gay-friendly. And the farmers markets are the best I’ve seen,” wrote Clay Walsh in a comment. Brenda Carrasco added that “the weather is great and the cost of living is more reasonable than in San Francisco.”

San Francisco residents, meanwhile, offered similar praise for their city.

“I moved to the Bay Area to live in SF – the diversity, energy and beauty of the place,” Lisa Weddle wrote. “Plus I can walk or take the bus everywhere. Double plus, I can wear sweaters in July! Hooray for fog!”

Below are more of the comments we received on social media – you can read additional responses here and here. What do you think? Would you rather live in San Francisco or Oakland? Why? Leave a comment at the bottom of this post and let us know.

Oakland or San Francisco? 4 January,2013

  • aster.chilensis

    Gross. Why is KQED reposting this garbage call for gentrification?

    • Show me one person gentrified out of Oakland.

    • SF4life

      You are one of those NIMBYs, who would rather see 100+ people die every year than see the area *GASP* gentrify. So lame.

      But I am sure you are quite quirky and zany in real life and a pleasure to hang out with.

  • eat_the_rich_0

    its easier to get away with crime in Oakland

    • Yeah…crime never happens in San Francisco.

      • Al

        Tell me the last time a news crew was robed of there cameras in SF?

  • Anja

    Oakland for sure. SF is cold and less inviting. I also think Oakland has a better restaurant and entertainment scene.

  • Live in Oakland/work in SF. The days of SF being a good place for artists and musicians to live are long over unless you got in over a decade ago.

  • Smashy

    San Francisco! How is this even up for debate?! If I lived in Oakland, I would be in SF all the time anyway because there’s way more going on there.

  • San Francisco. I can walk my dogs at night through multiple neighborhoods. Can’t do that in Oakland, let alone at Lake Merritt (at night)

    • I walk my dog on the west side of Lake Merritt, Downtown, Uptown, and along the waterfront whenever I like. What parts of SF do you do the same?

  • Bill

    Census data shows that for the past decade people have been choosing neither … San Jose remains the most populous city in the Bay Area and in Northern California. It’s the third largest city in the state and the 10th in the nation. Perhaps a little coverage of your neighbor to the south may be in order to retain the title of Northern California’s public radio news source.

    • San Jose is less dense than Mountain View.

  • Charlie

    Oakland without question!!!! Oakland is still dealing with crime issues but, It has much better weather, less congestion, is much cleaner, (I’m not dodging human bombs or smelling urine as a norm on the sidewalks in Oaktown), cheaper, more culturally diverse. Oakland is not as crazy with the homeless, tweaked out people that is common place in SF.

    SF rapes the public and locals for every cent they can get. Every time you turn around they are taxing you for something, bags to carry merchandise or food, heating a sandwich, or eating healthy. The parking is ridiculous, evident of the lines paying parking violations at the courthouse. There is no parking and who wants to pay $35 a day using a garage. And simply put, the public transportation is a joke compared to other cities in the nation, again refer to the rape statement.

    There is honestly nothing I’ve found to justify the cost of living in SF. It’s not NY or Chicago which are in certain ways is hella cheaper and way better. Those that love SF, it call this a great quality of living?!?! Really?!? AS has been mentioned before many times, SF is not what she use to be 10 – 15 years ago. I couldn’t wait to get out of SF after 3 years. I love Oakland, people really don’t know what they are missing. I only come across the bay to ‘visit’ for work.

  • lisa Westrope

    neither…both too crowded for me 🙂 ill stick with my log cabin in the mountains of Colorado!

  • CarOakMuse

    Oakland, hands down. There may not be a museum IN Lake Merritt, because, after all, that’s gross…but the Oakland Museum of California is two blocks away, and an awesome place!

  • After bouncing back and forth for nearly a decade (because of school, work, rent, significant other), I can honestly say I don’t consider one to be ‘better’ overall. Both have some great and some not so great neighborhoods. I liked living by the Lake, but living in the Richmond a 10 min walk from GG Park, the Presidio, and Baker Beach is pretty great too (I will note, though, that the commute downtown on the Geary bus is actually longer than BART from 12th st Oakland). The Mission was fun in my 20’s but now that I’m in my 30’s, I’d be pretty stoked to be in Rockridge or Temescal where drunken 20somethings aren’t out nightly shouting and throwing up on my doorstep. I think if most people gave the other side of the bay a chance, they’d find east and west both have a lot to offer.

  • why_are_wasting_time

    Interesting that if one looks only at people who have actually lived both places the vote appears to go overwhelmingly to Oakland. But then the question is idiotic anyway: would the SF chauvinists prefer living in the Tenderloin to a house by Lake Merritt, or the Oakland chauvinists take an apartment in West Oakland over something in Pacific Heights?

  • mr

    Oakland! I’ve lived in both and like living in Oakland best. Yes Lake Merritt is wonderful but lest not forget the abundance of parks Oakland has that SF does not even come close to. . . Joaquin Miller, Sibley, Huckleberry, Roberts, and Redwoods parks. To get that kind of juxtaposition of urban life and wilderness is truly unique.

  • I have lived in San Francisco and Oakland and I was always happy to return to the East Bay when moving out of San Francisco. I worked in a high end restaurant and a record company, but have always loved the warm, diverse, friendly (and to my mind, safer) environment in the East Bay. I have lived in the Berkeley hills for many years (I am a Cal grad). I have lived in Europe and Japan, and would pick this place as my first choice every time. Tilden, Sibley, the views…I like the City and everything it offers, but I would rather live here.

  • Crystal

    Oakland, hands down. I have lived in London, Washington DC and some other major urban citiies in the world. When I moved to the Bay Area there was no question that Oakland would be the city I called home. The weather, diversity, affordabiility, access to nature, food scene, and more make it a wonderful place to live.

  • I’m with the Oaktown team. I love my city, but I’m happy to access our beautiful and vibrant next door neighbor.

  • Al

    SF, No cops in Oakland to cover such a spread out city. I don’t want my bike ripped off as I’m ridding it, tell me the last time a news crew was robbed while reporting, welcome to Oakland

  • either. i used to live in oakland and after moving away for work, I’d give anything to be back anywhere in the bay area!

  • Juniper

    Oakland is the perfect fit for me. I have a home in the hills with a view of the bay. It is SILENT. No traffic, tons of parking. But you won’t be walking anywhere. There is one man in the neighborhood who walks the hills and he’s the most fit 70 year old you’ll ever meet. My 30 year old cousin who plays ball every day gets winded going a few houses.

    My city friends say they feel like they’ll fall of the end of the world at my home, and that is it “too quiet”. They like neighbors on all sides and a cafe downstairs. I understand that. It’s all about preference. I love driving to relax. They don’t want to own a car. I pay far less for my mortgage than they pay for rent and have at least 5 times the floor space. Skyline and Redwood are amazing places to roam for hours and see no-one. I prefer that to GG park but others find the community of GG park to be what they need.

    We live in an amazing area where you can select Oak-town, SF, San Jose, Napa and everything in between. Whatever suits you. And you ‘ll be a short drive to any of the other areas when the mood hits. We are lucky! (Of course, we pay for that luck).

  • kaye

    i love the Bay (NO ONE can beat our weather!), and for me, living in SF is where it’s at. i work in downtown oakland, and love visiting friends in the EB, but SF is HOME. it feels safer, less car dependent, and i like the pace. it’s not as it was 10-15yrs ago, but what or who is? (not me) sure, SF is losing some of its diversity- a huge problem- but it remains a place where difference is celebrated, and community is valued.

  • Garry

    I lived in Oakland and liked it – it’s a pretty, friendly city, like many others throughout the country. San Francisco is one of a kind – maybe not better, but unique.

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