Redlining: A Drive Down Grand Avenue in Oakland

I was driving my friend and fellow API conspirator Fran Mendez around Oakland this week while he was in town from Spain. I regularly drive people around Oakland, and most have had some experience in the city, but most have experienced West Oakland, and have very little awareness of the redlining that has shaped the city. Most people just see poverty and trash and assume a traditional racist stance and think that the people living here have chosen to live like this. When in reality, it has been engineered and orchestrated. To demonstrate, I wanted to drive Grand Avenue in Oakland, traveling from the higher grade areas to the lower grade areas in a “Residential Security Map” from the 1930s, which was used to shape the city we live in and experience today.

If you pay attention to the video as you approach the redline you begin to see less investment, and then you experience the edge of the redline defined by the freeway. When this map was created, the freeway did not exist, it was added along the line. Once you cross the line you begin to see trends alongside the road, more abandoned stores, and a general lack of investment. You begin to see some new construction of residential and office space, and there is evidence of manufacturing going on, but the impact of planning almost 100 years ago is still evident. I have a video driving the other which I may play with some, and I have one driving up San Pablo towards Berkeley, and back again which I may turn into a video as well. I am not that skilled at working with video, but this is giving me some practice, while also helping me convey how these historical relics are still shaping our world today.