Oakland’s Wealth Divide Is Most Visible In Its Roads

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Pothole. Photo by: Miguel Tremblay

Some might not realize this, but being poor is actually quite expensive. I’m not referring to the sky high rents relative to the poverty levels in low income Bay Area neighborhoods. I’m referring to the unforeseen financial burdens of existing in a low income neighborhood. The main source of this financial burden can be found by examining the inadequate infrastructure in these areas. 

In Oakland’s flatlands, shitty roads are the rule. 

When a government fails to provide adequate services to its residents, the need for these services don’t disappear, and the private sector rarely provides solutions. So, what happens? Well, the people residing in these areas have to pay for repairs in perpetuity from the damage that infrastructural decay causes to their private property. 

In this article, I’m going to be focusing on roads, and the glaring disparity in road quality that can be found when you compare Oakland’s roadways in low income and high income neighborhoods. 

I live on a street that visibly resembles a cheese grater. I’m east of the lake, but only a few blocks east of the lake and the change in road quality is staggering. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t streets in Oakland’s high income areas that suffer from poor road maintenance, but in more affluent communities, poor roads are an exception. In Oakland’s flatlands, shitty roads are the rule. 

I regularly walk around Oakland, and during one of my walks, I noticed a pothole that was more than a foot deep (I measured) and made a TikTok video about it that has since gone viral on multiple Bay Area pages. The response to the video showed that potholes bordering on sinkholes are common. Some people were even stating that they have worse potholes on their street.

Another reason why I’m becoming more critical of this issue is because: I HAVE A FUCKING CAR. And one of the fucking tires on that fucking car is fucking leaking air. This isn’t the first time Oakland has eaten my wheels. I actually had a pothole pop one of my tires on 35th Ave back in 2021. I made a video of that too. I would link it, but I’m too lazy to find it…

I wondered, is this Oakland-wide? Do you see this kind of shit in Rockridge, Trestle Glen or Montclair? The answer: No, not really. 

I walked from my house all the way to Trestle Glen, an affluent area of Oakland along Grand Avenue that looks like it could be in Marin County. The first thing I noticed was that there wasn’t trash piled on the sidewalks, and most of all, the roads were smooth as fuck. 

I did a video recording the difference. It’s insane. You can watch it here. 

Like I stated in the video, the city is in control of the roads. And they’re allocating the funds to maintain roads in wealthier areas. You can see the difference. Essentially turning destruction caused by decaying roads into a poverty tax. 

This is why I roll my eyes a lot when people start talking about how progressive the Bay Area is and why a lot of my content focuses on the difference between the rhetoric and reality of life here. 

You can say you’re “woke” or whatever, but you have to put your money where your mouth is.  

Oakland talks a good game, but when it comes to fixing shit, it always seems to misplace its wallet.





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Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff is an Oakland-based writer, editor and digital content creator known for Bay Area Memes, a local meme page that has amassed nearly 200k followers. His work has appeared in SFGATE, The Bold Italic and of course, His book of short stories, personal essays and poetry entitled Don't Drown on Dry Ground is available now!