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Scene 2: San Pablo Avenue Transformation

Though Damon, an older resident, is an avid biker, he finds it difficult to navigate West Oakland’s busy streets, particularly San Pablo Avenue. Getting around is that much harder for those who have difficulty walking; at night, many residents do not go out at all because of safety concerns.

As a step toward ending traffic violence, San Pablo Avenue has been transformed with three medians, which also improve neighborhood connectivity. Pedestrians never have to cross more than twelve feet of roadway before getting to a place to rest. Expanding on the City’s transportation plan for San Pablo Avenue, the redesign also includes dedicated bike and bus lanes, shade trees, public furniture, and distributed services. Pocket parks have been added where the Avenue intersects with triangular sites, each with parking space for community service vans. The design is inspired by similar sites developed by residents and partners of the San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative.

For the first time since she started using a walker, Jenny feels safe navigating the neighborhood on her own. She still doesn’t feel secure going out at night, but has heard violence has started going down as well.

Digital illustration of two figures, rendered in greyscale, looking out from their balcony onto a broad street with four planted medians, rendered in green, yellow, and red
Aging Against the Machine

Illustrated Scene

Visual Description

A digital illustration depicts two figures, rendered in grey, on a green balcony on the bottom left corner, looking out onto a wide street with four medians, rendered in yellow, red, and green. The man, on the far left, looks behind his shoulder to the street below him, while the woman sits next to him, facing away from the street. A cane, also rendered in greyscale, rests on the balcony between the couple. The broad street that the man looks down on, rendered in yellow tones, recedes into a vanishing point at the center of the illustration. Four medians planted with yellow trees and green grassy areas divide the street. The medians also feature red tents, benches, and tables. Pedestrian walkways on the pavement cross the street perpendicularly. These pedestrian areas are filled with grey silhouettes walking, sitting on benches, or biking. Meanwhile, greyscale cars and buses drive down the traffic lanes. The street is surrounded by buildings of varying heights rendered in yellow and brown tones, with red buildings in the background behind an elevated highway structure.

Related Research

A walk through the West Oakland neighborhood of Hoover-Foster with David Peters, founder of the Black Liberation Walking Tour.

Two figures, one with crutches, stand on a sidewalk with a "PRECISELY LIQUORS" sign above them
Photo by Ruth Marion-Baruch, commissioned by the Swedish magazine Vi (1969). U.C. Santa Cruz University Library.

Rough streets of Oakland, protected by Panthers.


Visual Description

A photo depicts two people walking away from the camera on an empty sidewalk below a “PRECISELY LIQUORS” sign. The dark-skinned man farther to the left of the image wears a black hat with grey pants and a blue jacket. The man on the right wears a brown fedora with a blue suit. He is using crutches and holding a tan bag in his left hand. To the left of the figures is a large metal trash bin. A two-story concrete building on the right-hand side of the photograph, from which the liquor sign juts out, features neo-Classical doorway and window frames and a poster of a woman in a gold frame.

Aerial view of a ground mural depicting a stylized keyboard and musical notes on a blue background
Photo by the Oakland Department of Transportation.

Temporary ground mural at 34th Street and San Pablo Avenue, West Oakland. This project, which was installed from 2018 to 2021, was part of a resident-led creative action campaign to protect pedestrians against traffic violence while celebrating the area’s rich cultural history. It ultimately resulted in the permanent transformation of a dangerous intersection.


Visual Description

An aerial photograph shows six figures painting a colorful ground mural on a triangular portion of a road. One side of the ground mural is bounded by a sidewalk, while the other two sides are bounded by two intersecting streets. White posts separate the streets from the mural area. The center of the mural depicts a stylized keyboard that snakes out from the sidewalk and is surrounded by black musical notes painted against a blue field. The edge of the mural along the two streets is made up of contrasting strips of yellow, green, burgundy, and red. Two tents, one orange and one blue, are set up on the sidewalk adjacent to the mural. A large billboard in the background stands above the tents and reads” STILL WAITING FOR PAYMENT ON YOUR CLAIM? YOU HAVE OPTIONS. CALL (833) DUNNION FOR A FREE CONSULTATION. DUNNION LAW.”

Hand-drawn map of Berkeley with boundaries table in lower right-hand corner
Berkeley L.T.I. Association (1874). The Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.

Map of Berkeley, including San Pablo Avenue connecting to Oakland.


Visual Description

A hand-drawn map of Berkeley to the north and Oakland to the south on weathered paper featuring a vertical crease. The map is defined by a thin ink line with hatched lines on the right side indicating the border with the mountains to the west. The line on the left-hand-side has a faint, light blue outline, denoting the water’s edge to the east. A label beyond this boundary reads “BAY OF SAN FRANCISCO.” Text on the upper-right-hand corner reads “PLAT of the Northern Part of the RANCHO SAN ANTONIO finally confirmed for VICENTE and DOMINGO PERALTA surveyed under instructions from the U.S. SURVEYOR GENERAL by James T. Stratton, Dep. Sur. February 1854 December 1859 Containing 19143 86/100 Acres.” Additional hand-printed labels fill the map, including some in red ink. A table with 12 columns with the title “Boundaries” sits in the lower right-hand corner. Cursive text next to this table features a signature and the year 1860.


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