Posted by: acooksca | 06/10/2016

Old Oakland and the Friday Farmer’s Market

Old Oakland 3

Josh of Urban Village

“The food scene in Oakland is Happenin’ ’” reports Josh at the information booth of the Old Oakland Farmer’s Market. Every Friday the market sprawls for several packed blocks along 9th street offering baked goods, condiments, prepared foods such Roti Roti meats and table upon table of Asian vegetables, this being next to one of the country’s most thriving Chinatowns. Josh works for Urban Village Markets, an association that manages 9 Bay Area farmer’s markets and today he is beaming with pride. “This is the first day of funds from a $50,000 grant I wrote. From now until April, we can give food stamp recipients $5 of tokens to be used exclusively for fresh produce here at the market. The goal is to provide healthy options without cost.” Josh’s enthusiasm and faith is uplifting, like the saving of Old Oakland itself.

Old Oakland 2

Mounds of ong choy sell for $1 a bunch

I watched attempts to renovate and re-commercialize Old Oakland for years. It was such a tediously slow and expensive project that the fear was the district would once again be abandoned to deterioration. The Friday Farmer’s Market began about 25 years ago with a couple of  tables of produce, struggling to offer a good reason for all but the few nearby residents to drive here and find a parking place. But today it has expanded into a lively, well-populated food event that happens to be surrounded by restored historic architecture.

In the 1860’s the Transcontinental Railroad opened its western terminus on 3rd street near Broadway. The prosperity this brought to Oakland helped establish 9th and Broadway, what is today called Old Oakland, as the major commercial hub. Business continued to move further up Broadway and by the mid-1900’s this area of elegant 1870-1890’s storefronts had fallen into severe decline. When I moved to Oakland in the late 1970’s downtown near 20th and Broadway boasted the department stores I. Magnin, J. Magnin, Sears, City of Paris… all gone by 1990.

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Old Oakland’s 9th Street near Broadway

Like most inner Bay Area cities, Oakland has seen struggling business districts revitalized by the redevelopment of new residential neighborhoods. Certain blocks along Broadway remain neglected and tattered. But others, such as Uptown between 20th and 25th  are thriving with bars and restaurants, art venues and businesses catering to neighbors who now live within a few blocks. Likewise, the recent rehabilitation of underused buildings into residences near Old Oakland seems to have secured the future of these few intimate and graceful streets.

About the market:

History of Old Oakland:


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