Darrell Owens' map shows how much Oakland's population has grown in recent years. Credit: Darrell Owens/Mapbox

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When data from the 2020 census was released in August, we learned that Oakland gained 50,000 residents over the past 10 years, mostly Hispanic and white. The Black population continued to shrink. Meanwhile, 9,000 housing units were added, and the number of vacant homes dropped.

But each Oakland neighborhood experienced these changes differently, and a new interactive map made by Berkeley resident Darrell Owens lets you zoom into any census tract and see the localized stats. The map covers the entire state of California. 

“My intentions here were for people to see how their cities and neighborhoods changed in the last 10 years,” said Owens. “People like to guess these things, but with the census you get actual answers, and we only get a real count once every 10 years.”

Owens grew up in Oakland and Berkeley and works as a policy analyst at California YIMBY, a group that advocates for building more housing. Tinkering with census data is a “personal hobby,” Owens said, and he made the map on his own time, not as part of his job. 

The Oaklandside has not independently verified all the data included in the map, but the pieces we cross-referenced with census data were accurate. Some of the major changes visualized on the map, like the addition of several thousand new housing units in downtown and Uptown Oakland, or the growth of the city’s Latino population, especially in deep East Oakland, have been documented in other reports as well.

To use the map, toggle between different data categories (“Pacific Islander,” “vacant units”) in the drop-down menu under “Topic” in the upper-righthand corner. Then hover your mouse over a census tract to see how that category has changed there since 2010. 

Take census tract 4096—better known as the deep East Oakland neighborhood of Elmhurst, by the San Leandro border. The now 5,777-resident tract gained 714 people between 2010 and 2020, reflecting the citywide population growth. The Hispanic population grew by a third, adding 948 residents, while the Black population dropped by 370 people or by 22%. 

Despite the increase of 714 people, the Elmhurst area saw an increase of only 24 new housing units. Some of those people moved into the 99 units that went from vacant to occupied, according to census data, but the disparity between the population growth and housing growth likely indicates widespread overcrowding in the neighborhood.

Use the map to see how many housing units were built or lost (due to a fire or demolition, for example) in each tract. Credit: Darrell Owens/Mapbox

Other areas bucked trends, like a tract bounded by 23rd and Frutivale avenues, which lost 124 residents. If you zoom out to observe the entire color-coded map of Oakland, you can see how population, demographic, and housing shifts were distributed throughout the entire city. 

City staff and decision-makers can also consult the map, Owens said. Cities like Oakland are gearing up to renew their general housing plans.

“It provides a lot of clarity on development policy, gentrification, and diversity,” he said.

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.