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As 2022 comes to an end, The Oaklandside is reflecting on the stories that defined 2022. Some are joyful, others, tragic. Some are stories that we spent a long time reporting, while others were breaking news. All of them depict life in Oakland.
Below is a list of 10 stories marking important moments from Oakland’s past 12 months, which were also among our most popular with readers. To all who have read and supported our work this year, thank you. We’re excited to see what we can accomplish in the year to come.
It was a big year for Oakland politics and an election year that had many twists and turns. The Oaklandside began its coverage in April leading up to the June primary. Then in August, we started to closely cover the Nov. 8 election, paying special attention to the mayoral race.
The most dramatic turn of events in the election was Sheng Thao defeating Loren Taylor by 677 votes to become Oakland’s next mayor. Thao trailed Taylor in every vote count update, then on Nov. 18—10 days after the election—she pulled ahead of Taylor with 50.3% of the vote after ranked-choice tabulations. It proved that in Oakland’s elections, second choices are everything.
The rollercoaster ride didn’t end there. Taylor criticized the ranked-choice voting system during his concession speech and said he wouldn’t seek a recount but that others might. Three weeks later, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters confirmed that a formal request to conduct a new count had been made. But days later, the registrar’s office said no one paid for it and the request had been “forfeited.” Thao will be sworn in as mayor of Oakland on Jan. 2.
Oakland lost a community gathering spot at the start of 2022. Luka’s, which opened in 2004 and was often credited with leading the revitalization of Oakland’s Uptown area, closed after a years-long struggle with its landlord, who was seeking a significant rent increase.
Luka’s had a wide-ranging menu including a well-loved burger, a comforting Southern-leaning brunch, and an after-work scene that, pre-pandemic, was packed every night of the week. The closure was a blow to Oakland’s dining scene, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one that month. Innovative soul food restaurant Brown Sugar Kitchen closed after nearly 15 years, also in January.
In January, Alameda County reported its biggest spike in COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, thanks to the omicron variant. Given how quickly information about omicron was changing, we decided to reach out to Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a professor at the UCSF School of Medicine, to get some clarity. Bibbins-Domingo told us to swap cloth masks for K95s or N95s, rethink indoor socializing, and gave us valuable information about testing.
Now, Alameda County is in the midst of another winter COVID spike. Public health officials are urging the community to approach the holiday season with the same caution they did last year.
In the last week of September, shockwaves were sent throughout the city and Oakland’s school community when a shooting occurred at the Rudsdale High School building on the King Estates campus in the East Oakland hills. Two gunmen unloaded more than 30 bullets injuring six people—two students, one counselor, a security guard, and two others who worked at the school. One of the victims has since died from their injuries. Police haven’t made any arrests yet.
In August, Oaklanders were shocked and confused to find Lake Merritt’s water an unusual rusty red color. And then, it got worse. Fish, by the tens of thousands, were dying and piling up on the shores of the lake.
The phenomena gripped us and Oaklanders alike. The color change and fish die-off were associated with a red tide of Heterosigma akashiwo, a dark red-colored algae that depletes oxygen levels in the body of water it inhabits. But what was causing the algae bloom? That question prompted us to explore credible theories and the fascinating history of fish kills in Lake Merritt and the bay over the past 100 years.
Oakland gained a new celebrity in 2022. Grand Lake resident Amy Schneider was the first openly transgender Jeopardy! contestant, and the first woman to win more than $1 million on the show. Her winning streak ended after 40 consecutive victories and she won this year’s Tournament of Champions just last month.
When reporter C.J. Hirschfield was interviewing Schneider for this story, she asked: “The answer is Oakland. What’s the Jeopardy question?”
To which Schneider replied: “One of the most underrated cities in the country. And one of the most beautiful.”
Parker K-8, Community Day School, and La Escuelita middle school closed at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. The closure plan was approved by the Oakland Unified School District board of directors during an emotional eight-hour meeting that began in the evening of February 8 and ran into the next morning. The vote followed two weeks of protests, marches, a hunger strike, and other demonstrations against school closures, which were abruptly announced at the end of January.
After the school year ended, two moms and their children vowed to remain at the Parker campus until it reopened. With the support of other school families and community members, they built a free summer program at the site, Parker Community School. Despite physical attempts by security officers hired by the district to remove them, the protesters managed to stay at the building for 125 days. The occupation concluded with a vote by the OUSD board to repurpose the former school campus as an adult education and community resource center for families in the neighborhood.
The consolidation plan that was approved back in February calls for closing five more OUSD schools at the end of the current academic year. But with several newly elected directors joining the school board in January, those closures may not happen.
The city of Oakland announced in April that landlords could raise rents by 6.7% starting in July. Since 2002, Oakland had based its annual allowed rent increases on the regional consumer price index (CPI), or inflation. But the nation’s robust economic recovery following the brief pandemic recession paired with global supply-chain problems has caused the highest rate of inflation in decades.
This stunned many renters and prompted Councilmember Carroll Fife to propose a change. The Oakland City Council passed a policy in June, capping rent increases to 3% each year. It was the first significant change to the city’s rent control system in 20 years.
Oakland A’s fan or not, people had a field day with this story. And that’s exactly what the stadium authority executive director said feral cats were doing at the Oakland Coliseum. In April, The Oaklandside learned an estimated 30 to 40 cats and kittens had made the Coliseum home, multiplying in population over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. The good news? The stadium authority director said they hadn’t seen a rodent in almost two years.
For many, choosing what school to send their child to is a politically challenging, complicated, and deeply personal process—one that is different for every child, sometimes even those within the same family. In an effort to better understand some of the forces at play, our education equity reporter Ahsley McBride spoke to four families in March about what motivated their decisions to leave OUSD. What she discovered was a range of reasons: from feeling disappointed after a school was closed, to seeking out specialized academic programs that OUSD doesn’t offer, to simply feeling that non-district options were a better fit for their child. She followed up the popular report with a companion story about why many other families do choose district schools.