The California Hotel on San Pablo Avenue at 35th St. opened in 1930 and served as a venue for notable blues and jazz performers, the California Hotel hosted the likes of Billie Holiday, James Brown, and Ray Charles. It closed in 1971, and was later converted into low income housing.
Hotel and Music Venue
The hotel opened May 18, 1930, owned by the Eastbay Hotel Corporation. Axel Bern (one of the principal shareholders of the corporation) was was the manager. It had 150 hotel rooms, and 25 apartments. 5
The Zanzibar Club opened at the hotel in 1941. 7
According to California Hotel Live! it was a whites-only hotel from the opening. It became one of the few hotels where Blacks could perform in 1949, and ended its discrimination policies against guests when new owners took over on January 16, 1953.
A grand "reopening" was held with invited guests that included Oakland-born comedian Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, boxing champion Joe Louis and acclaimed singer Lena Horne. The hotel attracted many high profile black visitors to Oakland. At that time, it was the only full-service hotel that welcomed black people in the East Bay. 6
Later it began to be listed in the Green Book.
In addition to being a venue for blues and jazz, the hotel also had a Big Mambo and Afro Cuban scene in the late 1940s and 50s. Pete Escovedo got his start playing there. It was popular with both jazz and Latin music lovers. Other performers like Carlos Federico, Benny Velarde and Cal Tjader performed at the California hotel.
Over time the hotel fell into disrepair and that, coupled with the impact of the freeways (I-580 is less than 100' away), the decline in the neighborhood, and financial difficulties caused the closure of the hotel in 1971.
Low Income Housing
The hotel was converted into low income housing by the Oakland Community Housing, Inc. (OCHI) in the 1980s. After OCHI ceased operations in 2007, residents refused attempts to evict them from the hotel. A trustee was appointed by the court who continued to operate the hotel so residents could stay.
In 2011 the California Hotel was purchased by the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) which renovated the building with $18.4 million in city redevelopment funds and private donations. On July 25, 2012 local officials gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking for the renovation of the historic California Hotel.
The building was designed by Clay Burrell, and opened May 18, 1930, 4 near the start of the Great Depression.
A 3/4 page advertorial in 1930 invited the public to an open house. It touted various businesses that were involved in the construction, including hardware from Maxwell Hardware, Marshall and Stearns hide-a-beds, and Wonderlite (SF) which made the neon sign, as well as businesses to be involved in the running of the hotel, including the Union Pacific Laundry, Hansen Coffee, and the Remar Bakery. 5
In 1988 the California Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to the hotel lobby and a banquet hall (the "Gold Room"), the 1951 Sanborn map shows a restaurant, nightclub, and drug store on the ground floor. Addresses include 3443, 3445, 3447, 3457, 3459, 3463, and the hotel at 3501. The Sanborn map also shows a gas station in front of the hotel on the point that used to exist between San Pablo Ave. and Chestnut St.
|1931||3443||Apex-Johnson Washer Store||ad|
|1935-1944||3443||Miller's Pharmacy||1940 directory|
|1939-1943||3445||Jewel Tea Company||1940 directory, ad|
|1944||3445||Republican Party campaign HQ||Political Notes and Comment|
|1969||3445||H & R Block||ad|
|2020-present||3443||Magnolia Street Wine Lounge||website|
|?-present||3445||Oakland Public Conservatory of Music||website|
|?-present||3463||Bay Area Mural Project||website|
3501 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, California
Links and References
- California Hotel Route40
- New Hotel on San Pablo Announced Oakland Tribune October 27, 1929
California Hotel on Wikipedia
California Hotel on PCAD
California Hotel Opens Today Oakland Tribune May 18, 1930
- California Hotel Live! website
- Making The Rounds With "Kip" Oakland Tribune October 16, 1941
- California Hotel ohrphoto.oaklandhotels.020.jpg Oakland History Center via Calisphere
Oakland celebrates groundbreaking for renovation of historic California Hotel Oakland North July 26, 2012
A Black Cultural Corridor Takes Shape on Oakland's San Pablo Avenue KQED November 21, 2018
- Oakland's California Hotel to see a complete overhaul Oakland Local December 13, 2013 (via archive.org)
City of Oakland Raids California Hotel Beyond Chron
Help Shape Plans for the California Hotel Oakland Local
- After 50 years, Pete Escovedo leaves Northern California, but his legacy remains Metroactive Music
- Magnolia Street Wine Lounge opens its doors in West Oakland with community in mind Oaklandside October 27, 2020
- California Hotel reopens as a home for low-income residents Oakland Tribune May 15, 2014
- Hoover-Foster Stories Vol 2 East Bay Yesterday June 16, 2021