At High and MacArthur (by mk30)

The Laurel District is a neighborhood located in the southeast area of Oakland, California, between the I-580 freeway (MacArthur Freeway) and the Oakland foothills. The Laurel District is located approximately 1/2 mile from Mills College, which was the first women's college established west of the Rockies. The college is also known for being the only women's college to reverse a decision to go coed (in 1990) and the first to launch a formal policy for admitting transgender students (in 2014).

In June 2017, the Laurel District was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle/ as one of the "eclectic and vibrant neighborhoods" in Oakland that are "providing building blocks to making the city one of the most sought-after business locations in the Bay Area."



Residential area of the Laurel District (by mk30)

According to one account, the Laurel District inherited its name from the “Laurel Grove Park” residential tract, established in 1900 adjacent to the contemporary boundaries of the Laurel District.Another account says that the original name of the neighborhood was "Key Route Heights" after Borax Smith's streetcar company. A streetcar line, run by the Realty Syndicate, ran a streetcar line to the area and eventually held a contest to name the area.2

Prior to the construction of I-580 in the early 1960s, MacArthur Boulevard was U.S. Highway 50. Many of the Laurel District’s distinctive neon signs date from this time period, when MacArthur was Oakland’s major thoroughfare.3 From the 1920s until the 1960s, the Laurel was home to two movie theaters: the Laurel Theater (opened in 1939 and now a church) and the Hopkins Cinema (now a Goodwill Store and an AutoZone). The Laurel District expanded during WWII. 

In 2006, Golden Associates created the Laurel District Gateway to define the "Laurel Commercial District". Components include signs bridging MacArthur Boulevard proclaiming "Laurel" in the Arts and Crafts style and a laurel leaf motif. Other components that carry the theme into the district include grates, fencing for small trees, and trash barrels.

In 2011, the East Bay Express included the Laurel District in their Best of the East Bay picks, naming it the “Best Completely Re-Imagined Neighborhood” and citing the local shops, dining options, weekly farmers' market, and annual street fair as highlights.4



Courtesy of the Laurel District Association

Laurel Evening Market - beginning July 20, 2017 and taking place every third Thursday of the month











Laurel Street Fair - annual fall outdoor fair featuring live music and local vendors











Laurel Lunar New Year Lion Dancing











  • Holiday Donation Stroll
  • Laurel Leaf Scavenger Hunt


Local Businesses and Markets

Grocery Stores

  • House of Produce - A locally owned and run grocery store specializing in Asian produce.

  • Little Joe’s Marketplace - The original location of Farmer Joe’s Marketplace, a popular, independent full-service grocery store that has since expanded to a second location in the Dimond District.

Restaurants and Eateries

Additional Businesses and Organizations


Local Associations

(by greenkozi)The Laurel Village Association is a volunteer organization that works to improve the Laurel neighborhood. The Laurel Village Association established and continues to moderate the neighborhood listserv via Yahoo Groups. The Association also created the Laurel Art Garden, located at 35th Avenue and Delaware Street, next to the entrance to Highway 580 going west.

The Laurel District Association focuses on improving and revitalizing the area for local businesses and property owners. This association works to "increase the quality of public improvements and educational, cultural, artistic, charitable, and social services within the Laurel District and the surrounding neighborhood."5


Further Reading


  1. Evanosky, Dennis. Oakland's Laurel District. Alameda Sun, 2007, p. 53
  2. Mailman, Erika. Oakland's Neighborhoods. Oakland: Mailman Press, 2005. 
  3. Hansen, Carla (2001-08-31). "Existing Conditions in the Laurel District." Laurel District Association and Mills College, Department of Public Policy.
  4. "Best Completely Re-Imagined Neighborhood," Best of the East Bay 2011. East Bay Express.
  5. Laurel District Association - About page. Retrieved 2015-08-17.


Notes for article improvement:

Pages tagged “Laurel”

Pages tagged “laurel district”