Issue 549 to

Urban Field Notes: The Biomes of Broadway

A few of the many possible activities that Broadway provides to Oaklanders.

Urbanist Article

In the field of biology, “biome” is the term used to describe areas of similar environmental characteristics that typically give rise to the common communities of flora and fauna particularly suited to those characteristics. In today’s urban cities, in a process similarly parallel to that in nature, distinct neighborhoods often form around common themes, giving rise to neighborhoods known for different aspects of life, such as commerce, entertainment, dining, arts, or culture.

The four-mile length of Broadway in Oakland displays a great number of the many urban “biomes” that form within cities from the Broadway corridor to the waterfront at Jack London Square to recreational open space at the base of the Oakland hills to auto row. On what other single street could one head to work in downtown, take a child to school, purchase a car, bike ride into the hills, listen to a world famous jazz musician, and visit a newborn in the hospital?

Jack London Square

The view of Jack London Square from across the estuary in Alameda highlights the waterfront land use in this area. The familiar marina sounds of sailboat lines clanging against aluminum masts and the breeze through rigging and halyards have an immediate calming effect, even if the bustle of downtown Oakland is just a few blocks away.

All photos by Christopher Glenn

Downtown Oakland

The Tribune Tower looks over downtown’s commercial center where you’ll find some of the best aspects of Oakland are on display here — along with the signs of social and economic inequity seen throughout the Bay Area.

Broadway Valdez

Where Broadway runs between two giant medical campuses, the Alta Bates Summit and Kaiser Permanente medical centers, the neighborhood is in a state of transition. The city’s Broadway Valdez District Specific Plan envisions this area as a retail destination and mixed-use neighborhood.

Upper Rockridge

North of 51st Street, the signs of urban land use along Broadway gradually give way to residential neighborhoods like this one.

Oakland Uptown

A decade ago, Lukas was one of the first establishments that changed the vibe of Uptown Oakland toward the entertainment and restaurant district that it is today.

Base of the Oakland Hills

As Broadway starts winding up the base of the Oakland Hills, the noises of urban Oakland seem a world away. A bit farther up the road, Broadway unceremoniously dead-ends above the start of the Caldecott tunnel — an unceremonious end to the great Broadway corridor.



Christopher Glenn is a senior project engineer with Langan Treadwell Rollo in Oakland, California.