Alameda County is a county in the United States of America state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 1,510,271, making it the 7th-most populous county in the state. Alameda County is included in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area. It occupies most of the East Bay region.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 821 square miles (2,130 km2), of which 739 square miles (1,910 km2) is land and 82 square miles (210 km2) (10.0%) is water.
The crest of the Berkeley Hills form part of the northeastern boundary, and reach into the center of the county. A coastal plain several miles wide lines the bay; it is home to Oakland and the most populous regions. Livermore Valley lies in the eastern part of the county. The Hayward Fault, a major branch of the San Andreas Fault to the west, runs through the most populated parts of Alameda County, while the Calaveras Fault runs through the southeastern part of the county. There are more than 350 parks located within the county.
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County. It is bordered by the cities of Oakland and Emeryville to the south and by the city of Albany and unincorporated community of Kensington to the north, while its eastern limit is the border with Contra Costa County that generally follows the ridge of the Berkeley Hills. Berkeley is the site of the oldest campus in the University of California system – the University of California, Berkeley – and of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that the university manages and operates.
Berkeley has a number of distinct neighborhoods.
Surrounding the University of California campus are the most densely populated parts of the city. West of the campus is Downtown Berkeley, the city’s traditional commercial core; home of the civic center, the city’s only public high school, the busiest BART station in Berkeley, as well as a major transfer point for AC Transit buses. North of the campus is the quieter Northside neighborhood, the location of the Graduate Theological Union. Further from the university campus, the influence of the University quickly becomes less visible. Most of Berkeley’s neighborhoods are primarily made up of detached houses, often with separate in-law units in the rear, although larger apartment buildings are also common in many neighborhoods. Commercial activities are concentrated along the major avenues and at important intersections.
In the southeastern corner of the city is the Claremont District, home to the Claremont Hotel; and the Elmwood District, with a small shopping area on College Avenue.
West of (and including) San Pablo Avenue, a major commercial corridor, is West Berkeley, the historic commercial center of the city, and the former unincorporated town of Ocean View. West Berkeley contains the remnants of Berkeley’s industrial area, much of which has been replaced by retail and office uses, as well as residential live/work loft space, with the decline of manufacturing in the United States. Along the shoreline of San Francisco Bay at the foot of University Avenue is the Berkeley Marina. Nearby is Berkeley’s Aquatic Park, featuring an artificial linear lagoon of San Francisco Bay.
North of Downtown is the North Berkeley neighborhood, which has a concentration of well-known restaurants and other food-related businesses. Further north are Northbrae, a master-planned subdivision from the early 20th century, and Thousand Oaks. Above these last three neighborhoods, in the northeastern part of Berkeley, are the Berkeley Hills. The neighborhoods of the Berkeley Hills such as Cragmont and La Loma Park are notable for their dramatic views, winding streets, and numerous public stairways and paths.
Piedmont, located in the East Bay hills, is surrounded on all sides by the city of Oakland.
By the 1920’s, Piedmont was known as the “City of Millionaires” because it had the most resident millionaires per square mile of any city in the United States. Many of these millionaires built mansions that still stand, notably on Sea View Avenue and Sotelo Avenue/Glen Alpine Road in upper Piedmont. Piedmont became a charter city under the laws of the state of California on December 18, 1922.
Oakland has the fifth largest cluster of “elite zip codes” ranked by the number of households with the highest combination of income and education. Oakland placed between Boston and Bridgeport, and had more than twice the number of households as Long Island and West Manhattan. Oakland ranked among the top cities with residents with bachelor degrees and graduate degrees per square mile.
Oakland has more than 50 distinct neighborhoods.
The greater divisions in the city include downtown Oakland and its greater Central Business District, Lake Merritt, East Oakland, North Oakland, West Oakland, and the Oakland Hills. East Oakland, which includes the East Oakland Hills, encompasses more than half of Oakland’s land area, stretching from Lakeshore Avenue on the east shore of Lake Merritt southeast to the San Leandro border. North Oakland encompasses the neighborhoods between downtown and Berkeley and Emeryville. West Oakland is the area between downtown and the Bay, partially surrounded by the Oakland Point, and encompassing the Port of Oakland.
Lake Merritt, an urban estuary near downtown, is a mix of fresh and salt water draining in and out from the Oakland Harbor at the San Francisco Bay and one of Oakland’s most notable features. It was designated the United States’ first official wildlife refuge in 1870. Originally a marsh-lined wildlife haven, Lake Merritt was dredged and bordered with parks from the 1890s to the 1910s. Despite this reduction in habitat, Oakland is home to a number of rare and endangered species, many of which are localized to serpentine soils and bedrock. Lake Merritt is surrounded by residential and business districts, including downtown and Grand Lake.
Pleasanton is number 63 in Money’s list of “The Best Places to Live” in 2010, and was also named one of “Americans’ Top Hometown Spots” in the United States in 2009 by Forbes. Pleasanton was named the third wealthiest city in terms of earnings in the United States by NerdWallet in 2013.
Pleasanton experienced a major economic boom starting in the early 1980s, largely associated with the development of a number of business parks, the largest of which is the Hacienda Business Park. These host a number of campus-like clusters of low-rise and medium-rise office buildings. Pleasanton has been successful in attracting a number of corporate headquarters, such as those of Safeway, Blackhawk Network, Thoratec, Workday, Simpson Manufacturing, The Cooper Companies, Shaklee, Patelco Credit Union, and Ross Stores. Despite an increase in office space vacancy rates in 2000–2004, economic development has remained strong through the middle of the decade.
Pleasanton was also the headquarters of the former PeopleSoft, Inc. (which was acquired by Oracle Corporation), Documentum (which was acquired by EMC Corporation), E-Loan (which was acquired by Popular), Spreckels Sugar Company (which was acquired by Imperial Holly) and the home loan operation of Providian (which was acquired by Washington Mutual, itself later acquired by JPMorgan Chase). Oracle maintains the former Peoplesoft campus as a major division and is the fourth-largest employer in Pleasanton, behind Workday, Safeway and Kaiser Permanente. In addition, Pleasanton is the site of a large AT&T campus.
Other companies with major operations in Pleasanton include Hitachi High Technologies America, Inc., Cisco Systems, Sage Software (Accpac, etc.), CooperVision, Clorox, Fireside Bank (closed in 2012), Roche, BMC Software, Applied Biosystems, EMC Corporation, Portrait Displays, Inc. and Symantec.
In addition to the business parks and retail centers, Pleasanton is known for its lively downtown, which is home to a number of fine-dining, casual, and ethnic restaurants, specialty retailers, and service businesses. A redesign of Main Street in the 1990s emphasized pedestrian traffic and outdoor dining.
According to the latest U.S. Census information, Pleasanton is the wealthiest midsize city in the nation. In 2005, the median household income in Pleasanton was $101,022, the highest income for any city with a population between 65,000 and 249,999 people. Similarly, for 2007, the median household income rose to $113,345, also the highest in the category.