The term “Oakland Hills” doesn't refer to a specific neighborhood like Rockridge or a nearby town like Piedmont. Instead, the term is generally used when talking about the neighborhoods in the residential parts of these hills. Somewhat confusingly, some people also use the term to talk about the hills themselves. So you might hear someone talking about living in the Oakland Hills, while another might talk about hiking or camping there.
The Oakland Hills residential neighborhoods lie along the eastern edge of Oakland, and generally on the western side of the Berkeley Hills range.
In general, the neighborhoods east of Highway 13 (or 580 further south, where the two merge) fall into this area.
For a while, the Oakland Hills neighborhoods extend further west than Highway 13. For example, Oakmore, Claremont, and Upper Rockridge are all part of the Oakland Hills region, despite being west of Highway 13.
The hills themselves, of course, extend further east than the neighborhoods. Much of this hilly land falls within parks such as Redwood Regional Park and Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. While Tilden Park is in the hills, it's too far north to qualify as being part of the Oakland Hills.
The Caldecott Tunnel, which connects Oakland to Orinda, passes through the Oakland Hills.
It's important to remember that this term is not an official one, and therefore there are no official boundaries for what qualifies as being in “the Hills” and what doesn't.
The Hills Vs. the Flats: Expense and Wealth
In general, income and wealth tends to follow elevation in Oakland. In other words, the neighborhoods in the Oakland Hills tend to be quite a bit wealthier than those in the flats. The higher you go, the wealthier the neighborhoods tend to be. In the highest parts of the hills, the houses tend to be quite large with spacious yards, compared to the (generally) smaller houses and lots in the flats.
Of course, these are just general rules, and there are some exceptions. Certain parts of the flats are wealthier than others, and some parts of the Hills are more affordable than others.
The Hills Vs. the Flats: Crime Levels
In Oakland, the crime levels tend to follow the income/wealth levels fairly predictably.
The crime rate in the Oakland Hills is consistently much lower than in the flats. The crimes that do occur are generally the less violent crimes. For example, the crimes in the Oakland Hills tend to be of the theft and burglary variety rather than the assault, murder, or robbery variety. Even the less violent crimes are unusual in the hills.
In other words, when you hear news reports about the violence and crime in Oakland, you're really hearing about the flats (such as East Oakland) rather than the hills.
As mentioned before, there are quite a few lovely parks in the Oakland Hills. These include:
- Redwood Regional Park
- Joaquin Miller Park
- Chabot Regional Park
- Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve
- Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
However, the area's landmarks are not limited only to parks and natural scenes.
Mountain View Cemetery, which borders on Piedmont, is located just within the Oakland Hills area.
Several schools fall within the Oakland Hills. Hillcrest Elementary School lies just east of Mountain View Cemetery. Merritt College, part of the Peralta Community College system, is located in the hills near Redwood Regional Park. It's debatable whether Mills College is in the Oakland Hills area, but if not, it certainly borders on this region.
Sequoyah Country Club, which was founded in 1913, also lies within the Oakland Hills region. This exclusive club offers one of the East Bay's several beautiful golf courses.