The Acorn or Acorn Projects are a series of housing projects in the Acorn Redevelopment Project Area of West Oakland.
They were original three housing units, Acorn 1, Acorn 2, and Acorn 3.
The project started in 1962. The first housing unit contained 479 units and cost $9 million; it was completed in 1969. A second 98-unit called Acorn II was completed in 1971 at the cost of $3.7 million.
Slum Clearance Project
“Oakland’s first slum clearance undertaking will be called The Acorn Project.”Oakland Tribune March 9, 1959
The Oakland Redevelopment Agency selected the name Acorn for the project area (about 45 Blocks) flanking the Nimitz Freeway between Union and Brush Streets.
Agency member Carl O. Olsen said the “Acorn is symbolical for the future and growth.”
Acorn’s Amazing Progress
It was reported that Project Acorn was shaping up as one of the most successful blight clearance projects in the nations’ history in 1964.
In 20 months, they had accomplished the following:
- Purchased 90% of parcels
- Relocated 83% of families
- Demolished 75% of structures
- Sold four lots for new plants
Property Owners Sue
Thirteen West Oakland property owners sued to block the Acorn Project. They sued the Federal Redevelopment Agency and the City of Oakland, claiming that the Acorn Project “would deprive Negroes of their properties.”
They said the slum elimination project would, in effect, deprive them of homeownership because they have limited access to other residential areas. They told the court they have no objection to urban improvement, but object to being evicted from their homes without a place to go,
The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled against them in May of 1963.
Acorn: Acres of Vacancy
In the land cleared for the project, there were rats, ants, and sparrows lived. But no people.
The Oakland Redevelopment Agency had spent $ 13 million by 1967. But still no housing.
It was described as a slum clearance project, and it was a success. Some 4,300 people lost their homes as wrecking crews smashed aging buildings.
It took from April 1962 to May 1965 to reduce all but 610 old structures to splinters. In their place was acre upon acre of empty fields in the area between 10th and First and Brush and Union Streets.
Thirty-two were set aside for industrial redevelopment, thirty-four acres for new, moderate-priced housing.
Since 1962 when the Acorns were approved, 12,000 rental units were built in other parts of Oakland.
Acorn Project Aims to Attract Whites
The Acorns, a middle-income development featuring sophisticated townhouses and apartments, was one of the nations’ first attempts at “reverse integration.”
To attract whites to the project, the Building Trades Council tried to put the finest housing it can afford into the project and charge the lowest rents possible.
Rents ranged from studios at $67 up to four-bedroom two-story townhouses at $145. (The upper limit on income was $11,225)
Remember Acorn? It’s Dedicated
After sitting empty for ten years, the Acorn Project was finally dedicated in 1967.
Construction did not begin in Acorn until five years after demolition was completed, leaving a giant barren area in the middle of West Oakland, about 50 blocks, including parts of the historic heart of black Oakland, 7th Street. By the mid 60s, the demolition policies of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency (ORA) would create deep scars in the black neighborhoods close to downtown.
Ready for the Public
The first units of Oakland’s $8 million modern apartment complex opened for inspection in September 1968.
- Studio – $67.00 a month
- 4-bedrooms – $145.00 a month
By December of 1968, 106 families lived in the Acorns.
Award for Acorn
Architects Edmund Burger and Patricia Coplans won the 1970 Holiday Award for the design of the Acorn Projects.
The Acorns Today
The property underwent extensive redevelopment in the 1990s due to four years of collaboration among HUD, The City of Oakland, BRIDGE, the Acorn Residents Council, and the West Oakland community.
Like many other projects, Acorn was known as a dangerous place for residents and nearby neighbors. The new Acorn will have several safety features. Density was reduced by half from the 700 units that made up the old project, and a series of courtyards with locked gates to limit access.
- Acorn 1 was demolished, and a small community of two-story single-family houses between Filbert and Market Streets was built in its place.
- Acorn 2 and Acorn 3 were renamed “Town Center Apartments at Acorn” and “Courtyard Apartments.
Acorn Town Center and Courtyards consist of 293 affordable studio, one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom apartments.
- high-tech security system
- gated property
- recreational center
- community building
- tot lots
- three basketball courts
- swimming pool
Acorn Town Center and Courtyards – Bridge Housing
The Acorn Neighborhood – Oakland Local Wiki
Imagining a Past Future – Photographs from the Oakland Redevelopment Agency – Places Journal
Affordable Housing Today – Architecture California 2001
Acorn Oakland Renaissance – Facebook Page
Portraits of Progress and Pain – Eastbay Yesterday
The Planning History of Oakland – website
- Acorn Project is the First City Slum Clearance – Oakland Tribune March 5, 1959
- Acorn Slum Job To Level Homes – Oakland Tribune August 6, 1959
- Rezoning for Acorn Project – Oakland Tribune November 9, 1959
- Councilman Opens Row On Housing – Oakland Tribune November 25, 1959
- Row Over Housing Plan Flares Anew – Oakland Tribune November 25, 1959
- Green Light for Acorn Project – Oakland Tribune September 1, 1961
- Property Owners Lose Acorn Project Suit – Oakland Tribune May 18, 1963
- Acorn’s Amazing Progress Pt 1- Oakland Tribune January 6, 1964
- Acorn’s Amazing Progress Pt 2- Oakland Tribune January 6, 1964
- Acorn: Acres of Vacancy Pt 1- Oakland Tribune July 10, 1967
- Acorn: Acres of Vacancy Pt 2 – Oakland Tribune July 10, 1967
- Remember Acorn? It’s Dedicated – Oakland Tribune December 22, 1967
- Big Day For Acorn – It’s Dedicated – Oakland Tribune December 22, 1967
- Ground Broken – Oakland Tribune – January 28, 1968
- Acorn Project Aims to Attract Whites – Oakland Tribune May 26, 1968
- Here’s A New Way to Live’ – Oakland Tribune June 19, 1968
- Acorn Housing Available to Poor. – Oakland Tribune September 13, 1968
- Project Ready for Public – SF Examiner September 16, 1968
- Award for Acorn – Oakland Tribune June 07, 1970
- Building Begins on Acorn Project – Oakland Tribune December 30, 1971
- Acorn Project is Blasted – Oakland Tribune April 6, 1972
- Acorn Housing Project PT 1 – SF Examiner February 23, 1992
- Acorn Housing Project PT 1 – SF Examiner February 23, 1992
- Housing Projects Get whole New Look in Bay Area Pt 1 – SF Examiner May 10, 1998
- Housing Projects Get whole New Look in Bay Area Pt 2 – SF Examiner May 10, 1998