Gold Coast of Alameda No Longer Coastal, Still Golden

Those looking for the coastal part of the Gold Coast will be somewhat disappointed.

The neighborhood, loosely defined as the area bounded by Grand Street, Otis Drive, and Central Avenue in Alameda, got its name in the mid to late 19th century. At the time, Alameda was a favored haunt of many wealthy Bay Area residents, who built grand homes in the area. It was also, at the time, a “coast”, sitting as it did on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

By the mid-20th century, however, development had changed the now-island city, and land was reclaimed from San Francisco Bay west of Otis Drive.

Today, the former coast-side homes now sit on lagoons, but the “gold” in Gold Coast remains untarnished. “It really is the destination neighborhood in Alameda,” says Hanna Fry, a former resident and realtor who sells many homes in the area. “It really does have everything people find desirable about our town.” Not surprisingly, home tours conducted each year in Alameda feature homes from this neighborhood.

In fact, the Gold Coast, save for the loss of coastline, is little changed from its heyday. “You feel like you have gone back in time. You don’t feel like you are in a typical California city,” Fry explains. “We could be in the Midwest, or back East.” Indeed, the neighborhood’s broad streets, mature trees, and relative quiet seem to come from another time.

That lures a wide range of people to the neighborhood. “When people move to the Gold Coast, they stay for 25 or 30 years. It is just that kind of place,” Fry adds.

What is distinctly modern, however, are the home prices. “You might find a home that is nice, but needs work, in the $800,000’s,” Fry says. Scrolling down her listings, she rattles off the prices — one recently sold for $1.4 million, while another sold for $1.5 million. “Many of the homes are older, so kitchens and baths need to be upgraded. But buyers will still pay $1 million and up, and they don’t mind,” she says.

Stephanie Doud is a recent transplant to the neighborhood. Drawn by the larger pieces of property, bigger trees, and unique older homes, Doud says that the Gold Coast has, “a certain charm that is hard to find in other places. Historically, it is very interesting, too,” she adds. “And there seems to be a mix of all kinds of people, just like the rest of Alameda.”

Helen Chaix knows more about the neighborhood than most people alive today. “I’ve lived here all but one year of my life,” she explains, noting that she was raised in her home as a child, and also raised her own children there. Chaix recalls when the China Clipper landed in the neighborhood, and she and her friends went swimming at the end of the block. “Wood School used to be the site of the Encinal Yacht Club,” she says.

What hasn’t changed, she says, is the close-knit feel of the neighborhood. “It’s great for kids. Everyone watches out for everyone else. I can call a neighbor and say, ‘I need help’, and they’re here. Neighbors will pick up your paper and mail when you go on vacation.” For the last several decades, Chaix and her neighbors have held a block-wide street party every Fourth of July.

For all of its charm, Chaix is modest about the neighborhood. “I hate to call it the Gold Coast,” she explains, “because there are many other nice neighborhoods in Alameda.”

Yes, but none quite as golden.

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