West Oakland has always been flat and easy to build on, whether it was for factories like the old Shredded Wheat plant built in 1915 (still operating as California Cereal Products) . . .
or for the middle-class Victorian homes that are West Oakland’s pride. It takes a lot of walking around to note the subtleties of the landscape. Except around Raimondi Park, the area was never a coastal marsh but was slightly elevated sand dunes, the same Merritt Sand that underlies downtown. In the Ralph Bunche neighborhood, north of 18th Street between Market and Adeline, the homes perch above the street, not by much but consistently.
Even century-old homes sit up the same way as the newest places. Presumably the streets were dug down, but maybe the lots were piled up too. Perhaps flooding was a concern, and all the earth-moving created more desirable lots here. Only a historian with intimate local knowledge could say.
If you look north along any of these streets (Chestnut, Linden, Filbert, Myrtle), you’ll see the land sink at Grand Avenue where the Merritt Sand leaves off.