Uber Makes Pivotal Move to East Bay

Oakland, California, has long been in a tumultuous growth period that has increased housing prices and pushed low-income residents out of the city. Although growth has forced a small percentage of small businesses to shut down, new and local businesses have begun to thrive in downtown Oakland over the last four years. Some local residents would say that economic change has provided new options, more places to work and has made the city better. The adjustment period is far from over, however, with new technology companies moving into town.

The latest Oakland expansion comes in the form of on-demand transportation service Uber, which closed a deal with developer Lane Partners Wednesday morning and announced the purchase of the 330,000-square-foot, seven-story Uptown Station―the historic Sears building―for an undisclosed amount. The building has been vacant for several years.

Uber joins the ranks of other tech companies that have offices in Oakland–Live Work Oakland cites more than 300 Web-based startups in the city. A tech company the size of Uber, with a $50 billion valuation, has never landed in the East Bay; it may be a prelude to a wave of tech giants migrating from across the bay in San Francisco, where commercial office space is twice the cost.

The tech giants’ arrival in downtown Oakland will likely fuel new city developments, infrastructure improvements, more restaurants and retail in the area by adding more workers and increasing foot traffic.

Uber has been criticized in recent months for misclassifying its drivers as independent contractors, with the California Labor Commissioner Office ruling in favor of one driver. Despite setbacks, Los Angeles has finally taken steps to allow the ride-sharing company to pick up passengers flying into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the third-busiest airport in the country―a move that still has to be approved by the city attorney. Other cities are taking similar steps.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement that she looks forward to “helping Uber make other meaningful contributions to Oakland that will make this a more equitable, vibrant city where everyone can thrive.”

Uber plans to move to Oakland by 2017.