OAKLAND (KCBS) — The historic California Hotel in West Oakland has officially reopened for business, following a three-year renovation.

The building on San Pablo Avenue played a major role in Oakland’s music and entertainment scene after its opening in 1929.

At a celebration of its reopening on Thursday, renovation project manager Elaine Kam with the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) pointed out where performers like James Brown, B.B. King, Sly Stone and Billy Holiday once performed and entertained.

“This place has a really rich history of the music and jazz scene back in the heydays of West Oakland,” Kam said.

But she said the area became distressed and by 1971, the hotel and its sounds were shut down. “This building was actually boarded up for a good 16 years,” Kam said.

By the mid-1980s, a non-profit renovated the building into a residential hotel, but when it foreclosed in 2007, residents fought to stay and won.

EBALDC Executive Director Josh Simon said in 2011, they started the $43 million overhaul of the building.

“It was in deep disrepair. It had problems with vermin and the way it was designed,” Simon said.

At Thursday’s grand reopening celebration, Simon gave tours of some of the 137 one and two bedroom units that now house families, as well as some of the original residents.


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