“Schwarzer’s biography of Oakland is a big book, an important book, a powerful book and an indispensable guide for anyone who wants to reform the city by any means necessary.”
"Noteworthy for several reasons, but one is its timeliness. Though Hella Town
tells a familiar story — Oakland’s rise as an industrial hub, its fall to the failings of racism, its still-troubled resurgence — the lens through which it makes sense of that story provides insights about how cities come to be (and why they fail) that prove eerily relevant to those writing Oakland’s next act right now. . . . All who want Oakland’s story to read, ultimately, as something other than tragic — more a celebration of all that makes this place uniquely great — should be aware of what building big things (or not building them) can do. Among other things, Hella Town
is an excellent education to that end."
— San Francisco Chronicle
"A sparkling new history filled with lessons for our present."
— SF Weekly
"A model history of urban development, laying out the stages of ‘Oakland’s built environment' from its take-off in the last decade of the nineteenth century to the early years of the current century."
— Geography Realm
"From malls to shipyards to housing in the hills, Mitchell Schwarzer’s book is a sweeping history of development and power."
"The book will likely stir interest among faculty, students, and practitioners in urban planning and design, architecture, and urban history. Readers longing for a heavily descriptive account of Oakland’s urbanization will admire the extent to which the narrative offers a factual extravaganza of the components of the city’s built environment."
— Journal of Urban Affairs
"Maintains a delicate balance between analyzing how Oakland’s history represents attributes common to many US cities while preserving distinctive characteristics. . . . Hella Town is an urban history well worth the attention of scholars concerned with the 20th-century American city and of a wider audience interested in the San Francisco Bay Area."
"Thoroughly documenting Oakland’s struggles over the past 130 years, the book frames each issue or struggle within its political context. The writing is clear, accessible, and rich, and the maps and photos, some of them by the author, are outstanding."
— California History