The 3 L’s of real estate absolutely apply to Oakland: Location, location, location. Lying directly east across the Bay from San Francisco, Oakland boundaries start at its eclectic waterfront and rise up to oak and redwood-covered hills. Vibrant, exciting, walkable neighborhoods like Downtown, Old Oakland, Jack London Square, and Chinatown offer creative venues for an array of arts, independent businesses, retail shops, a thriving music scene, cafes, coffee houses, and a gastronomic hothouse of restaurants that serve up innovative international food and locally-grown organic produce.
Oakland has become one of the most highly desirable places to live for lots of valid reasons besides its location right on the Bay. If you’d like to live in an urban setting with fantastic public transportation, walkability, plenty of green spaces, plus easy access to San Francisco, then Oakland is for you. The city government and residents work together to maintain a green, sustainable lifestyle, and they treasure Oakland’s vivid ethnic diversity. Oakland offers an exceptionally high-quality lifestyle in an almost perfect climate of year-round mild weather.
Living in Oakland, CA: What to Know Before Moving to Oakland
The western portion of Oakland lies along San Francisco Bay then rises east up to 1,760 feet through beautiful tree-covered foothills. Approximately 432,897 people live in this city of contrast — contrast in its ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographical diversity. The city covers 78 square miles, of which 22 square miles is water. The waterfront is home to the busy Port of Oakland and a revitalized marina with restaurants, shops, and hotels. The foothills feature upscale “Hills Homes” tucked in amid oaks and redwoods, with beautiful views of the Bay.
Pros and Cons
Depending on your personal philosophy, political leanings, and the lifestyle you’re looking for, Oakland can be extremely appealing. But for others, it can be off-putting; the pros and cons may need re-arranging according to your perspective.
- Lovely, mild climate
- Fab food: the slow-food movement, ethic food, farmers markets
- Terrific public transportation systems
- High quality of life with a focus on green energy and sustainability
Depending on your perspective:
- One of the most ethnically diverse cities in the US: 34% White, 28% African American, 25% Hispanic, 16.8% Asian. The 3rd highest concentration of LGBTQ in the US.
- Oakland is a sanctuary city
- Very liberal, open-minded community
- High cost of living with sky-high housing costs
- High city sales tax at 9.25%
- Quality of education varies depending on neighborhood
- Crime higher than CA and US averages, however lower in select neighborhoods
Economy and the Job Market
Oakland’s economy is strong and thriving. Job opportunities are extensive and varied, with many options ranging from blue-collar port jobs to T-shirt high tech. Oakland’s job market increased by 1.4% in 2018. In the next ten years, growth is forecast at 35.3% compared to the US average growth increase of 33.5% over the next ten years. The unemployment rate is 3.4%, compared to 3.9% in the US.
The Port of Oakland is the 5th busiest port in the US, annually bringing in $41 billion in international trade. Oakland is headquarters of some big corporate names: Clorox, Dreyer’s Ice Cream, Cost Plus World Markets, Kaiser Permanente, Pandora Radio and Ask.com. Since 2015, Oakland has been considered a major travel destination for its farm to table food scene, wine bars, live theater, museums, super music venues, and exciting nightlife. Tourism brings in over $1.5 billion to the economy.
The most popular job sectors are transport and international trade; healthcare and social assistance; professional, scientific, and technical services; educational services; retail trade; and accommodation and food services. Green energy and start-up high tech firms are two of the fastest-growing sectors.
Top employers are: The Port of Oakland with over 200,000 employees, 73,000 of which are middle-wage employees; Kaiser Permanente with 12,300 employees; Oakland Unified School District with 5,100; County of Alameda with 4,500; City of Oakland with 3,500; Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) 3290; State of California 3,170; Children’s Hospital Oakland 2,675; Alameda Health System 2,300; Southwest Airlines 2,255; and Sutter Health with 2,255 employees.
Polish up your resume, so it’s ready to send to potential employers in digital format. Most employers use digital hiring practices so accessing online job boards, such as simplyhired, CareerBuilder, Glassdoor, indeed, or Snagajob will give you a good start on finding employment. The City of Oakland Workforce Development Board helps adults refine their qualifications and matches their skills with employers.
- State income tax: State income tax rates vary from 1% to 12.3% over nine income brackets. For residents with over a million dollars taxable income, the rate is 13.3%.
- Property tax: The average Alameda County tax rate is 0.866%. Property tax on a $700,000 home would be $6,062. The national average property tax on the same home would be higher at $8,477.
- Sales tax: The combined total of 6% state, 0.25% county, and 3% city sales tax add up to a 9.25% sales tax rate in Oakland. The average US sales tax is 7.3% so prepare to pay an extra 2% on retail goods if you purchase them in Oakland.
As of July 2019, the median home price in Oakland was $735,000. 38% of Oakland residents are homeowners, and in 2018, they saw home values go down 0.8%. Values are forecast to drop by 0.6% in 2020. The housing price drop appears to be more of a natural supply and demand adjustment rather than a reflection on Oakland’s economy and may signal a good time to buy.
The median rent price is $3,000, about $500 lower than rent in the San Francisco metropolitan area. Over the last decade, the Oakland population of high-income renters tripled and is now 62%. Residents who earn over $150,000 are more likely to rent a single-family home, condo, or apartment than buy a home. But if you’re not a high-income earner and still hope to buy, consider some of the more affordable neighborhoods: Jack London Square, South Stonehurst, Eastmont, and Harrington. These areas may have small fixer-upper homes in the $400,000 -$600,000 range.
Cost of Living
According to bestplaces.net, the average household income is $63,251 compared to the nation’s household income average of $57,652 per year. Compared to the US cost of living index average of 100, Oakland’s cost of living index is twice that at 201.2 with housing accounting for the highest expense. California’s housing index of 293/100 is already high, but housing in Oakland is 405/100, over four times the national average. Below average costs include utilities at 90.3/100 and Health 97.6/100. Groceries 111/100, Transportation 132/100, and Miscellaneous (clothing, entertainment, repairs, etc.) 112/100 run higher than average.
According to the California Budget and Policy Center, a family of four with two working parents will need a minimum of $92,267 a year to live in Oakland. The California average is $75,952 per year. They’ll need to budget $2,173 for Housing and Utilities, $773 for food, $1,579 for childcare, $613 for health care, $613 for transportation, and $787 for miscellaneous costs. With Oakland’s median rent price of $3000, a family will need to make more than $93,000 per year.
Weather and Natural Disasters
Oakland has climate bragging rights. Ranked ‘#1 Climate for US Cities’ by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), residents enjoy a warm-summer Mediterranean climate. Essentially there are two seasons: mild damp winter and warm, dry summer. January is usually the coolest month, with average highs of 58° F and average lows of 44°. During summer, the warmest month is September, with average highs of 74° and average lows of 54°.
Near the Bay, you’ll get about 23″ of rain annually with the majority falling between November and March. If you choose to live up in the Oakland Hills, plan on about 30″ of rain annually. Snow would be a very rare and odd surprise. On average you’ll enjoy 260 sunny days per year.
The City of Oakland 2016-2021 Local Hazard Mitigation Plan lists potential natural disaster threats: earthquakes, landslides, floods, sea-level rise, tsunami, fire, extreme heat, and drought. Many locals and visitors worry about earthquakes more than other natural threats. The Hayward fault runs straight through Oakland, and the famous San Andreas fault is to the west. Learn more about planning for a natural disaster threat.
Traffic and Transportation
Oakland has an impressive public transportation system. But if you prefer your own wheels, it’s easy to access the major interstates and highways that run through or very close to the city. Interstate 580 runs through central Oakland and allows for several key connections: west to The Bay Bridge, east to Hwy 24, southeast to eventually access California’s Central Valley, or north to the Richmond Bridge. About 12 miles north of Oakland, I-580 changes to I-80 and runs northeast to Napa and Sacramento. Interstate 880 runs through Oakland and south to San Jose. It’s helpful to see this web of freeways on a map.
Residents benefit from the extensive Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system and its eight Oakland stations, making commutes to San Francisco, other Bay Area cities, airports, and sports centers efficient and car-free. Alameda and Contra Costa Transit District runs AC Transit, providing bus service throughout Oakland and the inner East Bay. Five intercity bus companies operate through Oakland. The Alameda/Oakland Ferry system may be a slower way to get to various points across the Bay, but it’s a beautiful and entertaining way to commute.
Over 160 miles of bikeways weave through Oakland; in 2017, the city added 9000 bike parking spaces. Oakland benefits from a 65/100 Bike Score and 56/100 Transit Score. Walkscore.com reports that Oakland is the 9th most walkable large city in the US, giving the city a Walk Score of 72/100. The slightly above average transit score is rather surprising, given the extensive options for getting around Oakland without a car, but only 20% of residents commute by public transportation.
Three international airports are easily accessible via BART and AC Transit: Oakland International Airport (OAK), four miles south of downtown; San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and San Jose International Airport (SJC). Amtrak provides local and long-distance rail service from two convenient Oakland stations.
Things to Do
Culture, Arts, and Attractions: Oakland is among Bay Area cities with the highest density of artists per capita in the country. Arts walks, community murals, galleries, performing arts — you name it, you’ll find your favorite art form in Oakland. Endless activities are available too, from children’s attractions to exploring the wonders of the redwood forest.
Some of the many arts, cultural, and area attractions you’ll enjoy include AXIS Dance Company, Children’s Fairyland, Oakland Aviation Museum, Oakland Symphony, Oakland Zoo, Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, and Redwood Regional Park.
The City of Oakland offers eight walking tours including Chinatown, the Waterfront, or Churches and Temples. At the waterfront, you can explore the USS Potomac and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential yacht. Over 20,000 people show up for the monthly Oakland Art Murmur, a first Friday of food trucks, live performances, and over 30 galleries. Big names in music perform at Oracle Arena. Oakland’s ethnically diverse population provides the gift of amazing international food, from Ethiopian, Caribbean, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Asian, Latin American, and more.
Nightlife: Get your groove on at Oakland’s impressive choice of bars, dance clubs, cocktail lounges, and jazz clubs. Oakland’s blues and jazz scene has been on aficionado’s radar for years. But it’s easy to find hip hop, punk, gospel, rhythm and blues, reggae, and more. Heavy metal? That too. Headlining musicians play at the Paramount Theater and Fox Oakland Theatre. More intimate clubs, like Yoshis and The Sound Room, overflow when famous names frequently come to town.
Parks: The East Bay Regional Park system is the largest urban regional park district in the US. With about 6,000 acres of parks, Oakland is an urban destination for nature lovers. Some of the most popular parks are Joseph Knowland State Arboretum and Park, Mosswood Park, Lake Merritt, Morcom Rose Garden, William Joseph McInnes Botanic Garden, Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, Robert Sibly Volcanic Regional Preserve, and Temescal Regional Park.
Sports: You’re a pro sports enthusiast? Join the huge fan base of the NBA Golden State Warriors, although, in fall of 2019, they’ll be moving from Oakland to San Francisco’s Chase Center. You can be sure many Oakland fans will follow them. The MLB Oakland Athletics and NFL Oakland Raiders both play at Oakland’s Ring Central Coliseum, the only facility to host MLB and NFL games.
Schools and Universities
The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) operates over 86 K-12 schools, 32 charter schools, and a few adult ed programs. The district’s test scores have consistently trailed other California schools, mainly because of so many students learning English. However, schools in certain neighborhoods are highly rated. Some of the highest-rated schools include Peralta and Chabot Elementary Schools, Downtown Charter Academy, and Oakland Technical High School. OUSD has an open enrollment policy, but you must apply early and might encounter a waitlist.
Post-secondary four-year institutions include Mills College, Patten University, Samuel Merritt College, Lincoln University, Holy Names University, and California College of the Arts. Some satellite campuses provide Oakland residents with access to higher education through a shared facility. Member schools are San Francisco State University and California State University East Bay, UC Berkeley, and Saint Mary’s College of California. Two-year community colleges are Laney College and Merritt College. World renown University of California at Berkeley (UCB) is Oakland’s next-door neighbor and don’t forget that San Francisco offers widespread high-quality post-secondary options.
Cities don’t appreciate being famous for their crime statistics. For many years, Oakland was notorious for high crime. Although crime has dropped significantly since the 1970s drug wars, specific East and West Oakland neighborhood crime remains a serious problem. Still, some Oakland neighborhoods are very safe. It’s worthwhile to take a look at a crime map to get an idea of high and low crime areas.
Oakland property crime is 61 for every 1000 residents, compared to 25 per 1000 in California, according to neighborhoodscout.com. Violent crime is 13 per 1000 Oakland residents compared to 4.5 per 1000 in California.
Don’t forget to plan ahead and set up or transfer your new utility accounts before you move to Oakland.
- Electricity and Gas: Contact Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to set up or transfer your power and gas service. Oakland is one of the top cities in the nation to use electricity from renewable sources.
- Water and Sewer: Contact East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) to begin or transfer water and sewer service.
- Waste Management: The city contracts with Waste Management, Inc for garbage and recycling collection. Call (510) 613-8710 to start service.
- Phone, Internet, and Cable: Many corporations provide telecommunications and subscription TV services. Several online sources, like cabletv.com and highspeedinternet.com, will list the internet and cable services available for your zip code. Just enter your zip code and select which package meets your needs. Wirefly.com lists the cell phone providers and which offer the best coverage in your new home area.
Best Neighborhoods in Oakland, CA
We’ve selected eight of the best out of Oakland’s 50 neighborhoods to give you a head start on finding just the right place to call home. Maybe you’d like to live in a high rise condo with spectacular views to the Bay and San Francisco. Or, do you prefer living in the oak and redwood-studded hills? If you’re looking for a neighborhood with highly rated schools, keep in mind that Oakland School District has open enrollment. It’s noted below when a neighborhood school is rated 8/10 to 10/10. Here are some areas to consider:
Produce & Waterfront
Bordered by the waterfront on the west, Hwy 61 on the north, and I-880 on the east, Produce and Waterfront has an exciting highly urban vibe. You’re right by the San Francisco Bay Ferry terminal and within walking distance to cideries, breweries, cafes like La Furia Chalaca for Peruvian food, and jazz clubs like Yoshi’s. P & W appeals to singles and young professionals who commute to San Francisco, either by BART or ferry.
Jack London Square, with its seafood restaurants like Kincaid’s Fish, Chop, and Steak House; iconic sculptures of author Jack London and his fictional dog, Buck; hotels; the Amtrak station; and local businesses add to the vibrant urban feel. High rise condos, converted warehouse lofts, apartments, vintage California bungalows, and small Tudor style homes offer a variety of housing types.
Crime rates are high. Many people live in this neighborhood without problems, but you have to be savvy. Always lock your car, your house, your bike, and use other smart precautions.
- Population: 3,691
- Median home value: $329,054
- Median rent price: $2,129; 70% of residents rent
- Median household income: $92,503
- Crime: Estimated 11,800 crimes per 100,000 people compared to Oakland’s average 7.282 per 100,000
- Schools: Lincoln Elementary School, Westlake Middle School, Oakland Technical High School 8/10
Something to try: Stroll Jack London Square; enjoy the plaza sculptures and fresh Bay breezes.
I-580 borders trestle Glen on the west, Crocker Ave on the north, Paloma Ave on the east, and Edgewood Ave on the south. The decidedly urban feel and proximity to public transportation appeal to both young professionals and families. No modern tract home developments here — most single-family homes and apartments were built between the 1920s and 1970s. Many are charming and extensively renovated. Condos are more recent builds. Homes in Trestle Glen increased by 5.4% in 2018-2019 and are predicted to increase in value by 3.1% in 2020.
Trestle Glen has earned a 91/100 Walk Score. Locals love that they can walk to amenities like the super popular Saturday farmers market; neighborhood restaurants like Caña Cuban Parlor and Cafe; supper clubs; tapas and wine bars; and hip coffee houses. According to niche.com, Trestle Glen is rated the ‘6th Best Neighborhood in Oakland’ for its nightlife, diversity, and quality of life for families.
- Population: 5,082
- Median home value: $1,522,600; 72% of residents own their homes
- Median rent price: $4,416
- Median household income: $173,536
- Crime: estimated at 4,522 per 100,000 people, compared to Oakland’s average 7,282 per 100,000
- Schools: Crocker Highlands Elementary School 10/10, Edna Brewer Middle School, and Oakland High School
Something to try: Stroll over to Shakewell for tasty tapas and a glass of Rioja.
Bordered by Hwy 24 on the north, Broadway on the west, Moraga Ave on the south, and Hwy 13 on the east,
Upper Rockridge offers more of a suburban feel than other Oakland areas. A major feature of this area is the extensive green space created by the 42-acre Saint Mary Cemetery, and the adjoining 226-acre Mountain View Cemetery, both established in 1863. Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park, designed Mountain View Cemetery. The Claremont Country Club, built in 1926, adds to the expansive green space in Upper Rockridge.
Local neighborhood restaurants vary from upscale to casual and include French, Mediterranean, Italian, and vegetarian options. Cafes like Terrace Gifts and Coffee, Rockridge Cafe, Hudson Bay Cafe and The Chocolate Dragon Bittersweet Cafe and Bakery are great places to catch up with a friend over lunch. Rockridge Shopping Center is a handy source for groceries, dry cleaners, cafes, bakeries, coffee houses, and other daily errands.
- Population: 11,085
- Median home value: $1,184,791; 69% of residents own their homes
- Median rent price: $2,174
- Median household income: $182,758
- Crime: estimated at 1,931 per 100,000 people, compared to Oakland’s average 7,282 per 100,000
- Schools: Chabot Elementary School 9/10, Claremont Middle School, Oakland Technical High School 8/10
Something to try: Wander the lovely grounds of Mountain View Cemetery and investigate Frederick Law Olmsted’s iconic landscape design.
Bound by Woolsey St on the north, Martin Luther King Junior Way on the west, Hwy 24 on the south, and Telegraph Ave on the east, residents love Bushrod’s urban feel with its cafes, coffee houses, wine bars, and local businesses. Home styles vary from large 1920s Mediterraneans with classic red tile roofs to Neoclassic two-story houses. Most are renovated, and each is unique. Zillow forecasts that home prices in this neighborhood will fall 0.9% in 2020.
Nomad Cafe and Jump ‘n Java Coffee are popular hangouts for a morning jolt of espresso and some avocado toast. For a traditional Ethiopian menu with lots of vegetarian options, locals enjoy Cafe Colucci. Looking for comfort food? Head over to Aunt Mary’s Cafe. The Well serves up organic, sustainable, light meals.
After filling up on your favorite food, skip on over to Bushrod Park. Locals enjoy tennis, several baseball diamonds, a soccer field, and the community garden is a lovely place to share gardening tips and visit with neighbors.
- Population: 13,245
- Median home value: $1,039,700
- Median rent price: $3,614; 61% residents rent their homes
- Median household income: $61,782
- Crime: estimated at 3,710 per 100,000 compared to Oakland 7,282
- Schools: Sankofa Academy, Peralta Elementary 8/10, Claremont Middle School, Oakland Technical High School 8/10
Something to try: Exercise your green thumb and join the Bushrod Park Community Garden.
Bordered by Harrison St and the Financial District on the north, 14th St and the Civic Center on the south, and Lakeside Dr on the south, Lakeside is a lovely centrally-located area with Lake Merritt in its backyard. Head four blocks to the southwest of Lakeside, and you’re in Downtown. Just four blocks to the north and you’re in Uptown. For convenient freeway access, I-580 is a mere five blocks to the east along Grand Ave, and I-880 is just eight blocks to the southwest.
Residents enjoy a convenient urban lifestyle among beautiful natural surroundings. Lake Merritt, an urban estuary with a mix of salt and freshwater, was designated the first official wildlife refuge in the US in 1870. The northeast section of Lakeside is close to a Lake Merritt peninsula chock full of entertaining things to do: Children’s Fairyland, Play Island, Japanese Party Area, Circus Party Area, The Merry Miller Pond, Aesop’s Playhouse, the Lakeside Lawn Bowling Club, Lakeside Garden Center, Japanese Gardens, and Lakeside Demonstration Gardens.
Locals like to dine at the waterside Terrace Room Restaurant or Lake Chalet Restaurant for fresh seafood in a renovated boathouse. When you want to meet a friend for mid-day espresso and a bite, go to Jo Joe Cafe. In Lakeside, residents are highly educated; 30% have a bachelor’s degree, and 25% have a master’s degree or higher. Only 7% of households have children.
- Population: 5,818
- Median home value: $706,000
- Median rent price: $3,090
- Median household income: $53,904
- Crime: 11,843 per 100,000 compared to estimated Oakland 7,282 per 100,000
- Schools: Lincoln Elementary, Westlake Middle, Oakland Technical High School 8/10
Something to try: Head over to the 1926 Grand Lake Theater on a Friday or Saturday night and listen to the Wurlitzer organ mini-concert before the movie starts.
You’ll find Fairview Park bordered by Claremont Ave on the east, Woolsey St on the north, Telegraph Ave and the Bushrod neighborhood on the west, and Hwy 24 on the south. Home styles vary between vintage two to five-bedroom, one to three bath bungalows or Victorians, high rise condos, and apartments. The coming year may be a good time to buy in Fairview Park. Home prices dropped 9.6% in 2018-2019 and are forecast to fall another 3.9% in 2020.
The neighborhood appeals to young professionals and families, especially for the easy walk to cafes and restaurants. If you love ethnic food, you’ll love living in Fairview Park. Addis serves East African food in a communal style, The Ramen Shop serves innovatively prepared Japanese noodles, or for classic northeastern African cuisine, have a meal at Barcote Ethiopian Restaurant.
- Population: 8,384
- Median home price: $1,298,300
- Median rent price: $4,030; 63% of residents rent their homes
- Median household income: $100,433
- Crime: 4,568 per 100,000 compared to Oakland 7,282
- Schools: Peralta Elementary School 8/10, Claremont Middle School, Oakland Technical High School 8/10
Something to try: Sit around a communal table at Addis and get to know some new neighbors while you enjoy an East African meal.
Lakeshore is an urban neighborhood bordered by Grand Ave on the west, I-580 and the easternmost tip of Lake Merritt on the south, Lakeshore Ave on the east, and Piedmont on the north. A variety of home styles includes vintage California bungalows, Tudor, mid-century modern, apartments, and large condo developments. Multi-family homes are also available to purchase or rent.
The Lakeshore Business Improvement District, Oakland’s first improvement district, is working to enhance access and design for all of the commercial zone’s businesses. The short business strip along tree-lined Grand Avenue is always buzzing with shoppers and diners. Popular cafes within an easy stroll include Lakeshore Cafe, Cafe Romanat, and Lin Jia Asian Kitchen. Lakeshore residents are a highly educated bunch, with 38% having a master’s degree or higher and 37% having a bachelor’s degree.
- Population: 10,257
- Median home value: $1,474,400; 57% of residents own their homes
- Median rent price: $4,381
- Median household income: $137,111
- Crime: 7,989 per 100,000 compared to Oakland 7,282
- Schools: Crocker Highlands Elementary School 10/10, Edna Brewer Middle School, and Oakland High School
Something to try: Rent a paddle boat for an afternoon of fun in the Lake Merritt sun.
Bordered by Claremont Ave on the north, Hwy 24 on the south, Grizzly Peak Blvd on the east, and Tunnel Rd on the west, Claremont is located in the northeastern area of Oakland, bordering Berkeley. ‘Hill Homes’ are located along attractive roads that wind up into the foothills among oaks and redwoods. You’ll find large but charming mid-century modern homes tucked into foliage, redwood-sided homes with expansive view decks, barn styles with lots of windows and natural landscaping, and minimalist contemporary styles. Condos in converted brick buildings are also available.
Claremont doesn’t have as many restaurant and cafe options because the area is less commercial than other neighborhoods, but you can get delicious American fare at Rick and Ann’s Restaurant, or go to Limewood Bar and Restaurant for a classic California bistro menu.
Hikers roam the green public areas behind Claremont where you can explore Grizzly Peak Open Space, Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, and Siesta Valley.
- Population: 7,769
- Median home value: $1,426,600; 87% of residents own their homes
- Median rent price: $4,437
- Crime: 4,433 per 100,000 compared to Oakland 7,282
- Schools: Chabot Elementary School 9/10, Claremont Middle School, Oakland High School
Something to try: Explore the geological mysteries at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve.
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