Steering Committee

The Steering Committee is a collaborative group comprised of representatives for the organizations, businesses, institutions, and residents of Oakland. The Committee works with public agency staff to develop the Public Engagement Plan, review the work of the Action Teams, help to develop the resulting plan and support the plan's adoption. Organizations will also be asked to commit to working on the plan's implementation. Committee members are expected to participate fully in the planning process, represent their organization and themselves, and report back to the community.

Representatives come from the following organizations: 

  • Allegheny County
  • Bellefield Area Citizens Association
  • Carlow University
  • Carnegie Library
  • Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Community Human Services
  • Councilperson Kraus's Office
  • Councilperson Lavelle's Office
  • Councilperson Strassburger's Office
  • Faculty of Carlow University
  • Faculty of Carnegie Mellon University
  • Faculty of University of Pittsburgh
  • InnovatePGH/Avenu
  • Oakcliffe Community Organization
  • Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID)
  • Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC)
  • Oakland Transportation Management Association (OTMA)
  • Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Schenley Farms Civic Association 
  • Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum
  • South Oakland Neighborhood Group
  • State House Representative Frankel
  • State House Representative Wheatley
  • State Senator Jay Costa
  • Students of Carlow University
  • Students of Carnegie Mellon University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • UPMC
  • West Oakland Neighborhood Council


Steering Committee Meeting Summaries & Content

From November 2021 through February 2022, the Steering Committee reviewed the draft projects and programs at weekly work sessions. At their 27th, and final monthly meeting at the end of February, the Steering Committee reviewed updates to the draft plan’s vision statement and learned more about how staff were incorporating comments as part of updating the goals and policies. Additionally, the group reviewed changes staff are considering to address recent feedback on the Oakland Plan's proposed rezoning. Finally, staff walked the group through the adoption process, engagement opportunities, and the role of Steering Committee members in the next steps. 

The presentation below includes the slides from the final Steering Committee meeting. As noted for previous Steering Committee presentations, the slides represent a snapshot of the proposals as they are reviewed at that meeting. The proposals will likely be modified based on input from the Steering Committee input and other stakeholders through the rest of the planning process. Changes may be made between the proposals on these slides and the draft Oakland Plan that is due to be released in early March. 

At the request of Steering Committee members, a second slide set is included below from a February 3 meeting hosted by OBID for its stakeholders. At that meeting the project team briefed attendees on the draft Oakland Plan zoning proposals and received comments summarized on the final slide. Some of these comments were addressed in the slides the Steering Committee reviewed at their February 23 meeting. 

At their January meeting, the Steering Committee reviewed draft Zoning Code amendments in detail continuing from prior work sessions. Development and its role in addressing community needs and overcoming inequities was a major topic of the planning process from the very beginning. The details of the need were expounded on through the 2020 online open house, a year’s worth of Action Team meetings, walking tours and workshops, and the fall 2021 in-person and online events. 

The Steering Committee has an important role in advising staff on the development of a set of Zoning Code amendments that can best respond to these broad community goals. The Steering Committee’s work on this topic began in earnest in July 2021, where the first draft of the land use strategies was presented and discussed. At their September 2021 meeting, the Steering Committee received a training on how the Zoning Code works, what it can and can’t achieve, and how it is a part of implementing the vision, goals, and policies of adopted neighborhood plans. At their October 2021 meeting, they reviewed detailed land use strategies that had been mapped and characterized in terms of height, potential incentives for development (height bonuses), desired uses, character of the areas, zoning considerations, and related programs and strategies that would be needed in addition to Zoning Code amendments to result in the desired land use outcomes. At work sessions in November, December, and January, many of these strategies were discussed in detail to inform how they appear in the Oakland Plan. The culmination of this work is the draft Zoning Code amendments which are the first packet of such amendments and are intended to accompany the Oakland Plan as they are reviewed by the public and adopted formally by the City. Further amendments are planned as future projects to implement the plan once it is adopted. 

The presentation below represents a snapshot of the proposals as they stand at the time. More discussions within the Steering Committee and between Steering Committee members and those they represent are being planned through February to inform the release of the public review draft of the Oakland Plan and Zoning Code amendments. Public input including from property owners will be an important part of the further refinement of the plan and proposals before they are adopted by the City. As you review them, remember that they are draft and will likely continue to evolve. 

During the months of November, December, and January, the Steering Committee participated in a large number of work sessions (1-2 per week) with staff to refine strategies that came out of the Action Teams and broader community engagement. The format of these meetings involved staff reviewing written content from the plan with the Steering Committee members and getting their comments, edits, and thoughts for improving the language. As such, there are no presentation files from these two months.

At their October meeting, the Steering Committee reviewed the detailed land use strategy that represent staff's initial attempt to incorporate the goals and input received so far in the planning process. The presentation started by establishing the public input received throughout the planning process created a set of priorities to overcome with land use policy and regulations that include providing more affordable and sustainable housing, jobs for a broader variety of residents who have lower levels of educational attainment, and livability improvements such as open spaces, street trees, and stormwater management. Staff walked through a series of maps that showed how a land use strategy could help to address these goals by targeting specific kinds of development to specific locations. For each land use category, there are desired uses, urban design considerations, and related programming like community land trusts and other anti-displacement strategies that need to be utilized to achieve the goals. Staff noted that this initial map is only a first attempt and will need to be refined and improved based on discussions. There were discussions throughout including the need to recognize the variety of student housing needs and how the land use strategy can address them each, how incentives and requirements for affordable housing work together, and concerns about bonus height south of the Boulevard of the Allies west of Bates among other topics.

The group ran out of time to review slides focusing on specific areas where further discussion was needed to have a fully developed land use proposal, so these slides have been removed and will be part of a future discussion. There was also discussion about how new duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, and very small apartments/condos could be added to the neighborhood to meet the needs of long-term residents. This topic was beyond the scope of the meeting and will be addressed by future discussions as well. 

At their September meeting, the Oakland Plan Steering Committee received training from Department of City Planning staff about the Zoning Code, the structure of neighborhood plans, and the various ways neighborhood plans are implemented post-adoption. These topics were selected to help prepare the Steering Committee for the next stage in the planning process where they will work with staff to pull together the first draft of the Oakland Plan and review proposals for Zoning Code amendments that implement goals as identified through the planning process. City Planning’s Zoning Administrator, Corey Layman, was present to help explain how Zoning and Development Review implements the Zoning Code and the principles of land use regulations. Derek Dauphin presented more details about how the neighborhood plan will be structured, what items remain to be determined to help create implementable strategies in the plan, and how past plans have been implemented by a variety of actors from private development, to public agencies, to institutions.

Director of City Planning Andrew Dash was also in attendance to answer questions from Steering Committee members related to the Oakland Crossings proposal.

At their July meeting, the Steering Committee reviewed a presentation by Michael Baker and Clio Consulting who were hired by the City of Pittsburgh to conduct a Historic Architecture Inventory for Oakland in parallel with the planning process. This information was included at this point in the planning process as context for the land use proposals the Steering Committee has been considering. The consultant team reviewed their findings that showed a number of new smaller historic districts would likely be achievable through a formal application. They also reviewed the historic integrity of each subarea of Oakland and recommended a more thorough study be conducted of North Oakland’s many mid-century modern buildings, many of which are of apparent high quality and importance but with little details in the records. Committee members asked questions about how the research was conducted, how the creation of districts generally worked, why Coltart Avenue was not identified as a potential historic district, and some details about a related project the consulting team was involved with for Anderson Bridge. A report will be issued that has the full details of the study. Staff are investigating whether an interactive map of the properties inventoried can be made available. 

The Steering Committee was also briefed about the September block parties and how staff were soliciting input at this series of events that would come back to the Action Teams at their final meetings in October before the entire package would be reviewed by the Steering Committee at their meetings in November and December. 

At this meeting, City Planning’s consultants, Ninigret Partners and Goody Clancy, presented some draft concepts about how land use regulations could be modified to respond to many of the goals identified through the planning process. The Existing Conditions Report showed that Oakland generally underperforms most other innovation neighborhoods when it comes to providing a broad range of jobs for residents who don’t have graduate or post-graduate degrees. During the May workshops and open house, it was noted that the Fifth and Forbes Avenue Innovation District could be rezoned to incentivize the growth of the Life Sciences sector which creates jobs for residents who have lower levels of educational attainment including high school diplomas. The strategy proposed limits residential development where employment uses are sought, and established a height bonus for buildings that improve access to jobs or pay into a new Community Reinvestment Fund that could be used by programs that do so. Similarly, in parts of the neighborhood where residential development is sought, such as Central Oakland and the Boulevard of the Allies, a height bonus for affordable housing could allow buildings to grow taller only if they provide housing for those with lower incomes or pay into the Community Reinvestment Fund to allow others to do so. The fund could be managed locally by the community. More details of the strategy can be found in the presentation below. 

The Steering Committee didn’t meet this month. 

The May meeting of the Steering Committee was opened to the public as a virtual open house to wrap up a month’s worth of activities where staff and their consultant teams held in-person, socially distanced, walking tours and virtual workshops for two important sites in Oakland: Forbes Avenue and Semple Street; and Boulevard of the Allies and Zulema Street. These sites were chosen because they contain a combination of publicly owned property as well as property owned by UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh who are both interested in hearing from the community about how they should redevelopment their land in the future. These sites also allow the project team to get responses from the community on some proposals designed to respond to what we’ve heard so far about new development on the Fifth and Forbes Avenues Corridor and the Boulevard of the Allies Corridor, both of which have been heavily discussed during the planning process. These tours, workshops, and the open house could result in proposals in the plan as well as potential changes to land use regulations in the Zoning Code. 

The April meeting involved staff continuing the presentation of ideas that came out of the Action Team's review of issues and opportunities that started in March, this time focusing on the Community and Mobility Action Teams. Steering Committee members had a chance to read, discuss, and comment on the ideas as a large group. Staff captured their input during the meeting using the EngagePGH page. The next stage will be to dive into the details by conducting more research and outreach to better understand the subjects and develop implementable strategies. Staff are also working to identify linkages between proposals from different Action Teams and combine research and engagement efforts. This will mean that are months during the summer where Action Team meetings are replaced by other events such as the May tours and workshops focusing on two important sites in Oakland.  

The March meeting involved staff presenting the ideas that came out of the Infrastructure Action Team's review of issues and opportunities. Steering Committee members had a chance to read, discuss, and comment on the ideas as a large group. Staff captured their input during the meeting using the EngagePGH page. At the April Steering Committee meeting staff will present the ideas generated by the Community and Mobility Action Teams. The Action Teams are also reviewing these lists to make sure staff didn't miss anything. The next stage for all Action Teams will be to dive into the details by conducting more research and outreach to better understand the subjects and develop implementable strategies. Staff are also working to identify linkages between proposals from different Action Teams and combine research and engagement efforts. 

At the January 2021 Steering Committee meeting, staff used a workshop to help the Committee identify important goals for new development projects based on public input. These goals are considered interim because they will eventually be replaced by the adopted plan and Zoning Code provisions at the end of the planning process. After that meeting, staff used the input from the workshop to create a Draft Interim Development Goals Letter and shared it with the Committee. Committee members were given three weeks to review the language prior to the February meeting and provide any edits they saw fit. These proposed edits from Committee members were reviewed by the group using an EngagePGH workshop. Many changes were briefly explained, and members were able to vote for their preferences and have discussions. The resulting changes were included in a final draft of the document released shortly after the meeting and the Steering Committee was given the following week to review the final language and let staff know if they were comfortable signing on behalf the organization they represent.

The second half of the February 2021 meeting involved staff presenting the ideas that came out of the Development Action Team's first five meetings. Steering Committee members had a chance to read and comment on the ideas in breakout groups. Staff used the following questions to guide the discussion: "What's missing? What excites you? Do you have thoughts about how to develop an idea into a specific strategy with implementers and funding?" At meetings in March and April staff will present the ideas generated by the other three Action Teams. The Action Teams are also reviewing these lists to make sure staff didn't miss anything. The next stage for all Action Teams will be to dive into the details by conducting more research and outreach to better understand the subjects and develop implementable strategies.

Over the next year of the Oakland Plan process, the City will work with the Steering Committee and broader community to establish new land use regulations and tools that will improve future development. Between now and when those new regulations go into effect, development projects will continue to take place, and some members of the Steering Committee expressed the desire that guidance be created now to influence these projects. 

At the Steering Committee’s first meeting of 2021, staff led the group through an online workshop designed to identify shared goals for new development based on community input received through the planning process so far. 

This guidance will be organized into a letter from the Steering Committee that all members can use as they engage with developers. City Planning will also refer to this letter as it reviews projects. Finally, the document will be presented to the Planning Commission for their consideration as an interim product of the neighborhood planning process. The letter will not be formally adopted as policy or requirements. The plan and associated Zoning Code provisions will replace this guidance upon their adoption, which is expected in early 2022. 

The final Steering Committee meeting for 2020 was another work session focusing on draft goal language, this time for the Community and Mobility chapters of the plan. There was no formal presentation. Nearly the entire meeting was devoted to reviewing and improving the draft language. Steering Committee members have until January 20th, to continue to review draft language and provide additional comments. These comments will be incorporated and draft vision and goal statements will be presented to the rest of the community for feedback in early 2021.

Additionally, project staff from the Green Building Alliance and Office of Equity presented a brief update on the work over the last year to integrate an equity lens throughout the planning process. The elements of the equity work described include:

  • At the January 2020, staff led Steering Committee breakout discussions about how to strengthen how the planning process addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Staff summarized ideas from the Steering Committee discussions and asked the committee to identify the most important and urgent improvements to pursue. Staff have been working from this list since that time.
  • Staff developed a list of professional advocacy organizations that represent marginalized groups (e.g., race, gender, LGBTQ, accessibility, housing, immigrants/newcomers, etc.) and also solicited ideas for additional organizations from the Steering Committee.
  • Staff invited these advocacy organizations to participate in the Action Teams and many are now attending and contributing.
  • Josiah Gilliam from the Mayor’s Office of Equity joined the project team. Josiah plays an important role in the City’s equity work including managing the My Brother’s Keeper Program. Alyssa Lyons from the Green Building Alliance took on a new role with the Community Action Team and began to work with Josiah to establish an improved equity approach for the planning process.
  • This resulted in a program of equity workshops that started with staff over the summer that is now expanding to all Action Teams. Each Action Team will go through multiple workshops with the goal that proposals are designed to overcome inequities.
  • Staff are also organizing a group of advisors from Oakland and citywide advocacy organizations to inform this work.
  • Finally, a new page will be added to the project’s EngagePGH site to “show work” and track progress on equity goals.

The thirteenth Steering Committee meeting was a work session focusing on reviewing goal statements for Development and Infrastructure topics. A brief staff presentation covered what goal statements are, how they fit into the rest of the plan, and example statements from other plans and the Neighborhood Plan Guide. The committee then broke out into small groups to review and discuss initial goal statements drafted by staff based on past Steering Committee discussions, the online open house, the Existing Conditions report, and initial Action Team meetings. Steering Committee members recommended improvements that could be made to existing language, merging some statements, better organizing what’s there, and some gaps where goals need to be added. These draft goal statements will be updated based on this input and will continue to evolve and be improved over the rest of the planning process. At the next meeting, the Steering Committee will work on goals for Mobility and Community topics.

The twelfth Steering Committee meeting was a work session focusing on drafting the Oakland Plan’s shared vision for what Oakland will be like in 10 years if everything in the plan is achieved. A brief staff presentation covered how the vision statement fits into the rest of the plan, vision statements from recent City-led neighborhood plans, and what the vision statements from past plans in Oakland have said including the Oakland 2025 Plan. The committee then broke out into small groups to review the community input from the 2-month online open house, make some decisions about the size and nature of the vision statement, and then prioritize themes that the vision statement should cover consistent with public input and the perspectives of the organizations on the committee. Staff will piece together the themes from the discussions to craft a draft vision statement for the committee to review and confirm at a future meeting. 

Note: The online open house was extended an additional month through mid-October, so there was no Steering Committee meeting in September. 

The eleventh Steering Committee meeting focused on walking committee members through the engagement pages which incorporate their input from the previous meeting. Staff explained the organization of the content and the different types of engagement activities available. Committee members were shown how to set up accounts for Engage PGH and then given time to participate in them. A discussion followed about their experiences, how the site was working, and what kinds of feedback members had received from those they represent. The meeting ended with a review of the communications materials available to them to spread the word and additional support staff could as needed including attending meetings.

The online engagement activities will be live at and collecting input through September 20. 

The tenth Steering Committee meeting started with an update on work to integrate equity into the process and content of the Oakland Plan. The staff team is committed to an iterative process that integrates equity at the core of each Action Team. The process will start with Action Team staff writing initial equity statements to guide its work through the planning process. A series of workshops during the planning process will allow Action Team members from the community to shape the statement and ensure that the proposals in the plan are crafted in ways that overcome inequities. 

An updated Public Engagement Plan was reviewed with modifications due to COVID-19 and the move to online engagement. The Public Engagement Plan will be posted on this website and Engage Pittsburgh – the City’s new online engagement portal – the second week of August.  

The majority of this meeting was focused on the Steering Committee members having the opportunity to provide feedback and review content for online engagement before it launches on August 12. The Steering Committee viewed the main Oakland Plan engagement page which provides background on the project and includes an activity to seek input that shapes the plan’s vision statement. The Steering Committee then cycled through a series of breakout groups that allowed them to how each topic area was being presented and how the public would be able to provide input. As a reminder, the topic areas in City of Pittsburgh neighborhood plans are grouped into Development, Community, Mobility, and Infrastructure chapters, each developed by an Action Team.  

Over the next month, the Steering Committee members and their organizations will be promoting engagement opportunities and sharing with their neighbors ways to get involved. 

The ninth meeting of the Steering Committee began with a moment of reflection on the protests and events of the last month. The Oakland planning process centers on equity and sustainability, from the work to establish ways for everyone to feel safe and welcome through forthcoming virtual engagements to how each of the topics is framed. For example, the process will focus on Equitable Economic Development so that proposals for jobs and growth are a solution to the need to overcome institutional racism and purposeful disadvantage. This also includes work to develop new systems to assess the proposals in the plan and ensure every opportunity is taken to advance equity and sustainability. 


“This neighborhood planning process is an example of people willing to learn about others’ experiences and goals, and bringing their own expertise and passion into the project. This is a chance to have a positive impact on each other and create change for the community’s future.”  

-- Josiah Gilliam, My Brother’s Keeper Coordinator at the City of Pittsburgh 


To start people thinking about infrastructure in Oakland, including living infrastructure likes trees, Steering Committee members were asked to think about their favorite shade tree in Oakland as well as the places that are lacking trees and shade. The favorite trees in Oakland include those around the Carnegie Library, Carnegie Museums, near busy bus stops, and around Schenley Park. Areas the Steering Committee felt could use additional trees include along Forbes, Schenley Plaza, and making the business corridors less “concrete jungle” and more neighborhood streets.  

In discussing the infrastructure of Oakland, five areas were covered: the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan, tree canopy, open space, stormwater, and energy.  

  • Climate Action Plan – Sarah Yeager from the Department of City Planning presented the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan 3.0, written in 2018, and the goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For City operations, that means 100% renewable electricity and a 100% fossil-fuel-free fleet. For the City overall, that means a 50% reduction in energy and water use, a 50% reduction in transportation emissions, and reaching zero-waste. Climate impacts are also linked to the conversations around equity due to the impact different demographic groups face based on locations of housing and work.  

  • Tree Canopy – Matt Erb from Tree Pittsburgh presented data on the tree canopy in the City, referring to how much tree cover exists from the bird’s eye view. From 2010 to 2015, Pittsburgh had a 6% loss of tree canopy. In that timeframe, Oakland overall had a loss of 12.5% of the tree canopy. The impacts of this loss can be seen in the increased temperatures in areas with limited trees as well as stormwater runoff issues. The Infrastructure Action Team will look at areas in Oakland that need maintenance and those where additional trees can be planted.  

  • Open Space – Kara Smith from the Department of City Planning showed where open space in Oakland is concentrated around Schenley Park, university and institutional public spaces, greenways, and small parks. Due to the limited area covered by open space, many residents are underserved in access to it. The Infrastructure Action Team will look at where investment and development of open space can occur, as well as how natural spaces are and making each place a welcoming space for all.  

  • Stormwater – Ben Grunauer from the PWSA shared details on the stormwater systems in the City and water supply and usage. Much of Pittsburgh has Combined Sewer Overflow, meaning the sewer and stormwater systems are together, which can cause issues during storms when the pipes are overloaded. This can lead to surface and basement flooding, and contamination of the rivers. Oakland is part of four sewersheds, M29, A22, M19A, and M19B, which contribute 3.42 billion gallons of wet weather flow every year. The Infrastructure Action Team will look at stormwater management options, such as rain gardens, underground detention centers, bioswales, and pervious surfaces, that residents and developers can install to help. Water usage will also be evaluated, and institutions in Oakland are aligning with initiatives to use water more efficiently.  

  • Energy – Megan Zeigler from Green Building Alliance shared information on building electricity use and the 2030 Challenge. For many buildings, 40% of the electricity usage comes from the HVAC systems, which will likely see improvements due to COVID-19. The 2030 Challenge measures energy and water use, transportation, and indoor air quality in districts across the country. In Pittsburgh, 556 buildings have committed to the challenge, including many in Oakland. In 2018, energy in Oakland was 43% electric, 42% steam, 12% natural gas, and 3% chilled water.  

The meeting started with updates from City Planning staff on engaging the broader community and the previous month’s homework assignment. The City is establishing a citywide online engagement site that the Oakland Plan process will use to engage the broader community and begin the work of the Action Teams. The homework from April’s meeting included three questions: how the planning process should respond to telelearning and telemedicine changes due to COVID-19, what additions to the neighborhood could make it a better place for all, and what were members’ first experiences traveling into Oakland. Responses can be found summarized in the presentation file below.  

The remainder of the meeting focused on transportation in Oakland, with presentations from the City’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Oakland Transportation Management Association (OTMA), BikePGH, and Oakland for All. Key pieces of data presented and discussed included:  

  • Bus ridership is high in Oakland, and almost two dozen routes touch the Oakland neighborhood. The most used stop being Fifth Ave & Atwood St with over 4,000 trips beginning or ending there every weekday.  

  • Port Authority bus routes combined with the university and medical shuttles provide significant connectivity, but also offer efficiency opportunities.  

  • Out of the 275 crashes in Oakland in 2018, 233 were vehicle-vehicle or solo-vehicle (meaning a person hit an inanimate object) crashes, 37 were vehicle-pedestrian crashes, 2 vehicle-bike crashes, 3 bus-vehicle crashes, and 1 bus-pedestrian crash. 

  • Parking is a large issue in Oakland, which has 6,500 off-street spaces with public access and almost 10,000 leased spaces for UPMC and University of Pittsburgh staff in Central Oakland.  

  • Pedestrian commute rates are higher than bike commute rates in Oakland. Challenges for both include wide streets with fast traffic, narrow sidewalks, and steep grades. 

  • OTMA provided an overview of the services they provide, which are designed to help employers, institutions, and developers identify opportunities to reduce the demand for single-occupancy vehicle trips, particularly during peak travel times, for employees, residents, students, and visitors. 

  • Oakland for All has been working with businesses in Oakland since 2013 making businesses more accessible to all, reviewing mobility and planning projects in the area, and identifying challenge areas to improve in the neighborhood.  

Steering Committee members raised questions about how transportation improvements can help to keep students engaged in the neighborhood and stay after graduation; how work from home policies from companies in the Oakland area will impact commutes post-pandemic; how funding for the Bus Rapid Transit is being impacted by COVID-19; and how autonomous vehicles will be impacted by the plan. Each of these topics will be considered in the plan and will consider how COVID-19 will affect transportation to the extent feasible and appropriate. 

The seventh meeting of the Oakland Steering Committee focused on the topic of housing. The meeting started with the representative from OPDC presenting the results of the homework assignment where Committee members could send her areas of Oakland they were less familiar with and she would provide some history and context. The Committee greatly enjoyed the assignment and was very thankful for the research. The Department of City Planning then presented existing conditions data that shows there are real limits to how much Oakland can continue to grow as an employment district and as a residential neighborhood without careful consideration of housing. Housing is a key part of making sure that everyone benefits from the opportunities created by Oakland’s unique convergence of healthcare, education, cultural institutions, and businesses. Key takeaways include:  

  • 106,800 students, employees, and other visitors come into Oakland on the average weekday. These people could be living in Oakland, but only 19,964 people do and 67% are undergraduate aged and will leave Oakland when they graduate if not before. 

  • One of the biggest issues is that there is almost no available housing. Less than 0.3% of Oakland’s housing units were available for rent in the fall of 2019. Central Oakland has 3,000 bedrooms and thousands of new units were added in the last decade in new buildings on Fifth and Forbes Avenues, but the demand is far greater than the supply.  

  • This drives up rents and sales prices and leads to the loss of long-time residents. The share of residents who are Black or African-American is going down in all areas of Oakland. 

  • In the month of November 2019, there was no housing available to those earning 30% Area Median Income (AMI) or less, and only a handful of units for those making between 50% and 80% AMI - the levels of affordability targeted by the City in the Affordable Housing Task Force Report. 

  • The housing shortage also means there is little incentive for landlords to invest in properties because they will be rented regardless of condition. The Tax Assessor’s data shows 86% of the housing stock is in average to fair condition, meaning that substantial investments would be needed to attract non-student tenants. 

  • The large numbers of condo buildings in North Oakland allow for high density and high levels of owner-occupied homes. Condos are already an important part of Oakland’s housing mix and may offer a way to provide more housing in other parts of the neighborhood for longer-term residents. These larger buildings could include affordable units. 

Monique Pierre from the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) shared the work they are doing to create attractive housing throughout the city. Their newest projects have won awards for design and include retail and other community-serving amenities. South Oakland is home to HACP’s Finello Pavilion, and they are interested in supporting the development of new, well-designed buildings with affordable units in Oakland. Their Section 8 program also to provides rental assistance for those living in private homes. In the discussion between Committee members and Ms. Pierre, she noted that she sees great potential for innovative mixed-income developments in Oakland similar to what she’s observed in other US cities. The HACP wants to engage in the neighborhood planning process and help to develop solutions with the community. 

Mary Beth McGrew from the University of Pittsburgh shared the university’s framework for community investment and discussed the university’s interests in housing. The University is an anchor institution and recognizes that its future is based on the health and success of Oakland. With 15,295 employees, 79% of those being full-time, the university pulls a significant amount of people to the neighborhood every day. Of those employees only 303 live in Oakland, but 5,200 live within 10 minutes of campus. The University wants to see more of its employees live in Oakland, and is interested in supporting the provision of housing and amenities like grocery stores that residents need. They showed a University-owned development site near Zulema Park that they would like to include in the planning process. They hope to include affordable housing and potentially a grocery store on this site if that’s what the community desires. 

Annemarie Malbon from the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation gave the Steering Committee a look into what the organization is doing in the neighborhood to improve housing options and quality. Oakland has seen a loss in homeownership and an increase in housing rentals as investor pressure increases. OPDC currently manages 100 apartments in Oakland to provide affordable housing to tenants on a fixed income or who receive subsidies. Their Community Land Trust is well established and has been successful at providing single-family homes for sale at prices lower than the market would provide. The organization is looking to increase the number of units they can offer, particularly in the areas of West Oakland, Oakcliffe, Coltart Ave., Oakland Square, and South Oakland. 

The Department of City Planning is committed to maintaining equitable public engagement through planning processes while staying in line with the social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home order for Allegheny County. For those reasons, the sixth meeting of the Steering Committee was held over a video conference call. Committee members were able to engage in a conversation about data and lived experiences in Oakland and continue their work on the Oakland Plan.  

Following the February meeting which focused on the experiences of residents and students and related census data, this month’s meeting looked at Oakland as a regional employment center, based largely around educational and medical institutions and related businesses. Representatives from Carlow University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University shared information about their faculty, staff, and students including the diverse and international nature of these campus communities and the related programs to support and enhance diversity and inclusion. InnovatePGH presented information about the role of institutions in generating startups and new businesses that have been growing the regional economy and the need for supportive programs to ensure the same mistakes made in other Innovation Districts don’t happen here. Discussion between Steering Committee members highlighted that placemaking and improving the residential areas of the neighborhood are important both for existing residents and the continued growth of employment areas. 

Existing conditions data was presented by City Planning about jobs in Oakland, from the demographics of who works in Oakland to the types of jobs the neighborhood offers. Educational and medical fields generally have higher levels of diversity than fields like finance and business management, and up to 70% of the workers in healthcare are female. As a result, Oakland’s workforce is more diverse than other areas of the city, but jobs require a very high level of education. The lack of available office space makes it hard for larger companies to move to Oakland and its these companies that typically provide jobs that require less education and provide a ladder of opportunity. Another issue raised by the jobs data is that the lack of affordable housing in Oakland means the lowest-paid workers are traveling the furthest for their jobs. Steering Committee members proposed that a future meeting looks at the link between housing cost and availability and employment opportunities in Oakland. 

Following the January steering committee discussion about inclusion and equity, this meeting began with the Department of City Planning and the Office of Equity sharing what they heard from committee members and how those concerns will be addressed in the planning process. The City of Pittsburgh departments are developing a Racial Equity Toolkit to lay out the ways equity will be measured in all plans, policies, procedures, and hiring. In this planning process, the Office of Equity will also be conducting periodic equity assessments to ensure that the process is inclusive of all. Staff from the Office of Equity will be joining the project team to support the inclusion of equity into all planning discussions. The City staff on the project heard the desire for more time for committee members to talk to each other and share their stories, and future meetings will be less structured and provide more opportunity for those moments.

Data about the population of Oakland was presented at this meeting. The data slides can be found in the presentation below. Highlights include:

  • Oakland has 19,964 residents and 48,635 employees.
  • The number of Black residents has been declining across all of Oakland.
  • Approximately 12% of Oakland residents are Asian, and almost 20% of North Oakland residents are Asian.
  • 67% of Oakland residents are between the ages of 18-24 years old, and at least half of the residents in each subarea are student-aged.
  • The workforce of Oakland is predominately female and the most diverse workforce compared to other neighborhoods in the city. However, the share of employees who are black is less in Oakland than the rest of the city.
  • 106,800 people come into Oakland on a daily basis as residents, students, employees, or visitors.

The residents and students on the Steering Committee were invited to share their stories of Oakland with the other members. Residents shared stories of raising families and growing up in the neighborhood, finding a community that was welcoming and supportive, and facing challenges of rising rents, decreasing population, and lack of public transportation. Students voiced the collective interest of students wanting to be a part of the neighborhood but feeling excluded, concerns about the poor quality and high cost of housing, and the diverse communities and background the students bring to the Oakland community.

The fourth meeting of the Steering Committee started with a staff presentation of the draft Public Engagement Plan (PEP) for the planning process created based on input from the Steering Committee. At their November and December meetings, the Steering Committee developed recommendations on goals for engagement, what kinds of engagement techniques work best for Oakland, and how they can be structured to engage groups identified in the Public Engagement Plan as “hard to reach” and therefore often underrepresented in planning discussions. At the December meeting, the project team also committed to setting targets for inclusion for all engagement activities, and working with the City’s Office of Equity on periodic Equity Assessments during the planning process to ensure the proposals overcome inequities. In assessing whether the Committee was comfortable with staff using the PEP and moving on to other topics, some of the Committee members again raised concerns related to inclusion. Additional members of the Committee felt that this issue needed further discussion.

Instead of reviewing past plans and discussing challenges the Committee members see Oakland facing in the decade ahead, the Committee discussed their perceptions of problems related to inclusion on the Steering Committee, the project team, and how this relates to the Action Teams and other forms of broader community engagement. One desire expressed was for more space for conversations with each other to learn about their lives, their experiences, and their perspectives. Hearing the needs and experiences of each other helps to provide a more thorough understanding of the neighborhood and how to best help all stakeholders. The Steering Committee also asked to see and understand data about the demographics of those who live, work, and study in Oakland. Institutions and businesses in the neighborhood have committed to sharing their information, and the City staff on the project have committed to providing data on residents of Oakland. The project team will develop new agendas for upcoming Committee meetings that are responsive to these requests.

Please note: The presentation file includes slides project team intended to present even though these were not covered. These are noted in the slide set.

The third meeting of the Steering Committee returned to the discussion of public engagement and provided insight that will be used to draft the Public Engagement Plan for the Oakland Plan process.

The first half of the meeting reviewed each section of the Public Engagement Plan and content created by the Steering Committee through activities at the previous meeting. This included goals for public engagement, how Steering Committee members would engage the groups they represent, and how they will communicate out about events. The second half of the meeting allowed the Steering Committee to get specific about applying an equity lens to engagement. Members worked in small groups to design activities with the goal of involving traditionally hard-to-reach groups as defined by the Public Engagement Guide (e.g., racial minorities, those with nonconforming gender, children and the elderly, etc.). Steering Committee groups worked on how to engage children under 18 years of age in discussions about development, how to engage those with mobility challenges in transportation planning, engaging the African-American community in Oakland and the rest of the city in public art and cultural programming, and engaging low income residents in stormwater management work. Their ideas for engagement activities included “walkshops”, meetings-in-a-box, attending afterschool programs, and creating small conversation opportunities.

The meeting ended with City Planning staff presenting the department’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through the planning process. In all planning activities, City Planning strives for inclusive planning that demonstrates fair representation of citizens and allows them to provide meaningful and educated input. One way this will be visible is by establishing a baseline of data about what kinds of people make up Oakland today on the project website, and then using surveys in all engagement activities to see if these groups are involved in the process. Where there are gaps, staff and the Steering Committee will work harder to engage those groups moving forward. City Planning will also be working with the City of Pittsburgh Office of Equity to establish a program of equity assessments starting with the Oakland Plan that will allow someone external to the department to review and make recommendations for improvement at multiple points throughout the planning process.

The Public Engagement Plan is co-created by the Steering Committee and project staff based on recommendations in the Public Engagement Guide – a standard that City Planning uses to create Public Engagement Plans for specific projects like neighborhood plans and parks plans. The Public Engagement Plan will have three parts: project overview, explanation of the engagement process, and accountability and evaluation. The result is a clear strategy that anyone can use to understand how and when to be involved in the planning process as well as the role of each Steering Committee member organization. The Public Engagement Plan is considered a “living document” as it will be evaluated and improved throughout the planning process to ensure that best efforts are being made and working.

The Steering Committee began planning for public engagement at its second meeting. To achieve this, committee members worked in small groups on a series of activities to develop goals for public engagement and desired tools to use consistent with the City’s Public Engagement Guide. These activities asked groups to choose cards with words on them that each member associates with good public engagement, organize the chosen cards into categories picking only five words, and then add verbs to the five chosen words to begin creating goal statements (e.g., “build” and “community”). Once each table created up to five goal statements, the groups paired engagement tools with the phrases. The resulting goals included: ensure transparency, foster diversity, create opportunity, build relationships, and promote collaboration.

After the first meeting, Steering Committee members were asked to think about how they will communicate the committee’s work to the groups they represent. That preparation led into the assignment given after the second meeting, to look at a draft communications plan for Oakland and determine how committee members can use their existing communication channels to share information and how their organization best receives information.

Discussions at the end of the meeting focused on resident’s representation on the committee and how diversity is being addressed through the planning process. Approximately 40% of the Steering Committee member organizations are neighborhood associations or resident-serving, and additionally many of the other groups are represented by residents (e.g., faculty and students). On diversity, the discussion covered the different kinds of diversity that are and are not represented on the 35-member committee and how this can be improved moving forward. The project team will continue to work on both matters over the course of the planning process, particularly through the Action Teams where all are welcome to work to develop proposals, and through public engagement efforts.

This meeting provided an introduction of committee members to the City Planning team, the other committee members, the neighborhood planning process, and the expected timeline of the committee’s work. Committee members shared their reasons for involvement, from highlighting the intergenerational collaboration and opportunities in the neighborhood to wanting, to be a part of the change of the greater community.  

The City recently published two documents that will influence the Oakland Plan process: the Public Engagement Guide, which is open for public comment through November 10, and the Neighborhood Plan Guide, which will be open for public comment from November 12 through December 12. Based on the guidance of these documents, the Oakland Plan will take a co-creation approach to planning that will flow from the Steering Committee to Action Teams to those implementing the plan. The first step in that will be to establish a Public Engagement Plan for the Oakland Plan through the remainder of 2019. In early 2020, the committee will create a shared vision for Oakland and set goals for action teams, who will begin work on policies, programs, partnerships and targets throughout 2020. All of that work will lead to the creation of a draft plan by the Steering Committee, in a process that will take approximately two years.

The final portion of the evening focused on the responsibilities of committee members, including reporting to and engaging with their constituencies, and how to engage with Steering Committee meetings to ensure that all voices are heard and valued.