Know a possible location for new housing? Use an interactive map to suggest it to the city, and see what the limitations and opportunities are for that site. Credit: City of Oakland/Maptionnaire

Do you walk by a rundown, empty lot every day on your way to work? Do you know of a big, underused building that could be turned into housing? 

Access the map of housing locations

The city of Oakland is writing its next big housing plan and is seeking input on places where homes could be built over the next eight years. This includes all housing built by for-profit and nonprofit developers, private homeowners, and public agencies.

The state is requiring that Oakland plan for 26,000 new units—apartments, houses, and cottages, with homes affordable for a variety of income levels and equitably distributed throughout the city. That’s around double the number required in the last plan, called the Housing Element.

The city has created a new interactive map displaying the initial sites under consideration for the Housing Element. Members of the public can suggest additional locations on the map for planners to explore. 

Once you’re in the map, click the diamond in the top right corner to display various layers—clicking to see, for example, where current housing projects are planned, or where the rising sea level could threaten development. Some of the options reveal stark disparities; the map shows that only two small neighborhoods in Oakland are considered “diverse,” according to the Urban Displacement Project’s analysis. 

Community members can drop a “pin” on the map to identify sites the city should check out, and can include an explanation.

As city planners hone in on the list of sites, they’ll keep in mind state requirements as well as environmental constraints, said Alison Moore, from consulting firm Dyett & Bhatia, which is helping the city with the new Housing Element and General Plan updates.

“Considering equity is one of the most important parts of determining where housing will go. It’s also a legal requirement,” said Moore at an online Housing Element workshop Thursday evening, which drew about 100 attendees. New state laws require cities to distribute their proposed housing sites in a manner that “overcomes patterns of segregation and fosters inclusive communities,” Moore said. 

Access to transportation, lot size, wildfire risk, and previously approved projects are among other factors and challenges that will be taken into account. 

The state-required Housing Element is a significant piece of the city’s General Plan, which is undergoing an update for the first time in 20 years. 

In addition to the inventory of possible development sites, the Housing Element will include policies and programs meant to ensure that Oakland’s diverse residents have access to stable housing. In the state-mandated site inventory, the city must demonstrate that it’s capable of meeting its Regional Housing Needs Allocation, or RHNA, which spells out how many units the city must plan for, and at what affordability level. 

The inventory doesn’t typically include specific housing projects, but instead is supposed to show that Oakland has enough space and city policies are optimized to support potential developments that will bring the city closer to its RHNA goals. If it can’t find enough locations, the Housing Element must describe how Oakland plans to change its zoning code and other policies to make room for more housing.

Last RHNA cycle, Oakland met the overall development goal, but the vast majority of the units built had market-rate rents, making them unaffordable for large swaths of the population. The city fell far short of the targets for low- and moderate-income housing. 

The new Housing Element will include an analysis of the successes and failures of the previous plan. 

The housing inventory map went live today and will be available until March 7. At the workshop, city staff said the feature would be available for a shorter time period, 10 days, and several attendees questioned whether that was enough time to seek sufficient public input. 

City planners said future community workshops on the Housing Element will cover other topics, including programs and policies for creating “inclusive neighborhoods,” preserving affordable housing, preventing displacement, protecting tenants and, eventually, reviewing the draft plan. The dates have not been announced yet, but all community events and public meetings are listed on the city’s General Plan update page.

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.