A wide shot looking down at homes in a residential neighborhood stretching on for many blocks with flowers and a telephone pole in the foreground.
A view of the East Oakland flatlands on June 14, 2023. Credit: Florence Middleton

The city of Oakland is inviting residents to share their thoughts on how to improve housing, community safety, and economic opportunity—three areas that city officials have identified as priorities.

Mayor Sheng Thao’s administration released an online survey on Monday, meant to give community members the chance to weigh in on these topics. The responses will be used to help City Hall, local organizations, and philanthropic institutions identify new strategies to address challenges like homelessness, affordable housing, policing, reentry for formerly incarcerated people, and supporting small businesses. Residents can fill out the survey by clicking here.

The questionnaire, which is also available in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese, consists of 22 questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous, and those who fill out the survey can choose to skip questions they may not feel comfortable answering. The city plans to close the survey in mid-September.

The mayor’s chief of staff, Leigh Hanson, said the city is putting a special focus on collecting responses from community members who are often harder to reach or don’t have a voice in policy discussions, including youth, people whose native language is not English, and residents who cannot vote because of their immigration status.

“We acknowledge that there are people in our community who are most affected by public policy but haven’t had their voices heard,” Hanson said. “Part of what our administration wants to do is co-create policy decisions with the community, open the doors to City Hall, and get the public informed and involved.”

Following the community input phase, Thao said in a statement, the city will work on “a concrete, solution-focused, action plan that all of us can implement together.” The mayor will then present the plan during her first “state of the city” speech, which the City Council will schedule soon, according to Hanson.

“We want to build an agenda for and with residents that will raise the bar for city government,” added Thao in her statement. 

The survey is part of the Talking Transition initiative, which Thao announced in late June at the inaugural Interfaith in the Park event in deep East Oakland. As part of the initiative, the city is partnering with nonprofit youth development programs to employ Oakland residents ages 16 through 24 as data fellows, who will gather insights and help spread the word in underrepresented communities.

Overall, the effort seeks to promote civic engagement, bolster connections between community leaders and city officials, and provide new pathways for Oakland youth to get involved in local government.

Community members can also have their voices heard by participating in upcoming Town Talks public events, where they can meet city leaders, learn more about how local government works, and share ideas for solutions. Upcoming events will take place on Sept. 9, 16, and 23, with specific times and locations to be posted as the dates get closer.

Hanson said the city aims to make these meetings accessible and digestible to young Oakland residents.

“Since Oaklanders under 18 can’t vote, we want to make sure we can create a space to hear and center their ideas during these events,” she said.

Talking Transition is a joint effort among community leaders, Thao, City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, and City Administrator Jestin Johnson through support from local philanthropy.

The city is encouraging anyone with ideas on how to connect more Oakland residents to Talking Transition to email talkingtransitionoakland@gmail.com.

Roselyn Romero covers small businesses for The Oaklandside as a 2023-24 Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellow. Previously, she was an investigative intern at NBC Bay Area and the inaugural intern for the global investigations team of The Associated Press through a partnership with the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. Roselyn graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2022 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and minors in Spanish, ethnic studies, and women's and gender studies. She is a proud daughter of Filipino immigrants and was born and raised in Oxnard, California.