A person standing in a government building in front of a panel of people.
A member of the public addresses the Oakland Planning Commission. Credit: Natalie Orenstein

Oakland has 37 boards and commissions that create a system of checks and balances ensuring city funds are properly spent, holding elected officials accountable, and helping create policy. But while these resident-run panels are crucial to ensuring we have an efficient and effective local government, they don’t always have the volunteer power they need to get the job done. Right now, nearly 33 boards have openings for Oaklanders to get involved. 

Some of Oakland’s boards carry out high-profile and high-stakes functions, like enforcing the city’s ethics and government transparency rules to providing oversight of the police department. Others are more advisory in nature, like the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Community Advisory Board.

Each board has different requirements for who can serve but generally, you need to be an Oakland resident. Most meet monthly, and terms for commissioners and board members all vary, as does the amount of work commissioners are expected to do. Most positions are appointed by the mayor and some of them require City Council approval also. 

Below is a list of the boards and commissions that have vacancies along with information on the role they play in Oakland. The list is not exhaustive, but rather a snapshot of just a few of the numerous commissions that need volunteers. We encourage you to check out Oakland’s Boards and Commissions website for more information.

Children’s Fund Planning and Oversight Committee

  • Vacancies: 17 of 17 seats
  • Terms expired: 0
  • Term length: 1 year

The Oakland Fund for Children and Youth was established in 1996. It funds services aimed at helping youth succeed in school, supporting healthy development, and preventing and reducing violence and gang involvement among youth. The oversight committee ensures that the fund is allocated exclusively to support youth programs.

The committee is made up of 17 people, eight of whom must be under the age of 21.

Affordable Housing and Infrastructure Bond Public Oversight Committee

  • Vacancies: 2 of 9 seats
  • Terms Ending soon: 5
  • Term Length: Varies

This oversight committee reviews financial and operational reports related to city infrastructure spending that’s been authorized under voter-approved bond measures and through the city budget. The committee reports to the City Council and evaluates whether Oakland is effectively building affordable housing, preventing displacement, and achieving social equity goals. 

The committee has nine members appointed by the mayor. The city is required to make sure some members are from low-income communities of color while others have experience in financial management, fiscal audits, environmental justice, infrastructure improvement, capital planning, and affordable housing. 

Budget Advisory Commission

  • Vacancies: 8 of 15 seats
  • Terms ending soon: 2
  • Term length: 3 years

The budget advisory commission studies the city’s finances and advises the City Council on how to spend Oakland’s budget. It’s especially busy during years when the mayor and council are negotiating the city’s two-year spending plan.

The commission has 15 members who meet monthly. 

Cannabis Regulatory Commission

  • Vacancies: 7 of 11 seats
  • Terms ending soon: 0
  • Term length: 2 years

This commission helps oversee one of Oakland’s most important economic sectors: cannabis growing, manufacturing, transportation, and sales. The commission helps determine how cannabis businesses are licensed and regulated and advises the City Council on policy matters related to the industry, including measures to ensure Oakland’s cannabis economy provides equitable benefits to all communities, particularly those harmed by the drug war.

Each City Council member appoints a community member.

Commission on Homelessness

  • Vacancies: 1 of 9 seats
  • Terms ending soon: 2
  • Term length: 3 years 

In 2018, Oakland voters passed Measure W, the Vacant Property Tax, which funds homeless services and illegal dumping cleanup. And in 2020, Oakland voters approved Measure Q, a parcel tax to pay for park maintenance, homeless services, and improvements to water quality and trash collection services. 

The Commission on Homelessness oversees the city’s use of revenue generated by Measure W and Measure Q. It also makes policy recommendations to the City Council on strategies to remedy homelessness. 

The commission consists of nine members, no less than half of whom must be residents of heavily impacted neighborhoods. Additionally, two members must be currently or formerly unhoused or low-income, and three must have expertise in homeless services or housing. One member must have financial expertise. 

Public Art Advisory Committee

  • Vacancies: 4 of 9 seats
  • Terms ending soon: 1
  • Term length: 3 years

In 1989, the city of Oakland adopted a Public Art Ordinance that raised money for the installation of sculptures, murals, and other artwork around the city. 

The Public Art Advisory Committee advises the city administrator, mayor, and City Council on all matters relating to public art in Oakland and works with staff to develop program policies and approve projects. 

The Committee is made up of nine members who are appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council. 

Planning Commission

  • Vacancies: 1 of 7 seats
  • Terms expired: 0
  • Term length: 3 years

The planning commission supports the growth of Oakland by reviewing development and preservation plans and advises the City Council on land use and environmental concerns. It holds public hearings to get resident feedback on developer’s plans, and it has the power to approve or reject specific projects depending on whether or not they comply with Oakland’s zoning and other rules. The commission also holds hearings to consider appeals against development projects.

Privacy Advisory Commission

  • Vacancies: 1 of 9 seats
  • Terms expired: 0
  • Term length: 3 years

The Privacy Advisory Commission provides advice and technical assistance on how to protect Oaklanders’ privacy as it relates to the City’s use of surveillance equipment and other technology that stores our data. The commission also provides analysis to the City Council on pending legislation relevant to the city’s purchase and/or use of surveillance technology and data storage.

Commission on Persons with Disabilities

  • Vacancies: 3 of 11 seats
  • Terms ending soon: 1
  • Term length: 3 years

The Commission on Persons with Disabilities, established in 1980, represents the concerns of the disability community and helps set policies that integrate people with disabilities into all aspects of life in the community. The majority of the group’s members should be persons within the disabled community.

Ayla Burnett is a narrative writer and investigative reporter covering climate science, food and environmental justice in the Bay Area. She received her masters from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism in May 2023, and was a UC Berkeley food justice reporting fellow at The Oaklandside/Nosh in the summer of 2023. Her stories have also been published in Berkeleyside, the Point Reyes Light, and more.