Oakland Wants to Make Space for Fourplexes

The city of Oakland in the East Bay Area is a hotbed of planning and development issues, most notably gentrification and the displacement of communities of color. Now the city is considering a drastic change to its zoning code.

2 minute read

March 18, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Oakland California Road

UncleVinny / Wikimedia Commons

"The Oakland City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to look into allowing four-unit apartment buildings to be built across the city, including in neighborhoods that currently only allow single-family homes," reports Natalie Orenstein.

The action by the Oakland City Council follows shortly after a similar decision by neighboring city of Berkeley, the latter of which has the distinction of being the first U.S. city to implement single-family zoning. A Berkeley City Council vote in February 2021 sets the city on a course to eventually eliminate single-family zoning throughout the city.

In Oakland's case, the vote means city planners will be tasked with studying the implications of changing the city's zoning laws, as well as proposing ideas for preventing displacement caused by any potential changes.

According to Orenstein, Oakland is a little bit of an outlier when it comes to the connections between land use regulation and demographics. "UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging institute recently found that Bay Area cities with higher proportions of their neighborhoods zoned for single-family houses still tend to be disproportionately white and less diverse than the Bay Area as a whole," explains Orenstein. "But in Oakland, many low-income neighborhoods with mostly residents of color are also zoned for single-family homes only."

The ordinance approved by the City Council this week asks planners to focus the development of four-plexes in "high-resource" areas, "typically wealthier neighborhoods with amenities that can be inaccessible to poorer residents."

More details on the political debate that surrounded the vote, as well as the specific context informing the debate, are included in the source article.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 in Oaklandside

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

Purple jacaranda trees in bloom in Los Angeles with tall white Art Deco buildings in background.

LA County Releases Draft Community Forest Management Plan

LA County's Chief Sustainability Office just released the discussion draft of Room to Grow, the first Community Forest Management Plan for the county.

April 21 - Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office

Aerial view of downtown Seattle, Washington at dusk.

Seattle Downtown Plan Expands Permitted Uses

The Downtown Activation Plan shifts from Euclidean to form-based zoning to encourage more commercial development.

April 21 - Governing

Large water pipe with brown water pouring out into dirt ditch.

Southern Water Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Impacts

A water main breaks somewhere in the United States every two minutes, according to an estimate from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

April 21 - The Conversation

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.