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.

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