General Plan Update Guiding Principles

These initial principles will help guide the kick-off and development of Oakland’s General Plan Update. This is the first step in working out a shared vision with all Oaklanders that will serve as a foundation for the General Plan.

Equity and Environmental Justice

A central guiding principle of the General Plan Update is to advance the City of Oakland’s codified mission to ”intentionally integrate, on a Citywide basis, the principle of 'fair and just' in all the City does in order to achieve equitable opportunities for all people and communities.” This means working to eliminate the root causes of inequity, resulting in more effective and equitable City policies, processes, and services. This principle will guide all policy, engagement, strategy, and management decisions.


The General Plan Update offers an opportunity to build trust with the community by creating a transparent, easy-to-understand, accessible, and meaningful public engagement process. It will be important to:

  • have readily available and easy to understand information about the process;
  • communicate clearly both what the General Plan can do and its limitations;
  • educate the public about legislation and regulations that restrict local decision-making;
  • clearly articulate trade-offs in policy alternatives;
  • have the engagement process directly feed into decision-making;
  • enable members of the public to see how their input was considered.

Relevance and Clarity

General Plans – and planning in general – can be esoteric, abstract, and inaccessible to many folks, and many stakeholders might assume that the General Plan will have little impact on the lives of everyday Oaklanders.

The engagement process will therefore aim to show community members the possible relevance of the General Plan; use simple language; avoid jargon; demonstrate that policies and actions translate into physical and community benefits; and include interactive outreach practices that highlight how different approaches to the same policy impact participants differently.

Focused Planning Process

The California Office of Planning and Research (OPR) describes a General Plan as a vision about how a community will grow, reflecting community priorities and values while shaping the future."

Thus, a General Plan is a high-level policy document that reflects multiple priorities and is relevant to all areas of municipal regulation. Given this wide-ranging content, it may, therefore, be tempting to try to cover every issue facing the City in the General Plan Update.

It will be important to have a focused planning process that establishes levels of focus within the General Plan that specify both the types of issues to be covered and the level of detail for the document. The opportunity to address the broader range of issues for General Plan alignment will exist through subsequent Specific Plan adoptions, Capital Programs, and Budget Adoptions.

Flexible and Adaptable Process

The General Plan Update needs to proceed under the assumption that even a well-organized General Plan will need to evolve to keep up with current conditions. A comprehensive plan with a 20-year horizon, developed for a dynamic city like Oakland with regional influence, must have the ability to adapt to changing conditions.

The principle of adaptability must guide the General Plan Update. Social, natural, physical, and legal conditions will continually change, altering the context in which a General Plan must respond.

Strategic Thinking

The General Plan Update will achieve the highest quality and proceed most efficiently if the planning process is considered from a strategic perspective. The City should initiate the process with a carefully crafted scope of work and approach that recognizes how the various contributors to the process can best participate and how best to utilize finite resources.

The General Plan Update process should enable data-driven decisions about programs and policies to address inequities and ensure that people have equitable access to opportunities and services. Reliable metrics can then guide ongoing planning for and with the people of Oakland and make responsive adjustments to the process and the General Plan itself.

Interdepartmental Coordination

Interdepartmental coordination should be a guiding principle for the General Plan Update to increase success in implementing new policies and efficient provision of public services.

The General Plan Update process should advance an effective level of coordination and participation by:

  • Creating a Technical Advisory Committee that would meet approximately once per month to track and discuss the General Plan Update progress.
  • Engaging City departments to generate policies and a work program that will guide their work, so they can generate a work program that will guide their work and benefit as active participants in the Update process.

Inter-Agency Coordination

The work of many government entities outside of the City of Oakland directly affects the issues that confront the City as it updates its General Plan. Those entities, including the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), AC Transit, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA), East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD), Port of Oakland, East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD), Alameda County, neighboring jurisdictions (Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont, Alameda, San Leandro as well as unincorporated Alameda and Contra Costa Counties; the two other large cities in the region: San Jose and San Francisco), US Environmental Protection Agency, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

While these agencies are not under City jurisdiction, they have critical impacts on Oakland’s communities and City operations and, therefore, are valuable partners in the General Plan Update process.

Important Role of Community Based Organizations

The Oakland community has a rich history of activism around inequity and social justice, led by many Oakland-based Community Based Organizations (CBOs). CBOs will play an important role in the General Plan Update process, helping bolster civic engagement of all Oaklanders, with particular attention towards typically unrepresented populations.

Youth Engagement

The 20-year horizon for the General Plan means that today’s teenagers will be in their thirties at the close of the General Plan planning horizon. Children, teens, and young adults are already important parts of the community. Therefore, it is important to have youth involved in the planning process to create a General Plan that reflects the emerging generation's needs and viewpoints.