Equity and Environmental Justice
A central guiding principle of the General Plan Update is to advance the City’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” (Oakland Municipal Code 188.8.131.52). This means working to eliminate the root causes of inequity, including communities in understanding their barriers and strengths, and working with these communities in developing solutions for long-term and systemic changes.
The Oakland 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 their lives.
The engagement process will therefore need to use simple language, avoid jargon, articulate how policies and actions can translate into physical and community benefits, and include interactive engagement practices.
Focused Planning Process
A General Plan is meant to be a high-level policy document and is not meant to cover every issue facing the City. It will be important to have a focused planning process that specifies both the types of issues to be covered and the level of detail for the document to ensure that Oakland’s General Plan fulfills its role as a guiding policy document.
The General Plan Update process will need to proceed within the reality of finite resources and statutory deadlines while ensuring that the process engages and reflects community priorities and values.
Flexible and Adaptable Process
The General Plan Update needs to proceed under the assumption that the General Plan will need to evolve to keep up with current conditions. The General Plan Update must be guided by the understanding that natural, physical and legal conditions will continually undergo changes, large and small, that will affect the update process and ultimately, the implementation of the General Plan document itself.
Strategic and Long-Range Thinking
The General Plan update process itself should enable data-driven decisions about programs and policies to address community needs and racial disparities. Reliable metrics can then be used to guide ongoing planning for and with the people of Oakland.
The General Plan Update should be shaped by, respond to the needs of, and ultimately serve as a roadmap for service coordination and provision among multiple City departments. Coordination of programs and policies among the various City departments will help ensure success in implementing new policies that were identified in the General Plan and, ultimately, the provision of services for the public.
The work of many government entities outside of the City of Oakland has a direct effect on the issues that confront the City as it updates its General Plan. While aspects of their operation may not be under City jurisdiction, their impact is critical to Oakland’s communities and City operations and therefore, they are valuable partners in the preparation and implementation of the General Plan.
Important Role of Community Based Organizations
The Oakland community has a rich history of activism around issues of 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 engagement of all Oaklanders, with particular attention towards engaging typically unrepresented populations.
It is important to have youth involvement in the planning process to create a General Plan that reflects the needs and viewpoints of the emerging generation. Furthermore, given the long-range nature of the General Plan and the understanding that systemic changes must be sustained over a long time, our children, teens and young adults must be part of this process starting now.
It will be important for Oakland’s General Plan to be rooted in the land, the microclimates, the neighborhoods, the communities, cultures, and the character that show up so uniquely throughout the City. While there may be citywide objectives and strategies, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach.