Oakland 2045 General Plan | Preliminary Zoning Proposals

The City of Oakland (City)'s draft 2023-2031 Housing Element identifies several zoning reforms in the Housing Action Plan. In response to community feedback, the City has published preliminary draft proposals that highlight proposed zoning changes for your review and feedback. See below for more information.

Stay tuned for upcoming meetings! Email generalplan@oaklandca.gov with your comments and questions.

Preliminary Proposals

The City of Oakland (City)'s draft 2023-2031 Housing Element's identifies several zoning reforms in the Housing Action Plan. These reforms would further increase housing production capacity and unlock additional opportunities for affordable and “missing middle” housing in high-resource neighborhoods. These reforms would also affirmatively further fair housing by opening up exclusionary neighborhoods, and reducing the exposure to air pollution, toxic and other environmental hazards in environmental justice communities.

The key components of this preliminary proposal include:

Missing Middle and Related Amendments: The proposed missing-middle amendments and related amendments will encourage a diversity of housing types such as flats, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhomes/rowhouses, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs)s in currently single-family-dominated neighborhoods, and along corridors, transit-proximate areas, and high resource neighborhoods and remove constraints on the development of housing. See Preliminary Draft Missing Middle and Related Amendments Proposal.

Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) Zone: The proposed Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) Zone is intended to create and preserve affordable housing restricted for extremely low, very low, low, and/or moderate-income households (as defined in California Government Health and Safety Code Sections 50093, 50105, and 50106 50052.5 and in Oakland Planning Code Section 17.107.020). By-right approvals for 100% affordable housing projects will apply in the AHO Zone.  See: Summary of Preliminary Draft Affordable Housing Overlay Zone (AHO) Proposal.

Housing Sites Overlay Zone: The City is proposing to amend Action 3.4.10 to permit affordable housing by right with at least 20% affordable housing units for all sites identified in the Housing Sites inventory (See Housing Sites Inventory Map and Table C-25) and create a Housing Sites Overlay Zone. The proposed Housing Sites Overlay Zone is intended to facilitate housing opportunities in Oakland and to bring attention to those sites that the City intends for housing to be built pursuant to State requirements. See Summary of Preliminary Draft Housing Sites Overlay Zone Proposal.

Housing Action Plan Zoning Reforms

The Housing Action Plan zoning reforms are referenced in Actions 3.2.1, 3.2.5, 3.3.5, 3.4.1, 3.4.2, 3.4.7, 3.4.10, 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.7, and 5.2.8. See below for an excerpt of each relevant Action.

Action 3.2.1: Develop zoning standards to encourage missing middle and multi-unit housing types in currently single-family-dominated neighborhoods, including flats, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhomes/rowhouses, and ADUs.
The City will review and amend the Planning Code and implement objective design standards to encourage missing middle-density housing typologies, including flats, duplexes, multiplexes (triplexes, and fourplexes), bungalow courts, rowhouses/townhomes, and ADUs. The City will work to reduce pre-development costs and expedite the planning approval process for missing middle housing types resulting from both new construction and the conversion of existing structures.

The City will develop zoning standards that allow for two, three, and four units on parcels in Detached Unit Residential (RD) and Mixed Housing Type Residential (RM) zones. The City will also reduce the minimum lot size in Detached Unit Residential and Mixed Housing Type Residential generally to 3,000 square feet to remove constraints on lot splitting. The City will permit a variety of building types (attached, detached, bungalow courts) to maximize flexibility, neighborhood scale and potential opportunities for homeownership (split lots and condominiums) in parallel with Policy 5.1. The City will develop objective design standards at the neighborhood level to ensure that multi-unit neighborhood scale housing types designed in a manner that is compatible with the scale of existing residential housing forms in these zoning districts is permitted ministerially.

Action 3.2.5: Reduce constraints to the development of ADUs.
On January 18, 2022, the City updated its zoning standards related to ADUs to be consistent with State law. The adopted local ordinance clarified and simplified existing requirements and offered additional allowances to encourage creation of ADUs that go went beyond the minimum requirements of State law. These additional allowances include higher maximum heights allowing for two-story ADUs, reduced setbacks in some zones, larger maximum sizes for detached ADUs, and an introduced ADU amnesty from Planning Code requirements allowing homeowners with existing un-permitted ADUs to legalize them. Also, this zoning update removed setback requirements and allowed additional envelope expansion of existing structures to create livable-size ADUs on “small lots” where ADUs would not be feasible under previous requirements.

The City will continue to host pre-approved ADU plans on its website to facilitate reduced applicant cost and expedited review for ADUs. The City will also provide increased staffing capacity to create a “one-stop shop” for information to property owners, contractors, and tenants. The City will invest in community outreach and education to teach property owners about ADU construction, financing, and landlord responsibilities. The City will also consider developing a database through which property owners can find and hire local workers to build ADUs. The City will also study how its implementation of the building code may constrain the legalization of unpermitted ADUs.

Action 3.3.5: Implement an affordable housing overlay.
The City will create an affordable housing overlay to streamline the approval of affordable housing by right. Potential features of this overlay could include ministerial approval of 100 percent affordable housing projects, increased height and density allowances, waiver of parking requirements, and reduction of zoning barriers. The City will study the feasibility of broadly applying this overlay, except for areas in the very high fire severity zone and protected historical sites/districts. The City will also study the possibility of extending the streamlined approval provisions of the affordable housing overlay to mixed income projects that qualify for the super density bonus and/or other strategies to augment the City’s density bonus program.

Action 3.4.1: Revise development standards, including allowable building heights, densities, open space and setbacks requirement.
The City will allow additional building heights and/or housing densities in certain corridors and districts. These changes include:

Zoning Districts such as the Detached Unit and Mixed Housing Type Residential Zones. As discussed in Action 3.2.1, the City will develop zoning standards for a diversity of housing types in single-family neighborhoods, including duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes. The City will also reduce minimum lot sizes to facilitate the subdivision of existing lots. The City will permit a variety of building types (attached, detached, bungalow courts) to maximize flexibility and potential opportunities for home ownership (split lots and condominiums). The City will also develop objective design standards at the neighborhood level to ensure that such missing-middle housing is designed in a manner that is compatible with existing residential housing forms in these zoning districts.

Corridors such as International, Foothill, and MacArthur Boulevards. The current building height map and permitted densities along key corridors does not always allow residential projects to meet their full potential. Consistent with the housing sites map, the City will undertake revisions to allow increased heights and densities.

• Transit-proximate areas. Alongside efforts to increase missing-middle housing (see Action 3.2.1), the City will increase allowed height and density in areas in close proximity to high-capacity transit, including areas near BART and BRT Stations.

• Resource-rich areas. Oakland’s high resource neighborhoods are typically lowerdensity and have historically been exclusive – both economically and racially. Allowing higher density multi-unit buildings in these areas that are rich in services will help increase the competitiveness of affordable housing projects for State funding, as well as the feasibility of developing significant numbers of housing units within these neighborhoods. Zoning changes may include permitting residential densities above 30 dwelling units per acre by right in designated areas for affordable housing projects. This will help further fair housing objectives by increasing the availability of housing, and particularly more affordable units by design, in high resource areas.

Action 3.4.2: Revise Conditional Use Permit (CUP) requirements.
Conditional Use Permits are currently required for multifamily buildings in the RD-2 and RM Zones, which can act as a constraint on development – especially for affordable housing. The City will revise regulations to permit multi-unit building according to objective criteria such as building type and development size, without subjecting multi-unit residential projects to CUPs. Under Action 3.4.7, the City will create objective design standards and amend the Planning Code design review procedures to allow for streamlined review and, where appropriate, ministerial approval. The City will also actively promote and support use of SB 35 to streamline 100 percent affordable housing developments. These revised standards will be implemented alongside changes to Oakland’s RD, RM, and RU zones as described in Action 3.2.1.

Action 3.4.7: Implement objective design standards.

The City currently requires design review for nearly all residential development, which can significantly lengthen the time required for project approval. To reduce the permitting timeline, the City has initiated a process to develop objective design standards to streamline the approval of residential, mixed-use, and commercial building types, with a particular focus on much-needed affordable housing projects in transit-rich areas. As opposed to "design guidelines,” objective design standards will not be subject to interpretation, and result in faster, more predictable approvals of high-quality development that respects Oakland's history and benefits the local community.

Action 3.4.10: Permit sites included in prior RHNA cycles to develop with affordable housing by right.
Pursuant to State law, the City will permit vacant sites included in two consecutive prior RHNA cycles and non-vacant sites included in at least one prior RHNA to develop with owneroccupied and rental multifamily uses by right for developments in which 20 percent or more of the units are affordable to lower-income households. This means that the City cannot require any form of discretionary review or approval for such projects. These sites are identified in Appendix C, Table C-25.

Action 5.2.1: Protect against smoke and wildfire.
As wildfires become more frequent, it is increasingly important to ensure safe and healthy indoor air quality. The City will require new development follow requirements for indoor air filtration, including the installation of MERV filters, as specified in the California Building Code, and will support property owners in retrofitting their homes to protect inhabitants from wildfire smoke, prioritizing retrofits in communities with disproportionate exposure to air pollution and substandard housing. To reduce the impacts of secondhand smoke, the City will explore amendments to the smoking pollution control ordinance to create smoke-free environments within multifamily housing properties. Further, the City will encourage the addition of clean air centers and resilience spaces within residential areas that can provide emergency services in the event of a wildfire.

Action 5.2.2: Promote infill, transit-oriented development (TOD), and mixed-use development.
Expand and allow community-serving uses such as retail, restaurants, and personal services within areas that are primarily residential, and increase opportunities to add multi-family housing in commercial areas that are well-served by transit. Encourage sustainable transportation choices and improve pedestrian activity with new housing development, potentially by reducing vehicular parking requirements in new development and/or requiring transit, cyclist, and pedestrian access design features. Work with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to rezone and facilitate development of high-density multifamily and mixed-use housing on BART-owned sites within the City, per AB 2923. Ensure that new transit-oriented development is accompanied by tenant protection policies described in Policy 1.1.

Action 5.2.7. Encourage new affordable housing in higher resource neighborhoods.
Affordable housing units, including both publicly-assisted housing and housing choice vouchers, tend to be concentrated in low resource and high segregation and poverty areas., while higher resource neighborhoods have avoided providing their share of affordable units through low-density zoning that has largely prevented development at the scale necessary for affordability. To expand where affordable housing units are located, including both publicly assisted housing and housing choice vouchers, the City will encourage further affordable development in higher resource neighborhoods through allowing for higher densities and streamlined approval for affordable projects. In its annual competitions for the award of housing development funds, the City will continue to give preference to projects in areas which help advance desegregation and are located in neighborhoods with strong educational quality. Further efforts may include working with affordable developers to identify appropriate sites in high resource neighborhoods and providing direct outreach and resources to Section 8 voucher holders and landlords to find appropriate housing in higher resource areas (see also Action 3.3.2). Actions 3.2.1 and 3.4.1 will also help increase the availability of housing within higher resource neighborhoods.

However, while increasing affordable development in higher-resource neighborhoods is a State priority, it only represents one strategy towards increasing opportunity for historically disadvantaged residents. Many Oakland residents want to remain in the neighborhoods that they call home, and may not want to move to “higher-resource” areas which tend to be predominantly white and higher-income. Many existing ethnic enclaves offer resources like culturally-specific grocery stores, churches, language services, or other key access points that could be difficult to find elsewhere. These neighborhoods are also often rich in transit and service resources tailored to community needs. Thus, efforts to increase access to exclusive neighborhoods must also be coupled with investment, cultural preservation, and anti-displacement efforts in Racially or Ethnically Concentrated Areas of Poverty (R/ECAPs). These efforts are also described in Goal 1 and Goal 2. Oakland HCD’s New Construction Notice of Funding Availability has recently been modified to balance scoring to between being in higher-resource and high performing schools (for family housing) with the goal of seeking to increase investment in areas of the City that have suffered from economic and infrastructural disinvestment, as well as prioritizing affordable housing in areas where low income residents are especially vulnerable to displacement pressures.

Action 5.2.8: Promote the development of mixed-income housing to reduce income-based concentration.
AsThe City will work to promote mixed-income developments to further reduce the geographic isolation of lower-income units and promote increase neighborhood investment in distressed areas. The City will encourage use of the State Density Bonus program, promote mixed-income development in specific plan areas, and access CalHFA bond recycling facility for mixed-income projects.

Providing Feedback on Preliminary Zoning Proposals

Stay tuned for upcoming meetings! Email generalplan@oaklandca.gov with your comments and questions.

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