In October, the City of Oakland passed legislation to upzone the Oakland neighborhood of Rockridge. While I’m always interested in pro-housing news, I’ve taken a particular interest in the move to upzone Rockridge because, for a stretch of my childhood, Rockridge was where I called home.
On a six-unit lot near College and Claremont, preadolescent-me got to experience the many comforts that come with living in a walkable, high-resource urban environment. Friday night strolls to the movie rental store around the corner, and BART rides to the Oakland Coliseum to watch the A’s play were all a staple of my childhood. Yet, for all Rockridge has to offer, it’s also one of the most expensive and exclusive places to live in the Bay Area. With most of the residential area in Rockridge zoned exclusively for single-family homes, the supply of housing is low and the desire to live in that neighborhood is high.
That’s why I was particularly moved to see the City of Oakland pass legislation to bring more density to Rockridge. The zoning amendments will allow for taller housing projects along corridors like College and Claremont Avenue, higher density and greater height limits for low-income housing across Oakland, and streamlined approval of missing middle housing types.
As someone who cherishes the time they’ve spent in Rockridge, the prospect of making the neighborhood more affordable and accessible to families of all income levels means a lot to me. There are far too many wealthy enclaves in the Bay Area with anti-housing laws and regulations that create barriers to access for middle and lower-income residents. Upzoning will lead to more affordable housing opportunities while preserving the essence and charm of a neighborhood that I and so many other Oakland residents hold dear.
Neighbors often worry that rezoning their neighborhoods will lead to a slew of tall, ugly skyscrapers. I can sympathize. I have a lot of nostalgia for the Rockridge I remember growing up, and it would be offputting if Rockridge suddenly turned into a downtown metropolis. I’m confident, however, that that won’t be the case. Careful consideration has been given to balancing new housing with the existing architectural aesthetic of the area. Each new apartment building will enhance the Rockrdige, creating a richer, more abundant neighborhood.
Most importantly, upzoning will provide housing options for families who, for decades, have been priced out of areas like Rockridge. More housing will mean the people who work at Claremont Middle School or Market Hall can find an affordable place to live near where they work.
As is often the case in the housing world, passing these policy changes was a collaborative effort. HAC joined forces with East Bay For Everyone to educate and inform neighbors about the rezoning efforts, which led to a coalition of pro-housing neighbors to speak up in support of the upzoning legislation.
Congratulations to Mayor Thao, Councilemember Kaplan, Councilmember Kalb, and the whole Oakland City Council for this momentous achievement. And thank you for pushing progressive zoning reform policy in one of the more difficult places to create change in this region. We firmly believe it will benefit everyone in the long run, and we look forward to welcoming more neighbors.