March 8, 2021 Housing Action Coalition

Welcoming Oakland Planning Director William Gilchrist

HAC was delighted to host a recent conversation with Oakland Planning Director William Gilchrist, who came to Oakland after years of leading planning departments in New Orleans and Birmingham, about his department’s priorities for the year ahead. 


Focusing his remarks on the process of updating Oakland’s General Plan, Director Gilchrist noted that the plan will emphasize:

  • Encouraging high quality and high density mixed-use growth
  • Preserving and enhancing residential neighborhoods
  • Developing the waterfront
  • Preserving industrial land for employment 
  • Creating a vibrant downtown


He also detailed how the Specific Plans of various Oakland neighborhoods were intended to spur investment. Some of his examples included:


  • The Broadway Valdez Plan is focused on the corridor intensity, looking towards repurposing buildings and cargo ships to enhance commercial activity. 


  • West Oakland has leveraged the region’s proximity and access to public transportation systems for new housing development while maintaining the character of historic neighborhoods. Its specific plan intends to ensure new employment opportunities through the Army Base redevelopment. 


  • The East Oakland Specific Plan includes accentuating the Plan Area’s sports and entertainment elements and attracting and supporting new businesses. The Planning Bureau partnered with 12 community-based organizations, forming the East Oakland neighborhoods Initiative, to reduce carbon emissions, improve community health, prevent displacement, and so forth. 


And, while still in the works, priorities for the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan include: 

    • Economic opportunity 
    • Housing and affordability 
    • Mobility and accessibility 
    • Culture keeping
    • Community health 
    • Land use and urban form 


The ongoing theme of contextualization and neighborhood engagement spans into the specific plans. All Oakland’s Specific Plans are not only designed to conform to the General Plan but to also acknowledge the contextualization of the microclimates within Oakland to preserve neighborhood character and history. 


Director Gilchrist closed the conversation by encouraging members of the meeting to share their input on Oakland’s impact fees as they are approaching their mandated five-year review.

Housing Action Coalition

The Housing Action Coalition is a member-supported non-profit that advocates for the creation of well designed, well-located housing at all levels of affordability. We believe more housing means more choices and better solutions.

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