Your input is essential to the planning process. Staff and the Steering Committee will use your input to start developing parts of the Oakland Plan.
- Input on this page and other topic-based pages (i.e., Community, Development, Mobility, and Infrastructure) will be used to develop goals for the plan specific to those topics. This goal language will become part of the plan, but will also be used to guide the proposals developed in the Action Teams in the year ahead.
Learn more about opportunities to be involved on the homepage.
Action Teams are comprised of residents, students, employees, property owners, agencies, and professionals interested in working to develop projects and programs for the neighborhood plan. They are an opportunity for building partnerships while developing feasible action items for the plan.
The Community Action Team develops proposals to serve the needs of Oakland's existing residents, employees, students, and visitors.
Learn more about Action Teams and how to join them using the bottom on the right of this page.
Both innovation district and innovative neighborhood, Oakland is an exciting mix of long-time residents and families, university employees, students, hospital doctors and administrators, tech-sector business people, and a growing contingent of young professionals. It is diverse, with people from many countries, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses calling it home and workplace. This people diversity is sustained through the economic diversity of the Oakland market and underscores the importance of equitable and sustainable access to housing, food, shopping and employment being available to people from all income brackets.
Over the next few months, we will use this landing page to collect information and facilitate conversation around topics of community programming and livability, cultural heritage and preservation, public art, public safety, public facilities and services, public health, community uses in the right-of-way, nuisance and enforcement issues, and schools. Many of these topics are at the forefront of larger public discussion right now, and impact everything from affordability, gentrification/displacement, racism, and community health. We will not shy away from these conversations and hope to build a positive space for constructive dialogue.
We appreciate your time and willingness to share your Oakland story. We hope you can share with us the Oakland community you know, and the Oakland community you imagine.
Read below to learn more and participate in activities to set goals for Community in Oakland.
"A livable community is one that is safe and secure, has affordable and appropriate housing and transportation options, and has supportive community features and services. Once in place, those resources enhance personal independence; allow residents to age in place; and foster residents’ engagement in the community’s civic, economic, and social life." – The Policy Book: AARP Public Policies (link)
Livability means something different to most people. When lots of different styles of livability are accommodated, a neighborhood often feels inviting and interesting. However, what is livable for some can be in conflict with what is livable for others, especially if development doesn't balance the needs of various communities. This is especially important in Oakland, a community of nearly 20,000 people spread across four city-designated areas: West Oakland, North Oakland, Central Oakland and South Oakland. The neighborhood these four areas form possesses an unparalleled combination of academic, medical, and cultural institutions surrounded by a vibrant residential community. A 2017 Brookings Institute report highlighted the potential for Oakland to become a global innovation hub, while also recognizing the many issues to be addressed before that potential can be realized and before it would lead to widespread workforce and community benefits for Pittsburgh.
Oakland has always been home to multiple residential communities providing housing for a diverse group of Pittsburghers. Recent discussion in Oakland have revealed an alignment between the universities, healthcare providers, and the residential community around increasing the district's supply of affordable housing for long-term residents including faculty and staff, as well as students.
Of this population, Oakland is extremely diverse and has a composition different than that of the greater city. More of Oakland's population identifies as Asian and/or white and less of Oakland's population identifies as Black than the city overall. Each area of Oakland is different in terms of racial composition. While Central Oakland is the most homogenous with over 80% of the resident population identifying as white, West Oakland is the most diverse racially with almost half of residents identifying as non-white (according to self-reported Census data on racial identity). The population of residents who identify as Black has been declining across all Oakland neighborhoods, particularly in West Oakland. There is concern that these demographic changes reflect a lack of livability, inclusivity, and affordability for Black Oaklanders.
Another distinction of Oakland is that it hosts a higher share of very low-income households than the city overall. Over 40% of Oakland's households have incomes of less than $15,000 per year, with South Oakland as the most diversified in terms of income among Oakland's areas. West Oakland has the highest concentration of low-income households, but also has a greater relative share of middle income households earning $35,000-$49,000. And North Oakland has the highest percentage of higher income households. There are comparatively few of the highest income households in South and Central Oakland.
For many, livability is directly related to affordability and access to amenities and services. Rent in Oakland is difficult to decipher because of the large student renter population, however, there are stark differences among race on home-ownership in Oakland. While fewer than a quarter of the occupied housing units in Oakland are owner-occupied, 73% of the owner-occupied housing units are owned by white households. 15% of the occupied housing units are occupied by Asian households and 84% of these households rent. 14% of the occupied housing units are occupied by black households and 78% of these households rent. The differences in representation of home-ownership among races is a clear indicator of differing livability based on background and experience. Similar trends emerge among other indicators of livability, but home-ownership is one of the most stark.
Two major points of discussion that emerge when thinking about livability and identity in Oakland are:
- Oakland's student population comes from over 100 countries throughout the world. How can Oakland provide opportunities for them to stay and feel welcome?
- What can be done to retain and grow Oakland's Black population?
Topics: Community Programs and Livability, Cultural Heritage and Preservation, Public Art, Public Safety, Public Facilities and Services, Public Health
Oakland is a strategic neighborhood to consider the ideas of health and safety for all of its residents. During a global pandemic like COVID-19 and in the midst of a national conversation on race, it is important to assess how neighbors feel about their ability to be well, healthy, and safe.
To this end, the City of Pittsburgh has taken a number of actions to drive real change and reform for community health and safety. These efforts range from the establishment of the Office of Gender Equity (which released the Gender Equity Commission's groundbreaking "Pittsburgh Inequality Across Gender and Race" report in 2019, and became the 6th U.S. city to approve a Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ordinance), to approving important gun safety ordinances following the Tree of Life massacre, to increasing staffing in the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police's Neighborhood Resource Officer and Community Resource Officer beats and investing further in the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) program.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest in America around the treatment of Black people by police, a new Office of Community Health and Safety was established by the Pittsburgh Mayor's Office in June 2020 intended to redirect city resources to better meet community needs by housing social services, public health and social work experts who can assist first responders in situations that require longer-term assistance, harm reduction support and other services.
In addition to this new Office, the City has also joined over 270 other cities signed onto the 8 Can't Wait initiative, a campaign to bring immediate change to police departments.
While the Oakland Plan is not a venue through which we can make changes to policing, this can be a forum for discussing what it means to truly invest in a community. In Washington, DC, the Planning Department helped lead an effort called "PARK(ing) Day" where residents can apply to take over a parking space to use as public space for a day. The DC Director of Planning, Eric Shaw, however, illustrated the racial limits of these efforts in discussion with the Washington Post, saying "PARK(ing) Day is really nice. But if five black males took over a parking spot and had a barbecue and listened to music... would they last 10 minutes?" The Project for Public Spaces poses the question of "who gets to 'disrupt' the public space paradigm...?" in response to this, calling for placemaking efforts to recognize their role in perpetuating or addressing inequities.
Urban planning and public health have long been intertwined. A Center for Disease Control article provides several examples of the benefits of this collaboration, including the contribution of safe accessible areas to increases in physical activity and a reduction in death and injury as a result of improvements to transportation design. The CDC identifies various positive outcomes from a long-term blending of responsibilities, tools and perspectives between urban planning and public health, including improved outcomes when public health is an explicit consideration in zoning and place-making decisions.
The Pittsburgh Equity Indicators report is a good first step in considering public health in Pittsburgh. The 80 scored indicators show substantial variation, ranging from 1 to 100, where a score of 100 indicates equitable outcomes and a score of 1 indicates inequitable outcomes. One of four sections of this report tackled "Health, Food, and Safety", which included the topics of access and prevention (44), health status and outcomes (68), childhood health and wellbeing (24), policing and criminal justice (42), and public safety (44). These scores do not speak to the overall quality of experience on the given topic. For example, Black Pittsburghers are subjected to more days of low air quality than White Pittsburghers, but overall air quality is very low in Pittsburgh.
Some key findings of the Pittsburgh Equity Indicators Report include:
- Lack of health insurance: 6% of Black residents are uninsured compared to 3.3% of White residents.
- Opioid overdose deaths: Rates were 205.8 per 100,000 residents in low-income neighborhoods, compared to 113.7 per 100,000 in high-income neighborhoods.
- Infant mortality: Rates for Black babies were 14.9 per 10,000 births compared to a rate of 3.3 per 10,000 babies for White babies.
- Incarceration: 2,606.5 Black residents per 100,000 were incarcerated in 2017, compared to 521.1 White residents per 100,000.
- Homicide: There were 58.6 homicides per 100,000 Black residents compared to 4.6 homicides per 100,000 White residents.
The four sections of the report included: (1) health, food, and safety; (2) education, workforce development, and entrepreneurship; (3) housing, transportation, infrastructure, and environment; (4) civic engagement and communications. Of these four sections, Pittsburghers experience the greatest inequity in Health, Food and Safety.
Through the Oakland Plan, we have an opportunity to consider how the urban fabric of Oakland can be altered to improve health outcomes for all, and decrease disparity in health outcomes among Black and White populations, and low- and high- income populations. There are more topics to explore related to public health, such as air quality, and their specific relationship in Oakland. Organizations like the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) are great resources for understanding specific health issues.
Topics: Public Health, Public Safety, Community Uses in the Right-of-Way, Public Facilities and Services, Community Programs and Livability.
Hold up a mirror to the Oakland neighborhood and think “Is this a good neighborhood for people? Is it good for my body?”
Stories have always been an integral part of the human experience. They teach us our history, helping us to better understand our place in the world and the common connections we share with each other. Stories can help us navigate the ebbs and flows of history through actions of people who lived them. Oakland is no different and its formation is a critical component to the story of Pittsburgh.
We'd like to share the story of Henry Highland Garnet, a freed slave, abolitionist, academic, and community leader who spent much of his adult life in Pittsburgh's Oakland. We encourage you to think about the power of legacies, the impact that Oakland has had on you, and the impact you will leave on it.
Henry Highland Garnet and Shaping Oakland
Before heading north, Henry Highland Garnet was a slave with his family in Maryland. In 1824, Garnet (only ten years old) and eleven family members petitioned their owner to be attend a funeral off the plantation. Their petition was granted, and the entire family used the excused absence to escape their slavery via a covered wagon. The entire family trekked north, eventually ending up in Wilmington, Delaware.
The rest of Garnet’s life would be at the cusp of that same constant struggle for freedom, devoting his remaining years to the abolition of slavery in the United States and abroad. That path would eventually lead him to Pittsburgh in 1868 when Garnet was chosen to become the president of Avery College, a black college formerly located in the North Side. It was not the only mark he would leave on the burgeoning manufacturing town.
Twenty years prior to Garnet’s arrival, Pittsburgh’s population was growing out of the confines of its city limits, which today would only include The Point, Downtown, and some parts of Uptown. At the time, around 1840, anything outside those three locations would be considered suburban living.
While some traveled along the three rivers, many would head west of the city to congregate in an area of settlements that would eventually become Oakland. This migration would be intensified by the Great Fire of 1845 in Downtown Pittsburgh, a massive disaster that burned down a third of the city and left many residents looking for a new place to live and/or work.
Oakland Township, as it came to be known, grew so populous that it was annexed to the City of Pittsburgh in 1868. That same year, Garnet (now Reverend Dr. Henry Highland Garnet) was in town to become president of Avery College. While the college would only stay open for another two years, eventually closing for good in 1873, Garnet founded something that year with much more staying power: Grace Memorial Church.
The church, located on the border of the Upper Hill and North Oakland, served a black neighborhood and a black congregation. The significance of churches during Pittsburgh’s formation cannot be understated, as they became de facto ‘town centers’ for those living around them and helped develop the neighborhoods that dot the city today. Grace Memorial was no different, helping to create a vibrant community and congregation.
The church stayed true to Garnet’s life and legacy, especially at the height of the 1960’s civil rights movement. Many parishioners realized that the racial divide they saw in the country was reflected in their communities and congregations across Pittsburgh. To combat this rift, members from Grace Memorial’s black congregation joined white parishioners from nearby First Presbyterian and Bellefield Presbyterian to form the first congregation of the Community of Reconciliation Church (COR) in Oakland.
Garnet’s legacy lives on through Grace Memorial Church (which is still operating over 150 years later), its congregations, and the lasting communities created through them. Its alliance with COR during the 1960s was purely a representation of its founder’s commitment to equality respect for all. Today, Grace Memorial still stands serving the Upper Hill community while COR sits just behind the Cathedral of Learning, a constant reminder of Oakland’s past in the shadow of its ever-changing future.
Topics: Community Programs and Livability, Public Safety, Public Facilities and Services, Public Health, Nuisance and Enforcement Issues, Schools and Related Programs.
What brought you and/or your family to Oakland?
Does Oakland have all the things you need to succeed (i.e. green spaces, eat, work, play, good schools, safe, etc.)?
19 October, 2020
“need more safety, retail, parking, green spaces, no more towering apt bldgs, please, good schools, and hospitals more creative use of space ”
12 October, 2020
“We moved to Oakland for the house and stayed because of proximity to Schenley, Library main branch, transit and feeds to Allderdice HS.”
22 September, 2020
Pitt Prof says:
“Oakland badly needs a real grocery store and more holistic attention to safety and access for pedestrians and bikers.”
21 September, 2020
Oakland Employee says:
“The major thing missing in Oakland is a grocery store. Given the demographics of the area, Aldi would be an great addition.”
26 August, 2020
“Undergraduate degree, graduate degree, and now my work. ”
26 August, 2020
“I came to Oakland to attend Carlow University. It has the education and work opportunities but it lacks in green spaces And food markets. ”
26 August, 2020
“More quality affordable housing and access to quality/nutritious food at an affordable price. ”
Community services are all around us.
Explore the map below to learn about just some of the public services offered in Oakland by various nonprofits. We will be constantly updating this map as you tell us about other community services.
Oakland is more than just the education and healthcare center we know and love. It is also a dense and rich hub of arts and culture with roots back to some of the first installations of public art in the City. These roots offer a unique opportunity to preserve and cherish the past while honoring and engaging the dynamic and constant confluence that the community is known for.
Oakland is home to significant history in arts and culture.
In 1893, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens was founded with the purpose of education and entertainment.
Envisioning the neighborhood as an epicenter for arts and culture, titan of industry Andrew Carnegie founded the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in 1895 and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in 1896.
The historic 1908 installation of the Mary Schenley fountain as freely available public art coincides with the first convening of the Pittsburgh Arts Commission. When the soon-to-be-named University of Pittsburgh moved to Oakland that same year, they took some inspiration from the four cast bronze Panther statues by Giuseppi Moretti installed at the corners of Schenley Park in 1898.
In 1910, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall was completed to honor every branch of the military and to honor those who fought in the Civil War. In 1915, the original Oakland Theatre opened on the site of the former Oakland Natatorium that had been finished in 1890.
Oakland continues to be a richly dense community for arts and culture. It maintains many of the aforementioned assets as institutions with international influence and prominence. It is home to monuments, memorials, and murals that honor the past and uplift the stories of the present.
This positions the community to consider and inform the future of arts and culture. As the place where many thousands of students and professionals come every year, it has the chance to incorporate and impact these influences through integrating them into its ongoing sense of community.
As such, it is only fitting that arts and culture weigh heavily and appropriately in the neighborhood planning process. Whether considering how its institutions embrace and mark the coming decades or how the community can influence its next era of public art, Oakland stands once again as an epicenter of what is possible.