Plan Updates in Oakland and SF

Downtown Plan

This week, we discuss Oakland’s most recent status report on its proposed Downtown Specific Plan and San Francisco’s kickoff of its own General Plan update.

Oakland’s Downtown Plan Progresses, with Changes

Oakland’s sixth area plan—and the first to focus exclusively on the downtown area—is moving forward again, but with modifications based on feedback provided on the draft Environmental Impact Report (“Draft EIR”) and in response to Covid’s impacts on urban life, including efforts to address the City’s acute housing shortage and homelessness and affordability crisis. The City now anticipates City Council review of the Plan by the end of the calendar year.

The Downtown Oakland Specific Plan (“DSOP” or “Plan”) has been in the works since the mid-2010s. The Plan and accompanying Draft EIR were published in August 2019; they envisioned and evaluated 29,100 new residential units, approximately 17 million square feet of office, nearly 2.5 million square feet of retail, and over 1 million square feet of “flex” commercial and industrial space. It covers many different neighborhoods and districts in downtown, including Kono, Uptown, San Pablo, the “central core” of Downtown, Lakeside, Old Oakland, Jack London and the surrounding area south of I-880, and Laney College.

The City’s brief summary update a few weeks ago explains that changes to the Plan’s proposed zoning controls will “address the changing nature of retail” presumably brought on (or exacerbated, depending on your perspective) by the pandemic, identify and regulate priority areas for arts and institutional cultural uses, and encourage increased development in exchange for enhanced community benefits. This voluntary “Zoning Incentive Program” as proposed will set clear metrics for public benefits necessary to achieve enhanced density, such as affordable housing, reduced rent for non-profits and arts organizations, and homelessness services.

Oakland is also undertaking a study on options to fund more housing. These include potential new or increased impact fees, an inclusionary housing requirement that could be more robust than the City’s current policies, and infrastructure financing.

The City anticipates three more phases of planning before the Project and accompanying environmental review are considered by Council: first, revising the DSOP, responding to comments on the Draft EIR, drafting new zoning regulations, and analyzing housing funding options in the Winter and Spring of 2021; next, completing the revised DSOP, responding to EIR comments, completing the housing funding analysis and updated zoning regulations in the Spring and Summer of 2021; and finally, holding adoption hearings on the final DSOP, EIR, zoning amendments, and housing funding program in the Fall and Winter of 2021.

Reuben, Junius, & Rose LLP has experience with entitlement projects and land use diligence throughout Oakland, and we are pleased to have worked on some of the largest housing projects approved in the city over the last several years. We will continue to track this significant rezoning and community planning effort as it moves forward.

San Francisco Kicks Off General Plan Update

Later this month, the San Francisco Planning Department will hold a series of virtual public meetings kicking off an update to San Francisco’s General Plan. 12 meetings are scheduled to run from March 15-26. City staff will discuss topics such as housing, transportation, climate resilience, environmental justice, and racial and social equity. The introductory session is set for Monday, March 15, and one or two events per day focusing on a specific aspect of the General Plan will follow. We are monitoring the update closely and will keep you up to speed as the City releases more information.


Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Mark Loper.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.