Mayor Gainey again delays Oakland Crossings vote as review continues


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Mayor Ed Gainey speaks during Joe Biden’s visit to Mill 19 in Pittsburgh on Jan. 28.

By Punya Bhasin, Assistant News Editor

Mayor Ed Gainey requested on Tuesday an additional 30 days to evaluate a zoning ordinance which would enable Oakland Crossings, a controversial proposal that would rezone parts of Central Oakland. This is the second time Gainey has requested a delay in a hearing and action by the City Planning Commission.

Gainey said in a press release that he will use the second 30-day continuance to align the proposed zoning ordinance with the priorities of the Oakland Plan, an ongoing City-led initiative to create a 10-year plan for the neighborhood, as well as prioritize equitable development and inclusionary zoning.

“Long-standing issues of displacement and inequity have become more acute during this time of public health and economic crises,” Gainey said. “For that reason, it is important that we consider this zoning ordinance in a thoughtful and deliberate manner through a phased approach.”

Oakland Crossings, created by Shadyside developer Walnut Capital, would rezone 17 acres of Central Oakland, paving the way for a grocery store, “walk to work” housing and a pedestrian bridge over the Boulevard of the Allies.

Former mayor Bill Peduto introduced the zoning legislation to City Council in September on behalf of Walnut Capital, and Council then voted to advance an amended proposal to the City Planning Commission in October.  Gainey held a Feb. 2 virtual town hall to discuss the proposal, and limited his comments to thanking the attendees.

Since its introduction, some community members, as well as leadership on the Planning Commission and in the Department of City Planning, have argued Walnut Capital has not properly involved City officials. Others, such as the Oakland Planning and Development Corp. have also argued that it ignores the Oakland Plan.

Wanda Wilson, OPDC’s executive director, said the group is pleased with Gainey’s decision to delay the hearing.

“OPDC applauds Mayor Gainey’s continuing the hearing and his focus on equity and inclusion,” Wilson said. “We look forward to further discussion with his administration about land use, zoning, inclusionary zoning and equitable development in Oakland.”

Todd Reidbord, president of Walnut Capital, said the company finds the additional time helpful since they are working with the mayor’s office to make sure Oakland Crossings has equitable development. He said his company and the mayor’s office will use the 30-day delay to finalize the plan’s details.

“I mean, we’re looking to be sure this is equitable development and that there’s opportunities for everybody in various income categories and classes to be able to take advantage of the great things that we’re proposing,” Reidbord said.

“There’s an expression somebody once told me, ‘It’s like watching sausage being made, you just have to work through the issues one by one, and then you see what it looks like at the very end,’” Reidbord continued. “We are just getting through everything and I think this gives us the time to do that.”

Reidbord added that the mayor’s office and Walnut Capital don’t think they will need the entire 30 days to finalize the details, and are planning to present in front of the Planning Commission on March 8.

“I actually think that it could get done within a few weeks. We suggested the 30 days just to give everybody enough time, so we didn’t have to come back again,” Reidbord said. “But the original thought was we could get it done in the next two weeks.”

Gainey said his priority is to ensure that Pittsburgh is affordable for all people who wish to live in the City.

“My priority as mayor is ensuring that Pittsburgh is affordable for all who desire to call our City home — especially long-time residents,” he said. “It is imperative that we remain committed to achieving this goal. This is urgent, moral and necessary work that will allow us to create a Pittsburgh for all.”