Controversial Oakland rezoning plan gets preliminary approval


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

Halket Street in Oakland.

By Alexandra Ross, Assistant News Editor

Pittsburgh City Council gave its unanimous preliminary approval on Wednesday to a rezoning ordinance that would bring significant changes to Oakland as part of the Oakland Plan

The ordinance, which would create three new zoning districts in Oakland with set building size and use requirements, has sparked controversy in the neighborhood as community members debate its impact on both housing availability and commercial development. 

One amendment passed on Wednesday raised the amount of educational classroom space permitted in a proposed urban center-employment district around Forbes and Fifth Avenue to 80% of gross floor area in a mixed-use structure. James Williams, the senior director for city and county government relations at Pitt, advocated for increased educational-use space at a public hearing about the ordinance in December. 

The other amendment increased the maximum height permitted in the urban center-employment district. Under these changes, zoning rules would allow buildings south of Forbes Ave. to reach a maximum of 120 feet in height and buildings north of Forbes to reach 210 feet. 

University spokesperson Nick France said Pitt is looking forward to working with the city to implement zoning changes in Oakland. 

“The University of Pittsburgh greatly appreciates City Council and the City’s planning staff for their tireless work ensuring this process was responsive to community input and involved as many neighborhood stakeholders as possible,” France said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the City, City Council and our neighbors as we transition from detailed planning and zoning discussions to collaboratively implementing the ambitious goals of the broader Oakland Plan.”

Under the proposed ordinance, a residential-mixed use district in Central Oakland between Louisa and Dawson Streets would allow for more multi-unit housing, including affordable housing. An urban center-employment district would increase allowed building height, create new sidewalk standards and limit residential development between Forbes and Fifth Avenue. And an urban center-residential mixed use district would allow for mixed commercial and residential development surrounding the Boulevard of the Allies.

The legislation, which passed with two amendments, will still need to pass a final vote in the council before it is enacted. The council is set to discuss the ordinance at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28.