Community organizing and resident engagement

In all our community programs, we connect, educate and empower residents to build a beautiful neighborhood and a strong social fabric. We conduct outreach and community organizing related to code enforcement, development, design review, land use, and greening projects. We provide opportunities for community members to be well-informed about development proposals, navigate the local public approval processes needed to effectively testify at formal hearings and have their voices heard.

With approximately 100,000 people commuting into and through Oakland each day, advocating for and planning for multi-modal transportation options and bike and pedestrian safety is of paramount importance.  We coordinate much of our transportation and bike/pedestrian advocacy work through the Oakland Green Team, but also work with partners such as the City of Pittsburgh, Bike Pittsburgh, Port Authority, the Oakland Transportation Management Association, and many others involved in large scale transportation and infrastructure improvement projects.

The relationship between people and place is central to our work. We’re privileged to work with neighborhood leaders and hundreds of volunteers to make the community more beautiful and attractive for everyone. Volunteers steward the streets through our Adopt-A-Block program, clean up vacant lots, pick up trash, prune trees, paint walls and help us collect data about neighborhood conditions. Organizations including Tree Pittsburgh, our local universities, the Western PA Conservancy, Phipps Conservatory, Allegheny CleanWays, and the City of Pittsburgh support our work each year to beautify Oakland.

 

Oakwatch: The Oakland Code Enforcement Project

OPDC works with residents, property owners, building inspectors, and police officers to enforce housing codes and reduce crime. The mission of Oakwatch is to improve the quality of life in Oakland by bringing people and institutions together to identify code violations, advocate for their remediation and monitor the outcomes. OPDC co-manages Oakwatch in partnership with a resident chairperson, currently Elena Zaitsoff, and a large network of collaborators to make our success stories possible.

Oakwatch accomplishments include the creation of an active partnership with the City of Pittsburgh Zone 4 and University of Pittsburgh Police Departments to reduce the number of alcohol-related crimes in the neighborhood; identifying abandoned properties for acquisition by OPDC to return to productive community use; compelling absentee property owners to abate building code violations or sell; and winning several lengthy court battles with speculative investors that blatantly violated the city’s over occupancy code. Oakwatch formed in 2011 as a result of The Oakland 2025 Master Plan process, and has since gained city-wide recognition as a top model for collaborative public safety advocacy and code enforcement. 

Oakwatch meets the third Wednesday of each month, and meeting times and locations vary. Check our monthly calendar to confirm the details about our next meeting. To be added to the Oakwatch email list, contact lgray@opdc.org.

Oakwatch encourages community members to submit all quality of life complaints to the City of Pittsburgh's 311 Response Center as a first step. We work closely with the city on these issues and can advocate on your behalf after you submit the issue.  If you want us to know about something you've submitted to 311, please email oakwatch@opdc.org.   

The Oakland Green Team: Put the “oak” back in Oakland

Through the Oakland Green Team, OPDC advocates for cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure and attractive public spaces. We facilitate monthly meetings to gather input and identify priority projects, and provide staffing and volunteer support to implement those projects. Oakland Green Team accomplishments include several murals in Central Oakland, planting and maintaining dozens of street trees, partnership with the Western PA Conservancy on their Bates Street beautification project, and transparent dialogue and advocacy during the planning for and implementation of new bike lanes in the neighborhood. The Oakland Green Team formed in 2011 as a result of The Oakland 2025 Master Plan process.

The Oakland Green Team meets the third Thursday of each month. Check our monthly calendar to confirm the exact time and location of the next meeting. To be added to the Green Team email list, contact greenteam@opdc.org.

Information for Developers and Investors

Whether you are developing office space, adding a deck to your back yard, or building an apartment complex, OPDC will work with you to ensure your plans fit the neighborhood’s vision for the community. We interface the resident groups in Oakland to ensure no development happens without transparent community process. We do not take any position on a project until hearing from our residents.

We insist that all design and development be compatible with Oakland 2025, adhere to the zoning code’s residential compatibility standards, and do not rezone residential areas. We’ve been successful in this watchdog role and the community is the better for it.

Below is a short list of tips and resources to help you prepare your development application.

  • Come to us early in the process—don’t wait until the week you are scheduled to present plans at a city board or commission meeting. City officials will ask if you’ve met with community members as part of the due diligence process, so this is in your best interest.
  • Parking and overcrowding are two of Oakland’s biggest challenges. Oakland residents are vigilant and organized in monitoring and reporting any violations of parking and occupancy codes. Check this map to see if your project falls inside a City of Pittsburgh Residential Permit Parking district. If it does, residents will want to hear plans for additional parking included in the development so as not to further burden the neighborhood. If your project is residential, residents will have questions about the number of bedrooms planned per unit. Units with more than three bedrooms will provoke more questions and concerns from residents, since the City of Pittsburgh code prohibits more than three unrelated people living in one unit.
  • Contact the City of Pittsburgh’s Neighborhood Planner for Oakland about your project before you get started. Find the neighborhood planner’s contact info here
  • Learn about the City of Pittsburgh’s design review process:
  • Ensure you have secured all necessary building permits from the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections before beginning work. Learn more about their requirements here.