Member Spotlight: Oakland Planning and Development Corporation

Unifying the voice of nonprofits to leverage their power

Oakland Planning and Development Corporation

Did you know that one Pittsburgh neighborhood more than quadruples in population each day?

Oakland is home to about 22,000 residents. But with many large employers, including universities and hospitals, this number increases to about 100,000 during the workday. 

It’s this unique nature of the neighborhood that guides the work of the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC). “We work in Oakland because there is a really strong resident base that can get forgotten and that can get overlooked in all the activity and economic boom of the institutions,” said Elly Fisher, OPDC assistant director.

OPDC works to sustain a diverse resident base in Oakland. The goal is “having long term engaged residents working side by side with students and people who come into work in the neighborhood,” Fisher said. “Without that it’s just a commuter location instead of a vibrant neighborhood in the middle of the city.”

OPDC works to improve Oakland holistically. “We’re trying to have a comprehensive approach,” Fisher said. “Our real estate work can’t be successful without the Oak Watch. [And] who’s going to be able to buy a good house in the neighborhood if they don’t have a good job?”

Oak Watch is a program designed “to make the neighborhood better by enforcing existing code issues,” Fischer said. “It’s been around for about two years now and we’ve actually seen a decline in code issues. [They] go down when people get involved.”

This involvement can take many forms. “There’s a variety of mechanisms, from going down to housing court to get something enforced to bringing out some volunteers to help cut the grass of the senior who got cited for overgrown grass,” Fisher said.

The successful Oak Watch initiative is only one of OPDC’s many programs. Keeping with their holistic approach, OPDC has workforce training, youth development, healthcare field training, affordable rental housing, transportation advocacy, and green initiatives, among others. Their vision of Oakland as a diverse, vibrant, and successful neighborhood is evident not just in their programming but also the Oakland 2025 Strategic Plan developed by OPDC.

Connection to diversity and vibrant ideas is one of the ways in which GPNP helps the organization. Membership provides OPDC with a venue for networking and brainstorming. “The big value is being able to meet people and network…” Fisher said. “It’s really nice to be able to network with other organizations who are like us, or even who aren’t but are nonprofits, to be able to share ideas and get ideas.”