By enabling low-carbon transportation via bus rapid transit (BRT) and affordable green housing, Oakland is reversing a neighborhood downturn and initiating long-term sustainable growth and resilience.

In response to ongoing neighborhood decline and high poverty rates in the International Boulevard neighborhood, in 2013, the city launched the Oakland Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative (OSNI). The initiative is a true whole-neighborhood effort, including grassroots organizations, public agencies, and community leaders working together to address the neighborhood’s needs. In addition to realizing local social and environmental benefits, OSNI also increases neighborhood safety by improving streetscapes, lighting, and roadway striping.

The initiative led to the International Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit project, currently under construction. The BRT line will reduce emissions by 4,065 metric tons of CO2 annually by eliminating 8,000 vehicle miles traveled and by replacing old diesel buses with 27 hybrid buses. The neighborhood was awarded a grant from California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to invest in several affordable housing developments, including the construction of 95 solar photovoltaic panel equipped green housing units and other sustainable neighborhood improvements planned in coordination with the coming BRT. The city also plans to improve stormwater management systems to reduce flooding in order to increase resilience in the vulnerable neighborhood.

4,500 metric tons of CO2 reduced per year from OSNI

The challenge

Oakland’s International Boulevard is the city’s most diverse area, and one of ongoing economic decline. Due to an alarmingly high 38.5% poverty rate and sub-standard housing, it is considered a “Disadvantaged Community” and a “Priority Development Area” by the state of California, making the neighborhood eligible for greenhouse gas reduction funds and a target for regional growth. This creates opportunities for strategic investment, which Oakland has used to turn the declining neighborhood into a place of development, growth, and resilience.


Economic Targeted and coordinated strategic planning and neighborhood governance efforts have spurred a cascade of public and private investment in the neighborhood worth more than $180 million to date.

Environmental Increased water conservation, tree planting to reduce particulate matter, and an energy efficiency pilot project for small businesses all have a positive impact on the environment.

Health Fewer emissions from cars and diesel buses will reduce rates of childhood asthma and improve residents’ overall health.

Social With increased bike parking and more accessible clean commute strategies, residents are encouraged to opt for the more sustainable and healthier transportation option.

About Oakland

Oakland is the largest city and the county seat of Alameda County, California, United States. Oakland is known for its sustainability practices, including a top-ranking for usage of electricity from renewable resources. Oakland is also known for its history of political activism.

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