Oakland Zoning on Youtube

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzJky8yENVU&fs=1&hl=en_US] We have written about the use of online media as a tool for city planning previously, including a specific example about the town of Cary, North Carolina.  Today I want to highlight the efforts of the Oakland, California planning department, which is using Youtube as a means of education and public engagement.

The last time Oakland’s zoning code was updated was in 1965, and no matter where you live, the 1965 world was a very different one from the one you’re living in today.  With that in mind, it makes sense for Oakland to embrace one of those stark differences – online communications and Youtube – to broadcast its updates.  You will find four videos on Oakland’s Youtube Channel.  Each of these is meant to prime the audience (the citizens of Oakland) for a thoughtful discussion on proposed zoning changes. In addition to the Youtube Channel, there are over a dozen other videos posted relating to the zoning update.  Many of these capture public sentiment and the opinions of elected officials.

The City of Oakland’s use of Youtube is great from an access and transparency perspective.  However, it doesn’t appear that they’re succeeding from an engagement perspective.  (The City of Oakland has around 400,000 residents; the first primer video posted has a mere 400 views – just 0.1% of its population).  While its efforts are noble, they’re going to have to be more innovative if they are to truly engage segments of the population that aren’t already.  Perhaps they could look to showcased company Socialight, or Second Life and Acton, Massachusetts, or to Cary, North Carolina.