Land Matters Podcast

Episode 12: Libby Schaaf, Seeking “Silver Lining” in Pandemic Crisis
By Anthony Flint, June 2, 2020


For Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the coronavirus crisis began in earnest when California Governor Gavin Newsom requested use of the city’s port to allow sick passengers to disembark from the Crown Princess cruise ship. And life as mayor of this Bay Area city of 435,000 has not been the same since.

Among other things, Schaaf, now in her second term, oversaw a successful lockdown, made vacant hotel rooms available for homeless people, and closed sections of streets to vehicular traffic to encourage biking and walking. Now she is focused on making Oakland more sustainable and equitable than before the pandemic struck.

I want Oakland to be the ‘silver lining’ city,” Schaaf said in an interview with the Lincoln Institute, recorded in the latest episode of the Land Matters podcast. “I want us to exploit every opportunity in this crisis to make lasting structural change that needed to be made before the crisis.”

At the time of the interview, Schaaf had set up a situation room and communications studio at her home and hadn’t set foot in City Hall in weeks. The lockdown, she said, had revealed how important it is for cities to think creatively, whether making buses free or reimagining downtown. “We’re experimenting, and government doesn’t do that enough,” she said.

Cities are not going away. Sprawl is not a healthy response. Smart density and the agility and creativity of cities is what’s going to allow us to not just get through this health crisis, but emerge with a more equitable, healthy environment.”

You can listen to the show and subscribe to Land Matters on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts. An edited version of the Q & A will also be available as the Mayor’s Desk feature in the July issue of Land Lines.


Further reading:

Land Matters Podcast Episode 11: Helping Cities Through COVID-19

Virtual Viewpoints: Will the Pandemic Change the Face of Public Meetings Forever?

COVID-19: The Pandemic Makes the Case for Megaregions



Anthony Flint is senior fellow in the Office of the President at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and a contributing editor of Land Lines.

Photograph: Anthony Flint interviews Mayor Libby Schaaf over Zoom.