Archive for November, 2009


Two Portlands? – One Portland Plan!

November 30, 2009

We now have two Portland Plan workshops under our belt – about 170 people attended at the Beaumont School and another 130 joined us at David Douglas High School. If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend, I strongly encourage you to join us for one the five remaining workshops (next up – St. John’s Community Center on December 1st at 6:30pm).

I’m intrigued that the first two workshops occur in what some people call the “two Portlands” – in one of Portland’s older traditional neighborhoods, and in one of the outer-East areas annexed in the 1980s. The areas are contrasted by differences in infrastructure – East Portland was originally developed under County development standards and in many places lacks urban infrastructure (like sidewalks) and in many ways a well-defined urban form. In recent years socio-economic differences have also grown as new immigrants have settled in East Portland and gentrification has driven lower-income families eastward. The East Portland Action Plan seeks to address some of these issues.

So I was very interested to contrast the workshop input from these two locations to see how how visions of Portland’s future might differ. The raw polling results from the workshop are now available (Beaumont School and David Douglas), and we can begin to look at the commonalities and differences.

Fundamentally it appears to me that both groups share a similar set of values and visions for the City, but do see some different needs based on the differing existing conditions in their neighborhoods. This can be seen in the identification of key issues over the next 25 years that the Portland Plan will cover.

Beaumont School Workshop:

David Douglas Workshop:

Both groups identify sustainability and the natural environment as the most important issue (NE much more strongly so) while the East Portland group puts a much stronger emphasis on Design, Planning and Public Spaces (arguably some of the attributes lacking in East Portland neighborhoods) and on Qualify of Life issues.


  • Basic education should be our top priority for job creation
  • The City should increase the investment of public funds directed toward long-range job growth
  • Walkability and access are the key to improving neighborhood business districts
  • Neighborhood schools should have more modern technology and classrooms and should be more open to community use
  • We need more cultural activities and arts education for our kids
  • Access to affordable grocery stores is the most important factor for healthy eating (NE also wants support for home gardening)
  • Government policy should factor health issues on a par with economic and environmental impacts


  • East Portland supports a greater focus on supporting and marketing neighborhood business districts
  • NE Portland would address environmental protection with an emphasis on protecting streams and trees, East Portland emphasizes acquiring and restoring natural areas (both support both approaches to some degree)
  • NE identifies walking, biking and transit use as the top opportunity for personal contributions to reducing climate change, while East Portland puts top priority on home energy use (and weatherization) and avoiding disposable goods
  • Flood and landslide protection is on the radar screen in East Portland but not in NE (possibly due to the location of the Johnson Creek floodplain)
  • Both groups are likely to affiliate through neighborhood groups and interest groups, but East Portland folks are also likely to affiliate through school-based and sports or recreation groups to a greater degree than in NE
  • Both groups consider walking distance to stores and restaurants to be a key factor in selecting where to live, but East Portland puts a greater secondary priority on attractive neighborhoods and proximity to good schools
  • Both groups support transportation investments in street maintenance and transit, but NE would prioritize investments in bikeways while East Portland would focus on sidewalks

Bringing it Together

Of course we need to hear the input from the remaining workshops, but I’m glad it looks like there are some common themes. One of the tricks for the Portland Plan will be to reflect the common visions and needs of our whole City while also addressing the specific needs of different areas, including East Portland. While I haven’t gone into it here, you could also make the argument that there are really ‘three Portlands’ as much of SW Portland has topography and unique development patterns that will require focus as well.

We Need Diversity!

Another commonality between the folks attending both workshops is that they were older, whiter and more affluent that the overall profile of Portland’s population. We need to hear from a representative cross-section of Portlanders and we’ll be happy to come to you! If you’d like us to bring our workshop to your church, group, association or club – contact us.

P.S. For some fun, check out the comic strip created by Scrantz at the Beaumont School workshop.


How We Give Input

November 28, 2009

One of the questions being polled at the Portland Plan workshops is the preferred way of providing input on public issues.

While it was no surprise that folks indicated that attending a public meeting was the favorite approach (after all, these folks were at a public meeting), I was a bit taken aback that the number two choice was completing an online survey. I have to admit that I’ve always found these a little bit constraining (you can’t very easily color outside the lines).

What do you think about online surveys as a way to gather public input?

Beaumont School workshop:

David Douglas workshop:


Planning Commission Agendas Now Available by E-mail

November 25, 2009

Send a message to if you would like your agenda e-mailed to you.


Meeting Summary 11/24/09 – River Plan

November 24, 2009

Staff presented progress on the Willamette River North Reach Plan since Planning Commission formally acted on it in June. The two major changes seem to be:

  1. Tweaks in the way in-leau-of fees are calculated
  2. Allowing green roofs as a form of mitigation

The plan goes to City Council in early December at an evening meeting (check Portland Online for upcoming agendas).

Mayor Adams has conducted about a half dozen stakeholder meetings on this project and one more is planned between now and City Council action. Staff reported that the stakeholders are getting closer but are not all on the same page. I suspect that will make for an interesting Council session.

As I indicated in my prior post, I’m coming in at the end of a process that included 11 prior Planning Commission meetings and I’m grateful for the detailed knowledge my colleagues have of this plan.


Gordon Price on the Portland Plan

November 20, 2009

Last night former Vancouver, B.C. city councilor, and respected urbanist, Gordon Price spoke to the PBOT/PSU Traffic and Transportation class. I wasn’t able to attend (we had the second Portland Plan workshop last night) but BikePortland reported on the event:

Price said that a specific challenge of the Portland Plan (which is holding a series of public workshops through December) should be to determine how to reallocate the space left behind by auto-centric infrastructure in the wake of the diminishing use of cars. He also suggested that serious accommodation of cyclists should be a high priority and pointed out his concern that the Portland Plan’s focus on “20 minute neighborhoods” doesn’t quite ring true. “That’s too much time,” he said.

10 minute neighborhoods?


Developers Re-think Parking

November 19, 2009

Today’s Oregonian has a short piece on a development in the Boise neighborhood where new residents are showing up without cars:

So far, 70 percent of tenants renting apartments in Tupelo Alley, a major new housing complex on North Mississippi Avenue built by Trammell Crow, a large-scale housing developer, do not have cars.

“I think the developers are sorry they spent $20,000 per space on parking,” says Ben Kaiser, a Portland architect and developer. He says builders will start thinking more about providing sheltered parking for bicycles, especially as the market grows for expensive custom-built bike frames that riders won’t want to leave locked up outdoors.

Two recent Planning Commission recommendations touch directly on this:

  1. As part of RICAP 5 we recommended increasing the bike parking ratio in mult-unit dwellings
  2. As part of our Bicycle Plan for 2030 recommendation, we called for an assessment of what policies would help allocate parking between cars and bikes (and perhaps reduce the amount of total area required for parking)

Perhaps market forces will beat us to the punch!


Coming Up on November 24th

November 18, 2009

The formal agenda for the 24th is out and there is just one item other than the usual housekeeping: the update on the River Plan North Reach.

We start at 12:30.

This issue is one that my colleagues have a lot of history on, having already been through a total of 11 sessions on this and previously rendered a preliminary recommendation. There appears to have been a lot of balancing between the interests of various stakeholders, but I don’t know the details and suspect I’ll mostly be listening and learning during this session.


Update on Schools/Parks Zoning Project

November 16, 2009

Here’s the e-mail staff sent to interested parties outlining what’s coming back to Planning Commission on January 12th and what will happen between now and then.

Update on Schools and Parks Conditional Use Code Refinement Project

On November 10, 2009, the Planning Commission took the following actions on the Schools and Parks Conditional Use Code Refinement project.

  • The Planning Commission recommended that City Council approve proposed code language amendments for Topic 1: Enrollment Fluctuations and Topic 4: Conditional Use Status of Vacant School Property. Here is the link to report with proposed amendments: A City Council hearing date has not yet been set.
  • The Planning Commission voted to revisit Topic 2: Grade Level Changes at their meeting on January 12th and asked staff to prepare language/commentary that would require a conditional use review for schools that transition from grades K-5 or 6-8 to a K-8 school.

Continued Work on Recreational Fields.

Portland Parks & Recreation, working with staff from Bureau of Development Services and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, is currently preparing proposals for revisions to recreational field regulations. PP&R will be hosting a community workshop to gather public input on these proposals Wednesday, December 2nd Thursday, December 3rd 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Beaumont Middle School, 4043 NE Fremont. Childcare is available by calling 503.823.5113, before November 30th. If you are interested in learning more about the work on recreational fields please contact Brett Horner, Portland Parks & Recreation Strategy and Planning Manager, at 503.823.1674 or Shawn Wood, Bureau of Planning & Sustainability at 503.823.5468.

Upcoming Planning Commission Meeting January 12, 2010

The Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the recreational field proposals and make a final recommendation on Topic 3: Grade Level Changes on January 12th . Unfortunately, due to the Planning Commission’s extremely full schedule, this is an afternoon meeting which typically starts at 12:30 pm. In an effort to try to accommodate more people, arrangements have been made for this meeting to start later in the afternoon at 3:00 pm. We anticipate the start time for this project to be around 4:00 pm; please confirm with Joan Hamilton prior to the meeting (503.823.5772)

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Also please note that this e-mail update has been sent as a courtesy. If you have questions about the status of a project being reviewed by the Planning Commission the most reliable way to find out the Planning Commission’s schedule is to call Joan Hamilton at 503.823.5772 or visit the Planning & Sustainability Portland Online website and follow the link to ‘Upcoming Planning Commission Schedule’.

Julia Gisler, City Planner
Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
1900 SW 4th Avenue Suite 7100
Portland, Oregon 97201


BPS Embraces RSS Feeds

November 15, 2009

Part of the mission of this blog is to make the City’s planning processes more transparent. I’m delighted that the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has taken a step that is very complimentary to this goal, adding RSS feeds to the bureau web site.

What’s an RSS feed?

An RSS feed item is essentially a headline, usually accompanied by a one- or two-paragraphy summary (but sometimes by a whole article). Publishing these items as feeds lets user organize this information into categories and sets and visually scan them very quickly – much faster than having to do something like open and read an e-mail message.

As a citizen trying to keep track of a lot of goings-on in both local government and national policy, it’s hard to keep up with the news. I find RSS feeds to be an invaluable tool to quickly scan what’s going on over a lot of fronts. I subscribe to more than 100 feeds. There’s no way I could keep track of all this information without the benefit of feeds.

Here’s a nice summary of how feeds work from CNET.

There are a variety of tools for reading feeds. I prefer web-based tools and currently use Google Reader, but you can find a tool that works with your favorite e-mail program, cell phone, or pretty much any device or environment you need.

You can find all the BPS feeds on this page

You’ll find information on events, meetings, document releases, calendars, programs and projects. Thanks to the staff that made this happen! I understand that a lot of it requires some manual tending, and I appreciate the effort that’s being made to make this information easier to consume.


What’s the Bike Plan Worth?

November 12, 2009

As reported on, while adopting the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 earlier this week, I encouraged (unsuccessfully) my colleagues to also recommend prioritizing full funding for the plan. In the process, I made a few comparisons that I thought I would share here. The full cost of the plan (over 20 years of build-out) is equivalent to:

  • 15 miles of Streetcar
  • 1 1/2 Sellwood Bridges
  • 40% of a MAX line
  • 1/8 of the Columbia River Crossing

I suggested that in my opinion the benefit to Portland for getting 25% of all trips onto bikes was greater than the benefit offered by any of those comparable investments (not that I’m saying we shouldn’t also make some of those other investments). Among the benefits I called out:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reducing reliance on uncertain supplies and exposure to unpredictable prices of fossil fuels
  • Improving air quality
  • Reducing roadway congestion
  • Creating safer streets
  • Increasing active transportation resulting in better community health and lower health care costs

For those of you who know me as a Streetcar supporter, I also said that if I had a dollar of unrestricted capital construction funds for transportation I’d spend it on bike infrastructure before Streetcar infrastucture! [Note that unrestricted transportation funds are a rarity.]

Just to be clear, this post is NOT sour grapes about my colleagues choosing not to make a statement about funding – Planning Commission is not a budgetary body. I am very grateful for their enthusiastic support for the plan. I just wanted to share what I said as some folks have asked about quoting me.