Archive for the ‘Natural Environment’ Category


Transecting Portland’s Urbanism

September 30, 2012

“Transect” is a word given an additional usage by new urbanist planners to mean a continuum of neighborhood types ranging from the dense central city out to the increasing less dense edges of a region.

Today, returning from the East Portland Sunday Parkways, I rode home on the Springwater Trail and had the opportunity to transect Portland’s various flavors of urbanism, including:

  • A restoration project on Johnson Creek helping bring salmon back to the creek
  • The “Cartlandia” food cart pod – a bike-friendly oasis, complete with beer garden, on the very auto-centric 82nd Ave – where I had lunch (and I can’t see what all the fuss at City Council about the liquor license was about – it’s a very family-friendly environment)
  • Light industry and urban agriculture (Zenger Farm), side-by-side
  • The vibrant, built-in-the-streetcar-era urbanism of the Sellwood neighborhood
  • The amusing urbanism of Oaks Park, side-by-side with withe nature-in-the-city urbanism of Oaks Bottom
  • Kayakers enjoying Ross Island, just before I encountered our newest streetcar terminus and rail museum
  • A view of the downtown skyline from the Eastbank Esplande

We are truly blessed…


Trees = Greater Property Values?

October 18, 2011

Sorry, I have badly neglected this blog. Happy to have a few interesting tidbits to post now.

First up, we know that higher Walkscores increase property value. Now we have some evidence that trees do the same thing (well, at least they increase rental values, which should be a strong correlate).

I learned a lot about how trees create value earlier this year when we processed the re-writing of Portland’s tree code. Now a study suggests that street trees can increase a property’s rental value by $21/month, while on-lot trees add a bit less than $6.


Surprising Airport Futures

June 22, 2010

We spent about 3 hours tonight hearing testimony about Airport Futures. This is the new zoning and planning framework for Portland International Airport and the district around it.

The session was a study in contrasts. We heard about the unanimous recommendation and consensus in the Planning Advisory Group (PAG) and glowing reviews of the sensible planning and environmental goals for PDX.

Then we heard from a variety of neighbors, from residents to golf courses to industrial land owners, the vast majority of whom were very worried that the expanded environmental zoning was going to destroy either their property values or their way of life (“will they make me take out my vegetable garden?”).

Definitely a contrast.

Everyone is complimentary of the airport portion of the plan, but it would appear that despite a wide range of involvement and outreach, a lot of nearby stakeholders did not grasp the additional environmental zoning (which seems to have a firm foundation in the science) on the properties around the airport and adjoining Columbia Slough until VERY recently.

Staff will be doing a lot of outreach in the next couple of weeks (resolving issues like the gentleman’s vegetable garden, which is probably not threatened). Once the surprise is past and people accurately understand the impacts, I hope our continuation of the hearing on July 13th will narrow down the set of policy issues we need to sort out.


Meeting Summary 5/11/10

May 12, 2010

6pm – overview of outline for Central City Plan update (CC2035). Here’s the briefing document (PDF, 0.6M)

6:30pm – working through more of the details of Tree Plan policy. I hope to publish my thoughts on the progress of the plan later in more detail. But we spent more than 3 hours on it…

An interesting question has comeĀ  up about Norway Maples, which are on the invasive species list (they re-seed so effectively that they crowd out native species, but are otherwise wonderful street trees). These trees are used extensively in Ladd’s Addition and we received testimony that prohibiting replacement of existing trees that die with Norway Maples would have a significant impact on the character of the historic district.


Meeting Summary 4/13/10

April 13, 2010

We spent about 90 minutes on the Milwaukie Light Rail project and heard testimony about the opportunity to leverage new FTA rules on including bicycle infrastructure in transit projects and concerns that $30M of the capital budget for this project would be funded by dollars that could otherwise be applied to operations. We forwarded the Conceptual Design Report to City Council highlighting these issues and a number of others identified by staff and the Design Commission, including the need for “quiet zone” treatments so that neither freight trains or LRT vehicles will need to sound their horns at crossings and specific connectivity issues at some stations.

This was followed by 2 and half hours spent on the tree plan, with a lot of discussion about when and how to regulate trees in the development process toward the goal of increasing tree canopy, but not much in the way of decisions yet. We have two more work sessions scheduled on this topic and the public record has been held open until at least the next meeting.


Coming Up on April 13th

April 8, 2010

Official Agenda

Two topics coming up on Tuesday:

12:30pm Portland Milwaukie Light Rail Project Conceptual Design Report
Action: Hearing / Recommendation

I expect that we’ll hear a number of comments on urban design issues at different stations along the alignment.

I’ll be looking to highlight a couple of issues:

  • Does the finance plan impact future operations by converting funds from operating to capital?
  • Are there opportunities to leverage a likely increase in the Federal Transit Administrations definition of the catchment area for bike and ped projects near stations to help build out elements of the City bicycle plan?

At the conclusion of the hearing we’ll be making our recommendation to City Council. This is likely the last time Planning Commission will weigh in on this project, so don’t miss the opportunity to give us your thoughts.

1:30pm Citywide Tree Policy Review and Regulatory Improvement Project
Action: Continued Hearing / Work Session

We’ll be joined again by the Forestry Commission for a joint meeting.

We will continue the tree plan public hearing from last meeting, then hear staff’s thoughts on comments received to date. We have two work sessions reserved at future meetings to process this before we make a recommendation to City Council. If you didn’t get a chance to testify last month, this is your opportunity!


Meeting Summary 3/23/10

March 23, 2010

“Why is a banana not like a tree?”

That was perhaps the most entertaining piece of testimony this evening. The answer: all the value in a banana is contained inside the skin, while the value of a tree spreads all over the neighborhood.

The testimony tonight on the proposed tree plan split into two camps:

Majority – trees provide lots of value, let’s get more, this proposal is the path to that end

Minority – This is solution in search of a problem, my land, my trees, leave me alone

Of course, that’s a gross simplification, and folks did provide a great deal of detail on specific concerns and issues that need to be addressed. Staff will come back to the combined commissions (we met in joint session with the Forestry Commission and will again for the next hearing) on April 13th with suggestions on how to proceed. The public record remains open and in-person testimony will be accepted again on the 13th.

There is one undeniable fact – in the current budget climate, it is very unlikely that the additional staff projected to be needed to enforce the new code provisions could be funded. So it’s possible we’ll arrive at an interim step, perhaps consolidating the disparate code sections into a new title as suggested and maybe producing the new tree manual, but not ramp up some of the implementation items. We’ll see.

Stay tuned, there’s still a lot to be discussed…