Field Trip Pilot Project, "Loving Oregon Summer"

by Kathy Wilson, 1000 Friends Intern & Masters in Urban and Regional Planning Candidate

This summer 1000 Friends piloted a field trip series to give members and the interested public opportunities to learn about land use planning and policy issues around Portland-Metro. Field trips visited agricultural communities like Helvetia, French Prairie, and the Headwaters Farm Incubator Program, and investigated brownfields in urban Portland, as well as equity in East Portland. (A final “Ghost Freeways” walking tour is scheduled for October 16. Click here for details.) Meeting with stakeholders involved in land use issues gave attendees a deeper, more informed understanding of the impacts of land use planning in the daily lives of our regional community members.

To give you a glimpse into our field trip pilot project, I write to debrief you about Equity in East Portland, our last field trip of the summer. Shelli Romero, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Region 1 Public Policy & Community Affairs Manager, joined us for the trip, and along the way we sat down to have conversations with Todd Struble, Jade District Manager at the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), and Tony Lamb, Economic/Program Development at the Rosewood Initiative.

Comprehensive land use planning matters for equity

Since it's annexation to Portland in the 1980's and 1990's East Portland has transformed from mostly farmland into a developed urban area. East Portland developed quickly. The built environment sprung up in a way that has not resulted in livable communities. Community members are working with local organizations and the City to give East Portland a voice and agency to create communities that work. After decades of being underserved, it's a huge undertaking to create adequate transportation infrastructure, access to safety net services, and livable, more equitable communities in East Portland. There is no one size fits all solution because each community has different needs.

82nd Avenue needs “a political champion”

Why can't ODOT magically transform 82nd into a fantastic urban streetscape? Money, mostly. ODOT's budget is spread across the entire state. Shelli Romero called 82nd, also known as OR-213, an “orphaned highway,” or a state highway that is part of the fabric of urban communities. A road like 82nd in Portland has different maintenance and improvement needs than a typical highway. 82nd is fairly well connected to transit, but community members are concerned about safe pedestrian crossing and sidewalks that aren't ADA compliant. Shelli seemed used to answering questions about trying to solve 82nd's issues by transferring the jurisdiction to Portland. The City has more flexibility and different standards for roads than ODOT, which would enable the creation of a more community-oriented 82nd, but the City of Portland would have to take on the financial responsibility. (Street fees, anybody?) A transformation of 82nd will take money, time, community persistence, and, as Shelli suggested, “a political champion” to help communities on 82nd be heard. ODOT is making slow but steady improvements, adding crosswalks and flash beacons at pedestrian crossings. A road divider installed by ODOT prevents pedestrians from attempting a dangerous, mid-block road crossing between the 82nd MAX station and the bus shelter across the street. ODOT is currently working on a more comprehensive improvement plan for 82nd. ODOT representatives are meeting with communities and to gather feedback and will start drafting a plan next year. More information can be found on ODOT's website.

The Jade District: building an international community‚Äč

The Jade District is weaving cultural diversity into the tapestry of the built environment by advocating for more appropriate zoning and land use patterns. With a very diverse group of people identifying as part of the Jade District community, there are language and cultural barriers that make community building more challenging. Todd Struble explained how The Jade District's community visioning process allowed for different cultural groups to have their own voices. The process started with meetings of smaller groups of people with similar cultural backgrounds. These smaller groups came up with ideas to improve the community, and then everyone came together to share. A common theme was the need for more public gathering spaces. There is limited land available for public spaces, so the Jade District is working with the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) to improve zoning regulations so the built environment better suits the community's needs. Additionally the Jade district has Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI) funding from the Portland Development Commission (PDC) to help fund community improvements. Coming out of the community visioning process, the Jade District Night Market is a recent, tangible success. Thousands of people have attended the pilot Night Markets. The Night Market utilizes parking lot space at Fubonn Shopping Center to create a temporary public gathering. The event embraces the international cultures of the community to create a distinct sense of place and build relationships among community members.

Rosewood: “a suburban environment with an urban population”

The community of Rosewood was founded by police officers in Portland and Gresham who wanted to reduce crime by creating a sense of community in a high crime area. Rosewood crosses city and neighborhood lines in an area that Tony Lamb described as “a suburban environment with an urban population.” Suburban development is designed for households with cars, but 80% of residents live in apartments and many of them do not own or have access to a car. The current transit infrastructure is inadequate to serve a community with a high number of transit dependent people, most of whom also struggle with poverty. Many community members have limited access to basic services and opportunities such as safety net services, child care, health care, employment opportunities, and grocery or department stores. Armed with NPI funding from the PDC, Rosewood is working to make improvements to the built environment to encourage a safer, more equitable community. In the mean time the Rosewood Initiative has become an important community gathering space. The space and how it is used encourages community and facilitates the achievement of community goals; similar to how an intentionally designed built environment can. Rosewood Initiative hosts a variety of services, all in one space and centrally located, cutting down significantly on travel time and costs for community members. A person can meet with an employment coordinator on one side of the room while his or her child plays on the other side of the room in a play area. The space allows community members to gather and feel connected to each other and the place they live.

Field Trip Takeaways

There is much work left to be done. Inside Oregon’s urban growth boundaries, we must press for equity and to bring the benefits of planning to all our communities. In rural areas, our agricultural lands are still threatened with development. Land use and planning touches most of our everyday lives. From big decisions like where to live, work, and how to care for children, to daily decisions like where to buy groceries, whether to interact with neighbors, and how to get to a medical appointment, land use matters. Land use shapes the built environment around us, the communities we are a part of, and the future we all share.