Remembering John Fregonese

Alyson Marchi-Young
Wed, 06/27/2018 (All day)

Oregonians are remembering John Fregonese, aka ‘Frego’, as a creative innovator, enthusiastic advocate for community livability, and a caring friend. John passed away Saturday, June 16 of a fast-acting cancer at 66 years old.

John left a planning legacy in Oregon, the likes of which we would be lucky to see again. Known for community-centric planning, John brought to life the Metro Vision 2040 plan for the Portland-Metro region.  A significant part of the Region 2040 plan incorporated the conclusions of the 1000 Friends study, the Land Use, Transportation, Air Quality (LUTRAQ) study. As the Metro Planning Director, John launched a large-scale public education campaign to ensure the maximum amount of community participation.

“Long before there were easy ways to solicit input electronically, and perhaps drawing upon the film industry background of his parents, he directed a short, very visual video of Metro's Region 2040 Growth Concept and had hundreds distributed for free around the region - not just at libraries, but also at neighborhood video stores,” recalls Mary Kyle McCurdy. “He knew the work he was engaged in and our communities would be the better for it, and so he fearlessly and creatively sought out that input.” 

Prior to his time with Metro, John served as Ashland’s Planning Director for 13 years. In that time he shaped a city designed for people, not cars. He fashioned plans that ensured open space and parks for every member of the community, a downtown where public gathering and socializing could easily happen, and walkable neighborhoods.

John left the public sector and formed Fregonese Associates. There he worked on city plans to help shape the future design of communities across the country. “Through his pioneering work on Region 2040, he developed the blueprint for the practice of scenario planning now practiced by metropolitan areas across the country. Even in places as hostile to planning as Salt Lake City, Austin, and Waco.” Says Keith Bartholomew, former 1000 Friends Staff Attorney who oversaw the LUTRAQ Program. “I remember well the first time I met John. He was planning director in Ashland and he and I talked about an innovative way he had devised for dealing with big box structures and getting them to better address the street…He was one of the most imaginative planners I've ever known. The practice of planning will miss him and will be lesser without him.

John Fregonese and CJ Gabbe of Fregonese Associates
John Fregonese and CJ Gabbe speak about regional planning strategies at a 1000 Friends McCall Speaker Series. '"Regional plans need to be popular to be accepted," Fregonese said, "and in order to achieve this, residents need to see themselves in the plan and be able to relate to it."'

In a fond send off to John, Metro President Tom Hughes stated “He was also an innovator in soliciting public input; he truly wanted to know what people thought and wasn’t afraid to hear it…He was able to generate tens of thousands of public comments and successfully engaged the people of the region in the development of a vision they could truly embrace.”

We will miss John and will strive to honor his memory by planning with creativity, passion, kindness, and inclusion. Remembrances of John can be shared on Fregonese Associates website.