Celebrate, Anticipate: A Year in Review

It’s time for our traditional year-end compilation of things we’re celebrating from the year past, and things we’re watching in the year ahead. 2013 could stand as a pivotal year in Oregon’s land use history—but much of its ultimate importance will depend on what happens in 2014. The year ends with many accomplishments and threats left unresolved, and we will begin the new year quickly returning to them.

Five to Toast

Without any further ado, here our are “top 5” things to toast from 2013:

Legislative Achievements

We saw some big victories in the 2013 legislature, including bills that improve Oregon’s planning process, expand funding for active transportation, and enhance protections for farmland. We also defeated three bills that would limit citizen access to planning and fought dismantling of Oregon’s land use program through one-off loopholes. Review the session in our 2013 legislature recap, “Wins, Wastes, and What’s Next.”

LULI Looks Hard at Urban Challenges

Our 2013 Land Use Leadership Initiative, the program’s second year, brought together over a dozen bright Oregonians representing a diversity of perspectives on Oregon’s challenges. The curriculum this year focused on urban issues, including transportation and equity in Washington County, immigrant-led neighborhood revitalization in East Portland, and affordability and gentrification in North Portland. We were honored to participate as the cohort, which included social justice advocates, neighborhood leaders, and a local elected official, confronted key challenges together—informing each other and our work here at 1000 Friends. Learn more about LULI ’13 on the program blog. And stay tuned for information about the 2014 program.

Cool Communities: Welcome News

MAX train

This year brought good news for Portland-area communities. Research revealed that the region has many of the tools it needs to meet state goals for reducing emissions caused by driving. If local plans for walkable neighborhoods, better transit, mixed-use planning, and other key community assets are fully pursued, the region could see a 24 percent decrease in tailpipe emissions over the next 20 years. The challenge is this: many of these plans risk gathering dust. “The results are encouraging, but only if local and regional leaders fully commit to the good plans on the books, by investing money and adopting policies to ensure these great outcomes come to fruition,” said 1000 Friends Mary Kyle McCurdy. In 2014, we’ll see the next key milestone in Metro’s Climate Smart Communities process—the selection of a “preferred  scenario” for long-term growth and transportation in the Metro region that both meets local livability goals and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Our Willamette Valley Advocate, Mia Nelson, is proud to have worked with Keizer city officials on determining the city's housing and employment land needs for the next 20 years. Through close collaboration and diligent research, Mia and officials in this Salem suburb recognized that earlier estimates were too high, and found agreement on more accurate results. "It made a heck of a lot more sense to have communication up front," said Keizer Planning Director Nate Brown, as opposed to challenge later on in the process. "The dialog helped [Keizer] with self reflection--about what Keizer's objectives really are." Thanks to this collaboration, Keizer's final product could save as much as 200 acres of high-value farmland and a considerable amount of unneeded infrastructure spending by the city, compared to the original estimate. It’s a win-win for Keizer and for Oregon land use—which works best through collaboration and engagement. 

New Reports from 1000 Friends: Infrastructure and Agriculture

1000 Friends released two reports in 2013 that generated considerable conversation about Oregon’s future. Back in January, More Extensive Is More Expensive explored the rising cost of maintaining infrastructure for sprawl, and how Oregon’s communities could step back from the permanent fiscal edge. We continue to advocate for a more transparent, accountable approach to assessing the fiscal impacts of growth decisions. Read the report at www.friends.org/infrastructure.

And in November, we produced Great & Growing: People and Jobs in Oregon’s Agri-Cluster, a chronicle and celebration of the myriad economic impacts of Oregon’s farming industry. As our report showed, farming and its related industries (which together we called the “agri-cluster”) create more than great food and beautiful landscapes. They’re an economic engine for Oregon. Read this report and help spread the word at www.friends.org/growing.

 

Five to Watch

As we look to 2014, here are a few things we’ll be watching and working on. We hope you’ll keep an eye on these issues and be ready to take action with us.

2014 Legislature

Next year will feature a short legislative session in February. Short sessions are supposed to focus on key issues like budgets, but as in any legislative session, there is ample room for bills that undermine farm protections, constrain Oregonians’ access, or create land use loopholes for special interests. We’ll be watching throughout January as bills emerge, and our staff will be diligent in holding off any threats. Watch for updates on our legislature page at www.friends.org/Legislature.

Zombies on the Roadways

We’re pretty sure The Walking Dead isn’t filmed in Oregon, but we sure do have our share of zombies stumbling about. 2013’s biggest cliffhanger was the alive-again, dead-again Columbia River Crossing, a massive sprawl-boosting transportation project between Portland and Vancouver, Washington. 1000 Friends stood multiple times in 2013 against the proposal, including helping to organize a letter signed by over a dozen organizations and outlining our opposition on BlueOregon and in the Statesman-Journal. Although it appeared dead after Washington’s legislature failed to fund their portion, and then as key deadlines were missed, some Oregon leaders insisted on a go-it-alone proposal: a project with significantly more risk for Oregonians. They plan to hold hearings prior to the 2014 legislative session. We’ll keep you posted on how you can help stop this lumbering beast and redirect its energy toward a better choice that matches Oregon’s values.

Also on the zombie front: last year we warned you about the return of the long-dead Western Bypass freeway, the “Zombie Freeway.” It’s also still moving, aided by a special legislative appropriation to study “transportation options” in Washington County. We’re working to make sure options proposed are real and meaningful—not the all-too-predictable end of more cars on more roads paving over more of Oregon’s farmland.

Population Forecasts

One of our big legislative achievements from 2013 was helping pass a bill to de-politicize the population forecasts necessary for smart land use planning. In the past, these forecasts—crucial to determining how much land is needed for new housing and employment growth in Oregon’s communities—became over-inflated political footballs, leading to huge (and often illegal) urban growth boundary expansion proposals that threatened farmland and municipal infrastructure budgets. Beginning in 2014, these forecasts will all be done by the same entity, the respected Population Research Center at Portland State University. Thankfully, there’s still plenty of public process, but the end result will undoubtedly be more reliable, supporting more responsible growth choices by local leaders. Willamette Valley Advocate Mia Nelson is serving on the project’s advisory committee, and we’ll help get the word out when the public outreach takes place. Read more about this process here.

Redefining Farms and Forests

Operating under the innocuous title of "Southern Oregon Regional Pilot Program" (SORPP), this opportunity for Jackson, Josephine, and Douglas counties to potentially redefine resource land initiated by the Governor in 2012. Some consider SORPP the first step toward creating a regionalized patchwork of land use definitions around Oregon, and it could result in more rural land being opened to development. Although SORPP was largely dormant in the second half of 2013, the process will likely begin moving again in early 2014. 1000 Friends' Southern Oregon Advocate Greg Holmes will monitor the work closely, fighting for full public process and ensuring that any land use changes are based in facts and reality, rather than politics and rhetoric. Stay tuned.

Opportunities in Jackson County

After the landmark Regional Problem Solving (RPS) plan was adopted by six Rogue Valley cities and Jackson County last year, attention turned to how this long-term vision would shape future growth in the region. A key provision that 1000 Friends helped include in RPS requires cities to do full conceptual planning for proposed urban growth boundary expansions. This means there's an opportunity to ensure that new neighborhoods are walkable, new employment areas can be reached by transit, and all land and infrastructure are carefully utilized--before any new land is added to an urban growth boundary. The first communities to consider post-RPS expansions will do so in 2014, with hearings and public engagement sure to come. We'll be involved in the proceedings and will alert our Southern Oregon supporters to any opportunities to weigh in. For more info, please contact Southern Oregon Advocate Greg Holmes.

 

 


We're so grateful for our members, allies, and supporters who make our successes possible. If you haven't already, please consider a year-end gift to help support our work in the new year. You can donate online at friends.org/support

Here's to another beautiful year in Oregon in 2014!

Return to our December Oregon Stories e-newsletter.

 

Photo credits:
Header: Steens Mountain by BLM Oregon, via Flickr. Creative Commons.
Capitol interior: Travel Salem, via Flickr. Creative Commons.
LULI photos: courtesty LULI participants
Great & Growing: Zach Dischner, via Flickr. Creative Commons.
Jackson County farm: Adam Gerritsa, via Flickr. Creative Commons.
Ashland bus: Rickie22, via Flickr. Creative Commons.