|Portland Plan recognizes east Portland needs
The plan sets city policy for public action and private development. It sets the stage for updating the 1980 Portland Comprehensive Plan, which set zoning and other regulations.
After 18 months discussing existing conditions and soliciting public input, the current phase sets forth proposed strategies grouped around the themes of Healthy Connected Neighborhoods, Education and Economic Prosperity and Affordability. A fourth theme, Equity, calls for resources to be directed to those most in need of them and for basic levels of service to be available to all people. It also calls for proactive action to involve all individuals and groups in the decision making processes. This applies not only to ethnic groups and other under-represented communities, but also to geographic areas, and in recent years the area known as east Portland has been identified as one of the have-nots in terms of basic services and infrastructure.
The three policy documents mention some specific projects and needs, and east Portland is singled out more often than any other area. For instance, in the Healthy Connected Neighborhoods document, it calls for:
Senior housing near Southeast 92nd Avenue in the Lents Town Center.
Acquiring high-priority natural areas near, among others, the Columbia Slough and Johnson Creek.
Identifying neighborhood greenways through the east Portland Active Transportation Plan, and completing them between Northeast and Southeast 128th and 132nd Avenues connecting Foster Road to the I-84 path, between Northeast and Southeast 85th and 88th Avenues connecting the Springwater Trail to the path.
Exploring alternative development of currently unimproved rights of way in the are Enhancing transit connections to and from 122nd Avenue Developing a funding strategy for the Gateway Education Center, a so-far theoretical joint project by the Parkrose and David Douglas school districts, Mount Hood Community College, Portland State University and the city.
The Economic Prosperity strategies call for support of new ventures and maintenance of existing ones in the areas of manufacturing, transportation and shipping, health and educational institutions, green industries and local neighborhood enterprises. Under the subhead of Household Economic Security, it re-affirms our commitment to providing a safety net for our lowest income families, as senior city planner Joe Zehnder told a discussion group at the IRCO fair.
Another planner, Al Burns, said that the strategies were based on the work and public input received in the planning process so far. However, he added, If we're really, really wrong about this, we need to know really, really fast.
Zehnder said the city has a good supply of industrial land, but much of it has issues or constraints. For example, brownfields - property not redeveloped because it probably is contaminated with hazardous substances - are adjacent to environmentally sensitive areas that must be protected, and small parcels under different ownerships make land assembly for development difficult. Even so, he said, The infrastructure is there; we don't have to recreate it.
One participant called for the city to pursue aggressively green development, even utilizing condemnation if necessary. Burns replied, A ballot initiative took condemnation for private development off the table.
Asked if the Equity initiative meant that resources will be diverted from all other groups to those deemed most in need, Zehnder said It could mean that, especially in the area of housing. We have a large affordable housing need we don't have the money to meet. Workforce housing doesn't pencil for areas with good transit access, and it's pushed out to areas where transit access is not so good.
Burns added, There's a wedge of middle-income earners that the housing market doesn't provide for.
Michelle Pellegrin said that one of Portland's strengths is its unbelievable cultural diversity courtesy of its new immigrants. This caused another person to complain, I'm all for a multi-cultural community, but many of these people are actually here illegally. She added that many immigrants are given much more than they need, while she has tried for years, without success, to enter a job training program.
Burns replied, We have a mindset that what we have is Portlanders. We've made a policy decision not to deal with this issue.
IRCO board of director member Ronault (Polo) Catalani told the speaker, We want you to (be able to) work; we really want you to be successful. IRCO clients receive benefits during their first eight months of residence and then must somehow make their own way in a new culture, he said. Another participant added, It's much more important to work for everyone than to fight each other.
Another participant complained that the strategies lack specifics; there is no way to measure progress, and that east Portland is not specifically discussed. Zehnder said there were long-term measurements but they are pretty subjective. He added, A big east Portland emphasis is implied here, but not specified.
The Education component includes a goal that we want everyone to be on the path to a living wage job by age 25, senior planner Deborah Stein told her discussion group. One of many problems is that many school buildings are either outdated and inadequate, or overcrowded, and not suitable for 20th century education.
One proposed strategy is to provide up to two years of college for anyone qualified who wants it, regardless of financial circumstances; the question is how to provide this. At the discussion group, Judy Litt said that in New Zealand, many businesses provide scholarships for night school for their workers. There also, she said, bright children are not held back, but everyone is treated as an individual. She added, It seems to me education is the key to everything. Half of American kids don't graduate and are not available for decent-paying jobs. A 25-year implementation window is too long; we have to do this now.
Parkrose School District Superintendent Karen Fischer Gray said official graduation rate statistics could be deceptive, because they only count students who graduate with their classes on time. In her district, 85 to 90 percent of students graduate high school within five years. We do have a long way to go, especially for kids of color, but the measure is unfair, she said.
The Healthy Neighborhoods initiative leaned heavily on the concept of 20-Minute Neighborhoods, whereby most essential services are within a 20-minute walk for most Portlanders. Unlike the other initiatives, there was no organized discussion of this at the fairs, and the format was essentially that of an Open House, with discussion between staff and participants occurring on a one-on-one basis if at all.
About two dozen community organizations and agencies had tables at the fairs, and the composition of these varied with the fair. At IRCO, for instance, the Mid-county based non-profit Human Solutions was present, and a trio of local eating establishments supplied refreshments. A variety of musicians and other performers supplied entertainment.
The event drew about 100 participants, making it one of the highest attended fairs. Some participants were impressed with the events. Others felt that the expense to put them on was not the most cost-effective use of outreach resources.
The bureau will accept input on the strategies through April. For those who missed the fairs, a survey distributed there can be taken online at www.pdxplan.com.
MEMO Advertising | MEMO Archives | MEMO Web Neighbors | MEMO Staff | Home