Hacked By Imam
April 4, 2016
“How do you think Metro should respond to the key issues and trends affecting the region’s ability to realize the vision of the 2040 Growth Concept?”
I was asked this question recently and here’s what I said. . .
Since its inception in 1995, the 2040 Growth Concept has promoted compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented development in centers and corridors. This has been central to shaping regional growth patterns, limiting sprawl and creating livable communities. In fact, directing growth into centers & corridors has been the region’s primary strategy for preserving farms, forests and natural areas outside the Urban Growth Boundary. Metro policymakers (and I myself) believe that compact development is the premier tool to address climate change, ensure equity, create jobs and protect the region’s quality of life.
I see three key trends that have only gotten stronger since 1995:
Trend 1: Walkable Urbanism Preference
Boomers and Millenials both show a strong preference for “Walkable Urbanism.” Some suburban policymakers responses to Metro’s Climate Smart Communities (CSC) project shows that many of them are not aware that this first trend means that they should be focusing more of their infrastructure dollars towards “retrofitting suburbia” rather than building and widening roads. I worked hard to see that urban form/urban design was in the strategies tested in the CSC project (and indeed it tested at the top!), but many suburban policymakers would rather focus on electric vehicles and other technology for lowering tail pipe emissions. More needs to be done to alert them that their present course will potentially lead to stranded assets where there is little market left for suburban single-family homes that don’t provide the opportunity to walk to needed services and amenities.
Trend 2: Recognition That Inequality Hurts Us
There is a growing recognition of the unacceptable impacts of inequality (racial, social, financial). Inequality impacts such issues as housing affordability, homelessness, displacement and even sprawl as people seek more affordable housing in towns outside the Metro Urban Growth Boundary. Thanks to Bernie Sanders, financial inequality (the widening income gap) has become a chief topic of presidential debates and led to more discussion of the role that the Federal government should play. Meanwhile, Metro has attempted to address several aspects of inequality.
Regarding Metro’s Strategic Plan to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Metro’s COO Martha Bennett said “the priorities are to learn more about best practices, apply equity plans to its service-delivery areas, improve community engagement and use equity as a measure of decision-making in spending money.” Any build out of the 2040 Growth Plan will need to address gentrification, displacement and contracting opportunities in an equity strategy that focuses on communities of color.
Metro has pursued affordable housing strategies for many years—the latest effort being the Equitable Housing Initiative headed up by Councilor Sam Chase. From Metro’s web site: The Initiative’s Report discusses a variety of tools that could help, including financial assistance for residents, renter protections against evictions and nonprofit community land trusts. . .
I agree that Metro should utilize the Community Land Trust model, but not just for the involuntarily low-income. I would like to see governments in the region, including Metro, promoting the CLT for ALL OF US. The original impetus behind the CLT movement was to create a new institution to keep housing permanently affordable. The first people I ever met living in a CLT were NOT low-income, rather middle-income people who saw it as a better way. Probably the local government that best understood its potential was Burlington, VT under then-mayor Bernie Sanders. The City of Burlington under Sanders helped to support the formation of the Burlington Community Land Trust. It’s now the Champlain Housing Trust, the largest CLT in the US and a model for local governments looking for systemic solutions.
I believe the CLT is the best tool for transforming our housing system. By taking the land under housing off the private, commodity, speculative market, it helps to change the concept of housing from a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit. Instead it encourages us to see it as a social good that everyone needs and deserves.
“By looking at housing as a fundamental human right rather than a market good that goes to the highest bidder, and with shrewd political organizing in a hostile environment, housing advocates in Burlington have created a sustainable model for affordable housing that deserves to be emulated across the country” says Daniel Fireside in Burlington Busts the Affordable Housing Debate.
The Portland region has a Community Land Trust, Proud Ground (formerly Portland Community Land Trust and Clackamas Community Land Trust). Personally, I feel that it is far too focused on home ownership rather than a mix of ownership and rental. Nonetheless, Metro should explore developing a relationship with it similar to that of Burlington and CHT.
For the shorter term, it should work with innovative housing developer Orange Splott, LLC and its network of other small incremental developers in promoting more alternatives to conventional home ownership. Let me repeat, these alternatives should be marketed not just to “the poor” but to ALL OF US! For Metro, this work could come under the banner of the Equitable Housing Initiative, but it needs to be larger than “affordable housing.” Rather it needs to focus on housing affordability involving ALL income levels. In the long run, hopefully before 2040, such efforts by Metro will help to change the concept of housing from a commodity to a social good.
Trend 3: Need for Excellent Urban Design
Residents of existing neighborhoods will be far more supportive of new development when it includes excellent urban design encompassing:
- appropriately scaled buildings
- streets designed for walking, biking, pushing baby strollers. . .and even cars
- neighborhoods with diverse uses
- people of diverse incomes, class and ethnicity
- sufficient parks and natural areas, protected streams, wetlands, and steep slopes
- infrastructure for arts and culture
Metro might look into working with the Regional Arts and Culture Council to produce a toolkit to encourage every community in the region to integrate arts and culture. Transportation for America has produced a Creative Placemaking Handbook that could provide a good start.
Members of the Congress for the New Urbanism have a great deal of expertise in excellent urban design. Metro should continue to develop a partnership with the Portland-based non-profit National Charrette Institute, a leading affiliate and powerful voice within CNU. As presented at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference by Council Member Craig Dirksen, the Investment Areas Approach with its Shared Investments Strategy highlighted both the City of Tigard and the Tigard Triangle in the SW Corridor Investment Area. New Urbanists are having strong influence over Tigard’s redevelopment and this trend should be encouraged.
Metro should continue its long-standing relationship with The Intertwine regarding the integration of parks and natural areas into developing centers and corridors. This coalitions of organizations have long been involved with implementation of Titles 3 and 13 of the 2040 Concept. It should consider expanding relationships with environmentally oriented organizations that represent communities of color (some of whom are in The Intertwine). As mentioned above in the inequality trend, any urban design efforts must take into account gentrification and displacement. They must also take into account inequitable air quality impacts.
What do you think about my three key trends re: implementing the 2040 Growth Concept–and my ideas on what Metro should do about them? What are your ideas?
Oct. 17, 2015
Our discussion of “The Next Urban Crisis” at University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management was another highlight of my Greater Portland Inc. trip to Toronto Sept. 27-30, 2015. There we spoke with professor, author and CityLab co-founder Richard Florida as well as Real Estate Developer, & Architect in City blogger Brandon Donnelly. During this discussion Spacing Magazine editor Matthew Blackett also shared some of the interesting insights I reported on in my Part 1 blog.
Richard Florida expressed his frustration with the Mayor Rob Ford era which declared that the war on the car was over and that the problem was those young, pointy-headed university folks. “In Toronto, everyone still thinks they have the right to drive,” he lamented. “If there’s an urban crisis, it’s the suburbs,” he said.
Florida reminded us that: “Building urbanism is a lot more expensive than building sprawl” and “The new frontier is the old frontier in the center of the city.” He left us with three points to deal with the next urban crisis: 1) Build more housing,and make it more affordable; .2) Build more transit; 3) Provide a livable minimum wage–reduce the huge bifurcation we see now.
Brandon Donnelly discussed with us some of the crisis in keeping housing affordable during Toronto’s fast-paced growth. There’s a pressure on prices re: low rise, but high-rise has stayed stable, he said. He described an Avenues and Mid-rise Building study. “ We see it as a market to build more units for families who are priced out of single family homes,” he said.
He distinguished Towers 1.0 and Towers 2.0. Towers 1.0, many built in the suburbs, did not take as middle class housing and became largely the affordable housing of today. Towers 2.0 is basically all ownership vs. all tenants in 1.0, he said. He finds it an encouraging sign that anchor office tenants and retailers are moving into the city as well.
On our way out, we had an unexpected opportunity to hear Robert Reich, who was doing a guest lecture at the Rotman School around his book, Saving Capitalism : For the Many, Not the Few.
I was especially impressed by how many of our group stopped to listen to his talk. “My aim is to shatter the myths that keep us from taking the action we must take, and to provide a roadmap of what we must do – to rebuild our economic system and restore our democracy.” Reich was saying.
There is a “huge misunderstanding” that underlies a false political dichotomy between the so-called “free market” and government intervention. “There is no choice to be made between the free market and government. Government determines the rules of the market. The real question is what those rules are going to be and who is influencing those rules and whether the market is going to be working for the vast majority as a result, or whether it’s going to be rigged in favour of a small minority.” Reich’s book was for sale at a table outside the open-sided auditorium where he was speaking.
At Rotman we had the opportunity to hear some of the most forward-thinking leaders of the day who are dealing with questions around the environment, housing, urbanism, equity, millenials, the creative class, public involvement and the economy.
It was a great segue to our reception and “Sharing Best Practices between Portland and Toronto” session at Ryerson University Architecture School. All of the students I met at the reception were from the Ryerson School of Urban and Regional Planning rather than Architecture. Those students were looking for answers to rising housing costs, displacement, equity, brownfields, resiliency planning in an era of climate change, etc. I stayed after the session to talk with them. Several promised to look at my blogs on mycoremediation and suggested that one of their professors might be especially interested. So far, no one has followed up but I’m still hoping to hear from them.
Chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, is a longtime Toronto resident, a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism (like myself), and a pedestrian advocate. She had been a principal in the Toronto planning consultancy Dialog prior to taking the job as Toronto’s top planner. She is also an inveterate user of Twitter @–discreetly putting out these tweets while she was on a panel with Portland Chief Planner, Joe Zehnder:
Portland is seeking to create *greenways* throughout neighbourhoods to address stormwater issues. Think “greened” street medians. Portland has met Kyoto carbon emission reductions, even while growing. “Your midrise is hi-rise for us.” Portland Chief Planner explains that 4 story bldings are causing consternation in his city. Wow. If only.
“I talk about Portland all of the time,” she told us. We’re growing but our air quality is getting better – as a result of our green roof policy mitigating the heat island effect. I cringed a bit to think that while Toronto passed the world’s first mandatory green roof program in 2010, Portland discontinued its Ecoroof Incentive in 2012.
In response to moderator Ann Marie’s question about green infrastructure and resiliency in the face of climate change, Keesmaat lamented that she has only three people working on green streets, a superstar team, but only three.
She did add that Toronto is a city of ravines and that there is an ongoing Ravine Strategy currently being developed. She will be holding her final Chief Planner Roundtable of 2015 (Dec. 15) on the topic of Toronto’s ravine network. I did not get the chance to ask her about the re-naturalization of the Don River, but I plan to do that at the next opportunity–maybe via Twitter!
October 15, 2015
The Toronto Best Management Practices (BMP) visit sponsored by Greater Portland, Inc.(GPI) from Sept. 27-30, 2015 was a chance to visit with some of the players who are making Canada’s largest city #2 in Fast Company’s global ranking of smart cities, and #1 in North America and “the most civil and civilized city in the world” according to National Geographic.
I had a little different trip than my 51 other colleagues because I came a little earlier and left a little later than most of them did. I also stayed in a different venue, so I had different views out my back window and front door.
Our first stop on the BMP trip was at Evergreen Brick Works, a “community environmental centre that inspires and equips visitors to live, work and play more sustainably.” It is also home to Evergreen, a national organization whose mission is “inspiring action to green cities.” Approximately 180 employees help Evergreen to promote that mission in four areas of focus: greenspace, children, food and CityWorks (urban planning). If you took Dharma Rain Zen Center ( a group redeveloping a brownfield in far northeast Portland) and combined it with Groundwork Portland, Willamette Riverkeeper, Audubon Society of Portland and Zenger Farm, then topped it off with a national organization like the Sierra Club, you might have something close in Portland.
Although very close to Toronto’s core, you feel as if you are a world away there. Evergreen staff have organized the planting of tens of thousands of native trees and plants by community volunteers. They have also worked with partners to restore a large wetland on their site and a trail through the Don Valley watershed and its ravines.
Evergreen CEO Geoff Cape, along with Planning Director Jennifer Keesmaat and several other speakers stressed that ravines help to define Toronto. “The ravines are to Toronto what canals are to Venice and hills are to San Francisco. They are the heart of the city’s emotional geography, and understanding Toronto requires an understanding of the ravines.” – Robert Fulford, Accidental City
On June 7, 2013, more than 60 mm of rain fell across the Toronto region, resulting in widespread water damage, flooding and road closures. According to an EBW blog post:
“The most significant flooding took place in the Don Valley, right where Evergreen calls home—shutting down the Don Valley Parkway and putting parts of the Brick Works under more than two feet of water! This is not the first time we’ve had to close the site due to excessive amounts of rain but it is certainly the largest flood we have had since moving into the Brick Works in September 2010.”
I found only one reference on the Evergreen site about the re-naturalization of the mouth of the Don River. It is described as a project of Waterfront Toronto in the History of the Lower Don Project. I am watching the CityWorks portion of Evergreen’s site for the day when they advocate taking out the Don River Parkway that so greatly confines the river (except when it doesn’t) and getting the Don River out of its concrete channel altogether.
Our next stop was to the Spacing Magazine retail store where publisher Matthew Blackett told us that he is working with Evergreen and the City of Toronto to create city planning podcasts aimed at a millennial audience. “Growing Conversations is our strategy to reach youth, newcomers, renters and those we’re not presently engaging in the official “consultations” the city planning department holds,” he said. His store sells many books about urbanism as well as locally designed products relating to urbanism –and, of course, the magazine.
Blackett, also on our agenda in the afternoon, claims that ‘most of Toronto’s growth is happening downtown–the fastest growing in NA- and that youth18-34 are a driving force behind the downtown condo boom. He said the government will give you 10% down payment interest free and forgiveable as long as you stay in the condo. The top three Issues he sees for this age group: affordable housing; equity; and the environment.
My hope is that this new generation will insist on speedier implementation of environmental restoration plans–e.g., for the mouth of the Don River–and greater awareness with regard to how all aspects of the City’s future are tied to working with nature in an era of climate change.
Aug 2, 2015
Portland’s Old Town China Town neighborhood has an abundance of surface parking lots. In fact, it has far too many to be a vibrant neighborhood much less an expression of the eco-city that Portland purports to be. I’ve joined with five other professional women to try to change that. If we can’t see these central city lots immediately redeveloped to higher and better uses that house people and businesses, we at least want to see them become better parking lots–SPONGY PARKING LOTS.
My friend, Ruth Ann Barrett coined that term and even made a video about Spongy Parking Lots to share with her neighbors in Old Town/Chinatown. She has friends who visit from California and she’s embarrassed to show them how much we waste water here in Portland. When it rains, the water from those parking lots heats up and captures whatever pollutants vehicles leave behind on its way to the nearest storm sewer. The surface parking lots are paved in asphalt and are major contributors to the urban heat island effect that raises the temperature as much as 10° over areas with open land and vegetation. In turn, the extra heat increases the energy needed to cool interior spaces, and puts an extra strain on the grid by exacerbating peak energy loads and hence carbon footprint/climate change. It also contributes to smog formation adding even more public health impacts resulting from excessive outdoor temperature.
We’ll return to all that in a moment, but I first want you to remember walking on a trail in the woods where your feet just seemed to bounce on the earth beneath them. That’s because that soil was kept porous and, yes, spongy, by the mycelium forming a thick mat that was turning wood to soil under your feet. Those mycelium have fruiting bodies that we call mushrooms–which may or may not be visible during your walk.
That mycelium looks a bit like a very dense spider web criss-crossing to create quite a network. It gets its nutrition by decomposing the cellulose in the log. The ability of mycelium of mushrooms in the category of “white rot fungi” to decompose cellulose is related to their ability to decompose numerous other substances as well: bacterial toxins such as e-coli and fecal coliform as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs). Research also shows their ability to transform bunker fuel oil, explosives, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and organochlorine pesticides–substances we hope we won’t find in OTCT parking lots.
We do have models for Spongy Parking Lots nearby. My favorite is at the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center (aka Ecotrust) in the adjacent Pearl District neighborhood. Often on a summer day, the cars are kicked out of this pleasant parking lot for an array of fairs, festivals and farmers’ markets. If you enlarge this photo, you will see that the lot is paved with light colored porous pavers and that those trees are planted in bioswales that also hold an array of mostly native plants. You will see that the parking spaces drain into those bioswales. which are about 2.5 feet deep. Not only do the soils and plants in the bioswales infiltrate the water from the parking lot within 24 hours, they also cool the water and filter the pollutants that come from our vehicles and pets.
What could be better? Well, Portland monitors the effectiveness of its bioswales and some of the latest soil sampling data¹ shows that E-coli and heavy oil results were variable, but levels were higher than the background soil sample sites located nearby but outside of the stormwater facilities. Metal and PAH levels found in stormwater facilities were generally similar to those found in background sample soils. While these results show that soils in bioswales are likely taking up E-coli and heavy oil from runoff that would otherwise go down a storm drain, soil results could be CLEANER THAN THE BACKGROUND SAMPLES in all categories tested: E-coli, heavy oil, metals and PAHs. If mycelium running through the bioswale made the soil spongier and more absorbent and if those same mycelium could help the plants thrive by “eating” more of the pollutants, then I maintain we would have an even spongier parking lot. A spongier parking lot could better utilize and clean the water running off it into bioswales. As its trees and plants grow better with less pollutants in its soil, the spongier parking lot will decrease the urban heat island effect even more and become an important strategy for both mitigating and adapting to climate change.
I hope you will read my previous three short blogs on mycoremediation/mycofiltration (http://plangreen.net/blog) to better understand the technology I am proposing. I plan one more mycoremediation blog on monitoring.
¹Bureau of Environmental Services • City of Portland 2010 Stormwater Management Facility Monitoring Report
Hacked By Shade
GreetZ : Prosox & Sxtz
Hacked By Shade <3
June 24, 2015 Testimony of Mary Vogel, PlanGreen to Portland City Council
There is a great deal to like in the Portland/MultCo Climate Action Plan 2015 and I applaud it as far as it goes. But one of the things missing is attention to URBAN DESIGN not just Urban Form. It needs to include implementation actions on evaluating existing land use policies that shape urban design for impact on climate change. That mandate could be included on p. 80, Urban Form and Transportation Chapter under either Decision-Making or Planning Scenarios Evaluation.
Here’s one example! We need to change a policy that:
Promotes private automobile use
Leads to less community interaction
Makes our sidewalks less safe and useable for pedestrians
Displaces on-street parking spaces that make pedestrians feel safer
Usurps public parking space
Makes sidewalks less useable by pedestrians
Disrupts the look and feel of the neighborhood
Displaces street trees that both protect and add comfort for the pedestrian
Displaces garden space that could be used to grow food
That is the requirement for off-street parking for every new house more than 500’ from a transit stop. Please make sure that a review of this policy and other existing policies is part of the Climate Action Plan. That will greatly strengthen the plan!
I’m adding a couple of examples that were not in my original testimony in order to show both the worst and best of Portland’s central city urban design with regard to parking.
Even Portland’s numerous graffiti artists don’t seem to find these garage doors compelling places for their art–even though the doors front a street in one of the densest and most popular neighborhoods in Portland.
Most pedestrians don’t find this wasteland a compelling place to be either. In fact, they cross the street in order to avoid them. How does such awful urban design continue to exist in one of the most popular neighborhoods in Portland?
Okay, we can keep some off-street parking. In really popular neighborhoods that folks from the suburbs flock to on evenings and weekends, residents with cars can really benefit from off-street parking. This 12 unit condo building with it’s single driveway and garage exists immediately adjacent another abomination like the one above at NW 23rd & Pettygrove in Portland. This building is an example of how off-street parking should be done–if it is done at all.
Let me know your thoughts! I will pass them on to Portland policymakers and planners.
Posted and delivered February 4, 2015
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on the West Quadrant Plan. While I commend the WQP planners for the job that they did in putting together the plan in all of its complexity, they made a significant oversight that I beg you to amend. As a resident of the West End who spends most of her waking hours thinking about and acting on adaptation to climate change, I was utterly dismayed by the lack of Implementation Actions for the West End under Environment. There was ONLY ONE! This is Portland, Oregon where we advertise to people all over the world that WE BUILD GREEN CITIES. And for the major residential area of our downtown, we have only ONE implementation action for the environment in a plan that takes us to 2035???
Below, I expand on that one and propose a dozen others have a peek at these guys. These ideas are NOT NEW! I have been involved in the WQP process since the beginning and I have been blogging on my own site, http://plangreen.net/blog (and other sites too) about how to improve Portland’s downtown since 2009. Some of the actions below build upon action items that were in the Urban Design items of the West End and surrounding neighborhoods. Even if the concepts are found there, they bear repeating under Environment.
- EN1 Encourage the continued improvement and expansion of the Brewery Blocks’ district energy system, along with other opportunities for locally produced distributed energy, e.g., solar, wind, combined heat and power, sewer heat recovery and geothermal exchange. BPS
- EN2 Address climate adaptation and reduce the impacts to neighbors from I-405 noise and air pollution by installing street trees—especially on SW Columbia, SW Jefferson, SW 12th and on every other street in the West End to achieve a tree canopy of at least 30%. PBOT, BES, BPS
- EN3 Address climate adaptation and reduce the impacts to neighbors from I-405 noise and air pollution by installing ecoroofs and green walls on new/redeveloped buildings. Develop a program for existing buildings as well. BPS
- EN4 Address climate adaptation and reduce the impacts to neighbors from I-405 noise and air pollution by working with ODOT to replant I-405 with dense NATIVE trees and shrubs and improve its vine coverage of canyon walls. ODOT, BES, PBOT
- EN5 Connect Goose Hollow with the West End and Downtown by capping I-405. Potential locations include: W Burnside, SW Yamhill/Morrison, SW Salmon/Main and SW Jefferson/Columbia. The caps could support retail or open space. As capping occurs, improve the pedestrian environment (including more trees) on SW 13th and 14th Avenues to support cap access and development. BPS, ODOT, PBOT, Private
- EN6 Attempt to achieve an east-west wildlife corridor from Washington Park to the South Park Blocks and the Willamette River along a re-landscaped SW Salmon Street utilizing native plants and trees to also improve the quality of water discharged into the Willamette. PBOT, BES, BPS
- EN7 Strategically install native vegetation and trees within public open spaces, including the South Park Blocks and streetscapes along the “missing” Park Blocks to achieve a north-south wildlife corridor; Also at Portland Art Museum, Portland Center for Performing Arts, Burnside “jug handles,” Central Library, Trimet turnaround. PPR, BES, PBOT, PAM, Metro, Trimet
- EN8 Develop SW Jefferson Street as a “Green Main Street” with large canopy street trees, stormwater facilities, sidewalk cafes, and support for retail. PBOT, BES, BPS
- EN9 Institute a land tax on the development potential of surface parking lots. Incentivize “Parking Forests” (org) that achieve stormwater management and reduce the urban heat island effect while awaiting redevelopment by reducing such tax if the Parking Forest or other biological control of stormwater is installed. BES, Private
- EN10 Explore opportunities for one or more community gardens. Consider such opportunities at all publically-owned spaces including the roofs and wall of structured parking lots. PPR
- EN11 Require that all new and redeveloped buildings provide opportunity for food gardening. BPS, Private
- EN12 Require that all new and redeveloped buildings capture and reuse water. BPS, BES, Private
- EN13 Require that all invasive plant species be removed from West End properties, both public and private. PPR, private
The wildlife corridors that I propose should also be designed as corridors for families and children. Although the downtown Bike Gallery is my favorite bike shop, I beg you to remove its photo here on p. 84 and ADD THESE IMPLEMENTATION ACTIONS for the West End into the plan. Make this document worthy of the scrutiny of people from around the world who look to us for answers. Let us be proud to say WE BUILD GREEN CITIES—and mean it!
Posted January 28, 2015; Updated February 3, 2012
These are my comments to Portland City Council on the West Quadrant Plan of the Central City 2035 Plan–which will in turn be part of the updated Comprehensive Plan.
The Implementation Actions and Timeline Matrix for the West End is wholly inadequate re: Environmental. In fact, it has only ONE item in it: Encourage the continued improvement and expansion of the Brewery Blocks’ district energy system! We, in the West End deserve better! Here are my suggestions for a better one:
Implementation Actions: West End – Environment
- EN1 Strategically install native vegetation and trees within public open spaces, including the South Park Blocks, Portland Art Museum, Portland Center for Performing Arts, Burnside “jug handles”, Portland Central Library, Trimet turnaround. PPR, PAM, Metro
- EN2 Reduce the impacts to neighbors from I-405 noise and air pollution by installing green walls and ecoroofs on new/redeveloped buildings. Develop a program for existing buildings as well. BPS
- EN3 Reduce the impacts to neighbors from I-405 noise and air pollution by installing street trees—especially on SW Columbia, SW Jefferson, SW 12th and on every other street where possible to achieve a tree canopy of at least 30% PBOT, BES, BPS
- EN4 Work with ODOT to replant I-405 with dense NATIVE trees and shrubs and improve its vine coverage of canyon walls. ODOT, BES, PBOT
- EN5 Connect Goose Hollow with the West End and Downtown by capping I-405. Potential locations include: W Burnside, SW Yamhill/Morrison, SW Salmon/Main and SW Jefferson/Columbia. The caps could support retail or open space. As capping occurs, improve the pedestrian environment (including more trees) on SW 13th and 14th Avenues to support cap access and development. BPS, ODOT, PBOT, Private
- EN6 Landscape SW Salmon Street with native plants and trees to achieve stormwater management, wildlife habitat and active transportation facilities to better connect Washington Park to the South Park Blocks and the Willamette River and improve the quality of water discharged into the Willamette. PBOT, BES, BPS
- EN7 Develop SW Jefferson Street as a “Green Main Street” with stormwater facilities. PBOT, BES, BPS
- EN8 Explore opportunities for consolidating and/or redeveloping Burnside’s “jug handles” into public spaces that also absorb stormwater. PBOT, BPS
- EN9 Incentivize modest redevelopment of existing surface parking lots into “Parking Forests” (parkingforest.org) that achieve stormwater management while awaiting redevelopment. One idea is to institute a land tax that might be reduced if the Parking Forest is installed. BES, Private
- EN10 Explore opportunities for one or more community gardens. If such gardens are within building courtyards or rooftops, they should be available to West End residents who apply, not solely the building occupants. PPR
Some of the above suggestions build upon the Urban Design Implementation Actions. I’ll explore a few of them in a little more depth below, starting with TREES!
Considering our need to adapt to climate change, the West Quad Plan should call for a far larger tree canopy–30% in the West End. And it should show more specifics about where those trees need to go, e.g., SW Jefferson and Columbia west of the South Park Blocks where there are a number of older apartment buildings that currently have no shade and on SW 12th Ave. too. Trees here would give those low-income residents needed cooling in summer and also help protect all West End residents from I-405 emissions. The sidewalks on SW Jefferson and SW Columbia should be widened to accommodate these trees. As the warming that we have set in motion takes hold over the next decade or two, every tree will become ever more precious.
These streets should also get bioretention facilities planted with a diversity of native plants to turn them into Green Streets. I support an early idea from BPS to make SW 12th Avenue a Greenway St. and to make SW Jefferson a Green Main Street—with priority given to nature, pedestrians and bikes.
The plan should develop a program to help owners of all buildings on SW 13th and 14th Avenues install green walls to mitigate freeway emissions for their own residents and employees as well as the surrounding community. If research here shows its effectiveness, such installation should become mandatory. See Green Walls Could Cut Street-Canyon Air Pollution.
The Plan should call for the City to work with ODOT to improve the tree and vine coverage of I-405 and adjoining streets. (Several trees have fallen in 2014.) I-205 where a native forest is being planted could be looked at as a model. Ultimately, the Plan should set a timeline for capping I-405 in the not too distant future.
Make at least one east-west running street a connectivity corridor for wildlife from Washington Park to the Willamette River. I have suggested SW Salmon for this street because I believe it to be the most direct route. I regularly walk it from downtown to Washington Park and bike it through downtown to Tom McCall Park on the river. I believe I was successful in getting this idea into the Plan, but I want to repeat this recommendation so that it doesn’t get removed.
The Plan should also call for re-wilding our Park Blocks in order give wildlife south-north corridor from Marquam Park to the Willamette River where the North Park Blocks join the River in the Pearl District.
The Plan should return to us the victory we had won for no parking around the inner perimeter of the Park Blocks. The “temporary” parking there was only supposed to last as long as it took to build the Transit Mall. The Plan should call for turning some of those reclaimed parking spaces into sponges for stormwater and habitat for wildlife.
Green walls, green roofs and rain gardens should be required for any building that occupies space in or adjacent the original Park Blocks–especially those blocks north of Director Park. This will help create a continuous corridor for wildlife along a south-north route.
The Willamette River itself needs to become more wild through our City. The Plan needs to call for implementing the excellent technologies in the Willamette River Design Notebook. It should make them mandatory. And we need to bring in far more native trees, shrubs and wildflowers to Tom McCall Waterfront Park as well as other portions of the river’s shoreline.
Where the shore of the River is deeply walled, the Plan should designate areas for “fish hotels” to provide resting places for migrating fish on their journey up or down the river.
Yes! to the suggestions from downtown residents on the Comprehensive Plan MapApp¹ to replace surface parking lots. I suggested a way to move the speculators off their cash cows by taxing them at their development potential–see Universal Tax Abatement for Downtown Portland.
Meanwhile on these sites, the Plan should require a Parking Forest (Maria Cahill’s idea for getting more trees without taking parking spaces). I would really like to see what surface parking lots that do remain in the future take a page from Ecotrust and manage ALL stormwater onsite. They should also be fun places to hold events. Ruth Ann Barrett has a video that could be used to popularize these strategies: Spongy Parking Lots,
Some MapApp commentators before me call for the Plan to stimulate more housing. To their voices, I would add more FAMILY housing. To bring in more families, downtown needs more reasonably priced apartments and condos and some of them need to be three bedroom–with maybe a daycare center or school on the ground floor. Cargo bike parking should also be part of these new family-friendly buildings—along with space to lock bike trailers—and okay, I’ll concede a few station wagons. . .
We DON’T need more point towers to attract wealthy investors who will only live here part time—if at all. I have long promoted density–but only along with great urban design and ecosystem services–leaving room for nature to help us out. I have come to believe that lower height limits–say 150-160′ in the West End–are necessary in order to mitigate the wind tunnel effect of tall buildings and their impacts on solar access–and to make our neighborhood more appealing to families.
¹Portlanders commenting on the update to our Comprehensive Plan are asked to put comments directly on MapApp. I hope to add some of these there too–although it looks like those of us in the Central City may be excluded.
On Dec. 20, 2014 our statewide newspaper, The Oregonian, published an editorial that gave those who care about climate change opportunity to express our incredulity at their short-sitedness. I was one of many who did:
Dec. 24, 2014 Letter to Editor, Oregonian – Stimulate a Clean Energy Economy
On Dec. 20, your editorial board maintained that climate change is best handled on the federal and international levels, hence Oregonians should not “adopt unproductive measures that either cost them money or reduce employment opportunities” (Dec. 20, 2014). Rather than reduce employment opportunities, the Governors of California, Oregon, Washington and the premier of British Columbia are working to coordinate efforts to STIMULATE A CLEAN-ENERGY ECONOMY rather than accept jobs in dirty energy industries that may soon have stranded assets. In a region with a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion and 53 million people this WILL make a difference.
California and British Columbia have already placed a price on greenhouse gas emissions and adopted clean fuel standards–with no harm, only good, to their economies. Not only should Oregon follow suit, but the Oregon Legislature should also require that the 30% of our electricity now produced by coal convert to clean energy by 2025. This will stimulate more jobs in industries with a great future!
Mary Vogel PlanGreen Downtown Portland
And on Dec. 30, 2014, the Washington Post asked small business owners to comment on headlines they would be thrilled to see in 2015. Here’s how I answered their brief questionnaire:
Name: Mary Vogel
Title: (Owner, President, CEO, etc): Principal and Founder
Company’s name: PlanGreen
Company’s location (city, state): Portland, Oregon
What the company does (concisely, one or two sentences): PlanGreen brings the services that nature provides for free to excellent urban design and planning. We consult on planning and urban design towards a regenerative future!
Headline you would like to see in 2015 (max 10 words): Keystone Pipeline Dead, Columbia River Gorge No Alternative!
Why that news would benefit your company (one paragraph, please be specific about the expected effects on your company or small businesses in general): My company, PlanGreen, is about redressing the highly inefficient and environmentally damaging way we have developed in the US for the last 60+ years because of cheap fossil fuels. The compact urban form and walkable neighborhoods that I help to create would see even greater demand if fossil fuel development were not subsidized and/or facilitated with pipelines and rail/barge shipping. In the case of the Columbia Gorge, it is difficult to promote the kind of denser redevelopment of the historic downtowns that the rail lines go through in the Gorge when coal trains are spewing health-damaging coal dust and oil trains offer the possibility of blowing up their entire downtowns. If fossil fuel development had to pay for all of its externalities, we would see much faster development of the kind of distributed renewable energy that PlanGreen promotes.
Thanks for the opportunity to participate! Have a great new year yourselves! Mary