Category Archives: Jeff Speck

Gretchen Kafoury Memorial Street Trees Proposal

I’m happy to announce that the Urban Greenspaces Institute will be the Fund’s fiscal sponsor. Go to https://www.urbangreenspaces.org/support-our-work  and put “Gretchen Fund” in the comment box.

March 15, 2015 – Portland, Oregon

Gretchen Kafoury, one of my heroine’s and neighbors here in downtown Portland, died Friday, March 13, 2015 at the age of 72.  Two weeks earlier she had testified before Portland City Council on the need to get more affordable housing into South Waterfront, part of an Urban Renewal Area that started while she was in office.  I, for one, expected many more years of her deep wisdom and boundless activism.

GKC SWColumbia

Treeless SW Columbia St. side of Gretchen Kafoury Commons, built by Housing Authority of Portland (now Home Forward) in 2000.

I am proposing Gretchen Kafoury Memorial Street Trees on SW Columbia Street–starting with the building that bears her name at SW 13th Ave. and Columbia.  Gretchen Kafoury Commons has no trees on the Columbia St. side.  Street trees here could block for its residents the view of !-405–and maybe some of its air and noise pollution too.  They could also calm the traffic on the all too wide SW Columbia Street.

I propose to set up a memorial fund controlled by the Kafoury family or their designee. That fund would work with Portland Urban Forestry and its Bureaus of Transportation and Environmental Services and Home Forward to do the necessary infrastructure work to put in the street trees.

P1010899

SW Columbia residences between SW 11th & 12th Avenues that need memorial trees

Depending upon the amount of money the fund is able to raise, it would move eastward on SW Columbia to install street trees in front of other buildings along the street that house low-income people.

Says Jeff Speck in  his book Walkable City:. . . Often the first item in the budget to be cut, street trees are key to pedestrian comfort and urban livablity in so many ways. In addition to offering shade, they reduce ambient temperatures in hot weather, absorb rainwater and tailpipe emissions, provide UV protection, and limit the effects of wind.  Trees also slow cars and improve the sense of enclosure by “necking down” the street space with their canopies. Speck points to a study of street trees in Portland that found that the presence of healthy street trees likely adds $15.3 million to annual property tax revenues–a 12 to 1 payoff on what Portland spends for tree planting and maintenance.

NW corner of SW Columbia & 12th Ave. low-income residence that needs memorial trees.

NE corner SW Columbia & 12th Ave low-income residence that needs memorial trees

NE Corner SW Columbia & 12th Ave needs memorial trees

That data makes Portland sound progressive with regard to street trees, but these photos hardly make Portland seem like the  eco-city it advertizes to the world.  After all, these buildings are NOT in some recently annexed part of the city that has not been brought up to standards. Rather they are in the residential part of the oldest part of our city–DOWNTOWN.

 

 

SW Columbia and SW Jefferson are part of Portland’s move towards one-way couplets that, back in the 70s, turned downtown streets into car sewers for suburban commuters to  get to their jobs and back out again quickly.  Everything was done for the convenience of the suburban commuter.  Little thought was given to those who didn’t have the means to move out.

Now, the tide has turned and we need to narrow overly wide streets and widen too narrow sidewalks–AND PLANT TREES..  As more and more people are interested in living downtown, cranes are going up on many streets, closing all but one lane of streets that are two to three traffic lanes wide.  Somehow, commuters make do. For example, drivers leaving downtown are now getting by on one lane on SW Jefferson as lanes are closed for construction between SW 11th and SW 12th Avenues (and also on SW 12th)–making me think that we could re-configure this roadway and that of its couplet street SW Columbia to accommodate wider sidewalks, street trees, green street (bioretention) facilities and a bike lane.  Let’s make it happen!

Addendum 3-25-15

While wider sidewalks with street trees on SW Columbia and Jefferson would be my ideal, I had to re-think my vision last week after talking with Andrew Haliburton, PE, at KPFF who generously donated his time to estimate costs based upon previous projects. Andrew said that to widen the sidewalk would likely cost on the order of $180,000–and that’s just for one side of the street!  (Do you ever wonder where the term “Highway Robbery” came from?)  So, in order to accomplish this project in the next year or so, the best option seems to be to install the trees on the current sidewalk. More recently, Cevero Gonzalez from PBOT told me that in order to widen the sidewalk, the City would have to move a water main and that would take millions.  We should all be asking why, when TriMet dug up the streets to put in bus pads a couple years ago, that didn’t trigger the water main move. It seems that its only needed for wider sidewalks!!!

The Mexican Consulate at SW 12th & Jefferson added four street trees to the Jefferson St. side in late 2010. They make a great addition to the street!

The Mexican Consulate at SW 12th & Jefferson added four street trees to the Jefferson St. side in late 2010. They make a great addition to the street!

The Mexican Consulate at SW 12th & Jefferson seems to have added trees on SW Jefferson in 2010 when it made other improvements to its property.  SW Jefferson has sidewalks of similar width as  SW Columbia in the blocks in question.  Already, the consulate’s trees are making a world of difference in both the pedestrian experience and the visitor/occupant experience.  I expect that the money for both the sidewalk removal and street tree–about $1,000 per tree according to Andrew–will be privately raised.

Addendum April 12, 2015 – After three intense weeks of work and some nail-biting, it looks like it is, in fact, possible to plant at least one tree in front of Gretchen Kafoury Commons on the SW Columbia side within the current narrow sidewalk.  First, I had to check with utility companies to assure that a tree would not interfere with their underground infrastructure.  Comcast (I think) and NW Natural painted their response on the street, Century Link emailed and Portland Water Bureau called.  I called Comcast specifically to verify with them as that was the utility line Portland Urban Forestry’s Rick Faber had mentioned as a potential problem.  And they verified good to go!

Rick Faber had already confirmed two spots in front of New Avenues for Youth, a non-profit next door to Gretchen Kafoury Commons.  I talked with Sean Suib, Executive Director there.  He said he is happy to seek the cooperation of his board.  And he expects to cooperate on the paperwork when the time comes.

Tomorrow I meet with Stephen Kafoury–hopefully about setting up the fund.  Then it will take some folks who are really great at social media and marketing to get word out there.  There certainly was an impressive turnout at the memorial service on April 4.  I’m hoping to reach everyone who came–and more.

April 13, 2015 – I’m happy to announce that the Urban Greenspaces Institute will be the Fund’s fiscal sponsor. Go to https://www.urbangreenspaces.org/support-our-work  and put “Gretchen Fund” in the comment box.  I also hope that you will join Gretchen Kafoury Memorial Street Trees on Facebook.

June 12, 2015 –  As a low-income business owner who has spent well over a month of pro bono work developing the Gretchen Kafoury Memorial Street Trees Fund with the encouragement of the Kafoury family, I was both delighted with the State of the County speech today at City Club Friday Forum and depressed that I was not able to get my effort to create this fund any attention. This would have been the perfect venue to raise the measly $3500 we need to plant trees in front of the low income housing in downtown Portland bearing Gretchen’s name.  I fault myself especially. Instead of asking permission, I should have used a Gretchen strategy:  Don’t bother with permission, just get up and make your announcement in the Q&A session before they can stop you!  You can ask forgiveness afterward.

PLEASE CONTRIBUTE to the fund to make a green buffer against the air and noise pollution from I-405. Residents of Gretchen Kafoury Commons also need the slower traffic and more pleasant walking experience that street trees bring.

July 14, 2015 – There are many more buildings housing low-income people downtown that need street trees.  I’ll post a few more, but feel free to post your own too.  Dowtown is everyone’s neighborhood!  Let’s make this into a tactical urbanism project and get something done.

Carmelita overlooking I-405

The Carmelita overlooks I-405 Freeway and the too wide Jefferson St.

 

Chaucer Court photo by PlanGreen

Chaucer Court and adjacent parking lot have no street trees. Many residents sit outside on SW 10th Ave.

The Pinecone on SW 11th Ave. has no street trees though it does have some nice cedars on the north end of the building.

The Pinecone on SW 11th Ave. has no street trees though it does have some nice cedars on the north end of the building.

Ongford on SW 11th has no trees.

Ongford on SW 11th has no trees.

11th Ave Lofts by PlanGreen

11th Ave Lofts on SW Columbia has no trees.

Getting Planning and Transportation Right

Jeff Speck, New Urbanist Author and Consultant, spoke September 21, 2011 at Metro Regional Center in Portland, OR on the topic of Getting Planning and Transportation Right.  My Congress for the New Urbanism Cascadia Chapter colleague, Jonathan Winslow, took copious notes at the talk and shared them with us below.  I will add remarks at the end.

From Jonathan:
Introduction of Speck by Bill Lennertz of the National Charrette Institute and CNU Cascadia Chapter: As National Endowment of the Arts Design Director directed Mayors Inst on City Design: 8 mayors, 8 designs, all bring case study to explore from their city

-Wrote self-help book on getting a job in late 1980s, joking in introduction about this:  Hot Tips, Sneaky Tricks, and Last-Ditch Tactics: An Insider’s Guide to Getting Your First Corporate Job by Jeff Speck http://www.amazon.com/Tips-Sneaky-Tricks-Last-Ditch-Tactics/dp/0471615145/

-1988 Jeff walked into DPZ Cambridge office and was hired by Bill Lennertz. Almost went to work for OMA/Koolhaus to work on S,M,L,XL book

-Great Duany lecture Towns vs Sprawl (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwd4Lq0Xvgc)?

-Co-Author of Suburban Nation and The Smart Growth Manual

-New Urbanism: lessons for new places based on best places we have today, whatever works best and a willingness to learn from the past and what is loved the most

Jeff Speck’s Talk:
Considering the audience, feel a better title for the talk would be “Advanced Topics in Planning and Transportation”

5 points to discuss:

  1. Theory of Walkability
  2. Urban Triage
  3. One-ways vs. Two-ways
  4. What we know now about parking (Donald Shoup)
  5. Greenwash

Smartest Person he knows, Andres Duany, made a big mistake criticizing Portland a decade ago

Bicycling big in Portland, make investment in infrastructure and people will bike
-$65,000,000 in 20 years
-Biking in Portland shows whats attainable

Walking cities:
-Save people money and stimulate local economy, from Joe Cortright study
-Cortright ‘Portland Green Dividend’ (http://www.impresaconsulting.com/node/42)
-While other cities building outer loops and more auto accommodations, Portland invested in transit and bikes, skinny streets program and the UGB. 1996 VMT peaked

THEORY OF WALKABILITY
Frame through walkability by both means and measure
-A REASON to walk: a balance of uses, non-separation of uses
-A SAFE walk: reality and perception, size of blocks PDX (200 ft blocks) vs. SLC (600 ft blocks), smaller blocks = smaller streets
-Shear number of lanes – induced demand, wider roads easier to drive get behavior change
-Mumford quote: widening roads like loosening belt
-Traffic engineers caused traffic
-Induced demand works in reverse, remove lanes and roads to reduce traffic
-Britain stopped building roads, road fighting group disbanded since no longer needed to fight
Oklahoma City – walkability study for downtown
-4-6 lane streets downtown, all arterials with 7000-11000 vehicle traffic counts
-two-lane streets can handle that 7000-11000 traffic load, streets oversized
-undertaking program called ‘Project 180′ (http://okc180.com/) to rebuild every street in 50 block core
-can use cheap simple paint for changes
-irony of current oil and gas wealth in city is funding this large streetscape design cost
Oversized streets: standards changed between 1950s and 1980s
-Every street has a design speed and 13’ lanes are highway standards
-Portland’s skinny streets program is laudable
-Important to not have one specialty control entire street design
Parallel parked cars – sometimes remove parked cars for bike lanes, kill stores with removal of parking, trees and parked cars protect pedestrians
-A COMFORTABLE walk: space and orientation
-a sense of enclosure, humans love enclosure, ratio of surrounding wall height to ground
important
-Columbus, OH street bridge over highway with retail on it, sense of enclosure (‘Cap at Union Station’, http://www.meleca.com/content/projects/retail/02/aerial-view-from-north-east[1].jpg)
-Gresham Civic Drive Station TOD, provides sense of enclosure along street except one small section that loses the sense of enclosure to the detriment of entire street
(http://g.co/maps/au9pv), exposed sidewalk, no parking along this street. Difference between West Coast vs. East Coast new urbanism: West coast gets the transit right, while East coast gets the details right. Whereas Kentlands: liner buildings in front of big box stores good, but no transit only transit-ready.
-An INTERESTING walk: showed downtown Grand Rapids slide of major street with terrible street frontage of two imposing parking garages on both sides of the street
(http://g.co/maps/d3kd8). Demand active streetfronts.

URBAN TRIAGE
-A dominance of auto uses in cities, can’t transform everything into walkable places
-Most cities want walkability but not enough walkability to go around, must pick winners for walkability
-Have to get people to walk by choice and the first place is downtown, downtown is everyone’s part of town, the gateway for visitors and the oldest/most walkable by design than any other neighborhood.
-Davenport, Iowa example for a street quality analysis. Red (bad) to green (good) color measure on map, not evaluating streets but buildings… measure spatial enclosure and activity.

ONE-WAYS VS. TWO-WAYS
-ODOT one way happy especially in small towns (i.e. Sandy, OR)
-One ways are destructive: mass momentum of vehicles in one direction with uninterrupted flow. Issue with multiple lanes of cars jockeying between lanes with speed.
-One ways hurt retail and limits visibility and distributes vitality, stores orient to traffic flows at particular time of day, i.e. rush hour homeward bound traffic, limited vitality not day long like with two-way
-13 ft travel lanes in Davenport, IA go on road diets
-AECOM formerly Gladding Jackson traffic engineering firm that is most progressive
-One of best article seen in a long time is article in Governing Magazine called the ‘Return of the Two-Way Street’ http://governing.p2technology.com/column/return-two-way-street on Vancouver, WA Main Street, overnight transformation of street and business doubled

ROAD DIETS
-Specific change from 4 lanes to 3 lanes (1 in each direction with center turn lane) space for bike lanes or on-street parking on one side
-T-bone crashes with 4 lane street design with left turning traffic on oncoming traffic (2nd
opposing lane is the risk)
-Streets don’t lose capacity with 4 to 3 lane road diet
-Road paint doesn’t cost money, good cheap solution
-Use up roadway width with angled parking

WHAT WE NOW KNOW ABOUT PARKING
-Donald Shoup has been our thought leader here
-Parking is not a civil right
-Don’t start with parking as a revenue generator, can make a lot of money with it but that is not the main objective
-Parking is a public good to manage well, can adjust price to demand
-Now can add time to meter with cell phones and also know where parking is available (SF Park http://sfpark.org/)
-Price parking so 1 space is empty at all time (approx. 15% vacancy)
-Parking choices mirror demand, if undercharge get parking crowding and people don’t shop
-Know availability and price online, spaces available in right amount
-Have good alternatives to driving
-How to get it to happen politically? All money you make goes to public benefit district.
Pasadena, two districts: Old Pasadena put in parking meters and money went to improvements. Westward Village went with free parking, couldn’t find parking since underpriced at free, area died.
-With cities the revolutions now are in biking and parking, have figured out others like TOD.

GREENWASH
-Green Metropolis by David Owen (http://www.amazon.com/Green-Metropolis-Smaller-Driving- Sustainability/dp/B005EP2XYC/), best planning book of 10 years. Manhattan is greenest place, lowest carbon footprint per capita by city form and function.
-Gizmo Green: Rocky Mountain Institute, just about adding green gadgets on buildings but building located in the middle of the woods and requires long distance auto travel to get there or to run any errand. Walkscore of 20 out of 100. Driving is greatest carbon footprint impact.
-Location efficiency and building type, location matters. Center for Neighborhood Technology
(CNT) (www.cnt.org) maps of location efficiency.
-Image of the Green house, gizmo green in the middle of nature, misses big picture.
-Showed image of LEED Platinum building without any transit deep in exurban area
-EPA Headquarters in Kansas City moved out of downtown into exurban KC into LEED building (former Applebee’s HQ)
-Jevons paradox: make more efficient brings → costs down → consume even more than before. Sweden carbon footprint went up because people drive so much with energy efficient cars.
-Sustainable decision is to be in urban environment
– – –
end Jonathan Winslow

For me, the most interesting part of the evening was a land use advocate from Washington County who had become thoroughly familiar with Speck’s work and quoted it extensively in public meetings to try to change the outmoded traffic engineering standards of her County.  Such standards prompted Washington County to choose to widen a two lane road to five lanes–over the objections of an organized group of residents.

She expressed gratitude to Speck for his work, but considerable frustration about inability to get more help to turn Washington County around.  She felt that residents in unincorporated areas of Washington County were at a special disadvantage, because, while land use standards were going towards denser, more compact and mixed use, the County’s transportation engineering has not kept up with latest thinking.  Instead, her community (Bethany) “sits outside of any city or jurisdiction that would support it to grow in a sustainable manner.”

She reminded me of the importance of continuing to get New Urbanist tools, thought leaders and designers out there front and center.  Our skills are critical if we are to achieve what Metro is calling “Climate Smart Communities.”