Category Archives: Parking

Mycoremediation with “Spongy Parking Lots”

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.

Spongy Parking Lots Video image

Image borrowed from PDX Downtowner You Tube site.

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.

Spongy trail in an old growth forest. Photo by PlanGreen

Spongy trail in an old growth forest. Photo by PlanGreen

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.

Mycelium on log

The white stuff in this photo is mycelium. It will spread throughout the log and ultimately decompose it–creating spongy soil. Photo by PlanGreen.

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.

Ecotrust Parking Lot

Built in 2001, the parking lot at Ecotrust is an outstanding model of a “Spongy Parking Lot”. It probably even has a few mushrooms by now. Photo by PlanGreen

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.

BES Sediment Testing Chart

HCID-TPH is a screen to determine the presence and type of petroleum products that may exist in water or soil. Table from BES 2010 Stormwater Monitoring Report referenced below.

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

 

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Downtown Portland 2035

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!

Well-maintained, but forlorn and HOT in summer with no shade

Apartment building on SW 12th Ave. at Columbia needs trees! Well-maintained, but forlorn and HOT in summer with no shade.

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.

Tiny alien spruce sapling to replace 40 yr. old tree. We need a forest of NATIVE conifers instead!

Tiny alien spruce seedling to replace 40 yr. old tree.  Tell ODOT this doesn’t meet our new Tree Code!  We need a forest of NATIVE conifers along I-405 instead!

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.

Micro swales such as this one installed on the side of Portland Armory could be part of the palate for buildings in the Park Blocks.

Micro swales such as this one installed on the side of Portland Armory could be part of the palate for buildings in the Park Blocks.

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.

WRDNotebookThe 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 NotebookIt 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.

This parking lot at SW 10th & Main is one of many in downtown Portland that have no trees--creating wastelands for the residences around them.

This parking lot at SW 10th & Main is one of many in downtown Portland that have no trees–creating wastelands for the residences around them.

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.

EcotrustParking

Ecotrust parking lot is enclosed on two sides by trees and mostly native shrubs and wildflowers. The surface is porous pavers. Its a delightful place to hold events, Photo: Green Hammer

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.

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.”