I went to the session the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability had for the environmental community last night (April 3, 2013) on the current Working Draft of the new Comprehensive Plan. This session was held at the Native American Center on the Portland State University campus at the behest of two members of the Watershed and Environmental Health Professional Expert Group (PEG): Judy Bluehorse Skelton and Claire Carder. Judy gave a tour of the student-planted and maintained green roof atop the Center and someone else led one on the other green infrastructure on the campus.
At the session on “Healthy Economy, Healthy Environment”, I came to the conclusion that more of us who care about the environment need to be
- praising manufacturers, like Toyota, who are willing to change their ways to restore the environment at their facility along the river (Please see my blog on Toyota.);
- pushing the City to recruit more companies like Toyota and giving them suggestions from our own reading and research;
- exposing industrialists in North Portland who are unwilling to work towards creating a healthy environment along with the jobs they tout;
- asking lots of questions about proposed tax breaks for brownfield redevelopment and coming up with acceptable solutions.
- supporting North Portland residents who are stewarding and restoring parks such as Pier Park that can become part of a wildlife connectivity corridor if linked to other natural areas.
I sent planners links to two recent articles by Richard Florida and Neal Peirce exploring “The Uselessness of Tax Incentives for Economic Development”. Both were based on a New York Times in-depth series on the topic. I already got a response from planner Steve Kountz distinguishing tax breaks for land from the tax breaks for business that the NYT series was largely about. I hope that he will put that response below in the comments.
Otherwise, we will see the continued erosion of what greenspace is left at the confluence of TWO great rivers–the Columbia and the Willamette–an area that is critically important to wildlife. Already, planners propose to take at least a portion of 800 acres of golf courses and most of West Hayden Island into industrial land. Many of us said we preferred that the City push the redevelopment of vacant brownfields first, but the difficulty Steve pointed out was cost. He encouraged us to read the City’s Brownfield Assessment report, but it seems the solutions boil down to tax incentives. Most of the group were wary about those as well.
Other solutions for wildlife that were discussed were green or ecoroofs atop factories and other facilities and bioswales along parking lots and roads. In its North Reach River Plan, the City has proposed the Willamette Greenway Plan be extended through the industrial corridor, but industry pushed back (see Toyota link above).
Please use this link to send the City your own comments. They are due by May 1,2013 but don’t delay until then. Do it today!