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Two Portlands? – One Portland Plan!

November 30, 2009

We now have two Portland Plan workshops under our belt – about 170 people attended at the Beaumont School and another 130 joined us at David Douglas High School. If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend, I strongly encourage you to join us for one the five remaining workshops (next up – St. John’s Community Center on December 1st at 6:30pm).

I’m intrigued that the first two workshops occur in what some people call the “two Portlands” – in one of Portland’s older traditional neighborhoods, and in one of the outer-East areas annexed in the 1980s. The areas are contrasted by differences in infrastructure – East Portland was originally developed under County development standards and in many places lacks urban infrastructure (like sidewalks) and in many ways a well-defined urban form. In recent years socio-economic differences have also grown as new immigrants have settled in East Portland and gentrification has driven lower-income families eastward. The East Portland Action Plan seeks to address some of these issues.

So I was very interested to contrast the workshop input from these two locations to see how how visions of Portland’s future might differ. The raw polling results from the workshop are now available (Beaumont School and David Douglas), and we can begin to look at the commonalities and differences.

Fundamentally it appears to me that both groups share a similar set of values and visions for the City, but do see some different needs based on the differing existing conditions in their neighborhoods. This can be seen in the identification of key issues over the next 25 years that the Portland Plan will cover.

Beaumont School Workshop:

David Douglas Workshop:

Both groups identify sustainability and the natural environment as the most important issue (NE much more strongly so) while the East Portland group puts a much stronger emphasis on Design, Planning and Public Spaces (arguably some of the attributes lacking in East Portland neighborhoods) and on Qualify of Life issues.

Commonalities:

  • Basic education should be our top priority for job creation
  • The City should increase the investment of public funds directed toward long-range job growth
  • Walkability and access are the key to improving neighborhood business districts
  • Neighborhood schools should have more modern technology and classrooms and should be more open to community use
  • We need more cultural activities and arts education for our kids
  • Access to affordable grocery stores is the most important factor for healthy eating (NE also wants support for home gardening)
  • Government policy should factor health issues on a par with economic and environmental impacts

Differences:

  • East Portland supports a greater focus on supporting and marketing neighborhood business districts
  • NE Portland would address environmental protection with an emphasis on protecting streams and trees, East Portland emphasizes acquiring and restoring natural areas (both support both approaches to some degree)
  • NE identifies walking, biking and transit use as the top opportunity for personal contributions to reducing climate change, while East Portland puts top priority on home energy use (and weatherization) and avoiding disposable goods
  • Flood and landslide protection is on the radar screen in East Portland but not in NE (possibly due to the location of the Johnson Creek floodplain)
  • Both groups are likely to affiliate through neighborhood groups and interest groups, but East Portland folks are also likely to affiliate through school-based and sports or recreation groups to a greater degree than in NE
  • Both groups consider walking distance to stores and restaurants to be a key factor in selecting where to live, but East Portland puts a greater secondary priority on attractive neighborhoods and proximity to good schools
  • Both groups support transportation investments in street maintenance and transit, but NE would prioritize investments in bikeways while East Portland would focus on sidewalks

Bringing it Together

Of course we need to hear the input from the remaining workshops, but I’m glad it looks like there are some common themes. One of the tricks for the Portland Plan will be to reflect the common visions and needs of our whole City while also addressing the specific needs of different areas, including East Portland. While I haven’t gone into it here, you could also make the argument that there are really ‘three Portlands’ as much of SW Portland has topography and unique development patterns that will require focus as well.

We Need Diversity!

Another commonality between the folks attending both workshops is that they were older, whiter and more affluent that the overall profile of Portland’s population. We need to hear from a representative cross-section of Portlanders and we’ll be happy to come to you! If you’d like us to bring our workshop to your church, group, association or club – contact us.

P.S. For some fun, check out the comic strip created by Scrantz at the Beaumont School workshop.

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