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Making Portland Plan plans

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Portland is a planning Mecca and it's time to update our Koran: The Portland Plan, a broad, strategic plan with objectives and policy directions. Currently the city is going through what’s called Periodic Review, which was enacted by the state Legislature in 1981. It establishes a "factual basis" in several topic areas per state law such as land supply, development potential, and employment and housing needs.

On January 26 and February 9, the first two in a series of meetings began to review the Portland Plan, and the next meeting is scheduled for March 9. The topic will be nine “action areas”:

- Prosperity, business success & equity
- Education & skill development
- Arts, culture & innovation
- Sustainability and the natural environment
- Human health, food & public safety
- Quality of life & civic engagement
- Design, planning & public spaces
- Neighborhoods & housing
- Transportation, technology & access


There are two main stages to this process: an evaluation of the existing plan and then potential updates made. In September 2009, the city decided on a three-year work plan with three components: (1) Land use inventory and analysis (we are in this stage through fall of this year); (2) Consideration of alternative courses of action; and (3) Selecting preferred alternatives and implementation pf policies, zoning code and map updates (2011-2012).

According to my friend Eric Engstrom of the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, there are a number of factors here of interest to the design community. “The Portland Plan raises the possibility,” he says, “of further historic preservation work in outer East Portland, where we have never cataloged historic buildings.”

Further, Engstrom says, “It could create a venue to discuss desirability of having some mid-century historic districts in the future, to preserve examples of atomic ranch subdivisions. It creates a venue to discuss relationship of sustainability to retention and re-use of existing structures (embodied energy of existing buildings, recycling buildings, reducing carbon footprint, etc.). It could lead to stronger policies on that issue.”


The plan also creates, Engstrom says, “a place to discuss our overall policy of how we re-use iconic buildings. It won't necessarily prevent battles like Memorial Coliseum in the future, but offers a way to create/refine a policy on how we approach those issues.”

And the Urban Design report “raises the question of how we re-design public spaces,” he adds, “especially the street right of way, to serve more than cars, to make them actual places, rather than ugly space you must pass through to get where you want to go.”

Some population and housing figures are particularly important to the Portland Plan.

Metro forecasts that 464,438 to 619,628 new households will be located in the greater Portland area by 2035. It’s also forecast that Portland itself will accrue 105,000 to 136,000 new households by 2035 (1.2 to 1.6% annual growth). That means 3,500-4,500 units need to be built each year just to keep up. By comparison, 29,300 units were built between 1997 and 2007.

Metro also forecasts that regional employment would increase from just under one million jobs in 2005 to between 1.36 and 1.85 million by 2035. In Portland proper, the forecast is for 113,000 to 202,000 jobs.


The Planning Commission will next be meeting about this on March 9th at 1:15pm. Topics will include land supply assumptions and maps, future hearings and recommendations to City Council. Public testimony will be heard at this meeting from 1:15-3pm in the 2500A room of the 1900 SW 4th building.

Want to make your voice heard? Fill out a survey by March 31 to indicate your preferences on a range of issues. The Planning Commission will continue with meetings in March, and then Round 2 Workshops will be held in April and May.

by Brian Libby, 2010

Published with permission of Portland Architecture

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