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Nihao, Climate Action

Long before President Obama’s climate agreement with China, the Chinese translation of Portland’s Climate Action Plan had been downloaded more than 1,000 times.

The November announcement by the United States and China of new commitments to reduce carbon emissions came as a surprise — even to
climate policy insiders. But to BPS staff Michael Armstrong and Mark Raggett, newly returned from a technical exchange to Kunming, China, it was a natural extension of a two-year partnership between Portland and Kunming to accelerate carbon reduction at the city scale.

Raggett and Armstrong joined an eight-person team on an October visit to Kunming, a city of four million in southern China. Like Portland, Kunming enjoys clean air, beautiful surroundings, and a recognition that environmental quality can spur economic opportunity. And like many Chinese cities, Kunming is growing at a jaw-dropping pace, with construction cranes dominating the views in every direction. All the same, Kunming is determined to preserve the high quality of life that is part of its appeal. Kunming built the first bus rapid transit system in China and is now building five subway lines . . . simultaneously! It is also trying to maintain its 25 percent bicycle/scooter mode split by building a citywide network of bikeways. And in what would be a first for China, Kunming is analyzing the feasibility of using an urban growth boundary to guide growth.

How do you say “urban growth boundary” in Chinese? “U-G-B.” 

bannerThe Portland-Kunming exchange is part of the cities’ EcoPartnership, a program established by the U.S. State Department and the Chinese Foreign Ministry to support city- and state-level collaboration between the two countries. With financial and technical support from the Energy Foundation covering all the expenses, the Portland-Kunming EcoPartnership has been among the most active and successful of the collaborations, trading information about bikeway planning, water quality, green building, and urban growth boundaries.

As Kunming officials finalize their plans for developing the site of the former airport — for history buffs, this was the home base to the “Flying Tigers,” — the American volunteer pilot corps operating in China and Burma during World War II—they soaked up Mark Raggett’s descriptions of Portland’s South Waterfront development.  The Kunming planners took particular interest in the greenway along the river, the varied heights, sizes and shapes of the buildings, and the mix of residential and commercial uses.

Michael had the satisfaction of seeing well-thumbed copies of the Chinese translation of Portland's Climate Action Plan, which was translated into Mandarin several years ago and has been downloaded more than 1,000 times. In discussions with Kunming counterparts, Michael underscored that Portland's efforts to address climate change span initiatives as diverse as solar energy, walkable neighborhoods, and composting food scraps. Kunming officials were captivated by images of Tilikum Crossing and the fact that Portland's newest bridge will carry light rail, streetcar, buses, bicycles and pedestrians, but no private vehicles. Together with Portland's track record in reducing carbon emissions to 11 percent below 1990 levels over a period of substantial population and job growth, Portland's continuing climate work exemplifies the ability of cities in the U.S. and China to do their part to respond to climate change.

The October visit was led by Gail Shibley, Mayor Hales’ chief of staff. Robert Liberty, director of Portland State University’s Urban Sustainability Accelerator and former Metro councilor, joined the delegation to share Oregon’s approach to urban growth boundaries, and Sean Penrith, Executive Director of the Climate Trust, explained how his organization invests in carbon offset projects to minimize the cost of reducing carbon emissions. Portland Bureau of Transportation planner Denver Igarta also took part, sharing design and planning insights from Portland’s experience with bikeways and examining Kunming’s bus rapid transit system.

Planning and Sustainability Commission recommends West Quadrant Plan to City Council

Affordable housing, Morrison bridgehead, building heights and river restoration discussed

Portland’s Central City offers something for everyone: a wide range of jobs, diverse housing types for different income levels, educational institutions, entertainment and dining options, and retail and recreational experiences. And the area is poised to become a true 21st century global model for low-carbon, sustainable urban development.

The Central City’s west side — or West Quadrant — has the region’s highest concentration of jobs; more than 87,000 in 2010 and 30,000 more expected by 2035. Its seven distinctive districts — from Goose Hollow to Chinatown — are becoming increasingly mixed use, providing residents more choices in new housing options and adding to the district’s vitality. So the goal of the 20-year West Quadrant Plan is to continue the area’s successful evolution as the region’s business, cultural and recreational hub, while accommodating a large share of population and job growth within a compact and sustainable urban center. The plan emphasizes continuing economic activity and employment opportunities, increasing access to the river, creating a more exciting urban waterfront, and expanding housing diversity and livability.

Work sessions lead to a PSC recommendation

The West Quadrant Plan reached a major milestone recently when the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) recommended it to the City Council for adoption after a second work session on the Proposed Draft. Staff presented commissioners with more information regarding affordable housing in the Central City, bridgehead heights along the riverfront, building height, and habitat enhancement and restoration along the riverfront. Work session materials, including the presentation, can be found in the Documents Section of the project website.

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) staff offered a working definition for “affordable housing.” Then they explained priorities for housing affordability in the West Quadrant, including supporting greater racial, ethnic and economic diversity as well as housing options; meeting the needs of the lowest income populations; and closing the minority homeownership gap. Staff also provided specific housing targets.

The project team shared potential impacts from increased bridgehead heights along the waterfront, including shadows and wind in Tom McCall Park, as well as increased building heights in other West Quadrant districts.

Commissioner Mike Houck raised the issue of increasing habitat restoration in the Willamette River. Staff explained that existing habitat is constrained along the Central Reach because of the seawall on the west side and a railroad and I-5 on the east, so there are few additional restoration sites available. But they agreed that the West Quad Plan should call for at least two to three shallow water restoration areas to conserve and restore fish and wildlife populations.

The PSC requested that BPS explore the potential effects of wind on pedestrians caused by building height along the waterfront as well as housing development bonuses tied to additional building height for both commercial and residential uses.

After reviewing the proposed changes to the plan and discussing the above topics in depth, the commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the West Quadrant Plan to City Council for adoption.

Portland City Council will consider the proposed West Quadrant Plan in January 2015 and adopt the plan by resolution. After that, planners will begin to consolidate all of the quadrant plans and draft new zoning code provisions into a complete Central City 2035 plan. This consolidated plan and ordinance will then be the subject of hearings before the PSC and City Council. Once adopted, CC2035 will become part of the Comprehensive Plan. 

Prepare your tree for curbside composting

Removing all tinsel, lights, ornaments, wire, nails, stands and other materials that cannot be composted with the tree.

Holiday treeMake sure holiday greenery and trees are ready for compost pick-up after enjoying them this season. Note that trees will not be accepted with garbage.

Prepare your tree for pick-up by removing all tinsel, lights, ornaments, wire, nails, stands and other materials that cannot be composted with the tree.

Curbside collection: Tree pieces
Cut the trunk and branches into pieces less than 36 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. Please ensure that any tree pieces in your green Portland Composts! roll cart do not poke above the lip of the cart; weight limit is 135 lbs.

Curbside collection: Whole tree
Trees that are 6 feet and under can be put out at the curb on collection day for $4.50. Please cut larger trees down to 6 feet to ensure driver safety.

Extra yard debris only
Set out an extra 32-gallon can, kraft paper lawn and leaf bag or bundle of yard debris for $3.75. Call your garbage and recycling company for a Yard Debris Only sticker to identify extra cans. Bundles must be securely tied with string or twine; weight limit is 45 lbs.

Nonprofit collection
You can also arrange with a nonprofit organization to collect your tree for a fee. Contact Metro’s recycling hotline at 503-234-3000 for drop-off or pick-up information.

Flocked trees
Flocked trees are not accepted as composting and must be disposed of as garbage.

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Have a question for our Curbside Hotline Operator?
Submit your question online or call 503-823-7202.

If you have extra garbage after the holidays, you have options for disposal

Extra bags or cans, and some larger items, can be picked up at the curb for an extra fee.

Man holding garbage bag

After holiday entertaining and gift giving, you may find excess packaging and bulky items filling your garbage can.

  • Set out an extra garbage can or bag on your collection day for a $5 fee. Extra garbage must be 32 gallons or smaller and weigh 55 lbs. or less.
  • Items that are too big for your garbage container (such as appliances, furniture or large branches) can be picked up for an extra charge. Call your garbage and recycling company a week in advance for a cost estimate.
  • Renters: Talk to the landlord about setting out large or bulky items or extra garbage for collection. There is a fee for these services.
  • Contact Metro’s recycling hotline at 503-234-3000 to learn where to recycle items that cannot be left at the curb.

Need help remembering garbage day?
Sign up for free email reminders at

Have a question for our Curbside Hotline Operator?
Submit your question online or call 503-823-7202.