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Summary Meeting Notes: July 31, 2012 Watershed Health and Environment PEG

July 31, 2012, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., 1900 SW 4th Ave, Room 7A

PEG Attendees: Judy BlueHorse Skelton, Shannon Buono (PEG staff), Claire Carder, Corky Collier, Ben Duncan, Sallie Edmunds (PEG Lead), Don Hanson, Mike Houck, Roberta Jortner, Renee Hackenmiller-Paradis, Maryhelen Kincaid, Noelwah Netusil, Emily Roth, Bob Sallinger, Jonathan Soll, Marie Walkiewicz, Jeri Williams.

Other Attendees: Nan Stark (BPS), Roger Eberbeck (public), Andy Jansky (public), Jeremy O’Leary (public), Elizabeth Seeno (public), Mary Vogel (public), Joan Frederiksen, Marty Stockton, Sandra Wood (BPS)

Facilitator: Dena Marshall

View the original agenda, including materials, for this meeting.

 

Key Points and Outcomes  

  • Bios. A reminder to all PEG members to please send in your bios and photo; approximately 150 words in all: 1 paragraph with professional background, 1 paragraph with personal background. Please send to Sallie Edmunds by Aug. 23.
  • Environmental Justice. PEG members generally agreed that Environmental Justice is a complex, multi-dimensional theme that permeates the way we interact with our environment and communities; but has limited influence in many planning processes.  Many PEG members shared a strong desire to see Environmental Justice principles and terminology incorporated into the planning process through multiple PEGS and resulting Comp Plan policies.
  • Habitat Corridors. PEG members explored the need for balance between promoting habitat connectivity, and promoting development density, noting that although the two objectives may appear to be at odds with each other, several cities have designed infrastructure to accommodate corridor connectivity.  PEG members encouraged City staff to (1) establish or refine definitions for habitat, corridor, connectivity, and habitat value; (2) explore connectivity plans from other cities; (3) examine potential negative impacts of SB766; and (4) seek to incorporate applicable Climate Action Plan into Comp Plan policies addressing habitat corridors.

Environmental Justice

Presenters: Nan Stark, Jeri Williams, Ben Duncan
Summary:

Environmental Justice is a component of equity.  For purposes of the PEG discussion, Environmental Justice means equal protection from environmental and health hazards, and meaningful public participation in decisions that affect the environment in which people live, learn, work, play, and practice spirituality.  Policies developed with a lack of attention to environmental justice can result in inequitable distributions of burdens such as poor air or water quality, and inequitable distributions of benefits such as access to nature. Environmental Justice Communities are those particularly vulnerable to such inequities and include minority, low-income and tribal com-munities, and other communities historically underrepresented in public processes.

PEG members engaged with this issue directly, with a shared desire to work to reverse past discriminations.  PEG members discussed the following questions:

  1. What does environmental justice mean in a comprehensive planning context? 
  2. See the Comprehensive Plan Proposal for Watershed Health and Environment PEG consideration.  Are there other elements of environmental justice that should be covered as part of the development of the Comprehensive Plan?
  3. Should the term “Environmental Justice” be explicitly used in the Comprehensive Plan policies? Or, rather, should policies related to the elements of environmental justice be specifically included? 

Many WH/E PEG members expressed a strong desire to see Environmental Justice principles and terminology incorporated into the planning process through multiple PEGS and resulting Comp Plan policies.

Detailed comments from PEG discussion

  • Doing environmental justice and learning about environmental justice are two different things.
  • This discussion is focused more on learning environmental justice.
  • This definition is not a static definition. There is a legal term, a social term, it is a series of principals and values. At the core is how we are going to implement this.
  • Can we get language that will direct bureaus to consider environmental justice? That the term “Environmental justice” is incorporated with requirements and guidelines; that environmental justice is a factor in land use decisions and policies.
  • What do we do with the data and information that we have and how do we incorporate it into the Comp Plan language.
  • Be mindful of the collateral effects of the decisions that are made around work to correct ecosystem issues.
  • EJ means community needs to be in the planning process from the beginning, and community has standing.
  • Have agencies involved.
  • Those people who are directly affected are experts, too. This is a 2-way street.
  • Put environmental justice on par with other decisions that give the community standing.
  • Call for meaningful process/environmental justice in decision making. Policy proposal should include language addressing:

♦       Disproportional impacts

♦       Cumulative impacts

♦       Unintended consequences

  • Outcome oriented not just process oriented.
  • The Comp Plan is supposed to protect land uses in the City and where these lands are directly related to environmental justice and this should be a decision point.
  • See Portland Plan environmental justice decision making for language to carry into Comp Plan.
  • Update public participation policies in Comp Plan to include environmental justice.
  • How do we balance competing goals and this will vary from project to project; how to prioritize policy (e.g. environmental goals v. economic development).
  • Addressing environmental justice issues can have a positive impacts on the community at large, not just for the marginalized community.
  • It is difficult for us to understand the impacts some decisions have on these communities when we have never been in that situation or had to experience their community.
  • How can the community understand how to get themselves heard and how can we ensure they are heard or help support them to appeal decisions.
  • How to give a voice to the disenfranchised and advocate for them?
  • Economic development is also important. Environmental justice is not exclusive of job growth and economic development.
  • Acknowledge that we don’t know what we don’t know, then meet with people so we can learn more.
  • Streamlining trend and efficiencies in permitting process leads to exclusion.
  • Call for slower, more complete processes to really address environmental justice.
  • What are the costs of some of these policies? And, how can we ensure that the populations most directly affected do not bear a higher burden.  Ensure fees are not regressive but are progressive.
  • We should try to develop language that says the City ofPortlandwill never apply for SB766 funds or status.

Habitat Corridors

Presenter: Marie Walkiewicz
Summary:

For purposes of the PEG discussion, habitat corridors are both existing anchor habitats – such asForest Park, Oaks Bottom, and stream corridors – and interconnected patches of trees and vegetation.  They include diverse habitat types – rivers, wetlands, floodplains, forests, woodlands and grasslands – and support a diversity of native plant and animal species. They also include areas of dense tree canopy in parks, along streets or in developed areas that provide important flyways, nesting, feeding and rest stops for birds and pollinators.

PEG members explored the need for balance between promoting habitat connectivity, and promoting development density, noting that although the two objectives may appear to be at odds with each other, several cities have designed infrastructure to accommodate corridor connectivity.  PEG members discussed the following questions:

  1. Do the proposed policies provide appropriate guidance for reestablishing habitat corridors?
  2. How should the Comprehensive Plan provide guidance about habitat corridors in developed areas and industrial areas? Would the policies call for corridors having a different character in these areas?
  3. How should equity be considered in setting priorities for reconnecting habitats?
  4. What principles should be used to map where habitat corridors should be reestablished?

WH/E PEG members encouraged City staff to (1) establish or refine definitions for habitat, corridor, connectivity, and habitat value; (2) explore connectivity plans from other cities; (3) examine potential negative impacts of SB766; and (4) seek to incorporate applicable Climate Action Plan into Comp Plan policies addressing habitat corridors.

Detailed comments from PEG discussion

We don’t always notice the wildlife around us even here in the city. We don’t necessarily have to choose between having quality urban life and quality natural life. These corridors provide connections in the way that a sewer system works…if they’re not connected and don’t have redundancies then they are not functioning. Nature should be woven into the city. But in practice there are some tensions. Should we get as much density as possible or should we enhance for habitat connectivity? We have some questions to discuss and we’d like to hear your thoughts with the understanding that the type of connection you might create in the west hills may be different than one you’d create in an industrial area. When we are thinking about policy, there may be opportunities to use eco-roofs or landscaping to increase these connections. How can the Comp Plan help support these ideas?

  • The discussion of ecosystem services can be brought back into the picture, we can develop a knowledge base and understand our trade-offs regarding their relative values.
  • What connections are we trying to make – connecting birds or salamanders or plants? Connectivity is not just one thing.
  • Are we talking about corridors that are connecting other things or a connected habitat and an interconnected system that can serve nature and us? We need to be very clear and specific about what we mean.
  • Ideal definition of connectivity – for biodiversity the specific needs of the organisms we are trying to serve are being met; but for other species we may need a backyard planting program; for an amphibian or fish species there may be a barrier that prevents movement.
  • Important to be clear about definitions: connectivity, endangered, tiered approach.
  • Is there a specific species that should be prioritized? We can say those species that are threatened or endangered. A tiered approach. We should forget about specific species but rather think about a system that functions for many organisms.
  • Putting value or ranking things – we are a good way from being able to do that.
  • We’ve talked about increasing density and how do we integrate that with our desire to improve these corridors? That growth has to go somewhere in the city and we’ve chosen to increase density. We may end up with a lot of big apartment buildings without access to nature and that no one really likes.
  • There’s an issue with the City being able to hide behind the code and how land is zoned. I’d like to see something more than aspirational goals.
  • Policies should be functional rather than aspirational.
  • We need to look at the research that’s been done in other cities and put them into our urban design.
  • We should not fall into the trap of thinking that a location with low natural resource value is where we will do our development. We need to map these locations with other impacts in mind before we make our land use decisions.
  • We need to build into the policy that wildlife safe passage needs to become part of our policy.
  • We need to protect the changing of habitat over time.
  • Even though this is a planning process, nature does not follow geo-political structures. We need to mandate outreach to adjoining communities to improve our ecosystem function. We need to have those coordinated efforts to support outreach and planning on a landscape level to determine our priorities and where we want to be.
  • We need to think about watersheds, corridors, habitat types, etc.
  • There is a new regional conservation strategy through Metro that is being finalized. We are looking at how we address what’s beyond the urban growth boundary.
  • We are just as concerned with the common species as the threatened species.
  • We should be using this document. It has chapters on climate change, equity, etc. We have a tool available to us.
  • Why don’t we plant more plants in public areas that are harvestable?
  • Part of the Comp Plan needs to look at the City’s rankings of landscapes. Low natural resource value does not equal good for development.
  • We have not really addressed climate change and resiliency. If we are serious about addressing storm events, rising rivers and creeks, then we need to look at those impacts over the next 50 years, make projections and integrate that over time.
  • We can take heart that some of these species are making their own corridors and are adapting. If we can fully integrate these ideas into the policy we may see… We need to recognize that many backyards are providing habitat and are areas for food development. The schools bond for creating gardens at all schools.
  • I second the idea of identifying co-benefits in the plan and how does the climate action plan fit into the Comp Plan?
  • We need to recognize the historical value of habitats, just because we wrecked it does not mean it doesn’t have value.
  • Resiliency – Climate change in the policy process.
  • Weave “safe passage” into policy.
  • Consider trans-boundary approaches. Policies should support, mandate ecosystem resolution on a level of watersheds, habitat corridors. Regional conservation strategy.

Public Comment 

Jeremy O’Leary:

  • Acknowledge the distinction between urban and habitat, and attempt to balance them through good policy and implementation.
  • Consider water features as a gathering place in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Think about the whole: the pieces and how they fit together.

Mary Vogel

  • Invitation to the group to attend a Sierra Club field trip throughPortlandwild areas in conjunction with the recent ecosystem conference.

Roger Eberbeck

  • Concern for “paper streets” inSW Portland, zoned for environmental and good for habitat corridors and pedestrians, but challenging for private landowners to maintain.

Parking Lot

  • General interest in continuing the Environmental Justice discussion.  What is the best mechanism for this?  Explore options such as an on-line discussion group, additional small group meetings, and new Equity PEG meetings.

Next Steps

  • PEG Members please send in your Bios and photos by August 23.
  • Sallie Edmunds will explore continuing discussion options for those interested in the EJ dialogue.

For more information, please contact Sallie Edmunds, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, at 503-823-6950 or sallie.edmunds@portlandoregon.gov or Dena Marshall, Facilitator, at 503-249-0000 or dena@marshallmediation.net.

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