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Summary Meeting Notes: August 28, 2012 Neighborhood Centers PEG

August 28, 2012 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

PEG Attendees: Kate Allen, Lisa Bates, Jason Barnstead-Long, Andre Baugh, Kristin Cooper, Gordon Davis, Alan DeLaTorre, Betty Dominguez, Justin Douglas, Ivy Dunlap,Allen Field, Ryan Givens, Bob Granger, Brett Horner, Rick Michaelson, Jennifer Moore, Dora Perry, Mark Raggett, Nick Sauvie, Allison Stoll.

Other Attendees: Tom Armstrong, Debbie Bischoff, Tyler Bump, Brian Campbell, Troy Doss, Courtney Duke, Alisha Kane, Doug Klotz, Jordan Lanz, Lora Lillard, Don MacGillivray, Robin McIntosh, Liza Mickle, Linda Nettekoven, Chris Smith, Deborah Stein, Spencer Williams.

Key Points and Outcomes
The following are key takeaways from the August 28th Centers PEG meeting that staff will consider in refining design and historic preservation policies:

Urban Design Concept and Public Realm

  • Consider ways of making equity a more explicit part of the citywide design policies.  Citywide policy direction needs to be inclusive and flexible enough to be defined at the local scale by the local community.
  • Incorporate physical accessibility and mobility needs into policies about pedestrian-friendly design (making it clear that it is more than about walking, but creating public places that are accessible to people of all abilities).  Develop broader policies for a multigenerational city that are responsive to our aging society. 
  • Consider the inclusion of diagrams/mapping showing intended density and development scale, instead of focusing just on land use.  Highlight areas of change, versus places of relative stability.

Pattern Areas

  • While there was general support for the simplicity of the five pattern areas to acknowledge differences and create flexibility in implementation approaches that are responsive to community characteristics, consider how citywide policies might also acknowledge that smaller areas within the broader pattern areas have their own distinctive characteristics that should be continued over time.

Historic Preservation

  • Acknowledge the importance of an inclusive process to identify places of historic and cultural importance.
  • Consider how policies on historic preservation and aesthetics relate to housing and other community needs.  Consider how accessibility/mobility can be integrated into policies related to the rehabilitation of historic buildings.

 

Welcome, Introductions and Centers Reports
Presenter:Steve Faust, Facilitator
Summary: Neighborhood Centers PEG members introduced themselves and shared observations from visits to Neighborhood Centers in Southeast Portland – Montavilla, Jade District, Lents/Foster andWoodstock.  Themes from PEG member observations include:

  • Each center has unique issues.
  • Importance of civic uses, such as libraries, in making centers successful.  Need more than commercial services.
  • Authenticity important –Woodstockseems truly neighborhood oriented.
  • Transportation is an issue – Taking transit, it took a long time to reach the southeast centers from North/Northeast.
  • Centers can have many assets, but connections between them are not always good.
  • Jade District an example of a place with a good amount of small businesses, but different in form from traditional main streets.
  • Centers are very different from each other.

 

Equity 
Presenters: Steve Faust; Bill Cunningham, BPS
Summary: An Equity Framework being used by all PEGs to aid in decision-making was distributed at the July Neighborhood Centers PEG meeting.  The group agreed that time would be allotted in the August meeting agenda to discuss the framework.  Since that time, BPS and the Office of Equity and Human Rights (OEHR) have partnered on efforts to ensure that the aspiration of the Portland Plan Equity Framework becomes operational in the Comprehensive Plan Update process.  OEHR will be convening an Equity Group to advise Comprehensive Plan Update project staff on content and process in coordination with the Community Involvement Committee.  Judith Mowry, the City’s Equity Strategies and Initiatives Policy Analyst, will attend the PEG’s September meeting to provide more information on this issue.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:


Citywide Urban Design Discussion
Presenter: Mark Raggett and Lora Lillard, BPS
Summary: After a brief presentation on what urban design is and what is meant by an urban design concept, PEG members shared comments on the following potential new policy approaches for the Comprehensive Plan Update: 1) An urban design concept diagram, 2) Portland’s public realm (streets, open spaces and natural landscape), and 3) policies acknowledging the differing characteristics and context of Portland’s five fundamental pattern areas (inner, eastern, and western neighborhoods; the Central City; and the industrial and riverfront areas.

Urban Design Concept Diagram and Portland’s Public Realm

  • Differentiate between centers and corridors.
  • Need a greater focus on creating a quality street environment in places such asHawthorne.
  • The design concept should include landscape elements such as the eastside Buttes, but also need to identify rivers and the slough.
  • None of the design principles address equity.  Need to make connections to equity explicit and incorporate accessibility into policies about pedestrians.
  • Include all water bodies in the diagram as all, no matter how small, are important parts of an interconnected system.
  • It will take more than just zoning to achieve urban design concept aspirations.  Consider how to address non-confirming uses.
  • Diagrams should show density and development scale, not just land use.
  • Show areas of change, versus places where less change happens.
  • Idea of considering role of streets beyond movement function is important.  Buffers are needed between traffic and pedestrians and gathering places.
  • Provide guidance on how to create great streets that support more community activity, such as the festival streets inChinatown.
  • Need to move beyond one-size-fits-all approaches for green streets.
  • We have an aging society, making accessibility a key issue.  Craft consistent policy language to convey goals about creating accessible environments that go above and beyondADArequirements.
  • Intuitive design concepts should be considered to accommodate older people and people with disabilities to ensure access and safety.
  • Currently, standardized designs are used for streetcar stations.  Seek opportunities to design stations that contribute to unique character of places.
  • Consider potential negative impacts of policy recommendations as we transition to decisions and implementation.
  • Balance continuity and distinctiveness in design.  Light rail station designs are good examples.
  • Don’t assume you can design for everyone.  Design needs to be responsive to different people and the way they use places.  The images used in the presentation are too Western-centric.

Five Pattern Areas Approach

  • Five pattern areas are over-simplistic, as there are many more than five types of neighborhoods.  Laurelhurst, for example is different from the grid of other inner neighborhoods, while some areas in Southwest have a grid of streets unlike other areas in Southwest.
  • The broad pattern area approach is good, but neighborhood-level planning is also needed.
  • What tools can be used to ensure new development fits in with neighborhood character and meets neighborhood goals?  Are design review and regulations needed?
  • The pattern areas are useful for highlight differing characteristics and assets of different parts ofPortland, such as in considering appropriate street design approaches.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

 

Historic Resources Discussion
Presenter: Liza Mickle, BPS
Summary: PEG members commented on new policy direction for Historic Resources in three areas: 1) preservation strategy, 2) the cultural and social value of historic resources, and 3) resource conservation and sustainable development.

  • Move historic preservation out of the urban design chapter.  Historic preservation is more than about design and aesthetics.  It is more about sustainability, community economic development and neighborhoods. 
  • Ranch houses are an important source of accessible housing.  Bungalows and other older houses present barriers due to entry steps.
  • Historic resources should be at core of policies and planning for neighborhood centers and urban design.
  • Concerned about new buildings not fitting into neighborhood character.  Policies sound good, but how do they ensure that builders do not build incompatible development?
  • Consider the importance of accessible housing and how this relates to historic buildings.
  • Concerned about emphasis on neighborhood character.  Who determines this and what is good design?  Need to be careful about who is empowered to do this.  Need to consider community needs versus aesthetics.
  • Like preservation being part of urban design.  Impacts on the historic fabric of neighborhoods are related to equity, such as was the case with urban renewal in Albina.  Preserving culture and places is part of urban design.
  • Need equitable approach to who is identifying places of historic or cultural importance.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

 

Public Comment
1. Commented and distributed a handout on the importance of maintaining allowances for some development to not include off-street parking, linking this to goals for reduced vehicle travel, response to global warming, and achieving growth management and design goals.

  • PEG member noted that urban design was a key consideration when the Zoning Code was amended to eliminate parking requirements in the CS zone.  Parking requirements were resulting in surface parking lots, creating empty spaces that disrupted the urban fabric of main streets.  At the time, neighborhood associations were in support of eliminating parking requirements.

2. Growth projections are showing an increase of 300,000 more people over the next 25 years. This will mean a lot of change we are not prepared for (200% change in Downtown, 60% changing in Southwest and some inner neighborhoods, 30% change elsewhere).

Economic Development analysis indicates a lack of industrial land and an over-abundance of neighborhood commercial property. This means too much land is zoned commercial, too many commercial corridors. Concentrating on centers is a better approach than corridors.


Next Steps
Presenter: Steve Faust

  • PEG members requested feedback on how their comments are being used to revise new policies. Staff will report on key points from each meeting that will be considered when preparing new policy language.
  • The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 20 at 8 a.m.  BPS will send out a list of suggested Neighborhood Centers to visit before the next meeting along with policy questions to consider.
  • Please use the survey tool to share any additional comments you have on urban design and historic resources.

 

For more information, please contact Bill Cunningham, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at 503-823-4203 or Bill.Cunningham@portlandoregon.gov or Steve Faust, Facilitator at 503-278-3456 or steve.faust@coganowens.com

 

Survey Responses (posted 9/7; closed 9/14)

Urban Design

Portland’s Public Realm (natural landscape, parks, and streets)

While most of the existing policy for Portland’s public realm focuses on the pedestrian scale, there is currently little guidance to ensure citywide equitable access or to allow streets to provide more public gathering, habitat connections, or wayfinding.  Additionally, the current Comprehensive Plan does not specifically identify Portland’s most significant geographic features, such as the Willamette and Columbia Rivers or Portland’s buttes and ridges, to serve as context for place-based decisions.

Please review the next four policy statements and let us know if you agree or disagree with the proposed new approach for Portland's Public Realm.

1. Create a unified, citywide plan for Portland’s public realm to include habitat connections, civic corridors, and city greenways.

Agree (9)
Disagree (0)

  • Unified, and equitable, citywide plan.
  • I would like to reiterate that we, as a city and region, need to develop an understanding of language that pertains to accessibility. Terms like accessibility have different meanings to various stakeholders and there is not a common understanding of the difference between accessibility, universal design, usability, visitability, etc.
  • There is a huge disparity in public investment of all kinds. East Portland deserves more public buildings, parks, community centers, etc. It has great potential for habitat corridors. The street grid needs to be filled in to make non-auto travel feasible.

2.  Focus on areas “under-served” by access to open spaces and connections.

Agree (8)
Disagree (1)

  • This is at the core of the equity debate!
  • I think I support this, but need more information on what "focus on" means or entails. What will happen as a result (i.e. will more parks be built or enhanced in underserved areas)?
  • Yes, see answer to #1.
  • I do not really disagree. However, the open spaces need to be determined based on ecosystem concerns, not just where they are lacking now

3.  Expand the functionality of streets beyond movement.

Agree (9)
Disagree (0)

  • Third places are critically important to vibrant streets (e.g., public squares, businesses that serve as gathering space).

4.  Highlight Portland’s most significant geographic, natural and cultural features.

Agree (8)
Disagree (0)

  • What does "highlight" mean?
  • It would be incredible if, in partnership with the Portland Business Alliance, we were able to create an age-friendly tourism guide focusing on accessible features of the city (San Sebastian, Spain has been successful in a similar approach)
  • In doing so, how will this serve as a context for place based decisions as stated above?

Portland's Five Pattern Areas

Existing development regulations tend to follow a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  The Portland Plan provides a map toPortland’s five major areas: Western, Eastern, and Inner neighborhoods, Central City and the Industrial and River Area.  Highlighting Portland’s major pattern areas in the citywide Comprehensive Plan can help future development better respond to each area’s unique needs and characteristics (smaller areas of distinctive character will remain a focus of area plans and plan districts).

Please review the next three policy statements and let us know if you agree or disagree with the proposed new approach for Portland's Five Pattern Areas.

5.  Recognize and strengthen Portland’s five pattern areas.

Agree (5)
Disagree (3)

  • I think the wording is a little off… the pattern areas don’t need to be “strengthened”… does that mean strengthen the lack of connected street pattern in outer SE?  Perhaps “recognize and use the pattern to customize policies and zoning that will strengthen the livability of the area and provide equitable opportunities for all regardless of the pattern area.”
  • Additional research needs to be undertaken to understand how these pattern areas impact activity and well-being. The Institute on Aging at PSU has started to look at how different urban development characteristics impact age friendliness (they are looking for funding to study this area further at the neighborhood level).
  • Somewhat agree; be careful not to create too much homogeneity.
  • Expand to show more areas.
  • I think that we should recognize and strengthen pattern types in the areas where they occur, rather than by area, since the patterns are more based on when and how the areas were built, not where they are. For example, Multnomah village fits the so called inner east side pattern because it was built at the same time, based on the streetcar. Similarly, the design and character of Laurelhurst has more to do with the design of Terwilliger parkway than it does with Buckman.

6.  Build on the existing assets of each pattern area while accommodating growth.

Agree (8)
Disagree (0)

  • But don't let that detract from supporting new assets that would provide a wider range of opportunities for the surrounding communities.
  • East Portland has suffered a great deal from accepting a huge portion of the city's growth -- nearly half of the new housing built in the city between 1996 and 2006 was built in East Portland-- without getting any of the benefits.

7.  Support and strengthen areas identified for growth.

Agree (6)

Disagree (1)

  • Too vague to support as written.
  • Beware that current infill strategies (e.g., townhomes, duplexes, triplexes) have been seen as barriers to age friendliness. What are the opportunities for stacked flats to replace commonly seen infill practices that are inaccessible?
  • What does "support and strengthen" mean? I hope that this means areas identified for growth will be prioritized for improvements in infrastructure (everything from sidewalks and sewers to parks and amenities). Please clarify.
  • Not enough information at this time to answer.

Historic and Cultural Resources

New policy language would incorporate Portland Plan guidance regarding the need to consider preservation of community characteristics and history when making decisions regarding growth and development.  Other policies would place a new emphasis on cultural and social history, as well as links between historic preservation and sustainable development.

Please review the next five policy statements and let us know if you agree or disagree with the proposed new approach for Historic and Cultural Resources. 

General Preservation Strategy

8.  Integrate new development into Portland's urban fabric and patterns, prioritizing new development that fills in vacant and underutilized gaps while preserving and complementing historic resources.

Agree (7)
Disagree (1)

  • This statement doesn't fit East Portland, where acres of low-quality development have already destroyed the urban fabric.
  • This probably means that we need to adjust zoning densities to match what exists in historic areas. Identifying those areas needs serious work and tough decisions.

Emphasis on Cultural and Social History

9.  Promote awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity and the social meanings/significance of historic places and their role in enhancing community character and sense of place.

Agree (7)

Disagree (1)

  • This is very vague and curious ... how will the city promote awareness and appreciation of these things and to what end? How will this "appreciation" actually direct future growth and development in a way that enhances community character and sense of place?

10.  Foster inclusive historic preservation and public history activities that embrace Portland’s diverse communities, cultures and history.

Agree (8)
Disagree (0)

Emphasis on Historic Resource Conservation and Sustainable Development

11.  Encourage reuse of historic buildings to conserve natural resources, reduce waste, and model stewardship of the built environment and community assets.

Agree (8)
Disagree (0)

  • Must be mindful of generally higher costs when preserving historical buildings particularly in the context of affordable housing.

12.  Increase the long-term viability of historic structures and improve public safety through seismic and energy-efficiency retrofits.

Agree (8)
Disagree (0)

  • Same as above.
  • This is a lower priority to me than some others.

Other Comments

13.  Are there any other questions or comments you would like to share?

  • This was an especially difficult survey to complete. I am left feeling like I have more questions than I did when I left the meeting. It is difficult not to agree with generalized statements such as these, but hard to fully agree given that I do not feel like I have enough information to provide meaningful input related to public health goals/values. I realize that this is due in large part to the fact that Comp Plan policies are very high level in nature and that we will not get into details about how they will be implemented, but it might be helpful to give us some examples of what sort of implications these new directions might have on the ground in real time.  Thank you for providing key takeaways in your email. Are all PEG leads/presenters being asked to provide this feedback to their groups?