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Summary Meeting Notes: November 7, 2012 Infrastructure Equity PEG Meeting

Summary Meeting Notes

Infrastructure Equity Policy Expert Group 

Meeting Date: November 7, 2012

Time: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon

PEG Attendees: Susan Aldrich, Roger Anthony, Roger Averbeck, Matt Brown, Alex Deley, Justin Fallon Dollard, Liz Gatti, Karyn Hanson, Jeff Leighton, Kathryn Levine, Jackeline Luna Acosta, Midge Purcell, Olivia Quiroz, Steph Routh, Joe VanderVeer, Randy Webster, Sara Weiner-Collier.

Other Attendees
: Michele Crim, Bob Glascock, Joan Frederiksen, Michelle Kunec & Chris Scarzello (Bureau of Planning & Sustainability); Argel Jimenez, Anna Chinburg, & Jen Morris (contract translators); Terry Parker (public).

PEG Lead
: Bob Glascock

Facilitator
:  Andrée Tremoulet, Commonworks Consulting

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

Welcome and Introductions (10 minutes) 
Presenter: Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator
Summary: Andrée Tremoulet welcomed participants and provided an overview of the meeting. The small groups did an icebreaker.

Gentrification and Displacement (60 minutes)
Presenter: Tom Armstrong, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Summary: Tom Armstrong presented an overview of research conducted by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Lisa Bates of Portland State University concerning gentrification risk in the city. Work completed thus far includes identifying risk indicators and applying them to mapping levels of risk in Portland’s neighborhoods (“neighborhood change typology”). Work is underway (but not yet completed) on a Gentrification Toolbox to assist communities at different stages along the gentrification continuum. Presentation highlights included:

  • Definition of gentrification: Displacement of lower-income residents due to the loss of affordable housing caused by an under-valued neighborhood becoming more desirable and attracting new investment.
  • The challenge is to find a way to improve the neighborhood without inducing higher rents and property values, and thus involuntary displacement.
  • Lisa and Tom used displacement indicators (current vulnerability and demographic change) and housing market change indicators (property value, appreciation and adjacency) to create a neighborhood change typology that classifies neighborhoods along a continuum of risk/stage of gentrification.
  • To identify tools appropriate to a specific neighborhood, it will be necessary to drill down to determine which indicators placed that neighborhood at risk.  For example, the Boise-Eliot neighborhood has a high percentage of renters, but the Cully neighborhood has a high percentage of homeowners.  Different tools will be required to preserve affordable housing in each neighborhood.

Discussion highlights included the following:
Questions & Responses

  • Why was the city average used as a cut-off point in developing indicators for risk of gentrification?  Answer: Having a score below average in just one indicator does not label a neighborhood as being vulnerable to gentrification.  A “potentially vulnerable” neighborhood shows several risk indicators.
  • What strategies and tools are under consideration to address gentrification? Response: Lisa Bates is preparing a Gentrification Toolbox, drawing on report on national best practices.  The toolbox will be vetted through a public engagement process.

 Comments

  • Political will is likely to be a factor in determining which tools will be adopted.  For example, if current restrictions on uses of urban renewal tax increment financing funds could be changed, a wider array of tools might be available.
  • Suggestions for fine-tuning displacement indicator: Reduce risk for rentals that are subsidized; increase risk for home owners underwater on mortgage.
  • Cannot determine whether increase in educational level and other favorable outcomes resulted from in-migration/out-migration or changes made by existing residents.
  • It would be useful to overlay urban renewal areas and major infrastructure or transit investments on the gentrification risk map to look for correlations.
  • Are today’s at-risk populations tomorrow’s displaced populations?
  • Rapid response is needed because change is happening quickly in some areas.
  • Not investing is not a solution to gentrification. Investment is needed to address a legacy of disinvestment.
  • There is ongoing tension between urbanization and suburbanization.
  • Instead of developing a customized project-by-project response to mitigate gentrification risk, the city instead should pursue a citywide approach.

 Presentation handout:

  • Gentrification Mapping Presentation, Tom Armstrong/Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

 Public Comment (5 minutes)
Terry Parker, Portland, addressed the group on equity issues regarding who pays for infrastructure and other costs supporting different modes of transportation.

Testimony handout:

  • Letter from Terry Parker to Infrastructure Equity PEG, November 7, 2012

Infrastructure Service Levels (40 minutes)
Presenter: Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator
Summary: As a continuation of last month’s work, IE PEG members met in four small groups to discuss equity issues related to service levels. They then discussed their conclusions as a full group. Highlights of this discussion included the following:

Water

  • Water quality is good citywide and service levels are the same citywide.
  • Lack of infrastructure is not an issue currently.
  • Currently, cost of services is distributed equally citywide, even if area is more costly to serve. 
    • Residents of western neighborhoods may feel that they pay for city services (such as storm water management) that they do not receive.  Furthermore, storm water issues are elevating costs to address transportation issues because city deals with them as a package.
    • Future investment needs may increase costs.  What is the most equitable way to distribute those costs?
    • Is there a relationship between income and quantity of water used? Public education should be used to reduce usage and costs. [NOTE:  the City receives lower revenues when people and businesses conserve water use.]

Environmental Services

  • Looked at sanitary sewer risk map relative to demographic maps to identify places where high risk and higher concentrations of people of color renters and lower income residents coincide.
  • Some areas, such asEast Portland, have relatively low sanitary sewer risk due to engineering and upgrades after areas were annexed.
  • The demographic characteristics of a household may impact that household’s ability to respond to system failure and thus should be part of the risk analysis.

 Transportation

  • Funding should be prioritized to address service deficiencies and community vulnerability.
  • Everyone should have access to a base level of service.  However, this does not imply that the infrastructure need be the same.
  • Transportation levels of service impact equity issues related to health, safety and youth well-being.
  • Lower air quality along high traffic corridors or in places with congestion raises health equity issues.
  • It is important to connect transit-dependent populations to transportation services that enable them to meet their daily needs.
  • If an equity lens is applied to limited demographic factors, some vulnerable populations and areas may be missed.
  • There should be options for interim or incremental improvements so that partial needs can be met.
  • Both local and collector streets should be considered.
  • ODOT streets are not city-owned and are also not a state priority.  However, some have service and safety issues.
  • In freight corridors, many of which are not city-owned, providing transit and pedestrian access is a challenge.
  • There are tensions among investments in different modes.

 Parks

  • Are higher densities of parks needed in higher density areas?
  • Proximity to parks doesn’t tell the full story of access and level of service provided.
  • Improving parks can impact property values and the quality of life in an area.
  • Consider the role of private development in providing open space.
  • There is interest in correlating park amenities with profile of surrounding community.
  • Portland Public Schools are under pressure to improve availability of turf fields for soccer for private youth clubs and other groups with higher income levels.  Concern that the user fees charged to do this may price out local users and limit their use of the fields.
  • Similarly, there is pressure to convert spaces for dog use.

Wrap Up (5 minutes)

In response to a question, Bob Glascock stated that the current discussions about infrastructure equity, gentrification and service levels are being used in two ways: to inform the development of the discussion/commentary in the Comprehensive Plan and to develop group understanding of the topics so that the IE PEG will be prepared to review the Discussion Draft of the Comprehensive Plan in early 2013. 

 
Michele Crim stated that the December 5 IE PEG meeting would consist of an equity training session led by the Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights that is being provided to all the PEGs.

For more information, please contact Bob Glascock, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, at 503-823-7845 or Bob.Glascock@portlandoregon.gov or Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator, at 503-267-9255 or andree@commonworksconsulting.com .