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Summary Meeting Notes: September 19, 2013 Neighborhood Centers PEG Meeting

Meeting #16 Summary Notes
Neighborhood Centers Policy Expert Group
Meeting Date: September 19, 2013
Time: 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.
PEG Attendees: Jason Barnstead-Long, Andre Baugh, Kristin Cooper, Ivy Dunlap, Allen Field, Ryan Givens, Brett Horner, Denver Igarta, Jennifer Moore, Gary Oxman, Mark Raggett, Nick Sauvie, Alison Stoll

Key Points and Outcomes

  • The Map App will be useful in helping the public explore relationships across policy concepts and issues, but staff will need to be clear as to what questions the public is being asked.
  • The proposed prioritization of center investments on the basis of population and needs is a good direction, and is appropriately reflective of the Neighborhood Centers PEG’s discussions.

Welcome, Introductions and Updates (8:00 a.m.)
Presenter: Steve Faust, Facilitator and Bill Cunningham, BPS
Summary: Steve welcomed everyone to the final meeting of the Neighborhood Centers PEG and thanked everyone for their participation over the past 16 months. The two items on the agenda for the meeting are a review of the Comprehensive Plan Map App and a discussion to reflect on the PEG’s work and recommendations to BPS.

Bill reminded PEG members that there will be an all-PEG meeting on Friday, October 18 from 8:30 to 11am. The purpose of the meeting is for PEG members to discuss the products of the Comprehensive Plan – Working Draft Part 2 with members from other PEGs.

BPS staff will conduct targeted outreach with key stakeholder groups from October through December 2013, including neighborhood coalitions and groups interested in specific issues or areas. Any group will be able to request a presentation on the Comprehensive Plan Update for their neighborhood, business or organization. The Proposed Draft Comprehensive Plan should be ready in March 2014. Bill asked PEG members to stay involved and noted that they will be included in e-mails to providing project updates and announcing upcoming events.

Comprehensive Plan Map App Review (8:15 a.m.)
Presenters: Bill Cunningham, BPS
Summary: Bill demonstrated and explained the online “Map App,” which will be the primary means of sharing the mapped land use and infrastructure concepts of Part 2 of the Comprehensive Plan update. BPS also is preparing a Companion Guide to aid community members in using the Map App and highlighting key issues and questions.

The Map App consists of two main layers: discussion layers and background layers. Discussion layers display policy concept mapping, many of which have been discussed by the Centers PEG, such as Centers, Corridors, Employment, and Public Transit. The background layers provide mapping of important background information to inform discussion of the policy concept mapping, such as demographics, zoning, transit access, and a variety of economic considerations. The Map App also includes a set of working maps related to a range of policy concepts, including the Urban Design Framework and Land Use Changes. An intent of the Map App is to support community discussion of the policy concept mapping by allowing community members to overlay different layers to explore relationships between a variety of concepts and topics.

The group reviewed the Centers layer. Bill explained that centers shown with dashed circles indicate there are questions about the potential center that need to be resolved. Users can click on a layer title or various map features to see descriptions of that layer or feature. The website also will include a video on how to use the tool. BPS staff are continuing to refine the Map App, but it should be ready for use by the public by early October.

PEG members made the following comments; BPS responses are in italics:
• Several concerns about color, line type, and size and spacing of fonts have been raised in other meetings, but have not changed. Staff are continuing to make refinements to the Map App graphics and text. An example of a change made to make text easier to read was the Map App convention of using white text on a black background.
• How detailed are the discussion layers – can they provide information on stormwater issues on a specific property? The purpose of the maps is to illustrate citywide mapping of policy options for discussion, so they were created at an appropriate scale with that in mind. They do not go down to the parcel layer.
• Brentwood-Darlington lacks good access to services and should have a center on the map to provide policy support for strengthening its small commercial node. Future work will zoom in to a district level and will identify small commercial areas that are important for local access to services, but are not intended to become full-service mixed-use districts.
• This tool will be very useful for neighborhood associations and other organizations that want to examine specific districts for grant writing or other purposes. BPS intends to maintain and improve the App over time and eventually try to merge the tool with portlandmaps.com.
• Bill displayed and explained the various parks layers. The parks discussion layer displays planned park improvements, while the park access layer shows areas that are not well-served by parks. A question to consider for the parks layers is whether the planned capital improvements are aligned with areas underserved by parks.
• If the intent of the Map App is to allow the public to review the maps and answer discussion questions on their own, the map may be too complex and difficult for many people to navigate. If the questions for the public include “are we getting this right?” and “what are the greatest priorities?,” how will these questions be asked? Is there a way to quantify responses, such as through a survey? The questions are buried in the narratives and are not very prominent, which will make it difficult to prompt responses outside of a meeting context. BPS is developing a companion guide that will highlight four or five issue areas for discussion, including: centers and investments, employment, infrastructure and equity, and designing with nature. Each issue area will include a description of major issues and discussion questions.
• A PEG member expressed disappointment that this meeting did not provide an opportunity for in-depth discussion of the mapping elements, such as specific locations for centers. The purpose of this discussion is to provide a preview of the Map App to PEG members, explain how it functions, seek initial feedback on the tool, and to discuss questions that will be raised with the broader public in community outreach. Staff encourages PEG members to participate in the public outreach events to contribute to discussion of the mapped features.
Bill displayed the Corridor layer which depicts major streets with high traffic, significant zoning capacity, and mixed use designations. A fundamental question for the public is whether or not these corridors and centers are the right locations for focusing services, growth and population.
The Companion Guide will examine centers in terms of population size and needs. Bill shared a graphic that proposes to prioritize improvements in centers with high populations and high needs, such as the Gateway, Lents, Midway, Rosewood and Jade districts. This proposed approach responds to the Neighborhood Centers PEG’s recommendations to focus on improvements in centers with major deficiencies and communities that have not had good access to opportunities. PEG member related that this population/needs graphic is a great tool that epitomizes the work of the PEG and allows people to see important information and resulting policy priorities all at once.
• This prioritization approach should align the work of other City bureaus and initiatives, such as PDC’s neighborhood prosperity initiative.
• This is a good tool for displaying a lot of information in one place. Some people will get it and others will not. Regardless, it is good to use multiple outreach methods and tools to reach all segments of a diverse community.
The Transportation discussion layer displays current planned Transportation System Plan improvements. These are large projects that receive outside funding. Discussion questions will include, “what projects are missing?,” and “are there new priorities?”
Bill displayed the natural resources layer and indicated that an important question is how growth should happen in Southwest, considering potential impacts on natural areas. This discussion may take place on the district level. He also shared the City Greenways layer. There needs to be better distinction in color between parks, greenways, habitat, etc., in the Greenways layer.

PEG Wrap Up (9:30 p.m.)
Presenters: Steve Faust, Facilitator, Bill Cunningham, BPS
Summary: Steve reviewed the Neighborhood Centers PEG Recommendations memo from May 2013. Major policy recommendations include: prioritizing improvements in centers with deficiencies, which was discussed earlier; strengthening the role of employment in centers; committing to a future planning process at the district level to plan for area-specific centers and small neighborhood commercial areas; and a focus on affordable housing and other efforts to support low-income households. Are there additional takeaways or priorities that BPS should consider?

PEG members had the following comments:
• The Map App tool does not include a housing layer. Need a background map showing housing affordability or cost-burdened households.
• The physical transitions between high- and lower-density areas is an important issue, as is the availability of affordable housing for families with children. Need to address the need for affordable family housing, given that development trends in close-in neighborhoods seem to be dominated by single-bedroom housing.
• The center priorities graphic is evidence of our PEG’s work and priorities for centers. This is a good tool to convey the PEG’s highest priorities.
• The next step is to look at the deficiencies and investments in infrastructure, land use mix, access to parks, affordable housing and to determine what to do.
• PEG members are encouraged to bring their knowledge and expertise to their organizations and neighborhood associations. They can invite BPS staff to present and facilitate discussions about the big questions.
• How do we get the whole City behind a priority in terms of capital funds and infrastructure investments? These priorities need to get into bureau plans.
• Look at past mistakes when evaluating capital budgets and zoning changes. East Portland has large areas of multi-family housing, not just along corridors. Should some of these areas be down-zoned? How can we develop better design standards and create more street connections?
• There should be two levels of analysis in the Map App; one at the policy level and one at the district level. Need to figure out what approaches are most needed in specific areas.
• Communicate the process to the public of how the City plans to encourage participation, and bring out the whole city into the process, including those who are not typically engaged in such processes.
• I value the time spent with this group and have gained insights on issues and areas from different people from different disciplines that may lead to new solutions and ideas.
• In community engagement efforts, convey what it means to be a “center” in terms of investments and potential future development impacts. Need to differentiate between town centers and neighborhood centers, and explain why a community might want to be identified as one versus another. How do the designations translate to on-the-ground change?
• Go beyond neighborhood associations and coalitions to talk with smaller groups that may be hard to reach or do not have access to online tools.
• PEG organizers did a good job of presenting the issues and welcoming different voices and translating them into policy refinements.
• Bill thanked PEG members for their efforts to tackle a diverse set of issues from a variety of perspectives including affordable housing, gentrification, design and historic preservation.

Public Comment (9:45 a.m.)
Outcomes of this process can be attributed to the quality of participants and preparation of staff. While it is good to have a citywide perspective on centers and corridors, there will be a need for area-specific plans. Need money in the City budget for this.

Next Steps (9:55 a.m.)
Barry Manning indicated that the City received a grant to examine mixed use zoning regulations in centers, corridors, transit station areas and neighborhood business districts. The project will include a public participation process and project advisory group.

Tom Armstrong thanked PEG members and encouraged their participation in the All-PEG meeting and future phases of the project. Bill offered his assistance to PEG members as a resource on questions related to the topics covered by the Neighborhood Centers PEG.

Adjourn (10:00 a.m.)
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.

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