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Last week, the Portland City Council adopted the city’s new Comprehensive Plan. Nearly nine years in the making, the development of this new plan involved three mayors, dozens of advisory committees and tens of thousands of community members. And nearly half our bureau.
It’s a big deal.
When we first set out to develop a new comp plan, we looked around the world for the best plans we could find. And what we found were plans that focused on the usual land use, transportation, housing, streets and sewers.
So we decided Portland’s plan should be flipped 180 degrees.
So we focused on people — in all neighborhoods, with all types of businesses, and especially with people who had not traditionally been part of the discussion before. We created a framework to help people thrive — from East Portland to the West Hills, and central Portland in between. And we totally refreshed our public involvement strategy to broaden our reach to people of all incomes and races, renters and homeowners, young and old, immigrants and refugees, small business owners, and people with disabilities.
The result of all that work is our new 2035 Comprehensive Plan.
From my perspective, it’s a plan that thinks big by focusing small. Big, with big results citywide for housing, jobs, affordability, environmental protection and more. And small, focused on the details of each part of the city; each unique neighborhood, business center and area that needs protecting, from open space to prime industrial lands.
One of the primary goals of the plan is to create a city where at least 80 percent of people live in walkable, complete neighborhoods … with a variety of housing options, strong neighborhood business centers, served by great transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
That seems like common sense. It’s just how we do it.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
We took our first steps toward this model more than three decades ago with the adoption of the 1980 Comp Plan. It soon became a national model, and many of the things we love best about our city were set in motion with that plan.
It’s amazing — the great insights people and planners had 35 years ago. The community paused and took a look at what was happening in Portland and so many other U.S. cities: People were fleeing to the suburbs, downtowns were dead at night, and the car was king.
In response, Portland created a plan that went in a different direction. A plan that encouraged housing and business growth in the central city and in our vibrant neighborhoods. And today, it’s paid off — with a few hundred thousand new residents, thousands of new businesses, and dozens and dozens of wonderful neighborhoods.
So it’s been a success. In fact, so successful, that we’re now faced with a whole new set of problems and opportunities. Portland is popular — and that means we’re less affordable, we have more traffic congestion, and people and businesses have been displaced.
But that popularity also means we have a more diverse community. We have highly educated people starting up amazing companies and more innovation and creativity. We have the capacity to protect the environment and create a low-carbon economy.
And the capacity to be a world class city.
The new Comprehensive Plan reflects these challenges and opportunities. It provides a framework for the next 20 years to help increase housing supply and affordability, reduce the need to drive, protect our natural resources, provide parks and open spaces, and ensure enough land for industry and middle income jobs.
The new plan also branches out to address new issues … Like climate change, environmental justice and better access to technology for all residents.
The 2035 Comprehensive Plan is a plan for the next generation. It continues our great planning legacy. And it, literally, provides a map to the future we want to see. For a Portland that’s more equitable, healthy and prosperous for everyone.
City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability