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Mayor Charlie Hales

City of Portland Mayor Charlie Hales

Phone: 503-823-4120

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 340, Portland, OR 97204

To Pave Or Not To Pave

TUESDAY, OCT. 22, 2013 – Portland has about 60 miles of unpaved, dirt and gravel streets within the city limits. While the city does not maintain these unimproved streets, some residents have taken the initiative to create garden plots, rest areas and other community uses in these public spaces.

Mayor Charlie Hales has directed the Portland Bureau of Transportation to gather community input on how the city can enable such community uses on streets.

Mayor Hales, Commissioner NovickThe concept came from Mayor Hales, who thought the city should try to empower communities to help determine what their neighborhoods look like by creating something useful and attractive. Many homeowners on unimproved streets have said that expensive paving projects are not what they prefer, but lower cost alternatives such as placing benches or gardens in the public right of way would still require a City permit.


Community meetings to share your ideas for community uses of unpaved streets


The public is invited to share their ideas at two upcoming community meetings. This will be an opportunity to share issues and concerns city staff should take into consideration as they develop the project:

Monday, Nov. 4

6:30 to 8 p.m.

East Portland Community Center

Poolside Room No. 1, 740 S.E. 106th Ave. No. 15, No. 20, Southeast Main St. Max Station/Green

Wednesday, Nov. 13

6:30 to 8 p.m.

Hollywood Library

Community Meeting Room, 4040 N.E. Tillamook St. No. 12, No. 75, 4 blocks to Hollywood/NE 42nd Ave. TC Max Station


Support from Mayor Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick


“Too often, the city comes at a problem with a one-size-fits-all approach,” Hales said. “But when we have dozens of miles of public space taken up by streets that predate the City’s development rules, that the city can’t maintain, we should allow neighborhoods the flexibility to create appropriate uses for these public spaces.”

“This is very much an idea still in the exploratory stage,” Hales said. “We may find no interest, or we may find a lot of excitement to transform gravel roads into something both functional and appealing to the neighborhood.”

City Commissioner Steve Novick praised the effort. “As Commissioner in Charge of Transportation, I appreciate the Mayor’s approach to identify creative uses of unimproved streets,” Novick said. “I look forward to the outcomes of the pilot project to address this long running community concern.”


Outreach already begun in partnership with PSU students


Starting Oct. 19, students from a Portland State University civic leadership class began going door-to-door on behalf of the city in the Cully and Outer Southeast Division neighborhoods to gather ideas and gauge public interest in two areas that have concentrations of unimproved streets.

“We are happy partnering with PSU to get some input from residents and see if it’s a viable idea to alter, rather than just pave,” Hales said.

The PSU students are asking residents if they would prefer to use some or all of an existing unimproved street as a pocket park, community garden site, or other option. Residents may see a need to provide a mix of vehicle access with community amenities along a single street.


Next steps:


If there is interest in this new approach to dealing with gravel streets, the next step will be setting criteria for evaluating candidate pilot street projects and further engagement this winter with neighborhood and community groups. The city’s goal is to select four unimproved streets from sites proposed by community groups and homeowners throughout the city for an initial pilot project in 2014.

No final decisions on street alterations are expected before summer 2014.




The city of Portland will make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities and people needing assistance with language interpretation and translation. Please notify us no less than five business days prior to the events. (503) 823-3075 or, TTY: (503) 823-6868, or Oregon Relay Service at (800) 735-2900.


Project website:


Flier for Community meetings:


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