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My Portland Plan: How is the Portland Plan being implemented through the Comprehensive Plan?

These two long-range plans have overlapping, but distinct, purposes for shaping the future of Portland.

Springwater trail, railroad tracks and the riverRecently, Portland residents have been asking Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) staff what it means to say the Comprehensive Plan is a Portland Plan implementation project. Others wonder why we need the Comprehensive Plan if we have the Portland Plan.

The Portland Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in 2012, is a strategic plan that provides the public and decision-makers a way to evaluate budget requests and proposed projects against citywide goals.

It highlights four focus areas: equity, education, prosperity and health. Each focus area has a strategy, which includes policies to guide how the City approaches work in that area, and a list of potential actions to take over the next five years.

The Portland Plan was adopted by a resolution. Plans adopted by resolutions serve as a guide for future government action and are not legally binding.

The Comprehensive Plan, however, must be adopted by an ordinance; plans adopted by ordinance are binding.

The Comprehensive Plan is a state-mandated plan to prepare for expected population and job growth as well as infrastructure investments. It will also guide the City’s community engagement practices to ensure inclusion, transparency and equity in the decision-making process around key priorities.

Staff used an open-ended and flexible process during the creation of the Portland Plan to gather feedback from thousands of residents to help shape the future direction of our city. The Comprehensive Plan builds on that input, as well as lessons learned about community involvement.

In addition to new, more detailed policies, the draft Comprehensive Plan includes many of the policies from the Portland Plan Guiding Policies. Once adopted, these will all become binding and guide land use, transportation and investment decisions for the next 20 years.

Key concepts from the Portland Plan are incorporated throughout the draft Comprehensive Plan:

  • The Healthy Connected City strategy is a core component of the Urban Design Framework, as well as the Urban Design and Development and Watershed Health and Environment goals and policies.
  • Issues related to freight movement and providing land for traded sector development are addressed in the Economic Development and Transportation goals and policies.
  • Policies that support youth success can be found in the Housing, Economic Development, Urban Design and Development, Public Facilities and Transportation chapters.

As a legally binding policy document, the Comprehensive Plan is an important implementation tool of the Portland Plan. 

From BPS Director Susan Anderson: United Nations chooses Portland to host World Environment Day for the United States

e-newsletter, April 2013

This year, Earth Day in Portland will be celebrated in the spotlight of the United Nations. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has selected Portland as the North American host city for this year’s World Environment Day on June 5, 2013. Established by the UN General Assembly in 1972, World Environment Day is celebrated in more than 120 nations, focusing international attention on environmental issues.

In the 45 days from Earth Day (April 22) to World Environment Day, a variety of public events will celebrate Portland’s leadership in sustainability and green living. The City and UNEP are encouraging community groups, businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals to join in by organizing or participating in public events during this time. Follow events for UNWED at and on Facebook .

From Portland’s Solarize and energy efficiency programs to our world renowned green building services, green streets and curbside composting and recycling program — which has reduced household garbage by nearly 40 percent — we have a lot to celebrate this year. Hosting the United Nations World Environment Day is a great opportunity to showcase Portland’s story and legacy of leadership to the world.


So how did we get here today?

In the 1990s and 2000s, many new efforts were begun by Portlanders that focused on sustainable building, energy and water efficiency, recycling and waste reduction, biking infrastructure, solar and wind power, stormwater management, and creating walkable, connected neighborhoods.

In 1993, Portland became the first U.S. city to adopt a climate action plan for its entire community. At that time, few Americans cared much about what was then called “global warming.” The focus of the plan was to reduce carbon emissions — but to do it in a way that would help families save money, reduce local air pollution, cut operating costs for businesses, and build more livable, walkable neighborhoods.

The 1993 plan has been updated regularly and has been a success. Per capita carbon emissions are down by more than 25 percent, with total emissions down six percent (below 1990 levels). At the same time, carbon emissions in the United States have increased by about 10 percent.

In response to this increasingly urgent need to shift to a low-carbon economy and community, in 2009 Portland adopted a new Climate Action Plan with a goal of reducing 1990 level emissions by 80 percent. To reach that goal, the City has focused on both innovative and practical solutions in such areas as transportation and land use, energy efficiency, renewable energy and solid waste reduction.

Portland is moving in the right direction, and the gap between Portland’s success and the U.S. average tells a compelling story — that American cities can be both prosperous and reduce carbon emissions.

What’s Next for Portland?

Achieving an 80-percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 remains a very ambitious goal. Proposed new efforts on the horizon include:

  • More bikeways and an additional seven miles of light rail.
  • Enhanced energy efficiency programs.
  • New rules for energy performance disclosure for commercial buildings.
  • More solar and wind power generation.
  • Investments in district-scale energy systems and community-owned solar energy installations.
  • Improved zoning and a new Comprehensive Plan that focuses on creating more healthy, connected neighborhoods.
  • More technical assistance for companies pursuing sustainable operations.
  • The City’s first climate preparedness plan.


Portland’s success relies on its strong partnerships between residents, businesses, nonprofits, academic institutions and other governments. Together these individuals and organizations work to be a catalyst for action, as they continue to seek new partnerships with cities around the world.

This is our chance to shine and our challenge to stay in a leadership position. It’s also a chance for the rest of the cities in the world to push us forward toward greater innovations. How will you celebrate Earth Day?

Susan Anderson

Susan Anderson signature


Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Comprehensive Plan Update community workshops spur thoughtful discussions

e-newsletter April 2013

During February and March, Portlanders attended seven community workshops to learn about and discuss the Comprehensive Plan Update goals and policies. In schools and community centers around the city, community members engaged with City staff and neighbors through interactive exercises and conversations about housing, transportation, urban design, infrastructure investments, growth scenarios, economic development, watershed health and industrial land supply.

Developing a comprehensive plan requires many conversations between community members, staff, technical experts and stakeholders. We’re fortunate to have such highly engaged and committed participants and partners in the process, ensuring that the final product will be reflective of Portlanders’ values and vision.


Policy Survey and Online Commenting

Portland’s existing Comprehensive Plan was developed in the 1970s and adopted in 1980, when the city’s primary concern was revitalizing downtown. But the 1980 plan doesn’t mention watershed health, climate change or equity … major issues facing Portland today. These and other concerns around housing and jobs are complex and many layered, requiring thoughtful consideration and broad input from Portland’s many different communities and interest groups.

To help address these issues and answer some larger questions, the project team developed a policy survey . Feedback from the survey will help staff refine the goals and policies in the Working Draft Part 1. Staff have been using the survey questions to prompt discussions at the workshops and other group settings, and solicit valuable input about the community’s many preferences and opinions.

So far, nearly 300 people have filled out the survey online and another 200 have submitted comments via an online feedback form, correspondence and talking with City staff. Thank you to the hundreds of Portlanders who have taken the time to respond so thoughtfully.  

The online survey is open until May 1. You can help us hit our goal of 500 responses by taking the survey here.


Other Outreach Efforts and Next Steps

Even if you missed the community workshops on the Comprehensive Plan goals and policies, there are still several ways to get involved and share ideas about how and where the City should develop as it grows. In addition to the online survey, staff are meeting with several community groups each week, and will soon start tabling at community-wide events (e.g., Sunday Parkways, Portland Parks Summer Concert Series, street and community fairs) in the spring and summer. Feedback from the community during this time will help guide refinements to Part 1 as well as the upcoming land use maps in Part 2.


Coming next: Working Draft Part 2

Part 2 of the Comprehensive Plan Working Draft will be published in mid-summer. It will include a series of maps (including an updated Urban Design Framework, land use designations, etc.) and first drafts of the Citywide System Plan, including infrastructure project lists.

To prepare Working Draft Part 2, the City’s District Liaisons will be talking with stakeholders during the spring to gather district-specific information, comments, preferences and ideas to shape draft maps and connect the policies with geographically specific mapping possibilities. For more information, please contact your District Liaison  or call 503-823-7700.

In early fall, the City will hold another series of community workshops focused on mapping questions and infrastructure choices. The goal is to refine land use maps and infrastructure plans based on fall workshop input and publish a Proposed Draft Comprehensive Plan Map in December 2013, for Planning and Sustainability Commission and City Council consideration and discussion in early 2014. 

The Barbur Concept Plan heads to City Council for adoption

e-newsletter April 2013

The Portland City Council will hold a public hearing on the Barbur Concept Plan on April 24, 2013. The Concept Plan identifies seven catalytic focus areas along the six-mile-long boulevard — places where there is a community desire for change — and establishes a unifying vision for this historic transportation corridor as a more accessible, vibrant place.

On Feb. 26, after hearing from the community, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) voted unanimously to forward the recommended Concept Plan to City Council. The Commission also heard a compelling story about the vision for this important corridor.

That vision takes advantage of existing strengths in each area, situated in four unique segments (Lair Hill, The Woods, Historic Highway and Far Southwest) and proposes several innovative ideas to enhance each unique area and promote public and private investment (see page 26 of the Concept Plan).

The vision is supported by an economic analysis of what the market would support and when. The report’s key finding is that future high capacity transit (HCT) is a necessary ingredient to making the vision real. Public investments in high capacity transit (light rail or bus rapid transit) have been shown to stimulate redevelopment. High capacity transit would be a key piece to realizing many of the changes envisioned in the Concept Plan.


Barbur Boulevard’s Past

Barbur was first a railroad route that was converted to an auto boulevard in the 1920s, linking downtown to other parts of Southwest Portland. When Barbur became part of the state highway system (99W), early commercial development was tailored to the automobile and traveler services. When I-5 was built in the 1950s, Barbur continued to serve regional traffic — but without the funding and attention that a standalone highway might receive. Consequently, the southwest neighborhoods continue to advocate for basic pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements. With Metro's SW Corridor Plan underway, the time is right to consider how to complete this roadway’s transformation from a rail line, to a highway, and now to a civic corridor that offers an enjoyable place for people to live, work, play and learn.


What’s Next?

A week after the hearing, the City Council will vote on the plan by resolution as non-binding City policy. The plan identifies future actions that will need to correspond to future regional decisions about HCT and other major infrastructure investments in the corridor. This will ensure that Barbur, the adjoining neighborhoods and the City can take advantage of opportunities when they arise to move the community's shared vision forward.

A copy of the recommended concept plan is now available for the public to review.

Your comments are appreciated in person or via:


Fax: (503) 823-4571 (attn Council Clerk)

Mail: 1221 SW 4th Ave, Room 140, Portland, OR 97204.


SW Corridor Plan

Metro is leading a comprehensive planning effort to create livable and sustainable communities along the corridor between Portland, Tigard and Sherwood through integrated community investments in land use and transportation. A major component of this effort is to determine the mode of transit (e.g. light rail, bus rapid transit) and alignment (e.g. Barbur or I-5). Metro is in the early stages of evaluating alternatives and is expecting to narrow the wide range of alternatives into a handful by this summer. For more information, please visit

The project team is working to schedule the following events and public involvement tools. Once confirmed, the events will be added to the project calendar on the SW Corridor website

  • April online open house - Beginning mid-April, catch up with the Southwest Corridor Plan by viewing the online open house.
  • Project bundle evaluation results - Evaluation results of the project bundles will be released by mid-May.
  • Opt In survey, May 20 through 28 (unconfirmed) - Using Metro's Opt In program, participants will be able to respond to the evaluation results and how they connect to regional and local values. Learn about and join the Opt In panel.
  • Community Planning Forum, May 23 (unconfirmed) - Learn more about the evaluation results and offer your thoughts on what priorities should be included in the plan's investment package.
  • June online open house - Beginning mid-June, review the initial concepts for the final investment package and offer your comments for the steering committee's decisions on how to move forward.


West Quadrant Plan project up and running

e-newsletter April 2013

What is the West Quadrant Plan?

Guided by the Central City 2035 Concept Plan, the West Quadrant Plan will examine a range of issues  in the western areas of the Central City, including:

  • land use
  • urban design
  • transportation
  • environmental impacts
  • economic development

This effort will result in recommendations for policies to guide future public and private investment and development in the western areas of the Central City, including the River District (the Pearl District and Old Town/Chinatown), Downtown, Goose Hollow, University District and South Waterfront areas.

Under the 1972 Downtown Plan and the 1988 Central City Plan, public, private and nonprofit investment on the west side resulted in the development of Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the MAX lines, the Transit Mall and Retail Core, Saturday Market, the streetcar system, Pioneer Courthouse Square and new public art. With all that development momentum, the Central City 2035 and West Quadrant Plan will build upon the vision and direction provided by these earlier plans, while reinforcing the new strategic concept of the Central City as the center of innovation and exchange for the region.

Planning process

West Quadrant Reader report coverTo kick off the West Quadrant Plan, the project team developed the West Quadrant Reader and an accompanying online survey. A short newspaper-like document outlining issues, opportunities and ideas for Portland’s West Quadrant, the Reader is a starting point for the public conversation about the West Quadrant and will help people give feedback via the online survey. The West Quadrant Issues and Opportunities Survey  seeks community input on topics such as housing, transportation and neighborhood services. It’s available online through May 10, 2013.

In the past few months, the West Quadrant Plan team held three major public events, including the first two West Quadrant Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) meetings, a planning forum and charrette for the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood and similar efforts for Goose Hollow. Attendance has been high, and feedback enthusiastic and informative. For more information and updates on the WQP project, please visit the News & Updates page of the CC2035 website. 

Together the discussions from the SAC meetings, ideas from neighborhood events (such as those in Old Town/Chinatown and Goose Hollow) and feedback from the survey will feed into the advisory committee’s work and shape the West Quadrant Charrette, scheduled for June 10-14, 2013. The charrette will lead into concepts development and a draft plan.

How you can get involved 

Future public events for the West Quadrant Plan will include open houses, community meetings, working groups and specific efforts targeted at smaller sub-areas in the district (e.g., Downtown, South Waterfront, West End, North Pearl). Each of these present an opportunity for community members to get involved, ask questions, provide feedback and contribute to the future of the area. To learn more about upcoming events, check out the project calendar. We hope to see you in the coming months!

Questions or comments?

Contact West Quadrant Plan staff at