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Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

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BPS celebrates another successful Fix-It Fair season

e-newsletter April 2013

Since 1986, the Fix-It Fairs have helped Portland residents to save money while creating healthy homes for themselves, their families and the environment. 

This season, the Fix-It Fair served a diverse mix of 1,900 primarily low-and moderate-income residents in North, outer Northeast and outer Southeast Portland. More than 60 community partners exhibited, offering valuable resources and information to help attendees grow food at home, reduce water and energy usage, avoid lead paint exposure and much more.

From offering interactive training on basic home repair, planning nutritious meals, to demonstrating tree care, this season’s fairs featured 110 workshops. The information booths and workshops offered tools and inspiration to help attendees take charge of their personal health, finances, and their homes, inside and out.

The Ron Russell Fair in southeast Portland featured five workshops conducted in Spanish on topics specifically serving the needs of the Latino community.

Commenting on a budgeting workshop at a Fair, one resident said the presenter  “was super positive, incorporated audience ideas with enthusiasm, and helped me realize budgeting is fun, quick, and not another life stress.”

Another person who attended a kid-friendly gardening workshop said “I was here for [a later class] and just came in early to sit, but this was great. Easy to plant and easy to grow with high likelihood of success. That’s what I need!”

To ensure that the Fairs served a diverse range of residents, grassroots outreach efforts were employed. These included ads in community newspapers such as El Hispanic News, Portland Observer, Asian Reporter and The Skanner; radio promotion on KBOO’s Armando Puentes program and Bustos Media; and cable promotion on Univisión. Community partners also leveraged their communication networks and canvassed neighborhoods and popular local venues with fair material.

Fix-it Fairs are sponsored by BPS, Energy Trust of Oregon, Legacy Emmanuel Medical Center, Pacific Power, Portland Housing Bureau and Portland General.

A special thank you also goes to those City bureaus and offices that participate in the Fairs: Bureau of Development Services, Bureau of Environmental Services, Bureau of Emergency Management, Bureau of Transportation, Housing Bureau, Parks and Recreation, Water Bureau and the Portland Children’s Levy.


Code amendments for new apartments and parking adopted by City Council

e-newsletter April 2013

On April 10, 2013, City Council voted to adopt Zoning Code amendments for parking minimums, which will apply to some future apartment buildings depending on their location and size. The vote followed a five-and-a-half-hour public hearing at City Council the week before, at which dozens of people testified for and against parking minimums. Amendments proposed by Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz were included in the adopted code, which will go into effect in 30 days. Projects that have already received a building permit or that have submitted a complete permit application will not be affected.

Mayor Charlie Hales said the vision of urban planning remains, but must be modified from time to time to address the changing reality.

“We had a vision for main streets and we still do,” Hales said. “This doesn’t mean we’re moving away from our vision; it just means we’re adjusting. And you know what? We likely will have to do this again in the future.”

Read the adopted New Apartments and Parking Zoning Code Amendments 

Highlights of the Code Amendments

The revised regulations will apply to new apartment buildings with more than 30 units that are within 500 feet of a street with frequent transit service or 1,500 feet of a MAX station, and in certain commercial zones. The amount of parking required depends on the size of the building. For example, buildings with 31 to 40 units will have to provide one parking space per five units, while larger buildings will be required to provide more. But developers will be able reduce their parking obligations up to half by providing various amenities, such as spaces for car- or bike-sharing services.


Portland's first Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 1980, includes goals and policies to “... regulate off-street parking to promote good urban form and the vitality of commercial and employment areas.” In the early ’90s, City officials rewrote the Zoning Code and included three new commercial zones to promote main street storefront character with mixed use/residential development.

Today, historically low vacancy rates, especially in inner Portland, have resulted in a boom of apartment construction, many without onsite parking. In response to community concerns about potential parking impacts, the City Council directed the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to research the issue and develop Zoning Code amendments that require some parking for larger multi-unit buildings.

For more information about the research and study reports or to read the FAQ, visit the project web page.


Solar energy and community net metering

e-newsletter April 2013

The City of Portland has a long-standing commitment to support the development of a market for solar energy. Despite many gains, solar energy remains out of reach for many Portland residents, including renters, lower-income individuals and people who live in neighborhoods with more shade than sun.

The 2009 City of Portland/Multnomah County Climate Action Plan (CAP) calls for ten percent of the energy used in Multnomah County to be produced from on-site renewable sources by 2030. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) established a solar energy program in 2006 and, along with key partners, has helped increase the installed solar capacity in Portland since that time.

However, seventy-five percent of residential consumers in the U.S.aren’t able to install solar on their own rooftops because they rent, have too much shade, can’t afford it or have the wrong rooftop orientation. In recent years, community-shared solar has emerged as an innovative strategy to expand the use of renewable energy to underserved populations. Community solar is a model in which residents can invest in solar electric installations that are located elsewhere, such as a school or community center rooftop, providing a pathway to community ownership of clean power production.

The City of Portland attempted a community-shared solar pilot in 2012 which faced many constraints as part of the existing net-metering laws and available market incentives (i.e., Oregon Volumetric Incentive Rate, Federal Investment Tax Credit). Therefore, the pilot did not ultimately result in solar installations, though a number of valuable lessons were learned.

One of the key findings from the City’s pilot was that community net-metering, instead of standard net-metering, would offer a pragmatic solution to the current legislative and regulatory obstacles to implementing community-shared solar projects.


What is the difference between net metering and community net metering?

Net-metering laws establish how utilities must treat the power produced by a grid-connected solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) system. Under typical net-metering agreements, consumers receive a credit from the utility for the power generated by their solar electric system, valued at the same retail rate that they pay for the power consumed from the grid.

Community net-metering is an expansion of net-metering policy which allows consumers to receive the same benefits enabled by direct ownership of solar electric and standard net-metering, but from a larger, community-scaled solar electric system.

The City of Portland is working with other parties to develop legislative solutions that enable equitable, lower-cost access to solar energy for many more Oregonians than are served by the current net-metering law.

BPS staff honored with Kitzhaber Public Health Leadership Award

e-newsletter April 2013

Michelle Kunec-North was the recipient of the Multnomah County Health Department’s 2013 Governor John Kitzhaber Public Health Leadership Award. Each year the County awards Public Health Hero awards in six categories. The Governor John Kitzhaber Public Health Leadership Award honors those in our community who have worked unceasingly to create policy solutions that assure, promote, and protect health for every member of the community.

A Public Health Hero is a person or organization that promotes public health in their daily lives. This individual, organization or business is the driving force behind public health efforts that embody the following criteria:


  1. Makes a significant difference in the lives of the people served.
  2. Builds on individual and community strengths and assets.
  3. Mobilizes individuals and community groups to work in collaboration and cooperation.
  4. Are unique, innovative or fill an identified gap in a specific community Is characterized by social justice and a celebration of diversity.


Michelle has been a lead author for BPS on sections of several key planning projects:

  • Lead author for the Health and Safety Background Report (Comp Plan/Portland Plan). 
  •  Primary author for the “Healthy Connected City” strategy in the Portland Plan.
  •  Led background research for the Health Impact Assessment that was done for West Hayden Island project. 
  •  Created the Health Policy Scan (together with Beth Sanders at Oregon Public Health Institute, as part of a grant project) to help inform the Comprehensive Plan Update project.

City honors amazing women at BPS

e-newsletter April 2013

The City of Portland Wonder Women Awards honors women at the City who serve as mentors, leaders, and exceptional co-workers. The awards coincide with Women’s History Month in March. This year’s theme was “Women Inspiring Innovation Thru Imagination.”

City staff were asked to nominate co-workers to honor the women in our bureau who stand out in some way as role models, mentors, or generally exceptional employees. This year seven BPS employees received the award:


  • Mindy Brooks
  • Shannon Buono
  • Valerie Garrett
  • Karen Lucchesi
  • Nan Stark
  • Desiree Williams-Rajee
  • Sandra Wood