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BPS staff invited to present at the City of Oakland’s Mobilize Green Conference

Conference panelist and BPS staffer Alfredo Gonzalez attended the Mobilize Green Conference and Career Fair in Oakland, CA.

Preparing for climate change is an effort that the City of Portland launched in 1993, seeking to make the ‘Rose City’ a resilient and sustainable example for other cities around the world. Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) plays a pivotal role in Portland’s climate leadership. In 2016, the City of Portland’s Climate Action Plan was recognized as best in the world by the C40 cities climate leadership group.

Portlanders want a resilient and sustainable city, which requires having a diverse job sector, with a diverse workforce

Released in 2014, a study from Harvard University analyzed 191 multi-sector conservation and preservation organizations in the United States, they ranged from mainstream NGOs, government agencies, foundations to boards of advocacy groups. The study concluded that the organizations were predominantly white, and that their focus needs to shift to engaging more people of color into the environmental field.

One national organization working to catalyze the shift and create opportunities for youth of color to find a career in the environmental field is Mobilize Green. Headquartered in Washington D.C., Mobilize Green hosts an annual conference and career fair in a different city every year, an event whose goal is to inspire, engage, and mobilize the next generation of diverse leaders to help communities solve equity and environmental challenges. 

Mobilize Green convenes employers from the environmental industry, ranging from local governments, regional, state and national agencies. Students are then presented with a range of opportunities, from internships to full-time positions, as well as a chance to interview in the career fair.   

The 2017 Mobilize Green Conference and Career Fair kicked off at City Hall in Oakland, CA, with keynote speaker Randy Moore, Regional Forester for the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest. Moore outlined his pathway to being a regional leader at the U.S. Forest Service, as well as the many internship opportunities that Mobilize Green offered through the U.S. Forest Service. Another speaker, Princeton University’s Assistant Professor Dr.Ruha Benjamin, encouraged students to step into the environmental sector to solve problems like dissimilatory designs and privatization of public needs. To demonstrate the concept of public needs being privatized, Dr. Ruha showed examples such as a public bench that needed to be fed coins to be used, which does not provide equal access to the general public.

Alfredo Gonzalez Valenzuela, a member of the solid waste and recycling team at BPS, attended the event as a panelist. He was joined by over 100 students from around the country, whom all had an interest in environmental justice, and would soon be looking to join the workforce upon graduation.

Through the different sessions, students are able to gain clarity on their career path, and benefit from gaining a greater understanding of the environmental field. Discussions allowed students to see the larger picture, and where the need is in the environmental field for students of color to enter the workforce.

Alfredo first attended the 2016 Mobilize Green Conference and Career Fair in Seattle, as an environmental science student at Portland State University, looking to start his career upon graduation. So it was exciting for Alfredo to attend this year’s event in Oakland, CA, to speak as a panelist. Representing BPS, he was able to share his experiences and milestones leading up to joining the BPS team.

BPS has taken the initiative to cultivate the next generation of diverse, public service leaders who are committed to creating resilient cities. The Bureau’s Racial Equity Roadmap outlines a number of initiatives, to recruit, train, and promote staff of color. BPS is keen to reflect the diverse demographic future of Portland, through the Portland Climate Action Collaborative, a program which, among other goals, also seeks to diversify the pool of applicants for BPS positions.

Coming soon: Portland Sustainability: Equity and Diversity in the Workplace

The Student Fellows of PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions and the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability will host students and professionals from diverse backgrounds who are interested in sustainability to explore and discuss the opportunities and barriers for building a diverse workforce and supporting marginalized communities. The event will take place at the Native American Community Center on April 13, 2017 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. RSVP

No foolin’! Soon you’ll get a dime instead of a nickel at bottle return centers

Deposit on bottles increases to a dime on April 1, 2017.

Starting April 1, 2017, consumers get a dime back for carbonated beverages and water containers recycled at a return center. This is the first increase in the Oregon Bottle Bill’s 45-year history.

Illustration of bottle with 5 cent label

The Bottle Bill is good for recycling

Oregon was the first state to enact a redemption program back in 1971, and early on, it was clear the program worked. The Bottle Bill collected more than 90 percent of the bottles and cans and reduced litter by 77 percent.

When Oregonians take bottles separately to be redeemed, they make it easier for our local recyclers to turn them into something new. Plus, you can get some money back!

As a reminder, the types of beverages that are part of the current Bottle Bill include carbonated soft drinks, beer, malt beverages, bottled water, flavored water, soda water and mineral water.

Portland residents have options when it comes to redeeming beverage containers. That includes taking containers to a local retailer or to a Bottle Drop Center to redeem these for money. Many of these containers are recycled right in our region. Learn more at

As always, bottles and cans can still be set out for curbside collection without collecting that dime. At curbside, recycle soda and beer cans and plastic beverage bottles in your blue recycling roll cart and glass beer bottles in your yellow recycling bin.

Look for another change beginning January 1, 2018. That’s when more types of beverage containers will carry a deposit, including those for tea, coffee, fruit juice, coconut water, hard cider and kombucha.

Have a question for our Curbside Hotline Operator?
Submit your question online or call 503-823-7202.

City partners with Architectural Heritage Center to document Portland’s African American historic resources

State Historic Preservation Office grant will allow for the identification, documentation, and potential National Register listing of historic places associated with the African American experience in Portland.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has partnered with the nonprofit Architectural Heritage Center to document potentially significant historic resources associated with Portland’s African American history. With grant funding from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, the project will complete an umbrella National Register of Historic Places document known as a Multiple Property Documentation (MPD) form. MPDs record groupings of historic resources associated with a significant historic context (such as a building type or ethnic/cultural group) to allow for individual owners to more easily list their property in the National Register.

Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church during the historic period. Although the 1909 church building was heavily remodeled in the 1950s, the alterations are significant in their own right as they were undertaken to accommodate the growing congregation in the years following the Vanport Flood. Image courtesy Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church.

The partnership with the Architectural Heritage Center builds off of the nonprofit’s 1998 “Cornerstones of Community” project, a citywide survey of African American historic resources and companion educational materials for local fourth grade students. According to Cathy Galbraith, who managed the Cornerstones project and is serving on the MPD project, “Formal documentation and protection through National Register listing of our city’s African American heritage is long overdue. Without proactive efforts by the City and the community, Portland risks losing a significant part of its cultural heritage.” Members of Oregon Black Pioneers and historic preservation professionals from various backgrounds were tapped to participate on the project team to ensure the MPD is accurate, comprehensive, informative, and useful for property owners. 

As an umbrella document, the MPD will not automatically nominate any property to the National Register, but will provide owners of significant African American historic resources with an easier and clearer path to designation. Because owner consent is required for a property to be listed in the National Register, the MPD is intended to make it easier to recognize, designate, and protect African American historic sites in Portland.

Vancouver Avenue Baptist ChurchInterior of the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church during a 1959 church service. Image courtesy Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church.

Interest in designating African American historic resources has been on the rise in recent years. One such designation is the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, listed in the National Register in October 2016 for its association with a majority African American congregation that relocated to inner North Portland following the 1948 Vanport Flood


The Architectural Heritage Center welcomes submission of photos, stories, or other documentation that may aid in their work. Contact Cathy Galbraith 503-543-6813 to share your stories. A community open house will be held in early summer 2017 to collect additional stories and share progress on the project. The MPD is expected to be completed in early fall 2017.

Vancouver Avenue Baptist ChurchThe Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church as it appears today. The church was listed in the National Register of Historic Plans in 2016 for its significant role in Portland's African American history.

The project will also achieve early implementation of a policy in the proposed Central City 2035 Plan, which calls for the identification and documentation of African American historic resources in inner North and Northeast Portland.

Portland Plan 4-year progress report celebrates local gains and sharpens focus on disparities

Director Susan Anderson presented the Portland Plan Progress Report at the March 14th City Council Budget Session.

The Portland Plan, adopted four years ago and reflecting the contributions of 17,000 people including 20 local agency partners, has become the foundation for numerous plans, programs and investments. As a broad strategic plan for the city, with equity as the foundation supporting three integrated strategies: (1)  Educated Youth, (2) Prosperity and Affordability, and (3) Healthy Connected City — BPS tracks progress with 12 specific measures of success. Of the 142 action items in the plan, 90 percent are in progress, on track or completed. 

Director Anderson’s presentation of our city’s “report card” highlights progress on education, jobs, complete neighborhoods and the environment, while emphasizing serious concerns with affordability for many families, with rising housing and childcare costs. And even in areas where we’ve seen improvements across the board, like rising graduation rates and salaries, many households of color are not faring as well as the average overall, and in some cases, are significantly worse off. 

City offers immersive training to prepare diverse workforce for growing deconstruction industry

Amidst high industry demand, a new training will generate a pool of diverse qualified candidates prepared to start a career in deconstruction.

In July 2016, Portland became the first city in the country to adopt an ordinance that requires full deconstruction of structures built in 1916 or earlier or historic properties. Since the ordinance went into effect in October 2016, 22 houses have been subject to the new requirements and valuable materials from disassembled houses or duplexes have been salvaged for reuse instead of crushed and landfilled. From start to finish, deconstruction protects health, generates affordable reusable building materials and creates pathways to careers in the growing deconstruction industry.

The City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) allows only Certified Deconstruction Contractors to work on the projects covered by the new law. Since fall of 2016, the number of certified companies has steadily risen to 12 with more in the pipeline. To support the demand for new workforce in an equitable way, BPS partnered with the Building Material Reuse Association (BMRA) and Earth Advantage to host a training that prioritizes participation by women, people of color, and historically underserved groups.   

Workforce training group

On March 13, 2017, BPS and its partners launched a free, 12-day hands-on workforce training that takes place on a series of active deconstruction sites. During the training, 15 students, of which more than half are women, are out in the field to help prepare them for work on a deconstruction site. “Deconstruction is filled with hard, heavy, physical work, and every day presents a new challenge,” said Rebecca Hoefer, Deconstructor with Lovett Deconstruction.

My jobsite changes regularly and functions in all weather conditions and since I started doing this work, I come home feeling physically and mentally satisfied. I can honestly say that changing [my] career path to deconstruction was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Workforce training group

Several local non-profits including Oregon Tradeswomen, Portland Youth Builders, The ReBuilding Center and the Urban League of Portland promoted the training and provided referrals to help create a diverse, dedicated and inclusive group of trainees. BPS, Metro and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are sponsoring the training.

The 12-day program concludes on March 29, 2017, and is anticipated to generate a pool of qualified candidates prepared to start a career in deconstruction.

Workforce training group

In May 2017, BPS will provide a report to City Council on the status of the deconstruction program and ordinance.

Visit the City of Portland’s website,, for more details about our Deconstruction Program, Deconstruction Contractor Spotlights and additional training opportunities as they become available.