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Summary Meeting Notes: June 21, 2012 Neighborhood Centers PEG

June 21, 2012 from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.

Attendees: Kate Allen, Lisa Bates, Jason Barnstead-Long, Andre’ Baugh, Paul Cathcart, Kristin Cooper, Gordon Davis, Justin Douglas, Ivy Dunlap, Ryan Givens, Denver Igarta, Carol Mayer-Reed, Rick Michaelson, Jennifer Moore, Gary Oxman, Dora Perry, Mark Raggett, Nick Sauvie, Allison Stoll.


Presenter: Steve Faust, Facilitator

Summary: Neighborhood Centers PEG members were asked to introduce themselves and give an example of a good neighborhood center or the qualities that a model neighborhood center should have. The qualities identified by members include:

  • Place where people are comfortable     

  • Reasonable scale

  • Safe

  • A range of businesses and buildings

  • Meets needs of the community

  • Thriving

  • Not too dense or too sparse

  • Diverse

  • Walkable

  • Growth/evolving

  • Healthy

  • Contact with beauty and nature

  • Equitable

  • Architecture

  • Social connectivity, gathering     

  • Interesting

  • Living room to the neighborhood

  • Employment opportunities

  • Genuine/organic

  • Comfortable at all hours

  • Strong identity     

  • Sense of place

  • Community ownership

  • Amenities – grocery, health, parks, infrastructure

  • Accessible/connected     

  • Includes affordable options

  • Inclusive/equitable

  • Harmony among businesses and residents

  • A sense of belonging

General Orientation 

Presenter: Eric Engstrom, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS)

Summary: Eric described the purpose and charge of the Policy Expert Groups (PEGs), member roles and responsibilities, and the overall Comprehensive Plan Update process schedule.

  • BPS staff will provide PEG communications guidelines at the next meeting.

  • BPS staff will provide an Equity Framework for ensuring equity is an integral part of the neighborhood centers discussion.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

Scope of Work (8:35 a.m.)

Presenter: Bill Cunningham

Summary: Review of PEG schedule and resources, including the Comprehensive Plan Website.

  • Agendas will be posted one week in advance of each meeting.

  • Meeting summaries will be posted one week following each meeting.

  • PowerPoint presentations will be posted to the Website.

  • The deliverable for each PEG will likely be a letter to the Planning and Sustainability Commission, describing areas of consensus and non-consensus viewpoints.

  • The Discussion Draft is tentatively scheduled to be available in November.

  • BPS will provide guidance on how PEGs collaborate to address shared topic areas.

  • Parking should be added to the list of topic areas.

  • How to maintain quality of life when a center reaches its full potential was also suggested as a topic for discussion.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

Neighborhood Centers Overview 

Presenter: Bill Cunningham, BPS

Summary: Review and discuss scope of Neighborhood Centers topics.

  • Presentation included household densities required to support a thriving commercial core, projected population and job growth and the 20-minute neighborhood analysis.

  • Market analysis assumptions often underestimate the buying power of low income households.  These faulty assumptions should not shape the policy direction for neighborhood centers.

  • The list of services in the 20-minute neighborhood analysis is not responsive to the differing needs of different populations and cultures.  What elements are essential?  What elements are secondary?

  • Modes should be considered when discussing “walkability,” including accessibility for people with disabilities.

  • What elements are present in existing neighborhood centers and what do residents want to see in addition?

  • The discussion of displacement and gentrification should be held earlier in the process.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

Public Comment

  • No public comments.

Wrap Up

Presenter: Steve Faust

  • Future meetings will emphasize shorter presentations and more time for discussion.

  • Members are encouraged to visit various neighborhood centers.


Survey Responses (posted 6/27; closed 7/12)

Do you have any questions or comments about the PEG Charter and Protocols or schedule?

  • I recommend listing affiliations/neighborhoods of PEG members in written and electronic communication instead of just listing people as "community members." I like that the charter explicitly states that PEG discussions should consider who benefits and who is burdened by policies.
  • It seems like there is way more information that needs to be shared than can presented/reviewed and commented on in the meeting time frame.  Without assigning a great deal of reading, how can the participant comments/feedback be better handled in the time available?  Are the scope and intent of the meetings too ambitious?


Do you have any questions or comments about the Neighborhood Centers PEG Tentative Schedule and Topics?

  • I am concerned that the discussion of displacement and gentrification does not take place until September. Policies and strategies that we come up with to mitigate the displacement effects of improving neighborhood centers will ultimately affect whether existing communities benefit from growth and development, or continue to bear the burden. This is one of the most essential equity issues that this group will cover and should be a determining factor in setting policy direction, rather than a secondary consideration. I recommend that we move this discussion to July, or August at the latest.
  • I hope there are opportunities built into the process for cross-pollination of PEGs. Economic development, residential compatibility, infrastructure and networks are all closely related to healthy or unhealthy neighborhood centers.
  • Again, this agenda seems very ambitious, especially for participants that are not already versed in planning.  When a broad opinion is solicited given the participants selected for the PEGs, staff needs to be prepared to respond to the comments, especially when the sensitive socioeconomic/disparity topics are broached.  I think these need to be discussed openly.    There still seems to be a "one size fits all" approach when the "20 minute neighborhood" is such a strong goal.  Many parts of the city will not fit this concept for a number of reasons.  These neighborhoods need to evolve and be planned as perhaps different models, not trying to make them all the same.  Or making them seem less important if they cannot become one.  Identify of neighborhood centers is a fine goal; but they just won't all be of the same character, social purpose or function.
  • Given the little time available we will need to narrow our goals and agendas to a few key items
  • Yes, would like to see a final list


More people/more amenities.   A fundamental principle is that centers serving larger numbers of people (residents and workers, existing and anticipated) should be prioritized for a corresponding broader range of commercial and community services and amenities.  These centers should also have a greater role in accommodating growth to maximize the ability of more people to have convenient access to services and amenities.

Agree (7)

Disagree (1)

  • I'd add to this principle that centers serving low-income and communities of color should be prioritized for public investment.
  • Generally this is true; however there are some areas that have potential to become stronger and play a greater role but have not been prioritized.
  • depends on size and type - one could have center that has no commercial activities but still serves the community as a gathering and socializing place – a village square for example surrounded by housing


Base level of infrastructure.  Establish a base level of infrastructure/services for centers.  This approach implies that each center would have a basic level of public infrastructure, such as good sidewalk and street connectivity, and that public investment would be targeted to centers that lack this minimum level of service.

Agree (7)

  • Strongly agree. There are whopping inequities in the level of basic services in different parts of the city. The first step should be playing catch up for the areas that have been left behind. The city's budget mapping is a good first step. That data shows heavy investment in the central city, especially around transportation. We've invested a lot downtown, now it's the neighborhoods' turn.
  • Centers serve larger number of people per square feet. More dense areas gets priority. We can serve more people in less area and cost.
  • Would include adequate parking as a key infrastructure need.


Distribution of centers.   Distribute centers broadly across the city to provide equitable access to commercial and community services. In order to meet our goal that 80% of Portlanders live in complete communities, some centers and much of the future growth will need to be in areas where access to services is good, while also locating and strengthening centers in areas that are lacking good access to services and amenities.

Agree (5)

Disagree (2)

  • I agree with the basic premise that the distribution of centers should provide equitable access, but I disagree with the prioritizing mechanism and think it should be reconsidered. I do not support a recommendation to prioritize development in areas where access is pretty decent over areas that have already been waiting in the cue for quite a while (i.e.East Portlandneighborhoods like Powellhurst Gilbert). Priority should be based on an assessment of areas and communities in greatest need and focused in areas that are experiencing high growth rates and have low access to services and amenities.
  • I like the 5 Portlands concept and think that its neighborhood districts are much better organized than the existing Office of Neighborhood Involvement boundaries. I value investing in the neglected centers near where most ofPortland's low-income and people of color live.
  • Yes, but the establishment of new Centers must coincide with the natural environment, topography, urban form and desired character of that community. Establishing centers is not merely a mathematical equation.
  • I think the city needs to distribute centers where they make sense from a population and physical characteristics (topography) standpoint.  For example if a planner overlays a set of walkable 20 minute circles over the city, this will not necessarily result in what is right to become a center.  Barriers such as freeways, industrial lands, physical constraints and land use, etc have to be major determinants.


Focus housing growth near centers and services.   Locate most new housing in and around centers and near services, and include a diversity of housing types to meet a broad range of housing needs.

Agree (5)

Disagree (1)

  • Portland's healthiest neighborhood centers have a mix of commercial and residential uses, types and ages of buildings.Portlandshould shift its urban renewal strategy away from blowing up buildings for mega-developments toward subsidizing unique, locally-owned businesses to locate in existing buildings. These types of businesses can't afford new buildings.
  • However, housing should be planned (a) where people want to live (not forced to live), (b) that is naturally conducive (e.g. topography), (c) does not require people to live in or around blight and (d) does not require substantial demolition of existing housing.
  • This is a good goal, but there may be exceptions too.  For example. have the LRT station areas been maximized?
  • Most new housing should be in the central city and one or two regional centers. Putting too much housing in some of the centers would overwhelm the system.


Employment in centers.   Foster employment opportunities as a key function of centers. Large centers will have a major employment component, including institutions or other major employers that can reinforce their roles as centers of activity.

Agree (7)

  • Yes, the city should better engage institutions such as hospitals and colleges.
  • Centers should be authentic nodes of activity. They should not just be for entertainment, dining, and drinking.
  • Again, a good goals but it depends on what the type of employment is.


Are there any other questions or comments you would like to share?

  • Primarily I am interesting in learning more about the specific tools and strategies that will be used to achieve these objectives.  Re-examining the way SDC's are charged, providing new mechanisms to fund private developers, and updating design and inspection standards are some ideas that I feel are worth exploring.
  • We need to see a map of existing, designated centers? Does this include designated Corridors? Should we designate new centers? Should we de-designate some illogical centers?
  • I am still unclear on what the outcome of these PEG sessions will be.  Can you provide some examples?  Policies by nature tend to be broad sweeping statements.  They express goals.  But I am unclear on how they are applied or how they lead to actual decisions for any given place in the city.  Best of luck; this is a tough assignment!
  • More discussion and less presentation.


For more information, please contact Bill Cunningham, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at 503-823-4203 or or Steve Faust, Facilitator at 503-278-3456