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Summary Meeting Notes: July 19, 2012 Neighborhood Centers PEG

Meeting notes from July 19, 2012

8:00-10:00 a.m.

PEG Attendees: Kate Allen, Lisa Bates, Jason Barnstead-Long, Paul Cathcart, Kristin Cooper, Gordon Davis, Justin Douglas, Ivy Dunlap, Allen Field, Gabe Genauer, Ryan Givens, Bob Granger, Brett Horner, Denver Igarta, Carol Mayer-Reed, Rick Michaelson, Jennifer Moore, Dora Perry, Nick Sauvie, Allison Stoll.

Other Attendees: Linda Nettekoven, Chris Smith.


Presenter: Steve Faust, Facilitator

Summary: Neighborhood Centers PEG members introduced themselves and shared observations from visits to Neighborhood Centers throughout the city.

Old Business 

Presenters: Steve Faust; Bill Cunningham, BPS


  • PEG Roster.  A preliminary roster was passed around so members could update their contact information.  The roster will be distributed with the meeting summary notice.
  • Neighborhood Centers site visit.  Staff has assembled a list of centers for PEG members to visit.  Four to five suggested centers will be sent out prior to each meeting along with questions to consider.  The centers will be clustered geographically to make it easier to visit multiple sites.  BPS staff will coordinate with PEG members who wish to host a site tour.
  • August meeting date and time.  The August meeting has been rescheduled for Tuesday, August 28th from 1 to 3 p.m. in Room 7A of the 1900 Building.  Please let Steve or Bill know if you are unable to attend.
  • Policy surveys.  Monthly meetings will not provide sufficient time to discuss the full range of policy content within the Neighborhood Centers topic.  Therefore, a survey tool will be distributed after each meeting to allow members to: 1) provide comments they were unable to share during the meeting, and 2) provide initial comments on policies we will be unable to discuss in detail before the Discussion Draft is ready (November).  PEG members are encouraged to complete each survey.  A link to the survey will be sent to PEG members in its own email rather than included along with the meeting summary and other items.
  • Equity framework.  BPS has distributed an Equity Framework derived from the Portland Plan for use by all the PEGs.  PEG members are encouraged to review the Equity section of the Portland Plan (pages 17-25) to fully understand the framework’s importance and that any potential policy direction should consider who benefits or is burdened and work towards bolstering equity and closing gaps.  Staff will send a link to the Equity section of the Portland Plan.
  • Bill clarified that for those PEG members who are also agency staff, thoughts can be expressed on behalf of the agency or in individual capacity. But it is important to preface the suggestion in terms of position: individual vs. agency.  Likewise, community members can represent personal and professional associations.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

Centers Typology Discussion 

Presenter: Bill Cunningham

Summary: The Current Comprehensive Plan provides direction for growth, but is not strategic, as it calls for a similar intensity of development across a broad range of transit streets, centers and corridors.  It places a priority on increasing housing densities near transit. The new policy approach would include a greater emphasis on locating housing near services, accommodate a variety of types of centers with varying densities of housing, employment and services, and strategically prioritize centers for growth to maximize local and equitable access to services.  PEG members generally support the new policy direction, allowing for a range of unique centers rather than a “one size fits all” approach.

  • The policy is a step in the right direction and should help centers create a unique identity and character.
  • Density is good but retaining livability and character is important as well.
  • Design, aesthetics and community input are important aspects of vibrant centers.
  • The tools available to help implement this policy approach include:
    • Zoning (regulatory tool)
    • Targeted investments
    • Economic development efforts
    • Prioritization of infrastructure investments
    • Working with partners; expanding services (e.g. libraries)
    • Being intentional about preventing involuntary displacement s
  • Include historic design overlay in the mix.
  • We cannot be static about “character” at the expense of future residents.  Do not overweigh aesthetic concerns as centers will change and evolve.  Use a citywide approach when considering centers rather than focusing only on neighborhood concerns.
  • There are too many typologies when including station areas.  Focus on the main center typologies which can also apply to station areas.
  • Another consideration is how centers can help build social capital.  The City should re-examine how centers and main streets can bring alignment between neighborhood associations and business districts to serve as unifying places.  The approach should be holistic.
  • Update community design standards to be more responsive to the differing characteristics of communities.
  • Creating centers is not just about density, but about clustering activities as well.
  • The draft diagram on centers is oversimplified.  Any shift in strategy and labels for these areas creates expectations for the future of that place.  Tools to implement must go beyond regulatory to include outreach and working with neighborhood associations.
  • Transportation approaches like streets system improvements, design of right of way and pedestrian district designation can contribute to realizing the vision for these centers.
  • Some areas do not appear on the lists provided, e.g. NE 82nd (Madison South).
    “Services” go beyond retail to include parks, streets, libraries, open space, good schools, etc.
    Green infrastructure also can play a role in achieving goals for centers.  The Green Factor approach in Seattle’s urban villages is a good example.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

Housing Discussion 

Presenter: Uma Krishnan, BPS

Summary: BPS staff briefed PEG members on the role of citywide housing policies and the need to update several policies due to changes in the housing market, increasing transportation costs and changing demographics in the city.  Five housing major policies under consideration for updates include:

  • Balanced Communities Policy (Location Policy)
  • Accessible Housing
  • Workforce Housing
  • No Net Loss of Housing Potential
  • Gentrification Displacement

A consultant study is underway to create an analysis tool to identify areas at risk of gentrifying and develop a policy framework and toolkit of national best practices.  A report on the findings of the study and further discussion of the issue will be discussed at the September meeting.

In the interest of time, the PEG members focused their discussion on “Balanced Communities” and “Accessible Housing” policies. For both policies, PEG members reviewed existing Comprehensive Plan policies and guiding policies from the Portland Plan before discussing new policy concepts.

Balanced Communities (Location Policy) Discussion

  • Several people recommend the policy strengthen the goal of improving conditions in existing low income communities.
  • Be specific about “opportunities’” that will make an area the “opportunity area.”
  • Explicitly cite the connection of this policy to fair housing to clarify that the new direction does not undermine fair housing but actually strengthens it.
  • Be creative in how policies are structured to get around barriers, such as the fact that inclusionary zoning is illegal in Oregon.  Finding effective implementation tools and overcoming structural challenges is critical.
  • Suggestion for policy language: “provide services to disenfranchised.”
  • The equitable distribution of housing across the city is a concern.  Places in southwest like Hillsdale need affordable housing.
  • Like the policy language as it captures public health concerns.
  • The policy language should be changed to emphasize the more difficult problem of creating equitable places.
  • Consider regional implications of the policy.  Does focusing affordable housing near services and transit support the creation of exclusive suburban developments far from services and with no housing diversity?
  • Evaluate what did not work in terms of implementing the existing policy and determine what tools will help set things right.
  • Balance is tentatively defined as neighborhoods having the same or similar income and tenure profile as the city as a whole.
  • The Housing Bureau and BPS are working on a citywide housing strategy that is intended to identify where affordable housing is today and where it is needed. This effort will also paint a picture of areas with poor access to services.
  • Keep existing language of “livable mixed-income communities.”

Accessible Housing (Universal Design Policy) Discussion

  • Accessible design in housing units is important, but where people live and community design are equally important. Inter-generational housing is also needed.
  • Universal design principals should go beyond ADA/FHA to consider tiers of access.
  • Disability groups have said that mixed-use development can be bad for accessibility because commercial uses absorb the most accessible units on the ground floor.
  • Sustainability policies call for more compact housing which presents a barrier to access, e.g. how do you get wheelchairs around in compact units?  Townhouses are not conducive to accessibility either.
  • “Accessible Housing” has many different meanings and can refer to locational access, physical accessibility or affordability.
  • Some PEG members supported the idea of splitting the topic of accessibility into two distinct policies: one for people with disabilities and another for the aging population.  Though they may overlap, the needs of these communities are unique.
  • Policies to address the needs of the aging population are essential.  Housing in areas with services is essential to preventing isolation.
  • Create a broader policy approach to achieving an age-friendly city; beyond a focus on accessible housing units.
  • Need policies that support active living for older adults, such as walking and access trails.  It is wrong to assume that older adults can no longer be active.
  • Use a more targeted approach beyond ADA/FHA requirements to achieve more accessible housing.  Even units meeting “adaptable” housing requirements can be expensive to convert.

Several comments were made that are applicable to future policy discussions:

  • Vague terms should be eliminated or defined.
  • Objectives should be use to further define the policy and identify strategies to implement the policy; they should not be embedded in the policy.
  • PEG members appreciated the structure of the Housing handout and discussion.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

 Public Comment 

  • Some neighborhood business areas may seem to be thriving, but mostly have bars and restaurant with few daily needs, goods and services.  Work to disperse types of businesses among centers rather than cluster them.

Next Steps 

Presenter: Steve Faust

  • The meeting summary will be sent out next Thursday.  A separate email will provide the link to the survey tool.
  • BPS will send a link to the Equity section in the Portland Plan.
  • BPS also will send a list of four or five Neighborhood Centers to visit before the next meeting along with policy questions to consider.

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 or

Survey Responses (posted 7/30; closed 8/17)

1. Centers Typology. Develop a typology of centers that is responsive to variation in the functions, activities and scale of different types of centers and their differing roles in accommodating housing and employment growth. This approach would: - Include greater focus on prioritizing locating housing near services (expanding beyond the current prioritization of transit access). - Provide policy guidance to accommodate a variety of types of centers, with a gradient of development intensity with various densities of housing, employment and services. - Be more strategic in prioritizing areas for growth and services, strategically designating centers across the city to maximize local, equitable access to services.

Agree (13)

Disagree (1)

  • I am particularly interested in the idea of neighborhoods having a center in the physical sense.  Demographics are changing and walkable neighborhoods will increasingly be more important than ever.  Creating or reinforcing neighborhood centers is really key.

What this center is might vary from place to place, but I think it is important for social reasons and neighborhood identity.  We want people to feel part of their neighborhoods and to invest their time and money in them.  Maybe they range from a small plaza to a commercial center, crossroads, community garden, park, library and/or a school.  They do not necessarily have to be at the geographic center but yet they should be an “extrovert” character, a concentration of intensity or place where community activities are likely to take place. These spaces should be capable of hosting events and programs.

Portland Parks & Recreation may not prefer to take responsibility for these kinds so spaces since they do not necessarily fit their preferred definition of what is a park.  They may need to be more of an inter-agency resource or public/private partnership.  I think this topic is ripe for discussion with the PEG when it is appropriate.  The opportunities this policy statement is looking to locate affordable housing near need a threshold number of households to ensure their existence.

  • Not all services are the same. Commercial/retail services benefit from proximity to one another. Other services such as schools and parks may have peak hour uses that do not coincide with the peak demand for commercial and transit services. Public services, particularly schools, need a gradient of development and housing intensity that provides housing that is affordable and diverse enough to support the families within the boundary area of each school. What are the densities and characteristics of the housing that is needed to support the services we want to see in centers? What are the number households or vehicle counts within the market area of small, medium, and large grocery stores? What are the target enrollment sizes that public schools need to provide a robust program for students?
  • Very confused by this.  Is it that we should "agree" or "disagree" whether this is what we discussed last meeting, or whether or not we should create a typology of Centers or is this a correct definition as opposed to some other definition of what a "centers Typology" should be. Re the last item, I don't have anything else to go on to compare this with.
  • Typology should be based on citywide analysis, not wishes of current neighborhood residents in any one center.
  • I agree with creating neighborhood centers of varying scale.Portlandshould learn from neighborhood centers that are working and apply those lessons to the ones that aren't.
  • But it is not only about density - it is also about design character.
  • Make sure "services" includes parks, libraries, community centers, etc. and other non-commercial needs.
  • Need a complimentary ec. dev. plan for encouraging/supporting growth of services (esp. "mom/pop" types such as corner grocery stores) including employers.
  • Conditionally agree.  In addition to developing a typology that is responsive to functions and so on, how about a typology of centers that acknowledges market realities?  While we have no idea of predicting what will happen in the real estate market, we certainly know where things are today, and I would advocate the Portland Plan addresses current realities with public policy that risks becoming outdated in five years rather than policy that is agnostic to market realities and outdated for 25.
  • The major concern here is that the city has little ability to affect certain market forces such as which business leases/purchases commercial space. However, it makes sense to think about a range of center types that foster certain types of uses, from recreation to commercial to government services. Accessible and affordable housing need to be considered in reasonable proximity to all of these types of centers, preferably within walking/rolling distance of 0.25 miles - 500 meters (approx. 0.30 miles).
  • Also priority on infrastructure, marketing or incentives for neighborhood serving goods/services in existing residential areas, especially where residents are lower income.  See PDC NPI areas.


2. Housing: Balanced Communities (Location Policy). Strive for “Balanced Communities” by prioritizing new housing (market and affordable) in locations throughout the City that offer better access to opportunities: especially access to active transportation, jobs, open spaces, schools and essential services; additionally strive to create equitable opportunities in areas that already have a largely affordable housing stock.

Agree (11)

Disagree (2)

  • I kept trying to understand why I was troubled by the Balance Communities Housing policy today.  After hearing some of the comments from the group, I finally realized that everyone is trying to be sure that the policy statement itself includes all of the “catch words” that represent a broad array of interests. Unfortunately the result is a statement that is complex, obtuse and difficult to follow.  I think there is an opportunity to simplify and clarify the policy statements when you realize that within each policy, I assume there will be a series of objectives.  The objectives are where the policy gets broken down into its component parts allowing the policy statement to be more overarching and hopefully less complex.  I do like the way you are presenting these policy directions but you might want to remind people that there will be specific, topical objectives within each policy or even put an example objective (or objective topics) underneath the policy statement.

Then when I look at this specific policy and break it down, there seem to be two ideas.  Under the general goal of creating “Balanced Communities:”

  1. Set priorities for new housing in areas that have certain attributes
  2. In areas with an affordable housing stock (existing housing), look for ways to achieve equity goals

These don’t seem to be equal ideas under a Balanced Communities goal.  Housing policies are always difficult since the city’s tools are very limited to directly affect the delivery of housing.  So with idea #1, you are certainly not saying that as a result of this policy, the city is only going to allow new housing in areas with these attributes.  So it is not clear to whom these new housing priorities are directed.  Maybe the objectives will make that clear.  With idea #2, If I have interpreted it correctly (I am not sure I have since I don’t really know what “creating equitable opportunities” means) this idea may be within the goal of creating a balanced community but certainly in a very different way than the first idea.  Is idea #2 about creating a different kind of balanced community?  Again, maybe the objectives will add the necessary clarity.

Here are a couple of reworded policy statements which I know by themselves do not have some of the buzz words but I think are more clear but as you can see, mean very different things.  Then when you add the sentence with the second idea, it highlights the difference between the two ideas.

Strive for “Balanced Communities” by prioritizing new housing in areas that have good access to transportation, jobs, community facilities, open space and other essential services.  In areas with an affordable housing stock, pursue opportunities to achieve equity goals.

Strive for “Balanced Communities” by setting city priorities for supporting the delivery of new housing in areas that have good access to transportation, jobs, community facilities, open space and other essential services.  In areas with an affordable housing stock, pursue opportunities to achieve equity goals.

Strive for “Balanced Communities” by encouraging new housing in areas that have good access to transportation, jobs, community facilities, open space and other essential services.  In areas with an affordable housing stock, pursue opportunities to achieve equity goals.

So, I would opt to simplify policy statements to achieve clarity and expand the policy ideas within the objectives.  And, when there is more than one idea within a policy statement, they should both clearly work to the common policy goal.  Finally, it feels like “Balanced Communities” needs to be defined.

  • Very confused.  Does this relate to the discussion we had re revising the policy directives in the Comp. Plan?  If so, what were the other alternatives?  What is the former language?
  • Please explicitly tie this to Fair Housing plan goals, as affirmatively furthering fair housing choice is a legal requirement for comp plan and land use policies.
  • I would recommend defining "equitable? In the last sentence by listing the opportunities that we are proposing to create.  "Additionally strive to create jobs, open space, schools, services and active transportation in areas that already have a largely affordable housing stock.”  I would prefer this part of the policy to be stated first because I think it is more important for the people already living in these places and I think it is harder to achieve.
  • I support this policy direction as it addresses key public health goals. I recommend including a definition of balance communities (similar to policy 4.7 in the existing comp plan). I also think both parts of the policy should be given equal weight (i.e. both the location of new housing in opportunity rich areas and the enhancement of opportunities where affordable housing currently exists). Consider revising policy to read “at the same time, strive to create equitable opportunities in access to active transportation, jobs, open spaces, schools and essential services in areas that already have a largely affordable housing stock.” I also wonder if some detail on what is considered to be “essential services” should be provided either in the policy or surrounding text.
  • The policy should both encourage locating commerce and services close to existing affordable housing and encouraging housing at all income ranges near existing services.
  • This will lead to all increased densities on the inner east side and central city where services already exist. Equally important is finding areas where services can be provided efficiently in the future and locate housing there.
  • Will be difficult however; areas that offer better access to opportunities are often expensive (land cost, etc) which can be a barrier to developing affordable housing.
  • "Create equitable opportunities" for what?!
  • The City must affirmatively further the equitable distribution of affordable and accessible housing as part of the fair housing act. Pockets of affordable housing stock are evident in our region and city and we must think about how we can address the equal distribution and taking on of a neighborhood's fair share (it is understood that a similar regional push was thwarted in the 1990s).
  • Especially agree with stmt after the semi colon. benefits/improved livability planned with and prioritized by existing residents is the best anti-displacement strategy in redeveloping areas that we want to see become more "balanced"


3. Housing: Accessible Housing. Strongly promote a robust supply of accessible housing stock through incorporation of Universal Design principles in new construction and renovation to enable people of varying ages and abilities pursue a barrier-free living.

Agree - 10

Disagree – 4

  • What are the options for incentivizing universal design principles into new development and redevelopment?
  • I don't have enough info to Agree or Disagree:  what are the alternatives?
  • Needs attention in residential compatibility PEG as accessibility is also related to design and historic pres standards. Renovations especially require attention for accessibility/historic pres conflicts!
  • I don't think this captures the ideas and discussion about the importance of housing issues for the upcoming baby boomers.
  • I appreciated our discussion of the different housing needs of seniors and people with disabilities and support the idea of creating separate policies to more completely address the needs of each. These policies should also have a location component (similar to the policies in the existing CP and PP), which from a public health perspective is quite important as locating accessible housing in areas that promote active lifestyles and social connection will proactively support health and prevent disease. It might also be a good idea to look at how policies around compact development interact with/affect accessible design concepts and address potential incompatibility.
  • Existing code encourages walk-up townhouses that are horrible from an accessibility standpoint. Find ways that the code can encourage more diverse housing types. Accessible and visitable housing is a large and growing untapped market.
  • Universal design principals are not the only means of providing accessible housing.
  • Need to balance cost with this need - not everyone wants, needs, or can pay for universal design
  • I agree with Carol Mayer-Reed's comments from the prior PEG meeting.
  • In my opinion it is important to think about the range of potential design principles, from basic accessibility (e.g., as covered under theADA/Section 504 compliance) to Visitability (e.g., level entry, wide doors/halls, first floor bathroom) to universal design. The cost of accessibility is minimal when done up front and universal/accessible features do not harm able-bodies individuals.


4. Housing: Workforce Housing. Encourage private development of a sufficient supply of moderate-income workforce housing with convenient transportation access to Portland’s Central City, industrial districts, and other employment areas; promote employer-assisted housing and live/work options.

Agree (9)

Disagree (4)

  • I don't have enough info to Agree or Disagree:  what are the alternatives?
  • The more I look at this, I don't like the term "workforce housing".  I am part of the workforce.  To connect the idea to the Balance Community concepts, I think this should also include more than transportation access!!! Shouldn't this housing also have access to services, open space, schools?
  • I support this policy, but “transportation access” could primarily be interpreted as access by car and I think it should be revised to direct development of workforce housing with good access to transit and bike/ped network. Another barrier experienced by people working low/moderate wage jobs is that transit service is limited during off peak hours. This policy should include working with Trimet to ensure better service outside of the 8-5 work day.
  • Housing policy and especially housing subsidies should be directed to the households with the most urgent needs -- people below 50% and especially below 30% of Median Family Income. According to the Portland/Multnomah County 2011-2016 Consolidated Plan, more than 80% of households below 50% MFI experience problems like high cost burdens and overcrowding. Only 11% of households above 80% MFI experience the same problems. Many households below 50% MFI are in the workforce. Let's build for the 80% and not the 11%.
  • I believe that private development, unless subsidized, will not provide sufficient moderate income workforce housing in all areas.
  • Concerned re: the term "moderate-income"; "workforce" incomes may be lower than "moderate"; e.g. minimum wage jobs generally equate to a 30% AMI; many employment areas contain large numbers of minimum wage workers.
  • Again on the trade-offs - creating opportunities for workforce housing likely means financial incentives.  And financial incentives for workforce housing would likely come at the expense of affordable housing (at lower income levels).
  • Larger sized units (3-4 bedrooms) are needed for workforce housing but also for families and non-traditional roommates such as groups of aging boomers who are interdependent on one another.
  • Encouragement should link to a toolbox to incent this housing type.


5. Housing: No Net Loss of Housing Potential. Retain housing potential by requiring no net loss of land reserved for, or committed to multi-family residential, or mixed-use. When considering requests for amendments to the Comprehensive Plan map, require that any loss of potential housing units be evaluated against Title 1 (Metro Code Sections 3.07.110 – 3.07.170) provisions for housing capacity.

Agree (7)

Disagree (3)

  • How will applicants wanting to change comp plan designations to non-residential uses demonstrate the availability of land in the rest of the City to meet Metro's housing capacity targets?
  • I don't have enough info to Agree or Disagree:  what are the alternatives?
  • In general I agree. However BES may have some concerns about higher density development in some parts of SW and outer SE and providing stormwater systems as well as potential impact of high density development on existing infrastructure and resources.  So it may be that in some areas that there are some areas of multi-family that would benefit from low density development instead.  We are working on this analysis and a white paper that describes the issues.
  • I need more information in order to comment on this policy.
  • This doesn't take into account density - a loss of single family detached zoning can be made up for with multi-family housing clustered in centers
  • I understand why there is this policy, but I think it should be tempered with some market realities.  Is the City OK with employment opportunities being precluded by the No Net Loss policy when the project proponent discovers how challenging it can be to meet the No Net Loss policy?
  • Not sure...question to answer: how much room is needed for new housing? Some studies (e.g., Arthur Nelson) have shown that theU.S.does not need new housing built but needs to better use its existing stock.


6. Are there any other questions or comments regarding centers typology or housing policy issues you would like to share?

  • I found this all to be very confusing. Is this supposed to be a test to see if we remember what was discussed, or to get our opinions on whether the language in the Comp Plan should be changed as was discussed last meeting?  If it's the latter, we need to see the former language before we can Agree or Disagree.
  • Should there be something about eco-districts in the neighborhood typologies, acknowledging that there is an effort to in several areas.  Sorry about any mis-spellings...  also hope my comments make sense- it is hard to proofread and edit when you can only see a small portion at a time.
  • I appreciated the way information was presented. Having the existing Comp Plan policies, guiding policies from the Portland Plan and commentary on one page made it easy to discuss and consider the proposed policy direction. I encourage staff to share the revisions made as a result of group discussion prior to the Discussion Draft.
  • Much ofEast Portlandhas been ruined by clumsy zoning from the 1996 Outer Southeast Community Plan. In a recent ten year period, almost half of the city's new housing was built inEast Portlandwith minimal public investment in infrastructure like safe streets, sidewalks and parks. I recently compared the zoning pattern along 122nd withHawthorne. Along 122nd, high density zones extended away from the arterial for several blocks. In inner southeast, higher density is usually only located on the arterial and often doesn't extend more than half a block. The other major difference is the lack of street connectivity along 122nd. Developers should be required to complete the street grid as a condition for new projects.
  • Typology should include historic neighborhood centers as one typology
  • These are "do you like apple pie and puppies?" kinds of questions. Who doesn't want to see affordable housing?  Who doesn't want to see workforce housing?  There are no trade-offs presented in these questions - if X is the new policy, Y are the potential implications and it may come at the expense of Z.
  • Moving forward it is important to understand that sustainable development - which looks to meet the needs of current and future generations - will fail if we do not take into consideration the composition of future generations, namely that we will witness the unprecedented aging of our population and that more community residing people with disabilities will have needs that cannot currently be met. Since WWII we (Portland, theU.S., etc.) have been building "Peter Pan housing" that assumes that we will never grow old.