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Summary Meeting Notes: October 3, 2012 Infrastructure Equity PEG

10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Room 2500A,1900 SW Fourth Avenue, 2nd floor

PEG Attendees: Afifa Ahmed. Shafi, Amalia Alarcon de Morris, Roger Anthony, Roger Averbeck, Alex Deley, Justin Fallon Dollard, Liz Gatti, Karyn Hanson, Celia Heron, Muna Idow, Jeff Leighton, Kathryn Levine,Jackeline Luna Acosta, Karen Meyer, Steph Routh, Michelle Rudd, Joe VanderVeer.

Other Attendees: Michele Crim, Bob Glascock, Joan Frederiksen, Michelle Kunec & Chris Scarzello (Bureau of Planning & Sustainability); Courtney Duke, Patricia Neighbor & Carlos Gonzalez (Portland Office of Transportation); Sara Culp (Bureau of Environmental Services).

Facilitator: Andrée Tremoulet, Commonworks Consulting

View the original agenda, including materials, for this meeting.

Key Points and Outcomes
This meeting focused on Level of Service as one means of considering equity issues.  Representatives from four infrastructure bureaus (Water, Environmental Services, Transportation and Parks) made presentations about a sampling of the measurements they use to describe the level of services provided to city residents.  IE PEG members divided into four small groups to begin a discussion about the equity ramifications of these measures.  These discussions will continue at a future meeting.

Presenter: Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator
Summary: The room was open fifteen minutes before the meeting for informal networking and so that IE PEG members could view maps and other meeting information.  Andree began the meeting with an icebreaker exercise for the four small groups.  She announced one change to the September meeting summary regarding sidewalk infrastructure issues in SW Portland.

Bureau Presentations on Infrastructure Levels of Service
Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

Bob Glascock reviewed the concepts of asset management and levels of service, and he introduced the speakers from the four bureaus.  Andree Tremoulet reviewed the small group workshop questions. Highlights of the bureaus’ presentations are summarized below.

Jeff Leighton, Portland Water Bureau

  • Portland Water Bureau tracks 27 service indicators (also known as service levels and performance indicators).  They fit into three categories.
  • Some of the standards are citywide (e.g., water purity citywide), and others are geographically-specific.  The standard for service interruption is that less than 5% ofPortland’s customers are without water eight hours or more in a year. Portlandmeets this standard, with less than 1% of customers experiencing such an outage annually.
  • Jeff displayed a map that showed where service lines and main lines had breaks or leaks in 2011.  He explained factors related to why pipes break, including age and material of the pipes and ground conditions.
  •  In response to a question, Jeff indicated that the data do not distinguish between leaks/ breaks in pipe segments maintained by the City and the property owner.

Karyn Hanson, Bureau of Environmental Services (BES)

  • Karyn described one of BES’s indicators for sewage service, the risk associated with sewage flowing into streets, basements and the river during a heavy rainfall in areas of the city with a combined sanitary and storm sewer system.  Risk of asset failure is calculated by multiplying the Probability of an event occurring by Consequences (costs) of occurrence (that is, Risk = P X C). 
  • Currently, BES uses a cost/benefit analysis to help determine where to invest in improvements.
  • While BES has not yet applied an equity lens to decision-making for investments, it recently adopted strategic goals addressing equity issues.

Kathryn Levine, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT)  

  • PBOT tracks the status and condition of 13 asset classes.  The replacement value of these assets is estimated at $8.3 billion
  • Kathryn described the challenges of trying to maintain the existing transportation system while also adding needed capital improvements. 
  • Because General Fund revenues are constrained, PBOT is entrepreneurial in its efforts to locate and use other funding sources.  As much as ¾ of PBOT’s capital improvement funding has come from other sources.
  • Kathryn presented maps depicting the pavement condition of arterial and collector street segments owned by the City and a map showing which arterial street segments have sidewalks and which do not.  The sidewalk map also showed the location of current and funded capital improvement projects that will add sidewalks.
  • She described a project, theEast Portlandin Motion Strategy, where an equity lens was applied to project selection, prioritization, and decision-making.
  • In response to questions, Kathryn confirmed that:
    •  Local Improvement Districts (LIDs) are formed by property owners and that renters typically do not have a direct voice in their formation.  She also indicated that, when redevelopment occurs, there are standards that determine when the developer must improve his/her street frontage and, if trip generation is sufficient, nearby intersections.
    • TheADAtransition plan is a long range plan to make sidewalks more accessible.  Each year, PBOT Maintenance plans to build or rebuild 700 to 1,000 sidewalk corners withADAcompliant ramps.  At this pace, it will take more than 60 years to bring all corners into compliance.

Randy Webster, Portland Parks

  • Randy presented a variety of indicators that the City uses for parks, some of which are citywide and some of which are location-specific.
  • 79% of city households live within ½ mile walking distance of the entrance to a natural area or park.   The index takes into account major highway crossings, railroads and other major pedestrian barriers. 69% of city households live within 3 miles of a full-service community center.
  • Historically, the park system has grown with the expansion of the city. Forest Parkrepresented a very large addition of park acreage to the city’s system.
  • In terms of new park development, small parks are costly to maintain. But large parks are expensive to assemble from multiple parcels, and open land is becoming scarcer to find.  The city has a policy of not using eminent domain to acquire land for parks.
  • Harper’s Playground in North Portland is newly designed and built inArborLodgeParkto be accessible to children with a range of physical abilities.

Public Comment
No public comment was received.

Small Group Discussions
In the remaining time, the four small groups of IE PEG members each discussed one infrastructure area.  Because there was insufficient time to report out, the notes of some of the highlights from the small groups are provided below.

Portland Water Bureau Small Group

  • Jeff Leighton shared two other service level maps (low-income bill discounts and water quality).
  • PEG members asked the Water Bureau to consider these questions:
    • Can you provide more information on the spatial distribution of water “shut-offs for failure to pay”?
    • Can you describe what education/outreach you do to make the community aware of access to low income discounts?
    • Can you explain how you overcome language barriers in your outreach?
    • What is the make-up of your Budget Advisory Committee?  Who are they and what organizations do they represent?
  • There was also a specific question about the pipe break map—why are there adjacent neighborhoods with the lowest and highest number of leaks—is there a demographic link?

Bureau of Environmental Services Small Group

  • Before you can answer questions about who is impacted, you need to have the right data and information.
  • It may be hard to overlay variables related to risk. For example, one homeowner may have insurance that covers a flooded basement, but a flooded basement may be a catastrophic event for another homeowner.
  • What is given greater weight in considering risk, impacts on environmental health or human health?
  • There are tradeoffs.  Do you spend money to address something that impacts one household or many?  For example, is it more important to spend $50,000 to address one basement that floods with sewage or spend $1 million to reduce creek flooding that affects many homes?
  • Some infrastructure equity issues are hard to see (e.g., buried pipes vs. streets, sidewalks and parks).  How can we do a better job of analyzing and addressing the less visible issues?

Portland Bureau of Transportation Small Group

  • Gaps in service of particular concern include:
    • Sidewalks: health/active living, reduction in vehicle miles traveled
    • Bike infrastructure: climate action plan
    • Freight access on arterials: economic development
    • Unimproved local streets: general health and safety
  • Portland Public Schools is assessing right-of-way conditions within a one-mile radius of public schools.  If more students attend their local school, there will be less need to bus students, and more funds can be spent on other educational objectives.  The biggest gaps are in Southwest Portland, Cully and East Portland.  PPS is seeing some correlation between gaps in services and communities of color and low income communities, but gaps also exist in Southwest Portland.  It was suggested that priority should be given to improving conditions in areas with concentrations of households with more young children, fewer cars, older residents and higher poverty rates, and also among communities of color.

Portland Parks Small Group

  • What do we do with the areas on the map not served by parks, or easy ways to get to those parks?
  • Are new parks a dead issue if we have a shortage of maintenance funding?  Is it more important to maintain what we have?
    • A multi-tiered strategy may work, with a bond measure to support new park development and existing funds for maintenance.  This may be especially effective if the new parks were developed in a way to contain operation and maintenance costs.
  • Developing new parks in the areas only served by undeveloped park land (purple) would go a long way in meeting service needs.
  • Elements of a large, citywide parks system plan exist that will provide a vision of a complete park system when completed.
  • People with low incomes and/or disabilities may be more affected by gaps because of a lack of mobility to reach parks farther away or the absence of yards where they live. 
  • Communities of color may be impacted because of displacement.
  • Some places have few parks but a lot of young families, as communities move and families develop.
  • Is there an equitable distribution of park features, such as playgrounds?
  • Access to rivers is also important.  It may be particularly important to some communities, such as Native Americans.

Next Steps

  • Continue discussion of equitable service
  • Consider gentrification risk

For more information, please contact either Bob Glascock, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, at (503) 823-7845 or or Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator, at (503) 267-9255 or