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Summary Meeting Notes: November 15, 2012 Neighborhood Centers PEG Meeting

Meeting #6 Summary Notes

Neighborhood Centers Policy Expert Group

Meeting Date: November 15, 2012

Time: 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.

PEG Attendees: Kate Allen, Lisa Bates, Jason Barnstead-Long, Paul Cathcart, Justin Douglas, Ivy Dunlap, Allen Field, Gabe Genauer, Ryan Givens, Bob Granger, Brett Homer, Denver Igarta, Rick Michaelson, Jennifer Moore, Mark Raggett, Nick Sauvie, Alison Stoll

Other Attendees: Linda Nettekoven, Chris Smith.

Key Points and Outcomes

  • PEG members and staff need to be aware of our biases and assumptions, incorporate the differing perspectives and needs of Portland’s racial/ethnic/cultural communities, and consider potential impacts of policies on non-mainstream communities.
  • City policy should be more explicit about equity and include more detail about intention.
  • Citywide policies should be flexible enough to be refined at a local scale by specific communities and to be adaptable and responsive to cultural differences.
  • Consider the location of centers in terms of what areas and populations are being served and who is being excluded.
  • Avoid gentrification so low-income and communities of color benefit from the improvement of centers.

Welcome, Introductions and Overview (8:00 a.m.)

Presenter: Steve Faust, Facilitator; Bill Cunningham, BPS

Summary: Steve opened the meeting and reviewed the agenda.  Neighborhood Centers PEG members introduced themselves.  Bill described equity-related resource materials posted around the room, including maps depicting communities of color, poverty, sidewalks and schools, 20-minute neighborhoods, zoning, homeownership, food access, household densities and transit access to jobs.

Equity Fundamentals / Neighborhood Centers Issues (8:10 a.m.)

Presenters: Dante James and Judith Mowry, Office of Equity and Human Rights, and Desiree Williams-Rajee, BPS

Summary: Staff from the City of Portland’s Office of Equity and Human Rights presented and led discussions about racial and ethnic dimensions of equity and how they relate to neighborhood centers issues.  Dante began by giving an overview of the topic.  Among the key points of his presentation are:

  • Equity is when identity has no detrimental affect on outcome, or when identity cannot predict outcomes.
  • Go beyond demographics to talk about culture and differences.
  • Be conscious of your biases and assumptions and involve all our diverse communities in formulation of policy.
  • Consider the perspectives and needs of those who are not present in our discussions, especially racial/ethnic/cultural groups that have traditionally been excluded from policy decisions.
  • If your goal is to raise all boats, successfully addressing racial disparities will achieve more than focusing on class or economics.
  • Cultural consciousness is knowing what questions to ask.  We need to ensure that all our diverse communities have the same access to opportunity and services accessible to mainstream society.
  • Be an ally.  Ask questions.  Talk about culture and race. Practice. 

Desiree introduced the “Four Commitments to Race Conversation:”

  • Maintain an attitude of curiosity
  • Don’t make assumptions – ask questions
  • Forgiveness of self and others – we all make mistakes
  • Challenge yourself and others to keep doing better

Judith and Desiree led PEG members through a small group exercise to talk about how equity relates to three Neighborhood Centers-related topics: Neighborhood Centers, Neighborhood Compatibility, and Apartments and Parking.  Each group discussed three questions: 1) What are our assumptions about this topic?  2) How does this impact communities of color? and 3) What don’t we know about this topic?

Neighborhood Centers:

  • Consider the location of centers in terms of what areas and populations are being served.  Who is being excluded by the distribution of centers?
  • Avoid making assumptions about what kinds of services are needed in centers.  Involve all communities in the area around each center to find out what their needs are - both in terms of services and the types of housing.
  • Don't assume that essential needs are always met by commercial services.  Basic needs can also be met by providing opportunities for people to grow their own food.
  • Avoid gentrification/displacement, otherwise lower-income communities and often communities of color will not benefit from the improvement of centers.
  • Centers should be designed as places that bring our diverse communities together.
  • Policies for centers should prioritize them as places for social services, not just commercial services.
  • Who gets to determine the future of centers is critical to equity.
  • Given our changing communities, centers should be designed to be culturally resilient, with adaptable built environments that are not designed for just one cultural group.
  • City policy should be more explicit about equity and include more detail about intention.  For example, the policy intent is to focus more public investment and other actions in areas that have fewer options.
  • Citywide policies should be flexible enough to be refined at a local scale by specific communities.  For example, local communities should help identify the mix of businesses that defines their "complete neighborhood."
  • Implementation will be critical - that is where the details for a specific area will get worked out.Neighborhood Compatibility
  • Not all existing neighborhood characteristics are positive.  Some things will need to change to better meet the needs of people.
  • Who decides what the desirable characteristics of an area are?  Need to engage communities of color in this discussion.  We cannot assume we know what neighborhood characteristics various cultural groups consider desirable.
  • Policies assume that walkable street environments are desired everywhere.  This may not be the case - we need to hear from all ofPortland's communities to find out how priorities vary in different areas.
  • Don't use the term "Five Portlands" -- we are one Portland.  Instead, use something like "Five Neighborhood Types."

Apartments and Parking

  • Before we can talk about the equity issues related to apartments being built with no parking, we need to know the demographics of who is living in these developments (household size, race/ethnicity, income, etc.).
  • Are these apartments truly affordable?  Do they expand housing options?  Consider the affordability impacts of requiring or not requiring parking.
  • Consider impacts on commercial services.
  • Low-income does not necessarily mean “no cars.”
  • The term "redlining" was used inappropriately in BPS's memo on the parking study and should be changed.
  • Involve communities of color in this discussion.

Public Comment (9:45 a.m.)

No public comment.

Next Steps (9:55 a.m.)

Presenter: Steve Faust

Summary:  PEG members agreed to keep the current schedule for December. The next meeting will be held on Thursday, December 20th at 8 a.m. Topics for the meeting include: multi-generational city, apartments and parking, and a growth scenarios update. PEG members did not oppose extending the meeting by 30 minutes to discuss these topics.
Adjourn (10:00 a.m.)

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