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Summary Meeting Notes: February 21, 2013 Neighborhood Centers PEG meeting

Meeting #9 Summary Notes

Neighborhood Centers Policy Expert Group

Meeting Date: February 21, 2013
Time: 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.

PEG Attendees:  Kate Allen, Jason Barnstead-Long, Andre Baugh, Paul Cathcart, Kristin Cooper, Alan DeLaTorre, Ivy Dunlap, Ryan Givens, Denver Igarta, Carol Mayer-Reed, Rick Michaelson, Jennifer Moore, Gary Oxman, Dora Perry, Mark Raggett, Nick Sauvie, Alison Stoll.

Key Points and Outcomes

  • PEG members generally supported the draft Comprehensive Plan policies, but provided suggestions for how the policies could be improved. 
  • An area which PEG members felt in particular needed to be strengthened was regarding prioritization of centers for improvements, which they felt needed to be targeted to centers with deficiencies. PEG members also felt guidance was needed on the relationship of centers-focused investments to other city priorities.

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

Presenter:Steve Faust, Facilitator; Bill Cunningham, BPS


  • Steve welcomed everyone and stated that in this meeting BPS is looking for some indication of the extent of PEG support for the draft Comprehensive Plan policies, in addition to comments individual  PEG members may have. Steve will be asking PEG members to indicate their level of support as a group for the draft policies and PEG comments throughout the meeting.
  • Bill reminded the group that BPS is hoping each PEG member can attend at least one public workshop.  Members can contact Bill if they are interested in playing a more active role in a workshop. The first workshop took place on February 19th
  • In response to questions about how various City efforts reviewed by the PEG work together, Bill explained the relationship between the alternative growth scenarios and Urban Design Framework. The alternative growth scenarios are intended to help inform community discussion on where to locate growth and the potential outcomes and trade-offs related to different ways of arranging growth.  The draft Urban Design Framework shows how major Comprehensive Plan policy elements (centers, connections, pattern areas, natural features) might be manifested in the physical form of the city.  However, the current diagram is only a starting point for community conversation. It will be refined through a public process that will start after the first round of workshops and continue through the second round of workshops this summer. The current diagram shows only the most prominent citywide places and features. Other places, such as neighborhood centers, will be shown in additional layers of the Urban Design Framework that will include a finer level of detail.
  • Bill gave an update on the City’s discussion around parking requirements.  At their March 12 meeting, the Planning and Sustainability Commission will consider draft code amendments to require .25 spaces per unit for residential developments with 40 or more units. Considerations will be given to buildings that support car sharing and other modes of transportation. Some flexibility will be provided as to where that parking is provided. These code amendments are intended to provide a near-term solution to the apartments and parking issue.  The Neighborhood Centers PEG will be considering long-term policy and implementation approaches to this issue.

Review of Draft Comprehensive Plan Policies (8:15 a.m.)

Presenters: Bill Cunningham and Tyler Bump, BPS

Summary: Bill reported the results of the survey sent out to PEG members asking which policies were the most important to discuss at this meeting. PEG members identified polices related to Centers, Neighborhood Business Districts, Household Prosperity and Housing Affordability. For each suggestion for policy refinement, PEG members were asked if they supported the suggestion. Those suggestions that received broad support among PEG members are noted below.

Chapter 5: Urban Design and Development

Centers (Policies 5.17 – 5.22)

Suggestions with Broad PEG Support

  • Organization of the chapter should be improved to provide greater clarity about what a center is. The centers policy section should lead with policy 5.22, describing the types of centers.
  • The reference in policy 5.19 to investment in centers and areas that are deficient in infrastructure and services seems to be an afterthought. Need to strengthen the prioritization of investment in centers with deficiencies. This is part of a larger issue of infrastructure prioritization, and could be an opportunity for a cross-PEG topic with the equity/infrastructure group.
  • The link between the center typologies of policy 5.22 and investment priorities in policy 5.19 should be acknowledged. Links to other centers-related policies, such as housing and affordability, also should be recognized in the centers policy section.
  • Need a policy commitment to create plans for specific centers. Plans should focus on implementation actions and priorities.
  • Use criteria from the Portland Plan to prioritize which centers to plan for and invest in, rather than necessarily focusing on the largest centers first.

Other Comments

  • Rethink the use of verbs such as “encourage.”  Does this mean allowing other outcomes is OK?
  • Link policies back to equity.  Use stronger verbs for policies related to achieving greater equity.
  • TheEast Portlandcenters (Gateway and Lents) are weak and need investment.  Need to be serious about improvements to transform them into walkable places.East Portlandcenters should be acknowledged as a priority in policy 5.22.
  • The language in policy 5.20 lacks specifics.  How will this policy be accomplished? The policy could include more specifics without getting into implementation details (e.g., achieve through design review, street standards?).
  • While mentioned in policy 5.20.d and later in 5.45.a, overall, policy 5.20 needs a stronger emphasis on nature and green elements as a key components of centers.
  • Policy 5.17.b should expand the discussion of mobility to accommodate people with disabilities that do not use wheelchairs.
  • The idea in policy 5.20.c of allowing bigger buildings on bigger streets is good, but the specific building height-to-street-width ratios in the commentary should be deleted.  Some of the best urban places around the world have building heights that far exceed street widths.
  • Develop a tool to track centers and their characteristics and progress toward meeting goas. Such information was compiled as part of the Portland Plan but not included in the final document.  This information should be made available to the PEG.
  • There should be more emphasis on “multi-modal access” (walking, biking and transit) in the centers policies.
  • The Central City’s districts should be identified in the policies (e.g., Lloyd as distinct from downtown).
  • The centers policies provide no direction on the role of parking or tolerance for a lack of parking in various centers. Some guidance on the role of parking should be provided. 
  • Need policies that support stengthening the public realm (street environment and other public open spaces) in centers.
  • You cannot create a center if commercial zoning only goes 100 feet deep.
  • The Central City map should be included at the beginning of the chapter or section.
  • Insert a matrix at the beginning of the centers policy section for cross-reference to other centers-related policies.

Chapter 3: Economic Development

Household Prosperity (Policies 3.22 – 3.26)

  • How does PDC’s Neighborhood Economic Development Strategy relate to these policies?
  • Language in policy 3.22 is too vague. “Households” sounds like it is about houses, not people. The policy should refer to “people” or include a definition of household.
  • Policy 3.22 should include a reference to the housing chapter and policies related to homelessness.
  • Consider replacing the term “access” in policy 3.23 with “opportunity.”
  • Policy 3.24 should be inclusive of both schools/youth and helping older adults develop skills to re-enter the workforce.
  • Education supports policies 3.24, 3.25 and 3.26.  Education should be included in these policies, or at least referenced.
  • The commentary section mentions Portland Plan guidance on the importance of equity, but it lacks any information on how these important policy objectives can be implemented. Provide examples in the commentary on potential implementation tools and approaches.
  • This policy section includes vague terms. Do not depend on the appendix glossary to define key terms – the policies need to be self explanatory.
  • Use more inclusive language throughout the plan.

Neighborhood Business Districts (Policies 3.51 – 3.59)

Suggestions with Broad PEG Support

  • Policy 3.52 should be modified to state that neighborhood business districts are “part of the foundation of neighborhood livability.”
  • The organization of this section is confusing as to how neighborhood business districts related to centers. If the Central City is considered a center, does that mean that it is a “neighborhood business district”? This needs clarification.
  • Policy 3.59 should mention social services as key components of centers in addition to commercial services.
  • Consider being more intentional about locating office uses in centers. Employment should be of greater scale and concentration in centers than other areas. Need to emphasize this as part of policy.
  • Recognize the role of smaller neighborhood business areas, such as small clusters of retail or corner markets, in neighborhood economic development; possibly as a sub-policy to policy 3.54.

Other Comments

  • Need something about food carts, temporary commercial uses.
  • Policies 3.58 a, b, c are good examples of providing more specificity without getting into implementation.
  • Consider the use of verbs in policy 3.59.d.  Should ground-level accommodation of commercial or community services be required or encouraged?  Consider applying this policy in core areas of all business districts, not just centers.

Public Comment (9:45 a.m.)

  • Agree with the need to add policy that recognizes the importance of small clusters of retail (such as Fremont and NE 15th), which are important for neighborhood livability.
  • The centers section should include a value statement about avoiding involuntary displacement in centers.

Next Steps (9:55 a.m.)

Presenter: Steve Faust

Summary: After some discussion, PEG members agreed to review policies related to Housing Affordability at the next meeting before moving on to other planned topics for discussion.  We will extend the meeting an additional 30 minutes to accommodate this discussion. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 21st from 8 to 10:30 am.

Adjourn (10:00 a.m.)

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