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Summary Meeting Notes: June 5, 2013 Infrastructure Equity PEG Meeting

Summary Meeting Notes
Infrastructure Equity Policy Expert Group
Meeting Date: June 5, 2013
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon


PEG Attendees: Susan Aldrich, Roger Anthony, Roger Averbeck, Matt Brown, Alex Deley, Justin Dollard, Liz Gatti (by phone), Karyn Hanson,Jackeline Luna Acosta, Jeff Leighton, Karen Meyer, Shoshanah Oppenheim, Midge Purcell, Sara Collier-Weiner.

Other Attendees: Courtney Duke,Denver Igarta, Patricia Neighbor & Sara Schooley (PBOT); Debbie Bischoff (BPS).

PEG Lead: Bob Glascock

Facilitator:  Andrée Tremoulet, Commonworks Consulting

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

Welcome (5 minutes) 

Presenter: Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator

Summary: Andree Tremoulet welcomed everyone and outlined the purposes of the meeting: a) to identify the IE PEG’s remaining topics and schedule; b) to review and finalize the IE PEG Summary Memo; and c) to discuss local street design and connectivity in context of the Transportation Systems Plan.

Remaining Topics (5 minutes)

Presenter: Bob Glascock, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Materials: schedule

Summary: Bob Glascock reviewed the upcoming schedule for the IE PEG for July through September. July will focus on the infrastructure project selection process and continue the review of working maps through an Infrastructure Equity lens (with a transportation health equity presentation). The working map review will also continue in August.  September may be a meeting that includes members of all the PEGs to introduce the Draft Part 2 and the schedule of public workshops in the fall.

Finalize IE PEG Summary Memo

Presenter: Andree Tremoulet, Facilitator

Materials: Overview, Draft Memo, Draft Memo in Track Changes Mode

Summary: Andree Tremoulet gave an overview of the edits made to the draft IE PEG memo based on the member feedback given at the May meeting. Some highlights of the changes include – a) added a theme focused on implementation, including a recommendation to significantly revise Chapter 8; b) added a new theme focused on the urban design framework and the growth scenarios; c) added language focused on establishing what is meant by a basic level of service; d) added language related to the importance of making information transparent; e) expanded the section about the affordability of the costs of infrastructure. 

The PEG used red, yellow and green polling cards to indicate how satisfied they were with the revised memo.  The majority indicated that they were satisfied (green cards), and those who had additional recommendations for changes (yellow cards) expressed their ideas, summarized as follows:

  1. Theme 7, Implementation: Who does the monitoring and assessment? Is that clear in the memo?
  2. Theme 5, Costs of Infrastructure: Who constitutes “all Portlanders”? Does the definition in the Plan apply here? What about residents of outlying cities who benefit fromPortland’s services? Also, there are residents ofPortland who are paying for services that they aren’t receiving (e.g. storm water management inSW Portland).  Those who pay for citywide services should receive them.
  3. Theme 4, Authentic Involvement: The revisions stop short of full communication. It appears to be very one-way (City to resident). It should be clear that Chapter 1 needs to involve more full participation and embody many of the principles and practices developed by PIAC. The IE PEG memo doesn’t seem to capture the full breadth of the key factors necessary for effective engagement and participation.
  4. Theme 6, Gentrification: While it is important to consider the potential gentrification impacts of new infrastructure on communities, there is not yet the internal expertise within each bureau to do a full analysis at this at this time. There is a need for internal capacity building, and others should be involved in helping to develop that expertise.  We want to move toward being able to do this as a City, rather than at a bureau level.

Staff will update the memo to reflect the additional feedback. Any final suggestions should be submitted to Bob Glascock by noon on Thursday, June 7.  The group voted with the colored polling cards again and approved the memo with the above refinements.

Public Comment

No public comment was received at this meeting.

Street Connectivity and Flexible Residential Street Standards

Presenters:DenverIgarta, Christine Leon and Courtney Duke,PortlandBureau of Transportation

Materials:  Presentation (CullyLocal Street Plan).  See also:

Denver Igarta gave an overview of the Cully Plan, street connectivity and flexible street standards.  Highlights of his presentation include:

  • The Cully Boulevard Main Street Project offered an opportunity to engage with the community extensively over the course of a year to plan how to improve network connectivity, develop safer active transportation routes and sensitively introduce basic infrastructure on local streets.
  • Denverreviewed the existing street connectivity challenges in the Cully Neighborhood and the lack of sidewalks and paved streets.
  • Denverdescribed how the community was consulted in identifying what they liked and what they wanted changed. It became apparent that not everyone wanted a standard paved street if it meant the loss of neighborhood trees and community utilization of public right-of-way as well as the risk of increased vehicular traffic. But gravel streets proved to be difficult and expensive to adequately maintain. Only 5% of those polled wanted no improvements, and approximately 75% were comfortable walking on very low-volume streets without sidewalks.
  • Through this community consultation and best practices research, the City developed two new street standards for neighborhood streets, theSeparated Residential Streetand theShared Residential Street.  Both were estimated to be approximately one third the cost of constructing a standard street. Staff worked closely with representatives of the Commission on Disabilities to ensure that the new designs worked for people with a range of physical abilities, including people using wheel chairs. 
  • The new standards were formally adopted by City Council.  Since then, PBOT has received numerous inquiries from other neighborhoods about the potential applicability of the new standards to their areas, particularly as a way to get improvements underway through a lower-cost Local Improvement District funding mechanism.  This is being considered on a street-by-street basis.
  • The group also talked about the affordability challenges of gravel roads and the maintenance requirements that fall to the adjacent home owners - versus the improved streets (non-gravel) that fall under the maintenance purview of the City. 

Courtney Duke talked about how the draft goals and policies proposed in the Working Draft – Part One will advance a policy framework that supports this kind of innovation and adoption of flexible standards for street improvements and expanded use of the right-of-way in the future.

Questions and answers include the following:

  • How does the information presented today relate to the IE PEG memo? Answer: Comments can still be submitted on the Goals and Policies (they should be sent to Courtney Duke in PBOT). The presentation also helped set the stage for the materials that were coming up in Part Two discussions and materials.
  • How are truck and freight being accommodated, especially in the neighborhoods with these narrow streets? Answer: The northern boundary of the Cully project is Columbia Boulevard. They are looking at how to make improvements that facilitate truck movement on the freight network, thus getting it off the local streets (especially 60th Avenue).
  • As a result of the project, new design standards were created. How are the decisions made about when those standards can be applied? Answer: In the past, the only real option was to build nothing, or build out the full street (paved street, parking, planted right of way, sidewalks both side). With the new standards, there are now additional, lower-cost options that neighbors can decide to utilize for improvements to their streets (typically through a Local Improvement District process).
  • Is it an accurate statement to say that if there was enough money, most residents would really want the full street build out option, and the real issue is cost? Is this really about finding less costly options for a short-term solution, resulting in lesser improvements for residents? Answer: Public opinion varies on wanting or not wanting a ‘full street’ build out. In some cases, there are other priorities (e.g. keeping large mature trees).  Not everyone wants their neighborhood to look and feel the same as every other part of the city. Many neighborhoods want to have more flexibility to design the streets themselves. Some developers are also interested in providing money toward a community amenity (e.g. paved path to a school) rather than building the segment of sidewalk in front of their development. In Cully, it was very important to the community that the improvements not create high speed, heavier traveled streets – which could happen if the streets were improved to the full street standard.
  • Is a local street plan, like Cully, really necessary now – given that we have the new street designs? Answer: Community input is needed to help identify active transportation routes, including Safe Routes to School, as well as where the new standards might work best.  This kind of priority-setting and planning helps neighborhoods link to funding established to support citywide initiatives, such as Safe Routes to School and other active transportation initiatives.

The IE PEG discussed the potential negative and beneficial equity impacts applying this approach citywide. Highlights include the following:

Value of Public Involvement

  • The public involvement process identifies the community’s desires and priorities, and from multiple use perspectives. The cost of this approach is pretty high – but it results in a menu of solutions that can be applied to create a more equitable outcome in the community.

Funding and Equity

  • The financing issue is still a barrier – having new street design options doesn’t necessarily address that challenge.
  • The equity question really is “who pays for streets?” The existing policy of the abutting property owner pays is inherently unfair.
  • There should be more options than the abutting homeowners pay for everything or the city pays for everything.  For example, there could be ways to share costs among all the primary users of those improvements (e.g., neighborhood pooled money that goes toward the priority streets the neighborhood identified).
  • Connectivity and safety is a big deal for larger arterials and collector streets. It isn’t fair to put the costs of those improvements onto the property owners with frontage on those collector streets. We need to make sure the policies support a shared cost structure for the bigger streets.

Infrastructure in Annexed Areas

  • The City often makes the comment that the area was annexed in the mid-eighties. But, that was 30 years ago. The Comprehensive Plan is a 30-year plan. If we don’t address these issues, then communities like Cully will be 60 years behind the rest of the city. It is concerning that 60 years later there will still be parts of the city that still don’t have safe ways for kids to walk to school and for neighbors to get around.  Some annexed neighborhoods have been without standard infrastructure for an even longer period of time.

Long-term Impacts on Equity

  • There is a fine line between getting the functional elements in place, and building something that ages well (e.g., 20-30 years into the future). The quality and durability of the improvements are key – even if the standards are flexible.