Community Involvement Committee
Meeting Date: Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Time: 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Location: 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Portland, Conference Room 2500B
Committee Members present: Jason Barnstead-Long, Denise Barrett, Judy BlueHorse Skelton, Jessica Conner, Kenneth Doswell, Stanley Penkin, Howard Shapiro, Peter Stark, Laura Stewart, Alison Stoll
Absent/Excused: Paula Amato, Christina Blaser, Lois Cohen, Anyeley Hallova, Linda Nettekoven, Jovan Young
Staff: Eden Dabbs, Madeline Kovacs, Barry Manning, Deborah Stein, Marty Stockton, Sara Wright
Visitors: Mayor Charlie Hales
Welcome and Introductions
Howard Shapiro, Chair, led the meeting. Howard reviewed the meeting agenda, and 5/28/14 meeting notes. He also gave an overview of today’s meeting goals, to: Discuss Proposed Comprehensive Plan and Mixed Use Zones Project public involvement, and to prepare for the CIC presentation to the PSC on November 18.
Howard then welcomed Mayor Charlie Hales, who attended the first hour of the CIC meeting. Each committee member was then asked to introduce themselves, and why they have elected to serve on the CIC.
Howard also encouraged CIC members to attend at least one of the four upcoming PSC hearings (listed in the events at the bottom of these notes).
CPU: Process updates and feedback
Deborah Stein, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, gave an overview of the CPU public involvement process so far. Deborah informed the CIC that desired outcomes of the public involvement process have been to update on the public involvement process for the Proposed Draft (published in July) including notification, keeping a Comp Plan Helpline to answer the public’s questions, for staff to hold office hours, and to conduct special outreach/trainings and events. Sara Wright then described the feedback and concerns heard so far by the CPU Help Line staff, and how staff have most successfully communicated with callers who are upset or misinformed.
Mayor Hales offered his comments, which included:
- Comp Plan Update is critical.
- High-density development has largely been a success, but there is a “disconnect” between zoning and planning patterns in East PDX.
- Development is only going to happen more.
- People will gravitate to livable cities emerging all over the world.
- By engaging private property owners, we’ve built a serious understanding of good design (i.e., LEED); we’ve met or exceeded our goals.
- We need to shape growth and change in a thoughtful way.
- Key areas of interest are:
- Mixed Use Zones – What should these areas look like? Need to be explicit about what we want rather than what we don’t want.
- Manipulate the Rose Quarter – Vancouver/Williams and Lloyd Center happening; need to activate this valuable riverfront real estate between these two areas.
- Unlock the Post Office site in NW – We don’t deliver mail by train anymore; need to catch up. Other places this function could go, opening up a huge site for a higher and better use.
- Manage our “orphan highways” (e.g., Powell, 82nd Ave, Lombard) – Preparing to ask ODOT to release them to us so we can treat them as the corridors they are, not state highways.
- The City Council is tough enough to do the right thing (see Street Fee). We won’t water down the Comp Plan.
Peter Stark mentioned that in his experience as an architect with clients, it is possible to pull back on the unknown, and that staff should not hold up the Comp Plan process. There is a lot of confusion around the Mixed Use Zones Project, and this is mostly due to communication.
Jason Barnstead-Long suggested that staff might pull quotes from calls, and utilize these in Bureau communications.
Jessi Conner acknowledged fears that many people have, such as language barriers, or mobile homes where people may own their home but not the land they are on. Effort should continue to be made to reach and communicate effectively with under-served communities, and consistent reflection on how we cater to them is critical.
Judy BlueHorse Skelton commended staff for giving time necessary to build trust with communities and groups. Efforts such as providing childcare, and translating materials into many languages, have yielded improved participation. The next question is how we can convert the CPU into a framework/forum for ongoing conversation and engagement, so that it is a true entry point for people. We in Portland have a unique opportunity – we are nowhere near as dense as really major cities like Venice or Barcelona, and there is room in the CPU to address privilege as it regards land use: There is still an opportunity in Portland for the average person to be part of living with the land, together. In the grand scheme, 20 years really isn’t THAT long-range of a plan.
Laura Stewart inquired whether it may be possible to make a more accessible, brief flyer for those here at the CIC to give to networks out in the community, with simple dates and accessibility points. Marty Stockton echoed that the Bureau has a suite of material available to help create these, and a lot of documents online can be translated with google translator with recognition the access issues inherent in accessing technology.
Deborah mentioned the learning and commenting session that took place on August 22nd (summary included in meeting packet.) Groups are diving in deeper in their own way, looking at policies of interest through their own lens, and helping engage community members more effectively. For example, the Community Alliance of Tenants is looking specifically at how the CPU affects renters, and preparing materials for their own membership. We should be asking ourselves: What are some issues they could raise and communicate more effectively than we could?
Marty Stockton shared some lessons from the learning and commenting session on August 22: When we work with community based organizations, ideally there is some sort of compensation for the work that they do. (Currently this is a small stipend.) We were also inviting organizations to tell us, as planners, additional areas of concern and opportunities to do work within their constituency. That’s a lesson we learned in the Portland Plan, and it’s something we are continuing to experiment with, with the goal of making this work. Often, however, the decision needs to go beyond staff up to the next level, and if this is truly a priority, it needs to become a budget conversation.
Howard and Marty also mentioned how point people involved in these discussions, offering their expertise and feedback are frequently staff as well: Simply put, there is a level of expertise that we shouldn’t be expecting for free.
Judy thanked Marty and Howard for their comments, and mentioned that she has also experienced frustration from community talking to staff who are often not able to take things higher.
Stanley remarked on the Mayor’s interest and participation, and asked whether we can we figure out how to ask for more money for this critical engagement work? Deborah mentioned that budget season is coming, so this conversation could be very timely. There is currently increased City recognition of the value of this kind of engagement, with funding allocated for leadership capacity for the five organizations who were directly involved in the CAP. Perhaps that model can be expanded, building capacity for ongoing, meaningful input without feeling so stretched. Marty seconded Stanley, and advised that we should also be mindful of the access that the CIC often has to decision-makers: The CIC has community involvement opportunities before the PSC, before high-level bureaus, BPS staff, and more.
Peter remarked that he also sits on NWNW and again, the limiting factor to good engagement is often the budget – one representative can’t attend all NA meetings.
Stanley recommended that the committee think through hard numbers, and be prepared to advocate for what we believe is truly needed.
Sarah reminded the committee that many people (as evidenced partly through participation via the Call Center) are also not affiliated with an organization, so reaching out through these organizations sill doesn’t reach everyone.
Allison Stoll added that part of the issue from a neighborhood perspective is that neighborhood coalition databases only include those people who have come to meetings, or otherwise shared contact information – less than 10% of people ever volunteer. So the $5,000 earmarked for engagement stipends now is a drop in the bucket, but it’s a significant beginning: That amount could actually support a mailing, or a support a speaker that presents in Spanish. She then congratulated the committee on the work done so far in thinking about these barriers.
Eden remarked that DCL leaders were instrumental during the Portland Plan in raising the issue of equity.
CIC Briefing of the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC)
Marty and Howard led the committee in preparation to present at the upcoming PSC briefing on November 18, including confirmation of CIC members to present to the PSC. Howard prompted the committee to think about what the PSC should hear about citizen involvement? Jason mentioned that he may not be able to testify. Kenneth and Stanley volunteered. Stanley mentioned that we can look back at testimony to PSC from CIC during the Portland Plan as a model for presentation format and content.
Peter mentioned some major themes he thought should be addressed, including a direct funding ask for the DCL, East Portland representation, addressing uncertainty and anger as related to clarity of communications (especially around map designations and mailings). He also mentioned it may be beneficial to delay some aspects of implementation to allow communities to catch up.
Kenneth Doswell echoed concerns about fear: One of the reasons he became involved with the CIC and engaged more generally was due to fear that his property would be taken. He was not informed or involved enough to know what was going on. So, if he felt this way, what might a recent immigrant’s response to a CPU mailer have been? There is great apprehension among the public about the potential to get swallowed up by the big developers, without the resources to combat them effectively. How can the CIC best address these people’s fears?
Eden encouraged committee members to reference the memo from Sarah summarizing CPU public engagement. She also pointed out that we intentionally don’t use the word “citizen,” we use “community” to include people who are not yet citizens but still live here.
Sarah asked whether this hearing will be an opportunity to bring in people beyond testimony who approach us through the CPU process. Marty answered that when we brief the PSC, we will reflect the items discussed in meetings like this one. The memorandum from Sarah will evolve to include some of the qualitative feedback that isn’t necessarily considered testimony (in addition to current statistics and reporting on engagement efforts) and this body is a great place to disseminate much of that feedback. We could send out an evaluation to the full committee to get full range of feedback, with an eye toward revising Sarah’s memorandum for this purpose.
Alison said she thought that hearing Kenneth’s story around fear, as it parallels what many may be experiencing, would be a valuable piece of feedback for the PSC to hear directly, letting them hear directly from someone who was affected and gotten involved, and also giving them pause to think about what’s not working.
Laura asked if the PSC briefing will be open to the public, and suggested that each member reach out to 1-2 leaders of community groups we have been taking about, so they can see the message from people like Kenneth and take that message back to their communities. It will be valuable for people to witness advocacy from community members who are just as concerned as they are.
Early Implementation/Mixed Use Zones Project: process updates and feedback
Barry Manning, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Jason Barnstead-Long, Community Involvement Committee member, led a discussion of the Mixed Use Project, and then solicited feedback on the public involvement process, including community walks, advisory committee meetings and planned open house in October.
Barry gave an overview of project outreach and involvement status, which included CIC early feedback in February incorporated into project scope. Project leadership formed a Project Advisory Committee, a group with wide-ranging community expertise, as well as a Technical Advisory Group. Seven neighborhood walks were conducted, with 170 community members in total sharing their concerns around building height/scale and design, transitions to residential neighborhoods, and affordable housing and commercial space, among others. Roundtables were also held for small business owners, developers and designers to give input on what can help make MXU zones pencil out. The Mixed Use Project is currently in project development phase, wrapping up the research phase. The third phase will be code development, in the first part of 2015, with a hearing on the proposed package in late June 2015. A work session and then open house following will be scheduled later in October or early November 2014. The MUZ project maintains a list of about 250 interested people, who are invited to all public meetings including the PAC, have also been attending Neighborhood Association and community meetings as requested.
Marty mentioned that the people on that list represent meaningful, regular involvement. There was also a flyer that went out to over 17,000 people.
Howard asked for clarity on the Mixed Use Zones project versus the West Quadrant Plan. Barry responded that MUZ is directed at zoning outside of the Central City, revising the pallet of zones to apply to commercial areas (there are currently about nine zones implement some sort of mixed use). So part of this is a labeling issue, and we want to actually simplify things for community members, and “mixed use” is often much more accurate in these places than “commercial.” We also want to tweak/update 1990’s rules centered more on automobiles, to better reflect current employment and demographic trends.
Jason reflected that the neighborhood walks were powerful and useful for community members, as photographs and diagrams only get so far in envisioning what proposed changes will look like. We could see where, for example, requiring bottom-floor commercial wouldn’t necessarily pencil out, but flexible mixed use could.
Stanley said that in looking around the city, he is appalled at the shoddy-quality apartment buildings going up: People will look back and say “that’s one of those terrible post-recession apartment buildings.” There are features that make massing much worse than it needs to be, so the struggle is what do you do in areas with no design review to prevent the Mixed Use from looking like apartment buildings going up today?
Barry said that design is an item that the MUZ project will only address to some degree. One challenge is that design is very subjective, and people have \ varied opinions about what’s working/not working. The MUZ project will be focused on form. Design elements that folks agree on maybe built into zone bases, but not as a replacement for design review. BPS is also taking an in-depth look at design review, in a separate study.
Howard wondered at the power and influence of the (independent) design commission.
Deborah pointed out that we DO know that density is so much more palatable when well-designed and fits with the neighborhood.
Peter noted that he has observed two types of fear regarding the Comp Plan components so far, related to uncertainty in both up-zoning and down-zoning. Is there a design overlay that protects the design of the area when up-zoning? When down-zoning, people are afraid their properties will be encumbered or devalued by additional restrictions. When even the committee itself asked for more time to digest, eliminating that fear is key.
Marty encouraged all CIC members to attend a PSC hearing on the Comp Plan (schedule below). Howard noted that at the first PSC hearing, West Hayden Island was a major topic for testifiers, as were waterfront cleanup, access to broadband, City sharing data, and preserving Multnomah Village identity and character. Deborah added that the emphasis with regards to testimony on technology was framed as part of civic engagement.
Stan will email “rough draft” bullet points of talking points from the CIC to PSC. Marty will email community involvement evaluation. The CIC members that volunteered to testify before the PSC were Jovan, Jessi, and Kenneth, with Peter and Stan supporting by giving historical context and evolution of CIC.
Minutes from the last CIC meeting on May 28 were approved, and the committee was adjourned.
CIC quarterly meetings
All meetings will be held at 1900 SW 4th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Conference Room 2500A unless otherwise notified.
- Wednesday, November 19, 2014 8:00 to 10:00a.m.
- Wednesday, February 25, 2015 8:00 to 10:00a.m.
- Wednesday, May 27, 2015 8:00 to 10:00a.m.
Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) hearings on the Comprehensive Plan
- Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 5:00p.m.; Parkrose High School, 12003 NE Shaver Street, Student Center
- Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 5:00p.m.; Portland Community College, SE Campus, 2305 SE 82nd Avenue, Community Hall
- Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 4:00p.m.; 1900 SW 4th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Conference Room 2500A
Mixed Use Zones Project – Advisory Committee meetings
- Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.; 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 2500
- Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.; 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 2500
For more information, please contact Marty Stockton, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at 503-823-2041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.