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From BPS Director Susan Anderson: Toward a more prosperous, healthy, resilient and equitable community

Reflecting on what’s happened around the world this past year — two themes related to our work stand out for me.

1st - Climate change is out front on the world stage. From John Kerry to Ban Ki-moon to Pope Francis, world leaders are calling for action to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for climate change.

2nd - This is “the year the people stood up.” (The Guardian) From Eastern Europe to the Middle East, Africa and here in America, people stood up for freedom, basic human rights, economic parity and racial equity.

Climate change and equity, along with prosperity and healthy neighborhoods, are at the core of our mission here at BPS. These issues are global in nature, but we have the tools to take action and make a difference locally. Hundreds of volunteers, partners and expert advisors help us craft long-range plans, regulatory codes and market-based tools, and provide information and hands-on technical assistance to advance our citywide goals. Here are some BPS highlights from 2014:

From Trash to Treasure

Portland’s combined recycling and composting rate is 70 percent!  And, it continues to be one of the highest in the nation. Eight out of ten Portland homes — more than 110,000 in all — are creating rich compost for healthier farms and gardens by adding food scraps to their green composting roll carts. Portlanders also have reduced garbage going to landfill by 36 percent since the food scrap collection program started three years ago. Thanks to the dedication of our Solid Waste and Recycling Team and their outstanding customer service, Portlanders rate their curbside compost, recycling and garbage service more highly than almost any other City service.                        

But we couldn’t do all this without you! Our Master Recycler Program is a corps of more than 1,300 volunteers, who help Portland and other jurisdictions in the region promote waste prevention, toxics reduction, recycling and composting.

Innovative Approaches

Our Sustainable Outreach and Events Team continues to come up with great ideas to help more Portlanders save money and energy. Programs like Be Cart Smart, Your Sustainable City and Resourceful PDX reached tens of thousands of residents at community events all over the city.

This was another successful year of “takin’ it to the streets,” with a total of 57 neighborhood cleanup events. Our outreach team worked with community partners, nonprofits and neighborhood associations to provide community members a place to recycle, reuse and turn their trash into treasure with onsite swapping and sharing.

Sustainability at Work had another great year of bringing free assessments, trainings, presentations, tools and resources to more than 1,000 local businesses. And 40 more businesses were certified and recognized for their sustainability achievements.

BPS piloted new approaches to bringing clean energy to the community with Solar Forward. This new effort offers Portlanders a way to support the development of solar energy systems on public buildings like community centers, schools and libraries.

Be Prepared

Our newly adopted Climate Change Preparation Strategy includes policies and actions that support individuals and families who are most vulnerable to projected impacts, particularly heat, poor air quality and flooding. The strategy is the product of extensive research and analysis by BPS’ Research and Policy Team and close coordination with our sister agencies across the city and Multnomah County.

The team is now preparing for the release of the 2015 Climate Action Plan, which includes a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2035. The plan will showcase new research and infuse equity throughout the actions and policies. This was done with the assistance of a Technical Advisory Committee comprised of climate experts, environmental justice advocates and a diversity of community members.

This was the first of our projects and programs to take a formal, close look at the equity impacts of our goals and action items. We are still on a learning curve. Applying an equity lens to future climate impacts required some new levels of demographic modeling and mapping. It helped us to envision the nexus of different populations by race, income and age. The result is a strategy that more closely considers Portland’s most vulnerable populations.

Big Picture Plans

In addition to the Climate Action Plan, we have been continuing our effort to update the City’s 1980 Comprehensive Plan. The new 2015 Comprehensive Plan draft is now with the Planning and Sustainability Commission for review and deliberation. The new plan will guide the city’s growth and development over the next 20 years, while creating complete neighborhoods and sustainable communities so that more people have access to jobs, transit, affordable housing, parks, schools, libraries, restaurants, coffee and, of course, beer.

More Innovation

Thanks to our district liaisons, we have strong ties to the community both within the neighborhood associations and among other community groups. We built on those relationships with a new online Map App from the GIS Team, which had more than 35,000 visits since its launch over the summer. This interactive tool lets residents zoom into their neighborhoods to understand any proposed land use changes and then make and view other people’s comments online.

As the Comprehensive Plan moves forward into implementation, we’ll rely on our code writers to translate the land use map into regulations. Early implementation projects for the Comprehensive Plan include the Mixed Use Zones and Campus Institutions projects.


We continue to champion big ideas to create great places throughout Portland. Much of our work focuses on creating healthy connected neighborhoods in key Centers and Corridors.  

We are partnering with Metro and TriMet to create an even better transit and civic corridor along the Powell-Division alignment, especially for people living in East Portland. And we’re developing a Scenic Resources Inventory to ensure we preserve the vistas that we cherish.  

While we work at the citywide level on the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, we’re also updating a long-range plan to guide Portland’s Central City through 2035 with a focus on making it a center of innovation and exchange. Quadrant-specific plans provide distinct strategies that balance the demands for new jobs, housing, transportation and vibrant walkable neighborhoods from Goose Hollow to China Town to the Central Eastside and the Lloyd District.

The Central City Team will soon take the West Quadrant Plan to City Council for adoption. On the other side of the river, the Southeast Quadrant Pan is underway, with guidance from business and neighborhood stakeholders, and the assistance of the Urban Land Institute’s 2014 Daniel Rose Fellowship.


Portland received the C40 Climate Leadership Sustainable Communities Award and President Obama designated Portland a “Climate Action Champion.” Both of these awards position us to establish national and international partnerships to accelerate the work ahead. The Energy Foundation provided extensive resources to help Chinese cities learn from Portland and allowed staff to share technical expertise related to Portland’s Climate Action Plan. In addition, Denmark sponsored two staff as visiting scholars at Aalborg University, and the Smart Cities Expo World Congress in Barcelona sponsored our technical GIS staff to share the innovative Map App with cities from around the world.

What’s next?

2015 promises to be a turning point. The big vision plans will be done: Climate Action Plan, Comprehensive Plan and Central City 2035. Now we tackle the details. For example, we'll develop new specific code changes for mixed use, multi- and single-dwelling zones as well as other improvements, including  changes to the code to reflect the new Central City 2035 plan. We're proposing an Energy Performance Score for larger commercial buildings. And we'll enhance recycling for renters, and continue to help thousands of residents and businesses live, work and play more sustainably. 

As we launch into a busy new year, we join millions of people from around the world who are working hard to create local solutions for a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable world.


Susan Anderson


City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability