City’s ‘Comprehensive Plan’ revealed, at David Douglas High

As wonky as it may seem, take a look, and see why this document might well affect your way of living – and even your property values …

People gather in the David Douglas High School library to review the exhibits, and learn more about the first draft of the Comprehensive Plan from a Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability City Planner staff.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Many Portlanders took advantage of the open house held by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability on March 3, to examine the first draft of Portland’s Comprehensive Plan.

In the library at David Douglas High School, planners set out stations with color posters that summarized each of the seven chapters of the Comprehensive Plan:

  1. Community Involvement
  2. Housing
  3. Economic Development
  4. Watershed Health and Environment
  5. Urban Design and Development
  6. Public Facilities
  7. Transportation

Some 50 visitors attended toured the main exhibition area, while others attended “Infrastructure Investments” breakout sessions – on the subjects of equity, maintenance, growth, upgrades, and safety – in the school’s classrooms.

“We’re here spreading the word about the new draft of the Comprehensive Plan,” Eric Engstrom, Principal Planner with Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability told East Portland News, about the open houses being held across the city.

The Portland Plan – the City’s “Strategic Plan” – was adopted by a Portland City Council Resolution about a year ago, Engstrom observed.

The Portland Plan, he expanded, was more of a plan about all of the different endeavors of government in Portland. This Comprehensive Plan is a “subset”, focusing on issues relating to development, planning, transportation, and infrastructure – and, particularly, development issues.

Carlos Gonzalez from the Portland Bureau of Transportation teams up with Sandra Wood of Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability to meet with this group that the Latino Network to encouraged to attend. Specifically, the group expresses a desire for more trees, for shade and cooling.

Released in January, the document was called a “first public draft”. “We’ve described it as a 60% draft,” said Engstrom. “We’re not reinventing the whole Comprehensive Plan; much of it came from the existing, already-adopted Portland Plan.

“This is the first step in integrating some of the new ideas coming out of the [new] Portland Plan, adopted in spring 2012,” the City Planner explained.

“Over the summer and into the fall, we took key policies from the Portland Plan, and integrated them into the City’s Comprehensive Plan. It’s a more on-the-ground policy document, which has legal weight in areas such as land use and transportation decision-making.”

Plan spells transportation and housing policies
While many folks won’t read the Comprehensive Plan cover to cover, Engstrom conceded, it does address specific issues people care about.

“Some of these might be, like, our parking policy – that certainly has been an issue in the news. Also, we’re trying to roll in the policies that came out of the Bike Plan for Portland.  There’s certainly a big constituency there, as well.”

The Bureau is also working to make improvements to the Transportation Plan, and the Streetcar System Plan, which “is something were looking at; specifically about how it relates to growth management.”

Colleen Gifford, of ABC Sustainable Solutions and the Gateway Eco District, reviews the Portland Comprehensive Plan materials, with the help of City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability City Planner/East District Liaison Christina Scarzello.

Engstrom said many people are talking about the financial feasibility of a lot of long-term plans. “Mayor Charlie Hales has been going forward with the idea living with a ‘constrained reality’.  Part of the Comprehensive Plan and System aspect of it, has to do with ranking the list of projects, and bringing some financial reality to this.”

So, if a person cares about finances, and taxes, and the City’s financial viability – that is, how the City government is reconciling project lists with financial ability – they should become aware of, and comment on, the Comprehensive Plan, Engstrom said.

“It’s kind of wonky in some ways,” opined Engstrom, “but it affects everyone, and how they live.”

City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s Lora Lillard, City Planner/Urban Design, talks with Parks advocate Linda Robinson.

Parks advocate for outer East Portland Linda Robinson said she came to the mid-County open house mainly to express concerns.

“As growth in population density occurs, we need to have the infrastructure that goes with growth,” Robinson said. “That has not happened in the past. I’m hoping this plan will be done in such a way that [both aspects] will happen simultaneously – and we won’t just get the increased density of population, without the services that need to be there to serve a denser population.”

It was worth her time to come, Robinson added, “Because this [Comprehensive Plan] will influence a lot of things that happen over the next 20 years.

“Having some input at this level is probably more productive than fighting individual development battles, one by one, after the Plan is in place,” Robinson said.

Still time to learn – and comment
For those who couldn’t attend one of the open house events, the Bureau has put many of the open house materials online: CLICK HERE to open that page.

And, citizens can chime in by taking an online survey that will be open until Tuesday, April 30 at their “Survey Monkey” study page: CLICK HERE to begin the survey.

Now getting ready for ‘Part 2’
To prepare for the Comprehensive Plan Working Draft Part 2, Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability District Liaisons will be talking with community stakeholders during the spring, as City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability City Planner/East District Liaison Christina Scarzello told East Portland News after the event.

“They’ll be gathering gather district-specific information, comments, preferences, and ideas to shape draft maps and connect the policies with geographically-specific mapping possibilities,” added Scarzello.

For more information, or to be added to a mailing list for meeting notice, send an e-mail to Christina Scarzello at chris.scarzello@portlandoregon.gov.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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