City planners hear from outer East Portlanders, during Parkrose ‘Portland Plan’ roadshow

Only some 40 people attended this, the only East Portland hearing to be held on the draft of the ‘Portland Plan’. Learn what some folks had to say about their aspirations for the City’s strategic plan – and more importantly, how you can still have your say …

It appears as if crowding wasn’t a problem, at this hearing of the Portland Plan, held in the Parkrose High School commons.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The effort to create a new overall strategic plan for the City of Portland is coming to a conclusion – as officials rolled out a draft version of the “Portland Plan” on November 15 in Parkrose High School’s atrium.

The plan has navigated three of the four public involvement phases:

  • Phase 1: Where are we now? (The Facts) – Open our article on this November, 2009 workshop at David Douglas High School: CLICK HERE.
  • Phase 2: Where do we want to go? (Setting Direction) – Open our coverage this May, 2010 event, also at DDHS: CLICK HERE.
  • Phase 3: How do we get there? (Strategy Building) – Open our story on this March, 2011 event at IRCO: CLICK HERE.


Joe Zehnder, Chief Planner, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability opens the only East Portland hearing for the Portland Plan, at Parkrose High School.

“This is a public hearing on the draft Portland Plan,” explained Joe Zehnder, Chief Planner, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. “We are in the fourth phase of creating a strategic plan for the City of Portland.”

Zehnder recapped that the purpose of the Portland Plan is to identify a set of priorities that have been developed through a two-year process of research.

“This has involved listening to people, and discussing these issues in the previous phases,” Zehnder continued. “We’ve identified three priority strategies that we think should be the main focus [of the City] for the next 25 years.  All three of those are built on a foundation, or a concern, for reducing disparities and increasing equity.”

Three key strategies are spelled out in the draft of the Portland Plan, demonstrates the City’s chief planner, Joe Zehnder.

The trio of strategies, Zehnder said are:

  1. Economic prosperity and affordability – “Taking care of business growth, and looking at the economic prosperity of the people who live in Portland. The hope is to increase jobs through business growth.”
  2. Education – “This means improving educational outcomes for students, from kindergartners all the way through those entering a career and getting a job.”
  3. Healthy Connected City – “this is about improving our neighborhoods – to be able to have more walkable, healthy, and economically-viable neighborhoods across Portland.”

Beyond creating a strategic plan for the City of Portland, Zehnder said, the hope is that the influence of the plan will spread across geographic and governmental boundaries.

“We hope the strategic plan will be shared by Portland’s partners – the 18 or so other government agencies active in and around the City of Portland,” Zehnder revealed. “These range from Metro – the regional government – to TriMet, and the school systems, the Multnomah Soil and Conservation Districts, for example.”

This slide shows those attending the hearing that the Portland Plan’s authors realize there are marked differences in different areas of the City.

We asked if the Portland Plan was merely a “good idea” or if it becomes, in fact, “the law of the land”.

“It’s not so much a legal requirement,” replied Zehnder. “But it is important, because we all know the challenges that we are facing now as a city – especially with the economy the way it is. We’ve got to be able to ‘do things smarter’. Do things with limited resources. And, we’ve got to not give up on the kind of things that make Portland the city that we want it to be.”

Mary Walker, Chair of the Parkrose Neighborhood Association, listens to the draft Portland Plan presentation before testifying.

Neighborhood chair chimes in
Mary Walker, Chair of the Parkrose Neighborhood Association, said she was on hand to share her concerns, primarily with zoning issues in the area.

“I’m addressing livability issues in our community, Parkrose,” Walker told East Portland News.  “This includes the layout of mixed commercial and residential properties along NE Sandy Boulevard.”

Having residential properties mixed in with commercial doesn’t make sense, Walker commented. “NE Sandy Boulevard should be turned into a business district.”

Parkrose School District Superintendent Dr. Karen Fischer Gray says all three strategies are important to families in her school district.

Parkrose School’s superintendent speaks up
Dr. Karen Fischer Gray, Superintendent, Parkrose School District. had a seat at the table, and said she was eager to share her thoughts.

“In the Portland Plan, I’m advocating for empowering youth,” Gray began. “And, ‘Healthy Connected Neighborhoods’ is also important for affording our young people a good education. And, the third strategy, ‘Prosperity and Affordability’, is equally important.”

Asked how these directly connect with the neighbors in the Parkrose School District catchment, Gray elaborated, “The overarching Portland Plan preamble of ‘equity’ absolutely affects Parkrose, because we’re such a very diverse school district. From having kids able to access healthy food within a 20-minute walk, to becoming a well-educated workforce – and having sidewalks on which to walk! – there’s a great deal in the Portland Plan for making life better for community members in Parkrose.”

During the hearing, 15 of the 40 or so folks in attendance signed up to testify; most of the supporting the tenets of the draft Portland Plan.

Although you may have missed the draft Portland Plan hearing, planner Joe Zehnder says folks can still read the plan – and comment on it – online.

Zehnder told attendees, “We are trying to pick some priorities, we are trying to get smart about how we share resources, and focus on what you want to accomplish. We’re trying to build on a set of actions that don’t merely make the area more prosperous, and educate kids better, and make better neighborhoods – but also reduce the disparity amongst groups.”

Miss the hearing?
“People can comment on-line,” Zehnder said.  “The public comment period is open through December 28. We encourage people go to our website and look at the summary, or the entire draft plan – and then comment.

To open the official Portland Plan homepage: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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