New Look Exercises

Friday was the infamous first New Look Regional Forum, which opened with an apology for the $30 registration fee.

Hopefully that’s the last to be said of that issue. I was there for about 2/3rds of the forum (sadly I had to leave for a City Club Forum on one of my favorite subjects). I thought the event was well done, with good introductory material, but most of the time spent on exercises in which the participants actually grappled with the hard choices that face the region.

I think the first exercise lends itself well to the blog format, and I’m going to use it as fodder for discussion here this week. It’s all about outcomes – how we’ll know when our efforts have achieved what we’re aiming for.

These are all in the format “We’ll know that [insert goal here] when [you provide indicator here].”

So let’s begin.

We will know our neighborhoods are safe and stable when:

I’ll even provide a first answer:

Every home in the region has a safe and pleasant walking trip to an elementary school and to a park.

What’s your outcome/indicator?


12 responses to “New Look Exercises”

  1. Chris –

    I would expand on your statement from just a school and a park to “the necessities of life”, meaning basic foodstuffs, a general medical practitioner and a pharmacy, (emergency rooms probably don’t have to be in walking distance… if you’re well enough to walk, you’re not headed to the emergency room).

    For foodstuffs, it may require only minor adjustments to the business model of 7-11, plaid pantry, etc., to include more fresh produce and household staples. The goal would not be to eliminate auto trips for lots of groceries or a visit to Costco, but to eliminate discretionary trips for just a few common items… if your kid is walking home from school, you can call them on the cell phone to have them pick up some lettuce, tomatoes, and milk during the walk home, etc.

    A large percentage of commutes will always take place by car (but the percentage taken by transit and other modes can increase considerably), but decreasing the need to drive just to get basic staples could help families avoid having to buy a 2nd car, help people get more exercise, etc.

    Of course, if God had intended us to walk rather than drive, he would have given us, oh wait…

    – Bob R.

  2. A prosperous economy with good jobs is the underpinning for any and all of this. It was reaffirming, but not reassuring, to hear the keynote speaker argue that investing in education…preK thru post Doc…is the key to that prosperous economy. We have been dis-investing in same for the last 15 years.
    We need a Regional Education Plan much more than a Regional Transportation Plan…I guess I am on the wrong blog.
    I am looking forward to lots of new residents, with new energy and new ideas; Portland is so un-dense and little congested, that this should be no problem. Indeed, we are attracting a lot of talent, which is essential if we are not developing enough of our own.
    The strategy of the last several decades is playing out in Portland with new life in old commerical areas, new higher density housing along transit corridors, new MAX and Streetcar projects, etc. Neighborhood schools are at risk, but just about everything else is moving along just fine. We need to just keep it spreading…Montevilla to 102nd, to 122nd, etc.

  3. Allow me to provide a contrasting view:

    I am bugged by too many new residents. Portland is growing so dense and congested, it is already a problem. Indeed, talent is leaving town because it can’t afford to stay here. The strategy of the last several decades is snuffing out life in Portland, with skyrocketing costs of living in old residential areas, less low-income housing, insufficient funding for education and social services, a city deep in debt, etc. Neighborhoods as we know them are at risk, and everything else is seeming to suck lately.

    Please don’t keep it spreading.

  4. Chris said: “We will know our neighborhoods are safe and stable when:

    “Every home in the region has a safe and pleasant walking trip to an elementary school and to a park.”


    * Bicycle infrastructure is accessible and provides connectivity from the home to the rest of the region. This connectivity must all pass the younger sister/daughter test, i.e. you would feel fine telling your younger sister/daughter that it’s safe to go ride the routes.
    * Essential services are within walking distance, including a grocery store that carries organic produce from local farmers and other such essentials.
    * Trees line every street at intervals that will provide a more or less continuous canopy above the street once the trees reach maturity.
    * Sidewalks are provided on every street and crosswalks at every intersection.
    * Transit service is fast, frequent and accessible within a 15 minute walk of 90% of the houses and employment in the region.
    * Neighborhoods are built-out so that 80% of the structures match the type that is zoned for build-out, and build-out includes dense (multiple-stories, mixed-use) commercial corridors and intersections.
    * People are generally happy and healthy and enjoy living in the region.

    That’s my laundry list for that response! (OT: Why do they call it a laundry list, anyways? Who makes a list for laundry? I’ve seen a list for groceries, a list for hardware, a list for to do items… but a list for laundry?)

  5. Garlynn –

    I know you were joking about “laundry list”, so please take this response as a light-hearted follow-up and not a class lecture. :-)

    “Laundry list” is an antiquated term, but many people used to fill them out when having their laundry done professionally, and some people still use them today. Sometimes, a neighborhood laundry service was the only option available. (We now call them “dry cleaners” and we seldom bring them all of our washables, the coin-op laundry having taken over that part of the business.)

    For a photo of an example historical “laundry list”, see:

    It is interesting to see “laundry list” used as a dismissive term. Like the still-common “grocery list”, most of the items on any laundry list are necessities, and making a list is the most fundamental manner of organizational tool devised by man.

    – Bob R.

  6. Ah, for those good old days of Portland in the 80’s…when unemployment was high, rents were cheap, and a good loaf of bread was problematic.
    Anyway, it doesn’t matter…we must be doing something right if a million people are coming here over the next few years. I guess we could have the problem other regions have…shrinking population, declining property values, etc.
    Seriously, take a look at any number of eastside neighborhoods with great transit, decent bike routes, libraries, local schools, revitalized commercial districts. It works. And it will only all work better as more mid-rise housing (some of course affordable) gets built…more transit riders, more customers for retail, more people on the street.
    The trick is to get this going beyond I-205 and across the Columbia, south of the Springwater Line and over the west hills.

  7. My two cents: We will know our neighborhoods are safe and stable when: each individual is able to be in school or employed in industries that have value and support our region.

    Supporting world class employers (small, medium, and large) and supporting all educational options is the only way to bring stability since idle thought and no hope is where despair and social unrest breeds.

    mykle: I understand your worries but our planning process and goals is one of the only reasons why the 1 Million new residents are forecasted to be here in the future. Your issues seem to be more solvable by fixing our taxation situation (heavy property taxes and one of the lowest corporate income taxes and low consumption or carbon based taxes) and our form of government (becomng even more citizen focused).

    Lennys comments are spot on with one exception. The region east of I-205 are growing up just like downtown PDX is (3-5 story building along all major streets. Just not at the same scale (understandable of course). Portland Daily Business Journal has an article about how Milwaukie is looking up too after years of inactivity. This is even before a MAX line is finalized.

    People need to understand that Portland is growing up. We saw this coming during the Metro 2040 planning and before. Tom McCall saw it coming 35 years ago. Our main issue is saving Oregon from being loved to death. Losing our forests to clear cutting and our farms and vineyards to pavement is the worst case scenario.

    We want growth. We want to help that growth make us better as a region.

    Back to the question and answer: support education and employment opportunities.

    Ray Whitford

  8. If you live on the east side, certain parts of the North/North East PDX, Trendy Third area, or the immediate hills, you already have exactly that.

    Now the west side doesn’t, and it seems they don’t care. Per most of the conversations I’ve had with many of the local Beavertonians and Hillsboronians.

    Sad sad for them.

  9. Oregon’s disinvestment in education at all levels is the greatest threat to our economic survival in the global economy. And a sagging economy makes everything else difficult to achieve.
    Our Ace in the Hole is the natural setting of the place…the Gorge, Mt Hood, the Coast, etc. We get credit if we protect these assets, keep them accessible and don’t love them to death.
    Add to these a reasonably interesting little city with some cultural life, and lively neighborhoods and you can attract all the talent you need to survive.

  10. Lenny: declining property values are a problem I’d sure like my neighborhood to have. Then, maybe, single-income families could afford to buy homes here again.

    Sure, we could compare the Portland of today to the Portland of fifty billion years ago, when unemployment was rampant, rental property was scarce, and the entire surface of the planet was covered with hot molten lava and sulfurous gas. My, how far we’ve come. =)

    I remember the depression of the 80’s, but at least my rent was only $110 per month. I could survive here then as a low-income dropout. I don’t think I could do so today.

    Likewise through the boom of the nineties, when rent was still low, jobs were plentiful, and people started moving here in droves. We grew and grew, and it was fine for a while. Maybe it’s still fine, for some people, at some income levels, in some neighborhoods …

    But how much growth is enough? How much is too much? Does moving people to Portland automatically improve our economy, more than it increases competition for jobs and housing? Do we really think, if a million more people moved to Portland tomorrow, that everything would be just peachy? Are there a million jobs here waiting for them?

    We need to get control of the rate of change. Stimulating growth and accomodating growth has been our focus, and we made it happen, but now we need to limit growth. Growth and change are healthy within certain limits, but out-of-control growth has historically been very bad for American cities. Everything that’s happening in Portland now happened in major cities in California 10-20 years ago. The real-estate speculation sucking money out of the economy, and the anti-tax initiatives peddled to ignorant voters, led to state budgetary collapse, leading to the collapse of education and social services, leading to the death of the middle class. The big winners were real-estate developers and the Republican Party.

    We can grow, sure, but we have a responsibility to absorb that growth and keep our priorities straight and our communities together. That can happen as long as the rate of growth is not too high. All over history you see cultures destroyed by over-rapid change, and ours is no exception. All around me I see signs that we’re headed down the same chute that California went down, so forgive me if I cringe when people rhapsodize about how well it’s all going.

    Ray: I’d like to see taxation used to cool the property market, as well as to bring some actual financial benefit to the people of Portland for all the speculation in our market. Say, a 3% tax on the profits from all real-estate transactions that are profitable. Make it 6% if a property is flipped in less than 2 years. (Japan does something similar.) Use the money to fund Portland schools. We should have done this in Portland ten years ago, we’d be in way better shape by now. But it’s not too late for other growing cities in Oregon to try it. As for government and citizen involvement … I love our city gov’t, and I think our citizens are beautifully involved, and that’s why I advocate in public forums like this. We just need to see where we’re headed a little clearer, and then I think people will make the right decisions.

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