Portland’s Leadership in Smart Urban Planning

Some folks may know I’ve been pondering a move to the West Coast, and more specifically, Portland, Oregon. There are things which specifically attract me to Portland, including good transit and bicycle-friendliness. Mike Spina, a friend who is an advocate of smart, pedestrian-centered urban design, pointed me to Streetfilms. Here is a sampling of videos about some exciting movement in Portland:

The Towards Carfree Cities VIII kicked off Monday in Portland, Oregon with an exciting community event. Hundreds of conference participants helped break and remove asphalt from a 3000 square foot parking lot. Depave.org is the mastermind behind the Fargo Garden Project. They promote the removal of unnecessary concrete and asphalt from urban areas. Depave.org will continue to work with Goldsmith Properties to transform this now asphalt-free site into a community greenspace. Once completed, the site will be used to educate the public about pavement removal and storm water drainage management.

City Repair in Portland, Oregon hosts an annual Village Building Convergence where hundreds of people come together to build diverse projects for the benefit of their communites and to take back their streets via a process known as the Intersection Repair.

This involves painting streets with a high-visiblity mural that creates a public square for residents to gather and one which gently encourages drivers to slow down when approaching these spaces.

I am overwhelmed. To hear a private developer say turning the property into greenspace rather than build a triplex was a no-brainer makes me giggle. Portland seems like a great opportunity and place to get some real work done. I also wonder if it will be too easy, too safe. How much do projects like building parks and painting murals seep into greater concerns of poverty and modern slavery?

One thought on “Portland’s Leadership in Smart Urban Planning

  1. As a former east coaster myself, I too am often overwhelmed by Portland. Its amazing to see so much of what has inspired me being put into action AND meeting and seeing so many people engaged in the process. It really is like a little utopia.

    But to your question about these types of projects seeping into greater concerns of poverty and modern slavery, we begin to get into sticky situations. If you’re interested and haven’t found about it yet, I would check out the Coalition for a Livable Future’s website and more specifically their Regional Equity Atlas. It gives a good overview of the issues in the area. Another good resource is this article, you may or may have not seen: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/29/america/29portland.php

    In my experience since being here (just over a year now). The conversation mostly revolves around (white) sustainability. Don’t get me wrong. I nearly wet myself with excitement any time I see one of our lovely green streets, or learn about our beautiful eco-roofs. But, to me, all too often the whole issue of race/social oppression is left out of the conversation.

    Yes, its true, Portland may be a progressive hot spot, but its largely a hybrid driving, whole food ‘s eating, starbucks drinking progressiveness. If you get my drift.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s subversive elements here, probably more then in some areas, and in all the progressive lingo is more ingrained; but for a lot of folks here I think they may have adopted progressive lifestyles trying to fit in. I guess we could argue about the relative merits of that…

    Which brings me to the statement you made of a place to get some real work done. I totally agree. You’re going to have an easier time here trying to get some progressive ideas on the ground; but truthfully, the places that need those ideas more are the places that aren’t already at the head of the pack. Not to say Portland doesn’t have room to grow, its just that some places have a lot more.

    Course this is all coming from an East Coast ex-pat too.

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