By Don MacGillivray
In recent years, Portland has undergone significant challenges including COVID-19 health issues, racial concerns, forest fires and climate change. While everyone has been stressed by these conditions, the city is working to help those citizens who are greatly distressed.
The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) plays a large role in creating many of the conditions that affect our city and its people through their plans, policies and regulations. These affect growth, land use, businesses, the environment and many other aspects of city life.
Recently, the BPS issued their Strategic Plan for 2021-2024 to address the problems of recent years. The focus is on transforming systems, policies and institutions to make Portland more equitable and healthy, prosperous and resilient.
The BPS Plan provides leadership and a strategic direction toward stabilizing neighborhood communities and preventing displacement, the decarbonization of buildings and transportation, and making improvements to plans and policies.
The Plan addresses 1) economic, social and environmental issues, 2) climate justice and resiliency, 3) housing access and affordability, 4) the creation of family-wage jobs, 5) land use protections and urban design, 6) historic preservation and 7) natural resource conservation.
In collaboration with community organizations, agencies and partners, the latest Strategic Plan has an emphasis on low-income communities and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). The economic setbacks during the COVID-19 epidemic have exposed many problems centered in racial communities.
It also focuses on expanding opportunities for meaningful community engagement and working with ethnically diverse teams to create inclusive, multicultural solutions.
Many economic challenges impacted low income workers and small businesses of BIPOC owners. The Legacy Business program will help to prevent displacement of independent businesses and implement zoning and other regulatory improvements.
It is important to build trusting relationships with community partners and to help them play vital roles in shaping their futures. The BPS will provide accessible, easy-to-use open data portals to allow the public to be informed and participate in local decision making.
Portland has been a leader in work on climate change and climate justice for many years. Climate justice shifts power in decision-making about climate solutions and investments to those who have historically have been impacted, but not involved, such as BIPOC communities.
Creating healthy communities with access to transportation options, improved air quality, less reliance on fossil fuels and healthier natural environments are the focus of this work.
By developing a Green Economy, Portland will be able to lower carbon emissions and be more resource efficient. This includes regenerative economic practices and systemic approaches that capture and reuse material and energy.
This plan will decarbonize local transportation by focusing on electrically-powered freight and passenger vehicles and strengthen renewable fuel standards to displace fossil fuels for cleaner fuels.
The intensity of carbon production will be reduced in ways that will allow Portland to have 100 percent clean energy by 2030.
By updating the environmental zoning of the city’s floodplain, a variety of natural systems will be protected. Residents suffering from extreme heat and poor air quality will have access to air conditioning.
The Plan will improve recreational options and access to nature in the vicinity of homes and apartments.
The adoption of zoning tools will preserve existing affordable housing and adopt fair housing zoning policies to encourage development of multi-family housing in inner Portland.
Portland will keep pace with population growth by developing climate-friendly housing that is affordable for everyone.
East Portland lacks many of the facilities and services that are available to most Portlanders. These neighborhoods will be prioritized for resiliency improvements according to this plan.
Increasing tree canopy will be a priority along with expanding multi-family zoning in transit centers and corridors.
The operation of our waste collection system must become more efficient and affordable and this includes improvements to garbage, recycling and composting collection services. These services will be more affordable as waste is recycled and reduced. Public trash services will be expanded for residents of multifamily communities in North, NE and SE Portland.
One of the major sources of funding for the implementation of the Plan’s projects is the The Portland Clean Energy Fund, created through local ballot measure #26-201 in 2018.
This Fund invests in green jobs, healthy homes and a variety of climate-friendly projects. It will support workforce development in the green economy while prioritizing BIPOC communities and other disadvantaged groups with capacity building grants for local service organizations.
BPS’ three year strategic Plan compliments many of the existing plans within the Bureau. The City’s Comprehensive Plan, known as the Portland Plan, governs the work of the BPS until 2035.
Another important document is the Climate Action Plan that made Portland a leader in the field of environmental planning.
This new three year strategic plan adds many important ideas regarding racial equity, environmental stewardship and land use improvements.
Access the full Strategic Plan at tinyurl.com/PDXStrategicPlan.