What makes great places?

The ‘Perfect’ City: This Week Better – Dec 18, 2016

City Issues & Ideas, Land Use, Take Action

I’ve come across a few interesting articles lately talking about “how to build the perfect city” and “placemaking”, and the above graphic from Project for Public Spaces, detailing what makes a great place – broken out into:

  • key attributes (for example: sociability)
  • intangibles (for example: interactive)
  • measurements (for example: evening use)

Such an interesting way to see what’s in between “Place” and the step we usually jump to: measurement.

What I’m reading this week:

Portland’s cost-burdened renters pushed out of city center – I think we all knew this was happening, but there’s some interesting map overlay data in this article. –via OregonLive

DO: It sounds like the city had a rescheduled hearing on the inclusionary zoning mentioned in this article. There should be an update at some point here?


A “Weird Concept” for Portland
-“It’s a weird concept,” he said. “I’m asking (investors) to just not be greedy.” “The Atomic Orchard Experiment represents a radical approach to providing workforce housing in Portland. The planned 88-unit development is uniquely structured. Sixty percent of the units will be market rate, at around $1,650 per month. Twenty percent of the units will be affordable at 80 percent of median family income, a level set by housing regulators at $1,100 per month, earning a 10-year property tax abatement through Portland’s Multiple-Unit Limited Tax Exemption (MULTE) program. And in an unprecedented twist, approximately 16 units would be pushed far below market rate to less than $600 a month. Cavenaugh is targeting rents of $582 a month.” –via DJC Oregon

DO: Guerrilla Development has done some really interesting projects in Portland. Check out some of their work and their crowdfunding development project. Curious how these projects will look in a few years.

 

Women And Men Use Cities Very Differently – Ask women and men how they, say, use transportation and you’ll get very divergent answers. The women, unsurprisingly, have a much more complex relationship. “Women in general are more likely to combine work with family commitments, cities like Berlin are trying to break up the division between residential and commercial districts, between suburb and office. That means more mixed-use neighborhoods, with homes, shops, and workplaces all jumbled up—something with numerous other benefits as well, like neighborhood character or being able to walk rather than having to get in a car every time you leave the house.” “On the other hand, there is an argument that by doing so you entrench those norms. How could urban design nudge people toward a society in which women don’t do a disproportionate amount of housework and childcare?” — via Co.Exist

DO: Check out the full 10-part series called “How to Build the Perfect City”.


100 in 1 Day
– I came across this project in Canada called 100 in 1 day – Your Ideas. Your City. Your Day. They have a nationwide popup ‘placemaking’ day in the summer to take over the streets. Cool idea to make things visible and coordinated. “100In1Day is your insider’s guide to the best of your city. On June 4, this community driven, city-wide placemaking festival activated 100+ fun, innovative pop-up ideas all over Canada.” –via 100in1Day

DO: Check out their Inspiration Toolkit for ideas of local things you could do.


“Privately owned public spaces” epitomize the dangers of privatizing collective goods
– This one is a long read, but an interesting look at some the history of privately owned “public spaces”. “Real estate becomes the effective law of the land, transforming residents into rentiers, public space into borrowed land, and the homeless into unproductive dead weight. Working-class people inevitably lose out.” “As for POPS, many provide enjoyable and useful space to the millions of people who live in the city. But from their inception until today, POPS have existed to help the wealthy consciously shape New York City and restrict the proliferation of democratic spaces.” –via Jacobin

DO: Do you know some of Portland’s privately owned public spaces?


This Week’s Actions: 
This week, I donated to a local nonprofit through GiveGuide and to IRC to support Syrian refugees, and stayed off Facebook (40 days now!).

“If there were one word that could act as a standard of conduct for one’s entire life, perhaps it would be thoughtfulness.”
–Confucius

This is the last post of 2016, since next Sunday is Christmas. See you in 2017!

Climate Action Plan - Portland 2050 Vision

Climate Action & Legacy: This Week Better – Dec 4, 2016

Climate, Land Use, Take Action

This week was my final Traffic & Transportation class at PSU. It’s been super inspiring to learn from regional transportation professionals through the weekly lectures, and to see what interests fellow Portlanders to make positive changes in our communities. Over the next quarter, I plan to keep up a weekly “class night” to work on projects and learn.

What I’m reading this week:

Obama Reckons with a Trump Presidency: Inside a stunned White House, the President considers his legacy and America’s future. – This one is a long read, but worth the time. Some quotes I enjoyed: “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us,” he said. “And then we would have a debate about how to fix it. That’s how, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, you had Republicans supporting the Clean Air Act and you had a market-based fix for acid rain rather than a command-and-control approach. So you’d argue about means, but there was a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.”

“The thing that I have always been convinced of,” he said, “the running thread through my career, has been this notion that when ordinary people get engaged, pay attention, learn about the forces that affect their lives and are able to join up with others, good stuff happens.” –via The New Yorker

DO: In the words of our President… Get engaged. Pay attention. Learn about the forces that affect your life. Join up with other. Good stuff will happen.


ODOT wins $28 million federal grant for Historic Highway project
 – Great news for Oregon. The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail project just won a $28 million grant from the US Department of Transportation for the Mitchell Point Crossing. –via Bike Portland

Does rent control work? Evidence from Berlin – It’s been a year since Berlin enacted a cap on rent increases on existing rentals (based on age, size, # of floors and amenities etc) with modest increases over time. New construction and apartments that are substantially renovated are exempt from the rent control limits. “While posed as a way of promoting affordability for low income households, in practice, rent control may actually provide greater benefits for higher income renters. High income renters may be more savvy in dealing with landlords and exercising their rights, and less subject to the economic dislocations that force low income households to move from rent controlled apartments. Over time, having acquired the “right” to live in a rent controlled apartment, some better off households may choose not to move, or to buy a home, with the result being a lower rate of turnover in apartments: further restricting the supply of housing.” –via City Observatory

DO: Housing affordability is a really complex issue. I’m trying to learn about the different sides and the cause and effect of what some policy changes might do here in Portland.

 
Mayors Set a Tight Deadline to Initiate Climate Action – “The C40 plan calls for member cities to reduce the average emission per person from 5 metric tons to 2.9 by 2030. That reduction will largely come through city-wide “climate actions,” which include things like installing bike lanes and retrofitting buildings with clean energy sources. Collectively, cities have taken 11,000 actions like these so far. By 2020, they’ll need 14,000 more, and roughly three-quarters of that must come from wealthy, high carbon-emitting cities located mostly in the global north.” “Mayors, state, and subnational governments are in a stronger position to deliver on their promises than national governments.” –via City Lab

DO: Portland is an “Innovator City” in the C40. Portland has a Climate Action Plan hidden in the depths of despair that is the Portlandoregon.gov website. Here’s a link to the full pdf The “At a Glance” section is 26 pages in. “This Climate Action Plan identifies twenty 2030 objectives and more than one hundred actions to be completed or significantly underway in the next five years.”

This Week’s Actions: This week, I attended my final Traffic and Transportation Class at PSU, donated to a local environmental nonprofit through GiveGuide!, and stayed off Facebook (25 days now!).

What are you reading and doing this week?

NE 28th Kerns parking

Hopes & Fears: This Week Better – Nov 27, 2016

Take Action, Transportation

I’ve had some fascinating conversations in the last week about land use (rent, housing, parking), transportation, politics, public lands, and race! Like many, I’m feeling a mix of hope and fear for our communities and country. I’ve been trying to listen and ask more questions. With the holiday season here, the next month is going to fly by. I need to make a conscious effort to keep this Better Portland project going.

What I’m reading this week:

Parking: The price is wrong – this article has an interesting look at Portland handicap placard use and how changing the policy around it freed up parking and abuse of the placards “Spaces occupied by placard users dropped 70%.” “The larger lesson here should be abundantly clear: charging users for something approaching the value of the public space that they are using produces a transportation system that works better for everyone.” –via City Observatory

DO: Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is currently studying parking in five neighborhoods: St Johns, NE 28th, Hollywood, Division, Mississippi. Portland City Council will be discussing NW parking on Dec 22, 2016.


Choosing a Daily Political action –
 I signed up for several of these daily political action emails/websites this week to see what they recommend. MyCivicWorkout (5-30 minute “workouts” for civic activism), Flippable (winning the country back one seat at a time), and DeedsDigest (Deeds not words). One of the things I found in common when I signed up for these, they’re geared more for folks in red states, but still useful reminders.

DO: Sign up for a daily political action email and see if it’s useful or changes any of your weekly behavior.


City of Portland boosts network with 5.6 miles of newly buffered bike lanes
 – PBOT used $80,000 that was left over from larger capital projects that came in under budget to upgrade 5.6 miles of bike lanes around Portland for safety upgrades. “Along with new buffers on existing bike lanes, the city has also put the money toward bike-related crossing treatments at major intersections, signage, and new bike lanes where they didn’t exist before.” –via Bike Portland

DO: Have you noticed any of these upgrades? There’s a full list on the link above. Share or reach out to let the city know you like this and want to see more!


Why Protected Bike Lanes Save Lives
 –
 “The more physically separate cycling facilities provided, the more cycling levels grow, and in particular, the more women, children, and seniors are willing to cycle.” –via CityLab

DO: Take a look at the Central City 2035 plan and how to stay informed.


We elected a climate denier, so now what? Roll up your sleeves for the outdoors
– 
“It’s going to be a long, hard four years for environmentalists and outdoor advocates. We seriously just put a climate denier in the White House, and now we have to face the consequences.” –via The Morning Fresh

DO: Check out the idea list halfway through article. Give to organizations, start using your social channels for advocacy, make calls etc. GiveGuide has a great roundup of our local environmental nonprofits to support.

10 Ways To Resist Donald Trump: Activists Share Concrete Actions You Can Take Right Now – There have been so many lists, I know, but still a great reminder of small real things we can do. –via Bitch Media

DO: Pick one thing from the list and do it this next week. This last week I tried to focus on diversifying my media.

Rents are plunging in the most expensive markets – Fascinating article about housing market and the new apartment supply. Average rents are actually decreasing year over year, and landlords are piling on the concessions… “Nearly all of the new supply is high end, and it is pressuring the market from the top down.” “None of the razor-thin capitalization rates landlords used a year ago to bamboozle creditors into lending them money make sense anymore. Vacant units make their plight worse. Creditors are getting nervous. But the renting folk, after having their lifeblood squeezed out of them over the past years, will have the option of moving again a year later, with lots of apartments to choose from – or commence tough negotiations with the landlord – to get a better deal in this new phase of Housing Bubble 2.” –via Business Insider

DO: Here in Portland, average rent for a 2 bedroom has actually decreased 4.7% year over year to $1,620. Have you seen any signs of a “Housing Bubble 2”? Think about how another could impact you and your community.


This Week’s Actions:
 This week, I shared what I’m working on with a few more people, stayed off Facebook (19 days now!), signed up for several “political action” emails and websites, and contacted a few political leaders in Washington.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela via swissmiss

What are you reading and doing this week?

Registered Voters that Cast Ballot Portland

Let’s Make This Week Better – Nov 13, 2016

Land Use, Parks & Open Spaces, Take Action, Transportation

Welcome. It’s been a rough week. Better Portland is a new project. I want to document what I’m learning as I try to help make our city a better place. The goal for myself is less news and social media consumption “faux action/outrage”, more listening, more action. Here goes…

What I’m reading this week:

A Tax Credit for Renters – “Our tax code is highly skewed towards homeownership. Between the deductions for mortgage interest expenses and property taxes, the exclusion of capital gains on sales of homes, and the non-taxation of the imputed rent of owner-occupied homes, the federal government spends the equivalent of about $250 billion per year supporting home ownership.” Three ideas from the Terner Center:

  1. “rental affordability” plan: households with incomes of less than 80 percent of the median a tax credit equal to the difference between 30 percent of their household income and the lesser of the actual rent they paid or the small area fair market rent for their neighborhood. The average participant would get assistance of about $474 per month.
  2. “rent reduction” plan – give households a sliding credit of between 12 and 25 percent of their rental payments. This plan would provide less relief—average benefits would be about $227 per household.
  3. combo approach – providing more generous voucher-like benefits for the 3 million lowest income households, and a variant of the rent reduction plan for all other eligible households. –via City Observatory

DO: Share the article, share with our mayor-elect Ted Wheeler (ted@tedwheeler.com) or Tweet him. Not sure yet how we can help support Terner Center for this proposal.


St. Johns fatality fuels fire of neighborhood’s safe streets activism
– Tired of freight trucks and reckless driving holding their streets hostage, on Monday the St. Johns Neighborhood Association will host a forum to delve deeper into the issues of traffic and transportation safety. —via Bike Portland

DO: Attend the St John’s neighborhood forum on Monday, November 14 at 7:30pm.

Who Votes for Mayor – In the last May election, in Portland, 59.4% of eligible voters voted. This is really high turnout compared to most cities (average is below 15%)!? Interestingly, in Portland, 88.4% of registered voters over the age of 65 voted, as compared to 56.7% of registered voters aged 18 to 34.

DO: Talk with friends and family about voting. Don’t shame. Listen. How can we help more people vote?

Hillary Clinton’s Concession Speech – “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” “My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.” –full transcript on Vox

DO: What work can we do to make sure the next four years are not a total loss?

Voters renew Metro parks and natural areas levy (Measure 26-178) – greater Portland metro region approved a renewal of Metro’s parks and natural areas levy. The renewal is projected to raise about $81 million over the course of five years (through 2023). About half of the money will go toward restoring and maintaining natural areas to improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. About 20 to 30 percent will go toward regional parks operations. The rest will go toward improving parks and natural areas for people, grants for community nature projects, and nature education and volunteer programs. The levy costs 9.6 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value. —via Metro

DO: Voted. If you’re a renter, this was free for you. If you’re a homeowner, this was on average $38 per year, or $3 a month or 75 cents a week (based on median assessed value of $395k).

Portland Voters Pass Affordable Housing Measure (Measure 26-179) – Portland voters have passed a $258 million housing bond that will raise property taxes to fund 1,300 units of affordable housing. The bond will go toward alleviating the city’s current shortage of 23,845 affordable units, as determined by the Portland Housing Bureau. The bond will raise property taxes 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. A home with Portland’s median home value of $394,800 will pay about $190 more in annual property taxes. Only 950 of the 1,300 units funded by Measure 26-179 will be newly constructed. The other 350 will be acquired by the city from existing private sector stock and preserved as affordable housing. —via OPB

DO: Voted. If you’re a renter, this was free for you. If you’re a homeowner, this was on average $166 per year, or $14 a month or $3.20 a week (based on median assessed value of $395k).

How Transit Fared in the 2016 Election – Voters in cities and counties around the U.S. decided on nearly $200 billion in transit funding, the most in any single election in the country’s history. Many of the measures were in California, but one Pacific Northwest win was King, Pierce and Snohomish counties who funded by a $54 billion package of increased sales, property and motor vehicle excise taxes, Sound Transit 3, the third phase of Sound Transit’s operations expansion, will add 116 miles of light rail including a second line in Seattle and a “spine” of rail from Everett to the north and Tacoma to the south. It will also increase commuter rail frequency, express bus service and create new bus rapid transit lines. —via NextCity.org

DO: Learn about our Measure 26-173 “Fixing Our Streets” that passed in May.

All Politics is National – How state politicians went from solving the problems in their own backyards to mimicking the gridlock in Washington. –via FiveThirtyEight

DO: Share. Research what happened in local politics this election.

Give Guide – The annual Give!Guide kicked off last week, with a simple look at 141 of Portland’s most impactful nonprofits. Give what you can. As usual, there are some great incentives which makes the whole thing more fun. —via Willamette Week’s Give Guide

DO: Give $10. You’ll get a cool reward through Chinook Book too!

This Week’s Actions: I voted, donated to a local cause through Give!Guide, went to my Traffic and Transportation class at PSU, deactivated my Facebook account, and started this blog.

“Be a practical dreamer, backed by action.”
– Bruce Lee via swissmiss

What are you reading and doing this week?