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!

Megaregion Commutes

Megaregions and Public Lands: This Week Better – Dec 11, 2016

Climate, Parks & Open Spaces, Take Action, Transportation

With only three weeks left in the year, I’ve been thinking about how I can best use my project time in 2017.

What I’m reading this week:

Four Million Commutes Reveal New U.S. ‘Megaregions’ – “As megaregions grow in size and importance, economists, lawmakers, and urban planners need to work on coordinating policy at this new scale. But when it comes to defining the extent of a megaregion, they find themselves running into the same problems geographers and cartographers have always had when trying to delineate conceptual areas. Because megaregions are defined by connections—things like interlocking economies, transportation links, shared topography, or a common culture—it’s tough to know where their boundaries lie.” –via National Geographic

DO: Check out the “megaregion” map for your area. Is where you live and work in a region that makes sense from a transportation planning funding perspective?

 

Let’s Not Be Divided. Divided People Are Easier to Rule. – This is a great, short read by Trevor Noah. “the vast majority of Americans, both Republican and Democrat, wanted many of the same things: good jobs, decent homes, access to opportunity and, above all, respect.” “When you grow up in the middle, you see that life is more in the middle than it is on the sides. The majority of people are in the middle, the margin of victory is almost always in the middle, and very often the truth is there as well, waiting for us.” –via The New York Times

DO: How can we focus on more nuance in our daily life?


Sally Jewell on the Future of the Department of the Interior
– Interesting interview with Sally Jewell, our outgoing Secretary of the Interior on climate change, public lands and advice for incoming Secretary. “We all come with a set of skills, and those are useful but not sufficient, so surround yourself with people that help fill that gap. Second, this job is about listening deeply to different points of view. You can’t go in with a fixed frame.” “the first outdoor-industry study based on hard data showed that the recreation economy is almost as big as pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, and motor-vehicle parts combined. That is extraordinary. That narrative has been lost, oftentimes, to the value of public lands for extractive purposes. But what the REC Act begins to do is to monetize the value of lands in conservation. This is an industry that employs millions of people. It supports rural economies. The legislation will ensure that it continues. “–via Outside Online

DO: Keep your eye on Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington State, she’s expected to be Trump’s Interior pick.

 

Real Christmas Trees Or Fake Ones — Which Are Better For The Planet? – Since it’s December, I was thinking about Christmas trees and the impact on the environment and community. In the Pacific Northwest, it seems like real Christmas trees are the way to go since it supports the local economy – the trees are grown for the purpose of being Christmas trees and trees are “recyclable” back to nature. Things I hadn’t thought about: buying a fake try can make sense in areas that don’t have Christmas trees local or if you keep it for a very long time (8-20 years). — via HuffPo

DO: Consider the pros and cons of real versus fake as you decorate this year.


Vancouver’s Multi-Modal Success Story
Gordon Price (urban planner and influential in a lot of transportation and land use success for the City of Vancouver for several decades) was our final lecture for my Traffic & Transportation class. This video shows some of the more resent work the city has made to reach 50% sustainable mode share (bike, walk, transit) a full four years earlier than goal (2020). –via StreetFilms

DO: How can we help reach a more sustainable split of driving versus walking, biking, transit here? This week, if you’re going less than 1 mile, try walking.


A policy that works: Raising the minimum wage
– Higher minimum wages result in greater earnings for low wage workers, and no loss of jobs. “The key argument against raising the minimum wage is that it would somehow cause employers to reduce the hours of work of employees subject to the minimum, and thereby lower the total number of job opportunities.” Such a strange phenomenon that the going thought is still that raising minimum wage reduces employment, when research and real examples has proven otherwise. –via City Observatory

DO: Read up on Oregon’s minimum wage rates that will increase to $14.75 by 2022.


PBOT moves forward with carfree ‘Sullivan’s Crossing’ bridge over I-84
– I’m super excited for this new bike and pedestrian crossing over 84 in the Lloyd area to connect NE Portland to SE via 7th Ave. Sounds like construction will be starting in 2019! –via Bike Portland

DO: Check out PBOT’s Project website to keep up to date on the project and give feedback.

 

This Week’s Actions: This week, I did more thinking than acting! I donated to a local environmental nonprofit through GiveGuide, and stayed off Facebook (33 days now!).

What are you reading and doing this week?

What do we do now? This Week Better – Nov 20, 2016

Take Action, Transportation

Week two. Did you know that the average person spends 50 minutes per day on Facebook (and Instagram)? We spend more time on Facebook per day, than we do reading (19 min), exercising (17 min), and at social events (4 min) combined. Source

That’s almost 6 hours per week of scrolling and tapping through our friends’ lives. As you can see, I’m having a bit of a love/hate relationship with social media this month. I tried to spend more of those six hours doing something – learning, creating, participating, but I also probably spent too long on Twitter. Ha!

What I’m reading this week:

Guerrilla Bike Lanes: San Francisco Makes Illicit Infrastructure Permanent – good reminder that sometimes just taking action gets results from your city. The video at the end will make you grin. –via 99% Invisible

DO: We actually have a lot more power than we sometimes think. Know of a bike lane or pedestrian area that is a safety concern or needs work? Be vocal. Let the city know. Here’s PBOT’s Traffic/Safety reporting form.


In election aftermath, Blumenauer resolute on transportation agenda
– here’s a great interview with Earl Blumenauer, our congressman on his current agenda and the future of “livable communities”. “If we can connect with people on things that matter to them and we can engage activists and advocates, than people can be persuaded to support the things we care about.” –via Bike Portland

DO: Have a conversation with someone about what matters to them from a transportation perspective.


Leaving Women out of Donald Trump’s Cabinet is Not Just Wrong It’s Dangerous
 – Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new prime minister, appointed a 50:50 ratio of male and female to his cabinet. Obama’s was 35% female. Trump’s is currently projected to be less than 10%, the lowest representation since the 1970s. “Group problem-solving abilities significantly improved for mixed-sex groups compared with all-male groups. Duke University researchers similarly found that women reacted to decision-making under stress by making safer, surer decisions, while men reacted by making riskier, go-for-the-big-win choices.” –via Newsweek

DO: Trump’s transition website is asking for you to “Share your ideas” (red link at the bottom of the page). Tell him you want more women and people of color represented in cabinet positions.

Oregon side-note on the above article: On the state and county level my current representatives are 43% female. On the city level, it will be 40% for the new year (city council will be an even split male/female and mayor is male). But, only one person of color, so 8%. Not sure how those stats look on a state level, but that’s the breakdown for my districts living in North Portland.

John Oliver Quote

John Oliver: How did we get to this point? And what do we do now? – “It is going to be too easy for things to start feeling normal, especially if you are someone who is not directly impacted by his actions. Keep reminding yourself ‘THIS IS NOT NORMAL’. 2016 has been the fucking worst”. –via John Oliver

DO: As John Oliver said, donate if you can: Planned Parenthood, Center for Reproductive Rights, NRDC.org, International Refugee Assistance Project – Refugeerights.org, NAACPLDF.org, thetrevorproject.org, maldef.org will all need help. Give money in the name of your relatives! Support actual journalism: propublica.org etc. Here’s a website that’s cataloging them.


Resist: How Donald Trump Threatens Portland—and Why You Must Fight Back 
– A look at how Portland and Oregon could be impacted in 2017 and beyond with Trump as president and very different national policy decisions. It’s a good start at looking at potential threats and what we can do on a local level. –via Willamette Week 

DO: Read through the list of possible predictions and identify your top 1-2 fears or concerns. How can you help?

 

This Week’s Actions: This week, I donated to a local cause through Give!Guide, shared what I’m working on with a few people, went to my Traffic and Transportation class at PSU, presented my project to the class (I’ll post about it soon), stayed off Facebook (12 days now!), I’m using Twitter to share my thoughts and @-ing political representatives, I also followed all my local reps so I can easily see what they’re putting out on social, and followed a dozen people that are different than me to see a different perspective.

“Good ideas don’t matter if people don’t hear them.” –President Obama

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?