EPA’s 2010 Smart Growth Award: Making the Greatest Place: Portland, OR


[music playing] Marcus Mundy:
If you know anything about Portland, you know that it consists of a whole bunch, a whole
series of individual neighborhoods, each with their own character, their own flavor, their
own demographic in some cases; and so we have an opportunity to maintain the strength of
the communities, which is all the people, not just the people who can afford lattes and condos,
but the people that live throughout the region. Kathryn Harrington:
Metro, as well as the three county governments, and all 25 cities, and the various stakeholders,
land use advocates, natural resources advocates, citizens were able to come together on a plan
that we think will work well for generations 50 years into the future. Robert Liberty:
Making the Greatest Place is a continuation of 30-year effort to change how we grow in
the region and the state, to change from a sprawling pattern of development to compact,
vibrant cities surrounded by farm and forestland, and natural resources. Richard Whitman:
Urban growth boundary in the Portland area has been very successful in terms of reducing
the amount of farmland and forestland that has had to be used for urbanization over time.
The urban growth boundary concept started as part of Oregon’s statewide land use program
about 35 years ago, and the basic idea is that communities will have limits in terms
of how far they grow so that they grow efficiently within that area, and so that we conserve
the very important farmland and forestland that’s very productive here in Oregon outside
of those boundaries. Craig Dirksen:
Every time you find a reason not to build on an acre inside the urban growth boundary,
you are sentencing an acre outside the urban growth boundary to eventual development. So
which thing do you want to preserve? A piece of land inside the UGB that’s probably already
somewhat ecologically degraded anyway, or preserve a piece of pristine land that’s outside
the UGB? Burton Weast:
The traditional ways of financing infrastructure and development is not going to work in the
future, because we have a lot of changes occurring, as we all know. Money’s harder to come by,
markets have changed. So Metro reached out to the business community and said, “Why don’t
you help us?” Robin MacArthur:
Great plans don’t mean anything unless of course we have investment dollars to focus
our investments. We have really evolved in the past couple of years at Metro from a planning
agency to start to think about what kind of investments on the ground do local communities
need to help grow up, to build their downtowns, and their main streets. And so we’re trying
to develop an array of services at Metro under the ‘Making the Greatest Place’ moniker that
describes the technical and financial resources that we might be able to provide at the local
jurisdiction to do that. Male Speaker:
Building on transit lines like this allows people not to have a car. Fred Hansen:
Having transportation options is one of the key elements of making a place livable. The
place that has only a car — the only way to get to a coffee shop, a dry cleaner, a
grocery store — really limits what one gets to be able to do. Male Speaker:
We just come down here all the time. [laughs] Female Speaker: We used to drive, right?
Male Speaker: Yeah, but there’s no place to park. [laughter] Female Speaker:
You used to drive, right? Male Speaker:
Yeah, but there’s no place to park. Fred Hansen:
Here in the Portland region we consider to have a walkable, bike-able, transit-friendly
community is something that is very, very important. It’s really what makes for livability. Marcus Mundy:
Our average incomes here are actually lower than a lot of cities on the West Coast. Part
of ‘Making the Greatest Place’ is to try and explore implementing this principle that the
benefits and burdens of growth and change are shared equitably. Robert Liberty:
Well, they’re trying to make sure that each community is included in every neighborhood. Michael Jordan:
We’re taking the approach that there are 25 cities in three counties, and if they reach
their vision, we’re successful. Marcus Mundy:
For the city to be great they need to be — it needs to be reflective
of the population that is represented there. So as long as planning agencies from Metro
to the U.S. government do that, then I think we’ll be in good shape. Robin MacArthur:
It’s really about community. It’s not just Portland. I mean we — the conditions are
ripe here. We’re very excited because there’s a long history of planning, but I think that
folks across the country really want these things. Robert Liberty:
What we do here is far from perfect; we have a lot of work ahead, but I hope it’s inspiring
to other people in communities like ours to try to make a better future for all the citizens.
[music playing]

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