Major Development Coming to NW Lents

NAYA-site-PlanA major new development is coming to Lents, and the neighborhood association wants you to learn more about it.

Tucked into a sleepy corner of NW Lents is the shuttered Foster Elementary School (EDIT: the school site is at SE 86th & Steele). The school has been sitting vacant for years (last used as a public school in 1982, and occupied periodically since then), but it’s about to get a big dose of energy in the form of new complex of housing, education, and services provided by the Native American Youth Family Center (NAYA).


FABA Calls for Prompt Action on Foster Streetscape



Letters advocating support for, and an expedient approval of, the Foster Streetscape are on their way to City Hall. Members of the Foster Area Business Association (FABA) as well as concerned community members signed off on 22 letters which are en route to Portland City Commissioners and Mayor Charlie Hales following FABA’s April 8 board meeting.


Portland’s Dirty Little Secret by Jacob Sherman

 portlands-air-is-toxicPhoto courtesy of Neighbors for Clean Air

Given how "environmentally-friendly" and "green" our city is reputed to be, you might find it hard to believe that Portland has a serious air quality problem -- but it's true. In August 2013, a national study named Precision Castparts Corporation (PCC) as the nation's #1 toxic polluter due to the quantity of the company's emissions, the toxicity of the pollutants, and the proximity of these emissions to the people in neighborhoods around them; neighborhoods like those in SE Portland. From cobalt to nickel and chromium to manganese, the company emits a toxic soup of carcinogens and neurotoxins. As a result of industrial pollution and that the fact that Oregon is becoming a dumping ground for dirty diesel engines that are now outlawed in California and Washington, many of our local schools have some of the most dangerous outdoor air quality in the entire nation.

According to USA Today's special report on "The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America's Schools," many of Portland's schools suffer from extremely unhealthy air quality. For example:

  • Ardenwald ES - Worst 3 percentile in the nation (only 2,858 of 127,809 schools have   worse air)
  • Duniway ES - Worst 3rd percentile (only 3,021 schools have worse air)
  • Lane MS - Worst 9th percentile (only 11,015 schools have worse air)
  • Holy Family - Worst 10th percentile (only 11,687 schools have worse air)
  • Lewis ES - Worst 11th percentile (only 12,790 schools have worse air)
  • Whitman ES - Worst 13th percentile (only 15,191 schools have worse air)
  • Woodstock ES - Worst 13th percentile (only 15,776 schools have worse air)
  • Arleta ES - Worst 13th percentile (only 16,065 schools have worse air)
  • Creston ES - Worst 14th percentile (only 16,518 schools have worse air)
  • Marysville ES - Worst 17th percentile (only 20,618 schools have worse air)
  • Lents ES - Worst 22nd percentile (only 27, 631 schools have worse air)

Many people find these statistic very concerning, particularly when you realize that these schools act as indicators for the air quality in the neighborhoods around them. These rankings are our canaries in the coal mine. Importantly, we are not talking about local air pollution as if it impacts abstract polar bears in the artic. Industrial pollution and dirty diesel emissions are negatively impacting the health of our children and our communities.

ctmap7sm5-1024x590Copyright 2010 by Cascadia Times

Take diesel for example. As clean air advocate, Mary Peveto, explains, "Diesel is particularly problematic because its ultra-fine particles can travel deep into the lungs and can even pass from the lungs into the bloodstream. Long-term exposure to diesel emissions is linked to both lung and bladder cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of diesel pollution because their lungs are still developing and they breathe, on average, 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than do adults." This is made even more urgent by a 2013 study in which researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health
found that diesel particulates in the air significantly increased the risk of having a child with autism. Oregon already has the second-highest rate of autism among students in the country, with its average double the national.

Three things that you can do

Number 1: Learn more about Oregon's toxic air and how everyday citizens can help clean it up. The local air-quality advocacy group Neighbors for Clean Air (NCA) has put together useful resources to learn about the Clean Air Act
and other enforcement strategies, and USA Today's Smokestack Effect report offers specific information about air pollution at local schools. Also, don't forget to sign-up for NCA's monthly newsletter to stay updated about local issues and to find out about meetings with experts or industry representatives, legislative advocacy trainings, or how to organize the community.

Benjamin Brink/The Oregonian

Number Two: After learning more about our air quality problems, take action. You can sign this petition
urging Governor Kitzhaber to stop Oregon from being the dumping ground of dirty diesel engines, and then ask a friend to sign it too. You can also talk with your neighbors about "Portland's dirty little secret," and ask your local neighborhood association or parent-teacher association to encourage elected officials to address the issue. You can write your state representative and tell them about your concerns and why clean air matters to you and your family. (If you don't know who your state representative is, click here to find out.)

Number Three: Join the other everyday citizens who are working together to make a difference. In fact, you can join the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association from 6:30-8pm on Thursday, April 10th, 2014, to meet with representatives from Precision Castparts Corporation, which is hosting an open-house at the Brentwood-Darlington Community Center (7211 SE 62nd Ave, Portland, OR 97206). Citizens are invited to ask the company questions, and talk about things that the community cares about. (Like the fact that Portland is the home to nation's #1 polluter!)

Actually, there is a fourth thing to do: Please remember that it takes time to build a community garden or to change the law, and that it only it happens when dedicated people rally around a cause. For example, our neighborhood recently finished building a new community garden at Errol Heights Park, but it took a little over two years of time, patience, and perseverance. In a very real way, the Clean Air Act became law because of the grassroots advocacy and hard work that happened all around the country before, during, and after the original Earth Day in 1970. When everyday people band together, we can successfully advocate for traffic improvements and to help the Belmont Goats relocate to Outer SE or to build a new grange at Zenger Farms. But none of this is very surprising. After all, as the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead once remarked, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."


That said, I hope you will do #1 and #2, and I look forward to seeing you at #3 and talking with you more about #4.

Jacob Sherman is the current chairman of the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association, where, amongst other things, he has helped create a community garden, successfully advocated for the installation of traffic calming measures, and increased community-engagement. A fifth generation Portlander, Jacob enjoys backpacking, gardening, running, and playing board games with his wife, son, and (soon to be) newborn baby... alright, the baby doesn't play board games. Not yet, anyway!


Finally, the Plan is Here.


The Draft Foster Streetscape Plan is here, and while it’s not perfect, it is a strong, imaginative vision of a new street. Here's our unofficial list of what the plan means to you:

Safety for drivers will increase dramatically


The danger of Foster Road today cannot be understated. Every 4 days, there is a car crash on Foster Road. Almost every year, someone dies. The plan's 3-lane arterial street design will decrease crashes by at least 19%. Curb extensions at awkwardly angled intersections will improve the safety of turns onto and off of Foster.

Crossing the street will be safer and easier, everywhere


Every marked crossing of Foster will be enhanced either with a signal or a flashing crossing sign. Additional marked crossings will give a safe place to cross every 5 blocks.Even at the legal unmarked crosswalks on every corner, the 3-lane arterial design gives people a safer, simpler crossing at every point along the street.

Neighbors will flock to Foster by bike


Today, our neighbors take the meandering side streets when traveling through the neighborhood by bike. But no longer. Expect to see a dramatic increase in people riding bikes directly on Foster. The wide bike lanes will be super comfy on your way to dinner, drinks or shopping.

Foster will start to look and feel like a Main Street


Pedestrian lighting, street trees, and bike parking will bring comfort to those walking, eating, and enjoying the street life of Foster Road. Extra separation from moving cars will make having coffee outside that much more pleasant.

Foster's sidewalks east of 82nd will no longer be embarrassing


Seriously, have you tried walking on the barely-5-foot "sidewalks" that line Foster east of 82nd? There's no room for trees, no room for people in wheelchairs, and if you really want to appreciate life, walk on the north side when a large truck comes rumbling by just inches from your body.

The new plan corrects an oversight in the original 2003 version by building standard sidewalks on a stretch of the street that desperately needs them.

Ok, ok, sounds good, but what about the bad?

Much has been made about a major, unacceptable traffic congestion problem due to the changes, but according to the engineers, that’s not really going to happen. Here’s the predicted impacts to people driving:

For part of the day, people driving will go slower

Most of the time, travel along Foster will go just as fast as it is today. During the peak travel time in the morning and evening, it will take a little longer to travel Foster in a car. Up to 3 minutes longer per trip. 

For part of the day, Holgate Blvd in Foster-Powell will see extra traffic

In the peak hour, Holgate between Foster and 82nd is expected to see an extra 250 cars. These extra cars are estimated to be originating in the neighborhood. This means the drivers are people that live nearby, rather than cut-through traffic.

Where do we go from here?

The advisory committee will meet one more time to comment on the draft plan, and public comment is always welcome at the end of the committee meetings. Alternatively, email your thoughts to PBOT Planner Mauricio Leclerc.

Advisory Committee:  Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 from 6-8pm at SE Works (79th & Foster)

Assuming all goes smoothly at the committee, PBOT will bring the final plan to City Council for approval. This date is not set, but as soon as we know we'll spread the word.

The Foster District – Back on the Map

The City of Portland is updating their Comprehensive Plan to manage and direct growth over the next 20 years. This plan sits at the top of the zoning, transportation and housing related regulations that control the shape of the future - so when the City asked the city to chime in, the Foster neighborhoods were up to the challenge.

One of the immediate concerns we noticed? Foster was not identified as a "Neighborhood Center." This designation was important, as it supports increased residential density, and is the basis for future development related decisions. The good news, we're back on the map as the "Heart of Foster":


But what about the name?

The "Heart of Foster" is a term coined in the original 2003 Foster Streetscape Plan to refer to the stretch of Foster from Holgate to 69th. This part of Foster has the most remaining streetcar era structures, and is one of the more active parts of the street. But should it be called the "heart"?  

Jeff Lynot at reported on a brief discussion at a Foster Green Steering Committee meeting, where some people were put off by the name for potentially prioritizing one area of Foster over another. It wasn't a big deal back then, as it was just one decade old plan that made the reference, but to have the name etched into the Comprehensive Plan? That's a big deal. It may be time to have a discussion about what to call our now official Neighborhood Center.

On a related note, the new 2012 draft of the Foster Streetscape Plan continues to use the Heart of Foster name. If you hope to see a different term, you'll need to act fast.

We're loud, and they're paying attention

heat map

As this heat map shows, The Foster area received a large number of comments, presumably from the great engaged community we have out here. Thank you to everyone who took the time to make your voice heard.

What do you think about the "Heart of Foster" name? Are you glad we're now a part of the plan as a formal Neighborhood Center? Add your comments and discussion below.

Summit Recap – Innovative Appoaches to Housing for All

By way of follow-up to February 15th's Foster Summit event, we're running summaries of topics and ideas from the Summit breakout sessions. We will publish these, along with the 'butcher paper' notes in the weeks to come.

Were you were there? What did we miss? Even if you couldn't attend the event, we hope you'll share your take on these important community issues.

* * *

fostersummit_332We had a diverse and great group for the Foster Summit breakout session on housing.

Portland's hot real estate market of a few years ago gave way to a real estate crash in 2009, which is now being followed by a comeback of sorts. If these tribulations have buffeted the middle class, they've been devastating to low income Portlanders --many of whom are not Portlanders anymore.

Much of the housing discussion at the Foster Summit focused on ideas for how we, at the neighborhood level, could try to stem the negative impacts of these changes.


Franklin High School Renovation Raises Controversy

benjiSaturday morning more than 100 staff, teachers, students and community members took part in what was billed as a "Schematic Design Workshop" for the new Franklin High School. Franklin is undergoing a "full modernization" as a result of the $482 million school facilities bond measure approved by voters in 2012.

As it turned out, however, the event was less a workshop than a town hall in which dozens of attendees voiced complaints about the allocation of classroom space under the new design.

At issue was the proposed design's reliance on shared, flexible classroom space, rather than on dedicated classrooms assigned to specific teachers.

In sometimes emotional comments, teachers and students talked about the impacts of moving teachers and teaching materials from room to room, moving desks, and removing materials from walls and blackboards each period, which teachers said would impact instructional time and their ability to build relationships with their students. (more…)

Summit Recap – Building Opportunity in Southeast: Foster’s Small Business Roundtable

By way of follow-up to February 15th's Foster Summit event, we've asked a couple of the attendees to share a summary of topics and ideas from the breakout session they attended. We will publish these, along with the 'butcher paper' notes in the weeks to come.

Mandy Isaacs did all of us a solid by stepping in at the last minute to lead our small business roundtable --thanks again Mands! She's also one of the organizers of Foster Small Business, where she's been helping to launch the Foster Street Card.

Were you were there? What did Mandy miss? Even if you couldn't attend the event, we hope you'll share your take on these important community issues.

* * *


No time was wasted in the small business roundtable at the Foster Summit. Participants came with questions, ideas and announcements ready to go!

We had a great discussion on connecting with property owners of vacant storefronts and rundown buildings. In hopes of encouraging improvements that would appeal to potential new businesses, we could enlighten owners about existing incentives. There was also mention of creating new incentives that are appropriate for our business community.

It's understood that improvements can be costly and time consuming. Connecting building owners to available grants or PDC funding programs for storefront improvements and treescaping could ease this process. There is also a possible opportunity here for the community to form a volunteer labor crew to assist in completing these projects.