PDC Disbands Lents Citizen Advisory Committee

A few weeks ago, the PDC quietly disbanded the Urban Renewal Advisory Committees –the citizen committees that advise the agency in its urban renewal areas. That includes the Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Advisory Committee, which has guided our 9-neighborhood, $245 million urban renewal area since 1998.

According to the PDC, the URACs are intended “to involve citizens, urban renewal area (URA) stakeholders and/or project partners more directly in planning, program development and decision making.” Agency policy is that the PDC “believes that meaningful, timely, effective public participation is essential to successfully implement PDC policies and projects.”

pdc_2PDC staffer Justin Douglas talked to me about what led up to the change in policy.

“PDC has been undergoing significant downsizing as an agency. We’re just as committed to public participation as we were before –but due to financial constraints, the URAC system just isn’t a sustainable model for us.” He said that due to budget cuts, the five full-time public participation staffers the agency had a few years ago are now down to one.

I also spoke with John Notis, the now-former Chair of the LTCURAC. He told me that the URAC has become ineffectual and that it “just doesn’t do what it used to do, for many reasons.”

Former Foster-Powell Chair Tracy Gratto has represented Fo-po on the URAC for the last three years. She agreed that the PDC has rendered URAC participation a largely meaningless exercise. “They haven’t asked us to make a decision in months,” she says.

I asked Tracy how she was notified of the change in policy, and she said that due to a recent illness she was unable to attend the June URAC meeting. Although she had an inkling that a change in PDC’s policy on public participation was being discussed, she had no idea such a drastic change was imminent. (more…)

Foster Streetscape Diary #4: The Amazing Migrating Project

It may be getting colder outside, but discussions of the future of Foster Road are heating up. Tomorrow (Thursday), the Citizen Advisory Committee will meet for the fourth time, 6 to 8 pm at SE Works, 7916 SE Foster. Foster United will post audio from the meeting here for those unable to attend.

The Amazing Migrating Project

Among the most discouraging recent developments is the complete abandonment of Foster Road from 50th to 52nd Avenues.

While looking at street profiles last time, PBOT Project Manager Mauricio Leclerc told the committee that the first two blocks “need a lot of capacity” and that “it’s going to be very hard to do much” because of the current 5-lane cross section. He also said that there wouldn’t be a need to extend the bikeway to 50th, since neither 50th nor Powell have bike routes currently.

Foster at Night (more…)

The Success of Neighborhood Branding on Foster; Challenges Still Exist

Many Foster-area neighborhoods have boosted their identities through branding and the use of logos.  But what about Foster Road as a whole?

Branding is, no doubt, a key component to a thriving commercial district.  A recent article by Neighborhood Notes, part of a series on changing perceptions of your neighborhood and/or business district, discusses how neighborhood groups can go about launching their brand while also engaging the community and creating identity.

In past articles, the series has covered how to address negative perceptions of your neighborhood, as well as ways to overcome and change those perceptions through branding.  As we’ve seen in the Lents Town Center, logos can go a long way in creating a brand, and the LTC logo has a strong ability to connect a visual cue to the area it represents.  Other neighborhoods along Foster have had varying degrees of success with their branding, while others continue to strive for a stronger identity.

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Foster Streetscape Diary #1

foster-pedestrians-and-bikes-6

This is the first of a series of “Streetscape Diaries” that we hope will bring more people into the process of implementing the Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan.

The streetscape plan is a comprehensive strategy for Foster Road from 50th to 90th Avenues. Street safety, lighting, biking, walking, and beautification are all covered. Although the plan was completed and approved by the City Council in 2003, it has taken the hard work of many neighborhood activists to move the plan toward implementation.

Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.
– Louis Brandeis

One of the things that led us to create Foster United was a desire to spread useful information to interested Fosterites. As Nick Falbo’s recent post demonstrates, understanding the processes that impact our area is not always easy, but we think that by sharing what we know, and encouraging our readers to do the same, we’ll all be better equipped to make positive change.

Foster United wants to crack open the secrecy that can sometimes surround public processes in Portland. As Justice Brandeis recognized almost a hundred years ago, for democracy to work, the public needs to know what the government is doing. Often, here on Foster Road, that knowledge has been sorely lacking.

A case in point: Over the last couple of weeks, rumors have been circulating about a new committee that the City’s Bureau of Transportation is assembling. As the group that will recommend a new Streetscape plan to the City Council, this committee will exert a powerful influence over what becomes of our street.

Sadly, no direct appeal for members has been issued to the community.

I recently discussed this issue with Tracy Gratto, former Chair of the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association and member of the original committee that drafted the now-discarded 2003 plan. No one in this area has been more active in advocating for the plan’s implementation over the last 10 years than Tracy.

She told me that not only had she not been approached about the committee, but that she and the rest of the Fo-po board had explicitly requested to be involved in the new plan. She also said that she signed up for the project mailing list at the PDC Open House in June but has heard nothing since.

After having a similar experience myself, I inquired directly to the City’s Project Manager Mauricio Leclerc and was told that I would not be considered for membership because of the “fairly large number of people already signed up.” Leclerc didn’t give any details about when and where these applicants signed up for the committee or why some citizens were given the opportunity and others not.

The City’s approach to membership on this committee is baffling to say the least.

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Three Years Later, Dougy Center Rebuilds; Arson Fire Remains Unsolved

Just over three years ago, a dramatic multi-alarm fire lit up the evening sky near Foster Road. Within hours, the home of a nationally-respected nonprofit was in ruins.

The former Dougy Center building in 2009

The historic Dougy Center building in 2009, prior to the fire in which it burned to the ground.

The Dougy Center, a groundbreaking organization that helps support grieving families, has gone through a grieving process of its own. Even as the arsonist remains at large, area residents have seen a buzz of activity around the site as the Center rebuilds. (more…)