Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A planned process of transformation


Through completing the pre-departure report for this subject it became apparent that Portland’s planning success is not a recent phenomenon but a planned process of transformation that began with a conscious choice to place planning in the social realm above the economic and political debate. A combination of visionary leadership, innovative and enforceable urban plans and policies, systematic citizen involvement and an appreciation for comprehensive decision making resulted in Portland becoming the exception to the apparent failures of other American cities.

A large proportion of this can be attributed to the ethos of participation and community involvement developed through the good governance structures in place. Throughout our visit to the ‘capital of good planning’ many of our presenters emphasised similar objectives and shared a wide consensus on a range of key issues related to improving all modes of transport, sustainability targets, the importance of community participation and investment in local businesses. They also consistently emphasised the relationship between the design and implementation of effective policy and the central community role in this process. Prior to any major or minor changes within the city, there is an extensive community consultation process. This is recognised by many decision makers within organisations such as TriMet and the City of Portland as a non-negotiable, as any change has the ability to affect the connectivity, interactions and liveability of the public space. TriMet’s Robert Hastings asserted that it is fundamentally a ‘new normal’.

City Hall in Downtown Portland

This governance system ultimately has implications for the region beyond Portland. The maintenance of the urban growth boundary despite constant challenges, the commitment to recent transport initiatives (such as the extension of the MAX Light Rail system) and the transparency of the monitoring and evaluation of sustainability initiatives have the capacity to improve the city as well as its broader context. 

Lauren Peek