Indicators: Library Usage

Source: Institute of Museum and Library Science, Oregon Library Support and Development, Washington State Library

Public libraries provide free access to information to all community members regardless of race, ethnicity, income, disability, and age, and are a source of arts and culture for children and adults. A strong and well-utilized public library system is essential for developing an informed population. The books, lectures, and computers provided by libraries provide all populations with a means of continuing their education outside of educational institutions.

The latest library usage data available shows that in 2016, residents in Multnomah County borrowed on average twenty-five materials from libraries that year. While Multnomah County library users borrow more compared to state and national trends, this marks a decline from previous years. Multnomah County still remains one of the most active counties in the country with the nation’s second highest circulation rate.((Institute of Museum and Library Science, 2017.)) Library circulation is up in Clackamas, Washington, and Yamhill Counties and holding steady in Columbia County, Oregon, and Washington while Clark and Skamania counties experienced a slight decline.

Today, libraries are being used in very different ways from in the past. More users are coming to libraries to use technological services (like Wi-Fi) rather than to borrow hard copy or print materials. Program attendance at libraries is also increasing. In short, libraries are staying busy, but just in different ways.




An Emerging Contradiction: Non-Farm Activity within Exclusive Farm Use Zones

 

Oregon’s land use policy plan has been lauded nationally as one of the most successful conservation strategies for agricultural and forest lands.((Kline, “Forest and Farmland Conservation Effects of Oregon’s (USA) Land-Use Planning Program”; Nelson, “Preserving Prime Farmland in the Face of Urbanization”; Tulloch et al., “Integrating GIS into Farmland Preservation Policy and Decision Making.”)) Urban growth boundaries (UGB), which limit urban development within the UGB area, are a key component of this statewide land use system to mitigate sprawl. In combination with UGBs, exclusive farm use (EFU) zones facilitate and protect farm production by restricting development that may potentially conflict with agricultural practices and offering tax incentives for farming. However, this restriction is not absolute, as a variety of non-farm-related uses and dwellings are legally allowed within EFU zones. The allowed non-farm activities are diverse, and delineating their impact on farm operations has been difficult due to the lack of data to measure these phenomena. In this edition of the Atlas, we mapped the locations of non-farm permits collected and maintained by the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), from 1993 to 2015 in the northern Willamette Valley. We hope this work will contribute to a dialogue among various actors and researchers interested in the growth management of Oregon.

BACKGROUND AND SIGNIFICANCE

While Oregon’s Statewide Planning Goal 3 explicitly states “agricultural lands shall be preserved and maintained for farm use,” it also allows counties to “authorize farm uses and nonfarm uses defined by commission rule that will not have significant adverse effects on accepted farm or forest practices.”((DLCD, “Goal 3: Agricultural Lands.”)) It seems contradictory that non-farm activities are permitted to function within EFU zones, but there are a variety of reasons for their existence. Some non-farm operations, including processing plants, storage facilities, agri-tourist events, and other accessory uses, sustain the agglomerative properties of the local agriculture industry and serve as complementary, if not essential, elements to farming practices.((Lynch, Economics and Contemporary Land Use Policy; Lynch and Carpenter, “Is There Evidence of a Critical Mass in the Mid-Atlantic Agriculture Sector between 1949 and 1997?”; Nelson, “Preserving Prime Farmland in the Face of Urbanization.”)) Another reason is that some activities, such as solar farms and wind turbines, require open space and thus, contend with farming demand for EFU lands.((DLCD, “2014-2015 Oregon Farm & Forest Report.”)) Lastly, it’s worth noting that not all land within EFU zones are conducive to farming because of soil quality or gradient. Ideally, non-farm uses and dwellings are relegated to non-productive farmlands as long as they don’t conflict with nearby farms.((DLCD.)) However since the creation of the first EFU zone in 1963, the number of allowed non-farm uses has increased from six to over fifty uses today.((DLCD.)) The gradual addition of uses over the decades has been a political process and a compromise with farmers and landowners, who want to increase the economic return of their land. Nonetheless, there is concern that the growing number of non-farm uses and dwellings may eventually undermine the critical mass of agricultural land, or the minimum inventory of land needed for farming to remain sustainable. Isolated operations may have little to no impact on farming practices individually, but concerns focus on the cumulative impacts of these activities.

Farm operations require open space to function because some farm activities (e.g. late and early work hours, farm machines on streets, animal noises and smells, and weed and pest management) may conflict with the day-to-day activities of neighboring, non-farm businesses and residents. Conversely, in addition to converting farmland to other uses, nearby dwellings and non-farm operations can produce traffic, pollution, and complaints of their own that negatively impact the longevity and production of nearby farms.

While these processes have been discussed at length by researchers and farm advocates, we know relatively little about how they function on the ground. Questions surrounding the extent of these operations, their locations, and their overall impact on farming practices have not been thoroughly addressed. By analyzing the spatial distribution at a local scale, this work takes an important step towards deepening our understanding of the cumulative impacts of non-farm development. Using administrative data maintained by DLCD, we’ve geocoded permits for dwellings and uses from 1993 to 2015 in the northern Willamette Valley, Oregon’s agricultural heartland. An important note is that the permit data in their current form do not capture the entire history of non-farm development in the region, as illegal operations and structures are not recorded. By their nature, these permits can only inform us of approved development at specific points in time, not what is currently operational. Furthermore, we are not arguing that these phenomena produce a net negative or positive impact on farming practices, nor is it the intent of these maps to illustrate such. The purpose is to highlight the presence of these activities, identify broad areas where they have clustered, and generate questions for future research and practices.

CLICK FOR FULL-SCREEN MAP

USES

Permitted activities vary from county to county and are not codified in a standardized method, making it difficult to measure and track. Therefore, we recoded and geocoded 622 cases into four broad categories: accessory use, utility and communication facility, other use, and agritourism and events, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Accessory uses represent activities that complement or are necessary for farming production and made up roughly 16 percent, or 97 cases, of permitted uses. Utility and communication facilities include wind turbines, power plants, and cell towers, making up roughly 20 percent, or 126 cases, of permitted uses. We’ve isolated these activities from “other uses” because they are generally public amenities that require open space to operate, opposed to private commercial activities. Other uses was the broadest category including private parks, home businesses, personal airports, and many other activities not related to farming. A plurality of permits fell under other uses and made up roughly 39 percent, or 242 cases, of permitted uses. A large number of these cases clustered outside the city of Woodburn (Figure 4).

Finally, agri-tourism and events represent farm stands, viticulture operations, bed and breakfast establishments, and wedding venues. We chose to isolate agri-tourism because of its unclear relationship to farming. While agri-tourism may help individual operations, there is not a consensus on its impact on farming practices as a whole. On the one hand, agri-tourism, such as u-pick stations, farm stands, and wine tasting stations, produces supplementary income streams for farm operations.((DLCD; Haugen and Vik, “Farmers as Entrepreneurs”;
Searle, “A Comprehensive Valuation of Agricultural Lands: A Perpetual Investment in Oregon’s Economy and Environment.”)) On the other hand, it can also create residential traffic and development that can negatively affect other farm operations that have not adopted these practices. By codifying these cases into a different category, we hope to highlight areas where these events are occurring. Agri-tourism made up 25 percent, or 157 cases, of permitted uses with a large majority concentrating in Yamhill County near Dundee (Figure 3).

DWELLINGS

In 1993, the Oregon legislature permitted non-farm dwellings to be built on less productive land within EFU zones.((DLCD, “2014-2015 Oregon Farm & Forest Report.”)) Permitted dwellings fall into seven categories, some defined more clearly than others:

  • Accessory farm dwellings: Residences for farm workers not related to the operator.
  • Dwelling replacements: Residences that replace dwellings that have been removed. It is not clear what type of residence is removed and what is being built.
  • Lot of record: Residences that can be built under the condition that the land has been under the same ownership prior to 1985.
  • Non-farm dwellings: Residences, unrelated to farming, which are approved on less agriculturally productive lands.
  • Primary dwelling: Residences for farm operators. 
  • Relative farm assistance: Residences for the operators’ relatives who will work on the farm. However, there is no requirement that a relative occupy the residence or that the residence be used for farm-related purposes once built.
  • Temporary hardship: Residences constructed concurrently with a primary dwelling for a family member enduring a medical hardship. The state does not track the removal of these temporary dwellings.

With the exception of accessory farm and primary farm dwellings, which make up 300 out of the 2,400 dwelling permits (13%), most of the dwellings are either unrelated to farming or are not explicitly farm related, with a large concentration located near the Yamhill and Washington County border (Figure 6). Our binary classification is deliberate, and highlights a broader issue that the official dwelling types in their current form don’t tell us enough about the nature of development within Oregon’s agricultural lands. 

SUMMARY & CONCLUSION

With permit data as our main source to spatially track these phenomena, the information we’ve presented is only a glimpse of non-farm development that has occurred in the northern Willamette Valley. It is likely that the maps we have presented are the most conservative scenario of non-farm development, since they only include permitted uses within a certain time frame. One take-away from our research is that we need more tools and better data to track the extent and spatial distribution of non-farm uses and to evaluate their cumulative impacts. Better-detailed data with standardized classifications for non-farm development is necessary for better monitoring and evaluation. Site visits would also help us understand more about the varying impacts of different uses. We are hopeful that this work will contribute to a more informed dialogue about the cumulative impact of non-farm uses.

Figure 3. Dundee area use cases
Figure 4. Woodburn area use cases
Figure 6. Dwelling cases along the Washington-Yamhill County boundary
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Nick Chun earned a Master of Urban Studies degree at Portland State University, where he serves as Forecast Program Manager for PSU’s Population Research Center.




Greetings from the Publisher, Winter 2018

What is your favorite tree? Mine is a big sprawling elm, like those that lined my street in my home town just outside Chicago. I use the past tense because Dutch Elm Disease killed all of those trees and left many of those streets without shade. This was a blow to the quality of life in our town, and illustrates the importance of urban forest management.

If you live in an urban environment, you might not think very much about forest management. But in our lead article, Sachi Arakawa describes why urban forestry management is so important to our quality of life and how the cities and towns in the Portland region manage their urban forests. Her maps show stark differences in tree canopy throughout our region, raising questions about equity and resilience to climate change.

In our Landscape, we visit the Cully neighborhood—one of the most diverse neighborhoods in our region, with over 51% people of color. The people who call Cully home are working hard with a coalition of nonprofits to improve the neighborhood and build social capital. Although they are facing gentrification pressures and the stress of rising rents, they are taking steps to keep the neighborhood affordable for its diverse and lower income communities.

Oregon’s land use planning system is known nationwide for its effectiveness in protecting farmland for development. But the story of how we use our farmland is a little more nuanced. In the Atlas, Nick Chun provides maps and data from a study of the nonagricultural uses of land designated exclusive farm use and discusses the relevant policy issues.

Portland State University has recently experienced a change of leadership. Dr. Rahmat Shoureshi was named president by PSU’s Board of Regents and began work on August 1, 2017. Our interview with President Shoureshi gives you an opportunity to get to know him and provides insights into his vision for the university’s future.

Population growth in our region puts pressure on its infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and schools. This issue’s back anchor explains the process that school districts use to keep up with shifting school enrollments that cause schools to be over or under enrolled. These processes—such as changes in attendance areas—can be very controversial. Meeting the goals of enrollment balancing while reducing conflicts with parents can be incredibly difficult. In “The Balancing Act,” Madison Levy and I discuss the policy issues and explore some ideas for reducing conflict.

We hope you enjoy our first issue of 2018. As you read through the articles, share your thoughts with us. Feel free to comment at ims@pdx.edu, or discuss your observations about the articles on our Facebook page.

Sheila Martin

Director, Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies




The Balancing Act: A Look at Dynamic School District Boundaries

 

How do school districts throughout the Portland region respond to changes in student populations that cause overcrowding or under enrollment? In this article, we explore some of the key trends in school enrollment, describe the challenges faced by some of the districts in the region, and describe how different districts address those challenges.

1. Introduction: Why do districts need to adjust boundaries?
Mary Peveto, a parent of a child at Chapman elementary school in northwest Portland, took the microphone at a community meeting at West Sylvan Middle School on November 16, 2015. “Last year, my daughter was one of 48 children who were placed in a basement room with two teachers.” Citing disruptions and chaos, she expressed disappointment that the district’s proposed changes to the Chapman boundary would, in her opinion, do very little to reduce the overcrowding at the school.

Meanwhile, in Northeast Portland, parents of children at Scott Elementary School are bemoaning the lack of programs for the middle-school-aged students. Because Scott is a small K-8 school, there were only 112 students in the sixth through eighth grades last year, the number of electives that can be offered is limited. Nevertheless, the school building, which offers both a Spanish immersion program and a neighborhood program, is overcrowded with too few classrooms to accommodate the number of teachers required by the funding formula. Nicole Iroz Elardo, a Scott School parent, notes that the neighborhood program is limited to one “strand,” or classroom, per grade, which severely limits learning options: “Providing a robust two-class-per-grade program without reducing resources elsewhere, such as music or reading specialists, will require no less than forty-two neighborhood students in each grade from day one of the 2018–19 school year. Portland Public Schools should be aiming for 500 students minimum at Scott School.”

Two years earlier, across the region in Oak Grove, the North Clackamas School Board voted to close Concord Elementary due to costly seismic upgrades. The district’s budget shortfalls and the school’s shrinking enrollment made it difficult to justify the expense. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. “The process that led to closing Concord was very emotional,” says Tiffany Sherman, Chief of Staff of North Clackamas School District, who was Assistant Superintendent for Education at the time. “Everyone has a stake in the outcome, and they know what it will mean for their family.” Moving forward, the district is facing rapid growth on their east side. In 2016, voters passed a bond measure that will allow North Clackamas to build and open a new elementary school and a new high school. Opening and filling these new buildings will require changes to existing boundaries for many of the other schools in the district. According to Sherman, “A district boundary realignment process should ensure strong neighborhood schools that reflect the demographics of the overall community. Every school must provide each student academically rich and consistent opportunities for learning.”

*Select School Districts are included to represent districts with recent boundary changes and a mix of geography and size in the Portland Metro Region.
These examples illustrate several situations that may lead to an enrollment rebalancing effort. Under enrollment can also be a big problem for school districts. A shrinking school population can mean that schools obtain less funding, limiting the programs that can be offered to students. This can lead to a situation that may be considered unfair if some district students have access to classes, programs, and resources that others do not. And a partially empty building represents a waste of the district’s facilities, particularly if there are other schools that are overcrowded.

Districts employ a variety of tools to address over- and under-enrollment situations. Those tools include

● adjusting policies that allow students to transfer to/from a neighborhood school to a different school, either within or outside the district;
● creating or expanding programs that offer alternatives to traditional neighborhood schools (sometimes called choice or magnet schools);
● expanding alternative programs that serve students who meet certain criteria and aren’t well-served in traditional school settings, for example, programs for talented and gifted students;
● changing school attendance areas (also known as school boundaries);
● offering, expanding, or moving programs such as those for special education students or dual-language immersion;
● adding capacity through facilities changes such as building portable classrooms or converting other space to classrooms;
● restructuring delivery of instruction, for example, changing grade configuration, staggering school hours, or sending students to off-site programs for part of the school day; and
● building new schools or closing an existing school.

These tools can be used individually, but are usually used in some combination. For example, as schools become overcrowded or under enrolled, a boundary change might be combined with a change in transfer policy. The need to use these tools arises, in part, due to our tradition of neighborhood schools and using a student’s address to determine what school they will attend. There are alternatives to this method of assigning students, which we will address later, but, first, let’s discuss how schools in the metro area typically deal with the need to balance enrollment.

2. Objectives of enrollment balancing: Right-sized schools and program equity

What is a right-sized school?

The definition of school capacity is fluid. Generally, schools are considered over enrolled if they do not have sufficient capacity to meet the needs of students.

Funding for each school is often determined by the number of students attending, which determines the quantity of teachers, which determines the number of classrooms needed. The calculation is more complex when you consider other factors, like the presence of special needs or English language learners who require extra classrooms, or at least meeting spaces, to accommodate the specialized programs.
Schools can increase their capacity by renting or purchasing portable classrooms or reallocating non-classroom spaces, such as cafeterias and library space, to classrooms. Converting these spaces to classrooms causes other problems, such as multiple lunch periods, cramped library quarters, or a lack of assembly space.

Schools that have too few students also face important challenges. Because money follows students, a school that has too few students will not be able to offer electives and other enrichments that larger schools can fund. Such budget pressures may force a change in the structure of a building, for example, requiring larger classes.

New school or program options might also cause a school to become out of balance. An extremely popular magnet or immersion program might draw students into or out of a school disproportionately. Policies related to transfers, including transfers into the district, can be used to offset some of these shifts by making it more or less difficult to attend a school other than the neighborhood school.

The way in which buildings are used can also change the student capacity of a facility. For example, a shift to a more science- or arts-based curriculum might require more lab or performance spaces, thereby squeezing classrooms.

Changes in staffing ratios can also change the capacity of a facility. Washington State’s Class Size Reduction Measure, Initiative 1351, requires reducing class sizes, especially in the lower grades. Efforts to reduce class sizes require more classrooms.

School Facilities Planning

To stay ahead of enrollment changes, schools typically forecast school enrollment by school attendance area, taking into account factors such as the birth rates, in and out-migration, and expected new housing developments in the area. The Population Research Center at Portland State University works with many school districts to perform these forecasts.

School enrollment forecasts help school districts anticipate the need for new capacity (or excess capacity), but that doesn’t mean that adapting schools to meet that need is easy. According to Judy Brennan, Director of Enrollment Planning for Portland Public Schools, adjustments are made every year to accommodate small changes in enrollment. Many of these changes are not even noticed by the students or their parents, like a small facility or program change.
But when rapid growth or decline or big shifts in program preference occur, schools may become sufficiently out of balance to require larger and more difficult changes. And according to all the officials we interviewed, changing boundaries, closing schools, and building new schools are incredibly challenging in their own ways.

Changing School Boundaries

Boundary realignment processes are usually based upon a set of board policies that govern the rules for determining what children attend which schools. Some school boards also adopt goals for boundary changes at the start of a process. Then they will often convey those goals to an advisory committee and allow that committee to work with school district staff to develop recommendations for the superintendent or directly for the board. Finally, the board will consider the recommendation and either make its own changes to the recommendations or adopt them as proposed.
As school officials change school boundaries, they often employ many of the other available enrollment balancing tools to make the numbers work. For example, a school board might change their transfer policies or they might change the feeder patterns that determine which elementary schools feed into middle and high schools.

Despite their efforts to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders, school leaders rarely complete a boundary change process without a great deal of contention. “Boundary adjustment processes are acutely painful,” says Robert McCracken, Facilities Planning Coordinator of the Beaverton School District. “There is a great deal of disruption, and parents believe that they have a right to attend the school that their address was assigned to when they moved into their house.” In response to these complaints, districts often allow grandfathering of existing school assignments for students who would otherwise be reassigned. This means the boundary changes don’t have a very big impact until the grandfathered students graduate.

Building New Schools

Changing boundaries can only do so much to address overcrowding. With the steep rise in school enrollment for many districts, the only solution is to build new schools. And often, the barriers to building new schools can be daunting. The most difficult barrier, of course, is finding the money.
In Oregon and Washington, local school districts largely fund school construction and renovation with local, voter-approved bonds. In addition, school districts may impose a construction excise tax on construction projects that result in a new structure or additional square footage in an existing structure. In some cases, the state provides a small amount of matching funds through the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program. In Washington, a statewide school construction assistance program (SCAP) provides partial funding for school construction and renovation. Funded from revenues on state forest land, the SCAP will partner with local districts to supplement local bond funding for school construction and renovation.

But passing bonds and obtaining state match can be difficult. While Portland, Vancouver, Camas, Beaverton, North Clackamas, Lake Oswego, and other districts have recently held successful bond measure elections, voters have rejected bond measures in other districts in the region, most recently in Molalla, Corbett, Battle Ground, and Centennial. And some Washington school officials find the state matching fund process limits their ability to plan efficiently when enrollment growth is projected. Doreen McKercher, Camas School District’s Communications Director, and Linda Gellings, Battle Ground School District’s Director of Business and Risk Management, both express frustration with the timing of this process. Because they must demonstrate that schools are already overcrowded, funding can’t help them get ahead of enrollment increases.

3. What if students were assigned to schools based on other factors aside from their address?

When we discuss school boundaries and balancing school enrollment, we are generally talking about neighborhood schools. But there are other systems for determining where students attend school.

Some districts have used a process of individual school assignment to balance enrollment. That is, rather than a student being assigned to a school determined directly by their address, some other set of criteria is used to determine which school a student might attend. These criteria might include distance from the school, school capacity, and the student (and parental) preference.

Portland Public Schools has expressed interest in a version of individual school assignment, called the “Soft Neighborhood Model.” This model, which is still being tested with actual student data, would eschew hard boundaries in favor of a system of student assignment that would take into consideration the capacity of school buildings as well as the distances between students’ homes and schools. Siblings are grouped together; thus families are assigned to one of several nearby schools. The system would prevent the phenomenon of under-enrolled schools next to over-enrolled schools by equalizing enrollment per classroom, per grade, and across schools within the schools’ capacity constraints.

The creators of this model, Brooke Cowan and Matt Marjanović, believe the Soft Neighborhood Model will promote greater equity by breaking the link between a student’s address and their school. They believe the system quells the urge to crowd close to a “good school” driving up rents and property values and gentrifying lower income students out. At the same time, they believe, the Soft Neighborhood model promotes neighborhoods and family connectivity. Neighbors who live close to each other are all going to the same set of schools, rather than being separated by a hard boundary. The idea also promotes stability and consistency because boundaries don’t constantly have to be tweaked each time enrollments are a little different than predicted. Matt notes, “Despite the illusion of stability, hard boundaries create unstable systems. The Soft Neighborhood Model eliminates the boundaries while preserving the desirable traits of traditional neighborhood schools.”

Many details about how the Soft Neighborhood Model might be implemented have yet to be discussed. But the idea is catching on among parents and school leaders who are weary from the political battles of boundary change. Portland Public Schools is working with Dr. Cowan and Dr. Marjanović to provide them the data they need to conduct a full simulation of the effect of the model over several years of implementation.

4. Race, socioeconomics and school boundaries

Some of the tension around our discussion of school boundary changes stems from national and local history of school segregation, desegregation and resegregation. Last year, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that detailed its findings about racial and income segregation in the nation’s schools over time. The GAO found that, nationwide, the number of K-12 public schools with high percentages of poor and Black or Hispanic students (rather than being racially mixed) grew from 9 percent in 2000–2001 to 16 percent in 2013–2014. Also troubling was the difference in student access to courses such as advance math, physics, and advanced placement courses.

While the average number of exploratory courses offered in PPS middle schools is sixteen, many K-8 schools in north and northeast Portland have so few students in the middle grades that they offer many fewer, and those that offer the fewest electives are also schools with high minority populations, such as Lee elementary, with a school population that is 70 percent students of color, and Martin Luther King. Jr., with 88 percent students of color, based on the 2015–2016 report card. PPS has taken steps to provide the resources needed to improve program equity during the interim period prior to the implementation of boundary changes.

But advocates maintain that the middle schools need to open to improve equity. Jason Trombley, co-chair of PPS’s District-wide Boundary Review Advisory Committee (DBRAC), warns that delaying can have adverse lifelong impacts on students of color. “Maintaining low-enrolled K-8 schools located in low-income communities or African American communities limits access to academic programs and electives to our students of color. These programs, such as career and technical education and exploratory courses are the foundational courses they need to succeed in the future, especially in an era where we are working to improve success in college and career.”

Conclusion

“Balancing enrollment is ultimately about student success,” says Pam Kislak, co-chair of DBRAC. “Beyond the number of students attending the school, we also need to consider multiple complicating factors, such as avoiding concentrating poverty.” Our desire to provide all students with quality schools, a comfortable, welcoming environment and strong academic offerings collides with our financial and physical constraints. Director Scott Bailey expresses that, for Portland Public Schools, “balancing enrollment can be challenging even when school districts are on top of their game. In the case of Portland Public Schools, we’re trying to redraw boundaries after decades of neglect, while at the same time addressing equity issues by reconfiguring schools and expanding dual-language immersion programs. Gentrification and increasing housing segregation have not made our task any easier. There are a lot of moving parts, with very limited funding to deal with facilities issues that come up.”

As schools throughout the region continue to struggle with striking the right balance, they will need to pursue innovative solutions while balancing stakeholder interests. The balancing act continues.

Madison Levy hails from the rolling hills of Kentucky, and lives in NE Portland with her wife, three Star Wars LEGO sets, and several house plants. She found her way into planning through a passion for local government, love of data management, and a desire to create equitable public spaces. Madison’s work as a researcher and as a leader in her program has recently been acknowledge by APA, APTA, and WTS.

Sheila Martin is Director of the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies and the Population Research Center at Portland State University. She directs the Institute’s community-oriented research and service activities.




Growing Deeper Roots

 

Almost everyone has a favorite tree. Whether it is the largest, the most beautiful, or just a tree that holds a special memory for you, these arboreal embodiments of history and geography make up a large part of our environment. For many who grew up as city dwellers, a street tree might be their first experience of nature. Neighborhoods and even cities can be defined by their urban forest (or lack of one). The urban forest includes trees along the street, in parks and natural areas, in commercial and industrial areas, and in our own backyards. The urban forest is more than just trees though. It is a complex system that affects and is affected by other plants, wildlife, soils, and the air around our city.((Portland Parks and Recreation, “Portland Urban Forestry Management Plan 2014,” March 2014, i, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/38306?a=184641)) In the Portland Metro area, the way we manage our trees varies widely depending on the size, capacity, and needs of the city. Growing a healthy urban forest takes a village, and as our population grows, local urban forestry programs are looking to the community to help them protect and preserve the trees in our cities. Understanding how our urban tree canopy is managed and the challenges that it faces helps us to ensure Portland’s urban forest infrastructure for current and future generations.

Sidebar: What is Urban Forestry?

Why Do Trees Matter?

The value of trees to a city can hardly be overstated. They provide shade and mitigate urban heat island effect. They promote carbon dioxide exchange, reduce energy use, reduce air pollution, improve water quality, and mitigate stormwater runoff.((University of Washington, Human Dimensions of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, “What is Urban and Community Forestry,” http://www.naturewithin.info/UF/UFdefined.html)) We also know that interactions of humans with trees in urban settings have positive psycho-social benefits.((Andrea Faber Taylor, Angela Wiley, Frances E. Kuo, and William C. Sullivan, “Growing up in the Inner City: Green Spaces as Places to Grow,” Environment and Behavior 30, no. 1 (1998): 3–27.)) The presence of nature and greenspace in cities has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, improve medical recovery, contribute to greater productivity and satisfaction with work, and generally enhance quality of life.((University of Washington, Human Dimensions of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, “What is Urban and Community Forestry,” http://www.naturewithin.info/UF/UFdefined.html)) As Jill Jonnes, author of Urban Forests puts it, walking down a tree-lined street can make one feel as though they are walking below “the most perfect roof in nature, [it is] enough to make one feel civil, even neighbourly.”((Jonnes, Jill. Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape. New York. Penguin Random House, 2017.))

In the Portland Metro region, urban forestry programs vary from city to city. Major cities like Portland and Vancouver have comprehensive programs. Both cities have a designated city forester, an urban forestry plan, and outreach and education programs that host events and trainings for the community. The City of Portland additionally has a staff of arborists dedicated to maintenance, and staff who handle permitting. Cities like Gresham and Lake Oswego do not have the capacity to run a dedicated urban forestry program, but instead they depend on a variety of partners to help manage their trees. These partners can range from volunteer-driven groups like forestry councils and nonprofit organizations, to state or county run programs designed to support conservation efforts. Gresham’s small-capacity forestry program is led by a natural resources planner in the Urban Design and Planning Department. The program has a lean budget and limited resources, so it relies on coordination with other city departments to keep the urban forest healthy and abundant. The city’s Transportation and Park Operation Divisions handle some basic tree removal and replacement in streets and parks, and the Environmental Services Department handles tree installation, riparian restoration, and pest management. Until recently, the City of Gresham had little budget to plant new trees or provide the community with tree education. However, in 2017, Multnomah County, the City of Gresham, and Friends of Trees jointly received a $143,000 three-year Partners in Conservation grant from the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (funded by Oregon’s Department of Natural Resources) for tree planting and forestry education. The grant will help Gresham grow their community forestry program to include education, outreach, and tree plantings. The city and its grant partners plan to hold a Trees and Health Symposium next year, a culmination of the work done with the grant money, showing the planting numbers and demonstrating how trees benefit air quality, public health, and walkability.

Sidebar: The Dollar Value of Trees

Challenges to Building a Healthy Urban Forest

Caring for urban trees comes with its own set of challenges, from combating destructive pathogens and pests to addressing concerns about environmental equity. A healthy urban forest should be diverse in both age and species, abundant, and resilient, but urban trees take a lot of abuse. Many are not planted in an ideal location, while others suffer damage from cars or vandalism. Keeping our city trees healthy is a big job.

Pests

One of the greatest threats to an urban forest is pests and pathogens. Portland has felt the effects of Dutch elm disease for many years, and the city is taking steps to manage and mitigate tree loss. In Europe, the American Midwest, and East Coast, Dutch elm disease and emerald ash borer have decimated urban forests, causing tree loss often in the millions and leaving formerly tree-lined roads without greenery or shade.((City of Portland Parks and Recreation, “Elm Protection Program and Dutch Elm Disease (DED),” https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/ article/424029)) Not only do these pests cause huge tree casualties, but as a result they cost cities millions of dollars to clean up the diseased and dying trees. Cities like Detroit, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis are still paying for the damage these destructive pests have caused. Research by the US Forest service predicts that the cumulative effects of emerald ash borer will cost an estimated $10.7 billion nationally by 2019. This includes the cost of ash tree treatment, removal, and replacement (re-planting of new trees) for an estimated loss of 17 million ash trees.((US Forest Service, “Emerald Ash Borer,” https:// www.nrs.fs.fed.us/disturbance/invasive_species/eab/ effects_impacts/cost_of_infestation/))

We are lucky that the Portland region has not yet seen the large-scale devastation that other US cities have because many of these pests have not yet reached us, but one case of contamination can quickly spread across an entire city with devastating and costly results.

Maintenance

Maintenance is another important component of most urban forestry programs, though it is often overlooked and underfunded. Angie DiSalvo, Outreach and Science Supervisor for Portland’s Urban Forestry Department says, “Tree planting is a very visible, feel-good activity that captures the public’s attention, but it’s just one small part of the big picture. Maintenance doesn’t have that same appeal. Not only will trees that are not maintained have shorter lifespans, but they will cost more in the long run. Like with anything else, a little preventative maintenance goes a long way.” While trees have huge monetary benefits for cities, they can also be costly to maintain and remove if they are not cared for correctly early in their lives. Currently, most cities in the Portland Metro area have a similar approach to street tree maintenance, where the city regulates the trees in public rights-of-way, but the person who owns the property adjacent to a tree is responsible for maintaining the tree.

Required maintenance includes pruning, planting, tree removal, leaf disposal, and sidewalk repair from tree root damage. This means people may find themselves having to pay to prune or remove a tree from the planting strip in front of their house, even though it is in the right-of-way that is owned by the city. In addition, property owners can be held liable for damages caused by the trees.((Davey Resource Group, “City of Portland, Oregon, Initial Assessment of the Costs of Managing Street Trees as a Public Asset,” June 2009, 3, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/514095)) These requirements have caused some confusion and frustration for residents, and can put a burden on low-income residents.

Since they rely on residents to plant and maintain the trees in the rights-of-way adjacent to their property, it is important to urban forestry programs to educate citizens on what types of trees to plant and how to care for them. In cities like Portland, Vancouver, and Gresham, urban forestry programs emphasize the idea of “right tree, right place.” They want to ensure that residents know how to select a tree that is going to fit well in its planting space, will provide them with the maximum environmental benefits, and won’t become a hazard. Many cities have a recommended list of trees to plant, and require that the species chosen is approved by the city through a permitting process. Cities also often have a list of trees that cannot be planted because they are overabundant or considered invasive. In the Portland Metro area, these lists often include trees like black locust, Norway maple, and tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima).

Though there are restrictions, if a resident wants to plant a tree that the city doesn’t necessarily want or that isn’t on the approved planting list, foresters are often willing to work with residents. Most importantly, urban foresters want people to be happy with their tree so they will continue to care for it as it matures.

Sidebar: Dutch Elm Disease

Equity

It has been well established that trees bring many benefits to urban neighborhoods. Besides the environmental, health, and aesthetic benefits, they also have been shown to raise overall property values.((Kaid Benfied, “The Case for More Urban Trees,” CityLab (blog), July 31,2012, https://www.citylab.com/environment/2012/07/casemore-urban-trees/2768/)) However, the way trees and their benefits are distributed across neighborhoods is not always equitable. Recent research has found significant disparity in urban canopy cover, with primarily low income and minority neighborhoods commonly being underserved.((Rachel S. Danford, Chingwen Cheng, Michael W. Strohbach, Robert Ryan, Craig Nicolson, and Paige S. Warren, “What Does It Take to Achieve Equitable Urban Tree Canopy Distribution? A Boston Case Study.,” Cities and the Environment (CATE) 7, issue 1, article 2 (2014).)) This begs the question central to environmental justice: who gets what, when, and why? This question becomes even more important as cities like Portland seek to increase urban canopy cover as part of urban forestry management plans or larger climate change mitigation strategies.

Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and their Urban Forestry Department both have projects focusing on equity and increasing tree canopy in underserved neighborhoods.((City of Portland Environmental Services, “Portland’s Tree Planting: Actions for Equity,” May 25, 2016, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/article/577852)) According to Angie DiSalvo, “one of Portland’s biggest challenges is that our canopy is not equitably distributed. Simply put, higher income areas have more trees and greater capacity to pay for street tree maintenance. This isn’t unique to Portland and there are a lot of reasons why… Portland Parks and Recreation is currently partnering with Portland State University’s Sustaining Urban Places Research Lab to develop a citywide tree planting strategy so that we can improve access to tree canopy for all Portlanders.” DiSalvo says that equitable access to trees has become a big focus recently, especially given that trees provide so many benefits for communities beyond clean air and water. Jessica George of the City of Vancouver’s Urban Forestry Program echoed this sentiment, saying that Vancouver is also seeing a correlation between income level and tree canopy. The city has been trying to focus more tree planting efforts in low-income neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods, they work with residents who can’t afford trees, by partnering with local nonprofit Friends of Trees to provide trees for low or no cost to residents, and, if possible, to help residents with watering when the trees are still young. The City of Gresham suspects inequities in their urban forest as well, and is now mobilizing to address this issue. Tina Osterink, who leads urban forestry planning efforts in Gresham, says that the city is in the early stages of planning a tree inventory in the Rockwood/West Gresham region, a neighborhood that has a high rate of childhood asthma and experiences higher summer temperatures than the rest of the city due to urban heat island effect. Heat Island research raises concerns about public health, especially in this area where many residents commute on foot or by public transit. The city plans to inventory the region’s public trees in an effort to identify areas of limited canopy and high potential for planting. Increasing the tree canopy in this vulnerable area will provide residents with more shade, cleaner air, and a more walkable neighborhood.

Sidebar: Tree Inventories

The Role of Nonprofits in Urban Tree Management

Urban and community forestry has, from the outset, been driven by people who love trees. Having an engaged citizen base of tree stewards builds the capacity of city forestry programs that are often strapped for resources. Partnerships with nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and citizen groups are central to community forestry efforts around the country and in the Portland metro area. These groups can be anything from a formal tree group to a neighborhood association with a team of tree lovers who want to take care of trees in their neighborhood. A nonprofit organization may take on short-term projects that reflect emerging community needs (e.g., youth environmental education, or watershed restoration), or act as a liaison between government agencies that may have similar goals but do not have the administrative structure in place for community programs. Some contract with local government to provide specific services, such as green infrastructure maintenance or neighborhood tree planting, making use of their volunteer recruitment and training capability. These NPOs often are funded by grants from private firms, federal, state, or regional government.((K. L. Wolf, “Introduction to Urban and Community Forestry Programs in the United States,” Landscape Planning and Horticulture 4, no. 3, (Japan 2003) 19–28.)) An example of an NPO start-up in the Portland area that has grown to be a regional partner in urban forestry is Friends of Trees. Friends of Trees was founded in 1989 by a resident tree lover who started doing tree plantings in Portland neighborhoods. They have grown into a large organization that has planted more than 600,000 trees and native plants in more than 120 neighborhoods in six counties across Oregon and Washington.((Friends of Trees, “What We Do,” http://www.friendsoftrees.org/learn/about-our-work))

Urban forestry committees are also important community leaders in tree management. A committee is generally made up of a small group of residents who advise the mayor and city council on local and regional tree-related issues. These volunteer committee members help guide the city in tree policy to develop good management practices to conserve the city’s trees and forests. Members are often experts or practitioners, but can also be amateur tree lovers. Gresham’s Urban Forestry Subcommittee is made up of citizen tree advocates who provide recommendations for city staff on things like tree preservation and tree plans, as well as helping to coordinate Tree City USA activities like Arbor Day. Several of these dedicated volunteer members have served on the subcommittee since the mid-1990s. Portland’s Urban Forestry Commission is composed of eleven volunteers, appointed by the mayor, who “have demonstrated an interest in the preservation of trees and the beautification of Portland.”((City of Portland Parks and Recreation, “Urban Forestry Commission,” https://www-portlandoregon.gov/parks/41487
)) The Forestry Commission reviews development plans for their potential impacts on trees, acts as an appeals board for tree permits, and sponsors Portland’s Heritage Tree Program.

Sidebar: Tree Diversity

The Future Forest

Urban forest managers are constantly seeking to improve our trees’ resilience to threats from climate change, exotic pests and pathogens, and pressures from development and increasing density. They are also increasingly looking to improve equitable access to trees and their many benefits for all metro residents. Growing a healthy urban forest can’t be accomplished by a single city bureau. In the Portland region, there are many organizations and city bureaus who work together to plant, maintain, regulate, and promote trees. Partnerships with nonprofits, schools, and state and county organizations help to build the capacity of our region’s community forestry efforts. Portland Metro residents play an incredibly important role in these efforts, as they care for the trees not just in their yards, but also in the public right-of-way. Whether a city has a large- or small-scale urban forestry program, they rely on residents to help grow and care for a diverse and bountiful urban forest. Everyday people can become champions for trees in their own neighborhoods, spreading the word to friends and neighbors. Our future forest depends on the commitment of the entire community in order to thrive.

Sachi Arakawa is a graduate student in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program. The focus of her studies is environmental planning and community development. Sachi uses her background in Geographic Information Science to understand relationships between humans and their
environment.




Interview with PSU President Dr. Rahmat Shoureshi

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Dr. Morehead: Your career has taken you from Iran to Boston to Colorado, Michigan, and New York. What were your motivations for coming to Portland and PSU at this point in your career?

President Shoureshi: That PSU and Portland are so intertwined is really attractive, because when you’re an urban university that means this city becomes a live lab for your faculty and the students. It provides the opportunity so that the students not only understand the education in the classroom, they also have the ability to experiment locally on some of the issues and topics that they are learning.

The other reason is that, when you talk to people, everybody says this is a great place to move to. When I would ask why, there were basically three words: it’s innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial. I looked at PSU and I looked at what the place has, and it’s a university that has all of the ingredients to be really a model global urban university. And having those ingredients enables you to actually reach that goal. And that’s why, when I looked at those elements, I realized this is a place that I can make a difference and that’s why I decided to come. There are a number of other factors. You know that for three years in a row now it has been selected by US News & World Report as among the top ten most innovative universities.

The other is I have interacted with a number of the board of trustees. And I have seen the commitment and devotion that every member of the board has for this university. So they were another factor. Research is very important. And everywhere I have gone I try to make sure that faculty get more engaged in research and scholarship and creative work, because I truly believe that, in order to enhance the quality of education in the classroom, in the studio, in the lab, and in the exhibits, you’ve got to be up to date with what’s going on in your field. And so, when I see, for example, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions or the transportation centers and see how many faculty are engaged, that is exciting to me. I also believe in cross-disciplinary studies, both in terms of research as well as the educational, and I see a good number of examples of those here at PSU. So, again, I see the alignment between my interest and some of the key elements at PSU.

Dr. Morehead: You talked a little bit about PSU as an urban school. What is your view of PSU’s role in the metropolitan region?

President Shoureshi: I can divide it up into three categories. The first is providing transformational education for the citizens of that urban setting. And I talked in my convocation speech about how transformative is college education in everybody’s life. The demographics you typically see in an urban environment are not typical of what you may see in a small college town. This is where you see the most diverse group, the people who come from the two extremes of financial status. This is where you see the number of minorities. So what that does is provide an opportunity for that urban institution to impact a very diverse group of constituents. So that’s one element: providing education for a diverse group of students, some of whom are nontraditional. I look at this as part of the pride and opportunity for PSU.

The second category is the opportunity that an urban university has to really become partners and collaborate with local government. And we have a good number of examples of how successful this partnership has been. It helps that many of our graduates end up in those government positions. I call it a positive feedback loop that keeps strengthening itself very well.

The third and really very crucial element is the opportunity to build relationships with the business community, because, for those businesses to thrive, they need to have this constant flow of ideas and opportunity or what I call an intellectual pool that the university provides. It’s that urban institution that has the almost fiduciary responsibility to educate the type of students and graduates that have the right skills, and therefore the university will have a huge impact on the socioeconomics of the urban region. And many of the businesses will be dependent on that partnership. So these are the three key elements that I truly believe PSU has demonstrated and will continue playing a leading role in.

Dr. Morehead: PSU’s motto is “let knowledge serve the city.” And certainly that can mean the education of the population. What does that mean to you beyond that?

President Shoureshi: It means serving the city in terms of education and also bringing economic opportunity to the region.

Let me give you some examples. When I was at Wayne State back in 1981, the automotive industry was just at the beginning of bringing electronics and micro-control systems into vehicles. Ford Motor Company came to us and said that our engineers graduated when there were hardly any computers and we needed to reeducate them. We don’t want to lose them, at the same time we want to make sure they are more productive for the future of Ford. And so we put together what was truly a tailor-made master’s degree program for them. That was my first experience in putting together a cross-disciplinary degree program combining mechanical, electrical, and software engineering. And that was the beginning. After Ford, there was General Motors, there was Chrysler, and you can see how a university could impact the growth and productivity of the businesses in the region.

In Colorado, I had a similar experience when I started with Lockheed Martin. I asked them what type of engineers they would like to have five years and ten years from now. Listening to them and responding to their needs, to their future needs, made a huge difference. We had a master’s and PhD program for Lockheed Martin on mechatronics systems engineering and it was the first of such programs in the country. And so, that relationship blossomed. The next one was Northrup that came and said we’d like to see a similar arrangement. The university, besides having an educational component, can have a direct impact on the growth of industry and businesses.

And that’s what I see PSU really doing with both the local government as well as the state: growing future sectors of the economy for Portland and for Oregon.

Dr. Morehead: Despite our success in attracting a skilled workforce and the companies that want to employ them, our region faces many critical issues, including housing affordability, homelessness, racial achievement gap, and state and local government funding crisis. Which of the region’s important challenges are you looking forward to personally engaging in, and how will you approach that issue?

President Shoureshi: I truly believe, as an urban university, we need to address all of those. Homelessness is important to PSU, because number one, this is the population that, for whatever reason, may not have had opportunities. If there is anything we can do to help them, the least that as a university we can do is provide them the opportunity for education. So homelessness is important to us partly because we are so intertwined. I see on the streets of the PSU campus the same issues that the rest of the city is seeing—and the whole area of housing. Portland has not yet become as bad as New York, Boston, LA, San Diego, Austin or Boulder. So what it would take is to develop, especially through our certificate program in urban design, a long range plan that addresses urbanization not just in the central city— because, if you only focus it there, all you do is make real estate even more expensive—but also beyond. So that, on a larger scale, people would be interested in living there, not because it’s cheaper, but because you have designed it so that all of the amenities extend beyond the central city, including workforce development for the businesses and industry and other key elements.

Dr. Morehead: US News and World Report, as you mentioned, has ranked PSU among the top ten most innovative national universities in its Best Colleges 2017 rankings. How important do you think innovation is to a university?

President Shoureshi: Huge. Universities have two major roles. One is education and educating the next generation. The other role is creativity and innovation.

Let me give you some examples. When you think about how the Silicon Valley started, when you look at the North Carolina Triangle Park, when you look at the whole of businesses in Austin and La Jolla, Del Mar, San Diego, all those, they didn’t just come off because somebody thought, okay, let me go and I’ll start a business there. It was the universities that provided the base of these new and innovative ideas. It’s another key element of a university to continue innovations and creativity. That would set the tone for the faculty and for our students. Besides educating the next generation, the university can provide opportunities for, especially, businesses and industry, because they are all looking for innovative ideas. Now, if you are a major corporation, you can afford to do some of it internally. But many others, especially small businesses, depend on what the universities are doing, because universities are really centers of creativity for these small businesses. So that’s why innovation is a key element of a university. It is part of its mission.

Dr. Morehead: What do you think currently is the most innovative part of Portland State?

President Shoureshi: The integration of what we provide for our undergraduates between classroom education and community education. So, for me to know that some of our students actually go even to the prisons and try to provide all types of support systems for prisoners, I think about that. This is such an experience, an especially transforming experience for them to see that happening. I want to go back to what I said earlier, that one of the attractive features of PSU is its integration with the city and the community. It’s not just saying it, PSU is actually doing it by all of these projects.
A team of our students has designed housing for women. It isn’t just a part of a great education for them, but it’s also something that really has a positive benefit for the community.

So, I can see that this has been, and why it has been, selected as a key element of PSU’s success. This integration with the community brings education and experiential learning together.

Dr. Morehead: How can we continue to be innovative?

President Shoureshi: You’ve got to do two things. One is to really encourage and incentivize those innovators so that they see that we recognize their effort, and we want to make sure that they are successful. The other one is to really create an environment that nurtures innovation and creativity. Both of those go hand-in-hand and are important. One of the first things that I asked when I came is, I want to have a meeting with the top fifty most active faculty researchers of PSU, and this meeting is coming up. And it’s not just those who have brought in the highest dollar amounts of external grants, but also those who have really been active and effective. It could be artists or it could be those who are looking at water quality and air pollution. It’s a wide variety. The reason is for me, of course, to get to know them, but more importantly I want them to know that I care. It’s part of our future to make sure that they continue this whole area of creativity and innovation.

It’s important to me. I have seen the benefits of it myself and have been a researcher all through my academic life. I’m just trying to see if I could still continue it as a president or not. I was sending an email to my last graduate student, who is still in New York finishing at the end of this semester his thesis, to make sure that he’s having progress in that regard.

So I truly believe in the importance of being an active scholar. What I call the teacher/scholar model is the right model for faculty.

Dr. Morehead: Thank you very much for answering our questions.

Liza is a researcher and data analyst at the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies (IMS), at Portland State University.




Cully Neighborhood

 

The Cully neighborhood’s population has transformed more rapidly than its landscape since its annexation by the City of Portland in 1985. Formerly majority-white and rural, Cully remains underdeveloped but is now the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood in Portland, with a population that comprises 51% people of color. The Living Cully coalition of nonprofits – Verde, Hacienda CDC, the Native American Youth and Family Center, and Habitat for Humanity — is working to build safer, greener, and more culturally resonant spaces, while avoiding displacement of low-income people as the neighborhood begins to gentrify.

One flagship project, the 25-acre Thomas Cully Park, is representative of Living Cully’s place-making work. The City of Portland acquired a landfill in 2000 and designated it as a future park, but lacked funds to develop it. The nonprofit Verde struck a public-private partnership agreement with the city in 2012 and involved community members in designing a proposed space. The resulting master plan includes a community garden (completed in 2012), an off-leash dog area, a parking lot, a child-designed play area, a habitat restoration area, a youth soccer field, and a spiraling garden designed by Native American residents.

In 2017, Verde began construction on the rest of the park and met its $11.3 million cost with a combination of federal, state, county, city, foundation, corporate, and private contributions. The stretch of 72nd Avenue that connects the site to NE Killingsworth Street has already been rebuilt; a paved road lined by broad sidewalks, streetlamps, and stormwater runoff vegetation now runs between rows of homes in the Fir Grove mobile home park.

Around the corner, at the intersection of NE Cully and Killingsworth, Living Cully makes its home in a former strip club purchased in 2015. Plans are underway to demolish the building and replace it with a mixed-use community center. For now, Yucatecan food carts, a basketball court, and a temporary sign welcome visitors to Living Cully Plaza.

This work takes place in the context of a broad plan to link environmental sustainability with housing and job opportunities. 20% of residents live under the federal poverty line.((https://www.pdx.edu/usp/sites/www.pdx.edu.usp/files/A_LivingCully_PrinterFriendly_0.pdf)) Meanwhile, regional cost of living pressures have hit Cully, where the median house price rose 13% between 2015 and 2016.((https://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2017/3/22/portland-neighborhoods-by-the-numbers-2017-the-city)) Verde’s ownership of construction and planting projects allows it to provide work for residents and minority-owned businesses. Living Cully seeks to preserve the affordable housing that drew many residents to the area by buying and setting aside property, lobbying for renter protections, and offering information and low-cost services to homeowners.

When residents of the Oak Leaf mobile home park learned in 2016 that it was up for sale and redevelopment, they asked nonprofits for help acquiring the property. After a year of rallying supporters, Living Cully secured a $1.5 million loan from Portland Housing Bureau and bought out the owner. About 60 people will remain in their homes through this effort. Whether the same effect can be replicated on a larger scale remains to be seen.

Sign tacked to a pole on NE Killingsworth
Thomas Cully Park, 2017
View of NE Killingsworth and Living Cully Plaza from the Adopt-A-Spot
Adopt-a-Spot
A cyclist rides through the Adopt-A-Spot
Cully Wayfaring Signs
The Living Cully Office
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Eavan Moore is a first-year student in PSU’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program and a graduate research assistant for Metroscape.