Day 3 — “The Ideal Neighborhood” and the BPS

After a quick review of yesterday’s visit with Lew at the Portland Development Commission, we kicked off the third day by delving into a discussion about what makes a neighborhood successful and sustainable. As a group we brainstormed ideas including everything from safety to aesthetics. We then split into six teams who each designed a five-by-five block neighborhood, complete with schools, commercial areas, and a variety of housing options.

We then packed up and paid a visit to Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS). We heard from three different presenters who spoke about different ways the BPS works to make Portland a better place to live. Our first presenter spoke about green building, eco districts, and some of the ways that BPS contributes to a healthy city. We learned about how bioswales help keep our river clean by capturing the runoff stormwater, and we learned about Portland’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from buildings by 10 per cent by 2025.


The following speaker talked about BPS’s commitment to equity. Equality is giving everyone the same thing, equity is making sure everyone has access to the same opportunities. In other words, equality is sameness, and equity is fairness. We discussed brown fields — former commercial sites that have been contaminated and are no longer usable–and the socio-economic issues connected to them. Finally, the third speaker taught us about Portland’s Climate Action Plan. It turns out that in 1990, Portland was the first city in the US to enact a city wide plan to deal with climate change. The plan addresses four areas where we can reduce our carbon footprint: at home, in transportation, in our stuff, and in our food choices. While the plan can effectively decrease carbon emissions in our city, awareness is key. A large part of the work that BPS does is about spreading awareness throughout the community. If everyone does their part in minimizing waste (through energy, food, etc.), we can create a cleaner city.

We grabbed lunch at the food carts across the street from BPS and returned to the homebase to share our neighborhood designs with the entire group. It was interesting to see how the different groups centered their ideal communities and what they chose to emphasize. Was their neighborhood centered around a school or a public meeting place? An area that businesses call home, or a community center? We learned that it can be difficult to work with groups, and everyone plays a different part in the group. We will continue to work on these skills in the coming weeks and our ideas will grow and change. Great things are ahead!

– Claire and Ally


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