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East Portland Action Plan marks process, progress

EPAP advocates and city officials continue their public love affair as the plan marks its first year of planning, creating myriad subcommittees, more planning, meetings, and more meetings culminating in the creation of one new city job


Keepers of the East Portland Action Plan presented their first annual progress report to Portland City Council last month. The short report: A lot of process, some tangible products, progress toward more.

The plan not only analyzed the status and needs of the area, but set forth specific proposals to improve it, including 268 action items. To emphasize that this was not something they wished to see gather dust on a shelf, the council allocated $500,000 toward implementation, and retained members of the EPAP Advisory Committee to guide its implementation.

Co-chair Brian Heron, pastor of Eastminster Church, told City Council that by their support they are “not just putting band-aids on, but are interested in our opinions in ways to shape our future. We're slowly learning how to dance with each other without stepping on each other's toes. This is the beginning of something good.”

The advisory committee determined that one of its highest priorities was hiring a paid advocate to help guide implementation; to this end they allocated $125,000 and hired Lore Wintergreen.

“If you want to make improvements in east Portland, we are the people you need to work with,” Wintergreen told the council, of the plan's 11 committees, the largest of which has 45 members.

Larry Kotan, chair of the EPAP Economic Development Committee, discussed a $50,000 small grants program and told the council, “One plus one equals seven,” alluding to the fact that the grants had leveraged $350,000 in other contributions; east Portlanders are really stepping up to the plate.” Acknowledging that funding for everything is tight, he said, “I urge continued support.”

Co-chair and Hazelwood Neighborhood Association Chair Arlene Kimura assured City Council, “We've gotten people not usually involved in city government to come forward.” She added, “We're doing something, not just thinking about it.”

And what are they doing? Tom Barnes testified that citizens are working on the redesign of Southeast Powell Boulevard. In the process, he said, his subcommittee is looking at the zoning of adjacent property to provide an opportunity for needed commercial services. David Hampsten of Hazelwood testified he is working on implementation of a bike master plan to “make east Portland more fun.” Parkrose Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Fischer Gray testified she and her Communications Committee are designing a brochure and Web site to market the area. Scott Fogarty of Friends of Trees said that his nonprofit is in the process of planting 6,000 trees (1,100 are already in the ground) along the I-205 corridor under a $410,000 grant from Metro. Tom Lewis of the Centennial neighborhood spoke to Council of working on plans for new parks, and Katie Larsell of the Parkrose School District said her subcommittee had identified a new soccer field as a priority.

Marie Daniels testified, “The East Portland Action Plan was created largely without a youth perspective. That's changing.” She was followed by teenagers Savon Robinson, Alesha Hasan and Rosio Bravo-Mondez, who were invited to offer their viewpoints.

Linda Robinson of Hazelwood said that by summer she and other leaders should have an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration to develop the 35-acre Gateway Green property as a bicycle and community resource. “You don't know how happy I am to see so many volunteers and so much diversity,” she said. Mayor Sam Adams called her an “über volunteer.”

Adams was less gracious toward State Rep. Jeff Smith. In general the politician was complimentary toward the council members; he thanked Commissioner Dan Saltzman for opening a new Domestic Violence Shelter at the old Children's Receiving Center property, and said that they were moving “toward achievement, not appeasement.” However, he did assert that east Portland had received a miniscule amount of federal stimulus funds, and complained that City Council had “set aside” plans to help fund new David Douglas School District improvements.

Adams responded that the council had not “set aside” the effort, but that it was waylaid by a legal challenge. He stated several times that Smith's characterization was “not accurate.” As to the stimulus funds, he said, to some extent the strings attached prevented the city from using them as he might have liked. “I appreciate your point of view, and we all share your frustration,” he told Smith.

All council members praised EPAP and its participants. Commissioner Amanda Fritz acknowledged Kimura and Robinson, as well as Bonny McKnight and Alesia Reese, who did not attend, and said, “Sixteen years ago they showed we had more in common than differences. I thank each and every committee member. The success of this plan is due entirely to your efforts.” She thanked Smith for “expressing some impatience” and added that she saw “partnerships, process and results.”

Adams concluded, “What a great presentation today. It reaffirms my commitment to the action plan.”

Eco-District meeting set
A group of students from Portland State University's graduate Urban Planning program will hold a meeting from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. May 12 at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, 12505 N.E. Halsey St., with the aim of setting up an Eco-District in Gateway. At last month's Gateway Program Advisory Committee meeting, member Frieda Christopher asked just what an Eco-District would entail and exactly what resources it could provide. Student representative Dan Schauer replied that it could provide more visibility toward eco-friendly activities, as well as an opportunity for individuals and groups to invest collectively in appropriate improvements. When East Portland Action Plan volunteer Larry Kotan expressed fears that this could lead to “another layer of bureaucracy, student Michael Budds replied, “We're hoping for a community-driven process, not another layer of government.”

Consultants hired
Portland Development Commission staffer Justin Douglas announced last month that the consulting firm Parametrix, which has done planning work in Gateway in the past, has been hired to develop a business development strategy. They will help plan how to use urban renewal funds and other resources toward business development, working with Metro and the East Portland Action Plan, among others. The process should start this month, Douglas said.

PAC member Frieda Christopher was moved to ask, “With all these studies, are we actually going to try to implement them?”

“Yes, Frieda, we're not just doing this to put on a shelf to gather dust,” Douglas assured her.
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