Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

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Ban Studded Tires in Portland’s Legislative Agenda 2013

January 17, 2013

I’m Mary Vogel and I’m speaking on behalf of myself and my Woman Business Enterprise, PlanGreen. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on Portland’s Legislative Agenda for 2013!

As most of you know studded tires cut road life in HALF in Oregon!!!  I live in downtown Portland where my major forms of transportation are walking and biking, so I am able to see and hear the villains doing it—one click, click, click, clack, clack, clack at a time.

What I am suggesting is an additional point under the Transportation agenda on p. 36. That point is:

First, deal with a major and unnecessary cause of road wear & tear in Oregon by banning studded tires.

  • ODOT estimates that studded tires cause $40 million in damage to our roads each year.
  • During its lifespan, the average studded tire chews up ½ to ¾ ton of asphalt
  • That results in a fine dust that gets in the air, on the land and, eventually, is washed into our rivers.
  • Some of that dust also lodges in our lungs where it has an inflammatory and toxic effect
  • A Swedish study found that the toxic dust created by studded tires is 60 to 100% greater than the amount from regular tires
  • The extra damage from studded tires greatly increases our consumption of petroleum products and hence our carbon footprint
  • Modern studless snow tires are safer than studded tires in almost all driving conditions found in Oregon
  • Far snowier places like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario have banned studded tires; Washington and Alaska may do so this year
  • Studded tires create unsafe conditions for all drivers by creating ruts in roads

While data show that only 10% of Oregonians west of the Cascades use studded tires, I think they all commute into downtown Portland every weekday.  It seems like every third car that passes me on my bike has them—raising the hair on the back of my neck with their aggressive sound. In the women over 50 age category, I may be one of the few who meet the level of “strong and fearless,” but I will admit that studded tires rattle my nerves and make me feel less safe. What they do to the pavement certainly makes the roads less safe for all cyclists.

So, not only do studded tires cost us a lot more in road maintenance, they cost us more in public health; they cost us more in carbon footprint; they cost us more in the livability of our cities. During a time of fiscal and climate crisis, to continue to allow studded tires is irresponsible!

Please ask the legislature to ban studded tires in Oregon!  Add First, deal with a major and unnecessary cause of road wear & tear in Oregon by banning studded tires to your points under Modernize & Enhance Transportation Funding. Or make it a separate point under the city’s Transportation agenda. But please do this today as we are long overdue!

Thank you for your time!

Mary Vogel

PS If you have time to read more, I recommend:

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Bringing The Wild Back To The City

June 21, 2012

Oregon Community Trees recent keynote speaker Dr. Doug Tallamy says that while Portland is lush and beautiful, it is DEAD!  Portland has so few insects because most of the vegetation in the city is non-native and the native insects, that are the base of the food chain, need native plants to reproduce!

Enthusiastic participants – Trapper Creek Wilderness

I lead field trips to the wild on weekends that focus on native plant and wildlife communities—helping people appreciate them for their intrinsic beauty and wonder and also for the ecosystems services they provide.  I ask folks who sign up to help me make the trips as participatory as possible by doing a bit of research on the natural or cultural history of the region to share with the group. Some do!  The trips provide a good way to renew the body, rejuvenate the spirit and make new friends.

I’m trying to recruit more people on my trips who will come back to the city and incorporate what they discover into our overall green infrastructure: green streets, green roofs, green walls, green landscapes and green buildings as well as designs for walkable neighborhoods and great urbanism region-wide. So I’d especially like help in getting word out to landscape architects, landscape suppliers and builders.  To really be effective its crucial to reach all parts of the built environment community: planners, designers, developers, financiers, suppliers and builders.

I schedule my trips through Portland-Vancouver Sierra Club Outings Meetup (free to join) because Sierra Club offers leader training, first aid and insurance.  And Sierra Club has advocated for the things I care about since 1892.  The trips are also free, though Sierra Club asks that you consider a voluntary $2-3 donation towards its leader training. I help people explore and appreciate ancient (aka old growth) forests; showy wildflower meadows and their more modest cousins under the forest canopy; wild rivers and streams; and mountain lakes with wetlands. In winter, I look for places with good snow for XC skiing. If I have to pick a favorite, it’s the west side Cascades. But I plan to include some trips to the east side of the Cascades and the Oregon Coast as well.

Not all of my trips are to wilderness areas (limited to 12), but the ones that are sometimes fill up fast.   Identify yourself as a Built Environment Professional in your profile when you sign up. If I can, I’ll give you priority for a spot on the trips. (People who have signed up, drop off at the last minute–or they don’t show up at all! So I’ll promise that you won’t be turned away if you have put yourself on the waiting list.)

I myself am an urban planner who wants to preserve the wild by bringing more of what people appreciate there back to the city to help make our cities and towns more livable, healthy, climate-friendly and resilient.  I strive to create places that people don’t feel the need to escape.  I hope you will join me in enjoying and protecting the wild—and bringing more of it back to the city.  Urbanism and nature can co-exist.  In fact, if our species is to survive they must!

Mary Vogel
PlanGreen
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What’s Next Portland? Real Estate in the New Economy

April 2, 2012

A version of this blog first appeared in the Portland Business Journal shortly after the ULI What’s Next event on March 7, 2012.

The Oregon Chapter of the Urban Land Institute promoted their breakfast seminar based on ULI’s most recent publication: “What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy“: A paradigm shift is unfolding over the course of this decade, driven by an extraordinary convergence of demographic, financial, technological and environmental trends. Taken together, these trends will dramatically change development through 2020

Walking over to the event at the Nines Hotel, I thought about what I hoped to learn.  ULI is a national, even international, thought leader in the real estate industry.  The advertised intent of the seminar was to examine how our region is postured to remain competitive in the 21st century.  I had more short term goals.  I wanted to know how ULI and local business leaders foresee the Portland region and the state getting out of the building slump (and consequent unemployment for planners, urban designers and other built environment professionals) we have been in since 2007.

From an examination of name tags, the audience for this event were largely lawyers, a few planners and a few commercial real estate consultants.  I didn’t see any developers that I recognized—albeit my recognition field is limited.

After a string of men from ULI’s national office in Washington, DC offering their wisdom over the past two years, it was refreshing to have a woman as keynote speaker.  Maureen McAvey started off her talk with the proposition “This is not just another real estate cycle but a fundamental change.”  She went on to make her case through a litany of demographic factors she claims are leading to new trends, e.g.:

  • Gen Y is the largest generation in American history—80 million strong and still growing and
  • The Boomer generation is living longer–“If I retired at 65 and lived to my mother’s age—98—I’d have more than 35 more years to do what?”

I had been wondering when ULI would jump on the jobs bandwagon in a big way. This was the event!  Both in her presentation and in the book, McAvey asked “Where the hell are the jobs?” (resisting her editors plea for more sedate wording).  Even lawyers are outsourcing parts of their business as never expected.  Social Security in 1945 each worker was supported by 42 workers, in 2009 just 3.

Lumina Foundation found that young people in US do not have enough education to compete.  Between now and 2018 Oregon is expected to create 59.000 jobs – but there will not be enough workers with post secondary education to fill those job needs.  America is significantly de-funding its education.

McAvey believes there are some bright spots.  Business and professional sectors and education of all types as well as health care and medical have grown phenomenally. “America is still wildly entrepreneurial and leads in venture capital” she claims.  This is partly due to the creative culture and substantial capital reserves.

The Housing Outlook she presented was similar to what I have heard for the past few years: Apartment living is on the rise. Six million new renter households may be formed between 2008 and 2015, requiring 300,000 new units annually compared with just 100,000 produced in 2010. “But can the industry deliver that amount for the rents at which people looking to rent can afford?” she asked.  Meanwhile, more single-family homes are being occupied by renters, changing the feel and politics of suburban communities.

Seventy-five percent of households in Portland do NOT have children under 18; 47% are non-families, she said. Twenty-somethings on tight budgets prefer places to congregate with friends—in parks, bar scenes, restaurant clusters, and building common areas—and can tolerate smaller living spaces, McAvey claims.

The Regional Panelists consisted of Jill Eiland, Corporate Affairs Manager, Intel Corporation; Keith Leavitt, General Manager of Business Development and Properties, Port of Portland; Sandra McDonough, President and CEO, The Portland Alliance, Wim Wiewel, President, Portland State Universtiy

McAvey went on to ask a softball question of most of the panelists—and most  responded in predictable ways, e.g., Keith Leavitt feels that we need to continue and expand efforts to export wheat and other grain to the world as well as electronics.  “There is a boom in new port developments along lower Columbia River,” he said.”

Sandra McDonough believes that we are hampered by tax policy, physical infrastructure and regulatory framework – a lot of it from the 70’s [referring to Oregon’s land use laws]. “We do not have enough sites for new industrial users,” she maintains.

Wim Wiewel feels we need to move beyond the sad state of education funding from legislatures (not only here, but across the country) and partner more with industry—and with local government.  He was excited to announce “We are working with the Mayor and the County on an Urban Renewal Area for Education.”

McAvey’s question for Jill Eiland was a little more challenging.  “Is Intel going to follow Amazon’s lead and start building highly urban campuses?”

Although I spaced out during Eiland’s answer, she later told me that “Intel has now invested more than $20 billion in Oregon since 1974.  We continue to invest and grow our manufacturing and R&D capacity here.  The Hillsboro site remains Intel’s largest and most comprehensive site anywhere in the world.”  I interpret that to mean don’t expect Intel to move into downtown Portland, or even downtown Hillsboro, anytime soon.

I heard recently that Metro Council Members were cautioned not to talk about climate change.  Governor Kitzhaber and Mayor Adams didn’t mention it in their recent State of the State/State of the City speeches at City Club either.  It seems that ULI got that memo too.

I was a bit baffled to attend an event on trends that made no mention—only guarded allusion to—the two big trend topics of the day in my world: climate change or growing income inequality!  While ULI played up this event as being about a paradigm shift, their Oregon panel members gave only predictable answers that did not reflect much awareness of that shift–none of that Oregon leadership that we witnessed in the last century.  It would seem that we are resting on our laurels rather than embracing the shift. I left with more questions than answers—but eager to read the copy of “What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy” that ULI so generously provided to attendees.

Mary Vogel is founder and principal of PlanGreen, consultants on walkable urbanism.  She is a Board Member and Advocacy & Alliances Chair of the Congress for the New Urbanism Cascadia Chapter where she helps to shape climate change policy.  She is also a member of the progressive business alliance, VOIS.

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Community-Based Investment

December 7, 2011

[I’m struggling to determine alternative ways to build the kind of communities we will need to address climate change and peak oil–and to put myself and other built environment colleagues back to work.  Although I had placed some of what’s below on the Congress for the New Urbanism – Cascadia Google Group awhile back, I decided to publish it as a blog after reading “Opportunity for New Urbanists: Occupy Wall Street” in New Urban News.  To see much movement at all in the real estate development world, we must address the financial and the NUN article does that.  However, as I began to think about it, I realized that the NUN title mis-appropriates the name of that popular movement, taking us in a direction opposite what Occupiers are demanding.]

I recently attended two lectures that call into question the long-term viability of depending upon Wall Street based investments–one by Denis Hayes, President of the Bullitt Foundation, the other by Richard Heinburg, Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.

Hayes watches the stock market on a daily basis for the Bullitt Foundation.  He says that economists he follows say it has one or two more runs. Because of the “green bubble,” even those may be in question because we have been ignoring environmental externalities that are coming due.

Heinberg had just finished a solid day of consulting with Portfolio 21, an
alternative investment fund in Portland, about moving money from Wall Street.  He is the author of “Power Down,”” The Party’s Over” and most recently, “The End of Growth.”  After showing multiple reasons why Wall Street’s day is over he asked “What does a transition to a new economy look like that doesn’t depend on a model of growth based on cheap energy, reckless consumption and financial speculation?”

The messages from these talks coincided with Occupy Wall Street’s successful campaign
to Move Your Money from the big Wall Street banks.  Although the Occupy
movement set the target date as Nov 5, in Oregon, we had news stories
on the mainstream media of people transferring their funds from big banks
to local credit unions for several weeks before the target date!

It seems that this is the time to strike with popularizing solutions for
people seeking local investments–investments that will help the built environment
industries too.  After Denis Hayes talk, I wrote him asking: *”Would you consider setting up a support arm for the Community-Development Initial Public Offering
(CD-IPO)
  concept pioneered by Market Creek Community Ventures?  Its
investors earned 10% on their money–in 2008 and 2009 when many others were
losing their shirts.”

Market Creek had foundation support from the Jacobs Center for Community Innovation.  Here’s what Jacobs has to say:

Ultimately, all assets and social enterprises in The Village at Market
Creek will be owned by the community. Community ownership is key to
long-term change, providing a way for residents to have a voice in how
resources are used and to benefit from community assets.

A resident-led Community Ownership Design Team worked to find a way to
transfer ownership of Market Creek Plaza to residents. They created a
ground-breaking new tool for building wealth in under-invested areas, the
Community-Development Initial Public Offering (CD-IPO).

It took six years of work, 40 drafts by a legal team, and three attempts
to earn approval for the CD-IPO from the California Department of
Corporations. Working hand-in-hand with residents to design the investor
criteria, the CD-IPO transfered 20% ownership in Market Creek Partners,
LLC, the company that owns Market Creek Plaza, to a preferred group of
investors called the Diamond Community Investors. Another 20% is owned by a
community-foundation, the Neighborhood Unity Foundation, which invested
$500,000 in the Plaza and uses the dividends to fund philanthropic efforts
in the community.

The offering opened on July 5, 2006 and closed on October 31, 2006, with
investments ranging from $200 to $10,000. In total, 415 investors purchased
all 50,000 available units, at $10 per unit, for a total of $500,000. 

In 2008 and 2009, the Diamond Community Investors received a full 10%
return on their investments.

There are other solutions too–like working to lift some limitations on
credit unions, working with local community development banks and
developing a Community Loan Fund.

In Portland, Springboard Innovation is pioneering a Direct Public Offering to build  Hatch, a community-oriented business incubator for social-benefit companies. Hatch aims to serve what founder, Amy Pearl calls “hybrid organizations” by providing space and services for mission-driven organizations.

I see the above as promising ideas to help put New Urbanists and and our friends back to work in addressing the most pressing environmental issue of our day in the way that we New Urbanists do it best–creating walkable neighborhoods.

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Getting Planning and Transportation Right

September 27, 2011

Jeff Speck, New Urbanist Author and Consultant, spoke September 21, 2011 at Metro Regional Center in Portland, OR on the topic of Getting Planning and Transportation Right.  My Congress for the New Urbanism Cascadia Chapter colleague, Jonathan Winslow, took copious notes at the talk and shared them with us below.  I will add remarks at the end.

From Jonathan:
Introduction of Speck by Bill Lennertz of the National Charrette Institute and CNU Cascadia Chapter: As National Endowment of the Arts Design Director directed Mayors Inst on City Design: 8 mayors, 8 designs, all bring case study to explore from their city

-Wrote self-help book on getting a job in late 1980s, joking in introduction about this:  Hot Tips, Sneaky Tricks, and Last-Ditch Tactics: An Insider’s Guide to Getting Your First Corporate Job by Jeff Speck http://www.amazon.com/Tips-Sneaky-Tricks-Last-Ditch-Tactics/dp/0471615145/

-1988 Jeff walked into DPZ Cambridge office and was hired by Bill Lennertz. Almost went to work for OMA/Koolhaus to work on S,M,L,XL book

-Great Duany lecture Towns vs Sprawl (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwd4Lq0Xvgc)?

-Co-Author of Suburban Nation and The Smart Growth Manual

-New Urbanism: lessons for new places based on best places we have today, whatever works best and a willingness to learn from the past and what is loved the most

Jeff Speck’s Talk:
Considering the audience, feel a better title for the talk would be “Advanced Topics in Planning and Transportation”

5 points to discuss:

  1. Theory of Walkability
  2. Urban Triage
  3. One-ways vs. Two-ways
  4. What we know now about parking (Donald Shoup)
  5. Greenwash

Smartest Person he knows, Andres Duany, made a big mistake criticizing Portland a decade ago

Bicycling big in Portland, make investment in infrastructure and people will bike
-$65,000,000 in 20 years
-Biking in Portland shows whats attainable

Walking cities:
-Save people money and stimulate local economy, from Joe Cortright study
-Cortright ‘Portland Green Dividend’ (http://www.impresaconsulting.com/node/42)
-While other cities building outer loops and more auto accommodations, Portland invested in transit and bikes, skinny streets program and the UGB. 1996 VMT peaked

THEORY OF WALKABILITY
Frame through walkability by both means and measure
-A REASON to walk: a balance of uses, non-separation of uses
-A SAFE walk: reality and perception, size of blocks PDX (200 ft blocks) vs. SLC (600 ft blocks), smaller blocks = smaller streets
-Shear number of lanes – induced demand, wider roads easier to drive get behavior change
-Mumford quote: widening roads like loosening belt
-Traffic engineers caused traffic
-Induced demand works in reverse, remove lanes and roads to reduce traffic
-Britain stopped building roads, road fighting group disbanded since no longer needed to fight
Oklahoma City – walkability study for downtown
-4-6 lane streets downtown, all arterials with 7000-11000 vehicle traffic counts
-two-lane streets can handle that 7000-11000 traffic load, streets oversized
-undertaking program called ‘Project 180′ (http://okc180.com/) to rebuild every street in 50 block core
-can use cheap simple paint for changes
-irony of current oil and gas wealth in city is funding this large streetscape design cost
Oversized streets: standards changed between 1950s and 1980s
-Every street has a design speed and 13’ lanes are highway standards
-Portland’s skinny streets program is laudable
-Important to not have one specialty control entire street design
Parallel parked cars – sometimes remove parked cars for bike lanes, kill stores with removal of parking, trees and parked cars protect pedestrians
-A COMFORTABLE walk: space and orientation
-a sense of enclosure, humans love enclosure, ratio of surrounding wall height to ground
important
-Columbus, OH street bridge over highway with retail on it, sense of enclosure (‘Cap at Union Station’, http://www.meleca.com/content/projects/retail/02/aerial-view-from-north-east%5B1%5D.jpg)
-Gresham Civic Drive Station TOD, provides sense of enclosure along street except one small section that loses the sense of enclosure to the detriment of entire street
(http://g.co/maps/au9pv), exposed sidewalk, no parking along this street. Difference between West Coast vs. East Coast new urbanism: West coast gets the transit right, while East coast gets the details right. Whereas Kentlands: liner buildings in front of big box stores good, but no transit only transit-ready.
-An INTERESTING walk: showed downtown Grand Rapids slide of major street with terrible street frontage of two imposing parking garages on both sides of the street
(http://g.co/maps/d3kd8). Demand active streetfronts.

URBAN TRIAGE
-A dominance of auto uses in cities, can’t transform everything into walkable places
-Most cities want walkability but not enough walkability to go around, must pick winners for walkability
-Have to get people to walk by choice and the first place is downtown, downtown is everyone’s part of town, the gateway for visitors and the oldest/most walkable by design than any other neighborhood.
-Davenport, Iowa example for a street quality analysis. Red (bad) to green (good) color measure on map, not evaluating streets but buildings… measure spatial enclosure and activity.

ONE-WAYS VS. TWO-WAYS
-ODOT one way happy especially in small towns (i.e. Sandy, OR)
-One ways are destructive: mass momentum of vehicles in one direction with uninterrupted flow. Issue with multiple lanes of cars jockeying between lanes with speed.
-One ways hurt retail and limits visibility and distributes vitality, stores orient to traffic flows at particular time of day, i.e. rush hour homeward bound traffic, limited vitality not day long like with two-way
-13 ft travel lanes in Davenport, IA go on road diets
-AECOM formerly Gladding Jackson traffic engineering firm that is most progressive
-One of best article seen in a long time is article in Governing Magazine called the ‘Return of the Two-Way Street’ http://governing.p2technology.com/column/return-two-way-street on Vancouver, WA Main Street, overnight transformation of street and business doubled

ROAD DIETS
-Specific change from 4 lanes to 3 lanes (1 in each direction with center turn lane) space for bike lanes or on-street parking on one side
-T-bone crashes with 4 lane street design with left turning traffic on oncoming traffic (2nd
opposing lane is the risk)
-Streets don’t lose capacity with 4 to 3 lane road diet
-Road paint doesn’t cost money, good cheap solution
-Use up roadway width with angled parking

WHAT WE NOW KNOW ABOUT PARKING
-Donald Shoup has been our thought leader here
-Parking is not a civil right
-Don’t start with parking as a revenue generator, can make a lot of money with it but that is not the main objective
-Parking is a public good to manage well, can adjust price to demand
-Now can add time to meter with cell phones and also know where parking is available (SF Park http://sfpark.org/)
-Price parking so 1 space is empty at all time (approx. 15% vacancy)
-Parking choices mirror demand, if undercharge get parking crowding and people don’t shop
-Know availability and price online, spaces available in right amount
-Have good alternatives to driving
-How to get it to happen politically? All money you make goes to public benefit district.
Pasadena, two districts: Old Pasadena put in parking meters and money went to improvements. Westward Village went with free parking, couldn’t find parking since underpriced at free, area died.
-With cities the revolutions now are in biking and parking, have figured out others like TOD.

GREENWASH
-Green Metropolis by David Owen (http://www.amazon.com/Green-Metropolis-Smaller-Driving- Sustainability/dp/B005EP2XYC/), best planning book of 10 years. Manhattan is greenest place, lowest carbon footprint per capita by city form and function.
-Gizmo Green: Rocky Mountain Institute, just about adding green gadgets on buildings but building located in the middle of the woods and requires long distance auto travel to get there or to run any errand. Walkscore of 20 out of 100. Driving is greatest carbon footprint impact.
-Location efficiency and building type, location matters. Center for Neighborhood Technology
(CNT) (www.cnt.org) maps of location efficiency.
-Image of the Green house, gizmo green in the middle of nature, misses big picture.
-Showed image of LEED Platinum building without any transit deep in exurban area
-EPA Headquarters in Kansas City moved out of downtown into exurban KC into LEED building (former Applebee’s HQ)
-Jevons paradox: make more efficient brings → costs down → consume even more than before. Sweden carbon footprint went up because people drive so much with energy efficient cars.
-Sustainable decision is to be in urban environment
– – –
end Jonathan Winslow

For me, the most interesting part of the evening was a land use advocate from Washington County who had become thoroughly familiar with Speck’s work and quoted it extensively in public meetings to try to change the outmoded traffic engineering standards of her County.  Such standards prompted Washington County to choose to widen a two lane road to five lanes–over the objections of an organized group of residents.

She expressed gratitude to Speck for his work, but considerable frustration about inability to get more help to turn Washington County around.  She felt that residents in unincorporated areas of Washington County were at a special disadvantage, because, while land use standards were going towards denser, more compact and mixed use, the County’s transportation engineering has not kept up with latest thinking.  Instead, her community (Bethany) “sits outside of any city or jurisdiction that would support it to grow in a sustainable manner.”

She reminded me of the importance of continuing to get New Urbanist tools, thought leaders and designers out there front and center.  Our skills are critical if we are to achieve what Metro is calling “Climate Smart Communities.”