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Advancing Equity Planning Now

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Book Chapter

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City planning -- Oregon -- Portland, Regional planning -- Oregon -- Portland, Urban policy -- Oregon -- Portland, Social justice -- Oregon -- Portland


Portland, Oregon, is considered a pioneer of regionalism, integrated land-use and transportation planning, and sustainability as a criterion for planning policy. After four decades of land-use planning, Portland has a national and international reputation for urban livability and climate change mitigation. While these successes are laudable, in the past decade Portland’s underrepresented and underserved communities have been raising a voice to demand that planners address issues of income and racial inequality. In response to and in collaboration with communities, over the past five years Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) has adopted an equity strategy with a racial justice focus. This chapter traces the evolution of Portland’s planning from the Portland Plan—the 2009 citywide strategic plan that first articulated the equity framework— to the ongoing comprehensive land-use plan that addresses equitable development without displacement. These planner-community venues are spaces of both conflict and collaboration. The city’s planners and advocates alike recognize the value of this relationship, although it is sometimes challenging. Communities are building their capacity to speak the technical language of planning to demand more from city policymakers and to advocate for equity planning at the planning commission and city council. Planners are gaining the language and analytic approach to develop equity policies. Through relationships with community advocates, planners are more assured of political support for their equity work. The path from setting an equity goal to developing a comprehensive land-use plan and to beginning to implement anti-displacement policies has not been a straight or quick one. However, the learning and reflection that has happened

along the way suggests that while it may not have been an optimal path, it may have been a necessary one. The experience in Portland suggests roles and possibilities for city planners and community advocates seeking to move toward a more just city. Across the United States, cities are taking on the role of policy innovators, and increasingly, leaders recognize equity as one of the major challenges they must address. Many cities are declaring their intentions to address institutional racism and inequalities—from Seattle to Austin, Philadelphia, and Boston. This Portland case study provides lessons learned in the shift, from developing an understanding of the city government’s role in perpetuating and undoing inequity to incorporating equity into the everyday and technical decisions and policymaking of city plans.


Copyright © 2018 by Cornell University

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