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GOVERNMENT:
Long-Term Planning

 



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Portlanders understand and appreciate the value of long-term community planning.

Section Summary

Most respondents who mention planning value Portland’s history of strong, forward-thinking planning. They credit past planning efforts with creating the livable, unique, beautiful Portland they see today and look to planners to continue this legacy into the future. Where disagreement and discontent emerge is in regard to the current state of planning, which many feel suffers from a lack of long-range vision and insufficient public input. Portlanders believe in long-range planning and want to work with planners to bring about a city that is true to their values. Many express gratitude to visionPDX for soliciting their opinions and state their hope that a community-led vision can guide current and future long-term planning efforts.

Note: Themes from this section overlap at and times repeat those noted in Government: Spending and Urban Livability: Land Use.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. Successful long-range planning has helped make Portland what it is.
  2. Portland must build on its legacy of successful long-term planning.
  3. Currently, planning seems divorced from a long-term community vision.
  4. Economic development planning needs re-alignment.
  5. Community members value the opportunity to participate in shaping the city’s future.

Summary of Tensions and Disagreements

  1. To what extent is the community involved in the planning process?

MAIN IDEAS

  1. Successful long-range planning has helped make Portland what it is.
  • Portlanders are aware of the role that planning has played in creating a livable urban environment.
  • Many respondents cite with pride Portland’s past planning achievements such as Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Urban Growth Boundary and Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
  • Many feel that previous planning efforts owe a large part of their success to high levels of public involvement in the planning process.
"Portland has many great parks and neighborhoods which allows its residents to feel comfortable and friendly to strangers. The community feeling encourages political and social dialogue which further the minds and hearts of our citizens. A + for city planning!”

"I love the way Portland has a history of thoughtful city planning. The wonderful mix of parks with neighborhoods. The environmentally friendly ethic, recycling at the curb, bike and other means of transportation incorporated into the planning. The Urban Growth Boundary…”

"What: PDX is very eclectic, and the planning is well-done. Local businesses and restaurants are wonderful. Different community events—Waterfront and Pioneer Square events, concerts at the zoo. The rebuilding of neighborhoods. The mixed income/development housing. Love the parks. Why: PDX makes me feel good. PDX is unique.”


  1. Portland must build on its legacy of successful long-term planning.
  • As the city grows, Portland must update its long-range plans and create new plans so that the city’s cherished livability and unique character are maintained.
  • Strong planning can continue to distinguish Portland from “Anywhere, USA” and set a positive example to cities across the country and around the world.
"[In 2030, Portland is] a beacon for the rest of the world as the most livable, inviting, and functional city in America. A place that policy makers turn to when they take on the inevitable work of re-making their sprawling, unsustainable urban places into livable cities again.”

"[In 2030] we have created an atmosphere of success…good companies want to move here for the quality of life, the brilliant work force, the visionary city planning. Resources go to preventing problems rather than fixing past shortsightedness.”


  1. Currently, planning seems divorced from a long-term community vision.
  • Many wonder who currently shapes planning: the public? Developers? A community vision?
  • There is the perception that currently, many major decisions are not guided by a long-range community plan but rather by here-and-now pressures from influential stakeholders.
  • A clear community vision can provide guidance to policymakers and planners and prevent “developers from deciding what’s best for Portland.”
  • It is important for decision-makers to have a long-term plan to look to in order to resist the pressures of elections, politics, annual or two-year budgets and special interest groups.
"I want us to return to a vision that looks ahead, not just at money and growth. We will end up like Seattle if we continue to let developers decide what is good for Portland.”

“Put simply there is no real leadership or vision in Portland. There’s a lot of growth and change, but no unifying vision of what this city is going to become.”

"[In 2030] money does not govern the vision of the city. Rather healthy and prosperous community rules.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “Plan beyond a single political term in office. Get widespread public buy-in so that it doesn’t fizzle when the current leader is replaced. Start today.”
  2. “Get out more and talk to the people who actually live and work in the city and rely less on the input of big businesses and developers who have their own financial agendas.”

  1. Economic development planning needs re-alignment.
  • Many respondents are concerned about the influence that developers seem to have over the economic development planning process. They want planning to be shaped by the vision of the community and the City Council, not by those who stand to profit from the plans (such as developers).
  • There is concern that the Portland Development Commission (PDC) in particular is out of touch with the community’s values and vision (see Government: Government Performance).
  • Many express the desire to align PDC’s short-term and mid-term economic development plans with a broader, long-range community vision.
“The development commission has drifted from the original vision and come to be too dominated by business interest with a sacrifice for the long-term vision and the citizens.”


  1. Community members value the opportunity to participate in shaping the city’s future.
  • Community members want to be directly involved in shaping the future of their city.
  • A number of people thank visionPDX in the survey for asking them to share their thoughts on the city’s future.
“I value the fact that we have a local government that would ask us questions like these, and so many citizens with answers! Thank you!”

"I like that Portland values its people. This is demonstrated in so many ways – shutting down freeways for the Bridge Pedal (I am so proud of Portland for doing that!), having human-friendly building codes… conducting surveys like this one. It is clear that Portland values its people and that its people value Portland.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “Through the visionPDX – create/distill a top 10 list of things we can do. Look for those things we can do on a daily basis.”

TENSIONS AND DISAGREEMENTS

  1. To what extent is the community involved in the planning process?

    While most agree that the City has excelled at public involvement in the past, there is disagreement over whether or not the City is currently doing a good job of involving the public in the planning process. Three main views are articulated:

    Public involvement is working.
    Some respondents feel that current public involvement efforts are very good and applaud the City for being accessible to community feedback and encouraging this feedback through efforts like visionPDX. These community members express gratitude for the opportunity to get involved and cite Portland’s public involvement efforts as part of what makes the city livable.

    Public involvement needs to be broadened.
    A second group believes in the public involvement process but feels that it leaves out significant constituencies, such as people with disabilities and ethnic minorities. These respondents question the lack of minority voices in leadership positions and call for more concerted outreach efforts into minority communities:

    “Do serious recruitment of minorities to participate in all aspects of city planning. Note: this does not mean inviting over and over the usual minority people.”

    Public involvement is suspect.
    A third perspective voiced is that current public involvement efforts are not genuine and simply mask the influence that developers and other “insiders” have on the planning process. These respondents feel that public involvement is paid lip service while “the usual suspects” are actually shaping policy and planning decisions. Some of these individuals also question visionPDX, wondering “what will be done with all of our answers?” They like the concept of visionPDX but noted that no where (website, City promotion, etc…) does it mention how the feedback will be used or whether citizens will have access to this feedback.

    “I’d like decision-makers to involve the public earlier and in ways that are meaningful, not just perfunctory.”

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