is key: Portlanders value it immensely and want it preserved
Urban livability consistently emerges as one of the
most prized attributes of Portland, and it is one of the main reasons people move here. Respondents attribute Portland's livability to an inter-woven
set of factors, many of which are described in greater
depth in the sections that follow. Portlanders recognize
that livability does not come about by chance, but rather
is intentionally created through concerted community
effort and forward-thinking planning and public policy.
They identify a number of challenges to maintaining
Portland’s livability and call on elected officials
to make preserving livability a top priority. By keeping
the focus on livability, they believe that Portland
will naturally be able to attract the type of innovate,
responsible and community-minded residents and business
that can help ensure a successful future for the city.
factors come together to create a truly livable city.
results from forward-thinking policies and practices.
- Portland’s livability
- Government should focus
on improving livability for all.
- Many factors come together to create a truly
- Time and again, Portlanders cite “livability”
as the attribute they value most about Portland.
- While Portlanders each define livability
in their own terms, certain key features are
frequently mentioned as working in combination
to create a livable city:
- A clean and beautiful built and natural
- Vibrant, well-served neighborhoods;
- Access to greenspace and nature, both
within the city and around it;
- The ability to get around town easily
(lack of traffic, accessible public transportation,
ability to bike and use alternate modes,
relatively short commute times);
- “Human scale” and “human-oriented” buildings
and streetscapes (not too big, walkable
blocks, user-centered design);
- Big city amenities with a “small town
- Friendly and open-minded people who
care about the environment, education
and a host of social issues;
- A thriving local economy that provides
access to fresh local food, local beer,
coffee, clothing design, local musicians
and art and so much more;
- Being able to afford to live in and
enjoy the city; and
- A strong sense of community, fostered
by public spaces, neighborhoods, walking
and using transit, outdoor events and
the local economy.
- Many people speak of moving to Portland
because of its reputation for a high level
of livability, and are pleased to discover it is true when they arrive.
- Just as many long-time residents acknowledge
that livability is what keeps them in Portland,
even though other cities may offer better
job markets or a larger number of attractions.
I appreciate the ability to live close
in to the central city, to live in a neighborhood
with walkable access to all my needs,
and yet to [also have] access to everything
offered by a large urban center.”
value] its livability in terms of pleasant
downtown area, lots of good public transportation
and good public events, attention to environmentally-sound
living, its reputation as a city of books,
bikes, brew, progressive thinking, and
its abundance of trees and the rain that
keeps them green.”
I value is] the attention to urban design
and development. Why? Because it provides
the vessel for enjoying urban life—street
trees, buildings that have interest and
harmony, a downtown that works, is of
human scale, and well-served by public
transit; neighborhoods that are cohesive
with retail and service areas.”
value] that it is a livable city in which
we can be in a vibrant urban area but
be connected to the environment, have
true greenspaces within short reach, live
in neighborhoods that feel like small
towns. That it is a friendly place where
people talk to each other, help each other,
acknowledge each other.”
results from forward-thinking policies and
- Portlanders illustrate a strong understanding
of and support for policies (progressive urban
planning, avid protection of open spaces,
protection of historic structures, etc.) and
processes that have created a high level of
- Programs and policies that promote livability
for the community as a whole (e.g., parks,
clean environment, etc…) are consistently
favored over those that do not improve livability
or only improve it for a small group (the
OHSU tram is frequently mentioned).
value] it’s investment in a high quality
of life. I’m impressed that laws and planning
can be so inspiring, so as to create a
livable, human scale city such as Portland.”
2030] we measure our quality of life less
on the subjective aesthetic and more on
the welfare of our citizens, including
education excellence, economic opportunity,
access to social services, affordability,
and public safety.”
livability is threatened.
- Many Portlanders worry that the city’s livability
is threatened and some feel it is already
- Factors that are seen as threatening urban
- Population growth, which can result
in increased traffic, reduced housing
affordability, over-burdened greenspace,
crowded schools and an erosion of community
- Income disparity, which increasingly
divides Portlanders into those who can
access livability features and those who
- Neighborhood livability
is reduced when diversity and affordability
decline through gentrification.
- It is also reduced when housing,
businesses and services cater only to
particular demographics or socio-economic
- Development—while there is much debate
on this topic, a large number of Portlanders
feel that development reduces livability
when it is allowed to happen unchecked
and when it disregards the community’s
vision for the area being developed (see
Urban Livability: Residential).
- Erosion of educational
quality combined with funding challenges
poses a serious threat to Portland’s livability.
Without strong, well-funded, high-performing
schools, many question whether the city
can remain livable into the future.
- The large and rising number
of people who are homeless poses a threat
to the overall livability of the community.
Portlanders want to see this problem tackled
and solved in a compassionate, creative
and permanent manner (see Social Issues:
- Pollution—contamination of air, water
and other natural resources directly threatens
livability for the community as a whole.
Portlanders want to see the Willamette
cleaned up and tough measures taken to
reduce corporate and public pollution
of the environment.
should focus on improving livability for all.
- There is strong consensus that preserving
and enhancing livability should be a primary
focus of local government. Portlanders want
officials to ask themselves:
- Does a particular initiative/plan/expenditure
make the city more livable or less?
- Whose livability is enhanced? Do
some benefit more than others? Is this
- Many people strongly believe that if
Portland is a highly livable place, good
companies, talented teachers, sports teams
and others will want to be located here
and will not need convincing or public incentives.
- Portlanders are highly supportive of public
spending on efforts to improve city-wide
livability (see Government:
- In many cases, they are even willing
to pay higher taxes if their funds are used
to create a more livable city for all (see
State and Local Taxes).