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URBAN LIVABILITY:
Sense of Community

 



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Community connectedness is a major theme and over-arching value of Portlanders.

Section Summary

The sense of being connected to a vibrant local community differentiates Portland from other cities and is a quality of Portland that community members seek to preserve and enhance. Portlanders believe neighborhood features such as commercial hubs, walkable streets and public spaces create a strong sense of community among residents. They also believe that Portlanders’ caring, helpful, friendly attitudes contribute to creating a strong sense of community. At the same time, they worry about different communities becoming isolated from each other, and want the City to develop innovative ways for people from different communities to come together, whether to work on common projects or on organizing community events.

Note: Community connectedness appears as a major theme throughout this entire report and can be found in many other chapters, including: Urban Livability: Neighborhood Livability, Urban Livability: Small Town Feeling, Urban Livability: The People and Social Issues: Civic Engagement.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. Community connectedness distinguishes Portland from other cities.
  2. Certain policies and practices help create a strong sense of community.
  3. Portland’s different communities could be more connected.
  4. Gentrification weakens community.

MAIN IDEAS

  1. Community connectedness distinguishes Portland from other cities.
  • Portlanders cite with gratitude the strong sense of community they feel living in this city. Many contrast this with the lack of community in other major American cities.
  • Time and again, Portlanders state their belief that community matters, and that it is important for individuals to be part of a larger community.
  • Portlanders value a caring community, one that seeks to support those in need of help and assistance.
  • Portlanders are suspicious of those things that are seen as weakening community, such as gentrification, neighborhood school closures or the arrival of “big box” stores such as Wal-Mart.
"[What I value most is] community interconnectedness—I can rarely go somewhere without running into someone I know.”

“I love how much Portland values its sense of community and independent spirit. I have been in much larger cities with huge budgets, and they don’t offer half the number of great public events or services that Portland does.”


  1. Certain policies and practices help create a strong sense of community.
  • Portlanders do not believe that community connectedness happens by chance. Rather, they see it as something that is actively created through public and private actions and decisions.
  • Portlanders credit the following with helping to build a strong sense of community:
    • Land use planning practices, especially the Urban Growth Boundary, which has resulted in higher density living;
    • The neighborhood hub structure, which makes it easy for people to walk to local services and run into people they know;
    • The abundance of small, locally-owned businesses, which build connections between sellers and buyers;
    • Public transportation, which builds community by putting people in closer proximity to each other.
    • The general friendliness and openness of the people that live in Portland;
    • The abundance of free and affordable community events, including open-air concerts, programs at libraries, music in the parks and street festivals; and
    • The neighborhood farmers markets, which provide opportunities to connect with neighborhoods as well as local food producers.
“It is very important to me to feel connected to my immediate community, and Portland’s land use planning and emphasis on community development helps make this happen.”

“Establish things that bind a community together: livable/affordable housing, parks, community centers, etc… this will make people feel that they belong to a group—less likely to commit crimes, etc…”

“[In 2030] all neighborhoods have at least one place—such as a SUN school or a public library—that creates a de facto village hall: a physical center and meeting place for the community.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Build more community centers and neighborhood gathering places. Many, many people ask for this.
  2. Create more community gardens throughout the city.
  3. Encourage the use of public transportation and expand public transit to serve all neighborhoods equally well.
  4. Create more parks and greenspaces, especially around high-density housing developments.
  5. Promote more community radio stations, new newspapers, and better use of the internet for publicizing meetings, issues, events and community decisions.

  1. Portland’s different communities could be more connected.
  • Many people see Portland as a city of villages, or a city of different communities.
  • However, these different communities do not always interact. In fact, many speak of different groups of people “self-segregating” and not interacting as frequently or effectively as they could.
  • Many Portlanders speak of the importance of building bridges between different communities, especially between communities that are culturally diverse.
“The demographics of Portland are changing and while I think there’s a fair degree of tolerance among various ethnic and racial groups, that may not actually be the case. Certainly there is voluntary segregation among the communities. I would like to see more commonality.”

"I would also like to see more interaction between the city’s diverse cultural and social pockets, resulting in creative projects that bridge economic racial, and cultural divides.”

“More events that bring members from all communities together.”


  1. Gentrification weakens community.
  • A large number of Portlanders are concerned and/or upset about the gentrification that has taken place and continues to take place in Portland.
  • As prices rise as a result of gentrification, some long-time residents and business owners are forced out of their neighborhoods, weakening the fabric of those communities.
  • Many Portlanders feel that gentrification poses an unacceptable threat to community and ask the City to actively combat and, where necessary, reverse patterns of gentrification.
“It seems like many of the new arrivals in NE Portland don’t want to get to know or be part of a real community with (black) folks who’ve lived here much longer.”

“Encourage and support home ownership. Gentrification, in the form of property sold to investors, prices out the very people who give neighborhoods their vitality. What’s left are people who work so hard to be able to live there that they have little to give to their community.”

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