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‘Community Forum’ reinvigorates Williams project public process

Posted by on November 29th, 2011 at 10:33 pm

A large crowd turned out for the Williams Project Community Forum. This photo shows the group discussion portion of the event.

On Tuesday night nearly 200 people came together for a ‘Community Forum’ to learn about a neighborhood’s past and share their opinions on the myriad issues surrounding the City’s North Williams Avenue Traffic Safety Operations Project.

The size and makeup of the crowd made it clear that this project has come very far from its humble beginnings. What started back in May 2010 as a project to improve bike access on Williams Avenue has become something far greater.

The crowd spanned many ages, races, and perspectives. In this photo, Northeast Portland resident Charlie Burr makes a point at one of the group discussion tables.

Consider who was in the crowd: There were many long-time residents, several of whom have lived in the area for over 30 years. There was also an impressive showing of City leaders including, Mayor Sam Adams, PBOT Director Tom Miller, Planning Commissioner Chris Smith, Portland Development Commission Director Patrick Quinton, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Director Susan Anderson, and others.

Mayor Sam Adams.
The event was facilitated by Lee Moore, a former resident of Vanport City who is now Chair of Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland).

In many ways the night felt like a deja vu. It was about seven months ago that the project’s first open house was held at the same location (Immaculate Heart Church across from Dawson Park). While the project has come very far in terms of awareness and community involvement, last night also felt like it was starting over.

Just like at the open house in April, feedback forms were passed out and the City got an earful of opinions about the street; what works, what doesn’t, and how people want it to work in the future.

Adams set the tone with frank talk about the area’s “shameful history.”

While Mayor Adams probably didn’t even have this project on his radar in April, he was front-and-center Tuesday night. Here’s how he opened the meeting:

“The one constant of any city is change. But in this particular neighborhood there are special vulnerabilities, factors, sensitivities, and facts and realities, that this community has to grapple with. This part of town was subject to racist and discriminatory policies at a time when the City, the Portland Development Commission, the County, the hospitals, the Oregon Department of Transportation, might of thought at the time they were doing the right thing, but they weren’t. Tonight we need to be respectful of that negative and shameful history… It shouldn’t have happened.”

After that, the crowd took a visual tour of historical buildings on Williams Avenue with architectural historian Cathy Galbraith. Galbraith’s presentation, which also focused on the area’s many notable residents, gave people a sense of Williams Avenue’s history — a history marked with a vibrant street that bustled with Jazz clubs, markets, families, and black-owned businesses.

In 1943 alone, the population along the Williams corridor spiked from 2,000 to 23,000 people.

“When you make plans to change a neighborhood,” Galbraith said, “you have a responsibility to understand the history.”

Next up was Deborah Leopold Hutchins, the Chair of the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC).

Deborah Leopold Hutchins

Hutchins, who works for TriMet but doesn’t represent them on the committee, said “There might have been some mistakes in how the initial SAC was formed.”

Back in early May, it was Hutchins’ email to PBOT project staff that ultimately led to them to hit pause on the process. “Yes there are 4 people of color on a committee of 18 people,” wrote Hutchins, “That in and of itself makes for an unbalanced committee.” Hutchins’ fear was that the vote on a new street design (which took place just four days prior to her email being sent) was unfairly “swayed” by the 14 “white, regular bike riders, business owners and new implants residents as a result of gentrification” on the committee.

“We’re going to see what’s going to work best for the whole community, the Portland community, because as things stand now there is no ‘black community’ per se, as you look up and down Williams Avenue.”
— Gahlena Easterly, SAC member who moved to the neighborhood in 1942

Hutchins’ concerns were heard loud and clear. Not only has PBOT hit the pause button, they’ve added nine new SAC members (bringing the number to 27, twelve of whom are people of color), completely re-started the public process, and agreed to host this special community forum.

During her presentation Tuesday night, Hutchins praised the City’s decision to slow the process down and she read a list of new “guiding principles” that the SAC is due to adopt at their next meeting. These principles ask the City to “consider history, honor the legacy and respect the pain” that the community has experienced and to “critically evaluate” its public processes to make sure that “those with little power can be more actively engaged.”

Another committee member, Gahlena Easterly, shared a personal perspective on the street. Her words were measured and poignant. Easterly has lived in the area for 69 years and has seen its changes — mostly for the worse in her opinion — first-hand. She urged the crowd to understand that, “We’re having a conversation about a bicycle lane, but it’s more than that.”

Gahlena Easterly moved to the Albina
area during the population boom in 1942.

As for the role of the committee, Easterly said, “We’re going to see what’s going to work best for the whole community, the Portland community, because as things stand now there is no ‘black community’ per se, as you look up and down Williams Avenue.”

The event continued with very brief presentations from three people representing active transportation: Steve Bozzone of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition; Susan Peithman from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and former Community Cycling Center employee Mychal Tetteh.

Mychal Tetteh.

Bozzone said that being able to safely walk across Williams is a “social justice issue” and that roadways should be designed with “the needs of pedestrians first.” He also shared statistics that illustrate the racial reality of traffic safety. When compared to whites, Bozzone said, black people are 73% more likely to die while walking across a street.

Peithman, also a SAC member, called the City’s past conduct in the Albina area “inexcusable” and that the project “must be done right” and “must have community support.”

Tetteh, who now works at a grocery store that serves the New Columbia neighborhood, spoke to the need for civility on the streets. “It’s the interaction between people that we’re trying to deal with… you can’t engineer solutions with stripes on the road.”

The second half of the meeting was spent in facilitated groups of 8-9 people. There were 17 groups and each one discussed several questions: What do you like and dislike about Williams? How can the city honor the street’s past? And if money was no object, what would be your dream for Williams?

SAC member and nearby resident Shara Alexander reports back from her group.
City of Portland staffer and Williams Ave resident Tiffani Penson (L) talks with Antoinette Edwards, Mayor Adams’ Director of Public Safety and Peacekeeping.
Macceo Pettis, a volunteer with Uniting to Understand Racism and long-time neighborhood activist, facilitates the discussion at one of the tables.
City Planning Commissioner Chris Smith.

The discussions were vigorous. People listened intently. Some laughed. Others aired annoyances, dreams, and personal stories. When the groups reported back, many different ideas got to be heard. More than one group mentioned the possibility of renaming Williams after a black leader. If money was no object, others said they’d build an African-American history museum or provide funds so that families displaced by gentrification could afford to move back to the neighborhood. Others said they’d spend the money on an elevated or underground bikeway.

Making N Rodney into the major north-south bikeway was an idea that several groups shared (we explored that back in August), as was moving the bike lane on Williams to the left side of the street. “No cars” was the dream of another group, while a few people advocated for some type of bicycle licensing scheme to raise money and curtail bad riding behaviors.

A nearly universal feeling was that the street, in its current form, feels unsafe and stressful for everyone… Including the youngest attendee, nine-year old Fiseha. He shared hand-written testimony and a drawing with PBOT staffers and I’ve shared it below:

My name is fiseha. Tomarow I will be 9. I live on morris st and go to Boise Eliot school. I would like to ride my bike to school and it’s very hard to go across williams st. I would like a safer way to bike or walk to school. I would like it to be safer to bike in my naber hood. Sometime I cant go to a place or to school on my bike. I have a one speed bike, but soon I will get a geer bike so I can go up hills like my mom and dad. But my mom said that I’ll get a geer bike in a loooooooong time.

Mayor Adams listened in. (Community Cycling Center Executive Director Alison Hill Graves is in the center.)

Mayor Adams listened attentively to several of the group discussions. Afterwards he told me he was “really pleased” with what he heard. “I think people are realizing that there are human beings behind the headlines. They’re listening to each other.”

PBOT Director Tom Miller in a group discussion.

PBOT Director Tom Miller sat in with one group. After the meeting he told me he felt the meeting was “really productive and insightful.” “I was impressed that everyone came to the table with good intentions… People were focused on working collaboratively.”

“I heard strong consensus around speed reduction,” he said, “speed is at the core of what needs to be addressed.”

Miller feels this type of conversation is emblematic of a city that is “retrofitting from an auto-centric system to a truly multi-modal system.”

As for the tension and emotionally-charged issues surrounding the project, Miller said he’d rather focus on the “commonality” of what people want. Miller feels that fundamentally, everyone around the table wants a more “human-scaled, safe transportation system.”

“Last night reflects a growing consensus that we need better, safer, more predictable outcomes in the right of way… If we can get there, yesterday’s tension falls by the wayside… It’s our responsibility to provide that and we’re evolving our perspective… You can be a long-time resident, you can be a victim of the racism that the City exposed folks to, or you can be someone who is new to the area and rides a bike; but there’s a commonality of a desire for better, safer, more predictable interactions.”

“There’s a lot at stake here,” Miller continued, “This has evolved beyond a simple transportation project. I’m optimistic we’ll get to a good community outcome and the conversation on Williams could be an early sign of a new approach, a better approach, to public involvement.”

Stay tuned for more coverage on the Williams Avenue project. To learn more see our past coverage.

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Comments
  • Zach November 29, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    It’s good that the process is moving along, but I think it’s unfortunate that bikes had to get sucked into this discussion about race and gentrification.

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    • Zach November 29, 2011 at 11:19 pm

      Or maybe fortunate that bikes were able to start it up?

      Either way, I don’t think the problem is that cyclists on Williams are running over people of color.

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    • Paul Johnson November 30, 2011 at 7:10 am

      It was kind of inevitable in a city that’s 75% white with poor integration in a city with profound, deeply ingrained race issues once the neighborhood minorities aren’t made to feel unwelcome was touched.

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  • Charley November 29, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    I can’t help but wonder if the end result of this will be to implement the plan as originally conceived and proposed by the City in the first place. In which case, this whole delay and expensive public re-vetting of the proposal will seem to me like a waste of resources.
    -
    None of the focus groups seem to have come up with new practical ideas for the concrete on the ground (the left side bike lane, the “no cars,” and the bike licensing scheme are disqualified for familiar reasons already rehashed on this website; the elevated and underground bike lanes are disqualified for obvious safety, access, and budgetary reasons; renaming the street is an entirely separate discussion from its proposed safety improvements, and neither street renaming or a historical museum are within PBOT’s purview). So what we are left with is the months old proposal that the city went to great expense to prepare in the first place.
    -
    Which brings me to my next point. This meeting has exposed the weak arguments of the vocal opponents. They may have had perfectly normal arguments against the increase in bike lanes (losing parking, losing traffic volume, having to see more cyclists), but have resorted to raising the specter of our community’s awful racial history, in order to bring the process to a halt. Judging by Mr Maus’ reporting of the meeting, not one speaker advocated for keeping the street as it is, in order to right decades of racist wrongs. Not one speaker explained how bike lanes and pedestrian crossings negatively affect the lives of black residents. Not one speaker or focus group explained how improving the safety of this neighborhood street is comparable to the discrimination in housing, the razing of neighborhoods, or the lack of effective policing and economic opportunity.
    -
    It’s true that the neighborhood is changing, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that safety improvements might encourage white people to move into the neighborhood. So the vocal opponents might be correct in that assessment. Unfortunately, the only solution to white people freely moving in and black people freely moving out would be to encourage housing discrimination or make the neighborhood as awful as possible. Actually, it is possible that some sort of affordable housing scheme would allow locals who’ve been renting in the neighborhood to remain, in spite of higher market rents. That, though, is obviously not under PBOT’s purview, and seems to me unrelated to the issue at hand. This also points to the underlying absurdity of the issue: that the City was doing wrong to neglect or uproot this neighborhood, and now somehow is doing wrong by finally trying to bring some safety improvements to the street. They could have left it all alone, and surely someone would have eventually complained of the substandard facilities foisted on the one black neighborhood in town.
    -
    So why did they bring all this up? As I’ve said before, I believe it is only a tactic. The opponents may have other reasons to oppose, but they feel that this is the likeliest path to retaining the current situation.
    -
    I can’t even disagree with them that there should have been more black people on the SAC, but I’d hardly then advocate for scrapping the solution that the SAC came up with. If more black people were on the SAC, would they have come up with a substantially different plan in the first place? So again, we see that the reasoning, in this case based on procedural problems, is weak.
    -
    This neighborhood deserves to have a safe street, and I feel, after reading about this meeting, that the improvement will probably eventually happen, but the delay was unnecessary and costly. This is not the venue to right decades of wrongs by having conciousness raising or exchanges of feelings.

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    • JRB November 30, 2011 at 8:26 am

      I agree that is not a venue for righting past decades of wrongs. If believe, however, that it builds understanding and respect among the different stakeholders which can lead to greater support for the project. Even if the project doesn’t change a whit, than these efforts are time well spent. Likewise if it leads to some changes that also result in wider community support.

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    • 9watts November 30, 2011 at 10:14 am

      Interesting observations, Charley. But I would have to disagree with one of them:
      “In which case, this whole delay and expensive public re-vetting of the proposal will seem to me like a waste of resources.”

      I almost always think more conversations, especially as broad and well planned and well attended as this one appears to have been, are a good thing in and of themselves. I can’t frankly think of a better way to spend (a bit of) money?! And for that matter, how much does/did this public involvement cost?
      And let’s not forget how much money gets spent planning for the CRC(!), which I venture yields none of the ancillary social benefits of this kind of conversation.

      Excellent reporting, Jonathan!

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      • sorebore December 3, 2011 at 7:48 pm

        9watts has a great point here! I find that looking through this post, it seems as though the topic is tempering and discussions are progressing in a positive way. That says a lot IMO, and props to 9watts for bringing this simple fact up. peace.

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    • matt picio November 30, 2011 at 11:56 am

      I agree with 9watts – it’s not a waste of resources. Before the recent events, there were a number of stakeholders in the neighborhood who weren’t being heard and felt their concerns weren’t being addressed. This is an opportunity for the city to show it’s not ignoring any of its constituents. It’s also an opportunity for PBOT to better educate residents about the issues from a traffic perspective, and really EXPLAIN how it will help residents. It’s also opened up more opportunities for dialog, brought people in contact with each other who wouldn’t have been, and it’s gotten many more people involved in the public process. Even if the end results of the PROJECT are identical to the start, the end results of the COMMUNITY are now very different, and hopefully, improved.

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    • PedInPDX December 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm

      I think JRB, Matt & 9Watts are right. The meetings have been contentious, but the major problem many residents had was with the process, not that Williams needs changing. The community felt they were not being included in decisionmaking, and so they raised concerns, justifiably so.

      As for if it’s been “worth it,” Portland’s public process is always undergoing adjustments, and this is a good model PBOT and City can employ in future. (One that could save public money in the long term.) As political and personal expressions, I always felt they were welcome in a public forum, however shocking it sometimes was to hear them, or how I may have disagreed with some conclusions. Now, with an inclusive stakeholders group, the City has had a chance to connect with those who’d been left out of this particular process and take better account of their needs.

      The result may be something that looks a good deal like what had been voted on before, but will also address historical issues and more recent ones (like the residents’ ignored pleas for the City to fix various problems with the street about ten years ago). As has been stated, that could include renaming the street and holding yearly street festivals, doing walking tours, installing historic landmarks, modifying street features, making sure the bike facility meshes with transit, using traffic calming measures, adding crosswalks and lighting, and employing a more flexible approach in order to lessen impacts on residents, businesses and churches as they relate to parking and access.

      Yesterday evening Tom Miller and Catherine Ciarlo explained that PBOT and the City transportation arm have distinct functions: PBOT’s job is to respond to demand and provide choices. The City’s is to respond to political demands made by constituents and stakeholders, and to lean on PBOT to those ends.

      I think what we had here was a case of a PBOT-only approach to this process shifting to a joint approach by PBOT and the City to move this project forward keeping in mind both transportation demand (25% ridership rate in the neighborhood) as well as political demand, with the intention of forming a more equitable solution.

      What it boils down to is, are we willing to have this messy, protracted discussion now, in order to avoid messy discussions in the future? If it results in a N Williams that is safer and healthier for everybody, I’m cool with that.

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  • John Lascurettes November 29, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Thanks for the in-depth coverage, Jonathan. Excellent reporting.

    Regarding:

    Others said they’d spend the money on an elevated or underground bikeway.

    What was that group smoking? “Outsiders” complain about the cost of biking projects already – how cheaply do they think moving bikes into these kind of facilities would cost? And how is moving bikes off the road making pedestrians safer while still leaving the multi-ton “bulls” running loose in the roadway?

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    • Paul in the 'couve November 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      IDK – I dream about a COVERED bike route all the way from Downtown Vancouver to Pioneer Square every time I ride in a pouring rain. And I’ve thought elevated could work too! Certainly much less difficult and expensive that something like the Viaduct in Seattle or the tunnel they are building to replace it.

      But agreed right now it isn’t political feasible :)

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  • Charley November 30, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Exactly. . . would this kind of ludicrous plan somehow negate the racism of the past, or improve on the very workable plan PBOT already had completed? If bike lanes are racism, then how the heck would an elevated bike lane be an improvement?
    These are the kinds of nonsense ideas that come up when people are trying to solve a huge historical problem with bike infrastructure. Or, more accurately, when the discussion gets hijacked.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 30, 2011 at 12:21 am

      Slow down guys, this was just a brainstorm session. People were asked to share their big dreams. I’m not even sure who, within the group, shared the idea of elevated bikeways. The point is it was said more tongue-in-cheek– not as a sincere proposal. Thanks.

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      • John Lascurettes November 30, 2011 at 10:29 am

        Oh, certainly didn’t take it as a serious contender as recommendation. But did read it as a rather naïve proposal and not tongue-in-cheek as you say.

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      • matt picio November 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

        It might be worth remarking that a brainstorming session is supposed to generate ideas. When brainstorming, no idea is stupid, no idea is foolish – the point is to think outside the box, and bring in as many ideas, concepts and perspectives as possible – someone may come up with something ingenius, but to get there, every idea must be cultivated, including the unworkable, unaffordable, or absurd.

        Step 2 is to take those ideas and narrow them down to those which can be made workable and within the available resources.

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  • jim November 30, 2011 at 12:56 am

    There are obviously pent up frustrations coming out now because this is a good opportunity to speak out. These meetings are about a lot more than just making bike lane changes. There are long time residents that feel their neighborhood has been taken away from them, and it is still happening now. I can understand where they want to preserve what is important to them. It was really good that the historian was there to explain some of the past that does matter, it wasn’t all bad as so many people hang on to that idea. I agree that they should have a voice in planning major changes. A lot of people that lived in the corridor had taken advantage of the high housing prices and used the opportunity to do other things that they made their own decisions about, moving to another city perhaps, a newer home in a different neighborhood, maybe just cashed out on grandpas house for what ever reason. I don’t think it is anybody’s responsibility to pay them money so they can move back here again after they made the decision to leave before… I know rents have gone up here, they have everywhere else also. Being close to downtown has increased the property value more lately because of high gas prices. People don’t want to drive in from Gresham every day ($$). 10 years ago you didn’t see very many people walking around the streets here because they were afraid, the changes are astonishingly positive in that respect. Night time there are still some bad stuff going on, but not near as much as before. I would like to hear some of the history of the area before the vanport flood. There are some really nice big old houses in the area. What was it like then?
    In the middle of the day when there is no rush hr traffic the street is relatively calm. If there was a way to get rid of people just driving through, using it as a freeway to another neighborhood (or state even) it could take care of most of the problems. You cant stymie the traffic flow because of the hospital down the street needs to get emergency vehicles back and forth quickly (as well as fire and police)
    I’m sure that whatever comes out of this will make it all much nicer and people will be mostly happy in the end

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    • Paul Johnson November 30, 2011 at 7:12 am

      I actually feel safer in Boise-Elliot at night than I do in Beaverton during the day…

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      • huey lewis November 30, 2011 at 9:37 am

        Really? How so Paul? What is going on on those streets of Beaverton that someone on the eastside may be unaware of?

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        • q`Tzal November 30, 2011 at 10:47 am

          Higher average income leading directly to a higher proportion of over-sized and over-powered vehicles?
          Drivers with the sense of shallow entitlement that comes with a higher than average median income?

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          • middle of the road guy November 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm

            You have studies to show this or is it just your biased ‘observations’?

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            • q`Tzal November 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm

              These were posted as questions or suggestions; notice the “?”.

              And they were definitely my opinions.
              I’d love to be proven wrong by empirical evidence if only I could find any that actually addresses the original issue.

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        • wsbob November 30, 2011 at 11:16 am

          Not that east side Portland residents wouldn’t necessarily wouldn’t be aware of danger associated with problem road infrastructure that Beaverton has to deal with. The Oregonian reports regularly on the news out there.

          Just this morning around 6am, a pedestrian was nailed trying to cross one of the monster thoroughfares that cut directly through the center of town. Still very slim details as of 10 minutes ago, but the road between Hall and Cedar Hills Blvd…a big section…is closed down until probably noon as investigators gather info.

          I’m glad to be reading that Willams Ave area residents are taking a stand to mold the future form their neighborhood takes. It’s especially oppressive to have outside forces impose on your neighborhood, changes with various consequences that aren’t particularly good for anyone.

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        • Paul Johnson December 1, 2011 at 8:18 am

          Higher, but lower profile, instance of property and violent crime than North Portland and an incompetent police force that fails to follow through even in cases of murder.

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  • Hugh Johnson November 30, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Do have any Asians, Latinos, or handicapped people on these committees?

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    • q`Tzal November 30, 2011 at 10:52 am

      What about the Japanese community?
      They certainly suffered indignity in this area.
      At the very least the Japanese suffered indignity during WWII.

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    • middle of the road guy November 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      And what percentage were gay? Let’s add another 9 members and make sure most of them are gay.

      Then we can get to work on the vietnamese community.

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  • Lyle November 30, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Jonathan, your reporting this time was great. Some of your previous reports have been tinged with, well, I don’t know exactly, frustration maybe? Perhaps it’s simply a reflection of the positive nature of this particular community forum.

    This process is slow and agonizing for some but community is important and community gatherings/consensuses aren’t linear. I think the doubting Thomases are being too critical. Progress is like a steamroller sometimes and the ability to hit pause or reset is a wonderful thing as long as it’s not abused. This time I don’t believe it was and so far the result seems worth it.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 30, 2011 at 8:55 am

      Thanks Lyle,

      To say this project has been challenging for me to cover, to be involved in, and to be a spokesperson for, is a vast understatement. Yes, frustration is one of the words that would accurately describe how I’ve felt about it at times. Cheers.

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  • cycler November 30, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Great reporting, and I especially like how you shared a lot of great photos of the group meeting- livens up a long “straight reporting” story, especially when the photos are as great as the ones you snapped. I’m going to try to do the same to liven up my (text heavy) meeting reports.

    We have a similar situation on a project that’s going on in Cambridge (MA) where the city plans on rebuilding the street (for major sewer replacement) and implementing a lane diet and cycletrack in a primarily African-American neighborhood. In this case there have not been the same outrages to the community, but there are gentrification issues in general with this area, although not specifically related to the bikeway. The city has done an extensive public process, and most of the criticisms I heard at the public meetings were actually VC’ers hating the separated facilities. Other than that, the mostly African-American homeowners in the area are concerned about the construction-period inconveniences, and distrustful of “The City” but seem neutral on the actual cycletrack, and willing to see (or at least not reject) the potential benefits of “complete streets” to the neighborhood.

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  • Tave November 30, 2011 at 10:14 am

    It’s a raw subject, but why did Deborah wait till the SAC process was mostly over to bring up her concerns about too many white people on the committee? Why did she raise those concerns after she disagreed with the SAC’s direction?

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  • RH November 30, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Nice writeup! All I can say is that perhaps if more community support ends up surrounding this project, then perhaps bigger and better cycling/pedestrian improvements could happen, more funds allocated, etc…

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  • Kristen November 30, 2011 at 10:41 am

    I like the coverage and all the photos, but perhaps they could be placed under a jump cut as you typically do?

    **Oops! My mistake Kristen. Fixed now. — JM

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  • Marcus Griffith November 30, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Complicated subject. Many questions.

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  • lda November 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I’m glad good feelings were felt at the meeting. Meanwhile, I’ve stopped riding on Williams. With the traffic, construction, leaves in the bike lanes, etc, it doesn’t feel safe. I’m sure that will change as this process continues…and continues….

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    • matt picio November 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      Rodney is a good alternate, just be cautious crossing Fremont and Alberta. On the west side of the couplet, Michigan is another good route going north from Fremont.

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  • joan November 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Hey, that awesome 9-year old is my kid! (He got a new bike, with gears, for his birthday, by the way. He only thought it would be a long time because I was trying to throw him off the present-trail.)

    I think this process has been helpful. I know a lot of people in and out of the neighborhood have learned a whole lot about Portland’s racist history, and especially with regards to I5 and the hospital. At the Race Talks event at the Kennedy School last month, a speaker there said that her family had been forced to move *twice* — once for the Rose Garden or I5, and one for the hospital. Ignoring the historical wrongs isn’t going to make for a better outcome for anybody.

    Another positive outcome of this process is increased awareness at PBOT about some very real concerns about traffic (bike and vehicles) on Williams, especially by those trying to cross Williams. There also seems to be a new awareness of the problems of cars taking Williams to skirt I5 to Washington. Williams is designed to accommodate neighborhood cars and bikes from the neighborhood and beyond, but it’s become clearer that much of the car traffic is not neighborhood traffic.

    For my family, including my kids, who have to cross Williams and Vancouver to get to their neighborhood elementary school, the big issue is really how hard it is to get across those streets, either as a bike or as a pedestrian. Cars don’t stop at Dawson Park, and bikes don’t either, and then the buses can block visibility for everyone.

    A solution that addresses these problems will be good for bikes, too, I suspect.

    I would love to see one-lane for cars and more space for bikes on Williams–the sooner the better. But I can wait if it means more voices are heard and the final outcome is better.

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  • q`Tzal November 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I feel like we are reinventing the wheel with this process.
    How do they handle this in Europe?

    Every single public project in Europe steps on and destroys someone’s history; they must have standardized some way of accommodating public outcry.

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  • Alexis November 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Jonathan, thanks so much for the reporting on this. As an attendee, I think you captured it well, and I especially love your evocative photos of the people there. I appreciate the reporting you’ve done on the project, how your perspective has evolved, and the community forum you’ve provided for people to air their opinions and learn from each other.

    As a frequent attendee of transportation project meetings, I was most pleased by the number of people in the room whom I didn’t know, both local community members and people who use Williams for travel through the neighborhood. It’s very common for such meetings to be “the usual suspects” and that doesn’t seem to be the case here any longer, and I am grateful to those who spoke up to get greater involvement from the local community. It was an emotional and rocky process but I think it was important for them to do that, even if (as people do when the subject is important and emotional) they ruffled feathers in the process and weren’t always fully focused on acting constructively.

    As I was reading through the Portland Plan yesterday, I came to my own perspective on why neighborhood support for transportation system improvements is so important. While creating an effective citywide transportation network is critical, this project has shown that however good the city’s ideas are on that level, if they don’t serve the needs of the neighborhood then they don’t ultimately serve the needs of the city either, because they anger and displace people and don’t foster community and connection, which I believe is the ultimate aim of an effective transportation system. Transportation provides the access that makes community formation possible.

    I also saw the commonality that others remarked on: there’s a surprising amount of consensus in what people want for Williams in their hearts, even if there is disagreement on how best to get there design-wise. And there definitely is: we heard a number of proposals, not all of which can be realized on one street. But overall, I heard that people want Williams to be a vibrant community artery that is lively and pleasant for people and safe and effective at moving local traffic for all modes, and I think that’s an aim that’s achievable.

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    • 9watts November 30, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      As someone who was not present I am curious if anyone mentioned or pointed out that one day we won’t have cars on Williams or any other street, that planning of our infrastructure these days might do well to include this very significant factor? (in the medium-to-long-term, depending on your point of view)

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  • KRhea November 30, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Excellent job of reporting the meeting JM. I to realize it’s been a rough road at times sitting in “your chair” and I don’t envy your position, however, with the type of coverage you provided from this meeting it’s clear that all sides are talking, ears have been opened along with a few minds. Challenges such as this are never easy nor solutions quick to be found, however, open,honest and intelligent dialogue about any subject is never a bad thing.

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  • q`Tzal November 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    If we want to make this street “human scale” and safer there is a proven solution:
    () make it ONE lane.
    () reconfigure traffic lights to a Green Wave with a speed of 15~20 MPH.

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  • Hugh Johnson November 30, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I still am amazed how something as innocent and inviting as the bicycle has been somehow associated with racial oppression. Only in Portland.

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  • jim November 30, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    There is a common problem with Williams and Interstate ave. They both are thoroughfares for people passing through the neighborhood without having any reason to be there, it’s just in the middle. Interstate ave used to be the main highway before I-5 was built, after I-5 i would assume this should have directed all those cars onto I-5. The same should be true with Williams, It is a parallel arterial that is over utilized during rush hr commutes. We still need Williams to be a main arterial, just not an abused one like it is right now. I keep saying fix I-5 and the problem goes away for the most part. It took years for them to add another Lane to the delta park area, Who knows how long to add another bridge. The suggested bridge has the same number of through lanes and improved of ramps. Maybe that might work for a while,but in a few years when our population increases dramatically it will put us right back where we are now. I am apposed to the new bridge because of its exhorbanate price tag. I think they can do the project for much less money without a lot of the bells and whistles.
    Maybe someday they will run a trolley down williams and back up vancouver? That might lighten the congestion a little bit, and make a nice ride to emanuel….

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    • Paul Johnson December 2, 2011 at 7:46 am

      Interstate Avenue and MLK both split this role, actually. They still the official auxiliaries to I5 being 99W and 99E respectively.

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  • Watson December 2, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Cool to see the conversation here, can I add that- is there anyway the African American Owned Business known as the 1222 can do something about all the crack slinging ****tards I have to deal with around this area? They let out at 2am…and we have to deal with their crap all day, everyday? Some Businesses have to step up at some point . I’m so sick of taking my kids to school everyday with these thugs roaming up and down an all around for the last 20 years. Why can’t we overcome this situation. It has sucked for a very long time, and I have a glimmer of hope that this process can put a wedge in there soon.

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    • Paul Johnson December 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      Couldn’t find that place on Google Maps. But you must be new here if you think that problem along any of the big north-south routes between about Penninsular and 15th is anything that started in the 1990s instead of LONG before that.

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      • jim December 3, 2011 at 9:59 pm

        Actually the 1222 is on Vancouver ave around fremont

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