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Article in academic journal offers explanation for Williams project controversy

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 26th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Williams project meeting-11-10
New research delves into the Williams
project process and why it turned into such a controversy.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It's been over two years now since the issue of racism and gentrification became part of PBOT's North Williams Avenue traffic safety project. As the public process for that project morphed into a citywide dialogue about these volatile topics, the project transcended PBOT and became a case study that has been investigated, analyzed, and debated by people all over the country.

Now the work of two Portland State University professors has been published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Environmental Justice. The article, Contesting Sustainability: Bikes, Race, and Politics in Portlandia, (published in the August 2013 issue) was written by Dr. Amy Lubitow, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Portland State University and Dr. Thaddeus Miller, an assistant professor at the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, College of Urban and Public Affairs, at PSU.

"The environmental justice movement can, and should, seek to politicize sustainability in ways that will open up the concept of sustainability to the range of social and economic priorities that continue to impair the health and well-being of low-income and minority communities."
— From Contesting Sustainability: Bikes, Race, and Politics in Portlandia

Lubitow and Miller were present at many of the project's public meetings and they interviewed many citizens, city staff, and members of the project's stakeholder advisory committee.

Their article contends that the Williams project ended up being controversial because it was framed as having universal benefits and that city project managers and advocates failed to embrace the obvious political and racial elements that existed in the neighborhood where it would be built. Key to their argument is a characterization of the Williams project as a "sustainability" initiative and they leaned heavily on existing research about other "sustainability" efforts in gentrifying neighborhoods.

Here's more from the introduction:

"We contend that the inability of environmental justice concerns to gain traction in discussions about the design of sustainable infrastructure is due in part to the depoliticization of sustainability projects... that is, a given problem, project, practice, or policy is framed as urgent and necessary by appealing to universal values or scientific knowledge claims related to ecological health or public health and safety.

Sustainability, in other words, rises above what are perceived as parochial concerns and is too important to be dragged through the political mud."

Its this attempt at "sidestepping" issues like race and inequality that lead to controversy, according to Lubitow and Miller.

The City of Portland did extensive public outreach in the neighborhood at the very beginning of the project to ensure that the members of the stakeholder advisory committee reflected the neighborhood population. However, "Despite this extensive outreach," write Lubitow and Miller, "only four of the 22 members present [before the committee was enlarged] were people of color." They blame this disparity and the combination of "historical legacies of racism and inequality," in the North Williams area, as the, "catalyst for community grievances around this project to emerge."

The lesson from this project, according to the professors, is that projects like this should "encourage the politicization" of the plans from the outset and integrate "numerous voices" into the resulting changes that are considered.

Based on their research and observations, Lubitow and Miller conclude with the following argument:

"We suggest that the environmental justice movement can, and should, seek to politicize sustainability in ways that will open up the concept of sustainability to the range of social and economic priorities that continue to impair the health and well-being of low-income and minority communities... decision makers should assume that all community members have a unique vision for their local environment and that their input is a critical mechanism for truly sustainable outcomes—and for formulating a vision of sustainability that resonates with a broader set of constituents."

My quibbles with this article are that they couch this transportation project (which has its roots as a bikeway improvement project) as a "sustainability initiative" and the people who supported it as being part of the "environmental justice movement". I don't fully agree that a transportation project should be characterized like this simply because it includes a bicycling component. I also noticed they referenced a quote on BikePortland as coming from a "prominent blogger" when the quote they used actually came from a citizen at a public meeting (not from me, the author of the post).

These quibbles aside, their research and general conclusions are thoughtful and powerful. Read it for yourself online.

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Comments
  • Shyla O. September 26, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Great article! Thanks for the link, Jonathan.

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  • NF September 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    This is a great article, and it helps me understand some of the negativity toward bike infrastructure.

    From the conclusion: "This case illustrates that what is sustainable will be contextual and contested."

    Sustainability may be contested, but under no context is travel by a car more sustainable than travel by bike. There are absolutes in sustainability.

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    • Esther September 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      NF

      Sustainability may be contested, but under no context is travel by a car more sustainable than travel by bike. There are absolutes in sustainability.

      I have to say, I think this kind of absolutist statement is at odds with the final conclusion of the article.

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      • NF September 27, 2013 at 6:45 am

        Yeah, I know. I'm having a hard time reconciling sensitivity to context, which is absolutely real and important, with the watering down of effective strategies for change and individual empowerment.

        -Context leads to building fewer bike lanes because "nobody bikes here," regardless of those who want or need to bike.

        - Context leads to not building sidewalks in areas without sidewalks because "we like the rural feel", regardless of true safety enhancement.

        - Context leads to building more and more parking, because "everyone drives here," even if there is plenty of parking nearby.

        I understand the message that we need to be holistic and inclusive when working with neighborhoods so that we can solve bigger problems. Certainly, PBOT can collaborate with BPS and Parks to host a collaborative planning effort when they work with neighborhoods to make sure a comprehensive understanding of real needs is evaluated.

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        • Esther September 27, 2013 at 10:12 am

          :-) Thank you. I appreciate this high level of dialogue and your very thoughtful response!

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        • Oregon Mamacita September 29, 2013 at 9:32 am

          Don't look for "inclusiveness" from BPS. BPS uses jargon and planning terminology to hide its true intentions. For instance, they never like to discuss deliberate congestion, but they consider it a legitimate tool. The moneyed interests run this town, and they use sustainability as a cover for
          running roughshod over the neighbors, who we like to label as "NIMBYs." Half the development is green washing anyway- nothing green about tearing down a small house, cutting down the trees and then putting in two urban McMansions.

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  • Esther September 26, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    This reminds me a lot of what Dr. Adonia Lugo wrote about in her blog yesterday: http://www.urbanadonia.com/2013/09/bike-share-and-body-city-machines.html

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  • ws September 26, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    This is only a controversy because we've turned it into one, Portlandia style. N. Williams is a nightmare. I can't imagine being a bus driver and trying to make your stops effectively (and without holding up people behind you).

    This project could have been finished a year ago and avoided more accidents and acrimony, but our political will in this city is lacking.

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    • paikikala September 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      You only have to go one block west to imagine it. Vancouver mostly has one lane and generally moves the same amount of traffic 5 mph slower.

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  • gutterbunnybikes September 26, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    I can tell you why it comes off as elitist and racist. Quite simply it because when you're just making ends meat and trying to decide if you want to pay the water bill or electric bill that month cause your rent keeps getting higher from all these new neighbors, you've got more pressing personal issues than "sustainability".

    You want to win people over in the lower demographics, don't talk of less pollution, or safer neighborhoods. They don't care about the first one because they're just trying to get by and many work jobs with exposures worse than a little car exhaust.

    And "safer" neighborhoods/streets just means rents is going to rise because more affluent neighbors are going to follow. Most people scraping by know they live in a more dangerous environment, and that is why it is cheap to live there. A safer neighborhood has to be paid for, and if they can barely afford where they live now how are they going to afford the new safer block.

    For many readers here the personal economics of cycling don't apply. Once you're making say 60k+ year the costs are of car ownership (though still a chunk of change) have fairly minimal impact when compared to your earnings. If you're getting by on 25k a year (if even in many cases) cars are huge drain on your personal finances.

    This is where the personal economic benefit of riding comes into play. Faster and cheaper than the bus in the long run (for those that don't currently have cars), and stressing how much money they could save ditching the car, which is likely eating up at least 20% of their gross income. You tell someone that is only making 25-30k a year that they could save about 5 grand a year by ditching the car and using a bike you'll get a better response. They might even be able to save enough to afford to stay in the new safer neighborhood.

    Not everyone can talk of LEED certifications and melting ice caps. But everyone can talk about money.

    And of course it doesn't help that the city keeps throwing money at downtown/core infrastructure improvements and police actions in Ladds, while pretty much ignoring people East of 82nd, where incidentally many of those displaced from the gentrification of N/NE have gone after being economically forced out of their houses.

    It's easy to talk of saving the world when your belly is full, if your stomach is empty you just want to save yourself. And until activists get this, there will be very little movement into the lower economic demographics, which unfortunately also means a large portion of minorities as well .

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    • Hugh Johnson September 26, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      Well said. The problem is most young white progressives will NEVER understand this.

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      • JRB September 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm

        Excellent job of stereotyping. Part of white privilege is that many white folks are oblivious to the concerns of folks from marginalized communities. This manifestation of white privilege, however, does not mean that those of us who receive that privilege are incapable of growing in our understanding. The learning I observed here and elsewhere in relation to the N. Williams project is an example of this.

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    • 9watts September 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      "It's easy to talk of saving the world when your belly is full, if your stomach is empty you just want to save yourself."

      I'm going to disagree with that characterization. Selfishness is hardly the province of the poor. You could, I think, more easily make the opposite case.

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      • 9watts September 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm

        That didn't take long...
        http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june13/makingsense_06-21.html
        "PAUL SOLMAN: In California, you're supposed to stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. And, in a recent study, some 90 percent of drivers did, except for those driving luxury cars, like this BMW. They were almost as likely to run the intersection as wait for the person to cross the street.

        PAUL PIFF, University of California, Berkeley: Drivers of those BMWs, those Porsches, those Mercedes were anywhere from three to four times more likely to break the law, than drivers of less expensive, low-status cars.

        PAUL SOLMAN: In a country more and more polarized by inequality, UCal Berkeley's Paul Piff led a series of startling studies showing an apparent link between wealth and, well, unseemly behavior."

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 26, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      And of course it doesn't help that the city keeps throwing money at downtown/core infrastructure improvements and police actions in Ladds, while pretty much ignoring people East of 82nd, where incidentally many of those displaced from the gentrification of N/NE have gone after being economically forced out of their houses.

      I think it's noting that, at least in terms of active transportation investments, this narrative is no longer accurate. Consider the facts below (from a PBOT statement last week):

      Since April 2012, the City of Portland has built, planned or secured funding for $38 million in transportation safety projects in East Portland, including $16 million in sidewalks from federal stimulus grants; $5 million from the state Legislature targeted to Powell Boulevard and $3.6 million for sidewalks on SE 136th Avenue.

      Final Council approval of the $9 million East Portland in Motion project would bring the total committed or built in East Portland to $47 million.

      Ever since mayoral candidate Sho Dozono made east Portland transportation investment a hot political issue during the Sauvie Island Bridge relocation project debacle, PBOT has put quite a bit of money out there. And it's worth noting that one of the main rationale for the $6 million in bike network improvements PBOT is trying to get for downtown right now is precisely because of the lack of active transportation spending in the central city in recent years.

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      • Terry D September 27, 2013 at 10:30 am

        You are correct, but only a little has trickled down yet to actual east side construction. Once the east Portland projects are more complete and people start seeing real conductivity then the perception will slowly fade. It is a psychological truism that past experiences color current perception, and these perceptions usually need concrete evidence to replace them.

        Hence, once the "The M's" greenway is built out to Gresham, the "130's greenway" is constructed and a few large swaths of sidewalks are built throughout east Portland then citizens will begin to see the changes and their perceptions will mellow. Most citizens are too busy to follow day to day workings of transportation policy...they only retain what they see in their daily lives and occasional "headlines."

        Until then, they are only seeing light rail, streetcars and a tram with MORE money being poured into the already gentrifying neighborhoods. While the poorer neighborhoods have gravel roads and greenway that end abruptly like Clinton, and Going-Alberta and where even middle schools do not have sidewalks a block away.

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      • Tim Davis October 1, 2013 at 10:25 pm

        Wonderful points as always, Jonathan! However, the Sauvie Island Bridge relocation was anything but a debacle to me. For $1.8 million in city funding (plus other matching funds--yes, they all went up a little, but it was still an unbelievably great bargain), we could have had an incomparable, absolutely stunning bridge over I-405 that fit perfectly into place--and a developer even planned a beautiful project designed to complement the new/old bridge perfectly (of course that plan was canceled once the bridge move was canceled by candidate Sam Adams, who, I believe, was afraid (completely unnecessarily) of the political fallout and of Sho; he would have easily won the mayor's race either way).

        Instead, as I wrote to Commissioner Adams at the time, we would have to wait 20 years for a bridge costing 20 times as much that would end up being half the width and 100 times uglier. So, the Sauvie Island Bridge was only a debacle because it was NOT moved to NW Flanders. At least that's my recollection. Granted, it was (naturally) much more complicated than originally thought, but it still should have happened. But, as always, the political leadership and courage was incredibly lacking.

        Sorry to be a little off-topic, but the Sauvie Island bridge move to me was an incredible opportunity that I wish candidate Adams had the courage to see through to completion. I know it was VERY difficult politically, but if making huge civic improvements weren't incredibly difficult, every city would make them all the time. :)

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    • Terry D September 27, 2013 at 10:42 am

      This is why when I discovered East Portland in Motion (EPIM) I became obsessed. In undergrad I focused mainly on social movements and equity for (insert demographic group here)...then some grad work in Urban Studies. EPIM is a great example of Portland doing class and racially sensitive outreach on a grand scale and working to build out infrastructure in an equitable manner.

      From an economic standpoint, educating the public on the cost savings is critical in order to get AHEAD of the gentrification curve. My Neighborhood, North Tabor, is on the leading edge right now...but as we all know displacement is starting to occur even further east towards 82nd and south. Building out neighborhood greenways in the lower income neighborhoods ...even if they are just sharrows, signs and crosswalk striping for now, leaving the "expensive parts of construction" for later would, go a LONG way bring some equity for very little investment.

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    • D. September 30, 2013 at 11:05 am

      This needs to turn into a discussion of our excessive private property rights. There must eventually be very strict, all-encompassing rent control and even a hard ceiling on the selling price of real property, buildings and land. Unaffordable housing feeds long car commutes--California as the best/worst example of this. Gentrification? Sure, young whites move wherever you want--but the property market has to be controlled so you are not a displacing force. Repeat, property rights are a large part of the problem that nobody is yet willing to address directly.

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  • JRB September 27, 2013 at 11:33 am

    "The depoliticization and routine “tunnel vision” that dominates sustainable urban planning obscures the myriad social concerns that are just as critical to community vitality and longevity."

    This seems to me to be primary takeaway from the N. Williams controversy. It's not that bike infrastructure is not a social good, or that historically marginalized communities are automatically opposed to bike infrastructure as something that is of no benefit to them.

    What Williams teaches is that just because a project is a social good, local residents support cannot be taken for granted. They must be made part of the conversation early and planners, advocates etc. have to be ready to hear that bike infrastructure may not be highest on local folks' list of priorities for their neighborhoods, and alter their thinking and actions accordingly.

    I also have a small quibble with the way the term environmental justice is used in the paper. Historically, EJ has been applied to the undue environmental burdens marginalized communities have to bear. Referring to a bike infrastructure project as an EJ issue seems to equate it with a hazardous waste landfill or chemical factory and cheapens the descriptive power of the term.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Thanks for the comment JRB.

      you wrote:

      planners, advocates etc. have to be ready to hear that bike infrastructure may not be highest on local folks' list of priorities for their neighborhoods, and alter their thinking and actions accordingly.

      For the record, before this project was even public PBOT was out in the neighborhood going door-to-door to churches, community groups, businesses, and so on, to learn what local residents felt about the issues. They heard loud and clear early on that it wasn't just about the bikes... And that's why the project got its name, "Traffic safety operations project".

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      • JRB September 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm

        I don't disagree that the city made an outreach effort, yet as you and the study pointed out the initial advisory group had to be expanded in order to include more people of color because folks in that community felt they were underrepresented.

        I have felt all along that a lot of the opposition to the project was not because long-time residents didn't want white people riding bikes in their neighborhood. Rather, there was a lot of pent up resentment after decades of being excluded from decision making that had adverse impact on their communities, and they took the opportunity created by the street safety project to voice that resentment. That, and they had strong opinions on what was needed most in their neighborhood and it necessarily wasn't better bike lanes.

        I know it's not easy to shift money from pot to another, but I think the conclusion of the paper is correct. People are going to have differing opinions on what is most needed in their community and how we decide what gets done is going to be a political process, and that's not a bad thing.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm

          I have felt all along that a lot of the opposition to the project was not because long-time residents didn't want white people riding bikes in their neighborhood. Rather, there was a lot of pent up resentment after decades of being excluded from decision making that had adverse impact on their communities, and they took the opportunity created by the street safety project to voice that resentment.

          I absolutely agree with that. This project was a perfect opportunity to voice past grievances. It would have been great, however, if the people responsible for past injustice in this neighborhood were actually in the room and around to hear it. PDC, ODOT, Legacy Hospital, and so on were nowhere to be seen throughout this process.

          People are going to have differing opinions on what is most needed in their community and how we decide what gets done is going to be a political process, and that's not a bad thing.

          I never said it was a bad thing. I understand that completely and that's why we have public process. In this case, the public process started and a lot of people voiced their opinion about what they wanted. Then when the topic of race came up, the process changed to address it and in the end, everyone was smiling (to generalize of course).

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          • JRB September 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm

            "I never said it was a bad thing. I understand that completely and that's why we have public process." Forgive me, I never meant to suggest that you had.

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  • Paul g. September 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    I'm heartened to see the article and the conversation here. I'd like to toss one more observation into the mix.

    Portland's "unique" or "archaic" (pick your adjective) commissioner system with at large elections has not helped and has very likely hindered our ability to address racial and economic disparities in the City. (And it may limit the generalizability of the PSU study.)

    I'll put aside the bureau management system and instead focus on elections. In a city as large and diverse as Portland, maintaining at large seats reinforces a centralization of power among the economic elite. The inner neighborhoods in Portland have long supplied most of our political leadership and campaign donations.

    It is long past time that Portland recognized that the interests of communities east of 82nd or North Portland aren't the same, and may be in direct competition with, those located in Hillsdale, Irvington, Laurelhurst, etc.

    The problem is that our election system makes it extremely difficult for any representatives of those communities to hold political power or otherwise have voices at the political table.

    It's not just bike infrastructure, it's where we focus our economic development efforts (downtown), it's where TriMet maintains or cuts service, it's where we repair sidewalks and pave roads and where we focus a whole litany of public efforts.

    I don't doubt the goodwill or intentions of our political leaders, but I'm also one who believes political leaders respond most to the people who helped get them elected.

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    • Will P September 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      You are a bigger man than I Paul. I do question their goodwill. Going back to the 1950s every elected Portland Comm has been complicit or worse with unchecked urban renewal and real estate development interests or they have been held near powerless (Public financed Fritz). The front line suits may change but the deep power remains the same and it has no concern for the plight of low income Albina residents. Outer east Portland is some kind of alien shore with low ROI.

      Endgame for Williams is here: http://onenorthpdx.com/ Game over for the neighborhood's originals that haven't already moved east. New Albina will be more than fifty years in the making and exactly as planned, in the city famed for its planning.

      Would the elimination of at-large seats change anything? In my opinion, no. There is a powerful alliance between our city bureaucrats (not just the Pols) and real estate development power. Elections aren't going to cut it. It will take an even more powerful alliance to knock the existing one down.

      It will be interesting to watch.

      Cheers,

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    • Terry D September 28, 2013 at 9:35 am

      I agree and think we need to move towards district elections. At least six with the Mayor having "Tie breaking powers." I may be wrong, but I think we voted on something similiar about a decade ago and it failed. East Portl

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  • Charley September 27, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    This whole controversy just got my goat. The ironies abound: when PBOT tried to step in and make the community safer, some members of that community got all up in arms. So, would it be better if we left the community unsafe?
    -
    People have complained here and elsewhere about the disproportional spending on safety improvements in well-off neighborhoods as compared to poorer neighborhoods. Williams is an opportunity to right that, yet some community members would have none of it.
    -
    Another irony: the reason all the black people had come to live in that neighborhood was because of the institutional racism that forced them to live there, and didn't allow them to buy houses other places. When these community members complained that bike lanes would bring in all the white people, I wondered if the only solution that would satisfy them would be to go back to the old days of separate real estate maps for people of color. If we only allow blacks to live in the neighborhood (and not whites), then that would sure solve the "gentrification" problem. . . of course, along the way, it would recreate a ghetto. How would that be an improvement?
    -
    These ironies led me to the following conclusion: this was regular old NIMBYism, dressed up in language of racial victimization. Many people in many neighborhoods, black and white both, don't like to see loss of traffic or parking lanes. Those opponents will use any and all means at their disposal to oppose changes to the local traffic regime. The Williams debacle was just an example of a novel argument in a long debate over roadway design.
    -
    Of course, maybe that's not all that was going on- as Mr. Maus pointed out, this became an open forum with lots of willing, earnest, liberal ears. The forums became a place for black people to talk about the decades of racially driven animus they've experienced. The fact that none of those liberal white people had anything to do with the years of injustice didn't really matter.

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  • Oregon Mamacita September 30, 2013 at 9:02 am

    "These ironies led me to the following conclusion: this was regular old NIMBYism, dressed up in language of racial victimization."

    "This became an open forum with lots of willing, earnest, liberal ears."

    What a post. You can't deal with the fact that 94% of Portland does not commute by bike. NIMBY= someone who stands up to developers.

    But I am sure that all the black people forced out of Williams can take comfort in your willing, earnest liberal ears, even though they are just
    NIMBYs of color who have no valid positions.

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  • Shoemaker October 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    If the point of the journal article was to state that "apolitical appeals to broadly shared values or visions of what a sustainable city ought to look like, sustainability projects can be—and perhaps should be—hotly contested." no reason is given as to why that is a good idea.

    I believe this article completely misses or intentionally ignores the fact transportation projects in Portland that involve expanding access to modes of transportation other than motor vehicles are not "easy." They are not "shoe-ins." They are hotly contested, opposed and often derailed by lawsuits or the threat thereof. What is the new territory covered here?

    In the context of the Williams project, this journal article fails to make the case that sustainability marginalizes notions of equity, justice, and inclusion. The authors do not link the examples of segregation, red-lining, fragmentation, displacement and disinvestment to a counterpart in Williams transportation project which was focused on increased access for transportation other than the motor vehicle.

    In fact, within the scope of this article, it would appear that there is no contest that the initial goals of the Williams transportation project would be a net gain for all. Where then would that leave the central premise that this - this Williams street reconfiguration notion of sustainability - can and should be hotly contested?

    It's true that the effort to get public participation resulted in a different sort of feedback than the city was seeking. I think the case could be made than any sort of outreach in that Williams neighborhood would have resulted in the same response - a request for discussion and redress of long standing issues. How this is directly related to sustainability is in no way clarified.

    A request for discussion and redress of long standing issues and past wrongdoing is fair enough. Without any evidence or even statements of how the Williams street reconfiguration is related to past wrongs and how those might be tied to sustainability leads the article without any firm ground to stand on or convincing point to make.

    It seems to me that this article is suggesting that past attitudes and intentions of segregation, red-lining, fragmentation, displacement and disinvestment are somehow present in the Williams transportation project *by its very nature of being on Williams.* Yet, no examples are given of how a plan to reconfigure the street was segregating, red-lining or fragmenting.

    Is the point of the journal article to suggest that where people can pull together a shared vision of sustainability, it should be hotly contested? Hello climate change deniers.

    I am not saying that the crimes of yesterday should be overlooked in favor of the crises of today, but it is important to keep things in context. Improving non-motor vehicle transportation options is a good way to reduce emissions which improves public health and is a benefit to all whether you've suffered past injustice or not. The point of hotly contesting this is not delivered by this article.

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    • Oregon Mamacita October 2, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Wow, you went into detail and made some good points. The issue I have is this: you pretend that one group has the answer. You don't have to be a climate change denier to question the way that Williams was developed.
      A lot of the issues we are facing are new, and neither you nor I have the
      perfect answer. I think that some density stuff is "green washing" and we need to have an honest discussion about shared sacrifice.What happens now is a group of self-appointed "smart growth" "new urbanists" are dictating from the top down- and that is bad. We need EFFECTIVE approaches to climate change, and letting David Sackoff wreck Division Street may not be effective.

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      • Shoemaker October 2, 2013 at 11:31 am

        I think you are mixing issues here. The article was about the proposed street changes on Williams. The "bikeway" was the case study around which the article was based.

        It is safe to say that issues related to greenwashing, eco-lifestyles and LEED certified buildings were not within the scope of the Williams transportation project or covered in any depth in the journal article.

        There's no need to pretend that one side has the answer to how best configure a street. This is already true. There are many examples to choose from where all modes of transportation are accommodated fairly and with a verifiable benefit to all.

        Fragmentation, dislocation and even increased pollution in the neighborhood was the result of making special accommodation for motor vehicles. If you want to stop perpetuating that social injustice of the past, reconfiguring the local street is one small place to make real improvements.

        It think it's important here to make sure there's no false equivalence when comparing transportation projects sustainability vs environmental justice. The "real" benefit claimed at the time of ramming I-5 through north Portland, is not equivalent with the real benefit of improving access for all modes of transportation in a way that helps support sustainable choices. The "other side" of this argument is simply to preserve and perpetuate the bad policies of the past. I'm not sure anyone really supports that position.

        If the point of the article is to hotly contest projects related to sustainability, no benefit from hotly contesting the Williams bikeway was articulated. So why hotly contest it?

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  • john October 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Oh where is the ghost of Major Taylor?

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