The basic plan was decided before most people know about it? By the time they have
public meetings the plan is mostly finished. That means you must be on the lookout
for early signs of planning. Here is one example from Portland: Portland builds
projects with backroom deals
Since the city already has a plan for your neighborhood, you will only get to decide
the minor details like what color to paint the row houses, condos and apartments
that the city plans. Perhaps where some of them are located, but not wether or not
to have them. They might improve a park or two, but not much else.
The process is designed to make you think your neighborhood is actually making the
decisions. Try saying NO to something the city really wants like a big apartment
or bubble curbs.
Many city employees and employees of companies that do business with the city are
at tonight's meeting. They will pretend to be your neighbors and will make suggestions
to mold your neighborhood to the city's plan.
City planning is NOT a SCIENCE, instead it is based on multiple, dubious, assumptions
about how people should live, without regard to how people want to live. Your neighborhood
is about to become a social experiment.
Urban renewal funds include transportation upgrades. These funds will be taken for
light rail if light rail is contemplated, otherwise they will be spent on wide sidewalks,
street trees and bubble curbs instead of paving your unpaved neighborhood streets.
Or adding sidewalks where there are none.
Neighborhood advisory committees claim to represent the neighborhood, but are usually
dominated by city employees and companies that do business with the city.
The City's plan
The city's plan is pretty much the same throughout the whole city:
Put 30-50% more people in the neighborhood by encouraging giant apartment buildings,
row houses and other high density development.
Improve "walkability" at the expense of "drivability"
Add bike paths to main streets instead of secondary streets.
Widen sidewalks and add trees.
Add center medians, with trees.
Easier pedestrian crossing.
What they don't mention
Those wide sidewalks and medians require space that is only available by removing
"on street" parking and driving lanes. This means more traffic congestion. Both of
which will destroy small businesses in the area.
Increased congestion WILL cause people to cut through your neighborhood.
More people with their cars, means more pollution.
Increased congestion means even more pollution.
Increased congestion takes your time away from your family.
Parking behind businesses is more prone to muggers & rapists.
They never mention costs. Street "improvements" are very expensive and money might
be better spent:
Reducing traffic congestion in anticipation of 30-50% more traffic from all of those
Paving the unpaved streets.
Adding sidewalks where there are none.
Trees require watering. They fill the streets and sidewalks with leaves every fall.
These cause traffic accidents and slippery sidewalks which are a particular hazard
to older people.
Fight the Tricks
They don't tell you about the process, so you are always disoriented. Here it is:
They have a series of meetings to gather information and input. These include neighborhood
walks, meetings with various groups, business associations, neighborhood associations
etc to gather neighborhood opinions.
They then go away and create their vision for your neighborhood, trying to describe
their plan in terms gathered from your neighborhood.
More meetings to modify the minor elements, but not the important stuff like wether
or not high rise (stack & pack) apartments are desired. They are coming - you get
to advise on the color and siding materials.
Urban renewal districts form advisory committees composed of people from the neighborhood
(allegedly). The city will try to load these with city sympathizers.
Know the enemy
It is not unusual to have far more city people, than neighborhood people in meetings.
Always ask: "How many people here work for the City or a company that does business
with the city". These are the people who will advance the city's agenda by mentioning
things that the residents don't want. This is a very important item - don't let then
The usual procedure is to ask people what they like and dislike about the neighborhood,
what are the problems. There will be much probing for details, but no mention of
tradeoffs. These statements are recorded on giant post-it notes and later turned
into a plan. Speak up - be sure that the tradeoffs are recorded on those post-its
-- they are the only record of what was said.
If you don't want big apartments, speak up!
If you don’t want your neighborhood filled with parked cars from the new apartments,
When they ask what color to paint the giant apartments, be outspoken that the real
problem is the size not the color. Same for the building's appearance.
If speed bumps come up, mention that they slow emergency vehicles (one study showed
that speed bumps kill 37 people for every life they save.)
When they talk about helping pedestrians cross the street, mention that extended
curbs should not include bus stops which causes busses to block traffic.
Ask if people will be less safe standing close to oncoming traffic on extended curbs.
Ask about costs. Are there better ways to spend the money.
They will ask business groups if they want more customers. Ask if those new apartments
will bring more competitors. (The answer is YES)
Complain about the removal of parking.
Complain about the removal of driving lanes.
Remember, more people on the same roads = more congestion.
When they talk of new buildings reflecting the local character of the neighborhood,
they mean that the oversized apartments will be the same color with similar looking
outside materials and decorations. They will still be four or five story monsters
next to your home or the next to the one story buildings that predominate the area.
Videotape all city promises - they will lie to you to get their way.
If you don't speak up, your neighborhood plan
will be the city's scheme, not your Plan.
If You Really Care About Your Neighborhood
Organize a true neighborhood group to figure out what you want and what you don't
want. Be sure your "don't want" list makes it to the record. For instance you might
not want increased congestion, speed bumps, bike paths on the main street, loss of
parking and bus stops in the middle of traffic.
If you appear to be a group, they will try to separate you into smaller groups at
meetings to dilute your power, insist on staying together. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SAY
NO to them. After all it's your neighborhood, not theirs!
When advisory committees are formed, be sure that ALL of the voting members are from
your neighborhood. Normally, these working committees that "represent" the neighborhoods
are loaded with city employees or employees of companies that do business with the
city (These people tend to be very active in the neighborhood to promote their employer's
agenda and thus the city's agenda) This will be very contentious an will require
persistence and maybe even multiple calls to city hall. Be prepared to become a real
pest to each and every city commissioner. These committees are only advisory, with
the PDC overruling them at will.
If you doubt this, ask the people in Lents about the Rose development. Portland's
PDC overrode the neighborhood committee by claiming the committee wasn't representative
of the neighborhood. As if bureaucrats in city hall are representative!
Why not ask tonight's PDC people about Lents and Rose development?
Try to get real power, not just advisory.
Go the library and look at books on neighborhood political action. Consider Donald
Trump's "Art of the Deal" -- it mentions a lot of tricks he used against neighborhood
Most of Russelville, The commons, Pearl District and Riverfront development get special
property tax breaks and pay little/no property tax for 10 years, while schools, fire
and police get shortchanged or we make up the difference in higher taxes .
Sometimes the builders even get land from PDC at big discount, while we make up the
difference. The new high density apartments in your neighborhood will get these 10
years breaks while you have to make up the difference.
The little guy doesn't matter: PDC is proposing the city spend about $200 million
in infrastructure cost to enable the North Macadam development while little people
have to pay "system development fees" to move a Pizza parlor across the street (Beautiful
Pizza on Belmont St.).
For examples of the kind of development pushed by the city take a look at:Russelville
(S.E. 102nd, 1 block South of Burnside)
The Commons (60th & Glisin, that Moscow style apartment building abutting Banfield
on the south side.)
River Front Development.
HOW BUILDERS TRICK YOU
Present the worst possible building permitted by law then compromise on what they
really want. Or propose what they really want and threaten to build the worst if
you won't let them do it.
For small apartments: Claim that you will live in it. Of course change you mind later.
This will be quality project (no one builds junk!)
More Planner Deceptions:
Neighborhood walk shows the pedestrian view. The lack of a drive around the neighborhood
prejudges the process against cars. The lack of walk & talk with businesses prejudges
against business. Etc.
In group settings, the Delphi Technique is an unethical method of achieving consensus
on controversial topics. It requires well-trained professionals, known as "facilitators"
or "change agents," who deliberately escalate tension among group members, pitting
one faction against another to make a preordained viewpoint appear "sensible," while
making opposing views appear ridiculous.
First, a facilitator is hired. While his job is supposedly neutral and non-judgmental,
the opposite is actually true. The facilitator is there to direct the meeting to
a preset conclusion.
The facilitator begins by working the crowd to establish a good-guy-bad-guy scenario.
Anyone disagreeing with the facilitator must be made to appear as the bad guy, with
the facilitator appearing as the good guy. To accomplish this, the facilitator seeks
out those who disagree and makes them look foolish, inept, or aggressive, which sends
a clear message to the rest of the audience that, if they don't want the same treatment,
they must keep quiet. When the opposition has been identified and alienated, the
facilitator becomes the good guy - a friend - and the agenda and direction of the
meeting are established without the audience ever realizing what has happened.
Next, the attendees are broken up into smaller groups of seven or eight people. Each
group has its own facilitator. The group facilitators steer participants to discuss
preset issues, employing the same tactics as the lead facilitator.