Some of our successes using the Equity Atlas to shape public policy include:
Creating Open-Space & Improving Equity
Colwood Golf Course is a 140-acre open-space spanning the Columbia Slough, located in the Cully neighborhood. Cully has long been recognized as one of the most park deficient neighborhoods in Portland, and according to the Regional Equity Atlas, the neighborhood has twice the regional average poverty rate. Cully is also much more racially diverse than many of Portland's neighborhoods, with 45 percent of its residents being people of color.
This fall the Portland City Council considered a proposal by the owners of Colwood to close the golf course and change the property's zoning from open space to industrial. The proposal was to rezone and develop more than 80 percent of the property for industrial purposes, and to donate a small portion of the property adjacent to the Slough to the City for open space.
However, neighborhood residents and environmentalists came together to advocate for protection of the full site in recognition of community needs and the unique value of the property. They saw that Colwood offers the potential to harmoniously establish passive recreational opportunities, opportunities to quietly commune with nature, and opportunities to set aside areas solely for the benefit of wildlife. They recognized that the proposal to rezone Colwood would have greatly impacted an already park-deficient neighborhood and further undermined efforts to protect unique and critical habitat to migratory birds, bats and other wildlife on the Slough. Furthermore, conversion of Colwood to industrial use and would have exacerbated existing problems on the surrounding roads.
In recognition of Colwood's unique value to people and nature in the city, the Portland City Council voted to preserve the entire site for open space on September 16, 2008. The Council's decision represents a very significant victory and solid reaffirmation of the importance of protecting our environment and ensuring equitable access to nature.
Improving Access to Parks & Nature
In November 2006, the region's voters passed a $227.4 million bond measure for the purposes of purchasing natural areas and protecting water quality and wildlife habitat. It includes just over $212 million to purchase lands for habitat and water quality protection, and creates a $15 million capital grants program to re-nature communities where access to nature is most limited. Leading up to November, CLF organized its members and supporters to participate in the campaign and help pass the measure. Last winter and spring, we also played a key role in shaping the content of the bond measure prior to Metro's referral of the measure to voters. Using results of our Regional Equity Atlas research, we briefed Metro Councilors and staff on the stark disparities in access to nature in our region between low-income communities and upper income communities, and made the case that the bond measure should address this issue. As a result, the Council adopted an historic measure that will prioritize a portion of the bond funds – the $15 million capital grants program – for projects in low-income neighborhoods.
Since the bond measure passed, we have been involved in the development of the capital grants program, now called Nature in Neighborhoods program to ensure that low-income communities continue to be a priority of the program. With leadership from Audubon Society of Portland, we have also been working with community partners to develop some model projects that will link affordable housing development with re-naturing projects in low-income, nature-deficient neighborhoods.
Creating Low-Income Housing
Led by CLF, Community Development Network, Community Alliance of Tenants, and the City Club of Portland, Affordable Housing NOW! (AHN) is our collaborative effort to address the Portland metropolitan region's affordable housing shortage and the devastating impact it has on our families and communities. Through AHN, we led a campaign to create an “affordable housing set-aside” in Portland’s urban renewal areas to guarantee that affordable housing is created in these publicly subsidized redevelopment districts. In October 2006, the Portland City Council passed an historic resolution to establish a 30% set aside for the development, preservation, and rehabilitation of housing that is affordable to households with incomes below 80% of median family income, thanks, in part, to our work. Looking at the next five years alone, this set aside will result in $125.5 million for housing for working families, people of color, seniors, people with disabilities, people in recovery and other Portlanders that have been left behind by the housing market. This is more than a $10 million increase per year over historic spending for affordable housing in Urban Renewal Areas.
Hear former CLF Co-Director, Jill Fuglister, share the story of how CLF and its partners used the Atlas research to impact these public policy decisions.