Cultural Sensitivity in a Disadvantaged Neighborhood
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Cultural Sensitivity in a Disadvantaged Neighborhood

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Presented by Michelle DePass and Rich Newlands ...

Presented by Michelle DePass and Rich Newlands

The North Williams Traffic Safety Project started out with the highest of ideals—a greatly improved, safer transportation corridor with easier interactions between vehicles, bikes and pedestrians. What happened next is a public participation nightmare with, perhaps, a legendary ending. This project provides the perfect scenario for best-case public participation by illustrating how NOT to conduct a planning process in disadvantaged communities, followed by lessons learned about the importance of culturally-sensitive public outreach within the context of rapidly-changing demographics of inner North/NE Portland.

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  • I’m going to tell you a story about sustainability, bicycling, African Americans, and the public participation process as it relates to the N. Williams Traffic Safety Project.I’ll do my best to weave these themes together, as they’re relevant, and if it sounds like I’m presenting in a circular manner, I am. I’ll be telling a story from my perspective about these topics. So this will not be a linear presentation and it will be a little uncomfortable and a little messy. Topics like racism and disinvestment; exclusion versus inclusion are messy and in fact lend themselves to an approach that is more curvilinear, and less linear. First, I’ll try and quickly provide some context for which the N. Williams Avenue transportation safety project was occurring and the fastest history lesson on African Americans in Portland that you’ll ever hear.
  • Oregon didn’t permit slavery, yet the 1857 constitution spelled out that the state was reserved for Whites-only. Harsh exclusion laws prevented African Americans from living in the state, voting or owning property. The exclusion laws were repealed in 1926 but the legacy remains.The neighborhood is significant because of how and why it formed; Portland’s bustling African American community lived, worked, shopped and socialized there. Due to a chain of events including the migration of Southerners to the NW to work in the shipyards, the Vanport flood, the building of the interstate freeway, and the coliseum, the proposed expansion of Emanuel Hospital, and the banking and real estate practices common then, the neighborhood experienced first a wave of immigrants from the South, then the systemic dismantling of the neighborhood including the demolition of over 1100 homes. African Americans did not have access to capital, the area was redlined, the real estate and banking industry, were complicit in keeping real estate values low, and City leaders pushed the agendas of these industry groups forward. The result was a neighborhood with a significant loss of African American population, acres of empty lots, and over time became blighted. Fast forward, and African American people in Portland are doing more poorly today in key social and economic indicators than they were in the 1950’s. And Portland is considered a more racist city than in the south. These outcomes are due to the systemic nature of institutional racism, and do not happen in a vacuum.The most significant events of my life have happened within a thousand feet of Williams street. My parents moved to Williams Avenue from Panama and New Orleans in the 40s, my parents met on Williams avenue, they danced in the clubs, married, and I was born on at Emanuel hospital, as were my children. The first house I owned was within 1000 feet of Williams, and my mother, uncle and brother still live within a thousand feet of Williams avenue. I have chosen to live and raise my kids within a thousand feet of N. Williams Avenue.Portland likes the idea of a sustainable neighborhood, or a ideally a 20 minute neighborhood. My grandparents on either side never owned a car, and they didn’t need one one—from grocery shopping to the doctor, to the meat market, dry cleaning and the post office, and church, they were able to provide for all of our family’s needs by walking largely because we used to have a 20 minute neighborhood here. Because products and services weren’t accessible downtown or in other areas of town to Black people, there was a local economy here that supported middle income workers who created cottage businesses which allowed area residents to thrive.SUSTAINABILITY - Mention garbage service every other week, recycling and reusing, and the fact that many African American men had 2 jobs.So the controversy surrounding the North Williams Avenue project hit a nerve in the African American community, and for good reason. In essence the anger over the project stems from having this vibrant community, its homes and neighbors, cultural institutions, and economy displaced, while investment in infrastructure, and services have been largely ignored by city government for over 50 years. You have seen, or will see a process for improvement that started playing out in the Williams corridor in the late 1950s, being continued today with a different plan, but similar methods. The widening of a bike lane in itself is generally a good thing. When the planning happens in the same manner in which planning was conducted in the mid last century, we have to take pause.
  • The PBOT project started with the best of intentions. To increase safety for pedestrians, drivers, busses, and bicyclists. An outreach consultant , and bicycle advocate was hired to recruit citizens to a stakeholder advisory committee. The committee had 16 original members made up of business interests, bicyclists, and members from the community. There is a strong tendency to work with people who are similar to us. In the case of the N. Williams project, the original SAC was largely white, and educated, middle class, and bicycle friendly.The first meeting I showed up to was a community forum held at the only Black cultural institution remaining in the community. The City had an agenda with 3 items; the first was a small group discussion about observed traffic in the corridor. So we did that.Before the second agenda item came up, I raised my hand and said “We have an issue of racism and of the history of this neighborhood. I think if we're trying to skirt around that we're not going to get very far. We really need to address some of the underlying, systemic issues that have happened over last 60 years. I've seen it happen from a front row seat in this neighborhood. It's going to be very difficult to move forward and do a plan that suits all of these stakeholders until we address the history that has happened. Until we address that history and... the cultural differences we have in terms of respect, we are not going to move very far."
  • Between 220,000 and 720,000 “hits”
  • This shows the loss of Black population, and the increase of white population 1990 – 2012 in 12 census tracts in inner NE Portland.
  • Bicycle lanes are considered by some as a marker or precursor of gentrification
  • In “high contact” communities, outreach may need to be conducted in person, on the telephone, through local faith organizations, and informal neighborhood networks. This willtake longer than many public participatory processes have budgeted and it will cost more.
  • The justification for any additional spending is that public agencies are charged with the responsible spending of public funds. If those funds are being used to advantage the majority community to the detriment of a silent, or disadvantaged community, the funds are not being spent responsibly.The project outcomes with a diversity of input can be an exemplary project, not just an adequate project

Cultural Sensitivity in a Disadvantaged Neighborhood Cultural Sensitivity in a Disadvantaged Neighborhood Presentation Transcript

  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Why N Williams?/ Background Bikes!: • „World Class‟ Bicycle City • Growth in N Williams Corridor Daily bicycle traffic at N Williams and Russell 6000 5000 Bicycles per day 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 Year
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Project Team • Ellen Vanderslice: Project Manager • Wendy Cawley/ Rob Burchfield: Traffic Engineering Consultant Team • ALTA Drew Miesel • Kittleson & Assocs. • Michelle Poyourow
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Going In: the Project Perspective • Broaden scope: Not just about bikes: ‘Traffic Safety and Operations’ Project • Key to public involvement success: How to engage the African American community in a conversation about transportation
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Public Involvement Transportation Transportation Bikes! Project Improvements Technical Resources
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Going In: the PBOT Perspective • Broaden scope: „Traffic Safety and Operations‟ Project • Key to public involvement success: How to engage the African American community • Reality: The reverse: community needed to engage the City in a long over-due conversation- and its not about transportation
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Neighborhood History Transportation Bikes! Project Improvements Neighborhood Change
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project History Transportation Bikes! Project Improvements Change
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project
  • THE NEIGHBORHOODSVIEW What‟s so bad about bike lanes?
  • N. Williams Avenue Boise EliotNeighborhood Sustainability African Bicycling Americans
  • “Meeting on Williams project turns intodiscussion of race, gentrification”-BikePortland.org
  • What does bicycle planning haveto do with race?Google “bikes and gentrification”
  • Changing demographics NE Portland 1990-2010
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Lessons Learned: Overall Process • Be flexible- ASAP Challenge your assumptions • New focus on listening and learning
  • Start by challenging yourassumptions!Ask hard questions.• Who is not at the table?• In what context, historic, social, economic, is the planning happening?• How will I handle unintended consequences?
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Lessons Learned: Decision Making Process • Rebuild SAC Expand membership, more African American representation • Plan for a slower pace • Leadership Have a respected community member run the meetings • Re-do project goals Establish a new consensus about goals and priorities: ‘Outcomes’ document • Empower the SAC
  • Develop working agreements• Create guiding principles• Develop a shared understanding of context, background• Develop a system of shared input into process, agenda• Share decision making
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Slowing down and listening 28 Public involvement events: • Stakeholder Advisory Committee 17 meetings Feb, „11 – June , „12 • Open House #1: April 16, 2011 • Listening Session: June 23, 2011 • Community Forum: Nov. 28, 2011 • Focus group meetings: fall, 2011 • Open House #2: May 19, „12
  • Understand that the outreach andthe process will take longer thanexpected.• High contact communities• The role of technology• Overlooked resources, faith based communities for instance, barber shops, hair salons.
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Rebuild Stakeholder Advisory Committee • Expand membership • Broader African American representation Leadership • Debora Leopold Hutchins
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project ‘Outcomes’: Sorting out and Prioritizing Key Design Issues Bikes: Neighborhood: • Capacity- bikes • Capacity- cars • Safety- Bus/bike conflict • Safety- all modes, particularly peds • Safety- „dooring‟ • Traffic calming
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Outcomes Sorting Out and Prioritizing Key Design Issues Bikes: • Capacity bikes: Road diet (wider bike lane) • Safety- Bus/bike conflict: Left side bike lane • Safety- „dooring‟: Road diet (wider bike lane) Neighborhood: • Capacity- cars: Maintain two travel lanes, signalize N Cook St • Safety- all modes, particularly peds: Curb extensions • Traffic calming: Road diet (single travel lane)
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Key Design Options Bikes: • Capacity bikes: Road diet (wider bike lane) • Safety- Bus/bike conflict: Left side bike lane • Safety- „dooring‟: Road diet (wider bike lane) Neighborhood: • Capacity- cars: Maintain two travel lanes, signalize N Cook St • Safety- all modes, particularly peds: Curb extensions • Traffic calming: Road diet (single travel lane) Overall: • Capacity: one travel lane vs. two • Left side bike lane- will it work?
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Alternatives Development & Evaluation Graphic of all the alternatives
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Recommendation „Outcomes‟ Design Creativity document • Fargo-Skidmore- ‘shared’ facility Consensus around priorities • Honoring HistoryAcknowledges need for compromise Alternatives/ Decision Making Complexity Community „3-D‟ leadership Modeling Focus the conversation on Reduce the complexity, achieving an decision Increase understanding
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project A: Creativity: New idea- Shared Facility B: 3-D Models
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project „Outcomes‟ Creativity document Fargo-Skidmore- ‘shared’ facility Consensus around priorities Honoring History elementAcknowledges need for compromise Alternatives/ Decision Making Complexity „3-D‟ Community Modeling leadership Reduce the complexity Focus the conversation on Increase understanding achieving an decision Recommendation
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project Next Steps • Grant funding for design engineering and construction Implement „whole‟
  • Understand that to do this, you willneed more budget than is available• Is the longer more expensive process worth it?• How to justify the expense?• Exemplary project or just adequate?
  • N Williams Traffic Safety Project