Reports from the Editor

Quick Highlights from International Making Cities Livable Conference

June 26th, 2013

Intersection repair in Sunnyside neighborhood
Conference participants toured Portland's Sunnyside and Hawthorne neighborhoods. This intersection, painted by residents, is part of a remarkable citizen-driven program called "City Repairs." I later spoke with Mark Lakeman, one of the founders of City Repair to find out why over 80 intersections in Portland neighborhoods are painted in different colors and patterns. More on City Repairs in a coming post.

I'm at the mid-way point in a fascinating conference I'm attending in Portland, Oregon. Given the jam-packed schedule -- as well as additional meetings I've scheduled with Portland area planners -- more detailed reports on some of the sessions will have to wait till I'm back in our office in Burlington, Vermont (after a week's vacation!).

Some quick highlights: the theme of the conference is on building livable suburbs. I've sat is on a variety of sessions related to this, with both U.S. and international examples. There were especially fascinating presentations by two mayors -- Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City, Utah, and James Brainard of Carmel, Indiana (a rapidly growing suburb of Indianapolis). They spoke of many of the challenges facing planners and local elected officials.

From Europe, there was an equally interesting overview given by Sven von Ungern-Sternberg of the new suburban town of Riselfeld located in the Upper Rhine Valley in the southwestern corner of Germany.

While livability and the suburbs is the "official" theme of the conference, there's a definite second theme -- and that's the connection between planning and public health. Those attending the conference seem about equally balanced between planners and public health officials (and, of course, individuals from several other fields as well).

DrRichardJackson1Perhaps the highlight of the conference so far for me were the remarks of Dr. Richard Jackson, one of the leading voices on the close link between planning and public health. Jackson presented very useful information which planners should be familiar with. I sat down with Dr. Jackson after his presentation, and look forward to filling you in on what he had to say in a future posting here.

Also attended sessions on the use of county health rankings; ways of quantifying the economic benefits to communities from cycling and walking; successes in retrofitting suburban malls; creating "signature" roadway corridors in suburban areas; a look at suburban downtowns; and much more. Again, I'll be reporting on several of these in coming weeks.

For those of you attending the conference who have found your way to PlannersWeb for the first time, welcome! If you have ideas for short posts you'd like to prepare for our PlannersWeb readers (primarily members of local planning commissions or citizens interested in land use planning and related issues in the U.S. and Canada) please email me at: editor@plannersweb.com. Also, be sure to sign up for our free email updates -- that way you'll get word when we post more detailed reports related to the conference and to Portland area planning issues.