A morning workshop on Saturday, April 16th, brought together a group of four Portland State University graduate students and about twenty Woodstock and Brentwood-Darlington neighbors in the parish hall of Our Lady of Sorrows Church.
Using creative hands-on exercises, students Becky Bodonyi, Julia Crain, Rowan Steel, and Dave West helped participants identify the values, assets, and needs of these two adjoining neighborhoods.
Calling themselves the 'Mosaic Planning Group', the students are working on a Masters degree in Urban Planning at PSU. They are intrigued by the city's ninety-five neighborhoods, each with its own unique character, and each with a neighborhood association to represent all who live, work, or own property within its boundaries.
In the workshop, the students helped neighbors explore the unique characteristics of the two neighborhoods, as well as the assets and challenges for each.
In a second workshop on Wednesday evening, April 27th, at Lane Middle School, a similar discussion sparked ideas of how the two neighborhoods might work together on a project. It was recognized that the more people there are behind an idea or project, the better chance it has of getting attention of people in various city agencies.
Brentwood-Darlington neighbors talked about the need for better access to fresh produce and grocery stores, and the hope for development of more community gardens. They also pointed out that their old nickname 'Felony Flats' should be dropped. They say their neighborhood is improving, and deserves to move away from the crime-ridden stereotype of years past. Other areas for improvement in Brentwood-Darlington were identified as vehicle speed reduction, better pedestrian safety, and more street lighting.
'In the two years I have lived here, there has been a growing sense of community, and more people are talking with each other,' pointed out Robin Fenske, a Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association Board member.
A common need of both neighborhoods was identified as partial improvement for some unfinished street sections that are deeply potholed and currently inaccessible for vehicle passage or for walking and bicycling.
Brentwood-Darlington residents would like an east-west street improvement for walking and bicycling, connecting their neighborhood with the new 'Cartlandia' at the intersection of the Springwater Corridor Bike Trail and S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses. Woodstock neighborhood participants noted the need for roadway improvements on some streets closely parallel to Woodstock Boulevard, in case of an emergency or unusual congestion on the main street.
Carol Uhte, Administrator of the Woodstock Branch Library, who attended both sessions, pointed out that turning left onto Woodstock Boulevard from the library is very difficult and can be hazardous.
Everyone present agreed that traffic flow and safety near the library could be enhanced if there were a street - even only partially improved - south of the library that would connect with S.E. 52nd, 46th, , and perhaps even to S.E. 39th/Cesar Chavez Boulevard. Otherwise, 'You can get trapped driving behind the library if you don't know which streets go through,' Uhte said.
Woodstock neighbors also expressed a desire to attract businesses that will maintain the unique character and integrity of the Woodstock Village Center.
The PSU students, whose project this was, plan to publish a workbook with organizing tips and resources that could be used by all ninety-five Portland neighborhoods to guide and empower neighbors to find ways to bring about positive change in their communities.
The Mosaic Planning Group project, called 'Amplify PDX - Amplifying the Portland Community Voice', is funded with a small stipend from the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, and has volunteer technical support from PSU professors.