Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So what is the Project Advisory Committee?

The Lents Park Master Plan process is being overseen by a citizen committee called the Project Advisory Committee (PAC). Some committee members represent community groups with an interest in the process, while others represent the community at large. FLP's representative to the PAC is Kathleen Juergens de Ponce, an original founding member of FLP and current Steering Committee member.

The PAC will ultimately vote on the final Master Plan before it goes to City Council for approval. So get to know the PAC - they represent you in this process!

PAC meetings are open to the public, and we encourage interested FLP members to attend. The next one will be Wednesday, October 13, 6:00 p.m., location TBD.

PAC roster and meeting schedule can be found on the
City's project page for the Lents Park Master Plan. (This site is worth checking out in any case, since it contains a lot of useful information and background documents.)

Next FLP Meeting Thursday September 30

Next Friends of Lents Park meeting will be:

Thursday, September 30
6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Lents Commons Coffeehouse
SE 92nd Avenue & Foster

This will be a short meeting to check back in with our membership and discuss next steps. How are you feeling about the new public involvement process that has been proposed in response to FLP's concerns? What can you help do to make sure the community's voice is heard in this next round?

The Lents Commons closes at 7:00, so we will try to keep things brief. This new local business has been GREAT about hosting Master Plan-related events, so please consider supporting them with your business.

We had originally asked people to save this date for a possible meeting between the group and Commissioner Fish. It now looks like it will take quite a bit longer to get on the Commissioner's schedule. We'd like feedback from our members as to whether this is still worth doing, given the expanded array of new meetings that has now been announced.

Expanded Process would add "Listening Sessions"

Prior to FLP issuing its letter on the Master Plan process, the next round of public involvement was going to look something like this:

Comment period closes on the concept maps. Comments are tabulated and analyzed. The City's contractor, Walker Macy, then gets to work consolidating the three concept maps into one "preferred concept." There is another open house where the preferred concept map is presented, then public comment opens again, prior to the map and Master Plan being finalized.

The FLP Steering Committee called for this process to be put on hold, based on the input we got from virtually all members we talked to. People's outrage at what they were seeing in the concept maps, and lack of confidence that the City was listening, caused us to conclude that it would be premature to proceed to the "preferred concept" stage. We called for another round of public involvement that would be more open-ended, that would engage the community in dialog about what we DO want for our park, instead of reacting to yet another map, which we feared would be full of yet another round of things we didn't want. We also worried that some of the community's good ideas that never got included in the concept maps in the first place might slip through the cracks without a chance to be considered.

We have been listened to!

Barely a week after our letter was sent, and a couple of days after FLP's delegation met with Commissioner Fish's staff, the Parks Department has announced a new, expanded public involvement process for the next stage of the plan. It's going to look like this:

Comment forms on the concept maps will be tabulated and analyzed (they're almost done with this), then summarized for the Project Advisory Committee.

The week of October 25, there will be three "Listening Sessions"
October 25: Sustainability
October 26: Active Recreation
October 27: Community Spaces

The preferred concept map will then be presented at an Open House to be held November 1, with a comment period open until November 22.

(Times and places for meetings are still to be determined. Dates may also be subject to change, based on input from Project Advisory Committee.)

So how is this better? Well, before we are faced with another map, we will have a chance to come together as a community and have open-ended conversations about what we want for our park and what changes we might be willing to accept. We will have the chance to hear the ideas of other community members and discuss them among ourselves before we have to respond to them on a form.

These events will be called "Listening Sessions" because the Parks Department, and the Project Advisory Committee for this Master Plan, will be there to listen to what the community has to say.

Topics for the three Listening Sessions will break down as follows:

* "Sustainability" includes community gardens, natural areas/native plantings, and trees.

* "Community Spaces" includes the dog area, paths, internal and external connections (to transit and Lents Town Center), playground/spray play, picnic area, entrance, and performance space/gazebo.

* "Active Recreation" includes Walker Stadium, sports fields, ball fields, tennis, basketball and the "skatespot."

Downside to this expanded process is that there are now more meetings for concerned citizens to attend. But this does not have to be a bad thing. Most of us have one area or activity in the park that interests us most. Make that the session you attend!

The FLP delegation that met with the City is feeling very optimistic that this expanded process will lead to a better result not just for our group, but for the entire community. Yes, we would have preferred the City to do this listening process at the front end, but better late than never.

We would like to know what our members think. Do you feel your concerns are being addressed? Do you feel any greater confidence in the Master Planning process? We would especially like input into the possibility of a meeting between our members and Commissioner Fish himself. Is this something you would like to see happen, or would this just be one more meeting?

So give us your feedback. Come to our next meeting (Thursday, September 30, 6:00 p.m. at the Lents Commons Coffeehouse, SE 92nd and Foster). Post a comment to this blog, e-mail us at lentspark@gmail.com or call 503-331-0326.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Almost Final" Results from Concept Map Comments

Thank you to everybody who put the time in to fill out the lengthy and complex comment form on the three "concept maps" in the Lents Park Master Plan process. We know this wasn't easy, but it had to be done! As of the September 15 deadline, a whopping 330 responses had been received. This is a very impressive response rate (other Portland parks going through similar processes have had responses in the low dozens) and speaks powerfully to the love this community has for our park.

We are still waiting for the Parks Department to complete analysis of these comments and release a final report to the public, but members of the Project Advisory Committee have been able to see "almost final" results. Some highlights are as follows.

I have deliberately held off giving firm numbers or percentages on any of these items, since these are preliminary numbers. Be aware that these numbers are subject to correction, and watch for that final report!

* Respondents overwhelmingly have said: Keep the trees! People voting to "preserve as many existing trees as possible" outnumbered people voting "OK to cut if replacement trees are planted" more than two to one.

* Respondents overall favor keeping the park largely the way it is. Of people voting for one of the three concepts, the overwhelming winner was Concept A, getting more votes than B and C put together. The most common remark made for favoring A was that it makes the fewest changes. The number of people voting "none of the above" was larger than the vote for B or C, and almost as large as the vote for A. Again, many comments under this item state that people like the park the way it is.

* Respondents seem to like the "Skatespot," with all three proposed locations getting more "like" than "dislike" votes. (For those of you who have liveability concerns about the skatespot, this issue is far from over. Stay engaged in the process, and there will be future opportunities to talk about this!)

* Respondents favor keeping the dog park where it is, with many comments calling for it to be fenced in its current location.

* Natural/botanical plantings were popular, getting twice as many "like" as "dislike" votes in all three areas they were proposed. (Combine this with the vote on keeping the trees, and it is clear that people are envisioning plantings that are compatible with the existing tree canopy.)

* Respondents overwhelmingly favor keeping the children's playground where it is.

* Respondents favor making Walker Stadium multi-use over keeping it the way it is.

* For the central fields, the most popular proposal was the one in Concept B, which keeps both fields as natural grass and "flips" which field will be permitted. (Combine this with other answers, and it's clear that people did NOT like the proposed reorientation of the fields in this concept, which would have sacrificed multiple trees in order to provide for a direct north-south pathway.)

* Regarding the gazebo, by a large margin people preferred the proposal in Concept A, which would relocate the gazebo but keep it in the park's open central section. The proposal in Concept B to move the gazebo to the park's SE corner received more "dislike" than "like" votes, but it was close. People overwhelmingly disliked the proposal in Concept C to move the gazebo to the SW corner. Of those making comments under this item, the most common by far was to keep the gazebo where it is.

* About 3/4 of respondents favored preserving the current gazebo, while about half said they wanted to see a band shell. (OK, there's some overlap here. Let's discuss it.)

* By more than two to one, people voted no on a "paved plaza area."

* By a large margin, people preferred the pathways as shown in Concept A, which proposes a pathway between the two central soccer fields without changing the orientation of these fields.

* By more than three to one, people supported keeping the soft-surface walking/jogging loop in its current location.

* Almost everybody liked the idea of expanding the community garden (but it's clear from other answers that they didn't want to sacrifice a heritage tree to do it). Almost nobody liked the idea of moving the garden up onto a terraced hillside.

* Support was overwhelming (more than two to one) for keeping the north side football field, formally known as Vavrek Field, in its current location. People split much more evenly on whether they wanted this field to be synthetic and lighted.

* Most popular location for the large covered picnic area was the proposal in A, but B was a close second.

* By more than two to one, respondents support keeping the tennis court.

* Respondents favored the proposal in A to move the basketball court by a large margin over the proposals in B or C, but a large number of comments favored not moving it at all.

FLP members should feel vindicated by these results, as it appears that the concerns and opinions expressed by members of our group are widely shared by the rest of the community. There is room here for the genuine aspirations of our community to continue being debated, while the more outlandish proposals of the City's hired contractor have been decisively rejected.

Kathleen Juergens de Ponce
FLP Steering Committee
FLP representative to the City's Project Advisory Committee

Friday, September 24, 2010

They're listening! Thursday meeting brings expanded public comment and focus groups

Five members of Friends of Lents Park participated in a productive meeting Thursday evening at Lents Commons with city representatives close to the Lents Park Master Plan process.

FLP members Raymond Hites, Ken Park, Larry Sullivan, Kathleen Juergens de Ponce and Barbara Bader met with Elizabeth Kennedy-Wong,Community Engagement & Public Involvement Manager, Portland Parks and Recreation; Sarah Coates Huggins, Parks Project Manager for our Master Plan, and Emily Hicks, Commissioner Nick Fish's Policy Coordinator. We were joined by Cora Potter, representing the Project Advisory Committee.

In brief, the city reps seemed to listen closely to everyone's comments on the city's public outreach flaws. A result of the meeting will be an expanded open-house process with several focus groups as we move ahead with the planning process. Thanks to Cora Potter for the idea.

The upcoming meeting between all FLP members and some of Nick Fish's staffers is still in the planning stage. FLP wants the meeting open to everyone who cares about Lents Park. We hope Commissioner Fish will find time to attend that meeting with us all.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

City responds to FLP by asking for meetings

We're happy to report that in response to the Sept. 15 letter from FLP (see below), city representatives have requested a meeting. Several FLP delegates will meet Thursday with city reps.

In addition, Commissioner Nick Fish's staff wants to set up a meeting with all members of FLP. Kathleen Juergens de Ponce is working with Commissioner Fish's staff to set up the expanded meeting, which will take place here in the neighborhood. We are hopeful that Commissioner Fish will attend the meeting. Stay tuned for details.

Letter to Nick Fish snags meeting for FLP

The steering committee for Friends of Lents Park emailed to Commissioner Nick Fish and associates a letter outlining the position of FLP members regarding the 25-year Master Plan process for Lents Park. It represents FLP's public comment as a group on the second stage of the process. This does not replace comment forms that our members have filled out as individuals.

In this letter (see below), we have attempted to summarize the main points on which we have heard overwhelming agreement from all the FLP members we've talked to. This document is not meant to express everything everybody wants to say. By all means feel free to contact Commissioner Fish directly with anything you might want to add. You can reach him at 503-823-3589 or nick@portlandoregon.gov.

We have already heard back that Commissioner Fish's people want to meet with us. The steering committee is putting together quickly a delegation for this meeting, so some of you will be getting phone calls. If you want to volunteer for the delegation, please call Kathleen at 503-756-2786.

September 15, 2010
To: Commissioner Nick Fish Director Zari Santner, Portland Parks & Recreation Lents Park Master Plan Project Advisory Committee
From: Friends of Lents Park Steering Committee: Barbara Bader (Interim Member) Diane Camelli Kathleen Juergens de Ponce
Re: Lents Park Master Plan Public Comment on Concept Plan Alternatives

The Friends of Lents Park submits the following as public comment on the “Concept A, B and C” maps for the Lents Park Master Plan. Although our members have submitted individual comment forms, we believe it is appropriate to speak collectively on more fundamental issues of process and assumptions which the City's comment form is not designed to address.
These positions are based on three weeks of intensive engagement with our own membership and the surrounding community since the release of the three concept maps, including four public meetings and hundreds of contacts by phone, e-mail and in person. Our members and the community have overwhelmingly told us:
1. There is a fundamental lack of confidence in the entire Master Plan process, caused by seriously inadequate public involvement on the front end. We were never asked what we want for our park, but have had proposals for dramatic change simply thrown at us.
2. The City needs to slow down its Master Plan process and reopen it to open-ended public comment, even if this means we do not get a final Master Plan in place by January 2011.
3. Future planning processes should start with the understanding that this park is much-beloved in its current configuration, particularly the mature trees. There should be a presumption in favor of maintaining and renovating existing park features in their current locations, with those who would propose significant changes having “burden of proof” to show these changes are supported by the community. The City needs to ask us if we want changes and what those changes might be, not simply engage us in the “how” of rearranging our park.

Friends of Lents Park, founded in May 2009, is the only stakeholder group in the Lents Park Master Plan process whose mission focuses only on the park. Our mission states:
“We seek to preserve, maintain and enhance Lents Park as Open Space in its entirety, for the enjoyment of future generations. We support the neighborhood and surrounding community in all uses of the park that are consistent with this mission.
Our group includes seniors and youth, long-time residents and recent immigrants, and participants in virtually every activity that takes place in the park. Although no one group can claim to speak for Lents, a diverse neighborhood of over 20,000, of all stakeholder groups we represent by far the broadest cross-section of people who use and love the park.
As Commissioner Fish will recall, Friends of Lents Park members helped start up this Master Plan process, following the defeat of the Beavers stadium proposal. Many of us had high hopes that this plan would be a vehicle to reverse years of neglect of our park and help us achieve the repairs and improvements we have wanted for years. Instead, our members are feeling betrayed and angry. Rather than a process which engages us as partners, the City's Master Plan is starting to feel like “the Beavers all over again” - another threat to our park which we must organize and fight.
Inadequate public involvement has caused a lack of confidence in the process
The City's three concept maps all contain dramatic changes that the neighborhood never asked for, some of which are so preposterous that they leave us scratching our heads wondering where these ideas came from. Over and over, we have heard our members complain that the City never asked them what they wanted for the park before drawing up these maps.
The City's first round of public involvement was supposed to accomplish this objective, but it was seriously inadequate. A survey was done, but it was left open for only a week and was filled out by only 132 people. A single open house was held in the park, with the attendees at this one event comprising almost all survey respondents.
The survey should have include more pertinent questions. Do you like the park the way it is? Does the park meet your needs the way it is? What changes would be necessary for this park to do a better job of meeting your needs?
The City's Project Advisory Committee (PAC) had no input and was denied access to the survey prior to the open house. Although a few improvements were made in this second round of public comment, we remain frustrated that our representatives had little meaningful input into the process.
Walker Macy, the city's contractor, has drafted three “concept alternative” maps for the park – and most of the changes in them seem to have been proposed on the contractor's own initiative, just to see how these ideas would be received. Our members have been outraged to

learn that $75,000 of our local urban renewal funds went to draw up these maps, especially since funds have been so scarce for other aspects of public involvement.
We believe that the 330 comment forms that have just been received, once they are tabulated and analyzed, will send a powerful message that the community believes the concept maps do not represent what it wants for Lents Park over the next 25 years.
Reopen and slow down The Master Plan process
Now that public comment has closed on the three “concept alternative” maps, we understand the next step to be that Walker Macy will generate one “preferred concept” map. There will then be another open house and round of public comment before the Master Plan is finalized in January 2011. Friends of Lents Park opposes moving on to these steps until there has been the opportunity for more open-ended community dialog about the park.
There are several reasons why our members feel it is inappropriate to proceed to a “preferred concept” map. First, all three “concept alternatives” are so flawed (particularly regarding tree removal) that we have no confidence in any combination of their elements. Second, it has become clear during public comment on the concept maps that some of the principal ideas being discussed in the community are not even reflected on the concept maps or in the City's comment form. These ideas should be given a place in the process.
In particular, we understand that community leader and PAC member Cora Potter has been actively lobbying for a new concept that would move at least some sports fields out of the park entirely, and re-purpose at least part of the park's central area as botanical gardens. In a straw poll taken at our most recent meeting, almost 1/3 of our members felt at least some of these ideas merited more consideration, but 100% of our members felt that they needed more information about these proposals and/or more time to think about it. We feel strongly that ideas such as Ms. Potter's deserve a fair hearing within the context of a City-sponsored public involvement process.
It is not written in stone that Lents Park needs a new Master Plan by January 2011. In fact, there will be no money to make the changes until there's a new parks bond – 2012 at the earliest. In our recent straw poll, 100% voted that meaningful community input on the park's future is more important than having a Master Plan in place by January. This is a 25-year plan. Let's take the time to get it right.
Our neighborhood resources are being used for the process, so we should have the final say in how they are spent. Make line item budget details available to the PAC, including unspent funds under Walker Macy's contract, and let the PAC help decide how these resources can be best allocated.
Presumption should be in favor of keeping the park as it is
Friends of Lents Park has received much feedback from our members that, given what they know from the process so far, they like the park the way it is. In particular, our members feel very strongly about preservation of the park's existing mature trees.

Our members are angry that this position is being ignored.
This does not mean our members are against any changes to the park. Rather, this is a question of fundamental assumptions. The City and Walker Macy seem to assume that dramatic changes are coming. Our members want any planning process to start with the love this community feels for Lents Park, and proceed carefully from there. Any proposal for significant change should meet a “burden of proof” that it is supported by the community. It's not enough to choose a plan by default because people failed to object.
If the final “vote” on the concept maps turns out to be “no” on most aspects of all three maps – and we believe this is a very likely outcome – the City and Walker Macy should, in the short term, repair and renovate the park in its current configuration. Then, slow down the 25-year planning process and roll out a meaningful public involvement plan. The community has been asking for this for years. It is also the most fiscally prudent option in the current economy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Links to Sept. 11th Open House Flyers

Here are the links to the Open House Flyers advertising the Sept. 11 event in English and in Spanish that you can print and post:

     English Friends of Lents Park Open House Flyer

     Spanish Friends of Lents Park Open House Flyer

Please contact us if you can help flyer the neighborhood:

     Friends of Lents Park (FLP): 503-331-0326

     Or send us an email with your contact info: email

Monday, September 6, 2010

Vision Dialogue

Friends of Lents Park members are invited to a Vision Dialogue at 6:30 pm Tuesday at Lents Commons Coffeehouse (92nd/Foster). Join us for a respectful discussion of proposals for dramatic changes to come in Lents Park. This is a great chance to share our different visions for the park, so please come to make sure your thoughts are part of the discussion.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

City Extends Comment Deadline

Hooray! The City's given us a few more days to get the word out about potential changes in Lents Park. We have until September 15 to get out the info, distribute surveys and turn them in.

We'll have surveys at the Lents Park Open House Saturday September 11 at 1 p.m. at the Lents Park Gazebo.

Contact Friends of Lents Park if you want surveys for friends & neighbors.

See you next Saturday.

Open House in Lents Park!

The City is making its plan for the Park's next 25 years! Let's tell them what we think about it!

Friends of Lents Park Open House
1 p.m., Saturday September 11
@ Lents Park Gazebo

All Lovers of Lents Park are invited to:

--See the City's plans!

--Get the most current information!

--Fill out the City's survey about the plans!

--Share your thoughts about Lents Park changes!

--Bring friends & family!

Deadline for survey comments has been extended to September 15. Let's use the time to tell city planners what citizens of Lents want for our park.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is the Master Plan for Lents Park Your Master Plan?

Lents Park Needs You Again!

Friends of Lents Park (FLP): 503-331-0326
The City of Portland is creating a Master Plan to guide development in the park over the next 25 years. They are now looking at three design alternatives for re-shaping the park, some of which make pretty dramatic changes. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but should not be done without input from the community.

The Comment Period Ends September 8!

Do you agree that one of the three proposed plans (link below) is what your park needs? You may feel the three "design options" are bogus, but if people do not say this on the comment forms, the City will take this as evidence that the neighborhood does not object to the proposed changes.

If you are not in favor of any of the three proposed plans and feel that a plan that makes improvements but also preserves the park is needed, please respond by clicking this link to send an email and FLP will make sure your voice is heard.


*URGENT: Fill out your survey and get it in, if you haven't already done so. Spread the word far and wide for others to do it too! And remember, we are NOT limited to choosing between A, B or C. "None of the above" is an option, and we need to say so!

*Click here to see the online version of the plans: Three Plans

*Click here for the comment form:
Parks Comment Form

*Paper maps and comment forms are available at Lents Commons Coffeehouse, SE 92nd & Foster, 6:30 am to 7:00 pm.

*200 more copies of the comment form, maps packet and related flyer are being distributed by hand. Call FLP if you want to deliver some copies of the comment form to your own family, friends, neighbors, etc.

*Lents Famers Market on Sunday and a big church event in the park on Labor Day are both opportunities to get comment forms filled out. Do you have time to put in on either of these days? Please call FLP for info and to volunteer.

*Donations are more than welcome to help pay for the mailing and other costs.If you can swing it, please kick in a few bucks to FLP. Give your donation to any Steering Committee member or call FLP.


For those who have doubts about the skatespot, but are willing to keep an open mind, FLP has video of a similar-sized facility at Holly Farm Park in SW Portland. We'll post that soon on this blog.

Input & Feedback

Feel free to research any aspects that concern you about the Master Plan. Please report back to the FLP with any information you find. We need input in particular from community gardeners and team sports participants. Kathleen Juergens de Ponce is getting in touch with Spanish-speaking soccer players.

Check out the City's Lents Park project page (follow the link from http://www.portlandparks.org/) for helpful background documents, including the skate system report and raw data from the first round of public involvement.

First FLP Meeting

Potential changes to Lents Park were discussed by some members of Friends of Lents Park (FLP) Monday evening, August 30. Though individuals have a variety of opinions on details of Master Plan "Concepts" A, B & C that were first presented to Lents residents at an open house August 26, the consensus of the group was that the park should be changed as little as possible, especially regarding the trees. Money should be spent on maintaining and upgrading -- not changing -- Lents Park. There are mixed opinions about the addition of the skatespot.

The Lents Park Master Plan will be a "vision" document to guide development of the park over the next 25 years. It will be adopted by City Council and become official City policy.

Nothing that goes into the Master Plan will happen automatically. Projects will still need to be funded and approved individually. For the next 25 years, Master Plan projects will have a fast track through the Council. Any proposal that goes against the Master Plan will have an uphill battle. The time for citizen involvement is NOW!

The last Master Plan was completed in 1981, and most of the projects envisioned in it, such as the running track, have become reality.

The City has convened an advisory committee to oversee the Master Planning process. Kathleen Juergens de Ponce is on the committee representing Friends of Lents Park.

The Process

So far, FLP's mandate has been to make sure that no pro ball stadium or anything of a similar type or scale is included in the Master Plan. This is assured by by putting language in the Master Plan vision statement clarifying that "events" in the park should be "neighborhood scale events."

The City's process so far has included interviewing “stakeholder groups,” including Friends of Lents Park, and conducting a survey on park priorities. The survey was "open" for only one week and received only 132 responses. FLP committee reps protested that this was not enough time and does not constitute adequate input from the public. They were not told ahead of time there would be only a week, and were unable to get the word out to members during that time.) Despite assurances that input on park priorities will continue to be taken throughout the second stage of the process, we have only a brief window to make our views known.

The City's contractor, Walker Macy, crafted the three concepts for the "new" Lents Park. Please review the designs and complete the survey immediately.