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Portland Mayor Wants Ideas For 'Unimproved' Streets

OPB | Oct. 17, 2013 4:04 p.m. | Updated: Oct. 18, 2013 6:43 a.m. | Portland

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The mayor of Portland is looking for ideas about what to do with the 60 miles of “unimproved” streets that run next to many homes in the city.

Anne Chenot has been planting vegetables and flowers on an unimproved street next to her home.

Anne Chenot has been planting vegetables and flowers on an unimproved street next to her home.

Kristian Foden-Vencil

Anne Chenot moved onto on an unimproved street in Northeast Portland nine years ago. She works for farmers markets and says she wanted to grow food for her family.

“I started along the fence line,” she said. “I just planted perennials, rhubarb, artichoke and flowers and over the years, I’ve just filled it up.”

The garden now reaches almost halfway across the street.

Chenot says she understands the land doesn’t belong to her, but she hasn’t had any complaints from the city.

“I’ve had neighbors complain,” she said. “They knock on my door and say, ‘I saw someone stealing vegetables.’ And my attitude is great. That’s what it’s there for. There’s plenty for me and everyone else.”

Two community meetings to discuss ideas for unimproved streets have been scheduled for November 4.

Portlanders are being really creative with the use of their public space — Dylan Rivera

Dylan Rivera with the Portland Bureau of Transportation says Mayor Charlie Hales has already noticed some ingenuity.

“Portlanders are being really creative with the use of their public space,” he said. “We’ve seen community gardens crop up, we’ve seen basketball hoops. We have some programs that attempt to help folks do this right now in some settings on paved streets. But we think there are some real opportunities on unpaved streets.”

Anne Chenot digs some potatoes from the garden she planted along an unimproved Portland street.

Anne Chenot digs some potatoes from the garden she planted along an unimproved Portland street.

Kristian Foden-Vencil

Starting Saturday, students from a Portland State University civic leadership class will be going door-to-door on behalf of the city to gauge public interest in projects on unimproved streets.

City attorneys say people cannot “adversely possess” city land, that is, gain ownership by using it for a long period without permission.

The city plans to announce its plans by the summer.

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