Transects of Sustainability

Portland is lauded nationally and internationally as a center for urban planning, sustainability and progressive politics. However, sustainability in Portland is a multifaceted story. Narratives on Portland focus on smart growth, transit, bicycle transportation, and public involvement, but there are also challenges for who benefits from these projects. Investments in the green city distributed unevenly and not always discussed.

All the bridges. #uwec2pdx

A photo posted by Paul Manson (@paultmanson) on

Using transects we had a chance to view sustainability and urban development in several contested sites. The north to south transect followed the Willamette River from the South Waterfront (SoWa) development to the north where it meets at the confluence with the Columbia River near St Johns. The South Waterfront is the latest Portland urban redevelopment project, and as the transect moves north and downriver it passes through the working waterfront of the Portland harbor, a Superfund site. It also passes through the historic center of Albina, the center of Portland’s African American community – but also a place rapidly gentrifying today.

From the east to the west we visited sites that show how funding and access to the benefits of sustainability differ with how a neighborhood or set of people can make their request or claim.  We visited the Central Eastside Industrial District to see ecoroof developments, and to see efforts to protect jobs in the central city. From here we headed east to Gateway to learn about community efforts to share in the benefits of being part of Portland. Finally, we visited the historic center of Albina in North Portland to tour changing neighborhoods as investment pressure and city investment change the historic core of Black Portland.

The transects and our photos from the week are captured above. The photos include important points in sustainability and also challenges to sharing this sustainability. All of the photos from our trip are posted under the #uwec2pdx tag on Instagram.


A photo posted by Alex Rezutek (@midsidewinder) on