"Good" neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon: Focus on both social and physical environments

  • Miles R
  • Song Y
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We conduct an empirical investigation of the social environment of " good " neigh-borhoods in physical form in a model of the " compact city, " Portland, Oregon and discuss the implications for design and evaluation of policies inspired by smart growth and new urbanist move-ments that focus on the urban form and transportation dimensions of neighborhoods, and of housing assistance policies designed to change the economic mix in neighborhoods. We conceptualize the physical and social dimensions of the " good " neighborhood environment and develop an approach to operationalization that uses publicly available data. Our findings indicate that for the most part, Portland has been successful in creating neighborhoods at several economic scales that feature not only the connectivity, accessibility, mixed land use, and access to public transit that characterize " good " neighborhoods from a physical perspective, but also a " good " social environment indicative of strong ties and collective efficacy. However, there are signs that in the process, Portland may be creating poverty areas that lack connectivity, accessibility, and access to public transit and a mix of destinations. In recent decades, a number of policy initiatives have been implemented that have the potential to improve neighborhood environments, including smart growth and new urbanism initiatives that emphasize the physical dimensions of neighborhoods, and changes in the orientation of housing assistance that focus on the social environment. The smart growth and new urbanism movements emerged in the 1980s and focus mainly on the urban form, land use, and trans-portation dimensions of neighborhoods to avoid urban sprawl; they advocate compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including mixed use development with a range of housing choices. In the social policy arena, the 1990s saw a change in the orientation of housing assistance toward deconcentrating the poor in metropolitan areas; the focus was mainly on the social environment of neighborhoods. Related policies all arise from the belief that neighborhoods have an important and independent effect on the well-being and life-chances of

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  • Rebecca Miles

  • Yan Song

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