Jade District Greening Initiatives - Portland, Oregon

The Jade Greening Initiatives refer to two concurrent initiatives to plan and implement targeted tree planting and greening in the underserved Jade District of outer southeast Portland, Oregon. Residents in the district experience significant economic and health disparities due to historic public disinvestment, its location surrounded by major transportation corridors on all sides, and lack of tree canopy and accessible green space. With assistance from community-based organizations, community members and businesses worked together to set priorities for neighborhood development and greening. Collaboration, planning, and design of new greenspace were supported through the EPA's Greening America's Communities Program and the Oregon Solutions Program.

Due to the area's low tree canopy and positioning among major transportation corridors (a state highway and major arterials), the district is one of the higher heat island and air pollution areas in Portland. The community's higher exposure to air toxins corresponds to asthma rates that are nearly twice the national average, and may explain the significantly higher rates of Asian Pacific Islander babies in the region with low birth weights, as the neighborhood includes one of the most diverse census tracts in Oregon and a concentration of Asian and Pacific Islanders that is nearly three times the city average. The area's median income is under half that of the citywide average, and over a third of residents live below the poverty line.

To improve environmental, health, and economic development outcomes for residents in the area, a portion of the Jade District was designated as a Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI) area in 2011 by the Portland Development Commission (now known as Prosper Portland). The NPI program aims to support economic opportunity in Portland neighborhoods, focusing in particular on neighborhoods with low-income populations and communities of color and on identifying solutions that aim to revitalize without gentrifying.

In 2013, the statewide Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) began helping with community outreach efforts related to the NPI initiatives, as the district is vulnerable to gentrification pressures. APANO helped to organize residents, business owners, and other community members to form a Jade District Steering Committee, which with support from the the MultiCultural Collaborative engaged in a community visioning process (with ethnic and racial specific outreach) with the goal of ensuring that neighborhood development initiatives would address the residents’ priorities. Following these organizing efforts, there have been two main greening initiatives as a result – one funded through the EPA’s 2017 Greening America’s Communities program, and another that was designated as an Oregon Solutions effort.

The EPA funded effort (“Greening the Jade”) focused on three green infrastructure demonstration projects and developed design options that could be applied in other areas throughout the district. The development of the designs resulted from three days of workshops where community members provided their feedback. The developed designs contribute to the ongoing work implementing the Portland and Multnomah County Oregon 2015 Climate Action Plan

In parallel, APANO and the organization OPAL (Organizing People/Activating Leaders) approached the state of Oregon to support the designation of “Jade Greening” as an Oregon Solutions Project – which formalizes a process of stakeholder and community engagement to develop community-centered strategies for greening the neighborhood and formalizing commitments to action through an implementation plan. The project set the goal of transforming Jade District into a “breathable, accessible, liveable, and prosperous” space. To do so, the Project Team set out to plant at least 100 trees within the greater Jade District, partnering with groups such as the Environmental Services Tree Program, Portland Parks Urban Forestry, and Friends of Trees. 

Between 2017 and 2019, the District greening partners planted 364 trees, creating over a thousand square feet of new greenspaces. An assessment led by APANO, Willamette Partnership, and other partners predicted that in the next 20 years these new trees will create a 5 degree Fahrenheit cooling effect and a 13% reduction in nitrogen dioxide in comparison to current levels. These benefits are additionally expected to reduce cases of asthma, stormwater flow, and pollution loading in the County. 

Publication Date: 2019

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