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Meet our new director, Andrea Durbin

BPS welcomed Andrea Durbin this month and, as expected, she is already diving into her role as director. As staff get to know her, we also thought the wider community would appreciate a little insight into what Andrea thinks about the planning and sustainability issues facing Portland.


Q and A with Andrea:

1. With over a decade of environmental leadership and action in Oregon, you have experienced some major successes for the state and the City of Portland. What stands out to you as a success you are most proud to have been a part of?

I am most proud of the leading work I have done on climate change in the state. While we still have more work to do, Oregon is leading nationally toward making the shift to a zero-carbon economy. We have adopted policies to drive toward 100% clean, renewable energy and set a deadline of 2030 to get coal out of Oregon’s energy mix. We are cleaning up our fuel supply with Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program, which is also cleaning up our air and providing consumers with cleaner choices to fuel their vehicles. These policies are cornerstones for transitioning to a more resilient economy and reducing carbon pollution that affects the health and livability of our community.

2. The City continues to experience growth that is adversely impacting low-income and communities of color. Where do you see opportunities to reduce harm and provide equitable access to housing?

One of the reasons I am excited about this job is the opportunity to work on affordable housing in Portland and to be more intentional about protecting the most underserved communities from being harmed, and for these same communities to benefit and be lifted as we adapt and grow as a city. This will include updating zoning policies to provide more options for housing that will accommodate different needs of families, from multi-generational families to first-time home buyers and renters.

BPS is working on two important policies that we will be bringing to City Council in the coming months – Better Housing by Design and the Residential Infill Project. Together, these new policies will provide more housing options for Portlanders at lower cost and generally reduce displacement across the city by increasing the supply of housing. We will also be working together with our city and community partners to develop anti-displacement strategies to provide more support for Portland families that are at risk of displacement in certain parts of the city. 

With more and more people moving here, the growth expected over the coming decades requires us to be very intentional about how we ensure that all Portlanders, especially communities of color and low-income families, have opportunities to build wealth and stay in their communities.

3. Where do you see the opportunity for advancing climate action in Portland?

While Portland has been a real climate leader, we will need to step up that action over the next decade. According to the latest science, the next decade of action will be critical for reducing the impact and harm our community will see from climate change. One of the biggest areas to tackle next for Portland will be how to transition to a clean transportation system and reduce the pollution that impacts the health of our communities, especially the communities that bear the burden of environmental pollution: communities of color and low-income communities. We will need to ensure that our transportation system provides clean choices and expands options, access and affordability for all Portlanders. 

With the passage of the Portland Clean Energy Initiative by voters, we are working closely with community partners to develop an effective program to invest in the clean energy transition in communities across the city and help communities of color, low-income and small businesses withstand the impacts of climate change by investing in energy efficiency, clean energy and resiliency programs. We think that this program can be a model for other cities across Oregon and the country. 

I look forward to working with the Mayor and the City Council to update Portland’s Climate Action Plan over the next year to respond to the scientific call for faster action on climate.

4.  What is your biggest hope for the people of Portland?

My hope is that Portland will be a welcoming city for everyone. We’ll have housing and economic choices for new comers and old timers to stay in the city, with housing that is affordable. We will be a more diverse and inclusive city with stronger connectivity between communities. As we grow and welcome more people to Portland, I hope that we manage and address this growth in a way that retains what we love about Portland and want to keep: our unique neighborhoods, our livability, our parks and an engaged, caring community. 

We know that 20 years from now, our city will look and feel different, but it should be even better. We can make decisions today that enhance what our city will feel like tomorrow while safeguarding some of our core values – such as protecting the urban growth boundary, parks and open spaces, increasing access to the outdoors, creating walkable, complete neighborhoods and increasing transportation choices that are safe, accessible and clean. 

My hope is that we can think big, bold and plan for the future we want to see for this great city.

Lightning round:

Favorite Portland Park: Forest Park is one of the city’s treasures.

Favorite Bridge: I generally take Steel bridge or Broadway on my bike commute and love to cross the river each day to work. But St. Johns and the Tillikum bridge are my favorite bridges to look at lit up at night.

Favorite city event: Summertime Music Concerts in the Parks. I love packing a picnic and enjoying music on a summer evening with friends and family.

Favorite restaurant:  Depends on my mood and the company. My kids and I love Ethiopian (Beta-Lukas) and Indian (Indian Oven or Hello India). Mediterranean Exploration Company is one of my personal favorites.

Favorite workout: I love barre and spinning. I haven’t tried Burn Cycle yet, but hope to soon.

Last book I read: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan.

Guilty pleasure: Dark chocolate and wine.