Portland, ORE. — After being short two commissioners, Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission is once again at its full 11-member capacity. The Commission’s role is to advise City Council on Portland’s long-range goals and plans and land use and planning policies, as well as ensure sustainability practices are integrated. The PSC has a specific charge and statutory requirements through state land use law to steward and maintain the City’s Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Code, while ensuring that thorough public input into that process.
In early 2021, the Commission welcomed its newest youth commissioner, Jessica (Jessie) Gittemeier. And at its March 10 session, City Council appointed Valeria McWilliams to a previously vacant PSC position. Council also appointed three additional commissioners with terms starting in June 2021, filling three long-standing PSC members’ positions as they term out at the end of May.
“We are excited to welcome these new commissioners, who bring diverse work and lived experiences to the Planning and Sustainability Commission,” said BPS Director, Andrea Durbin. “They join a key body advising the bureau and the City on making the future of Portland healthy, equitable, affordable, vibrant and carbon-free.”
Jessie Gittemeier is a second-year law student at Lewis & Clark Law School with a strong desire to build a sustainable and equitable community. At Lewis & Clark, she participates in the Public Interest Law Project, the Northwestern Environmental Defense Center, and the Food and Agriculture Law Society. After graduating from Kansas State University, she had the opportunity to work with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. There she helped to prepare for World Food Day 2018 in Rome, which centered around the international effort to build a more sustainable world in a multicultural environment. Jessie is most excited about contributing to sustainable and innovative projects to improve our community.
Valeria McWilliams emigrated from Peru to the United States when she was 15 years old. Her family’s experience of navigating this new country as English-language learners, the impact of unaffordable and unstable housing, and how the built environment was not inclusive for her family (including her sister who has a disability) led her to pursue a Masters in City Planning from MIT. There she worked on urban development projects around the world. Her contribution and commitment to advancing racial equity for the Latinx community in Massachusetts was recognized by the Boston Mayor’s Office in 2013. Here in Oregon, Valeria was the City of Milwaukie’s first Housing and Economic Development Coordinator. Currently, she is a regional housing analyst at Metro, working on the implementation of the nation's first regional affordable housing bond. She also sits on the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s Community Involvement Committee and has served on the BPS Budget Advisory Committee for two years.
“On behalf of the Planning and Sustainability Commission, I’m thrilled to welcome this new group of commissioners,” said PSC Chair Eli Spevak. “We look forward to the new perspectives, passion and expertise they’ll bring to our critical — sometimes difficult — work. These new members bring a depth of leadership experience that will be invaluable to the long-term effectiveness of the PSC as a policy advisory body for the city.”
The additional Council appointees — Johnell Bell, Gabe Sheoships, and Erica Thompson — will join the Commission in June, replacing current PSC members Mike Houck, Katherine Schultz, and Chris Smith, whose terms expire.