(May 19, 2021) With vaccination rates rising and COVID-19 cases decreasing, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is unveiling two new permit programs. The first program, called Healthy Blocks, allows Portlanders to apply for free permits to provide more space for neighbors to walk, roll, bike, play, and socialize while physically distanced. Additionally, the bureau is reintroducing street painting permits which allow Portlanders to paint large, decorative paintings directly on the street to beautify neighborhoods and build community. Applications for both programs open today with permits to be issued beginning June 1 and onward.
The Healthy Blocks permit allows residents to temporarily close a street to create more outdoor recreation space for people to enjoy while following social distancing guidelines. Local access, deliveries, waste pickup, and emergency vehicles will still be allowed.
Residents may apply to use their street for Healthy Blocks activities up to 8 hours per week. For a street to qualify for a Healthy Blocks permit it must be free and open to the general public, be on a city defined "Local Service Traffic Street" (use our map to find out your street type here), and be on a block that is not part of a bus or transit route.
To make Healthy Blocks easier to implement for all Portlanders, PBOT will now allow the use of household items (such as personal trash bins, ladders, or furniture, with reflective tape) as a form of traffic control under certain conditions, such as during daylight hours. Household items must meet specific height and width requirements. This change will remove the need for some neighbors to rent barricades and other traffic control devices. Healthy Blocks permits are intended for day-time use. Requests for use after dusk will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Permits for use after dusk will require additional traffic control devices with warning lights.
Street paintings are large, decorative paintings installed directly on the street. They may be as large as an intersection or an entire block and past themes have included animals, flowers, geometric designs, trees, and more. The first modern street painting here in Portland was in 1996.
In addition to the aesthetic beauty of the paintings themselves, they build community and relationships between neighbors and create a sense of place. Any resident, business, or nonprofit may apply to install one. The community designs the painting, purchases the paint, installs it themselves, and handles ongoing maintenance. PBOT offers design guidance, engineering review, design approval, and provides grant information. A Healthy Blocks permit is required for painting day. All permits are free.
“I’m grateful to PBOT staff for their ongoing work to support Portlanders during and as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said PBOT Director Chris Warner. “The Healthy Blocks and street painting programs will build on the success of PBOT’s Healthy Businesses and Slow Streets programs, creating additional space for Portlanders to get outside and reconnect with the spaces, places, and people they love.”
The Healthy Blocks and street painting permits are the latest additions to PBOT’s suite of programs as part of the Safe Streets Initiative, which was developed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Those programs include the Healthy Businesses permit program and the Slow Streets program, among others. Learn more about the Healthy Blocks program at portland.gov/healthy-blocks. Learn more about the street painting program at portland.gov/transportation/permitting/street-painting.