As you prepare for the holidays and the year beyond, our Executive Director Russ Hoeflich shares 6 big reasons (and lots more little ones) to keep supporting 1000 Friends of Oregon. Plus, a 2021 Legislative Preview!
I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones happy and healthy as we settle into the holidays and look forward to a fresh start in 2021. Despite the immense and unforeseen challenges of the last 12 months, we've had an incredible year of action and impact for a better Oregon. Thank you for sticking with us to make it all happen. Your steadfast interest and support is a constant inspiration, and today I write to you with great optimism for all that we can accomplish for Oregon as we keep working together in the year to come. Make yourself some hot cocoa, settle into a cozy chair, and let’s take a look at what’s possible.
First and foremost, 1000 Friends of Oregon is preparing to head into a complex 6-month session at the Oregon Legislature.
Between COVID, wildfire recovery, and the economy itself, the state’s priorities are myriad. Our team is working closely with elected officials across the state to ensure that land use goals are not lost in the mix. Indeed, Oregon’s land use planning program holds many of the tools needed to effectively address those priorities in the first place. For 1000 Friends, three main areas will be receiving special attention:
- Ensuring broad public participation in planning and policy decisions, which is Goal 1 of the land use system. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that it forced all of us, including the government, to rapidly develop ways for people to interact remotely. This legislative session, we’ll be looking to pass a bill that makes these remote-access options permanent, providing more Oregonians with opportunities to attend and give testimony at public hearings for land use issues (and so much more) without having to be there in person. Additionally, in our recent farmland report, Death by a 1000 Cuts, we highlighted the need for better notification of upcoming land use decisions. This year, we will also be championing legislation that requires notice to be given to rural households within a half-mile radius (rather than just 250 feet), urban households within a 600-foot radius (rather than just 100 feet), and includes notification of tenants (not just owners). After all, the first step to participation is for people to know what’s going on.
- Creating connected, climate-friendly communities across Oregon through transit-oriented development. To complement our work on housing (more on that below), we are also working on a bill that would require cities to allow increased residential and mixed-use development within a certain distance of fixed transit stops (light rail, heavy rail, and bus rapid transit). At the same time, the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) has launched its Climate Friendly & Equitable Communities Rules Advisory Committee (RAC), and our Deputy Director Mary Kyle McCurdy is a member. The RAC is focused on recommending rules to LCDC that will integrate land use and transportation planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. Less sprawl, faster commutes, cleaner air—a winning combination all around, and all thanks to land use planning.
- Guaranteeing the health and safety of Oregonians through robust wildfire resiliency and recovery. We absolutely must do everything in our power to make sure we never see another wildfire season like the one we just had. We owe it to the first responders who risk their lives with every fire, to the 4000 Oregonians who lost their homes, and to the millions more who found themselves trapped inside for weeks on end because of unbreathable air. As the smoke has cleared, 1000 Friends has been working on a package of land-use-based wildfire measures. Drawing from our 2019 report, A New Vision for Wildfire Planning, and my time as part of the Governor’s Wildfire Response Council, our primary objective is to secure legislation that requires the state to adopt and maintain a wildfire risk map for use across all government agencies and all levels of government. This is the much-needed lens that will allow Oregonians to see how to mitigate and adapt to wildfire risk, and how to integrate it into local land use planning. We are additionally working on the ground with impacted communities throughout Oregon to ensure that the rebuilding efforts produce lasting and affordable housing as quickly as possible, and in accordance with the land use planning system.
While the legislative session will play a major part in our work for the coming year, it’s not nearly all of it. Outside the capitol, we are also continuing our work in numerous other areas.
Here are three of the big ones:
- Solving Oregon’s ongoing housing crisis. In 2019, with your help, we passed HB 2001 and 2003, and in 2020, we passed Better Housing by Design and the Residential Infill Project, which collectively work to slow sprawl, reverse nearly a century of exclusionary zoning, and—if properly implemented—eventually fix the 155,000-unit housing shortage in Oregon. These precedent-setting policies have received national acclaim, and the nation is now looking to Oregon to once again lead the way on building better and more livable cities. We even won a 2020 Ivory Prize for Innovation in Housing Affordability for this work. Now the real effort is underway. By July 2021, 54 large and medium cities in Oregon will need to amend their building codes to allow more affordable housing types, and they’re going to need assistance to get it done. That’s why we’ve been working with LCDC to create a model code, and why we will be working with community leaders in every one of those cities to help them make these long-overdue changes.
- Teaching the next generation of Land Use Leaders. You may recall from my summer letter that our Land Use Leadership Initiative (LULI) is reaching new heights. In 2021, for the first time ever, we will be running not one, but two LULIs, guiding nearly 50 more Oregonians through our 6-month hands-on curriculum designed to create a statewide network of confident, savvy land use advocates. One course will be based in the Portland area and (also for the first time) one will be based in the Willamette Valley. If you’re interested in being part of either group, be sure to visit this page to sign up.
- Advocating—and, when needed, litigating—for responsible land use planning across Oregon. Every single day, our team works tirelessly to protect Oregon’s farms, forests, and ranches from wayward urban growth boundary expansions and from erosion from within due to questionable nonfarm uses. Along with our legislative work, the land use legal assistance that 1000 Friends of Oregon has provided to Oregonians since 1974 is the secret to the success of the land use planning program. When advocacy alone isn’t enough, our talented staff—aided by our statewide Farmer Advisory Committee, our regional Affiliate network, our Cooperating Attorney Program—make sure that we are ready, willing, and able to tackle legal issues head-on.
In addition to all of that, 1000 Friends is also looking forward to publishing a new ranchland report, planning our next Affiliates & Allies Conference, and gearing up for our summer Gerhardt Internship. Last but not least, I’m excited to let you know that our next 4-year strategic plan, which will take us all the way through our 50th Anniversary, is nearly complete. I can’t wait to share it with you in the coming months. While the pandemic has made it impossible to plan future in-person events, I’m hopeful that by this time next year, we’ll be able to get together again. We’re going to have a lot to celebrate!
As I said at the beginning, thank you. Oregon is Oregon because of you. Everything I’ve laid out here today has been made possible because of people like you.
Thank you for all you do for Oregon.
With gratitude, hope, and warm wishes for the very happiest of holidays,
Russ Hoeflich, Executive Director
1000 Friends of Oregon is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our EIN in 93-0642086.
Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.