Meet the Future of Land Use Leadership

We're training the next generation of Oregon land use leaders. Learn how in this summer update from our Executive Director.

Dear Friends, 

With the world as we know it turned sideways, state agency budgets being cut, and so much up in the air, I thought you might like to hear the hopeful news of what 1000 Friends of Oregon is doing in these uncertain times to ensure the future of Oregon, especially as we approach the 50th anniversary of Oregon’s land use planning system. We just published our new farmland protection plan. We’re creating housing affordability across Oregon based on last year’s landmark legislation. We got an historic agreement between foresters and conservationists passed by the legislature during last month’s emergency session. We’re hosting two summer interns working on land use mapping and ranchland issues. All of these things are important, and they’re all happening right now. But the story I want to share with you today is even bigger than that.

As you know, Oregon’s land use planning system is complex. While you and I know that it’s what keeps Oregon Oregon, most Oregonians have no idea it even exists, let alone how it works. Nearly 5 decades of legal case history. 19 statewide land use planning goals. 241 urban growth boundaries. An alphabet soup of terms like LCDC, DLCD, UGB, and LUBA. We sure haven’t made it easy.

I think you’ll agree, though, that a system shaping the lives of 4.2 million Oregonians should be familiar to as many people as possible, and that part of our job at 1000 Friends of Oregon is to figure out how to do that. Truly understanding land use in Oregon takes time, and more than a few good teachers. Fortunately, thanks in no small part to your generous support, 1000 Friends has both of those things, and in recent years, we’ve developed a whole program that puts them to good use. I hope you’ll forgive me, then, for needing to introduce one more acronym into the mix today to explain. I’d like you to meet our Land Use Leadership Initiative—or as we call it, our LULI. The name rhymes with “Julie,” and can refer to both the program itself and the people who are part of the program. The people you see in these photos are just a few of the nearly 150 Oregonians that LULI has trained so far. They’re our LULIs!

Sam Diaz leads a past Portland LULI
Sam Diaz leads one of our Portland LULI classes

So how are we cultivating and nurturing this next generation of leaders? Overall, they spend the better part of a year learning first-hand and hands-on about Oregon’s land use planning system, from its origins in 1973 with Governor Tom McCall and Senator Hector Macpherson, all the way through to current issues in local communities.

Month by month, our LULIs gather to participate in guided discussions and experiential learning opportunities led by experts connecting the dots between Oregon’s 19 land use planning goals: housing, transportation, agriculture and food systems, forests and wildfire, the state economy, and more. We give our LULIs the knowledge to access the land use planning system, the confidence to actively participate with public comments and testimony, and the experience to lead others in doing the same. Think of it as a sort of “Oregon Land Use 101."

"I love the structure of LULI because you're pulling in so many things that by the end of it you have so many tools to use, including the importance of showing up." Sam E., LULI graduate

Every LULI cohort is overseen by one of our talented program staff: Greg Holmes in Southern Oregon, Nicole Johnson in Portland, and soon, Alexis Biddle in the Willamette Valley. Nearly everyone at 1000 Friends makes an appearance as part of the carefully-designed curriculum, as do many others. From sessions with my own predecessors Robert Liberty and Bob Stacey to presentations from current land use champions like Representative Pam Marsh, LULIs gain direct access to Oregon’s network of land use leaders, which now includes a growing number of LULI alumni who are themselves Oregon mayors, county commissioners, city agency staff, and state legislative aides, as well as plenty of private citizens. They carry the lessons learned in the classroom back into their own communities.

The 2019 Metro-area LULI tours Cully
The 2019 Metro-area LULI tours Portland's Cully Neighborhood

Several LULI graduates have even gone on to pursue public office for the first time, and some will be on various ballots throughout Oregon this November. As a nonprofit organization, we can’t endorse candidates, but we can say how proud we are of all the ones who are LULI alumni!

“All elected officials in Oregon should be required to take a course like this. I learned more in a few weeks than I did in four years on City Council.” John S., LULI graduate

Here’s another fantastic fact: the average Land Use Leadership Initiative cohort reflects the growing diversity of Oregon, well beyond regional averages. As we strive for deeper equity, diversity, and inclusion for both the land use system and our work at 1000 Friends, LULI is one way we’re getting there faster.

Another crucial element of this program is that it is absolutely free for everyone who participates. After all, the very first of Oregon’s 19 land use planning goals calls for Oregonians “to be involved in all phases of the planning process.” People can’t be meaningfully involved in things they don’t know about or can’t afford, so as stewards of Oregon’s land use planning system, we’re bridging that gap, particularly for folks who have been historically excluded. LULI is helping us make sure that Oregon’s land use planning system belongs to everyone.

"As a land use practitioner, what I wish I would have learned in school is the politics behind all of it. LULI gives me that." Shandell C., current LULI

Since its inception, LULI has been an in-person program, with classes typically meeting at a new location each month, reflecting different elements of the region and of the curriculum. This brings us to our COVID twist. With the advent of the virus, 1000 Friends, has had to completely reinvent the way we do things, closing all of our offices and suspending in-person meetings. At the time of the statewide shutdown in March, our current Land Use Leadership Initiative had met in person only once. Would remote learning work? Did people have reliable internet access? We didn’t know. We didn’t even have a Zoom account yet!

2020 SO LULI on Zoom
The current 2020 Southern Oregon LULI meets on Zoom

Four months later, and I’m proud to report that LULI hasn’t missed a beat. It’s a testament to the resiliency and creativity of our staff and program partners. It’s a testament to the dedication of the LULI participants, all of whom have stayed with us through this transition, despite the complications. Most of all, it’s a testament to the LULI program itself, to the power of Oregon’s land use planning system, and to the desire of Oregonians to be a part of it. As you can see, land use planning doesn’t stop for pandemics. It doesn’t even slow down.

“Oregon has this fabulous land use system, but unless we continue to really educate people about it—why it is so important and why it is the reason Oregon looks and feels the way it does—we can lose it.” Rep. Pam Marsh, LULI speaker

This fall, in Southern Oregon, we will celebrate our current cohort’s graduation. This winter, in the Portland area, we plan to welcome our 8th class of participants. Early next year, we hope to kick off our first-ever Willamette Valley LULI, taking us close to 200 LULI alumni.  What a wonderful accomplishment: 200 newly-minted land use leaders for Oregon, all made possible because of generous donors like you.

2018 SO LULI Graduates
The graduates of our 2018 Southern Oregon LULI

For our current members, thank you. We couldn't do it without you! If you're not already a member, or you need to renew your membership, there's no time like the present. Help guarantee a brilliant future for Oregon’s land use planning system and these emerging land use leaders. Join us today!

For Oregon,

Russ Hoeflich

Executive Director