Jeff Joslin, Land Use Manager for Urban Design, Design Review, and Landmarks Review with the City of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services, has announced his retirement after 15 years. Recently Jeff sent out a farewell email that, with his permission, I’ll reprint here:
It's with gratitude and reticence that I announce I'm leaving the employment of the City of Portland. It's been an imposing responsibility, and genuine privilege, to lead various urban design functions during a period encompassing the most active decade of development and change in Portland's modern history.
I've overseen an evolving and remarkable team that has shepherded billions of dollars of projects through increasingly sophisticated and demanding processes, while additionally being afforded the opportunity to participate in the planning and re-planning of Portland's most successful, new, and evolving areas and districts.
As a manager, I've seen my role as understanding the implications of the relevant overarching policies, and identifying and bringing to bear the appropriate human, technical, political, and financial resources necessary to manifest those policies in the most effective way achievable. I believe the programs I've contributed to have been an ongoing armature and impetus for advancing good design throughout the city, while promoting an ongoing design dialogue that has helped the city grown well as it's grown rapidly. It's my hope that I've done so successfully and responsively, forwarding the aspirations established by the citizenry, manifested by city leadership, and given voice and force by our remarkable and sacrificing citizen Design Commission and Landmarks Commission.
Portland 15 years ago was a much smaller city than it is today: its approaches to urban design were evolved for the time, but the program was modest. A year and a half after entering the Bureau of Planning, I was placed in charge of the urban design program, which consisted of 4 employees, and oversaw detailed design and historic review over about four per cent of the city, while also developing urban design and historic regulation in a rapidly changing environment.
Five years later the size of that group had doubled, prior to being segregated into two urban design functions: one in the Bureau of Planning, one in what is today the Bureau of Development Services. I'd come to believe deeply in the need to ensure the highest and best manifestation of policy and regulation in on-the-ground projects, and from that point on served principally to administer design review and historic design review programs, and staff the respective commissions.
Today, that program covers about twenty percent of the city, and has expanded to a dozen dedicated planners and architects, who - along with numerous indispensable support staff - also coordinate the multitudinous functions of a Design Commission and Historic Landmarks Commission. Over three hundred projects a year are reviewed and advanced in the most urbanized and rapidly evolving areas of the city. Our process is comprehensive and detailed - with nearly two dozen different design districts, over a dozen historic districts, and thousands of landmarks - and we review all new development and modifications to existing development in these areas. The process, and our successes, have been studied and emulated worldwide.
I've no doubt, based on my extensive experience and investigation, that - in the realm of aesthetic regulation - we in Portland have the most evolved and effective approach and system of any city, in this country or beyond.
I inherited a development review process that, fifteen years ago, was broadly critiqued as being capricious, subjective, unpredictable, and un-attuned to the real needs of both citizens, and developers. Today, despite the fact that the process, scale and number of projects have all increased enormously, there is nearly universal support politically, publicly, and developmentally. We've learned together how best to creatively collaborate with designers, architects, developers and neighborhood advocates to push projects as high and far as economics, design capability, and regulatory intent would allow. The process is today is largely viewed as streamlined, sophisticated, and adding value. The ultimate testament to that is the fact that our most prominent developers, and leaders in our most rapidly shifting neighborhoods, are our most ardent supporters. I take much personal pride in this evolution.
Also pertinent - in this economic cycle where other permit-related activity has drastically diminished, the work in the Design Team has expanded due to a concentration of capital and activity in the areas we regulate. This is further testament to the phenomenal success of the system we've developed together.
Core to our work has been the fundamental belief, that quality development based in sound architectural and urban design principles is fundamental to the economic vitality, livability and sustainability of the city. I'm hopeful that I've served that mission responsibly, and that the values and processes we've worked together to establish and employ will continue to be built on as we move further into this already challenging 21st century.
I leave behind a skilled and gifted team, and a Design Commission and Landmarks Commission of the highest order. I look forward to watching and backing their efforts to continue growing well the city we love, and to personally contributing to that effort through other means in the future.
For me, there could have been no better urban design role, in no better city, at no better time. Thank you, each and all, for the opportunity, and for your collaboration and support.