Alley Gating/Greening Comes to the Neighborhood

Long viewed, depending on your view, as a nuisance and/or a unique asset, many in the Foster-area neighborhoods have debated on what to make of our alleyways.  On one side of the fence (no pun intended), alleyways pose a privacy and security concern to residents whose backyards become witness to a wide array of public use (i.e. dirt bike courses, parking spots, graffiti, trespassing, etc.).  Others, and it’s not mutually exclusive, see the great potential of our network of alleyways and view them as an asset.  I’ve heard people suggest they be used for urban hiking trails, community gardens, public art, or just a way to enlarge your backyard by extending fence lines.

But what a task all that can be, especially when it would involve consent from the city and your neighbors, as well as the creative energy and manpower to see it through.  Not everyone’s as easily discouraged as I am, however, and a group of folks on the south side of Foster are bringing the concept of alley gating/greening to the neighborhood.  Evolving mostly from crime deterrent techniques, alley gating has been popular in the UK for years, and has now grown into a way for communities to take ownership of their neighborhoods, as well as a means for placemaking.

In that same vein, neighbors of the SE 63rd-64th alleyway, between Foster and SE Schiller, are hoping to turn an unused stretch of weeds, gravel and dirt, into a shared garden and common space.

Example of City Repair’s placemaking

As part of this year’s Village Building Convergence, the placemaking arm of City Repair, residents in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood will be attempting to make use of their alleyway to better their neighborhood and create a greater sense of community.  While most of City Repair’s placemaking sites are usually on streets, sidewalks, or more visible to the public, the plan off of Foster brings a new dimension to the placemaking event, and brings a whole new realm of possibilities for our miles of alleyways.

Here is the description of the project, dubbed “Alley-Oop:”

       “During this VBC’12, we at Alley-Ooop in our Mt. Scott/Arleta SE neighborhood are be- ginning a multi-year project which is currently unprecedented in Portland to increase community engagement, reduce crime, and represent a radical approach to neighbor- hood stewardship and shared space: Alley-Gating/Alley-Greening!

The project site is a block-long alleyway adjacent to Fosterville ecovillage where there is energy to improve the neglected area towards a useful shared garden and common space that is embraced by the community.

Come join our design charrette and explore the questions, concerns, legalities, and pos- sibilities raised by the radical concept of AlleyGating and Greening. Build a micro-garden with us in the alley! We’ll be joined by VBC keynote speaker and expert soil-builder Nance Klehm to get inspiration and feedback about our composting a soil-building ca- pabilities in this public space. What else will we create?!

Gather with our neighbors, designers and facilitators. Come experience this neighbor- hood engagment model and educational, inspirational Placemaking process.”

This presents an amazing opportunity, not only to get involved with something innovative and beneficial to the neighborhood, but to run with an idea that can be transformative and truly great.  The next gathering for this event will be May 27, from 2-4 p.m.  For more information or to get involved, contact Sarabel Eisenfeld: 610-804-6656.

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13 Responses to Alley Gating/Greening Comes to the Neighborhood

  1. MizVerde says:

    What a great idea. Kinda bummed I am on an alley-free block!

  2. Aaron says:

    I like the idea of alley greening. But the gating part… are the grates open to the public? After all, alleys can be a nice way to travel…

  3. Aaron says:

    Er, I mean ‘gates’ not ‘grates’.

  4. Danae says:

    I looked at some examples on the web. Very cool! Perhaps the alleyway gates could be open during the day and locked at night. With all the gardeners in FoPo, I’m sure the hood could make it an amazing green space. I’m all for it.

  5. I’m not sure of the specifics of the plan, but I mentioned alley gating more to introduce the concept and some of the ideas behind it. I haven’t heard if they actually plan to gate the entrances…or if they’re even allowed to. It would certainly take appeal away if it wasn’t accessible by the community.

  6. Makes me wish I had an alley!

  7. Jeremy Trabue says:

    Does anyone besides my neighbors and me on the alley between 65th and 66th actually use his or her alley for garage access? Our garages open onto it and we actually drive up and down it constantly. People on our alley use it to get deliveries and such as well. We also use our alleyway garage entrance for bike access — keep the bikes locked in the garage, easy exit to the alley and we’re on the road!

    I think one of the best things about the alleys is they present a possibility for off-street parking without obnoxious driveways eating up yard space and cutting across sidewalks (which is super dangerous for pedestrians, especially kids).

    It would seem this gating / greening idea would do away with that use of the alleys. I suppose if none of the houses on the block had alley garages it would be OK. I would definitely love more community in the alleys.

    We also grow potatoes in the alley along our back fence.

    We eat out of the neighborhood alleys all summer. The kids love to cruise for fruit and berries.

    Anyway, I love the alleys. It’s true there are security problems, taggers and litter, but for me they don’t outweigh the positives by any means.


  8. Ruben says:

    I very much like this idea. We are going to be planting along our fence in the alley between 65th and 66th. Originally our parking pad access was through the alley but we never used it, so are getting rid of the parking pad and replacing it with a native plant garden. I think a trail system open to the community is an exciting prospect.

  9. Pingback: Gardening Options for Portlanders Lacking Space and Money

  10. Pingback: Gardening Options for Portlanders Lacking Space and Money | Neighborhood Notes | Bridges Family Wellness

  11. Danae says:

    Anyone make it to the charrette? I wanted to go but we were out of town…

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