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Portland: Quest for the Livable City, a documentary film chronicling struggle for sustainability, debuts May 4

For Immediate Release
Contact: Anthony Flint 617-661-3016 x116

     CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (May 4, 2009) – Portland: Quest for the Livable City, a documentary film of triumph and conflict as one city attempts to reduce its carbon footprint and grow more densely within an urban growth boundary, begins airing on public television stations around the country this month.
     The 57-minute film, which will be available on DVD, is the third in the documentary series Making Sense of Place, a collaboration of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Northern Light Productions; the first two films were on Phoenix and Cleveland. Over the coming months in Oregon, an outreach effort will focus on community screenings and discussions of the issues raised in the film.
     Oregon Public Broadcasting is set to air the film Sunday May 10 at 1 p.m. In two preview showings in Chicago and Rochester, N.Y., the film garnered strong ratings. The film has been offered to 351 public television stations and has already been scheduled by 134, including in major markets such as Indianapolis and North Carolina.
      “We were impressed from the very beginning at the incredible story that had unfolded in Portland, and we think we captured both the drama and tension, and the essence of the city as a place to live,” said Bestor Cram, president of Northern Light Productions. The film crew made seven trips to Portland between October 2007 and July 2008 for a total of 30 shooting days, with 160 hours of high definition footage and 90 people interviewed.
     “Portland has been a notable experiment in land use planning, and the film shows how challenging that can be,” said Gregory K. Ingram, president of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. “The issues that come to life in the film – property rights, the value of land, density and transportation, planning and citizen participation – include many that we think cities all over the U.S. will need to confront.”
     Following the passage of Oregon’s landmark land use planning system in 1973, Portland established an urban growth boundary containing development within a 22-square-mile area, protecting surrounding farmland and open space; a regional governance system spanning 24 municipalities and three counties; and an ambitious system of light rail and streetcars to service more dense, compact, mixed-use urban form. Then, in 2004, after a state-wide campaign that raised questions about property rights and the fairness of the entire regulatory framework, voters passed Measure 37, which allowed development outside the urban growth boundary. A competing initiative, Measure 49, was then put on the ballot in 2008 to reverse those changes.
     Incorporating historic footage of Portland as the self-proclaimed “City that Works,” and recent interviews with city leaders and neighborhood residents during the battles over ballot measures on the land-use planning system, Portland: Quest for the Livable City is a cautionary tale for planning in the 21st century. As cities across the country today attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, invest in transit, and focus on infill redevelopment as an alternative to car-dependent sprawl, the experience of Portland underscores a complex web of issues including economic development and jobs, gentrification, local food and farming, property rights, and civic participation.
     Portland: Quest for the Livable City will be available for ordering on the Lincoln Institute’s Web site pages for Making Sense of Place. More information is at the Northern Light Productions Web site on the film. 
     The first films in the Making Sense of Place documentary series were Phoenix: The Urban Desert, which examined the sprawling growth and associated issues of that metropolitan area, and Cleveland: Confronting Decline in an American City, a look at a shrinking industrial city and its efforts to reinvent itself. Both films have been aired nearly 3,400 times on public television over the past three years. Station relations has been managed by Pogo Promotions.

About Northern Light Productions
Northern Light Productions has a long history of creating documentary films that explore the diverse reach of the American landscape and of American life. Their work ranges from nationally broadcast television documentaries to signature films for national parks and historic sites. Founded in 1982 by independent documentary filmmaker Bestor Cram, Northern Light Productions’ clients include PBS, the History Channel, the WGBH Boston series The American Experience, Court TV, Channel 4 England, the Sundance Channel and the Smithsonian Institution. Their recent television projects include Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (PBS, Sony Legacy) about one of the most celebrated live recordings ever made; Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968 (ITVS) about the untold Civil Rights era event, often labelled the “Kent State of the South”; and Killer Poet, examining the case of Norman Porter, Massachusetts’ most notorious escaped convict.  Other broadcast documentaries include The Special, a PBS documentary about the famous song, the Orange Blossom Special; Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters and Horrors at Andersonville for The History Channel; The Spear of Christ and Primal Fear also for the History Channel; Re-Imagine: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age with Tom Peters and The Excellence Files both for PBS; and Good to Great with Jim Collins for PBS. Northern Light’s commitment to a compelling artistic vision and technical excellence have earned the company awards and honors in many film festivals and competitions throughout the United States and abroad. Northern Light is a member of the International Quorum of Film and Video Producers, a select group of documentary filmmakers spanning five continents. 

About the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
A leading resource for key issues concerning the concerning the use, taxation and regulation of land, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy  provides high-quality education and research, and strives to improve public dialogue and decisions about land policy.

Portland: Quest for the Livable City
Running time: 57 minutes
Closed Captioned and Subtitles in English and Spanish

For review copies please contact Anthony Flint at the Lincoln Institute at The Lincoln Institute Web site is at

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