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International Assistance

In addition to its U.S. work, the Accelerator shares ideas and insights internationally, from Canada to China.


Recent reports issued by the United Nations and the European Union confirm what our eyes (and Google Earth) are telling us: urban densities are falling, in both developed and developing nations. Low-density, auto-dependent urban and exurban sprawl - as well as leapfrog development - are now international phenomena, not just American.

Since the 1990s Robert Liberty, USA Director, has been offering insights and assistance on how to curb urban sprawl based on his three decades of experience in Oregon.

Here are a few examples of Robert's work with urban areas outside the U.S. 



Since 2009 USA Director Robert Liberty has been making visits to China to describe how Oregon and the Portland region made the transition to more sustainable forms of development.  He has also made many presentations to delegations of government officials and private sector designers visiting Oregon from China. 

China has rapidly transitioned from a poor, rural agricultural nation into an increasingly affluent urban and industrial nation, with the same urban problems that plagued the U.S. and Oregon: urban air, water and land pollution and the spread of auto-oriented urban sprawl across China’s farmland and natural areas.  But the scale and speed of these changes is unprecedented in human history.

In 2005 there were 14 million private automobiles in China; today there are more than 120 million.  Today China produces and consumes more cars than any other nation.

The latest national urbanization plan anticipates another 300 million people moving into China’s cities in the next 30 years.  That means building the equivalent of the city of New York every 10 months, or building a new city of Portland every 22 days. As a nation with 20% of the world’s population but only 9% of its arable land, the Chinese government is very aware of the threat that urban sprawl presents to its ability to feed its people.

The Chinese people, businesses and government are aware of the need to make their cities healthier and more livable and to curb sprawl. 

As a result of deliberations by the State Council, the National Development and Reform Commission and 12 different ministries, in 2014 the Chinese government directed all major cities to adopt the equivalent of urban growth boundaries in the next few years.  The policy is designed to help assure higher levels of food security (farmland protection) and to protect natural resources and systems. 

In 2014 Robert Liberty made three trips to China to offer presentations on urban growth boundaries:  to Suzhou (a city of 11 million not far from Shanghai), Chengdu in Sichuan province (an urban administrative area of 14 million) and Kunming in Yunnan Province (an urban area population of 7 million).  

The trips to Suzhou and Chengdu were organized by Professors Yizhao Yang and Dehui Wei at the University of Oregon.  The trip to Kunming was supported by the Energy Foundation as part of the Portland-Kunming sustainable cities exhibition.

Robert also addresses occasional delegations from China visiting Portland.  In November 2014, a small group of architects, landscape architects and interior designers came to Portland on a trip organized by Hong Wu, who received her Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon.  The participants were particularly interested in rain gardens, green roofs, the clean-up and re-use of contaminated land and aspects of urban design.

Robert often explains: “There are many people from China who are very interested in how our small and obscure corner of the world approaches urban development.  Of course the Chinese cannot directly transplant a program from Oregon into their country - that would be like taking a policy from Lucerne, Switzerland and applying it to Los Angeles.  But they are very interested in the analytic frameworks we used and how we were able to make the various branches of government collaborate.  As they have heard many times, we  want to help them avoid our mistakes and benefit from our own hard-won experience with creating livable and sustainable cities.” 


In January 2014 Robert Liberty gave a presentation about the history of Oregon’s urban planning effort to a delegation from Europe who were participants in the Emerging Leaders in Environmental and Energy Policy network.


PSU Professor Marcus Ingle directs the International Public Service Program at the Hatfield School of Government. He has a relationship with economic development efforts in Vietnam that spans many decades.  To assist Professor Ingle, Robert Liberty has addressed several delegations from the national government of Vietnam as well as officials from Quang Nam province and the city of Hoi An in central Vietnam.


In November 2014, Robert Liberty presented on urban growth management in Vancouver, Canada at the first annual urban forum for the new Masters in Urban Design program at the University of British Columbia.  The inaugural director of that program, Professor Patrick Condon, is a leading urban educator and practitioner in green infrastructure.  He has made many professional visits to Portland over the last several years to gain knowledge and exchange ideas, including with USA cohort cities.


In 2013 Robert Liberty met with professors from Okayama University in Japan who were interested in Oregon’s planning program and also in learning how university faculty and students could become engaged in community service.