In our final Summer Series post, we dive back to Episode 9 Season 4 of the BuiltOnAir Podcast and revisit with Chris Ortolano. Chris is a community organizer that works with the civic planners in the city of Milwaukie, Oregon to provide comprehensive updates on the planning process of his neighborhood community. 

For the past 20 years, Chris has been a leader in his neighborhood’s district association. He became familiar with the people in charge of making decisions and what processes they use. Most recently his interest has peaked around multi-family housing and wanting to become a part of that conversation. The lack of affordable housing is a big concern for almost all of the state agencies. At the time of this recording, in the city of Portland, residential infill or upzoning was being proposed to allow for types of housing that typically haven’t been allowed. 

Chis believes that the issues of affordable housing need to also include looking at the current transportation requirements simultaneously, which is something he is not seeing now. He believes that looking at both issues at the same time will provide an opportunity to prepare for the kinds of growth he thinks the city needs. In urban planning, it is good practice to concentrate public housing near public transit to reduce the number of people that will need to drive and create less congestion in the streets while also helping to keep the air clean. In order to successfully tackle transportation and housing planning to serve everyone’s needs, there needs to be engagement with the community. 

With a focus on engaging the community, Chris developed his own community group to help assess the policy changes and start to provide their own policy recommendations. This has spurred a whole new level of community engagement and conversations. The standard approach for sharing this information has been an op-ed page in the community newspaper but they have recently created Wiki, a flat website, as well as the MilwaukieRIP Facebook page to help convey this information directly to the community. In Chris’ words, it was an evolution of people coming together in discussion and truly understanding the policies. 

Wanting to take everything one step further, Chris found Airtable and thought it was a perfect system to use to gather information for all to see. Many times you have many different groups of people working to tackle the same issue. If there are 8 groups of people working on 1 problem like affordable housing, they can get siloed because of a lack of communication between the groups. They don’t know what each other group is thinking or their plans or discussions. This is where Airtable comes in. Airtable helps bridge the gap between all the groups working on the same issue by bringing all the information together in one place, benefiting both the community and the city planner groups. This means that more voices are heard and solutions to the problem become easier to solve.

DEMO: Urban Planning Tracker

  • Tables: To Do List, Precedents, Agencies, People, Issues, Meetings, Committees, Events, Work Plan, Resolutions, Documents
  • This tracker will help introduce the process of urban planning to other people who are less familiar with that process
  • This will help house all the different plans from different committees in one place for all to see
  • Meetings Table: holds all the regular session, public meetings, and community meetings in one place with the agenda, notes, date of the meeting, and much more
  • Committees Table: shows all established and proposed committees, date it was established, comments, application, people involved
  • Precedents Table: grouped by Social Housing, Neighborhood Zoning, Residential Infill, Housing and Affordability 


Chris’ passion for community outreach and engagement is such a joy to see and utilizing Airtable to help bring many groups of people together is something that we personally love here at BuiltOnAir. To learn more about Chis check out the links below. 

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

See Milwaukie RIP’s Facebook page


Watch the video below for the full podcast visual, including more of Chris’ story and the live walkthroughs of the bases described above.

Episode Video:

Here’s an audio version of the above, with links to download or share if desired:

Episode Audio

Do you know someone who should be featured? Let us know here.

Like this? Consider subscribing on your favorite podcasting app or on Youtube to stay up to date on all things Airtable! Thanks for the love!