John C. Spencer Consultants
City Planning/Urban Design/Development Services


John C. Spencer, AICP

Principal, Spencer Consultants

John Spencer’s education and career have taken him from a small town in Wyoming, to Virginia and Washington, D.C., to London then to Portland, Oregon where he has had an urban planning career spanning over 35 years.  John has been instrumental in planning for and developing Portland’s new central area urban neighborhoods including the Pearl District and South Waterfront.  These areas are frequently lauded as successful American examples of high density, mixed use pedestrian districts that integrate transit, open spaces and high quality public realm design.  John has had a leadership role both in managing the planning efforts that conceived these neighborhoods, and formulating the financing strategies and public/private partnerships that have made them happen.

John's professional and community contributions to the City of Portland and State of Oregon have also been significant.  He served for eleven years on the Portland Design Commission, six as chair, guided approval of a number of major public and private development projects in the Central City, and helped develop and apply design guidelines and standards that have been used as models by many cities.  John also served as a long-term board member of the Oregon Downtown Development Association and Livable Oregon.  His leadership and personal contributions helped advance downtown revitalization and smart growth practices throughout the state.

Professional Experience

1985-present- Spencer Consultants, formerly Spencer & Kupper, Portland, Oregon.
Spencer Consultants is a Portland planning and development services firm that focuses on public/private development planning, urban design, project management, and urban renewal.  The firm is a principal-only practice and has no employees. Charles Kupper, John’s partner since 1985, unexpectedly passed away in late 2009.  Under a new firm name, John is continuing the consulting practice they founded as Spencer & Kupper.

John is the planning and urban design principal of the firm. He is responsible for the firm’s neighborhood and specific area planning, development code and design standards preparation, revitalization strategy and project definition.  John's focus is on central area planning, redevelopment, town planning, sustainability and project management.

Significant projects where John acted as project manager and principal planner include:

  • Civic Neighborhood Plan and Implementation Strategy, Gresham, Oregon
  • Tigard Triangle Land Use and Transportation Plan, Tigard, Oregon
  • Washington Square Regional Center Plan, Tigard, Oregon
  • Beaverton Regional Center Development Regulations, Beaverton, Oregon
  • Downtown Revitalization Plans for Astoria, Grants Pass, Gresham, Hillsboro, Keizer, Newberg,  Oregon City, Rainier, Stayton, and Woodburn, Oregon
  • North Macadam (South Waterfront) Framework Plan, Urban Renewal Plan and Plan Implementation, Portland, Oregon
  • Beaverton Design Review Program, Beaverton, Oregon
  • Hoyt Yards Master Development Plan, Pearl District, Portland, Oregon
  • Regional Center Development Strategy, Gresham, Oregon
  • LaPlata County Land Use & Transit Strategy, Durango, Colorado
  • Lower River Road Corridor Concept Plan, Eugene, Oregon
  • Con-way Properties Eco-District Plan, Portland, Oregon

1977-1985-  Wilsey & Ham, Portland, Oregon.  
John served as Chief Urban Planner and project manager in the firm’s Portland, Oregon office, then as Director of Planning responsible for planning programs in the firm’s San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and Portland offices.  Significant projects where John acted as project manager and principal planner include: 

  • Comprehensive plans for a number of Oregon cities and counties to comply with the state’s newly enacted Statewide Planning Goals
  • Los Positas New Town Plan, Livermore, California
  • Banfield Light Rail Transit Station Area Planning, Portland Metro Area
  • Seattle Downtown Plan and Environmental Assessment, Seattle, Washington

1974-1976- Greater London Council, London, England.   

John served as Architect/Planner Central Area Team:  a team of urban designers and transportation engineers focused on projects within Areas of Metropolitan Importance in the London Boroughs of Westminster and Camden.  Projects include:

  • Pedestrianisation Schemes for Trafalgar Square
  • Urban design assessment of Soho
  • Conceptual Designs for new London Underground Stations at Trafalgar Square and Charring Cross
  • Redevelopment Concepts for Kings Cross British Rail Station Area
  • Responsibilities included providing urban design assessments of proposed development and redevelopment projects within the Boroughs


1973-1974   KRS Associates, Reston, Virginia.  Associate, Master’s Major Project
Under direction of a firm principal, John undertook a variety of planning tasks first as a summer intern, then as a full time employee.  John authored the “Bayshore, New York Downtown Plan, 1974” which was also approved as a Master’s Major Project at VPI & SU.


1974- Master of Architecture in Urban Design, Virginia Polytechnic Institute
1972- Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering (Architectural), University of Wyoming

Professional Activities

John Spencer is a Charter Member of both the APA and AICP.  He has been active in local chapter activities, including serving as co-project manager for the Oregon Visions Project Committee.  That committee produced “A Guide to Community Visioning, which won a 1995 APA National Planning Award.

  • Charter Member, American Institute of Certified Planners, 1978-present
  • Charter Member, American Planning Association, 1978-present
  • Oregon Chapter, American Planning Association, Co-Project Manager, Oregon Visions Project Committee, 1993-1994.  The committee published “A Guide to Community Visioning,” a 1995 APA National Planning Awards recipient.  This practical hands-on guide has been continuously published by the APA Planner’s Press since 1993.
  • Oregon Chapter, American Planning Association, Annual Chapter Awards Selection Committee, 1990, 1991, 2002, 2003, 2004.

Other Activities and Leadership Roles

In addition to his professional planning accomplishments and activities associated with APA and AICP, John has held leadership roles in organizations furthering planning and smart development values, and has received honors and recognition for his contributions both from his clients and from organizations he has served.  He has also participated as a speaker and panelist at conferences and workshops and authored papers on planning and implementation topics.

Honors, Awards and Recognitions

  • Certificate of Appreciation, Mayor Vera Katz, City of Portland, Oregon, 1999.  For serving as project manager and for outstanding contributions to the North Macadam Framework Plan and formation of the North Macadam Urban Renewal Plan.
  • Certificate Recognizing Outstanding Contributions, Mayor Vera Katz, City of Portland, Oregon, 1999.  For serving on the Portland Design Commission and acting as chair.
  • Oregon Chapter, APA, Professional Achievement in Planning Award, 1996.  For the Gresham Civic Neighborhood Plan and Implementation Strategy.
  • Distinguished Service Award, Livable Oregon, 1995.  For 12 years service on the Oregon Downtown Development Association Board of Directors including chairing several committees.
  • American Planning Association, National Planning Awards, 1995 Karen B. Smith Chapter Achievement Award-A Guide to Community Visioning.  For serving as Co-Project Manager, Oregon Visions Project Committee.
  • Oregon Chapter, APA, Professional Achievement in Planning Award, 1994.  For the Oregon Visions Project Committee, and “A Guide to Community Visioning.”
  • Community Service Award, City of Keizer, Oregon, 1987.  For outstanding service for development of Keizer’s First Comprehensive Plan.
  • Distinguished Service Award, City of Lake Oswego, Oregon, 1980.  For outstanding service on the Design Review Board.

 Public Service & Publications

·        Expert Advisory Group, Investing in Centers and Corridors, Institute for Metropolitan Studies, Portland State University, 2009-10.  John is serving on an expert advisory panel convened by the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, Portland State University charged with formulating recommendations for how the Portland region might encourage and accelerate development of mixed use centers and corridors over the next decade.

·        AIA Urban Design Panel, Portland, Oregon, 2005-present.  Panel member providing multi-disciplinary urban design advice on major development projects and planning efforts in the Portland region.

·        Oregon/SW Washington District Council, Urban Land Institute, Portland, Oregon, 2007.  Panel member on Hoyt Street Properties Master Development Plan.

·        Metro Conference on Centers and Implementation, Portland, Oregon, 2005.  Authored a white paper and participated as a panel member on financial incentives for mixed-use development and housing.

·         Author of “Gresham Civic Neighborhood: 5-Year Progress Report” for the City of Gresham and Metro, 2001.  An assessment of a Transit Oriented Development Plan and Return on Public Investments.

·        Council for the New Urbanism Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon, 2000.  Workshop panel on Fairview Village and Gresham Civic Neighborhood Developments, Workshop panel on Portland’s Design Review Program and Design Guidelines.

·        South Park Block 5 Advisory Committee, Portland, Oregon, 1999-2001.  John was appointed to a citizen committee charged with providing design and programming advice and direction for a new downtown Portland park.

  • Local Government Commission Annual Conference, Pasadena, California, 1996.  Workshop panel on Transit Oriented Development Implementation.
  •  Member, Chair, Portland Design Commission, City of Portland, Oregon, 1989-1999.  John served eleven years, six as chair of the publicly appointed commission charged with assuring that the design of new development meets Portland’s exceptionally high standards.
  • Board of Directors, Oregon Downtown Development Association and Livable Oregon, Inc., 1983-1995.  John served on the Board of Directors for the organization formed to advocate and advance the principles of the National Main Street program throughout Oregon.  He later helped found Livable Oregon charged with advancing smart growth policies and practices.
  • South/North LRT Project Management Committee, 1982-1984.  John represented the City of Oregon City on a Metro management committee evaluating light rail corridor and alignment alternatives and preparing a Draft EIS.
  • Member, Design Review Board, City of Lake Oswego, Oregon, 1978-1980.  John served on the design review approval board.

Membership in Allied Organizations

Past Affiliate, American Institute of Architects

Past Affiliate, Urban Land Institute

Past Member, Association of Oregon Redevelopment Agencies


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