City action nears on long-discussed issues

Two big items are on the City Council agenda Wednesday: creation of a citywide curbside composting system and clearing the way to fund improvements to the Memorial Coliseum.

The composting system is intended to reduce the amount of food scraps going into landfills. It is also intended to increase the availability of locally produced compost for landscapers and gardeners.

But it will change the way garbage and organic materials are collected at the curb, potentially inconveniencing some households and increasing costs for an estimated 20 percent of customers, according to city estimates.

If approved by the council, food scraps can be dumped into the large green barrels that are now restricted to yard debris. They will be picked up once a week instead of every other week, which is the current collection system.

The beige barrels that hold garbage will be picked up every other week instead of every week, which is the current pick-up schedule.

Recyclable materials such as paper, plastic and glass can still be put out weekly in yellow bins and blue recycling barrels.

The ordinance creating the changes is being introduced by Mayor Sam Adams. In a Friday press release announcing the changes, Adams said it will increase the amount of organic material discarded by Portlanders that is composted.

'Portlanders want curbside composting and the city of Portland is ready to deliver,' Adams said. 'Each year, thousands of pounds of food scraps needlessly go to landfills when they could be turned into nutrient-rich compost.'

The changes will affect all single-family households and residents living in buildings with four or fewer units. They are proposed to take effect on Oct. 31.

The ordinance also includes a new rate structure for all curbside collections. An analysis estimates costs will increase for 20 percent of customers, including those who need a larger garbage barrel to hold two week's worth of debris.

Two-thousand Portland households tested the new system in a pilot project. The city says 87 percent reported being satisfied with it, and garbage from the test area dropped off by one-third. Only 7 percent requested larger garbage cans, the city says.

The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave.

Then, at 2 p.m., the council is scheduled to consider using funds from the Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal Area for improvements to the Memorial Coliseum. The work is intended to extend the life of the coliseum and attract more events.

The improvements are estimated at around $20 million. They include upgrades to the aging electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems.

The coliseum was built 50 years ago and had not been substantially remodeled.

The work is intended to maintain the coliseum as a spectator facility. The council originally authorized a process to consider a wide range of potential uses for the coliseum, overseen by Adams. He curtailed it after deciding there was not enough money available for major changes. The Portland Development Commission will still need to present the council with a plan and a budget before the work can begin. That could happen by the end of the year.

Although the use of the coliseum will remain essentially the same, Adams believes the work will serve as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the surrounding Rose Quarter area, which is largely unused when there are no events in the coliseum or nearby Rose Garden. No specific plan is being offered at this time, however. The Portland Trail Blazers never submitted a formal proposal for the Jump Town redevelopment project they discussed in recent years.

The Interstate Corridor urban renewal area was created in 2000 to encourage redevelopment along and near Interstate Avenue in North Portland. Among other things, it helped find the Interstate MAX line that runs from the Rose Quarter Transit Center to the Expo Center.

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