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Timing off on city land-use plan changes

State-required update might alter some neighborhoods


How baffling can land-use planning get in Portland?

Consider this: Later this month, the Planning and Sustainability Commission will have a public hearing on three ambitious plans for important parts of town — the Central City 2035 Concept Plan, the North/Northeast Quadrant Plan, and a plan to improve the connections to Interstate 5 from Broadway and Weidler streets. They are all scheduled to be approved by the City Council in October.

All of the plans are intended to implement the state-required update of the city’s comprehensive land-use plan. It will be informed by the Portland Plan, which the City Council approved in April to guide development in the city for the next 25 or so years.

But the discussion draft of the comp plan update — as it is commonly called — won’t be released until November, two months after the upcoming hearing and one month after the council vote on the three plans. And it won’t be approved by the council until late 2013.

“The timing is a little confusing,” admits Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Chief Planner Joe Zehnder.by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT/TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Future development in the Lloyd District will be governed by a series of plans headed to the City Council, not necessarily in logical order.

Portland’s council is not trying to pre-empt public feedback on the comp plan input, Zehnder says. Many public hearings will take place in different parts of town to allow Portlanders to comment on the update before it is finished.

But the comp plan is so out of date and requires so much work that it must be done in bits and pieces, and some of it can seem to be out of order, Zehnder admits.

“It’s a sequencing thing. What we’re presenting now are interim steps in the update,” Zehnder says. “The council is only scheduled to adopt them as resolutions, which means they won’t become final until the update is finalized.”

The exception is the so-called I-5 Broadway/Weidler Plan. Although technically part of the North/Northeast Quadrant Plan, it is largely a proposed Oregon Department of Transportation project. The I-5 Broadway/Weidler Plan is being presented to the Planning and Sustainability Commission and the council as a recommendation to the Oregon Department of Transportation at this time in large part to meet the state’s planning requirements. Among other things, the plan calls for rebuilding the structures that carry Broadway Street, Weidler Street and Williams Avenue over I-5 in Northeast Portland.

The Planning and Sustainability Commission hearing will begin at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, in Suite 2500A of the 1900 Building, 1900 Southwest Fourth Ave., Portland.

A long process

Portlanders attempting to follow all of these planning efforts might have trouble keeping up, however. Work on the Portland Plan went on for longer than two years. It resulted in the overarching goal of increasing equity in the city and three core strategies: producing thriving, educated youth; creating a healthy, connected city; and economic prosperity and affordability.

The Portland Plan has also identified five areas within the city largely resulting from historic land-use patterns: inner neighborhoods, mostly on the east side of town; downtown; industrial and river areas; western neighborhoods; and eastern neighbors added to the city through annexations.

The comp plan update is required by the state periodic review process. The review is required every five to seven years, and must be completed three years after it begins. Mayor Sam Adams and the council expect the update to be essentially a blueprint for fulfilling the Portland Plan.

Converting the ambitious goals of the Portland Plan into land-use policies for every part of the city is a complex process. The Central City 2035 Concept Plan addresses big issues, such as where Portlanders will live and work in 20 years, and how they will move around and through the city. It begins by dividing downtown and adjoining neighborhoods in four quadrants: Southeast; Southwest; Northwest; and North/Northeast, which is the farthest along because it was tied to an earlier urban renewal update.

The North/Northeast Quadrant Plan to be considered by the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission on Sept. 11 shows how detailed all of the quadrant plans will eventually become. For example, it proposes specific zoning changes in the Lloyd District and Lower Albina. They are intended to encourage high-density development in the Lloyd District and more employment opportunities in Lower Albina. Proposals even deal with individual streets, such as calling for a mix of uses on historic Russell Street.

Residents in other parts of town will not have that much information when the comp plan update discussion draft is released in November, however. For example, detailed work on the western neighborhoods will not start until later this year. Some parts of town will not receive such attention until next year.

Zehnder says Portlanders should not be discouraged from commenting on the comp plan update discussion draft, however. He says it will be concerned with larger, citywide policy matters that will then be incorporated into the quadrant plans as they are developed.

Even then, council approval of the comp plan update is not the final step. After that, it must be approved by Metro, the regional government, and eventually by the state Department of Land Conservation and Development, which can order revisions months after council approval.