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Keep riverfront working for all

The Portland City Council should take immediate steps to protect the working waterfront along the Willamette River. The waterfront is a unique setting in this region for industries and jobs that otherwise might leave for ports in other states.

Over the past few years, however, the protection and use of industrial land that is on or near the waterfront has been severely eroded. The evidence is seen in the rapidly developing South Waterfront, within the Pearl District, at Pier 1, which was sold to the city by the Port of Portland, and potentially near Swan Island, where the University of Portland hopes to build athletic facilities.

A little more than a week ago, the latest assault on the industrial waterfront occurred when the Portland Planning Commission recommended approval of a residential and commercial development in the Linnton neighborhood. The commission voted 6-3 to recommend to the City Council that more than 400 housing units and a mixture of retail and business uses be allowed on 35 acres of vacant riverfront land in Linnton, land currently zoned for industry.

Council should deny Linnton plan

The future of the Linnton site has been a much-debated item for more than a decade. By sending the plan on to the City Council, some planning commission members probably hoped to support improving the neighborhood. But other commission members clearly saw Linnton as Portland's next residential redevelopment success story. 'What we have is an opportunity to create another jewel along the river that will benefit us all,' commission member Larry Hilderbrand said.

We disagree, and so should the City Council. Instead, the council should deny the Linnton plan and send a message that Portland is committed to supporting the regional economy by protecting industrial land along the Willamette River, which is a corridor to international shipping. In doing so, the city will help invest in, sustain and increase family-wage jobs; support a vibrant retail economy; and generate payroll taxes that support needed public services such as schools.

The council should consider those strategic choices when it meets to review the Linnton plan July 19 at 6 p.m.

Economy needs protection

To support the conversion of industrial land in Linnton would be an easy political choice for the council. The council would be backing a group of tenacious neighborhood and citizen activists, who have worked for years to enhance their own community's livability. We understand that the plan is emotionally and locally persuasive.

But the Linnton plan is regionally and economically disruptive. Chipping away at the working Willamette riverfront is not a strategic decision that makes long-term sense. If redevelopment proposals like this one go unchecked, the conversion of waterfront industrial land will continue. Trendy homes and condos will cluster next to the river, but the waterfront no longer will be an industrial workplace where businesses and working people thrive and help support the entire community. These waterfront-based jobs will go to other states, not the suburbs.

By opposing the Linnton plan, the council should further commit to join regional efforts to improve the city's economy and validate local, state and federal investments in the economies of Columbia and Willamette river ports. Denial of the plan should be accompanied by a mandate for the city, neighbors and industrialists to discover and invest in alternative ways to revitalize the Linnton neighborhood.