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Comp Plan reaches final stage


PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Neighborhood complaints about residential infill projects surfaced during the City Council hearings on the recommended Comprehensive Plan update.After years of research, discussions and recommendations, Portland’s Comprehensive Plan update has finally reached its most critical stage — the time when the City Council will finally consider amendments and approve it.

The first work session begins at 9:30 a.m. today, Jan. 26. Mayor Charlie Hales has asked the council members to identify their proposed amendments before it begins. The final vote is expected in April or May.

The Comp Plan — as it is commonly called — is a state-required land use planning document that will guide Portland’s growth for the next 20 years.

“This the most important document the city ever writes,” Hales said when the council held its fifth hearing on the update recommended by the Planning and Sustainability Commission on Jan. 13. It is supposed to accommodate 200,000 more residents by 2035.

Today’s work session is the first of three where council members will discuss and vote on amendments to address their concerns — and potentially some of those expressed by the hundreds of citizens who have testified in person and writing.

Until now, Hales and the other members have not said much about what they are thinking. One exception is Commissioner Steve Novick, who revealed he supports encouraging more density in at least some residential neighborhoods. According to Novick, increasing urban density helps fight climate change by reducing driving and encouraging transit.

“We in Portland love our neighborhoods and don’t want them to change, and I understand that. But we also believe in the environment and reducing our carbon emissions, and that’s kind of at odds,” Novick said at the beginning of a Jan. 7 hearing on the update.

Novick’s statement did not go over well with everyone in the audience.

“Big box apartments in century-old neighborhoods are tearing our city’s fabric apart. This need not be,” testified Jeff Cole, a member of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.

Issues raised during council hearings

Although the council members have not yet submitted their amendments, many issues emerged from the earlier hearings:

• Opposition to significantly increasing density in residential and small-scale neighborhoods, such as the Buckman, Elliot, Eastmoreland and Multnomah neighborhoods. Neighborhood associations in those areas helped coordinate testimony and petition drives for protecting their existing character. Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association leaders are already preparing to challenge the update’s zoning for their area at the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

• The future of West Hayden Island, which the Port of Portland purchased as a marine terminal. Environmentalists and nearby residents argue it should be preserved as a natural area, while port leaders and some business associations argue it should be used to improve trade and create good-paying jobs.

• Whether the plan realistically estimates how much future industrial employment will occur — especially in the Portland Harbor. The recommended update currently includes a low-range estimate for the growth. Port leaders and some business associations say it should be higher, which could require the council to identify more industrial land for development.

• Whether and how to encourage the supply of such alternative housing units as triplexes, duplexes, and accessory dwelling units in existing neighborhoods.

• Support for renter protection and anti-displacement policies in the update. Everyone agrees rising housing costs are squeezing renters and forcing lower-income Portlanders to move, sometimes out of town. But workable solutions are restricted by state laws that prohibit local rent controls. The 2016 Oregon Legislature that starts in February could give the council more flexibility, however.

• Various concerns related to existing parking policies, including pricing at various hours and the lack of required on-site parking for apartment buildings along major transit lines.

Even the future of individual pieces of property could be the subject of amendments. Many witnesses requested the zoning either be changed or remain the same on numerous parcels around town. They include the site of the soon-to-close Strohecker’s Grocery in Southwest Portland, Rossi Farms in far Northeast Portland, and even a single lot in a residential neighborhood at Northeast 53rd and Halsey Street.

Find out more

The work sessions are scheduled for Jan. 26, Feb. 2,Feb. 23 and March 1. No public testimony will be allowed during them. The public can next testify at a hearing on the amended Comp Plan update April 14. The final vote should take place in April or May.

To learn more about the Comp Plan update, visit: portlandoregon.gov/bps/57352.