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Sources: Fish has questions about scale of new apartments


Some neighborhood activists accuse the City Council of favoring density over livability. But as it turns out, not every member of the council is happy about the proliferation of new apartment buildings in every part of town.

During the council’s Feb. 2 work session on the Comprehensive Plan update, Commissioner Nick Fish questioned the scale of some of the new apartment buildings on North Williams Avenue. He said they overwhelm the space — including the streets and sidewalks — and asked the staff of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability why they are so much larger than those on Southeast Division Street, which Fish called more “humane.”

The answer is the blocks on Williams are bigger than the blocks on Division, allowing for bigger buildings under the current zoning codes.

Strangely, according to city staff, new buildings along Williams are subject to a design review process intended to address such concerns, while those along Division are not.

The issue may come up again as the council continues working on the state-required plan that will guide growth in the city for the next 20 years. Portland is projected to gain 123,000 more housing units by 2035, which translates to somewhere between 240,000 and 260,000 new residents, depending on who’s doing the counting.

Separating viable from nonviable candidates

Some candidates complain when they aren’t getting invited to participate in campaign forums, like the one recently held by the Regional Arts & Culture Council that included only five of the 21 candidates currently running for the City Council. But sponsoring organizations figure they need to make choices to keep the events manageable, even though their invitation lists may seem inconsistent.

Incumbents running for re-election are obviously viable candidates. And so are candidates who have been elected to another office. Beyond that, the ability to raise money shows a certain level of public support. And having an office and campaign staff is a sign of commitment.

By those standards, three council candidates who deserve to be invited to at least some forums are Sarah Iannarone, who is running for mayor, and Stuart Emmons and Fred Stewart, who are running against Commissioner Steve Novick. Others may emerge when they begin reporting campaign contributions. But only Emmons participated in the RACC forum.