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DEQ: Terminal 1 not approved for homeless shelter

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JONATHAN HOUSE - The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has approved Terminal 1 for industrial but not residential uses.The vacant Terminal 1 warehouse proposed as a homeless shelter sits on 14 acres of property that has been certified by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for industrial but not residential uses.

The DEQ required the Port of Portland to clean up contamination on the longtime industrial site when it sold the property to Portland in 2004. But Commissioner Dan Saltzman has proposed turning the warehouse into a homeless shelter, a purpose not originally considered by DEQ.

The 15 acres immediately south of Terminal 1 was sold by the port to a private developer at the same time. After a delay caused by the Great Recession, it was purchased and is being redeveloped as residential buildings by Fore Properties. Vice President Lee Novak says the company has spent millions of dollars removing and disposing of contaminated soil on the property to meet DEQ’s higher residential standards.

“We have removed tens of thousands of cubic yards of soil to comply with the residential requirements,” says Novak, who admits his company is concerned about the possibility of a large homeless shelter opening next door to its developments.

According to DEQ Project Engineer Erin McDonnell, “A remedial investigation was completed for the property in 2005 and 2006. Given it was assumed that the future use of the property would remain industrial, sampling data was probably screened for an occupational exposure scenario. The risk assessment would need to be looked into if site uses were to change and whether an urban residential exposure would be appropriate without additional work.”

Under the housing state of emergency the City Council declared last October, the city can supposedly waive a number of building and zoning requirements to create new homeless shelters and affordable housing projects. It is unclear whether the city can waive state environmental regulations, however.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who has proposed housing up to 400 homeless people in the warehouse, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The council is scheduled to consider it on Aug.10. Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick have expressed support for the proposal, giving it the votes to pass.