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PORTLAND TRIBUNE PHOTO: STEVE LAW  - The Hastings Green project in South Tabor is seen as a model of 'missing middle' housing because it provides a cluster of homes on one site that fits seamlessly into a single-family block.If the City Council has its way, by 2035 Portland will be a city of self-contained neighborhoods connected by more sidewalks, walking trails, bike paths and Portland Streetcar lines. A few neighborhoods will remain largely unchanged, but most will see a variety of new housing options, ranging from duplexes to apartments with on-site parking. The changes could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, with the funding sources yet to be identified.


At least, those are among the concepts proposed by Mayor Charlie Hales and the commissioners as amendments to the recommended update to the Comprehensive Plan, the state-required land use document that is supposed to guide Portland’s growth for the next 20 years. Hearings on the proposed amendments will be held on April 14 and 20, and the council is scheduled to vote on them April 28. The final vote could happen in May.

The update has drawn praise and criticism since before it was recommended to the council by the Planning and Sustainability Commission last year. Many Portlanders support its goal of concentrating the densest development downtown, in other designated urban centers, and along major transportation corridors. They also like its call for building “walkable neighborhoods” with nearby housing, employment, shopping and entertainment opportunities. At the same time, some neighborhood associations fear the recommended update will encourage too much growth in residential areas and small business districts, harming their historic character.

The council held five hearings on the recommended update before proposing amendments compiled into a report by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, which is staffing the endeavor. The report, which was released March 18, reveals the following themes:

More low-income housing

A majority of the council supports building much more housing set aside for those earning less than the median family income, in some cases far less. Commissioner Amanda Fritz supported services to include “transitional housing, self-built micro housing communities, emergency shelters, temporary shelters such as warming centers, and transitional campgrounds/rest areas.”

More “missing middlehousing

A majority of the council supports creating more duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, row houses, town houses, accessory dwelling units and small apartments built around courtyards. Such housing is considered more affordable and less overpowering than the multi-story apartment buildings and “McMansion” single-family houses currently being built in many neighborhoods. The new lower-density multifamily housing could be concentrated around transit stops and near parks.

Connecting neighborhoods

Most of the councilors want Portlanders to be able to get around town by driving cars. They have proposed amendments calling for sidewalks to be built in neighborhoods that do not have them, like many of those in East Portland.

Increase historic preservation

Hales is taking the lead in calling for the city to increase efforts to preserve older homes and businesses. For example, he has proposed amendments supporting the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association’s request to discourage developers from replacing an older home with two new ones. Although Hales lives in the neighborhood, he has also proposed expanding historic resource protections to other parts of the city, including those that have traditionally been home to minority communities.

Increase involvement of under-represented communities

Commissioner Amanda Fritz has proposed several amendments to continue the work of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement to help minority and other non-geographic communities participate more in public affairs.

Create more employment land

Hales has introduced amendments to encourage the conversion of privately-owned golf courses along the Columbia River to industrial land.

Make Portland more age-friendly

Commissioners Nick Fish and Steve Novick want to allow home-based businesses on properties with accessory dwelling units, which are encouraged in part to allow housing for aging parents.

Some of the amendments are likely to prove controversial. Although Eastmoreland residents welcome Hales’ support, neighborhood association members in Southwest Portland and other parts of town have been asking for the same protections against infill projects. Southwest Portland residents might also be surprised to learn that Hales wants to designate Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway between Portland and Washington County as a Neighborhood Corridor to encourage more development along it within the city limits.

And the cost of some of the amendments is significant. For example, completing the pedestrian network, which a majority of the council support, is estimated to cost slightly more than $60 million. New bike paths are estimated at tens of millions of dollars more.

Hales wants to build new Portland Street Car lines along Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Northeast Sandy Boulevard, and Northwest 18th and 19th avenues to Montgomery Park, which would cost over $170 million.

Hales also wants to build a new bridge to provide local street access to Hayden Island, an idea considered as part of the now-abandoned Columbia River Crossing project. It could cost $80 million.

If approved, the council would ask Metro to add the projects to its Regional Transportation Plan. Sources for the additional funds are not designated in the amendments, however.

The BPS staff report can be read at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/569929.

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