Infill plan additional testimony denied
The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission will not take new testimony on the controversial proposal to rezone single-family neighborhoods for missing middle housing in Portland, despite major changes made since the last public hearing in May 2018.
The commission is expected to vote to send the current Residential Infill Project recommendations to the City Council on Tuesday, March 12. They are intended to increase the supply of smaller, multifamily housing projects throughout the city.
Over the past nine months, the part of town covered by the recommendations has grown from 66 percent to 93 percent of single-family neighborhoods. Up to four units could be built on practically every lot, instead of the three units in the previous version. And the maximum size of such projects has increased from 2,500 to 4,000 square feet.
Several reports on the potential effects of the current recommendations also have been released since the appointed commission last took public testimony. They include an updated Johnson Economics analysis that predicts residential demolitions will increase 8 percent to allow for an additional 24,000 housing units over the next 20 years.
A new staff Displacement Risk and Mitigation report also has been released that predicts a disproportionate share of the additional projects will take place in less-affluent neighborhoods, including Lents, Brentwood-Darlington, Montavilla, St. Johns, Portsmouth, Concordia and Cully.
The changes and new information have prompted several neighborhood groups to request that the commission allow public testimony on the current recommendations before taking its final vote. The public record was closed after the last hearing.
But commission chair Katherine Schultz has rejected the requests, telling one group that the commission has made up its mind to support the current recommendations, which were directed by the council when it included a missing middle housing policy in the Comprehensive Plan update approved last year.
Schultz said the commission requested the changes during eight work sessions following the last public hearing.
"Overwhelmingly, we agreed that increasing the available range of housing options in the city and providing a greater diversity of unit prices/rents, while equitably distributing the benefits and burdens of those changes, were paramount to our charge," Schultz said in a Jan. 16 email to members of the board of Southwest Neighborhoods Inc., the coalition of 17 neighborhoods in Southwest Portland.
Instead, Schultz said those seeking additional public comment should wait until after the commission sends the recommendations to the council next week.
"Additional input and discussion is needed on this very important topic, but I believe the best forum for that to occur at this point in the process is City Council for multiple reasons," said Schultz, explaining that one reason is the commission's responsibility to increase housing in the city.
Others asking for more public testimony include the Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood District, the Overlook Neighborhood Association and the grassroots United Neighborhoods for Reform.
"The City Council is supposed to look to the Planning and Sustainability Commission for advice," said Janet Baker, co-founder of United Neighborhoods for Reform. "That's the whole point of the process that's been going on for more than a year now. But the current RIP recommendations are totally different than what we testified about, and we won't even be able to respond to the new reports on the record before the vote."
The Planning and Sustainability Commission will meet to vote on the current Residential Infill Project recommendations at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in Room 2500 of the 1900 Building, 1900 S.W. Fourth Ave. No public testimony is allowed.
Displacement Report facts
• The new Displacement Risk and Mitigation report estimates there'd be a slight reduction in home demolitions under the Residential Infill Plan.
• In contrast, the Johnson Economics report commissioned by the city estimated there'd be a slight increase in demolitions.
• 14,000 low-income households rent homes in areas that would be rezoned under the Residential Infill Plan.
• Planners project 680 low-income renters in single-family homes are at risk of displacement by 2035 under RIP, versus 940 under current zoning.
• People of color make up 30 percent of Portland's population but only 18 percent of its homeowners.
• 18,000 homeowners of color live in areas to be rezoned. In the past, unscrupulous home lenders have preyed upon people of color.
• 37 percent of those homeowners are low-income.
Source: Displacement Risk and Mitigation report.