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HD 38 Representative Andrea Salinas will talk about issues on Aug. 13 at Multnomah Arts Center

Oregon House Rep. Andrea Salinas, the District 38 Democrat who represents part of Southwest Portland and most of Lake Oswego in the Oregon Legislature, says she was in favor of the higher density measure HB 2001 early in the recently-ended session, but that neighborhood groups convinced her it was a bad idea.

"I voted against it, but it passed," she told the Southwest Community Connection, just days after the final bipartisan passage of the controversial bill that could drastically change the way Oregon's bigger cities look and feel.

"I'm sure the governor's going to sign it," Salinas said.

By voting against the re-zoning scheme, Salinas was in the minority of the majority in the House. After HB 2001 passed, the State Senate on a 16–9 vote — with Southwest Portland Senators Ginny Burdick and Rob Wagner voting in favor — it moved to the House. Along with Salinas, Rep. Margaret Doherty of Tigard and Southwest Portland and seven other Democrats voted against it, but it passed easily by a vote of 43–16. Rep. Jennifer Williamson voted in favor of the bill.

Salinas says she's already hearing concerns about how the plan to scrap single family zoning and allow more living structures per lot will play out.

"I spoke to the West Portland Neighborhood Association (recently)," she said. "Most of the people were pretty upset over it and that's what I've been hearing from all of my constituents both in Lake Oswego and Southwest Portland. People don't know whether it's really going to change the character of the neighborhood, and if we really are going to see housing prices drop. I know that over time we're supposed to see housing prices drop but I couldn't get an answer from experts on how long that was going to take. A lot of people are concerned that we're going to see more gentrification than we're seeing right now and that's the exact opposite of what the bill proposes."

Explaining how her position on higher density evolved Salinas said, "I was in favor at first because I could see over time how (the re-zoning called for in HB 2001) would add to the housing stock statewide. And I still think that over time it will start to bring housing prices down, increase affordability and make neighborhoods a little more diverse as well.

"But I don't see that happening. It will in some places, but then I started to realize our district — House District 38 — is not one of those places where I think that's going to happen right away," she explained.

Early in the session, members of the Forest Hills and First Addition Neighborhood Associations in Lake Oswego sat down with Salinas.

"They took a look at it and said we're already seeing that kind of density," she said. "They're taking a half of an acre or a third of an acre where there was one home and they're replacing it with these little cottages or condos and what might have been a home for three quarters of a million dollars is now four condos for a million dollars. So the developer's getting more density but the homeowner's getting smaller square footage, and no additional parking."

Salinas, who was recently elected to a leadership position as one of three assistant majority leaders for House Democrats, says she plans to work with the opponents of HB 2001 before it's implemented on the local level in two years.

"There will be some rule-making in the design of this between the State and our local planning officials," she said. "So I told the West Portland people to keep me in the loop so if they need anything, if they need somebody to help promote their case, I'm happy to do that. I think over time it's a good policy, but right now, where we are, I don't think it's necessarily going to make things better in our neighborhoods. So I'm happy to help with implementation to make sure we get what we need in our community."

The recently-completed legislative session was the first full one for Salinas, who was appointed midway through the 2017 session. Communication from constituents on HB 2001 was intense, she said.

"Oh my God, yes. I was inundated," Salinas explained. "Not more than on any other issue though. I also introduced a pretty extensive and comprehensive piece of gun legislation. I got far more feedback on that but from people outside Oregon. But for my district, probably this one and the vaccination legislation are what I heard the most about."

Salinas is sure to hear more about HB 2001 when she appears on Aug. 13 at the meeting of the Multnomah Neighborhood Association at the Multnomah Arts Center.

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