The residential infill project, Portland’s response to resident concerns over home demolitions and increasing population densities in single-family residential neighborhoods, remains a work in progress. That was the gist of a May update from City Planner Julia Gisler at the City’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. While Portland’s city council will not hold further hearings on infill, Mayor Ted Wheeler has asked the Planning and Sustainability Commission to hold hearings on a refined overlay zone boundary and forward their recommendations to the council.
Gisler said the Bureau staff has established a Technical Advisory Group comprised of Portland’s transportation, water, fire, police, environmental and development services and housing bureaus, Metro and Tri-Met. This group will base potential boundary refinements on infrastructure capacity, physical barriers, natural features and potential equity impacts. Staff will hold a series of public review events this fall to share draft ideas with the public before finalizing proposals for the Planning and Sustainability Commission’s public hearings.
After taking office in January, Mayor Wheeler began making the rounds of neighborhood association meetings where he experienced public concern over infill and other issues and responded to questions. Typical of Wheeler’s appearances was a late April visit to Rose City Park, where he emphasized the importance of having citizen interests reflected in government decisions. Wheeler said that Portland is in the middle of a “housing affordability crisis,” with displacement disrupting both residents and businesses. The situation is particularly difficult for small businesses, renters and first-time home buyers.
After explaining the city’s “humanely pragmatic” approach to homelessness, the mayor tackled neighbors’ questions about the city’s approval of so many large building projects with few parking spaces, citing two examples: a 100-apartment building on Northeast Fremont Street with ten spaces and a Sandy Boulevard project of 80 apartments and only 19 spaces. Wheeler responded, “Portland doesn’t have a parking problem, it has an affordable housing problem.”
Mayor Wheeler affirmed that Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan is set and would be enacted, but he allowed for exceptions. “We cannot redo the 2035 Plan, but we can respond to proposals from neighborhoods where parking is a problem.” He challenged neighbors to meet, discuss such problems and make proposals for ideas to ease situations. He gave as an example neighborhoods in Northwest Portland where residents have parking permits and non-residents are not permitted to park.
“A better strategy is creating your own neighborhood overlay where there are chances for modifications,” the Mayor suggested.