A "natural capital asset," Portland's trees provide benefits worth millions of dollars per year, and their replacement value is roughly $5 billion, according to a recent Portland Parks and Recreation Bureau study. Other studies show that neighborhood trees can increase home resale values, lower crime rates and improve physical and mental health.
In response to neighborhood concerns about the state of Portland's tree rules and loss of trees to development, the Portland City Council launched the Citywide Tree Project in 2007.
Working closely with community stakeholders for more than three years, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability led a multi-bureau effort to review and revamp the existing rules for trees.
Last year, the Portland Planning Commission and Urban Forestry Commission held a public hearing on an initial draft proposal. The commissions heard broad community support for stronger tree protection and replacement requirements. And developers expressed concern about the potential impact of the rules on project cost and housing affordability.
The two commissions subsequently worked with City bureaus to further hone and streamline the proposal. As a result, the proposal before the City Council:
Consolidates the City's tree rules into a single new code title, which makes them easier to find, understand and administer.
Strengthens tree preservation and planting requirements the City applies when new development is proposed.
Includes specific exemptions and added flexibility to minimize development costs and make it easier to preserve trees on development sites.
Standardizes and streamlines the existing tree permit system to encourage retention of large healthy trees where practical, and to ensure that larger trees are replaced when removed anywhere in the city.
Provides for enhanced customer service through a single point of contact for public inquiries and permit processing, a 24-hour tree hotline and a community tree manual.
On Feb. 2, 2011, the Portland City Council launched a public hearing on the Citywide Tree Project Recommended Draft (dated December 2010). At the hearing, Council heard extensive testimony from Portland residents, neighborhood representatives, developer representatives, community organizations and public agencies. Mayor Sam Adams, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, and City staff introduced a number of amendments to the proposal as well.
City Council is still accepting public testimony on the draft and proposed amendments until Wednesday, March 9 at 2 p.m., when they will continue the hearing and consider amendments to the proposal.
The draft proposal, proposed amendments, written testimony and instructions for how to testify are posted at www.portlandonline.com/bps/treeproject.
If you have questions about the Citywide Tree Project or proposed amendments please contact Roberta Jortner (503) 823-7855, Morgan Tracy (503) 823-6879, or Stephanie Beckman (503) 823-6042.