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Portland, Oregon

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It’s official! Portland has a new long-range plan for the Central City

Yesterday afternoon (June 6), the Portland City Council voted three to one to adopt the Central City 2035 Plan (CC2035), with Saltzman absent and Fritz dissenting. 

The new long-range plan for growth and development builds on the City’s good planning over the years. Council also voted to adopt ordinances for the RiverPlace area, environmental and scenic resources, as well as the green loop and action plans to implement the plan. The new plan becomes effective on July 9, 2018.

“What this plan does differently,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler, “is that it sets the stage for more affordable housing, increased resilience in the face of climate change, more and better jobs through a synergistic mix of old and new industry in the central eastside, better protection of our iconic scenic views and deeper focus on our greatest natural feature – the Willamette River.”

Chief Planner Joe Zehnder emphasized, “The success of the Central City is vital to the success of all of Portland. We must meet our goals to be a prosperous, healthy, equitable and resilient city – not just downtown – but citywide. We cannot do one without the other.”

While comprising only 3 percent of the city’s land, roughly 30 percent of the city’s residential growth will occur in the Central City by 2035. CC2035 will ensure the Central City helps meet our housing needs. The area already has the region’s greatest concentration of affordable housing units. And with inclusionary zoning in place, a significant share of this residential growth will be affordable for low-income households.

CC2035 will also ensure that the Central City becomes even more of an employment and educational hub for households all over the city. 

Portland has a long tradition of visionary planning for the Central City. Previous plans resulted in the transformation of Harbor Drive into Waterfront Park, a parking garage into Pioneer Courthouse Square, and brownfields into The Pearl District and South Waterfront.

Commissioners reflect on the Plan

Commissioner Fish acknowledged that creating big plans like CC2035 involves difficult choices and tradeoffs. He praised the environmental components of the plan but said that he continues “to feel a certain amount of regret that this extraordinary process ended on a sour note with a decision about Old Town/Chinatown.” He pledged that in the future he would “be vigilant to ensure that there will be no adverse impact on Lan Su Chinese Garden” and called on the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to revisit the issue when the bureau updates its Central City Fundamental Design Guidelines.

Commissioner Eudaly joked that “this has been a crash course in planning, and I’ll be applying for college credits.” She thanked staff and community members for helping her get up to speed. “I think we as a body share the same goals and values as the community. We don’t necessarily agree how to get there, but I think this is a reasonable road map.”

Then she said, “When I would get bogged down in the details, I tried to think 100 years from now. Our fingerprints are going to be all over the city. I can only strive to make choices that are beneficial to Portlanders a century from now.”

Commissioner Fritz thanked the staff, the Planning and Sustainability Commission, the Design and Historic Landmarks commissions, other City staff, the many advisory committees and community members who participated in the planning process over the years. She identified some highlights of the plan: It would increase housing supply by 2,000 units (above the 37,000 additional units already allowed) and allow density transfers from open space to developable properties.  

But ultimately, Commissioner Fritz could not vote to adopt the Plan because of last-minute amendments to increase height in New Chinatown/Japantown. Of Council’s decision to increase height in the historic district and potential shading of Lan Su Chinese Gardens, Fritz said, “This isn’t about garden visitors enjoying the afternoon sun. It’s about the rare/endangered species of plants and fish in the koi pond.”

Mayor Wheeler praised BPS staff for their understanding of the issues, creativity, and research and analytical skills that allowed City Council to find the best solutions to address the issues. “But, most importantly, their ability to work through those issues with the public, the Planning and Sustainability Commission, and City Council,” he said. “You (BPS) spent a lot of time with stakeholders to make sure CC2035 embodies the best thinking and planning Portlanders have to offer.”

He recognized that some Council decisions were controversial and that Lan Su dominated the final conversations. He pointed out that, “few knew when we started the plan that properties next to the garden could be 425 feet tall. We are reducing that height by more than half. … I care deeply about the Lan Su Garden. This is an important asset to all of us. And I second my colleagues’ comments about vigilance in the future to protect it.”

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