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December 15, 2014: Land Use Review Application for Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project; Public Comment Period & Hearing in January 2015

In order to comply with federal and state mandates, and ensure a healthy, resilient, and secure water system, the Water Bureau is moving forward with a project to update the Washington Park reservoir site.

On December 15, 2014, the Water Bureau submitted the first of two Land Use Review applications for the proposed Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project. In January 2015, BDS will issue a notice of public hearing and open the public comment period.

The Water Bureau’s Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project proposes to build a new below-ground reservoir in the same general footprint as the existing upper Reservoir 3, with a reflecting pool on top. The lower Reservoir 4 basin and the slope to the west are needed to provide landslide abatement; the slope will be restored to its pre-reservoir condition. Reservoir 4 will be disconnected from the public drinking water system and a lowland habitat area/bioswale and a reflecting pool are also proposed in the Reservoir 4 basin. Work will primarily be within the Historic District.

Land Use Application #1
The initial Land Use application (Type IV, heard and decided by City Council following a public hearing) proposes the removal of the Weir Building (screen house), portions of lower Reservoir 4’s basin, and upper Reservoir 3’s basin. The gatehouses, dams, and other historic features will be protected and restored.

Land Use Application Package
In spring 2015, a second Land Use application package with two components will be submitted for construction of a new covered reservoir, reflecting pools, lowland habitat area/bioswale, walkways, and historic preservation and rehabilitation actions. The features, which are described in the first Type IV land use application, will offer the public enhanced access to the new surface water features and classically-designed gatehouses, dams, and related structures. These two reviews will be Type III. The Historic Resource Review will be heard and decided by the Historic Landmarks Commission following a public hearing. The Conditional Use and Environmental Review will be heard and decided by a Hearings Officer following a public hearing.

Before construction begins and permits can be issued for the work, the Land Use Review applications must be approved.

Public Involvement
The applications are a result of a robust public involvement process that included multiple public open houses and nine Community Sounding Board (CSB) meetings that guided design for the required visible features of a new reservoir in Washington Park. 

CSB members included representatives from:

  • Portland Parks & Recreation
  • Neighbors West-Northwest District Coalition
  • Arlington Heights, Goose Hollow Foothills League, Northwest District, Northwest Heights, and Sylvan-Highlands Neighborhood Associations

Portland’s preservation organizations, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Historic Preservation League of Oregon, also participated in the public involvement process to help determine the future of the historic site.

The project addresses four major reservoir issues:

  • Recurrent landslide damage
  • Compliance with federal law
  • Seismic vulnerability
  • Deterioration of the 120 year-old structures

A copy of the land use applications submitted to BDS will be posted on the project webpage at The Bureau of Development Services maintains the official application record, which tracks updates and revisions over time.

Additional Information & Contacts

  • Project Information: For detailed information, visit the project webpage.
  • Land Use Review process: The Bureau of Development Services administers the land use review process. For more information about this process, please their website or call 503-823-7300.
  • Project Questions: Contact the Water Bureau Public Information staff by e-mail or at 503-823-3028.