By Midge Pierce

Mark your calendars. Do your homework. Organize your neighbors. Testify. April 14 and 20 are the last official opportunities to influence the shape of Portland for years to come and determine whether the City preserves some of its past.

This month’s public hearings before City Council will focus on final amendments to the draft 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The draft is the most significant update to the Comprehensive Plan since its 1980 adoption. Portland residents can testify in writing or in person. For specifics about how and when go to: portlandoregon.gov/bps/58190

SE residents blindsided by demolition and development are keenly concerned about building scale and design, transportation impacts and preservation of neighborhoods and historic buildings. With densification and equability a citywide goal, it can be difficult to find a balance between the new Portland and the old.

Amendments proposed range from Commissioner Amanda Fritz’ call for clarification of public involvement policies to the mayor’s request for extensions of urban center designations on corridors such as Division from 44th to 51st and Belmont between 42nd and 49th.  A full list can be found at portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/563081.

Commissioner Steve Novick advocates map changes in residential neighborhoods that would allow “middle housing” – more attached homes such as rowhouses, duplexes and apartment courts that might offer affordability within established neighborhoods. Critics say this concept will invite additional demolition and lot splitting. Given current pricing trends, they doubt that greater density means more affordability.

The plan is the result of years of work by the Planning and Sustainability Commission to develop concepts, hold multiple public hearings and review some 4000 public comments. It includes land use designations for centers and corridors with housing, services and transportation. Where town centers can be developed and how many houses can be built on specific lots will be determined by decisions made this spring.

Understanding and providing comments on The Comprehensive Plan is critical for all residents who love their city. Whether plans in the works can save Portland from the wrecking ball, may depend on how well organized, informed and impassioned the citizenry is in offering testimony during this final phase.

During testimony, the City requests that citizens focus on amendments only. That may not sit well with those who feel  steamrolled by out-of-control development they feel the city encourages.

Commissioners are expected to vote on amendments on April 28. Final votes are currently slated for June. Once approved, the Comprehensive Plan will be reviewed by the state. Implementation is at least a year away.

Planning is process and process takes time. For more information on the plan go to portlandoregon.gov/bps/pdxcompplan.