By Midge Pierce
As neighborhood associations hunkered down last month to meet the deadline for response to Residential Infill Project amendments and individuals circulated petitions to stop RIP’s elimination of single-family neighborhoods, a City landuse commission slated to review the project was charged with violating state law and city code.
On behalf of Multnomah Neighborhood Association, landuse consultant Eben Fodor charged that at least half of the 10 members of Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission are professionally engaged in land development-related work.
Portland landuse practices forbid PSC members from participating in decisions in which they stand to gain financially. Such conflict of interest could tilt decisions on issues such as RIP scheduled to go before PSC in February.
Fodor called on Portland to replace at least three PSC members who have direct engagement in land-development. The City had not answered SE Examiner’s questions about the charges as of this writing.
One of the disillusioned members of a RIP stakeholders advisory committee known as the RIPSAC 7, wants this issue addressed before the project moves forward. “My only hope is that the auditor will look into this as a conflict of interest,” said Michael Molinaro.
RIP eliminates single family neighborhoods to accommodate growth, a policy critics claim disrupts stable communities, displaces owners of modest homes, increases demolition without guaranteeing affordability and favors developer interests over Portland residents.
Other objections emerging from neighborhoods include the project’s failure to test concepts, its disproportionate impact on the Eastside, infrastructure stresses and hazards that may even include increased fire risks due to potentially tight proximities of multi-unit housing.
Questions have also arisen about whether the process bypassed the extensively vetted 2035 Comp Plan, setting a precedent of rezoning without a public vote
The plan hits the inner east side hard. Vast tracts from outer East have been deleted from the plan while close-in areas have been added.
Pro-growth groups that aligned with development interests include Portland for Everyone (P4E), a subset of 1000 Friends of Oregon. On its website, the group says it is focused on expanding opportunity overlays so that Infill hits everywhere in ALL (their caps) neighborhoods.
Under the rubric of equity, P4E has favored a one-size-fits-all approach and the need for homeowners to share the land.
Both pro and anti-growth sides seek guarantees of affordability while contractors and developers seek to maximize returns by building market-rate homes in desirable neighborhoods that reap the highest profits.
Recently, both groups have mentioned concerns about RIP’s lack of focus on families. The City claims most newcomers are singles without children. Families coming to town are down 25% – at least in projections, data critics see as short-sighted self-fulfillments.
To incentivise affordable, family-sized homes, P4E supports allowing bonus structures in newbuilds. Recently, in a suprising blog they mentioned retrofits as a way to preserve existing homes.
The window is now closed on responses to RIP amendments, and the next step will be the winter PSC hearings, unless they are delayed. City Council is slated to receive the final project for approval in the spring.
Until then, critics echo a familiar refrain: The City is guiding a process toward a “destructive, pre-determined” outcome.