By David Krogh

Speaker Tina Kotek has announced (per Willamette Week and The Oregonian) she is working on legislation that could mandate densification for single-family zoned areas.

This appears to be based on Portland’s current Residential Infill Project. The City’s Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) is proposing to apply RIP to 96% of Portland’s current single family housing neighborhoods.

The proposed legislation would be applicable for cities statewide with populations over 10,000.

Citing a serious housing shortage in the state, Kotek feels jurisdictions have not been adequately dealing with mid range residential densities (i.e. missing middle).

No timelines have been established as yet for adoption of this proposal, however, the intent is to allow up to four units where a traditional single-family house was once the maximum density.

Will single family developments become a thing of the past or something only available in rural areas? Will the Statewide Planning Goals have to be rewritten? Will Citizen Input be reduced? Planning circles are already discussing these and other related issues. There will be more discussion to come.

• The City has received an economic study from Johnson Economics alleging the proposed infill zoning will provide as much as 38,000 new units over the next twenty years.

Most of these would be add-ons, new construction or ADUs, with a lesser amount coming from existing housing demolished for redevelopment. The report assumes housing and rental prices will be reduced once additional units come onto the market.

Considering many rental prices currently are heavily inflated, there isn’t a solid understanding as to how prices might stabilize or reduce in the short term without affordable rent provisions in place.

At present, the City is not taking public testimony on the RIP. The PSC will have a work session on February 12, and formally decide on the extent of their recommendations to the City Commission in March. The City Commission is expected to hold a public hearing in the summer, yet to be announced.

• Adjacent property owner Jim Winkler has filed a suit against Homer Williams’ Harbor of Hope proposal for the south end of the Broadway Bridge.

Intended as transitional housing and supportive services for the homeless, Winkler contends the site is too contaminated for the intended use.  However, DEQ has already approved the site’s clean up plans (per The Portland Tribune) suggesting something else is of issue here. A court response is pending.

• There are transportation projects underway all throughout SE Portland and more planned.  These projects are listed at the PBOT website: portlandoregon.gov/transportation/35953.

It should be noted that not all of the proposed changes are shown with the project description. For example, for the section of SE 50th between SE Division St. and Hawthorne Blvd., the description did not mention intersection closure at Lincoln and 50th.

However, barriers are now in place preventing drivers from continuing across 50th on Lincoln, even though the intersection is signalized. This means drivers need to weave around via narrow residential streets where they used to have a direct route.

Residents who attended the November PBOT open house were against these restrictions, but ignored by PBOT staff. If project problems are noted, residents are encouraged to contact the PBOT project manager (see projects link above) and/or the responsible City Commissioner. For PBOT that is Chloe Eudaly (chloe@portlandoregon.gov).

• Many PBOT projects include an intent to increase street capacities. This has been announced for the Foster Rd. project and for proposed downtown projects.

A point of clarification is required. In each of these cases, auto drive lanes will be eliminated. This means auto capacity is reduced and traffic congestion could increase unless auto traffic is redirected elsewhere.

What PBOT staff really mean when they talk about street capacity increasing is that ridership will increase. That is, new bicycle lanes will encourage more bicycle use and improved pedestrian and bus facilities will encourage increased transit use.  Therefore, more bikes, buses and pedestrians and less cars.

Time will tell if this strategy works or not.