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Portland City Council considers overhaul of tree regulations

February 2 hearing gives Portlanders a chance to comment on new proposal to protect trees

In response to neighborhood concerns about the state of Portland's tree rules and loss of trees to development, the Portland City Council launched the Citywide Tree Project in 2007.

On Wednesday, February 2 at 6 p.m., City Council will hold a public hearing on the Citywide Tree Policy Review and Regulatory Improvement Project (a.k.a. "Citywide Tree Project"). Council will consider the recommendations of the Urban Forestry Commission and Portland Planning Commission (now the Planning and Sustainability Commission), as well as input from Portland residents and community organizations.


Working closely with community stakeholders for more than three years, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) led a multi-bureau effort to review and revamp the existing rules for trees.


Last year, the Portland Planning Commission and Urban Forestry Commission held a public hearing on an initial draft proposal.  The commissions heard broad community support for stronger tree protection and replacement requirements. Developers expressed concern about the potential impact of the rules on project cost and housing affordability. 


The two commissions subsequently worked with City bureaus to further hone and streamline the proposal. As a result, the proposal before the City Council:

  • Consolidates the city's tree rules into a single new code title, which makes them easier to find, understand and administer.
  • Strengthens tree preservation and planting requirements the City applies when new development is proposed.
  • Includes specific exemptions and added flexibility to minimize development costs and make it easier to preserve trees on development sites. 
  • Standardizes and streamlines the existing tree permit system to encourage retention of large healthy trees where practical, and to ensure that larger trees are replaced when removed anywhere in the city.
  • Provides for enhanced customer service through a single point of contact for public inquiries and permit processing, a 24-hour tree hotline and a community tree manual.

"The City estimates that the Tree Project proposal will generate more than 100 acres of future tree canopy per year," states Susan Anderson, director of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, "helping to clean air and water, capture greenhouse gases, reduce energy demand and improve overall quality of life for Portlanders."


"There were certainly challenges with the existing tree code," writes David Nielsen, chief executive officer of the Homebuilders Association of Metro Portland, in a letter to City Council dated Jan. 24, 2011. "One of the goals of this process, as outlined by BPS, was to establish a clear, cohesive, consistent regulatory framework. I believe much progress was made to that end and that our few remaining, but very important, policy and code issues can be addressed to provide a better balance between tree preservation and development needs."

A "natural capital asset," Portland's trees provide benefits worth millions of dollars per year, and their replacement value is roughly $5 billion, according to a recent Portland Parks and Recreation Bureau study. Other studies show that neighborhood trees can increase home resale values, lower crime rates and improve physical and mental health.


In response to the fiscal constraints both the public and private sectors are facing, the Planning and Urban Forestry commissions recommended that the City Council phase the implementation of the proposal to provide time to ramp up, conduct public outreach, train staff, and manage and sequence project costs. 


"Regulations are one important tool, and this is a step in the right direction," says City Forester David McAllister, "but the City also needs to invest in public education, technical assistance, planting and maintenance to sustain the urban forest."


"Given expected population growth," Audubon Society's Conservation Director Bob Sallinger points out, "Portland needs stronger tools to preserve and refresh that canopy through the development process . What's on the books won't cut it."


"Dramatic increases in tree planting efforts over the past decade are a positive step toward increasing Portland's tree canopy," says Scott Fogarty, executive director of Friends of Trees and member of the project stakeholder committee. "But it's not enough. The City needs a strong regulatory framework to preserve and enhance the trees we already have." 

To read the Citywide Tree Project Recommended Draft to City Council, including a new project summary, please go to www.portlandonline.com/bps/treeproject. An updated set of frequently asked questions (FAQ) is also available. If you have trouble accessing the online documents, please request a CD or a set of report documents at the phone number and email address below.


For more information, please call 503.823.7855 or email BPSCTP@portlandoregon.gov.

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West Hayden Island Phase II News Updates

Advisory Committee, Public Involvement Strategy and Environmental Program

West Hayden Island Advisory Committee Formed

For Phase II of the West Hayden Island Project, an Advisory Committee has been formed to replace the former Coordinating Committee and Community Working Group. The Advisory Committee is made up of individuals with environmental and economic interests as well as local, state and regional perspectives. The primary function of this group is to serve as advisors on the West Hayden Island Project and related programs. The Advisory Committee met twice in December 2010 and once in January 2011 to review draft scopes of work for additional consultant studies that will be done this year.


For a calendar of upcoming WHI Advisory Committee meetings, meeting summaries, membership and a list of the consultant studies to be produced during this phase of the project, visit the Advisory Committee page on the project web site.

Public Outreach and Involvement Summit Helps Refine WHI Strategy for Future Engagement

On Nov. 30, 2010, BPS hosted a meeting of 25 stakeholders to discuss public outreach and involvement strategies for the next phase of the West Hayden Island project. BPS shared a draft outreach and involvement plan for the project. The group’s feedback will serve as guidance to City staff as we plan and implement public events and meetings to inform and engage the public. Some of the suggestions made by the group included:

  • Provide the public with more knowledge of the island through tours.
  • Develop key sets of questions for the public to respond to in order to frame discussions.
  • Provide specific development scenarios for different uses so the public can think more concretely about potential impacts and offer feedback.
  • Provide executive summaries of technical reports for public review and comment on key aspects/findings of the reports.

To review the summit meeting notes and the BPS public outreach and involvement plan, visit the Public Involvement page.

Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) Update for the Island

As part of the West Hayden Island Phase II project as well as implementation of the Hayden Island Plan, the City of Portland is updating the Environmental Program for the whole island and portions of the Columbia River southern bank. The first step is developing an inventory of existing natural resources, such as vegetation, wetlands, flood area and shallow water habitat. The City has established a technical panel made up of local and regional experts to assist with the inventory. A draft update will be available for public review and comment in the spring.

The next steps include evaluating the trade-offs between different levels of natural resources protection and refining environmental overlay zoning within the study area. For additional information, please contact Mindy Brooks at 503-823-7831 or mindy.brooks@portlandoregon.gov.

To see a map of the NRI study area, visit the WHI Environmental Program Update page.

BPS News: New Solarize Guidebook: A tool for local governments and communities to pursue energy independence

Community solar program “how-to” resource now available with help from the City of Portland and Energy Trust of Oregon

For immediate release
9 February 2011

Contact:
Christine Llobregat
City of Portland
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
503-823-7007
Christine.llobregat@portlandoregon.gov

 

New Solarize Guidebook: A tool for local governments and communities to pursue energy independence

Community solar program “how-to” resource now available with help from the City of Portland and Energy Trust of Oregon

Portland, ORE. -- A new guidebook that shares best practices from recent volunteer-driven Solarize projects about volume purchasing of solar energy systems aims to help other communities grow clean energy programs and create family-wage jobs. The Solarize Guidebook, developed for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the City of Portland, is now available at: www.portlandonline.com/bps/solarizeguide.

Four Solarize Portland projects, plus efforts in Pendleton, Salem and other cities, have been completed since 2009. During each project, neighbors learn together the ins and outs of going solar - from how the technology works and finding a contractor to learning about available financing options such as Energy Trust of Oregon cash incentives and state and federal tax credits.

The guidebook features key elements of the Solarize campaigns in Portland, and offers several program variations from projects beyond Portland. The guidebook provides lessons, considerations, and step-by-step plans for project organizers who are looking to replicate a collective purchasing model.  

"From green building to urban farming, Portland is proving to be a living laboratory for urban sustainability in America," said Portland Mayor Sam Adams. "With the new first-of-its-kind Solarize guidebook, Portlanders are showing once again their enthusiasm for making sustainability easier, more convenient and more affordable. I hope and am confident that the lessons learned here in Portland will benefit neighborhoods and cities around the nation."

The City of Portland launched its first solar program in 2006 with the help of an award from the DOE Solar America Cities program. This grant provided funding for the creation of The Solarize Guidebook as part of the larger DOE effort to accelerate the adoption of solar energy technologies for a cleaner and more secure energy future.

"We are delighted to share the practical tools from the Solarize campaigns with local governments and community organizers," said Susan Anderson, director of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. "The City of Portland, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar America Cities program, is intent on continuing to develop creative approaches to increase market demand for solar. In addition, our bureau continues to help connect Portland's businesses and homeowners to resources and local solar contractors outside of the Solarize effort." 

About Solar America Cities 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has designated 25 major U.S. cities as Solar America Cities committed to accelerating the adoption of solar energy technologies. Best practices and lessons learned from the Solar America Cities are shared across the United States to help other communities replicate successes.  Visit Solar America Cities online at www.solaramericacommunities.energy.gov. 

About National Renewable Energy Lab

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the nation's primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL's mission and strategy are focused on advancing the U.S. Department of Energy's and our nation's energy goals. The laboratory's scientists and researchers support critical market objectives to accelerate research from scientific innovations to market-viable alternative energy solutions. Learn more about NREL at www.nrel.gov.

About Energy Trust of Oregon

Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping utility customers benefit from saving energy and tapping renewable resources. Our services, cash incentives and energy solutions have helped participating customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas save nearly $600 million on energy bills. Our work helps keep energy costs as low as possible, creates jobs and builds a sustainable energy future. Learn more at www.energytrust.org or call 1-866-368-7878.

About the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

To create and enhance a vibrant city, BPS combines the disciplines of planning and sustainability to advance Portland’s diverse and distinct neighborhoods, promote a prosperous and low-carbon economy, and help ensure that people and the natural environment are healthy and integrated into the cityscape. BPS provides a forum for community engagement and education, and is a catalyst for action. With a city full of partners, BPS develops creative and practical solutions on issues as far ranging as comprehensive, neighborhood and environmental planning, urban design, waste reduction and recycling, energy efficiency and solar technologies. This innovative, interdisciplinary approach strengthens Portland’s position as an international model of sustainable development practices and commerce. www.portlandonline.com/bps


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