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Planning and Sustainability Commission Formally Recommends the Comprehensive Plan Recommended Draft to City Council

After a unanimous vote on July 28, 2015, Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) formally sent its Recommended Draft of the Comprehensive Plan to City Council. PSC Chair André Baugh summed up the Commission’s recommendation in a September 14 letter to Council, stating:

Adopting a new Comprehensive Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. This Plan will shape the future of Portland by giving direction to land use, development and public facility investment decisions between now and 2035.

The Recommended Plan includes a vision statement and guiding principles, goals and policies, a land use map, and a list of significant projects. The Plan addresses standard land use and growth topics like urban form, housing, environment, economy and transportation. … [I]t also expands the traditional view of a comprehensive plan to include topics such as equity, technology and public health.

Portland’s last Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1980. It laid the groundwork for one of the best transportation systems in the country and helped develop a vibrant Central City. Since then the city’s population has doubled and become more diverse. We need more housing and jobs for new residents, access to good transit and amenities for all Portlanders — especially in East Portland — and a healthy and resilient environment.  

Excerpts from the PSC’s letter include statements about:

Residential Growth Strategy
The heart of the residential strategy is to build more complete communities. This means well-designed growth in centers and on corridors that serve surrounding neighborhoods. We seek complete communities that can benefit Portlanders through improved walkability and safety, expanded housing choices, stronger business districts, and full return on our investments in transit through compact development. This does not mean that the goal for complete communities means all places will be the same. The strategy is not “one-size-fits-all.” It is intended to build on the existing variety among neighborhoods, corridors and centers.

Economic Growth Strategy
The Commission put significant energy into understanding and debating issues related to employment land supply. We made several conclusions that are built into the Recommended Plan:

  • The desire to try to address growing income disparity and declining middle-class employment opportunities shaped the Recommended Plan. In the current economic recovery, well-paying jobs for people with high levels of education increased. Low-wage jobs also grew. Family-wage middle class career opportunities did not.
  • It is important to maintain manufacturing and distribution jobs, because they serve as an upward mobility ladder for a large sector of the population — especially people of color and those without access to higher education.
  • In order to maintain and grow our manufacturing and distribution job sector, Portland must use our existing employment land base more efficiently, but this will require significant public investment. There are 600 acres of industrial brownfields that could be returned to productive use. There are also important transportation investments recommended in the Transportation Systems Plan (TSP) that can increase the productivity of existing employment. …
  • Expanding middle-wage jobs, however, does not mean we should sacrifice environmental quality or accept industrial sprawl. Also of note, the PSC found that the 2035 industrial land supply would be sufficient to meet the jobs and economic development objectives without greenfield development on West Hayden Island. 

Housing Affordability Challenge
The city has enough land zoned and served with infrastructure to accommodate expected residential growth. … However, the current national and local challenges to affordability, housing choice, and equity in public services shaped the Recommended Plan:

  • If Portland is to meet its goals to be affordable to a broad range of households, market-rate and affordable residential development must increase. Even with the growth in housing supply, more Portland households are forecast to experience excessive housing cost burdens. …
  • The Comprehensive Plan plays an important role to ensure the private market can develop enough housing to keep up with demand, but this is not enough. It is clear to us that investment in affordable housing must be substantially increased over the next 20 years.
  • We also have recommended a suite of anti-displacement policies for your consideration. The Recommended Plan includes policies that support increased affordable housing development and housing security. It includes policy support for additional funding tools such as inclusionary zoning, bonuses, and linkage fees. It recommends improved tenant rights protections. It recommends consideration of community benefit agreements where relevant.

… The Plan includes several “big moves” in transportation that we would like to highlight:

  • Unlike the previous Transportation System Plan, the recommended transportation project list has been prioritized using explicit criteria developed with public input. The list also has been right-sized to match the amount of revenue the Portland Bureau of Transportation expects to have. …
  • The recommended transportation project list includes significant investment in East Portland — to build out more complete streets, connect people to transit, and carry out the already-adopted Bicycle Master Plan. This is an important investment in equity. This investment should happen before we consider further expansion of the streetcar in central Portland.

Environmental Health
The new Comprehensive Plan includes many policies regarding improving fish and wildlife habitat, protecting the city’s biodiversity, preventing incremental environmental degradation, and ensuring ecosystem resilience.

Equity and Inclusion
The Recommended Plan features policies that bring a focus on increasing equity into how we grow, shape and invest in Portland’s future. It includes equity as one of the five guiding principles of the Plan. It is built on the premise that we must consider the combined effect of Comprehensive Plan elements, such as housing, economy and transportation, could have on the opportunities, stability and health of households. It incorporates the use of environmental justice considerations into future decision making.

The Plan also includes a significant overhaul of the public involvement program. 

Measures of Success

Noting that the Recommended Plan was designed to make Portland more prosperous, healthy, equitable and resilient, the PSC urged City Council to keep in mind the following measurable goals for progress by 2035, as described in the adopted 2012 Portland Plan:

  • 80% of households live in complete neighborhoods (as measured by the Complete Neighborhoods Index).
  • Carbon emissions 50% below 1990 levels.
  • 33% tree canopy coverage citywide.
  • 90% of households are economically self-sufficient.
  • 84% of eighth graders are at a healthy weight.
  • 70% of people walk, bike, take transit, or use other less polluting ways to get to work.

Next Steps

City Council will hold its first public hearing on the Recommended Draft on November 19, 2015, at 3 p.m. in Council Chambers. Additional hearings will be held in December. Portlanders are invited to view the Recommended Draft and comment online via the Map App, by letter or email, or in person at a hearing.

Learn more about the Comprehensive Plan Recommended Draft.