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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

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New Reduced Rate Swing Shift Pass for SmartPark Garages

Transportation equity has been a top priority of mine since I was assigned the Bureau of Transportation in 2013. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), in conjunction with several stakeholders, developed a new monthly “Reduced Rate Swing Shift” SmartPark pass. This pass will be made available to workers earning low wages and working swing and evening shifts downtown. This program is a small but meaningful step towards improving access to affordable transportation options for all Portlanders.

When the Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat and I launched a committee to develop a citywide parking strategy in January 2015, we focused on updating our long term-strategy for parking. We charged the committee with recommending changes to the Central City 2035 Plan, zoning code, Title 16, and existing parking policies and practices. But when the committee, comprised of representatives from businesses, neighborhoods, institutions, and community advocacy organizations, told me that on-street parking occupancy in the central city had reached 95% in some areas, I agreed that something needed to be done while we continued to work on our long-term strategy.

In February 2016, PBOT increased the on-street hourly parking rate in downtown from $1.60 to $2.00 per hour based on the subcommittee recommendation. This increase allows on-street parking rates to catch up to local transit fares and SmartPark garage rates, which have increased several times since on-street parking rates were last raised in 2009. While raising rates is never popular, the data showed that pricing on-street parking to meet demand would give Portlanders better access to businesses, shopping, and the other amenities Downtown has to offer.

In a testament to the importance of a well-selected committee, members of the subcommittee asked PBOT to consider the potential impact of the rate increase on employees earning low wages and working swing and evening shifts. First, because swing and evening shift workers are not adequately served by public transit and must rely more heavily on personal transit methods than day shift workers and, second, because the on-street parking system is not equipped to support the high volume of long-term parking that swing shift workers demand.

PBOT collaborated with the Portland Housing Bureau and Multnomah County Human Service’s Housing and Anti-Poverty Programs on eligibility requirements for a new “Reduced Rate Swing Shift” SmartPark pass. The old swing shift pass ranged between $90 and $100 a month, depending on the SmartPark location, and the new reduced rate swing shift pass will be only $35 per month. The new rate will be available to individuals meeting an annual income threshold of $35,000 per year, which is roughly 300% of the federal poverty guidelines, and will save a full-time worker approximately 65% over parking on-street.

This program takes advantage of the low SmartPark occupancy in the evenings and will free up on-street parking for short-term evening parking in the city’s center.

As development brings more density and places more demand on our existing on-street parking, we need to better manage on and off-street parking and integrate more robust walking, biking, and transit facilities. We also need to develop innovative and context sensitive tools to address parking impacts throughout our city—something I’m hopeful the Central City Parking and Centers and Corridors Stakeholder Advisory Committees will be able to address through their recommendations.

For more information about the “Reduced Rate Swing Shift” SmartPark pass program, visit http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/113934.

Housing Emergency and Bureau of Transportation permit requirements for new homeless shelter space

On October 7, 2015, City Council adopted a Housing Emergency. The Council’s declaration indicated that the duration of the emergency would be for one year unless extended for longer or terminated sooner as prescribed by City Code. The Housing Emergency declaration cites increasing and high rents, an increase in the number of people who are newly homeless, and an inadequate number of emergency shelters to accommodate the number of people experiencing homelessness. The declaration is intended to address the shelter needs of the homeless on a short-term basis to protect the public health, safety, and welfare.

It has come to my attention that Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) sidewalk improvement and other requirements can be a barrier to the development of new and expanded emergency shelter space. Given the City’s Housing Emergency and as Commissioner in charge of PBOT, I am directing staff at PBOT to exercise discretionary authority to consider granting waivers for requirements triggered by improvements that will expand homeless emergency shelter space in Portland. This direction applies only to sidewalk improvement and other requirements triggered by projects primarily intended to expand homeless emergency shelter space. It should not be interpreted as a reason for PBOT to consider waivers of requirements triggered by a development that doesn’t immediately and directly expand homeless emergency shelter space.

City of Portland announces federal funds to help pay for seismic retrofits for 150 homes

Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick announced today that another round of federal funds allocated to a City of Portland pilot project will help homeowners seismically strengthen their homes.

The pilot project is the next stage of a partnership between the City of Portland and Enhabit (formerly Clean Energy Works), an Oregon non-profit, and is designed to increase the number of seismically upgraded homes in the city. The federal grant will pay up to half the cost of seismic upgrades for 150 local eligible homeowners, who were chosen at random from a wait list compiled last summer in coordination with Enhabit.

The selections were weighted to ensure that half of all upgrades are made to homes under the median market value for a Portland home. Enhabit and the City of Portland applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the funding last summer.

“It’s essential to the survival of the city that people’s homes be bolted to their foundations. If too many houses do not survive the earthquake, people will leave and many won’t return – as in New Orleans after Katrina. We are delighted that FEMA is making this investment in this critical aspect of preparedness. It would be great to have $500 million instead of $500,000, but every bit helps, and we trust that in the future, Congress will give FEMA much more money for this kind of pre-disaster mitigation,” says City of Portland Commissioner Steve Novick.

Enhabit, which helps homeowners complete and finance seismic, energy efficiency, radon mitigation and solar energy projects, will manage the 150 seismic retrofits, all of which will be completed in 2016. The first phase of the pilot provided retrofits to 23 homes. Enhabit-certified contractors have completed more than 60 seismic retrofits to date, and the organization is forecasting completion of a total of 300 projects in 2016, with an eye toward continued growth and collaboration with the City and FEMA in future years.

“With our nation’s infrastructure falling apart and falling behind, making these crucial investments to prepare for natural disasters is essential,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “It’s encouraging to see FEMA helping empower those homeowners who most need help making these important seismic upgrades. Investing in prevention reduces risks to our communities and allows for a more efficient use of already strained relief resources.”

"This grant helps to provide much-needed updates to retrofit older Portland homes built decades ago without the ability to withstand strong earthquakes. I am proud to have supported the city’s grant application, which recognizes the potential impact of a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and the need to act with a sense of urgency to finance essential safety preparations,” notes Sen. Ron Wyden.

“We can’t just put our heads in the sand and pretend that a major earthquake isn’t a possibility for our region. We need to focus on earthquake preparedness and resilience at all levels of government,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley. “Too many of our homes, roads, bridges and businesses are not designed to withstand a major earthquake and this funding from FEMA will help Portland homeowners get a little more peace of mind,” he added.

The potential for widespread damage to homes after a major earthquake in Portland is high. Western Oregon and Portland are located near the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a fault off the coast capable of producing earthquakes similar to the Tōhoku quake in Japan in 2011. The last major Cascadia earthquake was in the year 1700 and there are also several faults running through the city. Portland has about 100,000 older unreinforced single-family homes that may be vulnerable to shaking from an earthquake.

“Homeowner urgency and interest in seismic strengthening has increased dramatically over the past year,” said Tim Miller, CEO of Enhabit. “Our hope is that as we can continue to work with the City of Portland and the federal government we can ensure that hundreds—or even thousands—more homes are upgraded and better prepared for the earthquake we know is coming. While we’re at it, we’re continuing to create good jobs in our community.”

Enhabit offers a unique “one-stop shop” for home upgrades, making it easier for homeowners to complete energy efficiency, seismic, radon mitigation and solar energy upgrades. The organization helps homes work and feel better, while providing customers with everything needed to complete upgrades, including rebates, skilled contractors, no-money-down financing and a free 100-Point Performance Check that illuminates all the opportunities to improve a home’s performance.

“The City’s partnership with Enhabit demonstrates an important public-private approach to increasing Portland’s earthquake resilience,” says Carmen Merlo, PBEM Director. “By keeping people safe in their homes, we are more likely to recover quickly after a disaster,” she added.

About Enhabit

Enhabit (formerly Clean Energy Works) is a non-profit organization headquartered in Portland, Ore. that’s focused on building more resilient communities. Enhabit is the next step for homeowners who want to make their homes work and feel better. From the initial review of the home, to choosing a trusted contractor and financing to make the right efficiency, health and safety upgrades affordable, Enhabit is committed to high-performance home renewal that makes sense.

Editor’s Note: Homeowners interested in joining a seismic assessment wait list and receiving notification of any future funding available to offset seismic retrofit costs should visit www.enhabit.org/seismic.

Contacts:
Bryan Hockaday, Office of Commissioner Novick, bryan.hockaday@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-1059
Stephanie Swanson, VP Communications, Enhabit, steph.swanson@enhabit.org, 971-246-1732
Dan Douthit, PIO, PBEM, Dan.Douthit@portlandoregon.gov, 503-793-1650

# # #

Bryan Hockaday, Office of Commissioner Novick, bryan.hockaday@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-1059

Stephanie Swanson, VP Communications, Enhabit, steph.swanson@enhabit.org, 971-246-1732

Dan Douthit, PIO, PBEM, Dan.Douthit@portlandoregon.gov, 503-793-1650

Women's History Month in the City of Portland

I’m honored to stand with my fellow commissioners in celebrating Women’s History Month. Given the theme of this year’s national celebration, “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government,” I would like to express my gratitude for the women who work for the City of Portland and who, by their example, encourage future generations of women to engage in the public process and serve their community.

Last year, I attended the City’s “Wonder Woman Awards” and was inspired to learn more about the City of Portland employees who were nominated by their coworkers who stand out as role models, mentors, and are “generally exceptional employees.” For the public, the face of the City is often the commissioners and bureau directors, but that event gave me the opportunity to meet the exceptional employees who frequently work behind the scenes and without whom we wouldn’t be the “City that Works.”

Justice Sotomayor once said that “It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.” Women have shaped the history of this country just as much as men and it’s important for all of us, not just women, to honor and remember women’s roles. Justice Sotomayor is the perfect example of the essential leadership of women in our country and while I try to honor City employees as often as I can, this month gives me the opportunity to take a moment and truly thank the exceptional employees, mentors and women at the City.

Clean air in all of Portland

I was horrified when we first heard about very high levels of cadmium and arsenic in north and southeast Portland, but sadly, perhaps I should not have been surprised. As the City Club summarized in their 2013 report Invisible Enemies: Reducing Air Toxics in the Portland Airshed, “Portland’s metro area endures toxic air pollutants at concentrations that negatively affect the public’s overall health and increase the rate of disease. At least 52 air toxics are present in Oregon, and between six and ten [pollutants] are at unhealthy concentrations in Portland.”  The contamination of Portland’s air is a big problem, and one that disproportionately affects children in poor and minority populations. 

Mayor Hales and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury sent this letter to Governor Brown on behalf of both the City and County regarding the recent news and the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) response. 

As the Governor suggested in her February 15 statement on this topic, our state air quality regulations require a comprehensive review to ensure Portlanders’ health isn’t adversely affected by what’s in our air. For example, diesel exhaust from trucks and construction equipment is another major air quality problem in Portland. Diesel exhaust is toxic to humans because particulate matter in the exhaust is so small it can cross through our lungs directly into the bloodstream causing cancer, asthma, strokes and heart attacks. In Portland, pollution from diesel exhaust is most likely to be concentrated in neighborhoods where low income communities and people of color live, work, and go to school.

Moreover, there’s a ready solution to this problem: new filter technology can be installed on many existing diesel vehicles and equipment to reduce particulate matter emissions by 50-90%. Washington and California have already implemented much tougher rules, and Oregon risks becoming a dumping ground for outdated dirty equipment. At the City, we’ve retrofitted our own fleet of diesel construction equipment as part of a federal grant project, but we don’t have the authority to require pollution controls on all diesel engines. We need statewide action on this now to protect the health of all Portlanders, and I hope the Governor and Legislature will include this and other sources of toxic air pollution in their comprehensive review of air quality regulation.