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Portland’s Central City offers something for everyone: a wide range of jobs, diverse housing types for different income levels, educational institutions, entertainment and dining options, and retail and recreational experiences. And the area is poised to become a true 21st century global model for low-carbon, sustainable urban development.
The Central City’s west side — or West Quadrant — has the region’s highest concentration of jobs; more than 87,000 in 2010 and 30,000 more expected by 2035. Its seven distinctive districts — from Goose Hollow to Chinatown — are becoming increasingly mixed use, providing residents more choices in new housing options and adding to the district’s vitality. So the goal of the 20-year West Quadrant Plan is to continue the area’s successful evolution as the region’s business, cultural and recreational hub, while accommodating a large share of population and job growth within a compact and sustainable urban center. The plan emphasizes continuing economic activity and employment opportunities, increasing access to the river, creating a more exciting urban waterfront, and expanding housing diversity and livability.
The West Quadrant Plan reached a major milestone recently when the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) recommended it to the City Council for adoption after a second work session on the Proposed Draft. Staff presented commissioners with more information regarding affordable housing in the Central City, bridgehead heights along the riverfront, building height, and habitat enhancement and restoration along the riverfront. Work session materials, including the presentation, can be found in the Documents Section of the project website.
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) staff offered a working definition for “affordable housing.” Then they explained priorities for housing affordability in the West Quadrant, including supporting greater racial, ethnic and economic diversity as well as housing options; meeting the needs of the lowest income populations; and closing the minority homeownership gap. Staff also provided specific housing targets.
The project team shared potential impacts from increased bridgehead heights along the waterfront, including shadows and wind in Tom McCall Park, as well as increased building heights in other West Quadrant districts.
Commissioner Mike Houck raised the issue of increasing habitat restoration in the Willamette River. Staff explained that existing habitat is constrained along the Central Reach because of the seawall on the west side and a railroad and I-5 on the east, so there are few additional restoration sites available. But they agreed that the West Quad Plan should call for at least two to three shallow water restoration areas to conserve and restore fish and wildlife populations.
The PSC requested that BPS explore the potential effects of wind on pedestrians caused by building height along the waterfront as well as housing development bonuses tied to additional building height for both commercial and residential uses.
After reviewing the proposed changes to the plan and discussing the above topics in depth, the commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the West Quadrant Plan to City Council for adoption.
Portland City Council will consider the proposed West Quadrant Plan in January 2015 and adopt the plan by resolution. After that, planners will begin to consolidate all of the quadrant plans and draft new zoning code provisions into a complete Central City 2035 plan. This consolidated plan and ordinance will then be the subject of hearings before the PSC and City Council. Once adopted, CC2035 will become part of the Comprehensive Plan.