On March 5, 2015, the Portland City Council voted to adopt the West Quadrant Plan, which sets direction for a long-range plan for Central City districts west of the Willamette River, including Downtown, the West End, Goose Hollow, the Pearl, Old Town/Chinatown, South Waterfront and South Downtown/University.
“This plan welcomes change, growth and development, but also seeks to preserve character, livability and important historic and environmental resources,” said Mayor Charlie Hales at the start of the second public hearing on the West Quadrant Plan Recommended Draft. “The plan lays out a detailed and balanced roadmap and builds on the successes and key directions from the 1972 Downtown Plan and 1988 Central City Plans.”
At the first public hearing on the West Quadrant Plan on February 4, Council received oral and written communications from more than 100 people. At the March 5 hearing, about a dozen Portlanders testified on amendments to the plan, which were introduced by Mayor Hales, Commissioners Fritz and Novick, and City planners. The package included amendments for habitat restoration, Waterfront Park, the Greenway Trail, bridgehead heights, the Pearl District Waterfront and Goose Hollow Residential Overlays.
Waterfront Park, housing bonuses and Pearl District Greenway top issues
The liveliest discussions between commissioners were around updating the master plan for Waterfront Park — with Commissioner Fritz passionately advocating for resources to go to unmet park needs in East Portland — and height bonuses for affordable housing along the Pearl District Waterfront.
The vote to adopt was four to one, with Fritz the single nay vote. “We haven’t gotten to the right endpoint with the Pearl Greenway and Waterfront Park,” she explained.
Commissioner Saltzman, a strong affordable housing advocate, noted, “There’s nothing to be ashamed of about height. I see it as an opportunity for more affordable housing. We’ll be coming back in May with more information about bonuses and affordable housing, and I feel good we’ll get those bonuses in time.”
All the commissioners acknowledged the tremendous amount of work on the part of the project Stakeholder Advisory Committee, the Planning and Sustainability Commission, community members who participated in the process and testified to City Council, and City bureaus who collaborated to craft the plan.
“So much of what the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability does is act as the nexus; bringing together the best ideas of the community and other bureaus’ work,” said BPS Director Susan Anderson. “Staff have had hundreds of conversations with residents, businesses and our bureau partners to develop this plan.”
Thanking his fellow commissioners for their willingness to work through every detail of the plan, Mayor Hales acknowledged “the amazing thoughtful community testimony. Reflecting on my work here and around the country, I don’t think we understand how high caliber the work is here in Portland. … Good work is being done here.”
Other features of the plan
The West Quadrant Plan aims to improve livability, stimulate economic development, and increase connections and access in and around the Central City with the Green Loop, a 10-mile walking and biking open space path. The plan also includes actions to activate the waterfront and restore habitat in the Willamette River for fish, wildlife and people. And it ensures a more resilient Central City in response to global environmental changes and challenges.
By adopting the plan, Council approved specific policy directions for the West Quadrant. Now staff will begin writing the code to implement the plan, which will be rolled up into the Central City 2035 Plan, along with the N/NE Quadrant Plan (completed in 2012) and the SE Quadrant Plan (in progress), and submitted to City Council in 2016 as the first amendment to the 2035 Comprehensive Plan.