General Information: 503-823-4682
1221 SW 4th Ave, Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204
To: Mayor Ted Wheeler
From: Commissioner Chloe Eudaly
CC: City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero, Rebecca Esau, Director of Bureau of Development Services, City Budget Office, Development Directors, Development Review Advisory Committee, Interested Parties
Subject: Bureau of Development Services Issues
Date: September 5th, 2018
Since assuming responsibility for the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) in January of 2017, my staff and I have taken a series of actions to improve service delivery and customer service at the bureau. Over the course of the last 19 months, I have gained great appreciation for the work that BDS staff does to make a difficult and at times dysfunctional system work. When I was assigned the bureau, the version of the permitting software that tracked over $3 billion in development projects in 2017 was no longer supported by the vendor that created it.
BDS is now using a supported version of the permitting software and is on track to make major improvements in its approach to technology as well as many other areas. I’m writing to offer a snapshot of the work that has occurred during my tenure as Commissioner in Charge of the bureau and a summary of ongoing projects and opportunities for future improvements.
Permitting System Improvements - One of my first official acts as the Commissioner with responsibility for BDS was to attend a Government Accountability Transparency and Results (GATR) presentation that was organized by the City Budget Office and focused on development review issues. The presentation highlighted specific pinch points in the review process, difficulties associated with having multiple bureaus engaged in the process and the impact that staffing levels have on development review timelines. In response, BDS convened the bureau directors of all the bureaus involved in the development review process to identify process improvements and resolve policy conflicts. BDS reinvented its hiring process to go from being one of the slowest bureaus to one of the fastest bureaus and has made significant progress in relieving pinch point pressure as documented by an updated GATR presentation this spring. Despite limited resources and direction from myself and the Mayor to prioritize permitting for affordable housing and other important projects (Adidas expansion, Providence Park, school projects, and others), BDS staff processed an historic amount of permits in 2017 while maintaining or improving service delivery.
Since I appointed her to be the interim Director of BDS, April 17, 2017, BDS Director Rebecca Esau has launched an ambitious effort to re-organize the bureau to address a span of control issues as well as to identify and correct gaps in services, particularly for historically underserved members of the community. Rebecca and I worked closely with Dora Perry, the bureau’s equity manager, and union leaders to improve morale and address systemic human resource problems at BDS. New service delivery initiatives include:
Hazardous Materials and Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) System Development Charges (SDC) Policies.
The rapid appreciation of real estate values in our city has caused a wave of demolitions of existing homes. Unfortunately, while remodelers have to comply with strict containment and clean up requirements when working around hazardous materials (primarily lead and asbestos), demolition contractors had much less effective regulations for protecting the public from hazardous materials. Senator Michael Dembrow and Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer passed legislation enabling local governments to enact better hazardous materials policies, SB 871, during the 2017 legislative session. I worked with the construction industry, neighborhood leaders and public health officials to adopt new regulations shortly after the new state law was signed by Governor Kate Brown. This summer, I led the effort to permanently exempt ADUs from SDCs, but to limit the exemption to ADUs that will not be listed on short term rental platforms. This was the first in a series of policy actions that I will bring forward to support the development of ADUs, as part of the City’s efforts to address the current housing crisis.
Portland Online Permitting System (POPS) – As I noted at the beginning of this memo, BDS is in the middle of implementing a new permitting software system with assistance from the Bureau of Technology Services (BTS). The most important and promising aspect of the new system is the portion of the project that will transition the review of permits from paper to digital plan review. This change will allow people to submit plans remotely and make corrections to them electronically from their home or office, without having to travel downtown to the Permit Center. It will be a tremendous leap forward in efficiency for City reviewers from BDS and the five other bureaus involved in permit plan review. The first commercial building permit using the new ePlan system is underway and the bureau will be rolling it out for more types of projects over the next 18 months until ALL projects can be processed online. Please check out this great video about the project.
Liens – BDS has over $20 million in outstanding liens for building code violations. An analysis of properties that have had liens assessed against them revealed that over 65% of outstanding liens are in neighborhoods that meet the Housing Bureau’s definition of rapidly appreciating neighborhoods. Auditor Caballero’s staff will be doing further analysis of liens in the coming months. Ideally, that analysis will help inform the development of a new approach to code enforcement that enables the City to assist people that are struggling to comply with building codes while moving more quickly and effectively to compel owners whose neglect of their properties causes problems for neighbors and whole neighborhoods to correct problems.
Tenant Protections – BDS is working on a number of projects that contribute to the city’s focus on affordable housing and improved tenant protections. Bureau staff have begun the RFP process to renew the bureau’s popular training for landlords. The goal is to shift the focus of the training away from viewing tenants as potential criminals and toward seeing tenants as partners in housing. I am excited about making sure this training is back up and running by Spring 2019. BDS is also ready to update building maintenance regulations in Title 29 of the City Code based on recommendations made by a task force and approved by council several years ago. These changes will ensure that tenants have access to livable units free from mold and pests. The Code changes have been drafted and after public review, I expect the changes will be ready to come to council by the end of this year. Additionally, BDS is supportive of developing a mandatory inspections program for rental housing, and Portland Housing Bureau’s current voluntary registration program of rentals is an essential first step in making that a reality.
Last, but definitely not least, I recommend that BDS leverage its proprietary data and its relationships with the development community to establish a leadership role on development issues by sharing its data and insights with the community. BDS could produce an annual summary of development activity, trends, and its forecast for future activity. The bureau could share this information via a City Club Friday Forum and/or events with local news organizations that focus on development. The absence of real, readily accessible data about development activity in Portland has led to a proliferation of baseless hypotheses about what is occurring. We shouldn’t waste time arguing about facts: BDS can help our community identify and address real issues by doing a better job of sharing its data and insights.
I have the utmost confidence that Mayor Wheeler will continue to support the ongoing projects listed above and am ready to assist with moving them forward. I will stay engaged in helping improve the permitting process as the PBOT Commissioner and look forward to staying in touch with development review issues.
Thank you to the whole BDS family, the City Budget Office for helping me understand and make progress on development review timelines and the Bureau of Technology Services for its critical assistance with the POPS project.
What an exciting honor to be entrusted with our City’s Arts Portfolio! It’s been a pleasure to work with Commissioner Nick Fish, the previous Arts Commissioner, and our collaboration is bound to continue in new and innovative ways through our newly assigned bureaus. By way of an introduction, I thought I’d share some of my background and experience in the arts, that of my staff, as well as a few of my priorities.
The arts have always been an essential part of my life. Family legend has it that I started singing before I could talk. I also had the good fortune of early exposure to the arts, including music and dance lessons, ceramics and art classes, music, theater, and other cultural experiences. I sang in choir all through school and played clarinet and saxophone in my middle school band. Although I am a lifelong bookworm, as a teenager and young adult, my social life revolved around music (followed closely by film). My first concerts were at legendary Portland venues like the Starry Night, Pine Street Theater, Satyricon, The X-Ray Café, and Blue Gallery. I also regularly attended First Thursdays (and Last Thursday House events). My favorite galleries in those early days included Jamison/Thomas Gallery, Blackfish, and Northwest Artist’s Workshop.
In 1994 I opened a small specialty bookshop called Reading Frenzy which was devoted to independent, small press, and self-published titles. It became a hub of activity for local writers, artists, publishers, and readers. A few years later my friend Rebecca Gilbert and I co-founded a space for Portlanders to produce their own printed matter called the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. I also exhibited monthly art shows featuring unknown, emerging, and sometimes established artists, as well as the occasional oddball collection. In the final years of the bookshop/gallery, the majority of our exhibits featured women, LGBTQ, people of color, and artists with disabilities. All told, I produced around 500 literary and arts events from 1994 to 2016.
Through Reading Frenzy I collaborated with many arts organizations and institutions including the Portland Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Craft, and PNCA - Pacific Northwest College of Art. I was also a flagship member of the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition, a group of artists, educators, and administrators entrusted with awarding grants funded by our Oregon Cultural Trust dollars, where I brought an emphasis on accessibility to the arts for people with disabilities and previously overlooked grassroots arts organizations.
The Arts Portfolio includes the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), the Arts Access and Education Fund, Portland'5 Centers for the Arts, and working in partnership with the City of Portland’s Creative Laureate Subashini Ganesan. My hope is that as a city we can provide more funding, support, and opportunity for artists and institutions, especially for small organizations and emerging artists. Spaces to live, create and exhibit or perform work are obviously critical to a thriving arts community, so affordability will continue to be a significant focus of my work. And of course, equitable access and education are vital to our entire community, so I intend to expand the excellent work already being done in this arena with our public dollars. I look forward to advancing these causes to ensure that current and future Portlanders from all walks of life can continue to participate, enjoy, and benefit from our rich and diverse cultural landscape.
Finally, I am thrilled to be putting the decades of experience in the arts that my staff brings to City Hall to use. Marshall Runkel, my Chief of Staff, was the Arts Liaison for Commissioner Erik Sten and has served on the boards of RACC, Open Signal: Portland Community Media Center (previously Portland Community Media), DISJECTA, and helped numerous arts organizations and venues navigate our permitting processes. Robin Mullins, my Executive Assistant, has worked for nearly every presenting performing arts organization in Portland, including White Bird, Portland Taiko, and Portland Opera. And I’m delighted to announce that the Arts Liaison in my office will be Pollyanne Faith Birge. Pollyanne brings years of experience that ranges from her previous arts and culture policy coordination, outreach, and development for Mayor Sam Adams, to arts administration having served as Executive Director of the Independent Publishing Resource Center and the Oregon Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. She also has a wealth of experience in event management, having produced numerous arts-focused events for my office, from George Thorn Day to the Chirgilchin Tuvan Throat Singers to the Nat Turner Project to Dead Moon Night.
I'm so excited for our shared opportunity to serve, support, and shape the future of the arts in Portland, both inside and out of City Hall, with all of you!
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly
This year’s City’s budget process didn’t work well for city bureaus, the public, or Council. It didn’t entirely make sense to ask bureaus to offer across the board cut packages in a year when the city has more resources available. Bureaus were forced to offer draconian cut packages that alarmed and activated community members. Activated community members predictably showed up at community budget hearings to protest cuts to programs they care about with little or no knowledge or consideration of other budget issues. As we know, some groups are better able to mobilize that others and many of the urgent matters that we need to address were not reflected by the turnout and many voices were barely able to be heard over the din. When all was said and done, community centers were all funded while other equally or more important programs and initiatives were not. We need a more thoughtful and meaningful process that will enable city bureaus, the public and the City Council to work together in understanding and prioritizing the complex budgeting challenges we face.
This budget does do some great work to address our most urgent issues, and I’d like to highlight a few of them:
We’ve dedicated $500K to Universal Defense.
As our federal administration continues to target and terrorize Portland’s immigrant communities, I am grateful to be in a position to be able to do something about it. This is an important moment and I am proud to be part of a Council that is on the right side of history on this issue. Thank you Mayor Wheeler for including this add package in your proposed budget and continuing to support it.
We’ve increased our contribution to the Joint Office of Homeless Services by $3M.
We are serving more people facing challenges around affordability, eviction, and homelessness than ever. Unfortunately, what the city and county are actually doing to address houselessness gets lost in distracting debates about Wapato or other well-intentioned, but not well-informed approaches. Investing $31.2 million in the Joint Office of Homeless Services will fund the hard work that doesn’t make headlines, but does make a critical difference for thousands of our most vulnerable community members.
We’re Increasing the Business License Tax for the first time in decades.
The rising tide of prosperity in Portland is not lifting all boats. In fact, as the increasing number of people who are insecure in their housing and becoming homeless demonstrates, things are getting worse, not better for many people in Portland. Increasing the BLT now is a great first step toward recognizing how we can divert part of that rising tide to help the people who are struggling to stay afloat.
I am worried about some of the expenditures in this budget. The Council Budget Office started the budget process with an appeal to consider the sustainability of the city’s finances. This budget generates more ongoing resources but increasing authorized staffing at the Portland Police Bureau by 49 positions comes with significant new permanent funding obligations. Business tax revenues will fluctuate with the economy. We are setting ourselves up for a very difficult conversation by making new ongoing commitments to funding more police officers with a funding source that we know is subject to economic forces beyond our control.
Despite my remaining questions and concerns, I respect and want to support Chief Outlaw as she continues to implement her vision for the PPB. And there are some:
As well as the Mayor’s budget note on a deadline for filling the long overdue Community Service Officer positions and my budget note on decreasing the bureaus reliance on overtime, an expensive and undesirable practice.
There are issues that did not get resolved in this budget, I’d like to highlight a couple of the most important issues that need more work:
Neighborhood Coalition Offices.
Coalition offices are important partners in our efforts to connect community to government. The audit in 2016 revealed what many have known for a long time: East Portland’s population continues to grow rapidly while funding for the coalition office has remained the same. It was important that we address this disparity now, which is why we requested additional funding.
I am disappointed that we were not able to secure the additional funding for the East Portland Neighborhood Office. I want to acknowledge that while East Portland has a rapidly growing population, all of the coalition offices are serving more people than they ever have. This is why I am working hard to reduce the fiscal impact of the rebalancing that will need to occur this year.
We’ve identified $44,000 in existing bureau fund dollars that we will direct to EPNO in addition to the $30,000 we’ve received in this proposed budget. I am also working with the Budget Office to redirect cost savings from my office budget to the coalitions.
ONI Director, Suk Rhee, and I are committed to working with all of the coalitions to develop a long-term method for equitably distributing funding. I also look forward to brainstorming new ways to structure this work, and finding efficiencies and cost-savings, so that we can continue to strengthen all of our neighborhood coalitions.
It is vital that we identify ways for Portlanders to share in the prosperity associated with growth before we move forward with plans for infill. We have a turnkey opportunity to do that by developing a financing mechanism for ADU development. I plan to spend the summer working with my colleagues to develop the support necessary to fund this plan in the Fall budget process.
I’m disappointed that this item was not fully funded. I agree that the city should provide accommodations as part of its normal course of business and that bigger bureaus should use existing resources to comply with the law. Smaller bureaus and their community partners do not have enough ongoing resources to provide accommodations with existing resources. We need a long-term strategy to address this problem.
Overall, I’m happy that we were able to work together to get to consensus about the budget. During these chaotic times in politics, it is important to demonstrate that local government can work together to overcome differences and make progress on the most urgent issues in our community.
My thanks go out to my colleagues, bureau directors and staff, my office staff, the Council Budget Office, and especially to the community members who serve us in an advisory capacity and all those who came to our budget listening sessions.
One year ago today my office introduced an ordinance that established mandatory relocation assistance for tenants facing no-cause evictions or rent increases of 10% or higher, co-sponsored by the Mayor, and passed unanimously by Council. This ordinance requires landlords to share in the burden they are creating on tenants and our city during our unprecedented housing crisis. It was the strongest protection we could deliver to tenants given how the state legislature has hampered our ability to manage our rent crisis, namely due to the 33-year-old ban on rent control and the preemption on just cause evictions. Next month we will be introducing several amendments recommended by the Relo Technical Advisory Committee -- which is made up of industry, housing, and tenant advocates -- and making relo permanent!
Fighting state interference with local power is a high priority for me. We need the state to set minimum standards for us on issues like protecting our environment and educating our children. We do not need them to make preemptions that favor corporate and special interests and interfere with our ability to best serve our city. We also need their help to solve our housing and homelessness crisis. Several bills are coming before the legislature in the short session which address different challenges we face with homelessness and in creating stable and affordable housing. Unfortunately, tenant protections are not among them, due to how challenging these issues have proven to be most tenant advocates agree they can't be tackled in 35 days.
In October 2015, Portland City Council declared a State of Emergency on Housing and Homelessness at the urging of numerous housing justice advocates, activists, and organizations. I was among them. We had hoped that this declaration would bring meaningful relief to Portland's cost-burdened and displaced renters, as well as people experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and our housing crisis continues to outpace all of our efforts to address it and finding suitable properties for alternative shelters remains a challenge due to a variety of factors.
It's time for a reality check: we are in the eighth year of a housing crisis in the Metro region. Although developers have added thousands of new units to our rental inventory, they are mostly out of reach of the average income household. Although rent increases may be slowing at the top of the market, we have not seen a decrease in the number of cost-burdened households. We have not seen a significant slow down in the rate of displacement of low and moderate income renters. And we continue to see an inflow of recently housed residents -- including families, seniors, and people with disabilities -- entering our homeless population.
We know that municipalities across the Metro region and the state -- urban, suburban, and rural -- are facing crises of their own. I believe it's time for the Oregon legislature to consider declaring a state of emergency for housing and homelessness which would allow for more power and flexibility for municipalities across the state to address the unique needs and challenges they face. We can't fix this complex problem with a nearly empty toolbox.