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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

Thoughts on the Final Adoption of the Comprehensive Plan

Last week, the City Council adopted the 2035 Comprehensive Plan. This plan is a big deal. Using the guiding principles of economic prosperity, human health, environmental health, equity, and resilience, the 2035 Comprehensive Plan is the guiding document for where and how Portland will grow. In the next 20 years, we expect that 260,000 new residents will join the current 620,000 Portlanders. On top of that, we’re expected to add 140,000 new jobs to the 370,000 jobs we have today.

The process of developing this plan required significant participation by many people. Together, Policy Expert Groups, the Planning and Sustainability Commission and the City Council spent hundreds of hours collaborating, including listening to and reading testimony from thousands of Portlanders.  My sincere thanks to everyone who participated in this effort.

Given the importance of last week’s final vote, I want to share a few thoughts about the plan’s most important elements.                                 

Our city is currently grappling with two significant problems that will be addressed by the new Comprehensive Plan: climate disruption and housing affordability. Climate disruption is the greatest challenge of the 21st century, posing a serious threat to our natural resources as well as to our economy and health. And housing affordability is a local crisis, threatening to make Portland a place where only high-income people can afford to live, eliminating diversity in our neighborhoods and foreclosing opportunities for low-income families and people of color.

Building more housing is part of the strategy to help address both climate disruption and housing affordability.

Lots of people want to move here, including people with high incomes. If we don’t allow more housing to be built, those new Portlanders will continue bidding up the cost of our existing housing. But demand isn’t infinite. If we allow enough new housing, we should have room for those high-income people and for people with more modest incomes.

Of course, we are going to build some affordable housing with tax dollars. But government-subsidized housing typically only helps people who earn below median income. To ensure that people of all incomes can afford to live in Portland, we need to build subsidized affordable housing and allow for more and different kinds of market housing.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, increased density improves the livability of our neighborhoods and helps to address climate change. It takes about 7,000 households within walking distance of each other to make a grocery store economically viable. By identifying places where enough people can live close enough together, it will be easier to walk rather than drive to the grocery store, reducing carbon emissions. And when you have a lot of people living close together, public transit becomes more viable—a light rail line is a lot more economical if it picks up 30 people a stop instead of 5 people a stop.  This means that transit will become a better option, even for longer trips. New York City has far lower carbon emissions than we do, and that’s largely because New Yorkers take the subway everywhere. The subway only makes sense because there are a lot of people per stop.

Tackling housing affordability and climate disruption is also why I am passionate about middle housing. In Comprehensive Plan hearings, we heard testimony from neighborhood advocates concerned about the negative consequences of growth and change. Many Portlanders are concerned that growth will change the look and feel of their neighborhoods. In a market where single-family homes are becoming unaffordable for many people, we need other housing options. But if we put apartment buildings everywhere, it will radically change the look and feel of our neighborhoods. Middle housing, which includes duplexes, triplexes, and even larger courtyard apartments, can meld seamlessly into a single family neighborhood. If you walk through the Buckman neighborhood, you’ll see dozens of examples of middle housing that fit with the character of the neighborhood.

In addition to these big themes, I want to mention a few other significant elements of this Comprehensive Plan.

  • The anti-displacement provisions we incorporated into the plan are important to ensure we keep Portland open to everyone. City Council supported all of the measures proposed by Anti-Displacement PDX for the final plan, and I congratulate them for their effective advocacy. We must keep our focus on preventing displacement, though, because implementation will be the true test of these policies. I look forward to continued discussions about this during the forthcoming zoning code update, during our discussions about building subsidized affordable housing, and in many other areas.
  • I was concerned when I heard that the Planning and Sustainability Commission’s recommended draft plan used the low cargo forecast because I was worried that this could send a negative signal to harbor businesses that in some cases employ many people in good livable wage jobs. New analysis by staff showed that we could increase capacity on some harbor lands and move from the low to the middle cargo forecast. This is the right decision and sets a course for continued investment in the economic engine that is the harbor.
  • I am pleased that we maintained the Planning and Sustainability Commission’s recommendation to preserve Broadmoor Golf Course as “open space.” Broadmoor is a unique ecological resource that should be preserved as wildlife habitat.
  • I am pleased that we adopted a transportation strategy that prioritizes right-of-way design for pedestrians and cyclists. The transportation strategy is critical as our population grows. We need to make investments in transportation infrastructure that make it safe and easy to walk and bike for short trips, opening up street capacity for longer trips by transit and car. I am also glad that we have prioritized disability accessibility as its own policy in Chapter 9. Thanks to my colleagues for supporting this important policy.
  • The Bureau of Transportation Project List identifies multi-modal projects that address the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, freight movers, and motorists. The list of investments is needed to maintain existing facilities and ensure the system meets the needs of Portlanders for decades to come.

Thanks to all of the Portlanders who had a role in developing this plan, and I look forward to the next steps in putting our Comprehensive Plan into action. 


Twitter Takeover: BOEC Senior Dispatcher

In April, we celebrated National Telecommunicators Week: an annual recognition of our first first responders, the dedicated calltakers and dispatchers who answer 9-1-1 calls and send fire, police and medical help.

National Telecommunicators Week is over for the year, but our calltakers and dispatchers at Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) are still on the front lines of emergencies in Portland. And, as discussed throughout this year’s annual budget process, BOEC is looking to hire more dispatchers and is currently recruiting for the next class of trainees to enter the BOEC training academy this fall.

To continue to highlight BOEC’s important work, a calltaker or dispatcher will occasionally take over my Twitter account this year to provide a glimpse into a typical workday for our city’s first first responders.

 (Content for this Twitter Takeover was written by a BOEC calltaker who was on shift April 8-9, 2016. Some content was edited for formatting.)


Sandi Goss, Senior Dispatcher (left)

About Me:

I’ve been a 911 Calltaker, and now Senior Dispatcher, for more than 23 years. I love coming into work every day knowing it’ll be different than the day before. I’m certified in all BOEC disciplines – calltaking, police dispatch and fire dispatch. Calltakers work 10 hours a day, 4 days a week, and after my many years of service, I was finally given the dayshift (from 0700-1700)!

We are able to combine our lunch and breaks together and take them all at once. I typically take the first lunch/breaks from 0700-0800 so I can get my girls off to school. My day starts off hectic and I hit the ground running.

Calltakers rotate every 2 hours so we’re not sedentary. My day usually begins with calltaking on the front lines and backing up tactical fire dispatch, then a few hours with East and then Downtown Portland police dispatch and back to calltaking on the front lines to end my day.

[8:06 AM]  The first call of the day was a four-year-old child who wanted to know if I live in jail. I couldn’t get the child to put an adult on the phone, because he said his dad was asleep, so I set up a police welfare check. Officers (after dispatched) were able to speak with the dad. All ended well and the kid was a sweetie—I’m glad everything was okay! 

[8:11 AM]  Maintenance employee arrived at work to find individual squatting in an unoccupied apartment. Police arrived and arrested subject without incident.

[8:26 AM]  TriMet dispatcher called, requesting police assistance. There was a Trimet Inspector at Rose Quarter transit station with a suspicious subject who didn’t have an ID, requesting police backup to identify the subject. TriMet police were dispatched, but the inspector ended up cancelling the request.

Some emergency calls get referred to our telephone report unit to prevent tying up patrol officers with “low-priority” calls. For the rest of my phone shift, I took various non-emergency calls.

[8:51 AM] Non-emergency call: Chronic juvenile runaway never came home last night. Parents concerned.

[9:20 AM] Non-emergency call: Alarm-monitoring company called in an alarm activation for a business they monitor.

[9:24 AM] Non-emergency fraud call: Victim of identity theft, reporting incident.

[10:05 AM] Non-emergency theft call:  License plate stolen off of caller’s vehicle.

[10:30 AM] Non-emergency: Gentleman called to report a reckless driver that occurred 90 minutes prior—due to the time frame, there’s not much we can do since the driver could be anywhere.

My time covering East Dispatch from 11 AM to 1:30 PM started off slow but quickly escalated when we had to go into the dreaded “manual mode.” Our computers were taken down for a maintenance upgrade so, for two hours, dispatchers and calltakers were taken back 20 years in BOEC technology. As a dispatcher, I had to keep track of the location of each officer in the field. As calls came in, calltakers had to write down the details of each call onto a card and then hand them to me so I could dispatch a response. In follow up, we have to write down the officers’ dispatch, arrival time and “clear” times.

It was totally stressful and busy today—so much so that I had to have a co-worker help me keep track of the active and holding calls!

Central Dispatch:

[1:00 PM- 3:00 PM] This is basically all of downtown and deep SW/NW Portland. It was totally uneventful today. I took one priority call about two men fighting—one bit the other one and a fight ensued. We get chronic calls from these two. 

[3:16 PM] This was the oddest call of the day. A male was walking in the rain soaking wet with his hands tied behind his back with a cord. Police were dispatched and made contact with the subject. Police requested medical to check him out. Police ended up taking subject back home to family after medical clearance.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to find out the full story after the police got the subject to safety. It can sometimes be tough not getting closure for calls.

[3:30 PM] I took a few calls for vehicles blocking the callers’ driveways. I referred to parking patrol for assistance after making sure the vehicles were not stolen.

[4:00 PM] END OF SHIFT! It was a long day, but going home to spend time with my family and relax! Even though tomorrow is Thursday, it’s my Friday, so I’m looking forward to taking my lunch/breaks at the end of my shift and getting to leave by 3:00 PM.


As with most professions, 9-1-1 dispatchers and calltakers use some shorthand language that the rest of us may not understand. With this in mind, here’s a brief primer about a few of the references:

  1. References to “force” and “forced over” mean mandatory overtime. “Trying to get hired for overtime” means volunteering for overtime in order to avoid mandatory overtime later. When dispatchers and calltakers accept their positions, they know they will need to work mandatory overtime because the City must have enough staff on hand to answer 9-1-1 calls. This requirement is common in public safety professions, and staff are paid extra for all overtime they work. However, relying too much on forced overtime is a significant problem; it is very hard on people and can exacerbate a staffing shortage. Right now, BOEC is working to address this problem by improving the training process, hiring more trainees, and increasing the overall budget.
  2. References to “trades” mean asking another employee to cover your shift in exchange for you covering theirs. BOEC dispatchers and calltakers frequently trade shifts with one another when someone wants a different day off.
  3. References to “last lunch” mean a provision in the labor contract that allows dispatchers and calltakers to take their lunch at the end of their shift, thus allowing them to end their work day one hour sooner.
  4. References to a certain number above or below “minimum” mean minimum staffing levels. BOEC uses historical data to predict 9-1-1 call volume for every day of the week and hour of the day. Based on that data, the bureau sets a minimum staffing level. Dispatchers and calltakers have a regular schedule that they sign up for every six months, and overtime (both voluntary and mandatory) is used to fill in holes in the schedule due to vacation time, sick time and staffing shortages.
  5. References to “low priority” calls refer to emergency or non-emergency calls that don’t require an immediate response.  All of the calls BOEC receives are prioritized according to a tested protocol that sorts them to ensure Police, Fire and Ambulance responders are deploying resources effectively to respond to the most time sensitive calls first.
  6. References to “manual mode” refer to times when the City’s technology experts have to temporarily take the automatic Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) program offline, and dispatchers must fill in the gaps on functions that are typically automated. The Bureau of Technology Services uses manual mode to update and repair the CAD, and dispatchers are trained to work in manual mode during technology updates and in case of emergencies.

Do these tweets make you wonder if you might be a great public safety dispatcher? A career as a public safety telecommunicator is challenging and rewarding. If you’re interested, check out this site for information. BOEC plans to hire new dispatchers this month for training in fall 2016.

Portland's Pitch to become the Nation's Smartest City

Last week, I met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx at Portland Community College to discuss the City of Portland’s application for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. The meeting gave us the opportunity to show Secretary Foxx that leaders from around the community are working alongside the City to be a national model for smart technology.

Portland is one of seven finalists under consideration for a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to “help define what it means to be a ‘Smart City’ and become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies—self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors—into their transportation network.”

This grant is the first of its kind and presents the opportunity to become a living laboratory for the integration of technology into transportation planning and policy.

Our proposal showcases ways to use technology to address urban mobility problems and address inequities in our city’s transportation system. For example, information kiosks will be installed in areas of Portland where there are large transit-dependent populations. These kiosks would be placed near grocery stores, community centers, libraries and transit stops and would provide free public Wi-Fi, give information about travel options (such as wait times and routes for TriMet Buses), and let users book and pay for a ride via a variety of modes.

Portland was one of 77 cities that submitted grant proposals. Now, we are neck-and-neck in the final round with Pittsburgh, Austin, Denver, Kansas City, San Francisco and Columbus to prove to USDOT that we are America’s smartest city. 

The grant application is due on May 24th and, as the people working tirelessly on this application can tell you, we are doing everything we can to highlight all of the innovative things Portland is doing. Our smart bike share system will be deployed in July, and our city’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure is one of the largest in the nation. Safety and equity are central to our application; we want to make sure we use technology to address the digital inequities that currently divide our community.  

I’m so proud of the people working diligently on our City’s application and was honored to discuss Portland’s future as a smart city—the Smart City—with Secretary Foxx.


If you want to learn more about the Smart City Challenge, USDOT has put together a helpful FAQ.

For updates on the U.S. Dept of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge and PBOT’s efforts to win this large federal grant, you can follow @PBOTinfo on twitter, check the hashtag #DOTSmartCity, or visit:

To find out more about PBOT’s application, please visit:

For a video about the Smart City Challenge, please click here:

And PBOT has been excited to highlight its smart city efforts with the community; earlier this month we visited Jason Lee Elementary School.  See the story here:

New City Budget: A Historic Commitment to Housing & Significant Investment in Public Safety

Today, City Council approved a budget that I believe balances the City’s needs in housing, public safety and transportation.  I want to highlight a few specific new investments:

  • This budget makes historic investments in housing and homeless facilities and services.  The budget includes over $29 million in new investments in housing. This includes:

        --$14.4 million for the Housing Investment Fund, which will be used to develop or preserve affordable housing.

        --Over $12 million for projects prioritized by the “A Home for Everyone” collaboration, including support for homeless veterans, shelters and housing placement services.

        --$690,000 for costs related to maintaining and improving homeless campsites.

        --Additional funds for home repair grants, homeownership assistance and policy development of the City’s Inclusionary Housing program.

  • This budget invests $858,257 in the equivalent of 13 9-1-1 telecommunicator positions at the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC). Like many 9-1-1 centers around the country, BOEC has faced a staffing shortage, which has meant longer, harder hours for our existing staff.  Inadequate staffing can lead to longer hold times for 9-1-1 calls.  Since seconds count in an emergency, we need to do everything we can to ensure 9-1-1 calls are answered promptly; this budget makes an investment in ensuring our 9-1-1 center can continue to serve the public. In addition, the budget directs the Bureau to conduct a staffing study to determine the ideal number of telecommunicators, as well as make recommendations about training, scheduling, ongoing education and quality control.
  • This budgets promises $1.3 million to Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) to permanently fund the 13 firefighter positions that were previously funded by the “Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response” grant. PF&R is a core city service and I’m committed to maintaining it at full strength.
  • The budget commits $1.5 million for paving projects in the next fiscal year, as well as $950,000 for signal reconstruction, $890,000 to replace a bridge and $300,000 for safety projects, via the Vision Zero Action Plan. A total of $300,000 in one-time General Fund resources is added to install rapid flashing beacons at two intersections in East Portland and to implement a crossing strategy involving an evaluation of a series of existing marked crossings on NE MLK Blvd. In addition, the budget allocates about $450,000 for the Out of the Mud Program, which works with communities to identify and bring currently unimproved streets up to code. Although this funding level for Out of the Mud is lower than the $1.2 million investment the City made last year, I am proud that we were able to maintain funding for the program at a level that will allow one or two projects to continue as planned, until more funding is made available.
  • Like BOEC, the Police Bureau has faced a staffing shortage. The Police Bureau indicated that the best way to expedite the hiring of new officers is to increase the number of background investigators, reducing a bottleneck in their hiring process. This budget commits 16 new positions—totaling over $2 million—for background investigators. 

In addition to these significant priorities, I was pleased about a few smaller investments, as well.  For example, the budget commits $300,000 for the Parks for New Portlanders Program.  At our budget hearings, a tremendous number of people showed up to express support for this program, including the World Cup Soccer Tournament that draws a huge number of diverse participants from all corners of the city. The budget also commits $10,000 for SummerWorks Interns at the City, a program that seeks to increase youth employment, especially among low-income youth of color. This is an important partnership that I’m pleased to see continue.

Better Naito Brings Safety to Portland's Waterfront

The Better Naito pilot project creates a safe space for the hundreds of thousands of people attending Portland’s events in Waterfront Park this summer. Safety is always the Bureau of Transportation’s highest priority, which is why we worked with festival organizers and Better Block PDX to transform almost a mile of Naito Parkway for the people walking and biking to waterfront events.

Eight months out of the year, there are bike lanes on Naito and pedestrians travel freely through Waterfront Park. During the summer months festival organizers transform the park, putting significant pressure on the current bike lane. In years past, it would be a normal sight to see thousands of pedestrians in the bike lanes, pushing bikes into the auto lanes and making an unsafe space for all road users. Rather than allowing a dangerous situation to continue, Better Naito anticipates this annual disruption, and gives all road users a dedicated travel lane.

This improvement in safety comes at almost no cost to the City. The permits for the lane closure have been paid for by the various organizers of events taking place throughout the summer; the traffic cones and street design elements were brought in by Better Block PDX who fundraised for the improvements on the corridor; and students from Portland State University developed the traffic control plan as part of their graduate level capstone project.

Portland has long been a leader in transportation innovation, from the streetcar to one of the most robust bike networks in the country. Better Naito builds on this history of innovation by experimenting with alternative street designs in a way that improves safety, fosters public feedback and collects data for future improvements. We will be able to propose and garner support for these kinds of improvements in the future because of this public process and collection of data. This sort of “living laboratory of innovation” is essential to Portland’s DNA and has allowed us to become a world leader in tackling local transportation challenges.

Thanks to the help of Better Block PDX, Better Naito will be the largest temporary street project in the nation. The project includes traffic cones, signal timing adjustments and speed limit changes to improve safety for all road users. Another key element of this project is data gathering, from Bluetooth sensors to pneumatic tubes to manual counts of people biking and walking. Based on last year’s data, we learned that travel times were not significantly affected by the single lane reconfiguration and that most auto users chose not to divert to other streets.

The City of Portland is proud to welcome you to our front lawn, Waterfront Park, with a safe and comfortable route regardless of how you choose to travel.

Thank you to all of the community partners who invested time, talent and resources to make this project possible. It is organizations like yours that enrich the fabric of our community. 

For more information or to leave feedback, please visit