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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

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

A Tour of Middle Housing in Buckman

Eli Spevak gives an overview of the City’s zoning code before touring middle housing in Buckman neighborhood. From left to right: Pam Phan, 1000 Friends of Oregon; Zev Nicholson, Urban League; Tameka Taylor, Urban League; Commissioner Steve Novick, Portland City Council; Mary Kyle McCurdy, 1000 Friends of Oregon; Eli Spevak, Planning and Sustainability Commissioner; Alan Durning, Sightline Institute


Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about one tool that could help us resolve part of our housing crisis: middle housing. I was pleased to learn that the concept struck a chord with Portlanders, so much so that I was asked to host a tour of middle housing. I jumped at the opportunity and asked Eli Spevak, small scale developer and Planning and Sustainability Commissioner, to lead the tour. Eli suggested touring the Buckman neighborhood since it has several examples of middle housing alongside single family homes and nearby larger apartment buildings.

Last Friday, Eli led our group through the Buckman neighborhood. Here’s a short video of Eli’s tour introduction:

In the two hours we spent in the neighborhood, I was delighted to learn that in Buckman, alone, you can get a glimpse of almost all of the housing types Daniel Parolek, the architect who coined the phrase “middle housing,” discusses on his website.



 An example of a stacked duplex at the beginning of our tour. This house was originally built as a single family home, but because of the housing crisis during World War II, the City of Portland allowed houses like this to be internally subdivided, increasing available housing without building brand new structures.


 Two stacked duplexes, side by side, that fit with, and contribute to, the character of the neighborhood.


 Another stacked duplex, likely subdivided in the 1940s. These homes have a large fenced yard, in which they have built several shared gardens.


One door, but two mailboxes: an inconspicuous stacked duplex. This duplex is also the relatively rare example of newly constructed middle housing. A “For Rent” sign out front advertised high end features—the people in our group thought the monthly rent was high, especially considering our hope that middle housing would be more affordable than other housing options. 


 DUPLEX—Possible Triplex

 The tour group loved this example. While it appears to be a stacked duplex, the “mystery door” on the right side of the above photo (pictured below), suggests that this might be a stacked triplex.

Said mystery door.



These courtyard apartments were built on the equivalent of two single-family lots, and are fronted by a large shared dog run—making use of the extra space in a way that works for the families who live here.


This is another example of courtyard apartments. The entries to these homes are inside of a fenced in “courtyard,” giving the people who live here a greater sense of privacy. 




Dan Valliere, Chief Executive Director of Reach CDC, stopped the group to discuss this multiplex owned by his organization and operated as low-income housing. The structure (the yellow building at the front of the photo) looks like a single family home, but Dan explained that there are several units inside. The meters on the side of the house (pictured above) are a handy hint at the number of units, making this structure a multiplex.


We encountered this structure towards the end of our tour, which is a more traditional example of a multiplex than the one owned by Reach CDC. Multiplexes typically have a wider footprint than a single-family home that was later subdivided and are characterized by five to 10 side-by-side or stacked units, which usually share one entry.


 The tour group saw this unusual structure that might also be defined as a multiplex. It has two doors, but the five mailboxes suggest that there are many more than two units inside.


Next Steps

We wrapped up the tour at The Zipper micro restaurant and discussed what we saw and what Portland should be considering moving forward. While the current zoning code wouldn’t, in many cases, allow Buckman’s middle housing to be built there today, there are some upcoming projects that are worth noting:

  1. Draft Comprehensive Plan Amendment #P45. This policy, which may be refined by City Council before it’s ultimately adopted, would give BPS clear direction about Council intention to look further at middle housing. As with any policy direction related to land use, any action based on this policy cannot happen without a full public legislative process. The specifics of any middle housing policy will continue to evolve with public guidance, and I look forward to hearing from community members about this issue.

New Policy after 5.5

Requested by: Novick, Saltzman, Hales

Middle Housing. Enable and encourage development of middle housing. This includes multi-unit or clustered residential buildings that provide relatively smaller, less expensive units; more units; and a scale transition between the core of the mixed use center and surrounding single family areas. Apply zoning that would allow this within a quarter mile of designated centers, where appropriate, and within the Inner Ring around the Central City.

  1. Zoning Map Update. Currently, the Planning and Sustainability Commission is considering recommending changing some R5 zoning to R2.5 in locations where the existing Comprehensive Plan allows R2.5 zoning. Changing the zoning in this year’s update would bring it into alignment with plan designations that have, in some cases, been in place for 20-30 years or more. And, this is significant because R2.5 allows much more opportunity to build middle housing than R5 zoning.
  2. Residential Infill Project. The Residential Infill Project will address the scale and design of new infill houses and home additions on both regular and narrow lots. It also will determine where new houses on narrow lots would be allowed. Finally, the project will explore whether single dwelling zones should allow more types of housing. This includes buildings that have two or more units and more than one small house on a lot. Allowing for alternative types of housing in single dwelling zones could address the concern that new infill does not fit into our neighborhoods while also creating more and smaller housing units. This is key to keeping housing costs down while increasing the variety of housing available for Portlanders.
  3. Multi-dwelling Code Project. Funded through a Metro grant, BPS will review the multi-dwelling zoning code. Like the current Residential Infill Project and Mixed Use projects, this project will look at how current codes are working. It will document the quality and quantity of new development that results from the current code. Recommendations will include how to improve multifamily development and expand middle housing design options in the multi-dwelling zones.
  4. BPS Study of Middle Housing. BPS staff mapped potential middle housing study areas for Council consideration during work sessions on the Comprehensive Plan.  Those documents are available here. Council may direct BPS staff to study middle housing opportunities outlined on the map and in the table; staff would then come back to Council with recommended code or map changes to implement those ideas. If we pursue this study, there will be multiple opportunities throughout the process for engagement and public involvement before Council adopts any zoning changes.

More Portlanders deserve to live in areas with access to recreational amenities, transit, and jobs. Middle housing could provide access to these livable, walkable neighborhoods, offering more environmentally friendly housing choices, as well. When used in addition to other tools like inclusionary zoning and land banking, middle housing could get us one step closer to solving our City’s housing crisis. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on Council towards a solution. 


You can view the full album of our tour and discussion here:

Commissioner Novick fills pothole on NW 12th and Everett, demonstrating need for heavy trucks to pay their fair share for road maintenance

One of the maintenance teams in the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) let me tag along on their shift this morning to fill the 7,700th pothole of the fiscal year at NW 12th and Everett. 

When you reach 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball, you’re a lock for the Hall of Fame. I believe that our maintenance workers deserve a similar honor for the large number of potholes they fill in their careers at PBOT. The crew leader for the maintenance team I joined today, Cory Long, estimates that he has filled 20,000 potholes in his 17 years with PBOT. Based on Cory’s calculations, the utility workers I joined today would almost all be inducted into the “Pothole Hall of Fame”—Billy Spires with 13,200 potholes in 11 years; Nills Thornberg with 6,600 potholes in 5.5 years; and Jeff Peterson with 3,600 potholes in 3 years. Mark Bartholomew has only been with PBOT for 6 months, but he’s probably filled a few hundred himself.

I am so grateful for the hard work all of our maintenance teams do every day, because even without the necessary resources to conduct preventive maintenance and keep every street in “good condition,” these teams keep our city running with the resources available. We’d have even greater cause for celebration if we had the resources to do more preventive maintenance and have fewer potholes to fill.

Portland’s temporary local fuels tax, if passed by the voter’s in May, will not include a ten-cent diesel tax on vehicles over 26,000 pounds. The decision not to apply the diesel tax to heavy trucks was based on a concern that heavy trucks, with fuel tanks averaging between 120-300 gallons, would bypass Portland’s only truck stop. A heavy vehicle tax ensures that heavy trucks pay their corresponding fair share of a potential 10-cent temporary fuels tax.

The goal of the heavy vehicle tax is to ensure that heavy truck users, like others who depend on our roads, will help pay for the cost of street maintenance. Streets in poor and very poor condition, like the section of NW Everett with the potholes we filled this morning, are much more expensive to fix than to maintain. Thus it is a better use of public resources to keep streets in good condition.

The Bureau of Transportation started the Back to Basics program in 2013, with the goal of maintaining more than 100 lane miles of City streets each year. Since 2013, PBOT has met or exceeded that maintenance goal.

At the event this morning Maintenance Operations Group Manager Suzanne Kahn said, “This year, we are once again on pace to meet our Back to Basics goal. To date, we have successfully treated 94 miles of streets. The fact that we are so close to the finish line, despite having experienced one of the wettest winters in a long time, is a real testament to the work of our maintenance crews.” 

Meet Our New Multnomah Youth Commission Liaison Grace Ramstad!

Please join me in welcoming Grace Ramstad to Team Novick!

Grace will be working on a priority issue of mine, later high school start times, in addition to other policy work. She is currently a high school senior at Centennial High School, and anticipates graduating and enrolling in a college or university this fall. Grace began her policy research on later high school start times as it related to her work on chronic absenteeism as a Multnomah Youth Commissioner

With significant community service and student leadership experience, Grace will continue to work with our office on finding a solution to teenage sleep deprivation. Her insight is also valuable to our policy work as the student representative on the Centennial School Board.

Grace’s passion for her community led to her leadership on founding the nonprofit Food for Families, “providing a mobile food pantry/mobile market to the members of the Centennial community.” Coordinating and planning with other Future Business Leaders of America, Grace established a way to reduce hunger in her community by using a donated school bus from the school district and providing the first mobile market of its kind.

Grace also earned the 2015 Multnomah County Volunteer Award and the Gresham Great Young Citizen Award for her outstanding service.  

As a 2016 Rose Festival Court Princess, Grace makes Centennial and Portland proud!

Grace can be reached at 503-823-4682, and is in the office on Mondays (after school of course). 

9-1-1 Twitter Takeover

This week is National Telecommunicators Week, an annual celebration of our first first responders: the dedicated calltakers and dispatchers who answer 9-1-1 calls and send fire, police, and medical help. Our calltakers and dispatchers are on the front lines of Portland’s emergency response network, and their role in keeping the public safe is easy to overlook.

As part of our celebrations, two City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) employees are taking over my Twitter account on Tuesday to give us a peek into a day in the lives behind the voices who answer our 9-1-1 calls. Since some of this language might be difficult to understand, we’ve included an explanation of some of the terms below.

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


Jammie Frank, Senior Dispatcher

About: I’ve been with BOEC for 4 years. Prior to BOEC, I was a 911 dispatcher in Texas for 9 years.  I live in North Portland with my audiophile husband, human like cat, and slightly senile senior dog. I am an avid collector of records and cute things. I spend my time away from BOEC drawing, painting and other crafty/artistic endeavors that I attempt to sell on the side under the name The Hard Luck Rabbit. When I’m not doing that, I’m petting my furry babies, watching the Gilmore Girls, listening to podcasts/comedians and occasional going to shows of the metal and punk genres. 

[5:15 AM]  Happy Monday! In for usual 2 hrs of overtime before my shift.

[5:16 AM]  Received forced slip for tmrw. Means I'll be late to our Employee Recognition Banquet. At least its just a 2 day work week thanks to trades!

[6:50 AM]  Call pulling on my heartstrings-- Elderly female upset bc sick/dying pet cat. Sweet caller: “If he dies, I die.” Never have I related more. 

[7:30 AM]  Very fortunate to use my downtime at service desk to finish up a project I’ve been working on for a coworker’s wedding.

[8:20 AM]  getting pretty sleepy but slightly afraid to try the new coffee concoction I made today…

[8:21 AM]  Stumptown’s Cold Brew + a dash (or heavy dash) of Chocolate Cashew Milk. It’s either going to be amazing, or too sweet.

[9:58 AM] Using my 1.25 hr break to nap in our Quiet Room. Up too late last nite making finishing touches on my donations to tmrw's banquet raffle

[11:15 AM] Tried to get overtime tmrw so I can use extra break to get to banquet on time. But numbers are one above minimum, so I wasn’t hired.

[2:39 PM]  Police/Medical Call: male in 50s attacked out of blue by 2 teens at max platform who were recording. Said it would be on youtube. Jerks.

[3:02 PM]  I’ve taken 3 calls in the last hour about dogs locked in hot cars.

[4:00 PM]  When I asked for the name of a restaurant my caller spelled K-A-L-E…… they must not realize we are Portlanders too, we know what kale is.

[5:00 PM]  Going home! I love that the last part of my shift is the busiest part, makes the time go by fast.

[7:00 PM]  received short notice overtime for tomorrow… My husband convinced me to get extra sleep and not volunteer for additional 2 hrs of overtime.

Aaron Willett, Senior Dispatcher

About: I’ve worked here just over two years and lived in Portland for eight. My shift is 5pm-3am. I’m originally from San Diego and enjoy caffeine, Star Trek, and nonfiction books. I dislike random street violence and lawnmowers.

[4:59 PM]  Fuel. Sunny day = more emergencies = 5 shots.

[5:15 PM]  Caller reporting someone in a car doing donuts. Police quickly en route to investigate.

[5:30 PM]  Subject swerves past caller, veers into a median, parks, and walks into a liquor store. Caller suspects DUI.

[6:38 PM]  Woman dyes hair blue in McMenamins bathroom, then moves outside to dig up some flowers. I hope she stuck with the winter theme.

[7:30 PM]  Report of two women speeding through a neighborhood on ATVs. Earthquake preparedness outreach is paying off.

[7:50 PM]  Woman calling from shoulder of freeway after boyfriend made her exit the vehicle. :(

[8:21 PM]  Woman at a diner with a racing heart from a marijuana cookie. What restaurant serves dessert first?

[9:05 PM]  I take my first breath of the day.

[9:40 PM]  Quiet in Gresham. Suddenly, everyone forgets how to drive and is pulled over by conveniently available officers.

[11:00 PM] Lunch. Working here, my Friday night free time consists of Netflix and games. So, the same things as my old Friday nights.

[12:53 AM] There’s a shooting in North, where I’m about to dispatch. I grumble to my coworkers, who offer a small bit of sympathy.

[1:51 AM]  Sergeant hears shots by North Precinct. Calls flow in. A dozen officers jump on. Suspect car glimpsed on Alberta, then lost.

[2:54 AM]  A nice coworker came over to let me out a few minutes early. Escaping before I'm forced over.

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.

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 just closed the application window for their spring recruitment but plans to hire two academies in the fall of 2016.