As one of the nation’s leading laughing stocks of far left policy, Portland is doing its normal Portland thing and now proposing a mandate that would force developers to provide “resting areas” for the homeless on private property.
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If a majority of the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission has its way, new private buildings downtown will be required to include spaces where houseless Portlanders can “rest,” which could include sleeping and pitching tents.
“The heart of the issue is that we have increasing housing costs and we cannot support all of the people who live here now and are going to live here in the future,” says Oriana Magnera, the planning commissioner who pushed hardest to include the new language.
Magnera’s proposal would stretch what’s asked of developers and owners of new private buildings, such as stores and apartment complexes.
The controversial proposal comes as City Hall tries a variety of ways to come to terms with a housing shortage that has left thousands of people sleeping in the wintry streets. In recent weeks, as WW has reported, the city has rolled out a new plan for how first responders respond to non-emergency 911 calls and floated a proposal to ban camping adjacent to Providence Park and other spectator venues.
At its Nov. 12 meeting, the commission began a routine walk-through of draft language for new design guidelines, which the city defines as “mandatory approval criteria that must be met as part of design review.”
There are a dozen such guidelines, but the discussion ground to a halt at No. 6, which said the exterior spaces of new buildings must “provide opportunities to pause, sit and interact.”
Magnera, who works as the director of climate and energy policy at Verde, a Northeast Portland environmental justice nonprofit, stopped the conversation and pushed to add the words “rest and be welcome” to that guideline. She explained that public spaces around buildings often include “benches but not a lot of place to pitch a tent.”
“Sitting is brief,” she said, “but the reality of the housing shortage is, folks need to rest on a longer-term scale.”
“We need spaces where folks can feel supported and safe,” she told her fellow commissioners.
Magnera’s proposal generated a spirited conversation. Several commissioners maintained support for Magnera’s change. Commissioner Steph Routh said the commission should make design review “more permissive and inclusive,” rather than using “defensive measures” to exclude people.
Magnera says she’s more determined than ever to use city code to carve out space for people who have none. “I’m going to keep pushing,” she says. “I feel it’s my role to speak up for people who don’t have a voice.”
Video story by KOIN 6:
The commission meets again on December 17th to vote on this proposal.