Archive for June, 2010

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Looking for a Few Good Commissioners

June 27, 2010

I’m getting a vacation!

Actually the whole Planning Commission is. In fact, this is the end of an era, as the Planning Commission that has advised Portland City Council since 1919 will be dissolved at the end of July.

After a break in August, a new Planning and Sustainable Development Commission will be convened, and we’re going to need a few more folks. This change (as explained by Mayor Adams) catches up to the merger of the Bureau of Planning and the Office of Sustainable Development a year and a half ago.

The new Commission will have 11 members (compared to 9 on the current Planning Commission). At the moment, it appears that all 8 serving Planning Commissioners will accept the invitation to serve on the new body, and one member of the Sustainable Development Commission (a joint City-County body, that is also being dissolved) will join us.

That means it looks like there are going to be two open seats. You can apply at the ONI web site.

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Surprising Airport Futures

June 22, 2010

We spent about 3 hours tonight hearing testimony about Airport Futures. This is the new zoning and planning framework for Portland International Airport and the district around it.

The session was a study in contrasts. We heard about the unanimous recommendation and consensus in the Planning Advisory Group (PAG) and glowing reviews of the sensible planning and environmental goals for PDX.

Then we heard from a variety of neighbors, from residents to golf courses to industrial land owners, the vast majority of whom were very worried that the expanded environmental zoning was going to destroy either their property values or their way of life (“will they make me take out my vegetable garden?”).

Definitely a contrast.

Everyone is complimentary of the airport portion of the plan, but it would appear that despite a wide range of involvement and outreach, a lot of nearby stakeholders did not grasp the additional environmental zoning (which seems to have a firm foundation in the science) on the properties around the airport and adjoining Columbia Slough until VERY recently.

Staff will be doing a lot of outreach in the next couple of weeks (resolving issues like the gentleman’s vegetable garden, which is probably not threatened). Once the surprise is past and people accurately understand the impacts, I hope our continuation of the hearing on July 13th will narrow down the set of policy issues we need to sort out.

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Change in Format

June 13, 2010

I’ve been operating this blog for about 8 months now, and that’s long enough to observe the traffic and patterns of comments that people are leaving.

It seems pretty clear that the ‘housekeeping’ stuff (agendas, meeting summaries, etc.) is not generating a lot of readership or response.

What does seem to generate traffic is the essay-length pieces when I have a genuine question about about a policy choice in front of us. And people seem to find those not because they organically visit this site, but rather because I tweet or do something else that directs traffic here.

So I’m gong to change where I focus my effort. I’m going to drop the agenda-review kind of material, and will post when there is an interesting question that I think readers will want to think about.

If you object strenuously to this change, let me know…

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Meeting Summary 6/8/10

June 8, 2010

12:30pm – Street Vacation

We approved a street vacation for a dead-end segment of N Salem St. The principal issue was that the applicant was seeking to avoid moving a water main. Interestingly the Bureau of Environmental Services does not require relocation of sewer lines (they are happy with an easement). We did not change the Water Bureau’s requirement to move the water line when the property is developed or transferred, but we did include in our recommendation a suggestion to City Council that they order a review of the consistency of bureau policies on street vacations.

1:15pm – Portland Plan Citizen Involvement Committee

The CIC gave us an overview of changes in citizen involvement approaches between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Portland Plan and is suggesting some formal changes in policy that will be on a future Planning Commission agenda. I was glad to hear that we are now publishing key outreach materials in four languages besides English.

2:00pm – Tree Plan

We continued to process the tree plan. Key decisions today:

  • Backyard tree removal will start with an initial no-fee permit and a relatively light administrative process (yeah!). The key requirement for trees between 12 and 20 inches in diameter is that all removed trees must be replaced with another tree. Trees larger than 20 inches will require a more involved process, as appropriate to their greater contributions to both tree canopy and neighborhood character.
  • We approved a system of programatic permits for City agencies (e.g., Parks) and utilities (e.g., PGE) to conduct a defined set of activities under plans to be approved by the City Forester.
  • We endorsed the “customer service” aspects of the system include a tree manual, a single point of contact for citizens and property owners and a 24-hour hotline.
  • We also endorsed a phased implementation of the plan that will deliver the customer service elements BEFORE the new regulation goes into effect.

There are still a couple of aspects we need to resolve before final approval:

  • Figure out how to transition Norway Maples from their status as a preferred street tree to an invasive species that should be avoided in the future.
  • Work out a mechanism for tree management plans for campuses, golf courses, or even small properties (homeowners associations, etc.) that may have significant numbers of trees and need a more efficient management tool than applying for individual permits.
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Coming Up on June 8th

June 6, 2010

Official Agenda

12:30pm – N. Salem St. Street Vacation

This will be my first street vacation hearing. It appears that the issue at question here is not whether the vacation is acceptable (it’s a short dead-end street against a railroad right of way) but rather what easements and other conditions will apply.

1:00pm – Report of the Portland Plan CIC

The Community Involvement Commitee will report on the efforts, and achievements, in involving a broad spectrum of citizens and interests in the Portland Plan process.

1:30pm – Tree Plan

We’ll continue to process the tree plan, focusing largely in this work session on the ‘customer service’ elements: the Tree Manual, 24-hour hotline and other elements aimed at making it easy for citizens to do the right thing. I’ll be continuing to try to make sure that it’s simple, easy and inexpensive for property owners to meet the requirements (primarily tree replacement) when cutting trees on private property outside of development situations.