City Council packed over River Place height plan

Civic Affairs

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A developer’s plan to put 8 new buildings along the South Waterfront higher than is currently allowed drew a large crowd to the Portland City Council meeting Thursday.

People who went to the meeting are afraid these much-taller buildings are a gateway to destroying the views on the Willamette River.

In order to allow those building to be built as proposed, city commissioners would have to vote for an amendment to allow the construction of buildings higher than 200 feet — something many residents oppose. 

Most of those who signed up for public comment spoke out against the River Place Bonus Height Amendment.

Downer Johnson of the South Downtown Neighborhood Development Coalition, January 18, 2018 (KOIN)

Among those was Downer Johnson of the South Downtown Neighborhood Development Coalition, a group of residents who live in various towers.

“I’m wondering if we can mitigate an increase of 7000 people in that area,” Johnson said. “That’s a huge increase of people. I think it would be an eyesore. The tower will be 325 feet when it should actually be 200 feet.”

One resident also expressed concern that the architectural firm that might design the towers also employs someone on the planning commission. 

While Mayor Ted Wheeler previously said he favors adding density in the downtown area, Commissioner Amanda Fritz indicated she prefers to leave the Central City Plan as it is. That requires a “step down” approach to development to protect views of the Willamette River and Mount Hood.

“In some cases, views that people enjoy today might be infringed on by housing in the future and that’s just a trade off,” Wheeler said. “It’s a trade-off, I would absolutely say if all else is equal, housing is more important than views right now. “

Commissioner Nick Fish is still on the fence about the amendment. 

“The people who live there don’t agree with the vision for the height and density there, so the council has to pick a side or harmonize the two,” he said. 

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