Portland buildings could make space to ‘welcome’ homeless

Civic Affairs

The commission's next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 17

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission is considering a new approach to homeless in the downtown area: requiring new buildings to designate space out front for homeless camping.

The idea has been hotly debated, prompting the commission to put out a statement Friday that clarified that they are not proposing a new policy for camping on private property. However, some people maintain that’s exactly what is being proposed.

At a November meeting, the city’s Planning Commission voted to approve language in the new design standards that would require developers of downtown buildings to add “opportunities to rest and be welcome, pause, sit, and interact.”

Commissioner Oriana Magnera asked for the resting part to be added.

Oriana Magnera speaks at a Planning and Sustainability Commission meeting. (Courtesy Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability)

“I do think that there’s benefit for designing buildings that could be used for rest,” said Magnera. “That’s a reality of the place we live in right now and the housing shortage we have right now.”

It was a close vote last month—5 to 4—and some commissioners voiced their concerns whether it was their job to make private businesses provide camping space at their entryways.

“I think if we’re asking design review commissioners to consider whether a public proposed design for public space would accommodate homeless people pitching tents, I think we’re asking design review to take on a public policy issue,” said Commissioner Jeff Bachrach during last month’s meeting.

The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 17. They plan to discuss this idea and define what specifically is meant by “rest” in front of a private building in downtown Portland. The meeting is open to the public.

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