Public divided over Portland’s plan to rezone neighborhoods

Civic Affairs

The project will increase density in single-family neighborhoods

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Dozens of people gathered Wednesday at Portland City Hall to weigh in on a controversial plan to reduce the number of single-family zoning areas in the city.

The Oregon legislature passed a bill requiring Portland and other large cities to allow duplexes on nearly all residential lots by July of 2020. Recommendations also include reducing the size of single-family homes.

City Council set aside two days for the public to share their testimonies about the issue. Some residents showed up hours ahead of the meeting on Wednesday to sign up to testify.

Under current recommendations, the residential infill project increases housing types, allowing for housing ranging from duplexes to fourplexes in areas that are currently zoned for single-family homes.

Affordable housing advocates and social justice activists argue the plan will help relieve the affordable housing crisis. But those who want to preserve their neighborhoods believe the plan will not fix what they say is the root of the problem.

“I think the impact of the residential infill, again, is likely to be felt in those places where people can most afford to live,” said Southwest neighborhood activist Susan King. “If we are worried that people can’t afford to live in Portland, then the residential infill project really goes potentially exactly the opposite direction.”

King also believes denser neighborhoods will lead to more commuter cars on roadways and a larger carbon footprint.

But others think the plan could be a greener solution. Climate advocacy group Sunrise Movement PDX is one of the groups supporting an amendment to the infill project to allow for six- and eight-plexes in low-income communities.

“It is creating density which is really important when we are talking about the climate crisis because we are allowing people to live closer to where they work, where they go to school,” said Anna Kemper with the Sunrise Movement PDX. “It doesn’t fix everything but it is a really important step.”

“Portland: Neighbors Welcome” is also in favor of the residential infill project but with some changes. In a statement, Portland: Neighbors Welcome said the plan “is already a vast improvement over today’s zoning” and “should be implemented as quickly as possible.”

Public testimony will continue on Thursday starting at 5 p.m.

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