PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — City leaders entered a heated debate late last week over new development on Portland’s waterfront that could bring big changes to the city in coming decades.
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz said the city was being “dishonest” over plans to increase development in downtown Portland, the Pearl District and South Waterfront.
“I am absolutely disgusted with this entire hearing,” Commissioner Fritz said.
The hearing was held to approve the West Quadrant Plan — a sweeping vision for development in the Portland metropolitan area.
“In plain terms, it’s the vision for what we want our downtown to look like over the next generation,” Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish said.
A component of the West Quadrant Plan would be an increase in the maximum height for buildings in some parts of the city. This would accommodate a higher population density, as the city faces exponential growth in the coming years.
The new height limit for buildings could reach 250 feet, or up to 16 stories, on properties close to the river.
But Commissioner Fritz protested — she said the plan will block off views on the waterfront.
“What we’re doing is spot zoning to benefit particular developers in particular places,” Commissioner Fritz said. “Many of those particular developers being allied with members of the council.”
KOIN 6 News asked Commissioner Fish what he would say to people who think the city council is just in bed with big developers in town.
“Absolutely not true,” Commissioner Fish responded. “I think that’s an insult to all the citizen volunteers who crafted this plan.”
The city council approved dozens of neighborhood-oriented amendments to the plan — most of them proposed by Commissioner Fritz. However, she still wasn’t happy. She said there wasn’t enough citizen input in the process.
“We’re being dishonest,” she said. “I’m appalled.”
In the end, the council voted 4-1 to move forward with the West Quadrant Plan. Commissioner Fritz was the only dissenting vote.
“I think we can have differences of opinion in this body without questioning people’s motives or denigrating people who have served in a volunteer capacity,” Commissioner Fish said.
Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman told KOIN 6 News he is enthusiastic about the city’s choice to move forward with the plan.
“I’m not going to be shy or defensive about this at all,” Commissioner Saltzman said. “I feel great about this, this is what makes this city a great city.”
The city council will look at specific rules to transform the West Quadrant Plan from a vision into a reality over the next year.