Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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Oct 02

October 2, 2020

Posted on October 2, 2020 at 8:35 PM by Niyah Ross

Council took major steps this week on a range of on-going issues.

On Monday night, Council held a long discussion about setbacks from the sidewalk for commercial buildings.  This issue was triggered in 2016 with the completion of the Capstone building at 13th and Willamette that crowds the sidewalk. There are places where this close abutment is fine – all the eateries along Broadway, for example; and places where it creates a barrier to a pleasant urban experience.  This will come back to Council in six months.

Later in the evening, Council approved the registration system for Short Term Rentals.  This is a modest step in the direction of collecting information about how many, who owns them, and where they are located.  The ordinance stops short of any enforcement.  A registration fee is not included; but the Manager has the authority to create a fee administratively if that is called for.  

Council also voted to extend the franchise agreement with Northwest Natural Gas for another six months in order to give City staff time to continue to negotiate.

Wednesday was a big day.  Council’s work session included a vote to release a Request for Proposals for developers to build a mixed-income apartment building on the site now occupied by the former LCC building.  The city purchased the building in July with federal CDBG funds which require that 51% of the units be for tenants at 80% or lower of Area Median Income.  The Council also approved using $700,000 of Urban Renewal Funds and the $400,000 MUPTE payment from the Gordon Lofts at 5th Street to help support the cost of the project.  This is a big step for the city – both to increase housing downtown, and specifically housing at the lower end of the market.

Later in that meeting, Council approved five new rest stop sites.  These are located across the city and include Skinner City Farm, Empire Pond, Westmoreland Park, Lot 9 at Leo Harris and Walnut; and Bertelsen Nature Park.  Federal CARES Act funds are available to help pay for the development of these sites and must be spent by December 30th. The City will release Requests for Proposals for providers to manage the sites.  They will provide 100 safe sleeping beds with connection to services for our suffering unhoused population.  This is one of many steps this fall.  On October 14th, the Council and Board of Commissioners will receive an update on the progress in implementing the 10 recommendations of the TAC report.  We are working hard to meet more of the needs in the community both for the immediate cold weather and for the longer term.

And finally, on Wednesday night, the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policy met for the first time.  This committee of 30 devoted the first meeting to getting to know each other, to review the draft outline of meeting topics, and share their priorities and insights going forward.  It’s a powerful group.  The conversations will not always be easy, but we should all be grateful and proud of the work this group of volunteers is undertaking.  It’s legacy work.