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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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Dec 11

December 11, 2020

Posted on December 11, 2020 at 6:34 PM by Niyah Ross

I have often talked about the dual challenges of climate change and population growth that drive many of our public conversations – pre-pandemic.  It was a welcome return to those two issues in our Wednesday work sessions this week.

Staff briefed council on progress in planning and implementation of the CAP 2.0 in meeting our Climate Recovery goals.   The presentation covered community engagement efforts, particularly to the LatinX community, on-going resiliency work including bikeway construction along 13th Ave and negotiations with NW Natural, and a review of the City’s newly released Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions inventory update.  The City is one of 25 US cities to be scored “A” by the international Carbon Disclosure Project for our efforts to reduce emissions.  At the same time, the inventory update found increases at the community level in residential consumption and transportation; and the City level, due partly to market pressures and limited availability of biodiesel, compelling the city’s fleets to use more regular diesel.  

Staff followed this report with an update on the work in response to Council direction for a plan to analyze 113 ideas from the community for potential action in the CAP 2.0, and to delineate a timeline for CAP 2.0 implementation.   The community ideas will be reviewed through three filters - concepts that are already included in the CAP; concepts that should be instead referred to other partners; and the remaining concepts that will be reviewed for their potential GHG, resiliency and equity impacts --ultimately leading to 10 top ideas for action.    The initial analysis will take 12 months and return to council in mid-2022.

As for the implementation of CAP 2.0, staff is compiling a plan for all 115 actions contained in the plan and will delineate those actions by impact, timeline, responsible party, triple bottom line impacts, cost, and whether funding is secured.  This will come to council in January 2022.  Keep in mind that many of these actions are already underway, including big investments in the Transportation System Plan and ongoing investments in affordable and missing middle housing.

And that leads me to the second topic: Inclusionary Zoning. It is one strategy identified in our Housing Tools and Strategies workshops to increase the availability and affordability of housing.  Council had initially discussed this option in July 2019; and staff returned this week with more detailed information about how this tool has worked in Portland. 

The legislature enabled cities to develop inclusionary zoning (IZ) programs in 2016.  There are two options: mandatory and voluntary.  Under mandatory IZ, which Portland instituted, new multiunit housing of 20 units or more are required to include lower-priced units for people at 80% of area median income (AMI).  Under a voluntary system, developers could choose to do so, presumably based on the incentives the city might offer.  Council was in general supportive of exploring this option further but was not ready to support a mandatory IZ out of concern that it would deter housing construction. 

Portland’s program is only a couple of years old and staff were not prepared to conclude whether mandatory IZ had negatively or positively impacted the number of new units constructed.   Councilors were also interested in learning about the experiences in communities outside Oregon. It is not clear to me how a voluntary IZ program would differ from our MUPTE program, in which developers can choose either to pay a fee or include affordable units in their buildings in exchange for a ten-year tax exemption.

We’re almost at the end of the year and we’re all hoping for a peaceful holiday season.  The city staff are working hard to establish four new rest stops to shelter as least some of our unhoused folks;  the school districts are working with St. Vinnie’s in the hope of being able to support Egan in cold weather; and the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policies and the focus groups discussing the Community Safety Initiative are well underway to inform our efforts to ensure that our public safety network really works for everyone.