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Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission Votes to Mandate Space for Public Camping in New Developments

December 11, 2019

Overview

The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission appears to be ready to recommend changes to City design review guidelines that would require developers to provide space within exterior areas of new buildings for the public to sleep overnight and pitch tents.

The authors of the proposed design review guidelines originally proposed language stating that exterior areas of buildings must “provide opportunities to pause, sit and interact,” but at a November 12 Commission meeting to discuss the proposed design review guidelines, commissioner Oriana Magnera requested to change the language to “provide opportunities to rest and be welcome.”

The Commission initially expressed unanimous support for the change, but Commission chair Katherine Schultz subsequently pressed Magnera on the intended meaning of the word “rest,” and Magnera conceded that the language was intended to mandate areas for the public to potentially sleep overnight and erect tents, causing some commissioners to object to the change. Magnera explained, “That’s a reality of the place we live in right now and the housing shortage that we have,” noting that the illustrative examples accompanying the proposed guidelines depicted a number of “benches and things,” but only “some spaces with overhangs where somebody could pitch a tent or rest longer.” Magnera went on to state that “buildings serve all folks in our community, and … ‘rest’ is language that signifies that … this person is welcome in this space, in this private space, for a much longer period of time than some short eighteen inch bench might indicate or that another design may indicate.”

Following Magnera’s explanation and subsequent discussion among the commissioners, the Commission approved the proposed language by a 5-4 vote. The Commission is scheduled to meet again in a work session on December 17, from 12:30 to 3:30 in the Prosper Portland Commission Room at 222 NW 5th Avenue, 1st floor, to finalize its recommendations to the City Design Commission, which will then send the final proposed design review guidelines to the City Council for approval.

We will continue to track this issue, but if you would like to be represented at Design Commission or City Council meetings on this issue, or if you have any questions or concerns that you would like to discuss with us, please contact one of our land use attorneys: Michael Robinson, Garrett Stephenson, or Loren Snow.

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