New guidelines from Portland, Oregon’s Planning and Sustainability Commission have sparked a major controversy in the city.
Under a proposal introduced to the PSC on Nov. 12, the building design process would require owners to “provide opportunities” to the homeless population “to rest and be welcome.” Many are interpreting the vague language—specifically the “rest and be welcome” requirements—as potentially forcing owners of new commercial and residential real estate to build “spaces” for homeless men and women to camp out on private property, even in apartment buildings.
The idea was originally supported by members of the commission, but received strong pushback upon further discussion from a minority bloc who could still sink the proposal before it reaches the city council for approval.
‘Whether they like it or not’
“It is a plan that could require new Portland buildings to make room for homeless campers on private property whether they want to or not, KATU-TV news anchor Lincoln Graves said in describing the proposal in a recent broadcast.
However, Oriana Magnera, who presented the idea, told her fellow commissioners the city needs “spaces where [homeless] folks can feel supported and safe.”
“The heart of the issue is that we have increasing housing costs and we cannot support all of the people who live here now and are going to live here in the future,” she added, according to Williamette Week.
‘This is going to be quite controversial’
Other commissioners are not convinced the new language is a good idea.
Jeff Bachrach, an attorney and member of the PSC, said, “I’m concerned that this is going to become quite controversial.”
“I think for us to put into design review some loaded words that suggest we want some design commissioners to think about people resting for hours, pitching tents, I think we’re just putting too great of a burden on design review,” Bachrach added, according to KATU.
In a statement, commission chair Katherine Schultz said she and her colleagues need to work out a definition for the word “rest” before moving forward with the idea.
“The Commission will talk about this further at our next work session and will provide suggested language to the Design Commission that helps clarify the intent of the word ‘rest.’ The Design Commission is the recommending body to City Council for proposed new design guidelines,” she said.
A commission meeting is scheduled for Dec. 17.