In 2007, when the legislature established a system for designating urban and rural reserves, many observers saw the reserve process as a panacea to deal with the contentious process of changing the Portland Metro urban growth boundary (UGB). Under the urban reserve process, identifying urban land needs based on a 50-year projection rather than the historic 6-year cycle for changing the UGB, lands designated urban reserve would stand in the queue prioritized for inclusion in the UGB when expansion was appropriate. Similarly, land within any rural reserve was off-limits for consideration within the UGB within that same 50-year planning period.
As part of a four-bill package – SB 1533, SB 1573, HB 4143, and HB 4079 - the Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek used the short session to try and push housing advocates’ agenda forward, but the bills got hijacked by development interests. This post explores the so-called inclusionary zoning bill, Senate Bill 1533. Inclusionary zoning is a planning tool that requires new housing developments to offer a portion of the new units at affordable levels for purchase or rent.
Housing advocates never expected inclusionary zoning to singularly solve the affordable housing crisis, but hoped it would be one avenue to create equitable neighborhoods. The hope was to have affordable housing placed in all neighborhoods, near transit options, fresh food, and quality schools. But, at the end of the day, Oregon jurisdictions are left with little in the way of mandating inclusionary housing, except for possibly, the City of Portland.
On Monday March 3, 2014, a Multnomah County Circuit judge agreed with the Multnomah County Elections Director and brought a new hotel at the Oregon Convention Center one step closer to fruition. A Convention Center Hotel has long been desired by a variety of tourism and economic development interests who argue that such hotel will allow Portland to host larger events at the Convention Center. As long as those supporters have been around, so too have opponents of such a hotel, who argue that the economic benefits of such a hotel are overstated and may also harm their economic interests and should not qualify for public subsidies. In 2013, Metro and other local jurisdictions seemed to be coalescing around a plan that would bring the hotel to the Convention Center, but one aspect of the plan ran into a snag and ended up in court.
In December of 2013, Multnomah County amended its code to allow tourism tax revenue to be expended in support of “the construction of a hotel proximate to the Oregon Convention Center.” Opponents of the hotel sought to refer that change to an election, but the County Elections Division denied certification of the referendum petition because, in the view of the County elections Division, the code amendment was an “executive or administrate” matter. That classification is important, because under a long line of Oregon Supreme Court cases, only “legislative” matters are subject to referral and administrative or executive matters are not subject to a vote.
The hotel opponents challenged that denial, arguing that the code amendment was legislative. On March 3, 2014, Judge Eric Bloch sided with the County and found, among other things, that the matter was administrative and not subject to referral to the voters. It is unlikely that this is the last word on the hotel, but at least one hurdle has been cleared.
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