Public testimony invited for Portland City Council consideration of tree code updates Oct. 29

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The public is invited to review and provide testimony before the City Council on a package of updates to Portland’s tree code relating to the removal of exemptions from requirements to preserve and plant trees in certain development situations.

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The proposal also recommends a broader application of a different mitigation fee in lieu of preservation intended to provide an incentive to preserve more trees when development occurs on private and city-owned property.

How to submit testimony to the City Council

This ordinance will come before the Portland City Council on Thursday, Oct. 29, no earlier than 2 p.m. (time certain). The City Council meeting will be held online. Those who wish to watch the City Council meeting but not testify may watch a livestream of the meeting through the City’s video page.

Verbal testimony

Verbal testimony can be provided through a computer, mobile device or telephone during the hearing. Anyone interested in providing verbal testimony on this ordinance can register through the City Council Clerk’s office. Please check the meeting agenda, once it is posted on Friday, Oct. 23, and refer to agenda item number 866 listed for this ordinance under the “Thursday 2 p.m.” header.

The deadline to sign up to give verbal testimony at the Oct. 29 City Council hearing is Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 4 p.m. Those who sign up will receive a confirmation email message containing information about joining the virtual hearing. Individuals have three minutes to testify, unless stated otherwise at the hearing. Please email the Council Clerk at cctestimony@portlandoregon.gov with any questions on how to testify at the City Council meeting.

Written testimony

Those who wish to submit written testimony may do so through one of two ways:

  • Individuals can visit the City’s MapApp, learn more about how the proposed changes to the tree code may affect individual properties, and submit written testimony through this online tool. The MapApp will receive written testimony until 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29.
  • Testimony can be submitted through the Council Clerk at cctestimony@portlandoregon.gov. It is recommended that written testimony be submitted before 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29.

An overview of the recommendations

The ordinance that will be considered by the City Council is a result of several months of work to address concerns raised about the removal of large-diameter trees during development situations. Portland’s Tree Code, which first took effect in January 2015, was amended in 2016 to address concerns about the removal of very large trees when development occurs, but many expressed views to the Portland City Council that further changes were needed.

Last January, following recommendations from the Urban Forestry Commission and the Planning and Sustainability Commission, the City Council directed city staff to develop a proposal that addresses certain regulations related to trees in development situations.

Since January city staff engaged with various stakeholders who commented on the city’s tree code over the past five years and conducted online surveys and public forums to enlist the views and comments of the public. Analyses of the economic impacts of changing the tree preservation requirements for certain industrial, commercial, and employment zones and of the impacts on the City’s tree canopy were also conducted. The results of public engagement and these analyses are described in greater detail in the staff report and informed its initial recommendations, which were to:

  • Remove the exemption from tree preservation and tree density requirements in IG1 (General Industrial 1), EX (Central Employment), and CX (Central Commercial) zones on private and City-owned or managed property
  • Keep the existing exemption from tree preservation and tree density requirements in IH (Heavy Industrial) zones on private and City-owned or managed property
  • Reduce the threshold for required preservation of trees on private property from 36 inches to 20 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) wherever tree preservation is required 
  • Reduce the threshold for the application of an inch-per-inch fee in lieu of preservation for trees on private property from 36 inches dbh to 20 inches dbh

The Urban Forestry Commission and Planning and Sustainability Commission met in August and September to review the initial staff proposal, receive testimony and provide recommendations to the City Council:

  • Both commissions recommended reducing the threshold for preservation of larger trees on private property from 36 inches to 20 inches in diameter. Trees of this size threshold or greater are required to be preserved. If they are not preserved, a higher fee-in-lieu of preservation is required.
  • Both commissions recommended removing exemptions for tree preservation and tree density for private trees, and trees on City-owned or managed property in the General Industrial 1 (IG1), Central Employment (EX), and Central Commercial (CX) zones.
  • The Urban Forestry Commission also recommended removing exemptions for tree preservation and tree density for private trees, and trees on City-owned or managed property in the Heavy Industrial (IH), while the Planning and Sustainability Commission recommended keeping those exemptions in the Heavy Industrial (IH zone). Both of these recommendations are included in the ordinance.
     

Following the public hearing, it is anticipated that the City Council will refer the ordinance to a second reading and final vote at a date in early November. If adopted by the City Council, the ordinance will take effect 30 days after its passage.

More information about efforts to update Portland’s tree code and this ordinance can be found on the City’s website.