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Adapting to COVID-19: News from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

News article

Updates from BPS projects and programs and how bureau staff are helping the City respond to the coronavirus crisis.

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The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is adjusting to meet the most urgent needs of Portlanders, while moving projects forward through the Planning and Sustainability Commission and City Council.

City Council and Planning and Sustainability Commission schedules 

During the initial COVID-19 emergency declaration, the schedules for both Portland City Council and the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) were paused. Now that we have a remote system for holding Council and PSC meetings, we are updating our commission calendars.

In May, City Council will hold a public hearing on the Expanding Opportunities for Affordable Housing project, which will help faith-based and community organizations use their excess land to build much-needed affordable housing. Central City 2035 will be back for re-adoption, following an appeal that has been resolved. And in June, Portlanders will be able to testify on amendments to the Residential Infill Project before it is adopted. See the full Council schedule and learn how to testify.  

The PSC will resume its meetings on April 28, starting with a hearing and recommendation to Council on new garbage and recycling rates and a work session on the Design Overlay Zone Amendments project. In May, they will vote on the River Plan / South Reach and hear a briefing on the Climate Emergency. A regularly updated list of tentative agendas for the PSC is available. Visit the PSC schedule to confirm times and details. 

Virtual community engagement 

We’re looking at more ways to connect with Portlanders virtually, and our Community Involvement Committee is helping to guide us toward more effective and equitable approaches. For example, the West Portland Town Center Plan and the Montgomery Park to Hollywood transportation project have recently developed online open houses for Portlanders to learn more and comment from home.  

The Smart City PDX teamVerde and the Office for Community Technology are co-leading a community-based Digital Divide Work Group to address technology needs in frontline communities with more support and resources. 

Meanwhile, the Portland Clean Energy Fund (PCEF) Advisory Committee and staff are developing grantmaking guidelines before opening the community grant application process in July for the first round of PCEF funding.

Finally, work on the Anti-Displacement Action Plan has shifted to support Portlanders who are at an even higher risk of displacement during this economic crisis. And we just launched a project to extend some land use reviews, pre-application conferences, and inclusionary housing rates to provide relief to applicants affected by COVID-19.

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis

Many of the projects and plans that BPS is working on with our bureau and community partners will play critical roles in our City’s recovery, such as increasing housing opportunities for Portlanders and advancing anti-displacement strategies. In addition to moving these initiatives forward, we are also supporting the City’s COVID-19 response.

While our Garbage and Recycling Team ensures that Portlanders’ trash, compost, and recycling continues to be picked up uninterrupted (special thanks to our garbage and recycling companies that are putting themselves at risk to keep our neighborhoods clean!), other BPS staff are being deployed to help with the emergency response.

Many BPS staff have been assigned to the City’s Emergency Coordination Center (ECC), where they manage food box deliveries, identify and meet the needs of community-based organizations, and support our elder and disability communities. As well, Director Andrea Durbin was assigned to lead the ECC on a rotating schedule with other bureau directors.

As we shift from COVID-19 response to recovery mode, BPS will continue to look for opportunities to leverage our partnerships with other bureaus and community partners to meet the needs of our community, particularly those who have been hardest hit by this health and economic crisis.