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River Plan / South Reach adopted by City Council

News Article
New 20-year plan for the southern end of the Willamette River in Portland will provide greater access to the river and more recreation opportunities on land and in the water.
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On December 16, 2020, Portland City Council unanimously adopted the River Plan / South Reach, which included an update to the Willamette Greenway Inventory. The adoption of the plan follows more than two years of public engagement and formal discussions by the Planning and Sustainability Commission and City Council. Before voting “aye,” Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty noted that Portlanders love their river, and this plan will make the area even more rich in natural beauty, and fish and wildlife habitat, making it one of Portland’s most desirable places to live, work and play.

20-year vision

The River Plan / South Reach Plan establishes a new 20-year vision for this important stretch of the Willamette River that runs from the Ross Island Bridge to Dunthorpe. The plan will provide greater access to the river and expanded opportunities for land- and water-based recreational activities. South Reach parks and natural areas will provide a variety of recreation programming and opportunities for quiet reflection and observing nature. Future land use and development will be climate resilient, impacts on riverine and upland habitat will be minimized and mitigated, and conditions for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead will improve over time.

Public engagement

This plan draws on input provided by more than a thousand community members and stakeholders at more than 65 different events, including river walks, workshops, open houses, and tabling at community events. Throughout the planning process, staff met with a variety of stakeholders, as well as tribal and governmental representatives. And hundreds of community members testified in person and in writing to the Planning and Sustainability Commission hearings and City Council.

We thank all of the Portlanders who came to an event, shared their thoughts about the area or provided testimony. This valuable input shaped the plan’s goals, policies, regulations and action items.

Key features of the plan

The River Plan / South Reach:

  • Replaces existing Greenway overlay zones with River overlay zones that:

    • Establish a minimum 50-foot setback for riverfront development.

    • Apply the River Environmental overlay zone to at least all land within 100 feet of the top of the riverbank and all floodplains.

    • Limit the tree and other vegetation removal allowed without City oversight and increase the monitoring required for plantings and mitigation.

    • Add new residential dock, bird-safe glazing and exterior lighting requirements.

  • Establishes a new “riparian buffer area” to increase floodplain habitat for salmon and steelhead over time.

  • Adds an archaeological resources protection requirement that includes a pre-development survey in areas most likely to contain archaeological resources.

  • Applies protections to a variety of public scenic viewpoints, view streets and scenic corridors.

  • Replaces the 1985 Macadam Corridor Guidelines with the Citywide Design Guidelines and a Macadam Character Statement.

Next steps

Implementation of the River Plan / South Reach will begin on March 1, 2021.