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Portland City Council unanimously commits to consolidate city permitting

News Article
This is a photo of the construction of the new Multnomah County Courthouse.
The Council seeks the creation of “a consolidated single permitting entity… with clear authority, responsibility and accountability.”

On Aug. 30, under the leadership of Commissioner Carmen Rubio, the Portland City Council unanimously adopted a resolution that directs the Chief Administrative Officer, with the cooperation of City bureaus, “to prepare for consolidation of development review and permitting staff into one entity by July 1, 2024. This includes City staff involved in development review and permitting of work on property and associated improvements and permitting in the right-of-way.”

Currently, depending on the scope of a project, as many as seven different City bureaus, whose directors report to four different commissioners, may be involved in the review and issuance of a building permit. Professionals at the separate bureaus coordinate their development review activities, but disconnected decision-making structures can add time and inconsistency in the delivery of services to customers.

The resolution sets in motion an ambitious effort to combine the development review functions of multiple bureaus over the next 10 months.

“With a housing crisis and an economy that needs help, there is too much at stake for Portland’s recovery to continue with the status quo,” said Rubio, who oversees the Bureau of Development Services. “My colleagues agree and are committed to creating a more streamlined process with clear accountability under one authority.

“This effort also keeps faith with the voters who told us loudly and clearly last November that a more responsive and coordinated city government is essential,” she continued.

The council directive to consolidate permitting builds upon the process improvement projects of the Permitting Improvement Task Force, formed by Commissioners Dan Ryan and Mingus Mapps in 2021. The resolution directs the City’s Permit Improvement Transition Team to lead this effort and develop an implementation plan by Nov. 1.

Mapps and Ryan commented, “We want to acknowledge the complex and valuable work of the Permit Task Force in streamlining permitting in the last two and half years. These dedicated professionals of the City’s permitting bureaus have done exceptional work to improve the process within a difficult system. Because of this work, we can take the necessary further steps to streamline our permitting system and provide better service to the public.”

Further details related to implementation will be unveiled in the weeks ahead.