COVID-19 Risk Level for Multnomah County: High Risk

Ryan, Mayor Wheeler Seek Streamlined Approvals for New Building Safety and Security Measures

Press release


Commissioner Dan Ryan and Mayor Ted Wheeler filed an ordinance this week that makes it easier for businesses to install exterior security lights and gates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of public health guidelines and restrictions, pedestrian counts in downtown Portland declined 82 percent between December 2019 and December 2020 according to the Portland Business Alliance. Declines in pedestrian activity in other Portland commercial districts have also been reported as shoppers and employees stayed home.

“We understand the impact the lack of foot traffic coupled with vandalism have had in commercial districts throughout the city, and we’ve been working closely with BDS leadership on nimble solutions that support small and large businesses alike,” Commissioner Ryan said.  “If passed, this ordinance will support all businesses in commercial districts with design overlay zones as they seek to expediently secure their buildings and fully reopen for business.”

Vandalism in Portland’s multiple commercial districts increased 47 percent from March 2020 to November 2020. Burglaries increased 32 percent during the same period.

“Making it faster to get permits for security measures is an important way for the City Council to support Portland’s economic recovery,” Ryan said.

The ordinance, which will be considered on March 3, waives the Design Review step typically required for lighting and security gates built on the exterior of businesses in the city’s Design Overlay Zone. Design Review, while important in promoting the conservation, enhancement, and continued vitality of areas of the city with special value, can take months, and most of the city’s commercial districts contain the Design Overlay Zone.

“Our businesses need the city to be a responsive partner in the pandemic recovery,” Mayor Wheeler said. “We must make it easier and safer for businesses to stay open and be profitable. This ordinance removes barriers to improving building security. It’s a step in the right direction.”

The Design Review waiver would last until Mayor Wheeler ends his Declaration of Emergency for the city in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was first issued in March 2020. The emergency declaration remains in effect.

The ordinance outlines certain design requirements for security measures while maintaining the vitality of the streetscape and shortening the overall process for businesses looking to secure their properties.  For example, exterior lighting must be directed downward toward the sidewalk, parking area or other exterior areas. No flashing lights or lights that project above the ground floor or first floor are allowed. Exterior security gates must be at least 70 percent transparent. Security gates may only be located on the portions of building facades that contain entrances intended for pedestrian use and any windows associated with the entry portion of the building facade.