City Cast

A Fight at Portland City Hall Over Permits

City Cast Portland staff
City Cast Portland staff
Posted on July 31
A crane in the sky towering over apartment buildings (background), cars parked (foreground)

A crane was needed for a development in Northwest Portland. (Rachel Monahan/City Cast Portland)

There’s a fight brewing at City Hall over how to cut through the city’s red tape for permits for building and development.

Willamette Week’s Sophie Peel wrote a couple of articles on the issue. It’s a technical fight with plenty of boring details, but the stakes for making it easier to get permits from the city are high. A longer wait for building permits makes it more expensive to build in Portland. And lack of cheap housing is a major problem.

Here are several things to know right now:

  • There is a political rivalry, with two conflicting proposals from two elected officials who may compete against each other in the mayoral race next year: City Commissioners Carmen Rubio and Mingus Mapps. Mapps has announced his run; Rubio is officially still mulling her options.
  • Rubio wants to reorganize the city so that there’s one office for permitting; right now developers need permits from multiple city agencies. Mapps does not but says efficiencies can be found by removing duplication in the code.
  • On the flip side, the whole reason there are permits in the first place is to create safe buildings, keep our water system safe, protect trees, and more. (That’s made clear in the objections from four bureau directors to Rubio’s plan.)

It’s always interesting when politics comes down to a policy fight. It’s not always clear that the best idea wins, though, or what that necessarily is at this point. Stay tuned.

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