An advisory committee has weighed in on proposals from the four cities looking to expand the region’s shared urban growth boundary, part of a new effort to provide the Metro Council and regional leaders with a variety of perspectives.
The City Readiness Advisory Group, made up of experts in affordable housing, parks planning, construction and development, multimodal transportation and equity, met twice in June. The group was tasked with reviewing the city proposals and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Four cities – Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville – have submitted expansion proposals that together would add 2,200 acres and 9,000 new homes to the UGB.
The group was asked to consider a number of factors when evaluating the proposals, including whether the proposed expansion area would supply housing that the city and region needs, whether development is feasible and viable, whether the city is already encouraging growth in its existing downtown, whether it is taking steps to preserve and expand its supply of affordable housing and whether it has taken actions to address Metro's six desired outcomes for the region.
Among the group's general observations:
- The connection could have been stronger between the cities' Housing Needs Analyses and the amount and type of housing being proposed in the concept plans.
- Committee members would have liked to see a greater mix of housing. There were concerns about creating neighborhoods that would only have single-family housing when more "missing middle" options could be incorporated like duplexes, townhomes and cottages.
- The proposals did not discuss if or how affordable housing would be built in the proposed expansion areas.
- The expansion areas would largely be car-dependent because of a lack of current or future transit lines.
- It wasn't clear whether cities engaged with communities of color and how their feedback was incorporated into the concept plans.
Councilor Sam Chase said he hopes the four cities will be given an opportunity to address some of the questions and concerns that were brought up.
Metro chief operating officer Martha Bennett said the proposals were concept plans and any land that is added to the UGB would have to go through a comprehensive planning process. But she agreed that a dialogue needs to be had about what commitments cities are willing to make at this stage of the process.
Councilor Bob Stacey agreed with the advisory committee about the need for having mixed housing types in denser neighborhoods where people could walk to the grocery store, to restaurants, to city hall or to a bus stop.
"How do we build more places like that?" Stacey said. "There's aspects in these proposals to get us there, but I'm not sure we have the mix right, the types of housing right and I'm very sure that we don't have the connectivity that we need that allows accessibility between residential and other uses in a community and enough density on those streets to make that connectivity."
Councilor Shirley Craddick said it's important that as new land is brought into the UGB, the needs of everyone are being met, not just those who can afford to buy single-family homes.
Councilor Craig Dirksen reminded his colleagues that each city proposal needs to evaluated in the context of the entire city and region.
"I've heard concerns about how these jurisdictions are going to provide affordable housing within the expansion area … but we often acknowledge that expansion areas aren't the best areas for affordable housing because they're far from existing amenities, far from existing transit and even if there are transit expansions in the future, it's just that — in the future," he said. "So we need to look at how the jurisdiction is addressing affordable housing throughout their entire jurisdiction and putting that affordable housing in correct places."
During a Metro Policy Advisory Committee meeting, Hillsboro City Councilor Anthony Martin had similar comments. He said expansion areas fill a particular need in the region, but conversations also need to be had about where affordable housing is best suited.
Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba asked the CRAG members in attendance if they believed that each of the city proposals were "functionally possible" to avoid running into the same problem as Damascus and other areas that were added to the UGB but never materialized.
Mary Kyle McCurdy, deputy director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, said a major challenge in Damascus was a lack of governance and inability to fund infrastructure but with this year's round, the group felt there was a commitment from every city to provide the governance needed to develop the expansion areas. Even so, it was noted during the council meeting that the group's main concern with King City was its ambitious proposal, which seeks to nearly double the size of its city and create a new town center.
Metro planner Rebecca Hamilton said committee members found some cities would require more preparation than others.
"The actual build-out and execution of that concept plan would probably require a bit more staff support than is currently available, so the city would likely need some assistance in doing some more preparation on the front end of this plan and then possibly executing it on the back end," she said during a summary of the cities' proposals.
McCurdy said that, as in past years, expensive infrastructure improvements will continue to be a challenge for all four cities – even with the commitment from the local governments and a variety of funding sources.
"It requires more public subsidy than estimated and it costs more," she said. "That's just the reality; it's no one's fault."
Andrew Tull, a land use planner who has been through several UGB cycles, said that what has set this cycle apart from previous years is that cities were required to think through the potential infrastructure projects, costs and funding sources. He said that special system development charges, such as those levied in South Hillsboro and North Bethany, have become powerful tools to fund the necessary infrastructure.
"I think there's a lot of ways to deal with that and I think the fact that it's required to think about even before the ask sort of helps to ensure that we're not making foolhardy decisions about where to take growth," Tull said.