Portland City Council reopens opportunity for Pearl District apartment building resisted by neighbors

"This is not about views for me," Wheeler said. But he said he was swayed by the argument that the council would set precedent. "How we choose to do this project will set the standard for all of the other projects that will happen in the immediate area. That includes the bike-pedestrian pathway through the area."

                                                                                                                          Photo Credit by:   Booking

                                                                                                                          Photo Credit by: Booking

But housing activists saw the council's earlier decision as bending to opposition to development at the expense of long-term affordability. None of the units are affordable, but a shortage of housing in recent years amid a population boom has helped bid up rents and home prices.

The development would include 275 market-rate apartments. It was proposed in 2016, before the city passed a requirement for developments to include rent-restricted units for low-income residents.

Developers said the decision added to a cloud of uncertainty in Portland, which they said could discourage future investment in the city.

The commissioners each disclosed a long list of contacts with the public on both sides of the issue, but not with the developer or neighborhood association. Wheeler said the issue had been raised in a discussion at a grocery store and a car wash.

The council isn't supposed to take any of those contacts into account in this matter. The proceeding is a "quasi-judicial" hearing, meaning the council is supposed to limit its decision to criteria outlined in city code without regard other political or civic considerations.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz opposed reconsidering the decision -- saying she had asked the mayor, "Are you crazy?" when he raised the issue -- and said the design's shortcomings went beyond just the greenway, including the building's bulk. She said the council's reversal would likely to attract an appeal to a state land-use board.

Commmissioner Dan Saltzman also voted against reopening the record, saying he's concerned that allowing developers to tweak projects at this late stage undermines the Portland Design Commission and invites more appeals to the City Council.

The council will again reconsider the proposed development next month. 

News Resource: Oregon Live