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Big issues on City Council agenda

It could be a long day at the City Council on Wednesday because of several major and potentially controversial items on the agenda. They include changes to the Disabled Parking Permit program, a proposed study of city policies to encourage affordable housing construction, the proposed franchise agreement for Google Fiber, and amendments to six existing Urban Renewal Areas.

The proposed changes to the Disabled Parking Permit were submitted by Commissioner Steve Novick, who is in charge of the Bureau of Transportation. Among other things, the new policies are intended to prevent vehicles with such permits from continuing to park for free for hours on end at city meters.

Downtown businesses have long complained that too many drivers appear to be using the permits to park all day for free while they are at work. The proposal would also create a limited number of parking spaces at strategic locations for longterm parking for permit holders, however.

The proposed housing construction study was submitted by Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is in charge of the Portland Housing Bureau. It directs the housing bureau to review and assess the city's policies for encouraging affordable housing in the urban core, and to return to the council with recommendations for new incentives.

According to the resolution submitted by Saltzman, the city is expecting the creation of 30,000 new households in the urban core — formally called the Central City — by 2035. But 33 percent of those households are expected to pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, far more than the previous forecast of between 17 and 23 percent.

The resolution also says that although the city already offers a number of incentives to developers for the construction of affordable housing, few are taking advantage of them. State law currently prohibits cities from requiring that affordable housing be included in new residential or mixed use developments.

City policies currently prioritize public resources for the construction of low income housing over housing for those earning higher incomes —including moderate incomes, sometimes referred to as the working or middle class. Saltzman has previously said the council needs to consider subsidizing a broader range of housing.

The council is also scheduled to consider the franchise agreement with Google for the possible installation of its ultra-high speed broadband system in Portland. It was submitted by Mayor Charlie Hales, who is in charge of the Revenue Bureau, which oversees the Office of Office of Neighborhood Technology, which negotiated the proposed agreement with Google.

The proposed agreement requires Google to pay a 5 percent franchise fee. It exempts the company from a 3 percent fee that Comcast is currently charged to help fund public and educational programming. Still to be resolved is whether and where Google can site the equipment it needs to run the system, including its large "network hubs."

Google would not be required to serve the entire city, only that areas that show the greatest interest for the company's one gigabit service, at least at first. The council is expected to discuss options for ensuring all residents have some form of access to the service.

Google has said it will decide whether to expand its service into Portland and other cities in the region and country by the end of the year. The other cities in the region are Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego and Tigard.

And the council will consider a proposal by Hales to amend six existing urban renewal areas. Hales oversees the Portland Development Commission, which administers the city's urban renewal programs.

The proposal would direct the PDC to work on a plan to reduce some URAs, expand others and eliminate what would be left of the Education URA around Portland State University. The plan would be presented to the council later this year. It is estimated to increase city property tax collection by $21 million over the next 30 years. Other local governments that collect property taxes within the URAs would also benefit.