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Portland Agrees To Work Harder At Preserving Space For Artists

Dozens of arts advocates lined up for council's presentation on preserving arts space.

Dozens of arts advocates lined up for council’s presentation on preserving arts space.

April Baer/OPB

The Portland City Council has approved an initiative to work on preserving creative space throughout the city.

Commissioners accepted a list of 22 recommendations Wednesday — from leasing space in city buildings for arts to creating a registry of creative spaces.

The recommendations were steered through by Commissioners Nick Fish and Chloe Eudaly and co-sponsored by Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Eudaly, a former independent bookseller, acknowledged that action is overdue.

“Portland has really built its brand on the backs of our arts and culture community without doing enough to support them and, in particular, preserve affordability,” she said.

Commissioners accepted the plan more or less intact.

Amended Plan For Preserving Affordable Creative Space in Portland

Portland City Council’s amended plan for preserving creative space.

view document »

One suggestion — to exempt creative space from floor area ratios and height limits for certain projects — was withdrawn following objections last month by Commissioner Amanda Fritz. A second amendment, offered by Fritz, proposed that Portland Parks and Recreation — a bureau she oversees — consider integrating the arts into long-range planning currently underway.

Only one other recommendation will be enacted immediately: the creation of a resource staffer to help smooth the permitting process for artists and their landlords, as well as other small businesses.

Perhaps the biggest commitment in recommendations is the dedication of a staffer in Commissioner Fish’s office, Jamie Dunphy, to spend the next two years working on implementation.

In that capacity, Dunphy will work with a range of bureaus and other city entities, such as Prosper Portland and the Regional Arts and Culture Council.

However, to continue the work, Fish must defend his seat in this year’s election. He’s drawn three registered challengers for the May primary: environmental activist Julia DeGraw, freight clerk Nicholas Sutton and Phillip J. Wolfe, who serves on the city’s commission on disability.

It’s not immediately clear what might happen to Dunphy’s work if Fish were defeated.

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