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A Preservationists’ Perspective: What Went Right in the Oregon Legislature this Year

It was exciting to see that the voice of Oregon preservation is loud, clear, and strong!

Many thanks to community organizers across the state for advocating for their neighborhoods and the places that matter to us all.

Here’s the three things that mattered to us this session:

  1. SB 311 – An early victory: Our first advocacy effort came in April of this year with the passage of Senate Bill 311 which helps close the funding gap for seismic retrofitting of properties across Oregon.

What does it do?

SB 311 allows cities or counties to provide up to a 15-year property tax exemption to owners of commercial, industrial, or multifamily buildings built before 1993 to offset seismic retrofitting costs.

Why is this important?

The high cost of retrofitting deters many owners from rehabbing their historic buildings. With the help of SB 311, old and historic buildings have a greater chance at renovation instead of heading towards demolition.

  1. HB 2007 – Fix & “Rehabbed” into SB 1051

Not even a month after we celebrated the SB 311 victory, the preservation community was blindsided by HB 2007: an attempt to relieve some of the housing pressure in Oregon. While the heart of the bill was in the right place, its implementation would have incentivized more demolitions of existing homes and undermined what little protections Oregon has in place for historic districts. Restore Oregon strongly believes that historic buildings and neighborhoods can be part of the affordability solution.

Along with a coalition of preservation-minded community members across Oregon, including the Portland Coalition of Historic Resources, Restore Oregon advocated fiercely in opposition of the bill; providing testimony in Salem and community organizing. By the time the session closed earlier this month, the bill was “rehabbed” into a new bill, SB 1051, that both preservationists and affordable housing advocates could support.

What does it do?

SB 1051 incorporated the positive aspects of HB 2007 while deleting the most egregious provisions.  It accelerates review and permitting of construction for affordable housing, including:

– Removing restrictions on the operation of the new Goal 5 Rules for historic resource protections.

– Using “clear and objective standards” for new construction design while retaining the ability to protect historic character.

– Removing a mandate to allow duplexes in all single-family zones and its unintended effect of incentivizing more demolitions of modest housing.

– Calling for ADUs to be allowed in all single-family zones, a proven strategy to increase density without demolition.

– Allowing construction of affordable housing on religious institution property.

Why is this important?

We believe reusing old buildings, adding ADUs, or the internal conversion of large homes into multiple units is the more sustainable way to add housing within our urban growth boundary. Restore Oregon continues to advocate for policy that positively impacts our state’s preservation, sustainability, and affordable housing efforts. The new SB 1051 will allow for building of more housing without putting old neighborhoods and vintage homes at greater risk for demolition.

  1. Capital Projects Approved

Through the allocation of several funding sources, including lottery funds, the Legislature approved the following preservation projects supported by Restore Oregon:

– Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau: One of our Most Endangered Places, received 1,500,000 for balcony restoration Project.

– $5M for Main Street Preservation Grants: Restore Oregon advocated for the original Main Street Grants bill in 2015, which is now doubled with this additional funding.

– Two historic theatres funded: La Grande’s Liberty Theatre and Medford’s Holly Theatre received funding as well.

While the legislature takes a summer break

Restore Oregon continues to work on our mission: to preserve, reuse, and pass forward the historic places that make our communities livable and sustainable. With Oregon having some of the weakest protections for our historic places and landscapes in the country, we will continue to make our voices heard in Salem and bring forward solutions that protect and incentivize better stewardship of Oregon’s historic and cultural resources.

Help move our work forward

If you care about the outcomes of our advocacy work in this session; if you support Restore Oregon’s role as preservation watch-dog, please help fund our work. Your donation furthers our mission, but we can’t do it alone. We need your support! Please become a member today!

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