LAST MONTH, after the city council voted to change the boundaries of the River District Urban Renewal Area—to include bits of Old Town-Chinatown and a "satellite" area in outer east Portland, an expansion of the original Pearl District territory—a group called "Friends of Urban Renewal" signaled their intent to sue over the controversial amendments.
The legal move now has staffers at the Portland Development Commission (PDC) scrambling to figure out how to fund other priority projects, like a homeless day-access center, that are in the expanded district.
"We really can't spend money in those new boundary areas, the expanded areas, as long as the appeal is unresolved," explains PDC's Bob Durston. "If any part of these amendments were ruled illegal or the findings [the expansion was based on] are unsubstantiated, then the people who are responsible for approving the expenditure of money in the districts that were later deemed invalid could be personally responsible for the expenditure of resources."
Friends of Urban Renewal's challenge at the Land Use Board of Appeals may wrap up within six months, but any appeals head to court—and could take years to resolve. The group's attorney, Steven Pfeiffer, did not return a call for comment.
In the interim, the city and PDC are "going to be very careful about how we move forward and when we move forward," Durston explains. "In the case of the access center, it may involve some delays. We're assessing how extensive those delays may be."
The city's housing commissioner, Nick Fish—who inherited Erik Sten's office, where both the access center and the satellite urban renewal area ideas originated—is in Washington, DC this week at a national conference on homelessness, and could not be reached for comment.