The Oregon Legislature convened on February 1 with approximately 1500 proposed bills  filed, and another 1500 filed after the start of the session. About 10% related to land use.  The 2017 legislative session was a long and winding road. Early land use threats died easily, while new ones cropped up at the final hour.

1000 Friends of Oregon achieved success with two of our major legislative goals – providing statewide transit funding in the Transportation package and conserving working lands and natural resources in the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Bill. We also made significant strides towards ensuring that every town and city provide for the housing needs of all; work we will continue in future legislative sessions. And, we successfully fought back legislation that would have severely damaged Oregon’s land use planning program, its farms and ranches, and its iconic landscapes. 

We could not have achieved this without you, both through your financial support to 1000 Friends and your outreach to Oregon senators and representatives. We cannot emphasize enough how much it means to legislators to hear from their constituents.  Here is a recap of the some of the major bills with which 1000 Friends was engaged during the 2017 legislative session. 

If you have questions or comments about any of these or any bill that is not mentioned, please do not hesitate to contact Mary Kyle McCurdy, Deputy Director, at mkm@friends.org.

Transportation for Oregon's Future: HB 2017 PASSED with meaningful investments in transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure!

1000 Friends’ major transportation objective was to ensure that the 2017 transportation package included an ongoing source of funding, at a significant level, to meet long-neglected transit needs statewide. From meeting basic transportation needs in rural communities in eastern Oregon to restoring weekend service in Salem, 1000 Friends and our partners achieved a deep and expansive commitment to transit for Oregon with HB 2017.

All Oregonians deserve a modern transportation system that provides options for how to meet their daily needs – with safe places to walk and bike, convenient transit, and well-maintained roads and bridges.  Over ¼ of Oregonians do not drive, yet for too long, Oregon has neglected investing in safe and accessible ways for our youth, older people, the transit-dependent, and those with physical challenges to get to work, school, and stores.  Oregon spends less on transit that almost any other state in the US.

HB 2017 establishes an employee payroll tax of 1/10th of 1%, which will raise approximately $103 million annually. This is more than a 200% increase in state funding for transit, which will make a significant difference in rural and urban areas across the state.[1]

This transit funding will be allocated as follows:[2]

  • 90% to transit districts and tribes
  • 5% to public transportation service providers based on a competitive grant program
  • 4% to public transportation service providers to provide improved public transportation services between two or more communities
  • 1% to the Department of Transportation to establish a technical resource center, to assist rural public transportation providers with training, transportation planning, and information technology

In addition, legislators recognized that while the employee payroll tax is small, it will have a regressive impact on lower income Oregonians, especially those who already pay a transit fare.  So, HB 2017 requires that every transit provider funded through this bill implement a plan to mitigate the impact on lower income riders, through such things as reduced fares, increased transit service to communities with more lower income families, expansion of service to communities with more lower income households, or other methods.[3]

HB 2017 also dedicates significant funding to the Safe Routes to Schools program - $10 million annually to make walking and bicycling safer within 1 mile of schools, increasing to $15 million in 2022.

In addition, HB 2017:

  • Increases the gasoline tax by 10 cents over six years, and increases registration and title fees, with most funds going to repair roads and bridges.
  • Accelerates adoption of electric cars and transit buses, funded in part through a vehicle dealer privilege tax.
  • Transfers the jurisdiction of certain roads, including transferring outer SE Powell Blvd. from ODOT to Portland.
  • Earmarks spending on specific roadway projects around the state.[4]
  • Provides for congestion pricing in the Portland-metro area, on I-5 and I-205.
  • Funds planning for additional capacity on three “bottleneck” areas in Portland region: Hwy. 217, I-5 at the Rose Garden Arena, and I-205 in Abernathy Bridge area.

1000 Friends is deeply grateful for the hard work of the Transportation for Oregon Coalition. This group fought for meaningful transit funding, investments in active transportation infrastructure, and for the prioritization of electric vehicle and other climate friendly solutions for Oregonians. We are very proud to be a part of this coalition. We also express our appreciation for the tireless work of the bipartisan leadership on this bill: Senators Lee Beyer and Brian Boquist and Representatives Caddy McKeown and Cliff Bentz.


[1] See Better Transit Oregon for descriptions of the transit improvements expected in rural areas, including communities served by Kayak Public Transit (Pendleton, Hermiston, La Grande and Walla Walla in eastern Oregon), Northeastern Oregon Transit (Baker City, La Grande, Enterprise), Rogue Valley Transportation District, and The Wave (Tillamook County)

[2] HB 2017, section 122(n)

[3] HB 2017, sec. 122(p)

[4] HB 2017, sec. 71(d)

To learn more, check out our coalition one-pager
Visit our coalition site
Get Social: #transport4OR  
Get Involved
Read 1000 Friends Testimony in support of HB 2745, which works to find creative funding solutions for local transit issues. 

Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program: HB 3249 PASSED!

HB 3249 establishes a program that adds tools to conserve Oregon’s farm land, protect natural resources, and aid younger farmers coming into the industry.  The average age of Oregon farmers is about 60 years. As they retire or die those lands will be transferred at an unprecedented rate into the hands of others. As much as two-thirds (10.45 million acres) of Oregon’s agricultural lands could change hands the next 20 years.[1] Lands that must be sold quickly due to an unplanned estate are increasingly bought for non-farm uses by investors who might be holding the land in hopes of future development, and who are less likely than resident owners to contribute to the well-being of surrounding rural communities. 

Oregon’s land use program has been instrumental in dramatically slowing the conversion of agricultural lands to other uses. However, we still lose agricultural land to development, conversion to other uses, or conflicts due to uses allowed on neighboring properties.[2] Without additional tools in place, the upcoming unprecedented shift in ownership of farmland would likely accelerate those losses.

To provide some of those extra tools, 1000 Friends was proud to be one of many partners working for passage of HB 3249. This bill establishes a framework in which willing property owners may take advantage of existing federal funds to place working lands covenants or easements on their own land, to provide long term assurances that the land will remain available for agricultural production in the future. The funds that come to farmers through these transactions can then be reinvested in their farming businesses. The bill passed, but Oregon’s budget deficit prevented the legislature from providing operational funding for the program. However, they did provide $190,000 over the next biennium to develop rules and establish a Commission that will administer future program funds. 1000 Friends will be working with partners before the next legislative session to find a sustainable source of funding to get this program fully operational as soon as possible.

[1] See Oregon State University, Portland State University, and Rogue Farm Corps, The Future of Oregon’s Agricultural Land, 2016.

[2] See Department of Land Conservation and Development, 2014-2015 Oregon Farm and Forest Report, January, 2017.

Read our testimony in support of the Oregon Agriculture Heritage Program
Read our coalition testimony in support of the Oregon Agriculture Heritage Program    

Housing for All: HB 2007/SB 1051: PASSED (in a modified form)

House Speaker Tina Kotek, a tireless leader for affordable housing, introduced HB 2007, a bill that represented a significant step forward to ensure development of sufficient and affordable housing for all Oregonians. Oregon's land use planning stands for housing for all, in all communities, as reflected in land use Goal 10, Housing:

“[P]lans shall encourage the availability of adequate numbers of needed housing units at price ranges and rent levels which are commensurate with the financial capabilities of Oregon households and allow for flexibility of housing location, type and density.

Yet, we have fallen short on this Goal - in supply, affordability, and diversity. The state economist estimates that Oregon is short 100,000 homes for middle income Oregonians, and over 110,000 homes for low income Oregonians, and this gap is growing.

We are not meeting the types of housing that many Oregonians need. Every community in Oregon has a similar profile, in which approximately 2/3 of all households are 1-2 people in size, a long-term trend and a percentage that is growing. These are the young couple who has not yet started a family, an older couple whose children have grown, the 20-something just starting out, the 70-something widow, the single parent with 1 or 2 children – they are nurses, teachers, electricians, medical technicians, the person who waited on you somewhere today. They want to live in walkable neighborhoods with good schools, age in the neighborhood they raised their children, live near the place they work. Yet, the vast majority of residential land in our towns and cities is zoned for single family, detached housing on lots of 5000 sq. ft. or more. And our neighborhoods have been zoned this way since the 1950s. We have zoned most of our residential lands in ways that functionally exclude a large percentage of Oregonians at any price point by not offering the type of housing they need, and certainly economically excludes many.

Failure to increase both the supply and diversity of housing for lower and middle income Oregonians will increase the price of all existing housing, regardless of its condition. HB 2007 took important steps to better ensure our towns and cities are providing for the housing needs of all, in every neighborhood. We supported HB 2007’s objectives to: ensure that every city provides clear & objective standards for all residential development on land zoned for residential use; provide more opportunities for “missing middle” housing types of ADUs and duplexes; and ensure that decisions about development in historic districts are made by an elected body that balances all policies in a transparent and public process.

While some of these key elements were removed from HB 2007 at the end of the legislative session, important elements were kept and moved to SB 1051, which passed.

Senate Bill 1051 will:

  • Expedite affordable housing permits
  • Strengthen requirements for clear & objective review standards for housing developments
  • Streamline local government procedures to make it easier to provide more housing, and especially affordable housing, in all Oregon communities
  • Allow additional dwelling units (ADUs) in single-family neighborhoods
  • Allow religious institutions to use their property to develop affordable housing
  • Define “needed housing” as all housing

1000 Friends of Oregon celebrates the good that will come from the policies promoted in SB 1051. We especially appreciate the support and collaboration of over 20 organizations, including nonprofit affordable housing providers, environmental organizations, small businesses, home builders, and community groups. Next session, we will be working to support additional mechanisms that strengthen these policies to fully address Oregon’s housing needs. Please join us in thanking the following legislators for their leadership in HB 2007/SB 1051: Representatives Tina Kotek, Duane Stark, Susan McLain, and Pam Marsh.

Read our Values Statement in support of HB 2007
Read our testimony in support of HB 2007

Eastern Oregon Economic Development Review: HB 2012 PASSED!

HB 2012 was a bipartisan bill focusing on real economic development issues in southeastern Oregon.  The bill defines the “Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region” and establishes a structure to examine economic and work force development issues in this region and recommend for improvements in education, work force training, land use, and other programs and regulations. It offers an opportunity for integrated, multi-agency evaluation of economic development issues in southeast Oregon.

1000 Friends hopes to remain involved in these conversations, and more, in support of a strong eastern Oregon economy and community.

Read our testimony in support 

Local Transit funding: HB 2745 PASSED!

This bill authorizes a funding mechanism and structure that local intergovernmental entities, most immediately applicable in central Oregon, can use to fund local transit.

Read our testimony in support

 

Undermining land use in eastern Oregon: SB 432 DEFEATED!

Senate Bill 432 would have exempted counties that are experiencing no population growth, including cities in those counties, from complying with the statewide land use planning goals. Similar bills introduced included SB 602, 608, 612, and 618. While these bills’ alleged purpose was economic development in eastern Oregon, SB 432 and the others would have had severe negative impacts on the economic health of these counties in the following ways:

  • By harming the area’s #1 industry, agriculture
  • By creating both uncertainty and inconsistency it what type development would be allowed
  • By harming the attributes that support other, growing industries in eastern Oregon
  • By undermining years of effort the State of Oregon, eastern Oregon counties, and a broad array of stakeholders invested in the state sage-grouse conservation plan that can help prevent further decline of the species and the potential for an endangered species listing.

1000 Friends and the Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) opposed SB 432, including listing it as a major threat by OCN. 1000 Friends spearheaded a letter to Senate leadership, signed by many conservation groups, describing the bill’s flaws and listing extensive suggestions for effective ways the Legislature could support economic development in eastern Oregon without undermining the land use system. We also asked you to share your opposition to SB 432 with your legislators - and you did!

Ultimately, due these combined efforts, we were able to stop SB 432 during the last days of session. 1000 Friends will be working with farmers, ranchers, legislators, state agencies, and others to craft real economic development solutions for eastern Oregon that support the region’s #1 industry – agriculture – rather than destroying it.  Please join us in thanking Senator Michael Dembrow for his leadership in supporting Oregon’s land use program and defeating SB 432.

Undoing Rural Reserves in the Willamette Valley: SB 186 DEFEATED! 

SB 186 would have undone specific rural reserve designations in Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties, thereby opening certain areas designated as “rural reserves” for eventual development. SB 186 would have undermined the region’s multi-year effort to come to a consensus about where long-term growth should – and should not – happen. It would have resulted in unnecessary and expensive urbanization pressures on some of the key local food-producing lands around the Metro region. 1000 Friends, with support from scores of people and organizations from around the Metro region, ensured this bill did not move forward.

We anticipate that this will be an ongoing struggle between interests that seek to urbanize the Willamette Valley, and our farmers and food producers who rely on this land for its agricultural value. 

Read our legislative testimony here

THANKS FOR HELPING DEFEAT THE MEGA-TOLLWAY!

We Said No to HB 3231 - The Mega-Tollway through farmland

HB 3231 would have authorized cities and counties to form a special taxing and revenue district to undertake everything involved with financing, designing, building, and operating a limited access tollway. The bill authorizes the tollway district to use eminent domain to acquire land, and to establish, collect, and enforce tolls. The tollway on which this idea was modeled is in the Denver area, and charges (according to the Oregonian) tolls up to $17.45 for cars and $69.80 for trucks.

Although no route is described in the bill, HB 3231’s chief sponsor described a tollway extending from Woodland, WA, crossing to Highway 30 in Oregon at either Columbia City or Portland just west of the I-5 bridge (so on a new bridge) and then through Forest Park, both intersecting with Highway 26 at Cornelius Pass, then paving a swath across the Tualatin Valley west of the current UGB, Yamhill County, and French Prairie, and joining I-5 somewhere south of Donald in Marion County.

Because you called and wrote to your elected leaders, HB 3231 will not move forward, helping to protect the state’s most productive farm land from being paved over. 

Read our testimony here
Read our call to action here

News Items:
Committee Hears Argument for 'Westside Bypass'
Our View: Westside Bypass Proposal Should Get Shelved

UGB Expansion Bill: HB 2893 DEFEATED!

HB 2893 would have allowed lands with Class VI, VII, and VIII soils to automatically move to the top of the list for UGB expansions and urban reserve designations, regardless of their productivity or contribution to the area’s agricultural industry.  These soils are among those that support Oregon’s #1 agricultural commodity - cattle and calves – and thus should not be automatically moved to the top of the priority list. This bill was also not needed, it was just another way to attempt to undermine land use. 

  • The law already provides two processes whereby a city can bring lesser quality farm soils to the head of the line for future UGB expansions and consider other factors like infrastructure. Other cities have successfully used both processes.
  • Bend just expanded its UGB, and apparently has no plans to do so again for at least another 10 years. There was no reason to rush this bill; in fact, the entire issue of whether to expand the UGB and, if so, where, might change for a variety of reasons over the next 10 years. This bill brought a broad brush to an important issue that should have a local conversation.

Chilling Oregonians' ability to appeal: HB 2538 DEFEATED!

HB 2538 would allow the Land Use Board of Appeals to award “actual damages equal to any substantiated economic loss suffered by the prevailing party as a result of project delays caused by the review proceeding,” against those who lose in an appeal of the Land use Board of Appeals (LUBA). This is on top of attorney fees and expenses that LUBA is already allowed to award against a losing party, if their position was not “well-founded in law” or not based on “factually supported information.”

This bill would chill the ability of average Oregonians to have their day in court when they believe their local government has violated the land use laws. Being able to challenge local government decisions is a bedrock of our United Stated governmental structure of checks and balances. 

Is there a flood of land use appeals that are gumming up legitimate development?  No.  It is estimated that local governments make more than 15,000 land use decisions a year, ranging from the very minor to the very large. Yet fewer than 120 appeals per year have gone to LUBA between 2011-2015.[1]   If there is a systemic problem in a local government’s land use code that is preventing the type of development contemplated by the local plan and map, then the “fix” should be made at the local level.  Making it riskier for community members to participate in their governmental decision-making process – including to appeal a government decisions – is not the answer.

[1] http://www.oregon.gov/LUBA/docs/LUBA%202017-19%20ARB.pdf, pp.5-6.

Urbanizing Farmland: HB 2937 and 2938 AND SB 1024 all DEFEATED!

This session there were many noble attempts to address the state's dire housing needs. The problem with these particular bills was that they further pushed urban needs into our rural lands, which deplete our irreplaceable farms and forests, and forces people further away from work, school, services, and other urban amenities.

HB 2937 and HB 2938

Both bills would have permitted additional housing on farm land as a conditional use.

Farmers already face challenges to engaging in farm practices by the proliferation of housing not related to farming on lands zoned for exclusive farm use. Over 500 such houses were approved by counties on farm land in 2015 alone. More housing in these area’s causes greater conflict with the primary use of the land – agriculture.  1000 Friends, working with the Oregon Farm Bureau, prevented these bills from moving forward.

SB 1024

As introduced, this bill would have required counties to allow an additional dwelling on an already-developed lot in rural residential areas and would have restricted counties’ ability to condition the housing or its use. We believe that this would have added even more urban pressure from tourism onto our rural lands.

Affordable housing technical support (HB 3373) and Safe, secure farm worker housing (SB 1) didn't make the cut.

HB 3373
This bill would have funded one position each at Housing and Community Services Department and Department of Land Conservation and Development to provide technical assistance to local governments to increase the supply of affordable housing – positions that are much needed to help address Oregon’s housing challenges. Without this connectivity, Oregon’s housing policies have no unified guidance from the state to ensure that every community is meeting its responsibility to provide housing for ALL. 

Read our Testimony in support

SB 1

SB 1 authorized a financing tool to provide affordable housing for farm workers, by creating income tax credit for operation costs of housing for agricultural workers. This was a great example of the intersection of two of our primary issues - affordable housing and the economic health of the agricultural industry.  Supported by many organizations that advocate for farm workers, affordable housing, and farm land protection, we are very disappointed that this common sense bill did not pass. It was equity focused and supported rural economic development. These issues won’t be going away. We look forward to working with the legislature in future sessions to ensure safe and secure housing is available for our agricultural workforce.   

Read our testimony in support

2017 Legislative Testimony

Stay up to date on 1000 Friends of Oregon testimony this legislative session.

HB 2144 - 1000 Friends supports the general goals of HB 2144, however we are recommending a critical change to one of the provisions that forgives grandfathered nonconforming uses when the property owner did not acquire the necessary permits at the time of the development.
HB 2095 - This bill would enable Metro to do one or several relatively small UGB expansions for residential development in mid -cycle. 1000 Friends wants to make sure that the parameters for expansion are as narrow as possible. 
‚ÄčHB 2106 - 1000 Friends' opposition to HB 2106 is focused on Sections 14 and 15, which would allow mining as an outright use on farmland in Eastern Oregon counties. 
SB 5527 - The DLCD Budget. We support this budget as a minimum, but also encourage extra funding in support of land use goal 10 - Housing. 
HB 2745 - We support this proposal that authorizes intergovernmental entities, upon approval by the elected officials and voters of the affected jurisdictions, to levy property taxes for transit services that can be designed to meet the needs of each community in the region.   
HB 2937 and HB 2938 - These proposals open up our rural lands to housing development inconsistent with the intended purpose of the Rural Reserves or Exclusive Farm Use lands. 
HB 2893 - We oppose this bill which would allow lands with Class VII and VIII soils to automatically move to the top of the list for UGB expansions and urban reserve designations, regardless of their current productivity or contribution to the area’s agricultural industry.
HB 2012 - We support this bill as for an integrated, multi-agency evaluation of economic development issues and opportunities for a defined region of Eastern Oregon along the Idaho border.
HB 2693 - We fully support youth transit. This bill will provide critical transportation support to high school aged youth.
SB 1 - Helping create stable and safe farm worker housing is a must for our agricultural community. 
HB 5540 - Funding support for Amtrak is a good investment for Oregon.
HB 1024 - We oppose mandatory approval of additional housing in rural zones.
SB 418 - This bill adds unnecessary redundancy to the UGB review process. We don't think it's needed.
HB 3373 - We support this bill to enable the Department of Land Conservation and Development and the Oregon Housing & Community Services office to collaborate in support of Oregon cities and towns housing goals. 
UPDATE: HB 3373 Passed the Housing and Human Services Committee unanimously.  
SB 1048 - We oppose this attempt to further parcel of farm and forest lands which opens up the potential for urbanization and incompatible uses of our precious resource lands.
SB 186 - Removes rural reserves designations in Washington and Clackamas Counties. This is a land grab that flouts public process and the best interests of the region's farming industry.  
HB 2007 - We support this housing bill that will fast track affordable housing permits, allow ADUs and duplexes in more neighborhoods, clarify permitting standards, build transparency in historic district designations, and allow religious institutions to build affordable housing on their property.  
HB 2038 - We support the Farm to School Bill which provides healthy options for children and promotes economic strength for our rural communities.