ORLA's government affairs staff, along with our Portland Lodging Alliance and Portland Kitchen Cabinet members have been actively engaging in meetings and conversations with business partners and policymakers in the City of Portland the last few months. The following is a brief recap of activities, partner updates, and upcoming meetings.
Chamber Agenda: Our partners at the Portland Metro Chamber have just released their 2024 Policy Agenda. This is a fluid document that will most likely change over time. ORLA along with other coalition partners to the regional chamber will rally around objectives they view as critical priorities. The policy agenda priorities focus on:
The Chamber also presented the 2024 State of the Economy showcasing how the Portland region remains at a crossroads. According to the report three of the four metro counties, excluding Multnomah County, have exceeded their 2019 job totals. And the GDP recovery offers even better news and is aided, in part, by the ongoing growth of the region’s technology sector. This year’s report still finds the region in unfamiliar territory. Once a migration magnet, the Portland area appears to have hit an affordability wall. Regional leaders must maintain a competitive mindset and engineer a tax, service, and livability package that is more appealing than it has been in recent years. The report offers some modest improvements over last year’s, but on critical measures like population growth and housing production, the region still has a long way to go. Good news is that elected officials and business leaders enter 2024 with an agreed-upon list of remedies courtesy of the Governor’s task force. If productive action is taken on those then the community can look forward to a better report next year.
Business Credit Program: Portland City Council adopted the Downtown Business Incentive (DBI) credit program. The program is a $25 million temporary nonrefundable tax credit designed to incentivize commercial lease signings and lease renewals that will contribute significantly to the recovery and revitalization of Portland’s central city. This program will retain and support future investments from a variety of central city tenants that drive job creation, pay taxes, and generate economic activity throughout the City’s core. Learn more and apply.
Food Carts: Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) recently launched a pilot program to bring food carts downtown to help with revitalization. The ordinance waives right-of-way city code that prohibits food trucks from operating within the district, and builds off of the PBOT’s Healthy Business Program, which allows downtown property owners to request food truck services for their employees and tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. This pilot program, which was adopted by Portland City Council last month, will be monitored closely as to how it affects downtown brick and mortar restaurants. While revitalization of the city is important many of our downtown restaurants are still not seeing business as usual pre-pandemic and are struggling to stay open. We would hope the city would prioritize existing food services and businesses in the downtown area over allowing others to come in.
Outdoor Dining: ORLA staff recently met with Portland City Commissioner Gonzalez’s office and Portland Fire to discuss changing the tent permit for restaurants so they no longer would have to remove the tents for 180-day period or find a way to create a tent permit for year-round use in Portland. The current permit requires restaurants to remove tent/membrane structures during the winter months for safety reasons. With outdoor dining here to stay in the Portland region we are looking for solutions to allow restaurants to keep these structures up year-round. There is also a permit through Development Servies Department for permanent structures currently and we are discussing ways to possibly fund those permit fees through grants or other resources for businesses.
Task Force Updates: If you missed in December, the Governor’s Portland Central City Task Force has shared recommendations for solutions to Portland’s most pressing challenges and a vision for its economic future. Notable items include declaring a moratorium on new taxes and offer targeted tax relief. Portland is the second highest taxed city in the nation; we trail New York City by only a fraction. Elected officials should agree to a three-year pause, through 2026, on new taxes and fees. A Tax Advisory Group should be established to study and evaluate improvements to our taxing structure, and state and local governments should identify a few targeted incentives, including an expansion of the Business License Tax (BLT) downtown tax credit. In addition, declaring a tri-government fentanyl emergency and further elevate law enforcement response in the central city.
Portland Leadership Team Meetings: Next Portland Kitchen Cabinet and Portland Lodging Alliance meeting will be another joint meeting held on February 29th at the Royal Sonesta. Our guest will be Nathan Vasquez who is the candidate running against Mike Schmidt for Multnomah County District Attorney. Learn more about Nathan Vasquez. Portland Downtown Clean & Safe will also be joining to share updates on the hotel security district was implemented this past fall.
As the year begins to wind down, we want to share some updates on what’s been happening in the Portland Metro area.
Update on BHRC
As of Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, the Behavioral Health Resource Center (BHRC) launched a new process to maintain client access, while reducing a periodic queue that developed around the building as people waited for specific time slots. Peer staff from the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon (MHAAO), the agency that operates the Day Center, will utilize peer support staff to engage community members at social service agencies in the Old Town area, offering peer-delivered services and giving tickets for time-specific entry to the BHRC. This new process should result in participants no longer waiting for services outside of the BHRC. In addition, there is a new mobile van site to help make referrals and connections in the neighborhood. Outreach teams have engaged more than 200+ groups of people around the BHRC location, with nearly half interested in connecting to BHRC services. Reports have shown of 77 people who’ve moved on from the shelter, 48 have been positive exits directly into bridge housing or other shelter locations.
City Launches New Downtown Business Incentive Credit Program
The City of Portland is offering a special incentive to bring businesses back to the heart of the city. By leasing downtown office and retail spaces, companies renewing or signing new leases can receive a credit of up to $250,000 over four years to reduce their business license taxes. A qualifying business must apply for the credit. The due date for submitting the application for tax year 2023 will be January 31, 2024. Don't miss out on this opportunity to revitalize the Central City and increase foot traffic by committing to have your employees in the office at least 50% of the time.
Local Restaurants Fight Health Inspection Fee Increase (and Win)
In late October, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners heard a proposal to increase health inspection fees by over 20% in three years and voted it down. The increase as to cover the costs of administering county inspections and licensing for food, pool, and tourist facilities. Thanks to ORLA members and small business owners providing impactful testimony and written letters of opposition, the proposal didn’t pass. It was a great effort by the business community to show up and share the impact of increased fees in a trying time.
Enforcement Of Camping Ban Halted
After the ADA Lawsuit, the City of Portland is facing another lawsuit. Homeless Portlanders filed a class action lawsuit against the city, arguing that Portland's camping ordinance violates state law and the Oregon Constitution. In early November, a judge placed a temporary hold against the enforcement of Portland's daytime ban on homeless camps that was slated to start next week.
Take Downtown Clean & Safe Business Survey
Today it is even more important to collect information to better understand the economic impact 2023 has had on businesses and others throughout the city’s downtown core. Help identify the ways Downtown Clean & Safe can continue to support and improve the downtown business environment by completing their business survey by December 31, 2023. Honest answers are valued and appreciated, and individual responses are confidential. Take Survey.
Invitation to Engage with City Staff
The City of Portland continues to host Downtown Portland Problem Solver Meetings every two weeks with city staff over Microsoft Teams. The focus of these meetings is to hear from business owners and managers and help connect them to resources. If you’d like to attend, please inquire to get an invitation with Makenzie Marineau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good News to Share
Portland Kitchen Cabinet and Portland Lodging Alliance meetings will resume in the new year. If you’d like to get involved in your local leadership teams, email me at MMarineau@Oregonrla.org.
ORLA and Portland area members met on September 14 for a follow up meeting to the Hotel and Restaurant Safety Summit held downtown earlier this summer in August. Multnomah County Commissioners, the Multnomah District Attorney, Multnomah County Sheriff’s office, Portland City Mayor’s office and Portland Police Bureau were in attendance to answer questions.
It was presented that Downtown Portland Clean & Safe and the Portland Metro Chamber have gathered support and funds to increase safety through a Downtown Hotel Security District. The plan was pulled together in response to significant crime and safety concerns and a need for action. The funding will provide Downtown Clean & Safe the ability to add two additional patrol shifts and eight additional public safety coordinators to the already existing public safety staff who are responding in the area. The additional coordinators will patrol two defined hospitality zones, seven days a week. The Hotel Security District covers the concentration of the central city’s hotels and tourism activities. Safety personnel will focus on the hotels in the area, responding to calls for service among usual patrol duties.
As we are aware, the long-term recovery of Portland depends on bringing people back downtown and the hospitality industry plays a critical role. Tourism and hotels support a wide nexus of other businesses and are an important economic driver in the area. The plan was created as a step to ensure that residents, employees and Portland visitors feel safe, while being a support system for economic recovery in downtown.
Who’s funding this? The Hotel Security District is a public-private partnership, with funding from:
These resources will fund operations for one year of enhanced security services.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Multnomah County Board Chair Jessicia Vega Pederson who were in attendance both expressed the necessity of this partnership and plan. Jean-Marc Jalbert (Royal Sonesta) shared concerns of the effectiveness of the hotel safety district but acknowledged the need and shared gratitude for the progress being made. Lisa Schroeder (Mother's Bistro) asked if there was a way to bring back a sobering center for the Portland Police Bureau to use again. Since 2020 this facility hasn’t been a resource the PPB can use. Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran seconded Schroeder’s comment that the Police do need a sobering center again and encouraged continued advocacy for this facility. Vega Pederson mentioned that the county jails lost 218 beds due to lack of funding from the state this last year, meanwhile herself and the other members of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners recently increased the budget for jails by $4M with hopes to help offset the loss.
There will be a follow up to this meeting in the months to come to take a pulse on how the new hotel security district is going. To mark progress and impact, Downtown Clean & Safe will collect feedback and testimony from downtown hotels and businesses in the district.
Other Portland News...
Portland City Council Passes Tax Incentive to Bring Businesses Back Downtown
Upcoming Portland Lodging Alliance Meeting
Upcoming Portland Kitchen Cabinet Meeting
Stay tuned on the work and progress that is being made within the city by following this blog. If you have any questions, or wish to get involved in ORLA's leadership teams in Portland, please reach out to me at MMarineau@OregonRLA.org. | Makenzie Marineau
On July 27, Portland Downtown Clean & Safe in partnership with ORLA hosted a Hotel & Restaurant Safety Summit at The Nines hotel. Nearly 50 hospitality industry members were in attendance and armed with concerns and questions. Guest panelists represented the Portland Police Bureau, Portland mayor’s office, District Attorney’s office and Multnomah County. Guests acknowledged the importance of continuing these types of meetings to bring us together and provide a bigger voice, suggesting we need to express it more directly and frequently.
During the meeting Andrew Fitzpatrick, the Director of Economic Development in the mayor’s office, made a commitment to being a contact from the city to share updates and respond to concerns from our industry. As a follow up to the discussion last week, Fitzpatrick shared with ORLA an update on the current work being done by the city to help move solutions forward:
We will continue to communicate and share the work and progress that is being made within the city as we all work together to further improve the safety and wellbeing, and overall rejuvenation of the City of Portland and Multnomah County.
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) represents the interests of restaurants and lodging operations across the state of Oregon. However, in the Portland metro area where the largest concentration of ORLA members exist, there are a number of unique challenges–and opportunities–for our association to engage on and help make a difference.
This new Portland Advocacy blog is an effort to highlight the good news and work being done in Portland by ORLA and our leadership teams as well as inspire members to get more engaged. ORLA serves as a facilitator in creating opportunities for our members to meet with policymakers, opinion leaders, community leaders and partner organizations on issues of importance and to collaborate on city-wide initiatives impacting our industry. Members wishing to get involved in the Portland Kitchen Cabinet or Portland Lodging Alliance can reach out to me, Makenzie Marineau, for more information.
For additional updates on the Oregon Hospitality Foundation and Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, follow the Workforce Blog and the ORLA Update Blog.
Feel free to reach out to me at any time with your questions or concerns. Thank you.
– Makenzie Marineau, Government Affairs and Regional Leadership Teams Coordinator
Portland Hospitality Industry at the Table...
Engaging Conversations About Safety & Security
Safety in the City of Portland has been a hot topic of conversation for some time now. As the collective leans into finding solutions to ongoing concerns around public safety our Portland Lodging Alliance and Portland Kitchen Cabinet members have been meeting and discussing with elected officials and city and county staff how the hospitality industry can step in and work together to help.
The Portland Lodging Alliance held a meeting June 20, 2023, with the City of Portland’s Division of Community Safety and the Mayor’s office. Discussion focused on the continued issues of public safety being experienced by small business employers, their teammates, and guests. Learn more about Portland’s Community Safety Division and Mayor Ted Wheeler’s efforts to prioritize Community Safety. Stephanie Howard, Director of Community Safety with the Mayor’s Office shared that the city has been recruiting police at a fantastic rate and has been advocating for additional resources for the state ran police academy. At least half of the 100 Portland Police new hires are still awaiting training because the academy is at capacity. On average police recruits wait over six months to attend Oregon’s 16-week basic training courses. In addition, the current Central Precinct, which covers downtown and inner southeast, is stretched thin, there have been conversations about looking at ways to expand from three to four precincts in Portland.
With the continued concerns around safety ORLA has partnered with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe and the City of Portland to host Portland area hotels and restaurants to a “Hotel & Restaurant Safety Summit” Thursday, July 27 from 10am to noon at The Nines Hotel, 525 SW Morrison Street, Portland, OR, 97204.
The goal is to provide the hospitality industry with an overview of current and future public safety plans and strategies from the Portland Police Bureau, the City of Portland, and various private security partners and organizations. Safety for staff, patrons and locations is a paramount concern and this event hopes to provide networking connections, security-related resources and information and work to enhance and strengthen many existing private-public safety and livability partnerships.
This is an RSVP only event reserved for management and operators. When registering, please ensure you submit a question as there will be a robust Q&A after the presentations. RSVP online.
ADA Lawsuit Update
We are holding a joint PLA/PKC informational zoom meeting Friday, July 21 from 8:30am-9:30am with guest John DiLorenzo who will be sharing about the ADA lawsuit brought against the City of Portland and settled, and what investments are now needed to hold the City to its commitments. This was a lawsuit that argued that the city's failure to keep public sidewalks clear of homeless encampments violates the rights of people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. John will give an update on what is happening now and how they intend to report and monitor the City’s progress, and time will be given to member questions. If you’d like to join please email Makenzie Marineau for a calendar invite and zoom link.
Prioritizing Homeless Services
Portland Lodging Alliance and Portland Kitchen Cabinet members have also met with Portland City Commissioners Gonzalez, Rubio and Mapps at conversational meetings held earlier this year, along with Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and the Portland Bureau of Public Transportation. At the beginning of June, both local leadership teams, along with ORLA signed in support a letter spearheaded by the Portland Metro Chamber directed at all three Portland Metro counties—Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington—demanding the counties fix their contracting practices to more urgently deploy Supportive Homeless Services program dollars and build our workforce of service providers and trained outreach workers. Over 65 business organization partners, Alliance members, and homeless service providers signed onto the letter.
If you are interested in getting engaged with the Portland Lodging Alliance and/or the Portland Kitchen Cabinet, please contact Makenzie Marineau. Join and have your story and perspective heard by Portland’s elected officials and community leaders.
Other Portland notes of interest:
Makenzie Marineau is the Government Affairs and Regional Leadership Teams Coordinator for the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association. This Portland-focused blog intends to highlight the good news and work being done in Portland by ORLA and our leadership teams.