Mapps Asks Rubio to Delay Consolidation of Permitting. Rubio Says No.

Mapps says his permitting employees are concerned about the consolidation process.

Carmen Rubio & Mingus Mapps (Blake Benard / Motoya Nakamura)

Last August, the Portland City Council unanimously voted to consolidate all of the city’s permitting functions and employees into a single office in an attempt to streamline the city’s permitting system, which has long been viewed as cumbersome for developers to navigate.

The council vote came after a monthslong exchange of competing ideas between City Commissioners Mingus Mapps and Carmen Rubio for how to fix the city’s permitting functions. Mapps opposed consolidation, arguing that all the city needed was to clean up competing city codes. Rubio argued consolidation was the only fix that would actually make a difference.

Mapps’ bureau portfolio includes the city’s infrastructure bureaus, which all have independent permitting staff within them. Mapps’ objections were fueled in part by the opposition of three of his bureaus, all of which regularly deal with developments that require permits: the bureaus of Water, Transportation and Environmental Services. (Portland Parks & Recreation also opposed consolidation, as of last summer.)

Rubio’s plan won out, backed by the full-throated support of the business and development community, and Mapps eventually signed on last fall. All permitting functions would move under one entity, the Bureau of Development Services, by July 1, 2024.

But late last week, Mapps asked Rubio to delay consolidation for several months. Mapps says he’s concerned the consolidation is happening before there’s a clear plan how the new entity will work.

“One of my concerns is that we ought to figure out how this is going to work and then fill it with bodies; instead, we seem to be building it and then figuring it out,” Mapps says. “My permitting people are saying to me: ‘Boss, I’m supposed to move over to this new shop, and it’s not clear who my boss is going to be and how we’re going to make decisions.’”

Mapps says he’s also worried about the increased costs of consolidation to his bureaus, a price tag that’s unknown right now: “I certainly have concerns about the overhead model and how much it will cost me.”

Meanwhile, Rubio denied Mapps’ request.

“Today, Commissioner Rubio informed Commissioner Mapps that she was staying the course,” says Rubio chief of staff Jillian Schoene. “This is exactly the kind of change Portlanders were looking for when they voted to change our form of government.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler, in his proposed budget, directed permitting bureaus to figure out how to fund overhead of the future permitting entity by Sept. 1.

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