PORTLAND, Ore. — When Portlanders endorsed an overhaul of the city's form of government in November, they knew they were voting to divide the city into four electoral districts, but they didn't yet know what those districts would look like. That question has now been narrowed down to three possible answers.
The charter reform ballot measure delegated the task of drawing the district boundaries to an Independent District Commission, composed of 13 volunteers appointed by the city council. The commission began meeting in February, with a September 1 deadline to finalize the district map.
Starting with the November 2024 election, Portlanders in each district will elect three councilors to a new 12-member city council, replacing the current system where the entire city votes on each of the four city commissioner positions.
At a meeting Wednesday evening, the commission narrowed the district configuration options down to three proposed maps to put into a draft district plan for public review over the next two months, with a final selection expected to be made by the commission in August.
The three chosen maps were originally titled Sample Map 9, Sample Map 10 and Sample Map 11 during the development process, but the draft district plan released Thursday evening renames them Alder, Cedar and Maple.
Broadly similar with border variations
The charter rules place several restrictions on the shape of the districts. They must all be of roughly equal population, they must use existing geographic boundaries such as roads and rivers as dividing lines, and they must be contiguous and as compact as possible, among other requirements.
The three chosen maps are broadly similar; they each place all of the area west of the Willamette River into one district and all of the area east of Interstate 205 into another, with the area in between mostly split between the remaining two districts, although small portions go to the western or eastern districts.
North Portland and a large chunk of Northeast Portland west of I-205 always end up in one district, with the remainder of Southeast Portland west of I-205 in the other. The area around Portland International Airport always lands in the eastern district rather than the northern central district.
The maps are also all designed to make sure that the city's smaller school districts — Parkrose, David Douglas, Reynolds and Centennial — don't get split up across multiple electoral districts, according to the draft plan.
The differences lie in the borders. Each map includes a small portion of the western district that crosses the Willamette River into Southeast Portland, but the shape of it changes between maps, and the borders between the two central districts and the eastern district all differ between maps.
Draft Map Alder
The Alder map is aimed at preserving existing neighborhood boundaries as much as possible, according to the draft plan, minimizing the number of neighborhoods that would wind up split across multiple electoral districts.
The western district extends across the river into the area south of Holgate Boulevard and west of Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard, incorporating the Sellwood, Westmoreland and Reed neighborhoods.
The border of the eastern district generally runs along 82nd Avenue, but it cuts over to I-205 for the area between Interstate-84 and Powell Boulevard, keeping the Montavilla neighborhood entirely within the southern central district.
The border between the two central districts generally runs along I-84, but cuts north to put the Rose City Park, Roseway and part of the Madison South neighborhoods into the southern district rather than the northern one.
Draft Map Cedar
The Cedar map focuses more on transit lines and corridors to define its boundaries, according to the draft document.
The western district extends across the river everywhere south of I-84, generally using Southeast 12th Avenue or the MAX Orange line corridor as its eastern edge, moving the Reed neighborhood to the southern district and the Central Eastside Industrial Area to the western district.
East of the Hollywood neighborhood, the border between the central districts switches from I-84 to Sandy Boulevard. Madison South ends up almost entirely in the southern district, but Rose City Park and Roseway get bisected. Montavilla also gets split where the border with the eastern district moves over from I-205 to 82nd Avenue.
Draft Map Maple
The Maple map prioritizes keeping the central city together, according to the draft document, including preserving historic Albina. Part of the rationale is that inner eastside neighborhoods have high percentages of renters, so they'll be in the same district as similarly renter-heavy western areas like Goose Hollow.
The western district again includes the Central Eastside Industrial Area, but it adds the entirety of the Kerns and Buckman neighborhoods, while all the area to the south of Powell Boulevard, including Ross Island, moves over the southern central district.
The boundary between the central districts alternates between I-84, Sandy Boulevard and neighborhood borders; all of Hollywood ends up in the northern district and all of Rose City Park ends up in the southern district.