Restore Oregon had a fairly narrow policy agenda for the short session, focused on housing production priorities and funding for the arts/culture/heritage sector. Many of you participated in the public hearing and testimony process, for which we are truly appreciative. Thank you for taking time and lending your voices.Thank you, also, to our Policy and Land Use Committee members, and the committee chair, Carrie Richter, who contributed significantly to our work.  Carrie helped author this recap as it relates to SB 1537:

SB 1537 (housing): On March 4, the Oregon legislature passed SB 1537 directed at increasing the housing supply.  The bill allows for adjustments of development and design standards for housing including properties subject to historic preservation protections. Although we were unable to convince the legislature to exclude all designated historic resources from the scope of the act, an adjustment is available only where a development proposes “net new housing units in new construction projects.” Working closely with Senator Patterson during the Committee hearings, we were able to secure confirmation from the bill sponsors that the term “net new housing units” applies only to new ground-up construction and not to housing accomplished through the expansion or alteration of existing structures. The result is that existing landmarks and contributing structures within historic districts will continue to be protected. This is not only a significant improvement over where things stood with the previous legislative proposal - HB 3414 from the 2023 session – it affirms Restore Oregon has partners in the legislature and that the commitment to preserving Oregon’s cultural and historic legacy remains strong.

There were other sections of the bill and its associated funding package (SB 1530) that we think will be beneficial overall and help to stimulate more housing production, like the revolving loan fund; but our work kept a narrow focus on adjustment and design standards.  

HB 4124/SB 1582 (funding for arts/culture/heritage): The mirror bills proposed approximately $27 million in funding to the arts/culture/heritage sector. With your strong support, Restore Oregon created a large volume of positive testimony and support during the crucial committee hearing process which helped get the bills to the Joint Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the budget process. In the end, there was success for part of the request, and there was a better outcome than for the effort in 2023.

During the session, the Legislature approved $11.8 million in funding for arts, culture and heritage. As a member of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition of Oregon (CACO), Restore Oregon worked in concert with CACO to help secure our top priority of $5.9 million for capital projects across the state. Here’s their recap of the session.   

What completely failed to secure funding was a $13.5 million request for grants to support over 1,600 smaller cultural organizations (like ours, and many others in the heritage sector), many of which are still struggling financially post-pandemic. Unfortunately, much as we tried, we didn’t have sufficient lobby power to get to “yes.” 

But we’d like to give a shout out to some truly awesome historic preservation projects that received the capital project funding, starting with one of Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places: the Chateau at the Oregon Caves National Monument, outside of Cave Junction in Southern Oregon. The Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau, who we work closely with, will receive just under $500,000 to restore 97 doors and the Chateau’s original historic hardware. 

In Salem, the Eco-Earth Globe, an outdoor work of art in Riverfront Park, will also receive restoration funding. And in Medford, the Southern Oregon Historical Society secured funding for their History Center which is adaptively reusing a former department store!

Congrats to all the capital projects funded, as well as to the major arts venues that will receive this wise economic investment and who can now assist our sector’s much needed recovery.

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