The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday night to reconsider a new licensing program for emergency shelters.

The 9-0 vote took place shortly after the inauguration of three new council members and means the council will revisit the shelter licensing rules that were approved by the former council on Nov. 15.

The shelter licensing program will be taken up by the new council Jan. 19 following a workshop Jan. 5. The council also voted 5-4 Monday night to reject an extension of a moratorium on new emergency shelters in the Bayside neighborhood.

Councilor Pious Ali voted in favor of the licensing rules last month but said shortly afterward that he would ask for a reconsideration – a move that can only be made by a councilor on the prevailing side of a vote – so the council could have a workshop.

“That is why we are having this discussion and I hope my colleagues will support that so we can have that workshop,” Ali said Monday.

Councilor Tae Chong expressed concern about the reasons for the reconsideration and said fellow councilors should have brought their questions and concerns to him, as chair of the Health & Human Services and Public Safety Committee, or other members of the committee earlier. Still, Chong said he would “follow the will of the council” in voting for the reconsideration.

“But I just want to throw out one word of advice for the new councilors and anyone else,” Chong said. “If you have any concerns about any ordinance or any proposal that’s coming up from a committee, please feel free to reach out to your committee chairs and ask any questions.”

The shelter licensing rules that passed 7-1 last month would require all emergency shelters, including the city-run adult and family shelters, to apply for and receive licenses and would require regular neighborhood meetings between service providers and residents, unless a waiver is granted. The rules also would limit the number of shelter beds in any given neighborhood.

Some councilors said they aren’t opposed to the licensing rules but want more information before making a decision.

“I’m not against licensing,” Councilor Andrew Zarro said. “I don’t think any of us are necessarily against licensing for shelters. I think we just wanted a little bit more time ironing this out.”

Portland adopted a six-month moratorium on new shelters in Bayside in June to give the council time to vote on the licensing program. Mayor Kate Snyder, who sponsored a proposal Monday to extend the moratorium for 180 days, said the rationale for the moratorium in June still applies.

“To me the lifting we contemplated back in June had to do with licensing being in place,” Snyder said. “I realize the licensing we considered on Nov. 15 might change … for me it feels like the responsible path to fast-track the workshop and the decision-making so we can offer an answer to the folks in Bayside in regards to plans for emergency shelter.”

But some councilors said they didn’t see a need for the moratorium, especially with no pending applications for new emergency shelters. Councilors voting against the moratorium were Zarro, April Fournier, Roberto Rodriguez, Anna Trevorrow and Victoria Pelletier.

The vote was among the first for Rodriguez, Trevorrow and Pelletier, who were elected in November and were sworn into office in an inauguration ceremony just before Monday’s meeting.

“I understand shelters need to be equally divided throughout the city and I’m in favor of shelters being equally distributed throughout the city,” Pelletier said. “I don’t think this is a moratorium issue as much as it is about the common thread of all these conversations, which is affordable housing and a lack of it and zoning restrictions. I think it also brings me back to narratives around giving neighborhoods a break and a pause, but the reality of the situation is there’s no pause when you’re unhoused.”


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