Local News: What’s next for Astoria’s waterfront construction height limits?

Here’s a look at what’s happening with waterfront development planning in Astoria, as the city continues to contemplate a 29 foot height limit for Riverwalk area construction. [Link to story below.]


The Astoria Planning Commission met on Tuesday, and discussed a proposed city code change that would limit building height to 28 feet on the city’s waterfront. They ultimately chose to table the issue until a meeting in April.

While residents have expressed support for the code change, some property owners oppose restrictions on riverfront development. The planning commission heard Tuesday from a land use attorney representing Astoria Warehousing Inc., among others.

Attorney Phil Grillo said the height amendment would negatively impact his client’s property.

The City Council had suggested the 28-foot height limitation in February during a discussion of code changes staff had recommended to clarify some waterfront code.

City councilor Roger Rocka opened the door to changing height guidelines with this comment:

“I’m worried that we are only nibbling around the ankles of the elephant in the room. Or more correctly the elephant on the riverfront. I want to propose that the city of Astoria adopt a universal height limit of two stories for all new construction between Marine Drive and the Columbia River along our entire riverfront, all the way to Tongue Point. I believe in a way this would be our city’s beach bill, or bottle bill. Preserving for the future the city that our residents repeatedly say they want, while leaving the door open for things that can benefit the community. It would be compatible with the look and feel of most of the commercial buildings downtown, which are two stories. It leaves open a wide variety of opportunities for riverfront property owners, but does preclude the kind of development people are arguing against. It preserves the views and the economic value of existing homes. Views and value go together. And it keeps the Riverwalk at pedestrian scale. So I would urge my fellow councilors and city staff, to give this their most serious consideration. And to actually bite the elephant higher than its ankles, grab the bull by the horns or whatever analogy you want to use, and actually deal with the issue that’s in front of us.”

The ensuing discussion resulted in the council proposing the 28-foot height limit. The council, per city protocol, then sent the amendments to the Planning Commission for consideration.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Planning Commissioner Cindy Price supported the 28-foot height limit. Other commissioners were more cautious.

A petition from the Friends of the Astoria Waterfront gathered more than 400 signatures from people asking for better management of development along the waterfront.

But other riverfront property owners share Grillo’s concerns.

On Tuesday, Port of Astoria Commissioner Frank Spence warned of unintended consequences of more restrictive rules. The Port is in the process of upgrading its master plan and doing strategic planning.

Continued discussion on the proposed height change will be taken up at the April 23rd Tuesday meeting. That’s happening at 6 pm at the Judge Guy Boyington Building. 857 Commercial Street, Astoria.

Thanks to our news partner the Daily Astorian for information used in this story.