Updated Mixed Use Zones in Development

by Colin Staub


The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is in the midst of a project that will alter Portland’s Commercial and Central Employment zoning codes.

The city’s current zoning codes were written twenty years ago, when Portland was focused on more auto-centric and smaller commercial planning. That has changed and will continue to change in the coming decades, says the city.

BPS is finishing the update of the Comprehensive Plan, a state-mandated set of guidelines to help prepare for and manage the predicted 120,000 new households coming to the area over the next 20 years.

Under the updated plan, growth will be focused into Portland’s mixed use centers and corridors, and the Mixed Use Zones Project (MUZ) is a step in planning for that growth.

“There is a reason and connection between mixed-use zones and where we expect growth to happen over the next 25 years,” said Barry Manning, project manager on the MUZ project, at a public workshop on Nov. 5.

The workshop drew a variety of attendees, including neighbors, business owners, and developers, groups which Manning referred to as the “key stakeholders” of the MUZ project.

Part of the project is a consolidation of the nine existing Commercial and Central Employment zones. They would be revised into four new base zones, three for mixed use and one for commercial employment.

The existing Commercial Storefront, Mixed Commercial/Residential, Office Commercial 2, and General Commercial zones, for example, would be combined into the new Commercial Mixed Use 2, the medium-scale mixed use zone.

Each zone allows for different building sizes. Commercial Mixed Use 1 allows for a maximum building height of 35 feet. CM2 extends this to 55 feet, while CM3 allows for a maximum 75 feet.

The MUZ project is examining new development standards which could be implemented along with the new zones.

Some of the proposed development standards include relating the height of a building to the street scale and context, expanding requirements for neighborhood notification of new development, and applying height transitions and other forms of buffering for a more gradual transition into surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Attendees of the Nov. 5 meeting expressed interest in a range of potential development standards, such as mitigating the impact of buildings on sunlight by allowing higher heights on north-south streets than east-west streets, incentives for historic preservation, and giving height bonuses for buildings that provide publicly- accessible outdoor space.

The strongest shared sentiment at the meeting was the importance of transitions between mixed-use and residential zones.

The MUZ Project will not directly address parking issues, zoning in the central city, the design review system, or residential zones. Some of these issues, such as parking, are currently the subjects of other ongoing city projects.

BPS has been researching for the MUZ project since March. The project is currently in the concept development stage, and is moving into developing the actual code. Once written, the code will be proposed, and the city will hold public hearings to discuss the new code, likely in mid to late 2015.

Members of the public are encouraged to send comments to mixedusezones@portlandoregon.gov

Read a preliminary draft of the zoning concept and other documents at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/mixeduse

Updated Mixed Use Zones in Development

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