By Midge Pierce
Preliminary results of a city infill survey indicate the majority of the 7000 respondents disapprove of how Portland is adding density. Lot splits, skinny houses, scale and destruction of the character of existing neighborhoods ranked as top concerns.
The survey was intended to help drive decision-making at what city advisors called the 20,000 foot level. For those living at ground zero, the denunciation of what one resident calls “dunce-ification” was no surprise.
Approximately a quarter of the responses came from SE and the vast majority of those were from Eastmoreland.
At an Infill Development Open House last month, BDS facilitators said the results were not representative of the City. Survey takers were largely white, long-time residents who do not fit the demographics of new Portland.
As a result of the skew, BDS said more outreach is needed in poorer neighborhoods farther from the core. Areas eager for more jobs and services may welcome greater density. A possible solution is to tailor infill standards to specific neighborhoods.
Of particular anguish to some is the splitting of lots with an underlying plat. This results in having a single affordable home replaced by two unaffordable homes. Corner lots in R5 zones are particularly vulnerable to lot divisions and demolitions.
One thing is clear. Change or slowdown is not coming soon as the stakeholder advisory committee consisting of both developers and citizens slogs through critiques of split lots and housing options.
The group hopes to get recommendations by spring of 2017 to City Council. The city may look quite different by then.
“We have to get it right,” said Project Manager Morgan Tracy. “Otherwise, it will fail like the mayor’s proposal for a demolition fee.”
Issues under review include scale, narrow lot development and options for affordability that may allow up to three ancillary dwelling units on a property.
Scale adjustment may result in establishing maximum height, setbacks and lot coverage area. Alternative housing proposals may include allowing an inside ADU and an outside, detached unit.
Home conversions might feature multiple units inside an existing house. Affordable cottages that cluster around a common area are also under consideration along with stacked flats that arrange units on top of each other rather than side by side.
As houses continue to tumble, demolition watchdog The Portland Chronicle reports it counted 323 residential demolition permits issued in 2015. That’s on top of roughly 300 permits last year. These figures do not reflect homes torn apart for major alterations.
Stymied by the lengthy process to slow the demolition epidemic, the grassroots group, United Neighbors for Reform, is pushing for proper management of hazardous materials during residential demolitions.
Calls for action include verification of abatement requirements with no cutoff of verification based on year of construction.