How We Grow

By Nancy Tannler

With the projected growth of 250,000 Portland residents, the question of how we will grow is a major topic of conversation for neighbors, city planners, politicians, opportunists and developers.

Desperate to meet the demand of this growing population, the Comprehensive Plan, approved at the June 15 City Council session, is adding additional recommendations that will be negotiated over the next year to plan for this growth.

Campus Institutional

One of the code overhauls is the Campus Institutional Zoning Update Project (CIZUP). Current zoning is called (IR) Institutional Residential. Any land use reviews  on or around campuses were mitigated through the Conditional Use Master Plan and the Impact Mitigation Plan. The zoning codes are complicated and they’ve sometimes generated conflicts between institutions and neighborhoods.

There are fifteen hospital and college campuses under consideration to be reassigned “Campus Institutional” in the Comp Plan creating two new base zones in these areas, CI1 and CI2.

CI1 zones are found in residential areas and are characterized by lower intensity college campuses. CI2 would be urban land uses associated with hospitals and select college campuses.

The reason for this redesignation is to increase the development potential for hospital and college campuses and to provide enough land area to meet the 20 year job growth forecasts. Many of these jobs are predicted in the health care and education sectors.

High schools are considered an Institutional Campus (IC) designation. This is intended to be an interim measure until such time as a high school base zone or alternative regulatory approach is developed.

The broad concerns expressed about the CIZP plan are that the context of the Conditional Use Masterplan will be replaced  with zoning that doesn’t address local conditions; there will be no clear definition of land use for off campus structures located within a residential neighborhood; no distinction between medical and educational campuses and no clear definition of campus boundaries or boundary expansion.

Residential Infill Project

The City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and sustainability is revisiting allowances for development in single-dwelling neighborhoods to find a better way to meet the changing needs of current and future generations.

Nearly 45 percent of the city’s land area is zoned R5 – a single-dwelling zone. The ‘R’ stands for residential and the ‘5’ is one residential lot allowed for every 5,000 square feet of site, approximately 50 x 100.

New housing built in neighborhoods now are not always to scale with adjacent older  homes. New homes today are over 1,000 feet larger than those built forty years ago, often towering over their neighbors home, blocking views and making shade. They have no yard space, consume more energy and materials.

Even though zoning allows for these larger dimensions on lots, there is public concern about neighborhood compatibility.

Draft proposals for the infill project includes:  limiting house size in proportion to lot size; thirty foot height limit; increase front setback to at least fifteen feet and allow eaves and bay windows to project inside yards.

Middle Housing

Another tentative set of amendments, the P45 Middle housing, is being discussed as a more aggressive policy to increase density that could be incorporated into the zoning code.

While reducing the scale of home developers building in single-family zones, they would be allowed to construct more duplexes, triplexes, internal conversions. ADU’s and other forms of so-called “middle housing” on those lots.

OPB‘s Think Out Loud interview with Rod Merrick, an architect and the co-chairman of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association’s land-use committee and Mary Kyle McCurdy, a policy director at 1000 Friends of Oregon, hold different outlooks on proposed so-called middle housing.

Merrick’s main concern is that this type of saturation density would inflame the already over-heated housing market by increasing land values. New infill buildings would destroy the character and aesthetics of neighbors and create even more displacement of people and ultimately increase the cost of housing, since new buildings are more expensive.

His solution is to continue with the development along mixed-use transit corridors like Belmont, Division, Hawthorne, Stark and Washington in Montavilla.

According to Metro statistics, there is capability of enormous growth in these areas. Merrick cites the residents of NE Portland as a case in point. The increased density zoning and gentrification of this area has displaced a whole groups of people.

Kyle-McCurdy believes this type of middle housing will lower costs and allow more economically and racially diverse residents to live in these neighborhoods. It would apply to all R2.5, R5, and R7 zones and would allow duplexes, tri-plexes, and four-plexes everywhere.

In an article in The Oregonian Commissioner Steve Novick said, “I’ve been a vocal proponent of missing middle’ housing, and I’m also pleased to hear that the committee is looking at ways to limit the size of new single-family homes,”

“I think that one of the things that bothers people in our neighborhoods the most is when developers knock down a moderate-sized home and replace it with a towering McMansion. That bothers me, too.”

Merrick says, “The argument in favor is that we need to welcome 250,000 new residents to Portland and that through the process of trickle down economics, additional housing units will result in more affordable housing. There have been no studies to support this approach.”

How We Grow

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