By Midge Pierce
Brace yourselves. The back half of 2017 will bring ever more dramatic changes to Portland’s cityscape as new state laws are implemented, zoning and codes are aligned, and controversial Infill proposal boundaries are revealed.
Depending on where you live, whether you rent or own and what you perceive as fair and just, these issues will have profound appeal or spell the end of Portland as you know and love it.
Fresh from passage in Salem, an emergency measure to speed housing construction is being implemented by the Bureau of Development Services. The bill reduces timelines on landuse reviews (with potential to deter demolitions) from 120 days to 100 and gives churches greater latitude in developing properties. Statewide allowance of ADUS in single family neighborhoods is already permitted in Portland.
The bill is generally considered a watered-down version of a House Bill (2007) that would have stymied National Historic District designations. Three proposals including iconic Peacock Lane, leafy Laurelhurst and stately Eastmoreland are currently in various stages of acrimony and nomination.
SB 1051 pales alongside Portland’s proposed massive defacto rezoning of residential neighborhoods known as the Residential Infill Project (RIP) that would allow multi-housing plexes and clusters on single family lots.
Despite impassioned opposition, the City seeks parcels for population growth and seems poised to favor Infill Everywhere proponents by greenlighting multi-plex development throughout the SE quadrant. Planners frequently remind neighbors that duplexes are already allowed on corner lots.
The 7-week public review period begins Sept. 18 after planners roll out the Draft Overlay Boundary. Planners have posted aspirational depictions of multi-plexes and clusters at portlandoregon.gov/bps/infill.
A number of additional items that will impact SE were parsed at a recent SE Uplift landuse meeting. As SEUL greets new representatives from nonprofits and advocacy coalitions to its traditionally neighborhood association-driven ranks, landuse meetings provide a sampling of how Portland policies are changing.
• Code Reconciliation and Map Refinement Projects are underway to ensure consistency with the 2035 Comprehensive Plan and continuity in zoning. Notices have been sent to affected occupants of properties with split zoning, a number of which are in SE. For Code Reconciliation: portlandorgeon.gov/bps/72600. For Map Refinement: portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/643572
• Design Overlay Zone Assessment Project (DOZA) goes live this month with essentially no required reviews of designs for newbuilds along the Division, Belmont and Hawthorne Street Design Overlay Zones. That’s because discretionary reviews will only be applied to structures higher than 55 feet, equivalent to five stories, the typical limit on the Eastside. (Heights can be raised for buildings with high percentages of affordable housing.)
The decision to exempt projects under 55 feet from discretionary review is a blow to years’ long work on community compatible design guidelines by the Division Design Initiative. To influence new buildings, DDI founder Heather Flint-Chatto urges citizens to seek out contractors early in the process. Neighborhood associations like Richmond and North Tabor have adopted the DDI guidelines. Without required DOZA reviews, however, contractor compliance is voluntary.
• Better Housing by Design. Targeted at multi-dwelling, high density zones R3,R2,R1 and RH outside the Central City, the recently released concept report proposes ways to create more open space, preserve trees and provide better street connectivity and accessibility to apartment buildings and plexes. Visit: portlandoregon.gov/bps/betterhousing.
Inclusionary Housing directives require affordable housing components in all buildings of 20 or more units. At the meeting, attendees reported developers engaging in work-arounds by constructing side-by- side buildings of only 19 units. Structures of fewer than 20 units exempt builders from providing the inclusionary housing they say does not pencil into profits.
In this era of rapid transformation, much is at stake at landuse meetings. As the City unveils utopian-like plans, vigilance from all sides is required to maintain Portland’s future viability and livability.