Blue is for Better Housing Design

By Midge Pierce

Which mailer did you get–blue, yellow or none at all? Did you respond?

Distinctively colored notices sent by city planners over the past few months have caused considerable confusion. Although the comment period is over for the 130,000 or so recipients of yellow Residential Infill Project (RIP) proposal fliers, recipients of blue Better Housing by Design (BHD) notices have until mid-June to respond.

Both proposed projects address aspects of the City’s growth and densification.

BHD applies to apartments and other high-density residential structures in multi-dwelling zones R3, R2, R1 and RH. Because it targets medium to high-density zones that already allow fourplexes, townhouses and rowhouses, the project is separate from RIP’s proposals to upzone single family residential neighborhoods to allow for triplexes and duplexes with attached units (ADUs).

The blue BHD fliers tout the project as a way to ensure that new development provides more housing options for households of all ages, incomes and sizes. The City says BHD has a focus on development in East Portland, but thousands of property owners in the central and inner Eastside also received notifications.

The Sellwood-Moreland Neighbor-hood Association (SMILE) was among organizations that have already submitted measured feedback, expressing frustration at the overlapping but not coordinated processes between RIP and BHD. “The Commission should consider and advance the Residential Infill and Better Housing by Design Projects together,” it commented, adding that separate consideration of single dwelling, multi-dwelling and commercial zones fail to assess the “cumulative” impact of development in RIP/BHD and Mixed Use Zones .

“The conventional wisdom for some of these differences is that multi-dwelling zones are adjacent to corridors and single-dwelling zones are not, but in our neighborhood both are adjacent to corridors,”  according to SMILE comments.

While generally supportive of the BHD proposed design elements, SMILE calls on the City to “ evaluate, and plan for increased density and ongoing development throughout our entire neighborhood . The NA points to its phenomenal 27% growth with about 1600 residential units completed or in the development pipeline since 2015 and 2.8 miles of mixed use corridor zoned for thousands more housing units.

Conditional support came in comments from Richmond Neighborhood Association providing it includes affordability assurances, tree protections, asphalt, surface parking limitations and height transitions from large apartment complexes to single dwelling zones. Its submission calls for adjustments such as common areas for properties of all sizes, more parking permit programs, incentives for living without cars and breaking up facades of more than 50 feet with design “notches”.

Watchdogs question whether BHD does enough to protect existing structures from demolition and preserve community ambiance, criticism likewise leveled at RIP.

“The City needs to slow down to avoid project confusion and above all, consider long-range and cumulative consequences of projects to existing residents,” said a perplexed Buckman resident who received both notices.

To find out how to comment or testify on BHD by the June 12 deadline go to:

Another housing-related public testimony deadline this month concerns changes to Inclusionary Housing rules to make IH units reasonably equivalent to market rate units. Timelines and proposed changes can be found online at

Blue is for Better Housing Design

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