By Midge Pierce

Pro-growthers score a big one

RIP, the Residential Infill Project’s elimination of Portland’s single family neighborhoods, moved closer to fruition with the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) vote to allow four-plexes in more than ninety per cent of residential neighborhoods – virtually all of SE. The amendments will likely reach City Council this fall.

In an expansion of RIP that surprised even seasoned staffers, the narrowly-approved PSC proposal has a significantly larger impact than one conceived four years ago.

PSC reasoned that allowing duplexes, triplexes and those four-plexes in every neighborhood enables more Portland residents to have more housing – untested theories with contradictory data about how many units will be built and whether they will be affordable.

The state legislature has a parallel proposal in HB 10 that would eliminate single family neighborhoods in population centers statewide. (See page 4.)

RIP Amendments can be found at: bit.ly/2TsmnxN

Design Matters

As Portland heads spin with acronyms, city staffers walk a tightrope between delivering on directives and pleasing the public.

Acknowledging that building mass and height have huge impact, Design Overlay Zone Amendment (DOZA) planners seek input on thresholds that would trigger high level reviews by Design Commissioners vs. standard staff reviews.

Generally, the bigger the building, the tighter the scrutiny. In the draft, intensive Type III reviews are triggered by 80,000 sq foot, 65 foot high proposals – typically the equivalent of a six-story building.

That threshold should be lowered, according to Heather Flint Chatto of the newly rebranded PDX Design Initiative (formerly Division Design).

Because the newbuilds along SE’s narrow corridors top out at four or five stories, SE’s Main Streets would not qualify for the design scrutiny Flint Chatto says they deserve.

To take pressure off streetcar-era Main Streets, Chatto says bulky development should focus on wider commercial corridors like Burnside, Sandy or 82nd.

Her ideas will be presented at an April 11 rebranding event at the Architectural Heritage Center. Register at: bit.ly/2FxCUwU.

Comments on the DOZA discussion draft are due mid-April and will be accepted throughout the month. See  bit.ly/2WlDT8U

URMS Still at Risk

While timelines for placarding earthquake hazards of unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings are delayed until November 2020, the fate of some older structures may be sealed.

Since the URM debacle, frequent blogger M Hansen started monitoring what she terms a sell-off of vintage buildings. She cites a listing for SE’s iconic Imago Theater. The theater is in an “Opportunity Zone” with new construction incentives that put older buildings at risk of demolition, she says.

Hansen points to twenty-nine units at 1634 Hawthorne and the SEUI building at SE Foster and Holgate. She derides the Portland Housing Bureau for tripling spending on new construction subsidies while failing to keep people housed in existing affordable units.

“Where is the political will to mitigate displacement instead of incentivizing it,” she asks.

History Plays Catch-up

In a time of unprecedented growth, Restore Oregon says the state’s protection of historic buildings and districts is considered the worst in the nation.

Proposed Historic Resource Code (HRCP) amendments would give Portlanders more control over what should be protected from demolition and include procedures for updating the city’s thirty-five year-old Historic Resource Inventory (HRI).

On the state level, Senate Bill 929 proposes a twenty-five per cent rebate on historic building rehabilitation costs, potentially resulting in rehab of four times more buildings, creating nearly 1400 jobs annually, according to Restore.

A related bill, SB 927, would replace owner consent laws for historic designations with community consent.