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Development Services

From Concept to Construction

Phone: 503-823-7300


1900 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97201

More Contact Info

Early Assistance

The Land Use Services Division of BDS offers several types of early assistance that are available prior to submittal of a land use review or building permit application. These services are intended to provide useful feedback for projects ranging from relatively simple to very large and complex. Depending on the complexity of your project, one or more of these options may be useful as you move forward. Fees for these services can be found on the Land Use Services Fee Schedule.  

Zoning Information Line and Web Mailbox
The Zoning Information Line (503-823-7526) and the BDS Web Mailbox are good resources for general zoning and property information. When you call the Zoning Information Line, please have the property address or tax account number ready. If you email the Web Mailbox, please be as specific as you can about the zoning information you need. It’s also important to provide an address or tax account number if you are asking about a specific property. For Building Code questions, call 503-823-1456.

Meet with a City Planner in the DSC
It’s a good idea to visit the Development Services Center (DSC) and talk with a city planner in the early planning phase of a project. Meeting face-to-face is often the best way to discuss preliminary plans or property characteristics. Services are free of charge, but are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Zoning and land use review Information is available regarding all types of projects, including a full range of residential, commercial, and industrial development.  Information is also available for land division proposals and proposals on sites within overlay zones (such as environmental, design, historic) or plan districts.  City planners can also provide zoning information about development proposals in your neighborhood. 

Time-Certain Appointment
Customers may prefer to make an appointment to speak with a city planner in the DSC. A fee of $75 is charged for a 30-minute Time Certain Appointment. A copy of the appointment notes will be provided at the conclusion of the appointment and attached to our Permitting Database for future reference.

Zoning Confirmation Letter
Zoning Confirmation Letters provide written verification about allowed uses, development standards and other regulations applicable to a specific site. Zoning Confirmation Letters are often requested by financial institutions but can be requested by anyone at anytime. Two types of Zoning Confirmation Letters are available:

  • Tier 2 letters provide basic information about the location’s current zoning and land use history. Tier 2 letters are most frequently used to verify zoning of a property for lenders in property transfer processes.
  • Tier 3 letters provide detailed information including review and analysis of the past and current uses and permit history of the site.  Tier 3 letters are also used to answer site-specific questions about a particular development proposal for a site, to request a formal Use Determination for a type of business that may not be exactly described in the Zoning Code’s “Description of the Use Categories (33.920), or to request documentation of a legal nonconforming use on a site.

Pre-Permit Zoning Plan Check
Pre-Permit Zoning Plan Checks (also referred to as an Early Zoning Standards Review) provide an early Zoning review of projects or sites prior to submittal of a building permit application. A city planner will review project plans and provide written feedback identifying any development standards that may not be met and land use reviews that may be required for the plan sets, as submitted. This is a good option for large or complex projects that do not require land use review. A complete plan set is requested for a Pre-Permit Zoning Plan Check. Information about Infrastructure Bureau (Water, The Office of Transportation, Fire Bureau, and the Bureau of Environmental Services) requirements is not provided with this option.

Early Assistance Requests
Early Assistance Requests are a flexible early assistance option to help applicants prepare a complete proposal, inform them of the procedures and requirements of the city code, and identify policies or regulations that create opportunities or problems for the proposal. Several options are available – applicants can request to receive written feedback from a city planner or from both a city planner and Infrastructure Bureau reviewers. Applicants can also request to meet with reviewers face-to-face or to receive written feedback only. Follow the link above for more information about these options. Early Assistance Requests are useful for large or complex projects, and for sites that have constraints or opportunities that require some research. Early Assistance requests are also required by the Infrastructure Bureaus for proposals that intend to request an appeal of public works requirements.  Finally, Early Assistance requests are used for Infrastructure Bureaus to coordinate on right-of-way vacation requests. Please note that life safety plans examiners (building code reviewers) do not attend Early Assistance Meetings, and estimates for System Development Charges (SDCs) are not provided.

Design Advice Requests
Design advice may be requested from the Design Commission or Historic Landmarks Commission prior to submittal of a Type III Design or Historic Review. A Design Advice Request is generally optional, but is required if additional building height is requested in the North Interstate Plan District height opportunity area. This option is recommended for large, complex, or unique projects that are subject to Type III Design or Historic Review. A Design Advice Request does not take the place of a Pre-application Conference, which is required for all Type III and Type IV land use reviews.

Pre-Application Conferences
A Pre-application Conference provides the applicant with information on submittal requirements, procedures, and regulations that apply to a project. Pre-application conferences occur prior to submittal of a land use review, and are required for all Type III and IV land use reviews. The conference is attended by a BDS city planner as well as reviewers from other City Bureaus such as Transportation, Water, and Environmental Services. Other Bureaus, such as the Fire Bureau, may also provide information. BDS provides detailed written summary notes from all the responding bureaus following the conference. Please note that life safety plans examiners (building code reviewers) do not attend Pre-Application Conferences, and estimates for System Development Charges (SDCs) are not provided.