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From BPS Director Susan Anderson: Introducing the BPS 2014-16 Strategic Plan

BPS E-News, March 2014

BPS strategic Plan coverI'm pleased to share the new 2014-16 BPS Strategic Plan.

This strategic plan provides us with a fresh start in a new direction.  It builds on the Portland Plan, a strategic roadmap that promotes a more prosperous, educate, healthy and equitable city.  And it takes the next step.  Because great plans need great follow through and implementation — and that's where's we're headed.

In the coming three years, BPS will align our resources and actions with dozens of partners to deliver innovative and practical solutions.  We will work to refine the big picture vision, and set the rules, code and policies through updates to the Comprehensive Plan, Climate Action Plan, a new Central City 2035 plan, improvements to the zoning code and other planning efforts.  In addition, we will motivate voluntary and market-based actions by residents and businesses through education, technical and financial assistance, research and demonstration to promote waste reduction and recycling, energy efficiency, green building and solar technologies, brownfield transformation, access to healthy food and other sustainable and efficient practices.

Throughout all our efforts, we will focus on actions that 1) create more healthy, walkable and connected neighborhoods, 2) build on the strength and character of East Portland with much-needed improvements, and 3) advance a low-carbon economy and healthy, prosperous city.

We look forward to collaborating with our many community partners and with cities from around the globe to glean best practices, and address these very significant challenges and opportunities.  Please take a look at the strategic plan and tell us how you can help us implement this plan, and how we can work together to create a more prosperous and healthy community.

All the best,


Small homes go big: Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) development soars in Portland

BPS E-News, March 2014

aduSmall housing such as accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are experiencing a dramatic increase in Portland. A new animated video, “Accessory Dwelling Units — Take the First Step” is only the latest collaboration by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Metro, and space-efficient housing advocates to harness the momentum and success of ADU development in Portland and share the story with others.  ADUs are additional separate living units on single-family lots and are commonly referred to as granny flats, mother-in-law suites, or backyard cottages. The growth of these types of units now comprise almost a quarter of all new single-dwelling residential permit applications in Portland. Last year alone, the City of Portland received almost six times the number of ADU permit applications than the average number of applications received during the 2000-2009 time period. As it currently stands, there are around 800 completed ADUs in Portland, with more in the pipeline.

This dramatic increase is likely the result of several changes the City of Portland made in 2010 in hopes of facilitating additional development of ADUs.  First, the City waived System Development Charges (SDCs) for a three-year period.  This temporary waiver saved homeowners up to $11,000 in costs when obtaining permits for their ADU.  Second, the City raised the maximum size allowance for ADUs from 33 percent of the living area of the primary unit to 75 percent, but kept a cap of 800 SF for the ADU regardless of primary unit size.  Prior to 2010, about 30 ADUs were built annually in Portland. Recent data from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability show almost 200 ADU permit applications in 2013.  The consistent annual increase in ADU construction since the 2010 waiver prompted City Council to extend the SDC waiver through June 2016. 

adu kitchenThe benefits of ADUs go beyond housing and lifestyle flexibility, affordability, and infill strategy.  In a 2010 report, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality compared the environmental benefits of various green building practices and found that surprisingly, reducing the size of a house was the most effective way to reduce both the energy and material-related greenhouse gas impacts of a house.  Recognizing the significant environmental benefits of space-efficient housing such as ADUs, Oregon DEQ, Metro, and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability have recently supported several initiatives to increase understanding and awareness of ADUs.

In 2012, Oregon DEQ, Metro, and others hired Portland State University’s Survey Research Lab to conduct a survey of ADU owners in Portland, Eugene, and Ashland to learn more about how ADUs were designed, developed, and occupied.  The results of the comprehensive survey helped inform the recently-released video as well as the development of numerous case studies of ADU homeowners.  Additionally, Oregon DEQ, Metro, and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability are co-sponsoring Portland’s first Accessory Dwelling Unit tour on Sunday June 1, 2014. More information about the upcoming tour and these and other ADU initiatives can be found on

Big ideas for the West Quadrant coming into focus

BPS E-News, March 2014

More than 75 people (including Mayor Charlie Hales) attended the West Quadrant Plan Open House in City Hall on March 10. The following comments — and many more — were offered about the area:

  • “Include habitat features in the [along the river] to attract water birds, beavers and otters.”
  • “Asian ‘night market’ one night a week (seasonal) to attract tourists and locals.”
  • “Development of good, rich, mixed-use residential along Front Ave is imperative.”
  • “I-405 is a true barrier – bridging and stitching over/under is the opportunity [in the Pearl].”

The project team, including staff from BPS and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, shared revised goals, policies and actions for each of the seven districts within the quadrant. They also presented ideas for different transportation modes (e.g., bikes, pedestrians, transit), along with the Green Loop and the Willamette River Central Reach Urban Design Concept.

At one of the stations, a group of PSU graduate students calling themselves Watermark Planning presented their ideas to “Activate the Waterfront.” As part of the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program, the group is working with the West Quadrant team to address challenges in the area, including:

“… Few opportunities exist for park visitors to engage directly with the river and Portland’s downtown waterfront lacks vibrancy, largely as the result of difficult or unclear connections to the city’s central business district, surrounding neighborhoods and the eastside.”

Several people came to talk about Old Town/Chinatown, advocating for revitalizing the area while preserving the significant architectural and cultural resources in the district as well as the strong Asian community ties. As BPS Planner Nicholas Starin was quoted in The Oregonian recently, staff researched other Old Towns in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles to learn how they preserved these vital parts of their urban core. One of the more successful elements in these other districts is a multicultural museum, which is part of the action plan for Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown. Such a resource would acknowledge and celebrate the rich cultural history of the city’s oldest neighborhood and its Greek, Jewish, Roma, Chinese and Japanese populations over the past 165 years.

Other big ideas emerging from the West Quadrant planning process are to:

  • Create a greater variety of housing types in the district, including market-rate and workforce housing.
  • Provide separate lanes and signage for bicyclists and pedestrians along Waterfront Park to resolve the bike/pedestrian conflicts, especially when it’s crowded.
  • Refine building height limits to ensure they meet future demand for density, open space, light and view sheds.
  • Establish a system and standards for streets that emphasize pedestrian, bicycle, transit and freight access while continuing to provide automobile access.
  • Give the bridgeheads more generous height limits to create a greater sense of place where these vehicular conduits meet the river.

This round of public input is concluding, but you can still provide input until 5 p.m. March 24 via the WQP Virtual Open House webpage. Over the past few months, the project team made more than 400 individual contacts with Portlanders, through Neighborhood Association and community meetings, one-on-one conversations, and Stakeholder Advisory and Technical Advisory Committee meetings. Staff will consider this feedback as they refine the goals and policies, district plans and maps for a proposed draft, to be presented to the Planning and Sustainability Commission over the summer. The West Quadrant Concept Plan will then go to City Council for adoption. 

PSC News: March 11, 2014 meeting recap and documents

Stormwater Overview — briefing; Comprehensive Plan Update - Working Draft Part 2 "What We Heard" Report — briefing; Inner Powell Outer Division Project — briefing


  • Stormwater Overview — briefing
  • Comprehensive Plan Update - Working Draft Part 2 "What We Heard" Report — briefing
  • Inner Powell Outer Division Project — briefing

Meeting files

 ** If you receive an error message, click the icon to the right of "Contained Records" to open the document listing.

An archive of meeting minutes, documents and audio recordings of all Planning and Sustainability Commission meetings are available at

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Considers Public Input to Prepare the RICAP 6 Proposed Draft

Short term rentals tops the list of public comments

After six weeks of outreach including many meetings and conversations with neighborhood associations and community groups as well as an open house, the public comment period for the Regulatory Improvement Code Amendment Package 6 (RICAP 6) - Discussion Draft was closed on February 21. The project team is currently reviewing all of the comments as they develop the Proposed Draft.

The bulk of the comments received were related to the regulatory changes for short term rentals. Staff are preparing a summary of these comments, which will be available with the release of the Proposed Draft. Other comments fell outside of the scope of the issues being considered under RICAP 6; they may be considered as part of the Comprehensive Plan Update or entered into our Regulatory Improvement database for consideration in future code amendment projects.

The RICAP 6 Proposed Draft will be released by March 21 and posted on the project website. This is staff's proposal to the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC), which will hold a public hearing on the proposal on April 22 at 6 p.m. Public testimony will be accepted. Prior to the hearing, staff will brief the PSC about short term rentals at their April 8 meeting. You can find more information about the hearings process on the PSC's webpage.