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Planning and Sustainability Commission discusses building height, parking code and Willamette River

Commissioners consider and make recommendations at work session for Central City 2035 Plan

On November 16, 2016, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) held its second work session on the Central City 2035 (CC2035) Plan Proposed Draft. Commissioners worked through a list of topics ranging from requested changes to maximum building heights to regulations for the Willamette River.

The following is a review of the PSC discussion and actions; read the meeting materials to see additional comments/requests.

1. BUILDING HEIGHT IN HISTORIC DISTRICTS

This topic was a continuation from the PSC’s first work session in September. 

Image courtesy of University of Oregon Libraries

East Portland/Grand Avenue Historic District

  • Background: In September, PSC asked staff to determine whether new development would still be able to take advantage of allowed building volumes (or “FAR”) if maximum heights were reduced as proposed.
  • Staff research concluded that base FAR could still be used within the proposed heights, but in some cases would be difficult to fully utilize all potential bonus FAR.

PSC Action: Supported the proposed reduced heights

2. HEIGHT LIMITS FOR NEW BUILDINGS IN THE REST OF THE CENTRAL CITY

The PSC received comments on maximum building heights throughout the Central City during their July and August 2016 hearings. 

RiverPlace area heights

  • Testimony: Consider increasing heights in this area to take advantage of potential redevelopment sites.
  • Staff proposed a more detailed set of height limits and a few areas where increased bonus height should be allowed to encourage denser, urban scale development and more active uses near the riverfront.

PSC Action: Supported the new height proposal. See the decision table and maps for more details.

West End heights

  • Testimony: Consider reducing height in the West End to 100 feet to create a greater step down from taller buildings in the Downtown core and a smaller-scale environment in the subdistrict.
  • Staff informed the PSC that this same topic was discussed during the West Quadrant planning process, and ultimately the West Quadrant Stakeholder Advisory Committee, PSC and City Council chose not to make large scale height reductions in the West End. As such, staff did not propose any changes at this time.

PSC Action: Supported retaining the maximum heights included in the Proposed Draft CC2035 Plan

Height along the eastern edge of the Lloyd District

  • Testimony: Lower allowed building heights between NE 15th and 16th Avenues and south of Weidler Street to 75 feet, creating a step down to the adjacent neighborhood.
  • Staff did not propose reducing heights because the requested step down would be to a lower height than is currently built and allowed on the east side of NE 16th Avenue outside the Central City.

PSC Action: Supported retaining the proposals in the Proposed Draft CC2035 Plan

Building shadows in the North and South Park Blocks

  • Background: The Zoning Code currently regulates the amount of shadow that new buildings on the west side of the South Park Blocks can cast onto the adjacent park. Specifically, new buildings that exceed 100 feet must show that the additional height won’t cast even more shade onto the park. The Proposed Draft CC2035 updates this requirement to match similar requirements elsewhere in the city and applies the requirement to the North and South Park Blocks.
  • Testimony: Consider a similar provision for new development on the east side of the Park Blocks to ensure that morning sunlight reaches the park.
  • Staff conducted a shadow analysis of buildings of different heights and massing on potential redevelopment sites on the east side of the Park Blocks. As a result, staff proposed adding the requirement to the east side of the Park Blocks and requiring a 12-foot step back with new development. This will reduce shadows and provide additional public realm for the future Green Loop.

PSC Action: Supported this proposalPark Blocks

Southeast 11th/12th Avenue height and zoning

  • Testimony: Allow more building height and/or rezone the blocks between SE Yamhill and SE Hawthorne Streets from IG to EX zoning. Near SE 11th and12th Avenues and Ankeny Street, reduce the allowed building height to 50 feet to reduce development pressure on Victorian-era homes.
  • Staff reviewed these comments and also the zoning and height proposals in the Recommended Draft Mixed Use Zones Project. They proposed rezoning four blocks from IG1 to EX and setting heights consistent with the surrounding areas.

PSC Action: Supported this amendment

3. PARKING REQUIREMENTS

  • Testimony: Lower parking maximums to help the city meet its goals for reducing single occupancy vehicle trips. Other testimony suggested requiring a minimum amount of parking.
  • Staff informed the PSC that parking ratios included in the Proposed Draft CC2035 Plan were developed through the Central City Parking Strategy Project — a public process that included a Stakeholder Advisory Committee. As such, staff did not propose to deviate from the recommendations.

PSC Action: Supported retaining the parking maximum ratios in the Proposed Draft and did not ask staff to establish parking minimums. PSC requested that staff develop an action in the Plan to monitor the maximum parking ratios in seven years to see if adjustments are needed.

4. WILLAMETTE RIVER TOPICS

People on a dock

Landscaping in the setback

  • Background: The Proposed Draft requires land within the river setback to be landscaped.
  • Testimony: Generally supportive of this requirement, but there were a few requests for improvements.
  • Staff proposed an amendment to exempt the Eastbank Crescent beach area from the requirement. They also clarified where plantings should occur where the riverbank has been previously treated with rip rap.

PSC Action: Accepted staff’s proposed amendments

Swimming in the river

  • Testimony: The City should establish guidelines and provide the public with information about safe swimming in the river. The City should also ensure that there is no net loss in public access.
  • Staff proposed a new Central Citywide action for Volume 5 of the CC2035 Plan to expand opportunities for safe swimming while addressing potential conflicts with natural resource protection.

PSC Action: Supported this new action

Retail in the open space zone

  • This item was deferred to a January PSC work session. Staff is working with Parks and Recreation staff on a recommendation.

PSC Action: None at this time

5. MISCELLANEOUS CODE AND MAP AMENDMENTS − PART I

Based on comments received from the Bureau of Development Services, staff proposed a small number of amendments to Volume 2A1 of the CC2035 Plan. These did not result in significant discussions with the PSC, but they can be reviewed in the decision packet.

PSC Action: Supported most of the proposal but asked staff to come back to discuss ground floor windows and ground floor active uses.


Watch the second work session and read the decision packets.


WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA FOR THE JANUARY WORK SESSIONS?

An updated list of expected work session topics and meeting dates can be found here.

PSC Work Session 3 on CC2035 Plan
Tuesday, January 10, 2017, afternoon meeting
1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 2500A

PSC Work Session 4 on CC2035 Plan
Tuesday, January 24, 2017, evening meeting
1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 2500A

 Please check the PSC calendar to confirm time and location prior to each work session.

Parking and Willamette River subject of upcoming Planning and Sustainability Commission work session on Central City 2035 Plan

Commissioners will also continue their discussion of building height on November 16 at 4 p.m.

When you think of Portland, what comes to mind?

Downtown? Bridges? Views of Mt Hood? Great places to eat, drink and play?

Well, the Central City’s got all that and more, and the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) is reviewing proposals to make it even better.

Since considering testimony on the Central City 2035 Plan Proposed Draft at public hearings in July and August, project staff and the PSC have been diving deeper into the Plan’s key topics.

On Wednesday, November 16 at 5 p.m., the Commission will hold their second work session on the CC2035 Plan. At their first meeting in September, they discussed building heights in historic districts and scenic view corridors. The second work session will give Commissioners a chance to wrap up the discussion about building heights. Then they will move on to a range of river-related topics and the parking code.

Willamette River

Dragon

Home to fish, birds and wildlife ― including threatened and endangered Chinook, Coho and chum salmon as well as steelhead and bull trout ― the Willamette River is also a signature attraction for residents and visitors. People of all ages enjoy the recreational spaces, trails, swimming areas and boating opportunities the river and riverfront provide. And the river is also a transportation corridor, moving cargo and people throughout Portland and the region.

The Plan includes proposals to allow new activities in parks and open spaces close to and around the river. It also proposes to support expanded use of the docks, promote in-water activities, and orient businesses and residences toward the river, while protecting and enhancing the environment.

During the upcoming work session, the PSC will focus on the regulations that govern public and private property along the river. They will also discuss swimming and vegetation.

Parking Code

Parking structure and MAX train

In 2015 the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) convened a 30-member Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) to oversee the update of the transportation policies for the Central City. Based on input from this project, the Proposed Draft CC2035 Plan includes an update to the Parking Code to improve parking predictability, reduce costly parking reviews, limit new parking and surface lots, and allow shared parking.

PBOT’s SAC met several times to review recommendations related to parking ratios. One of the first SAC recommendations was to continue to not require new and rehabilitated buildings to build parking. The SAC also endorsed adjusting maximum parking ratios in all Central City districts downward to reflect investments in transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

At their public hearings in July and August, the PSC heard a number of comments about these parking limits and new regulations. At the work session, they will review these issues and learn more about how the parking ratios were derived.

Remaining building height topics

Downtown Portland skyline

During the public hearings, the PSC heard from members of the public and property owners about increasing or reducing allowed building heights in many different parts of the Central City. At the first work session, the Commissioners took action on heights within scenic view corridors and most of the historic districts. At the upcoming session they will discuss other proposed height amendments.

Please check the PSC calendar to confirm dates, times and other details prior to the event. You can also view the work session on the BPS YouTube channel.

For more information about the work sessions, please visit the PSC work sessions and hearing page.

Building height in historic districts and view corridors the focus of Planning and Sustainability Commission work session on the Central City 2035 Plan

Read a summary of the September 27 PSC discussion; then review agenda for next work session about height in other areas of the Central City, parking and the Willamette River

On September 27, 2016, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) held the first of several work sessions on the Central City 2035 (CC2035) Plan Proposed Draft. At that meeting they discussed appropriate heights in historic districts and how some of the Central City’s iconic views should be protected.

Height limits for new buildings in historic districts

Proposed new regulations include reductions to allowed building heights in historic districts to ensure new development is compatible with the character of older structures. The Proposed Draft also removes the option to achieve bonus height in all historic districts in the Central City. 

Here’s a breakdown of the PSC decisions. 

Height in west side historic districts

  • Generally, public comments supported reducing heights in New Chinatown/Japantown and NW 13th Avenue historic districts.

PSC Action: In response to testimony, the PSC supported the proposed recommendations to reduce heights, with a small amendment to allow an additional 25 feet of height in the NW 13th Avenue Historic District south of Hoyt Street.

The historic Weatherly Building

East Portland/Grand Ave Historic District

  • Public comments were mixed about the Central Eastside’s East Portland/Grand Ave Historic District, where current height limits of up to 275 feet could be reduced by 75-115 feet.
  • The PSC expressed concern that the reduced heights might not allow property owners to make full use of the development potential of their land (measured in floor area ratio, or FAR).

PSC Action: The PSC asked staff to return with more information about whether the same amount of floor area (FAR) of buildings allowed today could be built with reduced heights.

Protecting the scenic views of the Central City

The CC2035 Proposed Draft includes an update of the decades-old regulations to protect scenic resources in the Central City. The draft includes proposals to adjust building height limits to maintain some views. Staff are also proposing to add new height limits to protect a few new views. The PSC discussed the three views that attracted the most testimony.

View of Mt Hood from the Japanese Garden

  • Since the Japanese Garden was first established in the West Hills in 1971, trees have grown and hidden parts of the view of downtown.
  • The Proposed Draft does not call for re-establishing the entire historic view of downtown, but it does allow limited tree removal to preserve the view of Mt Hood.
  • Some commenters asked for the historic view to be restored by allowing trees to be removed.
  • Other commenters felt preserving the trees on the steep slope below the garden was more important than the view because the trees provide important functions like stormwater management and wildlife habitat.

PSC Action: Support the Proposed Draft. Do not restore the historic panoramic views of downtown. Allow limited tree removal to maintain the current view of Mt Hood.

Vista Bridge from SW Jefferson St. with rendering

View of Vista Bridge from Jefferson Street

  • The Proposed Draft designated Jefferson Street from the I-405 overpass west as a view street to the Vista Bridge. It also increased height limits along Jefferson from the existing 30–45 feet to 40–60 feet while still protecting the view.  
  • Some residents of Goose Hollow wanted to keep the existing height limits along Jefferson Street. Other commenters asked for heights to be increased to allow for redevelopment in the commercial corridor and suggested adding a new viewpoint closer to the bridge.  
  • As a result, staff recommended amending the Proposed Draft by adding a new viewpoint at Collins Circle, with actions to develop the viewpoint and improve pedestrian access. Jefferson Street would remain designated a view street, but heights would increase to 75 feet to support redevelopment. 

PSC Action: The PSC supported allowing more building height along Jefferson Street and creating a new viewpoint closer to the bridge.

View of Mt Hood from Salmon Springs

  • Today, there are five locations from the west side of the Willamette River with views of Mt Hood. New development in the Central Eastside could block these views if no height limits are put in place.
  • The Proposed Draft included height reductions to protect a view of Mt Hood from the Salmon Springs fountain in Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park. These height limits would significantly affect redevelopment within the view corridor.
  • Many comments asked the PSC to remove the height reductions due to the impact on property owners. Other testimony supported protecting this view because of its importance to tourism and because views of Mt Hood are iconic and part of Portland’s image.
  • As a result, staff recommended narrowing the view corridor to affect fewer properties.

PSC Action: The PSC gave this topic considerable thought and made the tough decision not to support staff’s proposal to maintain the view of Mt Hood from Salmon Springs by reducing building height in a narrower corridor.


  Watch the first work session and read the decision packets.


What’s on the agenda for November’s work session?

At the November 16 PSC work session, the Commission is expected to discuss:

  • Height limits in the East Portland Grand Ave Historic District (continued from September).
  • Other height requests (originally on the September agenda).
  • Parking code (originally on the September agenda).
  • River and environmental topics.

PSC Work Session on CC2035 Plan
Wednesday, November 16, 4 p.m.
1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 2500A

Please check the PSC calendar to confirm time and location prior to each work session.

Planning and Sustainability Commission to hold work sessions on Central City 2035 Proposed Draft, before voting to recommend plan to City Council

Commissioners to discuss topics such as building height, parking, the river, affordable housing bonuses and more

View of Southeast Portland and Mt Hood

On Tuesday, September 27 at 5 p.m., the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) will begin work sessions on the Central City 2035 Plan Proposed Draft. These meetings are designed to help the Commission work through a series of amendments to the Proposed Draft based on public testimony. 

Community members can watch the work sessions on the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s YouTube channel

High rise building with ecoroofIn each work session, the PSC and project staff will focus on the details of the big topics in the CC2035 Plan. Building height, the river, transportation and new tools for historic preservation are just a few of the issues to be covered over the next few months.

Work Session Details

At the first work session on September 27, the Commissioners will spend most of their time on building height as it relates to historic resources, scenic views and more. They will also cover green building design and parking.

While the new plan generally retains the existing height pattern, staff have proposed amendments in some areas to either increase or reduce allowed heights. Based on research about building height in certain areas, staff have made amendments to the Proposed Draft for the Commission to consider. 

Building height

At 123,000 jobs and 23,000 households, Portland’s Central City is the region’s economic and residential hub. Those numbers are expected to increase by 40 percent and 165 percent, respectively, over the next 20 years. 

Downtown Portland skyline

Tall buildings in the Central City are needed to support job and population growth. And by locating the tallest buildings along high-capacity transit lines and bridgeheads, we can accommodate growth more efficiently and improve livability. But the amendments related to building height further "sculpt" the skyline to adjust view corridors and preserve historic resources.

Green building and parking in the Central City

With so much new construction in the Central City, we can emphasize green building design for even lower carbon emissions. In addition to requirements for new development to be registered with LEED and other third-party certifiers, the Plan includes proposals for green roofs and bird-safe glazing (glass) in the building design to ensure sustainable development.

And with so many people living, working and recreating in the Central City, parking must be managed. The CC2035 Plan includes strategies to minimize congestion and proposes investments in bicycle, pedestrian and transit infrastructure for more carbon reductions.

Future Work Sessions

Additional work sessions will cover more Central City 2035 elements.

  • Tuesday, September 27, 2016, 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 28, 2017, 5 p.m.

All work sessions will be held at 1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 2500A. Please check the PSC calendar to confirm time and location prior to each work session.

During the November 16 work session, the PSC will discuss river-related topics, such as river setbacks and required vegetation, as well as proposals for new transportation projects and street designations.

Come the new year, Commissioners will continue their work sessions on January 24, starting with the bonus and transfer system and other remaining topics.

Stay tuned for similar stories on this blog about future work session topics prior to the PSC meetings.

Planning and Sustainability Commission completes public hearings on CC2035

More than 750 Portlanders gave testimony on the new long-range plan for Portland’s urban core; PSC will delve into the details at upcoming series of work sessions

Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) held two 3-hour hearings on July 26 and August 9. A total of 130 Portlanders testified about the Central City 2035 Plan (CC2035) Proposed Draft, and the record is now closed.

Testimony Received

Type of testimony Amount (approximate) Links
Oral testimony 130 July 26, August 9
Written testimony    
Letters 280 July 26, August 9
Map App comments 350 Document with all comments
Total: 760  

What did people talk about at the hearing?

While it’s difficult to summarize hundreds of comments in one set of bullets, there were some common themes, such as:

  • Tools for historic preservation, setting appropriate building height limits and ensuring the compatibility of new buildings with existing character in historic districts.
  • Public view corridors and the impacts to development of maintaining current views.
  • Tools for improving the supply of affordable, family-friendly housing in the Central City, in addition to ongoing work by City bureaus (BPS’s Inclusionary Housing Zoning Code Program and the Housing Bureau’s Inclusionary Housing Program).
  • Different approaches to increasing the stock of low-carbon buildings.
  • Changes to parking requirements for new development.
  • Balancing new bike infrastructure with other modes, such as freight.
  • Requests from property owners and residents for specific changes to zoning, allowed building floor area and height.
  • Costs and benefits related to ecoroofs on new buildings.
  • Ideas about improving recreational access to the river in the Central City.
  • New parks and schools to support increasing populations.

View the videos of both hearings and review the written testimony

Next steps

Don’t worry if you don’t see your topic listed above. Staff and the PSC Commissioners are currently reviewing all comments in preparation for a series of work sessions on September 27, November 16 and January 24, 2017. At the final PSC meeting in January, the Commission is expected to recommend a new draft of the plan to City Council for review in early 2017.

These dates are subject to change. Check the PSC Calendar one week prior to the scheduled meeting to confirm the date, time and location. Staff will publish materials approximately one week prior to each work session.