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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. Up first? 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.


Testimony on the Central City 2035 Plan Proposed Draft extended to Thursday, August 11 at 5 p.m.

Portlanders can submit written testimony on the new plan via the online Map App and email

On Tuesday evening, August 9, 2016, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) closed its public hearing on the Central City 2035 Plan Proposed Draft. More than 140 Portlanders testified during two three-hour sessions (the first hearing was on July 26).

Responding to requests from multiple stakeholders and groups, the PSC will accept written testimony until 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 11. Written testimony on the CC2035 proposal can be submitted:

  • Via the Map App: Testify about specific properties or transportation proposals through the Map App
  • By email: Be sure to include “CC2035 Plan Testimony” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address.
  • By delivering physical letters to the address below before the 5 p.m. deadline

Planning and Sustainability Commission
City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201
Attn: CC2035 Testimony

Note: All testimony to the PSC is considered public record, and testifiers' name, address and any other information included in the testimony will be posted on the website.

REMINDER: Central City 2035 Plan PSC public hearings continue on Tuesday, August 9 at 5:30 p.m.

Review the recap of July 26 Planning and Sustainability Commission hearing on the CC2035 Plan, then present your testimony on the new long range plan for Portland’s urban core in person or in writing.

Recap of July 26 hearing

The Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) opened public hearings on the Proposed Draft Central City 2035 Plan (CC2035) on July 26. More than 60 people signed up to testify, and over 50 community members have submitted written testimony to date.

Testimony covered a range of topics, including:

  • The need for new structures in historic districts to be compatible with the historic character around them.
  • The importance of protecting public views of surrounding mountains and natural features.
  • Strategies for supporting the creation of low-carbon buildings.
  • Requests from property owners and residents for changes to zoning and allowed building heights.
  • Support for big ideas and projects proposed in the CC2035 Plan such as the Green Loop, which is envisioned to be an open space pedestrian/bicycle path.
  • Comments regarding the proposed changes to parking requirements.

Review documents, presentations and written testimony as well as watch a video of the hearing.

Continued public hearing and testimony opportunities

The PSC will continue the CC2035 public hearing on August 9 at 5:30 p.m. Portlanders can sign-up to provide oral testimony starting at 3:30 p.m. in Room C of the Portland Building. Oral testimony will be limited to two minutes per person and may be changed at the PSC Chair’s discretion.  

Planning and Sustainability Commission Public Hearing on the Central City 2035 Plan
Tuesday, August 9, 5:30 p.m.
The Portland Building 
1120 SW 5th Avenue, Room C (2nd floor)

Note: The PSC meeting starts at 4 p.m. with a work session on another project. CC2035 testifiers are welcome to attend the work session, but Commissioners will not take testimony on CC2035 until the hearing opens at or after 5:30 p.m.

The PSC also invites written testimony on the CC2035 proposal through August 9, 2016:

  • Via the Map App: Testify about specific properties or transportation proposals through the Map App.
  • By email:
  • By U.S. Mail: 

Planning and Sustainability Commission
City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201
Attn: CC2035 Testimony

Learn how to testify to the PSC; read Tips for Effective Testimony.

Note: All testimony to the PSC is considered public record, and testifiers' name, address and any other information included in the testimony will be posted on the website.

More information about and proposed amendments to the CC2035 Plan

Since the July 26 hearing, project staff provided the PSC with a memo that updates them on a few topics. These are briefly identified in the bullets below. More details can be found in the memo.

  • TSP maps: At the request of Commissioner Chris Smith, Portland Bureau of Transportation staff have created versions of the Transportation System Plan (TSP) Street Classification Maps, which now include streets outside the Central City boundary. This is intended to show how streets in the Central City connect to the surrounding bike, freight and other street networks outside of the plan district.
  • Corrections to actions: Staff identified discrepancies between transportation studies and projects in Volume 2B and the actions in Volume 5. A corrected version of Volume 5 will be provided for the first PSC work session on September 29, 2016.
  • Disclosures: Updated information about West Quadrant Plan Stakeholder Advisory Committee member conflict of interest disclosures.