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Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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FAQs

Below you'll find answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

For a one-on-one conversation, contact the Comprehensive Plan Helpline at 503-823-0195. The Helpline is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., with extended hours on Monday until 8 p.m.


Table of Contents

(Printable Version)

What is the Comprehensive Plan?

The Comprehensive Plan is a long-range plan for Portland’s growth, change and improvements for the next 20 years. It is used to manage the location of population and job growth, land development and conservation and related public investments in infrastructure (such as streets, sidewalks and parks. State law requires the City to do a Comprehensive Plan every 20 years.

  • The plan consists of four parts: goals and policies, a set of maps, a list of significant capital projects and portions of the Transportation System Plan.
  • It sets guidelines for community involvement in future plans and decisions.
  • It is used by the public to advocate for projects and programs during the annual budget process.
  • It establishes a shared plan for the future that is used to coordinate policies and actions across City bureaus and state and regional agencies.

By leveraging growth and change, smart planning can help ensure that Portland becomes more prosperous, healthy, educated, equitable and resilient for all Portlanders.

To learn more, see www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/pdxcompplan.


What is the difference between the Comprehensive Plan Map and zoning?

Both depict how land can be used and developed over time, using a set of “designations” and “zones” (shown as colors on the maps). Both show broad categories of uses, such as residential, mixed use, industrial, employment and open space. They also convey information about the scale of future development (the type and size of buildings). 

The Comprehensive Plan Map is about the future…
The Comprehensive Plan Map depicts a long-term vision of how and where the city will grow and change over the next 20 years to accommodate expected population and job growth.

The Zoning Map is about what is allowed today…
Decisions about Comprehensive Plan designations directly guide subsequent decisions about zoning. The City’s Zoning Map tells us how land can be used and what can be built on any given property today. Zones are more specific than the Comprehensive Plan designations and come with a set of rules (included in the City’s Zoning Code) that clarify what uses are allowed (e.g., residences, businesses, manufacturing), and how buildings may be developed or changed (e.g., maximum heights and required setbacks from property lines).

The Comp Plan Map and the Zoning Map are like a leader and a follower. The plan map is the leading map and the zone map is the following map. The zone map can “catch up” to the plan map, but it can’t go past it.

The plan map is a long-range map saying what will be allowed 20 years from now, while the zone map says what is allowed now. For most properties in the city, what is allowed now and what will be allowed 20 years from now are essentially the same. 


When and how will zoning be determined?

Beginning this summer, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff will review the zoning for all properties for which a Comprehensive Plan map change is proposed, to determine what the appropriate corresponding zone should be. In most cases, proposed zones will correspond directly with the proposed Comprehensive Plan designations. There may be situations where a different zone is proposed, however. For example, if the long term vision for an area is for a particular level of development, but the current levels of infrastructure (incomplete sidewalks, etc.) are not yet able to support that level of development, there may be a different (lower intensity) zone proposed for the near term.

There may be additional areas where the Comprehensive Plan map is not changing that will be considered for a zone change. For example, if current zoning is R5, and the current Comprehensive Plan designation is R2.5, and there is sufficient infrastructure in place to support an R2.5 density, the zoning could be changed to R2.5 to match the current Comprehensive Plan designation.

For all Mixed Use designations, a new set of zones will be developed through the Mixed Use Zones Project. New mixed use zones will generally correspond with existing commercial/mixed use zones. Property owners and other individuals and organizations will be invited to actively participate in all phases of the zoning update. There will be numerous opportunities to provide input before a proposal is prepared and published for public review in spring 2015.


When will proposed changes go into effect?

The Planning and Sustainability Commission will host a series of public hearings in late 2014 to listen to what the public has to say about the proposal. After discussion and deliberation, they will make a recommendation to City Council early in 2015. City Council is expected to hold hearings and vote on the new Comprehensive Plan by mid-2015. They will likely hold hearings and vote on corresponding zoning changes by the end of 2015. After City Council approval, the new plan must be approved (“acknowledged”) by the State of Oregon. That process can take as long as a year. There is also an opportunity for people who participated in local public hearings to file objections with the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission, and eventually appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Zoning changes to implement the plan will likely not be fully in effect until 2017.


If my property is proposed for a change, can I continue its current use?

Generally yes, as long as it’s a use that is allowed by the zone you are in today. If your property is re-designated to a new category and subsequently re-zoned, and the new zone doesn’t allow the use (for example, a store in a residential zone), there are ways that you may be able to acknowledge and allow your use to continue as “non-conforming” (i.e., grandfathered). If you have questions, please call 503-823-0195.


How do I provide testimony?

Your input matters! There are several ways you can provide comments about the Comprehensive Plan update (proposed maps, goals and policies, and significant projects list):

  • Online through the Map App.
  • By email: Send comments to psc@portlandoregon.gov with “Comprehensive Plan Testimony” in the subject line.
  • By mail: Send a letter with your comments to the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC), 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201-5380.
  • In person: Attend a public hearing in the fall to offer oral testimony directly to the Planning and Sustainability Commission. Check the Comprehensive Plan calendar for dates, times and locations.

All letters, map comments and in-person testimony is shared with the PSC, who will review written comments and listen to public input and suggested changes. This feedback will help the PSC develop a better and more complete plan, which they will then recommend to City Council for adoption.

It’s important that you provide your full name and address if you are providing testimony. Comments received without your full name and mailing address will not be included in the PSC's record, and the City will not be able to notify you of City Council hearing dates. In addition, if your name does not appear in the record for this proceeding, you may be precluded from appealing the Council's final decision.


If I provide testimony, how will my comments be considered?

This Proposed Draft has been published with a genuine invitation to you, your family, neighbors, colleagues and friends. Please provide feedback or call us if you have questions! While this proposal is the product of technical analysis and community wisdom, it will benefit from a robust public discussion among property owners, residential and commercial tenants, businesses, organizations and neighbors. Every comment has value, whether expressed by a single individual or numerous parties.

All testimony will be forwarded to the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) to inform their recommendations about all elements of the Comprehensive Plan update. The PSC members will listen to and digest public comments, discuss issues among themselves, and ask planning staff to delve deeper into topics where there is conflicting testimony and multiple perspectives. This robust dialogue will conclude with a series of votes by the PSC on each component of the plan. The end result is a Recommended Draft for City Council to consider.


How does the Central City fit into the citywide Comprehensive Plan map?

You may notice that the Map App doesn’t show any land use changes in the Central City. Does this mean that nothing is being proposed here? No! There is a separate planning process now underway called Central City 2035 (CC2035). Through this process, maps and policies for different quadrants of the Central City are being updated to ensure that the Central City remains the region’s unique economic, transportation, cultural and educational hub. The updated land use map for the Central City will mesh with the land use map for the remainder of the city, and together these will be adopted by City Council as Portland’s Comprehensive Plan Map in 2015. Find ways to get involved on the CC2035 website.


After the land division is approved, which zoning regulations will apply to development on the new lots?

For the first 10 years after the date that the approved Final Plat is recorded with the County, only the regulations that were in effect at the time an application for a Preliminary Plan was submitted will apply to development on the lots. After 10 years, development on the lots will be subject to the regulations in effect at the time you apply for a building or development permit (ORS 92.042 (2) and (3)).


Will the proposed change affect a land division being reviewed now?

No. The proposed map and zoning changes will not affect any land use review before they take effect. There are generally two review steps for a land division. The first step is called Preliminary Plan and the second is called Final Plat. The first step in the process is called the preliminary plan. An application for approval of the preliminary plan will be reviewed based on the zoning and regulations in effect on the date the application is filed with the City as long as the application was complete when filed or made complete within 180 days of filing (33.700.080.A.1).

The second step in a land division process is called the Final Plat. An application for the Final Plat will also be reviewed based on the regulations in effect on the date the application for preliminary plan was filed as long as the preliminary plan approval has not expired (33.700.090.B). Generally, the preliminary plan approval expires if an application for a Final Plat is not submitted within 3 years of the date of the final decision on the preliminary plan. (33.730.130.B).


Will the proposed change make my existing lot or lots unbuildable?

Whether a lot is buildable (meaning a primary structure, such as a house, can be built on the property) is based on the size of the lot, when it was created, and whether it has been owned in common with abutting lots. Generally,

  1. If a lot was created through a land division after July 26, 1979, then the lot is buildable regardless of its size. (33.110.212.C.1)
  2. If the lot was created before July 26, 1979 through a land division or other instrument recorded with a county recorder, and the lot has not been owned in common with an abutting lot since July 26, 1979, then it is buildable regardless of its size. (33.110.212.C.3)

There are several other circumstances under which a lot is buildable. If your lot does not fit into one of the situations described above, then you can call the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and we will help you determine whether your lot is currently buildable, and whether it will be continue to be buildable if the zoning is changed as part of the Comprehensive Plan update. 


What does it mean if I received a notice that says that recommendations may “affect the permissible uses” and “may also affect the value” of my property?

Oregon law requires us to send this notice, with this particular language, to everyone who has a land use designation change proposed to their property, regardless of whether that change will have impacts. 

The proposed Comprehensive Plan Map includes changes to land use designations, which guide the allowed uses and intensity of development on a property. “Permissible”, or allowed uses (such as residential, commercial or industrial uses, and amount of potential future development on your property and surrounding properties) can be one factor that contributes to property value. 

In some cases land use designation changes are proposed that may allow you to develop your property for different uses than you can today. Current use on a property is typically allowed to continue after a land use designation change. 

If you have a developed property and the proposed change is to the same type of land use designation and zoning – say from single family residential 10,000 to single family residential 20,000 …
Chances are good that the change will have no effect on the current use of your property.

If you have a developed property and the proposed change is to a different type of land use designation and zone and the new zone does not allow the current use (for example a store in a residential zone) …
There are ways that you may be able to have that use acknowledged and continue as a “non-conforming” use (i.e., “grandfathered”).

If you own a large property that could be subdivided in the future …
The land use designation change may affect how many lots can be created in a future subdivision. The number of potential future lots can affect how much a real estate developer is willing to pay you for your property.

Value is measured in different ways and can be very situation-specific. There is an assessed value that is calculated by the property tax office. Assessed values can be re-assessed based on land use designation or zoning changes. However, assessed values typically change as a result of improvements made to development or a change of use on a property. You can contact Multnomah County Assessment and Taxation at 503-988-3326 with questions related to potential effects to assessed value. You can also find more information at Oregon Department of Revenue’s website: http://www.oregon.gov/dor/ptd/Pages/ic_303_670.aspx

There is also a market value, which is based on what your property is deemed to be worth on the real estate market. You can contact a real estate professional with questions related to market value.

Please call 503-823-0195 if you have further questions for the City.


Where can I find the definition of these designations?

You can click on the name of the designation in the Map App, or you can find the full text of the designations in the Definitions of Current and Proposed Designations.