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New Zoning Concepts for Mixed Use Areas Available for Review

Over the next 20 years, Portland is expected to grow by 123,000 additional households and 142,000 new jobs. Most of this growth will occur in neighborhood hubs and main streets like Hollywood, St Johns, SE Division and NW 23rd, which are home to a mix apartment buildings, ground-floor retail and single family homes. These mixed use centers and corridors will serve as the anchors of convenient, walkable neighborhoods. 

But new development is not always welcomed by the community. In response, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability launched the Mixed Use Zones Project to address Portlanders’ concerns about the height, size, scale and design of new development in mixed use zones.

The Mixed Use Zones Project (MUZ) proposes key changes to the City’s commercial and employment zones to make mixed use areas more attractive and responsive to residents and businesses, while still accommodating expected growth. The largest overhaul of Portland’s zoning code in 15 years, this project proposal includes:

  • A simpler array of zones. Reduces the number of commercial or employment zones from nine to four to accommodate small scale (2-3 story), medium scale (4-5 story) and large scale (5+ story) development. 
  • New standards to address building bulk. Controls building mass through new floor area ratios (FAR) that include all uses, including residential development (FAR is the proportion of building area to lot size). Current commercial zones do not have floor area limits for residential development.
  • Compatibility and transitions. Includes new development and design standards to reduce the apparent mass of new buildings, provide better transitions to adjacent buildings, and improve the relationship between buildings and streets. These include required step-downs and setbacks from abutting residential properties as well as requirements for larger building walls to be broken up into smaller segments.
  • Incentives for public benefits. Adds performance bonuses to allow additional FAR, and in some cases height, in exchange for public benefits, such as: 
    1. Affordable housing
    2. Green features (e.g., green roofs and landscaped areas)
    3. Publicly accessible plazas
    4. Historic preservation
    5. Affordable commercial space
  • Ground floor uses on main streets. Encourages ground floor activity, including ground floor windows and active commercial uses in key places.
  • Better design. Expands the Design overlay zone to several new areas within the major centers identified in the Comprehensive Plan. These centers are expected to grow substantially over time, and additional design tools will help create high quality, pedestrian-supportive places.  
  • Public notice. Proposes enhanced neighborhood notification or contact requirements for development in mixed use zones. This would include neighborhood and business associations at a minimum.
  • Parking. The project is moving forward in tandem with an update to on-street parking management tools that could be applied in high growth centers and corridors. For more information click here.

Review the Draft Concept Report

A Mixed Use Zones Draft Code Concept Report has been shared with the project stakeholder advisory committee and is available for public review. The draft comprises several documents, including the entire report, an appendix and a shorter summary for easier reading.

Read the Mixed Use Zones Code Concepts Report here.

Next steps

The MUZ update is an early implementation project for the new Comprehensive Plan. The zoning regulations will be voted on by both the Planning and Sustainability Commission and City Council.

The concept draft is available now and will be followed by a discussion draft this summer. Public comments on both the concept draft and discussion draft will be accepted until late summer or early fall. A proposed draft will be released in the fall, and the Planning and Sustainability Commission will subsequently hold a public hearing. Eventually, the MUZ project will join other code update projects making their way to City Council for consideration and adoption with other tasks to implement the Comprehensive Plan.

For more information, visit the Mxied Use Zones Project website at