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Central City 2035 Update: Preview of Final PSC Work Session on CC2035 Plan

The next and last Planning and Sustainability Commission work session is scheduled for April 11

After a June 2016 public release, a multi-evening summer public hearing process and seven work sessions through the fall and winter, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) will hold its final work session about the city’s new plan for Portland’s urban core.

On April 11 the PSC will finish its discussion about how floor area ratio (FAR) is allocated when inclusionary housing is triggered, especially on large multi-block sites. The Commission discussed this topic at length on March 14 and asked staff to do some additional analysis for them to consider. 

The PSC will also talk about a proposed standard for temporary swimming platforms. These platforms would be anchored off shore for the river swimming season and then removed and stored. 

The meeting materials for these topics are available here.

Coming up: The vote!

On May 23 the Commission will vote on the final CC2035 Plan as amended. 

Please check the PSC calendar to confirm dates, times and other details prior to the event. You can also view the work session (streamed live or recorded) on the BPS YouTube channel. For more information about the work sessions, please visit the CC2035 PSC work session overview page.

Meeting playbacks on Channel 30 are scheduled to start the Friday following the meeting. Starting times may occur earlier for meetings over three hours long, and meetings may be shown at additional times as scheduling requires.

CC2035 Work Session Recap: March 14 Planning and Sustainability Commission discussion

The PSC reviews final issues about the bonus and transfer system

On March 14, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) met for the seventh work session on the Central City 2035 Plan. The focus was on amendments related to the bonus and transfer system, FAR and height, and the master plan provision.

Bonuses and Transfers

They first discussed needed changes to the bonus and transfer system in the Central City in light of the Inclusionary Housing program that went into effect on Feb. 1, 2017. Staff presented a revised bonus and transfer system that would prioritize two affordable housing bonuses and a few specialized bonuses specific to the riverfront, the South Waterfront Greenway and industrial uses in the Central Eastside. It would also expand the historic resource transfer to require seismic upgrades but also provide additional floor area to historic properties to help support the cost of these upgrades. A new transfer within a subdistrict will also be created.

While they supported most of the proposed amendments, they asked staff to bring back a refinement to the affordable housing bonus and how it’s calculated and implemented for projects that trigger inclusionary housing. Staff will return with an amendment for discussion on April 11.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and Height

The project team also brought proposals forward to increase floor area ratio (FAR) and height in the North Pearl and Riverplace. The idea is to make these key redevelopment sites eligible for a better inclusionary housing incentive package and help ensure the production of more residential development and affordable housing. Commissioners agreed to increase FAR from 4:1 to 5:1 in the North Pearl and Riverplace area. However, they did not support capping the currently unlimited heights in the North Pearl at 350 feet.  

Master Plan Definition

Finally, the Commission tentatively approved updates to how a master plan site is defined in the code so that multiple sites within a master plan boundary are considered one site.

Next Up

The next work session is scheduled for April 11. The final work session is now scheduled for May 23, when the PSC is expected to vote to recommend the CC2035 Plan to City Council. Watch for updates about both meetings.    

Central City 2035 Update: Recap of February 28 PSC work session; preview of March 14 work session

Only a couple more work sessions to go before the Planning and Sustainability Commission votes to recommend the CC2035 Plan to City Council.

On February 28, 2017, the Planning and Sustainability (PSC) held its sixth work session on the Central City 2035 (CC2035) Plan. They discussed the following key items.

Broadway/Weidler I-5 Interchange

Project Commissioner Chris Smith proposed an amendment to remove the Broadway/Weidler I-5 Interchange Project from the Transportation System Plan project list, which is a component of the CC2035 Plan. His primary rationale was that it was the largest single investment in the TSP, and it would make driving easier. This would be counterproductive to the City's goal of reducing vehicle miles traveled in accordance with the Climate Action Plan.

Commissioners discussed this for more than an hour. While they understood Commissioner Smith’s perspective, the majority finally voted not to support his amendment. Then Commissioner Baugh proposed a new action item to clarify the City’s position in the Broadway/Weidler discussions. These conditions included: 

  • Freeway lid – Ensuring that the final project continued to contain all of the project elements including the freeway lids, a future east-west pedestrian and bicycle bridge, as well as new bridge connections that include high-quality pedestrian and bicycle facilities and improved signalized crossings.
  • Equity Strategy – Development of a City Council-supported equity strategy that addresses issues specifically related to the Broadway/Weidler I-5 Interchange project, including historically African American community impacts, low-income housing solutions, and benefits to minority and women-owned businesses.
  • Funding – Transparency and public discussion about the City of Portland’s funding sources. City funding will be limited to multimodal aspects of the project and shall not reduce planned investments to implement Vision Zero or increase safety and livability in East Portland.

Commissioners supported this language and also voted to add:

  • Congestion and climate actions – Encourage ODOT and PBOT to look at congestion pricing and transportation demand management (TDM) options to mitigate climate impact.

Transferring FAR from surface parking lots

At an earlier PSC work session on February 14, commissioners asked staff to come back with language that would prohibit FAR (floor area ratio) transfers from surface parking lots but allow developed areas of a site to transfer FAR. This is intended to encourage redevelopment of surface parking lots.

Staff brought a proposal that addressed the PSC request. They also reminded commissioners that historic and conservation landmarks and contributing resources in historic districts receive an additional 3:1 of FAR, which can be transferred (or sold) offsite as part of proposed updates to the historic resource transfer (33.510.205.D.1). Revenue from the sale should help defray some additional costs of seismic upgrades for these historic properties. After some discussion, the PSC voted to accept the staff-proposed amendment.

You can watch videos of past PSC meetings on the BPS YouTube channel by clicking on the appropriate date. 

Upcoming work sessions and agendas

On March 14, the PSC will hold its seventh work session on CC2035. The following items are on the agenda for that meeting:

  • Bonuses and Transfers – Staff-proposed amendments necessary to implement the Inclusionary Housing program and response to public testimony on bonus and transfer options
  • Master Plan – Proposed amendments to the master plan provisions
  • FAR – A stakeholder-proposed amendment that would allow more FAR in the Central City

The meeting materials for these topics are available here.

On April 11, the PSC will hold its final planned work session on CC2035. At that meeting, staff expect to bring final amendments to the Commission. They will ask commissioners to vote on the entire CC2035 Plan package, which will then be forwarded on to City Council as their Recommended Draft. 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 CC2035 work session overview page.

Meetings are streamed live on YouTube.

Meeting playbacks on Channel 30 are scheduled to start the Friday following the meeting. Starting times may occur earlier for meetings over three hours long, and meetings may be shown at additional times as scheduling requires.

CC2035 Work Session Recap: February 14, 2017, Planning and Sustainability Commission discussion

Commissioners covered FAR bonuses, bicycle parking, family housing and the view of Vista Bridge.

On February 14, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) worked though their Central City 2035 work session agenda, including:

  • FAR bonuses on surface parking lots (asked staff to return with a revised proposal).
  • Whether or not to consider bicycle parking a ground floor active use (decided that bike parking should be considered an active ground floor use but it should be limited to one quarter of the required active ground floor windows). 
  • Policies and actions to support family housing-related items (asked staff to amend an action to support schools). 
  • Revisited and affirmed their September 27, 2016, preliminary decision about the view of the Vista Street Bridge. 

You can watch the video of the work session is here.

Coming up

On February 28 staff will come back to the PSC with several items that were carried over from previous meetings, including the Broadway/Weidler Interchange Project that came out of the N/NE Quadrant Plan. Staff will also offer a number of other minor amendments for the PSC’s consideration. The link to the packet for the February 28 work session is here

On March 14 staff will bring forward amendments to the bonus and transfer code that are necessary to implement Council’s recently adopted Inclusionary Housing program and some changes that could be made to improve that program in the Central City. Keep an eye out for news about that work session on this blog.

The final planned PSC work session will be on April 11. Project staff expect to bring final amendments to the Commission. They will ask the PSC to take a final vote on the entire CC2035 Plan package and forward it on to City Council as a recommended draft.   

CC2035 Work Session Recap: Summary of January 24, 2017, Planning and Sustainability Commission discussion

Commissioners covered bird-safe design standards, eco roofs and a cost analysis of new and/or updated regulations for future development

On January 24, 2017, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) held a work session for the Central City 2035 Plan. Commissioners discussed bird-safe glazing, ecoroof regulations and the cumulative cost of new regulations on future development.

Bird safe glazing 

Research shows that up to 1 billion birds die every year in the United States from flying into windows. This is mainly due to the reflection of street trees and other vegetation onto glass, which creates a habitat “mirage.” Most birds are killed on impact when they collide with windows at full speed.  

In Portland, the surface area of buildings that poses the highest risk of strikes is the first 60 feet from the ground. Windows (or glazing) adjacent to an ecoroof and/or the river and areas near groups of trees also create high risk areas.

Seeking to reduce the number of bird fatalities, City Council directed Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff to establish bird-safe design standards in 2013. Based on public testimony, project staff worked with the bureaus of Development Services and Environmental Services to develop and modify new regulations to reduce the number of bird strikes.  

Revisions included:

  • Applying the standard across the entire Central City rather than only in areas with high tree canopy.
  • Applying a 30-percent glazing threshold for triggering the standard. This will capture predominately residential and commercial buildings with more glazed surface while exempting most traditional industrial development.
  • Creating an administrative rule to easily add to the list of available glazing options in the future.
  • Requiring special glazing on ground floor windows to help meet City goals for active ground floor use.  

PSC Action: Supported the proposed staff amendments.

Ecoroofs

Approximately 24 acres of ecoroofs have been installed on top of Portland buildings since the 1990s. Ecoroofs enhance the quality of urban life by providing multiple environmental, economic and human health benefits, including:

  • Reducing the costs of heating and cooling in a building throughout the year by insulating the building’s roof.
  • Improving air quality.
  • Reducing the heat island effect, thus keeping the Central City cooler.
  • Increasing urban green spaces for rest, recreation and beauty.
  • Providing urban habitat for birds and pollinators.
  • Protecting a roof’s membrane from sun exposure while increasing its functional life.
  • Managing stormwater in densely developed areas while also allowing more flexibility in building and site design.

Toronto is well known for its ecoroof requirements for new development, while other cities like Chicago and San Francisco have a mix of requirements and incentives.

The proposed standard for ecoroofs in Portland’s Central City applies to new development in the CX, EX, RX and IG1 zones and only to buildings larger than 20,000 square feet. The building’s roof top must be covered with at least 60-percent ecoroof with a few exemptions for solar panels, mechanical equipment and fire evacuation routes.

Public testimony asked for the regulation to be applied to smaller buildings, to cover more of the rooftop, and to allow more space for tenant amenities, like rooftop patios. Others were concerned about the cost of the regulation and asked the Commission to consider other types of roofs like white roofs or cool roofs.

PSC Action: The PSC supported the requirement in the Proposed Draft, but expanded the stated purpose to include managing stormwater, reducing urban heat island effects and improving air quality.

In addition, Commissioners requested further research to evaluate other types of green roofs, such as roof top gardens and landscaped areas, to see if these could meet the stormwater requirement. They also requested research on the use of ecoroofs on wood frame buildings.

Cost Analysis 
After the Central City 2035 hearings in summer 2016, the PSC requested an analysis of the cumulative cost that proposed new regulations could add to the price of new development so they could consider both the public benefits as well as their potential impact on the feasibility, scale and pace of development in the Central City. Portland Development Commission (PDC) and BPS contracted with EcoNorthwest (EcoNW) to analyze the impact of the following four new policies on future development:

  1. Changes to Parks System Development Charges (SDC)
  2. New Construction Excise Tax (CET)
  3. New Inclusionary Housing Program requirements (IHP)
  4. New green building requirements (including low carbon building registration, and standards for bird safe glazing and ecoroofs)

 Findings from the study indicated:

  • Parks and Recreation SCDs and the CET could add 0.97 and 0.01 percent, respectively, to development costs.
  • New inclusionary housing requirements could add up to 3 percent to development costs. However, the Housing Bureau would offer offsets for projects in the Central City, including a 10-year property tax exemption on all residential units (market rate and affordable). This would more than make up for the additional cost of IH requirements.
  • Green building requirements would make up approximately 1 percent of total project costs but could be 1.5 to 3.5-percent higher, if a project pursues full low-carbon building certification.

Staff indicated that while these additional project costs may have an impact, overall project feasibility is much more affected by construction costs, lease rates, land values and financial costs.

Next Meeting
The next PSC worksession will be on February 14, 2017. The agenda and materials are located here. More information about other work sessions is here