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Public open house presents recommendations about Design Overlay Zones for review and feedback

Consultant team’s Draft Recommendations for the Design Overlay Zone Assessment Project (DOZA) featured at upcoming open house.

The design overlay zone is intended to achieve high-quality design for new buildings within areas of growth and areas with special architectural, cultural or scenic value. Through the Design Overlay Zones Assessment (DOZA) the City is working to improve the design overlay system for all stakeholders and to accomplish the design goals outlined in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan.

 As the Design Overlay Zone Assessment (DOZA) enters the recommendations phase, the project consultant team has prepared Draft Recommendations for review. These recommendations offer detailed improvements to the processes and tools associated with the design overlay (d-overlay). They also provide guidance on which of these should be prioritized for short-term implementation.

The Draft Recommendations are organized into the following categories:

  1. Process – Including adjustment of thresholds and improvements to design review and public notification
  2. Tools: General – Overarching goals for all design overlay review criteria
  3. Tools: Community Design Standards – Recommendations for the clear and objective criteria found in the Zoning Code
  4. Tools: Community Design Guidelines – Recommendations for the set of discretionary guidelines that are applicable outside the Central City
  5. Tools: Central City Fundamental Design Guidelines – Recommendations for the set of discretionary guidelines applicable within the Central City and its subdistricts

During the next few weeks, the public, staff as well as the Planning and Sustainability and Design Commissions will have an opportunity to weigh in on the Draft Recommendations. 

Read the Draft Recommendations

In addition to the full Draft Recommendations document, which details each of the 19 recommendations, a summary sheet is available.  

Interested in learning more? Come to the open house!

Project staff and consultants will be on hand to share information about the new recommendations, answer your questions and listen to feedback at an open house in early February.

DOZA Open House

Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
1900 SW 4th Avenue, Room 2500 A/B

Additional resources and information

The Draft Recommendations are a result of staff and consultant research, examination of peer cities, interviews with key stakeholders, a questionnaire, and the evaluation of several recently built projects within and outside of Portland’s d-overlay zone.

DOZA Research Report (Design Overlay 101)

Lessons from Peer Cities Report

Interim Report: Findings and Preliminary Recommendations

DOZA Questionnaire Results

Findings Summary Sheet, January 2017

Recommendations Summary Sheet, January 2017

Major Themes from Interviews, September 2016

Detailed Site Evaluations, October 2016

Short-Form Assessment, October 2016

Portland Design Commission reviews preliminary report for Design Overlay Zone Assessment (DOZA) Project

Consultant’s research affirms community support for thoughtful building design but says d-overlay system needs improvement

In May of this year, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, in collaboration with the Bureau of Development Services, hired consultant Walker Macy to lead an independent and comprehensive review of the City’s design (d) overlay zone, including the design review process, tools and results.

By August the consultant team had published the results of their analysis of Portland’s regulations and processes for the d-overlay and how they fit together. They also looked at best practices from other cities, including discretionary design review and the application of nondiscretionary design standards.

Last week, the Walker Macy team shared an Interim Report on the Design Overlay Zone Assessment (DOZA) during a briefing with the Portland Design Commission. The report outlines their findings, based on a review of peer cities, interviews with stakeholders, a public questionnaire and evaluations of example projects. The report also offers preliminary recommendations for improving the processes and tools that implement the d-overlay in the city of Portland. 

What did the consultants learn about design review in Portland?

The consultant team found strong community support for thoughtful design and that Portland is recognized as a national model for creating a livable urban environment through design. However, the current d-overlay system could be improved to make the process more efficient and better align the regulatory tools with today’s design objectives. 

Commercial/mixed use buildings

What are the recommendations for improvement?

Walker Macy made several preliminary recommendations for improving the design review process, including the following:

  • Adjust thresholds for different types of design review to best serve projects at all scales.
  • Update Community Design Standards and Community Design Guidelines to better sync with each other.
  • Reduce the Design Commission’s workload by making the process more efficient.  


At the briefing, the Design Commission engaged in a robust discussion about the report, expressing support for recommendations such as those to consolidate and update the tools and offering the consultants directions for further investigation. Commissioners identified the need to incorporate community voices into the design review process as well as balance the goals of ensuring design quality with serving applicants effectively. 

Next Steps

The DOZA team will release a detailed set of recommendations in early 2017. The public will have an opportunity to weigh in during an open house tentatively planned for February 2017.

 The consultant team will then refine and produce a final report of findings and recommendations and present their work to Design Commission, Planning and Sustainability Commission and City Council in spring 2017.

For more information about the Design Overlay Zone Assessment visit our website at or contact Lora Lillard at 503-823-7721 or

Phase 1 of the Design Overlay Zoning Assessment project is complete

Staff and consultant research reports now available online, including best practices from other cities

The Design Overlay Zoning Amendment (DOZA) project has reached the end of Phase 1. The DOZA team is now sharing the results of a Research Report that outlines the City’s current tools and processes to carry out Portland’s design overlay zone (d-overlay). The report includes:

  • A brief history of the d-overlay and its relationship to the Comprehensive Plan and Central City Plan.
  • Maps ­­of current and proposed d-overlay zones
  • A summary of Zoning Code, design guidelines and the processes that implement the d-overlay.

As part of this research, several helpful links have been compiled in one place, where you can learn more about design standards and guidelines, review procedures and fee schedules.

Peer Cities Report

To augment the staff research report, project consultant Walker Macy was asked to research and compile a Peer Cities Report, which documents several approaches to discretionary and nondiscretionary design review from other U.S. cities. The purpose of this research is to learn from other jurisdictions and share how they have used design-related tools and processes to achieve planning goals and desired outcomes.

The purpose of the DOZA project is to evaluate and improve the design review process. For more information, please visit 

Public invited to share feedback on how well the design overlay zone works and what they’d like to see improved

Online questionnaire allows public to give feedback on design review for new buildings in the design overlay.

Portland’s Zoning Code includes several overlay zones to address specific issues, such as historic resource preservation and environmental protection. The design overlay zone promotes the conservation, enhancement and continued vitality of areas with special scenic, architectural or cultural value.

dozaAs part of the Design Overlay Zone Assessment (DOZA) project, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is assessing the tools and processes that carry out the d-overlay.

Tell City planners what you think
The DOZA project team is seeking input from stakeholders, including neighborhood residents, architects, developers, affordable housing advocates and other interested groups. Please take a few minutes to complete the online questionnaire and tell us how the d-overlay affects new building design and how you feel engaged in the process.

Share the questionnaire
Share the link to the questionnaire, which will be available until September 9th, 2016, at 5 p.m., with your friends, colleagues, neighbors and others interested in the city’s d-overlay. Questionnaire results will be used to inform recommendations for improving the d-overlay and incorporated into the consultant team’s final report.

Design Review
Design review involves a two-track system, which offers architects and developers a choice to ensure that certain types of development will enhance the recognized special design values of a site or area:

  1. Discretionary design review by staff or the Design Commission.
  2. Compliance with the non-discretionary Community Design Standards.

The deliverable for this project is a set of recommendations to improve the standards and tools used for d-overlay zones as well as how the d-overlay is administered. Seattle-based Walker Macy is leading the consultant team in an independent, comprehensive assessment of the process, guidelines and standards, and results of the d-overlay zone.  

For more information about the Design Overlay Zone Assessment visit our website at or contact Lora Lillard at 503-823-7721 or

Meet the Consultant Team for the Portland Design Overlay Zone Assessment

Walker Macy will lead the consultant team for conducting an independent and comprehensive assessment of the City of Portland’s design overlay zone.

On May 4, City Council authorized a contract with Walker Macy for urban planning, urban design and facilitation services to inform the direction the City should take in expanding the Design Overlay Zone and improving the tools and process for its implementation. With this authorization, work on the Design Overlay Zone Assessment (DOZA) can now begin!

Walker Macy will lead a combined team that includes Angelo Planning Group and Pyatok Architects. Angelo Planning Group has a deep understanding of the City’s regulatory process and standards. Pyatok Architects has designed urban infill and mixed use projects throughout the West Coast and is nationally known for bringing social considerations into building designs that reflect individual neighborhoods and their populations. In addition, two firms will serve as advisors to the core team. Leland Consulting Group will provide advice regarding the relationship between design standards and development economics and Alan Weinstein, a land use attorney, will advise on in creating defensible regulations that also ensure public benefit.

More about the Consultant Team:

Walker Macy
Landscape Architecture and Urban Design

Walker Macy is a 35-person planning, urban design, and landscape architecture firm founded in 1976 with a practice throughout the western states. The firm’s award-winning planning, landscape architecture, and urban design projects have become places of enduring significance for communities. These parks have ranged from highly active places programmed for civic events, to intimate, serene nature parks that serve as oases of green space for the community.


PYATOK was founded 32 years ago to serve the nonprofit affordable housing sector throughout the Bay Area. Drawing upon their housing experience, they expanded to include market rate, senior housing, student housing, and mixed-use developments in regions throughout California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Hawaii. Today, PYATOK has designed roughly 35,000 dwelling units in scores of developments. Their practice has evolved to helping communities and organizations build higher density urban environments that are both more sustainable and equitable. PYATOK has been through a variety of design review processes in communities around the west and in this project, can bring an architectural perspective to the assessment of changes to Portland’s Design Overlay Zone, bringing to bear many experiences outside of Portland that may provide additional perspective.

Leland Consulting Group
Economics and Real Estate Strategy

Leland Consulting Group's work in more than 200 communities across the country has helped shape long term plans and build the projects that immediately improve residents’ quality of life: thriving downtowns, bustling shopping districts, inviting neighborhoods, and productive employment centers. As urban strategists, their role is to keep the big picture in sight, while providing deep expertise in the strategic, market, financial, and economic elements that make projects possible.

Angelo Planning Group
Land Use Planning

Angelo Planning Group (APG) provides clients with flexible and creative professional planning capabilities by focusing on the unique needs of our clients. Specializing in complex land use, transportation, and project management issues in the Pacific Northwest, APG offers a thoughtful approach and a high level of technical expertise. APG staff is adept at, and widely recognized for, balancing project objectives with community needs in order to achieve successful solutions. Most of the planners in our firm have public sector backgrounds, and our experience working on both sides of the planning counter provides valuable insights for our clients. In this project, APG will assist with research and assessment of codes and standards in the project study areas.

Alan C. Weinstein
Land Use Attorney

Alan Weinstein, President of Alan C. Weinstein, Inc., is a nationally-recognized expert on land-use planning and planning law. With over thirty years of practice experience, he has worked as a planning consultant, attorney, and expert witness in settings that include: preparing comprehensive (and district) plans and implementing regulations, research design and project management, and state/federal court litigation at both the trial and appellate levels. He served as Chair of the Planning & Law Division of the American Planning Association (APA) from 1990 to 1992 and for 25 years was one of the national experts in planning law who served as Reporters for APA's monthly publication, Planning & Environmental Law, until it ceased publication in 2015.