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Planning and Sustainability

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Phone: 503-823-7700

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DOZA: From Assessment to Amendments

City kicks off projects to implement recommendations for improving the design overlay zone

While the acronym for the project has stayed the same, “DOZA” is transitioning from the Design Overlay Zone Assessment to a series of Design Overlay Zone Amendments, which will update the City’s codes, standards and guidelines related to the design overlay zone.

In 2016, the Bureaus of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) and Development Services (BDS) hired a consultant team to assess the City’s design overlay zone (d-overlay). The result was The Design Overlay Zone Assessment, which included a set of findings and recommendations to improve the process and tools that implement the d-overlay. City Council voted to accept the report in April 2017.

Now, BPS and BDS are ready to put those recommendations into action with the Design Overlay Zone Amendments (DOZA) package, which comprises three projects:

  1. DOZA Process. This project will amend the Zoning Code to update how the design overlay works. It will include adjusting the thresholds for Design Review, improving public notice requirements and realigning the City’s Design Review process with the applicants’ design process. These updates will go into effect in summer 2018.
  2. DOZA Tools. This project will rewrite two primary tools used to implement the design overlay:  the objective design standards and discretionary design guidelines. We’ll seek input from the public and work with a consultant to write the new Objective Design Standards and Discretionary Design Guidelines, which are expected to be finalized in summer 2019.
  3. DOZA Administration. This project is an ongoing effort to make the Design Review process more efficient through internal changes at BDS. Examples include increasing staff capacity, managing Design Commission meetings more effectively, and using new tools to facilitate Commission deliberation.

Next Steps

The public Discussion Draft of the DOZA Process project will be released in December 2017. The draft will be available on the project website and staff will be holding several public outreach meetings and an event to seek public input.


Contact DOZA Coordinator Kathryn Hartinger at (503) 823-9714 or

Portland City Council votes to accept Design Overlay Zone Assessment consultant’s recommendations to improve design review and criteria

DOZA consultant’s recommendations for streamlining process will guide the Bureaus of Planning and Sustainability and Development Services to create more housing quickly while ensuring quality buildings.

“My priority clearly is more housing supply, sooner, at a lower cost, with less of a hassle factor while not creating garbage that we’re stuck with for 100 years.” — Mayor Ted Wheeler

“I’m unsurprisingly very concerned with how we are affecting development, specifically development of affordable housing. Certainly our intention is to streamline and accelerate this process.” — Commissioner Chloe Eudaly

“The way we grow does matter, and affordable housing doesn’t have to be ugly housing.” — Commissioner Amanda Fritz

On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, City Council heard from Design Overlay Zone Assessment (DOZA) project staff, design and historic landmark commissioners, and the public about the DOZA Final Report from project consultant Walker Macy. After considering stakeholder and public testimony, Commissioners voted to accept the report, authorizing the bureaus of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) and Development Services (BDS) to implement the recommendations.

Sponsored by Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, the DOZA recommendations will “... streamline the development review process and accelerate the construction of new housing,” said the Mayor in his introductory remarks.

Speaking remotely by phone, Commissioner Eudaly said she had been working on improving design review with BDS staff and “want(s) to increase public understanding of the process.” Short-term actions have already been implemented, remarked BDS Interim Director Rebecca Esau.

While noting her bureau’s collaborative work with BDS on the DOZA project, BPS Director Susan Anderson stated, “Fifty to sixty thousand more people will call the Central City home in 20 years. Design review can help us protect vibrant neighborhoods, but it can’t be a burden.”

What is the Design Overlay Zone and why does it matter?

The Design Overlay (d-overlay) Zone promotes the conservation, enhancement and continued vitality of areas of the city with special scenic, architectural or cultural value. It also supports quality development near high-capacity transit. This is achieved with the use of design guidelines for various d-overlay zones and by requiring design review or compliance with objective Community Design Standards. Design review or compliance with the Community Design Standards also ensures that certain types of infill development will be compatible with Portland's neighborhoods and enhance the surrounding areas.

But as Portland grows and more housing and new development is needed, design review needs updating to meet demand.

Gathering feedback for assessment and recommendations

The DOZA consultant team solicited feedback from architects, designers, developers, builders and community members to develop an assessment report, which was reviewed by staff and other stakeholders. Subsequently, Walker Macy developed a list of recommendations to strengthen the current system. This was also shared with stakeholders, including the Design Commission and the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC). 

Said Kat Schultz, PSC chair, “The design review thresholds need to be right-sized based on impact. Removing regulatory barriers will allow innovation and testing of new systems as well as give small developers and property owners a chance to succeed while furthering the equity goals in our Comprehensive Plan.”

Testimony on consultant’s recommendations

Mark Hinshaw from the Seattle office of Portland-based Walker Macy presented the results of the assessment and recommendations for improving the design review process.

“Design Review is not broken, but it needs a refresh,” said Hinshaw. “Part of Portland’s personality is the funky, strange, home-grown character of its neighborhoods and buildings. So we should let the small stuff go.”

Design Commissioner David Wark noted, “Portland has a reputation for moving the bar forward in terms of urban design and design excellence. To retain the qualities of Portland that make it special, design review and Design Commission will continue to be an important part of that process.”

“How much a project affects the public realm should not lose its importance,” remarked Historic Landmarks Commissioner Kristen Minor. “Changes at the street level have a much greater impact on the public realm than changes at the rooftop of a project, for instance. We strongly support the recommendation for greater input from neighborhood associations and would encourage applicants to reach out even in the planning phase of a project.”

Commissioners’ final thoughts before voting

Before voting to accept the DOZA recommendations, Commissioners shared their perspectives on design review as it relates to new development in Portland.

“I’m very appreciative of all of the broad recommendations that take into account how to continue to build community consistent with our values,” stated Mayor Wheeler.

Echoing concerns about more thorough outreach, Commissioner Amanda Fritz said, “We need to involve all of the communities, not just the traditional ones. I appreciate [the consultant’s] comments about getting notice to renters, for example. There are a number of ways we can increase our outreach, but it has to matter that people can participate..”

Commissioner Eudaly expressed appreciation for “comments from a whole range of folks —  even when there was tension or disagreement. These are fascinating and vital issues.”  

View the Council meeting and hearing about DOZA (starting at 1:05:27)

Next Steps

With the acceptance of the report, BPS and BDS staff will now begin improving Portland’s tools to implement the consultant’s recommendations. This will involve Zoning Code changes through a legislative process, updates to design guidelines and standards, and improvements to the design review process. Community members will have many opportunities to provide feedback on proposed changes, so look for updates on this page for upcoming news.

For more information about the DOZA project and to sign up for project updates, please visit

Design Overlay Zone Assessment (DOZA) Final Report ready for public review and City Council hearing

Project consultant’s recommendations aimed at improving the design overlay (d-overlay) zone, including the design review process and review criteria.

The Design Overlay Zone Assessment (DOZA) project has reached its final stage, and the consultant’s recommendations are now published in a full-length report. The project team will present the DOZA results (or “findings”) and recommendations to City Council on April 26, and the community is invited to give their testimony during a public hearing at that time.

Read the report

In addition to the Final Report, summary sheets of the project are available. The report features recommendations to improve the d-overlay zone process and tools, including the Community Design Standards, Community Design Guidelines and the Central City Fundamental Design Guidelines.

It also includes work from all stages of the project: research of peer cities and findings gleaned from stakeholder interviews, online questionnaires, and evaluation of built projects.  

Comments on draft recommendations were gathered from a public open house and online questionnaire in addition to workshops with the Design Commission, Planning and Sustainability Commission, and staff in spring 2017. Feedback from all stakeholders helped to shape the final report.

What’s next?

On April 13 at 1:30 p.m. the project team will present the Final Report to the Design Commission at 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Room 2500A. Please check the Design Commission website to verify the scheduled time prior to the date.

Staff will brief the Planning and Sustainability Commission on April 25 at 5 p.m. at 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Room 2500A. Please check the PSC website to confirm date, time and agenda, or to watch the meeting live.

On April 26, City Council will hold a public hearing on the Final Report, scheduled at 3 p.m. in the Council Chambers at 1221 SW 4th Avenue. City Council will be taking testimony at the hearing. Please check the agenda the Friday before the hearing to confirm the date and time. You may also email written testimony to the Council Clerk at or send to 1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 130, Portland, OR 97204. Written testimony must be received by the time of the hearing and must include your name and address.

Many of the recommendations for improving the design review process are already underway. Other recommendations, specifically those that require a legislative process, such as adjusting the review thresholds and rewriting design standards and guidelines, will require more time and public input.

Following the April hearing at Council, BDS and BPS will finalize a work plan to proceed with the consultant’s recommendations.


The DOZA project was initiated by the Bureaus of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) and Development Services (BDS) to improve Portland’s d-overlay zone. An independent consultant team, led by the Seattle office of Portland-based Walker Macy, was enlisted to assess the processes and tools of the design overlay zone (d-overlay).

The d-overlay is intended to achieve high-quality design for new buildings within areas of growth, as well as places with special architectural, cultural or scenic value.

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