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City Council hearing on Better Housing by Design continued to November 6 at 2 p.m.

Testimony on proposed changes to multi-dwelling zones prompts Mayor to commend testifiers.

The City Council public hearing on the Better Housing by Design Recommended Draft has been continued to Wednesday, November 6, 2019, starting at 2 p.m. Commissioners will continue to hear testimony because not everyone who signed up to testify on October 2 was able to before the hearing closed at 6 p.m.

If you were one of these people and would like to testify on November 6, you will be given priority to testify early based on your place on the October 2 sign-up list. Anyone else who would like to testify on the Better Housing by Design Recommended Draft may also testify at the November 6 hearing.

Written testimony will continue to be accepted until November 6, 2019, at 2 p.m. (see below for how to submit testimony).

Public Hearing Recap

At the October 2 hearing, project staff provided a summary of the Better Housing by Design proposals, followed by Daisy Quinonez representing the Planning and Sustainability Commission. After testimony from the Urban Forestry Commission, the Historic Landmarks Commission, and community partners, City Council heard testimony from the general public.

Public testimony covered a range of topics, including positive impacts of the code amendments on affordable housing, housing diversity, East Portland, and outdoor space for residents. A  range of perspectives on historic preservation and parking requirements was also expressed.

Mayor Wheeler concluded the hearing by saying, “This was some of the best public testimony I’ve heard in a long time … people spent a ton of time preparing for this and it showed.”

If you missed it, you can watch a video of the hearing here, starting at 1:57:20. 

How to Testify

Testify in person at the continued City Council public hearing on November 6
You may speak for three minutes to City Council, and your testimony will be added to the public record.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019, at 2 p.m.
Council Chambers at City Hall
1221 SW 4th Avenue
Portland, Oregon

To confirm the date, time and location, check the Council agenda at www.portlandoregon.gov/auditor/26997

Testify in writing by November 6, 2019 at 2 p.m. (you must include your name and address):

Use the Map App:

www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/mapapp

Select Better Housing by Design and click on the "Testify" button. Testifying in the Map App is as easy as sending an email. And once you press “submit,” you can see your testimony in the Testimony Reader in real time. You can also read other people’s testimony.

By U.S. Mail:

City Council
Better Housing by Design Testimony
1221 SW Fourth Avenue, Room 130
Portland, Oregon 97204 

Links to Recommended Draft documents:

Recommended Draft Summary – Short summary of the Recommended Draft’s major proposals

Volume 1: Staff Report – Summary and analysis of Recommended Draft Zoning Code and Map amendments

Volume 2: Zoning Code Amendments – Recommended Draft Zoning Code and Comprehensive Plan full text and commentary

Volume 3: Additional Zoning Code Amendments – Zoning Code amendments updating other chapters for consistency

Maps

Citywide maps showing the Recommended Draft Zoning Map and Comprehensive Plan Map can be viewed here:

Map of Recommended Draft Zoning

Map of Recommended Draft Comprehensive Plan Designations

Learn more about the multi-dwelling zoning changes and specific properties by using the online Map App: www.Portlandmaps.com/bps/mapapp

Select Better Housing by Design and enter in an address to learn about the proposed zoning for a property.

For more information

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is committed to providing meaningful access. For accommodations, modifications, translation, interpretation or other services, please call 503-823-7700 or use City TTY 503-823-6868, or Oregon Relay Service 711. 503-823-7700.

 

Testify to City Council about the Better Housing by Design project

Commissioners will hear public testimony about the update to Portland’s multi-dwelling zones on October 2 at 3 p.m.

The Better Housing by Design Recommended Draft has been available for public review since the beginning of August. Now Portland City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposals for improving the design and livability of housing in multi-dwelling zones. This is your chance to tell City Council what you support or think should be changed in the BHD proposals, which include zone changes for new apartments and other multi-family development throughout the city.

October 2 is also the deadline to submit written testimony (see details below). 

How to testify

Testify in person at the City Council public hearing

You may speak for three minutes to City Council, and your testimony will be added to the public record.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019, at 3 p.m.
Council Chambers at City Hall
1221 SW 4th Avenue Portland, Oregon

To confirm the date, time and location, check the Council agenda at www.portlandoregon.gov/auditor/26997

Testify in writing between September 4 and October 2, 2019

You must include your name and address.

Use the Map App:

www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/mapapp

Select Better Housing by Design and click on the "Testify" button. Testifying in the Map App is as easy as sending an email. And once you press “submit,” you can see your testimony in the Testimony Reader in real time. You can also read other people’s testimony.

By U.S. Mail:

City Council
Better Housing by Design Testimony
1221 SW Fourth Avenue, Room 130
Portland, Oregon 97204

What happens after the hearing?

In October and November, after testimony closes and following the public hearing, Council will discuss potential changes to the proposals before making their final decision on the code amendments.

Council work session

In advance of the public hearing, staff briefed City Council on the Recommended Draft on Tuesday, September 10.

Watch a video of the work session.  

What’s in the Recommended Draft?

The proposed code changes will help ensure that new development in the multi-dwelling zones better meets the needs of current and future residents and contributes to the positive qualities of the places where they are built.

City Council will consider proposals for zoning code amendments that:

  • Expand housing options with new incentives for affordable housing and by providing more flexibility for the numbers of units on sites.
  • Address needs for residential outdoor space, provide new options for green features, and make parking optional in more situations.
  • Guide the design of new multi-family development so that it contributes to pedestrian-friendly streets and relates to the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Provide design standards specific to East Portland and bring new approaches to creating needed street connections.
  • Make changes to the zoning map and regulations for higher density zones in historic districts to provide incentives for affordable housing while meeting historic preservation goals.

Use the Map App to learn more

Learn about how these zoning changes will affect specific properties by using the online Map App: www.Portlandmaps.com/bps/mapapp

Select Better Housing by Design and enter an address to learn about the proposed zoning for a property.

Recommended Draft documents

Maps

Citywide maps showing the:

All Recommended Draft resources

For more information

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is committed to providing meaningful access. For accommodations, modifications, translation, interpretation or other services, please call 503-823-7700 or use City TTY 503-823-6868, or Oregon Relay Service 711. 503-823-7700. 

Better Housing by Design Proposals Move Forward

Planning and Sustainability Commission votes unanimously to recommend new rules to improve development in Portland’s multi-dwelling zones.

On Tuesday, April 30, Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) made their final amendments and voted to recommend that City Council adopt the Better Housing by Design Revised Proposed Draft.

Commissioners emphasized their support for the BHD proposals, which expand the range of housing options in multi-dwelling zones, provide incentives for affordable housing, and create more livable outdoor space in East Portland.

Key elements of the proposal

The revised draft keeps most of the elements of the original proposals, including  design standards, greater flexibility for allowed numbers of units, bonuses for affordable housing, allowances for ground-floor commercial uses on major corridors, and provisions for outdoor spaces and green elements.

Final amendments the PSC voted to support include:

  • Expanded allowances for daycare facilities in multi-dwelling zones.
  • Allowances for narrower walkways when serving small numbers of residential units.
  • Revised base and bonus FARs in the large scale RM4 zone in historic districts.
  • Revised mapping of the RM3 and RM4 zones in the Alphabet and King’s Hill historic districts to reflect the scale of historic buildings.
  • Additional FAR transfer allowances for historic buildings with seismic upgrades in the multi-dwelling and mixed-use zones.

During this meeting staff also presented information on the BHD’s potential effects on the production of affordable housing units and opportunities for less costly units.

What do the RM3 or RM4 zones look like?

The letters R and M stand for “residential” and “multi-dwelling.” The numbers refer to the scale of development allowed. RM1 is the lowest scale mutli-dwelling zone and generally allows buildings up to three stories tall. RM4 is the largest scale multi-dwelling zone, allowing buildings as tall as seven to ten stories.

View illustrations and read descriptions of each zone.

What does this mean for Portlanders?

Multi-dwelling zones cover only about 8 percent of Portland’s land area. Located in areas that allow people to live close to services and transit, these zones  are expected to absorb about a quarter of the city’s population growth over the next 20 years. The Better Housing by Design project updates the regulations for multi-family housing to ensure that new development better meets the needs of current and future residents. The proposals will provide more opportunities for people to live in healthy housing that is affordable, accessible, and close to services and transit.

For these and other reasons, the PSC was enthusiastic in its support of the proposals. Commissioner Katie Larsell, a resident of East Portland, said, “There are some wonderful design changes, especially for East Portland, so that when development comes there will be more livable spaces for people.”

Commissioner Ben Bortolazzo stated, “The amendments bring greater flexibility and more options for people ... to live that they can afford, depending on where they are in life.” And Commissioner Jeff Bachrach felt the proposals could have a significant impact on development in the future.

You can view the meeting and discussion here (starting at 7:00).

The next draft of the proposal, the Recommended Draft, including all the approved amendments, will be forwarded to City Council for a public hearing and vote. Community members will be able to testify in person at the hearing or in writing before Council votes to adopt the proposals. Dates for the Council hearing and deliberations have not yet been determined.

For more information

Balancing housing opportunity and compatibility in the Alphabet and King’s Hill historic districts

Planners are seeking community input on potential zoning changes to balance affordable housing incentives with neighborhood compatibility in historic districts.

BHD flier

Did you receive a notice in the mail that looked like this? And/or do you live in the historic Alphabet or King’s Hill districts in NW Portland? Or, are you concerned about historic preservation or Portland’s need for affordable housing options?

If so, the City of Portland is interested in hearing your thoughts on potential zone changes that would adjust the allowed size of new buildings to improve compatibility with historic buildings in these special neighborhoods. At the same time, the proposals would expand incentives for affordable housing options for Portlanders in these and other historic districts.

The Better Housing by Design project is considering zoning code and map changes to encourage housing opportunities and affordable housing as well as to foster new development in scale with historic districts.

The potential changes would affect high-density residential (proposed RM3 and RM4) and mixed use zones (CM) in historic districts and include:

  1. RM4 zone changes (dark blue on map). In the proposed RM4 zone (currently RH with a base FAR of 4:1), reduce the base FAR to 3:1 when located in historic districts but give projects that include affordable housing units an FAR of 4.5:1.
  2. Change RM3 to RM4 zoning in part of the Alphabet Historic District (hatched area on map). In a portion of the Alphabet Historic district between NW 21st and NW 23rd that now has RH zoning with a base FAR of 2:1, change the proposed new zoning to RM4 (3:1 base FAR) to more closely match the scale of larger historic apartment buildings in the area.
  3. Allow affordable housing bonuses in mixed use zones in historic districts (CM – pink and red on map). In the CM2 zone in historic districts, such as along NW 21st and 23rd avenues, development is now limited to an FAR of 2.5:1 (typically three stories), with no option for development bonuses. In the CM2 zone in historic districts citywide, changes would provide a bonus FAR of 4:1 (up to four stories) for projects that include affordable units. A small number of CM3-zoned properties in the Alphabet Historic District currently with a base FAR of 3:1 would have a bonus FAR of up to 5:1. 

Alphabet District map

Map of zoning and potential changes in the Alphabet and King’s Hill historic districts. 


What is FAR (floor-to-area ratio)? 

FAR regulates the size of buildings. An FAR of 4 to 1 (4:1) allows 40,000 square feet of building floor area on a site that is 10,000 square feet in size, typically five or six stories.

base zone FAR


base zone with bonusRM4 zone base and bonus FARs of 3:1 and 4.5:1 would accommodate the range of larger historic multi-dwelling buildings in the Alphabet and King’s Hill historic districts, such as these examples.


Why are we doing this?

The intent of these potential zoning approaches is to:

  1. Provide incentives for affordable housing. This is important because Portland’s historic districts are places where people can live close to services and the employment opportunities of the Central City. These areas of the city have the highest densities outside of the Central City and are among Portland’s favorite walkable neighborhoods.
  2. Right size” zoning. The proposals would adjust rules for higher density zones so the size of new development is compatible with larger historic buildings in the area. In some zones (particularly RM4), current regulations allow development that is much larger than historic buildings, while other zones (RM3 and CM2) do not allow new buildings to be as large as nearby historic buildings. New development would still need to go through Historic Resource Review, through which development is reviewed to ensure scale and design is appropriate for the surrounding historic district.

Existing buildings

These zoning amendments would primarily affect new development. For those who own or live in an existing building, the changes would have little impact (except in the case of major additions). Historic landmarks and contributing structures in historic districts are protected by demolition review, which limits demolition of historic buildings.

Learn more and/or comment

Please provide questions and/or concerns about these potential zoning code and map changes by April 2, 2019, to: betterhousing@portlandoregon.gov

Or come see us in person at the Better Housing by Design table at one of the following events:

Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 5:30–7 p.m.
Historic Resources Code Project Open House
Architectural Heritage Center, 701 SE Grand Avenue, Portland

Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 4–7 p.m.
Historic Resources Code Project Open House
Center for Architecture (AIA Portland), 403 NW 11th Avenue, Portland

NW and EverettNext Steps

These potential zoning code and map changes are ideas only; they are not formal proposals. Project staff will consider community input in preparation for a work session with the Planning and Sustainability Commission on April 9, 2019. Public testimony will not be taken at this meeting, but community members can attend to listen to the discussion (please confirm dates, times and agendas one week prior by visiting the PSC Calendar ). The meeting will also be streamed live on the BPS YouTube channel.

If the Planning and Sustainability Commission decides to include these proposals in the Better Housing by Design Recommended Draft, the public will have an opportunity to testify on them in front of City Council. That public hearing date has not been set yet, but it will likely be sometime in Summer 2019. 

Additional Information

Potential changes to RM4 Zone 

RM4 is the proposed new zoning designation for current RH zoning that allows buildings with a floor-to-area ratio (FAR) of 4 to 1. In historic districts, this zoning is primarily located in the Alphabet and King’s Hill historic districts (a small part of the Irvington Historic District also includes this zoning, but is located in the Central City Plan District and is subject to different regulations). The original Better Housing by Design Proposed Draft continued the current base FAR allowance of 4 to 1 in the new RM4 zone and capped the amount of development bonus in the RM4 zone at a maximum FAR of 6 to 1 (buildings with 20 or more units, which are required to provide Inclusionary Housing affordable units, are provided with bonus FAR to help defray the costs of providing affordable units). This bonus FAR is considerably larger than the scale of historic buildings in the Alphabet and King’s Hill historic districts, creating uncertainty regarding whether new buildings with this scale could be approved through Historic Resource Review. The potential change is to reduce the base FAR to 3 to 1 and to set the standard affordable housing bonus FAR to a maximum FAR of 4.5 to 1. These base and bonus FARs would allow for development that is similar in scale to larger historic buildings in the Alphabet and King’s Hill historic districts (staff analysis of existing buildings in the Alphabet and King’s Hill historic districts indicates that larger historic buildings in both these areas typically range in scale up to about a 4.5 to 1 FAR).

The proposal also includes a special “deeper housing affordability bonus” available only for projects where at least half of units are affordable to households earning no more than 60 percent of median family income. In the RM4 zone, this bonus would allow up to a 6 to 1 FAR for qualifying projects (the required level of affordability would not be feasible for most development and would likely only be used occasionally by affordable housing developers). Current regulations for the RH zone allow an FAR of up to 7 to 1 when projects use amenity bonuses or FAR transfers. The draft regulations would limit most FAR increases to a 4.5 to 1 FAR, allowing FAR beyond this amount only for the deeper housing affordability bonus to prioritize housing affordability in historic districts. Achieving this scale would be subject to review and approval by the Historic Landmarks Commission.

Potential RM4 Zoning Map Changes

NW EverettIn a portion of the Alphabet Historic District that currently has RH zoning (2 to 1 base FAR), consider changing the new zoning to RM4 (3 to 1 base FAR) to more closely correspond to the scale of larger historic apartment buildings in the area. This change would apply to areas with current RH zoning located between NW 21st and NW 23rd avenues, from Burnside up to NW Hoyt Street. As with other historic district areas with the proposed RM4 zone, this would provide a bonus FAR of up to 4.5 to 1 for buildings that include affordable housing units. Analysis of existing buildings in this area indicate that 17 historic apartment buildings exceed the current base FAR limit of 2 to 1 and several historic apartment buildings are twice this scale (see Select Sites and Existing Building Floor Area Ratios).

Mixed Use Zones (CM2 and CM3) 

CM2. The primary commercial/mixed use zone in the Alphabet Historic District is CM2 (former CS zone), mapped along NW 21st and NW 23rd Avenues. Since May 2018, development in this zone has been limited to an FAR of 2.5 to 1 (equivalent to a three-story building covering most of a lot), with no opportunities for development bonuses (mixed use zone buildings with 20 or more units are required to provide affordable units but do not receive any bonus FAR when located in historic districts). Prior to May 2018, the CS zone allowed buildings to be built to a full four-story scale.  The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission has provided initial direction to amend the zoning code to allow development bonuses and FAR transfers to be used in mixed use zones within historic districts citywide. This would allow a bonus FAR of up to 4 to 1 in the CM2 zone (maximum building height would remain 45 feet). This development bonus would allow four-story development similar in scale to larger historic buildings along the Alphabet Historic District’s main streets (see Select Sites – CM2 Zone). This bonus FAR of 4 to 1 is the same that is currently allowed in CM2 zones outside historic districts. Smaller projects that are not required to provide affordable units could also achieve some additional FAR (but not the full bonus) through transfers of FAR from other sites where historic buildings are being preserved.

CM3. A small number of properties at the eastern edge  of the Alphabet Historic District (along NW 16th Ave) have CM3 zoning, which has a base FAR of 3 to 1 (and a maximum building height of 65 feet). The proposed amendments would allow a bonus FAR of up to 5 to 1 (maximum building height of 75 feet).

CM2 Zone 

CM2 base ad bonus

Base FAR: 2.5 to 1 (current maximum) and Bonus FAR: 4 to 1

Examples of existing buildings in the CM2 zone (NW 21st Avenue)

3:1 non-historicFAR: 3 to 1 (non-historic)


3.2:1 non-historic

FAR: 3.2 to 1 (non-historic)


3.7:1 historicFAR: 3.7 to 1 (historic)


5:1 historicFAR: 5 to 1 (historic)


Documents

Planning and Sustainability Commission begins work sessions on proposed new rules for Portland’s multi-dwelling zones

Commissioners will consider public testimony on proposed guidelines for new apartments, townhomes and other multi-family housing as they prepare their recommendations to City Council.

In May and June, Portlanders reviewed and testified on proposed new rules for new construction in Portland’s multi-dwelling zones. The Better Housing by Design proposals would expand housing options, provide incentives for affordable housing, improve design, and support active living and green elements for new apartments and other multi-family housing developments.

Project staff released the Better Housing by Design Proposed Draft on May 11. And on June 12, the Planning and Sustainability Commission heard public testimony.

Watch the public hearing on video (testimony on BHD begins at 56:38).

Portlanders also submitted written testimony via the online Map App. Between the oral and written testimony, the Commission received 270 pieces of testimony on the Proposed Draft.

You can review what people said about the proposals in the Testimony Reader.

Wait! Are townhomes (like the ones in the picture) considered "multi-dwelling" or "multi-family" housing?

Yes, townhomes are considered multi-dwelling development (especially because the ones in the picture didn’t involve a land division, which creates separate lots for each unit). This project was built in a multi-dwelling zone. Townhomes, duplexes and other low-rise housing types are the most common types of development in most of the multi-dwelling zones. (Note: The proposed Residential Infill Project amendments would not typically allow this type of townhouse development unless approved through planned development review.)

PSC Work Sessions

Now the PSC will begin work sessions on the Better Housing by Design proposals to prepare their recommendations to the City Council. Commissioners will not hear public testimony at the work sessions. However, staff-prepared work session material will be posted on the project website so you can follow along.

Four upcoming work sessions are tentatively organized by topic areas:

Please confirm dates, times and agendas one week prior by visiting the PSC calendar.

All PSC hearings and meetings are streamed live on the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability YouTube channel.

Questions? Want more information ...

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is committed to providing meaningful access. For accommodations, modifications, translation, interpretation or other services, please call 503-823-7700 or use City TTY 503-823-6868, or Oregon Relay Service 711. 503-823-7700.