Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

More Contact Info

Subscribe to RSS feed

Most Recent

View More

City partners with Architectural Heritage Center to document Portland’s African American historic resources

State Historic Preservation Office grant will allow for the identification, documentation, and potential National Register listing of historic places associated with the African American experience in Portland.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has partnered with the nonprofit Architectural Heritage Center to document potentially significant historic resources associated with Portland’s African American history. With grant funding from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, the project will complete an umbrella National Register of Historic Places document known as a Multiple Property Documentation (MPD) form. MPDs record groupings of historic resources associated with a significant historic context (such as a building type or ethnic/cultural group) to allow for individual owners to more easily list their property in the National Register.

Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church during the historic period. Although the 1909 church building was heavily remodeled in the 1950s, the alterations are significant in their own right as they were undertaken to accommodate the growing congregation in the years following the Vanport Flood. Image courtesy Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church.

The partnership with the Architectural Heritage Center builds off of the nonprofit’s 1998 “Cornerstones of Community” project, a citywide survey of African American historic resources and companion educational materials for local fourth grade students. According to Cathy Galbraith, who managed the Cornerstones project and is serving on the MPD project, “Formal documentation and protection through National Register listing of our city’s African American heritage is long overdue. Without proactive efforts by the City and the community, Portland risks losing a significant part of its cultural heritage.” Members of Oregon Black Pioneers and historic preservation professionals from various backgrounds were tapped to participate on the project team to ensure the MPD is accurate, comprehensive, informative, and useful for property owners. 

As an umbrella document, the MPD will not automatically nominate any property to the National Register, but will provide owners of significant African American historic resources with an easier and clearer path to designation. Because owner consent is required for a property to be listed in the National Register, the MPD is intended to make it easier to recognize, designate, and protect African American historic sites in Portland.

Vancouver Avenue Baptist ChurchInterior of the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church during a 1959 church service. Image courtesy Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church.

Interest in designating African American historic resources has been on the rise in recent years. One such designation is the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, listed in the National Register in October 2016 for its association with a majority African American congregation that relocated to inner North Portland following the 1948 Vanport Flood


The Architectural Heritage Center welcomes submission of photos, stories, or other documentation that may aid in their work. Contact Cathy Galbraith 503-543-6813 to share your stories. A community open house will be held in early summer 2017 to collect additional stories and share progress on the project. The MPD is expected to be completed in early fall 2017.

Vancouver Avenue Baptist ChurchThe Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church as it appears today. The church was listed in the National Register of Historic Plans in 2016 for its significant role in Portland's African American history.

The project will also achieve early implementation of a policy in the proposed Central City 2035 Plan, which calls for the identification and documentation of African American historic resources in inner North and Northeast Portland.

New State Rules Will Prompt Changes to Portland's Historic Resource Protection Program

Administrative rule change upholds mandatory demolition review protection for National Register resources, adds requirement for public hearing before design review can be applied to new National Register listings.

On January 27, 2017, the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) adopted new administrative rules governing how Oregon jurisdictions identify, designate, and protect historic resources. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability participated in the rulemaking process and testified before the LCDC in support of the now-adopted rules. The adopted rules provide legal clarity, additional tools for documenting historic resources, and expanded opportunities for public involvement in the protection of historic resources. While Zoning Code changes will be necessary to implement many of the voluntary aspects of the rule changes, other elements of the rule become effective once the rules are filed with the Secretary of State (anticipated mid-February 2017).

As City staff review the specifics of the rule changes and begin to scope possible Zoning Code amendments, many historic resource owners are asking how the rules may affect their property. Below are common questions and the best answers that City staff are able to provide at this time.

What is the most immediate effect of the rule changes?

Upon the rules taking effect, the City of Portland will no longer automatically apply historic resource review to new listings in the National Register of Historic Places. Historic resource review is a form of design review administered by the Bureau of Development Services and Historic Landmarks Commission intended to protect the physical integrity of historic landmarks and properties within historic districts. All National Register resources in Portland are today subject to historic resource review and will continue to be subject to such review. However, historic resources listed in the National Register after the effective date of the rule will only have historic resource review applied following a public hearing and decision to apply historic resource review to the resource.

Because such a hearing and adoption process does not today exist in the Zoning Code, code amendments will be necessary before historic resource review can be considered and/or applied to National Register resources that are listed following the effective date of the rules. Four Portland resources are currently under consideration for listing in the National Register.

What if my property is already designated?

The rule changes do not substantively affect properties that are already designated as a historic resource. Properties currently subject to historic resource review will remain subject to that design review protection. National Register resources subject to demolition review (as well as those that are listed in the future) will remain subject to demolition review, albeit with slightly amended approval criteria to be used by the Portland City Council when considering demolition requests.

What if I live in a proposed historic district?

A portion of the Eastmoreland neighborhood is currently being considered for designation as a National Register historic district. If approved by the National Park Service, contributing resources within the district would automatically be subject to demolition review. The application of historic resource review—either as general design review approval criteria or district-specific design guidelines—would require notice, citizen involvement, public hearing(s) and a decision to apply historic resource review to the district.

Because Zoning Code changes will be necessary to create a hearing and adoption process for the application of historic resource review to new National Register designations, the City of Portland would not be able to apply historic resource review to an Eastmoreland Historic District until at least 2018. Furthermore, given resource constraints, best practices for public involvement, policies that prefer district-specific design guidelines for historic districts and neighborhood and City Council priorities, it is possible if not likely that historic resource review would not be applied to an Eastmoreland historic district for several years.

Eastmoreland House
A portion of the Eastmoreland neighborhood is currently being considered for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. If designated, the new rules would automatically apply demolition review to the district’s contributing buildings, but would require a public process before design review requirements for alterations and new construction could go into effect. Eastmoreland house photo courtesy Scott A. Tice.   

How is demolition defined?

The adopted rules include a definition of demolition that applies to permit applications “that destroys, removes, or relocates, in whole or part, a significant historic resource such that its historic, cultural, or architectural character and significance is lost.” Staff in the bureaus of Planning and Sustainability and Development Services are evaluating how best to implement this definition in advance of Zoning Code changes that would more clearly articulate thresholds for actions that are tantamount to demolition of a historic resource.  

Protection of Historic Resources
The new rules provide regulatory clarity for the identification, designation, and protection of historic resources, including definitions and requirements pertaining to demolition of National Register resources. Photo courtesy Scott A. Tice.

Is it true that the rules allow for the creation of local historic and conservation districts?

The adopted rules provide greater flexibility for the establishment of local historic and conservation districts, neither of which have been created in Portland since 1993. Zoning Code changes will first be needed to articulate a process for creation of such districts before they become a viable designation option. It is important to note that the Zoning Code does not currently apply demolition review to local historic resource designations—local and conservation landmark properties/districts are today protected with a 120-day demolition delay period and varying thresholds for historic resource review.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability will not have certainty on the processes, fees, or regulations that will apply to new local or conservation districts until 2018.

Map of Woodlawn Conservation District
The Woodlawn Conservation District, established in 1993, provides demolition delay and design standards to better manage change in this unique neighborhood.

What do the rules mean for the Historic Resources Inventory?

The adopted rules clarify that owner consent is not required to survey and inventory potentially significant historic resources. This change opens the possibility of updating the City’s Historic Resources Inventory, last updated in 1984.

When will the Zoning Code changes go into effect?

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is scoping a historic resources code project that would create a process for applying historic resource review to new National Register listings, overhaul the process for establishing local and conservation districts, codify a framework for updating the Historic Resources Inventory, and address staff concerns related to thresholds for and exemptions to historic resource review. The State Historic Preservation Office has advised the City of Portland to delay initiation of Zoning Code amendments until July 2017, however, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff will begin convening stakeholders this spring and summer to develop initial code concepts and begin public outreach and review in fall 2017. It is unlikely that any historic resource Zoning Code changes will be adopted prior to late winter 2018.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability looks forward to advancing the historic resource program in the year ahead with the additional clarity, flexibility, and inclusion provided by the adopted rules.

Portion of Eastmoreland Neighborhood Nominated as National Register Historic District

Federal designation may occur as early as summer 2017

On December 15, 2016, the Eastmoreland Historic District was officially nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, a federal designation that brings with it local land use protections. The nomination, prepared on behalf of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association, will be considered by the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission, State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation, and National Park Service in the months ahead. If listed, the historic district would include approximately 475 acres and 1,300 properties.

Map of proposed Eastmoreland Historic District

What would it mean?

The National Register is a federal historic resource designation reviewed and approved by the National Park Service. New resources listed in the National Register are subject to demolition review protections provided by the City of Portland Zoning Code and eligible to participate in applicable local, state, and federal incentive programs. Design review criteria for new construction and exterior alteration of properties within the historic district may be applied at a later date, subject to hearings and adoption by the Portland City Council.

1931 Women's Realty Board house in Eastmoreland

1931 image of a Women’s Realty Board demonstration house in Eastmoreland. Image courtesy Oregon Daily Journal, February 22, 1931.

Women's Realty Board house as it appears today

Women’s Realty Board demonstration house as it appears today. Image courtesy AECOM. 

How do I testify or provide feedback?

The Portland Historic Landmarks Commission will review the Eastmoreland Historic District nomination at their regular meeting on Monday, February 13, 2017. The Commission’s recommendation is not a final decision, as the City of Portland’s role is advisory to the National Park Service process. The meeting is an opportunity to learn more about the proposed historic district and to provide comments to the Commission. The February 13 meeting will take place at 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Room 2500A, beginning at 1:30 p.m. The Commission’s agenda is available on the Bureau of Development Services’ webpage.

Following the City of Portland’s advisory review of the nomination, the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation (SACHP) will hold a formal meeting to consider the nomination on February 17, 2017. This meeting will take place at the Eastmoreland Golf Course, 2425 SE Bybee Boulevard, beginning at 1:00pm. The SACHP’s agenda is available on the State Historic Preservation Office’s webpage. Testimony on the merits of the National Register nomination will be accepted at the February 17 meeting.

Property owners within the district’s proposed boundary are provided an official opportunity to object to the district’s listing in the National Register by submitting a notarized letter of objection. The district will not be designated if a majority of the owners within the proposed boundary object to the listing between now and July 1, 2017.

Next Steps

Following the February 17 meeting of the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation, the nomination may be sent to the National Park Service for final review. The National Park Service will review the nomination against applicable criteria for National Register listing, including a review of the physical integrity and historic significance of the proposed district. The National Park Service is not expected to make a decision on the Eastmoreland Historic District before early summer 2017. If listed, the demolition review provisions of the Portland Zoning Code would apply automatically to contributing properties within district.

Copies of the nomination, a project timeline, objection letter templates, and additional information on the proposed historic district can be found on the State Historic Preservation Office’s Eastmoreland webpage.

For more information about the City of Portland’s historic resources program, contact:

Brandon Spencer-Hartle, Historic Resources Program Manager,, 503-823-6879

Proposed Draft New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District Design Guidelines available for review

Review and testify on the Proposed Draft Design Guidelines

Sketch of Demolished Hop Sing Tong BuildingPortland’s New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District is getting some well-deserved attention with the development of district-specific design guidelines. Developed by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Portland Development Commission, with input from stakeholders and the community, the new approval criteria will guide building alterations and new construction in the district, while preserving and showcasing its unique, multi-ethnic history. The guidelines address various exterior and façade elements, from signs and awnings to the desired characteristics of new construction and additions to existing buildings.

On August 1, 2016, the Proposed Draft of the guidelines was released for public review and comment.

Provide Testimony

The Portland Historic Landmarks Commission will consider the Proposed Draft New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District Design Guidelines and hold public hearings on September 12 and September 26, 2016. Testimony will be accepted at both hearings.

In addition to attending a hearing, there are several other ways to provide testimony to the Landmarks Commission on the Proposed Draft:

  • Email: Include “Historic District Design Guidelines Testimony” in the subject line and include your full name and mailing address.
  • By U.S. Mail: Brandon Spencer-Hartle, 1900 SW Fourth Ave., Suite 7100, Portland OR, 97201. Attn: Historic District Design Guidelines Testimony.

Public Process and Next Steps

Hung Far Low Sign

The Proposed Draft Design Guidelines were developed with input from a stakeholder advisory committee, formed to provide recommendations to the project team based on their knowledge and expertise related to land use, architecture, history, property development, and familiarity with the historic district. Testimony will be received by the Historic Landmarks Commission as they refine the Proposed Draft into a Recommended Draft for consideration and adoption by the City Council. Once in place, the design guidelines will be used as approval criteria during historic resource review of both new construction and exterior alterations/additions to existing buildings.


The New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District is bound by NW Glisan Street to the north, NW 3rd Avenue on the east, West Burnside Street to the south, and NW 5th Avenue to the west. Primary architectural styles include Italianate, 20th Century Commercial, and Moderne. This 10-block historic district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 because of the area’s significant history and heritage of Asian culture, industry, commerce and architecture.

The project team values and encourages input from the community about this project. For more information, visit