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BPS launches Historic Resources Code Project

The project will research regional and national best practices and propose zoning code changes to reconcile deficiencies in Portland’s existing programs.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has launched a 14-month zoning code project that will propose changes to how the City of Portland identifies, designates and protects historic resources. The Historic Resources Code Project follows a 2016 Oregon State Supreme Court decision and recently adopted changes to state administrative rules, both of which provide opportunities for improving Portland’s historic resource protection programs. The project will build upon previous historic resource zoning code projects, the most recent of which was adopted in 2013 and made changes to review procedures for minor exterior alteration projects in historic districts.

What’s the project timeline?

The Historic Resources Code Project will last approximately 14 months, beginning in September 2017. A project timeline is below.

Timeline

Opportunities for public involvement will be posted to the Historic Resources Code Project website as the project develops.

What sections of the code will be most affected?

Many sections of the Portland zoning code address historic resources, but it is primarily sections 33.445 and 33.846 that provide the City’s framework for identifying, designating and protecting historic resources. It’s anticipated the Historic Resources Code Project will result in significant changes to both of these sections of the zoning code.

What won’t be included in the project?

Although the project will be proposing minor and major policy changes, there are a number of items that the project is not anticipated to address. Among the items that won’t be included in this project are:

  • Development of district-specific design guidelines or standards
  • Inventorying or designating new historic resources
  • Providing financial incentives to owners of historic resources
  • Proposing changes to building regulations outside of the zoning code.
  • Changing the National Register of Historic Places designation process or the minimum protections that apply to National Register resources under State Land Use Goal 5.  

The adopted zoning code changes that result from this project will inform the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s future historic resources projects, which may include additional code changes, development of district-specific guidelines and standards and a citywide update to the Historic Resources Inventory.

How can I follow this project?

Project updates will be distributed to the historic resources program email list; sign-up to receive information about events and project milestones.

Who is responsible for the project?

The project is being managed by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s historic resources program, with support from the Bureau of Development Services’ design and historic resources team. Core project staff include:

  • Brandon Spencer-Hartle, Project Manager
  • Caity Ewers, Community Service Aide II
  • Hillary Adam, BDS Liaison

For questions about and comments on the Historic Resources Code Project, email historic.resources@portlandoregon.gov

Portland’s Historic Resource Inventory now on Instagram!

The social media project shares interesting images representing the breadth and depth of Portland's historic properties.

Image

Between 1980 and 1984, the City of Portland conducted a citywide survey of potentially historic resources that culminated in an inventory of 5,000 documented places. The Historic Resource Inventory (HRI) included residences, warehouses, statues, historic sites, factories, commercial buildings, and even trees. The property-by-property documentation was initially contained in 26 three-ring binders, with the original set housed at the State Historic Preservation Office and copies available at the City Archives and Records Center, Oregon Historical Society, and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. 

This past spring and summer, two interns from Portland State University and University of Oregon digitized the City’s inventory records, reconciled changes that have occurred since 1984, and integrated up-to-date HRI data into BPS’ historic resources webmap. The project included a review of all 5,000 HRI records to ensure the accuracy of City data regarding historic significance rankings, demolitions, and property location. All photographs from the 1984 effort were scanned and cropped to be used in future historic resources documentation efforts.

Although photographs were taken of nearly all of 5,000 HRI properties, 250 of the most interesting images representing the breadth and depth of the 1984 effort were set aside to be shared on the Instagram account Portland1984 over the course of the coming year. The images capture a snapshot of a moment in Portland’s past and provide inspiration about how historic resources can contribute to Portland’s future. Instagram users are encouraged to interact with the posts, sharing memories and ideas for how historic places might be used in the coming years.

Digitization of the 1984 HRI records is one of several concurrent efforts underway to prepare for an eventual update to the citywide inventory of significant historic resources. Additional background on possible next steps for updating the inventory will be posted to the Historic Resources and Preservation page in October, but in the meantime check out Portland1984 Instagram!

Community invited to discuss African American Historic Sites Documentation Project

The collaborative project will create an easier path to historic designation for significant African American resources in Portland.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, with support from the nonprofit Architectural Heritage Center, continues the year-long effort to document historic resources associated with Portland’s African American experience. The endeavor’s final product will be a Multiple Property Documentation (MPD) form, a National Register of Historic Places umbrella document which captures the significance of a thematic grouping of historic resources. The MPD will not designate any property as historic, but will make it easier for owners of African American historic resources to voluntarily nominate their property for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in the future.

1904 Rutherford House
The 1904 Rutherford House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its association with significant civil rights leaders Otto and Verdell Rutherford and for its role as an NAACP meeting space during the 1950s. Photo courtesy Addam Goard. 

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Architectural Heritage Center are committed to the meaningful involvement of those who own, rent, and care about African American historic resources. A community forum on the project will be held on Saturday, July 15, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the lower level of Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church located at 3138 N Vancouver Avenue.

Property owners, tenants, and the public are invited and encouraged to attend the July 15 community forum. Attendees are encouraged to bring photographs, stories, and other documentation that may aid in identifying and documenting significant historic resources associated with the African American experience in Portland. The community forum’s venue, Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2016 for its significant connection to African American Portlanders following the 1948 Vanport flood. An accessible entrance to the church is located on the Fargo Street side of the building. Refreshments will be provided by the Architectural Heritage Center.

1910 Rinehart Building
The 1910 Rinehart Building (also known as the Cleo-Lillian Social Club) was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as one of the few remaining commercial buildings in Albina associated with the social and cultural fabric of the African American community. Photo courtesy Addam Goard.  

If you are unable to attend the community forum on July 15th but have information or questions about the project, you are welcome to contact Architectural Heritage Center project researchers Cathy Galbraith and Kimberly Moreland at (503) 231-7264 (please leave messages with your name and phone number). The project is expected to be completed by early fall 2017.

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

NEXT STEPS

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.