Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

The City of Portland, Oregon

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 Less

Summary Meeting Notes: August 9, 2012 Residential Development PEG

Summary Meeting Notes

Residential Development and Compatibility Policy Expert Group  

Date: August 9, 2012
Time: 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

PEG Attendees: Tamara DeRidder, John Gibbon, Anyeley Hallova, Michael Hayes, Gabe Headrick, Rodney Jennings, Barry Manning (PEG lead), James McGrath, Rod Merrick, Erica Palmer, Stanley Penkin, Eli Spevak, Irma Valdez

Other Attendees: Debbie Bischoff, Barry Manning (BPS staff - presenters); DeborahStein, Matt Wickstrom, Mark Raggett, Spencer Williams, Liza Mickle, Lora Lillard (BPS staff); Stephanie Reynolds (ONI); Linda Nettekoven, David Sweet, Lois Leveen, Don McGillvary, Doug Hamilton, Bob Granger, Rick Michaelson, Mary Ann Schwab, Benjamin Adrian,Tom Karwaki (community members)

Facilitator: Deb Meihoff - Communitas

View the original agenda, including materials, for this meeting.

Key Points 

  • Meeting focused on policy options for addressing transitions, compatibility, and impacts between (1) higher intensity / density residential and mixed use areas and single family / lower density residential areas, and (2) between commercial / employment / industrial areas and single-family / lower density residential.
  • The context should be the most critical piece to determining appropriate height and massing transitions - solar direction and access, construction types, proximity or relationship to residential uses in a residential zone. Principles of good design should drive solutions and be applied citywide. 
  • Landscaping may be a good way to address privacy and aesthetic conflicts between zones, but not to address other impacts including noise or odors.
  • When considering buffering and transitions, there is a need to balance public health, public safety, community expectations, and livability / ability to conduct business in both zones.

Welcome, overview, announcements 


  • September meeting will address issues of multi-dwelling site planning including large lot development, on-site open space, and development form.
  • Updated project schedule: Discussion draft of the policies will be released in November for PEG and public review; comprehensive plan mapping concepts are targeted for  February 2013; broader public engagement will occur after release of Discussion Draft policy and map (January-March); package of policies and maps for Planning and Sustainability Commission consideration anticipated in Spring 2013.


PEG Process Updates and Feedback 


  • The Community Involvement Committee has requested / drafted an evaluation system for the PEGs. PEG members are asked to complete forms at the conclusion of each meeting.
  • City has established a new Equity advisory group to infuse, guide, and oversee the comprehensive plan update. PEG members are invited to participate. Staff will provide updates of meeting dates and agendas.
  • Staff are still working on a web-based system for PEG members to share ideas - more to come.
  • As the PEG requested, staff provided an overview of the state and local procedures to establish and dissolve historic and conservation districts.

Policy Topic Presentation 1: Urban Scale Development Transitions 

Presenter: Debbie Bischoff, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Summary: Staff presentation of existing policy, key issues and community concerns on transitions of mass and height between residential and other zoning districts.

Meeting handouts and presentation:

Group Discussion on Policy Topic 1 

Following the presentation, PEG members participated in an exercise of reviewing and modifying potential policies (existing and new) and then engaged in a discussion.

Summary of PEG discussion on Topic 1:

  • Generally, the City should have citywide policy that addresses transitions.
  • If lowering height allowances or increasing setbacks, the City needs to be thoughtful about impacts to the buildable land capacity - what would it mean for growth?
  • Need to consider height in terms of building/construction types driven by fire and life safety codes - current height limitations in the zoning code e.g. Interstate Plan District, are not aligned.
  • There are greater concerns with transitions mid-property or mid-block. Side yards are also a concern in addition to rear yard set backs.
  • Solar access makes a difference and is a critical performance issue.
  • Need to consider the context and different approaches to transitions: property line vs. across the street; north or south facing property and solar access impacts.
  • Design approaches are the key to making transitions work. Standards alone will not produce the desired outcomes.
  • Consider 2-track system, similar to design districts: If there is potential for conflict or transition and the base standard for step or set back and height are not met, then the development is sent through design review process to address issues of scale.
  • Landscaping can be used to soften transitions and address issues of privacy.
  • New ideas for standards need to be tested through 3D modeling before they are adopted.
  • Form-based code, or elements of form-based, can provide insight to workable solutions.

Policy Topic Presentation 2: Development Transitions between residential and commercial / employment areas 

Presenter: Barry Manning, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Description: Staff presentation of existing policy, key issues and community concerns on potential impacts to residential properties - such as light, noise, and odors - and possible solutions.

Meeting handouts and presentation:

Group Discussion on Policy Topic 2 

Following the presentation, PEG members participated in an exercise of reviewing and modifying potential policies (existing and new) and then engaged in a discussion.

Summary of PEG discussion on Topic 2:

  • There should be an expectation that some impacts will always exist in a city environment. It is easier to address in areas that are slated to remain in the current development form vs. areas planned for transition to higher intensity uses.
  • Current code provisions to address the potential impacts include erecting walls or landscaping at the property line. Walls provide a better noise buffer than landscaping, but not always attractive on their own.  Solution may be the combination of opaque wall with landscaping along the wall, facing the residential zone.
  • There are concerns with the health impacts of drive-through uses and similar uses that allow for idling autos or trucks, adjacent to residential zones. Consider restricting these types of uses in transition areas and forbidding within Buffer Overlay Zones.
  • Focus regulations on site layout options that move the impactful use or function away from abutting residential zones.
  • Need to consider the big picture future of the city - we are encouraging mixed use and 20-minute neighborhoods.  Excessive buffering and separation of uses is a suburban model.
  • New policy cannot result in removing auto-oriented uses from the City. There needs to be a balance, so that we can achieve 20-minute neighborhoods and preserve employment areas withinPortland.
  • Policy should look to focus commercial development in concentrated nodes, rather than linear corridors that encourage strip development and spread the impact.
  • Good Neighbor Agreements have been a successful mechanism to reduce impacts in many neighborhoods, however, they are not legally binding/enforceable and would be very difficult to require as a provision of code.

Public Comment 

  • Lois Leveen, community member, thanked the PEG for their thoughtfulness in the process. Ms. Leveen and her neighbors are concerned with a new drive-through going into their neighborhood (at Walgreen’s, SE C. Chavez and Belmont). The current code has resulted in / allowed moving the drive-through aisle to within the buffer overlay zone, exacerbating the conflicts with neighboring residential zone. Having commercial adjacent is not the problem in this case; a drive-through creates new and different concerns with noise (livability) and health impacts of idling cars. Policy should be considering not only new development but also impacts created with expansions or retrofits. Consider banning drive-throughs inPortland-San Luis Obispo,Californiais a good model.
  • David Sweet, Portland Noise Review Board, provided additional insight to issues of noise impacts.  Landscaping buffers do not mitigate for noise; solid walls are more effective. The city’s noise code (Title 18) does not address variable noise issues - car radios, outdoor seating for businesses - and there are limited resources available for enforcing the provision currently in Title 18.
  • Steve White, Oregon Public Health Institute. The policy should consider horizontal mass in addition to vertical mass.  Walkability is critical to improved public health.  New development that has 100% lot coverage creates barriers to pedestrian connectivity throughout the city. Need to consider the permeability of large lots and how to preserve or enhance walkability.
  • Bob Granger, 42nd Avenue Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative. One way of setting transition expectations is to ensure the use descriptions for each zone is specific and accurately reflects the desired development. Erecting walls for buffering may have unintended impacts to public safety.  Buffering between zones needs to balance health and livability of adjacent residential properties with neighborhood safety.
  • Stephanie Reynolds - Portland Crime Prevention Manager. Erecting barriers throughout neighborhoods could create a different set of public safety problems.  Solutions, such as removing walls, can be very costly. Good Neighbor Agreements are not a reliable tool for addressing long term buffering needs.
  • Linda Nettekoven, community member. Code or policy needs to also consider buffering vertically in mixed-use structures - better insulation.  Need to plan for potential changes and differing intensities of first floor uses. 
  • Tom Karwaki, University Park Neighborhood Association chair. Need to also consider the impacts institutions can have on residential zones - not just commercial and industrial uses, but also includes schools, hospitals, etc.

Next Steps

  • Staff to complete development of a web-based system for PEG members to easily share ideas outside of meetings.
  • Meeting agendas will be revised to (1) include time for staff to report back on the summary of feedback received for the previous meeting topics and how they are incorporating that information into policy, and (2) provide time for public comment throughout the agenda - related to policy topics
  • Next Meeting: September 13, 2012, 4:00 – 6:00 PM, 1900 SW 4th Avenue, 7th Floor, Room 7A

For more information, please contact either Barry Manning Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at 503-823-7965 or or Deb Meihoff, facilitator at 503-358-3404 or