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Summary Meeting Notes: September 17, 2012 Education and Youth Success PEG

Summary Meeting Notes

Meeting Date: September 17, 2012
Time: 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

  Paul Cathcart, Ernesto Contreras, Will Fuller, Douglas Hardy, Michelle Lagos, Scott Rose, Stacey Triplett, Lilly Windle
Staff / Facilitator:  Bob Glascock; Christina Scarzello; Julia Gisler, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability; Clark Worth, Barney & Worth
Public / Guests: None

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

Welcome and Introductions
Presenter: Clark Worth
Summary: Self-introductions
                Review of August 20 meeting highlights
                Overview of today’s meeting

Background: Conditional Use 101
Presenter: Douglas Hardy, Bureau of Development Services  PowerPoint Presentation
Summary: PEG member Douglas Hardy presented an overview of conditional use requirements for schools. Schools are conditional uses in residential and open space zones, allowed by right in commercial and employment zones, and prohibited in industrial zones. A conditional use review is required for renovation and new construction (over 1,500 square feet) for schools located in residential and open space zones. Changes in parking and school site modifications may also require Conditional Use review. 

Conditional use applications are reviewed either through the City’s Type II or Type III procedures depending on size and complexity of proposal. Approval criteria for both the Type II and Type III reviews include: compatibility with surrounding uses, impacts on livability, availability of public services (esp. transportation / transit / parking).  A detailed traffic and parking analysis is usually required. 
Questions from PEG members:

  • Who establishes zoning? (City Council)
  • What’s the difference between Type II and Type III review? (Most projects require Type III review if they involve significant expansions or changes in use).

Quick “Tour” of School Types in Portland
Presenter: Chris Scarzello, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Summary: Chris Scarzello showed photographs of four schools to illustrate the different settings forPortlandschools and their surroundings.  Issues include:

  • Size of school / enrollment
  • Transportation access: arterials vs. narrow side streets
  • Parking
  • Proximity of residential development; topography; buffers; screening
  • Outdoor lighting (for security, sports fields)

Group Exercise
Presenters: Julia Gisler, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability; Clark Worth, Barney and Worth

Summary: Clark Worth introduced the group exercise.  Three small groups will consider the question: How much flexibility should school districts have to expand or upgrade schools without regulatory review?  To begin, Julia Gisler gave a brief recap of how schools are regulated in other cities.  The conditional use review process is by far the most common approach; and we could continue this approach with changes to the process or threshold triggers that would improve the regulations—a popular idea is allowing school districts to bring forward several school sites under one CU application. A few cities include schools in public facilities zones with courthouses, libraries, etc.  Dedicated school zones are rare. 

Portland Public Schools is currently conducting research on case studies of school zoning options. Planners with PPS, Justin Dollard and Paul Cathcart (PEG member), are willing to share this information with the PEG.

The three small groups were asked to consider the question from the perspective of school districts, nearby neighbors, and the community at large

Highlights of small group results:

Group A – School Districts

  • The current conditional use review triggers are appropriate to protect neighbors and others.
  • School districts might be exempted from review under certain circumstances:
    • When schools expand in response to neighborhood growth (not boundary changes)
    • To accommodate new educational delivery models
    • To improve innovative use of school buildings
  • Current requirements should be retained (i.e., no grade differences).

Group B – Neighbors

  • The overall approach is more important than the regulations.  The key is incorporating a community process with good communication.  Schools should inform and involve neighbors and other primary constituents. This would be a “culture shift” from most current practices.
  • New review thresholds should be considered:
    • Number of students; type of school; transportation needs / access
    • Adding small buildings or a small amount of square footage is not necessarily important if there are no impacts to the surrounding neighborhood. An example of this would be adding a portable classroom which currently triggers a CU review.
  • Coordination of the review process with all agencies, involvement of neighborhood associations and community partners is very important.
  • Differences should be recognized in review thresholds:
    • High schools should have a lower threshold than lower level schools (e.g. elementary, middle, K-8) because they are bigger, more intensely used, and students are able to drive. All of these create the possibility for more negative impacts to the surrounding neighborhood (e.g. traffic, litter, noise, on-street parking)
    • Non-school, unrelated use of school buildings
    • Significant impacts on neighborhood, demand on local infrastructure
    • Some impact issues might be better addressed through development standards vs. land use review.

 Group C – Community Groups

  • New thresholds should be considered to accommodate existing schools and services if transportation access is sufficient:
    • Traffic volume
    • Increased square footage (beyond 1,500 sf); type of facility
    • Setbacks from neighbors
    • Building height
    • Compatibility with neighborhood character
  • Different grade levels do make a difference.
  • Portlandshould be aware of equity issues in land use review for new facilities.

 PEG Discussion
Questions and observations offered by PEG members:

  • Portland should be cautious in reducing existing land use requirements for schools—it could have negative impacts on neighborhoods, attract NIMBY activities if schools
  • Why penalize schools if they need to adapt to neighborhoods change such as population trends?
  • School districts should be given more flexibility
  • PPS and East Portlanddistricts need more flexibility. The situation is very dynamic, changes occur every day.
  • “Virtual schools”, increased use of electronic communications and online teaching may affect school buildings and zoning.
  • The group exercise was “energizing”—but too short. PEG members need more information.
  • School zoning problems should be revisited later in the PEG process.

Public Comment

No members of the public were in attendance.

Next Steps

Clark Worth announced the next PEG meeting on October 15 will focus on draft Comprehensive Plan policies related to shared use of school facilities and grounds.

For more information, please contact either Deborah Stein, Bureau of Planning & Sustainability at 503-823-6991 or, or Clark Worth, Facilitator at 503-222-0146 or