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Summary Meeting Notes: October 11, 2012 Residential Development and Compatibility PEG meeting

Residential Development and Compatibility Policy Expert Group

Date: October 11, 2012
Time: 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
PEG Attendees: Matt Davis, Tamara DeRidder, John Gibbon, Michael Hayes, Gabe Headrick, Rodney Jennings, Gordon Jones, James McGrath, Rod Merrick, Erica Palmer, Stanley Penkin, Eli Spevak, Justin Wood
Staff/Presenters: Barry Manning (BPS PEG lead)
Other Attendees: Danell Norby, David Sweet, Zef Wagner; BPS staff: Tom Armstrong, Debbie Bischoff, Bill Cunningham, Joan Fredrickson, Phil Nameny, Chris Scarzello, Deborah Stein
Facilitator: Deb Meihoff, Communitas

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

Key Points 

  • Meeting focused on identified issues and policy options for density allowances in single-family zones and considerations for placement of multi-family zoning.
  • Policy should address growth and concurrency time frames established through the Comprehensive Plan - expectations, density, infrastructure and support services. Do not let land use designations get out too far ahead of a reasonable timeline for infrastructure and service provisions.
  • Policies should discourage / dis-incent demolition of functional single family dwelling units, especially those that are being replaced by higher priced and larger houses, negatively impacting affordability and compatibility.
  • Zoning allowances and other implementation measures need to better express and implement the vision of the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Design, scale, and transitions are the critical elements of making density work.
  • Alternative approaches to address historic lot lines include allowing existing single family structures on corner lots to convert to duplexes and use of denser single family designations (such as R2.5 zoning) for transitioning.
  • Density adjustments need to be balanced with economic growth needs of the city and potential increase of farm and forest land consumption.

Welcome, overview, introductions

PEG Process Updates and Feedback 

  • Barry Manning provided a draft copy of the preliminary policy direction for residential development and compatibility issues discussed by the PEG and reviewed the next steps in the process to publish a public review draft.
    • Draft of policies will be released in December, public workshops conducted in February, maps for review available March/April, additional work with the PEG to incorporate public feedback May through July/August.
    • PEG members had additional questions and ideas about how best to present the updated policies:
      • Implementation-type ideas (not policy) are being tracked by staff – the  ‘commentary’ section of the review draft should help communicate what is intended with the proposed policies. PEG members stressed the need to track what happens with implementation ideas.
      • PEG recommended including references to examples that illustrate the intent of the policy language in the adopted policy document.
      • The tentative December agenda includes review of the draft policies and cross-checking with other chapters / work of other PEGs to see how the group’s ideas and issues have been integrated.
      • PEG members would like to understand better how other adopted plans of the city (examples include: community plans, Climate Change Action Plan) are being incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan update. 
      • Discussion Board
        • Barry and Eli Spevak discussed possible technical solutions prior to the PEG meeting.  An online system - PEG discussion board - will be established for PEG members to post additional thoughts on policies, ideas and issues to potentially be covered at future PEG meetings.
        • Barry presented additional demographic data requested by PEG members at the last meeting
  • Meeting presentation

Policy Topic Presentations:  Residential Density - Allowances in SFR zones and placement of MFR zones

Presenter: Barry Manning, BPS
Summary: Staff presentation on development allowances in single-family residential zones (small lot, rowhouses, duplexes) and mapping for multi-family areas (proximity to transit, infrastructure, opportunity for other services and amenities)

Related Materials and Presentation: 

Group Discussion on Policy Topics
Facilitator: Deb Meihoff
Summary of PEG discussion:

  • There needs to be greater transparency between historic lot lines and platted lots, so neighbors understand the adjacent development potential. There should be clarity about property rights associated with historic lot lines.
  • Consider using R2.5 zoning as a transition tool for areas with historic lot pattern of 25’ frontage, if appropriately located for buffering between more intense densities and the single family densities.  The R2.5 transition would not be as appropriate mid-block of a lower-density zone or for scattered sites.
  • Raising zoning densities can dramatically change character of an area and neighborhoods - for single-dwelling residential areas, zoning allowances need to more directly reflect the vision of the Comprehensive Plan.
  • For the mid-block or scattered site 25’ historic lots, consider policy to regulate forms of development that would be incompatible with the lower-density neighborhood around the site.
  • There is some concern about driving the market toward attached dwellings while homebuyers still typically favor detached units.
  • Revise and/or avoid policies that encourage demolition of good-quality housing structures, even if small or in need of maintenance. Think about the potential outcomes for lots that have greater density potential. Be cautious in defining ‘serviceable’ and ‘good design’ when referring to obsolescence of structures.
  • Policies should allow for evolution of architecture and design. Design and scale are the essential pieces to making density work well.
  • Consider policy that allows typically-larger corner lots to convert to duplexes with the existing structure - intended to discourage demolition.
  • There needs to be a transparent process and equity plan clearly communicating when and where public investments and incentives will be applied, including parks and transportation investments.
  • Policy must support concurrent development of complete street networks. City should review LID program to ensure it is used and supported to bridge the gap of missing infrastructure through residential neighborhoods.
  • City needs to consider timeframes being established through the Comprehensive Plan - expectations, policies, and zoning. Don’t let land use designations get out too far ahead of a reasonable timeline for infrastructure and service provisions. If the City doesn’t expect to invest in the infrastructure within a reasonable period of time, an area should not be mapped for increased density. In some parts of town, this approach has created a significant deficit of infrastructure appropriate for higher density development being built.
  • Policies should encourage neighborhood stability (and the term should be defined)

[Due to time constraints, the presentation on Gentrification was deferred to a future meeting]

Public Comment 

  • The Sabin neighborhood in NE Portland is largely zoned R5 [low density residential] and the neighborhood has historically been supportive and accommodating of increased densities, especially to provide affordable housing options. Recently, the neighborhood has experienced an increase in smaller homes being torn down to be replaced with larger single-family homes. This is not helping to increase affordability or density and some area residents are concerned. Would like to see strategies that take affordable housing into account. The City needs to be more realistic with standards (specifically transportation requirements) triggered by rezoning requests. There are many locations that would be appropriately designated a slightly denser zone, such as R2.5, but the standards are too stringent to be met.
  • North Portland is also experiencing small house tear-downs and losing affordability through redevelopment. Also experiencing a lack of open space with the larger multi-family developments on the corners - developments are maximizing lot coverage.
  • Exercise caution when limiting multifamily development - the PEG and the City need to think about the long term growth of the city and needs of future Portlanders

Next Steps

  • Equity workshop will be conducted at the November PEG meeting.
  • Draft of policies will be released for public review and comment in December, followed by public workshops and engagement events after the first of the year. PEG review of the draft is planned for the December meeting.
  • PEG is invited to participate in the new online discussion board. Please post ideas about future PEG topics.

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