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Summary Meeting Notes: March 14, 2013 Residential Development and Compatibility PEG meeting

Summary Meeting Notes

Residential Development and Compatibility Policy Expert Group  

Date: March 14, 2013
Time: 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

PEG Attendees: Tamara DeRidder, John Gibbon, Michael Hayes, Gabe Headrick, Rod Merrick, Erika Palmer, Emily Sandy, Eli Spevak, Irma Valdez
Other Attendees: Linda Nettekoven; BPS staff: Debbie Bischoff, Barry Manning (PEG lead), Chris Scarzello, Deborah Stein
Facilitator: Deb Meihoff, Communitas

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

Welcome, overview, introductions 

Process Updates

Presenter:Barry Manning/ Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and PEG Lead

Summary: The first round of public workshops is nearly complete. Participation ranged from 25-80 Portlanders, with Northeast Portlandseeing the largest turnout last Saturday. BPS staff are also attending meetings of community organizations over the next couple of months in order to gain additional feedback on the policies. At the April PEG meeting, staff will report on the public input gathered to date. [Facilitators note: As part of the outreach efforts, BPS has developed a Policy Survey, administered at the workshops and online. The survey is open until May 1 and PEG members are encouraged to participate and share the survey with other Portlanders - click here to take the online Policy Survey]

BPS staff are expecting an increase in participation for the second round when maps and public improvement projects lists are released for review and comment. In May and June, BPS District Liaisons will be working directly with community members in planning districts in mapping workshops to gather input on development of the urban design framework and comprehensive plan map.

Comments on the working draft of Comprehensive Plan goals and policies are due by May 1, 2013. In addition to the discussions at meetings, PEG members are invited to send individual comments on the policies by emailing Barry Manningor via the online comment feedback form

As a reminder, the April meeting of the PEG will include (1) Working Draft / consideration of public workshop input; (2) discussion issue topic of economic/commercial activities in residential areas (example: short-term lodging, institutions, home occupations)

PEG DISCUSSION: Comprehensive Plan Working Draft Review

Facilitator: Deb Meihoff

Summary: PEG discussion and feedback on Working Draft Part 1 - review of specific goal and policies for effectiveness at addressing the RDC issues, explore potential outcomes, and consider how they achieve or hinder aspirations for a more equitable city. The PEG provided input on the policy language by RDC issue area, as follows:

Issue 1 / Infill Design and Compatibility

  • Some PEG members think ‘urban’ fabric is not inclusive of all types of neighborhoods in the city (i.e., ‘urban’ doesn’t really describe some of the ‘suburban-ish’ areas that may never achieve ‘urban’ levels of development); others believe it describes the interconnectedness of all areas in the city. This terminology creates confusion (policy 5.11). Urban fabric should describe more than just ‘neighborhoods’ (often interpreted as meaning strictly residential areas). It is about development patterns - especially in multi-dwelling or mixed use areas.
  • It is not clear how ‘green’ development relates to context-sensitive design. Recommend a policy that links the two, if they are in fact linked.
  • This policy completely ignores reuse of existing housing stock. Recommend amending policy or crafting new policy to support residential ‘refill’, not just new infill development. Refill includes accessory dwelling units or reorganization of large homes / other structures into more than one dwelling unit. May help to keep living in large, old homes more affordable into the future.
  • Duplexes on corner lots may be appropriate in some areas and/or to some degree.  However, duplexes on every corner in everything single dwelling area is excessive and bound to be out of context in many residential areas.
  • There needs to be a policy that actively discourages demolishing existing housing stock; it should be more difficult to tear down existing structures than currently allowed.
  • Need to consider the economic impacts of infill policy and zoning changes. Most newly-built housing is not affordable for first-time buyers - land prices are based on development potential of a lot, which can distort the equation. Fixing up older structures with sweat equity, is often more attainable for younger and moderate income buyers.
  • Policies do not adequately address massing - homes on infill lots often are built to the full building envelope that ‘loom over’ existing, adjacent houses. Adjust policy language to include issues of massing. For implementation, consider addressing massing through FAR in residential areas or possibly SDC fee structure.
  • Does ‘character of the neighborhood’ include or consider natural hazard areas (especially, but not exclusively, related to 5.14 Western Neighborhoods)?West Portlandhas many slopes, landslide hazards, and creeks that shape the development pattern. Policies seem only to address parks and greenspaces.
  • ‘Small scale’ and ‘compatible’ (describing infill development) do not always go together (policy 5.11.b) - not all residential areas are built to a small scale. Amend policy language about scale to be more aligned with the context-sensitive approach.
  • Address scale through lot / block patterns (policy 5.15)
  • The policy language regarding repurposing streets in Inner Neighborhoods (5.13.c) could also be applied to East Neighborhoods (5.15).
  • Zoning should match existing conditions - not always the same as the long term vision expressed in the Comprehensive Plan. Link available infrastructure to zoning density / intensity.

Issue 2 / Design Districts

  • Design review is not currently reasonable or clear - most developers work to avoid design review. Historic design review can be problematic.
  • Administrative section should include language about enforcement of zoning code - level of specificity in approving projects, breadth of review, and guidance on discretionary reviews.
  • Still not clear how design district overlays will interact with the pattern area policies (policies 5.10 and 5.11) and zoning implementation.  If done well, many of the overlays may no longer be necessary.

Issues 3 and 4 / Transitions

  • Scale and form transitions (policy 5.32.b) is headed in the right direction for addressing transitions in density, but mapping will be very important for considering transitions and understanding the policy approach. The PEG would like to have additional discussion of transitions policies once the draft maps are released.
  • Is a street right of way a good transition? How will rights of way be used for transitions?
  • The PEG discussed light and solar access and did not reach a consensus as to the best approach. Some think a solar access policy is much needed.  Others are concerned about unintended consequences - how to balance tree canopy with solar access, how to address solar access for photovoltaic panels, etc. It is a complicated issue. Reducing the impacts infill development can have on light access for neighboring houses is needed, but the policy needs to be constructed in such a way as to avoid unintended consequences. There are also concerns about how such a light access policy would be implemented. The policy does not have to be strict, but possibly framed around allowing sunlight for some period of a day. May be best to address solar / light access issue through other transition elements in height, bulk, and scale.
  • Articulate community parking issue in Chapter 5 - specifically on and off street parking for multi-dwelling development. The PEG did not agree to the best approach - some believe development of community garages or parking impact fees is the best way to address parking pressures and help with transitions, while others believe this would more highly impact those who don’t own cars (why should they have to pay for parking?). There are affordability concerns with parking requirements. (policy 5.33). Consider policy that encourages and/or allows shared parking.

Issue 5 / Multi-dwelling areas

  • Healthful housing policy (2.13) sounds ok, but may drive up costs of housing. Need to consider what is being layered onto housing development and the impacts on housing affordability.
  • Should encourage creativity in housing development - ‘communal kitchens’ could provide solutions for co-housing and housing for elderly or frail community members. However, the PEG suggested that the communal kitchen reference does not belong under the Healthful Housing policy (2.13f) - better fit with the Resource-efficient development and Rehabilitation and adaptive reuse policies (5.37 and 5.38)
  • Healthful Housing policy should also address human health issues associated with sound/noise and toxin exposure, as related to adjacencies to large transportation corridors or more intense commercial and industrial land uses.
  • [see also discussion regarding light / solar access noted under Issues 3 and 4]

Issue 6 / Building form in multi-dwelling areas

  • Current working draft policies do not adequately address Issue 6 - single-dwelling houses in multi-dwelling areas, minimum lot sizes, connectivity requirements. PEG recommends staff draft additional policy language to address these issues.
  • Need policy to support a shift in implementation: require building form standards by development type, not by zoning district - a multi-dwelling development should have the same requirements whether in a low-density or medium-density area. With this approach all development types will be treated equally, with the same standards, regardless of which zone a development is in.
  • Policy is needed that supports requiring street/pathway connectivity with multi-dwelling development, no matter the zoning district.
  • InWest Portlandthere is a concern that the desire to maximize development in multi-dwelling areas may directly conflict with the need to reduce hazards, manage stormwater of impermeable surfaces.
  • Civic Corridor concept (policy 5.24) sounds good, but what does it mean? Does civic apply to all corridors? Are these places where civic life takes place with living and socializing? Some are too noisy, busy, frenetic to be considered ‘civil’ and therefore ‘civic’. What is civic about a large, high volume street? The PEG recommends this policy be amended to more clearly describe the intent and desired application.
  • Portland’s development pattern is predominantly one of linear commercial and mixed use areas (‘strips’ such asAlberta,Hawthorne,Mississippi, Hillsdale, etc), not nodal/round/circular ‘centers’. The policies should be actively steering development toward these mixed use ‘strips’, not ‘centers’ and/or more clearly state what is meant by ‘centers’. Consider unintended consequences, issues of transition, if defining centers to include these linear strips.

Issue 7 / Density in Single-Dwelling Areas

  • Allowing smaller, substandard lot sizes in R5/R7 areas creates issues with compatibility and community expectations. City’s goal is to provide a variety of housing options throughoutPortland. However, in many areas it is a bad idea to allow the separation of small lots into individual building sites. PEG recommends considering policy that distinguishes between historic lots of record and minimum size for buildable lots. Not all ‘skinny lot’ developments in low-density areas are bad - may be appropriate in some situations such as environmental zones. Recommend working on policy language to better address these issues.
  • Policies do not adequately address the issues related to historic lots of record - the development potential needs to be clarified with possible rezoning in some areas to align with the potential.
  • Comprehensive Plan Map Designation descriptions need updating. Some PEG members suggested use of form-based standards language, rather than number of units per acre, to describe what is allowed in each designation. Use bulk, massing, height, etc. to describe the allowances.
  • Recommend changing Comprehensive Plan Map Designation titles to be inclusive of all residential types by density / intensity - example: ‘low-density residential’ rather than ‘low-density multi-dwelling’. This could begin to address some of the Issue 7 concerns

[PEG will review and discuss Issue 8 / Locations for Low and Medium Density Multi-Dwelling Development at the April 11 meeting.] 


  • RDC Topic and Policy Review form with comments received to date

Public Comment 

[There were no public comments]

Next steps and follow up

  • April PEG meeting will include continued PEG discussion of working draft: Issue 8, potential recommendations to address feedback from public workshops, equity considerations; policy language regarding economic activity in residential areas
  • PEG members are encouraged to continue the conversation about the Working Draft on the Idea Board.
  • PEG members are encouraged to participate in the Policy Survey and invited to send additional comments about the policies to Barry Manning and/or through the online comment form.

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