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Summary Meeting Notes: April 18, 2013 Neighborhood Centers PEG meeting

Meeting #11 Summary Notes

Neighborhood Centers Policy Expert Group

Meeting Date: April 18, 2013
Time: 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.

PEG Attendees: Kate Allen, Lisa Bates, Jason Barnstead-Long, Andre Baugh, Paul Cathcart, Kristin Cooper, Alan DeLaTorre, Justin Douglas, Ivy Dunlap, Gabe Genauer, Ryan Givens, Bob Granger, Brett Horner, Patricia Neighbor (for Denver Igarta), Carol Mayer-Reed, Rich Michaelson, Mark Raggett, Nick Sauvie, Alison Stoll

Key Points and Outcomes

  • The Neighborhood Centers PEG agreed to continue meeting through August.
  • Policy approaches fostering well-functioning centers across Portlandand investments in community-supportive infrastructure should be used to help address a range of issues, such as improving and expanding opportunities in places with concentrations of poverty, enhancing the community infrastructure that supports youth success, and improving economic opportunities in neighborhood areas.
  • Future zoning code refinement should provide development allowances that incentivize desired outcomes, such as affordable housing, accessible units, and open space.

Welcome, Introductions and Updates (8:00 a.m.)

Presenter: Steve Faust, Facilitator and Bill Cunningham, BPS

Summary: Following introductions, Bill updated the PEG on the issue of apartment buildings and parking.  City Council approved a tiered approach for requiring parking in developments of more than 30 units.  Buildings with 31 to 40 units will have to provide one parking space for every five units; one space per four units for buildings with 41 to 50 units; and one space per three units for buildings with more than 50 units.  Developers can reduce up to half the parking requirement by providing extra bicycle parking, spaces for car sharing services and other similar concessions.  The City Council action did not address other related issues such as affordability or the design and scale of development.

Bill also talked about sequencing for moving forward to finish the comprehensive plan. BPS would like the Neighborhood Centers PEG to continue to meet through August in order to provide input on Part 2 of the Comprehensive Plan upate. The May meeting will focus on the gentrification policy framework.  The other topic for the May meeting will be discussion of a memorandum on Center PEG’s recommendations on the Comprehensive Plan policies.  Bill is compiling a list of key PEG recommendations from past PEG meetings, focusing on those suggestions that had broad PEG support, to serve as the basis for this memorandum. 

In June, PEG members will hear an overview of Part 2 of the Comprehensive Plan working draft and will discuss refinements to the Urban Design Framework and the Transportation System Plan.  In July, PEG members will discuss other Part 2 components, including refinements to the Comprehensive Plan Map and the Citywide System Plan and project list.  At the August meeting, the PEG will review the draft Part 2 products, including the Urban Design Framework, Comprehensive Plan Map, List of Significant Projects, Citywide Systems Plan and Transportation Systems Plan.  There will be no Centers PEG meeting in September, but cross-PEG sessions are proposed. 

PEG members agreed to continue meeting through the summer, but want to understand how their input is being incorporated into refinements of the Comprehensive Plan.  PEG discussion included:

  • One PEG member remarked that the cross-PEG meetings are coming late in the process.  Tom Armstrong explained that there are still many steps before the plan is finalized.  The Part 2 draft will become available in late July.  Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) hearings will be held on the proposed plan in Winter 2013/2014.  The PSC recommended plan will go before the City Council in summer 2014 with the Final Plan ready that fall.
  • A PEG member suggested that a meeting to interact with the Residential Development and Compatibility PEG would be appropriate to talk about housing and centers and possibly gentrification and displacement.  Bill agreed to look into this possibility and explained that the role of the Residential Compatibility PEG is mainly concerned with design of housing, while the Centers PEG is more focused on the broader range of housing policies. 
  • There was a request to receive the draft of Part 2 in advance of the August meeting.  Bill responded that it will be distributed as soon as it is ready. 
  • The mapping components of Part 2 will be the focus of discussion at district-level workshops in May and June to help with their refinement before publishing them later in the summer and holding public workshops in September/October.  Review from PEGs, including the Neighborhood Centers PEG, will provide a citywide view and continuity with the policies developed in Part 1.  Broader community meetings will be held in September and October.
  • A PEG member mentioned that the Housing Bureau is developing a citywide housing strategy in conjunction with BPS and that review of this strategic plan should be part of the process.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations

Draft Comprehensive Plan Policies: Public Feedback Review (8:20 a.m.)

Presenters: Bill Cunningham

Summary: Bill explained that the majority of public feedback either supported the draft policies or concerned details, specific policy language or implementation.  The feedback the Centers PEG discussed focused on suggestions for substantive changes to policies in the Housing and Urban Design & Development chapters and to the neighborhood business districts section of the Economic Development chapter.  PEG discussion on public feedback:

Chapter 2 (Housing)

1. “Need more explicit policy about avoiding concentrations of low-income housing and poverty.” (related to policies 2.4 and 2.5)  PEG response:

  • PEG members agreed that this issue is very important and impacts on low-income housing and poverty should be considered throughout the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Address the issue by fostering well-functioning centers in areas with deficiencies and improving infrastructure, amenities and services in order to provide access to opportunities and prevent concentrations of poverty in areas such asEast Portland.  We need to have policies that prevent having some areas become places with poor access to opportunities, where low-income households become concentrated.
  • The policy focus should be on expanding access to opportunity and providing diverse housing options, rather than focusing on dispersing affordable housing. 
  • Consider encouraging the development of middle-income housing as part of the housing mix in lower-income neighborhoods, instead of just focusing on developing affordable/low-income housing in these areas. 

2. “Need stronger policy support for ‘family friendliness’ – concern that shifting balance to multifamily housing will make the city not family friendly.” (related to policy 2.2)  PEG response:

  • How is “family friendly” defined?  PEG members suggest that, more than about housing type, “family friendly” is about providing adequate infrastructure, safe streets, and access to amenities such as parks.
  • Housing affordability is critical to family friendliness and we need to encourage multifamily housing with multiple bedrooms.
  • A problem is multifamily housing for families being built in areas away from centers and services.  This should be avoided.
  • “Family friendly” is also about quality schools.

3. “Policies are needed that link housing growth with school capacity and funding for expansion.” (related to policy 2.6.d)  PEG response:

  • School districts’ actions lag behind changes in the housing market and housing development.  Need to focus on coordinating with school districts on growth strategies.  School districts and the City should work together in an iterative process to develop indicators to review on an annual basis to inform decision-making.
  • Multifamily housing appropriate for families should be encouraged near schools, as it is in centers and corridors.
  • The City’s policies and role should focus on providing infrastructure to connect housing and families with schools, parks and other services.  Study models of housing/school/community interaction.
  • The role of schools needs to be integrated into the centers policies.  Quality schools and safe access to schools are important and the PEG suggested that a more explicit policy that highlights the connection between schools and the communities they serve is needed.

4. “Housing affordability needs to be treated as a top policy priority that other policies and implementation approaches need to consider” (concern raised that this was not the case in discussions about parking requirements and their impacts).  PEG response:

  • PEG members agreed that housing affordability is very important, but think that the policy approach is broader than just focusing on housing affordability.
  • Raising incomes (household prosperity) should be part of the strategy, along with creating more affordable housing.  Access to quality education and access to employment are key parts of this.  This issue could be a good topic for a discussion with the Economic Development PEG.
  • Housing affordability is an important lens through which to view the future of the City.  Decisions inPortlandwill impact where the working poor can afford to live, including neighboring cities.
  • Impacts on housing affordability should be considered when making decisions about investments in infrastructure and services, but should not necessarily trump all other concerns.
  • New housing is not affordable – how can we address this?  Need to take into account that adequate housing supply also has a relationship to affordability.  Additional housing supply can aid housing affordability, even if most of the new units are not affordable.

Chapter 3 (Economic Development – neighborhood business districts)

1. “Need a policy to avoid creating non-conforming uses and to address existing non-conforming uses where appropriate in corridors and centers – need to avoid repeat of what happened in the 1980 plan when commercial uses were rezoned to residential in some areas.”  PEG response:

  • PEG members generally supported the idea of avoiding creating non-conforming uses.

2.  “Need policies that preserve commercial zones for commercial development.  Suggestions include restricting multidwelling development in commercial zones or reserving ground-floor building spaces for commercial uses.”  PEG response:

  • PEG members recommend requiring ground-level retail in targeted areas such as key intersections and core areas of centers and business districts, and making it optional elsewhere such as along corridors.
  • Needs to have a balanced approach, as we need to allow housing in centers and corridors.

3.  “Need a policy to ensure that zoning and minimum development requirements are feasible from a market perspective” (East Portlandcited).  PEG response:

  • A problem is that we have maxed-out our zoning entitlements, making it difficult to provide incentives to achieve desired outcomes, since so much development potential is provided “by right”.
  • PEG members recommend considering keeping “by right” development entitlements low and using development bonuses as incentives to provide community benefits, such as affordable housing or open space. Offer bonuses to achieve desired outcomes that the market will not provide on its own.
  • Need to think long-term, rather than structuring our zoning development standards to match current market conditions. In the past, we intentionally created development standards for main street areas to achieve desired outcomes, rather than matching standards to the model of convenience stores with surface parking that was feasible at the time.

Chapter 5 (Urban Design and Development)

1.  “Need policies that link availability of existing infrastructure, such as sidewalks and improved parks, to allowances for development.  New development, especially high-density development, should not be allowed without urban infrastructure” (East Portlandcited).  (related to policies 5.17, 5.19 and chapters 6, 7)  PEG response:

  • PEG members agreed that the City should avoid creating islands of new development in areas without urban infrastructure.  Rather than stopping development, PEG members felt the emphasis should be on targeting infrastructure investments to ensure that the provision of urban infrastructure happens in conjunction with growth.
  • Needs to be greater coordination between public improvements and private developments.
  • Consider ways of sharing costs of new infrastructure between wealthy neighborhoods and lower-income areas, such asEast Portland.
  • This topic needs to be considered by the Infrastructure-Equity PEG.


Meeting Handouts and Presentations

Centers and Corridors Implementation (9:10 a.m.)

Presenters: Bill Cunningham and Julia Gisler, BPS

Summary: Julia Gisler introduced the City’s efforts to secure a Construction Excise Tax (CET) Grant from Metro to update Zoning Code regulations for commercial and mixed-use zones to improve their ability to implement desired policy outcomes for commercial, employment, housing, and design in centers and corridors. This is anticipated to involve rationalizing and consolidating the commercial zones and refining development and design standards. The effort would streamline the zones while allowing for different approaches in different areas of the City. Bill mentioned that the commercial/mixed-use zones arePortland’s “workhorse zones,” where much of the commercial activity, employment, and higher-density housing development will be happening in neighborhood areas. PEG members were invited to share their ideas for implementation approaches to consider as part of this work. PEG members had the following comments:

  • Need to encourage communication between developers and communities.
  • Zoning standards should recognize and provide opportunities for realistic, phased redevelopment (current regulations do not do this well).
  • Coordinate with thePortlandDevelopment Commission.
  • Do not substitute neighborhood-specific concerns for the broader public interest.  Make an effort to reach out to marginalized groups who are not traditionally included in these discussions.
  • More types of commercial zones, rather than fewer, may be required to meet the City’s diverse goals and respond to area-specific conditions. 
  • Commercial and mixed-use zones must extend deeper along corridors to provide enough space for development and achieve desired transitions to residential neighborhoods (100’-deep zoning is not enough).
  • Need more varied building height allowances.  An economically-efficient height for development is 65’ – need to allow this height in more places. 
  • Link height allowances to incentives.  Consider allowing buildings up to 30’ by right, then linking allowances for greater heights to provision of community benefits (affordable housing, accessible units, publically-accessible open space, etc.).
  • Examine how current zoning is contributing or presenting barriers to desired development outcomes in centers.

Public Comment (9:50 a.m.)

  • Consider noise when evaluating potential impacts.
  • Consider what “industrial” means in the new scheme of commercial zones.  Consider allowing more “clean” industrial uses in commercial corridors.
  • Regulations need to be flexible and not too specific about development outcomes.  Real Estate development is site specific and regulations need to provide flexibility for site-specific issues and changing market demands. 

Next Steps (9:55 a.m.)

The next meeting of the PEG is scheduled for May 16th and will include a discussion of gentrification and displacement and review of draft Centers PEG recommendations on Part 1 of the comprehensive plan.

Adjourn (10:00 a.m.)

For more information, please contact Bill Cunningham, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at 503-823-4203 or or Steve Faust, Facilitator at 503-278-3456 or