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City of Portland Growth Scenarios Report Released

cover of comp plan updateThe Growth Scenarios Report, recently published by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, provides a starting point for the community discussion on how and where Portland will accommodate future growth. The scenarios — or alternatives — explore how different development patterns can help Portland achieve the community’s goals for a prosperous, healthy, equitable, and resilient city. 

According to Metro, Portland is expected to grow by 132,000 new households and 147,000 new jobs by 2035. Land use and investment decisions will shape how and where Portland grows over the next 25 years, which in turn will affect our ability to meet larger community goals.

Read the Growth Scenarios Report

How will we use the Growth Scenarios Report?

Where will new households and businesses develop if trends continue? Is there a form of growth that will help Portland advance prosperity, equity, health and sustainability? What investments are needed to support those choices? And how can the growth patterns help us achieve our goals?

Each of the four growth scenarios tests different hypothetical growth patterns: 

  1. A “Default” pattern based on development trends over the last 15 years.
  2. A dispersed network of Neighborhood Centers that helps create more complete communities throughout Portland. 
  3. Growing in a more linear pattern along several key Corridors.
  4. A more compact growth pattern that focuses growth in the Central City and surrounding neighborhoods.

Each alternative is evaluated using the Portland Plan Measures of Success, including access to parks, frequent transit, bike networks, natural areas and family-wage jobs; watershed health and tree canopy; and displacement risk. These metrics provide detailed analysis for community discussion about appropriate policies, housing location, urban design and public infrastructure investments throughout the city.

In particular, the performance measures provide a framework to evaluate different land use options as we update the Comprehensive Plan.

Key Findings

The analysis also highlights several opportunities and challenges:

  • Choices for Prioritizing Growth ― Portland’s existing zoning allows for more than enough development capacity to accommodate the future growth forecast of 132,000 new households. This capacity creates an opportunity to make choices about where to focus or prioritize that growth.
  • A Legacy Landscape ― As an already urbanized city, Portland’s existing development pattern defines many of the challenges. The forecasted growth represents roughly one-third of the total households and employment that will make up Portland in 2035, which means that two-thirds of the future built environment is already in place. This legacy development pattern will have a significant impact and moderating influence on how well future development patterns perform over the next 25 years. Large improvements in performance from land use changes will take more time. Other interventions, such as infrastructure investments, will be necessary to achieve the goals identified in the Portland Plan.
  • Investment Priorities ― How and where public infrastructure investments are made will make a significant difference in how Portland performs. The performance of the different growth scenarios shows that most of the anticipated new growth should occur in a way that provides progress toward meeting the objectives. However, to meet those objectives Portland will need to invest in historically underserved areas to reduce disparities and increase equity. This two-track strategy will allow Portland to improve performance across the board by focusing growth in high-performing areas, while at the same time improving conditions in areas previously neglected.

Next Steps

With the publication of the Growth Scenarios Report, the City of Portland is kicking off Task 3: Consideration of Alternatives of Periodic Review as required by the state, which includes developing draft land use maps and project lists for the Comprehensive Plan Update — to be released during the summer. The next steps include:

  • Model the effects of infrastructure investments: The scenarios in this report model the likely effects of 25 years of growth (the location of new jobs and housing), but not infrastructure investments. The next step is to add 25 years of corresponding infrastructure investments and show the resulting performance gains.
  • Community mapping: In Fall/Winter 2013, community members will be engaged in a mapping exercise where they will discuss preferred approaches for managing growth and identify needed investments.
  • Citywide Systems Plan and Transportation System Plan: To meet state requirements, the City must complete new fiscally constrained Citywide Systems and Transportation System Plans, which will describe the infrastructure (sewer, water, transportation) system improvements necessary to serve anticipated growth.

An addendum to this report will be prepared to evaluate a “preferred scenario” based on the community mapping exercise and the infrastructure investment plans.

For more information about the Comprehensive Plan Update and to stay informed, please visit our Get Involved page.

For more information about the Growth Scenarios Report please visit or contact Tom Armstrong at