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Summary Meeting Notes: June 13, 2013

Summary Meeting Notes

Residential Development and Compatibility Policy Expert Group  

Date: June 13, 2013
Time: 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
PEG Attendees: John Gibbon, Michael Hayes, James McGrath, Rod Merrick, Emily Sandy, Eli Spevak, Justin Wood
Other Attendees: Jim Brown; BPS staff: Debbie Bischoff, Eric Engstrom, Barry Manning (PEG lead), Phil Nameny
Facilitator: Deb Meihoff, Communitas

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

Key Points and Outcomes

  • PEG provided final comments on the memo summarizing the key policy issues with residential development and compatibility.
  • PEG members provided feedback on two residential map-related issues for which staff are seeking solutions - infill development on non-standard, historic platted lots; and non-conforming commercial uses in residential areas.
  • Wrapped up the work of the Residential and Development Compatibility PEG. PEG members will be invited to participate in future meetings about the Comprehensive Plan update, including a joint meeting with the Neighborhood Centers PEG and a close-out meeting with all PEGs, anticipated later this summer and fall.

Welcome, overview, introductions 

Process Updates 

Presenter: Barry Manning, BPS

Summary: Update on process and workshops; PEG feedback/Q&A 

  • This is the final meeting of the Residential Development and Compatibility PEG. Barry is working to schedule a joint meeting of Neighborhood Centers and RDC PEG members - all PEG members will be invited. The joint meeting will be focused mostly on the issues of transition between residential areas and more intensely-used centers/ commercial districts. Staff are also working on a final PEG wrap-up meeting, likely to take place in September or October 2013.  
  • The Comprehensive Plan update process has shifted into the mapping phase. PEG members are encouraged to participate in public workshops in the fall and/or through their neighborhood and business associations.
  • Once the mapping discussions are complete, BPS will make revisions to the draft policy document and maps along with public facilities plans, for release of a complete Proposed Comprehensive Plan, anticipated release in January 2014. Following release of the proposed Plan, the public process will begin for consideration and adoption by thePlanning and Sustainability Commissionin Spring 2014.

RDC PEG Summary Memo -Final Review

Facilitators: Deb Meihoff, Communitas; Barry Manning, BPS

Summary: Deb and Barry reviewed changes to the memo made based on PEG member feedback and solicited final comments and ideas for improving the communication of key themes from the PEG discussions. Highlights of the comments from individual PEG members:

  • Highlight in the key themes the desire for preservation and enhancement of existing residential areas as a strategy to maintain affordability throughout the city and preserve existing compatibility of structures. 
  • The key themes should include the word ‘equity’ and link it to affordable housing. The PEG did not agree completely on the link between affordability of existing housing vs. new housing, some making the argument that old housing isn’t necessarily more affordable to buy or maintain, while others believe those with limited means can buy existing housing more affordability and invest their sweat equity to improve the property.
  • Communication theme should also include mention of clear, easily understandable and easily accessed development code.
  • Communication is not about just historic lots of record, but also the provisions for density transfers - ‘technicalities in code often don’t meet the intent statements in practice’.
  • Theme 2 (Allow Flexibility in Existing Housing Stock) should encompass new housing as well as existing.
  • The home occupation discussion summary should reflect that PEG members believe that in many circumstances the development code is too strict now. In single-family areas the code should be loosened for some home occupation standards.
  • Amend theme 7 (Address Form and Design of New Multi-Dwelling Development) to add the need for site design to be tied to a larger development framework, especially for larger parcel development. This is a significant issue inEast Portland; an urban design framework needs to be developed.
  • The need for connectivity and services applies to single dwelling neighborhoods throughout the city, not only multi-dwelling areas that are deficient of services, don’t connect, have insufficient infrastructure, etc.


Part 2 Mapping Issues

Presenters: Barry Manning, Eric Engstrom, and Debbie Bischoff, BPS

Summary: Staff walked through mapping issues in residential areas and solicited feedback from PEG members on potential solutions. Mapping topics included 1. Approaches/ trade offs to address historic lots and future allowances for small lot and affordable detached, single-dwelling infill development; and 2. Issues / options associated with nonconforming uses in residential areas. Summary of RDC PEG ideas and comments:

Historic Lots and Future Allowances for Small Lot Infill

  • There is some demand for small, detached housing - narrow / ‘skinny’ lots created by historic lots of record is currently meeting this demand.
  • Some PEG members expressed that the narrow/skinny house infill type is not well suited to many developedPortlandneighborhoods. Concerns include: streetscape dominated by garages, long and tall side walls/impact on adjacent yards; inefficient use of energy and materials; little space for landscape/gardens; conflict with street facing design/code standards; and lack of affordability.
  • Some PEG members noted that compared to similarly-sized attached rowhouses, market preferences still appear to favor the fee-simple lot and detached house form of development.  Also noted was an increasing market preference for small, low-maintenance yards.
  • There are concerns with potential conflicts between rezoning by transit lines to bring historic lots of record into conformance and desire for context-sensitive development. Focusing rezoning on corridors seems to have issues of equity - by doing this, would the result be segregation of housing types and affordable housing? Focusing density only on corridors could create long, boring strips of housing corridors.
  • What is the impact on centers if much of the residential demand would be absorbed by residential corridors?
  • One solution, rather than rezoning, is to be more transparent with development allowances in areas that have many smaller historic lots. (BPS staff noted the need to balance limited land supply inPortlandand desire to maintain low-density development types on lots that may have greater development potential.)
  • Constrained land supply has a direct impact on housing costs.
  • Consider tying residential tax abatement program areas to areas that can support infill of small, single-dwelling residences.
  • The current R5 zoning code has some stopgap measures against teardowns for skinny houses, but the PEG is not sure it is enough to keep single dwelling residential areas intact.
  • Could require two-dwelling, attached housing for infill development of substandard lots - ‘big house’, zero lot lines, or other zoning measures that accommodate a more contextual design with increased density.
  • The ‘look and feel’ of a neighborhood is more important than how many people are living within the neighborhood or a single structure. People with limited financial resources should have more housing choices than an attached dwelling unit or apartment.
  • Using old platting to guide development and design of our city seems so arbitrary. BPS needs to find a better way to address the city’s housing needs. Get away from historic lots of record and focus more on where we want growth and can address potential impacts. Building on the current system only reinforces the arbitrary nature of historic plats.
  • One approach would be to rely on intentional expansion of ADUs or other living options within multi-dwelling structures.
  • Need to be aware of the pressures to tear down serviceable structures because of underlying development potential and/or ease of lot divisions / line adjustments.  There are many concerns expressed in the community about the number of teardowns (either for higher intensity development or for replacement with larger houses), but it is not known how widespread the problem is.

Non-conforming / Commercial Uses in Residential Areas

  • Need to find a good path to allow services and amenities in neighborhoods, but needs to be improved from how it is approached today. Uses that support 20-minutes neighborhoods should be allowed, but need some controls to address the potential negative impacts. One approach may be to require upper floor residential with any non-conforming commercial uses in the midst of a residential area.
  • There is frustration with some developers using commercial zones (which allow residential uses by right and with fewer development standards than in residential areas) to exploit the more generous residential standards in commercial zones. Need to fix this loophole.
  • Cannot ignore impacts of designated landmark residential structures in industrial sanctuaries. 


  • Mapping Discussion Items / Issue Paper - ‘skinny lot’ infill and nonconforming, commercial use in residential areas 

Public Comment 

Jim Brown: Small neighborhood groceries are all but gone around the city. Not sure they will be coming back in the historic locations. Need to consider where open space will be provided, if we push to fill every lot in the city. Skinny-houses don’t work in [single dwelling residential areas] because they are tall and deep - should look at the possibilities of turning the houses and accessing from the side - 50’x50’ lots rather than 25’x100’.


Next steps and follow up

  • Deb and Barry will make final revisions to the draft summary memo - a copy will be forwarded to the BPS management team and PEG members.
  • Barry will send email invitations for other Comprehensive Plan meetings to take place later this summer and fall.
  • PEG members were thanked for their commitment of time and healthy discussions.

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