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With some fine-tuning, City Council approves Residential Infill Project Concept Report

On December 7, 2016, City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution that accepted the Residential Infill Project Concept Report with several amendments from the commissioners. Council amendments were based on testimony they heard at their November 9 and 16 public hearings. Nearly 120 people testified in person; Council also received approximately 550 letters and emails during their review.

Watch the videos of City Council sessions about RIP (November 1 a.m., November 9 p.m., November 16 p.m. and December 7 a.m.).

What did City Council approve?

Council voted on a set of concepts that aim to discourage home demolitions, while increasing housing choice in Portland’s single-dwelling residential neighborhoods. During the public hearings Mayor Charlie Hales often asked testifiers: If given the choice, would they 1) do nothing; 2) modify staff’s recommendations; or 3) start completely over. Most people responded that the recommendations were a good start but modifications were needed.

Overall, City Council agreed. Recognizing that the Concept Report gave general policy direction and guidance for staff to develop code and mapping proposals, Council made several modifications before they accepted the concept recommendations. Below is a summary of the Commissioner’s amendments by topic area.

Scale of houses

  • To create additional deterrents and reduce the number of 1:1 demolition replacements (e.g., demolishing one house only to replace it with a single new house) inside the Housing Opportunity Overlay Zone, Council voted to adjust the allowed size of single-dwelling houses in the overlay. For example, the direction is now to reduce the amount of living space on a 5,000 square foot lot to 2,000 square feet (as opposed to 2,500 square feet in the Concept Report). Council agreed to maintain the same size limit for duplexes, duplexes and ADUs, and triplexes on corners (e.g., 2,500 square feet on a 5,000 square foot lot) as what would be allowed for a single house outside the overlay. Commissioner Novick indicated he would like to see size limits on duplexes and triplexes studied further to ensure that resulting unit sizes were reasonable, but there was no official amendment.
  • Council approved several amendments introduced by Commissioner Fritz that address flexibility for tree preservation, increasing private open space areas, and reducing impervious surfaces.

Housing choices

  • Council did not expand the range of allowed housing types in the Housing Opportunity Overlay Zone (i.e., a house with both an internal and detached ADU, duplex, duplex with ADU, triplex on corner). However, they did direct staff to explore requirements and bonus unit allowances for age-friendly housing, affordability and additional tree preservation.
  • To encourage house internal conversions over demolition, Council voted to allow citywide an additional unit when an existing house is converted into multiple units (staff had recommended this bonus unit only in the Housing Opportunity Overlay Zone). Council also expressed the need to clearly distinguish an internal conversion from a near-demolition and rebuild.
  • Council did not vote on the conceptual boundary criteria for the Housing Opportunity Overlay Zone. Rather commissioners asked staff to come back early next year with mapping options. They cited issues around where it should be, how far from frequent transit, and if the David Douglas School District should be exempt because of student capacity issues. They also voted to ensure that transportation infrastructure constraints were added to the list of mapping considerations.

Narrow lots

  • Council did not approve staff’s recommendation to rezone historically narrow lots currently in R5 zones to R2.5. (Historically narrow lots were platted before modern zoning and don’t meet current R5 lot dimension requirements.) Instead, Commissioners voted for an amendment that would not allow individual R5-zoned historically narrow lots to be developed — even when they have been vacant for more than five years, as presently allowed.
  • Council also voted to remove staff’s recommendation that front-loaded garages not be allowed on detached houses on narrow lots, figuring these will be less common as a result of the change to not allow houses on R5 historically narrow lots. Narrow lots already zoned R2.5 zone will continue to be allowed.

For more detailed information about what City Council voted on, staff has prepared a matrix of the approved recommended concepts and the City Council amendments.

Next steps

The acceptance of the Concept Report sets the stage for the next phase of the Residential Infill Project: code writing and map amendment proposals. This phase, beginning early 2017, will include public review of a Discussion Draft, followed by public hearings at the Planning and Sustainability Commission and City Council before final adoption by City Council. For more information about the project, visit the website at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/infill

Questions? 

Morgan Tracy, Project Manager, morgan.tracy@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-6879
Julia Gisler, Public Involvement, julia.gisler@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-7624