Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

More Contact Info

Subscribe to RSS feed

Most Recent

View More

New State Rules Will Prompt Changes to Portland's Historic Resource Protection Program

On January 27, 2017, the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) adopted new administrative rules governing how Oregon jurisdictions identify, designate, and protect historic resources. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability participated in the rulemaking process and testified before the LCDC in support of the now-adopted rules. The adopted rules provide legal clarity, additional tools for documenting historic resources, and expanded opportunities for public involvement in the protection of historic resources. While Zoning Code changes will be necessary to implement many of the voluntary aspects of the rule changes, other elements of the rule become effective once the rules are filed with the Secretary of State (anticipated mid-February 2017).

As City staff review the specifics of the rule changes and begin to scope possible Zoning Code amendments, many historic resource owners are asking how the rules may affect their property. Below are common questions and the best answers that City staff are able to provide at this time.

What is the most immediate effect of the rule changes?

Upon the rules taking effect, the City of Portland will no longer automatically apply historic resource review to new listings in the National Register of Historic Places. Historic resource review is a form of design review administered by the Bureau of Development Services and Historic Landmarks Commission intended to protect the physical integrity of historic landmarks and properties within historic districts. All National Register resources in Portland are today subject to historic resource review and will continue to be subject to such review. However, historic resources listed in the National Register after the effective date of the rule will only have historic resource review applied following a public hearing and decision to apply historic resource review to the resource.

Because such a hearing and adoption process does not today exist in the Zoning Code, code amendments will be necessary before historic resource review can be considered and/or applied to National Register resources that are listed following the effective date of the rules. Four Portland resources are currently under consideration for listing in the National Register.

What if my property is already designated?

The rule changes do not substantively affect properties that are already designated as a historic resource. Properties currently subject to historic resource review will remain subject to that design review protection. National Register resources subject to demolition review (as well as those that are listed in the future) will remain subject to demolition review, albeit with slightly amended approval criteria to be used by the Portland City Council when considering demolition requests.

What if I live in a proposed historic district?

A portion of the Eastmoreland neighborhood is currently being considered for designation as a National Register historic district. If approved by the National Park Service, contributing resources within the district would automatically be subject to demolition review. The application of historic resource review—either as general design review approval criteria or district-specific design guidelines—would require notice, citizen involvement, public hearing(s) and a decision to apply historic resource review to the district.

Because Zoning Code changes will be necessary to create a hearing and adoption process for the application of historic resource review to new National Register designations, the City of Portland would not be able to apply historic resource review to an Eastmoreland Historic District until at least 2018. Furthermore, given resource constraints, best practices for public involvement, policies that prefer district-specific design guidelines for historic districts and neighborhood and City Council priorities, it is possible if not likely that historic resource review would not be applied to an Eastmoreland historic district for several years.

Eastmoreland House
A portion of the Eastmoreland neighborhood is currently being considered for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. If designated, the new rules would automatically apply demolition review to the district’s contributing buildings, but would require a public process before design review requirements for alterations and new construction could go into effect. Eastmoreland house photo courtesy Scott A. Tice.   

How is demolition defined?

The adopted rules include a definition of demolition that applies to permit applications “that destroys, removes, or relocates, in whole or part, a significant historic resource such that its historic, cultural, or architectural character and significance is lost.” Staff in the bureaus of Planning and Sustainability and Development Services are evaluating how best to implement this definition in advance of Zoning Code changes that would more clearly articulate thresholds for actions that are tantamount to demolition of a historic resource.  

Protection of Historic Resources
The new rules provide regulatory clarity for the identification, designation, and protection of historic resources, including definitions and requirements pertaining to demolition of National Register resources. Photo courtesy Scott A. Tice.

Is it true that the rules allow for the creation of local historic and conservation districts?

The adopted rules provide greater flexibility for the establishment of local historic and conservation districts, neither of which have been created in Portland since 1993. Zoning Code changes will first be needed to articulate a process for creation of such districts before they become a viable designation option. It is important to note that the Zoning Code does not currently apply demolition review to local historic resource designations—local and conservation landmark properties/districts are today protected with a 120-day demolition delay period and varying thresholds for historic resource review.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability will not have certainty on the processes, fees, or regulations that will apply to new local or conservation districts until 2018.

Map of Woodlawn Conservation District
The Woodlawn Conservation District, established in 1993, provides demolition delay and design standards to better manage change in this unique neighborhood.

What do the rules mean for the Historic Resources Inventory?

The adopted rules clarify that owner consent is not required to survey and inventory potentially significant historic resources. This change opens the possibility of updating the City’s Historic Resources Inventory, last updated in 1984.

When will the Zoning Code changes go into effect?

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is scoping a historic resources code project that would create a process for applying historic resource review to new National Register listings, overhaul the process for establishing local and conservation districts, codify a framework for updating the Historic Resources Inventory, and address staff concerns related to thresholds for and exemptions to historic resource review. The State Historic Preservation Office has advised the City of Portland to delay initiation of Zoning Code amendments until July 2017, however, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff will begin convening stakeholders this spring and summer to develop initial code concepts and begin public outreach and review in fall 2017. It is unlikely that any historic resource Zoning Code changes will be adopted prior to late winter 2018.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability looks forward to advancing the historic resource program in the year ahead with the additional clarity, flexibility, and inclusion provided by the adopted rules.