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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Updating the Neighborhood Contact process for new development

Would you like to receive more information about proposed new development in commercial centers and corridors? If so, read on.

In Portland’s Commercial zones, when a development is allowed and complies with zoning regulations, community notification about a proposed project is typically not required. However, many participants in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update project supported broader information sharing, enhanced notification and early conversations about new development. With new Zoning Code changes effective in 2018, many more development projects in Commercial/Mixed Use zones will potentially be subject to the "Neighborhood Contact" requirement. 

So City planners are now exploring ways to improve the Neighborhood Contact process. And we are looking for community members to share their ideas about what should be done to make it better. If you'd like to be a part of the discussion, please let us know by April 20, 2017, and look for more information from us in May.

How does the Neighborhood Contact process work now?

Neighborhood Contact is currently required only in limited circumstances – such as when community design standards are used or in multi-dwelling zones. When applicable, the process requires applicants or developers of a property to request a meeting with the local neighborhood association by registered or certified mail. The association may then choose to meet with the applicant to discuss development proposals. However, the applicant does not have to make any changes to the proposal based on the comments received at the meeting. If a meeting with the neighborhood is held, the applicant must send a follow-up letter to the association to explain any changes in the proposal before applying for permits.

What are some of the issues to consider and possibly revise?

  • Who is contacted? The existing process notifies only neighborhood associations and district coalition offices. Neighborhoods may choose to meet or not, based on their level of interest. However, many people who live, work, own property or are otherwise interested in the area may not have information about development unless they are engaged in neighborhood associations. And, without some process revisions, neighborhood associations and district coalitions may become overwhelmed with mailed communications and requests to meet.
  • How are people contacted? The code currently requires the notification be sent to neighborhood associations and district coalition offices by registered or certified mail. This presents problems where mail access is limited and/or where volunteers from associations change or are unavailable to share information. Many affected parties and community members are not included in notices and may not be aware of opportunities to meet or share information.
  • What is the purpose and what should the outcome be? The Neighborhood Contact requirement is unclear about what the applicant and other people should expect from the contact itself. The Zoning Code and other communications materials should clarify the purpose of the contact requirement and the expected outcomes.

Who may care about this topic?

  • Property owners and developers in Commercial/Mixed Use zones who may develop their property or make additions to their buildings may be subject to the new rules. 
  • Neighbors and other community members that frequent or live near commercial corridors or centers who are interested in or affected by development.

Next Steps

After gathering the names of interested community members, the project team will engage them in a process to clarify issues and consider ways to improve the process (Spring 2017). Much of this engagement will be done by email, but a meeting may also be held this spring. Any proposed changes to process will be shared broadly with the public for review and feedback in a Discussion Draft (late Spring or Summer 2017).


The intent of the Neighborhood Contact rule is to require people developing a property to informally share information and gather constructive feedback about it with people who live or work in the neighborhood — before construction. The Zoning Code currently requires Neighborhood Contact (33.700) before development may proceed in limited situations such as projects using the Community Design Standards (33.218); development in Multi-Dwelling Residential zones (33.120); and in places such as SE Division Street (33.460).  

As part of the Comprehensive Plan Early Implementation Code Amendments (effective early 2018), the Neighborhood Contact requirement will be expanded to apply to a broader range of projects in Commercial/Mixed Use zones, where much new development is anticipated. 

The Code Reconciliation Project (CRP) review of the Neighborhood Contact requirement will address communications and community dialogue goals as well as consider improvements to the current process. However, it will not change the basic information-sharing intent of the contact requirement or the way development is allowed. Nor will it require applicants to change the proposal based on the input received.

For more information

Contact Barry Manning, project manager, at, or call 503-823-7965.

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