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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Legislative and quasi‐judicial land use decisions

Land use decisions are generally made through one of two ways: legislatively or quasi‐judicially. Some zoning‐ and development‐related decisions are also made administratively.

Legislative process

Legislative decisions establish long‐range land use plans, investments, policies, or regulations that can affect large parts of the city and many people. Legislative land use decisions can also be used to change any element of the Comprehensive Plan and change or create new related codes and area plans intended to implement the Plan. These changes are accomplished through adoption of an ordinance by City Council. Part of this process is the review and adoption of findings that the proposal is consistent with the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan or with State and Metro rules. Legislative projects typically are:

  • Initiated by City Council or City agencies.
  • Reviewed by the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC), which transmits its recommendation to City Council. 

Quasi‐judicial process

Quasi‐judicial decisions are used for site‐specific projects that affect one or a limited number of specific properties. They typically are initiated by an applicant, like a private property owner. They tend to impact fewer neighborhoods and people. Examples include site‐specific amendments to the Comprehensive Plan Map or Zoning Map, proposals to demolish historic landmarks, Type IV Demolition Reviews, or requests for street vacations, among others.

  • City staff or a Hearings Officer reviews and makes decisions on quasi‐judicial proposals.
  • There is often an opportunity for a public hearing.
  • They are reviewed for compliance with specific approval criteria in the Zoning Code.
  • In limited cases, the criteria may require findings of compliance with the Comprehensive Plan.

Administrative process

Administrative decisions are those made under clear and objective standards without exercise of discretion. An example includes application of numerical setback standards in the Zoning Code, or the determination of needed public improvements based on street classification maps in the Comprehensive Plan, and published engineering standards. Administrative decisions are typically made by City staff and are not individually reviewed against the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan.