The question of how to develop single-family neighborhoods to cope with an additional 120,000 households over the next 20 years was addressed over the past two months in six open houses and five library listening sessions. The next step, according to Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability chief planner Joe Zender, is to review the public comments and present them to the city council this fall.
Zender and project manager Morgan Tracy presented the complex infill issue to more than 120 neighbors and business owners at the German American Society in the Rose City Park neighborhood in mid-July. In addition to filling the room, participants in the two-hour open house provided city officials with lively discussion and were encouraged to complete a lengthy questionnaire or to use comment cards and easel flip charts to contribute comments.
Development strategies suggested will determine how 44 percent of Portland’s residential land in single-family neighborhoods will deal with increased population densities. Zender said that 30 percent of the growth will be absorbed by the central city and another 8 percent in centers and corridors, leaving strategies in the draft proposal to balance multiple Comprehensive Plan objectives that include giving more people access to “complete neighborhoods,” communities that have most of what people need within walking distance of their homes.
The planning bureau has been collecting comments on structure scale and types and how best to develop narrow lots. Scale includes size and height in addition to distance between buildings and property lines.
Types include standard single-family structures, middle structures like duplexes, triplexes and apartments, and accessory dwelling units – which can either be within existing structures or separate buildings. Cottage clusters on lots in excess of 10,000-sq.-ft. are also being considered.
During the question and answer session, the result of higher home prices as a consequence of demolition and rebuilding was mentioned. Zender noted that the main reason Portland housing prices were increasing was more people wanting to live in Portland compared to other cities, and more preferring to live in single-family neighborhoods – a question of supply and demand. He added that providing buyers with more housing choices will eventually make housing more affordable.
Other questioners asked how homeowners should face the specter of higher property taxes as a consequence for improving capacity on their property with ADUs and why more incentive is not offered to developers for preserving existing housing stock. Zender said the city was speaking with the county about the property tax situation, and Tracy said BPS was looking for more ideas from the public on how to preserve older but sound and still useful structures.
Portland’s city council will hold final hearings in the fall to determine the actual contents of the final infill ordinance, and new regulations will be drafted at the beginning of 2017. Additional comments can still be made online before the initial draft is prepared.