In early October, close to the end of a contentious two-year process of public involvement hearings, open houses, drafts and rewrites, the city’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability released a discussion draft and zoning maps on strategies to increase density in single-family neighborhoods. The Residential Infill Project’s stated goal of “updating Portland’s single-dwelling zoning rules to better meet the changing housing needs of current and future residents” spurred United Neighborhoods for Reform, an ad hoc group formed in 2013 to counter citywide residential demolitions, to continue criticism of the city’s direction. “This proposal will result in more demolitions of less expensive viable homes and an increase in the price of housing in Portland.”
Speaking for the group’s steering committee, Barbara Strunk, a Beaumont-Wilshire resident since the mid-70s, said, “Most of the east side of Portland will be rezoned to an ‘Additional Opportunity Housing overlay zone,’ allowing duplexes with an added accessory dwelling unit anywhere in residential zones R2.5, R5 and R7, and triplexes on corners.” Strunk said anywhere in this overlay zone a single-family home could be demolished and replaced by a duplex or a triplex.
Strunk also scorned the bureau’s proposal for suggesting that current areas of R5 with historic underlying lot lines scattered around the city be re-zoned to the higher density R2.5. “This appears to get around the December 2016 city council recommendation that two 2,500-square-foot lots not be allowed in R5 zones,” she said.
Strunk says United Neighborhoods for Reform wants answers to many questions: “Will we lose viable rental houses when houses are demolished to build larger houses? Where are the analyses of impacts on traffic, parking and availability of public transportation? Where are any restrictions to require new ADUs to be used for permanent rentals instead of vacation rentals? What are the costs versus benefits of these code changes?” Strunk asserted that no analysis appears on the Residential Infill Project website of actual impacts on neighborhoods, or whether this plan would actually result in less expensive houses or moderated rents.
The bureau expects the city to grow by approximately 123,000 households – 260,000 people – by 2035, with 20 percent of that growth in single-dwelling residential zones. At the same time, the city is predicted to become more diverse as the population ages and household sizes diminish. In the future, according to planners, the average Portland household will be smaller, with fewer children per household.
Four neighborhood information sessions were held in October. November’s information sessions will be at Kenton Fire House, 8105 N. Brandon Ave., Thursday, Nov. 2 from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. and at Southeast Uplift, 3534 S.E. Main St., Tuesday, November 7 from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. Planners want all comments submitted by November 20 at 5:00 p.m., using an online comment form at www.surveymonkey.com, by mail to City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Attn: Residential Infill Project, 1900 S.W. Fourth Ave., Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201 or by email to email@example.com.
After reviewing comments on the discussion draft, bureau staff will prepare a proposed draft for the planning commission’s consideration. At that time, the public will be invited again to submit formal testimony at a public hearing in the winter of 2018. The commission may amend the proposal and will subsequently vote to recommend changes to city council.