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City Council waives design review for exterior lighting, security gates in some commercial areas

News Article
On March 3, the Portland City Council approved an emergency ordinance that temporarily makes it easier for businesses to install exterior lighting and security gates at entrances of buildings in design overlay zones. A second ordinance to further help businesses will come to City Council on June 16.

Design overlay zones cover many commercial districts in Portland. With this ordinance, these projects can get a permit without receiving a design review.

Design reviews are important in promoting the conservation, enhancement, and continued vitality of areas of the city with special value. A design review looks at a proposal from an aesthetic standpoint, to ensure new development or alterations to existing development are designed well with quality materials and contribute to a vibrant urban environment. However, the design review process can take weeks or months to complete, and the City Council chose to waive the design review requirement for new security gates and lighting on buildings in design overlay zones.

This waiver will remain in effect throughout the Mayor’s declared state of emergency relating to the COVID pandemic.

Specifically, the ordinance:

  • Waives Design Review for exterior security gates, provided the security gate meets the following:
    • It is an open-grille variety and at least 70 percent transparent;
    • It is located at entrances or windows associated with the entry; in addition,
    • Gateboxes associated with the security gate must be hidden behind an awning or if there is no awning, gateboxes are painted to match the ground floor/first floor façade
  • Waives Design Review for exterior lighting, provided the lighting meets the following:
    • It is directed downward; appropriate fixtures include gooseneck lights and sconces
    • Flashing lights and upward projecting lights are not allowed

The ordinance does not apply to Historic Districts or Historic Landmarks.

A second ordinance will come before the City Council for a public hearing on Wednesday, June 16. This ordinance proposes to temporarily change rules relating to outdoor operations, ventilation and air circulation, temporary sign placement, and other considerations to help businesses stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic and recover after. A link to the ordinance and information on submitting testimony to the City Council will be available at the Council Clerk’s website by Friday, June 11.

For more information about this, please contact Matt Wickstrom at or at 503-865-6513.