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Residential Infill - Lunch and Learn Q&A

The following questions were asked during the Residential Infill Lunch and Learn presentations on June 10 and 22, 2021. Some questions were answered at the end of the presentations. All questions and answers are listed below.
On this page

Residential Infill Resources

Q: Can you please give us the website address for the resource page?
A: The BDS Residential Infill Project webpage has links to helpful information.

Q: This presentation was very clear about changes to code. I missed the first ten minutes -- will this condensed information be available online?
A: The BDS Residential Infill webpage contains a link to a recording of the Lunch and Learn presentation.

Q: Are these slides available for download?
The slides from the Lunch and Learn presentation are available on the BDS Residential Infill webpage.

Q: When will the final updated RIP zoning code be available? All we have now is August 12, 2020, Vol 2 Code Amendment Commentary.
A: The final updated Residential Infill Project zoning code will be available on August 2, 2021. Other projects taking effect August 1, 2021, including the Shelter to Housing Project and the Design Overlay Zone Amendments Project, need to be incorporated.

Q: What is the website for the 15-minute appointments?
A: A 15-Minute Appointment may be scheduled through this link. Please select “Meet with a City Planner” and “General zoning or tree code” for questions about the Residential Infill Project.

Q: Is there a discounted/subsidized program for “early assistance” that costs less than $1,000?
A: Calls to the Zoning Hotline (503-823-7526) and 15 Minute Appointments are available without a charge.

Q: What is the timeline for permitting under the transition to RIP?
A: Permits submitted after August 1, 2021, will be subject to the new standards. Please see the BDS guidelines for additional information on the permit application timelines for the changes.

Residential Infill Development Standards

Q: Why is there a range in the Maximum FAR standard (for example .5-1)?
It is not a range. FAR is expressed as a ratio, for example .5 square feet of floor area to 1 square foot of lot area, which is written as “.5 to 1”.

Q: Are non-buildable areas of the lot included in the FAR calculation?
Yes, all parts of the site are included in the floor area ratio calculation. Floor area ratio is the amount of floor area in relation to the amount of site area including areas that can be thought of as “non-buildable” such as setbacks.

Q: Please clarify two things that were stated in the presentation:

  • Basements 50% or more below grade don't count towards FAR. Does it matter if it's finished or unfinished, living space or storage?
  • 250 SF or smaller additions are allowed to residences every five years even if the FAR is already maxed out.

A: Basements that meet the new definition do not count as floor area regardless of whether or not they are finished space. The same applies to attics that have ceiling heights below 6 feet 8 inches. The 250 square foot addition is allowed once every five years even if the existing structure or site is over the allowed FAR.

Q: Is the measurement of FAR changing? Will fully below-grade finished space be included in FAR?
The definition of floor area is being amended to exclude basements that are partially or completely below grade and portions of attics where the finished ceiling height is less than 6 feet 8 inches. In order to be considered a basement that is partially or completely below grade, a minimum of 50 percent of the total combined area of the basement walls must be below grade.

Q: Would a 500 SF remodel that is not adding square footage to the structure (ie kitchen remodel) need to evaluate for FAR?
A: If no square footage is being added (only existing square footage being remodeled) then no FAR calculations are required.

Q: Are you measuring square footage area from the face of stud, building sheathing, or building siding? What about exterior insulation?
Floor area is measured to the exterior face of the wall from a floor plan. Note that this is different than measuring living area (inside face of walls). Living area is measured in relation to the size of an accessory dwelling unit but is not measured in relation to FAR.

Q: What’s the largest size structure I can build taking advantage of all exemptions possible?
A: The allowed size of the structure is primarily a function of the size of the lot it is on, as well as how much FAR is permitted, which varies by zone. The FAR also increases when more units are being built on a single dwelling zoned lot, or if you qualify for one of the bonuses. Lastly, there are certain spaces that are not counted in floor area, such as a basement, or low ceiling area (less than 6’8”).

Q: Are there any changes to [Portland City Code Chapter] 33.110.250? Will we be allowed to add a deck on an existing garage within the setback?
This section was not changed. Rooftop decks in the setback continue to not be allowed.

Q: Do the new building height calculations apply to ADUs as well?
Yes, the new way to measure height will apply to all buildings in single-dwelling zones, including ADUs.

Q: Will the right-of-way not reduce the building coverage in R20?
Any dedication of right-of-way reduces the size of the site and therefore the allowed building coverage in all single-dwelling zones. The only standard that is measured prior to a required right-of-way dedication is allowed floor area. This is based on the size of the site prior to right-of-way dedication. The R20 zone will not have a maximum FAR allowed on August 1, but may have one with the implementation of Phase 2 of the Residential Infill Project.

Q: BPS says that the Residential Infill Project will make for more compatible infill (refill) development. I live in a neighborhood of 1-1.5 story houses with 25 ft setbacks and driveways/garages, on 55x100 lots. How willRIP be more compatible? Please address how the project will do this and not how new code is better than the old code.
A: New limits on building size, improved height measurement methods, additional main entrance and street-facing façade standards, as well as other changes related to parking and garages provide improved compatibility.

Residential Infill Options

Q: Can a house and two separate detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) be built on a single residential lot?
On single dwelling zoned lots that qualify for three or more units, yes. The ADUs can both be separate detached structures or they can be combined in a single detached structure. However, note that maximum building coverage limits for all detached accessory structures combined apply (15% of the site area).

Q: Can detached, connected, and/or attached accessory structures be living units?
A: If these structures also meet the requirements for an ADU, then yes.

Q: When pursuing two ADUs on a lot, can both ADUs be detached from the house and detached from each other? In other words, can the house and the two ADUs all be detached from each other?
A: Yes. Possible 2-ADU configurations include 1) house with internal and detached ADU, 2) house with two detached ADU’s that are in a single detached building, 3) house with two detached ADUs that are in separate detached buildings.

Q: For ADU development, is the 800 square foot living area limit based on internal wall to internal wall measurements or exterior wall measurements. Are covered porches included in the 800 square foot limit?
A: FAR (which is a measure of “floor area”) is different than ADU living area size limits. Both standards apply, but measure space differently. For example, “floor area” measures all floors of a building, from the exterior face of walls. It excludes certain areas like basements and low ceiling attic spaces. “Living area” generally measures habitable area, measured from the interior of a wall. Living area excludes things like garages, areas where the floor to ceiling height is less than 5 feet, and basements with less than 6’ 8” of height. Covered porches (and decks for that matter), if they are not enclosed by walls that are more than 42 inches in height, for 75 percent or more of their perimeter are not counted as either floor area or living area.

Q: I would like to know more about how the standards differentiate between a duplex and a house plus an attached ADU.
The greatest distinction between a house with an ADU versus a duplex is the limitation on the size of the second unit. For an ADU to be “accessory” it is limited to 75% of the primary unit size, up to 800 square feet max. A duplex, on the other hand, can have two equally sized units. There are other distinctions in terms of Systems Development Charge waivers, how the units are addressed, and potentially differences in how taxes are assessed.

Q: What is the difference between two attached homes and a duplex?
An attached house is a dwelling unit on its own lot that shares at least one common wall with one or more dwelling units. Two attached houses would be two dwelling units, each on their own lot, that share at least one common wall. A duplex is two dwelling units in one structure located on one lot.  

Q. How does RIP affect contributing buildings in historic districts?
The residential infill options are the same for sites with contributing buildings in historic districts as for sites outside of historic or conservation districts. The same thresholds and requirements for the duplex, triplex, fourplex and additional ADU allowances apply in addition to any requirements of the historic resources overlay zone.

Q: Are SDC waivers for ADUs changing?
A: BDS does not manage System Development Charges. Please contact infrastructure bureaus for information about their System Development Charge policies.

Q: Does the Residential Infill Project affect only R2.5, R5, and R7? Or does it include RM and other non-residential zones?
A: The changes primarily affect R2.5, R5, R7 zones. However, the changes to allow two ADUs with a house, or one ADU with a duplex apply across most zones.

Q: My house is in an RM4 zone. Am I allowed to put two ADUs in my basement?
A: Only one ADU is allowed to be attached to or internal to a house. This is the same in any zone where more than one ADU is allowed. However, three units in one structure is called a triplex. So as long as the standards for a triplex can be met, then this configuration of units is possible. System Development Charges will apply differently.

Q: When Lot Confirmation is done of an up-zoned property going from R5 to R2.5 is there a specific survey that is required to separate lots?
A: A site plan drawn to scale is required for all Lot Confirmations. If existing buildings on the site will remain after the lot confirmation, a supplemental survey signed and stamped by a registered land surveyor is also required.

Q: Are there map apps which include constraint layers for quick reference? For instance, If a property has had a historic resource demolished in the past 10 years?
A: To see whether a lot has the ‘z’ overlay, is on a maintained street, or meets the minimum lot size requirements (according to county tax records) you can look at the Map App until August 1. After August 1, PortlandMaps will include updated zoning maps that show the ‘z’ overlay, and information about the street’s status will also be available there. Whether a demolished property had a historic resource is not mapped, so more individual records research will be needed for that.

Q: On “maintained” streets does this include streets where an LTIC has been paid for the site?
The LTIC is a Local Transportation Infrastructure Charge. It provides a more predictable and simple option for developers to meet their right-of-way improvement obligations. Paying the LTIC does not satisfy the requirement for improving the street to a level to be accepted for maintenance.

Residential Infill Phase 2 and other Regulations

Q: Will Senate Bill 458 (2021) be incorporated into Phase 2 of the Residential Infill Project? It’s my understanding where we can do duplex/triplex will now be allowed to do simple land division to create fee simple lots.
Senate Bill 458 allows land divisions to separate dwelling units for new middle housing. Currently, we envision wrapping necessary code changes for SB 458 into Part 2 of the Residential Infill Project. Note that that bill does not take effect until July 1, 2022, and applies to projects constructed after that date.

Q: Are amendments for cottage clusters planned? If so, when will those amendments be published?
House Bill 2001 (2019) requires large cities to adopt a set of clear and objective standards to permit cottage clusters. A cottage cluster is multi-dwelling development and is currently allowed, except through a discretionary planned development. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) is currently working on code amendments to respond to the state requirement that this housing type be allowed under some circumstances through clear and objective standards. The changes will be proposed in Part 2 of the Residential Infill Project. BPS plans to begin public outreach for the project in August.


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