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Design Overlay Zone Amendments and new development projects

Learn more about the recently approved Design Overlay Zone Amendments (DOZA), which took effect Aug. 1, 2021, and schedule a meeting to discuss. Find out more about what the Design Overlay Zone Amendments mean for new development projects.

The Portland City Council recently adopted changes to the City’s zoning code that affect when and how design review requirements are applied in certain areas known as design overlay zones.

Portland receives national and international acclaim for supporting a high-quality built environment through planning and urban design. This is largely due to its longstanding tradition of design review. Thoughtful application of design guidelines, standards, and review processes has created a city renowned for its public realm and pedestrian-friendly environment. With Portland’s population expected to grow substantially in the next 15 years, the tools and processes of design review have been improved to ensure development will continue to result in high-quality design and provide more efficient processes.

If a proposal is within the design overlay zone, and it is not exempt from regulations, the overlay provides two options for approving development proposals: the objective (design plan check) track and the discretionary (design review) track. The objective track is completed during the permit review while the discretionary track must be completed before the permit review. Both of these processes and their tools have been improved through the DOZA project. Other elements of the overlay zone have been modified. Here is a summary of the major changes that resulted from DOZA:

  • Creates a new purpose statement for the Design overlay zone that focuses on the three tenets of design (context, public realm, and quality and resilience)
  • Removes the design overlay zone from single-dwelling-zoned properties
  • Expands the list of projects that are exempt from design review or subject to a lower level of review
  • Expands the situations when design standards can be used in lieu of design review
  • Creates new objective standards (Design Standards) for projects that qualify
  • Establishes design review thresholds based on the size and scale of a project
  • Creates new approval criteria for design review (Portland Citywide Design Guidelines) for design reviews in many areas of the city

You can read more information about the zoning code changes and Design Guidelines through the links below:

Get answers to questions: talk with an expert 

We can answer questions about the new rules. You can set up a 15-minute appointment with a city planner or call the Zoning Information Line phone number 503-823-7625 to discuss your questions. Or set up an Early Assistance meeting for a deeper discussion about the Design Overlay Zone Amendments and how they may affect your specific project.


Zoning Information Line

Development Services

phone number503-823-7526

Monday through Friday from 8 am - 5 pm. Leave a message with a phone number, the project address, and your questions.

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