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Nonconforming Reviews

Learn more about nonconforming situations and how they are created. Find out about nonconforming situations are reviewed. Get an early assistance application and a land use review application. Read other forms about nonconforming situations.
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Nonconforming situation and determination of legal nonconforming status reviews

Nonconforming situations are created when the application of a specific zone to a site changes, or when a zoning regulation changes. As part of the change, existing uses, density or development might no longer be allowed.

The intent of the change is to guide future uses and developments at a particular site in a new direction consistent with City policy. It is also to eventually bring them into conformance. Regulations addressing the various types of nonconforming situations are contained within Chapter 33.258 - Nonconforming Situations, of the Portland Zoning Code.

Nonconforming situation review

The nonconforming situation review provides a method to review and limit nonconforming situations when changes to those situations are proposed. Most commonly, a nonconforming situation review is required when changes or expansions to a nonconforming use are proposed within a residential zone.

In general, the purpose of this review is to make sure the changes proposed will not increase potential detrimental impacts to the neighborhood. It is also to make sure that the project is consistent with the desired character of the surrounding area. The relevant approval criteria are in Portland Zoning Code Section 33.258.080.

Determination of legal nonconforming status review

A determination of legal nonconforming status review is a process to determine if a use or site has legal nonconforming situation rights. In addition, it will determine what the current legal use is, based on the use categories in Chapter 33.920.

Nonconforming situations are uses or developments that do not comply with the current zoning code. A specific site may be nonconforming because it contains either a nonconforming use, development, residential density, or any combination of these. Nonconforming situation regulations apply only to those nonconforming situations which were allowed when established or which were approved through a land use review.

Additionally, they must have been maintained over time. These situations have legal nonconforming status. Nonconforming situations which were not allowed when established or have not been maintained over time have no legal right to continue (often referred to as “legacy rights”) and must be removed.

In order to determine if a nonconforming situation is legal, the applicant must show that the situation was allowed when established and has been maintained over time. Without documentation of the legality of a nonconforming situation, the continuation, reestablishment, or change to the situation may not be allowed.

There are two ways in which to document the legality of a nonconforming situation. If an applicant is able to provide information from a “standard” list of evidence, it may be possible to verify the grandfather rights through a zoning confirmation letter.  The application for documenting a nonconforming situation using standard evidence can be found here:

Where the applicant cannot provide standard evidence, a determination of legal nonconforming status review is necessary.  This review will determine if a situation has legal nonconforming situation rights. In addition, it will determine what the current legal use is, based on the use categories in Chapter 33.920. The relevant approval criteria are in Portland Zoning Code Section 33.258.075.

Nonconforming situation review applications and forms 

Visit Land Use and Final Plat Applications for instructions on how to apply for a Land Use Review.

Complete this application form to apply:

Use this list to identify submittal requirements:

A pre-application conference is required for all Type III Land Use Reviews. Optional pre-application conferences are also available to discuss other projects:

More information about Nonconforming Situation Reviews

Summarizes all procedure types: 

Outline of timeline for Type II Procedure:

Nonconforming Situation Review fees 

Review the Land Use Services Fees Schedule and the Unincorporated Multnomah County Land Use Fees Schedule.

Still need help?

If you have questions after reviewing the information on this page, please schedule a free 15-minute appointment with a city planner or set up an Early Assistance meeting for a deeper discussion.