Changes to Portland’s design overlay and design review program are headed to City Council in May

News Article
Portlanders invited to testify on the Design Overlay Zone Amendments that will update the tools and processes used to guide design in Portland’s highest density places; public hearing in May.

Last summer – after months of briefings and deliberation – both the Planning and Sustainability Commission and the Design Commission unanimously voted to recommend the Design Overlay Zone Amendments (DOZA) proposals to City Council for public hearings and consideration. The DOZA proposals were developed in collaboration with staff, architects, designers, developers, community members and others. The result is a revised design overlay zone that:  

  • Prioritizes people in the design of future development. 
  • Reduces cost and time in applications. 
  • Promotes an anti-racist built environment in discretionary reviews. 
  • Incorporates a clear and flexible set of standards. 

Review the entire package.

Why is this important?

The design of places matters because people experience their built environment every day. Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan reaffirms the City’s commitment to grow up — not out. To do so, our city will see larger and denser development than the built environment today.

Over the next 20 years, 60% of projected housing units will be built in Portland’s highest capacity centers and corridors, like Lents, Hollywood, Gateway, and the Central City. These populated areas are zoned with a design overlay or ‘d’ overlay. So, it’s important that Portland update its d-overlay zone to ensure that new development meets the needs of current and future residents.

What’s in the DOZA package?

In a nutshell, DOZA’s proposals include changes to the purpose, map, thresholds, process, and tools that implement the d-overlay. A summary of proposals breaks down the big moves. Specific changes to the DOZA proposals, as amended by the PSC and Design Commission after seven months of deliberation, include:

  • Increase thresholds to allow more development (up to 75 ft) to use the Design Standards.
  • Update the Design Commission membership.
  • Codify that general height and floor area ratio (FAR) allowances cannot be reduced during design review.
  • Provide more context sensitivity within the Design Standards, especially adjacent to historic structures.  
  • Expand exterior materials options and incentivize the use of low-carbon materials.
  • Expand the document Introduction within the Citywide Design Guidelines to include more Portland-specific context and aspiration as guided by the Comprehensive Plan. 
  • Reduce the number of guidelines in the Portland Citywide Design Guidelines from ten to nine.
  • Define character and local identity as balanced with community voices.
  • Replace photographic examples and diagrams.  

Learn more about these changes.

Have your say

City Council is tentatively scheduled to hold a public hearing on the DOZA package on May 12, 2021, at 2 p.m. That gives Portlanders three months to review the proposals and ask questions of staff.

You can testify on the Recommended Draft in writing via the Map App and virtually at the hearing. Check the DOZA website for updates.

If you have questions or would like more information about the proposals, please contact Phil Nameny.


Phil Nameny

City Planner II, Planning and Sustainability