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Proposed zoning code amendments to protect Portland’s historic places, including elevating under-represented histories and allowing greater use flexibility, to be considered by the Planning and Sustainability Commission

News Article
Community members invited to testify to the PSC online or at a public hearing on October 27.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has released a proposed draft of Historic Resources Code Project (HRCP), a package of proposed amendments that include changes to regulations for identifying, designating, protecting, and reusing historic resources. Now the community is invited to review the proposals and testify on the proposed code amendments to the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) in writing or virtually at an October 27 public hearing.

The HRCP Proposed Draft recommends numerous changes to the rules and procedures for inventorying significant historic resources, designating landmarks and districts, regulating demolition and design changes, and encouraging adaptive reuse. Furthermore, the proposals would elevate the eligibility of under-represented historic resources – such as places significant for cultural and social history – for future designation as well as establish procedures for re-evaluating the designation status of resources that may be over-represented in the existing inventory.

These proposals were informed by input from hundreds of community members. They are intended to implement both State-mandated changes to the zoning code and a number of related advancements that would make Portland’s historic resource regulations more equitable, effective, and responsive to the current and future needs of Portlanders.

Summary of the proposals

The HRCP Proposed Draft includes a variety of specific proposals that fall under five key themes:

  1. Identification. The City of Portland has not conducted a systematic citywide inventory of historic places since 1984. Code proposals would redefine the Historic Resource Inventory, as well as establish a new procedure for formally identifying historic resources eligible for future designation. 
  2. Designation. Code proposals would establish a clear hierarchy of historic resource types to allow for greater local control in determining and amending the appropriate level of designation – and consequently, regulation – applied to specific landmarks and districts.
  3. Protection. Existing regulations have been ineffective at protecting City-designated historic resources from demolition, over regulated residential historic districts, and required unnecessary review of minor exterior alterations. Code proposals would apply demolition review to all designated individual landmarks and contributing (i.e. historic) resources in districts, as well as scale demolition and design protections to align with the Historic, Conservation, and National Register levels of designation.
  4. Reuse. Historic resources built before the application of modern zoning would be allowed greater flexibility of use, expanding economic opportunities to justify complex and costly rehabilitation projects.
  5. Administration. Code proposals would change purpose statements, procedure types, and language to ensure efficient implementation of regulations.

Review the specific proposals

A project staff report, recommended code amendments, and summaries of the proposed changes for each resource type (i.e., Historic Landmark, Conservation District) are available on the HRCP Proposed Draft Overview. Portlanders can also use the MapApp to look up a specific property and see how the proposals might affect it.

Tell the Planning and Sustainability Commission what you think

Community members are invited to testify to the Planning and Sustainability Commission in writing or online during a virtual public hearing scheduled for Oct. 27, 2020. Tenants, building owners, professionals, advocates, and others are encouraged to share their thoughts on the proposals in the following ways:

  • In writing via the MapApp. Click on the link and then the “Testify” button. The deadline to testify in writing is October 27, 2020 at 5 p.m.
  • Verbally to the Planning and Sustainability Commission at their October 27 virtual public hearing. You must register to testify online. The deadline to register is Monday October 26 at 4 p.m.  


Eden Dabbs

City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability