Oregon Supreme Court declines to hear ongoing challenge to Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan

News Article
Prior court’s decision upholds the City’s 20-year plan for growth and development.

On Sept. 17, 2020, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an order denying the Multnomah Neighborhood Association’s petition for review of an earlier Court of Appeals Decision affirming Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The Supreme Court entered its final judgement October 19, 2020.

This decision ends several years of legal challenges to the plan and means that the 2035 Comprehensive Plan is now formally “acknowledged” by the state. The acknowledgement will simplify some development permits in the City by removing extra analysis some land use applications faced while the plan was being appealed.

Why did this happen?

Cities in Oregon are required by the state to periodically update their comprehensive plans. Portland’s new citywide growth plan was adopted in 2016 and went into effect in May 2018. The 20-year plan includes new land use policies, land use maps and zoning, and public facilities plans. This was the largest overhaul of Portland’s land use plan since the City’s original Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1980.

The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) approved the 2035 plan in December 2017. In March of 2018, the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) voted to reject six appeals that had been filed to block elements of the plan. The Multnomah Neighborhood Association (MNA) subsequently filed an appeal of that LCDC decision in September 2018. Earlier this year (2020), the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed LCDC's decision without opinion. In May, the MNA petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review.

The MNA’s appeal was primarily concerned with the City’s “middle housing policy,” which City Council added to the plan in early 2016. This policy encourages the City to allow more duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, accessory dwelling units, and “cottage clusters” in residential areas. In 2019 the state legislature also adopted similar policy through House Bill 2001.

City Council recently acted on the policy through adoption of the Residential Infill Project zoning changes, which will go into effect on Aug. 1, 2021. With these changes, duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes will be allowed on many residential lots in the R2.5, R5 and R7 zones. House Bill 2001 also requires the City to consider middle housing in the R10, R20 and RF zones. Portlanders will be asked to weigh in on that question in 2021.


Eden Dabbs

City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability