Dividing residential lots to increase housing construction to get easier and quicker with proposed code updates

News Article
Community members invited to review the Land Division Code Update Project Discussion Draft and comment on the proposals to project staff by Dec. 31.

As part of the City of Portland’s effort to increase new housing production, the Land Division Code Update Project will streamline the process of applying for a residential land division. These updated rules will reduce regulatory barriers and uncertainty in the application process for land divisions, helping to create new opportunities for housing in Portland.

Portlanders are invited to review the proposed zoning code updates in the Discussion Draft and share their feedback with staff via the Map App. Those interested can also sign up for project email updates.

Goals of the project

Land divisions help create more opportunities for housing in areas where development is limited to a number of dwellings per lot, regardless of how large the lot is. As more residential land in the city is developed, very large dividable parcels are increasingly rare. But some infill sites still present opportunities to create more homes through smaller land divisions.

By dividing and creating additional separate lots, land divisions increase the total number of dwellings that can be built in Portland. This project will provide a streamlined path for land divisions, especially for smaller, less complex sites.

What the project is proposing

In addition to many technical clarifications and corrections, the Land Division Code Update Project proposes the following three changes:

  1. Create a set of clear and objective approval standards for land divisions as an alternative to discretionary criteria. Currently, many of the requirements for land divisions are expressed as “discretionary criteria,” which use subjective terms that involve judgement to determine what is required. While discretionary criteria allow for flexibility in how a land division may be designed, it is not always clear what is required to satisfy them.

    This project will amend the City’s land division regulations to include “clear and objective standards” for land divisions: well-defined requirements that can be used to review without subjective judgment. Because these standards are clearer and more straightforward, they can also streamline the applicant’s site design and the City’s review processes.
  1. Update the City’s potential landslide hazard area map. The potential landslide hazard map shows areas with a higher risk of landslides due to steeper slopes and geology. If someone wants to subdivide a property in a landslide area, they must provide a study that looks at the hazards on the site in greater detail.

    Since Portland’s landslide hazard map was adopted in 2002, more accurate and detailed information is available to identify potential landslide risks. As part of this project, the landslide hazard map will be updated to better identify areas with higher landslide risk, making it clearer for the property what the development potential is.
  1. Calibrate land division standards, thresholds and review procedures. This project will also calibrate land division requirements to better reflect the size and complexity of land division sites. Smaller and more straightforward applications will be subject to either fewer requirements, a less onerous process, or reduced submittal requirements.

Project timeline

  • Fall 2023: Discussion Draft of proposed code amendments released for the public for review and input.
  • Winter 2024: The Proposed Draft of code amendments, incorporating feedback gathered during the public review period, will be presented to the Portland Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will hear public testimony and deliberate before forwarding their recommendation to City Council.
  • Spring 2024: A Recommended Draft, incorporating the recommendations of the Planning Commission, will be presented to the City Council for additional public testimony before the Council’s final vote.
  • Fall 2024: The proposed amendments to the land division regulations in Title 33 will be formally enacted.

How to provide feedback

The Land Division Code Update Discussion Draft is available for public comment. Portlanders can provide feedback on the proposals through 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2023, in the following ways:

  • Via the Map App: Visit the Map App, click on or search for a property, and use the comment tab to give your feedback. Comments do not need to be property specific.
  • By email: LandDivisionCodeUpdate@portlandoregon.gov
  • By U.S. mail: Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, 1810 SW 5th Ave, Suite 710, Portland, OR 97201, Attn: Land Division Code Update Project Discussion Draft