Storm damage recovery

Planning and Sustainability Commission hears public testimony on the Residential Infill Project – Part 2

News Article
Commissioners hear more ideas, some concerns for adding housing on Portland’s larger lots.

On December 14 the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) held a public hearing for the Residential Infill Project – Part 2 (RIP2). Nearly 30 people signed up to testify.

The verbal and written testimony included some common themes for suggested changes to the proposed development code, including:

  • Impact of including wildfire risk in the proposed ‘z’ overlay zone
  • Desire for incentives to increase housing, including:
    • Floor area incentives for building fourplexes.
    • Greater flexibility for accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
    • Alternative standards for townhouse-style “deeply affordable” units.
    • Increased density and other revisions to cottage cluster code.
    • Allowing detached duplex, triplex, and fourplex units.
    • A code to enable pilot projects.
  • Concerns and suggestions to address compatibility, including:
    • Adding more limits to short term rental rules.
    • Further limiting building heights for middle housing.
    • Adding neighborhood-specific design requirements.
    • Requiring more parking.
  • Enhancing the visitability requirement with a greater level of accessibility features.

The ‘z’ overlay

Lots in the Constrained Sites ‘z’ overlay zone are ineligible for more intensive middle housing, e.g., triplexes and fourplexes, because of sensitive natural resources and potential landslide and other risks. Some commissioners and members of the public expressed their concern for how many lots would be affected by the proposed ‘z’ overlay. The proposal would include wildfire risk as a factor in determining inclusion in the ‘z’, which was not factored in the Residential Infill Project – Part 1.

Wildfire risk was not included in the ‘z’ overlay as part of RIP1 because these areas, characterized by steeper topography and more dense flammable vegetation, are not as common in the higher density single-dwelling zones as they are in R10 and R20 zones.

More flexibility

Many testifiers suggested changes that would increase flexibility for proposed middle housing types, from higher FAR (floor-to-area) limits for fourplexes to allowing recreational vehicles in cottage cluster-like arrangements. Some spoke about the perceived inequity of not allowing larger accessory dwelling units based on the size of the lot or primary house. Refinements to the newly minted “deeply affordable” sixplex bonus from RIP1 were also offered to enable side-by-side units, as opposed to “stacked” units.

Interest was high for leveraging the expedited land division process for middle housing and applying that to other residential structure types. These include allowing detached duplex, triplex, or fourplexes (meaning units would be in separate buildings, as opposed to being in one single building).

Some concerns

Testifiers raised concerns about the impact of proposed housing allowances within the adopted Comprehensive Plan’s growth strategy, as were concerns about middle housing building heights, parking, and design.

The intent of RIP2 is to get the City’s into compliance with House Bill 2001 (middle housing) and Senate Bill 458 (expedited land divisions for middle housing) by July 1, 2022. These legislative mandates and associated state rules limit how cities can regulate middle housing, so as not to discourage these housing types through unreasonable additional cost or delay.

The PSC will meet on January 11 to discuss potential amendments and give staff direction to research and develop them further, if necessary. The Commission will meet again on January 25 to complete the discussion of potential amendments, then vote on them and their recommended package to City Council on February 8.


Morgan Tracy

Senior City Planner, Planning and Sustainability