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D-overlay zone frequently used terms

Courtyard with small trees and people sitting at cafe tables next to a 2-story retail building
DOZA proposes changes to the design overlay zone. This section provides an orientation to frequently used terms and how they relate to each other.
  • Design overlay zone: Interchangeable with the term ‘d-overlay’, this refers both to areas on the zoning map within the overlay zone as well as the set of regulations in Zoning Code Chapter 33.420. These regulations steer applicants to the type of process and requirements they are subject to. 
    The Design overlay zone is applied to the Central City, Gateway Regional Center, town centers and higher-density centers and corridors across the city. It may also be added through a legislative planning project, or automatically in conjunction with more intense base zones. The Design overlay zone is shown on the official Zoning Maps with a letter ‘d’ map symbol. 

  • Two-track system for design overlay: If a proposal is within the design overlay zone, and it is not exempt from regulations, the d-overlay provides two options for approving development proposals: the objective (design plan check) track and the discretionary (design review) track

  • Discretionary (design review) track: A process currently required for development in the Central City and Gateway districts that uses design guidelines as approval criteria. In many cases, applicants for projects with d-overlay outside of Central City and Gateway may choose to go through this process if they do not want to meet, or cannot meet, the clear and objective standards. The process may provide flexibility and encourage context sensitivity. However, it can be costlier and more time intensive to administer.  

    • Design review: This refers to the discretionary Land Use Review process described in Chapter 33.825. This process uses discretionary design guidelines as the approval criteria as part of either a Type II or a Type III Land Use Review, depending on geography and project valuation.  

    • Type I, II, or III procedure types: These are different procedure types for discretionary land use reviews. Each procedure has its own timeline and public involvement requirements. Currently, design review follows either a Type II or a Type III process. DOZA is proposing that a Type I be available for small proposals. Type I and II procedures require staff-level decisions with opportunities for public input. In the d-overlay, for Type III procedures, the Design Commission holds a hearing and is the deciding body. 

    • Design guidelines: These are the approval criteria used to review and approve a project that goes through discretionary design review. They are qualitative requirements that must be met, but there are many ways to do so (e.g., make the main entrance prominent, interesting, pedestrian-accessible and transit-oriented). Currently, the Community Design Guidelines apply to most areas in the Design overlay zone for the design review track. DOZA proposes to replace these guidelines with a new set of design guidelines: the Portland Citywide Design Guidelines. 

  • Objective (design plan check) track: An alternative process to design review that uses clear and objective design standards. Oregon law requires local governments to provide this option for housing development outside of regional centers. Approval is granted as part of the application for building permit. Building permits do not provide opportunities for public comment. DOZA is proposing to allow Gateway the ability to use the objective design plan check track in certain cases. 

    • Design standards: These are objective development standards additional to base zone standards. Design standards can be verified (e.g., the main entrance of each primary structure must face the street lot line). Standards provide certainty and are measurable. However, they are written for a specific result on a site and can be inflexible in certain cases. The current design standards, called the Community Design Standards, are found in Portland’s Zoning Code and Zoning Code Chapter 33.218, Community Design Standards. DOZA proposes a new set of design standards within the Design overlay zone Chapter 33.420 for the d-overlay zone outside of the Central City Plan District.

Flowchart for exempt versus non-exempt development proposals.