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Right-of-way improvement requirements for land use reviews or building permits

Guide
A street with recently constructed sidewalk, bust shelter, buffered bike lane, and vehicle travel lanes
Overview of street and sidewalk improvement requirements for development proposals. Resources for determining what type of public right-of-way improvements may be needed for a specific site.
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There are two thresholds for when public right-of-way (ROW) improvements are required.

Per Portland City Code 17.88.020 and TRN 1.30, development projects that increase the number of trips generated by a site are required to provide a standard frontage improvement, including sidewalks and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant curb ramps at corners and mid-block crossings.  This may require property dedication to allow the full width improvement to be constructed. PBOT determines an increase in trips by comparing the number of daily trips generated by the existing uses on a site to those generated by the proposed uses. The number of daily trips is based on the same land use categories used to calculate Transportation System Development Charges. Appendix A of TRN 1.30 lists the categories and trip rates. 

If the project does not result in an increase in trips, but the project is a “significant alteration” as defined in 17.88.010.C, then frontage improvements are required as close to City standard as possible within the existing right-of-way. “Significant Alteration” is defined as, "changes to property that are 35 percent or greater than the assessed value of all improvements on the site. Mandatory improvements for fire, life safety, and accessibility do not count toward the threshold.”

The assessed value of improvements is determined by the County Assessor and can be found at www.portlandmaps.com. Search by the property address, then click on "Assessor Detail."  Scroll down, and the assessment history will show a value under the heading "Improvements."  Building permit valuation is set by the Bureau of Development Services during permit review.  If the permit valuation as established by Bureau of Development Services is 35% or more of the assessed value of improvements on the site, the Significant Alteration threshold is met.

Please note Driveways are not considered a public right-of-way improvement.  Driveways are regulated under 17.28.110.  PBOT may require changes to a driveway that does not comply with the current requirements of 17.28.110 even if the project does not trigger either threshold.  This can include the need to close or relocate an existing driveway even if that will have implications for the way the site operates.  

Are there exceptions to ROW improvement requirements?

Yes.  There are situations in which improvements are not needed, even if one or both of the thresholds are met.    

Otherwise, an approved Public Works Alternative Review decision is needed for improvements that do not meet standards.

If further improvements are not needed but your development project will destroy or damage existing public improvements, your project will need to replace those existing improvements. Replacing existing improvements will require either a Public Works Permit or a Minor Improvement Permit, depending on the scope of work. 

Guidance on which permit type your project may need can be found on the Public Works Permitting page.

My development project will require ROW improvements.  How do I determine what those improvements will be?

The best way to understand the requirements is to apply for early assistance. This is a voluntary step in the development process which does take time and cost money.  City staff provide written guidance evaluating public ROW improvement requirements and how they relate to requirements for stormwater, trees, zoning, and utilities. Public improvement requirements can be substantial. Early assistance is highly recommended in the following situations:

  • Your site is on an unpaved street and the project is anything other than an alteration to an existing single dwelling or duplex.
  • Your site is on a street which does not have a curb and the project is anything other than an alteration to an existing single dwelling or duplex.
  • Your project will establish a new commercial use.  This includes changes of use in existing buildings.
  • Your project will increase the number of dwelling units on a site and is not an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU).  
  • Your project triggers the need for a land use review as determined by the Bureau of Development Services.

You can find additional resources for understanding improvement requirements below.

StreetsPDX

The Development Improvements page of StreetsPDX is a resource for becoming familiar with the requirements of city bureaus. It identifies policies and requirements that may apply to a development project and influence the allocation of space in the right-of-way. It also identifies the different paths for seeking approval to deviate from a standard requirement. It has information on frontage improvements, tree preservation and planting, access and loading, stormwater management, and utility services.

ROW Improvement Policies and Permits

Key documents that describe requirements for streets and sidewalks are listed below. See StreetsPDX for additional resources.

  • Many city standards are based on street classifications from the Transportation System Plan (TSP), which vary by location. You can easily find street classifications for any location using the Browse Your Streets link from the TSP website. You can also find information on Streetscape and Area Plans, which apply to specific neighborhoods and corridors and may determine the overall width or configuration of right-of-way improvements.  They sometimes require design elements that are different than the citywide standard, such as brick sidewalks or ornamental lighting. 
  • Portland’s Pedestrian Design Guide establishes sidewalk design criteria, including requirements for minimum sidewalk widths, street tree space requirements, street corners, and crossings, among others.  This document can be superseded by a Streetscape or Area Plan.
  • The PBOT Development Review Manual to Creating Public Streets and Connections provides a range of design information and practices that support public street design through the land use and building permit process.  This document can be superseded by a Streetscape or Area Plan.
  • TRN 1.28 Curb Extensions for Building and Planning Actions defines where curb extensions are required in relation to corner reconstruction, as well as where PBOT will not require curb extensions on a subset of city streets identified for near-term capital improvements intended to provide protected bicycle lanes (or any curb tight bicycle facility) or enhanced transit priority lanes.
  • The Sidewalk & Frontage Improvement Permit Requirements page describes the permit process for specific types of sidewalk and frontage projects.