Archive for the ‘Growth’ Category


Transecting Portland’s Urbanism

September 30, 2012

“Transect” is a word given an additional usage by new urbanist planners to mean a continuum of neighborhood types ranging from the dense central city out to the increasing less dense edges of a region.

Today, returning from the East Portland Sunday Parkways, I rode home on the Springwater Trail and had the opportunity to transect Portland’s various flavors of urbanism, including:

  • A restoration project on Johnson Creek helping bring salmon back to the creek
  • The “Cartlandia” food cart pod – a bike-friendly oasis, complete with beer garden, on the very auto-centric 82nd Ave – where I had lunch (and I can’t see what all the fuss at City Council about the liquor license was about – it’s a very family-friendly environment)
  • Light industry and urban agriculture (Zenger Farm), side-by-side
  • The vibrant, built-in-the-streetcar-era urbanism of the Sellwood neighborhood
  • The amusing urbanism of Oaks Park, side-by-side with withe nature-in-the-city urbanism of Oaks Bottom
  • Kayakers enjoying Ross Island, just before I encountered our newest streetcar terminus and rail museum
  • A view of the downtown skyline from the Eastbank Esplande

We are truly blessed…


ADUs Get Easier

March 3, 2010

Two City Council actions this week will make building Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs – aka “Granny Flats”) much easier.

Today City Council voted to waive system development charges (SDCs) for ADUs for the next three years. They received testimony that SDCs can be up to 20-25% of the cost of an ADU project.

Tomorrow Council will (I hope) finalize the RICAP 5 project which includes increasing the maximum size of ADUs from 33% of the size main dwelling to up to 75% of the size the main dwelling (an overall maximum of 800 sq. ft. still remains, so this means that smaller houses can now get ADUs).

I hope this will raise the number of ADUs being built annually from about two dozen (at least those that are legally permitted) to a considerably higher number. In my view ADUs are a very good thing because:

  • They create affordable housing
  • They leverage existing urban infrastructure to increase density with very little community impact
  • They help homeowners pay their mortgage

Infill, Historic Preservation and Corridors

February 1, 2010

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend an excellent workshop hosted by the Architectural Heritage Center on “Infill in Traditional Neighborhoods”.

Infill is not a new topic for me. I had a chance to study it in depth when I served on the City Club’s study on “Increasing Density in Portland” that looked at how Portland could achieve the increases in housing suggested by the Metro 2040 Growth Plan adopted in the mid-’90s. Two take-aways from that study that have continued to guide me are:

  • As much as possible put density in new neighborhoods on brownfields (like the Pearl and South Waterfront).
  • Where infill must be used, design will be critical.

Traditional neighborhoods are also not new to me, having served for almost a decade on the board of my neighborhood association in NW Portland. During my service a big chunk of our neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Alphabet Historic District” through the efforts of a number of dedicated volunteers and support from the City (I get none of the credit, I was working on parking issues at the time…).

So while the topics weren’t new to me, the workshop did open up some ideas for me, principally around the idea of “compatibility”. In the past I’ve thought of compatibility of new development with the existing neighborhood primarily in terms of building height, building mass and building style (e.g., modern versus traditional, etc.). But some important ideas that the workshop brought up were issues of compatibility with the development patterns of surrounding buildings: does the new development match the setback patterns of surrounding building? Is the use of green space similar? Are the building types (e.g., residential over storefront) similar even if the style is different?

In particular, this got me thinking about our major transit corridor streets, since our strategy is to focus much of our housing growth on these streets. It seems to me that as this planned growth occurs, we are necessarily going to see (indeed are already seeing in some somes places) buildings that are often larger than their neighbors (the current zoning generally already supports this). Given this reality, what other elements can we focus on to retain the character of our main street corridors, while helping them evolve to meet our future needs? How should the Portland Plan create supportive policies for this?

While we’re speaking of growth and buildings, I would note some opportunities for citizens to speak to these issues NOW in the Portland Plan process. The Urban Form Report gives a very educational view of what kinds of building heights and massings the current zoning supports. At our last hearing we received testimony that these heights and masses would surprise many people! The good news is that there is enough existing zoned capacity for housing that the Portland Plan should not need to do wholesale up-zoning to support projected growth. Indeed, there might be opportunities from some selective down-zoning to protect environmental assets. Your next opportunity to testify is at our February 9th hearing. Tell us how you think Portland Plan policies should focus this growth.

And on the topic of growth, there was testimony at our last hearing that the growth numbers appear to keep changing. At our meeting on March 9th, we’ll be visiting assumptions about land supply and staff will have the opportunity to review how the growth projections were arrived at. Come out, list, learn and testify!