Of course you were getting ready for the holidays, so you may have missed the big presentation by the city (Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) on Dec. 9, about the proposed zoning change for parts of the Woodstock neighborhood. (See the zoomable map at the end of this post.) But now it’s post-holiday re-entry time, and the main takeaway is that you need to act fast if you want your voice to be heard about both zoning and the kinds of infill buildings that a zoning change helps foster. Here’s how:
About the proposed zoning change: Send your thoughts to the City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Council Clerk, 1221 SW 4th Ave., Room 130, Portland, OR 97204, Attn: Comprehensive Plan Testimony. You can also attend a public hearing this Thursday, Jan. 7, 6 – 9 p.m. at 3920 N Kerby Ave. The quickest way may be to use the city’s MapApp, which allows you to click your area or address on a map and leave a comment that remains attached to it.
About infill buildings: In Woodstock and other neighborhoods, people are concerned about the affordability, scale and context of new homes built to replace demolished ones. The city’s Residential Infill Project wants your thoughts on the matter. Take this survey before Jan. 12 and help define community values.
For best results, inform yourself before commenting. To that end, below is a quick but not exhaustive collection of facts from the meeting and links for further pursuit. (If you were among the full house at the Woodstock Community Center that evening, please comment about what to add or clarify.)
How current and future zone types differ
For the areas in question, the current zoning is R5 and the designated (future) zoning is R2.5. Both have “R” for residential. The “5” might lead you to believe that the minimum square footage of land per dwelling is 5,000, but it’s actually 3,000. Meanwhile, the minimum for R2.5 is 1,600 2,500 square feet. This incremental difference in square footage is enough to open possibilities for row houses, duplexes, and yes, skinny houses on typical 50 x 100 ft. lots. R2.5 also allows dwellings to be five feet taller (at 35 feet) than R5. That’s about it for differences. See a handy comparison table of zoning specs on the city’s site.
The zoning path for these areas is not new. For 35 years, R5 has been the current zoning type and R2.5 has been the designated or future zoning type. For a fee, property owners have been able to request a review that would give a property the future zoning type. This generally was granted if infrastructure was adequate. One Woodstock example of a project from this “early adopter” approach is the row houses behind Pizza Roma. Moreover, neighborhoods just to the south and east of Woodstock have carried a current zoning of R2.5 for 20 years.
If the city decides to make the move, the areas in question would see R2.5 as their current zoning type in late 2017 at the earliest.
Concurrent planning, and lack thereof
In deciding whether to make the designated zoning type the current one, the city looks at infrastructure including streets, sewer, water, fire protection, distance to public transit and more. However, there is no coordinated, concurrent planning with entities such as TriMet or Portland Public Schools. Presenters said that Portland Public Schools’ current plans already take future zoning into account — but still, there is no guarantee of denser services accompanying denser zoning.
About traffic and parking
In some cases, R2.5 zoning allows structures to be built without off-street parking. Other areas have used the city’s Area Parking Permit Program to limit the effects of street parking.
Several meeting attendees brought up traffic specifics, including the current difficulty of making left turns at 52nd and Woodstock — but the word from presenters was that, as with other entities, there is also no concurrent planning with the Bureau of Transportation for changes such as designated left-turn cycles.
About property tax
The presenters stated their confidence, based on discussions with county tax assessors, that property taxes would not increase based solely on the zoning change. However, a property owner’s taxes could be expected to increase if the owner makes improvements allowed by the zoning type.
What infill housing might look like
Presenters stated that R2.5 zoning most often leads to infill dwellings that are attached, such as duplexes or row houses. But in some instances where the original platting allows, a typical 50 x 100 lot might be divided in two, creating conditions for the tall “skinny houses” that some find controversial.
The map of affected areas
Click the map to view a PDF version that allows you to zoom in. Areas outlined in orange and shaded in orchid (purple) show properties currently zoned R5 but designated R2.5 in the city’s existing Comprehensive Plan and in that plan’s draft update. For more on understanding current and potential zoning, see the city’s guide.