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Notes From November 29 LNA Meeting

We're posting notes from the November 29 LNA meeting. Our contributor (thank you) took notes of the presentations and Q&A relating to the Residential Infill Project and to Historic District. We've left the notes as received, but added clarifications in [brackets]. The discussion was sometimes detailed and technical. We've bolded what we thought were key points.

11/29/2016 BRANDON SPENCER-HARTLE [Bureau of Planning Services, Historic Program Manager]

BPS neutral [on whether a neighborhood becomes historic district]. Doesn’t create or block [historic district] HD.

No local HD [local historic or conservation district created under state or city law] created since 1995 law requiring 100% owner consent.

National HD [National Register-listed historic district created under federal law] requires implied consent of >50%, meaning if less than 50%+1 [of owners] object, district is listed. City sends courtesy notice to resident. 4-5 month objection window. Objections have to be notarized. Buckman majority objected to HD. Irvington only small number objected.

Other neighborhoods pursuing HD now.

Potential for changes at state level in administrative rules. Project to rewrite admin rules. May be some slight changes to notification and minimum level of protection that cities are required to provide to HD. Because local HD require 100% owner consent, not creating them now.

City sets high bar for preservation of bldgs [buildings]. Apply demolition review. Contributing and non contributing will be determined at creation. Generally 40-50% of bldgs are contributing. Boundaries and historic period are determined at creation. Demolition review is a high bar, rarely see applications to demolish. Design review is another aspect.

11/29/2016 ROD MERRICK [dissenting member of RIPSAC]

Involved in RIPSAC and Land Use co chair of Eastmoreland which is engaged in HD process. Draft application submitted 11/1. Asked to discuss RIPSAC tonight. [LNA] Newsletter has good articles on RIPSAC.

[Original] Intent of [RIP] project was to address demolitions which are widespread, scale of houses.

Also issue of underlying lot lines which Laurelhurst doesn’t have to deal with. Zoning used to trump lot lines, then 10-15 years ago that changed.

Laurelhurst is [zoned] R5 lots and some larger lots. Right now on a R5 lot, can have SFH [single family house] plus ADU [accessory dwelling unit].

RIPSAC turns all R5 zones into 200-300% more dense. Every corner lot a triplex, every other lot a duplex. Developer incentive to tear down smaller houses and houses on larger lots. First targets will be less expensive houses near valuable neighborhoods, right now that is going on.

Comprehensive Plan discussed middle housing, which is transition from higher density along corridors to SFH zone. Now entire Eastside will be called a housing opportunity zone – no transition. Developers will have rights to speculate and densify neighborhoods.

[RIP] Was supposed to address scale of houses. To discourage demolitions. Came up w/ 2500 sq ft for 5000 sq ft lot. Doesn’t count basements and attics and ADUs. Including those gets you to 4000-5000 sq ft, different economic scenario. Allowing 2.5 story houses, excluding basements which basically makes them 3.5 stories.

Economic became major selling point to SAC, people thought will provide economic oppty for young folks to get smaller house in neighborhoods and encourage more walking zones. This actually diffuses density, contra to Comprehensive Plan attempt to concentrate density in corridors and centers.

Economic expert said the housing will serve the upper 30% of income, not create affordable housing. More expensive than a small fixer upper in city or a small house in suburbs. 400 sq ft ADUs being sold for $350K now.

11/29/2016 MEGAN [McGANN] [majority member of RIPSAC]

From Sunnyside, lived in Laurelhurst 33 years. In favor of paper newsletters, BTW. Habitat for Humanity involvement. Invited yesterday.

Majority of RIPSAC came to conclusion different from Rod, included some neighborhood association members, affordable housing advocates, and developers. It does reduce scale to 2500 sq ft above ground. In exchange, more flexibility for what goes in the house.

It feels like a re-zoning. Comm Fish asked why don’t simply re-zone districts R2 and R2.5. But feel neighborhood would retain original scale. R2.5 has higher height limit and large area of lot that can be covered. So does R2. So want to retain feel and scale of house but allow more flexibility in who lives there.

Come at this from equity perspective. Affordability has become #1 issue very fast in Portland. Second only to Seattle in home price growth. Most of us are most concerned w/ the equity issue. What is affordable housing. Federal is 60-80% of median income, 60% is $43K/yr. Want to see bonuses for affordable housing.

True that most of the housing that will be built [under RIP] is not affordable by those definitions. Might cost $450K for a duplex. But it is more affordable than the $800K house.

If old housing stock is aging out, what do we want to replace with. Economic report suggested size limitations will reduce demolitions, especially over time won’t have 1 for 1 swaps [1 for 1 means replace old house with new house].

Is not the solution for affordability. No one on RIPSAC thinks is the solution for affordability. Is a continuum for housing choices.


Brandon: In city of Portland, Eastmoreland is most actively pursuing HD. Laurelhurst is in exploratory stage. Peacock has done initial survey. A conversation in Walnut Park Addition of King neighborhood, where Ocoboch house was. New conversations in Buckman. Get 1x week call w/ initial questions. Eastmoreland and Laurelhurst are big. Growing interest in small HDs like Peacock Lane.

12/7 10 am city council will vote on RIPSAC. May or may not be amendments. Check back next week for what direction city council will give to staff. Will be more public comment on code writing next year.

Rod: Additional units will essentially become condominums. Units can be owned individually. Land will be maintained as one parcel. The smaller units, if sold, become condonimums. Management issues, not discussed or analyzed. Whole proposal is ideologically based, poorly researched. Driven by developers, 1000 Friends, Portland For Everyone, with builders.

Megan: under current code, in R5 zone can have one ADU, internal or external, and can condo the ADU. Under RIPSAC, can have two ADUs and sell as condos. Not common to sell ADUs as condos but starting to happen more. Don’t get a fee simple deed.

Brandon: Anyone can file a [National Register Historic District] nomination. Requires a high level of technical research, usually warrants hiring a consultant. Process can be fast tracked in about 1 year. Could stretch out longer. Possible could fall below 50% of contributing structures before nomination completed, but would require a lot of demolitions.

Rod: 4-5 years ago [Eastmoreland] felt city planning process was no longer addressing neighborhood concerns. Focused on land use goals, design guidelines. City said not interested in supporting special district. Primary reason to be a HD is that you are trying to protect properties.

Brandon: Encourage seismic upgrades. In residential zones, not run into conflicts. Take lenient approach to exterior strapping and foundation replacement/reinforcement.

Brandon: If a non contributing house is torn down, can build duplex, but it has to be responsive and compatible w/ neighborhood. Contributing house can be internally converted to duplex. RIPSAC permitted buildings will be allowed, w/ constraints of historic design review.

Brandon: duplexes have been allowed on corner lots for about 10-20 years.

Megan: In Sunnyside, almost every corner lot is a duplex or triplex. They are small and fit the neighborhood. Lot of older neighborhoods have duplexes and triplexes on corners.

Rod: I designed the duplex on the Laurelhurst corner. Were [then] constraints on where could locate the duplex. Those contraints have been eroded.

Megan: Land values have increased so much, people will build duplexes. Limited to 2500 sq ft, but Rod is right, the basement and the attic are additional. Could have triplex that was a stacked flat. In new proposal, attached garages are included. Could be closer to 1100 sq ft per triplex unit.

Rod: 2500 sq ft doesn’t include attic which is a third floor, or the basement. Basically means 4000-5000 sq ft. Multiplier is size of lot x a number. Number proposed is 0.5, which means 2500 sq ft. If 10000 sq ft lot, lot size x 0.5 produces a >5000 sq ft [building]. Current code allows 6000 sq ft. This does reduce it but still not small.

Brandon: Currently, if w/in 500 ft of frequent service transit, not required to have off street parking for SFH + ADU. Proposing to keep that rule. If farther away, expectation is will be a parking spot per unit. If converting a house, may not have room for extra car, so will be flexible. Add-on is 800 sq ft for ADU or detached garage or both, in addition the main house. RIPSAC exempts part of East Portland due to school overcrowding. Other refinement based on council instructions, sidewalks, natural hazards, complicated terrain.

Rod: All councilors current live on Westside except mayor in Eastmoreland.

Peter [Meijer, LNA Land Use Committee Co-Chair]: Laurelhurst took position supporting ADU, opposing triplexes.

Rod: Minority 7 not prepared to walk away from RIPSAC, very concerned and will continue to work on it.

John [Liu, LNA Exploratory Historic District Committee Chair]: Will work as quickly as possible but HD is lengthy process and needs to be decided carefully, committee will work quickly and thoroughly but will prioritize thorough over quick.

Brandon: Approval criteria – on day one of listing, city applies demolition review and historic resource review. That is 10 base approval criteria, like repair rather than replace, differentiate but compatible. Can be vague. Have a comp plan goal to develop criteria specific to unique aspects to each HD. For example, now developing guidelines for Chinatown/Japantown. Oftentimes design guidelines can make approval clearer and more predictable. Windows are reviewed if being replaced. Door replacements not reviewed. Next year will look at expanding current exemptions or changing existing exemptions. Ultimately if become HD, city wants to protect district while allowing for some change. Windows are important features, are reviewing windows to make sure are compatible. Design guidelines not developed by neighborhood in a vacuum. Are adopted by city council. The BDS and Landmarks Comm uses the guidelines to review. While neighborhood can be helpful, but neighborhood doesn’t develop them alone. Historic Landmarks Commission will present annual report at 2 pm on 12/7.

Brandon: Landscaping generally not reviewed, e.g brick walkway and plants. Some things are reviewed if large, like pergola or large retaining wall. 445 code has long list of exemptions.

Megan: Many groups want RIPSAC to be extended city wide, want to include Westside and East Portland. Feel preserving houses and neighborhood character is important, RIPSAC has bonuses for preserving existing houses, some state guidelines make internal conversion difficult. Other affordable housing developments. Bond measure. Inclusionary zoning (mandates affordable housing in developments > 20 units). Will have a multifamily housing project next year, which will have a bigger impact on affordable housing.

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