Residential Infill Project (RIP) Approved By City Council
On December 7, 2016 the city council approved the Residential Infill Project (RIP) and directed city staff to begin preparing the necessary regulations and amendments to the zoning code.
Most Eastside neighborhoods and other groups tried to oppose RIP, but developer interests prevailed.
The council made only minor changes to the RIP proposal, by directing staff to consider options that, even if included in the final rule, will not mitigate the impact on Laurelhurst. These include:
- Limiting the size of infill buildings. The possible limit of 2,500 square feet will permit duplexes and triplexes exceeding 4,000 sq ft, because it does not include basements, which only have to be partly below-grade, or attics.
- Evaluating the exact boundaries of the "housing opportunity overlay zone" where RIP will apply. A close-in neighborhood like Laurelhurst will still be squarely within that zone.
- Discouraging the splitting of larger lots into smaller ones. This is important in certain neighborhoods, but not very relevant to Laurelhurst.
- Encouraging infill developers to build more affordable and/or disabled-accessible buildings.
The resistance of the RIP proponents and city staff to any mitigation of RIP was notable. We hate to be cynics, but it is clear while the residential infill proposal may be slightly softened at the edges, sometime in 2017, the great bulk of the RIP proposal will be adopted as-is. That will include duplexes, triplexes, and apartment/condo clusters throughout Laurelhurst.
The re-zoning of Laurelhurst and most of close-in eastside Portland has been officially approved and is underway.
The only effective tool, if we value the character and beauty of our neighborhood, is historic district.
Added Dec 8: Detailed notes from the December 7 council hearing and vote:
OUR SUMMARY COMMENTS
As explained below, the council approved RIP with various amendments.
The approval directs city staff to now start developing the re-zoning code language to carry out RIP.
Staff is to follow the RIP proposal submitted to the council, with these amendments
- 1st amendment requests that infill structures be limited in size to 2500 sq ft for duplexes and 2000 sq ft for single family houses; the intention is to discourage construction of single family houses. Note that doesn’t include the basement (which can be half above ground) and the attic (which can be expanded with dormers to be almost a full floor), so the resulting duplexes can be as much as about 4400 sq ft and some 3.5 stories tall.
- 3rd amendment requests a decrease to the building footprint to allow more outdoor area, which may cause staff to raise the allowable height above 3.5 stories.
- 5th amendment requests allowing less front setback in return for preserving a backyard tree
- 6th amendment requests elder accessibility features.
- An ad hoc amendment directs staff to generally evaluate additional unit "bonuses" in return for some degree of affordability, tree preservation and elder accessibility
- 9th amendment asks staff to to consider transportation infrastructure in establishing overlay
- An ad hoc amendment directs staff to present options for both larger and smaller overlay zone ("overlay" means RIP will apply).
- 10th amendment requests the incentive of an additional unit to encourage conversion of existing house to multiplex
- 11th amendment requests staff distinguish conversion from demo/replacement
- 12th amendment will prohibit splitting existing lots to underlying historical skinny lots
- 13th amendment will permit front loaded garages on "skinny houses"
How does this apply to Laurelhurst?
- RIP + 1st amendment would still allow monster structures of 4000+ sq feet, that are 3.5 stories tall. Each lot could also contain a detached ADU of 750 sq ft.
- RIP + 3rd amendment may cause staff/council to discard the height limitations to allow 4.5 story house
- RIP + 9th and ad hoc amendments will permit overlay zone to be increased or decreased. Laurelhurst will be squarely in the RIP overlay zone no matter what, because our neighborhood is so close to major streets (Glisan, Burnside, Sandy)
- RIP + 10th and 11th amendments could encourage developers to convert existing houses to duplexes, rather than demolish and replace. However, the developers who are driving RIP will water this down, since demo/new build are easier for them.
- 12th amendment is largely irrelevant to Laurelhurst, since we have very few (if any) old narrow lots.
- 13th amendment is also largely irrelevant to Laurelhurst
It was clear that city staff was pushing hard for more skinny houses and an even larger overlay zone. Staff will likely continue pushing for these during the code-drafting phase.
In the end, RIP supporters got pretty much what they wanted. If RIP opponents think they got any significant concessions, they are wrong. In 2017, when the RIP rules are written and approved, Hales and Novick will be replaced by Wheeler and Eudaly. There is no reason to think Wheeler will be less pro-developer than Hales, and there is no indication of his views on preserving older houses. Eudaly is likely to advocate even more density than Novick has pushed for. RIP is moving forward, and will likely be effective by this time in 2017.
Dec 7, 2016 City Council
Council will accept RIP report and introduces amendments
This is a concept report not code language
Choices today are adopt report w/ changes, do nothing, or start over
Think should adopt w/ directions to staff to come back to council next year
Issues are scale, housing oppty, less demolition and more historic preservation, all important topics
If continue to have large areas zoned for 1 home per 5000 sq ft lot, houses will cost $1MM like Vancouver BC
We are building apartments but not everyone wants to live in apartments
Project started as preventing demolitions and allowing big old houses to have condominiums and ADUs w/o destroying the house
The old houses are more affordable, many people buy older homes and fixer uppers
Confirm will be work session in early 2017
Yes if we go forward with changes in nuance then staff will come back
Want work session in February
Want to bring whole community, concerned 1/3 of members dissented, concerned about strong pro and con views, need to reconcile
Happy current council is reaching consensus
Sandra Wood (BPS)
Refer to 12/7 memo to council, outlines proposal and all the amendments
Start with scale of houses - staff proposal on left column, possible amendments on right column
First concept, limit size of house
1st amendment by Hales - to deter demolitions and 1-to-1 replacement in overlay zone
Will we deal with each amendment sequentially
2nd amendment by Novick - to increase size limit, larger than staff had proposed
Don’t want to go down to 2000 sq ft, could agree to something between 2000 and 2500
Want to use size tool to make demolitions less attractive
How does allowing bigger homes make for more affordable housing, don’t bigger homes cost more
Average new home is 2600 sq ft
Polling in my campaign showed Portland not upset about big houses
Okay to go along w/ Hale’s amendment
Want to discourage demolition regardless of if it is a 1-to-1 replacement
Vote on 1st amendment - 5 aye, 0 no
2nd amendment withdrawn
3rd amendment by Fritz - to decreasing building coverage or increase outdoor area requirement and decrease building coverage
Purpose is to preserve look, front yard/setback, impervious zones, outdoor space
Would this amendment require increasing 2.5 story height limit to fit 2500 sq ft.
Morgan Tracy (BPS)
Possibly yes, need to model
Vote on 3rd amendment - 4 aye, 1 no (NovicK)
4th amendment by Novick - to change allowable height
Is this amendment needed
Current regulations allow 30 feet but way it is measured can allow 3-4 story houses
4th amendment withdrawn
5th amendment by Fritz - to allow less front setback if tree retained in backyard
Used to live in Grant Park, lot of houses take to foundation and monster house built on existing foundation, taking advantage of code than if retain original footprint/foundation it isn’t a demolition. Many of those include huge front deck, those houses have effectively larger footprint, really don’t match the neighborhood. There is virtually no front yard in those houses.
Vote on 5th amendment - 5 aye, 0 no
6th amendment by Saltzmann - to pursue elderly friendly accessible requirements
Amendment was by Fish Fritz Saltzmann
Vote on 6th amendment - 5 aye, 0 no
Want to clarify my 7th amendment - was suggesting only allow triplex if one of the units is affordable
Staff/SAC felt that providing an additional unit is itself a public good
Think would be difficult to get four units on corner lot
Reminds of discussion on parking minimums. If provide a benefit should get something in return. What is the concrete benefit of additional unit? If is just the additional unit, then need to be clear what mean by affordable. Affordable in this crisis is below 60% of MFI (mean family income). How do we verify that? Can the affordable unit be used for a family member?
Fish and Fritz are asking for a dramatic revision to report
More units will reduce prices
I’m concerned about affordability for people below 300% of MFI, not just people below 60% of MFI
Can’t give bonuses for everything, staff wants to look at all the possible bases for bonuses - tree preservation, aged accessibility, affordability - together and present choices to council
All of that is covered by amendments 7th and 8th
Hope someday current pace of building will reduce price
But in last three years, 24K units built, <3% are affordable
Because inclusionary housing, seeing biggest rush in permits in Portland history, will see another 15-20K units entitled, none affordable
Not seeing supply and demand kick in
Need prescriptive and intentional requirements to assure affordability
What amendment is needed?
Anderson (BPS, director)
Proposes amendment to staff to look at bonuses and requirements for age friendly, affordability, and tree preservation.
Vote on the just-proposed amendment - 5 aye, 0 no
7th and 8th amendments were not voted on
Advise bureau to look closely for ways people will game the system, using an affordability bonus to advance demolition
Like they gamed snout houses
9th amendment by Novick - to considering transportation infrastructure in establishing overlay zone
Want to discuss exclusion of David Douglas School District
None of commissioners’ staff proposed an amendment
No amendment because staff has already agreed to come back with options on overlay zone boundaries
Want to confirm that
Don’t need to discuss David Douglas School District today, but think excluding an entire school district just due to capacity is unwise
Do we all agree overlay options will be presented by staff
Frequency of bus service is also a transportation constraint
Vote on 9th amendment - 5 aye, 0 no
Want amendment to explore changing overlay zone
Want amendment to decrease overlay zone
That’s not a friendly amendment
Concept overlay covers almost all of eastside and almost none of westside, so want to be more selective
Staff created multiple versions of the overlap, I want to see multiple options when staff comes back next year
Some staff and SAC thought overlay zone is too small, so suggest amendment explore both smaller and larger overlay zone
Propose amendment to provide options for the housing opportunity overlay map
Vote on that just-proposed amendment - 5 aye, 0 no
No amendments offered for concept 6 which is cottage clusters
Concept 7 adds housing choice
10th amendment by Hales - encourage retention of existing structure by allowing internal conversion to duplex
11th amendment by Fritz - to clarify what conversion is
Will vote for both amendments, don’t want “retention” to mean keeping just one wall or the foundation
Decca report, conversion to triplex makes commercial code apply
Vote on 10th amendment - 5 aye, 0 no
Vote on 11th amendment - 5 aye, 0 no
Narrow lots has two amendments
One topiic is to rezone existing lots to historically narrow lots
12th amendment by Fritz - to prohibit rezoning to historically narrow lots
R5 should mean R5
We carefully looked at this in comprehensive plan
Is this more restrictive than current law
Three options - Fritz’ proposal that R5 is retained, staff proposal is opposite end of spectrum which is to rezone historically narrow lots to R2.5, current situation is in between and said only vacant lots can be split.
In my area, courts ruled R7 lots cannot be split
People must be able to count on zoning
We are being generous about internal and external ADUs
I’m not happy with the skinny houses we’ve gotten, they are not compatible
I want to say build a normal home, then a couple of ADUs
This is most important amendment of them all
Joe Zender (staff)
Want to add another argument for skinny lots is they can directly bee fee simple, that is why so popular to develop
Duplexes will be condominiums
Vote on 12th amendment - 4 aye, 1 no (Novick)
13th amendment by Fritz - want to allow front-loaded garages on skinny lot houses
This was partly to avoid multiple cuts to sidewalk
Staff concept was to not permit garage on skinny lot
Since will be few skinny lots, I can tolerate a few garages
Very few places where garages make sense but this is one of them
Vote on 13th amendment - 4 aye, 1 no (Novick)
As amended, concept report is accepted by council
Novick - future of city is dependent on this
Fritz - thanks Jim Heuer expressly, may of her amendment based on his testimony
Fish - thanks Hales, staff. #1 issue facing city is growing pains. Smallish city, managing growth.
Saltzmann - important issue, just starting, plenty of work left
Hales - managing growth is critical, 1000 people a month move here, can’t stop moving this forward to code-writing now
Added Dec 9: See staff's summary of the RIP and the approved amendments:
Note in this document, the amendments have been re-numbered, by leaving out the amendments that were not approved.