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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:


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.


Item 1342

Dec 7, 2016 City Council

Charlie Hales

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

Steve Novick

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

Amanda Fritz

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

Nick Fish

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.


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