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Reed neighborhood weighs in on Portland's Comprehensive Plan update

by: MERRY MACKINNON - A flag lot has been created behind this property on S.E. Harold Court, in the Reed College Heights section, and whoever buys the for-sale house in front must agree to an easement along the driveway for access to the rear lot. The Reed Neighborhood Association is currently lobbying for changes in the updated Portland Comprehensive Plan to address zoning issues.As the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability currently updates the city’s Comprehensive Plan and zoning maps, Reed Neighborhood Association Land-Use Chair Gabriel Headrick is advocating for changes that would stop the city’s rezoning of the Reed neighborhood residential areas to R5 from R7.

“The Reed neighborhood doesn’t want to become an R5 neighborhood, and we want the city to please take that off the map,” Headrick tells THE BEE.

After spot zoning allowed some infill houses to be built with height, bulk, and features adjudged out of character with the rest of Reed neighborhood last year, the Reed Neighborhood Association decided to push for a change in updated zoning from R5 back to the neighborhood’s originally-platted R7 zoning, established in the 1950s when the neighborhood’s mostly-mid-century one-story and one-and-a-half-story ranch houses were first developed on 7,000-square-foot lots.

“Other neighborhoods are having heartburn over the same issue,” Headrick remarks.

According to Headrick, who is on the Planning and Sustainability Bureau's 17-member Residential Development and Compatibility Policy Expert Group (PEG), the Bureau does seem to be listening to his and other neighborhood representatives’ concerns.

“They're trying to look more carefully at infill development, and have it more tailored to the neighborhoods," Headrick reports.

Although Reed neighborhood recently hasn’t experienced the rush of new construction that, for example, Eastmoreland, Sellwood, and Westmoreland have, last year a property owner subdivided a lot and created a flag lot in Reed College Heights, which is part of the Reed neighborhood.

“The neighbors were upset, but the zoning allowed it,” Headrick concedes.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability acknowledges there are problems with infill residential development. In a recent Residential Development and Compatibility Issue Paper, the Planning Bureau outlined some of those issues – citing the problem of construction of multi-storied homes, with long side walls, which cover nearly all the lot, and leave less rear yard space than other typical neighborhood houses.

“This is particularly acute in neighborhoods where ranch and cottage-style houses predominate, such as in East Portland, Southwest Portland, and the Reed neighborhood,” the city document says.

With completion projected sometime in 2013, Portland’s Comprehensive Plan Update is far from decided, so the outcome for the Reed neighborhood is still uncertain. “We’re at the policy level now, and ‘the devil’s in the details’,” Headrick sighs.