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Planners, neighbors spar over mixed-use zones in comp plan

Officials reluctant to delay vote until details are ironed out

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF CITY OF PORTLAND - A rendering shows how Southwest Barbur Boulevard could look under the city of Portland's comprehensive land-use plan update.Portland planners have released concepts of four new mixed-use zones where most growth is expected to occur during the next 20 years.

The concepts are intended to replace the zoning that governs development in various centers and along transportation corridors in the city.

The concepts range from small-scale commercial mixed-use zones with three-story limits to large-scale commercial mixed-use zones with six-story limits. Height limits in some of the zones can be exceeded to achieve goals approved by the City Council, including more affordable housing.

The Planning and Sustainability Commission is scheduled to recommend a version of the Comprehensive Plan update to the council in May 2015. The plan is intended to guide development in Portland during the next 20 years. The commission then will recommend a version of the mixed-use zones to the council to implement the update.

In June, the council is expected to approve the comp plan update before adopting the mixed-use zones.

Some community activists say both the commission and council should finalize the mixed-use zones before approving the comp plan update, however. They say the concepts are not detailed enough for them to understand how the update will affect their neighborhoods.

For example, the Multnomah Neighborhood Association has written the PSC to request that the update votes be postponed until the new zones are finalized. So has Southwest Neighborhoods Inc., the neighborhood coalition office that represents 17 neighborhood associations, including the association, in Southwest Portland outside downtown.

“The Multnomah neighborhood has 250 properties that could be zoned mixed use. No one can determine what the impacts will be on the neighborhood until after the new mixed-use zones have been adopted,” says James Peterson, MNA land-use chairman.

The association’s concern about the future of Multnomah Village illustrates the issue. The village is a small retail center primarily of older one- and two-story buildings. It is zoned with a mix of storefront commercial and general commercial zoning, with building heights limited to 45 feet. The draft comp plan update could result in the village being rezoned as CM2, one of the four new mixed-use zones under consideration. That would limit building height to 35 feet — 10 feet less than the current zoning. However, the concept allows an additional 20 feet of height to achieve such goals as affordable housing, affordable commercial space, historic preservation, high-performance green features, and such community benefits as grocery stores, day care, publicly accessible outdoor space, and artistic and cultural facilities.

“The mixed-use concepts are far from having complete adopted details for citizens and neighborhoods to determine their total impact,” Peterson says.

The Planning and Sustainability Commission, so far, has resisted postponing the votes. Officials with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, who drafted the comp plan update and new mixed-use zones, say state land-use planning policies require the city to approve the update before adopting the zoning to implement it.

The concepts were released in mid-November. They are intended to allow different levels of density depending on the size and locations of various designated centers and transportation corridors within the city. Smaller centers and corridors would have the least density. Large centers and major corridors would have the most density.

One new zone, called mixed-use dispersed or commercial mixed use 1, is intended for low-density neighborhoods. Generally, it would limit building heights to three stories. From there, the heights would increase in the new zones called mixed-use neighborhood (CM2), mixed-use civic corridor (CM3), and mixed-use urban center (CM4).

Buildings in all four zones would have setbacks and “step down” requirements to transition them into less-dense adjacent neighborhoods, such as blocks of single-family houses.

The four new zones are intended to replace seven existing zones that have been approved during the past 20 years.

To learn more about the mixed-use zone concepts, visit: www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/


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