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Comprehensive Plan: 'Pay attention to Neighborhood Centers, Civic Corridors'

by: MERRY MACKINNON - With mapping underway for Portlands Comprehensive Plan Update, some major thoroughfares - such as S.E. Holgate Boulevard, seen here - which connect outer Portland to the Central City may be designated Civic Corridors, and may be zoned for low- and mid-rise apartment developments.Portland has been deeply engaged for some time in planning for the future. But now that Portland is beginning to map its neighborhoods for land-use, in its Comprehensive Plan Update, professional planner Tamara DeRidder has advice for residents.

“It’s going to be very important that neighborhood representatives participate in the mapping process,” said DeRidder, who was volunteer chair of the Apartment Planning Task Force. The task force was formed in response to controversy over the issue of Portland’s lack of parking requirements for new apartment construction on streets such as Southeast Division.

Last year, the task force distributed a survey throughout Portland and, based on those results, made recommendations to the Portland City Council regarding off-street parking rules for new apartment developments. Recently, the City Council voted to change the parking requirement, establishing that apartment buildings with 30 or more units now must provide a certain number of off-street parking spaces.

That's a good first step, DeRidder said. But many issues were not covered in that decision, she added.

“Everybody should hunker down, and see what needs to be done in their neighborhoods concerning the need for off-street parking,” she told THE BEE.

Currently in a draft stage, Portland’s long-range 20-year Comprehensive Plan is being reviewed for ways to update zoning. While parts of the Comprehensive Plan have been amended since it was adopted in 1980, it has never before been updated overall.

Five pattern areas are identified in the draft update plan: They are the Central City, Inner Neighborhoods, Western Neighborhoods, Eastern Neighborhoods, and Industrial and River. Within those areas, the draft plan prioritizes growth in Centers, which include Town Centers and Neighborhood Centers.

Town Centers have a role in growth, explains the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/pdscompplan), “with capacity for about 7,000 households within a half-mile of their core.” Neighborhood Centers are smaller than town centers, but they also have a role in accommodating growth of about 3,500 households within a half-mile of their core. Places cited by the Bureau as having the characteristics of Neighborhood Centers include the main street area of Woodstock.

According to the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s Neighborhood Centers Meeting Minutes for April 18, 2013, staff are also involved in identifying streets and nodes “to improve their ability to implement policies for commercial, employment, housing, and design and scale outcomes in centers and corridors.”

It's the zoning for those centers, along with what the Bureau refers to as “Civic Corridors”, that DeRidder urges residents to watch closely.

Population projections vary for the Tri-County region, but Metro forecasts over one million additional people living here by 2030. To capture a significant portion of those new arrivals, Portland wants to increase density.

And to further the land-use, environmental, and transportation goals outlined in the original Comprehensive Plan, the Planning Bureau has, for instance, identified major thoroughfares – those wide streets that connect centers to each other and to the Central City – for high density use, and called them Civic Corridors.

Civic corridors in Southeast Portland, DeRidder said, include all of Powell Boulevard, Foster Road, and Holgate Boulevard.

Any street identified as a Civic Corridor may be zoned on a higher density scale, allowing for low-rise to mid-rise apartment developments. A mid-rise apartment building would be five to ten stories high, DeRidder clarified.

“People need to be aware of this terminology, and what it means,” she said, referring not only to Civic Corridors but to Neighborhood Centers, also.

DeRidder, who lives in the Rose City Park neighborhood, is co-chair of her neighborhood association's Land-use and Transportation Committee. She said her neighborhood association is concerned about zoning for the N.E. 60th Street Station area. “We don't want mid-rise apartment development,” she said.

Controversy in the neighborhoods over apartment heights – and parking – has just begun to surface, she observed. “They lowered the limit to 30, but they did not address 20- to 30-unit apartments,” DeRidder remarked about the City Council’s recent decision on parking. “They’ve been sitting on a powder keg all these years.”