Want to help make this happen? Head on over to Get Involved.
Portland must update our land use code by January 1st 2024 to comply with the state law, LD2003. This law intends to expand housing opportunities but Portland's implementation adds additional restrictions that undermine this goal. We must amend this proposal to ensure it complies with the spirit of the law. You can learn more about LD2003 and the Portland Planning Staff's proposal to comply with it in this article in the Portland Townsman.
10/23/2024 Update: 🥳 Thanks to public feedback Planning Staff has added amendment 2 and some elements of amendment 3 into their proposal. This is an important step in the right direction and we are happy these changes were made. This demonstrates that these changes make sense and advocating for them can bring about real change. However, there is still more work to be done. The vast majority of lots still will never qualify for the full four units, our zoning code will get new and complicated rules to achieve this. Without some of the exemptions we currently give to ADUs to allow them to be built in our residential zones it may be difficult to actually get these units built.
LD2003 is intended to generally allow up to four units in all residential areas. This map below shows the the small number of lots that will ever qualify for the full four units under Portland Planning Staff's current proposal:
We feel it is critical that we update our land use code in a way that honors the spirit of LD2003, however we acknowledge that our city has limited time to comply. This is why we have put together just four short amendments to the current planning staff proposal. Each of these amendments is brief and leaves code simpler than it would be if we passed the planning staff proposal as written. Three out of four of them are simply not adding limits to the LD2003 allowances. The fourth just replaces the new, more restrictive rules for these units with our existing accessory dwelling unit (ADU) rules. These amendments are not complicated and we can make them without missing the January 2024 deadline. With these minor changes we will unlock the potential for not only more housing opportunities but the housing opportunities that are more affordable, more sustainable, and where we need them.
Portland Planning Staff's proposal is in the form of red and blue changes to our current land use code. The red changes reflect their original proposal, the blue changes reflect the updates they made based on our public comment. Our latest proposed amendments to their changes are in green.
The current planning staff proposal adds a restriction to prevent lots that had a home on them on July 1st 2023 from ever being considered vacant for the purposes of LD2003. This restriction prevents these lots from qualifying for up to four units in the same structure. It limits the number of buildable lots that will qualify from about 28% of our city’s land to just about half a percent. The lots that would qualify are lots that could be built on today but aren’t. Usually this is because there is something about the lot that makes it unsuitable for housing. It also requires people to do historical research just to know what they can or can’t build. This restriction is overly complicated and stands in the way of not just a high quantity of housing, but housing in the places we need it. It should not be added to our land use code.
The current planning staff proposal adds a restriction that prevents lots from qualifying to add accessory dwelling units (ADUs) if they have added any of the units that LD2003 entitles them to. This removes a lot of potential housing that could have been allowed by LD2003 because taking advantage of the two LD2003 units you can add to a non-vacant lot disqualifies you from the two ADUs you can already build. ADUs already have restrictions to control their impact, and if you meet them there is no reason you should be prevented from building an ADU.
This document reflects the changes before they were adopted, so in this document our changes are in blue and they are compared with the original Planning Staff Proposal instead of the version recommended to the City Council.
The current planning staff proposal allows four units of housing in the same structure for vacant lots but only an additional two units, in different structures on lots that have a home on them. While this is the minimum required by LD2003 there is nothing forcing us to add those restrictions to lots that have a structure on them. By allowing units to be built in the same structure they can be built more affordably and sustainably.
10/23/2023 Update: Planning staff has opted to remove the limit on the additional two units being in the same structure.
Our current accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are exempt from parking requirements, lot coverage maximums, and density limits. Meanwhile, the new units permitted by LD2003 have a different set of rules that only exempts them from density limits if they are in the same structure. While the units allowed by LD2003 are not the same as ADUs, the rules we have in place for ADUs work and there is no reason we can’t apply them to these new units as well.