The second Draft Comprehensive (Comp) Plan is out for review. As noted in previous columns, the State requires Portland to prepare a 20-year plan to accommodate expected future growth. The current Comp Plan was adopted in 1993 and is showing its age. The Draft Plan is expected to be adopted by City Council next summer. City planners are accepting comments on the plan through the end of October and a discussion of the Plan will be part of the General Membership meeting October 13th. This will be your best chance to comment before the final plan. Two public hearings are scheduled in October (the 14th and 28th), and comments can be submitted anytime using the “Map App” and other links on the Comp Plan web site.
When the current Comp Plan was adopted, Portland was just beginning development of the light rail and streetcar systems and using them to both direct and stimulate housing and economic development. The idea of “mixed use” buildings that combined commercial and residential uses was new but of growing interest. Based on population forecasts at the time, planners designated large areas for increased density using “mixed use” and higher density residential and infill zones, including most of Eliot.
In the interim, there has been widespread rejection of infill and high density residential and high rise mixed use buildings in established neighborhoods. The new Comp Plan responds to these conflicts by designating certain areas, called “centers” for dense development to reduce the pressure of incompatible buildings being proposed in established neighborhoods. The lowest designation of a “center” is the “neighborhood center,” which is expected to support at least 3,000 residents within easy walking distance. The area around the intersection of Fremont and Williams is designated as a neighborhood center. In addition to “centers,” development will be encouraged along “civic corridors.” Both MLK and the Williams/Vancouver couplet are civic corridors. The “city center” is expected to have the highest density, tallest buildings, and most diverse commercial activity. The City Center includes the Lloyd District as well as Lower Albina and the portion of Eliot west of Williams south of Emanuel Hospital.
Roughly one of every ten properties will see zoning changes in the new Comp Plan. Almost all of Eliot is proposed to be rezoned consistent with the Comp Plan goal of preserving existing established residential areas and focusing new development at centers and along corridors. The Land Use Committee was instrumental in guiding these changes by requesting lower density zones in our core residential areas and more appropriate mixed use zones along civic corridors. As a result, many land owners received notices that their residential property zone would change from R2 to R2.5, and all commercial property owners were notified their zoning would change from C or E to “MU,” for Mixed Use. None of these changes will be effective until the plan is adopted by City Council next summer and accepted by the State a year or so later.