Big Changes – City of Portland Neighborhood Contact Policy

An opportunity for meaningful and timely input in growth and change has been a key concern for many in Portland. This Wednesday the community will have it’s last chance to have input on a new Neighborhood Contact policy when it goes in front of City Council.

Here’s what you need to know:

Overview of the Neighborhood Contact Code Requirement –  Neighborhood Contact is a set of public outreach steps that must be taken before certain developments can be submitted for permits. The Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) Recommended Draft is going to City Council for their review this Wednesday, March 6. Neighbors can testify to Council on the Recommended Draft through the Map App, a letter, or in-person testimony at the March 6 hearing. You must sign up by 1 pm to testify at the 2:00 pm hearing. See below for How To Testify.

Review the Neighborhood Contact Code Update Recommended Draft

1. New Development Sign Postings

Large signs with development info like this image will be posted on the building site to give community more info in advance. This will help more people know what is proposed (for example: # of apartment units, height, parking, commercial uses, etc) and who to contact for more information. Timing of signs is a minimum of 35 days in advance of submitting for a permit which is an innovative step for the City.

notice image
2. Community Meeting Requirement isn’t triggered unless a project is at least 25,000 square feet (e.g. 5 stories on a 5,000 s.f. lot)

Projects that trigger a Type III Land Use Review or are adding 25,000 square feet of floor area will trigger the Neighborhood Contact requirements – both the notice/posting requirement (Neighborhood Contact I), and the community meeting requirement (Neighborhood Contact II). For the latter, the regulations require the applicant to hold a meeting with community members to discuss potential development. The meeting is held in the community near the site – on a weekday evening or a weekend. The public may provide feedback to the applicant, which is summarized and submitted by the applicant to the City as part of their Land Use Review application.

Considerations for Testimony 

1. Support for signage AND pre-permit timeline for posting. 

Community members we have seen at public meetings seem very supportive the idea of early posting timeframe and the sign requirement as it provides a new way of sharing information in advance.

2. Meeting Triggers/Thresholds for Community Meeting Requirement: Are we using the right metric to serve diverse conditions?

a. Threshold seems too high for small corridors. The city’s metric of 25,000 s.f. seems a high bar given the level of impact a building of this size might have on small corridors (see images below). There is concern that this may work on large sites but on small streets with small 5,000 square foot lots (50×100) – typical on many inner east side areas – this may allow large four-five story buildings without ever triggering the required community meeting. This would mean community members would miss an opportunity at a public meeting despite a potentially big impact on livability, context and character.

poor-transitions-tiny-por-que-non-next-to-new-looping-development-on-hawthorne-hflint-chatto.png
Without careful design, large projects on small corridors have a big impact. This building at 47th and Hawthorne dwarfs the smaller main street buildings including the small-scale building of Por Que No, If the building had for example had a stepback along the front facade’s top floor, the upper stories might still retain the public view of Mt. Tabor. Where there is a large blank wall could have been an opportunity to create lightwells. Alternatively, with a side setback or purchase of an easement from the adjacent property, the project could have had more windows and balconies with views of the west hills. The opportunity of a community meeting can help create solutions to make larger buildings be a better fit with context. The image below is from Building Blocks for Outer SE Neighborhoods illustrates valuable solutions for making new larger buildings more compatible with smaller buildings.

b. Square Footage is poor metric – Use # of Stories as a more equitable metric that is reflective of the level of impact on both small and large streets and both large and small lots. Should we use height or # of stories to trigger a community meeting? If so, what would you recommend? 3 Stories, 4 Stories, or more?

“Allow all Portlanders to have a voice in large projects that impact their respective communities”
(DOZA Discussion Draft Feb 2019). Image: Bill Trip, Mixed Use Zones Committee Presentation.

c. Meeting should also be Triggered when height or Sq. Ft. Bonuses are Sought.

d. Meeting should be Triggered when High Impact Uses are proposed – for example cell towers or other high traffic generating uses (event space, mail delivery stores, grocery stores, etc)

3. Request better Context Information be required for all permit applications.
SE Hawthorne 34th-35th north side proposed
One of these things is not like the others, the contrast is quite significant versus the image below with new development relating to the older building through simple design details.
At a glance, it is easy to tell what is in context and what is not.

Context Drawings are Needed – Consider adding testimony on the need for a required context drawing/building elevations showing adjacent block development if you think it would help you and staff understand both the design quality and impact of the building and how well it fits or not with it’s surroundings. This could be encouraged on the sign and/or as part of the required documents for the Bureau of Development Services.

The RNA policy linked below addresses many of the concerns expressed by neighborhoods like Richmond. A “context” drawing showing the building in relation to nearby development is part of this community policy as much needed information to assess context but is not required by the City.

RNA Adopted Community Notification + Developer Engagement Policy | This policy was written in response to extensive community input at public meetings and surveys asking for more ability to be involved. This policy was adopted by Richmond Neighborhood Association in 2016 and by Hosford Abernethy Neighborhood District and South Tabor Neighborhood Association in 2018.

How to Testify


Come to the Hearing and Testify In Person:
City Council Public Hearing
Neighborhood Contact Code Update
March 6 at 2 p.m. (sign up by 1 pm)
Council Chambers, City Hall
1221 SW 4th Avenue

or in writing via:

It’s as easy as sending an email. Just click or tap the big “Testify” button and complete the online form. Once you press “submit,” you can read your testimony in the Testimony Reader in real time. You can also read other people’s testimony.

  • U.S. Mail – Send your letter to:
  • Portland City Council
    c/o Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
    Neighborhood Contact Testimony
    1900 SW 4th, Suite 7100
    Portland, Oregon 97201
  • EMAIL: Send testimony to the following address to get in the record: cctestimony@portlandoregon.gov Important: Be sure to include your name and address for it to count
  • You can also cc City Councilors directly as well:

mayorwheeler@portlandoregon.gov
nick@portlandoregon.gov
amanda@portlandoregon.gov
chloe@portlandoregon.gov
JoAnn@portlandoregon.gov

Written testimony will be received until Wednesday, March 6 at the end of the hearing.

Questions?

Visit the project website, call 503-823-7728 or email sara.wright@portlandoregon.gov.

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