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.

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: Important: Be sure to include your name and address for it to count
  • You can also cc City Councilors directly as well:

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


Visit the project website, call 503-823-7728 or email

Neighborhoods in Change

“Buildings and neighborhoods and nations are insinuated into us by life; we are not, as we like to think, independent of them.”-Mindy Thompson Fullilove

Since 2012, the Division corridor has undergone a rapid transformation unparalleled in the recent history of Eastside development and well beyond what was envisioned in the Division Green Street/Main Street Plan.  The area between SE 30th and 50th Avenues has seen the arrival of close to 400 new residential units with accompanying commercial spaces.  On one hand, the street has become a vibrant commercial corridor attracting visitors from other parts of the city and the region.  However, for many long-residents, the dramatic transformation of the corridor represents a tsunami of growth that has been quite traumatic, causing a deep sense of loss for the small, locally-serving, “village-like” atmosphere, special streetcar/main street character, eclectic street identity that has shifted seemingly overnight to serve a higher-end level of business and rental market, making it less affordable to local businesses. This loss of affordability has also impacted the housing rental prices, making the new developments out of reach for many renters and causing concerns about gentrification, increased traffic congestion on traditionally quiet residential streets, parking problems and other impacts such as loss of solar access, privacy and displacement of residents.  Of great concern is that the majority of this private development of eight blocks of the Division corridor is in direct contradiction to broad community concern expressed in the media, in public testimony and in neighborhood surveys responses. With few avenues to help shape the changes occurring all around them, there is a good deal of anger and frustration in the Division community, some of it perhaps masking a sense of grief and loss, even of despair. Citizens have deep connections to their neighborhoods and “psychology of place” is important consideration for planners and designers when areas of our city are experiencing rapid growth and change. Hear more about community members think of the recent changes on Division in the results of the Division Perceptions Survey

Policy Recommendations

With so many key issues on the horizon that impact the future growth of our City and how the buildings being built today will continue to shape the design, function and livability of our neighborhoods. Working with our Division Design Committee and community leaders we have developed some key recommendations for the Comprehensive Plan Update (our city’s 20-year growth plan), new Mixed Use Zoning, Neighborhood Contact Code Update and the Design Standards and Guidelines (DOZA). These have been presented to many neighborhood groups, at Citywide Land Use committee, at SE Uplift, and other venues. Several recommendations including our Top 10 policies below were informed by recommendations from from Urbsworks, our policy consultant on the Design Guidelines.

View Key Policy Recommendations here:


  • Our blog post with an overview on the policy and concerns plus links
  • Neighborhood Contact Code Update at City Council (Policy went before City Council on 3/6 and will be back at City Council 4/11 for amendments. See the video from the City Council 2019-03-06 PM Session for a great overview of many of the big design issues with testimony on the Richmond Notification Policy and important related design issues by Heather Flint Chatto at one hour and 13 min in. (1:13)
  • RNA New Development Notification+Community Engagement Policy– many pieces of our policy became part of the appendix for guidance to developers.
  • Our Template Works – Developer Follow Up to RNA Community Comments Form – Hacker 2017– Good real example ( (Hacker Community Development Meeting Follow up Letter). This was given to City council at hearing on 3/6 showing how a design firm used our follow up meeting form successfully documenting concerns and how they were addressed. One  City Councilors noted this as very helpful and that it “showed that these development meetings are actually valuable”.

Top 10 Policy Recommendations These overarching policies maintain a no-net density loss goal, and have received formal endorsements from the following leading organizations:

  • Division Clinton Business Association (DCBA)
  • Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association (HBBA)
  • Richmond Neighborhood Association (RNA)
  • Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association (MTNA)
  • Division Design Committee (DDC)
  • Architecture for Humanity

City Response to many neighborhood organizations testifying in support of the DDI Top Ten Policy Recommendations: During City Council work sessions on the Comprehensive Plan, the Council held a special discussion on the DDI Top 10 Policy Recommendations including a matrix with Comp Plan and Mixed Use Zoning responses provided from BPS staff for each of our Top Ten Policies. In response, the Council noted the need to integrate community input into further refinements of design and community engagement in the Comprehensive Plan and later the Mayor and Councilwoman Fritz’s offices asked the DDI organizers to meet with their staff to consider whether there were options to integrate the DDI Top 10 Policies into current and future policy frameworks. We met with Council staff with our design and policy consultant and provided this additional matrix DDI Followup to City Staff Responses on DDI Top 10 Policy Recs.2.17.16. We have asked for additional followup as well.

Background Presentations:

Detailed Recommendations – Specific Recommendations +Talking Points useful for Testimony to City Council & Bureau of Planning & Sustainability:

1 -Comp Plan Update – Draft Recommendations

2- New Mixed Use Zones – Draft Recommendations

Why these recommendations? With the rapid redevelopment of Division from both public investments in the Division Streetscape project and extensive new private large development projects over the span of 18-24 months, the long-standing neighborhood character and identity as well as social fabric of the neighborhood has been significantly altered. This has left many residents without either the policy or political framework to have a voice in the evolution of their neighborhood. This has caused a crisis within the local Division community that some may paint as growth/no growth, density/anti-density. We see this same crisis reflected citywide. In an effort to help shift the dialogue away from complexities that polarize communities when discussing issues of density to the fundamental importance of DESIGN. Ideally, focusing less on where we may be divided towards what we can agree upon as shared goals. Our Top Ten Recommendations are in no way intended to reduce achievement of our density goals, but to foster density with fewer impacts, and better compatibility.

Building a Design Initiative for Division

This grass roots initiative brings a collaboration of neighborhood associations and community representatives together to create a shared vision and tools for action. Through a new inter-neighborhood Division Design Committee process, representative stakeholders will work to engage the surrounding Division Area neighbors and businesses to explore how we can build upon the efforts started as part of the Division Main Street/Greet Street Plan (2006), and make recommendations for how we can address design issues and concerns.

A goal of this effort is to hopefully develop resources that other Portland neighborhoods can use a model for their own, essentially a toolbox for neighborhood design. This might include design guidelines, photos of good/bad development examples, mapping of key sites/special places, special studies, and strategies for community engagement to articulate goals, vision and priorities for new development and community growth that is sensitive to existing character and supports economic growth and vitality.

The Division Design Committee holds regular public meetings every 4th Thursday of the month at SE Uplift, upstairs in the Fireside Room. Please join us!

Want to Learn More? Want to Get Involved?
If you would like more information or want to volunteer, please email: