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Planning and Sustainability Commission discusses building height, parking code and Willamette River

On November 16, 2016, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) held its second work session on the Central City 2035 (CC2035) Plan Proposed Draft. Commissioners worked through a list of topics ranging from requested changes to maximum building heights to regulations for the Willamette River.

The following is a review of the PSC discussion and actions; read the meeting materials to see additional comments/requests.


This topic was a continuation from the PSC’s first work session in September. 

Image courtesy of University of Oregon Libraries

East Portland/Grand Avenue Historic District

  • Background: In September, PSC asked staff to determine whether new development would still be able to take advantage of allowed building volumes (or “FAR”) if maximum heights were reduced as proposed.
  • Staff research concluded that base FAR could still be used within the proposed heights, but in some cases would be difficult to fully utilize all potential bonus FAR.

PSC Action: Supported the proposed reduced heights


The PSC received comments on maximum building heights throughout the Central City during their July and August 2016 hearings. 

RiverPlace area heights

  • Testimony: Consider increasing heights in this area to take advantage of potential redevelopment sites.
  • Staff proposed a more detailed set of height limits and a few areas where increased bonus height should be allowed to encourage denser, urban scale development and more active uses near the riverfront.

PSC Action: Supported the new height proposal. See the decision table and maps for more details.

West End heights

  • Testimony: Consider reducing height in the West End to 100 feet to create a greater step down from taller buildings in the Downtown core and a smaller-scale environment in the subdistrict.
  • Staff informed the PSC that this same topic was discussed during the West Quadrant planning process, and ultimately the West Quadrant Stakeholder Advisory Committee, PSC and City Council chose not to make large scale height reductions in the West End. As such, staff did not propose any changes at this time.

PSC Action: Supported retaining the maximum heights included in the Proposed Draft CC2035 Plan

Height along the eastern edge of the Lloyd District

  • Testimony: Lower allowed building heights between NE 15th and 16th Avenues and south of Weidler Street to 75 feet, creating a step down to the adjacent neighborhood.
  • Staff did not propose reducing heights because the requested step down would be to a lower height than is currently built and allowed on the east side of NE 16th Avenue outside the Central City.

PSC Action: Supported retaining the proposals in the Proposed Draft CC2035 Plan

Building shadows in the North and South Park Blocks

  • Background: The Zoning Code currently regulates the amount of shadow that new buildings on the west side of the South Park Blocks can cast onto the adjacent park. Specifically, new buildings that exceed 100 feet must show that the additional height won’t cast even more shade onto the park. The Proposed Draft CC2035 updates this requirement to match similar requirements elsewhere in the city and applies the requirement to the North and South Park Blocks.
  • Testimony: Consider a similar provision for new development on the east side of the Park Blocks to ensure that morning sunlight reaches the park.
  • Staff conducted a shadow analysis of buildings of different heights and massing on potential redevelopment sites on the east side of the Park Blocks. As a result, staff proposed adding the requirement to the east side of the Park Blocks and requiring a 12-foot step back with new development. This will reduce shadows and provide additional public realm for the future Green Loop.

PSC Action: Supported this proposalPark Blocks

Southeast 11th/12th Avenue height and zoning

  • Testimony: Allow more building height and/or rezone the blocks between SE Yamhill and SE Hawthorne Streets from IG to EX zoning. Near SE 11th and12th Avenues and Ankeny Street, reduce the allowed building height to 50 feet to reduce development pressure on Victorian-era homes.
  • Staff reviewed these comments and also the zoning and height proposals in the Recommended Draft Mixed Use Zones Project. They proposed rezoning four blocks from IG1 to EX and setting heights consistent with the surrounding areas.

PSC Action: Supported this amendment


  • Testimony: Lower parking maximums to help the city meet its goals for reducing single occupancy vehicle trips. Other testimony suggested requiring a minimum amount of parking.
  • Staff informed the PSC that parking ratios included in the Proposed Draft CC2035 Plan were developed through the Central City Parking Strategy Project — a public process that included a Stakeholder Advisory Committee. As such, staff did not propose to deviate from the recommendations.

PSC Action: Supported retaining the parking maximum ratios in the Proposed Draft and did not ask staff to establish parking minimums. PSC requested that staff develop an action in the Plan to monitor the maximum parking ratios in seven years to see if adjustments are needed.


People on a dock

Landscaping in the setback

  • Background: The Proposed Draft requires land within the river setback to be landscaped.
  • Testimony: Generally supportive of this requirement, but there were a few requests for improvements.
  • Staff proposed an amendment to exempt the Eastbank Crescent beach area from the requirement. They also clarified where plantings should occur where the riverbank has been previously treated with rip rap.

PSC Action: Accepted staff’s proposed amendments

Swimming in the river

  • Testimony: The City should establish guidelines and provide the public with information about safe swimming in the river. The City should also ensure that there is no net loss in public access.
  • Staff proposed a new Central Citywide action for Volume 5 of the CC2035 Plan to expand opportunities for safe swimming while addressing potential conflicts with natural resource protection.

PSC Action: Supported this new action

Retail in the open space zone

  • This item was deferred to a January PSC work session. Staff is working with Parks and Recreation staff on a recommendation.

PSC Action: None at this time


Based on comments received from the Bureau of Development Services, staff proposed a small number of amendments to Volume 2A1 of the CC2035 Plan. These did not result in significant discussions with the PSC, but they can be reviewed in the decision packet.

PSC Action: Supported most of the proposal but asked staff to come back to discuss ground floor windows and ground floor active uses.

Watch the second work session and read the decision packets.


An updated list of expected work session topics and meeting dates can be found here.

PSC Work Session 3 on CC2035 Plan
Tuesday, January 10, 2017, afternoon meeting
1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 2500A

PSC Work Session 4 on CC2035 Plan
Tuesday, January 24, 2017, evening meeting
1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 2500A

 Please check the PSC calendar to confirm time and location prior to each work session.