Update on the City of Portland's Mixed Use Zones Project

I’ve been tracking on this project for several months now, and have been presenting some of the preliminary work to architecture and design firms around Portland.

For some context, the Mixed Use Zones Project is the development of new zoning designations (CM1, CM2, CM3 and CE) for the City’s commercial areas outside of the Central City. The project was undertaken as part of the Comprehensive Plan 2035 implementation work. Currently, the City has 9 different commercial zones that lack the ability to respond to mixed use projects: by design and other issues which have emerged as Portland’s centers and corridors have experienced increased growth. The project has developed new Comprehensive Plan designations and corresponding zoning map amendments. To find out how your site matches up, use the City’s Comprehensive Plan map app at:


In September, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability released a 315 page Discussion Draft on the proposed land use code changes associated with implementing the Mixed Use Zones project.  The draft is available here for your review and comments. Comments are being accepted by the City through November 16th via email at mixedusezones@portlandoregon.gov

I’ve created a handout of the summaries of each of the zones. Please contact me if you’d like a copy. I’ve reviewed the draft and here is my summary of the changes to Title 33 that caught my attention:

·      Building height is limited to between 45’-65’ in the mid-range CM2 and CM3 zones;

·      Additional height can be earned applying for a Large Site Master Plan; a Type III land use review process. This is only available to large sites in the CM2, CM3 and CE zones on sites over 2 acres.

·      Revised measurement of building height.  Existing height measurements are taken from the mid-point elevation of a raised lot, allowing taller buildings on sites. The revised measurement process would require that base points adjacent to sidewalks/street lot lines are used, resulting in a more consistent measurement. Proposed Adjustments to height would be limited to within an increase of 10%.

·      Floor area ratios (FAR) for the base zones range from 2.5:1 in the CM2 to 3:1 in the CM3. Current zoning provisions in the commercial zones do not include residential uses in the FAR envelope. Current provisions in Central Employment (EX) does include residential uses. New standards in the CM zones would provide for all uses in the envelope with a minor exception for accessory structured parking.

·      Five FAR bonuses are available which have the ability to increase the FAR on sites by 2:1 in total. These include Affordable Housing, Affordable Commercial, Publicly Accessible Plazas, High Performance Green Features and Large Site Master Plan. For more on the bonuses, check out this article I wrote a few months ago.

·      The Discussion Draft noted that staff is still determining how these new base zones and their standards for FAR bonuses would work with existing Plan Districts that have bonuses, like Hollywood and Northwest.

·      New provisions for Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs. This would mean working with PBOT to create a TDM program for buildings of a certain size.

·      Parking requirements for sites outside of transit areas have changed to require some parking. They are too detailed to list here—contact me for more information.

·      New design standards work to create a stronger pedestrian-friendly environment through increased entryway requirements, increases in the amount of ground floor windows andstandards for building massing.

·      New standards also provide for increased compatibility when project sites are adjacent to residential zones.

The next steps will be to develop a Proposed Draft in early 2016, with hearings in front of the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission in February 2016.  City Council hearings would follow in the Spring of 2016.

I hope this provides you with a quick overview of the code changes; for a specific look at your particular site and a comparison of proposed to current, please feel free to contact me.