City of Portland’s Mixed Use Zones Project: Performance Bonuses

The City of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is in the middle of a project called the City of Portland's Mixed Use Zones project.

It will develop new mixed use planning and zoning designations to implement the “Centers and Corridors” concepts that emerged from The Portland Plan and the Comprehensive Plan Update planning processes.

The project is focused on revising the city’s Commercial (C) and Central Employment (EX) zones for area outside of the Central City.  The project has been in progress for about a year or so. They have a Project Advisory Committee composed of neighborhood leaders, developers and others as well as a Technical Advisors Group (TAG) composed of staff from City Bureaus and agency representatives.  

I’ve been tracking on this project for a few months now and although there are many details still in development, I wanted to illuminate one element of the code concepts proposed:  A provision of floor area bonuses for development-related elements: affordable housing, affordable commercial space, public plazas/open space, historic preservation and high-performing green features.   Here are some of the preliminary information based on the Mixed use Zones Project, Code Concepts Report.

Affordable housing: A project can earn 100% of the allowed bonus floor area by dedicating 25% of the bonus floor area to units with rents at 60% Median Family Income.  For some context, the Median Family Income in the Portland Metro region for a family of four is $73,900. Information about how rents in the 60% category respond to this amount can be found here.

Affordable commercial space:  A project may earn 50% of the allowed bonus floor area by providing commercial space at 25% less than prevailing market rates. It would be earned at a rate of 2 square feet total for one square foot of affordable commercial.  I do not believe that the City has described the mechanism for determining what is “prevailing market rate.”

Historic preservation: A project may earn 50% of the allowed bonus FAR by purchasing unused development allowances from a nearby historical building and transferring this floor area to a Mixed Use site. Projects would earn at a 1:1 ratio. I think that the determination of what is “nearby” is currently pending and there has been some discussion at the neighborhood level that transferring floor area within an historic district compounds the issue of creating compatible new development.   

Public plaza or open space: A project can earn 50% of he allowed bonus by creating a publically-accessible plaza on-site. Projects would earn at a 5:1 ratio. For example, a 1,000 square foot plaza would create 5,000 square feet of Floor Area for the building.

High performance green features. For this option, a project can earn 50% of the allowed bonus FAR by using a combination of two of the following:

·      Energy efficiency using either Energy Trust Path to Net Zero; Tier 2 of the New Building Institutes Advanced Building new Construction Guide or Oregon Reach/Residential Reach Construction Guide. The primary issue with this is the implementation of it, since energy efficiency is not measured until after building construction and these would be awarded prior to construction through the land use review process.

·      Landscaping and Trees—15% landscaping or 22.5% in areas where landscaping is already 15%. This is in addition to open area requirements, but areas can count for stormwater management. Minimum dimensions of the areas are still being developed.

·      Green roof or eco-roof on-site. Incorporate an eco roof/green roof on at least 50% of the building’s roof areas on site.

This is just one part of the new code concepts up for discussion as part of this project.  What about you? Are you thinking of a project in a future mixed-use zone?  Do these proposed performance bonuses work to your project’s advantage?  If you would like an in-depth presentation at your office with additional information on the standards and design considerations that are being developed as part of this project, please get in touch!