While HEART and many others were going about celebrating Valentine’s Day this year, Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability was busy getting started on transforming City code and maps based on the recently adopted Residential Infill Project, or RIP. If you’re not familiar with RIP, the goal was to figure out how to accommodate the large population growth in Portland expected over the next 20 years. The key output of this initiative was a concept report passed unanimously by the Portland City Council and the impacts are enormous.
At a basic level, most residential neighborhoods in Portland have been de facto rezoned from single-family residential neighborhoods into multi-family. If this seems alarming…well, it is. When most of us bought our homes or selected the neighborhood we wanted to live in, one of the many factors that went into that decision had something to do with the type of homes and buildings present. Eastmoreland has always enjoyed a mostly homogenous zoning of R5. And while it’s true that the original platting produced many smaller lots, Eastmoreland was developed almost entirely of 5,000 sq. ft. lots or greater. It’s also true that Eastmoreland allows duplexes on corner lots and accessory dwelling units (ADUs), subject to some restrictions. But this wasn’t always the case.
In 1924, when much of Portland’s zoning was codified, Eastmoreland was one of only a handful of Portland neighborhoods which was zoned exclusively for single-family residential use. And it remained this way for a long time. It appears that it wasn’t really until the second major zoning review in 1991 (the first happened in 1959) that this began to change. But with an already established neighborhood and still plenty of area of build and grow, this didn’t have a major impact on Eastmoreland.
Fast forward to today. As the real estate market began to boom and Portland became a city which others started flocking to, the conversation has changed and has become dominated by a City focused on increasing density and developers focused on making profits and taking advantage of permissive zoning regulations. This is true throughout Portland. The Residential Infill Project is supposedly the solution to our problems. But it represents a drastic change for single-family residential neighborhoods like Eastmoreland.
Under RIP, pretty much every lot in Eastmoreland has been rezoned to allow for much greater density. Here’s what RIP allows…
- Corner lots allow for triplexes
- Mid-block lots allow for duplexes
- Lots of 10,000 sq. ft. or larger allow for housing clusters
- ADUs are allowed, and in fact, encouraged on all lots
We now find ourselves in a situation where the City is encouraging development and developers can make out massive profits by demolishing homes and replacing them with the largest, most profitable structure allowed. What’s worse, the replacement structures needn’t maintain the style or integrity of the neighborhood.
I think the reason the RIP is so alarming for Eastmoreland is that it betrays the initial design and structure of the neighborhood. We are fortunate to enjoy many benefits in Eastmoreland and it remains a small pocket in Portland where preservation makes a lot of sense. The change around us is not driven from within, but instead by the City and special interests.
Would you have chosen to live in Eastmoreland knowing it would become a multi-family residential neighborhood? We’ve barely seen the beginning of the change that is about to unfold and by the time it becomes obvious, it will be too late to reverse.
A Historic District is the only mechanism left to preserve the Eastmoreland that was envisioned in the early 1900’s and that we enjoy today.